Слике страница
PDF
ePub

CHAP. II.

His Family and Officers.

II.

The Anglo-Saxon queen was crowned, as well CHAP. as the king, until the reign of Egbert, when this honour was taken from her. The crimes of the preceding queen, Eadburga, occasioned the AngloSaxons to depart awhile, in this respect, from the custom of all the German nations. But it was soon restored; for Ethelwulph, on his second marriage, suffered his queen, Judith, to be crowned. An account of the ceremony of her coronation has been preserved by the old Frankish writers.?

The custom was not immediately re-assumed in England, because the expressions of Asser imply, that in Alfred's time the disuse of the coronation continued. But, by the time of the second Ethelred, it was restored; for after the account of his coronation, the ceremonial of her coronation follows.-She was anointed; and, after a prayer, a ring was given to her, and then she was crowned.

The queen's name is joined with the cyning's in some charters, and it is not unusual to find them signed by her. From them we learn that she often sat in the witena-gemot, even after she became queen-dowager. She had her separate property; for, in a gift of land by Ethelswitha, the queen of

3

1 Asser, Vit. Alfr. p. 10, 11.

2 It may be seen in Du Chesne's Collection of the Frankish His. torians, tom. ii. p. 423.

3 Cott. MS. Claud. A. 3.

VIII.

BOOK Alfred, she gives fifteen manentes, calling them a

part of the land of her own power. She had also officers of her own household; for the persons, with whose consent and testimony she made the grant, are called her nobles.

The king's sons had lands appropriated for them, even though under age; for Ethelred says, that, on his brother being elected king, “ the nobles delivered to me, for my use, the lands belonging to the king's sons." These, on the death of the princes, or on their accession to the sovereignty, became the property of the king; for, he adds,

my brother dying, I assumed the dominion, both of the royal lands, and of those belonging to the king's sons.” 5

Among the royal household we find the disc thegn, or the thegn of his dishes; the hregal thegn, or the thegn of his wardrobe; his hors thegn, or the thegn of his stud; his camerarius, or chamberlain; his propincenarius and pincerna, or cupbearer; his secretaries; his chancellor; and, in an humbler rank, his mægden, his grindende theowa, his fedesl, his ambiht-smith, his horswealh, his geneat, and his laadrinc. But we may remark, that his cup-bearer and feeder, or probably taster, were both females. The executive officers of his

دوو

government will be mentioned hereafter.

4 MS. Claud. c. 9. p. 105. Some valuable facts and remarks on the Anglo-Saxon queen may be seen in Sergeant Heywood's ” Ranks of the People," p. 2–31.

6 Ibid. p. 123.

CHAP. III.

The Dignity and Prerogatives of the ANGLO-Saxon Cyning.

III.

Five descriptions of kings have appeared in the CHAP. world: the Father at the head of his family; the most ancient sovereign, once exhibited in the Jewish Patriarch, but now perhaps obsolete, unless in the simplicity of some portions of Africa. The ELDER, governing his descendants and tribe rather by influence and persuasion than power, as the North American sachems; the Arabian sheiks; and some Tartarian hordes. The IMPERATOR, or military sovereign, commanding among his people as among his soldiers, like the emperors of Rome. The Despot Lord, ruling his nation like his vassal slaves, without check, sympathy, consideration, or responsibility, like the shereffs of Morocco, the dey of Algiers, and, in a great measure, the sultans of Turkey; and the Teutonic Kings, who are neither fathers, elders, imperators, nor despotic lords, but who are a creation of social wisdom far more excellent in conception, and more beneficial in practice than either of the others. The father-king must cease to exist when the family becomes a tribe. The elder king, who then succeeds, suits not a numerous, enterprising, and extensively-spread nation. The imperator, or the despot lord, must then be resorted to, or tyrannical oligarchies, severe aristocracies, or factious democracies, must be substituted; or else an anomalous, and discordant, and not lasting combination of some of these forms;

VIII.

BOOK which was attempted at Athens, Carthage, Rome,

and Sparta, with no permanent advantage, or possibility of long continuance.

The experience and sagacity of the ancient world went no farther than to use one or other of these institutions. It was reserved for those whom we unjustly call Barbarians, the descendants of the Scy. thian, Gothic, or Teutonic nomades, to invent, and to reduce to practice, a form of monarchy, under the name of kings, with powers so great, yet so limited ; so superior and independent in the theory of law, and yet so subordinate to it, and so governed by it; so majestic, yet so popular; so dignified, yet so watched; so intrusted, yet so criticised; so powerful, yet so counteracted; so honoured, yet so counselled; so wealthy, yet so dependent, — that all the good which sovereignty can impart is enjoyed largely by the nations whom they sway, with as few as possible of the evils which continued power must always tend to occasion, and which no human wisdom, while the executing instruments of its plans are imperfect mortals, can absolutely prevent. Such an institution was the Anglo-Saxon cyning; and such, with all the improvements which a free-spirited nation has at various times added to it, is the British monarchy under which we are now reposing.

The Anglo-Saxon cyning reigned, as his kingly successors reign, by no divine right. His office was the invention, his appointment was the election, of his people; as the succession of our present sovereigns is the ordination of law made by all the orders of the people in their great united parliamentary council. But religion has wisely taught us to consider the reigning sovereign as a consecrated func

III.

tionary; not to give him the right divine of doing CHAP. wrong, but to guard his person and character, for the sake of that welfare of the society for which they were created, with all the veneration which can be obtained from human sympathies; and with all that attachment which will most effectually promote the utility of his great office. Hence he was, as already shown, anointed, prayed for, and said to reign by the grace of God. Hence, violence to his person has been always considered as a species of sacrilege. Hence, without adopting the impious deification of the Roman emperors, or the analogous adulation with which those of China and the East are to their own moral prejudice surrounded, our kings have been always considered with a degree of religious' as well as civil respect, enough to raise them above every other class of society in character as well as dignity and prerogative : but not enough to emancipate them from all legal obli. gations, nor to elevate them above that law to which both sovereign and people are equally subject. That this state of subordination to the laws was the principle of the Anglo-Saxon royalty we may safely infer from the emphatic words of our ancient and venerable Bracton. The Norman kings were certainly not inferior in power or prerogative to the Anglo-Saxon ; yet of the kingly power in his day, that of Henry the Third, and viewing it as con

1 Hence Bracton calls the king the Vicarius Dei, p. 5. The minister and vicarius of God, p. 55. But monarchy was not at first very securely established among all the Gothic nations. For among the Burgundians, whose king was called by the general name Hendinos, it was an ancient custom that he might be deposed if the fortune of war turned against him, or if the earth denied an abundant harvest. Bulæus Hist. Univ. Par. i.

p.

6.

[blocks in formation]
« ПретходнаНастави »