- A Defence of the People of England, In Answer to Salmasius’s Defence of the King. *
- A Treatise of Civil Power In Ecclesiastical Causes; Showing That It Is Not Lawful For Any Power On Earth to Compel In Matters of Religion.
- Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings Out of the Church. Wherein Is Also Discoursed of Tithes, Church-fees, and Church-revenues; and Whether Any Maintenance of Ministers Can Be Settled By Law.
- A Letter to a Friend Concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth.
- The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth, Easy to Be Put In Practice, and Without Delay.
- The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence Thereof, Compared With the Inconveniencies and Dangers of Readmitting Kingship In This Nation.
- Brief Notes Upon a Late Sermon, Titled, the Fear of God and the King.
- The History of Britain, That Part Especially Now Called England, From the First Traditional Beginning, Continued to the Norman Conquest:—collected Out of the Ancientest and Best Authors Thereof.
- The First Book.
- The Second Book.
- The Third Book.
- The Fourth Book.
- The Fifth Book.
- The Sixth Book.
- Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration; and What Best Means May Be Used Against the Growth of Popery.
- A Brief History of Moscovia, and of Other Less Known Countries Lying Eastward of Russia As Far As Cathay.
- The Preface.
- Moscovia: Or, Relations of Moscovia, As Far As Hath Been Discovered By English Voyages; Gathered From the Writings of Several Eye-witnesses: and the Other Less Known Countries Lying Eastward of Russia As Far As Cathay, Lately Discovered At Several Time
- Chapter I.: A Brief Description.
- Chapter II.: Of Samoëdia, Siberia, and Other Countries North-east, Subject to the Muscovites.
- Chapter III.: Of Tingoësia, and the Countries Adjoining Eastward, As Far As Cathay.
- Chapter IV.: The Succession of Moscovia Dukes and Emperors, Taken Out of Their Chroniles By a Polac, With Some Later Additions. †
- Chapter V.: The First Discovery of Russia By the North-east, 1553, With the English Embassies, and Entertainments At That Court, Until the Year 1604.
- A Declaration of Letters Patents, For the Election of This Present King of Poland, John the Third, Elected On the 22d of May Last Past, A. D. 1674.
- Letters of State to Most of the Sovereign Princes and Republics of Europe, During the Administration of the Commonwealth and the Protectors Oliver and Richard Cromwell.
- Letters Written In the Name of the Parliament.
- Letters Written In the Name of Oliver the Protector.
- Letters Written In the Name of Richard, Protector.
- A Manifesto of the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, Ireland, &c.
- The Second Defence of the People of England, Against an Anonymous Libel Entitled “the Royal Blood Crying to Heaven For Vengeance On the English Parricides.”
- Familiar Epistles, Translated From the Latin, By Robert Fellowes, A. M. Oxon.
- I.: To His Tutor Thomas Jure.
- II.: To Alexander Gill.
- III.: To the Same.
- IV.: To Thomas Jure.
- V.: To Alexander Gill.
- VI.: To Carolo Deodati.
- VII.: To the Same.
- VIII.: To Beneditto Bonomattai, a Florentine.
- IX.: To Luke Holstein, In the Vatican At Rome.
- X.: To Carolo Deodati, a Florentine Noble.
- XI.: To Hermann Milles, Secretary to the Count of Oldenburgh.
- XII.: To the Renowned Leonard Philara, the Athenian.
- XIII.: To Richard Heth.
- XIV.: To Henry Oldenburgh, Aulic Counsellor to the Senate of Bremen.
- XV.: To Leonard Philara, the Athenian.
- XVI.: To Leo of Aizema.
- XVII.: To Ezechiel Spanheim, of Geneva.
- XVIII.: To Henry Oldenburgh, Aulic Counsellor to the Senate of Bremen.
- XIX.: To the Noble Youth, Richard Jones.
- XX.: To the Accomplished Youth Peter Heinbach.
- XXI.: To the Accomplished Emeric Bigot.
- XXII.: To the Noble Youth Richard Jones.
- XXIII.: To the Illustrious Lord Henry De Bras.
- XXIV.: To Henry Oldenburgh.
- XXV.: To the Noble Youth Richard Jones.
- XXVI.: To the Illustrious Lord Henry De Bras.
- XXVII.: To the Accomplished Peter Heinbach.
- XXVIII.: To John Badiaus, Minister of the Church of Orange.
- XXIX.: To Henry Oldenburgh.
- XXX.: To the Noble Youth Richard Jones.
- XXXI.: To the Accomplished Peter Heinbach, Counsellor to the Elector of Brandenburg.
THE HISTORY OF BRITAIN,
THAT PART ESPECIALLY NOW CALLED ENGLAND,
FROM THE FIRST TRADITIONAL BEGINNING, CONTINUED TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST:—COLLECTED OUT OF THE ANCIENTEST AND BEST AUTHORS THEREOF.
published from a copy corrected by the author himself, [1670.]
THE FIRST BOOK.
The beginning of nations, those excepted of whom sacred books have spoken, is to this day unknown. Nor only the beginning, but the deeds also of many succeeding ages, yea, periods of ages, either wholly unknown, or obscured and blemished with fables. Whether it were that the use of letters came in long after, or were it the violence of barbarous inundations, or they themselves, at certain revolutions of time, fatally decaying, and degenerating into sloth and ignorance; whereby the monuments of more ancient civility have been some destroyed, some lost. Perhaps disesteem and contempt of the public affairs then present, as not worth recording, might partly be in cause. Certainly ofttimes we see that wise men, and of best ability, have foreborne to write the acts of their own days, while they beheld with a just loathing and disdain, not only how unworthy, how perverse, how corrupt, but often how ignoble, how petty, how below all history, the persons and their actions were; who, either by fortune or some rude election, had attained, as a sore judgment and ignominy upon the land, to have chief sway in managing the commonwealth. But that any law, or superstition of our philosophers, the Druids, forbad the Britons to write their memorable deeds, I know not why any out of Cæsar should allege: he indeed saith, that their doctrine they thought not lawful to commit to letters; but in most matters else, both private and public, among which well may history be reckoned, they used the Greek tongue; and that the British Druids, who taught those in Gaul, would be ignorant of any language known and used by their disciples, or so frequently writing other things, and so inquisitive into highest, would for want of recording be ever children in the knowledge of times and ages, is not likely. Whatever might be the reason, this we find, that of British affairs, from the first peopling of the island to the coming of Julius Cæsar, nothing certain, either by tradition, history, or ancient fame, hath hitherto been left us. That which we have of oldest seeming, hath by the greater part of judicious antiquaries been long rejected for a modern fable.
Nevertheless there being others, besides the first supposed author, men not unread, nor unlearned in antiquity, who admit that for approved story, which the former explode for fiction; and seeing that ofttimes relations heretofore accounted fabulous have been after found to contain in them many footsteps and reliques of something true, as what we read in poets of the flood, and giants little believed, till undoubted witnesses taught us, that all was not feigned; I have therefore determined to bestow the telling over even of these reputed tales; be it for nothing else but in favour of our English poets and rhetoricians, who by their art will know how to use them judiciously.
I might also produce example, as Diodorus among the Greeks, Livy and others among the Latins, Polydore and Virunnius accounted among our own writers. But I intend not with controversies and quotations to delay or interrupt the smooth course of history; much less to argue and debate long who were the first inhabitants, with what probabilities, what authorities each opinion hath been upheld; but shall endeavour that which hitherto hath been needed most, with plain and lightsome brevity, to relate well and orderly things worth the noting, so as may best instruct and benefit them that read. Which, imploring divine assistance, that it may redound to his glory, and the good of the British nation, I now begin.
That the whole earth was inhabited before the flood, and to the utmost point of habitable ground from those effectual words of God in the creation, may be more than conjectured. Hence that this island also had her dwellers, her affairs, and perhaps her stories, even in that old world those many hundred years, with much reason we may infer. After the flood, and the dispersing of nations, as they journeyed leisurely from the east, Gomer the eldest son of Japhet, and his offspring, as by authorities, arguments, and affinity of divers names is generally believed, were the first that peopled all these west and northern climes. But they of our own writers, who thought they had done nothing, unless with all circumstance they tell us when, and who first set foot upon this island, presume to name out of fabulous and counterfeit authors a certain Samothes or Dis, a fourth or sixth son of Japhet, (who they make, about 200 years after the flood, to have planted with colonies, first the continent of Celtica or Gaul, and next this island; thence to have named it Samothea,) to have reigned here, and after him lineally four kings, Magus, Saron, Druis, and Bardus. But the forged Berosus, whom only they have to cite, no where mentions that either he, or any of those whom they bring, did ever pass into Britain, or send their people hither. So that this outlandish figment may easily excuse our not allowing it the room here so much as of a British fable.
That which follows, perhaps as wide from truth, though seeming less impertinent, is, that these Samotheans under the reign of Bardus were subdued by Albion, a giant, son of Neptune; who called the island after his own name, and ruled it forty-four years. Till at length passing over into Gaul, in aid of his brother Lestrygon, against whom Hercules was hasting out of Spain into Italy, he was there slain in fight, and Bergion also his brother.
Sure enough we are, that Britain hath been anciently termed Albion, both by the Greeks and Romans. And Mela, the geographer, makes mention of a stony shore in Languedoc, where by report such a battle was fought. The rest, as his giving name to the isle, or even landing here, depends altogether upon late surmises. But too absurd, and too unconscionably gross is that fond invention, that wafted hither the fifty daughters of a strange Dioclesian king of Syria; brought in, doubtless, by some illiterate pretender to something mistaken in the common poetical story of Danaus king of Argos, while his vanity, not pleased with the obscure beginning which truest antiquity affords the nation, laboured to contrive us a pedigree, as he thought, more noble. These daughters by appointment of Danaus on the marriage-night having murdered all their husbands, except Linceus, whom his wife’s loyalty saved, were by him, at the suit of his wife their sister, not put to death, but turned out to sea in a ship unmanned; of which whole sex they had incurred the hate: and as the tale goes, were driven on this island. Where the inhabitants, none but devils, as some write, or as others, a lawless crew left here by Albion, without head or governor, both entertained them, and had issue by them a second breed of giants, who tyrannized the isle, till Brutus came.
The eldest of these dames in their legend they call Albina; and from thence, for which cause the whole scene was framed, will have the name Albion derived. Incredible it may seem so sluggish a conceit should prove so ancient, as to be authorized by the elder Ninnius, reputed to have lived above a thousand years ago. This I find not in him: but that Histion, sprung of Japhet, had four sons; Francus, Romanus, Alemannus, and Britto, of whom the Britains; as true, I believe, as that those other nations, whose names are resembled, came of the other three; if these dreams give not just occasion to call in doubt the book itself, which bears that title.
Hitherto the things themselves have given us a warrantable dispatch to run them soon over. But now of Brutus and his line, with the whole progeny of kings, to the entrance of Julius Cæsar, we cannot so easily be discharged; descents of ancestry long continued, laws and exploits not plainly seeming to be borrowed, or devised, which on the common belief have wrought no small impression; defended by many, denied utterly by few. For what though Brutus and the whole Trojan pretence were yielded up; (seeing they who first devised to bring us from some noble ancestor, were content at first with Brutus the consul; till better invention, although not willing to forego the name, taught them to remove it higher into a more fabulous age, and by the same remove lighting on the Trojan tales in affectation to make the Briton of one original with the Roman, pitched there;) yet those old and inborn names of successive kings, never any to have been real persons, or done in their lives at least some part of what so long hath been remembered, cannot be thought without too strict an incredulity.
For these, and those causes above mentioned, that which hath received approbation from so many, I have chosen not to omit. Certain or uncertain, be that upon the credit of those whom I must follow; so far as keeps aloof from impossible and absurd, attested by ancient writers from books more ancient, I refuse not, as the due and proper subject of story. The principal author is well known to be Geoffrey of Monmouth; what he was, and whence his authority, who in his age, or before him, have delivered the same matter, and such like general discourses, will better stand in a treatise by themselves. All of them agree in this, that Brutus was the son of Silvius; he of Ascanius; whose father was Eneas, a Trojan prince, who at the burning of that city, with his son Ascanius, and a collected number that escaped, after long wandering on the sea, arrived in Italy. Where at length by the assistance of Latinus king of Latiam, who had given him his daughter Lavinia, he obtained to succeed in that kingdom, and left it to Ascanius, whose son Silvius (though Roman histories deny Silvius to be the son of Ascanius) had married secretly a niece of Lavinia.
She being with child, the matter became known to Ascanius. Who commanding his “magicians to inquire by art, what sex the maid had conceived,” had answer, “that it was one who should be the death of both his parents; and banished for the fact, should after all, in a far country, attain the highest honour.” The prediction failed not, for in travail the mother died. And Brutus (the child was so called) at fifteen years of age, attending his father to the chase, with an arrow unfortunately killed him.
Banished therefore by his kindred, he retires into Greece. Where meeting with the race of Helenus king Priam’s son, held there in servile condition by Pandrasus then king, with them he abides. For Pyrrhus, in revenge of his father slain at Troy, had brought thither with him Helenus, and many others into servitude. There Brutus among his own stock so thrives in virtue and in arms, as renders him beloved to kings and great captains above all the youth of that land. Whereby the Trojans not only began to hope, but secretly to move him, that he would lead them the way to liberty. They allege their numbers, and the promised help of Assaracus a noble Greekish youth, by the mother’s side a Trojan; whom for that cause his brother went about to dispossess of certain castles bequeathed him by his father. Brutus considering both the forces offered him, and the strength of those holds, not unwillingly consents.
First therefore having fortified those castles, he with Assaracus and the whole multitude betake them to the woods and hills as the safest place from whence to expostulate; and in the name of all sends to Pandrasus this message, “That the Trojans holding it unworthy their ancestors to serve in a foreign kingdom had retreated to the woods; choosing rather a savage life than a slavish: if that displeased him, that then with his leave they might depart to some other soil.”
As this may pass with good allowance that the Trojans might be many in these parts, (for Helenus was by Pyrrhus made king of the Chaonians, and the sons of Pyrrhus by Andromache Hector’s wife, could not but be powerful through all Epirus,) so much the more it may be doubted, how these Trojans could be thus in bondage, where they had friends and countrymen so potent. But to examine these things with diligence, were but to confute the fables of Britain, with the fables of Greece or Italy; for of this age, what we have to say, as well concerning most other countries, as this island, is equally under question. Be how it will, Pandrasus not expecting so bold a message from the sons of captives, gathers an army; and marching towards the woods, Brutus who had notice of his approach nigh to the town called Sparatinum, (I know not what town, but certain of no Greek name,) over night planting himself there with good part of his men, suddenly sets upon him, and with slaughter of the Greeks pursues him to the passage of a river, which mine author names Akalon, meaning perhaps Achelous or Acheron; where at the ford he overlays them afresh. This victory obtained, and a sufficient strength left in Sparatinum, Brutus with Antigonus, the king’s brother, and his friend Anacletus, whom he had taken in the fight, returns to the residue of his friends in the thick woods; while Pandrasus with all speed recollecting, besieges the town. Brutus to relieve his men besieged, who earnestly called him, distrusting the sufficiency of his force, bethinks himself of this policy. Calls to him Anacletus, and threatening instant death else, both to him and his friend Antigonus, enjoins him, that he should go at the second hour of night to the Greekish leagre, and tell the guards he had brought Antigonus by stealth out of prison to a certain woody vale, unable through the weight of his fetters to move him further, entreating them to come speedily and fetch him in.—Anacletus to save both himself and his friend Antigonus swears this, and at a fit hour sets on alone toward the camp; is met, examined, and at last unquestionably known. To whom, great profession of fidelity first made, he frames his tale, as had been taught him; and they now fully assured, with a credulous rashness leaving their stations, fared accordingly by the ambush that there awaited them. Forthwith Brutus divided his men into three parts, leads on in silence to the camp; commanding first each part at a several place to enter, and forbear execution, till he with his squadron possessed of the king’s tent, gave signal to them by trumpet. The sound whereof no sooner heard, but huge havoc begins upon the sleeping and unguarded enemy, whom the besieged also now sallying forth, on the other side assail. Brutus the while had special care to seize and secure the king’s person; whose life still within his custody, he knew was the surest pledge to obtain what he should demand. Day appearing, he enters the town, there distributes the king’s treasury, and leaving the place better fortified, returns with the king his prisoner to the woods. Straight the ancient and grave men he summons to council, what they should now demand of the king.
After long debate Mempricius, one of the gravest, utterly dissuading them from thought of longer stay in Greece, unless they meant to be deluded with a subtle peace, and the awaited revenge of those whose friends they had slain, advises them to demand first the king’s eldest daughter Innogen in marriage to their leader Brutus with a rich dowry, next shipping, money, and fit provision for them all to depart the land.
This resolution pleasing best, the king now brought in, and placed in a high seat, is briefly told, that on these conditions granted, he might be free; not granted he must prepare to die.
Pressed with fear of death, the king readily yields; especially to bestow his daughter on whom he confessed so noble and so valiant: offers them also the third part of his kingdom, if they like to stay; if not, to be their hostage himself, till he had made good his word.
The marriage therefore solemnized, and shipping from all parts got together, the Trojans in a fleet, no less written than three hundred four and twenty sail, betake them to the wide sea: where with a prosperous course, two days and a night bring them on a certain island long before dispeopled and left waste by sea-rovers, the name whereof was then Leogecia, now unknown. They who were sent out to discover, came at length to a ruined city, where was a temple and image of Diana that gave oracles: but not meeting first or last, save wild beasts, they return with this notice to their ships; wishing their general would inquire of that oracle what voyage to pursue.
Consultation had, Brutus taking with him Gerion his diviner, and twelve of the ancientest, with wanton ceremonies before the inward shrine of the goddess, in verse (as it seems the manner was) utters his request, “Diva potens nemorum,” &c.
- Goddess of shades, and huntress, who at will
- Walk’st on the rolling sphere, and through the deep
- On thy third reign the earth look now, and tell
- What land, what seat of rest thou bid’st me seek,
- What certain seat, where I may worship thee
- For aye, with temples vow’d, and virgin choirs.
To whom sleeping before the altar, Diana in a vision that night thus answered, “Brute sub occasum solis,” &c.
- Brutus, far to the west, in th’ ocean wide,
- Beyond the realm of Gaul, a land there lies,
- Seagirt it lies, where giants dwelt of old,
- Now void, it fits thy people; thither bend
- Thy course, there shalt thou find a lasting seat,
- Where to thy sons another Troy shall rise;
- And kings be born of thee, whose dreaded might
- Shall awe the world, and conquer nations bold.
These verses originally Greek, were put in Latin, saith Virunnius, by Gildas a British poet and him to have lived under Claudius. Which granted true, adds much to the antiquity of this fable; and indeed the Latin verses are much better, than of the age for Geoffrey ap Arthur, unless perhaps Joseph of Exeter, the only smooth poet of those times, befriended him. In this, Diana overshot her oracle thus ending, “Ipsis totius terræ subditus orbis erit,” That to the race of Brute, kings of this island, the whole earth shall be subject.
But Brutus, guided now, as he thought, by divine conduct, speeds him towards the west; and after some encounters on the Afric side, arrives at a place on the Tyrrhene sea; where he happens to find the race of those Trojans, who with Antenor came into Italy; and Corineus, a man much famed, was their chief: though by surer authors it be reported, that those Trojans with Antenor were seated on the other side of Italy, on the Adriatic, not the Tyrrhene shore. But these joining company, and past the Herculean Pillars, at the mouth of Ligeris in Aquitania cast anchor: where after some discovery made of the place, Corineus, hunting nigh the shore with his men, is by messengers of the king Goffarius Pictus met, and questioned about his errand there. Who not answering to their mind, Imbertus, one of them, lets fly an arrow at Corineus, which he avoiding, slays him: and the Pictavian himself hereupon levying his whole force, is overthrown by Brutus and Corineus; who with the battle-axe which he was wont to manage against the Tyrrhene giants, is said to have done marvels. But Goffarius having drawn to his aid the whole country of Gaul, at that time governed by twelve kings, puts his fortune to a second trial; wherein the Trojans, overborne by multitude, are driven back, and besieged in their own camp, which by good foresight was strongly situate. Whence Brutus unexpectedly issuing out, and Corineus in the meanwhile, whose device it was, assaulting them behind from a wood, where he had conveyed his men the night before: the Trojans are again victors, but with the loss of Turon a valiant nephew of Brutus: whose ashes, left in that place, gave name to the city of Tours, built there by the Trojans. Brutus finding now his powers much lessened, and this yet not the place foretold him, leaves Aquitain, and with an easy course arriving at Totness in Devonshire, quickly perceives here to be the promised end of his labours.
The island, not yet Britain but Albion, was in a manner desert and inhospitable; kept only by a remnant of giants, whose excessive force and tyranny had consumed the rest. Them Brutus destroys, and to his people divides the land, which with some reference to his own name he thenceforth calls Britain. To Corineus, Cornwall, as now we call it, fell by lot; the rather by him liked, for that the hugest giants in rocks and caves were said to lurk still there; which kind of monsters to deal with was his old exercise.
And here with leave bespoken to recite a grand fable, though dignified by our best poets: while Brutus, on a certain festival day solemnly kept on that shore, where he first landed, was with the people in great jollity and mirth, a crew of these savages breaking in upon them, began on a sudden another sort of game, than at such a meeting was expected. But at length by many hands overcome, Goemagog the hugest, in height twelve cubits, is reserved alive, that with him Corineus, who desired nothing more, might try his strength; whom in a wrestle the giant catching aloft, with a terrible hug broke three of his ribs: nevertheless Corineus enraged, heaving him up by main force, and on his shoulders bearing him to the next high rock, threw him headlong, all shattered, into the sea, and left his name on the cliff, called ever since Langoemagog, which is to say, the giant’s leap.
After this, Brutus in a chosen place builds Troja Nova, changed in time to Trinovantum, now London: and began to enact laws; Heli being then high priest in Judæa: and having governed the whole isle twenty-four years, died, and was buried in his new Troy. His three sons, Locrine, Albanact, and Camber, divide the land by consent. Locrine had the middle part Lœgria; Camber possessed Cambria, or Wales; Albanact, Albania, now Scotland. But he in the end by Humber king of the Hunds, who with a fleet invaded that land, was slain in fight, and his people drove back into Lœgria. Locrine and his brother go out against Humber; who now marching onward, was by them defeated, and in a river drowned, which to this day retains his name. Among the spoils of his camp and navy, were found certain young maids, and Estrildis above the rest, passing fair, the daughter of a king in Germany; from whence Humber, as he went wasting the sea coast, had led her captive: whom Locrine, though before contracted to the daughter of Corineus, resolves to marry. But being forced and threatened by Corineus, whose authority and power he feared, Guendolen the daughter he yields to marry, but in secret loves the other: and ofttimes retiring, as to some private sacrifice, through vaults and passages made under ground, and seven years thus enjoying her, had by her a daughter equally fair, whose name was Sabra. But when once his fear was off by the death of Corineus, not content with secret enjoyment, divorcing Guendolen, he makes Estrildes now his queen. Guendolen, all in a rage, departs into Cornwall, where Madan, the son she had by Locrine, was hitherto brought up by Corineus his grandfather. And gathering an army of her father’s friends and subjects, gives battle to her husband by the river Sture; wherein Locrine, shot with an arrow, ends his life. But not so ends the fury of Guendolen; for Estrildis, and her daughter Sabra, she throws into a river: and, to leave a monument of revenge, proclaims that the stream be thenceforth called after the damsel’s name; which, by length of time, is changed now to Sabrina, or Severn.
Fifteen years she governs in behalf of her son; then resigning to him at age, retires to her father’s dominion. This, saith my author, was in the days of Samuel. Madan hath the praise to have well and peacefully ruled the space of forty years, leaving behind him two sons, Mempricius, and Malim. Mempricius had first to do with the ambition of his brother, aspiring to share with him in the kingdom; whom therefore, at a meeting to compose matters, with a treachery, which his cause needed not, he slew.
Nor was he better in the sole possession, whereof he could so ill endure a partner, killing his nobles, and those especially next to succeed him; till lastly, given over to unnatural lust, in the twentieth of his reign, hunting in a forest, he was devoured by wolves.
His son Ebranc, a man of mighty strength and stature, reigned forty years. He first, after Brutus, wasted Gaul; and returning rich and prosperous, builded Caerebranc, now York; in Albania, Alclud, Mount Agned, or the Castle of Maidens, now Edinburg. He had twenty sons and thirty daughters by twenty wives. His daughters he sent to Silvius Alba into Italy, who bestowed them on his peers of the Trojan line. His sons, under the leading of Assaracus their brother, won them lands and signiories in Germany; thence called from these brethren, Germania; a derivation too hastily supposed, perhaps before the word Germanus, or the Latin tongue was in use. Some who have described Henault, as Jacobus Bergamas, and Lassabeus, are cited to affirm, that Ebranc, in his war there, was by Brunchildis, lord of Henault, put to the worse.
Brutus, therefore, surnamed Greenshield, succeeding, to repair his father’s losses, as the same Lessabeus reports, fought a second battle in Henault, with Brunchild, at the mouth of Scaldis, and encamped on the river Hania. Of which our Spencer also thus sings:
- Let Scaldis tell, and let tell Hania,
- And let the marsh of Esthambruges tell
- What colour were their waters that same day,
- And all the moor ’twixt Elversham and Dell,
- With blood of Henalois, which therein fell;
- How oft that day did sad Brunchildis see
- The Greenshield dyed in dolorous vermeil, &c.
But Henault, and Brunchild, and Greenshield, seem newer names than for a story pretended thus ancient.
Him succeeded Leil, a maintainer of peace and equity; but slackened in his latter end, whence arose some civil discord. He built, in the North, Cairliel; and in the days of Solomon.
Rudhuddibras, or Hudibras, appeasing the commotions which his father could not, founded Caerkeynt or Canterbury, Caerguent or Winchester, and Mount Paladur, now Septonia or Shaftesbury: but this by others is contradicted.
Bladud his son built Caerbadus or Bath, and those medical waters he dedicated to Minerva; in whose temple there he kept fire continually burning. He was a man of great invention, and taught necromancy; till having made him wings to fly, he fell down upon the temple of Apollo in Trinovant, and so died after twenty year’s reign.
Hitherto, from father to son, the direct line hath run on: but Leir, who next reigned, had only three daughters, and no male issue: governed laudably, and built Caerleir, now Leicester, on the bank of Sora. But at last, falling through age, he determines to bestow his daughters, and so among them to divide his kingdom. Yet first, to try which of them loved him best, (a trial that might have made him, had he known as wisely how to try, as he seemed to know how much the trying behooved him,) he resolves a simple resolution, to ask them solemnly in order; and which of them should profess largest, her to believe. Gonorill the eldest, apprehending too well her father’s weakness, makes answer, invoking Heaven, “That she loved him above her soul.” “Therefore,” quoth the old man, overjoyed, “since thou so honourest my declining age, to thee and the husband whom thou shalt choose, I give the third part of my realm.” So fair a speeding, for a few words soon uttered, was to Regan, the second, ample instruction what to say. She, on the same demand, spares no protesting; and the gods must witness, that otherwise to express her thoughts she knew not, but that “She loved him above all creatures;” and so receives an equal reward with her sister. But Cordeilla, the youngest, though hitherto best loved, and now before her eyes the rich and present hire of a little easy soothing, the danger also, and the loss likely to betide plain dealing, yet moves not from the solid purpose of a sincere and virtuous answer. “Father,” saith she, “my love towards you is as my duty bids: what should a father seek, what can a child promise more? They, who pretend beyond this, flatter.” When the old man, sorry to hear this, and wishing her to recall those words, persisted asking; with a loyal sadness at her father’s infirmity, but something, on the sudden, harsh, and glancing rather at her sisters than speaking her own mind, “Two ways only,” saith she, “I have to answer what you require me: the former, your command is, I should recant; accept then this other which is left me; look how much you have, so much is your value, and so much I love you.” “Then hear thou,” quoth Leir, now all in passion, “what thy ingratitude hath gained thee; because thou hast not reverenced thy aged father equal to thy sisters, part in my kingdom, or what else is mine, reckon to have none.” And, without delay, gives in marriage his other daughters, Gonorill to Maglaunus duke of Albania, Regan to Henninus duke of Cornwall; with them in present half his kingdom; the rest to follow at his death. In the meanwhile, fame was not sparing to divulge the wisdom and other graces of Cordeilla, insomuch that Aganippus, a great king in Gaul, (however he came by his Greek name, not found in any register of French kings,) seeks her to wife; and nothing altered at the loss of her dowry, receives her gladly in such manner as she was sent him. After this, King Leir, more and more drooping with years, became an easy prey to his daughters and their husbands; who now, by daily encroachment, had seized the whole kingdom into their hands: and the old king is put to sojourn with his eldest daughter attended only by threescore knights. But they in a short while grudged at, as too numerous and disorderly for continual guests, are reduced to thirty. Not brooking that affront, the old king betakes him to his second daughter: but there also, discord soon arising between the servants of differing masters in one family, five only are suffered to attend him. Then back again he returns to the other; hoping that she his eldest could not but have more pity on his gray hairs: but she now refuses to admit him, unless he be content with one only of his followers. At last the remembrance of his youngest, Cordeilla, comes to his thoughts; and now acknowledging how true her words had been, though with little hope from whom he had so injured, be it but to pay her the last recompense she can have from him, his confession of her wise forewarning, that so perhaps his misery, the proof and experiment of her wisdom, might something soften her, he takes his journey into France. Now might be seen a difference between the silent, or downright spoken affection of some children to their parents, and the talkative obsequiousness of others; while the hope of inheritance overacts them, and on the tongue’s end enlarges their duty. Cordeilla, out of mere love, without the suspicion of expected reward, at the message only of her father in distress, pours forth true filial tears. And not enduring either that her own, or any other eye should see him in such forlorn condition as his messenger declared, discreetly appoints one of her trusted servants first to convey him privately towards some good seatown, there to array him, bathe him, cherish him, furnish him with such attendance and state as beseemed his dignity; that then, as from his first landing, he might send word of his arrival to her husband Aganippus. Which done, with all mature and requisite contrivance, Cordeilla, with the king her husband, and all the barony of his realm, who then first had news of his passing the sea, go out to meet him; and after all honourable and joyful entertainment, Aganippus, as to his wife’s father, and his royal guest, surrenders him, during his abode there, the power and disposal of his whole dominion: permitting his wife Cordeilla to go with an army, and set her father upon his throne. Wherein her piety so prospered, as that she vanquished her impious sisters, with those dukes; and Leir again, as saith the story, three years obtained the crown. To whom, dying, Cordeilla, with all regal solemnities, gave burial in the town of Leicester: and then, as right heir succeeding, and her husband dead, ruled the land five years in peace. Until Marganus and Cunedagius, her two sisters’ sons, not bearing that a kingdom should be governed by a woman, in the unseasonablest time to raise that quarrel against a woman so worthy, make war against her, depose her, and imprison her; of which impatient, and now long unexercised to suffer, she there, as is related, killed herself. The victors between them part the land; but Merganus, the eldest sister’s son, who held, by agreement, from the north side of Humber to Cathness, incited by those about him, to invade all as his own right, wars on Cunedagius, who soon met him, overcame, and overtook him in a town of Wales, where he left his life, and ever since his name to the place.
Cunedagius was now sole king, and governed with much praise many years, about the time when Rome was built.
Him succeeded Rivallo his son, wise also and fortunate; save what they tell us of three days raining blood and swarms of stinging flies, whereof men died. In order then Gurgustius, Jago or Lago, his nephew; Sisilius, Kinmarcus. Then Gorbogudo, whom others name Gorbodego, and Gorbodion, who had two sons, Ferrex, and Porrex. They, in the old age of their father, falling to contend who should succeed, Porrex, attempting by treachery his brother’s life, drives him into France; and in his return, though aided with the force of that country, defeats and slays him. But by his mother Videna, who less loved him, is himself, with the assistance of her women, soon after slain in his bed: with whom ended, as is thought, the line of Brutus. Whereupon the whole land, with civil broils, was rent into five kingdoms, long time waging war each on other; and some say fifty years. At length Dunwallo Molmutius, the son of Cloten king of Cornwal, one of the foresaid five, excelling in valour and goodliness of person, after his father’s decease, found means to reduce again the whole island into a monarchy; subduing the rest at opportunities. First, Ymner king of Loegria, whom he slew; then Rudaucus of Cambria, Staterius of Albania, confederate together. In which fight Dunwallo is reported, while the victory hung doubtful, to have used this art. He takes with him 600 stout men, bids them put on the armour of their slain enemies; and so unexpectedly approaching the squadron, where those two kings had placed themselves in fight, from that part which they thought securest, assaults and dispatches them. The displaying his own ensigns, which before he had concealed, and sending notice to the other part of his army what was done, adds to them new courage, and gains a final victory. This Dunwallo was the first in Britain that wore a crown of gold; and therefore by some reputed the first king. He established the Molmutine laws, famous among the English to this day; written long after in Latin by Gildas, and in Saxon by King Alfred: so saith Geoffrey, but Gildas denies to have known ought of the Britons before Cæsar; much less knew Alfred. These laws, whoever made them, bestowed on temples the privilege of sanctuary; to cities also, and the ways thither leading, yea to plows, granted a kind of like refuge; and made such riddance of thieves and robbers, that all passages were safe. Forty years he governed alone, and was buried nigh to the temple of Concord; which he, to the memory of peace restored, had built in Trinovant.
His two sons, Belinus and Brennus, contending about the crown, by decision of friends, came at length to an accord: Brennus to have the north of Humber, Belinus the sovereignty of all. But the younger not long so contented, that he, as they whispered to him, whose valour had so oft repelled the invasions of Ceulphus the Morine duke, should now be subject to his brother, upon new design sails into Norway; enters league and affinity with Elsing that king: which Belinus perceiving, in his absence dispossesses him of all the north. Brennus, with a fleet of Norwegians, makes towards Britain; but encountered by Guithlac, the Danish king, who, laying claim to his bride, pursued him on the sea, his haste was retarded, and he bereft of his spouse; who, from the fight, by a sudden tempest, was with the Danish king driven on Northumberland, and brought to Belinus. Brennus, nevertheless, finding means to recollect his navy, lands in Albania, and gives battle to his brother in the wood Calaterium; but losing the day, escapes, with one single ship, into Gaul. Meanwhile the Dane, upon his own offer to become tributary, sent home with his new prize, Belinus returns his thoughts to the administering of justice, and the perfecting of his father’s law. And to explain what highways might enjoy the foresaid privileges, he caused to be drawn out and paved four main roads to the utmost length and breadth of the island, and two others athwart; which are since attributed to the Romans. Brennus, on the other side, soliciting to his aid the kings of Gaul, happens at last on Seginus duke of the Allobroges; where his worth, and comeliness of person, won him the duke’s daughter and heir. In whose right he shortly succeeding, and, by obtained leave, passing with a great host through the length of Gaul, gets footing once again in Britain. Now was Belinus unprepared: and now the battle ready to join, Conuvenna, the mother of them both, all in a fright, throws herself between, and calling earnestly to Brennus her son, whose absence had so long deprived her of his sight, after embracements and tears, assails him with such a motherly power, and the mention of things so dear and reverend, as irresistibly wrung from him all his enmity against Belinus.
Then are hands joined, reconciliation made firm, and counsel held to turn their united preparations on foreign parts. Thence that by these two all Gallia was overrun, the story tells; and what they did in Italy, and at Rome, (if these be they, and not Gauls, who took that city,) the Roman authors can best relate. So far from home I undertake not for the Monmouth Chronicle; which here, against the stream of history, carries up and down these brethren, now into Germany, then again to Rome, pursuing Gabius and Porsena, two unheard-of consuls. Thus much is more generally believed, that both this Brennus, and another famous captain, Britomarus, whom the epitomist Florus and others mention, were not Gauls, but Britons; the name of the first in that tongue signifying a king, and of the other a great Briton. However, Belinus, after a while, returning home, the rest of his days ruled in peace, wealth, and honour, above all his predecessors; building some cities, of which one was Caerose upon Osca, since Caerlegion; beautifying others, as Trinovant, with a gate, haven, and a tower, on the Thames, retaining yet his name; on the top whereof his ashes are said to have been laid up in a golden urn.
After him Gurguntius Barbirus was king, mild and just; but yet, inheriting his father’s courage, he subdued the Dacian, or Dane, who refused to pay the tribute covenanted to Belinus for his enlargement. In his return, finding about the Orkneys thirty ships of Spain, or Biscay, fraught with men and women for a plantation, whose captain also Bartholinus, wrongfully banished, as he pleaded, besought him that some part of his territory might be assigned them to dwell in, he sent with them certain of his own men to Ireland which then lay unpeopled, and gave them that island, to hold of him as in homage. He was buried in Caerlegion, a city which he had walled about.
Guitheline his son is also remembered as a just and good prince; and his wife Martia to have excelled so much in wisdom, as to venture upon a new institution of laws. Which King Alfred translating, called Marchen Leage; but more truly thereby is meant the Mercian law, not translated by Alfred, but digested or incorporated with the West-Saxon. In the minority of her son she had the rule; and then, as may be supposed, brought forth these laws, not herself, for laws are masculine births, but by the advice of her sagest counsellors; and therein she might do virtuously, since it befell her to supply the nonage of her son; else nothing more awry from the law of God and nature, than that a woman should give laws to men.
Her son Sisilius coming to years, received the rule; then, in order, Kimarus; then Danius, or Elanius, his brother. Then Morindus, his son by Tanguestela, a concubine, who is recorded a man of excessive strength, valiant, liberal, and fair of aspect, but immanely cruel; not sparing, in his anger, enemy or friend, if any weapon were in his hand. A certain king of the Morines, or Picards, invaded Northumberland; whose army this king, though not wanting sufficient numbers, chiefly by his own prowess overcame; but dishonoured his victory by the cruel usage of his prisoners, whom his own hands, or others in his presence, put all to several deaths: well fitted to such a bestial cruelty was his end; for hearing of a huge monster, that from the Irish sea infested the coast, and, in the pride of his strength, foolishly attempting to set manly valour against a brute vastness, when his weapons were all in vain, by that horrible mouth he was catched up and devoured.
Gorbonian, the eldest of his five sons, than whom a juster man lived not in his age, was a great builder of temples, and gave to all what was their due: to his gods, devout worship; to men of desert, honour and preferment; to the commons, encouragement in their labours and trades, defence and protection from injuries and oppressions; so that the land flourished above her neighbours; violence and wrong seldom was heard of. His death was a general loss: he was buried in Trinovant.
Archigallo, the second brother, followed not his example; but depressed the ancient nobility; and, by peeling the wealthier sort, stuffed his treasury, and took the right way to be deposed.
Elidure, the next brother, surnamed the Pious, was set up in his place: a mind so noble, and so moderate, as almost is incredible to have been ever found. For, having held the sceptre five years, hunting one day in the forest of Calater, he chanced to meet his deposed brother, wandering in a mean condition; who had been long in vain beyond the seas, importuning foreign aids to his restorement; and was now, in a poor habit, with only ten followers, privately returned to find subsistence among his secret friends. At the unexpected sight of him, Elidure himself also then but thinly accompanied, runs to him with open arms; and, after many dear and sincere welcomings, conveys him to the city Alclud; there hides him in his own bedchamber. Afterwards feigning himself sick, summons all his peers, as about greatest affairs; where admitting them one by one, as if his weakness endured not the disturbance of more at once, causes them, willing or unwilling, once more to swear allegiance to Archigallo. Whom, after reconciliation made on all sides, he leads to York; and, from his own head, places the crown on the head of his brother. Who thenceforth, vice itself dissolving in him, and forgetting her firmest hold, with the admiration of a deed so heroic, became a true converted man; ruled worthily ten years, died, and was buried in Caerleir. Thus was a brother saved by a brother, to whom love of a crown, the thing that so often dazzles and vitiates mortal men, for which thousands of nearest blood have destroyed each other, was in respect of brotherly dearness, a contemptible thing.
Elidure now in his own behalf re-assumes the goverement, and did as was worthy such a man to do. When Providence, that so great a virtue might want no sort of trial to make it more illustrious, stirs up Vigenius and Peredure, his youngest brethren, against him who had deserved so nobly of that relation, as least of all by a brother to be injured. Yet him they defeat, him they imprison in the tower of Trinovant, and divide his kingdom; the North to Peredure, the South to Vigenius. After whose death Peredure obtaining all, so much the better used his power, by how much the worse he got it: so that Elidure now is hardly missed. But yet, in all right owing to his elder the due place whereof he had deprived him, fate would that he should die first: and Elidure, after many years’ imprisonment, is now the third time seated on the throne; which at last he enjoyed long in peace, finishing the interrupted course of his mild and just reign, as full of virtuous deeds as days to his end.
After these five sons of Morindus, succeeded also their sons in order. Regin of Gorbonian, Marganus of Archigallo, both good kings. But Enniaunus, his brother, taking other courses, was after six years deposed. Then Idwallo, taught by a near example, governed soberly. Then Runno, then Geruntius, he of Peredure, this last the son of Elidure. From whose loins (for that likely is the durable and surviving race that springs of just progenitors) issued a long descent of kings, whose names only for many successions, without other memory, stand thus registered: Catellus, Coillus, Porrex, Cherin, and his three sons, Fulgenius, Eldadus, and Andragius, his son Urianus; Eliud, Eledaucus, Clotenus, Gurguntius, Merianus, Bleduno, Capis, Oenus, Sisillius; twenty kings in a continued row, that either did nothing, or lived in ages that wrote nothing; at least, a foul pretermission in the author of this, whether story or fable; himself weary, as seems, of his own tedious tale.
But to make amends for this silence, Blegabredus next succeeding, is recorded to have excelled all before him in the art of music; opportunely, had he but left us one song of his twenty predecessors’ doings.
Yet after him nine more succeeded in name; his brother Archimailus, Eldol, Redion, Rederchius, Samulius, Penissel, Pir, Capoirus; but Cliguellius, with the addition of modest, wise, and just.
His son Heli reigned forty years, and had three sons, Lud, Cassibelan, and Nennius. This Heli seems to be the same whom Ninius, in his Fragment, calls Minocan; for him he writes to be the father of Cassibelan. Lud was he who enlarged and walled about Trinovant; there kept his court, made it the prime city, and called it from his own name Caerlud, or Lud’s town, now London. Which, as is alleged out of Gildas, became matter of great dissension betwixt him and his brother Nennius; who took it heinously that the name of Troy, their ancient country, should be abolished for any new one. Lud was hardy, and bold in war; in peace a jolly feaster. He conquered many islands of the sea, saith Huntingdon, and was buried by the gate, which from thence we call Ludgate. His two sons, Androgeus and Tenuantius, were left to the tuition of Cassibelan; whose bounty and high demeanor so wrought with the common people, as got him easily the kingdom transferred upon himself. He nevertheless, continuing to favour and support his nephews, confers freely upon Androgeus London with Kent; upon Tenuantius, Cornwal; reserving a superiority both over them, and all the other princes to himself, till the Romans for awhile circumscribed his power. Thus far, though leaning only on the credit of Geoffrey Monmouth, and his assertors, I yet, for the specified causes, have thought it not beneath my purpose to relate what I found. Whereto I neither oblige the belief of other person, nor overhastily subscribe mine own. Nor have I stood with others computing or collating years and chronologies, lest I should be vainly curious about the time and circumstance of things, whereof the substance is so much in doubt. By this time, like one who had set out on his way by night, and travelled through a region of smooth or idle dreams, our history now arrives on the confines, where daylight and truth meet us with a clear dawn, representing to our view, though at a far distance, true colours and shapes. For albeit Cæsar, whose authority we are now first to follow, wanted not who taxed him of misrepresenting in his Commentaries, yea in his civil war against Pompey, much more, may we think, in the British affairs, of whose little skill in writing he did not easily hope to be contradicted; yet now, in such variety of good authors, we can hardly miss, from one hand or other, to be sufficiently informed, as of things past so long ago. But this will better be referred to a second discourse.
THE SECOND BOOK.
I am now to write of what befel the Britons from fifty and three years before the birth of our Saviour, when first the Romans came in, till the decay and ceasing of that empire; a story of much truth, and for the first hundred years and somewhat more, collected without much labour. So many and so prudent were the writers, which those two, the civilest and the wisest of European nations, both Italy and Greece, afforded to the actions of that puissant city. For worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relators: as by a certain fate, great acts and great eloquence have most commonly gone hand in hand, equalling and honouring each other in the same ages. It is true, that in obscurest times, by shallow and unskilful writers, the indistinct noise of many battles and devastations of many kingdoms, overrun and lost, hath come to our ears. For what wonder, if in all ages ambition and the love of rapine hath stirred up greedy and violent men to bold attempts in wasting and ruining wars, which to posterity have left the work of wild beasts and destroyers, rather than the deeds and monuments of men and conquerors? But he whose just and true valour uses the necessity of war and dominion not to destroy, but to prevent destruction, to bring in liberty against tyrants, law and civility among barbarous nations, knowing that when he conquers all things else, he cannot conquer Time or Detraction, wisely conscious of this his want, as well as of his worth not to be forgotten or concealed, honours and hath recourse to the aid of eloquence, his friendliest and best supply; by whose immortal record his noble deeds, which else were transitory, become fixed and durable against the force of years and generations, he fails not to continue through all posterity, over Envy, Death, and Time also victorious. Therefore when the esteem of science and liberal study waxes low in the commonwealth, we may presume that also there all civil virtue and worthy action is grown as low to a decline: and then eloquence as it were consorted in the same destiny, with the decrease and fall of virtue, corrupts also and fades; at least resigns her office of relating to illiterate and frivolous historians, such as the persons themselves both deserve, and are best pleased with; whilst they want either the understanding to choose better, or the innocence to dare invite the examining and searching style of an intelligent and faithful writer to the survey of their unsound exploits, better befriended by obscurity than fame. As for these, the only authors we have of British matters, while the power of Rome reached hither, (for Gildas affirms that of the Roman times no British writer was in his days extant, or if any were, either burnt by enemies or transported with such as fled the Pictish and Saxon invasions,) these therefore only Roman authors there be, who in the Latin tongue have laid together as much, and perhaps more than was requisite to a history of Britain. So that were it not for leaving an unsightly gap so near to the beginning, I should have judged this labour, wherein so little seems to be required above transcription, almost superfluous. Notwithstanding since I must through it, if aught by diligence may be added or omitted, or by other disposing may be more explained or more expressed, I shall assay.
Julius Cæsar (of whom, and of the Roman free state more than what appertains, is not here to be discoursed) having subdued most part of Gallia, which by a potent faction he had obtained of the senate as his province for many years, stirred up with a desire of adding still more glory to his name, and the whole Roman empire to his ambition; some say, with a far meaner and ignobler, the desire of British pearls, whose bigness he delighted to balance in his hand; determines, and that upon no unjust pretended occasion, to try his force in the conquest also of Britain. For he understood that the Britons in most of his Gallian wars had sent supplies against him; had received fugitives of the Bellovaci his enemies; and were called over to aid the cities of Armorica, which had the year before conspired all in a new rebellion. Therefore Cæsar, though now the summer well nigh ending, and the season unagreeable to transport a war, yet judged it would be great advantage, only to get entrance into the isle, knowledge of men, the places, the ports, the accesses; which then, it seems, were even to the Gauls our neighbours almost unknown. For except merchants and traders, it is not oft, saith he, than any use to travel thither; and to those that do, besides the sea-coast, and the ports next to Gallia, nothing else is known. But here I must require, as Pollio did, the diligence, at least the memory, of Cæsar: for if it were true, as them of Rhemes told him, that Divitiacus, not long before a puissant king of the Soissons, had Britain also under his command, besides the Belgian colonies which he affirms to have named, and peopled many provinces there; if also the Britons had so frequently given them aid in all their wars; if lastly, the Druid learning, honoured so much among them, were first taught them out of Britain, and they who soonest would attain that discipline, sent hither to learn; it appears not how Britain at that time should be so utterly unknown in Gallia, or only known to merchants, yea to them so little, that being called together from all parts, none could be found to inform Cæsar of what bigness the isle, what nations, how great, what use of war they had, what laws, or so much as what commodious havens for bigger vessels. Of all which things as it were then first to make discovery, he sends Caius Volusenus, in a long galley, with command to return as soon as this could be effected. He in the meantime with his whole power draws nigh to the Morine coast, whence the shortest passage was into Britain. Hither his navy, which he used against the Armoricans, and what else of shipping can be provided, he draws together.
This known in Britain, the embassadors are sent from many of the states there, who promise hostages and obedience to the Roman empire. Them, after audience given, Cæsar as largely promising and exhorting to continue in that mind, sends home, and with them Comius of Arras, whom he had made king of that country, and now secretly employed to gain a Roman party among the Britons, in as many cities as he found inclinable, and to tell them that he himself was speeding thither. Volusenus, with what discovery of the island he could make from aboard his ship, not daring to venture on the shore, within five days returns to Cæsar. Who soon after, with two legions, ordinarily amounting, of Romans and their allies, to about 25,000 foot, and 4500 horse, the foot in 80 ships of burden, the horse in 18, besides what galleys were appointed for his chief commanders, sets off, about the third watch of night, with a good gale to sea; leaving behind him Sulpitius Rufus to make good the port with a sufficient strength. But the horse, whose appointed shipping lay windbound eight mile upward in another haven, had much trouble to embark.
Cæsar, now within sight of Britain, beholds on every hill multitudes of armed men ready to forbid his landing; and Cicero writes to his friend Atticus, that the accesses of the island were wondrously fortified with strong works or moles. Here from the fourth to the ninth hour of day he awaits at anchor the coming up of his whole fleet. Meanwhile, with his legates and tribunes, consulting and giving order to fit all things for what might happen in such a various and floating water-fight as was to be expected. This place, which was a narrow bay, close environed with hills, appearing no way commodious, he removes to a plain and open shore eight miles distant; commonly supposed about Deal in Kent. Which when the Britons perceived, their horse and chariots, as then they used in fight scowering before, their main power speeding after, some thick upon the shore, others not tarrying to be assailed, ride in among the waves to encounter, and assault the Romans even under their ships, with such a bold and free hardihood, that Cæsar himself between confessing and excusing that his soldiers were to come down from their ships, to stand in water heavy armed, and to fight at once, denies not but that the terror of such new and resolute opposition made them forget their wonted valour. To succour which he commands his galleys, a sight unusual to the Britons, and more apt for motion, drawn from the bigger vessels, to row against the open side of the enemy, and thence with slings, engines, and darts, to beat them back. But neither yet, though amazed at the strangeness of those new seacastles, bearing up so near, and so swiftly as almost to overwhelm them, the hurtling of oars, the battering of fierce engines against their bodies barely exposed, did the Britons give much ground, or the Romans gain; till he who bore the eagle of the tenth legion, yet in the galleys, first beseeching his gods, said thus aloud, “Leap down soldiers, unless you mean to betray your ensign; I for my part will perform what I owe to the commonwealth and my general.” This uttered, overboard he leaps, and with his eagle fiercely advanced runs upon the enemy; the rest heartening one another not to admit the dishonour of so nigh losing their chief standard, follow him resolutely. Now was fought eagerly on both sides. Ours who well knew their own advantages, and expertly used them, now in the shallows, now on the sand, still as the Romans went trooping to their ensigns, received them, dispatched them, and with the help of their horse, put them every where to great disorder. But Cæsar causing all his boats and shallops to be filled with soldiers, commanded to ply up and down continually with relief where they saw need; whereby at length all the foot now disembarked, and got together in some order on firm ground, with a more steady charge put the Britons to flight: but wanting all their horse, whom the winds yet withheld from sailing, they were not able to make pursuit. In this confused fight, Scæva a Roman soldier having pressed too far among the Britons, and beset round, after incredible valour shown, single against a multitude, swam back safe to his general; and in the place that rung with his praises, earnestly besought pardon for his rash adventure against discipline; which modest confessing after no bad event, for such a deed, wherein valour and ingenuity so much outweighed transgression, easily made amends and preferred him to be a centurion. Cæsar also is brought in by Julian, attributing to himself the honour (if it were at all an honour to that person which he sustained) of being the first that left his ship, and took land: but this were to make Cæsar less understand what became him that Scæva.
The Britons finding themselves mastered in fight, forthwith send ambassadors to treat of peace, promising to give hostages, and to be at command. With them Comius of Arras also returned; whom hitherto, since his first coming from Cæsar, they had detained in prison as a spy: the blame whereof they lay on the common people; for whose violence, and their own imprudence, they crave pardon. Cæsar complaining they had first sought peace, and then without cause had begun war, yet content to pardon them, commands hostages: whereof part they bring in straight, others, far up in the country to be sent for, they promise in a few days. Meanwhile the people disbanded and sent home, many princes and chief men from all parts of the isle submit themselves and their cities to the dispose of Cæsar, who lay then encamped, as is thought, on Barham down. Thus had the Britons made their peace; when suddenly an accident unlooked for put new counsels into their minds.
Four days after the coming of Cæsar, those eighteen ships of burden, which from the upper haven had taken in all the Roman horse, borne with a soft wind to the very coast, in sight of the Roman camp, were by a sudden tempest scattered and driven back, some to the port from whence they loosed, others down into the west country; who finding there no safety either to land or to cast anchor, chose rather to commit themselves again to the troubled sea; and, as Orosius reports, were most of them cast away. The same night, it being full moon, the galleys left upon dry land, were, unaware to the Romans, covered with a springtide, and the greater ships, that lay off at anchor, torn and beaten with waves, to the great perplexity of Cæsar, and his whole army; who now had neither shipping left to convey them back, nor any provision made to stay here, intending to have wintered in Gallia. All this the Britons well perceiving, and by the compass of his camp, which without baggage appeared the smaller, guessing at his numbers, consult together, and one by one slyly withdrawing from the camp, where they were waiting the conclusion of a peace, resolve to stop all provisions, and to draw out the business till winter. Cæsar, though ignorant of what they intended, yet from the condition wherein he was, and their other hostages not sent, suspecting what was likely, begins to provide apace, all that might be, against what might happen; lays in corn, and with materials fetched from the continent, and what was left of those ships which were past help, he repairs the rest. So that now by the incessant labour of his soldiers, all but twelve were again made serviceable.
While these things are doing, one of the legions being sent out to forage, as was accustomed, and no suspicion of war, while some of the Britons were remaining in the country about, others also going and coming freely to the Roman quarters, they who were in station at the camp gates sent speedily word to Cæsar, that from that part of the country, to which the legion went, a greater dust than usual was seen to rise. Cæsar guessing the matter, commands the cohorts of guard to follow him thither, two others to succeed in their stead, the rest all to arm and follow. They had not marched long, when Cæsar discerns his legion sore overcharged: for the Britons not doubting but that their enemies on the morrow would be in that place, which only they had left unreaped of all their harvest, had placed an ambush; and while they were dispersed and busiest at their labour, set upon them, killed some, and routed the rest. The manner of their fight was from a kind of chariots; wherein riding about and throwing darts, with the clutter of their horse, and of their wheels, they ofttimes broke the rank of their enemies; then retreating among the horse, and quitting their chariots, they fought on foot. The charioteers in the meanwhile somewhat aside from the battle, set themselves in such order that their masters at any time oppressed with odds, might retire safely thither, having performed with one person both the nimble service of a horseman, and the steadfast duty of a foot soldier. So much they could with their chariots by use and exercise, as riding on the speed down a steep hill, to stop suddenly, and with a short rein turn swiftly, now running on the beam, now on the yoke, then in the seat. With this sort of new skirmishing the Romans now over-matched and terrified, Cæsar with opportune aid appears; for then the Britons make a stand: but he considering that now was not fit time to offer battle, while his men were scarce recovered of so late a fear, only keeps his ground, and soon after leads back his legions to the camp. Further action for many days following was hindered on both sides by foul weather; in which time the Britons dispatching messengers round about, learn to how few the Romans were reduced, what hope of praise and booty, and now, if ever, of freeing themselves from the fear of like invasions hereafter, by making these an example, if they could but now uncamp their enemies; at this intimation multitudes of horse and foot coming down from all parts, make towards the Romans. Cæsar foreseeing that the Britons, though beaten and put to flight, would easily evade his foot, yet with no more than thirty horse, which Comius had brought over, draws out his men to battle, puts again the Britons to flight, pursues with slaughter, and returning burns and lays waste all about. Whereupon embassadors the same day being sent from the Britons to desire peace, Cæsar as his affairs at present stood, for so great a breach of faith, only imposes on them double the former hostages to be sent after him into Gallia: and because September was nigh half spent, a season not fit to tempt the sea with his weather-beaten fleet, the same night with a fair wind he departs towards Belgia; whither two only of the British cities sent hostages, as they promised, the rest neglected. But at Rome when the news came of Cæsar’s acts here, whether it were esteemed a conquest or a fair escape, supplication of twenty days is decreed by the senate, as either for an exploit done, or a discovery made, wherein both Cæsar and the Romans gloried not a little, though it brought no benefit either to him or to the commonwealth.
The winter following, Cæsar, as his custom was, going into Italy, whenas he saw that most of the Britons regarded not to send their hostages, appoints his legates whom he left in Belgia, to provide what possible shipping they could either build, or repair. Low built they were to be, as thereby easier both to freight, and to haul ashore; nor needed to be higher, because the tide so often changing, was observed to make the billows less in our sea than those in the Mediterranean: broader likewise they were made, for the better transporting of horses, and all other freightage, being intended chiefly to that end. These all about six hundred in a readiness, with twenty-eight ships of burden, and what with adventurers, and other hulks about two hundred, Cotta one of the legates wrote them, as Athenæus affirms, in all one thousand; Cæsar from port Iccius, a passage of some thirty mile over, leaving behind him Labienus to guard the haven, and for other supply at need, with five legions, though but two thousand horse, about sunset hoisting sail with a slack south-west, at midnight was becalmed. And finding when it was light, that the whole navy lying on the current, had fallen off from the isle, which now they could descry on their left hand; by the unwearied labour of his soldiers, who refused not to tug the oar, and keep course with ships under sail, he bore up as near as might be, to the same place where he had landed the year before; where about noon arriving, no enemy could be seen. For the Britons, which in great number, as was after known, had been there, at sight of so huge a fleet durst not abide. Cæsar forthwith landing his army, and encamping to his best advantage, some notice being given him by those he took, where to find his enemy; with the whole power, save only ten cohorts, and three hundred horse, left to Quintus Atrius for the guard of his ships, about the third watch of the same night, marches up twelve miles into the country. And at length by a river, commonly thought the Stowre in Kent, espies embattled the British forces. They with their horses and chariots advancing to the higher banks, oppose the Romans in their march, and begin the fight; but repulsed by the Roman cavalry, give back into the woods to a place notably made strong both by art and nature; which, it seems, had been a fort, or hold of strength raised heretofore in time of wars among themselves. For entrance, and access on all sides, by the felling of huge trees overthwart one another, was quite barred up; and within these the Britons did their utmost to keep out the enemy. But the soldiers of the seventh legion locking all their shields together like a roof close over head, and others raising a mount, without much loss of blood took the place, and drove them all to forsake the woods. Pursuit they made not long, as being through ways unknown; and now evening came on, which they more wisely spent in choosing out where to pitch and fortify their camp that night.
The next morning Cæsar had but newly sent out his men in three bodies to pursue, and the last no further gone than yet in sight, when horsemen all in post from Quintus Atrius bring word to Cæsar, that almost all his ships in a tempest that night had suffered wreck, and lay broken upon the shore. Cæsar at this news recalls his legions, himself in all haste riding back to the seaside, beheld with his eyes the ruinous prospect. About forty vessels were sunk and lost, the residue so torn and shaken, as not to be new-rigged without much labour. Straight he assembles what number of shipwrights either in his own legions or from beyond sea could be summoned; appoints Labienus on the Belgian side to build more; and with a dreadful industry of ten days, not respiting the soldiers day or night, drew up all his ships, and intrenched them round within the circuit of his camp. This done, and leaving to their defence the same strength as before, he returns with his whole forces to the same wood, where he had defeated the Britons; who preventing him with greater powers than before, had now repossessed themselves of the place, under Cassibelan their chief leader: whose territory from the states bordering on the sea was divided by the river Thames about eighty miles inward. With him formerly other cities had continual war; but now in the common danger had all made choice of him to be their general. Here the British horse and charioteers meeting with the Roman cavalry fought stoutly; and at first, something overmatched, they retreat to the near advantage of their woods and hills, but still followed by the Romans, made head again, cut off the forwardest among them, and after some pause, while Cæsar, who thought the day’s work had been done, was busied about the intrenching of his camp, march out again, give fierce assault to the very stations of his guards and sentries; and while the main cohorts of two legions, that were sent to the alarm, stood within a small distance of each other, terrified at the newness and boldness of their fight, charged back again through the midst, without loss of a man. Of the Romans that day was slain Quintus Laberius Durus a tribune; the Britons having fought their fill at the very entrance of Cæsar’s camp, and sustained the resistance of his whole army intrenched, gave over the assault. Cæsar here acknowledges, that the Roman way both of arming, and of fighting, was not so well fitted against this kind of enemy; for that the foot in heavy armour could not follow their cunning flight, and durst not by ancient discipline stir from their ensign; and the horse alone disjoined from the legions, against a foe that turned suddenly upon them with a mixed encounter both of horse and foot, were in equal danger both following and retiring. Besides their fashion was, not in great bodies, and close order, but in small divisions and open distances to make their onset; appointing others at certain spaces, now to relieve and bring off the weary, now to succeed and renew the conflict; which argued no small experience, and use of arms. Next day the Britons afar off upon the hills begin to show themselves here and there, and though less boldly than before, to skirmish with the Roman horse. But at noon Cæsar having sent out three legions, and all his horse, with Trebonius the legate, to seek fodder, suddenly on all sides they set upon the foragers, and charge up after them to the very legions, and their standards. The Romans with great courage beat them back, and in the chase, being well seconded by the legions, not giving them time either to rally, to stand, or to descend from their chariots as they were wont, slew many. From this overthrow, the Britons that dwelt farther off betook them home, and came no more after that time with so great a power against Cæsar. Whereof advertised, he marches onward to the frontiers of Cassibelan, which on this side was bounded by the Thames, not passable except in one place, and that difficult, about Coway-stakes near Oatlands, as is conjectured. Hither coming he descries on the other side great forces of the enemy, placed in good array; the bank set all with sharp stakes, others in the bottom, covered with water; whereof the marks, in Beda’s time, were to be seen, as he relates. This having learned by such as were taken, or had run to him, he first commands his horse to pass over; then his foot, who wading up to the neck, went on so resolutely and so fast, that they on the other side, not enduring the violence, retreated and fled. Cassibelan no more now in hope to contend for victory, dismissing all but four thousand of those charioteers, through woods and intricate ways attends their motion; where the Romans are to pass, drives all before him; and with continual sallies upon the horse, where they least expected, cutting off some and terrifying others, compels them so close together, as gave them no leave to fetch in prey or booty without ill success. Whereupon Cæsar strictly commanding all not to part from the legions, had nothing left him in his way but empty fields and houses, which he spoiled and burnt.
Meanwhile the Trinobantes, a state or kingdom, and perhaps the greatest then among the Britons, less favouring Cassibelan, send embassadors, and yield to Cæsar upon this reason. Immanuentius had been their king; him Cassibelan had slain, and purposed the like to Mandubratius his son, whom Orosius calls Androgorius, Beda Androgius; but the youth escaping by flight into Gallia, put himself under the protection of Cæsar. These entreat, that Mandubratius may be still defended, and sent home to succeed in his father’s right. Cæsar sends him, demands forty hostages and provision for his army, which they immediately bring in, and have their confines protected from the soldiers. By their example the Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci, Cassi (so I write them, for the modern names are but guessed) on like terms make their peace. By them he learns that the town of Cassibelan, supposed to be Verulam, was not far distant; fenced about with woods and marshes, well stuffed with men and much cattle. For towns then in Britain were only woody places ditched round, and with a mud wall encompassed against the inroads of enemies. Thither goes Cæsar with his legions, and though a place of great strength both by art and nature, assaults it in two places. The Britons after some defence fled out all at another end of the town; in the flight many were taken, many slain, and great store of cattle found there. Cassibelan for all these losses yet deserts not himself; nor was yet his authority so much impaired, but that in Kent, though in a manner possessed by the enemy, his messengers and commands find obedience enough to raise all the people. By his direction, Cingetorix, Carvilius, Taximagulus, and Segonax, four kings reigning in those countries which lie upon the sea, lead them on to assault that camp, wherein the Romans had entrenched their shipping; but they whom Cæsar left there issuing out slew many, and took prisoner Cingetorix a noted leader, without loss of their own. Cassibelan after so many defeats, moved especially by revolt of the cities from him, their inconstancy and falsehood one to another, uses mediation by Comius of Arras to send embassadors about treaty of yielding. Cæsar, who had determined to winter in the continent, by reason that Gallia was unsettled, and not much of the summer now behind, commands him only hostages, and what yearly tribute the island should pay to Rome, forbids him to molest the Trinobantes, or Mandubratius; and with his hostages, and a great number of captives, he puts to sea, having at twice embarked his whole army. At his return to Rome, as from a glorious enterprise, he offers to Venus, the patroness of his family, a corslet of British pearls.
Howbeit other ancient writers have spoken more doubtfully of Cæsar’s victories here; and that in plain terms he fled from hence; for which the common verse in Lucan, with divers passages here and there in Tacitus, is alleged. Paulus Orosius, who took what he wrote from a history or Suetonius now lost, writes, that Cæsar in his first journey, entertained with a sharp fight, lost no small number of his foot, and by tempest nigh all his horse. Dion affirms, that once in the second expedition all his foot were routed; Orosius that another time all his horse. The British author, whom I use only then when others are all silent, hath many trivial discourses of Cæsar’s being here, which are best omitted. Nor have we more of Cassibelan, than what the same story tells, how he warred soon after with Androgeus, about his nephew slain by Evelinus nephew to the other; which business at length composed, Cassibelan dies, and was buried in York, if the Monmouth book fable not. But at Cæsar’s coming hither, such likeliest were the Britons, as the writers of those times, and their own actions represent them; in courage and warlike readiness to take advantage by ambush or sudden onset, not inferior to the Romans, nor Cassibelan to Cæsar; in weapons, arms, and the skill of encamping, embattling, fortifying, overmatched; their weapons were a short spear and light target, a sword also by their side, their fight sometimes in chariots fanged at the axle with iron sithes, their bodies most part naked, only painted with woad in sundry figures, to seem terrible, as they thought; but, pursued by enemies, not nice of their painting to run into bogs worse than wild Irish up to the neck, and there to stay many days holding a certain morsel in their mouths no bigger than a bean, to suffice hunger; but that receipt, and the temperance it taught, is long since unknown among us: their towns and strong holds were spaces of ground fenced about with a ditch, and great trees felled overthwart each other, their buildings within were thatched houses for themselves and their cattle: in peace the upland inhabitants, besides hunting, tended their flocks and herds, but with little skill of country affairs; the making of cheese they commonly knew not, wool or flax they spun not, gardening and planting many of them knew not; clothing they had none, but what the skins of beasts afforded them, and that not always; yet gallantry they had, painting their own skins with several portraitures of beast, bird or flower, a vanity which hath not yet left us, removed only from the skin to the skirt behung now with as many coloured ribands and gewgaws: towards the seaside they tilled the ground and lived much after the manner of the Gauls their neighbors, or first planters: their money was brazen pieces or iron rings, their best merchandize tin, the rest trifles of glass, ivory, and such like: yet gems and pearls they had, saith Mela, in some rivers: their ships of light timber wickered with ozier between, and covered over with leather, served not therefore to transport them far, and their commodities were fetched away by foreign merchants: their dealing, saith Diodorus, plain and simple without fraud; their civil government under many princes and states, not confederate or consulting in common, but mistrustful, and ofttimes warring one with the other, which gave them up one by one an easy conquest to the Romans: their religion was governed by a sort of priests or magicians, called Druids, from the Greek name of an oak, which tree they had in great reverence, and the mistletoe especially growing thereon. Pliny writes them skilled in magic no less than those of Persia; by their abstaining from a hen, a hare, and a goose, from fish also saith Dion, and their opinion of the soul’s passing after death into other bodies, they may be thought to have studied Pythagoras; yet philosophers I cannot call them, reported men factious and ambitious, contending sometimes about the archpriesthood not without civil war and slaughter; nor restrained they the people under them from a lewd, adulterous, and incestuous life, ten or twelve men, absurdly against nature, possessing one woman as their common wife, though of nearest kin, mother, daughter, or sister; progenitors not to be gloried in. But the gospel, not long after preached here, abolished such impurities, and of the Romans we have cause not to say much worse, than that they beat us into some civility; likely else to have continued longer in a barbarous and savage manner of life. After Julius (for Julius before his death tyrannously had made himself emperor of the Roman commonwealth, and was slain in the senate for so doing) he who next obtained the empire, Octavianus Cæsar Augustus, either contemning the island, as Strabo would have us think, whose neither benefit was worth the having nor enmity worth the fearing; or out of a wholesome state-maxim, as some say to moderate and bound the empire from growing vast and unwieldy, made no attempt against the Britons. But the truer cause was party civil war among the Romans, partly other affairs more urging. For about twenty years after, all which time the Britons had lived at their own dispose, Augustus, in imitation of his uncle Julius, either intending or seeming to intend an expedition hither, was come into Gallia, when the news of a revolt in Pannonia diverted him: about seven years after in the same resolution, what with the unsettledness of Gallia, and what with embassadors from Britain which met him there, he proceeded not. The next year, difference arising about covenants, he was again prevented by other new commotions in Spain. Nevertheless some of the British potentates omitted not to seek his friendship by gifts offered in the Capitol, and other obsequious addresses. Insomuch that the whole island became even in those days well known to the Romans; too well perhaps for them, who from the knowledge of us were so like to prove enemies. But as for tribute, the Britons paid none to Augustus, except what easy customs were levied on the slight commodities wherewith they traded into Gallia.
After Cassibelan, Tenantius the younger son of Lud, according to the Monmouth story, was made king. For Androgeus the elder, conceiving himself generally hated for siding with the Romans, forsook his claim here, and followed Cæsar’s fortune. This king is recorded just and warlike.
His son Kymbeline, or Cunobeline, succeeding, was brought up, as is said, in the court of Augustus, and with him held friendly correspondences to the end; was a warlike prince; his chief seat Camalodunum, or Maldon, as by certain of his coins, yet to be seen, appears. Tiberius, the next emperor, adhering always to the advice of Augustus, and of himself less caring to extend the bounds of his empire, sought not the Britons; and they as little to incite him, sent home courteously the soldiers of Germanicus, that by shipwreck had been cast on the British shore. But Caligula, his successor, a wild and dissolute tyrant, having passed the Alps with intent to rob and spoil those provinces, and stirred up by Adminius the son of Cunobeline; who, by his father banished, with a small number fled thither to him, made semblance of marching toward Britain; but being come to the ocean, and there behaving himself madly and ridiculously, went back the same way: yet sent before him boasting letters to the senate, as if all Britain had been yielded him. Cunobeline now dead, Adminius the eldest by his father banished from his country, and by his own practice against it from the crown, though by an old coin seeming to have also reigned; Togodumnus, and Caractacus the two younger, uncertain whether unequal or subordinate in power, were advanced into his place. But through civil discord, Bericus (what he was further, is not known) with others of his party flying to Rome, persuaded Claudius the emperor to an invasion. Claudius now consul the third time, and desirous to do something, whence he might gain the honour of a triumph, at the persuasion of these fugitives, whom the Britons demanding, he had denied to render, and they for that cause had denied further amity with Rome, makes choice of this island for his province: and sends before him Aulus Plautius the prætor, with this command, if the business grew difficult, to give him notice. Plautius with much ado persuaded the legions to move out of Gallia, murmuring that now they must be put to make war beyond the world’s end, for so they counted Britain; and what welcome Julius the dictator found there, doubtless they had heard. At last prevailed with, and hoisting sail from three several ports, lest their landing should in any one place be resisted, meeting cross winds, they were cast back and disheartened; till in the night a meteor shooting flames from the East, and as they fancied directing their course, they took heart again to try the sea, and without opposition landed. For the Britons, having heard of their unwillingness to come, had been negligent to provide against them; and retiring to the woods and moors, intended to frustrate and wear them out with delays, as they had served Cæsar before.
Plautius, after much trouble to find them out, encountering first with Caractacus, then with Togodumnus, overthrew them; and receiving into conditions part of the Boduni, who were then subject to the Catuellani, and leaving there a garrison, went on toward a river: where the Britons not imagining that Plautius without a bridge could pass, lay on the further side careless and secure. But he sending first the Germans, whose custom was, armed as they were to swim with ease the strongest current, commands them to strike especially at the horses, whereby the chariots, wherein consisted their chief art of fight, became unserviceable. To second them he sent Vespasian, who in his latter days obtained the empire, and Sabinus his brother; who unexpectedly assailing those who were least aware, did much execution. Yet not for this were the Britons dismayed; but reuniting the next day, fought with such a courage, as made it hard to decide which way hung the victory: till Caius Sidius Geta, at point to have been taken, recovered himself so valiantly, as brought the day on his side; for which at Rome he received high honours. After this the Britons drew back towards the mouth of Thames, and, acquainted with those places, crossed over; where the Romans following them through bogs and dangerous flats, hazarded the loss of all. Yet the Germans getting over, and others by a bridge at some place above, fell on them again with sundry alarms and great slaughter; but in the heat of pursuit running themselves again into bogs and mires, lost as many of their own. Upon which ill success, and seeing the Britons more enraged at the death of Togodumnus, who in one of these battles had been slain, Plautius fearing the worst, and glad that he could hold what he held, as was enjoined him, sends to Claudius. He who waited ready with a huge preparation, as if not safe enough amidst the flower of all his Romans, like a great Eastern king, with armed elephants marches through Gallia. So full of peril was this enterprise esteemed, as not without all this equipage, and stranger terrors than Roman armies, to meet the native and the naked British valour defending their country. Joined with Plautius, who encamping on the bank of Thames attended him, he passes the river. The Britons who had the courage, but not the wise conduct of old Cassibelan, laying all stratagem aside, in downright manhood scruple not to affront in open field almost the whole power of the Roman empire. But overcome and vanquished, part by force, others by treaty come in and yield. Claudius therefore, who took Camalodunum, the royal seat of Cunobeline, was often by the army saluted Imperator; a military title which usually they gave their general after any notable exploit; but to others, not above once in the same war; as if Claudius, by these acts, had deserved more than the laws of Rome had provided honour to reward. Having therefore disarmed the Britons, but remitted the confiscation of their goods, for which they worshipped him with sacrifice and temple as a god, leaving Plautius to subdue what remained; he returns to Rome, from whence he had been absent only six months, and in Britain but sixteen days; sending the news before him of his victories, though in a small part of the island. By which is manifestly refuted that which Eutropius and Orosius write of his conquering at that time also the Orcades islands, lying to the North of Scotland; and not conquered by the Romans (for aught found in any good author) till above forty years after, as shall appear. To Claudius the senate, as for achievements of highest merit, decreed excessive honours; arches, triumphs, annual solemnities, and the surname of Britannicus both to him and his son.
Suetonius writes, that Claudius found here no resistance, and that all was done without stroke: but this seems not probable. The Monmouth writer names these two sons of Cunobeline, Guiderius and Arviragus; that Guiderius being slain in fight, Arviragus, to conceal it, put on his brother’s habiliments, and in his person held up the battle to a victory; the rest, as of Hano the Roman captain, Genuissa the emperor’s daughter, and such like stuff, is too palpably untrue to be worth rehearsing in the midst of truth. Plautius after this, employing his fresh forces to conquer on, and quiet the rebelling countries, found work enough to deserve at his return a kind of triumphant riding into the Capitol side by side with the emperor. Vespasian also under Plautius had thirty conflicts with the enemy; in one of which encompassed, and in great danger, he was valiantly and piously rescued by his son Titus: two powerful nations he subdued here, above twenty towns and the Isle of Wight; for which he received at Rome triumphal ornaments, and other great dignities. For that city in reward of virtue was ever magnificent; and long after when true merit was ceased among them, lest any thing resembling virtue should want honour, the same rewards were yet allowed to the very shadow and ostentation of merit. Ostorius in the room of Plautius viceprætor met with turbulent affairs; the Britons not ceasing to vex with inroads all those countries that were yielded to the Romans; and now the more eagerly, supposing that the new general, unacquainted with his army, and on the edge of winter, would not hastily oppose them. But he weighing that first events were most available to breed fear or contempt, with such cohorts as were next at hand, sets out against them: whom having routed, so close he follows, as one who meant not to be every day molested with the cavils of a slight peace, or an emboldened enemy. Lest they should make head again, he disarms whom he suspects; and to surround them, places many garrisons upon the rivers of Antona and Sabrina. But the Icenians, a stout people, untouched yet by these wars, as having before sought alliance with the Romans, were the first that brooked not this. By their example others rise; and in a chosen place, fenced with high banks of earth and narrow lanes to prevent the horse, warily encamp. Ostorius though yet not strengthened with his legions, causes the auxiliar bands, his troops also alighting, to assault the rampart. They within, though pestered with their own number, stood to it like men resolved, and in a narrow compass did remarkable deeds. But overpowered at last, and others by their success quieted, who till then wavered, Ostorius next bends his force upon the Cangians, wasting all even to the sea of Ireland, without foe in his way, or them, who durst, ill handled; when the Brigantes, attempting new matters drew him back to settle first what was unsecure behind him. They, of whom the chief were punished, the rest forgiven, soon gave over; but the Silures, no way tractable, were not to be repressed without a set war. To further this, Camalodunum was planted with a colony of veteran soldiers; to be a firm and ready aid against revolts, and a means to teach the natives Roman law and civility. Cogidunus also a British king, their fast friend, had to the same intent certain cities given him: a haughty craft, which the Romans used, to make kings also the servile agents of enslaving others. But the Silures, hardy of themselves, relied more on the valour of Caractacus; whom many doubtful, many prosperous successes had made eminent above all that ruled in Britain. He, adding to his courage policy, and knowing himself to be of strength inferior, in other advantages the better, makes the seat of his war among the Ordovices; a country wherein all the odds were to his own party, all the difficulties to his enemy. The hills and every access he fortified with heaps of stones, and guards of men; to come at whom a river of unsafe passage must be first waded. The place, as Camden conjectures, had thence the name of Caer-caradoc on the west edge of Shropshire. He himself continually went up and down, animating his officers and leaders, that “this was the day, this the field, either to defend their liberty, or to die free;” calling to mind the names of his glorious ancestors, who drove Cæsar the dictator out of Britain, whose valour hitherto had preserved them from bondage, their wives and children from dishonour. Inflamed with these words, they all vow their utmost, with such undaunted resolution as amazed the Roman general; but the soldiers less weighing, because less knowing, clamoured to be led on against any danger. Ostorius, after wary circumspection, bids them pass the river: the Britons no sooner had them within reach of their arrows, darts, and stones, but slew and wounded largely of the Romans. They on the other side closing their ranks, and over head closing their targets, threw down the loose rampires of the Britons, and pursue them up the hills, both light and armed legions; till what with galling darts and heavy strokes, the Britons, who wore neither helmet nor cuirass to defend them, were at last overcome. This the Romans thought a famous victory; wherein the wife and daughter of Caractacus were taken, his brothers also reduced to obedience; himself escaping to Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, against faith given was to the victors delivered bound; having held out against the Romans nine years, saith Tacitus, but by truer computation, seven. Whereby his name was up through all the adjoining provinces, even to Italy and Rome; many desiring to see who he was, that could withstand so many years the Roman puissance: and Cæsar, to extol his own victory, extolled the man whom he had vanquished.
Being brought to Rome, the people as to a solemn spectacle were called together, the emperor’s guard stood in arms. In order came first the king’s servants, bearing his trophies won in other wars, next his brothers, wife, and daughter, last himself. The behaviour of others, through fear, was low and degenerate; he only neither in countenance, word, or action submissive, standing at the tribunal of Claudius, briefly spake to this purpose: “If my mind, Cæsar, had been as moderate in the height of fortune, as my birth and dignity was eminent, I might have come a friend rather than a captive into this city. Nor couldst thou have disliked him for a confederate, so noble of descent, and ruling so many nations. My present estate to me disgraceful, to thee is glorious. I had riches, horses, arms, and men; no wonder then if I contended, not to lose them. But if by fate, yours only must be empire, then of necessity ours among the rest must be subjection. If I sooner had been brought to yield, my misfortune had been less notorious, your conquest had been less renowned; and in your severest determining of me, both will be soon forgotten. But if you grant that I shall live, by me will live to you for ever that praise which is so near divine, the clemency of a conqueror.” Cæsar moved at such a spectacle of fortune, but especially at the nobleness of his bearing it, gave him pardon, and to all the rest. They all unbound, submissly thank him, and did like reverence to Agrippina the emperor’s wife, who sat by in state; a new and disdained sight to the manly eyes of Romans, a woman sitting public in her female pride among ensigns and armed cohorts. To Ostorius triumph is decreed; and his acts esteemed equal to theirs, that brought in bonds to Rome famousest kings. But the same prosperity attended not his later actions here; for the Silures, whether to revenge their loss of Caractacus, or that they saw Ostorious, as if now all were done, less earnest to restrain them, beset the prefect of his camp, left there with legionary bands to appoint garrisons: and had not speedy aid come in from the neighbouring holds and castles, had cut them all off; notwithstanding which, the prefect with eight centurions, and many their stoutest men, were slain: and upon the neck of this, meeting first with Roman foragers, then with other troops hasting to their relief, utterly foiled and broke them also. Ostorius sending more after, could hardly stay their flight; till the weighty legions coming on, at first poised the battle, at length turned the scale: to the Britons without much loss, for by that time it grew night. Then was the war shivered, as it were, into small frays and bickerings; not unlike sometimes to so many robberies, in woods, at waters, as chance or valour, advice or rashness, led them on, commanded or without command. That which most exasperated the Silures, was a report of certain words cast out by the emperor, “That he would root them out to the very name.” Therefore two cohorts more of auxiliars, by the avarice of their leaders too securely pillaging, they quite intercepted; and bestowing liberally the spoils and captives, whereof they took plenty, drew other countries to join with them.
These losses falling so thick upon the Romans, Ostorius with the thought and anguish thereof ended his days; the Britons rejoicing, although no battle, that yet adverse war had worn out so great a soldier. Cæsar in his place ordains Aulus Didius: but ere his coming, though much hastened, that the province might not want a governor, the Silures had given an overthrow to Manlius Valens with his legion, rumoured on both sides greater than was true, by the Silures to animate the new general; by him in a double respect, of the more praise if he quelled them, or the more excuse if he failed. Meantime the Silures forgot not to infest the Roman pale with wide excursions; till Didius marching out, kept them somewhat more within bounds. Nor were they long to seek who, after Caractacus, should lead them; for next to him in worth and skill of war, Venutius, a prince of the Brigantes, merited to be their chief. He at first faithful to the Romans, and by them protected, was the husband of Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, himself perhaps reigning elsewhere. She who had betrayed Caractacus and her country to adorn the triumph of Claudius, thereby grown powerful and gracious with the Romans, presuming on the hire of her treason, deserted her husband; and marrying Vellocatus one of his squires, confers on him the kingdom also. This deed so odious and full of infamy, disturbed the whole state; Venutius with other forces, and the help of her own subjects, who detested the example of so foul a fact, and withal the uncomeliness of their subjection to the monarchy of a woman, a piece of manhood not every day to be found among Britons, though she had got by subtile train his brother with many of his kindred into her hands, brought her soon below the confidence of being able to resist longer. When imploring the Roman aid, with much ado, and after many a hard encounter, she escaped the punishment which was ready to have seized her. Venutius thus debarred the authority of ruling his own household, justly turns his anger against the Romans themselves: whose magnanimity not wont to undertake dishonourable causes, had arrogantly intermeddled in his domestic affairs, to uphold the rebellion of an adulteress against her husband. And the kingdom he retained against their utmost opposition; and of war gave them their fill; first in a sharp conflict of uncertain event, then against the legion of Cæsius Nasica. Insomuch that Didius growing old, and managing the war by deputies, had work enough to stand on his defence, with the gaining now and then of a small castle. And Nero (for in that part of the isle things continued in the same plight to the reign of Vespasian) was minded but for shame to have withdrawn the Roman forces out of Britain: in other parts whereof, about the same time other things befel. Verannius, whom Nero sent hither to succeed Didius, dying in his first year, save a few inroads upon the Silures, left only a great boast behind him, “That in two years, had he lived, he would have conquered all.” But Suetonius Paulinus, who next was sent hither, esteemed a soldier equal to the best in that age, for two years together went on prosperously, both confirming what was got, and subduing onward. At last over-confident of his present actions, and emulating others, of whose deeds he heard from abroad, marches up as far as Mona, the isle of Anglesey, a populous place. For they, it seems, had both entertained fugitives, and given good assistance to the rest that withstood him. He makes him boats with flat bottoms, fitted to the shallows which he expected in that narrow frith; his foot so passed over, his horse waded or swam. Thick upon the shore stood several gross bands of men well weaponed, many women like furies running to and fro in dismal habit, with hair loose about their shoulders, held torches in their hands. The Druids (those were their priests, of whom more in another place) with hands lift up to Heaven uttering direful prayers, astonished the Romans; who at so strange a sight stood in amaze, though wounded: at length awakened and encouraged by their general, not to fear a barbarous and lunatic rout, fall on, and beat them down scorched and rolling in their own fire. Then were they yoked with garrisons, and the places consecrate to their bloody superstitions destroyed. For whom they took in war, they held it lawful to sacrifice; and by the entrails of men used divination. While thus Paulinus had his thought still fixed before to go on winning, his back lay broad open to occasion of losing more behind: for the Britons, urged and oppressed with many unsufferable injuries, had all banded themselves to a general revolt. The particular causes are not all written by one author; Tacitus who lived next those times of any to us extant, writes that Prasutagus king of the Icenians, abounding in wealth, had left Cæsar coheir with his two daughters; thereby hoping to have secured from all wrong both his kingdom and his house; which fell out far otherwise. For under colour to oversee and take possession of the emperor’s new inheritance, his kingdom became a prey to centurions, his house to ravening officers, his wife Boadicea violated with stripes, his daughters with rape, the wealthiest of his subjects, as it were, by the will and testament of their king thrown out of their estates, his kindred made little better than slaves. The new colony also at Camalodunum took house or land from whom they pleased, terming them slaves and vassals; the soldiers complying with the colony, out of hope hereafter to use the same license themselves. Moreover the temple erected to Claudius as a badge of their eternal slavery, stood a great eyesore; the priests whereof, under pretext of what was due to the religious service, wasted and embezzled each man’s substance upon themselves. And Catus Decianus the procurator endeavoured to bring all their goods within the compass of new confiscation, by disavowing the remitment of Claudius. Lastly, Seneca, in his books a philosopher, having drawn the Britons unwillingly to borrow of him vast sums upon fair promises of easy loan, and for repayment to take their own time, on a sudden compels them to pay in all at once with great extortion. Thus provoked by heaviest sufferings, and thus invited by opportunities in the absence of Paulinus, the Icenians, and by their examples the Trinobantes, and as many else as hated servitude, rise up in arms. Of these ensuing troubles many foregoing signs appeared; the image of victory at Camalodunum fell down of itself with her face turned, as it were, to the Britons; certain women, in a kind of ecstacy, foretold of calamities to come: in the council-house were heard by night barbarous noises; in the theatre hideous howlings, in the creek horrid sights, betokening the destruction of that colony; hereto the ocean seeming of a bloody hue, and human shapes at low ebb, left imprinted on the sand, wrought in the Britons new courage, in the Romans unwonted fears. Camalodunum, where the Romans had seated themselves to dwell pleasantly, rather than defensively, was not fortified; against that therefore the Britons make first assault. The soldiers within were not very many. Decianus the procurator could send them but two hundred, those ill armed: and through the treachery of some among them, who secretly favoured the insurrection, they had deferred both to entrench, and to send out such as bore not arms; such as did, flying to the temple, which on the second day was forcibly taken, were all put to the sword, the temple made a heap, the rest rifled and burnt. Petilius Cerealis coming to his succour, is in his way met and overthrown, his whole legion cut to pieces; he with his horse hardly escaping to the Roman camp. Decianus, whose rapine was the cause of all this, fled into Gallia. But Suetonius at these tidings not dismayed, through the midst of his enemy’s country, marches to London (though not termed a colony, yet full of Roman inhabitants, and for the frequency of trade, and other commodities, a town even then of principal note) with purpose to have made there the seat of war. But considering the smallness of his numbers, and the late rashness of Petilius, he chooses rather with the loss of one town to save the rest. Nor was he flexible to any prayers or weeping of them that besought him to tarry there; but taking with him such as were willing, gave signal to depart; they who through weakness of sex or age, or love of the place, went not along, perished by the enemy; so did Verulam, a Roman free town. For the Britons omitting forts and castles, flew thither first where richest booty and the hope of pillaging tolled them on.
In this massacre about seventy thousand Romans and their associates, in the places above mentioned, of certain lost their lives. None might be spared, none ransomed, but tasted all either a present or a lingering death; no cruelty that either outrage or the insolence of success put into their heads, was left unacted. The Roman wives and virgins hanged up all naked, had their breasts cut off, and sewed to their mouths; that in the grimness of death they might seem to eat their own flesh; while the Britons fell to feasting and carousing in the temple of Andate their goddess of victory. Suetonius adding to his legion other old officers and soldiers thereabout, which gathered to him, were near upon ten thousand; and purposing with those not to defer battle, had chosen a place narrow, and not to be overwinged, on his rear a wood; being well informed that his enemy were all in front on a plain unapt for ambush: the legionaries stood thick in order, empaled with light armed; the horse on either wing. The Britons in companies and squadrons were every where shouting and swarming, such a multitude as at other time never; no less reckoned than two hundred and thirty thousand: so fierce and confident of victory, that their wives also came in wagons to sit and behold the sports, as they made full account of killing Romans: a folly doubtless for the serious Romans to smile at, as a sure token of prospering that day: a woman also was their commander in chief. For Boadicea and her daughters ride about in a chariot, telling the tall champions as a great encouragement, that with the Britons it was usual for women to be their leaders. A deal of other fondness they put into her mouth not worth recital; how she was lashed, how her daughters were handled, things worthier silence, retirement, and a vail, than for a woman to repeat, as done to her own person, or to hear repeated before a host of men. The Greek historian sets her in the field on a high heap of turves, in a loose-bodied gown, declaiming, a spear in her hand, a hare in her bosom, which after a long circumlocution, she was to let slip among them for luck’s sake; then praying to Andate the British goddess, to talk again as fondly as before. And this they do out of a vanity, hoping to embellish and set out their history with the strangeness of our manners, not caring in the meanwhile to brand us with the rankest note of barbarism, as if in Britain women were men, and men women. I affect not set speeches in a history, unless known for certain to have been so spoken in effect as they are written, nor then, unless worth rehearsal: and to invent such, though eloquently, as some historians have done, is an abuse of posterity, raising in them that read other conceptions of those times and persons than were true. Much less therefore do I purpose here or elsewhere to copy out tedious orations without decorum, though in their authors composed ready to my hand. Hitherto what we have heard of Cassibelan, Togadumnus, Venusius, and Caractacus, hath been full of magnanimity, soberness, and martial skill: but the truth is, that in this battle and whole business the Britons never more plainly manifested themselves to be right barbarians: no rule, no foresight, no forecast, experience, or estimation, either of themselves or of their enemies; such confusion, such impotence, as seemed likest not to a war, but to the wild hurry of a distracted woman, with as mad a crew at her heels. Therefore Suetonius, contemning their unruly noises and fierce looks, heartens his men but to stand close awhile, and strike manfully this headless rabble that stood nearest, the rest would be a purchase rather than a toil. And so it fell out; for the legion, when they saw their time, bursting out like a violent wedge, quickly broke and dissipated what opposed them; all else only held out their necks to the slayer; for their own carts and wagons were so placed by themselves, as left them but little room to escape between. The Romans slew all: men, women, and the very drawing horses lay heaped along the field in a gory mixture of slaughter. About fourscore thousand Britons are said to have been slain on the place; of the enemy scarce four hundred, and not many more wounded. Boadicea poisoned herself, or, as others say, sickened and died. She was of stature big and tall, of visage grim and stern, harsh of voice, her hair of a bright colour flowing down to her hips; she wore a plaited garment of divers colours, with a great golden chain; buttoned over all a thick robe. Gildas calls her the crafty lioness, and leaves an ill fame upon her doings.
Dion sets down otherwise the order of this fight, and that the field was not won without much difficulty, nor without intention of the Britons to give another battle, had not the death of Boadicea come between. Howbeit Seutonius, to preserve discipline, and to dispatch the relies of war, lodged with all the army in the open field; which was supplied out of Germany with a thousand horse and ten thousand foot; thence dispersed to winter, and with incursions to waste those countries that stood out. But to the Britons famine was a worse affliction; having left off, during this uproar, to till the ground, and made reckoning to serve themselves on the provisions of their enemy. Nevertheless those nations that were yet untamed, hearing of some discord risen between Suetonius and the new procurator Classicianus, were brought but slowly to terms of peace; and the rigour used by Suetonius on them that yielded, taught them the better course to stand on their defence. For it is certain that Suetonius, though else a worthy man, overproud of his victory, gave too much way to his anger against the Britons. Classician therefore sending such word to Rome, that these severe proceedings would beget an endless war, Polycletus, no Roman but a courtier, was sent by Nero to examine how things went. He admonishing Suetonius to use more mildness, awed the army, and to the Britons gave matter of laughter. Who so much even till then were nursed up in their native liberty, as to wonder that so great a general with his whole army should be at the rebuke and ordering of a court-servitor. But Suetonius a while after, having lost a few galleys on the shore, was bid resign his command to Petronius Turpilianus, who not provoking the Britons, nor by them provoked, was thought to have pretended the love of peace to what indeed was his love of ease and sloth. Trebellius Maximus followed his steps, usurping the name of gentle government to any remissness or neglect of discipline; which brought in first license, next disobedience into his camp; incensed against him partly for his covetousness, partly by the incitement of Roscius Cælius, legate of a legion; with whom formerly disagreeing, now that civil war began in the empire, he fell to open discord; charging him with disorder and sedition, and him Cælius with peeling and defrauding the legions of their pay; insomuch that Trebellius, hated and deserted of the soldiers, was content a while to govern by base entreaty, and forced at length to flee the land. Which notwithstanding remained in good quiet, governed by Cælius and the other legate of a legion, both faithful to Vitellius then emperor; who sent hither Vectius Bolanus; under whose lenity, though not tainted with other fault against the Britons nothing was done, nor in their own discipline reformed. Petilius Cerealis by appointment of Vespasian succeeding, had to do with the populous Brigantes in many battles, and some of those not unbloody. For as we heard before, it was Venusius who even to these times held them tack, both himself remaining to the end unvanquished, and some part of his country not so much as reached. It appears also by several passages in the histories of Tacitus, that no small matter of British forces were commanded over sea the year before to serve in those bloody wars between Otho and Vitellius, Vitellius and Vespasian contending for the empire. To Cerealis succeeded Julius Frontinus in the government of Britain, who by taming the Silures, a people warlike and strongly inhabiting, augmented much his reputation. But Julius Agricola, whom Vespasian in his last year sent hither, trained up from his youth in the British wars, extended with victories the Roman limit beyond all his predecessors. His coming was in the midst of summer; and the Ordivices to welcome the new general had hewn in pieces a whole squadron of horse which lay upon their bounds, few escaping. Agricola, who perceived that the noise of this defeat had also in the province desirous of novelty stirred up new expectations, resolves to be beforehand with the danger: and drawing together the choice of his legions with a competent number of auxiliaries, not being met by the Ordovices, who kept the hills, himself at the head of his men, hunts them up and down through difficult places, almost to the final extirpating of that whole nation. With the same current of success, what Paulinus had left unfinished, he conquers in the isle of Mona: for the islanders altogether fearless of his approach, whom they knew to have no shipping, when they saw themselves invaded on a sudden by the auxiliars, whose country-use had taught them to swim over with horse and arms, were compelled to yield. This gained Agricola much opinion: who at his very entrance, a time which others bestowed of course in hearing compliments and gratulations, had made such early progress into laborious and hardest enterprises. But by far not so famous was Agricola in bringing war to a speedy end, as in cutting off the causes from whence war arises. For he knowing that the end of war was not to make way for injuries in peace, began reformation from his own house; permitted not his attendants and followers to sway, or have to do at all in public affairs: lays on with equality the proportions of corn and tribute that were imposed; takes off exactions, and the fees of encroaching officers, heavier than the tribute itself. For the countries had been compelled before, to sit and wait the opening of public granaries, and both to sell and to buy their corn at what rate the publicans thought fit; the purveyors also commanding when they pleased to bring it in, not to the nearest, but still to the remotest places, either by the compounding of such as would be excused, or by causing a dearth, where none was, made a particular gain. These grievances and the like, he in the time of peace removing, brought peace into some credit; which before, since the Romans coming, had as ill a name as war.
The summer following, Titus then emperor, he so continually with inroads disquieted the enemy over all the isle, and after terror so allured them with his gentle demeanor, that many cities which till that time would not bend, gave hostages, admitted garrisons, and came in voluntarily. The winter he spent all in worthy actions; teaching and promoting like a public father the institutes and customs of civil life. The inhabitants rude and scattered, and by that the proner to war, he so persuaded to build houses, temples, and seats of justice; and by praising the forward, quickening the slow, assisting all, turned the name of necessity into an emulation. He caused moreover, the noblemen’s sons to be bred up in liberal arts; and by preferring the wits of Britain before the studies of Gallia, brought them to affect the Latin eloquence, who before hated the language. Then were the Roman fashions imitated, and the gown; after a while the incitements also and materials of vice, and voluptuous life, proud buildings, baths, and the elegance of banqueting; which the foolisher sort called civility, but was indeed a secret art to prepare them for bondage. Spring appearing, he took the field, and with a prosperous expedition wasted as far northward as frith of Taus all that obeyed not, with such a terror, as he went, that the Roman army, though much hindered by tempestuous weather, had the leisure to build forts and castles where they pleased, none daring to oppose them. Besides, Agricola had this excellence in him, so providently to choose his places where to fortify, as not another general then alive. No sconce or fortress of his raising was ever known either to have been forced, or yielded up or quitted. Out of these impregnable by siege, or in that case duly relieved, with continual irruptions he so prevailed, that the enemy, whose manner was in winter to regain what in summer he had lost, was now alike in both seasons kept short and straitened. For these exploits, then esteemed so great and honourable, Titus, in whose reign they were achieved, was the fifteenth time saluted imperator; and of him Agricola received triumphal honours. The fourth summer, Domitian then ruling the empire, he spent in settling and confirming what the year before he had travelled over with a running conquest. And had the valour of his soldiers been answerable, he had reached that year, as was thought, the utmost bounds of Britain. For Glota and Bodotria, now Dunbritton, and the frith of Edinburgh, two opposite arms of the sea, divided only by a neck of land, and all the creeks and inlets on this side, were held by the Romans, and the enemy driven as it were into another island. In his fifth year he passed over into the Orcades, as we may probably guess, and other Scotch isles; discovering and subduing nations, till then unknown. He gained also with his forces that part of Britain which faces Ireland, as aiming also to conquer that island; where one of the Irish kings driven out by civil wars coming to him, he both gladly received, and retained him as against a fit time. The summer ensuing, on mistrust that the nations beyond Bodotria would generally rise, and forelay the passages by land, he caused his fleet, making a great show, to bear along the coast, and up the friths and harbours; joining most commonly at night on the same shore both land and sea forces, with mutual shouts and loud greetings. At sight whereof, the Britons, not wont to see their sea so ridden, were much daunted. Howbeit the Caledonians with great preparation, and by rumor, as of things unknown much greater, taking arms, and of their own accord beginning war by the assault of sundry castles, sent back some of their fear to the Romans themselves: and there were of the commanders who, cloaking their fear under show of sage advice, counselled the general to retreat back on this side Bodotria. He in the mean while having intelligence, that the enemy would fall on in many bodies, divided also his army into three parts. Which advantage the Britons quickly spying, and on a sudden uniting what before they had disjointed, assail by night with all their forces that part of the Roman army which they knew to be the weakest; and breaking in upon the camp, surprised between sleep and fear, had begun some execution. When Agricola, who had learnt what way the enemies took, and followed them with all speed, sending before him the lightest of his horse, and foot to charge them behind, the rest as they came on to affright them with clamour, so plied them without respite, that by approach of day the Roman ensigns glittering all about, had encompassed the Britons: who now after a sharp fight in the very ports of the camp, betook them to their wonted refuge, the woods and fens, pursued a while by the Romans; that day else in all appearance had ended the war. The legions reincouraged by this event, they also now boasting, who but lately trembled, cry all to be led on as far as there was British ground. The Britons also not acknowledging the loss of that day to Roman valour, but to the policy of their captain, abated nothing of their stoutness; but arming their youth, conveying their wives and children to places of safety, in frequent assemblies, and by solemn covenants bound themselves to mutual assistance against the common enemy. About the same time a cohort of Germans having slain their centurion with other Roman officers in a mutiny, and for fear of punishment fled on shipboard, launched forth in three light galleys without pilot; and by tide or weather carried round about the coast, using piracy where they landed, while their ships held out, and as their skill served them, with various fortune, were the first discoverers to the Romans that Britain was an island.
The following summer, Agricola having before sent his navy to hover on the coast, and with sundry and uncertain landings to divert and disunite the Britons, himself with a power best appointed for expedition, wherein also were many Britons, whom he had long tried, both valiant and faithful, marches onward to the mountain Grampius, where the British, above thirty thousand, were now lodged, and still increasing; for neither would their old men, so many as were yet vigorous and lusty, be left at home, long practised in war, and every one adorned with some badge, or cognizance of his warlike deeds long ago. Of whom Galgacus, both by birth and merit the prime leader to their courage, though of itself hot and violent, is by his rough oratory, in detestation of servitude and the Roman yoke, said to have added much more eagerness of fight, testified by their shouts and barbarous applauses. As much did on the other side Agricola exhort his soldiers to victory and glory; as much the soldiers by his firm and well-grounded exhortations were all on a fire to the onset. But first he orders them on this sort: Of eight thousand auxiliary foot he makes his middle ward, on the wings three thousand horse, the legions as a reserve, stood in array before the camp; either to seize the victory won without their own hazard, or to keep up the battle if it should need. The British powers on the hill side, as might best serve for show and terror, stood in their battalions; the first on even ground, the next rising behind, as the hill ascended. The field between rung with the noise of horsemen and chariots ranging up and down. Agricola doubting to be overwinged, stretches out his front, though somewhat with the thinnest, insomuch that many advised to bring up the legions; yet he not altering, alights from his horse, and stands on foot before the ensigns. The fight began aloof, and the Britons had a certain skill with their broad swashing swords and short bucklers either to strike aside, or to bear off the darts of their enemy; and withal to send back showers of their own. Until Agricola discerning that those little targets and unwieldy glaves ill pointed, would soon become ridiculous against the thrust and close, commanded three Batavian cohorts, and two of the Tungrians exercised and armed for close fight, to draw up, and come to handy strokes. The Batavians, as they were commanded, running in upon them, now with their long tucks thrusting at the face, now with their piked targets bearing them down, had made good riddance of them that stood below; and for haste omitting further execution, began apace to advance up hill, seconded now by all the other cohorts. Meanwhile the horsemen flee, the charioteers mix themselves to fight among the foot, where many of their horse also fallen in disorderly, were now more a mischief to their own, than before a terror to their enemies. The battle was a confused heap, the ground unequal; men, horses, chariots, crowded pellmell; sometimes in little room, by and by in large, fighting, rushing, felling, overbearing, overturning. They on the hill, which were not yet come to blows, perceiving the fewness of their enemies, came down amain; and had enclosed the Romans unawares behind, but that Agricola with a strong body of horse, which he reserved for such a purpose, repelled them back as fast; and others drawn off the front, were commanded to wheel about and charge them on the backs. Then were the Romans clearly masters; they follow, they wound, they take, and to take more, kill whom they take: the Britons, in whole troops with weapons in their hands one while fleeing the pursuer, anon without weapons desperately running upon the slayer. But of all them, when once they got the woods to their shelter, with fresh boldness made head again, and the forwardest on a sudden they turned and slew, the rest so hampered, as had not Agricola, who was every where at hand, sent out his readiest cohorts, with a part of his horse to alight and scour the woods, they had received a foil in the midst of victory; but following with a close and orderly pursuit, the Britons fled again, and were totally scattered; till night and weariness ended the chase. And of them that day ten thousand fell; of the Romans three hundred and forty, among whom Aulus Atticus the leader of a cohort; carried with heat of youth and the fierceness of his horse too far on.
The Romans jocund of this victory, and the spoil they got, spent the night; the vanquished wandering about the field, both men and women, some lamenting, some calling their lost friends, or carrying off their wounded; others forsaking, some burning their own houses; and it was certain enough, that there were who with a stern compassion laid violent hands on their wives and children, to prevent the more violent hands of hostile injury. Next day appearing, manifested more plainly the greatness of their loss received; every where silence, desolation, houses burning afar off, not a man seen, all fled, and doubtful whither: such word the scouts bringing in from all parts, and the summer now spent, no fit season to disperse a war, the Roman general leads his army among the Horestians; by whom hostages being given, he commands his admiral with a sufficient navy to sail round the coast of Britain; himself with slow marches, that his delay in passing might serve to awe those new conquered nations, bestows his army in their winter-quarters. The fleet also having fetched a prosperous and speedy compass about the isle, put in at the haven Trutulensis, now Richburg near Sandwich, from whence it first set out: and now likeliest, if not two years before, as was mentioned, the Romans might discover and subdue the isles of Orkney; which others with less reason, following Eusebius and Orosius, attribute to the deeds of Claudius. These perpetual exploits abroad won him wide fame: with Domitian, under whom great virtue was as punishable as open crime, won him hatred. For he maligning the renown of these his acts, in show decreed him honours, in secret devised his ruin. Agricola therefore commanded home for doing too much of what he was sent to do, left the province to his successor quiet and secure. Whether he, as is conjectured, were Salustius Lucullus, or before him some other, for Suetonius only names him legate of Britain under Domitian; but further of him, or aught else done here until the time of Hadrian, is no where plainly to be found. Some gather by a preface in Tacitus to the book of his histories, that what Agricola won here, was soon after by Domitian either through want of valour lost, or through envy neglected. And Juvenal the poet speaks of Arviragus in these days, and not before, king of Britain; who stood so well in his resistance, as not only to be talked of at Rome, but to be held matter of a glorious triumph, if Domitian could take him captive, or overcome him. Then also Claudia Rufina the daughter of a Briton, and wife of Pudence a Roman senator, lived at Rome famous by the verse of Martial for beauty, wit and learning. The next we hear of Britain, is, that when Trajan was emperor, it revolted, and was subdued. But Hadrian next entering on the empire, they soon unsubdued themselves. Julius Severus, saith Dion, then governed the island, a prime soldier of that age: he being called away to suppress the Jews then in tumult left things at such a pass, as caused the emperor in person to take a journey hither; where many things he reformed, and as Augustus and Tiberius counselled, to gird the empire within moderate bounds, he raised a wall with great stakes driven in deep, and fastened together, in manner of a strong mound, fourscore mile in length, to divide what was Roman from Barbarian; as his manner was to do in other frontiers of his empire, where great rivers divided not the limits. No ancient author names the place, but old inscriptions, and the ruin itself, yet testifies where it went along between Solway frith by Carlisle, and the mouth of Tine. Hadrian having quieted the island, took it for honour to be titled on his coin, “The restorer of Britain.” In his time also Priscus Licinius, as appears by an old inscription, was lieutenant here. Antoninus Pius reigning, the Brigantes ever least patient of foreign servitude, breaking in upon Genounia (which Camden guesses to be Guinethia or North Wales) part of the Roman province, were with the loss of much territory driven back by Lollius Urbicus, who drew another wall of turves; in likelihood much beyond the former, and as Camden proves, between the frith of Dunbritton, and of Edinburgh; to hedge out incursions from the north. And Seius Saturninus, as is collected from the digests, had charge here of the Roman navy. With like success did Marcus Aurelius, next emperor, by his legate Calphurnius Agricola, finish here a new war: Commodus after him obtaining the empire. In his time, as among so many different accounts may seem most probable, Lucius a supposed king in some part of Britain, the first of any king in Europe, that we read of, received the Christian faith, and this nation the first by public authority professed it: a high and singular grace from above, if sincerity and perseverance went along, otherwise an empty boast, and to be feared the verifying of that true sentence, “The first shall be last.” And indeed the praise of this action is more proper to King Lucius, than common to the nation; whose first professing by public authority was no real commendation of their true faith, which had appeared more sincere and praiseworthy, whether in this or other nation, first professed without public authority or against it, might else have been but outward conformity. Lucius in our Monmouth story is made the second by descent from Marius; Marius the son of Arviragus is there said to have overthrown the Picts then first coming out of Scythia, slain Roderic their king; and in sign of victory to have set up a monument of stone in the country since called Westmaria; but these things have no foundation. Coilus the son of Marius, all his reign, which was just and peaceable, holding great amity with the Romans, left it hereditary to Lucius. He (if Beda err not, living near five hundred years after, yet our ancientest author of this report) sent to Elutherius, then bishop of Rome, an improbable letter, as some of the contents discover, desiring that by his appointment he and his people might receive Christianity. From whom two religious doctors, named in our chronicles Faganus and Deruvianus, forthwith sent, are said to have converted and baptized well nigh the whole nation: thence Lucius to have had the surname of Levermaur, that is to say, great light. Nor yet then first was the Christian faith here known, but even from the latter days of Tiberius, as Gildas confidently affirms, taught and propagated, and that as some say by Simon Zelotes, as others by Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas, Paul, Peter, and their prime disciples.
But of these matters, variously written and believed, ecclesiastic historians can best determine; as the best of them do, with little credit given to the particulars of such uncertain relations. As for Lucius, they write, that after a long reign he was buried in Gloucester; but dying without issue, left the kingdom in great commotion. By truer testimony we find that the greatest war which in those days busied Commodus, was in this island. For the nations northward, notwithstanding the wall raised to keep them out, breaking in upon the Roman province, wasted wide; and both the army and the leader that came against them wholly routed, and destroyed; which put the emperor in such a fear, as to dispatch hither one of his best commanders, Ulpius Marcellus. He a man endowed with all nobleness of mind, frugal and temperate, mild and magnanimous, in war bold and watchful, invincible against lucre, and the assault of bribes; what with his valour, and these his other virtues, quickly ended this war that looked so dangerous, and had himself like to have been ended by the peace which he brought home for presuming to be so worthy and so good under the envy of so worthless and so bad an emperor. After whose departure the Roman legions fell to sedition among themselves; fifteen hundred of them went to Rome in name of the rest, and were so terrible to Commodus himself, as that to please them he delivered up to their care Perennis the captain of his guard, for having in the British war removed their leaders, who were senators, and in their places put those of the equestrian order. Notwithstanding which compliance, they endeavoured here to set up another emperor against him; and Helvius Pertinax, who succeeded governor, found it a work so difficult to appease them, that once in a mutiny he was left for dead among many slain; and though afterwards he severely punished the tumulters, was fain at length to seek a dismission from his charge. After him Clodius Albinus took the government; but he, for having to the soldiers made an oration against monarchy, by the appointment of Commodus was bid resign to Junius Severus.
But Albinus in those troublesome times ensuing under the short reign of Pertinax and Didius Julianus, found means to keep in his hands the government of Britain; although Septimius Severus, who next held the empire, sent hither Heraclitus to displace him; but in vain, for Albinus with all the British powers and those of Gallia met Severus about Lyons in France, and fought a bloody battle with him for the empire, though at last vanquished and slain. The government of Britain Severus divided between two deputies; till then one legate was thought sufficient; the north he committed to Virius Lupus. Where the Meatæ rising in arms, and the Caledonians, though they had promised the contrary to Lupus, preparing to defend them, so hard beset, he was compelled to buy his peace, and a few prisoners with great sums of money. But hearing that Severus had now brought to an end his other wars, he writes him plainly the state of things here, “the Britons of the north made war upon him, broke into the province, and harassed all the countries nigh them, that there needed suddenly either more aid, or himself in person.”
Severus, though now much weakened with age and the gout, yet desirous to leave some memorial of his warlike achievements here, as he had done in other places, and besides to withdraw by this means his two sons from the pleasures of Rome, and his soldiers from idleness, with a mighty power, far sooner than could be expected, arrives in Britain. The northern people much daunted with the report of so great forces brought over with him, and yet more preparing, send embassadors to treat of peace, and to excuse their former doings. The emperor now loth to return home without some memorable thing done, whereby he might assume to his other titles the addition of Britannicus, delays his answer, and quickens his preparations; till in the end, when all things were in readiness to follow them, they are dismissed without effect. His principal care was to have many bridges laid over bogs and rotten moors, that his soldiers might have to fight on sure footing. For it seems through lack of tillage, the northern parts were then, as Ireland is at this day; and the inhabitants in like manner wanted to retire, and defend themselves in such watery places half naked. He also being past Adrian’s wall, cut down woods, made ways through hills, fastened and filled up unsound and plashy fens. Notwithstanding all this industry used, the enemy kept himself so cunningly within his best advantages, and seldom appearing, so opportunely found his times to make irruption upon the Romans, when they were most in straits and difficulties, sometimes training them on with a few cattle turned out, and drawn within ambush cruelly handling them, that many a time enclosed in the midst of sloughs and quagmires, they chose rather themselves to kill such as were faint and could not shift away, than leave them there a prey to the Caledonians. Thus lost Severus, and by sickness in those noisome places, no less than fifty thousand men: and yet desisted not, though for weakness carried in a litter, till he had marched through with his army to the utmost northern verge of the isle: and the Britons offering peace, were compelled to lose much of their country not before subject to the Romans. Severus on the frontiers of what he had firmly conquered, builds a wall cross the island from sea to sea; which one author judges the most magnificent of all his other deeds; and that he thence received the style of Britannicus; in length a hundred and thirty-two miles. Orosius adds it fortified with a deep trench, and between certain spaces many towers or battlements. The place whereof some will have to be in Scotland, the same which Lollius Urbicus had walled before. Others affirm it only Hadrian’s work re-edified; both plead authorities and the ancient track yet visible: but this I leave among the studious of these antiquities to be discussed more at large. While peace held, the empress Julia meeting on a time certain British ladies, and discoursing with the wife of Argentocoxus a Caledonian, cast out a scoff against the looseness of our island women; whose manner then was to use promiscuously the company of divers men. Whom straight the British woman boldly thus answered: “Much better do we Britons fulfil the work of nature than you Romans; we with the best men accustom openly: you with the basest commit private adulteries.” Whether she thought this answer might serve to justify the practice of her country, as when vices are compared, the greater seems to justify the less; or whether the law and custom wherein she was bred, had whipped out of her conscience the better dictate of nature, and not convinced her of the shame, certain it is, that whenas other nations used a liberty not unnatural for one man to have many wives, the Britons altogether as licentious, but more absurd and preposterous in their license, had one or many wives in common among ten or twelve husbands; and those for the most part incestuously. But no sooner was Severus returned into the province, than the Britons take arms again. Against whom Severus, worn out with labours and infirmity, sends Antoninus his eldest son, expressly commanding him to spare neither sex nor age. But Antoninus, who had his wicked thoughts taken up with the contriving of his father’s death, a safer enemy than a son, did the Britons not much detriment. Whereat Severus, more overcome with grief than any other malady, ended his life at York. After whose decease Antoninus Caracalla his impious son, concluding peace with the Britons, took hostages and departed to Rome. The conductor of all this northern war Scottish writers name Donaldus, he of Monmouth Fulgenius, in the rest of his relation nothing worth. From hence the Roman empire declining apace, good historians growing scarce, or lost, have left us little else but fragments for many years ensuing. Under Gordian the emperor we find, by the inscription of an altar-stone, that Nonius Philippus governed here. Under Galienus we read there was a strong and general revolt from the Roman legate. Of the thirty tyrants which not long after took upon them the style of emperor, by many coins found among us, Lollianus, Victorinus, Posthumus, the Tetrici, and Marius are conjectured to have risen or borne great sway in this island. Whence Porphyrius, a philosopher then living, said that Britain was a soil fruitful of tyrants; and is noted to be the first author that makes mention of the Scottish nation. While Probus was emperor, Bonosus the son of a rhetorician, bred up a Spaniard, though by descent a Briton, and a matchless drinker; nor much to be blamed, if, as they write, he were still wisest in his cups; having attained in warfare to high honours, and lastly in his charge over the German shipping, willingly, as was thought, miscarried, trusting on his power with the western armies, and joined with Proculus, bore himself awhile for emperor; but after a long and bloody fight at Cullen, vanquished by Probus, he hanged himself, and gave occasion of a ready jest made on him for his much drinking: “Here hangs a tankard, not a man.” After this, Probus with much wisdom prevented a new rising here in Briton by the severe loyalty of Victorinus a Moor, at whose entreaty he had placed here that governor which rebelled. For the emperor upbraiding him with the disloyalty of whom he had commended, Victorinus undertaking to set all right again, hastes thither, and finding indeed the governor to intend sedition, by some contrivance not mentioned in the story, slew him, whose name some imagine to be Cornelius Lelianus. They write also that Probus gave leave to the Spaniards, Gauls, and Britons to plant vines, and to make wine; and having subdued the Vandals and Burgundians in a great battle, sent over many of them hither to inhabit, where they did good service to the Romans, when any insurrection happened in the isle. After whom Carus emperor going against the Persians, left Carinus one of his sons to govern among other western provinces this island with imperial authority; but him Dioclesian, saluted emperor by the eastern arms, overcame and slew. About which time Carausius, a man of low parentage, born in Menapia, about the parts of Cleves and Juliers, who through all military degrees was made at length admiral of the Belgic and Armoric seas, then much infested by the Franks and Saxons, what he took from the pirates, neither restoring to the owners nor accounting to the public, but enriching himself, and yet not scouring the seas, but conniving rather at those sea robbers, was grown at length too great a delinquent to be less than an emperor; for fear and guiltiness in those days made emperors oftener than merit: and understanding that Maximianus Herculius, Dioclesian’s adopted son, was come against him into Gallia, passed over with the navy, which he had made his own, into Britain, and possessed the island. Where he built a new fleet after the Roman fashion, got into his power the legion that was left here in garrison, other outlandish cohorts detained, listed the very merchants and factors of Gallia, and with the allurement of spoil invited great numbers of other barbarous nations to his part, and trained them to sea service, wherein the Romans at that time were grown so out of skill, that Carausius with his navy did at sea what he listed, robbing on every coast; whereby Maximilian, able to come no nearer than the shore of Boloigne, was forced to conclude a peace with Carausius, and yield him Britain; as one fittest to guard the province there against inroads from the North. But not long after having assumed Constantius Chlorus to the dignity of Cæsar, sent him against Carausius; who in the meanwhile had made himself strong both within the land and without. Galfred of Monmouth writes, that he made the Picts his confederates; to whom, lately come out of Scythia, he gave Albany to dwell in: and it is observed, that before his time the Picts are not known to have been any where mentioned, and then first by Eumenius a rhetorician. He repaired and fortified the wall of Severus with seven castles, and a round house of smooth stone on the bank of Carron, which river, saith Ninnius, was of his name so called; he built also a triumphal arch in remembrance of some victory there obtained. In France he held Gessoriacum, or Boloigne; and all the Franks, which had by his permission seated themselves in Belgia, were at his devotion. But Constantius hasting into Gallia, besieges Boloigne, and with stones and timber obstructing the port, keeps out all relief that could be sent in by Carausius. Who ere Constantius, with the great fleet which he had prepared, could arrive hither, was slain treacherously by Alectus one of his friends, who longed to step into his place; when he seven years, and worthily as some say, as others tyrannically, had ruled the island. So much the more did Constantius prosecute that opportunity, before Alectus could well strengthen his affairs: and though in ill weather, putting to sea with all urgency from several havens to spread the terror of his landing, and the doubt where to expect him, in a mist passing the British fleet unseen, that lay scouting near the isle of Wight, no sooner got ashore, but fires his own ships, to leave no hope of refuge but in victory. Alectus also, though now much dismayed, transfers his fortune to a battle on the shore; but encountered by Asclepiodotus, captain of the prætorian bands, and desperately rushing on, unmindful both of ordering his men, or bringing them all to fight, save the accessories of his treason, and his outlandish hirelings, is overthrown, and slain with little or no loss to the Romans, but great execution on the Franks. His body was found almost naked in the field, for his purple robe he had thrown aside, lest it should descry him, unwilling to be found. The rest taking flight to London, and purposing with the pillage of that city to escape by sea, are met by another part of the Roman army, whom the mist at sea disjoining had by chance brought thither, and with a new slaughter chased through all the streets. The Britons, their wives also and children, with great joy go out to meet Constantius, as one whom they acknowledge their deliverer from bondage and insolence.
All this seems by Eumenius, who then lived, and was of Constantius’s household, to have been done in the course of one continued action; so also thinks Sigonius, a learned writer: though all others allow three years to the tyranny of Alectus. In these days were great store of workmen, and excellent builders in this island, whom, after the alteration of things here, the Æduans in Burgundy entertained to build their temples, and public edifices. Dioclesian having hitherto successfully used his valour against the enemies of his empire, uses now his rage in a bloody persecution against his obedient and harmless Christian subjects: from the feeling whereof neither was this island, though most remote, far enough removed. Among them here who suffered gloriously, Aron, and Julius of Caerleon upon Usk, but chiefly Alban of Verulam, were most renowned; the story of whose martyrdom soiled, and worse martyred with the fabling zeal of some idle fancies, more fond of miracles, than apprehensive of truth, deserves not longer digression. Constantius, after Dioclesian, dividing the empire with Galerius, had Britain among his other provinces; where either preparing or returning with a victory from an expedition against the Caledonians, he died at York. His son Constantine, who happily came post from Rome to Boloigne, just about the time, saith Eumenius, that his father was setting sail his last time hither, and not long before his death, was by him on his death-bed named, and after his funeral, by the whole army saluted emperor.
There goes a fame, and that seconded by most of our own historians, though not those the ancientest, that Constantine was born in this island, his mother Helena the daughter of Coilus a British prince, not sure the father of king Lucius, whose sister she must then be, for that would detect her too old by a hundred years to be the mother of Constantine. But to salve this incoherence, another Coilus is feigned to be then earl of Colchester. To this therefore the Roman authors give no testimony, except a passage or two in the Panegyrics, about the sense whereof much is argued: others nearest to those times clear the doubt, and write him certainly born of a mean woman, Helena, the concubine of Constantius, at Naisus in Dardania. Howbeit, ere his departure hence, he seems to have had some bickerings in the North, which by reason of more urgent affairs composed, he passes into Gallia; and after four years returns either to settle or to alter the state of things here, until a new war against Maxentius called him back, leaving Pacatianus his vicegerent. He deceasing, Constantine his eldest son enjoyed for his part of the empire, with all the provinces that lay on this side the Alps, this island also. But falling to civil war with Constans his brother, was by him slain; who with his third brother Constantius coming into Britain, seized it as victor. Against him rose Magnentius, one of his chief commanders, by some affirmed the son of a Briton, he having gained on his side great forces, contested with Constantius in many battles for the sole empire; but vanquished, in the end slew himself. Somewhat before this time Gratianus Funarius, the father of Valentinian, afterwards emperor, had chief command of those armies which the Romans kept here. And the Arian doctrine which then divided Christendom, wrought also in this island no small disturbance; a land, saith Gildas, greedy of every thing new, stedfast in nothing. At last Constantius appointed a synod of more than four hundred bishops to assemble at Ariminum on the emperor’s charges, which the rest all refusing, three only of the British, poverty constraining them, accepted; though the other bishops among them offered to have borne their charges; esteeming it more honourable to live on the public, than to be obnoxious to any private purse. Doubtless an ingenuous mind, and far above the presbyters of our age; who like well to sit in assembly on the public stipend, but liked not the poverty that caused these to do so. After this Martinus was deputy of the province; who being offended with the cruelty which Paulus, an inquisitor sent from Constantius, exercised in his inquiry after those military officers who had conspired with Magnentius, was himself laid hold on as an accessory: at which enraged he runs at Paulus with his drawn sword; but failing to kill him, turns it on himself. Next to whom, as may be guessed, Alipius was made deputy. In the mean time Julian, whom Constantius had made Cæsar, having recovered much territory about the Rhine, where the German inroads before had long insulted, to relieve those countries almost ruined, causes eight hundred pinnaces to be built; and with them, by frequent voyages, plenty of corn to be fetched in from Britain; which even then was the usual bounty of this soil to those parts, as oft as French and Saxon pirates hindered not the transportation. While Constantius yet reigned, the Scots and Picts breaking in upon the Northern confines, Julian, being at Paris, sends over Lupicinus, a well-tried soldier, but a proud and covetous man, who with a power of light-armed Herulians, Batavians, and Mæsians, in the midst of winter sailing from Boloigne, arrives at Rutupiæ, seated on the opposite shore, and comes to London, to consult there about the war; but soon after was recalled by Julian, then chosen emperor. Under whom we read not of aught happening here, only that Palladius, one of his great officers, was hither banished. This year, Valentinian being emperor, the Atticots, Picts, and Scots, roving up and down, and last the Saxons with perpetual landings and invasions harried the south coast of Britain; slew Nectaridius who governed the sea borders, and Bulchobaudes with his forces by an ambush. With which news Valentinian not a little perplexed, sends first Severus high steward of his house, and soon recalls him; then Jovinus, who intimating the necessity of greater supplies, he sends at length Theodosius, a man of tried valour and experience, father to the first emperor of that name. He with selected numbers out of the legions, and cohorts, crosses the sea from Boloigne to Rutupiæ; from whence with the Batavians, Herulians, and other legions that arrived soon after, he marches to London; and dividing his forces into several bodies, sets upon the dispersed and plundering enemy, laden with spoil; from whom recovering the booty which they led away, and were forced to leave there with their lives, he restores all to the right owners, save a small portion to his wearied soldiers, and enters London victoriously; which, before in many straits and difficulties, was now revived as with a great deliverance. The numerous enemy with whom he had to deal, was of different nations, and the war scattered: which Theodosius, getting daily some intelligence from fugitives and prisoners, resolves to carry on by sudden parties and surprisals, rather than set battles; nor omits he to proclaim indemnity to such as would lay down arms, and accept of peace, which brought in many. Yet all this not ending the work, he requires that Civilis, a man of much uprightness, might be sent him, to be as deputy of the island, and Dulcitius a famous captain. Thus was Theodosius busied, besetting with ambushes the roving enemy, repressing his roads, restoring cities and castles to their former safety and defence, laying every where the firm foundation of a long peace, when Valentinus a Pannonian, for some great offence banished into Britain, conspiring with certain exiles and soldiers against Theodosius, whose worth he dreaded as the only obstacle to his greater design of gaining the isle into his power, is discovered, and with his chief accomplices delivered over to condign punishment: against the rest, Theodosius with a wise lenity suffered not inquisition to proceed too rigorously, lest the fear thereof appertaining to so many, occasion might arise of new trouble in a time so unsettled. This done, he applies himself to reform things out of order, raises on the confines many strong holds; and in them appoints due and diligent watches: and so reduced all things out of danger, that the province, which but lately was under command of the enemy, became now wholly Roman, new named Valentia of Valentinian, and the city of London, Augusta. Thus Theodosius nobly acquitting himself in all affairs, with general applause of the whole province, accompanied to the sea-side returns to Valentinian. Who about five years after sent hither Fraomarius, a king of the Almans, with authority of a tribune over his own country forces; which then, both for number and good service, were in high esteem. Against Gratian, who succeeded in the Western empire, Maximus a Spaniard, and one who had served in the British wars with younger Theodosius, (for he also, either with his father, or not long after him, seems to have done something in this island,) and now general of the Roman armies here, either discontented that Theodosius was preferred before him to the empire, or constrained by the soldiers who hated Gratian, assumes the imperial purple; and having attained victory against the Scots and Picts, with the flower and strength of Britain, passes into France; there slays Gratian, and without much difficulty, the space of five years obtains his part of the empire, overthrown at length, and slain by Theodosius. With whom perishing most of his followers, or not returning out of Armorica, which Maximus had given them to possess, the south of Britain by this means exhausted of her youth, and what there was of Roman soldiers on the confines drawn off, became a prey to savage invasions; of Scots from the Irish seas, of Saxons from the German, of Picts from the North. Against them, first Chrysanthus the son of Marcian a bishop, made deputy of Britain by Theodosius, demeaned himself worthily: then Stilicho a man of great power, whom Theodosius dying left protector of his son Honorius, either came in person, or sending over sufficient aid, repressed them, and as it seems new fortified the wall against them. But that legion being called away, when the Roman armies from all parts hasted to relieve Honorius, then besieged in Asta of Piemont, by Alaric the Goth, Britain was left exposed as before, to those barbarous robbers.
Lest any wonder how the Scots came to infest Britain from the Irish sea, it must be understood, that the Scots not many years before had been driven all out of Britain by Maximus; and their king Eugenius slain in fight, as their own annals report: whereby, it seems, wandering up and down without certain seat, they lived by scumming those seas and shores as pirates. But more authentic writers confirm us, that the Scots, whoever they be originally, came first into Ireland, and dwelt there, and named it Scotia long before the north of Britain took that name. Orosius, who lived at this time, writes that Ireland was then inhabited by Scots. About this time, though troublesome, Pelagius a Briton found the leisure to bring new and dangerous opinions into the church, and is largely writ against by St. Austin. But the Roman powers which were called into Italy, when once the fear of Alaric was over, made return into several provinces; and perhaps Victorinus of Tolosa, whom Rutilius the poet much commends, might be then prefect of this island; if it were not he whom Stilicho sent hither. Buchanan writes, that endeavouring to reduce the Picts into a province, he gave the occasion of their calling back Fergusius and the Scots, whom Maximus with their help had quite driven out of the island: and indeed the verses of that poet speak him to have been active in those parts. But the time which is assigned him later by Buchanan after Gratianus Municeps, by Camden after Constantine the tyrant, accords not with that which follows in the plain course of history. For the Vandals having broke in and wasted all Belgia, even to those places from whence easiest passage is into Britain, the Roman forces here, doubting to be suddenly invaded, were all in uproar, and in tumultuous manner set up Marcus, who it may seem was then deputy. But him not found agreeable to their heady courses, they as hastily kill; for the giddy favour of a mutinying rout is as dangerous as their fury. The like they do by Gratian a British Roman, in four months advanced, adored, and destroyed. There was among them a common soldier whose name was Constantine, with him on a sudden so taken they are, upon the conceit put in them of the luckiness in his name, as without other visible merit to create him emperor. It fortuned that the man had not his name for nought; so well he knew to lay hold, and make good use of an unexpected offer. He therefore with a wakened spirit, to the extent of his fortune dilating his mind, which in his mean condition before lay contracted and shrunk up, orders with good advice his military affairs: and with the whole force of the province, and what of British was able to bear arms, he passes into France, aspiring at least to an equal share with Honorius in the empire. Where, by the valour of Edobecus a Frank, and Gerontius a Briton, and partly by persuasion, gaining all in his way, he comes to Arles. With like felicity by his son Constans, whom of a monk he had made a Cæsar, and by the conduct of Gerontius he reduces all Spain to his obedience. But Constans after this displacing Gerontius, the affairs of Constantine soon went to wreck; for he by this means alienated, set up Maximus one of his friends against him in Spain; and passing into France, took Vienna by assault, and having slain Constans in that city, calls on the Vandals against Constantine; who by him incited, as by him before they had been repressed, breaking forward, overrun most part of France. But when Constantius Comes, the emperor’s general, with a strong power came out of Italy, Gerontius, deserted by his own forces, retires into Spain; where also growing into contempt with the soldiers, after his flight out of France, by whom his house in the night was beset, having first with a few of his servants defended himself valiantly, and slain above three hundred, though when his darts and other weapons were spent he might have escaped at a private door, as all his servants did, not enduring to leave his wife Nonnichia, whom he loved, to the violence of an enraged crew, he first cuts off the head of his friend Alanus, as was agreed; next his wife, though loth and delaying, yet by her entreated and importuned, refusing to outlive her husband, he dispatched: for which her resolution, Sozomenus, an ecclesiastical writer gives her high praise, both as a wife, and as a Christian. Last of all, against himself he turns his sword; but missing the mortal place, with his poniard finishes the work. Thus far is pursued the story of a famous Briton, related negligently by our other historians.
As for Constantine, his ending was not answerable to his setting out; for he with his other son Julian besieged by Constantius in Arles, and mistrusting the change of his wonted success, to save his head, poorly turns priest; but that not availing him, is carried into Italy, and there put to death; having four years acted the emperor. While these things were doing, the Britons at home, destitute of Roman aid, and the chief strength of their own youth, that went first with Maximus, then with Constantine, not returning home, vexed and harassed by their wonted enemies, had sent messages to Honorius; but he at that time not being able to defend Rome itself, which the same year was taken by Alaric, advises them by his letter to consult how best they might for their own safety, and acquits them of the Roman jurisdiction. They therefore thus relinquished, and by all right the government relapsing into their own hands, thenceforth betook themselves to live after their own laws, defending their bounds as well as they were able; and the Armoricans, who not long after were called the Britons of France, followed their example. Thus expired this great empire of the Romans; first in Britain, soon after in Italy itself: having borne chief sway in this island, though never thoroughly subdued, or all at once in subjection, if we reckon from the coming in of Julius to the taking of Rome by Alaric, in which year Honorius wrote those letters of discharge into Britain, the space of 462 years. And with the empire fell also what before in this Western world was chiefly Roman; learning, valour, eloquence, history, civility, and even language itself, all these together, as it were, with equal pace, diminishing and decaying. Henceforth we are to steer by another sort of authors; near enough to the things they write, as in their own country, if that would serve; in time not much belated, some of equal age; in expression barbarous, and to say how judicious, I suspend a while: this we must expect; in civil matters to find them dubious relaters, and still to the best advantage of what they term Holy Church, meaning indeed themselves: in most other matters of religion, blind, astonished, and struck with superstition as with a planet; in one word, monks. Yet these guides, where can be had no better, must be followed; in gross, it may be true enough; in circumstances each man, as his judgment gives him, may reserve his faith, or bestow it. But so different a state of things requires a several relation.
THE THIRD BOOK.
This third book having to tell of accidents as various and exemplary as the intermission or change of government hath any where brought forth, may deserve attention more than common, and repay it with like benefit to them who can judiciously read: considering especially that the late civil broils had cast us into a condition not much unlike to what the Britons then were in when the imperial jurisdiction departing hence left them to the sway of their own councils; which times by comparing seriously with these latter, and that confused anarchy with this interreign, we may be able from two such remarkable turns of state, producing like events among us, to raise a knowledge of ourselves both great and weighty, by judging hence what kind of men the Britons generally are in matters of so high enterprise; how by nature, industry, or custom, fitted to attempt or undergo matters of so main consequence: for if it be a high point of wisdom in every private man, much more is it in a nation, to know itself; rather than puffed up with vulgar flatteries and encomiums, for want of self-knowledge, to enterprise rashly and come off miserably in great undertakings.
[Of these who swayed most in the late troubles, few words as to this point may suffice. They had arms, leaders, and successes to their wish; but to make use of so great an advantage was not their skill.
To other causes therefore, and not to the want of force, to warlike manhood in the Britons, both those, and these lately, we must impute the ill husbanding of those fair opportunities, which might seem to have put liberty so long desired, like a bridle, into their hands. Of which other causes equally belonging to ruler, priest, and people, above hath been related: which, as they brought those ancient natives to misery and ruin, by liberty, which, rightly used, might have made them happy; so brought they these of late, after many labours, much bloodshed, and vast expense, to ridiculous frustration: in whom the like defects, the like miscarriages notoriously appeared, with vices not less hateful or inexcusable.
For a parliament being called, to address many things, as it was thought, the people with great courage, and expectation to be eased of what discontented them, chose to their behoof in parliament, such as they thought best affected to the public good, and some indeed men of wisdom and integrity; the rest, (to be sure the greater part,) whom wealth or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition (rather than merit) had commended to the same place.
But when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes that acted their new magistracy were cooled, and spent in them, straight every one betook himself (setting the commonwealth behind, his private ends before) to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied: spite and favour determined all: hence faction, thence treachery, both at home and in the field: every where wrong, and oppression: foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret, or in open. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, (as their breeding was,) fell to huckster the commonwealth. Others did thereafter as men could soothe and humour them best; so he who would give most, or, under covert of hypocritical zeal, insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity; or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws, and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else but new impositions, taxes, excises; yearly, monthly, weekly. Not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared among themselves: they in the meanwhile, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person, or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with petitions in their hands, yet either missed the obtaining of their suit, or though it were at length granted, (mere shame and reason ofttimes extorting from them at least a show of justice,) yet by their sequestrators and subcommittees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands, and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed: which for certain durst not have been, without secret compliance, if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they forfeited their debtors to the state, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seizure of innumerable thieves in office: yet were withal no less burdened in all extraordinary assessments and oppressions, than those whom they took to be disaffected: nor were we happier creditors to what we called the state, than to them who were sequestered as the state’s enemies.
For that faith which ought to have been kept as sacred and inviolable as any thing holy, “the Public Faith,” after infinite sums received, and all the wealth of the church not better employed, but swallowed up into a private gulf, was not ere long ashamed to confess bankrupt. And now besides the sweetness of bribery, and other gain, with the love of rule, their own guiltiness and the dreaded name of Just Account, which the people had long called for, discovered plainly that there were of their own number, who secretly contrived and fomented those troubles and combustions in the land, which openly they sat to remedy; and would continually find such work, as should keep them from being ever brought to that Terrible Stand of laying down their authority for lack of new business, or not drawing it out to any length of time, though upon the ruin of a whole nation.
And if the state were in this plight, religion was not in much better; to reform which, a certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such, as had preached and cried down, with great show of zeal, the avarice and pluralities of bishops and prelates; that one cure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men (ere any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on the public salary) wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastorlike profession, and especially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands, or not unwillingly to accept (besides one, sometimes two or more of the best livings) collegiate masterships in the universities, rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms: by which means these great rebukers of nonresidence, among so many distant cures, were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and nonresidents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubtless by their own mouths. And yet the main doctrine for which they took such pay, and insisted upon with more vehemence than gospel, was but to tell us in effect, that their doctrine was worth nothing, and the spiritual power of their ministry less available than bodily compulsion; persuading the magistrate to use it, as a stronger means to subdue and bring in conscience, than evangelical persuasion: distrusting the virtue of their own spiritual weapons, which were given them, if they be rightly called, with full warrant of sufficiency to pull down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against God. But while they taught compulsion without convincement, which not long before they complained of as executed unchristianly against themselves; these intents are clear to have been no better than antichristian: setting up a spiritual tyranny by a secular power, to the advancing of their own authority above the magistrate, whom they would have made their executioner, to punish church-delinquencies, whereof civil laws have no cognizance.
And well did their disciples manifest themselves to be no better principled than their teachers, trusted with committeeships, and other gainful offices, upon their commendations for zealous, (and as they sticked not to term them,) godly men; but executing their places like children of the devil, unfaithfully, unjustly, unmercifully, and where not corruptly, stupidly. So that between them the teachers, and these the disciples, there hath not been a more ignominious and mortal wound to faith, to piety, to the work of reformation, nor more cause of blaspheming given to the enemies of God and truth, since the first preaching of reformation.
The people therefore looking one while on the statists, whom they beheld without constancy or firmness, labouring doubtfully beneath the weight of their own too high undertakings, busiest in petty things, trifling in the main, deluded and quite alienated, expressed divers ways their disaffection; some despising whom before they honoured, some deserting, some inveighing, some conspiring against them. Then looking on the churchmen, whom they saw under subtle hypocrisy to have preached their own follies, most of them not the gospel, time servers, covetous, illiterate persecutors, not lovers of the truth, like in most things whereof they accused their predecessors: looking on all this, the people which had been kept warm a while with the counterfeit zeal of their pulpits, after a false heat, became more cold and obdurate than before, some turning to lewdness, some to flat atheism, put beside their old religion, and foully scandalized in what they expected should be new.
Thus they who of late were extolled as our greatest deliverers, and had the people wholly at their devotion, by so discharging their trust as we see, did not only weaken and unfit themselves to be dispensers of what liberty they pretended, but unfitted also the people, now grown worse and more disordinate, to receive or to digest any liberty at all. For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need. But to do this, and to know these exquisite proportions, the heroic wisdom which is required, surmounted far the principles of these narrow politicians: what wonder then if they sunk as these unfortunate Britons before them, entangled and oppressed with things too hard and generous above their strain and temper? For Britain, to speak a truth not often spoken, as it is a land fruitful enough of men stout and courageous in war, so it is naturally not over fertile of men able to govern justly and prudently in peace, trusting only in their mother-wit; who consider not justly, that civility, prudence, love of the public good, more than of money or vain honour, are to this soil in a manner outlandish; grow not here, but in minds well implanted with solid and elaborate breeding, too impolitic else and rude, if not headstrong and intractable to the industry and virtue either of executing or understanding true civil government. Valiant indeed, and prosperous to win a field; but to know the end and reason of winning, unjudicious, and unwise: in good or bad success, alike unteachable. For the sun, which we want, ripens wits as well as fruits; and as wine and oil are imported to us from abroad, so must ripe understanding, and many civil virtues, be imported into our minds from foreign writings, and examples of best ages; we shall else miscarry still, and come short in the attempts of any great enterprise. Hence did their victories prove as fruitless, as their losses dangerous; and left them still conquering under the same grievances, that men suffer conquered: which was indeed unlikely to go otherwise, unless men more than vulgar bred up, as few of them were, in the knowledge of ancient and illustrious deeds, invincible against many and vain titles, impartial to friendships and relations, had conducted their affairs: but then from the chapman to the retailer, many whose ignorance was more audacious than the rest, were admitted with all their sordid rudiments to bear no mean sway among them, both in church and state.
From the confluence of all their errors, mischiefs, and misdemeanors, what in the eyes of man could be expected, but what befell those ancient inhabitants, whom they so much resembled, confusion in the end?
But on these things, and this parallel, having enough insisted, I return to the story, which gave us matter of this digression.]
The Britons thus, as we heard, being left without protection from the empire, and the land in a manner emptied of all her youth, consumed in wars abroad, or not caring to return home, themselves, through long subjection, servile in mind, slothful of body, and with the use of arms unacquainted, sustained but ill for many years the violence of those barbarous invaders, who now daily grew upon them. For although at first greedy of change, and to be thought the leading nation to freedom from the empire, they seemed awhile to bestir them with a show of diligence in their new affairs, some secretly aspiring to rule, others adoring the name of liberty, yet so soon as they felt by proof the weight of what it was to govern well themselves, and what was wanting within them, not stomach or the love of license, but the wisdom, the virtue, the labour, to use and maintain true liberty, they soon remitted their heat, and shrunk more wretehedly under the burden of their own liberty, than before under a foreign yoke. Insomuch that the residue of those Romans, which had planted themselves here, despairing of their ill deportment at home, and weak resistance in the field by those few who had the courage or the strength to bear arms, nine years after the sacking of Rome removed out of Britain into France, hiding for haste great part of their treasure, which was never after found. And now again the Britons, no longer able to support themselves against the prevailing enemy, solicit Honorius to their aid, with mournful letters, embassages, and vows of perpetual subjection to Rome, if the northern foe were but repulsed. He at their request spares them one legion, which with great slaughter of the Scots and Picts, drove them beyond the borders, rescued the Britons, and advised them to build a wall across the island, between sea and sea, from the place where Edinburgh now stands to the frith of Dunbritton, by the city Alcluith. But the material being only turf, and by the rude multitude unartificially built up without better direction, availed them little. For no sooner was the legion departed, but the greedy spoilers returning, land in great numbers from their boats and pinnaces, wasting, slaying, and treading down all before them. Then are messengers again posted to Rome in lamentable sort, beseeching that they would not suffer a whole province to be destroyed, and the Roman name, so honourable yet among them, to become the subject of Barbarian scorn and insolence. The emperor, at their sad complaint, with what speed was possible, sends to their succour. Who coming suddenly on those ravenous multitudes that minded only spoil, surprise them with a terrible slaughter. They who escaped fled back to those seas, from whence yearly they were wont to arrive, and return laden with booties. But the Romans, who came not now to rule, but charitably to aid, declaring that it stood not longer with the ease of their affairs to make such laborious voyages in pursuit of so base and vagabond robbers, of whom neither glory was to be got, nor gain, exhorted them to manage their own warfare; and to defend like men their country, their wives, their children, and what was to be dearer than life, their liberty, against an enemy not stronger than themselves, if their own sloth and cowardice had not made them so: if they would but only find hands to grasp defensive arms, rather than basely stretch them out to receive bonds. They gave them also their help to build a new wall, not of earth as the former, but of stone, (both at the public cost, and by particular contributions,) traversing the isle in a direct line from east to west, between certain cities placed there as frontiers to bear off the enemy, where Severus had walled once before. They raised it twelve feet high, eight broad. Along the south shore, because from thence also like hostility was feared, they place towers by the sea-side at certain distances, for safety of the coast. Withal they instruct them in the art of war, leaving patterns of their arms and weapons behind them; and with animating words, and many lessons of valour to a faint-hearted audience, bid them finally farewell, without purpose to return. And these two friendly expeditions, the last of any hither by the Romans, were performed, as may be gathered out of Beda and Diaconus, the two last years of Honorius. Their leader, as some modernly write, was Gallio of Ravenna; Buchanan, who departs not much from the fables of his predecessor Boethius, names him Maximianus, and brings against him to this battle Fergus first king of Scots, after their second supposed coming into Scotland, Durstus, king of Picts, both there slain, and Dioneth an imaginary king of Britain, or duke of Cornwall, who improbably sided with them against his own country, hardly escaping. With no less exactness of particular circumstances he takes upon him to relate all those tumultuary inroads of the Scots and Picts into Britain, as if they had but yesterday happened, their order of battle, manner of fight, number of slain, articles of peace, things whereof Gildas and Beda are utterly silent, authors to whom the Scotch writers have none to cite comparable in antiquity; no more therefore to be believed for bare assertions, however quaintly drest, than our Geoffrey of Monmouth, when he varies most from authentic story. But either the inbred vanity of some, in that respect unworthily called historians, or the fond zeal of praising their nations above truth, hath so far transported them, that where they find nothing faithfully to relate, they fall confidently to invent what they think may either best set off their history, or magnify their country.
The Scots and Picts in manners differing somewhat from each other, but still unanimous to rob and spoil, hearing that the Romans intended not to return, from their gorroghs or leathern frigates pour out themselves in swarms upon the land more confident than ever; and from the north end of the isle to the very wall’s side, then first took possession as inhabitants; while the Britons with idle weapons in their hands stand trembling on the battlements, till the half-naked barbarians with their long and formidable iron hooks pull them down headlong. The rest not only quitting the wall, but towns and cities, leave them to the bloody pursuer, who follows killing, wasting, and destroying all in his way. From these confusions arose a famine, and from thence discord and civil commotion among the Britons; each man living by what he robbed or took violently from his neighbour. When all stores were consumed and spent where men inhabited, they betook them to the woods, and lived by hunting, which was their only sustainment. To the heaps of these evils from without were added new divisions within the church. For Agricola the son of Severianus, a Pelagian bishop, had spread his doctrine wide among the Britons, not uninfected before. The sounder part, neither willing to embrace his opinion to the overthrow of divine grace, nor able to refute him, crave assistance from the churches of France: who send them Germanus bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes. They by continual preaching in churches, in streets, in fields, and not without miracles, as is written, confirmed some, regained others, and at Verulam in a public disputation put to silence their chief adversaries. This reformation in the church was believed to be the cause of their success a while after in the field. For the Saxons and Picts with joint force, which was no new thing before the Saxons at least had any dwelling in this island, during the abode of Germanus here, had made a strong impression from the north. The Britons marching out against them, and mistrusting their own power, send to Germanus and his colleague, reposing more in the spiritual strength of those two men, than in their own thousands armed. They came, and their presence in the camp was not less than if a whole army had come to second them. It was then the time of Lent, and the people, instructed by the daily sermons of these two pastors, came flocking to receive baptism. There was a place in the camp set apart as a church, and tricked up with boughs upon Easter-day. The enemy understanding this, and that the Britons were taken up with religions more than with feats of arms, advances after the paschal feast, as to a certain victory. German, who also had intelligence of their approach, undertakes to be captain that day; and riding out with selected troops to discover what advantages the place might offer, lights on a valley compassed about with hills, by which the enemy was to pass. And placing there his ambush, warns them, that what word they heard him pronounce aloud, the same they should repeat with universal shout. The enemy passes on securely, and German thrice aloud cries Hallelujah; which answered by the soldiers with a sudden burst of clamour, is from the hills and valleys redoubled. The Saxons and Picts on a sudden supposing it the noise of a huge host, throw themselves into flight, casting down their arms, and great numbers of them are drowned in the river which they had newly passed. This victory, thus won without hands, left to the Britons plenty of spoil, and the person and the preaching of German greater authority and reverence than before. And the exploit might pass for current, if Constantius, the writer of his life in the next age, had resolved us how the British army came to want baptizing; for of any paganism at that time, or long before, in the land we read not, or that Pelagianism was rebaptized. The place of this victory, as is reported, was in Flintshire, by a town called Guidcruc, and the river Allen, where a field retains the name of Maes German to this day. But so soon as German was returned home, the Scots and Picts, (though now so many of them Christians, that Palladius a deacon was ordained and sent by Celestine the pope to be a bishop over them,) were not so well reclaimed, or not so many of them, as to cease from doing mischief to their neighbours, where they found no impeachment to fall in yearly as they were wont. They therefore of the Britons who perhaps were not yet wholly ruined, in the strongest and south-west parts of the isle, send letters to Ætius, then third time consul of Rome, with this superscription; “To Ætius thrice consul, the groans of the Britons.” And after a few words thus: “The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us back to the barbarians: thus bandied up and down between two deaths, we perish either by the sword or by the sea.” But the empire, at that time overspread with Huns and Vandals, was not in condition to lend them aid. Thus rejected and wearied out with continual flying from place to place, but more afflicted with famine, which then grew outrageous among them, many for hunger yielded to the enemy; others either more resolute, or less exposed to wants, keeping within woods and mountainous places, not only defended themselves, but sallying out, at length gave a stop to the insulting foe, with many seasonable defeats; led by some eminent person, as may be thought, who exhorted them not to trust in their own strength, but in divine assistance. And perhaps no other here is meant than the foresaid deliverance by German, if computation would permit, which Gildas either not much regarded, or might mistake; but that he tarried so long here, the writers of his life assent not. Finding therefore such opposition, the Scotch or Irish robbers, for so they are indifferently termed, without delay get them home. The Picts, as before was mentioned, then first began to settle in the utmost parts of the island, using now and then to make inroads upon the Britons. But they in the mean while thus rid of their enemies, begin afresh to till the ground; which after cessation yields her fruit in such abundance, as had not formerly been known, for many ages. But wantonness and luxury, the wonted companions of plenty, grow up as fast; and with them, if Gildas deserve belief, all other vices incident to human corruption. That which he notes especially to be the chief perverting of all good in the land, and so continued in his days, was the hatred of truth, and all such as durst appear to vindicate and maintain it. Against them, as against the only disturbers, all the malice of the land was bent. Lies and falsities, and such as could best invent them, were only in request. Evil was embraced for good, wickedness honoured and esteemed as virtue. And this quality their valour had, against a foreign enemy to be ever backward and heartless; to civil broils eager and prompt. In matters of government, and the search of truth, weak and shallow; in falsehood and wicked deeds, pregnant and industrious. Pleasing to God, or not pleasing, with them weighed alike; and the worse most an end was the weigher. All things were done contrary to public welfare and safety; nor only by secular men, for the clergy also, whose example should have guided others, were as vicious and corrupt. Many of them besotted with continual drunkenness, or swollen with pride and wilfulness, full of contention, full of envy, indiscreet, incompetent judges to determine what in the practice of life is good or evil, what lawful or unlawful. Thus furnished with judgment, and for manners thus qualified both priest and lay, they agree to choose them several kings of their own; as near as might be, likest themselves; and the words of my author import as much. Kings were anointed, saith he, not of God’s anointing, but such as were cruellest; and soon after as inconsiderately, without examining the truth, put to death by their anointers, to set up others more fierce and proud. As for the election of their kings, (and that they had not all one monarch, appears both in ages past and by the sequel,) it began, as nigh as may be guessed, either this year or the following, when they saw the Romans had quite deserted their claim. About which time also Pelagianism again prevailing by means of some few, the British clergy too weak, it seems, at dispute, entreat the second time German to their assistance; who coming with Severus, a disciple of Lupus, that was his former associate, stands not now to argue, for the people generally continued right; but inquiring those authors of new disturbance, adjudges them to banishment. They therefore by consent of all were delivered to German; who carrying them over with him, disposed of them in such place where neither they could infect others, and were themselves under cure of better instruction. But Germanus the same year died in Italy; and the Britons not long after found themselves again in much perplexity, with no slight rumour that their old troublers the Scots and Picts had prepared a strong invasion, purposing to kill all, and dwell themselves in the land from end to end. But ere their coming in, as if the instruments of divine justice had been at strife, which of them first should destroy a wicked nation, the pestilence, forestalling the sword, left scarce alive whom to bury the dead; and for that time, as one extremity keeps off another, preserved the land from a worse incumbrance of those barbarous dispossessors, whom the contagion gave not leave now to enter far. And yet the Britons, nothing bettered by these heavy judgments, the one threatened, the other felt, instead of acknowledging the hand of Heaven, run to the palace of their king Vortigern with complaints and cries of what they suddenly feared from the Pictish invasion. Vortigern, who at that time was chief rather than sole king, unless the rest had perhaps left their dominions to the common enemy, is said by him of Monmouth, to have procured the death first of Constantine, then of Constance his son, who of a monk was made king, and by that means to have usurped the crown. But they who can remember how Constantine, with his son Constance the monk, the one made emperor, the other Cæsar, perished in France, may discern the simple fraud of this fable. But Vortigern however coming to reign, is deciphered by truer stories a proud unfortunate tyrant, and yet of the people much beloved, because his vices sorted so well with theirs. For neither was he skilled in war, nor wise in counsel, but covetous, lustful, luxurious, and prone to all vice; wasting the public treasure in gluttony and riot, careless of the common danger, and through a haughty ignorance unapprehensive of his own. Nevertheless importuned and awakened at length by unusual clamours of the people, he summons a general council, to provide some better means than heretofore had been used against these continual annoyances from the north. Wherein by advice of all it was determined, that the Saxons be invited into Britain against the Scots and Picts; whose breaking in they either shortly expected, or already found they had not strength enough to oppose. The Saxons were a barbarous and heathen nation, famous for nothing else but robberies and cruelties done to all their neighbours, both by sea and land; in particular to this island, witness that military force, which the Roman emperors maintained here purposely against them, under a special commander, whose title, as is found on good record, was “Count of the Saxon shore in Britain,” and the many mischiefs done by their landing here, both alone and with the Picts, as above hath been related, witness as much. They were a people thought by good writers to be descended of the Sacæ, a kind of Scythians in the north of Asia, thence called Sacasons, or sons of Sacæ, who, with a flood of other northern nations came into Europe, toward the declining of the Roman empire; and using piracy from Denmark all along these seas, possessed at length by intrusion all that coast of Germany, and the Netherlands, which took thence the name of Old Saxony, lying between the Rhine and Elve, and from thence north as far as Eidora, the river bounding Holsatia, though not so firmly or so largely, but that their multitude wandered yet uncertain of habitation. Such guests as these the Britons resolve now to send for, and entreat into their houses and possessions, at whose very name heretofore they trembled afar off. So much do men through impatience count ever that the heaviest, which they bear at present, and to remove the evil which they suffer, care not to pull on a greater; as if variety and change in evil also were acceptable. Or whether it be that men in the despair of better, imagine fondly a kind of refuge from one misery to another.
The Britons therefore with Vortigern, who was then accounted king over them all, resolve in full council to send embassadors of their choicest men with great gifts, and, saith a Saxon writer, in these words desiring their aid; “Worthy Saxons, hearing the fame of your prowess, the distressed Britons wearied out, and overpressed by a continual invading enemy, have sent us to beseech your aid. They have a land fertile and spacious, which to your commands they bid us surrender. Heretofore we have lived with freedom, under the obedience and protection of the Roman empire. Next to them we know none worthier than yourselves: and therefore become suppliants to your valour. Leave us not below our present enemies, and to aught by you imposed, willingly we shall submit.” Yet Ethelwerd writes not that they promised subjection, but only amity and league. They therefore who had chief rule among them, hearing themselves entreated by the Britons, to that which gladly they would have wished to obtain of them by entreating, to the British embassy return this answer: “Be assured henceforth of the Saxons, as of faithful friends to the Britons, no less ready to stand by them in their need, than in their best of fortune.” The embassadors return joyful, and with news as welcome to their country, whose sinister fate had now blinded them for destruction. The Saxons, consulting first their gods, (for they had answer, that the land whereto they went, they should hold three hundred years, half that time conquering, and half quietly possessing,) furnish out three long galleys, or kyules, with a chosen company of warlike youth, under the conduct of two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, descended in the fourth degree from Woden; of whom, deified for the fame of his acts, most kings of those nations derive their pedigree. These, and either mixed with these, or soon after by themselves, two other tribes, or neighbouring people, Jutes and Angles, the one from Jutland, the other from Anglen by the city of Sleswick, both provinces of Denmark, arrive in the first year of Martian the Greek emperor, from the birth of Christ four hundred and fifty, received with much good-will of the people first, then of the king, who after some assurances given and taken, bestows on them the isle of Tanet, where they first landed, hoping they might be made hereby more eager against the Picts, when they fought as for their own country, and more loyal to the Britons, from whom they had received a place to dwell in, which before they wanted. The British Nennius writes, that these brethren were driven into exile out of Germany, and to Vortigern who reigned in much fear, one while of the Picts, then of the Romans and Ambrosius, came opportunely into the haven. For it was the custom in Old Saxony, when their numerous offspring overflowed the narrowness of their bounds, to send them out by lot into new dwellings wherever they found room, either vacant or to be forced. But whether sought, or unsought, they dwelt not here long without employment. For the Scots and Picts were now come down, some say, as far as Stamford, in Lincolnshire, whom perhaps not imagining to meet new opposition, the Saxons, though not till after a sharp encounter, put to flight; and that more than once; slaying in fight, as some Scotch writers affirm, their king Eugenius the son of Fergus. Hengist perceiving the island to be rich and fruitful, but her princes and other inhabitants given to vicious ease, sends word home, inviting others to a share of his good success. Who returning with seventeen ships, were grown up now to a sufficient army, and entertained without suspicion on these terms, that they “should bear the brunt of war against the Picts, receiving stipend, and some place to inhabit.” With these was brought over the daughter of Hengist, a virgin wonderous fair, as is reported, Rowen the British call her: she by commandment of her father, who had invited the king to a banquet, coming in presence with a bowl of wine to welcome him, and to attend on his cup till the feast ended, won so much upon his fancy, though already wived, as to demand her in marriage upon any conditions. Hengist at first, though it fell out perhaps according to his drift, held off, excusing his meanness; then obscurely intimating a desire and almost a necessity, by reason of his augmented numbers, to have his narrow bounds of Tanet enlarged to the circuit of Kent, had it straight by donation; though Guorangonus, till then, was king of that place; and so, as it were overcome by the great munificence of Vortigern, gave his daughter. And still encroaching on the king’s favour, got further leave to call over Octa and Ebissa, his own and his brother’s son; pretending that they, if the north were given them, would sit there as a continual defence against the Scots, while himself guarded the east. They therefore sailing with forty ships, even to the Orcades, and every way curbing the Scots and Picts, possessed that part of the isle which is now Northumberland. Notwithstanding this, they complain that their monthly pay was grown much into arrear; which when the Britons found means to satisfy, though alleging withal, that they to whom promise was made of wages were nothing so many in number: quieted with this a while, but still seeking occasion to fall off, they find fault next, that their pay is too small for the danger they undergo, threatening open war, unless it be augmented. Guortimer, the king’s son, perceiving his father and the kingdom thus betrayed, from that time bends his utmost endeavour to drive them out. They on the other side making league with the Picts and Scots, and issuing out of Kent, wasted without resistance almost the whole land even to the western sea, with such a horrid devastation, that towns and colonies overturned, priests and people slain, temples and palaces, what with fire and sword, lay altogether heaped in one mixed ruin. Of all which multitude so great was the sinfulness that brought this upon them, Gildas adds, that few or none were likely to be other than lewd and wicked persons. The residue of these, part overtaken in the mountains were slain; others subdued with hunger preferred slavery before instant death; some getting to rocks, hills, and woods, inaccessible, preferred the fear and danger of any death, before the shame of a secure slavery; many fled over sea into other countries; some into Holland, where yet remain the ruins of Brittenburgh, an old castle on the sea, to be seen at low water not far from Leyden, either built, as writers of their own affirm, or seized on by those Britons, in their escape from Hengist; others into Armorica, peopled, as some think, with Britons long before, either by gift of Constantine the Great, or else of Maximus, to those British forces which had served them in foreign wars; to whom those also that miscarried not with the latter Constantine at Arles, and lastly, these exiles driven out by Saxons, fled for refuge. But the ancient chronicles of those provinces attest their coming thither to be then first when they fled the Saxons; and indeed the name of Britain in France is not read till after that time. Yet how a sort of fugitives, who had quitted without stroke their own country, should so soon win another, appears not, unless joined to some party of their own settled there before. Vortigern, nothing bettered by these calamities, grew at last so obdurate as to commit incest with his daughter, tempted or tempting him out of an ambition to the crown. For which being censured and condemned in a great synod of clerks and laics, partly for fear of the Saxons, according to the counsel of his peers, he retired into Wales, and built him there a strong castle in Radnorshire, by the advice of Ambrosius a young prophet, whom others call Merlin. Nevertheless Faustus, who was the son thus incestuously begotten, under the instructions of German, or some of his disciples, for German was dead before, proved a religious man, and lived in devotion by the river Remnis, in Glamorganshire. But the Saxons, though finding it so easy to subdue the isle, with most of their forces, uncertain for what cause, returned home: whenas the easiness of their conquest might seem rather likely to have called in more; which makes more probable that which the British write of Guortimer. For he coming to reign, instead of his father deposed for incest, is said to have thrice driven and besieged the Saxons in the isle of Tanet; and when they issued out with powerful supplies sent from Saxony, to have fought with them four other battles, whereof three are named; the first on the river Darwent, the second at Episford, wherein Horsa the brother of Hengist fell, and on the British part Catigern the other son of Vortigern. The third in a field by Stonar, then called Lapis Tituli, in Tanet, where he beat them into their ships that bore them home, glad to have so escaped, and not venturing to land again for five years after. In the space whereof Guortimer dying, commanded they should bury him in the port of Stonar; persuaded that his bones lying there would be terror enough, to keep the Saxons from ever landing in that place: they, saith Nennius, neglecting his command, buried him in Lincoln. But concerning these times, ancientest annals of the Saxons relate in this manner. In the year four hundred and fifty-five, Hengist and Horsa fought against Vortigern, in a place called Eglesthrip, now Ailsford in Kent, where Horsa lost his life, of whom Horsted, the place of his burial, took name.
After this first battle and the death of his brother, Hengist with his son Esca took on him kingly title, and peopled Kent with Jutes; who also then, or not long after, possessed the Isle of Wight, and part of Hampshire lying opposite. Two years after in a fight at Creganford, or Craford, Hengist and his son slew of the Britons four chief commanders, and as many thousand men; the rest in great disorder flying to London with the total loss of Kent. And eight years passing between, he made new war on the Britons; of whom, in a battle at Wippeds-fleot, twelve princes were slain, and Wipped the Saxon earl, who left his name to that place, though not sufficient to direct us where it now stands. His last encounter was at a place not mentioned, where he gave them such an overthrow, that flying in great fear they left the spoil of all to their enemies. And these perhaps are the four battles, according to Nennius, fought by Guortimer, though by these writers far differently related; and happening besides many other bickerings, in the space of twenty years, as Malmsbury reckons. Nevertheless it plainly appears that the Saxons, by whomsoever, were put to hard shifts, being all this while fought withal in Kent, their own allotted dwelling, and sometimes on the very edge of the sea, which the word Wippeds-fleot seems to intimate. But Guortimer now dead, and none of courage left to defend the land, Vortigern either by the power of his faction, or by consent of all, reassumes the government: and Hengist thus rid of his grand opposer, hearing gladly the restorement of his old favourer, returns again with great forces; but to Vortigern, whom he well knew how to handle without warring, as to his son-in-law, now that the only author of dissension between them was removed by death, offers nothing but all terms of new league and amity.
The king, both for his wife’s sake and his own sottishness, consulting also with his peers not unlike himself, readily yields; and the place of parley is agreed on; to which either side was to repair without weapons.—Hengist, whose meaning was not peace, but treachery, appointed his men to be secretly armed, and acquainted them to what intent. The watchword was, Nemet eour saxes, that is, draw your daggers; which they observing, when the Britons were thoroughly heated with wine (for the treaty it seems was not without cups) and provoked, as was plotted, by some affront, dispatched with those poniards every one his next man, to the number of three hundred, the chief of those that could do aught against him, either in counsel or in field. Vortigern they only bound and kept in custody, until he granted them for his ransom three provinces, which were called afterward Essex, Sussex, and Middlesex. Who thus dismissed, retiring again to his solitary abode in the country of Guorthigirniaun, so called by his name, from thence to the castle of his own building in North Wales by the river Tiebi; and living there obscurely among his wives, was at length burnt in his tower by fire from Heaven, at the prayer, as some say, of German, but that coheres not; as others, by Ambrosius Aurelian; of whom, as we have heard at first, he stood in great fear, and partly for that cause invited in the Saxons. Who, whether by constraint or of their own accord, after much mischief done, most of them returning back into their own country, left a fair opportunity to the Britons of avenging themselves easier on those who staid behind. Repenting therefore, and with earnest supplication imploring divine help to prevent their final rooting out, they gather from all parts, and under the leading of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a virtuous and modest man, the last here of the Roman stock, advancing now onward against the late victors, defeat them in a memorable battle. Common opinion, but grounded chiefly on the British fables, makes this Ambrosius to be a younger son of that Constantine, whose eldest, as we heard, was Constance the monk; who both lost their lives abroad usurping the empire. But the express words both of Gildas and Bede assure us, that the parents of this Ambrosius having here borne regal dignity, were slain in these Pictish wars and commotions in the island. And if the fear of Ambrose induced Vortigern to call in the Saxons, it seems Vortigern usurped his right. I perceive not that Nennius makes any difference between him and Merlin; for that child without father, that prophesied to Vortigern, he names not Merlin, but Ambrose; makes him the son of a Roman consul, but concealed by his mother, as fearing that the king therefore sought his life: yet the youth no sooner had confessed his parentage, by Vortigern either in reward of his predictions, or as his right, bestowed upon him all the west of Britain; himself retiring to a solitary life. Whosever son he was, he was the first, according to surest authors, that led against the Saxons, and overthrew them; but whether before this time or after, none have written. This is certain, that in a time when most of the Saxon forces were departed home, the Britons gathered strength: and either against those who were left remaining, or against their whole powers the second time returning, obtained this victory. Thus Ambrose as chief monarch of the isle succeeded Vortigern; to whose third son Pascentius he permitted the rule of two regions in Wales, Buelth and Guorthigirniaun. In his days, saith Nennius, the Saxons prevailed not much: against whom Arthur, as being then chief general for the British kings, made great war, but more renowned in songs and romances, than in true stories. And the sequel itself declares as much. For in the year four hundred and seventy-seven, Ella, the Saxon, with his three sons, Cymen, Pleting, and Cissa, at a place in Sussex called Cymenshore, arrive in three ships, kill many of the Britons, chasing them that remained into the wood Andreds Leage. Another battle was fought at Mercreds-Burnamsted, wherein Ella had by far the victory; but Huntingdon makes it so doubtful, that the Saxons were constrained to send home for supplies. Four years after died Hengist, the first Saxon king of Kent; noted to have attained that dignity by craft, as much as valor, and giving scope to his own cruel nature, rather than proceeding by mildness or civility. His son Oeric, surnamed Oisc, of whom the Kentish kings were called Oiscings, succeeded him, and sate content with his father’s winning, more desirous to settle and defend, than to enlarge his bounds: he reigned twenty-four years. By this time Ella and his son Cissa besieging Andredchester, supposed now to be Newenden in Kent, take it by force, and all within it put to the sword.
Thus Ella, three years after the death of Hengist, began his kingdom of the South-Saxons; peopling it with new inhabitants, from the country which was then Old Saxony, at this day Holstein in Denmark, and had besides at his command all those provinces, which the Saxons had won on this side Humber. Animated with these good successes, as if Britain were become now the field of fortune, Kerdic another Saxon prince, the tenth by lineage from Woden, an old and practised soldier, who in many prosperous conflicts against the enemy in those parts had nursed up a spirit too big to live at home with equals, coming to a certain place, which from thence took the name of Kerdic-shore, with five ships, and Kenric his son, the very same day overthrew the Britons that opposed him; and so effectually, that smaller skirmishes after that day were sufficient to drive them still further off, leaving him a large territory. After him Porta another Saxon, with his two sons Bida and Megla, in two ships arrive at Portsmouth thence called, and at their landing slew a young British nobleman, with many others who unadvisedly set upon them. The Britons to recover what they had lost, draw together all their forces, led by Natanleod, or Nazaleod, a certain king in Britain, and the greatest, saith one; but with him five thousand of his men Kerdic puts to rout and slays. From whence the place in Hantshire, as far as Kerdicsford, now Chardford, was called of old Nazaleod. Who this king should be, hath bred much question; some think it to be the British name of Ambrose; others to be the right name of his brother, who for the terror of his eagerness in fight, became more known by the surname of Uther, which in the Welsh tongue signifies Dreadful. And if ever such a king in Britain there was as Uther Pendragon, for so also the Monmouth book surnames him, this in all likelihood must be he. Kerdic by so great a blow given to the Britons had made large room about him; not only for the men he brought with him, but for such also of his friends, as he desired to make great; for which cause, and withal the more to strengthen himself, his two nephews Stuff and Withgar, in three vessels bring him new levies to Kerdie-shore. Who, that they might not come slugglishly to possess what others had won for them, either by their own seeking, or by appointment, are set in a place where they could not but at their first coming give proof of themselves upon the enemy; and so well they did it, that the Britons after a hard encounter left them masters of the field. About the same time, Ella, the first South-Saxon king died; whom Cissa, his youngest son, succeeded; the other two failing before him.
Nor can it be much more or less than about this time, for it was before the West-Saxon kingdom, that Uffa, the eighth from Woden, made himself king of the East-Angles; who by their name testify the country above mentioned; from whence they came in such multitudes, that their native soil is said to have remained in the days of Beda uninhabited. Huntingdon defers the time of their coming in to the ninth year of Kerdic’s reign: for, saith he, at first many of them strove for principality, seizing every one his province, and for some while so continued, making petty wars among themselves; till in the end Uffa, of whom those kings were called Uffings, overtopped them all in the year five hundred and seventy-one; then Titilus his son, the father of Redwald, who became potent.
And not much after the East-Angles, began also the East-Saxons to erect a kingdom under Sleda, the tenth from Woden. But Huntingdon, as before, will have it later by eleven years, and Erchenwin to be the first king.
Kerdic the same in power, though not so fond of title, forbore the name twenty-four years after his arrival; but then founded so firmly the kingdom of West-Saxons, that it subjected all the rest at length, and became the sole monarchy of England. The same year he had a victory against the Britons at Kerdic’s ford, by the river Aven: and after eight years, another great fight at Kerdic’s leage, but which won the day is not by any set down. Hitherto have been collected what there is of certainty with circumstance of time and place to be found registered, and no more than barely registered, in annals of best note; without describing after Huntingdon the manner of those battles and encounters, which they who compare, and can judge of books, may be confident he never found in any current author, whom he had to follow. But this disease hath been incident to many more historians: and the age whereof we now write hath had the ill hap, more than any since the first fabulous times, to be surcharged with all the idle fancies of posterity. Yet that we may not rely altogether on Saxon relaters, Gildas, in antiquity far before these, and every way more credible, speaks of these wars in such a manner, though nothing conceited of the British valour, as declares the Saxons in his time and before to have been foiled not seldomer than the Britons. For besides that first victory of Ambrose, and the interchangeable success long after, he tells that the last overthrow, which they received at Badon-hill, was not the least; which they in their oldest annals mention not at all. And because the time of this battle, by any who could do no more than guess, is not set down, or any foundation given from whence to draw a solid compute, it cannot be much wide to insert it in this place. For such authors as we have to follow give the conduct and praise of this exploit to Arthur; and that this was the last of twelve great battles which he fought victoriously against the Saxons.
The several places written by Nennius in their Welsh names were many hundred years ago unknown, and so here omitted. But who Arthur was, and whether ever any such reigned in Britain, hath been doubted heretofore, and may again with good reason. For the monk of Malmsbury, and others, whose credit hath swayed most of the learneder sort, we may well perceive to have known no more of this Arthur five hundred years past, nor of his doings, than we, now living; and what they had to say, transcribed out of Nennius, a very trivial writer yet extant, which hath already been related; or out of a British book, the same which he of Monmouth set forth, utterly unknown to the world, till more than six hundred years after the days of Arthur, of whom (as Sigebert in his chronicle confesses) all other histories were silent, both foreign and domestic, except only that fabulous book. Others of later time have sought to assert him by old legends and cathedral regests. But he who can accept of legends for good story, may quickly swell a volume with trash, and had need be furnished with two only necessaries, leisure and belief; whether it be the writer, or he that shall read. As to Arthur, no less is in doubt who was his father; for if it be true, as Nennius or his notist avers, that Arthur was called Mab-Uther, that is to say, a cruel son, for the fierceness that men saw in him of a child, and the intent of his name Arturus imports as much, it might well be that some in after-ages, who sought to turn him into a fable, wrested the word Uther into a proper name, and so feigned him the son of Uther; since we read not in any certain story, that ever such person lived till Geoffrey of Monmouth set him off with the surname of Pendragon. And as we doubted of his parentage, so may we also of his puissance; for whether that victory at Badon-hill were his or no, is uncertain; Gildas not naming him, as he did Ambrose in the former. Next, if it be true as Caradoc relates, that Melvas, king of that country which is now Somerset, kept from him Gueniver his wife a whole year in the town of Glaston, and restored her at the entreaty of Gildas, rather than for any enforcement that Arthur with all his chivalry could make against a small town defended only by a moory situation; had either his knowledge in war, or the force he had to make, been answerable to the fame they bear, that petty king had neither dared such affront, nor he been so long, and at last without effect, in revenging it.—Considering lastly how the Saxons gained upon him every where all the time of his supposed reign, which began, as some write, in the tenth year of Kerdic, who wrung from him by long war the counties of Somerset and Hampshire; there will remain neither place nor circumstance in story, which may administer any likelihood of those great acts, that are ascribed to him. This only is alleged by Nennius in Arthur’s behalf, that the Saxons, though vanquished never so oft, grew still more numerous upon him by continual supplies out of Germany. And the truth is, that valor may be overtoiled, and overcome at last with endless overcoming.
But as for this battle of mount Badon, where the Saxons were hemmed in, or besieged, whether by Arthur won, or whensoever, it seems indeed to have given a most undoubted and important blow to the Saxons, and to have stopped their proceedings for a good while after. Gildas himself witnessing, that the Britons, having thus compelled them to sit down with peace, fell thereupon to civil discord among themselves. Which words may seem to let in some light toward the searching out when this battle was fought. And we shall find no time since the first Saxon war, from whence a longer peace ensued, than from the fight at Kerdic’s Leage, in the year five hundred and twenty seven, which all the chronicles mention, without victory to Kerdic; and give us argument from the custom they have of magnifying their own deeds upon all occasions, to presume here his ill speeding. And if we look still onward, even to the forty-fourth year after, wherein Gildas wrote, if his obscure utterance be understood, we shall meet with every little war between the Britons and Saxons. This only remains difficult, that the victory first won by Ambrose was not so long before this at Badon siege, but that the same men living might be eyewitnesses of both; and by this rate hardly can the latter be thought won by Arthur, unless we reckon him a grown youth at least in the days of Ambrose, and much more than a youth, if Malmsbury be heard, who affirms all the exploits of Ambrose to have been done chiefly by Arthur as his general, which will add much unbelief to the common assertion of his reigning after Ambrose and Uther, especially the fight of Badon being the last of his twelve battles. But to prove by that which follows, that the fight at Kerdic’s Leage, though it differ in name from that of Badon, may be thought the same by all effects; Kerdic three years after, not proceeding onward, as his manner was, on the continent, turns back his forces on the Isle of Wight; which, with the slaying of a few only in Withgarburgh, he soon masters; and not long surviving, left it to his nephews by the mother’s side, Stuff and Withgar: the rest of what he had subdued, Kenric his son held; and reigned twenty-six years, in whose tenth year Withgar was buried in the town of that island which bore his name. Notwithstanding all these unlikelihoods of Arthur’s reign and great achievements, in a narration crept in I know not how among the laws of Edward the Confessor, Arthur, the famous king of Britons is said not only to have expelled hence the Saracens, who were not then known in Europe, but to have conquered Friesland, and all the north-east isles as far as Russia, to have made Lapland the eastern bound of his empire, and Norway the chamber of Britain. When should this be done? From the Saxons, till after twelve battles, he had no rest at home; after those, the Britons, contented with the quiet they had from their Saxon enemies, were so far from seeking conquests abroad, that by report of Gildas above cited, they fell to civil wars at home. Surely Arthur much better had made war in old Saxony, to repress their flowing hither, than to have won kingdoms as far as Russia, scarce able here to defend his own. Buchanan our neighbour historian reprehends him of Monmouth, and others, for fabling in the deeds of Arthur; yet what he writes thereof himself, as of better credit, shows not whence he had but from those fables; which he seems content to believe in part, on condition that the Scots and Picts may be thought to have assisted Arthur in all his wars and achievements; whereof appears as little ground by credible story, as of that which he most counts fabulous. But not further to contest about such uncertainties.
In the year five hundred and forty-seven, Ida the Saxon, sprung also from Woden in the tenth degree, began the kingdom of Bernicia in Northumberland; built the town Bebenburgh, which was after walled; and had twelve sons, half by wives and half by concubines. Hengist, by leave of Vortigern, we may remember, had sent Octave and Ebissa, to seek them seats in the north, and there, by warring on the Picts, to secure the southern parts. Which they so prudently effected, that what by force and fair proceeding, they well quieted those countries; and though so far distant from Kent, nor without power in their hands, yet kept themselves nigh a hundred and eighty years within moderation; and, as inferior governors, they and their offspring gave obedience to the kings of Kent, as to the elder family. Till at length following the example of that age, when no less than kingdoms were the prize of every fortunate commander, they thought it but reason, as well as others of their nation, to assume royalty. Of whom Ida was the first, a man in the prime of his years, and of parentage as we heard; but how he came to wear the crown, aspiring or by free choice, is not said. Certain enough it is, that his virtues made him not less noble than his birth in war undaunted and unfoiled, in peace tempering the awe of magistracy with a natural mildness, he reigned about twelve years.
In the mean while Kenric in a fight at Searesbirig, now Salisbury, killed and put to flight many of the Britons; and the fourth year after at Beranvirig, now Banbury, as some think, with Keaulin his son, put them again to flight. Keaulin shortly after succeeded his father in the West-Saxons. And Alla, descended also of Woden, but of another line, set up a second kingdom in Deira, the south part of Northumberland, and held it thirty years; while Adda, the son of Ida, and five more after him, reigned without other memory in Bernicia: and in Kent, Ethelbert the next year began. But Esca the son of Hengist had left Otha, and he Emeric to rule after him; both which, without adding to their bounds kept what they had in peace fifty-three years. But Ethelbert in length of reign equalled both his progenitors, and as Beda counts, three years exceeded. Young at his first entrance, and unexperienced, he was the first raiser of civil war among the Saxons; claiming from the priority of time wherein Hengist took possession here, a kind of right over the later kingdoms; and thereupon was troublesome to their confines: but by them twice defeated, he who but now thought to seem dreadful, became almost contemptible. For Keaulin and Cutha his son, pursuing him into his own territory, slew there in battle, at Wibbandun, two of his earls, Oslac and Cneban. By this means the Britons, but chiefly by this victory at Badon, for the space of forty-four years, ending in five hundred and seventy-one, received no great annoyance from the Saxons: but the peace they enjoyed, by ill using it, proved more destructive to them than war. For being raised on a sudden by two such eminent successes, from the lowest condition of thraldom, they whose eyes had beheld both those deliverances, that by Ambrose and this at Badon, were taught by the experience of either fortune, both kings, magistrates, priests, and private men, to live orderly.
But when the next age, unacquainted with past evils, and only sensible of their present ease and quiet, succeeded, strait followed the apparent subversion of all truth, and justice, in the minds of most men: scarce the least forestep or impression of goodness left remaining through all ranks and degrees in the land; except in some so very few, as to be hardly visible in a general corruption: which grew in short space not only manifest, but odious to all the neighbouring nations. And first their kings, amongst them also the sons or grandchildren of Ambrose, were foully degenerated to all tyranny and vicious life whereof to hear some particulars out of Gildas, will not be impertinent. They avenge, saith he, and they protect, not the innocent, but the guilty; they swear oft, but perjure; they wage war, but civil and unjust war. They punish rigorously them that rob by the high-way; but those grand robbers, that sit with them at table, they honour and reward. They give alms largely, but in the face of their almsdeeds, pile up wickedness to a far higher heap. They sit in the seat of judgment, but go seldom by the rule of right; neglecting and proudly overlooking the modest and harmless, but countenancing the audacious, though guilty of abominable crimes; they stuff their prisons, but with men committed rather by circumvention than by any just cause.
Nothing better were the clergy, but at the same pass, or rather worse than when the Saxons came first in; unlearned, unapprehensive, yet impudent; subtle prowlers, pastors in name, but indeed wolves; intent upon all occasions, not to feed the flock, but to pamper and well-line themselves: not called, but seizing on the ministry as a trade, not as a spiritual charge; teaching the people not by sound doctrine, but by evil example; usurping the chair of Peter, but through the blindness of their own worldly lusts, they stumble upon the seat of Judas; deadly haters of truth, broachers of lies; looking on the poor Christian with eyes of pride and contempt; but fawning on the wickedest rich men without shame: great promoters of other men’s alms, with their set exhortations; but themselves contributing ever least: slightly touching the many vices of the age, but preaching without end their own grievances, as done to Christ; seeking after preferments and degrees in the church, more than after heaven; and so gained, made it their whole study how to keep them by any tyranny. Yet lest they should be thought things of no use in their eminent places, they have their niceties and trivial points to keep in awe the superstitious multitude; but in true saving knowledge leave them still as gross and stupid as themselves; bunglers at the Scripture, nay, forbidding and silencing them that know; but in worldly matters, practised and cunning shifters; in that only art and simony great clerks and masters, bearing their heads high, but their thoughts abject and low. He taxes them also as gluttonous, incontinent, and daily drunkards. And what shouldst thou expect from these, poor laity, so he goes on, these beasts, all belly? Shall these amend thee, who are themselves laborious in evil doings? Shall thou see with their eyes, who see right forward nothing but gain? Leave them rather, as bids our Saviour, lest ye fall both blindfold into the same perdition. Are all thus? Perhaps not all, or not so grossly. But what availed it Eli to be himself blameless, while he connived at others that were abominable? Who of them hath been envied for his better life? Who of them hath hated to consort with these, or withstood their entering the ministry or endeavoured zealously their casting out? Yet some of these perhaps by others are legended for great saints.
This was the state of government, this of religion among the Britons, in that long calm of peace, which the fight at Badon-hill had brought forth. Whereby it came to pass, that so fair a victory came to nothing. Towns and cities were not reinhabited, but lay ruined and waste; nor was it long ere domestic war breaking out wasted them more. For Britain, as at other times, had then also several kings: five of whom Gildas, living then in Armorica at a safe distance, boldly reproves by name: first, Constantine, (fabled the son of Cador, duke of Cornwall, Arthur’s half, by the mother’s side,) who then reigned in Cornwall and Devon, a tyrannical and bloody king, polluted also with many adulteries: he got into his power two young princes of the blood royal, uncertain whether before him in right, or otherwise suspected: and after solemn oath given of their safety the year that Gildas wrote, slew them with their two governors in the church, and in their mother’s arms, through the abbot’s cope which he had thrown over them, thinking by the reverence of his vesture to have withheld the murderer. These are commonly supposed to be the sons of Mordred, Arthur’s nephew, said to have revolted from his uncle, giving him in a battle his death’s wound, and by him after to have been slain. Which things, were they true, would much diminish the blame of cruelty in Constantine, revenging Arthur on the sons of so false a Mordred.
In another part, but not expressed where, Aurelius Conanus was king: him he charges also with adulteries, and parricide; cruelties worse than the former; to be a hater of his country’s peace, thirsting after civil war and prey. His condition, it seems, was not very prosperous, for Gildas wishes him, being now left alone, like a tree withering in the midst of a barren field, to remember the vanity and arrogance of his father, and elder brethren, who came all to untimely death in their youth. The third reigning in Demetia, or South Wales, was Vortipor, the son of a good father; he was, when Gildas wrote, grown old, not in years only, but in adulteries; and in governing, full of falsehood and cruel actions. In his latter days, putting away his wife, who died in divorce, he became, if we mistake not Gildas, incestuous with his daughter. The fourth was Cuneglas, imbrued in civil war; he also had divorced his wife, and taken her sister, who had vowed widowhood: he was a great enemy to the clergy, high-minded, and trusting to his wealth. The last, but greatest of all in power, was Maglocune, and greatest also in wickedness: he had driven out, or slain, many other kings, or tyrants, and was called the Island Dragon, perhaps having his seat in Anglesey; a profuse giver, a great warrior, and of a goodly stature. While he was yet young, he overthrew his uncle, though in the head of a complete army, and took from him the kingdom: then touched with remorse of his doings, not without deliberation, took upon him the profession of a monk; but soon forsook his vow, and his wife also; which for that vow he had left, making love to the wife of his brother’s son then living. Who not refusing the offer, if she were not rather the first that enticed, found means both to dispatch her own husband, and the former wife of Maglocune, to make her marriage with him the more unquestionable. Neither did he this for want of better instructions, having had the learnedest and wisest man, reputed of all Britain, the instituter of his youth. Thus much, the utmost that can be learnt by truer story, of what past among the Britons from the time of their useless victory at Badon, to the time that Gildas wrote, that is to say, as may be guessed, from 527 to 571, is here set down altogether; not to be reduced under any certainty of years.
But now the Saxons, who for the most part all this while had been still, unless among themselves, began afresh to assault them, and ere long to drive them out of all which they maintained on this side Wales. For Cuthulf, the brother of Keaulin, by a victory obtained at Bedanford, now Bedford, took from them four good towns, Liganburgh, Eglesburgh, Bensington now Benson in Oxfordshire, and Ignesham; but outlived not many months his good success. And after six years more, Keaulin, and Cuthwin his son, gave them great overthrow at Deorrham in Gloucestershire, slew three of their kings, Comail, Condidan, and Farinmaile; and three of their chief cities, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Badencester. The Britons notwithstanding, after some space of time, judging to have outgrown their losses, gather to a head and encounter Keaulin, with Cutha his son at Fethanleage; whom valiantly fighting, they slew among the thickest, and, as is said, forced the Saxons to retire. But Keaulin, reinforcing the fight, put them to a main rout; and following his advantage, took many towns, and returned laden with rich booty.
The last of those Saxons, who raised their own achievements to a monarchy, was Crida, much about this time, first founder of the Mercian kingdom, drawing also his pedigree from Woden. Of whom all to write the several genealogies, though it might be done without long search, were in my opinion to encumber the story with a sort of barbarous names, to little purpose. This may suffice, that of Woden’s three sons, from the eldest issued Hengist, and his succession; from the second, the kings of Mercia; from the third, all that reigned in West Saxony, and most of the Northumbers, of whom Alla was one, the first king of Deira; which, after his death, the race of Ida seized, and made it one kingdom with Bernicia, usurping the childhood of Edwin, Alla’s son; whom Ethelric, the son of Ida, expelled. Notwithstanding others write of him, that from a poor life, and beyond hope in his old age, coming to the crown, he could hardly, by the access of a kingdom, have overcome his former obscurity, had not the fame of his son preserved him. Once more the Britons, ere they quitted all on this side the mountains, forgot not to show some manhood; for meeting Keaulin at Woden’s-beorth, that is to say, at Woden’s mount in Wiltshire; whether it were by their own forces, or assisted by the Angles, whose hatred Keaulin had incurred, they ruined the whole army, and chased him out of his kingdom; from whence flying, he died the next year in poverty, who a little before was the most potent, and indeed sole king of all the Saxons on this side the Humber. But who was chief among the Britons in this exploit had been worth remembering, whether it were Maglocune, of whose prowess hath been spoken, or Teudric king of Glamorgan, whom the regest of Landaff recounts to have been always victorious in fight; to have reigned about this time, and at length to have exchanged his crown for an hermitage; till in the aid of his son Mouric, whom the Saxons had reduced to extremes, taking arms again, he defeated them at Tinterne by the river Wye; but himself received a mortal wound. The same year with Keaulin, whom Keola the son of Cuthulf, Keaulin’s brother, succeeded, Crida also the Mercian king deceased, in whose room Wibba succeeded; and in Northumberland, Ethelfrid, in the room of Ethelric, reigning twenty-four years. Thus omitting fables, we have the view of what with reason can be relied on for truth, done in Britain since the Romans forsook it. Wherein we have heard the many miseries and desolations brought by divine hand on a perverse nation; driven, when nothing else would reform them, out of a fair country, into a mountainous and barren corner, by strangers and pagans. So much more tolerable in the eye of heaven is infidelity professed, than Christian faith and religion dishonoured by unchristian works. Yet they also at length renounced their heathenism; which how it came to pass, will be the matter next related.
THE FOURTH BOOK.
The Saxons grown up now to seven absolute kingdoms, and the latest of them established by succession, finding their power arrive well nigh at the utmost of what was to be gained upon the Britons, and as little fearing to be displanted by them, had time now to survey at leisure one another’s greatness. Which quickly bred among them either envy or mutual jealousies; till the west kingdom at length grown overpowerful, put an end to all the rest. Meanwhile, above others, Ethelbert of Kent, who by this time had well ripened his young ambition, with more ability of years and experience in war, what before he attempted to his loss, now successfully attains: and by degrees brought all the other monarchies between Kent and Humber to be at his devotion. To which design the kingdom of West-Saxons, being the firmest of them all, at that time sore shaken by their overthrow at Woden’s-beorth, and the death of Keaulin, gave him, no doubt, a main advantage; the rest yielded not subjection, but as he earned it by continual victories. And to win him the more regard abroad, he marries Bertha the French king’s daughter, though a Christian, and with this condition, to have the free exercise of her faith, under the care and instruction of Letardus, a bishop, sent by her parents along with her; the king notwithstanding and his people retaining their old religion. Beda out of Gildas lays it sadly to the Britons’ charge, that they never would vouchsafe their Saxon neighbours the means of conversion; but how far to blame they were, and what hope there was of converting in the midst of so much hostility, at least falsehood, from their first arrival, is not now easy to determine. Howbeit not long after they had the Christian faith preached to them by a nation more remote, and (as report went, accounted old in Beda’s time) upon this occasion.
The Northumbrians had a custom at that time, and many hundred years after not abolished, to sell their children for a small value into any foreign land. Of which number two comely youths were brought to Rome, whose fair and honest countenances invited Gregory, archdeacon of that city, among others that beheld them, pitying their condition, to demand whence they were; it was answered by some who stood by, that they were Angli of the province Deira, subjects to Alla king of Northumberland; and by religion, pagans. Which last Gregory deploring, framed on a sudden this allusion to the three names he heard; that the Angli so like to angels should be snatched ‘de ira,’ that is from the wrath of God, to sing hallelujah: and forthwith obtaining license, of Benedict the pope, had come and preached here among them, had not the Roman people, whose love endured not the absence of so vigilant a pastor over them, recalled him then on his journey, though but deferred his pious intention. For a while after, succeeding in the papal seat, and now in his fourth year, admonished, saith Beda, by divine instinct, he sent Augustin, whom he had designed for bishop of the English nation, and other zealous monks with him, to preach to them the gospel. Who being now on their way, discouraged by some reports, or their own carnal fear, sent back Austin, in the name of all, to beseech Gregory they might return home, and not be sent a journey so full of hazard, to a fierce and infidel nation, whose tongue they understood not. Gregory with pious and apostolic persuasions exhorts them not to shrink back from so good a work, but cheerfully to go on in the strength of divine assistance. The letter itself, yet extant among our writers of ecclesiastic story, I omit here, as not professing to relate of those matters more than what mixes aptly with civil affairs. The abbot Austin, for so he was ordained over the rest, re-encouraged by the exhortations of Gregory, and his fellows by the letter which he brought them, came safe to the isle of Tanet, in number about forty, besides some of the French nation, whom they took along as interpreters.
Ethelbert the king, to whom Austin at his landing had sent a new and wondrous message, that he came from Rome to proffer heaven and eternal happiness in the knowledge of another God than the Saxons knew, appoints them to remain where they had landed, and necessaries to be provided them, consulting in the mean time what was to be done. And after certain days coming into the island, chose a place to meet them under the open sky, possessed with an old persuasion, that all spells, if they should use any to deceive him, so it were not within doors, would be unavailable.
They on the other side called to his presence, advancing for their standard a silver cross, and the painted image of our Saviour, came slowly forward singing their solemn litanies: which wrought in Ethelbert more suspicion perhaps that they used enchantments; till sitting down as the king willed them, they there preached to him, and all in that assembly, the tidings of salvation. Whom having heard attentively, the king thus answered: “Fair indeed and ample are the promises which ye bring, and such things as have the appearance in them of much good; yet such as being new and uncertain, I cannot easily assent to, quitting the religion which from my ancestors, with all the English nation, so many years I have retained. Nevertheless because ye are strangers, and have endured so long a journey, to impart us the knowledge of things, which I persuade me you believe to be the truest and the best, ye may be sure, we shall not recompense you with any molestation, but shall provide rather how we may friendliest entertain ye; nor do we forbid whom ye can by preaching gain to your belief.” And accordingly their residence he allotted them in Doroverne or Canterbury his chief city, and made provision for their maintenance, with free leave to preach their doctrine where they pleased. By which, and by the example of their holy life, spent in prayer, fasting, and continual labour in the conversion of souls, they won many; on whose bounty and the king’s, receiving only what was necessary, they subsisted.
There stood without the city on the east side, an ancient church built in honour of St. Martin, while yet the Romans remained here: in which Bertha the queen went out usually to pray: here they also began first to preach, baptize, and openly to exercise divine worship. But when the king himself, convinced by their good life and miracles, became Christian, and was baptized, which came to pass in the very first year of their arrival, then multitudes daily, conforming to their prince, thought it honour to be reckoned among those of his faith. To whom Ethelbert indeed principally showed his favour, but compelled none. For so he had been taught by them who were both the instructors and the authors of his faith, that Christian religion ought to be voluntary, not compelled. About this time Kelwulf the son of Cutha, Keaulin’s brother, reigned over the West Saxons, after his brother Keola or Kelric, and had continual war either with English, Welsh, Picts, or Scots. But Austin, whom with his fellows Ethelbert had now endowed with a better place for their abode in the city, and other possessions necessary to livelihood, crossing into France, was by the archbishop of Arles, at the appointment of pope Gregory, ordained archbishop of the English; and returning, sent to Rome Laurence and Peter, two of his associates, to acquaint the pope of his good success in England, and to be resolved of certain theological, or rather Levitical questions: with answers to which, not proper in this place, Gregory sends also to the great work of converting, that went on so happily, a supply of labourers, Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus, Rufinian, and many others; who what they were, may be guessed by the stuff which they brought with them, vessels and vestments for the altar, copes, reliques, and for the archbishop Austin a pall to say mass in; to such a rank superstition that age was grown, though some of them yet retaining an emulation of apostolic zeal. Lastly, to Ethelbert they brought a letter with many presents. Austin, thus exalted to archiepiscopal authority, recovered from the ruins and other profane uses a Christian church in Canterbury, built of old by the Romans, which he dedicated by the name of Christ’s church, and joining to it built a seat for himself and his successors; a monastery also near the city eastward, where Ethelbert at his motion built St. Peter’s, and enriched it with great endowments, to be a place of burial for the archbishops and kings of Kent: so quickly they stepped up into fellowship of pomp with kings.
While thus Ethelbert and his people had their minds intent, Ethelfrid the Northumbrian king was not less busied in far different affairs: for being altogether warlike, and covetous of fame, he more wasted the Britons than any Saxon king before him; winning from them large territories, which either he made tributary, or planted with his own subjects. Whence Edan king of those Scots that dwelt in Britain, jealous of his successes, came against him with a mighty army, to a place called Degsastan; but in the fight losing most of his men, himself with a few escaped; only Theobald the king’s brother, and the whole wing which he commanded, unfortunately cut off, made the victory to Ethelfrid less entire. Yet from that time no king of Scots in hostile manner durst pass into Britain for a hundred and more years after: and what some years before Kelwulf the West Saxon is annalled to have done against the Scots and Picts, passing through the land of Ethelfrid a king so potent, unless in his aid and alliance, is not likely. Buchanan writes as if Ethelfrid, assisted by Keaulin whom he mistitles king of East Saxons, had before this time a battle with Aidan, wherein Cutha, Keaulin’s son, was slain. But Cutha, as is above written from better authority, was slain in fight against the Welsh twenty years before. The number of Christians began now to increase so fast, that Augustin, ordaining bishops under him, two of his assistants, Mellitus and Justus, sent them out both to the work of their ministry. And Mellitus by preaching converted the East Saxons, over whom Sebert the son of Sleda, by permission of Ethelbert, being born of his sister Ricula, then reigned. Whose conversion Ethelbert to gratulate, built them the great church of St. Paul in London to be their bishop’s cathedral; as Justus also had his built at Rochester, and both gifted by the same king with fair possessions.
Hitherto Austin laboured well among infidels, but not with like commendation soon after among Christians. For by means of Ethelbert summoning the Britain bishops to a place on the edge of Worcestershire, called from that time Augustin’s oak, he requires them to conform with him in the same day of celebrating Easter, and many other points wherein they differed from the rites of Rome: which when they refused to do, not prevailing by dispute, he appeals to a miracle, restoring to sight a blind man whom the Britons could not cure. At this something moved, though not minded to recede from their own opinions without further consultation, they request a second meeting; to which came seven Britain bishops, with many other learned men, especially from the famous monastery of Bangor, in which were said to be so many monks, living all by their own labour, that being divided under seven rectors, none had fewer than three hundred. One man there was who staid behind, a hermit by the life he led, who by his wisdom effected more than all the rest who went: being demanded, for they held him as an oracle, how they might know Austin to be a man from God, that they might follow him, he answered, that if they found him meek and humble, they should be taught by him, for it was likeliest to be the yoke of Christ, both what he bore himself, and would have them bear; but if he bore himself proudly, that they should not regard him, for he was then certainly not of God.
They took his advice, and hasted to the place of meeting. Whom Austin, being already there before them, neither arose to meet, nor received in any brotherly sort, but sat all the while pontifically in his chair. Whereat the Britons, as they were counselled by the holy man, neglected him, and neither hearkened to his proposals of conformity, nor would acknowledge him for an archbishop: and in the name of the rest, Dinothus, then abbot of Bangor, is said thus sagely to have answered him: “As to the subjection which you require, be thus persuaded of us, that in the bond of love and charity we are all subjects and servants of the church of God, yea to the pope of Rome, and every good Christian, to help them forward, both by word and deed, to be the children of God: other obedience than this we know not to be due to him whom you term the pope; and this obedience we are ready to give both to him and to every Christian continually. Besides, we are governed under God by the bishop of Caerleon, who is to oversee us in spiritual matters.” To which Austin thus presaging, some say menacing, replies, “Since ye refuse to accept of peace with your brethren, ye shall have war from your enemies; and since ye will not with us preach the word of life to whom ye ought, from their hands ye shall receive death.” This, though writers agree not whether Austin spake it as his prophecy, or as his plot against the Britons, fell out accordingly. For many years were not past, when Ethelfrid, whether of his own accord, or at the request of Ethelbert, incensed by Austin, with a powerful host came to Westchester, then Caer-legion. Where being met by the British forces, and both sides in readiness to give the onset, he discerns a company of men, not habited for war, standing together in a place of some safety; and by them a squadron armed. Whom having learnt upon some inquiry to be priests and monks, assembled thither after three days’ fasting, to pray for the good success of their forces against him, “therefore they first,” saith he, “shall feel our swords; for they who pray against us, fight heaviest against us by their prayers, and are our dangerousest enemies.” And with that turns his first charge upon the monks. Brocmail, the captain set to guard them, quickly turns his back, and leaves above twelve hundred monks to a sudden massacre, whereof scarce fifty escaped.
But not so easy work found Ethelfrid against another part of Britons that stood in arms, whom though at last he overthrew, yet with slaughter nigh as great to his own soldiers. To excuse Austin of this bloodshed, lest some might think it his revengeful policy, Beda writes, that he was dead long before, although if the time of his sitting archbishop be right computed sixteen years, he must survive this action. Other just ground of charging him with this imputation appears not, save what evidently we have from Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose weight we know. The same year Kelwulf made war on the South Saxons, bloody, saith Huntingdon, to both sides, but most to them of the south; and four years after dying, left the government of West Saxons to Kinegils and Cuichelm, the sons of his brother Keola. Others, as Florent of Worcester, and Matthew of Westminster, will have Cuichelm son of Kinegils, but admitted to reign with his father, in whose third year they are recorded with joint forces or conduct to have fought against the Britons in Beandune, now Bindon in Dorsetshire, and to have slain of them above two thousand. More memorable was the second year following, by the death of Ethelbert the first Christian king of Saxons, and no less a favourer of all civility in that rude age. He gave laws and statutes after the example of Roman emperors, written with the advice of his sagest counsellors, but in the English tongue, and observed long after. Wherein his special care was to punish those who had stolen aught from church or churchman, thereby showing how gratefully he received at their hands the Christian faith. Which, he no sooner dead, but his son Eadbald took the course as fast to extinguish; not only falling back into heathenism, but that which heathenism was wont to abhor, marrying his father’s second wife. Then soon was perceived what multitudes for fear or countenance of the king had professed Christianity, returning now as eagerly to their old religion. Nor staid the apostacy with one province, but quickly spread over to the East Saxons; occasioned there likewise, or set forward, by the death of their Christian king Sebert: whose three sons, of whom two are named Sexted and Seward, neither in his lifetime would be brought to baptism, and after his decease re-established the free exercise of idolatry; nor so content, they set themselves in despite to do some open profanation against the other sacrament. Coming therefore into the church where Mellitus the bishop was ministering, they required him in abuse and scorn to deliver to them unbaptized the consecrated bread; and him refusing drove disgracefully out of their dominion. Who crossed forthwith into Kent, where things were in the same plight, and thence into France, with Justus bishop of Rochester.
But divine vengeance deferred not long the punishment of men so impious; for Eadbald, vexed with an evil spirit, fell often into foul fits of distraction; and the sons of Sebert, in a fight against the West Saxons, perished with their whole army. But Eadbald, within the year, by an extraordinary means became penitent. For when Lawrence the archbishop and successor of Austin was preparing to ship for France, after Justus and Mellitus, the story goes, if it be worth believing, that St. Peter, in whose church he spent the night before in watching and praying, appeared to him, and to make the vision more sensible, gave him many stripes for offering to desert his flock; at sight whereof the king (to whom next morning he showed the marks of what he had suffered, by whom and for what cause) relenting and in great fear, dissolved his incestuous marriage, and applied himself to the Christian faith more sincerely than before, with all his people. But the Londoners, addicted still to paganism, would not be persuaded to receive again Mellitus their bishop, and to compel them was not in his power.
Thus much through all the south was troubled in religion, as much were the north parts disquieted through ambition. For Ethelfrid of Bernicia, as was touched before, having thrown Edwin out of Deira, and joined that kingdom to his own, not content to have bereaved him of his right, whose known virtues and high parts gave cause of suspicion to his enemies, sends messengers to demand him of Redwald king of East Angles; under whose protection, after many years wandering obscurely through all the island, he had placed his safety. Redwald, though having promised all defence to Edwin as to his suppliant, yet tempted with continual and large offers of gold, and not contemning the puissance of Ethelfrid, yielded at length, either to dispatch him, or to give him into their hands: but earnestly exhorted by his wife, not to betray the faith and inviolable law of hospitality and refuge given, prefers his first promise as the more religious; nor only refuses to deliver him, but since war was thereupon denounced, determines to be beforehand with the danger; and with a sudden army raised, surprises Ethelfrid, little dreaming an invasion, and in a fight near to the east side of the river Idle, on the Mercian border, now Nottinghamshire, slays him, dissipating easily those few forces which he had got to march out overhastily with him; who yet, as a testimony of his fortune not his valour to be blamed, slew first with his own hands Reiner the king’s son. His two sons Oswald and Oswi, by Acca, Edwin’s sister, escaped into Scotland. By this victory Redwald became so far superior to the other Saxon kings, that Beda reckons him the next after Ella and Ethelbert; who, besides this conquest of the north, had likewise all on the other side Humber at his obedience. He had formerly in Kent received baptism, but coming home, and persuaded by his wife, who still it seems was his chief counsellor to good or bad alike, relapsed into his old religion: yet not willing to forego his new, thought it not the worst way, lest perhaps he might err in either, for more assurance to keep them both; and in the same temple erected one altar to Christ, another to his idols.
But Edwin, as with more deliberation he undertook, and with more sincerity retained, the Christian profession, so also in power and extent of dominion far exceeded all before him; subduing all, saith Beda, English or British, even to the isles, then called Mevanian, Anglesey, and Man; settled in his kingdom by Redwald, he sought in marriage Edelburga, whom others called Tate, the daughter of Ethelbert. To whose embassadors Eadbald her brother made answer, that “to wed their daughter to a pagan, was not the Christian law.” Edwin replied, that “to her religion he would be no hindrance, which with her whole household she might freely exercise. And moreover, that if examined it were found the better, he would embrace it.” These ingenuous offers, opening so fair a way to the advancement of truth, are accepted, and Paulinus as a spiritual guardian sent along with the virgin. He being to that purpose made bishop by Justus, omitted no occasion to plant the Gospel in those parts, but with small success, till the next year Cuichelm, at that time one of the two West-Saxon kings, envious of the greatness which he saw Edwin growing up to, sent privily Eumerus a hired swordsman to assassin him; who, under pretence of doing a message from his master, with a poisoned weapon stabs at Edwin, conferring with him in his house, by the river Derwent in Yorkshire, on an Easter-day; which Lilla one of the king’s attendants, at the instant perceiving, with a loyalty that stood not then to deliberate, abandoned his whole body to the blow; which notwithstanding made passage through to the king’s person with a wound not to be slighted. The murderer encompassed now with swords, and desperate, forerevenges his own fall with the death of another, whom his poniard reached home. Paulinus omitting no opportunity to win the king from misbelief, obtained at length this promise from him; that if Christ whom he so magnified, would give him to recover of his wound, and victory of his enemies who had thus assaulted him, he would then become Christian, in pledge whereof he gave his young daughter Eanfled, to be bred up in religion; who, with twelve others of his family, on the day of Pentecost was baptized. And by that time well recovered of his wound, to punish the author of so foul a fact, he went with an army against the West-Saxons: whom having quelled by war, and of such as had conspired against him, put some to death, others pardoned, he returned home victorious, and from that time worshipped no more his idols, yet ventured not rashly into baptism, but first took care to be instructed rightly what he learnt, examining and still considering with himself and others whom he held wisest; though Boniface the pope, by large letters of exhortation both to him and his queen, was not wanting to quicken his belief. But while he still deferred, and his deferring might seem now to have passed the maturity of wisdom to a faulty lingering, Paulinus by revelation, as was believed, coming to the knowledge of a secret which befel him strangely in the time of his troubles, on a certain day went in boldly to him, and laying his right hand on the head of the king, asked him if he remembered what that sign meant; the king trembling, and in amaze rizing up, straight fell at his feet. “Behold,” saith Paulinus, raising him from the ground, “God hath delivered you from your enemies, and given you the kingdom as you desired: perform now what long since you promised him, to receive his doctrine, which I now bring you, and the faith, which if you accept, shall to your temporal felicity add eternal.”
The promise claimed of him by Paulinus, how and wherefore made, though savouring much of legend is thus related. Redwald, as we have heard before, dazzled with the gold of Ethelfrid, or by his threatening overawed, having promised to yield up Edwin, one of his faithful companions, of which he had some few with him in the court of Redwald, that never shrunk from his adversity, about the first hour of the night comes in haste to his chamber, and calling him forth for better secrecy, reveals to him his danger, offers him his aid to make escape; but that course not approved, as seeming dishonourable without more manifest cause to begin distrust towards one who had so long been his only refuge, the friend departs. Edwin left alone without the palace gate, full of sadness and perplexed thoughts, discerns about the dead of night a man neither by countenance nor by habit to him known, approaching towards him. Who after salutation asked him, “why at this hour, when all others were at rest, he alone so sadly sat waking on a cold stone.” Edwin not a little misdoubting who he might be, asked him again, “what his sitting within doors, or without, concerned him to know.” To whom he again, “Think not that who thou art, or why sitting here, or what danger hangs over thee is to me unknown: but what would you promise to that man, whoever would befriend you out of all these troubles, and persuade Redwald to the like?” “All that I am able,” answered Edwin. And he, “What if the same man should promise to make you greater than any English king hath been before you?” “I should not doubt,” quoth Edwin, “to be answerably grateful.” “And what if to all this he would inform you,” said the other, “in a way to happiness, beyond what any of your ancestors have known? would you hearken to his counsel?” Edwin without stopping promised “he would.” And the other laying his right hand on Edwin’s head, “When this sign,” saith he, “shall next befal thee, remember this time of night, and this discourse, to perform what thou hast promised;” and with these words disappearing, he left Edwin much revived, but not less filled with wonder, who this unknown should be. When suddenly the friend who had been gone all this while to listen further what was like to be decreed of Edwin, comes back and joyfully bids him rise to his repose, for that the king’s mind, though for a while drawn aside, was now fully resolved not only not to betray him, but to defend him against all enemies, as he had promised. This was said to be the cause why Edwin admonished by the bishop of a sign which had befallen him so strangely, and as he thought so secretly, arose to him with that reverence and amazement, as to one sent from heaven, to claim that promise of him which he perceived well was due to a divine power, that had assisted him in his troubles. To Paulinus therefore he makes answer, that the Christian belief he himself ought by promise, and intended to receive; but would confer first with his chief peers and counsellors, that if they likewise could be won, all at once might be baptized. They therefore being asked in council what their opinion was concerning this new doctrine, and well perceiving which way the king inclined, every one thereafter shaped his reply. The chief priest, speaking first, discovered an old grudge he had against his gods, for advancing others in the king’s favour above him their chief priest: another hiding his court-compliance with a grave sentence, commended the choice of certain before uncertain, upon due examination; to like purpose answered all the rest of his sages, none openly dissenting from what was likely to be the king’s creed: whereas the preaching of Paulinus could work no such effect upon them, toiling till that time without success. Whereupon Edwin, renouncing heathenism, became Christian: and the pagan priest, offering himself freely to demolish the altars of his former gods, made some amends for his teaching to adore them. With Edwin, his two sons Osfrid and Eanfrid, born to him by Quenburga, daughter, as saith Beda, of Kearle king of Mercia, in the time of his banishment, and with them most of the people, both noble and commons, easily converted, were baptized; he with his whole family at York, in a church easily built up of wood, the multitude in most part in rivers.
Northumberland thus christened, Paulinus, crossing Humber, converted also the province of Lindsey, and Blecca the governor of Lincoln, with his household and most of that city; wherein he built a church of stone, curiously wrought, but of small continuance; for the roof in Beda’s time, uncertain whether by neglect or enemies, was down; the walls only standing. Meanwhile in Mercia, Kearle, a kinsman of Wibba, saith Huntingdon, not a son, having long withheld the kingdom from Penda, Wibba’s son, left it now at length in the fiftieth year of his age: with whom Kinegils and Cuichelm, the West-Saxon kings, two years after, having by that time it seems recovered strength, since the inroad made upon them by Edwin, fought at Cirencester, then made true. But Edwin seeking every way to propagate the faith, which with so much deliberation he had received, persuaded Eorpwald, the son of Redwald, king of East-Angles, to embrace the same belief; willingly or in awe, is not known, retaining under Edwin the name only of a king.
But Eorpwald not long survived his conversion, slain in fight by Riebert a pagan: whereby the people having lightly followed the religion of their king, as lightly fell back to their old superstitions for above three years after: Edwin in the mean while, to his faith adding virtue, by the due administration of justice wrought such peace over all his territories, that from sea to sea man or woman might have travelled in safety. His care also was of fountains by the way side, to make them fittest for the use of travellers. And not unmindful of regal state, whether in war or in peace, he had a royal banner carried before him. But having reigned with much honour seventeen years, he was at length by Kedwallay or Cadwallon, king of the Britons, who with aid of the Mercian Penda had rebelled against him, slain in a battle with his son Osfrid, at a place called Hethfield, and his whole army overthrown or dispersed in the year six hundred and thirty-three, and the forty-seventh of his age, in the eye of man worthy a more peaceful end. His head brought to York was there buried in the church by him begun. Sad was this overthrow, both to church and state of the Northumbrians: for Penda being a heathen, and the British king, though in name a Christian, but in deeds more bloody than the pagan, nothing was omitted of barbarous cruelty in the slaughter of sex or age; Kedwalla threatening to root out the whole nation, though then newly Christian.—For the Britons, and, as Beda saith, even to his days, accounted Saxon Christianity no better than paganism, and with them held as little communion. From these calamities no refuge being left but flight, Paulinus taking with him Ethilburga the queen and her children, aided by Bassus, one of Edwin’s captains, made escape by sea to Eadbald king of Kent: who receiving his sister with all kindness, made Paulinus bishop of Rochester, where he ended his days. After Edwin, the kingdom of Northumberland became divided as before, each rightful heir seizing his part; in Deira Osric, the son of Elfric, Edwin’s uncle, by profession a Christian, and baptized by Paulinus: in Bernicia, Eanfrid the son of Ethelfrid; who all the time of Edwin, with his brother Oswald, and many of the young nobility, lived in Scotland exiled, and had been there taught and baptized. No sooner had they gotten each a kingdom, but both turned recreant, sliding back into their old religion; and both were the same year slain; Osric by a sudden eruption of Kedwalla, whom he in a strong town had unadvisedly besieged; Eanfrid seeking peace, and inconsiderately with a few surrendering himself. Kedwalla now ranged at will through both those provinces, using cruelly his conquest; when Oswald the brother of Eanfrid with a small but Christian army unexpectedly coming on, defeated and destroyed both him and his huge forces, which he boasted to be invincible, by a little river running into Tine near the ancient Roman wall then called Denisburn, the place afterwards Heaven-field, from the cross reported miracles for cures, which Oswald there erected before the battle, in token of his faith against the great number of his enemies. Obtaining the kingdom he took care to instruct again the people in Christianity. Sending therefore to the Scottish elders, Beda so terms them, among whom he had received baptism, requested of them some faithful teacher, who might again settle religion in his realm, which the late troubles had much impaired; they, as readily hearkening to his request, send Aidan, a Scotch monk and bishop, but of singular zeal and meekness, with others to assist him, whom at their own desire he seated in Lindisfarne, as the episcopal seat, now Holy Island: and being the son of Ethelfrid, by the sister of Edwin, as right heir, others failing, easily reduced both kingdoms of Northumberland as before into one; nor of Edwin’s dominion lost any part, but enlarged it rather; over all the four British nations, Angles, Britons, Picts, and Scots, exercising regal authority. Of his devotion, humility, and almsdeeds, much is spoken; that he disdained not to be the interpreter of Aidan, preaching in Scotch or bad English, to his nobles and household servants; and had the poor continually served at his gate, after the promiscuous manner of those times: his meaning might be upright, but the manner more ancient of private or of church-contribution is doubtless more evangelical. About this time the West-Saxons, anciently called Gevissi, by the preaching of Berinus, a bishop, whom pope Honorius had sent, were converted to the faith with Kinegils their king: him Oswald received out of the font, and his daughter in marriage. The next year Cuichelm was baptized in Dorchester, but lived not to the year’s end. The East-Angles also this year were reclaimed to the faith of Christ, which for some years past they had thrown off. But Sigebert the brother of Eorpwald now succeeded in that kingdom, praised for a most Christian and learned man: who while his brother yet reigned, living in France an exile, for some displeasure conceived against him by Redwald his father, learned there the Christian faith; and reigning soon after, in the same instructed his people, by the preaching of Felix a Burgundian bishop.
In the year six hundred and forty Eadbold deceasing, left to Ercombert, his son by Emma the French king’s daughter, the kingdom of Kent; recorded the first of English kings, who commanded through his limits the destroying of idols; laudably if all idols without exception; and the first to have established Lent among us, under strict penalty; not worth remembering, but only to inform us, that no Lent was observed here till his time by compulsion: especially being noted by some to have fraudulently usurped upon his elder brother Ermenred, whose right was precedent to the crown. Oswald having reigned eight years, worthy also as might seem of longer life, fell into the same fate with Edwin, and from the same hand, in a great battle overcome and slain by Penda, at a place called Maserfield, now Oswestre in Shropshire miraculous, as saith Beda, after his death. His brother Oswi succeeded him; reigning, though in much trouble, twenty-eight years; opposed either by Penda, or his own son Alfred, or his brother’s son Ethilwald. Next year Kinegils the West-Saxon king dying left his son Kenwalk in his stead, though as yet unconverted. About this time Sigebert king of East-Angles having learnt in France, ere his coming to reign, the manner of their schools, with the assistance of some teachers out of Kent instituted a school here after the same discipline, thought to be the university of Cambridge, then first founded; and at length weary of his kingly office, betook him to a monastical life; commending the care of government to his kinsman Egric, who had sustained with him part of that burden before.
It happened some years after, that Penda made war on the East-Angles; they expecting a sharp encounter, besought Sigebert, whom they esteemed an expert leader, with his presence to confirm the soldiery; and him refusing, carried by force out of the monastery in the camp; where acting the monk rather than the captain, with a single wand in his hand, he was slain with Egric, and his whole army put to flight. Anna of the royal stock, as next in right, succeeded; and hath the praise of a virtuous and most Christian prince. But Kenwalk the West-Saxon having married the sister of Penda, and divorced her, was by him with more appearance of a just cause vanquished in fight, and deprived of his crown: whence retiring to Anna king of East-Angles, after three years abode in his court he there became Christian, and afterwards regained his kingdom. Oswi in the former years of his reign had sharer with him Oswin, nephew of Edwin, who ruled in Deira seven years, commended much for his zeal in religion, and for comeliness of person, with other princely qualities, beloved of all. Notwithstanding which, dissensions growing between them, it came to arms. Oswin seeing himself much exceeded in numbers thought it more prudence, dismissing his army, to reserve himself for some better occasion. But committing his person with one faithful attendant to the loyalty of Hunwald an earl, his imagined friend, he was by him treacherously discovered, and by command of Oswi slain. After whom within twelve days, and for grief of him whose death he foretold, died bishop Aidan, famous for his charity, meekness and labour in the gospel. The fact of Oswi was detestable to all; which therefore to expiate, a monastery was built in the place where it was done, and prayers there daily offered up for the souls of both kings, the slain and the slayer. Kenwalk, by this time re-installed in his kingdom, kept it long, but with various fortune; for Beda relates him ofttimes afflicted by his enemies, with great losses: and in six hundred and fifty-two, by the annals, fought a battle (civil war Ethelwerd calls it) at Bradanford by the river Afene; against whom, and for what cause, or who had the victory, they write not. Camden names the place Bradford in Wiltshire, by the river Avon, and Cuthred his near kinsman, against whom he fought, but cites no authority; certain it is, then Kenwalk four years before had given large possessions to his nephew Cuthred, the more unlikely therefore now to have rebelled.
The next year Peada, whom his father Penda, though a heathen, had for his princely virtues made prince of Middle-Angles, belonging to the Mercians, was with that people converted to the faith. For coming to Oswi with request to have in marriage Alfleda his daughter, he was denied her, but on condition that he with all his people should receive Christianity. Hearing therefore not unwillingly what was preached to him of resurrection and eternal life, much persuaded also by Alfrid the king’s son, who had his sister Kyniburg to wife, he easily assented, for the truth’s sake only as he professed, whether he obtained the virgin or no, and was baptized with all his followers. Returning, he took with him four presbyters to teach the people of his province; who by their daily preaching won many. Neither did Pinda, though himself no believer, prohibit any in his kingdom to hear or believe the gospel, but rather hated and despised those, who, professing to believe, attested not their faith by good works; condemning them for miserable and justly to be despised, who obey not that God, in whom they choose to believe. How well might Penda, this heathen, rise up in judgment against many pretended Christians, both of his own and these days! yet being a man bred up to war, (as no less were others than reigning, and ofttimes one against another, though both Christians,) he warred on Anna king of the East-Angles, perhaps without cause, for Anna was esteemed a just man, and at length slew him. About this time the East Saxons, who, as above hath been said, had expelled their bishop Mellitus, and renounced the faith, were by the means of Oswi thus reconverted. Sigebert, surnamed the small, being the son of Seward, without other memory of his reign, left his son king of that province, after him Sigebert the second; who coming often to visit Oswi his great friend, was by him at several times fervently dissuaded from idolatry, and convinced at length to forsake it, was there baptized; on his return home taking with him Kedda a laborious preacher, afterwards made bishop; by whose teaching, with some help of others, the people were again recovered from misbelief. But Sigebert some years after, though standing fast in religion, was by the conspiracy of two brethren, in place near about him, wickedly murdered; who being asked, “What moved them to a deed so heinous,” gave no other than this barbarous answer; “That they were angry with him for being so gentle to his enemies, as to forgive them their injuries whenever they besought him.” Yet his death seems to have happened not without some cause by him given of divine displeasure. For one of those earls who slew him, living in unlawful wedlock, and therefore excommunicated so severely by the bishop, that no man might presume to enter into his house, much less to sit at meat with him, the king not regarding his church-censure, went to feast with him at his invitation. Whom the bishop meeting in his return, though penitent for what he had done, and fallen at his feet, touched with the rod in his hand, and angrily thus foretold: “Because thou hast neglected to abstain from the house of that excommunicate, in that house thou shalt die;” and so it fell out, perhaps from that prediction, God bearing witness to his minister in the power of church-discipline, spiritually executed, not juridically on the contemner thereof.
This year 655 proved fortunate to Oswi, and fatal to Penda; for Oswi by the continual inroads of Penda having long endured much devastation, to the endangering once by assault and fire Bebbanburg, his strongest city, now Bamborrow-castle, unable to resist him, with many rich presents offered to buy his peace, which not accepted by the pagan, who intended nothing but destruction to that king, though more than once in affinity with him, turning gifts into vows, he implores divine assistance, devoting, if he were delivered from his enemy, a child of one year old, his daughter, to be a nun, and twelve portions of land whereon to build monasteries. His vows, as may be thought, found better success than his proffered gifts; for hereupon with his son Alfrid, gathering a small power, he encountered and discomfited the Mercians, thirty times exceeding his in number, and led on by expert captains, at a place called Laydes, now Leeds in Yorkshire. Besides this Ethelwald, the son of Oswald, who ruled in Deira, took part with the Mercians; but in the fight withdrew his forces, and in a safe place expected the event: with which unseasonable retreat the Mercians, perhaps terrified and misdoubting more danger, fled; their commanders, with Penda himself, most being slain, among whom Edilhere the brother of Anna, who ruled after him the East-Angles, and was the author of this war; many more flying were drowned in the river, which Beda calls Winwed, then swoln above its banks. The death of Penda, who had been the death of so many good kings, made general rejoicing, as the song witnessed. At the river Winwed, Anna was avenged. To Edelhere succeeded Ethelwald his brother, in the East-Angles; to Sigebert in the East-Saxons, Suidhelm the son of Sexbald, saith Bede, the brother of Sigebert, saith Malmsbury; he was baptized by Kedda, then residing in the East-Angles, and by Ethelwald the king received out of the font. But Oswi in the strength of his late victory, within three years after subdued all Mercia, and of the Pictish nation greatest part, at which time he gave to Peada his son-in-law the kingdom of South-Mercia, divided from the Northern by Trent. But Peada the spring following, as was said, by the treason of his wife the daughter of Oswi, married by him for a special Christian, on the feast of Easter not protected by the holy time, was slain. The Mercian nobles, Immin, Eaba, and Eadbert, throwing off the government of Oswi, set up Wulfer the other son of Penda to be their king, whom till then they had kept hid, and with him adhered to the Christian faith. Kenwalk the West-Saxon, now settled at home, and desirous to enlarge his dominion, prepares against the Britons, joins battle with them at Pen in Somersetshire, and overcoming, pursues them to Predridan. Another fight he had with them before, at a place called Witgeornesburg, barely mentioned by the monk of Malmsbury. Nor was it long ere he fell at variance with Wulfer the son of Penda, his old enemy, scarce yet warm in his throne, fought with him at Possentesburgh, on the Easter holydays, and as Ethelwerd saith, took him prisoner; but the Saxon annals, quite otherwise, that Wulfer winning the field, wasted the West-Saxon country as far as Eskesdun: nor staying there, took and wasted the isle of Wight, but causing the inhabitants to be baptized, till then unbelievers, gave the island to Ethelwald king of South-Saxons, whom he had received out of the font. The year six hundred and sixty-four a synod of Scottish and English bishops, in the presence of Oswi and Alfred his son, was held at a monastery in those parts, to debate on what day Easter should be kept; a controversy which long before had disturbed the Greek and Latin churches: wherein the Scots not agreeing with the way of Rome; nor yielding to the disputants on that side, to whom the king most inclined, such as were bishops here, resigned, and returned home with their disciples. Another clerical question was there also much controverted, not so superstitious in my opinion as ridiculous, about the right shaving of crowns. The same year was seen an eclipse of the sun in May, followed by a sore pestilence beginning in the South, but spreading to the North, and over all Ireland with great mortality. In which time the East-Saxons, after Swithelm’s decease, being governed by Siger the son of Sigebert the small, and Sebbi of Seward, though both subject to the Mercians; Siger and his people unsteady of faith, supposing that this plague was come upon them for renouncing their old religion, fell off the second time to infidelity. Which the Mercian king Wulfer understanding, sent Jarumannus a faithful bishop, who with other his fellow-labourers, by sound doctrine and gentle dealing, soon recured them of their second relapse. In Kent, Ercombert expiring, was succeeded by his son Ecbert. In whose fourth year, by means of Theodore, a learned Greekish monk of Tarsus, whom pope Vitalian had ordained archbishop of Canterbury, the Greek and Latin tongue, with other liberal arts, arithmetic, music, astronomy, and the like, began first to flourish among the Saxons; as did also the whole land, under potent and religious kings, more than ever before, as Bede affirms, till his own days. Two years after in Northumberland died Oswi, much addicted to Romish rites, and resolved, had his disease released him, to have ended his days at Rome. Ecfrid, the eldest of his sons begot in wedlock, succeeded him. After other three years, Ecbert in Kent deceasing, left nothing memorable behind him, but the general suspicion to have slain or connived at the slaughter of his uncle’s two sons, Elbert and Egelbright. In recompense whereof he gave to the mother of them part of Tanet, wherein to build an abbey; the kingdom fell to his brother Lothair. And much about this time by best account it should be, however placed in Beda, that Ecfrid of Northumberland, having war with the Mercian Wulfer, won from him Lindsey, and the country thereabout. Sebbi having reigned over the East-Saxons thirty years, not long before his death, though long before desiring, took on him the habit of a monk; and drew his wife at length, though unwilling, to the same devotion. Kenwalk also dying left the government to Sexburga his wife, who outlived him in it but one year, driven out, saith Mat. Westm. by the nobles disdaining female government. After whom several petty kings, as Beda calls them, for ten years space divided the West-Saxons; others name two, Escwin, the nephew of Kinegils, and Kentwin the son, not petty by their deeds: for Escwin fought a battle with Wulfer at Bedanhafde, and about a year after both deceased; but Wulfer not without a stain left behind him of selling the bishopric of London to Wini; the first simonist we read of in this story: Kenwalk had before expelled him from his chair at Winchester. Ethelred, the brother of Wulfer, obtaining next the kingdom of Mercia, not only recovered Lindsey, and what besides in those parts Wulfer had lost to Ecfrid some years before, but found himself strong enough to extend his arms another way, as far as Kent, wasting that country without respect to church or monastery, much also endamaging the city of Rochester, notwithstanding what resistance Lothair could make against him. In August six hundred and seventy-eight was seen a morning comet for three months following, in manner of a fiery pillar. And the South-Saxons about this time were converted to the Christian faith, upon this occasion. Wilfred bishop of the Northumbrians entering into contention with Ecfrid the king, was by him deprived of his bishoprick, and long wandering up and down as far as Rome, returned at length into England; but not daring to approach the north, whence he was banished, bethought him where he might to best purpose elsewhere exercise his ministry. The south of all other Saxons remained yet heathen; but Ediwalk their king not long before had been baptized in Mercia, persuaded by Wulfer, and by him, as hath been said, received out of the font. For which relation’s sake he had the Isle of Wight, and a province of the Meannari adjoining given him on the continent about Meanesborow in Hantshire, which Wulfer had a little before gotten from Kenwalk. Thither Wilfrid takes his journey, and with the help of other spiritual labourers about him, in short time planted there the gospel. It had not rained, as is said, of three years before in that country, whence many of the people daily perished by famine; till on the first day of their public baptism, soft and plentiful showers descending restored all abundance to the summer following. Two years after this, Kentwin the other West-Saxon king above named, chaced the Welsh Britons, as is chronicled without circumstance, to the very sea-shore. But in the year, by Beda’s reckoning, six hundred and eighty-three, Kedvalla a West-Saxon of the royal line, (whom the Welsh will have to be Cadwallader, last king of the Britons,) thrown out by faction, returned from banishment, and invaded both Kentwin, if then living, or whoever else had divided the succession of Kenwalk, slaying in fight Edelwalk the South-Saxon, who opposed him in their aid; but soon after was repulsed by two of his captains, Bertune and Andune, who for a while held the province in their power. But Kedwalla gathering new force, with the slaughter of Bertune, and also of Edric the successor of Edelwalk, won the kingdom, but reduced the people to heavy thraldom. Then addressing to conquer the Isle of Wight, till that time pagan, saith Beda, (others otherwise, as above hath been related,) made a vow, though himself yet unbaptized, to devote the south part of that island, and the spoils thereof, to holy uses. Conquest obtained, paying his vow as then was the belief, he gave his fourth to bishop Wilfrid, by chance there present; and he to Bertwin a priest, his sister’s son, with commission to baptize all the vanquished, who meant to save their lives. But the two young sons of Arwald, king of that island, met with much more hostility: for they, at the enemy’s approach flying out of the isle, and betrayed where they were hid not far from thence, were led to Kedwaller, who lay then under cure of some wounds received, and by his appointment, after instruction and baptism first given them, harshly put to death, which the youths are said above their age to have Christianly suffered. In Kent Lothair died this year of his wounds received in the fight against the South-Saxons, led on by Edric, who descending from Ermenred, it seems challenged the crown, and wore it, though not commendably, one year and a half: but coming to a violent death, left the land exposed a prey either to homebred usurpers, or neighbouring invaders. Among whom Kedwalla, taking advantage from their civil distempers, and marching easily through the South-Saxons, whom he had subdued, sorely harassed the county, untouched of a long time by any hostile incursion. But the Kentish men, all parties uniting against a common enemy, with joint power so opposed him, that he was constrained to retire back; his brother Mollo in the flight, with twelve men in his company, seeking shelter in a house was beset, and therein burnt by the pursuers: Kedwalla much troubled at so great a loss, recalling and soon rallying his disordered forces, returned fiercely upon the chasing enemy; nor could he be got out of the province, till both by fire and sword he had avenged the death of his brother. At length Victred, the son of Ecbert, attaining the kingdom, both settled at home all things in peace, and secured his borders from all outward hostility. While thus Kedwalla disquieted both West and East, after his winning the crown, Ecfrid the Northumbrian, and Ethelred the Mercian, fought a sore battle by the river Trent; wherein Elfwin brother to Ecfrid, a youth of eighteen years, much beloved, was slain; and the accident likely to occasion much more shedding of blood, peace was happily made up by the grave exhortation of Archbishop Theodore, a pecuniary fine only paid to Ecfrid, as some satisfaction for the loss of his brother’s life. Another adversity befell Ecfrid in his family, by means of Ethildrith his wife, king Anna’s daughter, who having taken him for her husband, and professing to love him above all other men, persisted twelve years in the obstinate refusal of his bed, thereby thinking to live the purer life. So perversely then was chastity instructed against the apostle’s rule. At length obtaining of him with much importunity her departure, she veiled herself a nun, then made abbess of Ely, died seven years after of the pestilence; and might with better warrant have kept faithfully her undertaken wedlock, though now canonized St. Audrey of Ely.
In the mean while Ecfrid had sent Bertus with a power to subdure Ireland, a harmless nation, saith Beda, and ever friendly to the English; in both which they seem to have left a posterity much unlike them at this day; miserably wasted, without regard had to places hallowed or profane; they betook themselves partly to their weapons, partly to implore divine aid; and, as was thought, obtained it in their full avengement upon Ecfrid. For he the next year, against the mind and persuasion of his sagest friends, and especially of Cudbert a famous bishop of that age, marching unadvisedly against the Picts, who long before had been subject to Northumberland, was by them feigning flight, drawn unawares into narrow straits, overtopped with hills, and cut off with most of his army. From which time, saith Beda, military valour began among the Saxons to decay, not only the Picts till then peaceable, but some part of the Britons also recovered by arms their liberty for many years after. Yet Alfrid elder, but base brother to Ecfrid, a man said to be learned in the Scriptures, recalled from Ireland, to which place in his brother’s reign he had retired, and now succeeding, upheld with much honour, though in narrower bounds, the residue of his kingdom. Kedwalla having now with great disturbance of his neighbours reigned over the West-Saxons two years, besides what time he spent in gaining it, wearied perhaps with his own turbulence, went to Rome, desirous there to receive baptism, which till then his worldly affairs had deferred; and accordingly, on Easter-day, six hundred and eighty-nine, he was baptized by Sergius the pope, and his name changed to Peter. All which notwithstanding, surprised with a disease, he outlived not the ceremony so far sought much above the space of five weeks, in the thirtieth year of his age, and in the church of St. Peter was there buried, with a large epitaph upon his tomb. Him succeeded Ina of the royal family, and from the time of his coming in for many years oppressed the land with like grievances, as Kedwalla had done before him, insomuch that in those times there was no bishop among them. His first expedition was into Kent, to demand satisfaction for the burning of Mollo: Victred, loth to hazard all, for the rash act of a few, delivered up thirty of those that could be found accessory, or as others say, pacified Ina with a great sum of money. Meanwhile, at the incitement of Ecbert, a devout monk, Wilbrod, a priest eminent for learning, passed over sea, having twelve others in company, with intent to preach the gospel in Germany. And coming to Pepin chief regent of the Franks, who a little before had conquered the hither Frisia, by his countenance and protection, promise also of many benefits to them who should believe, they found the work of conversion much the easier, and Wilbrod the first bishopric in that nation. But two priests, each of them Hewald by name, and for distinction surnamed from the colour of their hair, the Black and the White, by his example piously affected to the souls of their countrymen the Old Saxons, at their coming thither to convert them, met with much worse entertainment. For in the house of a farmer, who had promised to convey them, as they desired, to the governor of that country, discovered by their daily ceremonies to be Christian priests, and the cause of their coming suspected, they were by him and his heathen neighbours cruelly butchered; yet not unavenged, for the governor enraged at such violence offered to his strangers, sending armed men slew all those inhabitants, and burnt their village.
After three years in Mercia, Ostrid the queen, wife to Ethelred, was killed by her own nobles, as Beda’s epitome records; Florence calls them Southimbrians, negligently omitting the cause of so strange a fact. And the year following, Bethred a Northumbrian general, was slain by the Picts. Ethelred, seven years after the violent death of his queen, put on the monk, and resigned his kingdom to Kenrid the son of Wulfer his brother. The next year Alfrid in Northumberland died, leaving Osred a child of eight years to succeed him. Four years after which, Kenred, having a while with praise governed the Mercian kingdom, went to Rome in the time of pope Constantine, and shorn a monk, spent there the residue of his days. Kelred succeeded him, the son of Ethelred, who had reigned the next before. With Kenred went Offa the son of Siger, king of the East-Saxons, and betook him to the same habit, leaving his wife and native country; a comely person in the prime of his youth, much desired of the people; and such his virtue by report, as might have otherwise been worthy to have reigned. Ina the West-Saxon one year after fought a battle, at first doubtful, at last successful, against Gerent king of Wales. The next year Bertfrid, another Northumbrian captain, fought with the Picts, and slaughtered them, saith Huntingdon, to the full avengement of Ecfrid’s death. The fourth year after, Ina had another doubtful and cruel battle at Woodnesburgh in Wiltshire, with Kenred the Mercian, who died the year following a lamentable death: for as he sat one day feasting with his nobles, suddenly possessed with an evil spirit, he expired in despair, as Boniface archbishop of Mentz, an Englishman, who taxes him for a defiler of nuns, writes by way of caution to Ethelbald his next of kin, who succeeded him. Osred also a young Northumbrian king, slain by his kindred in the eleventh of his reign for his vicious life and incest committed with nuns, was by Kenred succeeded and avenged; he reigning two years left Osric in his room. In whose seventh year, if Beda calculate right, Victred king of Kent deceased, having reigned thirty-four years, and some part of them with Suebbard, as Beda testifies. He left behind him three sons, Ethelbert, Eadbert, and Alric his heirs. Three years after which, appeared two comets about the sun, terrible to behold; the one before him in the morning, the other after him in the evening, for the space of two weeks in January, bending their blaze toward the north; at which time the Saracens furiously invaded France, but were expelled soon after with great overthrow. The same year in Northumberland, Osric, dying or slain, adopted Kelwulf the brother of Kenred his successor, to whom Beda dedicates his story; but writes this only of him, that the beginning and the process of his reign met with many adverse commotions, whereof the event was then doubtfully expected.
Meanwhile Ina, seven years before having slain Kenwulf, to whom Florent gives the addition of Clito, given usually to none but of the blood royal, and the fourth year after overthrown and slain Albright another Clito, driven from Taunton to the South-Saxons for aid, vanquished also the East-Angles in more than one battle, as Malmsbury writes, but not the year; whether to expiate so much blood, or infected with the contagious humour of those times, Malmsbury saith, at the persuasion of Ethelburga his wife, went to Rome, and there ended his days; yet this praise left behind him, to have made good laws, the first of Saxon that remain extant to this day, and to his kinsmen Edelard bequeathed the crown, no less than the whole monarchy of England and Wales. For Ina, if we believe a digression in the laws of Edward confessor, was the first king crowned of English and British, since the Saxons’ entrance; of the British by means of his second wife, some way related to Cadwallader last king of Wales, which I had not noted, being unlikely, but for the place where I found it.
After Ina, by a surer author, Ethelbald king of Mercia commanded all the provinces on this side Humber, with their kings: the Picts were in league with the English, the Scots peaceable within their bounds, and of the Britons part were in their own government, part subject to the English. In which peaceful state of the land, many in Northumberland, both nobles and commons, laying aside the exercise of arms, betook them to the cloister: and not content so to do at home, many in the days of Ina, clerks and laics, men and women, hasting to Rome in herds, thought themselves no where sure of eternal life till they were cloistered there. Thus representing the state of things in this island, Beda surceased to write. Out of whom chiefly has been gathered, since the Saxons’ arrival, such as hath been delivered, a scattered story picked out here and there, with some trouble and tedious work, from among his many legends of visions and miracles; toward the latter end so bare of civil matters, as what can be thence collected may seem a calendar rather than a history, taken up for the most part with succession of kings, and computation of years, yet those hard to be reconciled with the Saxon annals. Their actions we read of were most commonly wars, but for what cause waged, or by what councils carried on, no care was had to let us know; whereby their strength and violence we understand, of their wisdom, reason, or justice, little or nothing, the rest superstition and monastical affectation; kings one after another leaving their kingly charge, to run their heads fondly into a monk’s cowl; which leaves us uncertain whether Beda was wanting to his matter, or his matter to him. Yet from hence to the Danish invasion it will be worse with us, destitute of Beda. Left only to obscure and and blockish chronicles; whom Malmsbury, and Huntingdon, (for neither they nor we had better authors of those times,) ambitious to adorn the history, make no scruple ofttimes, I doubt, to interline with conjectures and surmises of their own; them rather than imitate, I shall choose to represent the truth naked, though as lean as a plain journal. Yet William of Malmsbury must be acknowledged, both for style and judgment, to be by far the best writer of them all: but what labour is to be endured turning over volumes of rubbish in the rest, Florence of Worcester, Huntingdon, Simeon of Durham, Hoveden, Matthew of Westminster, and many others of obscurer note, with all their monachisms, is a penance to think. Yet these are our only registers, transcribers one after another for the most part, and sometimes worthy enough for the things they register. This travail, rather than not know at once what may be known of our ancient story, sifted from fables and impertinences, I voluntarily undergo; and to save others, if they please, the like unpleasing labour; except those who take pleasure to be all their lifetime raking the foundations of old abbeys and cathedrals. But to my task now as it befalls. In the year seven hundred and thirty-three, on the eighteenth kalends of September, was an eclipse of the sun about the third hour of day, obscuring almost his whole orb as with a black shield. Ethelbald of Mercia besieged and took the castle or town of Somerton: and two years after, Beda our historian died, some say the year before. Kelwulf in Northumberland three years after, became monk in Lindisfarne, yet none of the severest, for he brought those monks from milk and water to wine and ale; in which doctrine no doubt but they were soon docile, and well might, for Kelwulf brought with him good provision, great treasure and revenues of land, recited by Simeon, yet all under pretence of following (I use the author’s words) poor Christ, by voluntary poverty: no marvel then if such applause were given by monkish writers to kings turning monks, and much cunning perhaps used to allure them. To Eadbert his uncle’s son, he left the kingdom, whose brother Ecbert, archbishop of York, built a library there.
But two years after, while Eadbert was busied in war against the Picts, Ethelbald the Mercian, by foul fraud, assaulted part of Northumberland in his absence, as the supplement to Beda’s epitome records. In the West-Saxons, Edelard, who succeeded Ina, having been much molested in the beginning of his reign, with the rebellion of Oswald his kinsman, who contended with him for the right of succession, overcoming at last those troubles, died in peace seven hundred and forty-one, leaving Cuthred one of the same lineage to succeed him; who at first had much war with Ethelbald the Mercian, and various success, but joining with him in league two years after, made war on the Welsh; Huntingdon doubts not to give them a great victory. And Simeon reports another battle fought between Britons and Picts the year ensuing. Nor was the kingdom of East-Saxons drawing to a period, for Sigeard and Senfred the sons of Sebbi having reigned a while, and after them young Offa, who soon quitted his kingdom to go to Rome with Kenred, as hath been said, the government was conferred on Selred son of Sigebert the Good, who having ruled thirty-eight years, came to a violent death; how or wherefore, is not set down. After whom Swithred was the last king, driven out by Ecbert the West-Saxon: but London, with countries adjacent, obeyed the Mercians till they also were dissolved. Cuthred had now reigned about nine years, when Kinric his son, a valiant young prince, was in a military tumult slain by his own soldiers.
The same year Eadbert dying in Kent, his brother Edilbert reigned in his stead. But after two years, the other Eadbert in Northumberland, whose war with the Picts hath been above mentioned, made now such progress there, as to subdue Kyle, so saith the auctarie of Bede, and other countries thereabout to his dominion; while Cuthred the West-Saxon had a fight with Ethelhun, one of his nobles, a stout warrior, envied by him in some matter of the commonwealth, as far as by the Latin of Ethelwerd can be understood, (others interpret it sedition,) and with much ado overcoming, took Ethelhun for his valour into favour, by whom faithfully served in the twelfth or thirteenth of his reign, he encountered in a set battle with Ethelbald the Mercian at Beorford, now Burford in Oxfordshire, one year after against the Welsh, which was the last but one of his life. Huntingdon, as his manner is to comment upon the annal text, makes a terrible description of that fight between Cuthred and Ethelbald, and the prowess of Ethelhun, at Beorford, but so affectedly, and therefore suspiciously, that I hold it not worth rehearsal; and both in that and the latter conflict gives victory to Guthred; after whom Sigebert, uncertain by what right, his kinsman, saith Florent, stepped into the throne, whom, hated for his cruelty and other evil doings, Kinwulf, joining with most of the nobility, dispossessed of all but Hamshire; that province he lost also within a year, together with the love of all those who till then remained his adherents, by slaying Cumbran, one of his chief captains, who for a long time had faithfully served, and now dissuaded him from incensing the people by such tyrannical practices. Thence flying for safety into Andrew’s wood, forsaken of all, he was at length slain by the swineherd of Cumbran in revenge of his master, and Kinwulf, who had undoubted right to the crown, joyfully saluted king. The next year Eadbert the Northumbrian, joining forces with Unust king of the Picts, as Simeon writes, besieged and took by surrender the city of Alcluith, now Dunbritton in Lennox, from the Britons of Cumberland; and ten days after, the whole army perished about Niwanbirig, but to tell us how, he forgets. In Mercia, Ethelbald was slain at a place called Secandune, now Seckington in Warwickshire, the year following, in a bloody fight against Cuthred, as Huntingdon surmises, but Cuthred was dead two or three years before; others write him murdered in the night by his own guard, and the treason, as some say, of Beornred, who succeeded him; but ere many months was defeated and slain by Offa. Yet Ethelbald seems not without cause, after a long and prosperous reign, to have fallen by a violent death; not shaming, on the vain confidence of his many alms, to commit uncleanness with consecrated nuns, besides laic adulteries, as the archbishop of Mentz in a letter taxes him and his predecessor, and that by his example most of his peers did the like; which adulterous doings he foretold him were likely to produce a slothful offspring, good for nothing but to be the ruin of that kingdom, as it fell out not long after. The next year Osmund, according to Florence, ruling the South-Saxons, and Swithred the East, Eadbert in Northumberland, following the steps of his predecessor, got him into a monk’s hood; the more to be wondered, that having reigned worthily twenty-one years, with the love and high estimation of all, both at home and abroad, still able to govern, and much entreated by the kings his neighbours, not to lay down his charge; with offer on that condition to yield up to him part of their own dominion, he could not be moved from his resolution, but relinquished his regal office to Oswulf his son; who at the year’s end, though without just cause, was slain by his own servants. And the year after died Ethelbert, son of Victred, the second of that name in Kent.
After Oswulf, Ethelwald, otherwise called Mollo, was set up king; who in his third year had a great battle at Eldune, by Melros, slew Oswin a great lord, rebelling, and gained the victory. But the third year after fell by the treachery of Alcred, who assumed his place. The fourth year after which, Cataracta an ancient and fair city in Yorkshire, was burnt by Arned a certain tyrant; who the same year came to like end. And after five years more, Alcred the king, deposed and forsaken by all his people, fled with a few, first to Bebba, a strong city of those parts, thence to Kinot, king of the Picts. Ethelred, the son of Mollo, was crowned in his stead. Meanwhile Offa the Mercian, growing powerful, had subdued a neighbouring people by Simeon, called Hastings; and fought successfully this year with Alric king of Kent, at a place called Occanford: the annals also speak of wondrous serpents then seen in Sussex. Nor had Kinwulf the West-Saxon given small proof of his valour in several battles against the Welsh heretofore; but this year seven hundred and seventy-five, meeting with Offa, at a place called Besington, was put to the worse, and Offa won the town for which they contended. In Northumberland, Ethelred having caused three of his nobles, Aldulf, Kinwulf, and Ecca, treacherously to be slain by two other peers, was himself the next year driven into banishment, Elfwald the son of Oswulf succeeding in his place, yet not without civil broils; for in his second year Osbald and Athelheard, two noblemen, raising forces against him, routed Bearne his general, and pursuing burnt him at a place called Seletune.
I am sensible how wearisome it may likely be, to read of so many bare and reasonless actions, so many names of kings, one after another, acting little more than mute persons in a scene: what would it be to have inserted the long bead-roll of archbishops, bishops, abbots, abbesses, and their doings, neither to religion profitable, nor to morality, swelling my authors each to a voluminous body, by me studiously omitted; and left as their propriety who have a mind to write the ecclesiastical matters of those ages? Neither do I care to wrinkle the smoothness of history with rugged names of places unknown, better harped at in Camden and other chorographers. Six years therefore passed over in silence, as wholly of such argument, bring us to relate next the unfortunate end of Kinwulf the West-Saxon; who having laudably reigned about thirty-one years, yet suspecting that Kineard, brother of Sigebert the former king, intended to usurp the crown after his decease, or revenge his brother’s expulsion, had commanded him into banishment: but he lurking here and there on the borders with a small company, having had intelligence that Kinwulf was in the country thereabout, at Merantun, or Merton in Surrey, at the house of a woman whom he loved, went by night and beset the place. Kinwulf, over confident either of his royal presence, or personal valour, issuing forth with a few about him, runs fiercely at Kineard, and wounds him sore; but by his followers hemmed in, is killed among them. The report of so great an accident soon running to a place not far off, where many more attendants awaited the king’s return, Osric and Wifert, two earls, hasted with a great number to the house, where Kineard and his fellows yet remained. He seeing himself surrounded, with fair words and promises of great gifts attempted to appearse them; but those rejected with disdain, fights it out to the last, and is slain with all but one or two of his retinue, which were nigh a hundred. Kinwulf was succeeded by Birthric, being both descended of Kerdic the founder of that kingdom.
Not better was the end of Elfwald in Northumberland, two years after slain miserably by the conspiracy of Siggan, one of his nobles, others say of the whole people at Scilcester by the Roman wall; yet undeservedly, as his sepulchre at Hagustald, now Hexam upon Tine, and some miracles there said to be done, are alleged to witness, and Siggan five years after laid violent hands on himself. Osred son of Alcred advanced into the room of Elfwald, and within one year driven out, left his seat vacant to Ethelred son of Mollo, who after ten years of banishment (imprisonment, saith Alcuin) had the sceptre put again into his hand. The third year of Birthric king of West-Saxons, gave beginning from abroad to a new and fatal revolution of calamity on this land. For three Danish ships, the first that had been seen here of that nation, arriving in the west; to visit these, as was supposed foreign merchants, the king’s gatherer of customs taking horse from Dorchester, found them spies and enemies. For being commanded to come and give account of their lading at the king’s custom house, they slew him, and all that came with him; as an earnest of the many slaughters, rapines, and hostilities, which they returned not long after to commit over all the island. Of this Danish first arrival, and on a sudden worse than hostile aggression, the Danish history far otherwise relates, as if their landing had been at the mouth of Humber, and their spoilful march far into the country; though soon repelled by the inhabitants, they hasted back as fast to their ships: but from what cause, what reason of state, what authority or public council the invasion proceeded, makes not mention, and our wonder yet the more, by telling us that Sigefrid then king in Denmark, and long after, was a man studious more of peace and quiet than of warlike matters. These therefore seem rather to have been some wanderers at sea, who with public commission, or without, through love of spoil, or hatred of Christianity, seeking booties on any land of Christians, came by chance, or weather, on this shore. The next year Osred in Northumberland, who driven out by his nobles had given place to Ethelred, was taken, and forcibly shaven a monk at York. And the year after, Oelf, and Oelfwin, sons of Elfwald, formerly king, were drawn by fair promises from the principal church of York, and after by command of Ethelred cruelly put to death at Wonwaldremere, a village by the great pool in Lancashire, now called Winandermere. Nor was the third year less bloody; for Osred, who, not liking a shaven crown, had desired banishment and obtained it, returning from the Isle of Man with small forces, at the secret but deceitful call of certain nobles, who by oath had promised to assist him, were also taken, and by Ethelred dealt with in the same manner: who, the better to avouch his cruelties, thereupon married Elfled the daughter of Offa; for in Offa was found as little faith or mercy. He the same year, having drawn to his palace Ethelbrite king of East-Angles, with fair invitations to marry his daughter, caused him to be there inhospitably beheaded, and his kingdom wrongfully seized, by the wicked counsel of his wife, saith Mat. Westm. annexing thereto a long unlikely tale. For which violence and bloodshed to make atonement, with friars at least, he bestows the relics of St. Alban in a shrine of pearl and gold. Far worse it fared the next year with the relics in Lindisfarne; where the Danes landing pillaged that monastery; and of friars killed some, carried away others captive, sparing neither priest nor lay: which many strange thunders and fiery dragons, with other impressions in the air seen frequently before, were judged to foresignify.
This year Alric third son of Victred ended in Kent his long reign of thirty-four years; with him ended the race of Hengist: thenceforth whomsoever wealth or faction advanced took on him the name and state of a king. The Saxon annals of seven hundred and eighty-four name Ealmund then reigning in Kent; but that consists not with the time of Alric, and I find him no where else mentioned. The year following was remarkable for the death of Offa the Mercian, a strenuous and subtlie king; he had much intercourse with Charles the Great, at first enmity, to the interdicting of commerce on either side, at length much amity and firm league, as appears by the letter of Charles himself yet extant, procured by Alcuin a learned and prudent man, though a monk, whom the kings of England in those days had sent orator into France, to maintain good correspondence between them and Charles the Great. He granted, saith Huntingdon, a perpetual tribute to the pope out of every house in his kingdom, for yielding perhaps to translate the primacy of Canterbury to Litchfield in his own dominion. He drew a trench of wondrous length between Mercia and the British confines from sea to sea. Ecferth the son of Offa, a prince of great hope, who also had been crowned nine years before his father’s decease, restoring to the church what his father had seized on, yet within four months by a sickness ended his reign; and to Kenulf, next in the right of the same progeny, bequeathed his kingdom. Meanwhile the Danish pirates, who still wasted Northumberland, venturing on shore to spoil another monastery at the mouth of the river Don, were assailed by the English, their chief captain slain on the place; then returning to sea, were most of them shipwrecked; others driven again on shore, were put all to the sword. Simeon attributes this their punishment to the power of St. Cudbert, offended with them for rifling his convent. Two years after this died Ethelred, twice king, but not exempted at last from the fate of many of his predecessors, miserably slain by his people, some say deservedly, as not inconscious with them who trained Osred to his ruin. Osbald a nobleman exalted to the throne, and, in less than a month, deserted and expelled, was forced to fly from Lindisfarne by sea to the Pictish king, and died an abbot. Eadhulf, whom Ethelred six years before had commanded to be put to death at Rippon, before the abbey-gate, dead as was supposed, and with solemn dirge carried into the church, after midnight found there alive, I read not how, then banished, now recalled, was in York created king. In Kent Ethelbert or Pren, whom the annals call Eadbright, (so different they often are one from another, both in timing and in naming,) by some means having usurped regal power, after two years reign contending with Kenulf the Mercian, was by him taken prisoner, and soon after out of pious commiseration let go: but not received of his own, what became of him Malmsbury leaves in doubt. Simeon writes, that Kenulf commanded to put out his eyes, and lop off his hands; but whether the sentence were executed or not, is left as much in doubt by his want of expression. The second year after this, they in Northumberland, who had conspired against Ethelred, now also raising war against Eardulf, under Wada their chief captain, after much havoc on either side at Langho, by Whaley in Lancashire, the conspirators at last fleeing, Eardulf returned with victory. The same year London, with a great multitude of her inhabitants, by a sudden fire was consumed.
The year eight hundred made way for a great alteration in England, uniting her seven kingdoms into one, by Ecbert the famous West-Saxon; him Birthrick dying childless left next to reign, the only survivor of that lineage, descended from Inegild the brother of king Ina. And according to his birth liberally bred, he began early from his youth to give signal hopes of more than ordinary worth growing up in him; which Birthric fearing, and withal his juster title to the crown, secretly sought his life, and Ecbert perceiving, fled to Offa, the Mercian: but he having married Eadburgh his daughter to Birthric, easily gave ear to his embassadors coming to require Ecbert: he, again put to his shifts, escaped thence into France; but after three years’ banishment there, which perhaps contributed much to his education, Charles the Great then reigning, he was called over by the public voice, (for Birthric was newly dead,) and with general applause created king of West-Saxons. The same day Ethelmund at Kinnersford passing over with the Worcestershire men, was met by Woelstan another nobleman with those of Wiltshire, between whom happened a great fray, wherein the Wiltshire men overcame, but both dukes were slain, no reason of their quarrel written; such bickerings to recount, met often in these our writers, what more worth is it than to chronicle the wars of kites or crows, flocking and fighting in the air? The year following, Eardulf the Northumbrian leading forth an army against Kenwulf the Mercian for harbouring certain of his enemies, by the diligent mediation of other princes and prelates, arms were laid aside, and amity soon sworn between them. But Eadburga, the wife of Birthric, a woman every way wicked, in malice especially cruel, could not or cared not to appease the general hatred justly conceived against her; accustomed in her husband’s day, to accuse any whom she spighted; and not prevailing to his ruin, her practice was by poison secretly to contrive his death. It fortuned that the king her husband, lighting on a cup which she had tempered, not for him, but for one of his great favourites, whom she could not harm by accusing, sipped thereof only, and in a while after, still pining away, ended his days; the favourite, drinking deeper, found speedier the operation. She, fearing to be questioned for these facts, with what treasure she had, passed over sea to Charles the Great, whom, with rich gifts coming to his presence, the emperor courtly received with this pleasant proposal: “Choose, Eadburga, which of us two thou wilt, me or my son,” (for his son stood by him,) “to be thy husband.” She, no dissembler of what she liked best, made easy answer: “Were it in my choice, I should choose of the two your son rather, as the younger man.” To whom the emperor, between jest and earnest, “Hadst thou chosen me, I had bestowed on thee my son; but since thou hast chosen him, thou shalt have neither him nor me.” Nevertheless he assigned her a rich monastery to dwell in as an abbess; for that life it may seem she chose next to profess: but being awhile after detected of unchastity with one of her followers, she was commanded to depart thence: from that time wandering poorly up and down with one servant, in Pavia a city of Italy, she finished at last in beggary her shameful life.
In the year eight hundred and five Cuthred, whom Kenulf the Mercian had, instead of Pren, made king in Kent, having obscurely reigned eight years, deceased. In Northumberland, Eardulf the year following was driven out of his realm by Alfwold, who reigned two years in his room; after whom Eandred son of Eardulf thirty-three years; but I see not how this can stand with the sequel of story out of better authors: much less which Buchanan relates, the year following, of Achaius king of Scots, who having reigned thirty-two years, and dying in eight hundred and nine, had formerly aided (but in what year of his reign tells not) Hungus king of Picts with ten thousand Scots, against Athelstan a Saxon or Englishman, then wasting the Pictish borders; that Hungus by the aid of those Scots, and the help of St. Andrew their patron, in a vision by night, and the appearance of his cross by day, routed the astonished English, and slew Athelstan in fight. Who this Athelstan was, I believe no man knows; Buchanan supposes him to have been some Danish commander, on whom king Alured or Alfred had bestowed Northumberland; but of this I find no footstep in our ancient writers; and if any such thing were done in the time of Alfred, it must be little less than a hundred years after: this Athelstan therefore, and this great overthrow, seems rather to have been the fancy of some legend than any warrantable record. Meanwhile Ecbert having with much prudence, justice, and clemency, a work of more than one year, established his kingdom and himself in the affections of his people, turns his first enterprise against the Britons, both them of Cornwall and those beyond Severn, subduing both. In Mercia, Kenulf, the sixth year after, having reigned with great praise of his religious mind and virtues both in peace and war, deceased. His son Kenelm, a child of seven years, was committed to the care of his elder sister Quendrid: who, with a female ambition aspiring to the crown, hired one who had the charge of his nurture to murder him, led into a woody place upon pretence of hunting. The murder, as is reported, was miraculously revealed; but to tell how, by a dove dropping a written note on the altar at Rome, is a long story, told, though out of order, by Malmsbury, and under the year eight hundred and twenty-one by Mat. West., where I leave it to be sought by such as are more credulous than I wish my readers. Only the note was to this purpose:
- Low in a mead of kine under a thorn,
- Of head bereft, lieth poor Kenelm kingborn.
Keolwulf, the brother of Kenulf, after one year’s reign, was driven out by one Bernulf an usurper; who in his third year, uncertain whether invading or invaded, was by Ecbert, though with great loss on both sides, overthrown and put to flight at Ellandune or Wilton: yet Malmsbury accounts this battle fought in eight hundred and six; a wide difference, but frequently found in their computations. Bernulf thence retiring to the East-Angles, as part of his dominion by the late seizure of Offa, was by them met in the field and slain: but they, doubting what the Mercians might do in revenge hereof, forthwith yielded themselves both king and people to the sovereignty of Ecbert. As for the kings of East-Angles, our annals mention them not since Ethelwald; him succeeded his brother’s sons, as we find in Malmsbury, Aldulf (a good king, well acquainted with Bede) and Elwold who left the kingdom to Beorn, he to Ethelred the father of Ethelbrite, whom Offa perfidiously put to death.
Simeon and Hoveden, in the year seven hundred and forty-nine, write that Elfwald king of East-Angles dying, Humbeanna and Albert shared the kingdom between them; but where to insert this among the former successions is not easy, nor much material: after Ethelbrite, none is named of that kingdom till their submitting now to Ecbert: he from this victory against Bernulf sent part of his army under Ethelwulf his son, with Alstan bishop of Shirburn, and Wulfred a chief commander, into Kent. Who, finding Baldred there reigning in his eighteenth year, overcame and drove him over the Thames; whereupon all Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and lastly Essex, with her king Swithred, became subject to the dominion of Ecbert. Neither were these all his exploits of this year; the first in order set down in Saxon annals being his fight against the Devonshire Welsh, at a place called Gafulford, now Camelford in Cornwall.
Ludiken the Mercian, after two years preparing to avenge Bernulf his kinsman on the East-Angles, was by them with his five consuls, as the annals call them, surprised and put to the sword: and Withlaf his successor first vanquished, then upon submission, with all Mercia, made tributary to Ecbert. Meanwhile the Northumbrian kingdom of itself was fallen to shivers; their kings one after another so often slain by the people, no man daring, though never so ambitious, to take up the sceptre, which many had found so hot, (the only effectual cure of ambition that I have read,) for the space of thirty-three years after the death of Ethelred son of Mollo, as Malmsbury writes, there was no king: many noblemen and prelates were fled the country. Which misrule among them the Danes having understood, ofttimes from their ships entering far into the land, infested those parts with wide depopulation, wasting towns, churches, and monasteries, for they were yet heathen: the Lent before whose coming, on the north side of St. Peter’s church in York was seen from the roof to rain blood. The causes of these calamities, and the ruin of that kingdom, Alcuin, a learned monk living in those days, attributes in several epistles, and well may, to the general ignorance and decay of learning, which crept in among them after the death of Beda, and of Ecbert the archbishop; their neglect of breeding up youth in the Scriptures, the spruce and gay apparel of their priests and nuns, discovering their vain and wanton minds. Examples are also read, even in Beda’s days, of their wanton deeds; thence altars defiled with perjuries, cloisters violated with adulteries, the land polluted with the blood of their princes, civil dissensions among the people; and finally, all the same vices which Gildas alleged of old to have ruined the Britons. In this estate Ecbert, who had now conquered all the south, finding them in the year eight hundred and twenty-seven, (for he was marched thither with an army to complete his conquest of the whole island,) no wonder if they submitted themselves to the yoke without resistance, Eandred their king becoming tributary. Thence turning his forces the year following he subdued more thoroughly what remained of North-Wales.
THE FIFTH BOOK.
The sum of things in this island, or the best part thereof, reduced now under the power of one man, and him one of the worthiest, which, as far as can be found in good authors, was by none attained at any time here before, unless in fables; men might with some reason have expected from such union peace and plenty, greatness, and the flourishing of all estates and degrees: but far the contrary fell out soon after; invasion, spoil, desolation, slaughter of many, slavery of the rest, by the forcible landing of a fierce nation; Danes commonly called, and sometimes Dacians by others, the same with Normans; as barbarous as the Saxons themselves were at first reputed, and much more: for the Saxons first invited came hither to dwell; these unsent for, unprovoked, came only to destroy. But if the Saxons, as is above related, came most of them from Jutland and Anglen, a part of Denmark, as Danish writers affirm, and that Danes and Normans are the same; then in this invasion, Danes drove out Danes, their own posterity. And Normans afterwards none but ancienter Normans. Which invasion perhaps, had the heptarchy stood, divided as it was, had either not been attempted, or not uneasily resisted; while each prince and people, excited by their nearest concernments, had more industriously defended their own bounds, than depending on the neglect of a deputed governor, sent ofttimes from the remote residence of a secure monarch. Though as it fell out in those troubles, the lesser kingdoms revolting from the West-Saxon yoke, and not aiding each other, too much concerned for their own safety, it came to no better pass; while severally they sought to repel the danger nigh at hand, rather than jointly to prevent it far off. But when God hath decreed servitude on a sinful nation, fitted by their own vices for no condition but servile, all estates of government are alike unable to avoid it. God hath purposed to punish our instrumental punishers, though now Christians, by other heathen, according to his divine retaliation; invasion for invasion, spoil for spoil, destruction for destruction. The Saxons were now full as wicked as the Britons were at their arrival, broken with luxury and sloth, either secular or superstitious; for laying aside the exercise of arms, and the study of all virtuous knowledge, some betook them to overworldly or vicious practice, others to religious idleness and solitude, which brought forth nothing but vain and delusive visions; easily perceived such by their commanding of things, either not belonging to the gospel, or utterly forbidden, ceremonies, relics, monasteries, masses, idols; add to these ostentation of alms, got ofttimes by rapine and oppression, or intermixed with violent and lustful deeds, sometimes prodigally bestowed as the expiation of cruelty and bloodshed. What longer suffering could there be, when religion itself grew so void of sincerity, and the greatest shows of purity were impured?
Ecbert in full height of glory, having now enjoyed his conquest seven peaceful years, his victorious army long since disbanded, and the exercise of arms perhaps laid aside; the more was found unprovided against a sudden storm of Danes from the sea, who landing in the thirty-second of his reign, wasted Shepey in Kent. Ecbert the next year, gathering an army, for he had heard of their arrival in thirty-five ships, gave them battle by the river Carr in Dorsetshire; the event whereof was, that the Danes kept their ground, and encamped where the field was fought; two Saxon leaders, Dudda and Osmund, and two bishops, as some say, were there slain. This was the only check of fortune we read of, that Ecbert in all his time received. For the Danes returning two years after with a great navy, and joining forces with the Cornish, who had entered league with them, were overthrown and put to flight. Of these invasions against Ecbert the Danish history is not silent; whether out of their own records or ours may be justly doubted: for of these times at home I find them in much uncertainty, and beholden rather to outlandish chronicles, than any records of their own. The victor Ecbert, as one who had done enough, seasonably now, after prosperous success, the next year with glory ended his days, and was buried at Winchester.
Ethelwolf the son of Ecbert succeeded, by Malmsbury described a man of mild nature, not inclined to war, or delighted with much dominion; that therefore contented with the ancient West-Saxon bounds, he gave to Ethelstan his brother, or son, as some write, the kingdom of Kent and Essex. But the Saxon annalist, whose authority is elder, saith plainly, that both these countries and Sussex were bequeathed to Ethelstan by Ecbert his father. The unwarlike disposition of Ethelwolf gave encouragement no doubt, and easier entrance to the Danes, who came again the next year with thirty-three ships; but Wulfherd, one of the king’s chief captains, drove them back at Southampton with great slaughter; himself dying the same year, of age, as I suppose, for he seems to have been one of Ecbert’s old commanders, who was sent with Ethelwolf to subdue Kent. Ethelhelm, another of the king’s captains, with the Dorsetshire men, had at first like success against the Danes at Portsmouth; but they reinforcing stood their ground, and put the English to rout. Worse was the success of earl Herebert at a place called Mereswar, slain with the most part of his army.
The year following in Lindsey also, East-Angles, and Kent, much mischief was done by their landing; where the next year, emboldened by success, they came on as far as Canterbury, Rochester, and London itself, with no less cruel hostility: and giving no respite to the peaceable mind of Ethelwolf, they yet returned with the next year in thirty-five ships, fought with him, as before with his father at the river Carr, and made good their ground. In Northumberland, Eandred the tributary king deceasing, left the same tenure to his son Ethelred, driven out in his fourth year, and succeeded by Readwulf, who soon after his coronation hasting forth to battle against the Danes at Alvetheli, fell with the most part of his army; and Ethelred, like in fortune to the former Ethelred, was re-exalted to his seat. And, to be yet further like him in fate, was slain the fourth year after. Osbert succeeded in his room. But more southerly, the Danes next year after met with some stop in the full course of their outrageous insolencies. For Earnulf with the men of Somerset, Alstan the bishop, and Osric with those of Dorsetshire, setting upon them at the river’s mouth of Pedridan, slaughtered them in great numbers, and obtained a just victory. This repulse quelled them, for aught we hear, the space of six years; then also renewing their invasion with little better success. For Keorle an earl, aided with the forces of Devonshire, assaulted and overthrew them at Wigganbeorch with great destruction: as prosperously were they fought the same year at Sandwich, by king Ethelstan, and Ealker his general, their great army defeated, and nine of their ships taken, the rest driven off; however to ride out the winter on that shore, Asser saith, they then first wintered in Shepey isle. Hard it is, through the bad expression of these writers, to define this fight, whether by sea or land; Hoveden terms it a seafight. Nevertheles with fifty ships (Asser and others add three hundred) they entered the mouth of the Thames, and made excursions as far as Canterbury and London, and as Ethelwerd writes, destroyed both; of London, Asser signifies only that they pillaged it. Bertulf also, the Mercian, successor of Withlaf, with all his army they forced to fly, and him beyond the sea. Then passing over Thames with their powers into Surrey, and the West-Saxons, and meeting there with king Ethelwolf and Ethelbald his son, at a place called Ak-Lea, or Oke-Lea, they received a total defeat with memorable slaughter. This was counted a lucky year to England, and brought to Ethelwolf great reputation. Burhed therefore, who after Bertulf held of him the Mercian kingdom, two years after this, imploring his aid against the North-Welsh, as then troublesome to his confines, obtained it of him in person, and thereby reduced them to obedience. This done, Ethelwolf sent his son Alfred, a child of five years, well accompanied to Rome, whom Leo the pope both consecrated to be king afterwards, and adopted to be his son; at home Ealker with the forces of Kent, and Huda with those of Surrey, fell on the Danes at their landing in Tanet, and at first put them back; but the slain and drowned were at length so many on either side, as left the loss equal on both: which yet hindered not the solemnity of a marriage at the feast of Easter, between Burhed the Mercian, and Ethelswida king Ethelwolf’s daughter. Howbeit the Danes next year wintered again in Shepey. Whom Ethelwolf, not finding human health sufficient to resist, growing daily upon him, in hope of Divine aid, registered in a book, and dedicated to God the tenth part of his own lands, and of his whole kingdom, eased of all impositions, but converted to the maintenance of masses and psalms weekly to be sung for the prospering of Ethelwolf and his captains, as it appears at large by the patent itself, in William of Malmsbury. Asser saith, he did it for the redemption of his soul, and the souls of his ancestors. After which, as having done some great matter to show himself at Rome, and be applauded of the pope; he takes a long and cumbersome journey thither with young Alfred again, and there stays a year, when his place required him rather here in the field against pagan enemies left wintering in his land. Yet so much manhood he had, as to return thence no monk; and in his way home took to wife Judith daughter to Charles the Bald, king of France.
But ere his return, Ethelbald his eldest son, Alstan his trusty bishop, and Enulf earl of Somerset conspired against him: their complaints were, that he had taken with him Alfred his youngest son to be there inaugurated king, and brought home with him an outlandish wife; for which they endeavoured to deprive him of his kingdom. The disturbance was expected to bring forth nothing less than war: but the king abhorring civil discord, after many conferences tending to peace, condescended to divide the kingdom with his son: division was made, but the matter so carried, that the eastern and worst part was malignly afforded to the father; the western and best given to the son: at which many of the nobles had great indignation, offering to the king their utmost assistance for the recovery of all; whom he peacefully dissuading, sat down contented with his portion assigned. In the East-Angles, Edmund lineal from the ancient stock of those kings, a youth of fourteen years only, but of great hopes, was with consent of all but his own crowned at Bury. About this time, as Buchanan relates, the Picts, who not long before had by the Scots been driven out of their country, part of them coming to Osbert and Ella, then kings of Northumberland, obtained aid against Donaldus the Scottish king, to recover their ancient possession. Osbert, who in person undertook the expedition, marching into Scotland, was at first put to a retreat; but returning soon after on the Scots, oversecure of their supposed victory, put them to flight with great slaughter, took prisoner their king, and pursued his victory beyond Stirling bridge. The Scots unable to resist longer, and by embassadors entreating peace, had it granted them on these conditions: the Scots were to quit all they had possessed within the wall of Severus: the limits of Scotland were beneath Stirling bridge to be the river Forth, and on the other side, Dunbritton Frith; from that time so called of the British then seated in Cumberland, who had joined with Osbert in this action, and so far extended on that side the British limits. If this be true, as the Scots writers themselves witness, (and who would think them fabulous to the disparagement of their own country?) how much wanting have been our historians to their country’s honour, in letting pass unmentioned an exploit so memorable, by them remembered and attested, who are want oftener to extenuate than to amplify aught done in Scotland by the English; Donaldus, on these conditions released, soon after dies, according to Buchanan, in 858. Ethelwolf, chief king in England, had the year before ended his life, and was buried as his father at Winchester. He was from his youth much addicted to devotion; so that in his father’s time he was ordained bishop of Winchester; and unwillingly, for want of other legitimate issue, succeeded him in the throne; managing therefore his greatest affairs by the activity of two bishops, Alstan of Sherburne, and Swithine of Winchester. But Alstan is noted of covetousness and oppression, by William of Malmsbury; the more vehemently no doubt for doing some notable damage to that monastery. The same author writes, that Ethelwolf at Rome paid a tribute to the pope, continued to his days. However he were facile to his son, and seditious nobles, in yielding up part of his kingdom, yet his queen he treated not the less honourably, for whomsoever it displeased. The West-Saxons had decreed ever since the time of Eadburga, the infamous wife of Birthric, that no queen should sit in state with the king, or be dignified with the title of queen. But Ethelwolf permitted not that Judith his queen should lose any point of regal state by that law. At his death he divided the kingdom between his two sons, Ethelbald and Ethelbert; to the younger Kent, Essex, Surrey, Sussex, to the elder all the rest; to Peter and Paul certain revenues yearly, for what uses let others relate, who write also his pedigree, from son to father, up to Adam.
ETHELBALD AND ETHELBERT.
Ethelbald, unnatural and disloyal to his father, fell justly into another, though contrary sin, of too much love for his father’s wife; and whom at first he opposed coming into the land, her now unlawfully marrying, he takes into his bed; but not long enjoying died at three years end, without doing aught more worthy to be remembered; having reigned two years with his father, impiously usurping, and three after him, as unworthily inheriting. And his hap was all that while to be unmolested with the Danes; not of divine favour doubtless, but to his greater condemnation, living the more securely his incestuous life. Huntingdon on the other side much praises Ethalbald, and writes him buried at Sherburn, with great sorrow of the people, who missed him long after. Mat. Westm. saith, that he repented of his incest with Judith, and dismissed her: but Asser, an eyewitness of those times, mentions no such thing.
Ethelwald by death removed, the whole kingdom came rightly to Ethelbert his next brother. Who, though a prince of great virtue and no blame, had as short a reign allotted him as his faulty brother, nor that so peaceful; once or twice invaded by the Danes. But they having landed in the west with a great army, and sacked Winchester, were met by Osric earl of Southampton, and Ethelwolf of Berkshire, beaten to their ships, and forced to leave their booty. Five years after, about the time of his death, they set foot again in Tanet; the Kentishmen, wearied out with so frequent alarms, came to agreement with them for a certain sum of money; but ere the peace could be ratified, and the money gathered, the Danes, impatient of delay, by a sudden eruption in the night soon wasted all the East of Kent. Meanwhile, or something before, Ethelbert deceasing was buried as his brother at Sherburn.
Ethelred, the third son of Ethelwolf, at his first coming to the crown was entertained with a fresh invasion of the Danes, led by Hinguar and Hubba, two brothers, who now had got footing among the East-Angles; there they wintered, and coming to terms of peace with the inhabitants, furnished themselves of horses, forming by that means many troops with riders of their own: these pagans, Asser saith, came from the river Danubius. Fitted thus for a long expedition, they ventured the next year to make their way over land and over Humber as far as York: them they found to their hands embroiled in civil dissensions; their king Osbert they had thrown out, and Ella leader of another faction chosen in his room; who both, though late, admonished by their common danger, towards the year’s end with united powers made head against the Danes and prevailed; but pursuing them overeagerly into York, then but slenderly walled, the Northumbrians were every where slaughtered, both within and without; their kings also both slain, their city burnt, saith Malmsbury, the rest as they could made their peace, overrun and vanquished as far as the river Tine, and Egbert of English race appointed king over them. Brompton, no ancient author, (for he wrote since Mat. West.) nor of much credit, writes a particular cause of the Danes coming to York; that Bruern a nobleman, whose wife king Osbert had ravished, called in Hinguar and Hubba to revenge him. The example is remarkable, if the truth were as evident. Thence victorious, the Danes next year entered into Mercia towards Nottingham, where they spent the winter. Burhed then king of that country, unable to resist, implores the aid of Ethelred and young Alfred his brother; they assembling their forces and joining with the Mercians about Nottingham, offer battle: the Danes, not daring to come forth, kept themselves within that town and castle, so that no great fight was hazarded there; at length the Mercians, weary of long suspense, entered into conditions of peace with their enemies. After which the Danes, returning back to York, made their abode there the space of one year, committing, some say, many cruelties. Thence embarking to Lindsey, and all the summer destroying that country, about September they came with like fury into Kesteven, another part of Lincolnshire; where Algar, the earl of Howland, now Holland, with his forces, and two hundred stout soldiers belonging to the abbey of Croiland, three hundred from about Boston, Morcard lord of Brunne, with his numerous family, well trained and armed, Osgot governor of Lincoln with five hundred of that city, all joining together, gave battle to the Danes, slew of them a great multitude, with three of their kings, and pursued the rest to their tents; but the night following, Gothrun, Baseg, Osketil, Halfden, and Hamond, five kings, and as many earls, Frena, Hinguar, Hubba, Sidroc the elder and younger, coming in from several parts with great forces and spoils, great part of the English began to slink home. Nevertheless Algar with such as forsook him not, all next day in order of battle facing the Danes, and sustaining unmoved the brunt of their assaults, could not withhold his men at last from pursuing their counterfeited flight: whereby opened and disordered, they fell into the snare of their enemies, rushing back upon them. Algar and those captains forenamed with him, all resolute men, retreating to a hill side, and slaying of such as followed them, manifold their own number, died at length upon heaps of dead which they had made round about them. The Danes, thence passing on into the country of East-Angles, rifled and burnt the monastery of Ely, overthrew earl Wulketul with his whole army, and lodged out the winter at Thetford; where king Edmond assailing them was with his whole army put to flight, himself taken, bound to a stake, and shot to death with arrows, his whole country subdued. The next year with great supplies, saith Huntingdon, bending their march toward the West-Saxons, the only people now left in whom might seem yet to remain strength or courage likely to oppose them, they came to Reading, fortified there between the two rivers of Thames and Kenet, and about three days after sent out wings of horse under two earls to forage the country; but Ethelwolf earl of Berkshire, at Englefield a village nigh, encountered them, slew one of their earls, and obtained a great victory. Four days after came the king himself and his brother Alfred with a main battle; and the Danes issuing forth, a bloody fight began, on either side great slaughter, in which earl Ethelwolf lost his life; but the Danes, losing no ground, kept their place of standing to the end. Neither did the English for this make less haste to another conflict at Escesdune or Ashdown, four days after, where both armies with their whole force on either side met. The Danes were embattled in two great bodies, the one led by Bascai and Halfden, their two kings, the other by such earls as were appointed; in like manner the English divided their powers, Ethelred the king stood against their kings; and though on the lower ground, and coming later into the battle from his orisons, gave a fierce onset, wherein Bascai (the Danish history names him Ivarus the son of Regnerus) was slain. Alfred was placed against the earls, and beginning the battle ere his brother came into the field, with such resolution charged them, that in the shock most of them were slain; they are named Sidroc elder and younger, Osbern, Frean, Harald: at length in both divisions the Danes turn their backs; many thousands of them cut off, the rest pursued till night. So much the more it may be wondered to hear next in the annals, that the Danes, fourteen days after such an overthrow fighting again with Ethelred and his brother Alfred at Basing, (under conduct, saith the Danish history, of Agnerus and Hubbo, brothers of the slain Ivarus,) should obtain the victory; especially since the new supply of Danes mentioned by Asser arrived after this action. But after two months, the king and his brother fought with them again at Mertun, in two squadrons as before, in which fight hard it is to understand who had the better; so darkly do the Saxon annals deliver their meaning with more than wonted infancy. Yet these I take (for Asser is here silent) to be the chief fountain of our story, the ground and basis upon which the monks later in time gloss and comment at their pleasure. Nevertheless it appears, that on the Saxon part, not Heamund the bishop only, but many valiant men lost their lives. This fight was followed by a heavy summer plague; whereof, as is thought, king Ethelred died in the fifth year of his reign, and was buried at Winburn, where his epitaph inscribes that he had his death’s wound by the Danes, according to the Danish history 872. Of all these terrible landings and devestations by the Danes, from the days of Ethelwolf till their two last battles with Ethelred, or of their leaders, whether kings, dukes, or earls, the Danish history of best credit saith nothing; so little wit or conscience it seems they had to leave any memory of their brutish rather than manly actions; unless we shall suppose them to have come, as above was cited out of Asser, from Danubius, rather than from Denmark, more probably some barbarous nation of Prussia, or Livonia, not long before seated more northward on the Baltic sea.
Alfred, the fourth son of Ethelwolf, had scarce performed his brother’s obsequies, and the solemnity of his own crowning, when at the month’s end in haste with a small power he encountered the whole army of Danes at Wilton, and most part of the day foiled them; but unwarily following the chase, gave others of them the advantage to rally; who returning upon him now weary, remained masters of the field. This year, as is affirmed in the annals, nine battles had been fought against the Danes on the south side of Thames, besides innumerable excursions made by Alfred and other leaders; one king, nine earls were fallen in fight, so that weary on both sides at the year’s end, league or truce was concluded. Yet next year the Danes took their march to London, now exposed to their prey; there they wintered, and thither came the Mercians to renew peace with them. The year following, they roved back to the parts beyond Humber, but wintered at Torksey in Lincolnshire, where the Mercians now the third time made peace with them. Notwithstanding which, removing their camp to Rependune in Mercia, now Repton upon Trent in Derbyshire, and there wintering, they constrained Burhed the king to fly into foreign parts, making seizure of his kingdom; he running the direct way to Rome, (with better reason than his ancestors,) died there, and was buried in a church by the English school. His kingdom the Danes farmed out to Kelwulf, one of his household servants or officers, with condition to be resigned them when they commanded. From Rependune they dislodged, Hafden their king leading part of his army northward, wintered by the river Tine, and subjecting all those quarters, wasted also the Picts and British beyond: but Guthrun, Oskitell, and Anwynd, other three of their kings, moving from Rependune, came with a great army to Grantbrig, and remained there a whole year. But Alfred that summer proposing to try his fortune with a fleet at sea, (for he had found that the want of shipping and neglect of navigation had exposed the land to these piracies, met with seven Danish rovers, took one, the rest escaping; an acceptable success from so small a beginning, for the English at that time were but little experienced in sea-affairs. The next year’s first motion of the Danes was towards Warham castle, where Alfred meeting them, either by policy, or their doubt of his power, Ethelwerd saith, by money brought them to such terms of peace, as that they swore to him upon a hallowed bracelet, others say upon certain relics, (a solemn oath it seems, which they never vouchsafed before to any other nation,) forthwith to depart the land: but falsifying that oath, by night with all the horse they had (Asser saith, slaying all the horsemen he had) stole to Exeter, and there wintered. In Northumberland, Hafden their king began to settle, to divide the land, to till, and to inhabit. Meanwhile they in the west, who were marched to Exeter, entered the city, coursing now and then to Warham; but their fleet the next year, sailing or rowing about the west, met with such a tempest near to Swanswich or Gnavewic, as wrecked one hundred and twenty of their ships, and left the rest easy to be mastered by those galleys, which Alfred had set there to guard the seas, and straiten Exeter of provision. He the while beleaguering them in the city, now humbled with the loss of their navy, (two navies, saith Asser, the one at Gnavewic, the other at Swanwine,) distressed them so, as that they give him as many hostages as he required, and as many oaths, to keep their covenanted peace, and kept it. For the summer coming on, they departed into Mercia, whereof part they divided among themselves, part left to Kelwulf their substituted king. The twelfthtide following, all oaths forgotten, they came to Chippenham in Wiltshire, dispeopling the countries round, dispossessing some, driving others beyond the sea; Alfred himself with a small company was forced to keep within woods and fenny places, and for some time all alone, as Florent saith, sojourned with Dunwulf a swineherd, made afterwards for his devotion and aptness to learning, bishop of Winchester. Hafden and the brother of Hinguar, coming with twenty-three ships from North Wales, where they had made great spoil, landed in Devonshire, nigh to a strong castle named Kinwith; where, by the garrison issuing forth unexpectedly, they were slain with twelve hundred of their men.
Meanwhile the king about Easter, not despairing of his affairs, built a fortress at a place called Athelney in Somersetshire, therein valiantly defending himself and his followers, frequently sallying forth. The seventh week after he rode out to a place called Ecbryt-stone in the east part of Selwood: thither resorted to him with much gratulation the Somerset and Wiltshire men, with many out of Hampshire, some of whom a little before had fled their country; with these marching to Ethandune, now Edindon in Wiltshire, he gave battle to the whole Danish power, and put them to flight. Then besieging their castle, within fourteen days took it. Malmsbury writes, that in this time of his recess, to go a spy into the Danish camp, he took upon him with one servant the habit of a fiddler; by this means gaining access to the king’s table, and sometimes to his bed chamber, got knowledge of their secrets, their careless encamping, and thereby this opportunity of assailing them on a sudden. The Danes, by this misfortune broken, gave him more hostages, and renewed their oaths to depart out of his kingdom. Their king Gytro or Gothrun offered willingly to receive baptism, and accordingly came with thirty of his friends to a place called Aldra or Aulre, near to Athelney, and were baptized at Wedmore; where Alfred received him out of the font, and named him Athelstan. After which they abode with him twelve days, and were dismissed with rich presents. Whereupon the Danes removed next year to Cirencester, thence peaceably to the East-Angles; which Alfred, as some write, had bestowed on Gothrun to hold of him; the bounds whereof may be read among the laws of Alfred. Others of them went to Fulham on the Thames, and joining there with a great fleet newly come into the river, thence passed over into France and Flanders, both which they entered so far conquering or wasting, as witnessed sufficiently, that the French and Flemish were no more able than the English, by policy or prowess, to keep off that Danish inundation from their land. Alfred thus rid of them, and intending for the future to prevent their landing; three years after (quiet the mean while) with more ships and better provided puts to sea, and at first met with four of theirs, whereof two he took, throwing the men overboard, then with two others, wherein two were of their princes, and took them also, but not without loss of his own. After three years, another fleet of them appeared on these seas, so huge that one part of them thought themselves sufficient to enter upon East-France, the other came to Rochester, and beleaguered it; they within stoutly defending themselves, till Alfred with great forces, coming down upon the Danes, drove them to their ships, leaving for haste all their horses behind them. The same year Alfred sent a fleet toward the East-Angles, then inhabited by the Danes, which, at the mouth of Stour, meeting with sixteen Danish ships, after some fight took them all, and slew all the soldiers on board; but in their way home lying careless, were overtaken by another part of that fleet, and came off with loss: whereupon perhaps those Danes, who were settled among the East-Angles, erected with new hopes, violated the peace which they had sworn to Alfred, who spent the next year in repairing London (besieging, saith Huntingdon) much ruined and unpeopled by the Danes; the Londoners, all but those who had been led away captive, soon returned to their dwellings, and Ethred, duke of Mercia, was by the king appointed their governor. But after thirteen years respite of peace, another Danish fleet of two hundred and fifty sail, from the east part of France, arrived at the mouth of a river in East-Kent, called Limen, nigh to the great wood Andred, famous for length and breath; into that wood they drew up their ships four miles from the river’s mouth, and built a fortress. After whom Haesten, with another Danish fleet of eighty ships, entering the mouth of Thames, built a fort at Middleton, the former army remaining at a place called Apeltre. Alfred, perceiving this, took of those Danes who dwelt in Northumberland a new oath of fidelity, and of those in Essex hostages, lest they should join, as they were wont, with their countrymen newly arrived. And by the next year having got together his forces, between either army of the Danes, encamped so as to be ready for either of them, who first should happen to stir forth; troops of horse also he sent continually abroad, assisted by such as could be spared from strong places, wherever the countries wanted them, to encounter foraging parties of the enemy. The king also divided sometimes his whole army, marching out with one part by turns, the other keeping intrenched. In conclusion rolling up and down, both sides met at Farnham in Surrey; where the Danes by Alfred’s horse troops were put to flight, and crossing the Thames to a certain island near Coln in Essex, or as Camden thinks by Colebrook, were besieged there by Alfred till provision failed the besiegers, another part staid behind with their king wounded.
Meanwhile Alfred preparing to reinforce the siege of Colney, the Danes of Northumberland, breaking faith, came by sea to the East-Angles, and with a hundred ships coasting southward, landed in Devonshire, and besieged Exeter; thither Alfred hastened with his powers, except a squadron of Welsh that came to London; with whom the citizens marching forth to Beamflet, where Haesten the Dane had built a strong fort, and left a garrison, while he himself with the main of his army was entered far into the country, luckily surprise the fort, master the garrison, make prey of all they find there; their ships also they burnt or brought away with good booty, and many prisoners, among whom the wife and two sons of Haeston were sent to the king, who forthwith set them at liberty. Whereupon Haeston gave oath of amity and hostages to the king; he in requital, whether freely or by agreement, a sum of money. Nevertheless, without regard of faith given, while Alfred was busied about Exeter, joining with the other Danish army, he built another castle in Essex at Shoberie, thence marching westward by the Thames, aided with the Northumbrian and East-Anglish Danes, they came at length to Severn, pillaging all in their way. But Ethred, Ethelm, and Ethelnoth, the king’s captains, with united forces, pitched nigh to them at Buttington, on the Severn bank in Montgomeryshire, the river running between, and there many weeks attended; the king meanwhile blocking up the Danes who besieged Exeter, having eaten part of their horses, the rest urged with hunger, broke forth to their fellows, who lay encamped on the east side of the river, and were all there discomfited with some loss of valiant men on the king’s party; the rest fled back to Essex, and their fortress there. Then Laf, one of their leaders, gathered before winter a great army of Northumbrian and East-Anglish Danes, who leaving their money, ships, and wives with the East-Angles, and marching day and night, sat down before a city in the west called Wirheal, near to Chester, and took it ere they could be overtaken. The English after two days’ siege, hopeless to dislodge them, wasted the country round to cut off from them all provision, and departed.
Soon after which, next year, the Danes no longer able to hold Wirheal, destitute of victuals, entered North Wales; thence laden with spoils, part returned into Northumberland, others to the East-Angles as far as Essex, where they seized on a small island called Meresig. And here again the annals record them to besiege Exeter, but without coherence of sense or story. Others relate to this purpose, that returning by sea from the siege of Exeter, and in their way landing on the coast of Sussex, they of Chichester, sallied out and slew of them many hundreds, taking also some of their ships. The same year, they who possessed Meresig, intending to winter thereabout, drew up their ships, some into the Thames, others into the river Lee, and on the bank thereof built a castle twenty miles from London; to assault which, the Londoners aided with other forces marched out the summer following, but were soon put to flight, losing four of the king’s captains. Huntingdon writes quite the contrary, that these four were Danish captains, and the overthrow theirs: but little credit is to be placed in Huntingdon single. For the king thereupon with his forces lay encamped nearer the city, that the Danes might not infest them in time of harvest; in the mean time, subtilely devising to turn Lee stream several ways, whereby the Danish bottoms were left on dry ground: which they soon perceiving, marched over land to Quatbrig on the Severn, built a fortress, and wintered there; while their ships left in Lee were either broken or brought away by the Londoners; but their wives and children they had left in safety with the East-Angles. The next year was pestilent, and besides the common sort, took away many great earls, Kelmond in Kent, Brithulf in Essex, Wulfred in Hampshire, with many others; and to this evil the Danes in Northumberland and East-Angles ceased not to endamage the West Saxons, especially by stealth, robbing on the south shore in certain long galleys. But the king causing to be built others twice as long as usually were built, and some of sixty or seventy oars higher, swifter and steadier than such as were in use before either with Danes or Frisons, his own invention, some of these he sent out against six Danish pirates, who had done much harm in the Isle of Wight, and parts adjoining. The bickering was doubtful and intricate, part on the water, part on the sands; not without loss of some eminent men on the English side. The pirates at length were either slain or taken, two of them stranded; the men brought to Winchester, where the king then was, were executed by his command; one of them escaped to the East-Angles, her men much wounded: the same year not fewer than twenty of their ships perished on the south coast with all their men. And Rollo the Dane or Norman landing here, as Mat. West. writes, though not in what part of the island, after an unsuccessful fight against those forces which first opposed him, sailed into France and conquered the country, since that time called Normandy. This is the sum of what passed in three years against the Danes, returning out of France, set down so perplexly by the Saxon annalist, ill-gifted with utterance, as with much ado can be understood sometimes what is spoken, whether meant of the Danes, or of the Saxons.
After which troublesome time, Alfred enjoying three years of peace, by him spent, as his manner was, not idly or voluptuously, but in all virtuous employments, both of mind and body, becoming a prince of his renown, ended his days in the year nine hundred, the fifty-first of his age, the thirtieth of his reign, and was buried regally at Winchester: he was born at a place called Wanading in Berkshire, his mother Osburga, the daughter of Oslac the king’s cupbearer, a Goth by nation, and of noble descent. He was of person comelier than all his brethren, of pleasing tongue and graceful behaviour, ready wit and memory; yet through the fondness of his parents towards him, had not been taught to read till the twelfth year of his age; but the great desire of learning, which was in him, soon appeared by his conning of Saxon poems day and night, which with great attention he heard by others repeated. He was besides excellent at hunting, and the new art then of hawking, but more exemplary in devotion, having collected into a book certain prayers and psalms, which he carried ever with him in his bosom to use on all occasions. He thirsted after all liberal knowledge, and oft complained, that in his youth he had no teachers, in his middle age so little vacancy from wars and the cares of his kingdom; yet leisure he found sometimes, not only to learn much himself, but to communicate thereof what he could to his people, by translating books out of Latin into English, Orosius, Boethius, Beda’s history and others; permitted none unlearned to bear office, either in court or commonwealth. At twenty years of age, not yet reigning, he took to wife Egelswitha the daughter of Ethelred a Mercian earl. The extremities which befell him in the sixth of his reign, Neothan abbot told him, were justly come upon him for neglecting in his younger days the complaint of such as injured and oppressed, repaired to him, as then second person in the kingdom, for redress; which neglect, were it such indeed, were yet excusable in a youth, through jollity of mind unwilling perhaps to be detailed long with sad and sorrowful narrations; but from the time of his undertaking regal charge, no man more patient in hearing causes, more inquisitive in examining, more exact in doing justice, and providing good laws, which are yet extant; more severe in punishing unjust judges or obstinate offenders. Thieves especially and robbers, to the terror of whom in cross-ways were hung upon a high post, certain chains of gold, as it were daring any one to take them thence; so that justice seemed in his days not to flourish only, but to triumph: no man than he more frugal of two precious things in man’s life, his time and his revenue; no man wiser in the disposal of both. His time, the day and night, he distributed by the burning of certain tapers into three equal portions; the one was for devotion, the other for public or private affairs, the third for bodily refreshment; how each hour passed, he was put in mind by one who had that office. His whole annual revenue, which his first care was should be justly his own, he divided into two equal parts; the first he employed to secular uses, and subdivided those into three, the first to pay his soldiers, household servants and guard, of which divided into three bands, one attended monthly by turns; the second was to pay his architects and workmen, whom he had got together of several nations; for he was also an elegant builder, above the custom and conceit of Englishmen in those days: the third he had in readiness to relieve or honour strangers according to their worth, who came from all parts to see him, and to live under him. The other equal part of his yearly wealth he dedicated to religious uses, those of four sorts; the first to relieve the poor, the second to the building and maintenance of two monasteries, the third of a school, where he had persuaded the sons of many noblemen to study sacred knowledge and liberal arts, some say at Oxford; the fourth was for the relief of foreign churches, as far as India to the shrine of St. Thomas, sending thither Sigelm bishop of Sherburn, who both returned safe, and brought with him many rich gems and spices; gifts also and a letter he received from the patriarch at Jerusalem; sent many to Rome, and from them received relics. Thus far, and much more might be said of his noble mind, which rendered him the mirror of princes; his body was diseased in his youth with a great soreness in the siege, and that ceasing of itself, with another inward pain of unknown cause, which held him by frequent fits to his dying day: yet not disenabled to sustain those many glorious labours of his life both in peace and war.
EDWARD THE ELDER.
Edward the son of Alfred succeeded, in learning not equal, in power and extent of dominion surpassing his father. The beginning of his reign had much disturbance by Ethelwald an ambitious young man, son of the king’s uncle, or cousin german, or brother, for his genealogy is variously delivered. He vainly avouching to have equal right with Edward of succession to the crown, possessed himself of Winburn in Dorset, and another town diversely named, giving out that there he would live or die; but encompassed with the king’s forces at Badbury a place nigh, his heart failing him, he stole out by night, and fled to the Danish army beyond Humber. The king sent after him, but not overtaking, found his wife in the town, whom he had married out of a nunnery, and commanded her to be sent back thither. About this time, the Kentish men against a multitude of Danish pirates fought prosperously at a place called Holme, as Hoveden records. Ethelwald, aided by the Northumbrians with shipping, three years after, sailing to the East-Angles, persuaded the Danes there to fall into the king’s territory, who marching with him as far as Crecklad, and passing the Thames there, wasted as far beyond as they durst venture, and laden with spoils returned home. The king with his powers making speed after them, between the Dike and Ouse, supposed to be Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, as far as the fens northward, laid waste all before him. Thence intending to return, he commanded that all his army should follow him close without delay; but the Kentish men, though often called upon, lagging behind, the Danish army prevented them, and joined battle with the king. where duke Sigulf and earl Sigelm, with many other of the nobles were slain; on the Danes’ part, Eoric their king, and Ethelwald the author of this war, with others of high note, and of them greater number, but with great ruin on both sides; yet the Danes kept in their power the burying of their slain. Whatever followed upon this conflict, which we read not, the king two years after with the Danes, both of East-Angles and Northumberland, concluded peace, which continued three years, by whomsoever broken: for at the end thereof king Edward, raising great forces out of West-Sex and Mercia, sent them against the Danes beyond Humber; where staying five weeks, they made great spoil and slaughter. The king offered them terms of peace, but they rejecting all entered with the next year into Mercia, rendering no less hostility than they had suffered; but at Tetnal in Staffordshire, saith Florent, were by the English in a set battle overthrown. King Edward, then in Kent, had got together of ships about a hundred sail, others gone southward came back and met him. The Danes, now supposing that his main forces were upon the sea, took liberty to rove and plunder up and down, as hope of prey led them, beyond Severn. The king guessing what might embolden them, sent before him the lightest of his army to entertain them; then following with the rest, set upon them in their return over Cantbrig in Gloucestershire, and slew many thousands, among whom Ecwils, Hafden, and Hinguar their kings, and many other harsh names in Huntingdon; the place also of this fight is variously written, by Ethelwerd and Florent called Wodensfield.
The year following, Ethred the duke of Mercia, to whom Alfred had given London, with his daughter in marriage, now dying, King Edward resumed that city, and Oxford, with the counties adjoining, into his own hands; and the year after built, or much repaired by his soldiers, the town of Hertford on either side Lee; and having a sufficient number at the work, marched about middle summer with the other part of his forces into Essex, and encamped at Maldon, while his soldiers built Witham; where a good part of the country, subject formerly to the Danes, yielded themselves to his protection. Four years after (Florent allows but one year) the Danes from Leicester and Northampton, falling into Oxfordshire, committed much rapine, and in some towns thereof great slaughter; while another party wasting Hertfordshire, met with other fortune; for the country people, inured now to such kind of incursions, joining stoutly together, fell upon the spoilers, and recovered their own goods, with some booty from their enemies. About the same time Elfled the king’s sister sent her army of Mercians into Wales, who routed the Welsh, took the castle of Bricnan-mere by Brecknock, and brought away the king’s wife of that country, with other prisoners. Not long after she took Derby from the Danes, and the castle by a sharp assault. But the year ensuing brought a new fleet of Danes to Lidwic in Devonshire, under two leaders, Otter and Roald; who sailing thence westward about the land’s end, came up to the mouth of Severn; there landing wasted the Welsh coast, and Irchenfield part of Herefordshire; where they took Kuneleac a British bishop, for whose ransom King Edward gave forty pound: but the men of Hereford and Gloucestershire assembling put them to flight; slaying Rayold and the brother of Otter, with many more, pursued them to a wood, and there beset compelled them to give hostages of present departure. The king with his army sat not far off, securing from the south of Severn to Avon; so that openly they durst not, by night they twice ventured to land; but found such welcome that few of them came back; the rest anchored by a small island, where many of them famished; then sailing to a place called Deomed, they crossed into Ireland. The king with his army went to Buckingham, staid there a month, and built two castles or forts on either bank of Ouse ere his departing; and Turkitel a Danish leader, with those of Bedford and Northampton, yielded him subjection. Whereupon the next year, he came with his army to the town of Bedford, took possession thereof, staid there a month, and gave order to build another part of the town, on the south side of Ouse. Thence the year following went again to Maldon, repaired and fortified the town. Turkitel the Dane having small hope to thrive here, where things with such prudence were managed against his interest, got leave of the king, with as many voluntaries as would follow him, to pass into France. Early the next year king Edward re-edified Tovechester now Torchester; and another city in the annals called Wigingmere. Meanwhile the Danes in Leicester and Northamptonshire, not liking perhaps to be neighboured with strong towns, laid siege to Torchester; but they within repelling the assault one whole day till supplies came, quitted the siege by night; and pursued close by the besieged, between Birnwud and Ailsbury were surprised, many of them made prisoners, and much of their baggage lost. Other of the Danes at Huntingdon, aided from the East-Angles, finding that castle not commodious, left it, and built another at Temsford, judging that place more opportune from whence to make their excursions; and soon after went forth with design to assail Bedford: but the garrison issuing out slew a great part of them, the rest fled. After this a greater army of them, gathered out of Mercia and the East-Angles, came and besieged the city called Wigingmere a whole day; but finding it defended stoutly by them within, thence also departed, driving away much of their cattle: whereupon the English, from towns and cities round about joining forces, laid siege to the town and castle of Temsford, and by assault took both; slew their king with Toglea a duke, and Mannan his son an earl, with all the rest there found; who chose to die rather than yield. Encouraged by this, the men of Kent, Surrey, and part of Essex, enterprise the siege of Colchester, nor gave over till they won it, sacking the town and putting to sword all the Danes therein, except some who escaped over the wall. To the succour of these a great number of Danes inhabiting ports and other towns in the East-Angles united their force; but coming too late, as in revenge beleaguered Maldon: but that town also timely relieved, they departed, not only frustrate of their design, but so hotly pursused, that many thousands of them lost their lives in the flight. Forthwith King Edward with his West-Saxons went to Passham upon Ouse, there to guard the passage, while others were building a stone wall about Torchester; to him their earl Thurfert, and other lord Danes, with their army thereabout, as far as Weolud, came and submitted. Whereat the king’s soldiers joyfully cried out to be dismissed home: therefore with another part of them he entered Huntingdon, and repaired it, where breaches had been made; all the people thereabout returning to obedience. The like was done at Colchester by the next remove of his army; after which both East and West-Angles, and the Danish forces among them, yielded to the king, swearing allegiance to him both by sea and land: the army also of Danes at Grantbrig, surrendering themselves, took the same oath. The summer following he came with his army to Stamford, built a castle there on the south side of the river, where all the people of these quarters acknowledged him supreme. During his abode there, Elfled his sister, a martial woman, who after her husband’s death would no more marry, but gave herself to public affairs, repairing and fortifying many towns, warring sometimes, died at Tamworth the chief seat of Mercia, whereof by gift of Alfred her father she was lady or queen; whereby that whole nation became obedient to King Edward, as did also North Wales, with Howel, Cledaucus, and Jeothwell, their kings. Thence passing to Nottingham, he entered and repaired the town, placed there part English, part Danes, and received fealty from all in Mercia of either nation. The next autumn, coming with his army into Cheshire, he built and fortified Thelwell; and while he staid there, called another army out of Mercia, which he sent to repair and fortify Manchester. About midsummer following he marched again to Nottingham, built a town over against it on the south side of that river, and with a bridge joined them both; thence journeyed to a place called Bedecanwillin in Pictland; there also built and fenced a city on the borders, where the king of Scots did him honour as to his sovereign, together with the whole Scottish nation; the like did Reginald and the son of Eadulf, Danish princes, with all the Northumbrians, both English and Danes. The King also of a people thereabout called Streatgledwalli (the North-Welsh, as Camden thinks, of Strat-Cluid in Denbighshire, perhaps rather the British of Cumberland) did him homage, and not undeserved. For, Buchanan himself confesses, that this king Edward, with a small number of men compared to his enemies, overthrew in a great battle the whole united power both of Scots and Danes, slew most of the Scottish nobility, and forced Malcolm, whom Constantine the Scotch king had made general, and designed heir of his crown, to save himself by flight sore wounded. Of the English he makes Athelstan the son of Edward chief leader; and so far seems to confound times and actions, as to make this battle the same with that fought by Athelstan about twenty-four years after at Bruneford, against Anlaf and Constantine, whereof hereafter. But here Buchanan takes occasion to inveigh against the English writers, upbraiding them with ignorance, who affirm Athelstan to have been supreme king of Britain, Constantine the Scottish king with others to have held of him: and denies that in the annals of Marianus Scotus any mention is to be found thereof; which I shall not stand much to contradict, for in Marianus, whether by surname or by nation Scotus, will be found as little mention of any other Scottish affairs, till the time of king Dunchad slain by Machetad, or Macbeth, in the year 1040: which gives cause of suspicion, that the affairs of Scotland before that time were so obscure, as to be unknown to their own countrymen, who lived and wrote his chronicle not long after. But King Edward thus nobly doing, and thus honoured, the year following died at Farendon; a builder and restorer even in war, not a destroyer of his land. He had by several wives many children; his eldest daughter Edgith he gave in marriage to Charles king of France, grandchild of Charles the Bald above mentioned: of the rest in place convenient. His laws are yet to be seen. He was buried at Winchester, in the monastery, by Alfred his father. And a few days after him died Ethelward his eldest son, the heir of his crown. He had the whole island in subjection, yet so as petty kings reigned under him. In Northumberland, after Ecbert whom the Danes had set up and the Nortbumbrians, yet unruly under their yoke, at the end of six years had expelled, one Ricsig was set up king, and bore the name three years; then another Ecbert, and Guthred; the latter, if we believe legends, of a servant made king by command of St. Cudbert, in a vision; and enjoined by another vision of the same saint, to pay well for his royalty many lands and privileges to his church and monastery. But now to the story.
Athelstan, next in age to Ethelward his brother, who deceased untimely few days before, though born of a concubine, yet for the great appearance of many virtues in him, and his brethren being yet under age, was exalted to the throne at Kingston upon Thames, and by his father’s last will, saith Malmsbury, yet not without some opposition of one Alfred and his accomplices; who not liking he should reign, had conspired to seize on him after his father’s death, and to put out his eyes. But the conspirators discovered, and Alfred denying the plot, was sent to Rome, to assert his innocence before the pope; where taking his oath on the altar, he fell down immediately, and carried out by his servants, three days after died. Meanwhile beyond Humber the Danes, though much awed, were not idle. Inguald, one of their kings, took possession of York; Sitric, who some years before had slain Niel his brother, by force took Davenport in Cheshire; and however he defended these doings, grew so inconsiderable, that Athelstan with great solemnity gave him his sister Edgith to wife: but he enjoyed her not long, dying ere the year’s end; nor his sons Anlaf and Guthfert the kingdom, driven out the next year by Athelstan: not unjustly saith Huntingdon, as being first raisers of the war. Simeon calls him Gudfrid a British king, whom Athelstan this year drove out of his kingdom; and perhaps they were both one, the name and time not much differing, the place only mistaken. Malmsbury differs in the name also, calling him Adulf a certain rebel. Them also I wish as much mistaken, who write that Athelstan, jealous of his younger brother Edwin’s towardly virtues, lest added to the right of birth they might some time or other call in question his illegitimate precedence, caused him to be drowned in the sea; exposed, some say, with one servant in a rotten bark, without sail or oar; where the youth far off land, and in rough weather despairing, threw himself overboard; the servant, more patient, got to land, and reported the success.
But this Malmsbury confesses to be sung in old songs, not read in warrantable authors; and Huntingdon speaks as of a sad accident to Athelstan, that he lost his brother Edwin by sea; far the more credible, in that Athelstan, as it is written by all, tenderly loved and bred up the rest of his brethren, of whom he had no less cause to be jealous. And the year following he prospered better than from so foul a fact, passing into Scotland with great puissance, both by sea and land, and chasing his enemies before him, by land as far as Dunfeoder and Wertermore, by sea as far as Cathness. The cause of this expedition, saith Malmsbury, was to demand Guthfert the son of Sitric, thither fled, though not denied at length by Constantine, who with Eugenius king of Cumberland, at a place called Dacor or Dacre in that shire, surrendered himself and each his kingdom to Athelstan, who brought back with him for hostage the son of Constantine. But Guthfert escaping in the mean while out of Scotland, and Constantine, exasperated by this invasion, persuaded Anlaf, the other son of Sitric, then fled into Ireland, others write Anlaf king of Ireland and the Isles, his son-in-law, with six hundred and fifteen ships, and the king of Cumberland with other forces, to his aid. This within four years effected, they entered England by Humber, and fought with Athelstan at a place called Wendune, others term it Brunanburg, others Bruneford, which Ingulf places beyond Humber, Camden in Glendale of Northumberland on the Scotch borders; the bloodiest fight, say authors, that ever this island saw: to describe which the Saxon annalist, wont to be sober and succinct, whether the same or another writer, now labouring under the weight of his argument, and overcharged, runs on a sudden into such extravagant fancies and metaphors, as bear him quite beside the scope of being understood. Huntingdon, though himself peccant enough in this kind, transcribes him word for word as a pastime to his readers. I shall only sum up what of him I can attain, in useful language. The battle was fought eagerly from morning to night; some fell of King Edward’s old army, tried in many a battle before; but on the other side great multitudes, the rest fled to their ships. Five kings, and seven of Anlaf’s chief captains were slain on the place, with Froda a Norman leader; Constantine escaped home, but lost his son in the fight, if I understand my author; Anlaf by sea to Dublin, with a small remainder of his great host, Malmsbury relates this war, adding many circumstances after this manner: that Anlaf, joining with Constantine and the whole power of Scotland, besides those which he brought with him out of Ireland, came on far southwards, till Athelstan, who had retired on set purpose to be the surer of his enemies, enclosed from all succour and retreat, met him at Bruneford. Anlaf perceiving the valour and resolution of Athelstan, and mistrusting his own forces, though numerous, resolved first to spy in what posture his enemies lay: and imitating perhaps what he heard attempted by King Alfred the age before, in the habit of a musician, got access by his lute and voice to the king’s tent, there playing both the minstrel and the spy: then towards evening dismissed, he was observed by one who had been his soldier, and well knew him, viewing earnestly the king’s tent, and what approaches lay about it, then in the twilight to depart. The soldier forthwith acquaints the king, and by him blamed for letting go his enemy, answered, that he had given first his military oath to Anlaf, whom if he had betrayed, the king might suspect him of like treasonous mind towards himself; which to disprove, he advised him to remove his tent a good distance off: and so done, it happened that a bishop, with his retinue coming that night to the army, pitched his tent in the same place from whence the king had removed. Anlaf, coming by night as he had designed, to assault the camp, and especially the king’s tent, finding there the bishop instead, slew him and all his followers. Athelstan took the alarm, and as it seems, was not found so unprovided, but that the day now appearing, he put his men in order, and maintained the fight till evening; wherein Constantine himself was slain with five other kings, and twelve earls; the annals were eontent with seven, in the rest not disagreeing. Ingulf abbot of Croyland, from the authority of Turketul a principal leader in this battle, relates it more at large to this effect: That Athelstan above a mile distant from the place where execution was done upon the bishop and his supplies, alarmed at the noise, came down by break of day upon Anlaf and his army, overwatched and wearied now with the slaughter they had made, and something out of order, yet in two main battles. The king, therefore in like manner dividing, led the one part, consisting most of West Saxons, against Anlaf with his Danes and Irish, committing the other to his chancellor Turketul, with the Mercians and Londoners, against Constantine and his Scots. The shower of arrows and darts overpassed, both battles attacked each other with a close and terrible engagement, for a long space neither side giving ground. Till the chancellor Turketul, a man of great stature and strength, taking with him a few Londoners of select valour, and Singin who led the Worcestershire men, a captain of undaunted courage, broke into the thickest, making his way first through the Picts and Orkeners, then through the Cumbrians and Scots, and came at length where Constantine himself fought, unhorsed him, and used all means to take him alive; but the Scots valiantly defending their king, and laying load upon Turketul, which the goodness of his armour well endured, he had yet been beaten down, had not Singin his faithful second at the same time slain Constantine; which once known, Anlaf and the whole army betook them to flight, whereof a huge multitude fell by the sword. This Turketul, not long after leaving worldly affairs, became abbot of Croyland, which at his own cost he had repaired from Danish ruins, and left there this memorial of his former actions. Athelstan with his brother Edmund victorious thence turning into Wales, with much more ease vanquished Ludwal the king, and possessed his land. But Malmsbury writes, that commiserating human chance, as he displaced, so he restored both him and Constantine to their regal state: for the surrender of King Constantine hath been above spoken of. However the Welsh did him homage at the city of Hereford, and covenanted yearly payment of gold twenty pound, of silver three hundred, of oxen twenty-five thousand, besides hunting dogs and hawks. He also took Exeter from the Cornish Britons, who till that time had equal right there with the English, and bounded them with the river Tamar, as the other British with Wey. Thus dreaded of his enemies, and renowned far and near, three years after he died at Gloucester, and was buried with many trophies at Malmsbury, where he had caused to be laid his two cousin germans, Elwin and Ethelstan, both slain in the battle against Anlaf. He was thirty years old at his coming to the crown, mature in wisdom from his childhood, comely of person and behaviour; so that Alfred his grandfather in blessing him was wont to pray he might live to have the kingdom, and put him yet a child into soldier’s habit. He had his breeding in the court of Elfled his aunt, of whose virtues more than female we have related, sufficient to evince that his mother, though said to be no wedded wife, was yet such of parentage and worth, as the royal line disdained not, though the song went in Malmsbury’s days (for it seems he refused not the authority of ballads for want of better) that his mother was a farmer’s daughter, but of excellent feature; who dreamed one night she brought forth a moon that should enlighten the whole land: which the king’s nurse hearing of took her home and bred up courtly; that the king, coming one day to visit his nurse, saw there this damsel, liked her, and by earnest suit prevailing, had by her this famous Athelstan, a bounteous, just, and affable king, as Malmsbury sets him forth, nor less honoured abroad by foreign kings, who sought his friendship by great gifts or affinity; that Harold king of Noricum sent him a ship whose prow was of gold, sails purple, and other golden things, the more to be wondered at, sent from Noricum, whether meant Norway or Bavaria, the one place so far from such superfluity of wealth, the other from all sea: the embassadors were Helgrim and Offrid, who found the king at York. His sisters he gave in marriage to greatest princes; Elgif to Otho son of Henry the emperor; Egdith to a certain duke about the Alps; Edgiv to Ludwic king of Aquitain, sprung of Charles the Great; Ethilda to Hugo king of France, who sent Aldulf son of Baldwin earl of Flanders to obtain her. From all these great suitors, especially from the emperor and king of France, came rich presents, horses of excellent breed, gorgeous trappings and armour, relics, jewels, odours, vessels of onyx, and other precious things, which I leave poetically described in Malmsbury, taken, as he confesses, out of an old versifier, some of whose verses he recites. The only blemish left upon him was the exposing his brother Edwin, who disavowed by oath the treason whereof he was accused, and implored an equal hearing. But these were songs, as before hath been said, which add also that Athelstan, his anger over, soon repented of the fact, and put to death his cupbearer, who had induced him to suspect and expose his brother; put in mind by a word falling from the cupbearer’s own mouth, who slipping one day as he bore the king’s cup, and recovering himself on the other leg, said aloud fatally, as to him it proved, one brother helps the other. Which words the king laying to heart, and pondering how ill he had done to make away his brother, avenged himself first on the adviser of that fact, took on him seven years’ penance, and as Mat. West. saith, built two monasteries for the soul of his brother. His laws are extant among the laws of other Saxon kings to this day.
Edmund not above eighteen years old succeeded his brother Athelstan, in courage not inferior. For in the second of his reign he freed Mercia of the Danes that remained there, and took from them the cities of Lincoln, Nottingham, Stamford, Derby, and Leicester, where they were placed by King Edward, but it seems gave not good proof of their fidelity. Simeon writes, that Anlaf setting forth from York, and having wasted southward as far as Northampton, was met by Edmund at Leicester; but that ere the battles joined, peace was made between them by Odo and Wulstan the two archbishops, with conversion of Anlaf; for the same year Edmund received at the fontstone this or another Anlaf, as saith Huntingdon, not him spoken of before, who died this year, (so uncertain they are in the story of these times also,) and held Reginald another king of the Northumbrians, while the bishop confirmed him: their limits were divided north and south by Watlingstreet. But spiritual kindred little availed to keep peace between them, whoever gave the cause; for we read him two years after driving Anlaf (whom the annals now first call the son of Sitric) and Suthfrid son of Reginald out of Northumberland, taking the whole country into subjection. Edmund the next year harassed Cumberland, then gave it to Malcolm king of Scots, thereby bound to assist him in his wars, both by sea and land. Mat. West. adds, that in this action Edmund had the aid of Leolin prince of North Wales, against Dummail the Cumbrian king, him depriving of his kingdom, and his two sons of their sight. But the year after, he himself by strange accident came to an untimely death: feasting with his nobles on St. Austin’s day at Puclekerke in Gloucester, to celebrate the memory of his first converting the Saxons; he spied Leof a noted thief, whom he had banished, sitting among his guests: whereat transported with two much vehemence of spirit, though in a just cause, rising from the table he run upon the thief, and catching his hair, pulled him to the ground. The thief, who doubted from such handling no less than his death intended, thought to die not unrevenged; and with a short dagger struck the king, who still laid at him, and little expected such assassination, mortally into the breast. The matter was done in a moment, ere men set at table could turn them, or imagine at first what the stir meant, till perceiving the king deadly wounded, they flew upon the murderer and hewed him to pieces; who like a wild beast at bay, seeing himself surrounded, desperately laid about him, wounding some in his fall. The king was buried at Glaston, whereof Dunstan was then abbot; his laws yet remain to be seen among the laws of other Saxon kings.
Edred, the third brother of Athelstan, the sons of Edmund being yet but children, next reigned, not degenerating from his worthy predecessors, and crowned at Kingston. Northumberland he thoroughly subdued, the Scots without refusal swore him allegiance; yet the Northumbrians, ever of doubtful faith, soon after chose to themselves one Eric a Dane. Huntingdon still haunts us with this Anlaf, (of whom we gladly would have been rid,) and will have him before Eric recalled once more and reign four years, then again put to his shifts. But Edred entering into Northumberland, and with spoils returning, Eric the king fell upon his rear. Edred turning about, both shook off the enemy, and prepared to make a second inroad: which the Northumbrians dreading rejected Eric, slew Amancus the son of Anlaf, and with many presents appeasing Edred submitted again to his government; nor from that time had kings, but were governed by earls, of whom Osulf was the first. About this time Wulstan archbishop of York, accused to have slain certain men of Thetford in revenge of their abbot, whom the townsmen had slain, was committed by the king to close custody; but soon after enlarged, was restored to his place. Malmsbury writes, that his crime was to have connived at the revolt of his countrymen: but king Edred two years after, sickening in the flower of his youth, died much lamented, and was buried at Winchester.
Edwi, the son of Edmund, now come to age, after his uncle Edred’s death took on him the government, and was crowned at Kingston. His lovely person surnamed him the fair, his actions are diversely reported, by Huntingdon not thought illaudable. But Malmsbury and such as follow him write far otherwise, that he married, or kept as concubine, his near kinswoman, some say both her and her daughter; so inordinately given to his pleasure, that on the very day of his coronation he abruptly withdrew himself from the company of his peers, whether in banquet or consultation, to sit wantoning in the chamber with his Algiva, so was her name, who had such power over him. Whereat his barons offended sent bishop Dunstan, the boldest among them, to request his return: he, going to the chamber, not only interrupted his dalliance, and rebuked the lady, but taking him by the hand, between force and persuasion brought him back to his nobles. The king highly displeased, and instigated perhaps by her who was so prevalent with him, not long after sent Dunstan into banishment, caused his monastery to be rifled, and became an enemy to all monks and friars. Whereupon Odo archbishop of Canterbury pronounced a separation or divorce of the king from Algiva. But that which most incited William of Malmsbury against him, he gave that monastery to be dwelt in by secular priests, or to use his own phrase, made it a stable of clerks: at length these affronts done to the church were so resented by the people, that the Mercians and Northumbrians revolted from him, and set up Edgar his brother, leaving to Edwi the West-Saxons only, bounded by the river Thames; with grief whereof, as is thought, he soon after ended his days, and was buried at Winchester. Meanwhile Elfin, bishop of that place, after the death of Odo ascending by simony to the chair of Canterbury, and going to Rome the same year for his pall, was frozen to death in the Alps.
Edgar by his brother’s death now king of all England at sixteen years of age, called home Dunstan out of Flanders, where he lived in exile. This king had no war all his reign; yet always well prepared for war, governed the kingdom in great peace, honour, and prosperity, gaining thence the surname of peaceable, much extolled for justice, clemency, and all kingly virtues, the more, ye may be sure by monks, for his building so many monasteries; as some write, every year one: for he much favoured the monks against secular priests, who in the time of Edwi had got possession in most of their convents. His care and wisdom was great in guarding the coast round with stout ships to the number of three thousand six hundred. Mat. West. reckons them four thousand eight hundred, divided into four squadrons, to sail to and fro, about the four quarters of the land, meeting each other; the first of twelve hundred sail from east to west, the second of as many from west to east, the third and fourth between north and south; himself in the summer time with his fleet. Thus he kept out wisely the force of strangers, and prevented foreign war, but by their too frequent resort hither in time of peace, and his too much favouring them, he let in their vices unaware. Thence the people, saith Malmsbury, learned of the outlandish Saxons rudeness, of the Flemish daintiness and softness, of the Danes drunkenness; though I doubt these vices are as naturally homebred here as in any of those countries. Yet in the winter and spring time he usually rode the circuit as a judge itinerant through all his provinces, to see justice well administered, and the poor not oppressed. Thieves and robbers he rooted almost out of the land, and wild beasts of prey altogether; enjoining Ludwal, king of Wales, to pay the yearly tribute of three hundred wolves, which he did for two years together, till the third year no more were to be found, nor ever after; but his laws may be read yet extant.—Whatever was the cause, he was not crowned till the thirtieth of his age, but then with great splendour and magnificence at the city of Bath, in the feast of Pentecost. This year died Swarling a monk of Croyland, in the hundred and forty-second year of his age, and another soon after him in the hundred and fifteenth; in that fenny and waterish air the more remarkable. King Edgar the next year went to Chester, and summoning to his court there all the kings that held of him, took homage of them; their names are Kened king of Scots, Malcolm of Cumberland, Maccuse of the Isles, five of Wales, Dufwal, Huwal, Grifith, Jacob, Judethil; these he had in such awe, that going one day into a galley, he caused them to take each man his oar, and row him down the river Dee, while he himself sat at the stern; which might be done in merriment and easily obeyed; if with a serious brow, discovered rather vain-glory, and insulting haughtiness, than moderation of mind. And that he did it seriously triumphing, appears by his words then uttered, that his successors might then glory to be kings of England, when they had such honour done them. And perhaps the divine power was displeased with him for taking too much honour to himself; since we read, that the year following he was taken out of this life by sickness in the height of his glory and the prime of his age, buried at Glaston abbey. The same year, as Mat. West. relates, he gave to Kened, the Scottish king, many rich presents, and the whole country of Laudian, or Lothien, to hold of him on condition, that he and his successors should repair to the English court at high festivals when the king sat crowned; gave him also many lodging places by the way, which till the days of Henry the second were still held by the kings of Scotland. He was of stature not tall, of body slender, yet so well made, that in strength he chose to contend with such as were thought strongest, and disliked nothing more, than that they should spare him for respect, or fear to hurt him. Kened king of Scots, then in the court of Edgar, sitting one day at table, was heard to say jestingly among his servants, he wondered how so many provinces could be held in subjection by such a little dapper man: his words were brought to the king’s ear: he sends for Kened as about some private business, and in talk drawing him forth to a secret place, takes from under his garment two swords, which he had brought with him, gave one of them to Kened; and now, saith he, it shall be tried which ought to be the subject; for it is shameful for a king to boast at table, and shrink in fight. Kened much abashed fell presently at his feet, and besought him to pardon what he had simply spoken, no way intended to his dishonour or disparagement; wherewith the king was satisfied.
Camden, in his description of Ireland, cites a charter of King Edgar, wherein it appears he had in subjection all the kingdoms of the isles as far as Norway, and had subdued the greatest part of Ireland with the city of Dublin: but of this other writers make no mention. In his youth having heard of Elfrida, daughter to Ordgar duke of Devonshire much commended for her beauty, he sent Earl Athelwold, whose loyalty he trusted most, to see her; intending, if she were found such as answered report, to demand her in marriage. He at the first view taken with her presence, disloyally, as it oft happens in such employments, began to sue for himself; and with consent of her parents obtained her. Returning therefore with scarce an ordinary commendation of her feature, he easily took off the king’s mind, soon diverted another way. But the matter coming to light how Athelwold had forestalled the king, and Elfrida’s beauty more and more spoken of, the king now heated not only with a relapse of love, but with a deep sense of the abuse, yet dissembling his disturbance, pleasantly told the earl, what day he meant to come and visit him and his fair wife. The earl seemingly assured his welcome, but in the meanwhile acquainting his wife, earnestly advised her to deform herself what she might, either in dress or otherwise, lest the king, whose amorous inclination was not unknown, should chance to be attracted. She, who by this time was not ignorant, how Athelwold had stepped between her and the king, against his coming arrays herself richly, using whatever art she could devise might render her the more amiable; and it took effect. For the king, inflamed with her love the more for that he had been so long defrauded and robbed of her, resolved not only to recover his intercepted right, but to punish the interloper of his destined spouse; and appointing with him as was usual a day of hunting, drawn aside in a forest now called Harewood, smote him through with a dart. Some censure this act as cruel and tyrannical, but considered well, it may be judged more favourably, and that no man of sensible spirit but in his place, without extraordinary perfection, would have done the like: for next to life what worse treason could have been committed against him? It chanced that the earl’s base son coming by upon the fact, the king sternly asked him how he liked his game; he submissly answering, that whatsoever pleased the king, must not displease him; the king returned to his wonted temper, took an affection to the youth, and ever after highly favoured him, making amends in the son for what he had done to the father. Elfrida forthwith he took to wife, who to expiate her former husband’s death, though therein she had no hand, covered the place of his bloodshed with a monastery of nuns to sing over him. Another fault is laid to his charge, no way excusable, that he took a virgin Wilfrida by force out of the nunnery, where she was placed by her friends to avoid his pursuit, and kept her as his concubine: but lived not obstinately in the offence; for sharply reproved by Dunstan, he submitted to seven years penance, and for that time to want his coronation: but why he had it not before, is left unwritten.
Another story there goes of Edgar fitter for a novel than a history; but as I find it in Malmsbury, so I relate it. While he was yet unmarried, in his youth he abstained not from women, and coming on a day to Andoyer, caused a duke’s daughter there dwelling, reported rare of beauty, to be brought to him. The mother not daring flatly to deny, yet abhorring that her daughter should be so deflowered, at fit time of night sent in her attire one of her waiting maids; a maid it seems not unhandsome nor unwitty; who supplied the place of her young lady. Night passed, the maid going to rise but daylight scarce yet appearing, was by the king asked why she made such haste: she answered, to do the work which her lady had set her. At which the king wondering, and with much ado staying her to unfold the riddle, for he took her to be the duke’s daughter, she falling at his feet besought him, that since at the command of her lady she came to his bed, and was enjoyed by him, he would be pleased in recompense to set her free from the hard service of her mistress. The king a while standing in a study whether he had best be angry or not, at length turning all to a jest, took the maid away with him, advanced her above the lady, loved her, and accompanied with her only, till he married Elfrida. These only are his faults upon record, rather to be wondered how they were so few, and so soon left, he coming at sixteen to the license of a sceptre; and that his virtues were so many and mature, he dying before the age wherein wisdom can in others attain to any ripeness: however, with him died all the Saxon glory. From henceforth nothing is to be heard of but their decline and ruin under a double conquest, and the causes foregoing; which, not to blur or taint the praises of their former actions and liberty well defended, shall stand severally related, and will be more than long enough for another book.
THE SIXTH BOOK.
EDWARD THE YOUNGER.
Edward, the eldest son of Edgar by Egelfleda his first wife, the daughter of duke Ordmer, was according to right and his father’s will placed in the throne; Elfrida, his second wife, and her faction only repining, who laboured to have had her son Ethelred, a child of seven years, preferred before him; that she under that pretence might have ruled all. Meanwhile comets were seen in heaven, portending not famine only, which followed the next year, but the troubled state of the whole realm not long after to ensue. The troubles begun in Edwin’s days, between monks and secular priests, now revived and drew on either side many of the nobles into parties. For Elfere duke of the Mercians, with many other peers corrupted, as is said, with gifts, drove the monks out of those monasteries where Edgar had placed them, and in their stead put secular priests with their wives. But Ethelwin duke of East-Angles, with his brother Elfwold, and earl Britnorth, opposed them, and gathering an army defended the abbeys of East-Angles from such intruders. To appease these tumults, a synod was called at Winchester; and, nothing there concluded, a general council both of nobles and prelates was held at Caln in Wiltshire, where while the dispute was hot, but chiefly against Dunstan, the room wherein they sat fell upon their heads, killing some, maiming others, Dunstan only escaping upon a beam that fell not, and the king absent by reason of his tender age. This accident quieted the controversy, and brought both parts to hold with Dunstan and the monks. Meanwhile the king addicted to a religious life, and of a mild spirit, simply permitted all things to the ambitious will of his step-mother and her son Ethelred: to whom she, displeased that the name only of king was wanting, practised thenceforth to remove King Edward out of the way; which in this manner she brought about.
Edward on a day wearied with hunting, thirsty and alone, while his attendants followed the dogs, hearing that Ethelred and his mother lodged at Corvesgate, (Corfe castle, saith Camden, in the isle of Purbeck,) innocently went thither. She with all show of kindness welcoming him, commanded drink to be brought forth, for it seems he lighted not from his horse; and while he was drinking, caused one of her servants privately before instructed, to stab him with a poniard. The poor youth, who little expected such unkindness there, turning speedily the reins, fled, bleeding, till through loss of blood falling from his horse, and expiring, yet held with one foot in the stirrup, he was dragged along the way, traced by his blood, and buried without honour at Werham, having reigned about three years: but the place of his burial not long after grew famous for miracles. After which by duke Elfere, (who, as Malmsbury saith, had a hand in his death) he was royally interred at Skepton or Shaftesbury. The murderess Elfrida, at length repenting, spent the residue of her days in sorrow and great penance.
Ethelred, second son of Edgar by Elfrida, (for Edmund died a child,) his brother Edward wickedly removed, was now next in right to succeed, and accordingly crowned at Kingston: reported by some, fair of visage, comely of person, elegant of behaviour; but the event will show, that with many sluggish and ignoble vices he quickly shamed his outside; born and prolonged a fatal mischief of the people, and the ruin of his country; whereof he gave early signs from his first infancy, bewraying the font and water while the bishop was baptizing him. Whereat Dunstan much troubled, for he stood by and saw it, to them next him broke into these words, “By God and God’s mother, this boy will prove a sluggard.” Another thing is written of him in his childhood; which argued no bad nature, that hearing of his brother Edward’s cruel death, he made loud lamentation; but his furious mother, offended therewith, and having no rod at hand, beat him so with great wax candles, that he hated the sight of them ever after. Dunstan though unwilling set the crown upon his head; but at the same time foretold openly, as is reported, the great evils that were to come upon him and the land, in avengement of his brother’s innocent blood. And about the same time, one midnight, a cloud sometimes bloody, sometimes fiery, was seen over all England; and within three years the Danish tempest, which had long surceased, revolved again upon this island. To the more ample relating whereof, the Danish history, at least their latest and diligentest historian, as neither from the first landing of Danes, in the reign of West-Saxon Brithric, so now again from first to last, contributes nothing; busied more than enough to make out the bare names and successions of their uncertain kings, and their small actions, at home: unless out of him I should transcribe what he takes, and I better may from our own annals; the surer and the sadder witnesses of their doings here, not glorious, as they vainly boast, but most inhumanly barbarous. For the Danes well understanding that England had now a slothful king to their wish, first landing at Southampton from seven great ships, took the town, spoiled the country, and carried away with them great pillage; nor was Devonshire and Cornwall uninfested on the shore; pirates of Norway also harried the coast of West-chester: and to add a worse calamity, the city of London was burnt, casually or not, is not written. It chanced four years after, that Ethelred besieged Rochester; some way or other offended by the bishop thereof. Dunstan, not approving the cause, sent to warn him that he provoke not St. Andrew the patron of that city, nor waste his lands; an old craft of the clergy to secure their church-lands, by entailing them on some saint: the king not hearkening, Dunstan, on this condition that the siege might be raised, sent him a hundred pounds, the money was accepted and the siege dissolved. Dunstan reprehending his avarice, sent him again this word, “because thou hast respected money more than religion, the evils which I foretold shall the sooner come upon thee; but not in my days, for so God hath spoken.” The next year was calamitous, bringing strange fluxes upon men, and murrain upon cattle. Dunstan the year following died, a strenuous bishop, zealous without dread of person, and for aught appears, the best of many ages, if he busied not himself too much in secular affairs. He was chaplain at first to King Athelstan, and Edmund who succeeded, much employed in court affairs, till envied by some who laid many things to his charge, he was by Edmund forbidden the court; but by the earnest mediation, saith Ingulf, of Turketul the chancellor, received at length to favour, and made abbot of Glaston; lastly by Edgar and the general vote, archbishop of Canterbury. Not long after his death, the Danes arriving in Devonshire were met by Goda, lieutenant of that country, and Strenwold a valiant leader, who put back the Danes, but with loss of their own lives. The third year following, under the conduct of Justin and Guthmund the son of Steytan, they landed and spoiled Ipswich, fought with Britnoth duke of the East-Angles about Maldon, where they slew him; the slaughter else had been equal on both sides. These and the like depredations on every side the English not able to resist, by council of Siric then archbishop of Canterbury, and two dukes, Ethelward and Alfric, it was thought best for the present to buy that with silver, which they could not gain with their iron; and ten thousand pounds was paid to the Danes for peace. Which for a while contented; but taught them the ready way how easiest to come by more. The next year but one, they took by storm and rifled Bebbanburg, and ancient city near Durham: sailing thence to the mouth of Humber, they wasted both sides thereof, Yorkshire and Lindsey, burning and destroying all before them. Against these went out three noblemen, Frana, Frithegist, and Godwin; but being all Danes by the father’s side, willingly began flight, and forsook their own forces betrayed to the enemy. No less treachery was at sea; for Alfric, the son of Elfer duke of Mercia, whom the king for some offence had banished, but now recalled, sent from London with a fleet to surprise the Danes, in some place of disadvantage, gave them over night intelligence thereof, then fled to them himself; which his fleet, saith Florent, perceiving, pursued, took the ship, but missed of his person; the Londoners by chance grappling with the East-Angles made them fewer, saith my author, by many thousands. Others say, that by this notice of Alfric the Danes not only escaped, but with a greater fleet set upon the English, took many of their ships, and in triumph brought them up the Thames, intending to besiege London: for Anlaf king of Norway, and Swane of Denmark, at the head of these, came with ninety-four galleys. The king for this treason of Alfric, put out his son’s eyes; but the Londoners both by land and water so valiantly resisted their besiegers, that they were forced in one day, with great loss, to give over. But what they could not on the city, they wreaked themselves on the countries round about, wasting with sword and fire all Essex, Kent, and Sussex. Thence horsing their foot, diffused far wider their outrageous incursions, without mercy either to sex or age. The slothful king, instead of warlike opposition in the field, sends embassadors to treat about another payment; the sum promised was now sixteen thousand pounds; till which paid, the Danes wintered at Southampton; Ethelred inviting Anlaf to come and visit him at Andover, where he was royally entertained, some say baptized, or confirmed, adopted son by the king, and dismissed with great presents, promising by oath to depart and molest the kingdom no more; which he performed. But the calamity ended not so; for after some intermission of their rage for three years, the other navy of Danes sailing about to the west, entered Severn, and wasted one while South Wales, then Cornwall and Devonshire, till at length they wintered about Tavistock. For it were an endless work to relate how they wandered up and down to every particular place, and to repeat as oft what devastations they wrought, what desolations left behind them, easy to be imagined. In sum, the next year they afflicted Dorsetshire, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight; by the English many resolutions were taken, many armies raised, but either betrayed by the falsehood, or discouraged by the weakness, of their leaders, they were put to the rout or disbanded themselves. For soldiers most commonly are as their commanders, without much odds of valour in one nation or other, only as they are more or less wisely disciplined and conducted.
The following year brought them back upon Kent, where they entered Medway, and besieged Rochester; but the Kentish men assembling gave them a sharp encounter, yet that sufficed not to hinder them from doing as they had done in other places. Against these depopulations the king levied an army; but the unskilful leaders not knowing what to do with it when they had it, did but drive out time, burdening and impoverishing the people, consuming the public treasure, and more emboldening the enemy, than if they had sat quietly at home. What cause moved the Danes next year to pass into Normandy, is not recorded; but that they returned thence more outrageous than before. Meanwhile the king, to make some diversion, undertakes an expedition both by land and sea into Cumberland, where the Danes were most planted; there and in the Isle of Man, or, as Camden saith, Angelsey, imitating his enemies in spoiling and unpeopling. The Danes from Normandy, arriving in the river Ex, laid siege to Exeter; but the citizens, as those of London, valorously defending themselves, they wrecked their anger, as before, on the villages round about. The country people of Somerset and Devonshire assembling themselves at Penho, shewed their readiness, but wanted a head; and besides being then but few in number, were easily put to flight; the enemy plundering all at will, with loaded spoils passed into the Isle of Wright; from whence all Dorsetshire and Hampshire felt again their fury. The Saxon annals write, that before their coming to Exeter, the Hampshire men had a bickering with them, wherein Ethelward the king’s general was slain, adding other things hardly to be understood, and in one ancient copy; so end. Ethelred, whom no adversity could awake from his soft and sluggish life, still coming by the worse at fighing, by the advice of his peers not unlike himself, sends one of his gay courtiers, though looking loftily, to stoop basely, and propose a third tribute to the Danes: they willingly hearken, but the sum is enhanced now to twenty-four thousand pounds, and paid; the Danes thereupon abstaining from hostility. But the king, to strengthen his house by some potent affinity, marries Emma, whom the Saxons call Elgiva, daughter of Richard duke of Normandy. With him Ethelred formerly had war, or no good correspondence, as appears by a letter of pope John the fifteenth, who made peace between them about eleven years before; puffed up now with his supposed access of strength by this affinity, he caused the Danes all over England, though now living peaceably, in one day perfidiously to be massacred, both men, women, and children; sending private letters to every town and city, whereby they might be ready all at the same hour; which till the appointed time (being the ninth of July) was concealed with great silence, and performed with much unanimity; so generally hated were the Danes. Mat. West. writes, that this execution upon the Danes was ten years after; that Huna, one of Ethelred’s chief captains, complaining of the Danish insolences in time of peace, their pride, their ravishing of matrons and virgins, incited the king to this massacre, which in the madness of rage made no difference of innocent or nocent. Among these, Gunhildis the sister of Swane was not spared, though much deserving not pity only, but all protection: she, with her husband Earl Palingus coming to live in England, and receiving Christianity, had her husband and young son slain before her face, herself then beheaded, foretelling and denouncing that her blood would cost England dear. Some say this was done by the traitor Edric, to whose custody she was committed; but the massacre was some years before Edric’s advancement; and if it were done by him afterwards, it seems to contradict the private correspondence which he was thought to hold with the Danes. For Swane, breathing revenge, hasted the next year into England, and by the treason or negligence of Count Hugh, whom Emma had recommended to the government of Devonshire, sacked the city of Exeter, her wall from east to west-gate broken down: after this wasting Wiltshire, the people of that county, and of Hampshire, came together in great numbers with resolution stoutly to oppose him; but Alfric their general, whose son’s eyes the king had lately put out, madly thinking to revenge himself on the king, by ruining his own country, when he should have ordered his battle, the enemy being at hand, feigned himself taken with a vomiting; whereby his army in great discontent, destitute of a commander, turned from the enemy: who straight took Wilton and Salisbury, carrying the pillage thereof to the ships. Thence the next year landing on the coast of Norfolk, he wasted the country, and set Norwich on fire; Ulfketel duke of the East-Angles, a man of great valour, not having space to gather his forces, after consultation had, thought it best to make peace with the Dane, which he breaking within three weeks, issued silently out of his ships, came to Thetford, staid there a night, and in the morning left it flaming. Ulfketel, hearing this, commanded some to go and break or burn his ships; but they not daring or neglecting, he in the mean while with what secresy and speed was possible, drawing together his forces, went out against the enemy, and gave them a fierce onset retreating to their ships: but much inferiour in number, many of the chief East-Angles there lost their lives. Nor did the Danes come off without great slaughter of their own; confessing that they never met in England with so rough a charge. The next year, whom war could not, a great famine drove Swane out of the land. But the summer following, another great fleet of Danes entered the port of Sandwich, thence poured out over all Kent and Sussex, made prey of what they found. The king levying an army out of Mercia, and the West-Saxons, took on him for once the manhood to go out and face them; but they, who held it safer to live by rapine, than to hazard a battle, shifting lightly from place to place, frustrated the slow motions of a heavy camp, following their wonted course of robbery, then running to their ships. Thus all autumn they wearied out the king’s army, which gone home to winter, they carried all their pillage to the Isle of Wight, and there staid till Christmas; at which time the king being in Shropshire, and but ill employed, (for by the procurement of Edric, he caused, as is thought, Alfhelm, a noble duke, treacherously to be slain, and the eyes of his two sons to be put out,) they came forth again, overrunning Hampshire and Berkshire, as far as Reading and Wallingford: thence to Ashdune, and other places thereabout, neither known nor of tolerable pronunciation; and returning by another way, found many of the people in arms by the river Kenet; but making their way through, they got safe with vast booty to their ships. The king and his courtiers wearied out with their last summer’s jaunt after the nimble Danes to no purpose, which by proof they found too toilsome for their soft bones, more used to beds and couches, had recourse to their last and only remedy, their coffers; and send now the fourth time to buy a dishonourable peace, every time still dearer, not to be had now under thirty-six thousand pound (for the Danes knew how to milk such easy kine) in name of tribute and expenses: which out of the people over all England, already half beggared, was extorted and paid. About the same time Ethelred advanced Edric, surnamed Streon, from obscure condition to be duke of Mercia, and marry Edgitha the king’s daughter. The cause of his advancement, Florent of Worcester, and Mat. West. attribute to his great wealth, gotten by fine polices and a plausible tongue: he proved a main accessory to the ruin of England, as his actions will soon declare. Ethelred the next year, somewhat rousing himself, ordained that every three hundred and ten hides (a hide is so much land as one plow can sufficiently till) should set out a ship or galley, and every nine hides find a corslet and headpiece: new ships in every port were built, victualled, fraught with stout mariners and soldiers, and appointed to meet all at Sandwich. A man might now think that all would go well; when suddenly a new mischief had sprung up, dissension among the great ones; which brought all this diligence to as little success as at other times before. Birthric, the brother of Edric, falsely accused Wulnoth, a great officer set over the South-Saxons, who, fearing the potency of his enemies, with twenty ships got to sea, and practiced piracy on the coast. Against whom, reported to be in a place where he might be easily surprised, Birthric sets forth with eighty ships; all which, driven back by a tempest and wrecked upon the shore, were burnt soon after by Wulnoth. Disheartened with this misfortune, the king returns to London, the rest of his navy after him; and all this great preparation to nothing. Whereupon Turkill, a Danish earl, came with a navy to the isle of Tanet, and in August a far greater, led by Heming and Ilaf, joined with him. Thence coasting to Sandwich, and landed, they went onward and began to assault Canterbury; but the citizens and East-Kentish men, coming to composition with them for three thousand pounds, they departed thence to the Isle of Wight, robbing and burning by the way. Against these the king levies an army through all the land, and in several quarters places them nigh the sea, but so unskilfully or unsuccessfully, that the Danes were not thereby hindered from exercising their wonted robberies.
It happened that the Danes were one day going up into the country far from their ships; the king having notice thereof, thought to intercept them in their return; his men were resolute to overcome or die, time and place advantageous; but where courage and fortune was not wanting, there wanted loyalty among them. Edric with subtile arguments, that had a show of deep policy, disputed and persuaded the simplicity of his fellow counsellors, that it would be best consulted at that time to let the Danes pass without ambush or interception. The Danes where they expected danger finding none, passed on with great joy and booty to their ships. After this, sailing about Kent, they lay that winter in the Thames, forcing Kent and Essex to contribution, ofttimes attempting the city of London, but repulsed as oft to their great loss. Spring begun, leaving their ships, they passed through Chiltern wood into Oxfordshire, burnt the city, and thence returning with divided forces, wasted on both sides the Thames; but hearing that an army from London was marched out against them, they on the north side passing the river at Stanes, joined with them on the south into one body, and enriched with great spoils, came back through Surrey to their ships; which all the Lent-time they repaired. After Easter sailing to the East-Angles they arrived at Ipswich, and came to a place called Ringmere, where they heard that Ulfketel with his forces lay, who with a sharp encounter soon entertained them; but his men at length giving back, through the subtlety of a Danish servant among them who began the fight, lost the field; though the men of Cambridgeshire stood to it valiantly.
In this battle Ethelstan, the king’s son-in-law, with many other noblemen, were slain; whereby the Danes, without more resistance, three months together had the spoiling of those countries and all the fens, burnt Thetford and Grantbrig, or Cambridge; thence to a hilly place not far off, called by Huntingdon, Baleshan, by Camden, Gogmagog hills, and the villages thereabout, they turned their fury, slaying all they met save one man, who getting up into a steeple, is said to have defended himself against the whole Danish army. They therefore so leaving him, their foot by sea, their horse by land through Essex, returned back laden to their ships left in the Thames. But many days passed not between, when sallying again out of their ships as out of savage dens, they plundered over again all Oxfordshire, and added to their prey Buckingham, Bedford, and Hertfordshire; then like wild beasts glutted returning to their caves. A third excursion they made into Northamptonshire, burnt Northampton, ransacking the country round: then as to fresh pasture betook them to the West-Saxons, and in like sort harassing all Wiltshire, returned, as I said before, like wild beasts or rather sea monsters to their water-stables, accomplishing by Christmas the circuit of their whole year’s good deeds; an unjust and inhuman nation, who, receiving or not receiving tribute where none was owing them made such destruction of mankind, and rapine of their livelihood, as in misery to read. Yet here they ceased not; for the next year repeating the same cruelties on both sides the Thames, one way as far as Huntingdon the other as far Wiltshire and Southampton, solicited again by the king for peace, and receiving their demands both of tribute and contribution, they slighted their faith; and in the beginning of September laid siege to Canterbury. On the twentieth day, by the treachery of Almere the archdeacon, they took part of it and burnt it, committing all sorts of massacre as a sport; some they threw over the wall, others into the fire, hung some by the privy members; infants, pulled from their mother’s breasts, were either tossed on spears, or carts drawn over them; matrons and virgins by the hair dragged and ravished. Alfage the grave archbishop above others hated of the Danes, as in all counsels and actions to his might their known opposer, taken, wounded, imprisoned in a noisome ship; the multitude are tithed, and every tenth only spared. Early the next year before Easter, while Ethelred and his peers were assembled at London, to raise now the fifth tribute amounting to forty-eight thousand pound, the Danes at Canterbury propose to the archbishop, who had now been seven months their prisoner, life and liberty, if he paid them three thousand pound: which he refusing as not able of himself, and not willing to extort it from his tenants, is permitted till the next Sunday to consider; then hauled before the counsel, of whom Turkill was chief, and still refusing, they rise, most of them being drunk, and beat him with the blunt side of their axes, then thrust forth deliver him to be pelted with stones; till one Thrun a converted Dane, pitying him half dead, to put him out of pain, with a pious impiety, at one stroke of his axe on the head dispatched him. His body was carried to London and there buried, thence afterward removed to Canterbury. By this time the tribute paid, and peace so often violated sworn again by the Danes, they dispersed their fleet; forty-five of them, and Turkill their chief, staid at London with the king, swore him allegiance to defend his land against all strangers, on condition only to be fed and clothed by him. But this voluntary friendship of Turkill was thought to be deceitful, that staying under this pretence he gave intelligence to Swane, when most it would be seasonable to come. In July therefore of the next year, King Swane arriving at Sandwich, made no stay there, but sailing first to Humber, thence into Trent, landed and encamped at Gainsburrow; whither without delay repaired to him the Northumbrians, with Uthred their earl; those of Lindsey also, then those of Fisburg, and lastly all on the north of Watlingstreet (which is a highway from east to west-sea) gave oath and hostages to obey him. From whom he commanded horses and provision for his army, taking with him besides bands and companies of their choicest men; and committing to his son Canute the care of his fleet and hostages, he marches towards the South-Mercians, commanding his soldiers to exercise all acts of hostility; with the terror whereof fully executed, he took in few days the city of Oxford, then Winchester; thence tending to London, in his hasty passage over the Thames, without seeking bridge or ford, lost many of his men. Nor was his expedition against London prosperous; for assaying all means by force or wile to take the city, wherein the king then was, and Turkill with his Danes, he was stoutly beaten off as at other times. Thence back to Wallingford and Bath, directing his course, after usual havoc made, he sat a while and refreshed his army. There Ethelm, an earl of Devonshire, and other great officers in the west, yielded him subjection. These things flowing to his wish, he betook him to his navy, from that time styled and accounted king of England; if a tyrant, saith Simeon, may be called a king. The Londoners also sent him hostages, and made their peace, for they feared his fury. Ethelred, thus reduced to narrow compass, sent Emma his queen, with his two sons had by her, and all his treasure, to Richard II., her brother, duke of Normandy; himself with his Danish fleet abode somewhile at Greenwich, then sailing to the Isle of Wight, passed after Christmas into Normandy; where he was honourably received at Roan by the duke, though known to have born himself churlishly and proudly towards Emma his sister, besides his dissolute company with other women. Meanwhile Swane ceased not to exact almost insupportable tribute of the people, spoiling them when he listed; besides, the like did Turkill at Greenwich. The next year beginning, Swane sickens and dies; some say terrified and smitten by an appearing shape of St. Edmund armed, whose church at Bury he had threatened to demolish; but the authority hereof relies only upon the legend of St. Edmund. After his death the Danish army and fleet made his son Canute their king; but the nobility and states of England sent messengers to Ethelred, declaring that they preferred none before their native sovereign, if he would promise to govern them better than he had done, and with more clemency. Whereat the king rejoicing sends over his son Edward with embassadors, to court both high and low, and win their love, promising largely to be their mild and devoted lord, to consent in all things to their will, follow their counsel, and whatever had been done or spoken by any man against him, freely to pardon, if they would loyally restore him to be their king. To this the people cheerfully answered, and amity was both promised and confirmed on both sides. An embassy of lords is sent to bring back the king honourably; he returns in Lent, and is joyfully received of the people, marches with a strong army against Canute; who having got horses and joined with the men of Lindsey, was preparing to make spoil in the countries adjoining; but by Ethelred unexpectedly coming upon him, was soon driven to his ships, and his confederates of Lindsey, left to the anger of their countrymen, executed without mercy both by fire and sword. Canute in all haste sailing back to Sandwich, took the hostages given to his father from all parts of England, and with slit noses, ears cropped, and hands chopped off, setting them ashore, departed into Denmark. Yet the people were not disburdened, for the king raised out of them thirty thousand pound to pay his fleet of Danes at Greenwich. To these evils the sea in October passed his bounds, overwhelming many towns in England, and of their inhabitants many thousands. The year following, an assembly being at Oxford, Edric of Streon having invited two noblemen, Sigeferth and Morcar, the sons of Earngrun of Seavenburg, to his lodging, secretly murdered them; the king, for what cause is unknown, seized their estates, and caused Algith the wife of Sigeferth to be kept at Maidulfsburg, now Malmsbury; whom Edmund the prince there married against his father’s mind, then went and possessed their lands, making the people there subject to him. Mat. Westm. saith, that these two were of the Danes who had seated themselves in Northumberland, slain by Edric under colour of treason laid to their charge. They who attended them without, tumulting at the death of their masters, were beaten back; and driven into a church, defending themselves were burnt there in the steeple. Meanwhile Canute returning from Denmark with a great navy, two hundred ships richly gilded and adorned, well fraught with arms and all provision; and, which Encomium Emmæ mentions not, two other kings, Lachman of Sweden, Olav of Norway, arrived at Sandwich: and, as the same author then living writes, sent out spies to discover what resistance on land was to be expected; who returned with certain report, that a great army of English was in readiness to oppose them. Turkill, who upon the arrival of these Danish powers kept faith no longer with the English, but joining now with Canute, as it were now to reingratiate himself after his revolt, whether real or complotted, counselled him (being yet young) not to land, but to leave to him the management of this first battle: the king assented, and he with the forces which he had brought, and part of those which arrived with Canute, landing to their wish, encountered the English, though double in number, at a place called Scorastan, and was at first beaten back with much loss. But at length animating his men with rage only and despair, obtained a clear victory, which won him great reward and possessions from Canute. But of this action no other writer makes mention. From Sandwich therefore sailing about to the river Frome, and there landing, over all Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire he spread wasteful hostility. The king lay then sick at Cosham in this county; though it may seem strange how he could lie sick there in the midst of his enemies. Howbeit Edmund in one part, and Edric of Streon in another, raised forces by themselves; but so soon as both armies were united, the traitor Edric being found to practise against the life of Edmund, he removed with his army from him; whereof the enemy took great advantage. Edric easily enticing the forty ships of Danes to side with him, revolted to Canute: the West-Saxons also gave pledges, and furnished him with horses. By which means the year ensuing, he with Edric the traitor passing the Thames at Creclad, about twelfthtide, entered into Mercia, and especially Warwickshire, depopulating all places in their way. Against these prince Edmund, for his hardiness called Ironside, gathered an army; but the Mercians refused to fight unless Ethelred with the Londoners came to aid them; and so every man returned home. After the festival, Edmund, gathering another army, besought his father to come with the Londoners, and what force besides he was able; they came with great strength gotten together, but being come, and in a hopeful way of good success, it was told the king, that unless he took the better heed, some of his own forces would fall off and betray him. The king daunted with this perhaps cunning whisper of the enemy, disbanding his army, returns to London. Edmund betook him into Northumberland, as some thought to raise fresh forces; but he with earl Uthred on the one side, and Canute with Edric on the other, did little else but waste the provinces; Canute to conquer them, Edmund to punish them who stood neuter: for which cause Stafford, Shropshire, and Leicestershire, felt heavily his hand; while Canute, who was ruining the more southern shires, at length marched into Northumberland; which Edmund hearing dismissed his forces, and came to London. Uthred the earl hasted back to Northumberland, and finding no other remedy, submitted himself with all the Northumbrians, giving hostages to Canute. Nevertheless by his command or connivance, and the hand of one Turebrand a Danish lord, Uthred was slain, and Iric another Dane made earl in his stead.
This Uthred, son of Walteof, as Simeon writes, in his treatise of the siege of Durham, in his youth obtained a great victory against Malcolm, son of Kened king of Scots, who with the whole power of his kingdom was fallen into Northumberland, and laid siege to Durham. Walteof the old earl, unable to resist, had secured himself in Bebbanburg, a strong town; but Uthred gathering an army raised the siege, slew most of the Scots, their king narrowly escaping, and with the heads of their slain fixed upon poles beset round the walls of Durham. The year of this exploit Simeon clears not, for in 969, and in the reign of Ethelred, as he affirms, it could not be. Canute by another way returning southward, joyful of his success, before Easter came back with all the army to his fleet. About the end of April ensuing, Ethelred, after a long, troublesome, and ill governed reign, ended his days at London, and was buried in the church of St. Paul.
After the decease of Ethelred, they of the nobility who were then at London, together with the citizens, chose Edmund his son (not by Emma, but a former wife the daughter of Earl Thored) in his father’s room; but the archbishops, abbots, and many of the nobles assembled together, elected Canute; and coming to Southampton where he then remained, renounced before him all the race of Ethelred, and swore him fidelity: he also swore to them in matters both religious and secular, to be their faithful lord. But Edmund, with all speed going to the West-Saxons, was joyfully received of them as their king, and of many other provinces by their example.—Meanwhile Canute about mid May came with his whole fleet up the river to London; then causing a great dike to be made on the Surrey side, turned the stream, and drew his ships thither west of the bridge; then begirting the city with a broad and deep trench, assailed it on every side; but repulsed as before by the valorous defendants, and in despair of success at that time, leaving part of his army for the defence of his ships, with the rest sped him to the West-Saxons, ere Edmund could have time to assemble all his powers; who yet with such as were at hand, invoking divine aid, encountered the Danes at Pen by Gillingham in Dorsetshire, and put him to flight. After midsummer, increased with new forces, he met with him again at a place called Sherastan, now Sharstan; but Edric, Almar, and Algar, with the Hampshire and Wiltshire men, then siding with the Danes, he only maintained the fight, obstinately fought on both sides, till night and weariness parted them. Daylight returning renewed the conflict, wherein the Danes appearing inferior, Edric to dishearten the English cuts off the head of one Osmer, in countenance and hair somewhat resembling the king, and holding it up, cries aloud to the English, that Edmund being slain, and this his head, it was time for them to fly; which fallacy Edmund perceiving, and openly showing himself to his soldiers, by a spear thrown at Edric, that missing him yet slew one next him, and through him another behind, they recovered heart, and lay sore upon the Danes till night parted them as before: for ere the third morn, Canute, sensible of his loss, marched away by stealth to his ships at London, renewing there his leaguer. Some would have this battle at Sherastan the same with that at Scorastan before mentioned, but the circumstance of time permits not, that having been before the landing of Canute, this a good while after, as by the process of things appears. From Sherastan or Sharstan Edmund returned to the West-Saxons, whose valour Edric fearing lest it might prevail against the Danes, sought pardon of his revolt, and obtaining it swore loyalty to the king, who now the third time coming with an army from the West-Saxons to London, raised the siege, chasing Canute and his Danes to their ships. Then after two days passing the Thames at Brentford, and so coming on their backs, kept them so turned, and obtained the victory; then returns again to his West-Saxons, and Canute to his siege, but still in vain: rising therefore thence, he entered with his ships a river then called Arenne; and from the banks thereof wasted Mercia; thence their horse by land, their foot by ship came to Medway. Edmund in the mean while with multiplied forces out of many shires crossing again at Brentford, came into Kent, seeking Canute; encountered him at Otford, and so defeated, that of his horse they who escaped fled to the isle of Sheppey; and a full victory he had gained, had not Edric still the traitor by some wile or other detained his pursuit: and Edmund, who never wanted courage, here wanted prudence to be so misled, ever after forsaken of his wonted fortune. Canute crossing with his army into Essex, thence wasted Mercia worse than before, and with heavy prey returned to his ships: them Edmund with a collected army pursuing overtook at a place called Assandune or Asseshill, now Ashdown in Essex; the battle on either side was fought with great vehemence; but perfidious Edric perceiving the victory to incline towards Edmund, with that part of the army which was under him fled, as he had promised Canute, and left the king overmatched with numbers: by which desertion the English were overthrown, duke Alfric, duke Godwin, and Ulfketel the valiant duke of East-Angles, with a great part of the nobility slain, so as the English of a long time had not received a greater blow. Yet after a while Edmund, not absurdly called Ironside, preparing again to try his fortune in another field, was hindered by Edric and others of his faction, advising him to make peace and divide the kingdom with Canute. To which Edmund overruled, a treaty appointed, and pledges mutually given, both kings met together at a place called Deorhirst in Gloucestershire; Edmund on the west side of Severn, Canute on the east, with their armies, then both in person wafted into an island, at that time called Olanege, now Alney, in the midst of the river; swearing amity and brotherhood, they parted the kingdom between them. Then interchanging arms and the habit they wore, assessing also what pay should be allotted to the navy, they departed each his way. Concerning this interview and the cause thereof others write otherwise; Malmsbury, that Edmund grieving at the loss of so much blood spilt for the ambition only of two men striving who should reign, of his own accord sent to Canute, offering him single combat, to prevent in their own cause the effusion of more blood than their own; that Canute, though of courage enough, yet not unwisely doubting to adventure his body of small timber, against a man of iron sides, refused the combat, offering to divide the kingdom. This offer pleasing both armies, Edmund was not difficult to consent; and the decision was, that he as his hereditary kingdom should rule the West-Saxons and all the South, Canute the Mercians and the North. Huntingdon followed by Mat. Westm. relates, that the peers on every side wearied out with continual warfare, and not refraining to affirm openly that they two who expected to reign singly, had most reason to fight singly, the kings were content; the island was their lists, the combat knightly; till Knute, finding himself too weak, began to parley, which ended as is said before. After which the Londoners bought their peace of the Danes, and permitted them to winter in the city. But King Edmund about the feast of St. Andrew unexpectedly deceased at London, and was buried near to Edgar his grandfather at Glaston. The cause of his so sudden death is uncertain; common fame, saith Malmsbury, lays the guilt thereof upon Edric, who to please Canute, allured with promise of reward two of the king’s privy chamber, though at first abhorring the fact, to assassinate him at the stool, by thrusting a sharp iron into his hinder parts. Huntingdon and Mat. Westm. relate it done at Oxford by the son of Edric, and something vary in the manner, not worth recital. Edmund dead, Canute meaning to reign sole king of England, calls to him all the dukes, barons, and bishops of the land, cunningly demanding of them who were witnesses what agreement was made between him and Edmund dividing the kingdom, whether the sons and brothers of Edmund were to govern the West-Saxons after him, Canute living? They who understood his meaning, and feared to undergo his anger, timorously answered, that Edmund they knew had left no part thereof to his sons or brethren, living or dying; but that he intended Canute should be their guardian, till they came to age of reigning. Simeon affirms, that for fear or hope of reward they attested what was not true: notwithstanding which he put many of them to death not long after.
CANUTE, OR KNUTE.
Canute having thus sounded the nobility, and by them understood, received their oath of fealty, they the pledge of his bare hand, and oath from the Danish nobles; whereupon the house of Edmund was renounced, and Canute crowned. Then they enacted, that Edwi brother of Edmund, a prince of great hope, should be banished the realm. But Canute, not thinking himself secure while Edwi lived, consulted with Edric how to make him away; who told him of one Ethelward a decayed nobleman, likeliest to do the work. Ethelward sent for, and tempted by the king in private with largest rewards, but abhorring in his mind the deed, promised to do it when he saw his opportunity; and so still deferred it. But Edwi afterwards received into favour, as a snare, was by him, or some other of his false friends, Canute contriving it, the same year slain. Edric also counselled him to dispatch Edward and Edmund, the sons of Ironside; but the king doubting that the fact would seem too foul done in England, sent them to the king of Sweden, with like intent; but he, disdaining the office, sent them for better safety to Solomon king of Hungary; where Edmund at length died, but Edward married Agatha daughter to Henry the German emperor. A digression in the laws of Edward Confessor under the title of Lex Noricorum saith, that this Edward, for fear of Canute, fled of his own accord to Malesclot king of the Rugians, who received him honourably, and of that country gave him a wife. Canute, settled in his throne, divided the government of his kingdom into four parts; the West-Saxons to himself, the East-Angles to earl Turkill, the Mercians to Edric, the Northumbrians to Iric; then made peace with all princes round about him, and, his former wife being dead, in July married Emma, the widow of king Ethelred. The Christmas following was an ill feast to Edric, of whose treason the king having now made use as much as served his turn, and fearing himself to be the next betrayed, caused him to be slain at London in the palace, thrown over the city wall, and there to lie unburied; the head of Edric fixed on a pole, he commanded to be set on the highest tower of London, as in a double sense he had promised him for the murder of King Edmund to exalt him above all the peers of England. Huntingdon, Malmsbury, and Mat. Westm. write, that suspecting the king’s intention to degrade him from his Mercian dukedom, and upbraiding him with his merits, the king enraged caused him to be strangled in the room, and out at a window thrown into the Thames. Another writes, that Eric at the king’s command struck off his head. Other great men, though without fault, as duke Norman the son of Leofwin, Ethelward son of duke Agelmar, he put to death at the same time, jealous of their power or familiarity with Edric: and notwithstanding peace, kept still his army; to maintain which, the next year he squeezed out of the English, though now his subjects, not his enemies, seventy-two, some say, eighty-two thousand pound, besides fifteen thousand out of London. Meanwhile great war arose at Carr, between Uthred son of Waldef, earl of Northumberland, and Malcolm son of Kened king of Scots, with whom held Eugenius king of Lothian. But here Simeon the relater seems to have committed some mistake, having slain Uthred by Canute two years before, and set Iric in his place: Iric therefore it must needs be, not Uthred, who managed this war against the Scots. About which time at a convention of Danes at Oxford, it was agreed on both parties to keep the laws of Edgar; Mat. Westm. saith of Edward the elder.
The next year Canute sailed into Denmark, and there abode all winter. Huntingdon and Mat. Westm. say, he went thither to repress the Swedes; and that the night before a battle was fought with them, Godwin, stealing out of the camp with his English, assaulted the Swedes, and had got the victory ere Canute in the morning knew of any fight. For which bold enterprise, though against discipline, he had the English in more esteem ever after. In the spring, at his return into England, he held in the time of Easter a great assembly at Chichester, and the same year was with Turkill the Dane at the dedication of a church by them built at Assendune, in the place of that great victory which won him the crown. But suspecting his greatness, the year following banished him the realm, and found occasion to do the like by Iric the Northumbrian earl upon the same jealousy. Nor yet content with his conquest of England, though now above ten years enjoyed, he passed with fifty ships into Norway, dispossessed Olave their king, and subdued the land, first with great sums of money sent the year before to gain him a party, then coming with an army to compel the rest. Thence returning king of England, Denmark, and Norway, yet not secure in his mind, under colour of an embassy sent into banishment Hacun a powerful Dane, who had married the daughter of his sister Gunildis, having conceived some suspicion of his practices against him: but such course was taken, that he never came back; either perishing at sea, or slain by contrivance the next year in Orkney. Canute therefore having thus established himself by bloodshed and oppression, to wash away, as he thought the guilt thereof, sailing again into Denmark, went thence to Rome, and offered there to St. Peter great gifts of gold and silver, and other precious things; besides the usual tribute of Romscot, giving great alms by the way, both thither and back again, freeing many places of custom and toll with great expense, where strangers were wont to pay, having vowed great amendment of life at the sepulchre of Peter and Paul, and to his whole people in a large letter written from Rome yet extant. At his return therefore he built and dedicated a church to St. Edmund at Bury, whom his ancestors had slain, threw out the secular priests, who had intruded there, and placed monks in their stead; then going into Scotland, subdued and received homage of Malcolm, and two other kings there, Melbeath and Jermare. Three years after, having made Swane, his supposed son by Algiva of Northampton, duke Alfhelm’s daughter, (for others say the son of a priest, whom Algiva barren had got ready at the time of her feigned labour,) king of Norway, and Hardecnute, his son by Emma, king of Denmark; and designed Harold, his son by Algiva of Northampton, king of England; died at Shaftsbury, and was buried at Winchester in the old monastery. This king, as appears, ended better than he began; for though he seems to have had no hand in the death of Ironside, but detested the fact, and bringing the murderers, who came to him in hope of great reward, forth among his courtiers, as it were to receive thanks, after they had openly related the manner of their killing him, delivered them to deserved punishment, yet he spared Edric, whom he knew to be the prime author of that detestable fact; till willing to be rid of him, grown importune upon the confidence of his merits, and upbraided by him that he had first relinquished, then extinguished, Edmund for his sake; angry to be so upbraided, therefore said he with a changed countenance, “traitor to God and me, thou shalt die; thine own mouth accuses thee, to have slain thy master my confederate brother, and the Lord’s anointed.” Whereupon although present and private execution was in rage done upon Edric, yet he himself in cool blood scrupled not to make away the brother and children of Edmund, who had better right to be the Lord’s anointed here than himself. When he had obtained in England what he desired, no wonder if he sought the love of his conquered subjects for the love of his own quiet, the maintainers of his wealth and state for his own profit. For the like reason he is thought to have married Emma, and that Richard duke of Normandy her brother might the less care what became of Alfred and Edward, her sons by King Ethelred. He commanded to be observed the ancient Saxon laws, called afterwards the laws of Edward the Confessor, not that he made them, but strictly observed them. His letter from Rome professes, if he had done aught amiss in his youth, through negligence or want of due temper, full resolution with the help of God to make amends, by governing justly and piously for the future; charges and adjures all his officers and viscounts, that neither for fear of him, or favour of any person, or to enrich the king, they suffer injustice to be done in the land; commands his treasurers to pay all his debts ere his return home, which was by Denmark, to compose matters there; and what his letter professed, he performed all his life after. But it is a fond conceit in many great ones, and pernicious in the end, to cease from no violence till they have attained the utmost of their ambitions and desires; then to think God appeased by their seeking to bribe him with a share, however large, of their ill-gotten spoils; and then lastly to grow zealous of doing right, when they have no longer need to do wrong. Howbeit Canute was famous through Europe, and much honoured of Conrade the emperor, then at Rome, with rich gifts and many grants of what he there demanded for the freeing of passages from toll and custom. I must not omit one remarkable action done by him, as Huntingdon reports it, with great scene of circumstance, and emphatical expression, to show the small power of kings in respect of God; which, unless to court-parasites, needed no such laborious demonstration. He caused his royal seat to be set on the shore, while the tide was coming in; and with all the state that royalty could put into his countenance, said thus to the sea; “Thou sea belongest to me, and the land whereon I sit is mine; nor hath any one unpunished resisted my commands: I charge thee come no further upon my land, neither presume to wet the feet of thy sovereign lord.” But the sea, as before, came rolling on, and without reverence both wet and dashed him. Whereat the king quickly rising, wished all about him to behold and consider the weak and frivolous power of a king, and that none indeed deserved the name of a king, but he whose eternal laws both heaven, earth, and sea obey. A truth so evident of itself, as I said before, that unless to shame his court-flatterers, who would not else be convinced, Canute needed not to have gone wetshod home; the best is, from that time forth he never would wear a crown, esteeming earthly royalty contemptible and vain.
Harold for his swiftness surnamed Harefoot, the son of Canute by Algiva of Northampton, (though some speak doubtfully as if she bore him not, but had him of a shoemaker’s wife as Swane before of a priest; others of a maidservant, to conceal her barrenness,) in a great assembly at Oxford was by duke Leofric and the Mercians, with the Londoners, according to his father’s testament, elected king; but without the regal habiliments, which Ælnot, the archbishop, having in his custody, refused to deliver up, but to the sons of Emma, for which Harold ever after hated the clergy; and (as the clergy are wont thence to infer) all religion. Godwin earl of Kent, and the West-Saxons with him, stood for Hardecnute. Malmsbury saith, that the contest was between Dane and English; that the Danes and Londoners grown now in a manner Danish, were all for Hardecnute: but he being then in Denmark, Harold prevailed, yet so as that the kingdom should be divided between them; the west and south part reserved by Emma for Hardecnute till his return. But Harold, once advanced into the throne, banished Emma his mother-in-law, seized on his father’s treasure at Winchester, and there remained. Emma, not holding it safe to abide in Normandy while duke William the bastard was yet under age, retired to Baldwin earl of Flanders. In the mean while Elfred and Edward sons of Ethelred, accompanied with a small number of Norman soldiers in a few ships, coming to visit their mother Emma not yet departed the land, and perhaps to see how the people were inclined to restore them their right, Elfred was sent for by the king then at London; but in his way met at Guilford by earl Godwin, who with all seeming friendship entertained him, was in the night surprised and made prisoner, most of his company put to various sorts of cruel death, decimated twice over; then brought to London, was by the king sent bound to Ely, had his eyes put out by the way, and delivered to the monks there, died soon after in their custody. Malmsbury gives little credit to this story of Elfred, as not chronicled in his time, but rumoured only. Which Emma however hearing sent away her son Edward, who by good hap accompanied not his brother, with all speed into Normandy. But the author of “Encomium Emmæ,” who seems plainly (though nameless) to have been some monk, yet lived, and perhaps wrote within the same year when these things were done; by his relation, diffaring from all others, much aggravates the cruelty of Harold, that he, not content to have practised in secret (for openly he durst not) against the life of Emma, sought many treacherous ways to get her son within his power; and resolved at length to forge a letter in the name of their mother, inviting them into England, the copy of which letter he produces written to this purpose.
“Emma in name only queen, to her sons Edward and Elfred, imparts motherly salutation. While we severally bewail the death of our lord the king, most dear sons! and while daily you are deprived more and more of the kingdom your inheritance; I admire what counsel ye take, knowing that your intermitted delay is a daily strengthening to the reign of your usurper, who incessantly goes about from town to city, gaining the chief nobles to his party, either by gifts, prayers, or threats. But they had much rather one of you should reign over them, than to be held under the power of him who now overrules them. I entreat therefore that one of you come to me speedily, and privately, to receive from me wholesome counsel, and to know how the business which I intend shall be accomplished. By this messenger present, send back what you determine. Farewell, as dear both as my own heart.”
These letters were sent to the princes then in Normandy, by express messengers, with presents also as from their mother; which they joyfully receiving, returned word by the same messengers, that one of them will be with her shortly; naming both the time and place. Elfrid therefore, the younger (for so it was thought best) at the appointed time, with a few ships and small numbers about him appearing on the coast, no sooner came ashore but fell into the snare of earl Godwin, sent on purpose to betray him; as above was related. Emma greatly sorrowing for the loss of her son, thus cruelly made away, fled immediately with some of the nobles her faithfullest adherents into Flanders, had her dwelling assigned at Bruges by the earl; where having remained about two years, she was visited out of Denmark by Hardecnute her son; and he not long had remained with her there, when Harold in England, having done nothing the while worth memory, save the taxing of every port at eight marks of silver to sixteen ships, died at London, some say at Oxford, and was buried at Winchester. After which, most of the nobility, both Danes and English now agreeing, send embassadors to Hardecnute still at Bruges with his mother, entreating him to come and receive as his right, the sceptre; who before midsummer came with sixty ships, and many soldiers out of Denmark.
Hardecnute received with acclamation, and seated in the throne, first called to mind the injuries done to him or his mother Emma in the time of Harold; sent Alfric archbishop of York, Godwin, and others, with Troud his executioner, to London, commanding them to dig up the body of King Harold, and throw it into a ditch; but by a second order, into the Thames. Whence taken up by a fisherman, and conveyed to a churchyard in London belonging to the Danes, it was interred again with honour. This done, he levied a sore tax, that eight marks to every rower, and twelve to every officer in his fleet should be paid throughout England: by which time they who were so forward to call him over had enough of him; for he as they thought, had too much of theirs. After this he called to account Godwin earl of Kent, and Leving bishop of Worcester, about the death of Elfred his half brother, which Alfric the archbishop laid to their charge; the king deprived Leving of his bishopric, and gave it to his accuser: but the year following, pacified with a round sum, restored it to Leving. Godwin made his peace by a sumptuous present, a galley with a gilded stem bravely rigged, and eighty soldiers in her, every one with bracelets of gold on each arm, weighing sixteen ounces, helmet, corslet, and hilts of his sword gilded; a Danish curtaxe, listed with gold or silver, hung on his left shoulder, a shield with boss and nails gilded in his left hand, in his right a lance; besides this, he took his oath before the king, that neither of his own counsel or will, but by the command of Harold, he had done what he did, to the putting out Elfred’s eyes. The like oath took most of the nobility for themselves, or in his behalf. The next year Hardecnute sending his house-carles, so they called his officers, to gather the tribute imposed; two of them, rigorous in their office, were slain at Worcester by the people; whereat the king enraged sent Leofric duke of Mercia, and Seward of Northumberland, with great forces and commission to slay the citizens, rifle and burn the city, and waste the whole province. Affrighted with such news, all the people fled: the countrymen whither they could, the citizens to a small island in Severn, called Beverege, which they fortified and defended stoutly till peace was granted them, and freely to return home. But their city they found sacked and burnt; wherewith the king was appeased. This was commendable in him, however cruel to others, that towards his half-brethren, though rivals of his crown, he shewed himself always tenderly affectioned; as now towards Edward, who without fear came to him out of Normandy, and with unfeigned kindness received, remained safely and honourably in his court. But Hardecnute the year following, at a feast wherein Osgod a great Danish lord gave his daughter in marriage at Lambeth to Prudon another potent Dane, in the midst of his mirth, sound and healthful to sight, while he was drinking fell down speechless, and so dying, was buried at Winchester beside his father. He was it seems, a great lover of good cheer; sitting at table four times a day, with great variety of dishes and superfluity to all comers. Whereas, saith Huntingdon, in our time princes in their houses made but one meal a day. He gave his sister Gunildis, a virgin of rare beauty, in marriage to Henry the Alman emperor; and to send her forth pompously, all the nobility contributed their jewels and richest ornaments. But it may seem a wonder, that our historians, if they deserve that name, should in a matter so remarkable, and so near their own time, so much differ. Huntingdon relates, against the credit of all other records, that Hardecnute thus dead, the English rejoicing at this unexpected riddance of the Danish yoke, sent over to Elfred, the elder son of Emma by King Ethelred, of whom we heard but now that he died a prisoner at Ely, sent thither by Harold six years before; that he came now out of Normandy, with a great number of men, to receive the crown; that earl Godwin, aiming to have his daughter queen of England, by marrying her to Edward a simple youth, for he thought Elfred of a higher spirit than to accept her, persuaded the nobles, that Elfred had brought over too many Normans, had promised them land here, that it was not safe to suffer a warlike and subtle nation to take root in the land, that these were to be so handled as none of them might dare for the future to flock hither, upon pretence of relation to the king: thereupon by common consent of the nobles, both Elfred and his company were dealt with as was above related; that they then sent for Edward out of Normandy, with hostages to be left there of their faithful intentions to make him king, and their desires not to bring over with him many Normans; that Edward at their call came then first out of Normandy; whereas all others agree, that he came voluntarily over to visit Hardecnute, as is before said, and was remaining then in court at the time of his death. For Hardecnute dead, saith Malmsbury, Edward, doubting greatly his own safety, determined to rely wholly on the advice and favour of earl Godwin; desiring therefore by messengers to have private speech with him, the earl a while deliberated; at last assenting, prince Edward came, and would have fallen at his feet; but that not permitted, told him the danger wherein he thought himself at present, and in great perplexity besought his help, to convey him some whither out of the land. Godwin soon apprehending the fair occasion that now as it were prompted him how to advance himself and his family, cheerfully exhorted him to remember himself the son of Ethelred, the grandchild of Edgar, right heir to the crown at full age; not to think of flying, but of reigning, which might easily be brought about, if he would follow his counsel; then setting forth the power and authority which he had in England, promised it should be all his to set him on the throne, if he on his part would promise and swear to be for ever his friend, to preserve the honour of his house, and to marry his daughter. Edward, as his necessity then was, consented easily, and swore to whatever Godwin required. An assembly of states thereupon met at Gillingham, where Edward pleaded his right; and by the powerful influence of Godwin was accepted. Others, as Brompton, with no probability write, that Godwin at this time was fled into Denmark, for what he had done to Elfred, returned and submitted himself to Edward then king, was by him charged openly with the death of Elfred, and not without much ado, by the intercession of Leofric and other peers, received at length into favour.
EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.
Glad were the English delivered so unexpectedly from their Danish masters, and little thought how near another conquest was hanging over them. Edward, the Easter following, crowned at Winchester, the same year accompanied with earl Godwin, Leofric, and Siward, came again thither on a sudden, and by their counsel seized on the treasure of his mother Emma. The cause alleged is, that she was hard to him in the time of his banishment; and indeed she is said not much to have loved Ethelred her former husband, and thereafter the children by him; she was moreover noted to be very covetous, hard to the poor, and profuse to monasteries. About this time also King Edward, according to promise, took to wife Edith or Egith earl Godwin’s daughter, commended much for beauty, modesty, and beyond what is requisite in a woman, learning. Ingulf, then a youth lodging in the court with his father, saw her oft, and coming from the school was sometimes met by her and posed, not in grammar only, but in logic. Edward the next year but one made ready a strong navy at Sandwich against Magnus king of Norway, who threatened an invasion, had not Swane king of Denmark diverted him by a war at home to defend his own land; not out of good will to Edward, as may be supposed, who at the same time expressed none to the Danes, banishing Gunildis the neice of Canute with her two sons, and Osgod by surname Clapa, out of the realm. Swane, overpowered by Magnus, sent the next year to entreat aid of King Edward; Godwin gave counsel to send him fifty ships fraught with soldiers; but Leofric and the general voice gainsaying, none were sent. The next year Harold Harvager, king of Norway, sending embassadors, made peace with King Edward; but an earthquake at Worcester and Derby, pestilence and famine in many places, much lessened the enjoyment thereof. The next year Henry the emperor, displeased with Baldwin earl of Flanders, had straitened him with a great army by land; and sending to king Edward, desired him with his ships to hinder what he might his escape by sea. The king therefore, with a great navy, coming to Sandwich, there staid till the emperor came to an agreement with earl Baldwin. Meanwhile Swane son of earl Godwin, who, not permitted to marry Edgiva the abbess of Chester by him deflowered, had left the land, came out of Denmark with eight ships, feigning a desire to return into the king’s favour; and Beorn his cousin german, who commanded part of the king’s navy, promised to intercede, that his earldom might be restored him. Godwin therefore and Beorn with a few ships, the rest of the fleet gone home, coming to Pevensey, (but Godwin soon departed thence in pursuit of twenty-nine Danish ships, who had got much booty on the coast of Essex, and perished by tempest in their return,) Swane with his ships comes to Beorn at Pevensey, guilefully requests him to sail with him to Sandwich, and reconcile him to the king, as he had promised. Beorn mistrusting no evil where he intended good, went with him in his ship attended by three only of his servants: but Swane, set upon barbarous cruelty, not reconciliation with the king, took Beorn now in his power, and bound him; then coming to Dartmouth, slew and buried him in a deep ditch. After which the men of Hastings took six of his ships, and brought them to the king at Sandwich; with the other two he escaped into Flanders, there remaining till Aldred bishop of Worcester by earnest mediation wrought his peace with the king. About this time King Edward sent to pope Leo, desiring absolution from a vow which he had made in his younger years, to take a journey to Rome, if God vouchsafed him to reign in England; the pope dispensed with his vow, but not without the expense of his journey given to the poor, and a monastery built or re-dified to St. Peter; who in vision to a monk, as is said, chose Westminster, which King Edward thereupon rebuilding endowed with large privileges and revenues. The same year, saith Florent of Worcester, certain Irish pirates with thirty-six ships entered the mouth of Severn, and with the aid of Griffin prince of South Wales, did some hurt in those parts: then passing the river Wye, burnt Dunedham, and slew all the inhabitants they found. Against whom Aldred bishop of Worcester, with a few out of Gloucester and Herefordshire, went out in haste: but Griffin, to whom the Welsh and Irish had privily sent messengers, came down upon the English with his whole power by night, and early in the morning suddenly assaulting them, slew many, and put the rest to flight. The next year but one, King Edward remitted the Danish tax which had continued thirty-eight years heavy upon the land since Ethelred first paid it to the Danes, and what remained thereof in his treasury he sent back to the owners: but through imprudence laid the foundation of a far worse mischief to the English; while studying gratitude to those Normans, who to him in exile had been helpful, he called them over to public offices here, whom better he might have repaid out of his private purse; by this means exasperating either nation one against the other, and making way by degrees to the Norman conquest. Robert a monk of that country, who had been serviceable to him there in time of need, he made bishop, first of London, then of Canterbury; William his chaplain, bishop of Dorchester. Then began the English to lay aside their own ancient customs, and in many things to imitate French manners, the great peers to speak French in their houses, in French to write their bills and letters, as a great piece of gentility, ashamed of their own: a presage of their subjection shortly to that people, whose fashions and language they affected so slavishly. But that which gave beginning to many troubles ensuing happened this year, and upon this occasion.
Eustace earl of Boloign, father of the famous Godfrey who won Jerusalem from the Saracens, and husband to Goda the king’s sister, having been to visit King Edward, and returning by Canterbury to take ship at Dover, one of his harbingers insolently seeking to lodge by force in a house there, provoked so the master thereof, as by chance or heat of anger to kill him. The count with his whole train going to the house where his servant had been killed, slew both the slayer and eighteen more who defended him. But the townsmen running to arms, requited him with the slaughter of twenty more of his servants, wounded most of the rest; he himself with one or two hardly escaping, ran back with clamour to the king; whom, seconded by other Norman courtiers, he stirred up to great anger against the citizens of Canterbury. Earl Godwin in haste is sent for, the cause related and much aggravated by the king against that city, the earl commanded to raise forces, and use the citizens thereof as enemies. Godwin, sorry to see strangers more favoured of the king than his native people, answered, that “it were better to summon first the chief men of the town into the king’s court, to charge them with sedition, where both parties might be heard, that not found in fault they might be acquitted; if otherwise, by fine or loss of life might satisfy the king, whose peace they had broken, and the count whom they had injured: till this were done refusing to prosecute with hostile punishment them of his own country unheard, whom his office was rather to defend.” The king, displeased with his refusal, and not knowing how to compel him, appointed an assembly of all the peers to be held at Gloucester, where the matter might be fully tried; the assembly was full and frequent according to summons: but Godwin, mistrusting his own cause, or the violence of his adversaries, with his two sons, Swane and Harold, and a great power gathered out of his own and his sons’ earldoms, which contained most of the south-east and west parts of England, came no farther than Beverstan, giving out that their forces were to go against the Welsh, who intended an irruption into Herefordshire; and Swane under that pretence lay with part of his army thereabout. The Welsh understanding this device, and with all diligence clearing themselves before the king, left Godwin detected of false accusation in great hatred to all the assembly. Leofric therefore and Siward, dukes of great power, the former in Mercia, the other in all parts beyond Humber, both ever faithful to the king, send privily with speed to raise the forces of their provinces. Which Godwin not knowing, sent bold to King Edward, demanding count Eustace and his followers, together with those Boloignians, who, as Simeon writes, held a castle in the jurisdiction of Canterbury. The king, as then having but little force at hand, entertained him a while with treaties and delays, till his summoned army drew nigh, then rejected his demands. Godwin, thus matched, commanded his sons not to begin fight against the king; begun with, not to give ground. The king’s forces were the flower of those counties whence they came, and eager to fall on: but Leofric and the wiser sort, detesting civil war, brought the matter to this accord; that hostages given on either side, the cause should be again debated at London. Thither the king and lords coming with their army, sent to Godwin and his sons (who with their powers were come as far as Southwark) commanding their appearance unarmed with only twelve attendants, and that the rest of their soldiers they should deliver over to the king. They to appear without pledges before an adverse faction denied; but to dismiss their soldiers refused not, nor in aught else to obey the king as far as might stand with honour and the just regard of their safety.
This answer not pleasing the king, an edict was presently issued forth, that Godwin and his sons within five days depart the land. He, who perceived now his numbers to diminish, readily obeyed, and with his wife and three sons, Tosti, Swane, and Gyrtha, with as much treasure as their ship could carry, embarked at Thorney, sailed into Flanders to earl Baldwin, whose daughter Judith Tosti had married: for Wulnod his fourth son was then a hostage to the king in Normandy; his other two, Harold and Leofwin, taking ship at Bristow, in a vessel that lay ready there belonging to Swane, passed into Ireland. King Edward, pursuing his displeasure, divorced his wife Edith, earl Godwin’s daughter, sending her despoiled of all her ornaments to Warewel with one waiting-maid; to be kept in custody by his sister the abbess there. His reason of so doing was as harsh as his act, that she only, while her nearest relations were in banishment, might not, though innocent, enjoy ease at home. After this, William duke of Normandy, with a great number of followers, coming into England, was by King Edward honourably entertained, and led about the cities and castles, as it were to show him what ere long was to be his own, (though at that time, saith Ingulf, no mention thereof passed between them,) then, after some time of his abode here, presented richly and dismissed, he returned home.
The next year Queen Emma died, and was buried at Winchester. The chronicle attributed to John Brompton, a Yorkshire abbot, but rather of some nameless author living under Edward III., or later, reports that the year before, by Robert the archbishop she was accused both of consenting to the death of her son Elfred, and of preparing poison for Edward also: lastly, of too much familiarity with Alwin bishop of Winchester; that to approve her innocence, praying overnight to St. Swithune, she offered to pass blindfold between certain ploughshares red-hot, according to the ordalian law, which without harm she performed; that the king thereupon received her to honour, and from her and the bishop, penance for his credulity; that the archbishop, ashamed of his accusation, fled out of England: which, besides the silence of ancienter authors, (for the bishop fled not till a year after,) brings the whole story into suspicion, in this more probable, if it can be proved, that in memory of this deliverance from the nine burning ploughshares, Queen Emma gave to the abbey of St. Swithune nine manors, and bishop Alwin other nine.
About this time Griffin prince of South Wales wasted Herefordshire; to oppose whom the people of that country, with many Normans, garrisoned in the castle of Hereford, went out in arms, but were put to the worse, many slain, and much booty driven away by the Welsh. Soon after which Harold and Leofwin, sons of Godwin, coming into Severn with many ships, in the confines of Somerset and Dorsetshire, spoiled many villages, and resisted by those of Somerset and Devonshire, slew in a fight more than thirty of their principal men, many of the common sort, and returned with much booty to their fleet. King Edward on the other side made ready above sixty ships at Sandwich, well stored with men and provision, under the conduct of Odo and Radulf, two of his Norman kindred, enjoining them to find out Godwin, whom he heard to be at sea. To quicken them, he himself lay on shipboard, ofttimes watched and sailed up and down in search of those pirates. But Godwin, whether in a mist, or by other accident, passing by them, arrived in another part of Kent, and dispersing several messengers abroad, by fair words allured the chief men of Kent, Surrey, and Essex, to his party; which news coming to the king’s fleet at Sandwich, they hasted to find him out; but missing of him again, came up without effect to London. Godwin, advertised of this, forthwith sailed to the Isle of Wight; where at length his two sons Harold and Leofwin finding him, with their united navy lay on the coast, forbearing other hostility than to furnish themselves with fresh victuals from land as they needed. Thence as one fleet they set forward to Sandwich, using all fair means by the way to increase their numbers both of mariners and soldiers. The king then at London, startled at these tidings, gave speedy orders to raise forces in all parts that had not revolted from him; but now too late, for Godwin within a few days after with his ships or galleys came up the river Thames to Southwark, and till the tide returned had conference with the Londoners; whom by fair speeches (for he was held a good speaker in those times) he brought to his bent. The tide returned, and none upon the bridge hindering, he rowed up in his galleys along the south bank; where his land-army, now come to him, in array of battle now stood on the shore; then turning toward the north side of the river, where the king’s galleys lay in some readiness, and land forces also not far off, he made show as offering to fight; but they understood one another, and the soldiers on either side soon declared their resolution not to fight English against English. Thence coming to treaty, the king and the earl reconciled, both armies were dissolved, Godwin and his sons restored to their former dignities, except Swane, who, touched in conscience for the slaughter of Beorne his kinsman, was gone barefoot to Jerusalem, and, returning home, died by sickness or Saracens in Lycia; his wife Edith, Godwin’s daughter, King Edward took to him again, dignified as before. Then were the Normans, who had done many unjust things under the king’s authority, and given him ill counsel against his people, banished the realm; some of them, not blameable, permitted to stay. Robert archbishop of Canterbury, William of London, Ulf of Lincoln, all Normans, hardly escaping with their followers, got to sea. The archbishop went with his complaint to Rome; but returning, died in Normandy at the same monastery from whence he came. Osbern and Hugh surrendered their castles, and by permission of Leofric passed through his countries with their Normans to Macbeth king of Scotland. The year following, Rhese, brother to Griffin, prince of South Wales, who by inroads had done much damage to the English, taken at Bulendun, was put to death by the king’s appointment, and his head brought to him at Gloucester. The same year at Winchester on the second holy day of Easter, earl Godwin, sitting with the king at table, sunk down suddenly in his seat as dead: his three sons, Harold, Tosti, and Girtha, forthwith carried him into the king’s chamber, hoping he might revive: but the malady had so seized him, that the fifth day after he expired. The Normans who hated Godwin give out, saith Malmsbury, that mention happening to be made of Elfred, and the king thereat looking sourly upon Godwin, he, to vindicate himself, uttered these words: “Thou, O king, at every mention made of thy brother Elfred, lookest frowningly upon me; but let God not suffer me to swallow this morsel, if I be guilty of aught done against his life or thy advantage;” that after these words, choked with the morsel taken, he sunk down and recovered not. His first wife was the sister of Canute, a woman of much infamy for the trade she drove of buying up English youths and maids to sell in Denmark, whereof she made great gain; but ere long was struck with thunder and died. The year ensuing, Siward earl of Northumberland, with a great number of horse and foot, attended also by a strong fleet at the king’s appointment, made an expedition into Scotland, vanquished the tyrant Macbeth, slaying many thousands of Scots with those Normans that went thither, and placed Malcolm son of the Cambrian king in his stead; yet not without loss of his own son, and many other both English and Danes. Told of his son’s death, he asked whether he received his death’s wound before or behind. When it was answered, before; “I am glad,” saith he, “and should not else have thought him, though my son, worthy of burial.” In the mean while King Edward being without issue to succeed him, sent Aldred bishop of Winchester with great presents to the emperor, entreating him to prevail with the king of Hungary, that Edward, the remaining son of his brother Edmund Ironside, might be sent into England. Siward but one year surviving his great victory, died at York; reported by Huntingdon a man of giant-like stature; and by his own demeanor at point of death manifested, of a rough and mere soldierly mind. For much disdaining to die in bed by a disease, not in the field fighting with his enemies, he caused himself completely armed, and weaponed with battleaxe and shield, to be set in a chair, whether to fight with death, if he could be so vain, or to meet him (when far other weapons and preparations were needful) in a martial bravery; but true fortitude glories not in the feats of war, as they are such, but as they serve to end war soonest by a victorious peace.
His earldom the king bestowed on Tosti the son of earl Godwin: and soon after, in a convention held at London, banished without visible cause, Huntingdon saith for treason, Algar the son of Leofric; who, passing into Ireland, soon returned with eighteen ships to Griffin prince of South Wales, requesting his aid against King Edward. He, assembling his powers, entered with him into Herefordshire; whom Radulf a timorous captain, son to the king’s sister, not by Eustace, but a former husband, met two miles distant from Hereford; and having horsed the English, who knew better to fight on foot, without stroke he with his French and Normans beginning to fly, taught the English by his example. Griffin and Algar, following the chase, slew many, wounded more, entered Hereford, slew seven canons defending the minster, burnt the monastery and reliques, then the city; killing some, leading captive others of the citizens, returned with great spoils; whereof King Edward having notice gathered a great army at Gloucester under the conduct of Harold, now earl of Kent, who strenuously pursuing Griffin entered Wales, and encamped beyond Straddale. But the enemy flying before him farther into the country, leaving there the greater part of his army with such as had charge to fight, if occasion were offered, with the rest he returned, and fortified Hereford with a wall and gates. Meanwhile Griffin and Algar, dreading the diligence of Harold, after many messages to and fro, concluded a peace with him. Algar, discharging his fleet with pay at West-Chester, came to the king, and was restored to his earldom. But Griffin with breach of faith, the next year set upon Leofgar the bishop of Hereford and his clerks then at a place called Glastbrig, with Agelnorth viscount of the shire, and slew them; but Leofric, Harold, and King Edward, by force as is likeliest, though it be not said how, reduced him to peace. The next year, Edward son of Edmund Ironside, for whom his uncle King Edward had sent to the emperor, came out of Hungary, designed successor to the crown; but within a few days after his coming died at London, leaving behind him Edgar Atheling his son, Margaret and Christiana his daughters. About the same time also died earl Leofric in a good old age, a man of no less virtue than power in his time, religious, prudent, and faithful to his country, happily wedded to Godiva, a woman of great praise. His son Algar found less favour with King Edward, again banished the year after his father’s death, but he again by the aid of Griffin and a fleet from Norway, maugre the king, soon recovered his earldom. The next year Malcolm king of Scots, coming to visit King Edward, was brought on his way by Tosti the Northumbrian, to whom he swore brotherhood: yet the next year but one, while Tosti was gone to Rome with Aldred archbishop of York for his pall, this sworn brother, taking advantage of his absence, roughly harassed Northumberland. The year passing to an end without other matter of moment, save the frequent inroads and robberies of Griffin, whom no bounds of faith could restrain, King Edward sent against him after Christmas Harold now Duke of West-Saxons, with no great body of horse, from Gloucester, where he then kept his court; whose coming heard of Griffin not daring to abide, nor in any part of his land holding himself secure, escaped hardly by sea, ere Harold, coming to Rudeland, burnt his palace and ships there, returning to Gloucester the same day. But by the middle of May setting out with a fleet from Bristow, he sailed about the most part of Wales, and met by his brother Tosti with many troops of horse, as the king had appointed, began to waste the country; but the Welsh giving pledges, yielded themselves, promised to become tributary, and banish Griffin their prince; who lurking somewhere was the next year taken and slain by Griffin prince of North Wales; his head with the head and tackle of his ship sent to Harold, by him to the king, who of his gentleness made Blechgent and Rithwallon, or Rivallon, his two brothers, princes in his stead; they to Harold in behalf of the king swore fealty and tribute. Yet the next year Harold having built a fair house at a place called Portascith in Monmouthshire, and stored it with provision, that the king might lodge there in time of hunting, Caradoc, the son of Griffin slain the year before, came with a number of men, slew all he found there, and took away the provision. Soon after which the Northumbrians in a tumult at York beset the palace of Tosti their earl, slew more than two hundred of his soldiers and servants, pillaged his treasure, and put him to fly for his life. The cause of this insurrection they alledged to be, for that the queen Edith had commanded, in her brother Tosti’s behalf, Gospatric a nobleman of that country to be treacherously slain in the king’s court; and that Tosti himself the year before with like treachery had caused to be slain in his chamber Gamel and Ulf, two other of their noblemen, besides his intolerable exactions and oppressions. Then in a manner the whole country, coming up to complain of their grievances, met with Harold at Northampton, whom the king at Tosti’s request had sent to pacify the Northumbrians; but they laying open the cruelty of his government, and their own birthright of freedom not to endure the tyranny of any governor whatsoever, with absolute refusal to admit him again, and Harold hearing reason, all the accomplices of Tosti were expelled the earldom. He himself, banished the realm, went into Flanders; Morcar the son of Algar made earl in his stead. Huntingdon tells another cause of Tosti’s banishment, that one day at Windsor, while Harold reached the cup to King Edward, Tosti envying to see his younger brother in greater favour than himself, could not forbear to run furiously upon him, catching hold of his hair; the scuffle was soon parted by other attendants rushing between, and Tosti forbidden the court. He with continued fury riding to Hereford, where Harold had many servants, preparing an entertainment for the king, came to the house and set upon them with his followers; then lopping off hands, arms, legs of some, heads of others, threw them into buts of wine, meath or ale, which were laid in for the king’s drinking: and at his going away charged them to send him this word, that of other fresh meats he might bring with him to his farm what he pleased, but of souse he should find plenty provided ready for him: that for this barbarous act the king pronounced him banished; that the Northumbrians, taking advantage at the king’s displeasure and sentence against him, rose also to be revenged of his cruelties done to themselves. But this no way agrees; for why then should Harold or the king so much labour with the Northumbrians to readmit him, if he were a banished man for his crimes done before? About this time it happened, that Harold putting to sea one day for his pleasure, in a fisherboat, from his manor at Boseham in Sussex, caught with a tempest too far off land was carried into Normandy; and by the earl of Pontiew, on whose coast he was driven, at his own request brought to duke William; who, entertaining him with great courtesy, so far won him, as to promise the duke by oath of his own accord, not only the castle of Dover then in his tenure, but the kingdom also after King Edward’s death to his utmost endeavour, thereupon betrothing the duke’s daughter then too young for marriage, and departing richly presented. Others say, that King Edward himself, after the death of Edward his nephew, sent Harold thither on purpose to acquaint duke William with his intention to bequeath him his kingdom: but Malmsbury accounts the former story to be the truer. Ingulf writes, that King Edward now grown old, and perceiving Edgar his nephew both in body and in mind unfit to govern, especially against the pride and insolence of Godwin’s sons, who would never obey him; duke William on the other side of high merit, and his kinsman by the mother, had sent Robert archbishop of Canterbury, to acquaint the duke with his purpose, not long before Harold came thither. The former part may be true, that King Edward upon such considerations had sent one or other; but archbishop Robert was fled the land, and dead many years before. Eadmer and Simeon write, that Harold went of his own accord into Normandy, by the king’s permission or connivance, to get free his brother Wulnod and nephew Hacun the son of Swane, whom the king had taken hostages of Godwin, and sent into Normandy; that King Edward foretold Harold, his journey thither would be to the detriment of all England, and his own reproach; that duke William then acquainted Harold, how Edward ere his coming to the crown had promised, if ever he attained it, to leave duke William successor after him. Last of these Matthew Paris writes, that Harold, to get free of duke William, affirmed his coming thither not to have been by accident or force of tempest, but on set purpose, in that private manner to enter with him into secret confederacy: so variously are these things reported. After this King Edward grew sickly, yet as he was able kept his Christmas at London, and was at the dedication of St. Peter’s church in Westminster, which he had rebuilt; but on the eve of Epiphany, or Twelfthtide, deceased much lamented, and in the church was entomed. That he was harmless and simple, is conjectured by his words in anger to a peasant, who had crossed his game, (for with hunting and hawking he was much delighted,) “by God and God’s mother,” said he, “I shall do you as shrewd a turn if I can;” observing that law maxim, the best of all his successors, “that the king of England can do no wrong.” The softness of his nature gave growth to factions of those about him, Normans especially and English; these complaining, that Robert the archbishop was a sower of dissension between the king and his people, a traducer of the English; the other side, that Godwin and his sons bore themselves arrogantly and proudly towards the king, usurping to themselves equal share in the government, ofttimes making sport with his simplicity; that through their power in the land, they made no scruple to kill men of whose inheritance they took a liking, and so to take possession. The truth is, that Godwin and his sons did many things boisterously and violently, much against the king’s mind; which not able to resist, he had, as some say, his wife Edith Godwin’s daughter in such aversation, as in bed never to have touched her; whether for this cause, or mistaken chastity, not commendable; to inquire further, is not material. His laws held good and just, and long after desired by the English of their Norman kings, are yet extant. He is said to be at table not excessive, at festivals nothing puffed up with the costly robes he wore, which his queen with curious art had woven for him in gold. He was full of almsdeeds, and exhorted the monks to like charity. He is said to be the first English king that cured the disease thence called the king’s evil; yet Malmsbury blames them who attribute that cure to his royalty, not to his sanctity; said also to have cured certain blind men with the water wherein he hath washed his hands. A little before his death, lying speechless two days, the third day, after a deep sleep, he was heard to pray, that if it were a true vision, not an illusion which he had seen, God would give him strength to utter it, otherwise not. Then he related how he had seen two devout monks, whom he knew in Normandy to have lived and died well, who appearing told him they were sent messengers from God to foretel, that because the great ones of England, dukes, lords, bishops, and abbots, were not ministers of God but of the devil, God had delivered the land to their enemies; and when he desired, that he might reveal this vision, to the end they might repent, it was answered, they neither will repent, neither will God pardon them: at this relation others trembling, Stigand the simonious archbishop, whom Edward much to blame had suffered many years to sit primate in the church, is said to have laughed, as at the feverish dream of a doting old man; but the event proved true.
HAROLD, son of Earl Godwin.
Harold, whether by King Edward a little before his death ordained successor to the crown, as Simeon of Durham and others affirm; or by the prevalence of his faction, excluding Edgar the right heir, grandchild to Edmund Ironside, as Malmsbury and Huntingdon agree; no sooner was the funeral of King Edward ended, but on the same day was elected and crowned king: and no sooner placed in the throne, but began to frame himself by all manner of compliances to gain affection, endeavoured to make good laws, repealed bad, became a great patron to church and churchmen, courteous and affable to all reputed good, a hater of evil doers, charged all his officers to punish thieves, robbers, and all disturbers of the peace, while he himself by sea and land laboured in the defence of his country: so good an actor is ambition. In the mean while a blazing star, seven mornings together, about the end of April was seen to stream terribly, not only over England, but other parts of the world; foretelling here, as was thought, the great changes approaching: plainliest prognosticated by Elmer, a monk of Malmsbury, who could not foresee, when time was, the breaking of his own legs for soaring too high. He in his youth strangely aspiring, had made and fitted wings to his hands and feet; with these on the top of a tower, spread out to gather air, he flew more than a furlong; but the wind being too high, came fluttering down, to the maiming of all his limbs; yet so conceited of his art, that he attributed the cause of his fall to the want of a tail, as birds have, which he forgot to make to his hinder parts. This story, though seeming otherwise too light in the midst of a sad narration, yet for the strangeness thereof, I thought worthy enough the placing, as I found it placed in my author. But to digress no father: Tosti the king’s brother coming from Flanders, full of envy at his younger brother’s advancement to the crown, resolved what he might to trouble his reign; forcing therefore them of Wight Isle to contribution, he sailed thence to Sandwich, committing piracies on the coast between. Harold, then residing at London, with a great number of ships drawn together, and of horse troops by land, prepares in person for Sandwich: whereof Tosti having notice directs his course with sixty ships towards Lindsey, taking with him all the seamen he found, willing or unwilling; where he burnt many villages, and slew many of the inhabitants; but Edwin the Mercian duke, and Morcar his brother, the Northumbrian earl, with their forces on either side, soon drove him out of the country. Who thence betook him to Malcolm the Scottish king, and with him abode the whole summer.—About the same time duke William sending embassadors to admonish Harold of his promise and oath, to assist him in his plea to the kingdom, he made answer, that by the death of his daughter betrothed to him on that condition, he was absolved of his oath; or not dead, he could not take her now an outlandish woman, without consent of the realm; that it was presumptuously done, and not to be persisted in, if without consent or knowledge of the states, he had sworn away the right of the kingdom; that what he swore was to gain his liberty, being in a manner then his prisoner; that it was unreasonable in the duke, to require or expect of him the foregoing of a kingdom, conferred upon him with universal favour and acclamation of the people. To this flat denial he added contempt, sending the messengers back, saith Matthew Paris, on maimed horses. The duke, thus contemptuously put off, addresses himself to the pope, setting forth the justice of his cause; which Harold, whether through haughtiness of mind, or distrust, or that the ways to Rome were stopped, sought not to do. Duke William, besides the promise and oath of Harold, alleged that King Edward, by the advice of Seward, Godwin himself, and Stigand the archbishop, had given him the right of succession, and had sent him the son and nephew of Godwin, pledges of the gift: the pope sent to duke William, after this demonstration of his right, a consecrated banner. Whereupon he having with great care and choice got an army of tall and stout soldiers, under captains of great skill and mature age, came in August to the port of St. Valerie. Meanwhile Harold from London comes to Sandwich, there expecting his navy; which also coming, he sails to the Isle of Wight; and having heard of duke William’s preparations and readiness to invade him, kept good watch on the coast, and foot forces every where in fit places to guard the shore. But ere the middle of September, provision failing when it was most needed, both fleet and army return home. When on a sudden, Harold Harvager king of Norway, with a navy of more than five hundred great ships, (others lessen them by two hundred, others augment them to a thousand,) appears at the mouth of the Tine; to whom earl Tosti with his ships came as was agreed between them; whence both uniting set sail with all speed, and entered the river Humber. Thence turning into Ouse, as far as Rical, landed, and won York by assault. At these tidings Harold with all his power hastes thitherward; but ere his coming, Edwin and Morcar at Fulford by York, on the north side of Ouse, about the feast of St. Matthew had given them battle; successfully at first, but overborn at length with numbers; and forced to turn their backs, more of them perished in the river than in the fight.
The Norwegians taking with them five hundred hostages out of York, and leaving there one hundred and fifty of their own, retired to their ships. But the fifth day after, King Harold with a great and well-appointed army coming to York, and at Stamford bridge, or Battle bridge on Darwent, assailing the Norwegians, after much bloodshed on both sides, cut off the greatest part of them, with Harvager their king, and Tosti his own brother. But Olave the king’s son, and Paul earl of Orkney, left with many soldiers to guard the ships, surrendering themselves with hostages, and oath given never to return as enemies, he suffered freely to depart with twenty ships, and the small remnant of their army. One man of the Norwegians is not to be forgotten, who with incredible valor keeping the bridge a long hour against the whole English army, with his single resistance delayed their victory; and scorning offered life, till in the end no man daring to grapple with him, either dreaded as too strong, or contemned as one desperate, he was at length shot dead with an arrow; and by his fall opened the passage of pursuit to a complete victory. Wherewith Harold lifted up in mind, and forgetting now his former shows of popularity, defrauded his soldiers their due and well-deserved share of the spoils.
While these things passed in Northumberland, duke William lay still at St. Valerie; his ships were ready, but the wind served not for many days; which put the soldiery into much discouragement and murmur, taking this for an unlucky sign of their success; at last the wind came favourable, the duke first under sail awaited the rest at anchor, till all coming forth, the whole fleet of nine hundred ships with a prosperous gale arrived at Hastings. At his going out of the boat by a slip falling on his hands, to correct the omen, a soldier standing by said aloud, that their duke had taken possession of England. Landed, he restrained his army from waste and spoil, saying that they ought to spare what was their own. But these things are related of Alexander and Cæsar, and I doubt thence borrowed by the monks to inlay their story. The duke for fifteen days after landing kept his men quiet within the camp, having taken the castle of Hastings, or built a fortress there. Harold secure the while, and proud of his new victory, thought all his enemies now under foot: but sitting jollily at dinner, news is brought him that duke William of Normandy with a great multitude of horse and foot, slingers and archers, besides other choice auxiliaries which he had hired in France, was arrived at Pevensey. Harold, who had expected him all the summer, but not so late in the year as now it was, for it was October, with his forces much diminished after two sore conflicts, and the departing of many others from him discontented, in great haste marches to London. Thence not tarrying for supplies, which were on their way towards him, hurries into Sussex, (for he was always in haste since the day of his coronation,) and ere the third part of his army could be well put in order, finds the duke about nine miles from Hastings, and now drawing nigh, sent spies before him to survey the strength and number of his enemies: them discovered, such the duke causing to be led about, and after well filled with meat and drink, sent back. They not otherwise brought word, that the duke’s army were most of them priests; for they saw their faces all over shaven; the English then using to let grow on their upper lip large mustachios, as did anciently the Britons. The king laughing answered, that they were not priests, but valiant and hardy soldiers. Therefore said Girtha his brother, a youth of noble courage and understanding above his age, “Forbear thou thyself to fight, who art obnoxious to duke William by oath, let us unsworn undergo the hazard of battle, who may justly fight in the defence of our country; thou, reserved to fitter time, mayest either reunite us flying, or revenge us dead.” The king not hearkening to this, lest it might seem to argue fear in him or a bad cause, with like resolution rejected the offers of duke William sent to him by a monk before the battle, with this only answer hastily delivered, “Let God judge between us.” The offers were these, that Harold would either lay down the sceptre, or hold it of him, or try his title with him by single combat in sight of both armies, or refer it to the pope. These rejected, both sides prepared to fight the next morning, the English from singing and drinking all night, the Normans from confession of their sins, and communion of the host. The English were in a strait disadvantageous place, so that many, discouraged with their ill ordering, scarce having room where to stand, slipped away before the onset, the rest in close order, with their battleaxes and shields, made an impenetrable squadron: the king himself with his brothers on foot stood by the royal standard, wherein the figure of a man fighting was inwoven with gold and precious stones. The Norman foot, most bowmen, made the foremost front, on either side wings of horse somewhat behind. The duke arming, and his corslet given him on the wrong side, said pleasantly, “The strength of my dukedom will be turned now into a kingdom.” Then the whole army singing the song of Rowland, the remembrance of whose exploits might hearten them, imploring lastly divine help, the battle began; and was fought sorely on either side: but the main body of English foot by no means would be broken, till the duke causing his men to feign flight, drew them out with desire of pursuit into open disorder, then turned suddenly upon them so routed by themselves, which wrought their overthrow, yet so they died not unmanfully, but turning oft upon their enemies, by the advantage of an upper ground, beat them down by heaps, and filled up a great ditch with their carcasses. Thus hung the victory wavering on either side from the third hour of day to evening; when Harold having maintained the fight with unspeakable courage and personal valor, shot into the head with an arrow, fell at length, and left his soldiers without heart longer to withstand the unwearied enemy. With Harold fell also his two brothers, Leofwin and Girtha, with them greatest part of the English nobility. His body lying dead a knight or soldier wounding on the thigh, was by the duke presently turned out of military service. Of Normans and French were slain no small number; the duke himself that day not a little hazarded his person, having had three choice horses killed under him. Victory obtained, and his dead carefully buried, the English also by permission, he sent the body of Harold to his mother without ransom, though she offered very much to redeem it; which having received she buried at Waltham, in a church built there by Harold. In the mean while, Edwin and Morcar, who had withdrawn themselves from Harold, hearing of his death, came to London; sending Aldgith the queen their sister with all speed to West-chester.—Aldred archbishop of York, and many of the nobles, with the Londoners, would have set up Edgar the right heir, and prepared themselves to fight for him; but Morcar and Edwin not liking the choice, who each of them expected to have been chosen before him, withdrew their forces, and returned home. Duke William, contrary to his former resolution, (if Florent of Worcester, and they who follow him, say true,) wasting, burning, and slaying all in his way; or rather, as saith Malmsbury, not in hostile but in regal manner, came up to London, met at Barcham by Edgar, with the nobles, bishops, citizens, and at length Edwin and Morcar, who all submitted to him, gave hostages and swore fidelity, he to them promised peace and defence; yet permitted his men the while to burn and make prey. Coming to London with all his army, he was on Christmas-day solemnly crowned in the great church at Westminster, by Aldred archbishop of York, having first given his oath at the altar, in presence of all the people, to defend the church, well govern the people, maintain right law, prohibit rapine and unjust judgment. Thus the English, while they agreed not about the choice of their native king, were constrained to take the yoke of an outlandish conqueror. With what minds and by what course of life they had fitted themselves for this servitude, William of Malmsbury spares not to lay open. Not a few years before the Normans came, the clergy, though in Edward the Confessor’s days, had lost all good literature and religion, scarce able to read and understand their Latin service; he was a miracle to others who knew his grammar. The monks went clad in fine stuffs, and made no difference what they eat; which though in itself no fault, yet to their consciences was irreligious. The great men, given to gluttony and dissolute life, made a prey of the common people, abusing their daughters whom they had in service, then turning them off to the stews; the meaner sort tippling together night and day, spent all they had in drunkenness, attended with other vices which effeminate men’s minds. Whence it came to pass, that carried on with fury and rashness more than any true fortitude or skill of war, they gave to William their conqueror so easy a conquest. Not but that some few of all sorts were much better among them; but such was the generality. And as the long-suffering of God permits bad men to enjoy prosperous days with the good, so his severity ofttimes exempts not good men from their share in evil times with the bad.
If these were the causes of such misery and thraldom to those our ancestors, with what better close can be concluded, than here in fit season to remember this age in the midst of her security, to fear from like vices, without amendment, the revolution of like calamities?