Osgod and Aethelric

Two of the canons of Harold's minster, Osgod and Aethelric the Childmaster, had followed the march of the English host. They came, either through the mere instinct of affection or, as was told in the legends of their house, made fearful of coming evil through the mysterious warning which the Holy Rood had given to the King. They followed their founder to the hill of slaughter; but they themselves joined not in the fight; they stood afar off that they might see the end. With them, it may be, had come the now aged Danish princess, Gytha, the widow of

Godwine, the mother of the three heroes who had died beneath the fallen Standard. She came to the Duke and craved the body of her royal son. Three sons of hers had fallen by his hand or the hand of his followers; let the Conqueror grant one at least of the three to be honoured with solemn and royal rites. Harold's weight in gold should be the price of his burial within the walls of his own minster. But in the case of his great rival the Conqueror was inexorable. His soul was indeed too lofty to be moved by petty spite towards an enemy who could no longer harm him. But his policy bade him to brand the perjurer, the usurper, the excommunicate of the Church, the despiser of the holy relics, with the solemn judgement of a minister of righteous vengeance. The proffered bribe had as little weight with him as it had with the Homeric Achilleus. He whose insatiable ambition had caused the slaughter of so many men should not himself receive the honours of solemn burial. He was not indeed to be left to dogs and vultures; but he who had guarded the shore while living should guard it still in death. -- Freeman


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