Trickery Afoot

At Berkhampstead the second act of William's great work was played out. The Conquest there received the formal ratification of the conquered.

William, we are told, sent a secret message to Ansgar. He asked only for a formal acknowledgement of his right. Let William have the name of King, and all things in the kingdom should be ruled according to the bidding of the Sheriff of the Middle-Saxons. Ansgar listens; he has no intention of yielding even thus far, but he thinks it prudent to dissemble. He summons an Assembly, among the members of which we may possibly discern the forerunners of the famous Aldermen of London. He sets forth the general sad estate of the country and the special dangers of the besieged city. It would be prudent to send a cunning messenger who should entrap the invader with wily words. Let him offer a feigned submission, which might at least cause delay and stave off the immediate danger. The messenger went; but to deceive William was found to be no such easy matter. The fox is not to be caught in a trap laid in open day. William pretends to accept the proposals of Ansgar, the exact details of which are not told us. But he wins over the messenger by crafty speeches, backed by gifts and by promises greater than the gifts. The messenger goes back to London to enlarge on the might, the wisdom, the just rights, and the various excellences of William. The invader is one whom it is on every ground hopeless to resist. His intentions are friendly; he offers peace to the city; wisdom dictates one course only, that of immediate submission to such a candidate for the kingdom. The people applaud; the Senate approves; both orders vote at once to forsake the cause of the young Aetheling, and to make their submission to the conquering Duke. -- Freeman

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