Слике страница
PDF
ePub

BOOK appeal“ ; he was the executive superintendent of

the general laws, and usually received the fines at-
tached to crimes. 42 The Jews were his property 43 ;
the high executive officers, the ealdormen, the
gerefas, the thegns, and others, were liable to be
displaced by him. 44 He convoked the councils of
the witan 45, and summoned the people to the army,
which he commanded.

In the Saxon book of constitutions, he is thus
spoken of : “ The king should be in the place of a
father to his people; and, in vigilance and guar-
dianship, a viceroy of Christ, as he is called. It
belongs to him and all his family to love Christi-
anity, and shun heathenism.

He should respect and defend the church, and tranquilise and conciliate his people by right laws; and by him happiness will be increased. He loves right, and avoids what is not so." 46

[ocr errors]

41 Domesday, in loc.
42 Heming. Chart. 1. p. 265. 43 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 203.
44 Ibid. 109. 122.

45 Ibid. 109.
46 Wilk. Leg. p. 147.

The exhortations which Alcuin gives to a king of Northumbria will show what the Anglo-Saxons expected or desired their kings to be. After reminding him that man cannot perish like an animal, but must live somewhere else for ever, and happily or miserably according to his actions here, he adds

“ Love not unjust riches, for all injustice is avenged by God. It is the duty of a king to repress all inquities by his power, to be just in his judgment, and prone to mercy. God will be merciful to him, according as he shows mercy to his subjects. Let him be sober in his morals, true in his words, liberal in his gifts, provident in his councils. Let him choose prudent ministers, who fear God and lead an honour. able life. He must not covet another's inheritance, nor indulge in avarice, nor in rapine. Often by rapine he loses his own possessions; for the Supreme hears the groans of the oppressed.

You have seen how the kings your predecessors have perished from their injustice, their rapines, and their profligacy. Dread their ruin. The same God surveys your actions who did not spare their crimes. Many desired to amass supplies by violence and iniquities, and did not

[ocr errors]

III.

His property, on the dissolution of the optarchy, CHAP. was very extensive in every part of England. Just before Alfred acceded to the crown, there were four kings reigning over the Anglo-Saxons ; - the kings of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria. These four sovereignties had absorbed the other four. But when the sword of the Northmen had destroyed the dynasties of Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria, and when the invaders had themselves bent to the power of Alfred, then the Anglo-Saxon cyning rose into great power and property, because the royal power and property of the subdued kingdoms became the right of the ruling king. Alfred united in himself all the regal possessions in England, except those which he allowed the Danish princes to retain in Northumbria and East Anglia. The Northmen were completely subdued by Athelstan ; and, when this event took place, the cyning of England became the possessor of all the prerogatives and property which the eight kings of the octarchy had enjoyed. It was this concentration of wealth and privileges, and its consequences, which exalted the cyning to that majesty and power which, in the latter periods of the Anglo-Saxon dynasty, became attached to the throne.

foresee that by this conduct they would lose the comfort both of this world and the future. Cultivate their peace, benignity, mercy, justice, and virtue." Ep. 1538.

In another letter to him he says:

“ It does not become you on a throne to live with rustic manners. Anger should not govern you, but reason. Mercy will make you amiable, and cruelty hateful. Let truth only be heard from your mouth. Be chaste, sober, and reputable. Be free in giving, and not covetous in receiving. Let justice adorn your actions, and the form of honourable demeanour distinguish you to all who see you." P. 1554.

BOOK
VIII.

The royal property consisted of lands in demesne in every part of England; and though in the lapse of time he had given large possessions to his friends and followers, yet from many he reserved rents and services which were a great source of wealth and power. The places which occur with the denomination of royal towns, or royal villas, are very numerous; and among these we may notice the name of Windeshore (Windsor), which is still a regal residence.

His revenues were the rents and produce of his lands in demesne; customs in the sea-ports; tolls in the markets, and in the cities on sales ; duties and services to be paid to him in the burghs, or to be commuted for money; wites, or penalties and forfeitures, which the law attached to certain crimes and offences; heriots from his thanes, and various payments and benefits arising to him on the cir. cumstances stated in the laws.

His dignity and influence were displayed and upheld by his liberality, of which specimens will be given in another place.

But all the prerogatives and rights of the AngloSaxon cyning were definite and ascertained. They were such as had become established by law or custom, and could be as little exceeded by the sovereign as withheld by his people. They were not arbitrary privileges of an unknown extent. Even William the Conqueror found it necessary to have an official survey of the royal rights taken in every part of the kingdom ; and we find the hundred, or similar bodies in every county, making the inquisition to the king's commissioners, who returned to the sovereign that minute record of his claims upon his subjects which constitutes the Domesday-book.

III.

The royal claims in Domesday-book were, there. CHAP. fore, not the arbitrary impositions of the throne, but were those which the people themselves testified to their king to have been his legal rights. Perhaps no country in Europe can exhibit such an ancient record of the freedom of its people, and the limited prerogatives of its ruler.

The military force was under the command of the king, while it was assembled. It was rather a militia than a regular army. We have already given some notices of its nature : from a certain quantity of land, a fixed number of soldiers were sent, when the king summoned his people to an expedition, who were bound to serve under him for a certain time, apparently two months. Thus, in Berkshire, “when the king sent any where his army, one soldier went from every five hides, and for his victuals or his pay every hide gave him four shillings for two months. This money was not transmitted to the king, but to the soldiers. If any one, after he was summoned to the expedition, did not go, he forfeited to the king all his land. If any who had the right of staying at home, promised to send a substitute, and the substitute did not go, the penalty was fifty shillings.” In Wiltshire, “when the king went on an expedition by land or sea, he had from Wilton burgh either twenty shillings to feed his buzecarlos, or led one man with him for the honour of five hides.” A curious instance of tenure on military service occurs in Heming's Chartularium. The prior of a monastery gave a villa to a miles for life, on condition of his serving for the monastery for it, in the expeditions by sea and land which then frequently took place.

By the laws persons were forbidden to join the

VIII.

BOOK fyrd, or expedition, without the king's leave. To

depart from it without permission, when the king commanded, was still more severely punished. The loss of life, and the forfeiture of all the offender's property, was the consequence.

The scip fyrd, or naval expedition, was ordered to be always so accelerated as to be ready every year soon after Easter.

It was enacted, that whoever destroyed or injured the people's fyrd scip should carefully compensate it, and to the king the mund. 47

So early as in the time of Ina, it was provided, that if a sith-cund man, having land, neglected the fyrd, he should pay one hundred and twenty shillings, and forfeit his land. If he had no land, he was to pay sixty shillings. A ceorl paid thirty shillings as a fyrd-wite. **

In this obligation of military service attached to lands, we see the leading principle of the feudal system. Its next principle was that of doing homage to the superior from whom they were held. Did the Anglo-Saxons perform the act of homage? I have met with one passage which implies it. The head of a monastery, finding he could not prevail against an opposing bishop, sought Wulstan as a protector, and did homage to him.49

47 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 122.

48 Ibid. 23. 49 Petiit Wulstanum fecit que sibi homagium. 3 Gale Script. 482.

« ПретходнаНастави »