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Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 187

The Saxon Patriot

Hereward was, naturally, the darling hero of the Saxons, and for the patriotism of his splendid defence of Ely they forgave his final surrender to William the Norman; then they attributed to him all the virtues supposed to be inherent in the free-born, and all the glorious valour on which the English prided themselves; and, lastly, they surrounded his death with a halo of desperate fighting, and made his last conflict as wonderful as that of Roland at Roncesvalles. If Roland is the ideal of Norman feudal chivalry, Hereward is

“Her pleading won relief for them”

[Pg 336]

Hereward’s Youth

For this holy vocation she fixed on her second son, Hereward, a wild, wayward lad, with long golden curls, eyes of different colours, one grey, one blue, great breadth and strength of limb, and a wild and ungovernable temper which made him difficult of control. This reckless lad the Lady Godiva vainly tried to educate for the monkish life, but he utterly refused to adopt her scheme, would not master any but the barest rudiments of learning, and spent his time in wrestling, boxing, fighting and all manly exercises. Despairing of making him an ecclesiastic, his mother set herself to inspire him with a noble ideal of knighthood, but his wildness and recklessness increased with his years, and often his mother had to stand between the riotous lad and his father’s deserved anger.


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