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OF JOHN FOXE CONTAINING THE THREE HUNDRED YEARS, FROM THE REIGN OF KING EGBERT TO THE TIME OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
Now remaineth, likewise as before I did in describing the descent and diversity of the seven kings, all together reigning and ruling in this land, so to prosecute in like order the linear succession of those, who, after Egbert, king of the West Saxons, governed and ruled solely, until the conquest of William the Norman; first expressing their names, and afterwards importing such acts, as in their time happened in the Church worthy to be noted. Albeit, as touching the acts and doings of these kings, because they are sufficiently and at large described, and taken out of Latin writers into the English tongue, by divers and sundry authors, and namely in the History or Chronicle of Fabian; I shall not spend much travail thereupon, but rather refer the reader to him or to some other, where the troublesome tumults between the Englishmen and the Danes at that time may be seen, whoso listeth to read them. I have furnished a table of their names and reigns; and the acts done under their reigns I have compendiously abridged, using such brevity as the matter would allow.
Therein is to be noted, that, before the reign of Edward the Confessor, the Danes obtained the crown under their captain, Canute, who reigned nineteen years. Harold Harefoot, son of Canute, reigned about four years; Hardicanute, son of Canute, two years; Edward the Confessor, an Englishman, son of Ethelred, twenty-four years; Harold, son of Earl Godwin, an usurper, one year; and William the Conqueror, a Norman, reigned twenty-one years and ten months.
EGBERT THE GREAT:
KING OF THE WEST SAXONS, AFTERWARDS MONARCH OF THE WHOLE REALM In the reign of Brightric, a little before mentioned, about the year of grace 795, there was in his dominion a noble personage, of some called Egbert, of some Ethelbert, of some Ethelbright; who, being feared of the same Brightric, because he was of kingly blood and near unto the crown, was, by the force and conspiracy of the aforenamed Brightric, chased and pursued out of the land of Britain into France, where he endured till the death of the said Brightric; after the hearing whereof Egbert sped him eftsoons out of France unto his country of West-Sax, where he in such wise behaved himself that he obtained the regiment and governance of the above-said kingdom.
Bernulph, king of Mercia, abovementioned, and other kings, had this Egbert in such derision, that they made of him divers scoffing jests and scorning rhymes, all which he sustained for a time. But when he was more established in his kingdom, and had proved the minds of his subjects, and especially God working withal, he after ward assembled his knights, and gave to the said Bernulph a battle, in a place called Elinden, in the province of Hampton; and, notwithstanding in that fight were great odds of number, as six or eight against one, yet Egbert (through the might of the Lord, who giveth victory as pleaseth him) had the better, and won the field; which done, he seized that lordship into his hand; and that also done, he made war upon the Kentish Saxons, and at length of them, in like wise, obtained the victory. And, as it is in Polychronicon testified, he also subdued Northumberland, and caused the kings of these three kingdoms to live under him as tributaries, or joined them to his kingdom. This Egbert also won from the Britons or Welshmen the town of Chester, f6 which they had kept possession of till this day. After these and other victories, he, peaceably enjoying the land, called a council of his lords at Winchester, where, by their advice, he was crowned king and chief lord over this land, which before that day was called Britain; but then he sent out into all coasts of the land his commandments and commissions, charging straitly that, from that day forward, the Saxons should be called Angles, and the land Anglia.
About the thirtieth year of the reign of Egbert, the heathenish people of the Danes, which a little before had wade horrible destruction in Northumberland, and especially in the isle of Lindisfarn, where they spoiled the churches, and murdered the ministers, with men, women, and children, after a cruel manner, entered now the second time, with a great host, into this land, and spoiled the isle of Sheppy in Kent, or near to Kent; where Egbert, hearing thereof, assembled his people, and met with them at Charmouth: but in that conflict a1 he sped not so well as he was wont in times before, but with his knights was compelled to forsake the field. Notwithstanding, in the next battle, a2 the said Egbert, with a small power, overthrew a great multitude of them, and so drove them back. The next year following, the said Danes presuming upon their victory before, made their return again into the land westward, where joining with the Britons, by their help and power they assailed the lands of Egbert, and did much harm in many places of his dominion and elsewhere; so that after this day they were continually abiding in one place of the realm of England or other, till the time of Hardicanute, last king of the Danes’ blood; so that many of them were married to English women, and many that now be, or in times past were, called English men, are descended of them. And albeit that they were many and sundry times driven out of the land, and chased from one country to another, yet, that notwithstanding, they ever gathered new strength and power, that they abode still within the land.
And thus, as by stories appears, this troublesome land of Britain, now called England, hath been hitherto by five sundry outward nations plagued: first, by the Romans; then, by the Scots and Picts; thirdly, by the Saxons; fourthly, by the Danes, of whose outrageous cruelty and hostility our English histories do most exclaim and complain; fifthly, by the Normans, who, I pray God, may be the last.
Then it followeth in the story, that the time of this persecution of the aforesaid pagans and Danes continuing, King Egbert, when he had ruled the West Saxons, and over the more part of England, by the term of seven and thirty years, died, and was buried at Winchester, leaving to his son Ethelwolf his kingdom, who first was bishop of Winchester, (as Hoveden recordeth), and after, upon necessity, made king, leaving withal, and pronouncing this saying to his son, “Felicem fore si regnum, quod multa rexerat industria, ille consueta genti illi non interrumperet ignavia.”
ETHELWOLF EthelWolf, the son of Egbert, in his former age had entered into the order of sub-deacon, as some others say, was made bishop of Winchester; but afterwards, being the only son of Egbert, was made king through the dispensation, as Fabian saith, of Pope Paschal: but that cannot be, for Paschal then was not bishop: so that, by the computation of time, it should rather seem to be Gregory IV f12 This Gregory IV was the third pope who succeeded after Paschal I, being but four years betwixt them: which Paschal succeeded after Stephen IV, who followed after Leo III, next pope to Adrian above in our history mentioned, where we treated of Charlemagne. From the time of that Adrian I unto Pope Adrian III the emperors had some stroke in the election, at least in the confirmation of the Roman pope. Notwithstanding, divers of those aforesaid popes in the mean time began to work their practices to bring their purpose about; but yet all their devices could take no full effect before the said Adrian III, as hereafter (Christ willing) shall be declared; so that the emperors all this while bare some rule in choosing the popes, and in assembling general councils. Wherefore, by the commandment of Louis, the emperor, in the time of this Gregory IV, a general synod was commenced at Aix-la-Chapelle, where it was decreed by the said Gregory and his assistants: first, that every church should have sufficient of its own proper lands and revenues to find the priests thereof, that none should need to lack or go about a begging; Item, that none of the clergy, of what order or degree soever they be, should use any vesture of any precious or scarlet color, neither should wear rings on their fingers, unless it be when prelates be at mass, or give their consecrations; Item, that prelates should not keep too great ports or families, nor keep great horse, nor use dice, or harlots, and that the monks should not exceed measure in gluttony or riot; Item, that none of the clergy, being either anointed or shaven, should use either gold or silver in their shoes, slippers, or girdles, like to Heliogabalus. By this it may be conjectured, what pomp and pride in those days had crept into the clergy. Moreover, by the said Pope Gregory IV, at the commandment of Louis, the emperor, the feast of All Saints was first brought into the church.
After this pope came Sergius II, who first brought in a4 the altering of the popes’ names, because he was named before ‘Os porci,’ that is, ‘Swine’s snout:’ who also ordained the ‘Agnus’ thrice to be sung at the mass, and the host to be divided into three parts.
After him was Pope Leo IV, to whom this King Ethelwolf (as in this present chapter is hereafter specified) did commit the tuition of his son Alfred. By this Pope Leo IV it came in, and was first enacted in a council of his, that no bishop should be condemned under threescore and twelve witnesses; according as ye see in the witnesses at the condemnation of Stephen Gardiner orderly practiced. Item, contrary to the law of Gregory IV, his predecessor, this pope ordained the cross, all set with gold and precious stones, to be carried before him, like a pope.
And here next now followeth and cometh in the whore of Babylon [Revelation 19:2,] (rightly in her true colors, by the permission of God, and manifestly without all tergiversation) to appear to the whole world: and that not only after the spiritual sense, but after the very letter, and the right form of an whore indeed. For after this Leo abovementioned, the cardinals, proceeding to their ordinary election (after a solemn mass of the Holy Ghost), to the perpetual shame of them and of that see, instead of a man pope, elected a whore indeed to minister sacraments, to say masses, to give orders, to constitute deacons, priests, and bishops; to promote prelates, to make abbots, to consecrate churches and altars, to have the reign and rule of emperors and kings: and so she did indeed, called by name Joan VIII. This woman’s proper name was Gilberts, a Dutch woman of Mayence, who went with an English monk out of the abbey of Fulda in man’s apparel unto Athens, and after, through her dexterity of wit and learning, was promoted to the popedom, where she sat two years and six months. At last, openly in the face of a general procession, she fell in labor and travail of child, and so died; by reason whereof the cardinals, yet to this day, do avoid to come near by that street where this shame was taken. By Benedict III who succeeded next in the whorish see, was first ordained (as most writers do record) the “Dirige” to be said for the dead.
Albeit before him, Gregory III had done in that matter worthily for his part already.
After him sat Pope Nicholas I who enlarged the pope’s decrees with many constitutions, equaling the authority of them with the writings of the apostles. He ordained that no secular prince, nor the emperor himself, should be present at their councils, unless in matters concerning the faith; to the end that such as they judged to be heretics, they should execute and murder; Also, that no laymen should sit in judgment upon the clergy, or reason upon the pope’s power; Item, that no Christian magistrate should have any power upon any prelate, alleging that a prelate is called God; Item, that all church service should be in Latin; yet, notwithstanding, dispensing with the Sclavonians and Poles to retain still their vulgar language. Sequences in the mass were by him first allowed. By this pope priests began to be restrained a6 and debarred from marrying: whereof Huldericke, bishop of Augsburgh, a learned and a holy man, sending a letter unto the pope, gravely and learnedly refuteth and reclaimeth against his indiscreet proceedings touching that matter. The copy of which letter, as I thought it unworthy to be suppressed, so I judged it here worthy and meet for the better instruction of the reader to be inserted; the words thereof here follow, out of Latin into English translated.
A LEARNED EPISTLE OF HULDERICKE, BISHOP OF AUGSBURGH, Sent to Pope Nicholas I., proving by probations substantial that priests ought not to be restrained from marriage. f15 “Huldericke, bishop only by name, unto the reverend Father Nicholas, the vigilant overseer of the holy church of Rome, with due commendation sendeth love as a son, and fear as a servant.
Understanding, reverend Father, your decrees which you sent to me concerning the single life of the clergy, to be far discrepant from all discretion, I was troubled partly with fear, and partly with heaviness. With fear—for that, as it is said, the sentence of the pastor, whether it be just or unjust, is to be feared. For I was afraid lest the weak hearers of the Scripture, who scarcely obey the just sentence of their pastor, much more despise his unjust sentence, should show themselves disobedient to this oppressive, nay intolerable, decree of their pastor. With heaviness I was troubled, and with compassion—for that I doubted how the members of the body should do, their head being so greatly out of frame. For what can be more grievous or more worthy the compassion of the whole church, than for you, being the bishop of the principal see, to whom appertaineth the examination of the whole church, to swerve never so little out of the right way! Certes, in this you have not a little erred, in that you have gone about to constrain your clergy to continency of marriage with imperious tyranny, whom rather you ought to admonish on the subject. For is not this to be counted a violence and tyranny in the judgment of all wise men, when a man is compelled by private decrees to do that which is against the institution of the gospel and the suggestion of the Holy Ghost?
Seeing then there be so many holy examples both of the Old and New Testament, teaching us (as you know) holy discretion, I desire your patience not to think it grievous for me to bring a few here out of many.
First, in the old law, the Lord permitteth marriage unto the priests, which afterward in the new law we do not read to be restrained, but in the gospel thus he saith, “There be some which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, but all men do not take this word; he that can take it, let him take it.” [Matthew 19:12] Wherefore the apostle saith, “Concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord, but only give counsel.” [1 Corinthians 7:25] Which counsel he knowing that all men could not take, according to the Lord’s saying before; nay—seeing that many professed admirers of the said counsel, who sought to please men, not God, by a false pretense of continency, actually fell into horrible wickedness Therefore, lest through the infection of this wicked pestilence the state of the church should be too much periled, he said, “Because of fornication, let every man have his own wife.” [1 Corinthians 7:2] Touching which saying our false hypocrites falsely do lie and feign, as though only it pertained to the laity, and not to them. And yet they themselves, seeming to be set in the most holy order, are not aft-aid to commit adultery, and, as we see with weeping eyes, they all do outrage in the aforesaid wickedness. These men have not rightly understood the Scripture, whose breasts while they suck so hard, instead of milk they suck out blood. For the saying of the apostle, “Let every man have his own wife,” [1 Corinthians 7:2] doth except none in very deed, but him only who hath made a profession of continency, prefixing with himself to keep his virginity in the Lord. Wherefore, O reverend Father, it shall be your part to cause and oversee, that whosoever either with hand or mouth hath made a vow of continency, and afterward would forsake it, either should be compelled to keep his vow, or else by lawful authority should be deposed from his order.
And to bring this to pass, you shall not only have me, but also all other of my order, to be helpers unto you. But that you may understand, that those who know not what a vow doth mean, are not to be violently compelled thereunto, hear what the apostle saith to Timothy, “A bishop must be irreprehensible, the husband of one wife.” [1 Timothy 3:2-12.] Which sentence lest you should turn and apply only to the church, mark what he inferreth after, “He that knoweth not to rule his own household and family, how should he rule the church of God?” “And likewise the deacons,” saith he, “let them be the husband of one wife, which have knowledge to govern their own house and children.” And this wife, how she is to be blest of the priest, you understand sufficiently, I suppose, by the decrees of holy Sylvester, the pope.
To these and such other holy sentences of the Scripture agreeth also he that is the writer of the Rule of the clergy,’ writing after this manner, A clerk must be chaste and continent, or else let him be coupled in the bands of matrimony, having one wife. f16 Whereby it is to be gathered, that the bishop and deacon are noted infamous and reprehensible, if they be divided among more women than one: otherwise, if they do forsake one under the pretense of religion, both they together, as well the bishop as the deacon, be here condemned by the canonical sentence, which saith, “Let no bishop or priest forsake his own wife, under the color and pretense of religion. If he do forsake her, let him be excommunicate. And if he so continue, let him be degraded.” St. Augustine also, a man of discreet holiness, saith in these words, “There is no offense so great or grievous, but it is to be allowed, in order to avoid a greater evil.”
Furthermore, we read in the second book of the Tripartite History, that when the Council of Nice, going about to establish the same decree, would enact that bishops, priests, and deacons, after their consecration, either should abstain utterly from their own wives, or else should be deposed; then Paphnutius (one of those holy martyrs of whom the Emperor Maximus had put out the right eye, and hocked their left legs) rising up amongst them, withstood their purposed decree, confessing marriage to be honorable, and asserting the bed of matrimony to be chastity; and so dissuaded the council from making that law, declaring what occasion thereby might come to them selves and their wives of fornication. And thus much did Paphnutius (being unmarried himself) declare unto them. And the whole council, commending his sentence, gave place thereto, and left the matter freely without compulsion to the will of every man, to do therein as he thought right.
Notwithstanding, there be some who take St. Gregory for their defense in this matter, whose temerity I laugh at and ignorance I lament; for they know not how that the dangerous decree of this heresy being made by St. Gregory, he afterwards well revoked the same, with condign fruit of repentance. For upon a certain day, as he sent unto his fishpond to have fish, and did see more than six thousand infants’ heads brought to him, which were taken out of the same pond or moat, he did greatly repent in himself the decree made before touching the single life of priests, which he confessed to he the cause of that so lamentable a murder. And so purging the same (as I said) with condign fruit of repentance, he altered again the things which he had decreed before, commending that counsel of the apostle, which saith, “It is better to marry than to burn” [1 Corinthians 7:9]; adding moreover of himself thereunto, and saying, “It is better to marry than to give occasion of death.”
Peradventure if these men had read with me this which so happened, I think they would not be so rash in their doing and judging, fearing at least the Lord’s commandment, “Do not judge, that you be not judged” [Matthew 7:4] And St. Paul saith, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? Either he standeth or falleth to his own master; but he shall stand; for the Lord is mighty and able to make him stand.”
Therefore let your holiness cease to compel and enforce those whom only you ought to admonish, lest through your own private commandment (which God forbid) you be found contrary as well to the Old Testament as to the New; for, as St. Augustine saith to Donatus, “This only do we fear about you, lest, in your zeal for righteousness, you should be for punishing transgressors more with reference to the aggravation of their offenses than to the tender forbearance of Christ. This we do beseech you for his sake not to do. For transgressions are so to be punished, that the transgressors may haply be brought to repentance. Also another saying of St.
Augustine we would have you to remember, which is this: “ Nil nocendi fiat cupiditate, omnia consulendi charitate, et nihil fiat immaniter, nihil inhumaniter;” that is, Let nothing be done through the greediness of hurting, but all things through the charity of profiting; neither let any thing be done cruelly, nothing ungently.” Item, of the same Augustine it is written, “In the fear and name of Christ I exhort you, which of you soever have not the goods of this world, be not greedy to have them; such as have them, presume not too much upon them. For I say, to have them is no damnation; but if you presume upon them, that is damnation, if for the having of them you shall seem great in your own sight, or if you do forget the common condition of man through the excellency of any thing you have. Use therefore therein due discretion, tempered with moderation.” The which cup of discretion is drawn out of the fountain of the apostolic preaching, which said, ‘Art thou loose from thy wife? do not seek for thy wife. Art thou bound to thy wife? seek not to be loosed from her.’ [1 Corithians 7:27] here also it followeth, ‘Such as have wives, let them be as though they had them not, and they that use the world, let them be as not using it.’ Item, concerning the widow he saith, ‘Let her marry to whom she will, only in the Lord.’ [1 Corinthians 7:39] To marry in the Lord is nothing else, but to attempt nothing in contraction of matrimony, which the Lord doth forbid. Jeremy also saith, ‘Trust not in the words of lies; saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ [Jeremiah 7:4] The which saying of Jeremy, Hierome expoundeth thus, “This may agree also, and be applied, to such virgins as brag and vaunt of their virginity, with an impudent face pretending chastity when they have another thing in their conscience, and know not how the apostle defineth the virgin, that she should be holy in body, and also in spirit. For what availeth the chastity of the body, if the mind inwardly be unchaste, or if it have not the other virtues, which the prophetical sermon doth describe?”
The which virtues forsomuch as we see partly to be in you, and because we are not ignorant that this discretion, although neglected in this part, yet in the other actions of your life is kept honestly of you, we do not despair but you will also soon amend the little lack which is behind; and therefore (though not so severely as we might, so serious is the offense) we do blame and condemn this your negligence. For although, according to our common calling, a bishop is greater than a priest, yet Augustine was less than Hierome, a7 and a good correction proceeding from the lesser to the greater is not to be refused or disdained, especially when he who is corrected is found to strive against the truth, to please men. For, as St.
Augustine saith, writing to Boniface, “the disputations of men, be they never so catholic or approved persons, ought not to be placed on a par with the canonical Scriptures, as though we may not disapprove or refuse (saving the reverence which is due unto them) any thing that is in their writings, if any tiling therein be found contrary to the truth, as discovered through divine aid either by ourselves or others.” And what can be found more contrary to the truth than this, viz. that when the Truth him self, speaking of continency, not of one only, but of all (the number only excepted of them which have professed continency), saith, “He that can take, let him take;” these men, moved I cannot tell by what cause, do turn and say, “He that cannot take, let him be accursed?” And what can be more foolish with men or displeasing to God, than when any bishop or arch deacon run themselves headlong into all kinds of lust, yet shame not to say, that the chaste marriage of priests is in ill savor with them; and do not, with the compassion of real righteousness, entreat their clerks, as their fellow-servants, to contain, but with the pride of mere pretended righteousness command them and enforce them violently, as servants, to abstain?
Unto the which imperious commandment of theirs, or counsel (whichever you will call it), they add also this foolish and scandalous suggestion, saying, “that it is more honest privily to have to do with many women, than apertly in the sight and conscience of many men to be bound to one wife.” the which truly they would not say, if they were either of Him, or in Him, who saith, “Woe to you Pharisees, which do all things before men.” And so the Psalmist, “Because they please men they are confounded, for the Lord hath despised them.” [Psalm 53:5] These be the men who ought first to persuade us that we should shame to sin privily in the sight of Him, to whom all things be open, and then that we seem in the sight of men to be clean. These men therefore, although through their sinful wickedness they deserve no counsel of godliness to be given them, yet we, not forgetting our humanity, cease not to give them counsel, by the authority of God’s word, which seeketh all men’s salvation, desiring them by the bowels of charity, and saying with the words of Scripture, “Cast out, thou hypocrite, first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see to east the mote out of the eye of thy brother.”
Moreover, this also we desire them to attend to, what the Lord saith of the adulterous woman, “Which of you that is without sin, let him east the first stone against her.” As though he would say,” If Moses bid you, I also bid you. But yet I require you that be the competent ministers and executors of the law, take heed what you add thereunto; take heed also, I pray you, what you are yourselves: for if, as the Scripture saith, thou shalt well consider thyself, thou wilt never defame or detract from another.”
Moreover, it is signified unto us also, that some there be of them, who, when they ought like good shepherds to give their lives for the Lord’s flock, yet are they puffed up with such pride, that without all reason they presume to rend and tear the Lord’s flock with whippings and beatings; whose unreasonable doings St.
Gregory bewailing, thus saith, “Quid fiat de ovibus quando pastores lupi fiunt?” that is, “What shall become of the sheep when the pastors them selves be wolves?” But who is overcome, but he who exerciseth cruelty? Or who shall judge the persecutor, but He who gave patiently his back to stripes? But it is worth while to learn the fruit which cometh to the church by such persecutors, also which cometh to the clergy by such despiteful handling of their bishops, more like infidels. (Nay—why may I not call them infidels, of whom St. Paul thus speaketh and writeth to Timothy; that “in the latter days there shall certain depart from the faith, and give heed to spirits of error and doctrine of devils; that speak false through hypocrisy, having their con sciences marked with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” [1 Timothy 4:1-3]) This, then, if it be well-marked, is the bundle which will grow from their darnel and cockle sown amongst the corn; this is all the event of their madness; that while they of the clergy be compelled through a Pharisaic frenzy (which God forbid) to relinquish the company of their own lawful wives, they must become vile ministers of fornication and adultery and other sinful filthiness, through the fault of those which brought into the church of God this heresy, as blind guides leading the blind; that it might be fulfilled which the Psalmist speaketh of such leaders in error, accursing them after this manner, “Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not, and how down always their hack.” [Psalm 69:23] Forsomuch then, O apostolical sir! as no man who knoweth you, is ignorant, that if you through the light of your wonted discretion had understood and seen what poisoned pestilence must come into the church through the sentence of this your decree, you would never have consented to the suggestions of certain wicked persons; therefore, we counsel you, by the fidelity of our due subjection, that with all diligence you put away so great slander from the church of God, and through your discreet discipline remove this Pharisaical doctrine from the flock of God so that this only Shunsmite of the Lord’s (using no more adulterous husbands) do not separate the holy people and the kingly priesthood from her spouse which is Christ, through an irrecoverable divorcement: seeing that no man without chastity (not only in the virgin’s state, but also in the state of matrimony) shall see our Lord, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth for ever. Amen. ” By this epistle of Bishop Huldericke above prefixed the matter is plain, gentle reader, to conceive what was then the sentence of learned men concerning the marriage of ministers: but here, by the way, the reader is to be admonished, that this epistle, which by error of the writer is referred to Pope Nicholas I, in my mind is rather to be attributed to the name and time of Nicholas II or III.
After this Pope Nicholas succeeded Adrian I., John VIII, and Martinus II.
After these came Adrian III. and Stephen V. By this Adrian it was first decreed, a9 That no emperor after that time should intermeddle or have any thing to do in the election of the pope; and thus began the emperors first to decay, and the papacy to swell and rise aloft. Thus much concerning Romish matters for this time.
Then to return where we left, touching the story of King Ethelwolf. About the beginning of his reign, the Danes, who before had invaded the realm in the time of King Egbert, as is above declared, now made their re-entry again, with three and thirty ships arriving about Hampshire; through the barbarous tyranny of whom much bloodshed and murder happened here among Englishmen, in Dorsetshire, about Portsmouth, in Kent, in East Anglia, in Lindsey, at Rochester, about London, and in Wessex, where Ethelwolf, the king, was overcome, besides divers other kings and dukes, whom the Danes, daily approaching in great multitudes, in divers victories had put to flight. At length King Ethelwolf, with his son Ethelbald, warring against them in Southcry, at Ocley, drove them to the sea; where they hovering a space, after a while burst in again with horrible rage and cruelty, as hereafter (Christ willing) shall be declared, so much as to our purpose shall serve, professing in this history to write of no matters extern and politic, but only pertaining to the church. The cause of this great affliction sent of God unto this realm, thus I found expressed and collected in a certain old written story, which hath no name: the words of which writer, for the same cause as he thought to recite them, (writing, as he saith, “ad cautelam futurorum,”) I thought also for the same here not to be omitted, albeit in all parts of his commendation I do not fully with him accord. The words of the writer be these: f22 “In the primitive church of the Englishmen religion did most clearly shine, insomuch that kings, queens, princes and dukes, consuls, barons, and rulers of churches, incensed with the desire of the kingdom of heaven, laboring and striving among themselves to enter into monkcry, into voluntary exile, and solitary life, forsook all, and followed the Lord. But, in process of time, all virtue so much decayed among them, that in fraud and treachery none seemed like unto them: neither was to them any thing odious or hateful, but piety and justice; neither any thing in price or honor, but civil war and shedding, of innocent blood. Wherefore, Almighty God sent upon them pagan and cruel nations, like swarms of bees, which neither spared women nor children, as Danes, Norwegians, Goths, Swedes, Vandals, and Frisians: who, from the, beginning of the reign of King Ethelwolf till the coming of the Normans, by the space of nearly two hundred and thirty years, destroyed this sinful land from the one side-of-the-sea to the other, from man also to beast. For why? they, invading England ofttimes of every side, went not about to subdue and possess it, but only to spoil and destroy it. And if it had chanced them at any time to be overcome of the English, it availed nothing, since other navies with still greater power in other places were ready upon a sudden and unawares to approach them.”
Thus far have you the words of mine author, declaring the cause which provoked God’s anger: whereunto may be adjoined the wickedness, not only of them but of their forefathers also before them, who, falsely breaking the faith and promise made with the Britons, did cruelly murder their nobles, wickedly oppressed their commons, impiously persecuted the innocent Christians, injuriously possessed their land and habitation, chasing the inhabitants out of house and country; besides the violent murder of the monks of Bangor, and divers foul slaughters among the poor Britons, who sent for them to be their helpers. Wherefore God’s just recompense falling upon them from that time, never suffered them to be quiet from foreign enemies, till the coming of William the Norman.
Moreover, concerning the outward occasions given of the English men’s parts, moving the Danes first to invade the realm, I find in certain stories two most specially assigned; the one unjustly given, and justly taken, the other not given justly, and unjustly taken. Of the which two, the first was given in Northumberland, by the means of Osbright, reigning underking of the West Saxons, in the north parts. This Osbright upon a time journeying by the way, turned into the house of one of his nobles, called Bruer, who, having at home a wife of great beauty (he being absent abroad), the king after his dinner, allured with the excellency of her beauty, did sorely ill-treat her: whereupon, she being greatly dismayed and vexed in her mind, made her moan to her husband returning, of this violence and injury received. Bruer consulting with his friends, first went to the king, resigning into his hands all such service and possessions which he did hold of him: that done, he took shipping and sailed into Denmark, where he had great friends, and had his bringing up before. There, making his moan to Codrinus the king, he desired his aid in revenging the great villany of Osbright against him and his wife. Codrinus hearing this, and glad to have some just quarrel to enter their land, levied an army with all speed, and preparing all things necessary for the same, sendeth forth Inguar and Hubba, two brethren, his chief captains, with an innumerable multitude of Danes, into England; who first arriving at Holderness, there burnt up the country, and killed without mercy both men, women, and children, whom they could lay hands upon; then marching towards York, entered their battle with the aforesaid Osbright, where he with the most part of his army was slain; and so the Danes entered possession of the city of York.
Some others say, and it is by the most part of story writers recorded, that the chief cause of the coming of Inguar and Hubba with the Danes, was, to be revenged of King Edmund, reigning under the West Saxons over the East Angles in Norfolk and Suffolk, for the murdering of a certain Dane, father to Inguar and Hubba, which was falsely imputed to King Edmund. The story is thus told. f25 “A certain nobleman of the Danes, of the king’s stock, called Lothbroke, father to Inguar and Hubba, entering upon a time with his hawk into a certain skiff or cock-boat alone, by chance, through tempest, was driven with his hawk to the coast of Norfolk, named Rudham, where he, being found and detained, was presented to the king. The king understanding his parentage, and seeing his case, entertained him in his court accordingly; and every day more and more perceiving his activity and great dexterity in hunting and hawking, bare special favor unto him, insomuch that the king’s falconer, or master of game, bearing privy envy against him, secretly, as they were hunting together in a wood, did murder him, and threw him into a bush. This Lothbroke, being murdered, within two or three days began to be missed in the king’s house; of whom no tidings could be heard, but only by a dog or spaniel of his, which continuing in the wood with the corpse of his master, at sundry times came and fawned upon the king, so long that at length they, following the trace of the hound, were brought to the place where Lothbroke lay. Whereupon inquisition being made, at length, by certain circumstances of words and other evidences, it was known how and by whom he was murdered, that was by the king’s huntsman, named Berike; who thereupon being convicted, was put into the same boat of Lothbroke, alone, and without any tackling, to drive by seas, and thus either to be saved by the weather, or to be drowned in the deep. And as it chanced Lothbroke from Denmark to be driven to Norfolk, so it happened that from Norfolk Berike was cast into Denmark, where the boat of Lothbroke being well known, hands were!aid upon him, and inquisition made of the party. In fine, in his torments, to save himself, he uttered an untruth of King Edmund, saying, ‘That the king had put Lothbroke to death in the county of Norfolk.’ Whereupon grudge first was conceived, then an army appointed, and great multitudes sent into England to revenge that fact, where first they arriving in Northumberland, destroyed, as is said, those parts first. From thence sailing into Norfolk, they exercised the like tyranny there upon the inhabitants thereof, especially upon the innocent prince and blessed martyr of God, King Edmund.” Concerning the further declaration whereof hereafter shall follow (Christ our Lord so permitting) more to be spoken, as place and observation of time and years shall require.
This Ethelwolf had especially about him two bishops, whose counsel he was most ruled by, Swithin, bishop of Winchester, and Adelstan, bishop of Sherborne. Of the which two, the one was more skillful in temporal and civil affairs touching the king’s wars, and filling of his coffers, and other furniture for the king. The other, which was Swithin, was of a contrary sort, wholly disposed and inclined to spiritual meditation, and to minister spiritual counsel to the king; who had been schoolmaster to the king before. Wherein appeared one good condition of this king’s nature, among his other virtues, not only in following the precepts and advertisements of his old schoolmaster, but also in that he, like a kind and thankful pupil, did so reverence his bringer-up and old schoolmaster (as he called him), that he ceased not, till he made him bishop of Winchester, by the consecration of Celnoch, then archbishop of Canterbury. But as concerning the miracles which are read in the church of Winchester, of this Swithin, them I leave to be read together with the Iliads of Homer, or the tales of Robin Hood.
This Ethelwolf (as being himself once nuzled in that order) was always good and devout to holy church and religious orders, inso much that he gave to them the tithe of all his goods and lands in West Saxony, with liberty and freedom from all servage and civil charges; whereof his chart instrument beareth testimony after this tenor proceeding, much like to the donation of Ethelbald, king of Mercians above mentioned.
Regnante in perpetuum Domino nostro Jesu Christo, in nostris temporibus per bellorum incendia, et direptiones opum nostrarum, necnon et vastantium crudelissimas depraedationes hostium barbarorum, paganarumque gentium multiplices tribulationes affligentium nos pro peccatis nostris usque ad internecionem, tempora cernimus incumbere periculosa. Quamobrem, ego Ethelwulfus Rex occidentalium Saxonum, cum consilio Episcoporum et principum meorum, consilium salubre atque uniforme remedium affirmavi: ut aliquam portionem terrae meae, Deo et beatae Mariae et omnibus sanctis jure perpetuo possidendam concedam, decimam scilicet partem terrae meae ut sit tuta muneribus et libera ab omnibus servitiis secularibus, necnon regalibus tributis majoribus et minoribus, sive taxationibus, quas nos Witteredden appellamus: sitque omnium rerum libera, pro remissione animarum et peccatorum meorum, ad serviendum soli Deo, sine expeditione, et pontis constructione, et arcis munitione, ut eo diligentius pro nobis preces ad Deum sine cessatione fundant, quo eorum servitutem in aliquo levigamus. Placuit autem episcopis ecclesiae Scire-burnensis Alstano, et Winton Switheno, cum suis abbatibus et Dei servis, viris scilicet et foeminis religiosis quibus supradicta collata sunt beneficia, consilia inire, ut omnes fratres et sorores omni hebdomada, die Mercurii, hoc est Wednesday, in unaqnaque ecclesia cantent psalmos 50 et unusquisque presbyter duas missas, unam pro rege, et aliam pro ducibus ejus in hunc modum consentientibus, pro salute et refrigerio delictorum suorum.
Postquam autem defuncti fuerimus, pro rege defuncto singulariter, et pro ducibus communiter. Et hoe sit firmiter constitutum omnibus diebus Christianitatis, sicut libertas constituta est, quamdiu fides crescit in genre Anglorum. Scripta est autem haec donationis charta, anno gratiae 855 indictione quarta quinto nonas Novemb. in urbe Wentana ante majus altare beati Petri apostoli.
Hereby it may appear, how and when the churches of England began first to be endowed with temporalities and lands, also with privileges and exemptions enlarged: moreover (and that which specially is to be considered and lamented), what pernicious doctrine this was, wherewith they were led thus to set remission of their sins and remedy of their souls, in this donation and such other deeds of their devotion, contrary to the information of God’s word, and with no small derogation from the Cross of Christ.
These things thus done a11 within the realm, the said Ethelwolf, the king, taking his journey to Rome with Alfred, his youngest son, committed him to the bringing up of Pope Leo IV, where he also re-edified the English school at Rome; which, being founded by King Offa, or rather by Ine, king of Mercians, as in the ‘Flowers of Histories’ is affirmed, was lately, in the time of King Egbert his father, consumed with fire. Further and besides, this king gave and granted there unto Rome, of every fire-house a penny to be paid through his whole land, as King Ine in his dominion had done before. Also, he gave and granted, yearly to be paid to Rome, 300 marks, that is, to the maintaining of the lights of St. Peter, 100 marks; to the lights of St. Paul, 100 marks; to the use of the Pope also another hundred. f27 This done, he returning home through France, married there Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, the French king; whom he restored afterward (contrary to the laws of West Saxons) to the title and throne of a queen.
For before, it was decreed among the West Saxons, by the occasion of wicked Ethelburga, who poisoned Brightric, her own husband, that after that, no king’s wife there should have the name or place of a queen.
And forsomuch as I have here entered into the mention of Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, the occasion thereof putteth me in memory here to insert by the way a matter done, although not in this realm, yet not impertinent to this ecclesiastical history. And first, to deduce the narration thereof from the first original. The father of this Charles the Bald, whose name was Louis, the first of that name, called “the Pious,” king of France, had two wives; whereof by the first he had three sons, Lothaim, Pepin, and Louis: which three sons unnaturally and unkindly conspiring against their father and his second wife, with her son, their youngest brother, persecuted him so that through a certain council of lords spiritual and temporal, they deposed the same their natural and right godly father, dispossessing and discharging him of all rule and dominion. Moreover, they caused him to renounce his temporal habit, enclosing him in the monastery of St. Mark, for a monk, or lather a prisoner. All which done, they divided his empire and kingdom among themselves.
Thus was Louis the Pious of impious sons left desolate. But the power of God which worketh, when all earthly power ceaseth, of his divine mercy so aided and recovered him out of all his tribulation to this imperial dignity again, that it was to all his enemies confusion, and to all good men a miracle. But this by the way. By his second wife, whose name was Judith, he had this Charles the Bald, here mentioned. Which Judith was thought, and so accused to the pope, to be within such degree of alliance, that by the pope’s law she might not continue his wife without the pope’s dispensation. It so fell out in the mean time, that this Louis, the emperor, had promoted a young man named Frederic, to be bishop of Utrecht; and to him had given sad and good exhortation, that he remembering and following the constancy of his predecessors, would maintain right and truth without all exception of any person, and punish misdoers with excommunication, as well the rich as the poor; with such like words of godly counsel. Frederic, hearing the king thus say, sitting at dinner with him as the manner was, being newly invested, in these words answered the emperor again: “I thank your majesty,” saith he, “who with your so wholesome exhortation put me in mind of my profession. But I beseech you, of your benign favor and patience, that I may freely disclose that which hath long encumbered and pierced my conscience.” To whom leave being given, thus he began: “I pray you, lord emperor, to show me herein your mind” (pointing to the fish before him), “whether it is more according to propriety to attack this fish here present, beginning first at the head or at the tail”? “What a tale is this?” quoth the emperor, “of the tail and of the head?” “At the head,” quoth he. Then Frederic, taking thereof his occasion, proceedeth: “Even so let it be, lord emperor,” saith he, “as you have said. Let Christian faith and charity first begin with yourself, as with the head, admonishing you to cease from your fact and error, that your subjects by that example be not emboldened to follow your misdoing.
Wherefore first forsake you your unlawful wedlock, which you have made with Judith your near kinswoman.” These words of the new bishop, although they moved Louis the emperor not a little, yet he with a gentle modesty and modest silence was contented, suffering the bishop to go home in peace. But the word being uttered in such an audience could not be so concealed, but spread and burst out in much talk in the whole court, and especially among the bishops, consulting earnestly with themselves about the matter. Through whose counsel and labor so at length it fell, that the emperor was constrained to leave the company of his wife, till he had purchased a license of the bishop of Rome to retain her again, who then forgave the said bishop all that was past. But the woman hired two knights that slew him in his vestments, when he had ended his mass. Ranulphus and Malmsbury give forth this story in his great commendation, that he died a martyr; whereof I have not to judge, nor here to pronounce, but that rather I think him to be commended in his dying, than the woman for her killing.
And forsomuch as mention hath been made of Louis the Pious, here is to be noted, that in France then were used by priests and churchmen precious and shining vestures, and golden and rich staring girdles, with rings and other ornaments of gold. Wherefore the said Louis purchased of the bishop of Rome a correction for all such as used such disordinate apparel, causing them to wear brown and sad colors, according to their sadness. f31 Of this Louis the papists do feign, that because he converted certain of their church-goods and patrimony to the wages of his soldiem, “his body,” say they, “was carried out of his tomb by devils, and was no more seen.”
And thus a little having digressed out of our course, now let us return out of France into England again. King Ethelwolf, coming now from Rome by the country of France, was now returned again into his own dominion, where he continued not long after, but departed, leaving behind him four sons, who reigned every one in his order, after the decease of their father; the names of whom were Ethelbald, Ethelbright, Ethelred, and Alfred or Alured.
ETHELBALD, ETHELBRIGHT, AND ETHELRED I King Ethelbald, the eldest son of Ethelwolf, succeeding his father in the province of West Sax, and Ethelbright in the province of Kent, reigned both together the term of five years, one with the other. a12 Of the which two, Ethelbald, the first, left this infamy be hind him in stories, for marrying and lying with his stepmother, wife to his own father, named Judith. After these two succeeded Ethelred, the third son, who in his time, was so encumbered with the Danes bursting in on every side, especially about York, which city they then spoiled and burnt up, that he in one year stood in nine battles against them, with the help of Alfred his brother. In the beginning of this king’s reign, the Danes landed in East England, or Norfolk and Suffolk. But, as Fabian writeth, they were compelled to forsake that country, and so took again shipping, and sailed northward, and landed in Northumberland, where they were met by the kings then there reigning, called Osbright and Ella, who gave them a strong fight; but, notwithstanding, the Danes, with the help of such as inhabited the country, won the city of York, and held it a certain season, as is above foretouched.
In the reign of this Ethelred I, the Northumberlanders rebelling against the king, thought to recover the former state of their kingdom out of the West Saxons’ hands; by reason of which discord, as happeneth in all lands where dissension is, the strength of the English nation was thereby not a little weakened, and the Danes the more thereby prevailed.
About the latter time of the reign of this King Ethelred I, which was about A.D. 870, certain of the aforesaid Danes being thus possessed of the north country, after their cruel persecution and murder done there, as partly is touched before, took shipping from thence, intending to sail toward the East Angles, who by the way upon the sea met with a fleet of Danes, whereof the captains or leaders were named Ingnar and Hubba; who, joining all together in one council, made all one course, and lastly landed in East England, or Norfolk, and in process of time came to Thetford.
Thereof hearing, Edmund, then under-king of that province, assembled a host that gave to them battle; but Edmund and his company were forced to forsake the field, and the king, with a few persons, fled unto the castle of Framlingham, whom the Danes pursued; but he in short while after yielded himself to the persecution of the Danes, answering in this manner to the messenger, who addressed him in the name of Inguar, prince of the Danes, “who most victoriously,” saith he, “was come with innumerable legions, subduing both by sea and land many nations unto him; and so now arrived in those parts requireth him likewise to submit himself, yielding to him his hid treasures, and all other goods of his ancestors, and so to reign under him: which thing if he would not do, he should,” said he, “be judged unworthy both of life and reign.” Edmund, hearing of this proud message of the pagan, consuited with certain of his friends, and among others, with one of his bishops, who was then his secretary; who, seeing the present danger of the king, gave him counsel to yield to the conditions. Upon this the king pausing a little with himself, at length rendered this answer, bidding the messenger go tell his lord in these words, “that Edmund, a Christian king, for the love of temporal life, will not submit himself to a pagan duke, unless he first would be a Christian.” Immediately upon the same, the wicked and crafty Dane, approaching in most hasty speed upon the king, encountered with him in battle, as some say, at Thetford; where the king being put to the worse, and pitying the terrible slaughter of his men, thinking with himself rather to submit his own person to danger, than that his people should be slain, did fly, as Fabian saith, to the castle of Framlingham, or, as mine author writeth, to Halesdon, now called St.
Edmundsbury, where this blessed man, being on every side compassed by his cruel enemies, yielded himself to their persecution. And, for that he would not renounce or deny Christ and his laws, they therefore most cruelly bound him unto a tree, and caused him to be shot to death; and, lastly, caused his head to be smitten from his body and cast into the thick bushes; which head and body at the same time by his friends were taken up, and solemnly buried at the said Halesdon, otherwise now named St.
Edmundsbury: whose brother, named Edwold, notwithstanding of right the kingdom fell next unto him, setting apart the liking and pleasure of the world, became a hermit, of the abbey of Cerne, in the county of Dorset.
After the martyrdom of this blessed Edmund, when the cruel Danes had sufficiently robbed and spoiled that country, they took again their ships, and landed in Southery, and continued their journey till they came to the town of Reading, and there won the town with the castle, where, as Cambrensis saith, within three days of their coming thither, the aforesaid Inguar and Hubba, captains of the Danes, as they went in pursuit of their prey or booty, were slain at a place called Englefield. a13 These princes of the Danes thus slain, the rest of them kept whole together, in such wise that the West Saxons might take of them no advantage, but yet, within a few days after, the Danes were holden so short, that they were forced to issue out of the castle and to defend themselves in open battle; in the which, by the industry of King Ethelred and of Alfred his brother, the Danes were discomfited, and many of them slain, which discomfort made them fly again into the castle, and there keep them for a certain time. The king then committing the charge of them to Ethelwold, duke of Baroke, or Berkshire, departed. But when the Danes knew of the king’s departure, they brake suddenly out of their hold, took the duke unprovided, and slew him and much of his people; and so, joining themselves with others that were scattered in the country, embattled them in such wise, that of them was gathered a strong host.
As the tidings hereof were brought to King Ethelred, which put him in great heaviness, word also was brought the same time of the landing of Osrick, king of Denmark, who, with the assistance of the other Danes, had gathered a great host, and were embattled upon Ashdon. To this battle King Ethelred, with his brother Alfred, forced by great need, hastened, to withstand the Danes, at which time the king a little staying behind, being yet at his service, Alfred, who was come in before, had entered already into the whole fight with the Danes, who struck together with huge violence. The king being required to make speed, and being then at service and meditations, such was his devotion, that he would not stir out one foot before the service was fully complete. In the meanwhile, the Danes so fiercely invaded Alfred and his men, that they won the hill, and the Christian men were in the valley, and in great danger to lose the field.
Nevertheless, through the grace of God, and their godly manhood, the king coming from his service, with his fresh soldiers, recovered the hill of the infidels, and so discomfited the Danes that day, that in flying away not only they lost the victory, but most part of them their lives also, insomuch that their duke or king, Osrick or Osege, and five of their other dukes, with much of their people were slain, and the rest chased unto Reading town.
After this the Danes yet reassembled their people, and gathered a new host, so that within fifteen days they met at Basingstoke, and there gave battle to the king, and had the better. Then the king again gathered his men, which at that field were dispersed, and with fresh soldiers accompanying them, met the Danes, within two months after, at the town of Metton, where he gave them a sharp battle, so that much people were slain as well of the Christians as of the Danes; but, in the end, the Danes had the honor of the field, and King Ethelred was wounded, and therefore fain to save himself.
After these two fields thus won by the Danes, they obtained great circuit of ground, and destroyed man and child that would not yield to them; and churches and temples they turned to the use of stables, and other vile occupations.
Thus the king, being beset with enemies on every side, seeing the land so miserably oppressed of the Danes, his knights and soldiers consumed, his own land of West Saxons in such desolation, he being also wounded himself, but specially for that he, sending his commissions into Northumberland, Mercia, and East Anglia, could have of them but small or little comfort, because they, through wicked rebellion, were more willing to take the part of the Danes than of their king, was sore perplexed therewithal, as the other kings were both before him and after him at that time, so that (as Malmesbury witnesseth) “magis optarent honestum exitium, quam tam acerbum imperium:” that is, “they rather wished honestly to die, than with such trouble and sorrow to reign.” And thus this king not long after deceased, when he had reigned, as Fabian saith, eight years, or, as Malmesbury writeth, but five years, during which time, notwithstanding his so great troubles and vexations in martial affairs (as is in some stories mentioned), he founded the house or college of canons at Exeter, and was buried at the abbey of Wimborne, a14 in Dorset shire, after whose decease, for lack of issue of his body, a15 the rule of the land fell unto his brother Alfred.
ALFRED, OTHERWISE CALLED ALURED.
Among the Saxon kings hitherto in this history mentioned, I find few or none to be preferred, or even to be compared, to this Alfred, or Alured, for the great and singular qualities in this king, worthy of high renown and commendation—whether we behold in him the valiant acts and manifold travails which he continually, from time to time, sustained against his enemies in war, during almost all the time of his reign, for the public preservation of his people; or whether we consider in him his godly and excellent virtues, joined with a public and tender care, and a zealous study for the common peace and tranquillity of the weal public, appearing as well in his prudent laws by him both carefully set forth, and with the like care executed, as also by his own private exercises touching the virtuous institution of his life; or, lastly, whether we respect that in him, which with equal praise matcheth with both the others before, that is, his notable knowledge of good letters, with a fervent love and princely desire to set forth the same through all his realm, before his time being both rude and barbarous. All these heroical properties, joined together in one prince, as it is a thing most rare, and seldom seen in princes nowadays, so I thought the same the more to be noted and exemplified in this good king, thereby either to move other rulers and princes in these our days to his imitation, or else, to show them what hath been in times past in their ancestors, which ought to be, and yet is not found in them. Wherefore, of these three parts to discourse either part in order, first we will begin to treat of his acts and painful travails sustained in defense of the realm public, against the raging tyranny of the Danes, as they are described in the Latin histories of Roger Hoveden and Huntington, whom Fabian also seemeth in this part somewhat to follow. King Alfred, therefore, the first of all the English kings, taking his crown and unction at Rome of Pope Leo (as Malmesbury and Polychronicon do record), in the beginning of his reign, perceiving his lords and people much wasted and decayed by reason of the great wars which Ethelred had against the Danes, yet, as well as he could, gathered a strength of men unto him; and, in the second month that he was made king, he met with the Danes beside Wilton, where he gave them battle; but being far over-matched through the multitude of the contrary part, he was put there to the worse, though not without a great slaughter of the pagan army, which army of the Danes, after that victory, by compact made with King Alfred to depart out of his dominion of West Sax, removed from Reading to London, where it abode all that winter.
Halden their king, making truce there with Burthred, king of Mercia, the following year left those parts, and drew his men to Lindsey, robbing and spoiling the towns and villages as they went, and holding the common people under servitude. From thence they proceeded to Repingdon, where, joining with the three other kings of the Danes, called Surdrim, Osketell, and Hamond, they grew thereby to mighty force and strength: then, dividing their army into two parts, the one half remained with Halden in the country of Northumberland; the residue were with the other three kings, wintering and sojourning all the next year at Grantbridge, which was the fourth year of King Alfred. In that year King Alfred’s men had a conflict on the sea with six of the Danes’ ships, of which they took one, the others fled away. In the next year a16 went Rollo, the Dane, into Normandy, where he was duke thirty years, and afterward was baptized in the faith of Christ, and named Robert. The aforesaid army of the three Danish kings above-mentioned, from Grantbridge returned again to West Saxony, and entered the Castle of Wareham, where King Alfred, with a sufficient power of men, was ready to assault them; but the Danes seeing his strength durst not encounter with him, but sought delays till more aid might come. In the mean season they were constrained to entreat for a truce, leaving also sufficient pledges in the king’s hand; promising, moreover, upon their oath, to leave the country of the West Saxons. The king, upon this surety, let them go; but they falsely breaking their league, a17 privily in the night brake out, taking their journey toward Exeter, during which journey they lost six score of their small ships by a tempest at Swanawic, a18 as Henry Huntingdon in his story recordeth.
Then King Alfred followed after the horsemen of the Danes, but could not overtake them before they came to Exeter, where he took of them pledges and fair promises of peace, and so returned. Notwithstanding, the number of the pagans did daily more and more increase, insomuch (as one of my authors saith) that if in one day thirty thousand of them were slain, shortly after they increased to double as many. After this truce taken with King Alfred, the Danes withdrew to the and of Mercia, part of which kingdom they kept themselves, and part they committed to one Ceolulphus, upon condition that he should be Vassal to them, and at their commandment, with his people at all times.
The next year ensuing, which was the seventh year of the reign of Alfred, the Danes now having all the rule of the north part of England, from the river Thames, with Mercia, London, and Essex, disdained that Alfred should have any dominion on the other side of Thames southward.
Whereupon the aforesaid three kings, with all the forces and strength they could gather, marched toward Chippenham, in West Sax, with such a multitude, that the king with his people was not able to resist them; insomuch that of the people which inhabited there, some fled over the sea, some remained with the king, and divers submitted themselves to the Danes. Thus King Alfred being overset with a multitude of enemies, and forsaken of his people, having neither land to hold, nor hope to recover that which he had lost, withdrew himself with a few of his nobles about him, into a certain wood country in Somersetshire, called Etheling, where he had right scant to live upon, but such as he and his people might procure by hunting and fishing. This Edeling, or Etheling, or Ethelingsey, which is to say, the Isle of Nobles, standeth in a great marsh or moor, so that there is no access to it without ship or boat, and hath in it a great wood called Selwood, and in the middle a little plain, about two acres of ground: in this isle is venison, and other wild beasts, with fowl and fish in great plenty. In this wood King Alfred, at his first coming, espied a certain desert cottage of a poor swineherd, keeping swine in the wood, named Dunwolf; by whom the king, then unknown, was entertained and cherished with such poor fare as he and his wife could make him, for which King Alfred afterwards set the poor swineherd to learning, and made him bishop of Winchester.
In the mean time, while King Alfred, accompanied with a few, was thus in the desert wood, waiting the event of these miseries, according to certain stories a poor beggar there came and asked alms of the king; and the night following he appeared to the king in his sleep, saying, his name was Cuthbert, promising (as sent from God unto him for his good charity) great victories against the Danes. But let these dreaming fables pass, although they be testified by divers authors. Notwithstanding, the king, in process of time, was more strengthened and comforted, through the providence of God, respecting the miserable ruin of the English. First, the brother of King Halden the Dane, before-mentioned, coming in with three and thirty ships, landed about Devonshire, where by chance being resisted by an ambush of King Alfred’s men, who for their safeguard there lay in garrison, they were slain to the number of 1800 men, and their ensign, called the Raven, was taken. a19 Hoveden, in his book called ‘Continuationes,’ writeth, that in the same conflict both Inguar and Hubba were slain a20 among the other Danes. After this, King Alfred being better cheered, showed himself more at large; so that daily resorted to him men of Wiltshire, Somersetshire, and Hampshire, till he was strongly accompanied.
Then the king put himself in a bold and dangerous venture, as write Malmesbury, Polychronicon, and Fabian, who followeth them both. For he, apparelling himself in the habit of a minstrel, being very skillful in all Saxon poems, with his instrument of music, entered into the tents of the Danes, lying then at Eddington. There, while showing his interludes and songs, he espied all their sloth and idleness, and heard much of their counsel; and after, returning to his company, declared to them the whole manner of the Danes. Shortly upon this, the king suddenly in the night fell upon the aforesaid Danes, distressed and slew of them a great multitude, and chased them from that coast, insomuch that through his strong and valiant assaults upon his enemies out of his tower of Edeling newly fortified, he so incumbered them, that he clearly voided the country of them, between that and Selwood. His subjects soon hearing of these his valiant victories and manful deeds, drew to him daily out of all coasts; so that through the help of God, and their assistance, he held the Danes so short, that he won from them Winchester and divers other good towns.
Briefly, he at length forced them to seek for peace, which was concluded upon certain covenants, whereof one, and the principal was, that the beforenamed Gutrum, their king, should be christened; the other was, that such as would not be christened should depart, and leave the country.
Upon these covenants, first the said Gutrum, the Danish prince, coming to Winchester, a21 was there christened with twenty of his greatest dukes or nobles, which Gutrum King Alfred, being his godfather at his baptism, named Athelstan. Having, after a certain season, feasted the said Danes, Alfred, according to his promise before made, gave unto their king the country of East Anglia, containing Norfolk and Suffolk, and part of Cambridgeshire. Moreover, as saith Polychronicon, he granted to the Danes that were christened the country of Northumberland; so the residue that would not be christened departed the land, and sailed into France, where what vexation and harm they wrought, the chronicles of France do partly comprehend.
King Athelstan thus having the possession of these countries, had all East Anglia under his obedience; and, albeit that he held the said province as in fee of the king, and promised to dwell there as his liege man, yet, notwithstanding that, he continued more like a tyrant by the term of eleven years, and died in the twelfth year; during which space, King Alfred, having some more rest and peace, repaired certain towns and strong holds before by the Danes impaired; also he builded divers houses of religion, as the House of Nuns at Shaftesbury; another religious house at Etheling he founded; another in Winchester, named the New Monastery; and also endowed richly the Church of St. Cuthbert in Durham. He, likewise, sent to India a22 to pay and perform his vows to St. Thomas of Ind, which he made during the time of his distress against the Danes.
About the fifteenth year of the reign of Alfred, the Danes returning from France to England, landed in Kent, and so came to Rochester and besieged that city, and there lay so long that they built a tower of timber against the gates of the city: but, by strength of the citizens, that tower was destroyed, and the city defended, till King Alfred came and rescued them; whereby the Danes were so distressed, and so near trapped, that for fear they left their horses behind them, and fled to their ships by night. But the king, when he was thereof aware, sent after them, and took sixteen of their ships, and slew many of the Danes. This done, the king returned to London, and repaired the same honorably (as saith Hoveden), and made it habitable, which before was sore decayed and enfeebled by the Danes.
The fourth year after this, which was the nineteenth year of the reign of King Alfred, a23 the aforesaid Athelstan, the Danish king of Norfolk, who was before christened by Alfred, deceased. Not long after this, about the one and twentieth year of this king’s reign, the Danes again landed in four places of this land; namely, in East England, and in the north, and in two places in the west. Before the landing of these Danes it chanced that King Alfred, having heard of the death of King Athelstan, and of other complaints of the Danes, was in East Anglia when these tidings came to him.
When King Alfred was hereof assured that some of the Danes a24 were landed on that coast, thinking with themselves the further they went in those parts the less resistance to have and the more speed, as they were wont to have before; Alfred, sending messengers in all haste to Ethelred, duke of Mercia, to assemble him a host to withstand the Danes, who landed in the west, made forth toward his enemies there, where he was in East Anglia, whom he pursued so sharply, that he drove them out from those parts. They then landed in Kent, whither the king with his people sped him; and in like manner drove the Danes from thence, without any great fight, so far as in our authors we can see. After this, the Danes took shipping again and sailed into North Wales, and there robbed and spoiled the Britons, and from thence returned by the sea into East Anglia, with a hundred ships, and there rested themselves, inasmuch as the king was then gone westward.
The fourth host of the Danes the same year came to Chester, a25 which at length they won; but the country adjoining pressed so sorely upon them, and besieged them so tong, keeping them within the city, that at last, wearied with the long siege, they were compelled to eat their own horses for hunger. But, by appointment, at last they gave up the town, and went about by North Wales to Northumberland, which was about the three and twentieth year of King Alfred. In the mean while Alfred with his host sped him thither-ward. Then the Danes, leaving their strong holds and castles garnished with men and victual, took again shipping, and let their course in such wise that they landed in Sussex, and so came to the port of Lewes, and from thence toward London, and built a tower or castle near the river Ley, twenty miles from London. But the Londoners heating thereof, manned out a certain number of men at arms, who, with the assistance of them of that country, put the Danes from that tower, and afterwards beat it to the ground. Soon after, the king came down thither, and, to prevent the dangers that might ensue, commanded the river Ley to be divided into three streams, so that where a ship might sail in times before, a little boat might then scarcely row. From thence the Danes, leaving their ships and wives, were forced to fly that country, and took their way again toward Wales, and came to Quadruge, near the river Severn; where, upon the borders thereof, they built a castle, and rested themselves for a time, but the king with his army soon pursued them. In the mean time the Londoners at Ley, taking the Danish ships, brought some of them to London, and the rest they fired. During these three years, from the first coming of the Danes to Ley, England was afflicted with three kinds of sorrows; with the Danes, with pestilence of men, and with murrain of beasts; notwithstanding which troubles the king manfully resisted the malice of his enemies, and thanked God always, what trouble soever fell to him, or to his realm, sustaining it with great patience and humility. These three years overpast, the next following, which was the eight and twentieth of the reign, of Alfred, the Danes divided their host, of whom part went to Northumberland, part to Norfolk; others sailed over to France, and some came to West Sax, where they had divers conflicts with the Englishmen, both by land, and especially upon the sea; of whom some were slain, many perished by shipwreck, divers others were taken and hanged, and thirty of their ships were captured.
Not long after this, King Alfred, when he had reigned twenty-nine years and six months, exchanged this mortal life. And thus much, and more, peradventure, than will seem to this our ecclesiastical history appertaining, touching the painful labors and travails of this good king; which he no less valiantly achieved than patiently sustained, for the necessary defense of his realm and subjects.
Now, if there be any prince who listeth to see and follow the virtuous and godly disposition of this king, both touching the institution of his own life, and also concerning his careful government of the common-weal, thus the histories of him do record: that at what time he, being young, perceiving himself somewhat disposed to carnal indulgences, and thereby hindered from many virtuous purposes, did not, as many young princes and kings’ sons in the world be now wont to do, that is, resolve themselves into all kind of carnal license and dissolute sensuality, running and following without bridle, whithersoever their license given doth lead them; as therefore, not without cause, the common proverb reporteth of them, that “kings’ sons learn nothing else well but only to ride:” meaning thereby, that while princes and kings’ sons have about them flatterers, who bolster them in their faults, their horses yield to them no more than to any other, but if they sit not fast, they will east them. But this young king, seeing in himself the inclination of his fleshly nature, and minding not to give himself so much as he might take, but rather by resistance to avoid the temptation thereof, besought God that he would send him some continual sickness to quench that vice, whereby he might be more profitable to the public business of the commonwealth, and more apt to serve God in his calling. f37 Then, at God’s ordinance, he had the evil called Ficus till he came to the age of twenty years, whereof at length he was cured (as is said in some histories) by a virgin called Modwen, an Irish woman. After this sickness being taken away, to him fell another, which continued with him from the twentieth to the forty-fifth year of his age (according to his own petition and request, made unto God), whereby he was the more reclaimed and attempered from the other greater inconveniences, and less disposed to that which he did most abhor.
Moreover, to behold the bountiful goodness, joined with like prudence, in this man, in the ordering and disposing his riches and rents, it is not unworthy to be retired, how he divided his goods into two equal parts, f38 the one appertaining to uses secular, the other to uses spiritual or ecclesiastical; of the which two principal parts, the first he divided into three portions, namely, one to the behoof of his house and family; one to the workmen and builders of his new works, wherein he had great delight and cunning; and one to strangers. Likewise the other second half upon spiritual uses, he did thus divide in four portions; one to the relieving of the poor, another to monasteries, the third portion to the schools of Oxford for the maintaining of good letters, the fourth he sent to foreign churches without the realm. This also is left in stories written in his commendation for his great tolerance and sufferance, that when he had built the new monastery at Winchester, and afterward his son Edward had purchased of the bishop and the chapter a sufficient piece of ground for certain offices to be adjoined unto the same, and had given for every foot of ground, “marcam auri pleni ponderis” (which was, as I think, a mark of gold or more), yet Alfred therewithal was not greatly discontented to see his coffers so wasted.
Over and besides, how sparing and frugal he was of time, as of a thing in this earth most precious, and how far from all vain pastimes and idleness he was, this doth well declare, which in the story of Malmesbury and other writers is told of him; namely, that he so divided the day and night in three parts, if he were not let by wars or other great business, that eight hours he spent in study and learning, other eight hours he spent in prayer and almsdeeds, and other eight hours he spent in his natural rest, sustenance of his body, and the needs of the realm; which order he kept duly by the burning of waxen tapers kept in his closet by persons appointed for that pupose. f39 How studious he was and careful of the commonwealth, and maintenance of public tranquillity, his laws, most godly set forth and devised by him, may declare; wherein especially by him was provided for the extirpation and abolishing of all theft and thieves out of the realm, whereby the realm, through his vigilant care, was brought into such tranquillity, or rather perfection, that in every cross or turning-way, he made to be set up a golden brooch, at least of silver gilded, throughout his dominions, and none so hardy, neither by day nor night, to take it down; for the more credit whereof, the words of the Latin story be these, “armillas aureas juberet suspendi, quae viantium aviditatem irritarent, dum non essent qui eas abriperent.” And no great marvel therein, if the realm in those days was brought into such an order, and justice so well ministered, when the king himself was so vigilant in overseeing the doings of his judges and officers; whereof thus also we read in the said author testified: “judiciorum a suis hominibus factotum inquisitor perperam actorum asperrimus corrector,” i.e. “he was,” saith mine author, speaking of the king, “a vigilant inquisitor of the doings of his judges, and a strict punisher of their misdoings.”
Jornalensis also writing upon the same, saith, “he did diligently search out the doings of his officers, and especially of his judges, so that if he knew any of them to err, either through covetousness or unskilfulness, them he removed from their office.” f41 And thus much concerning the valiant acts and noble virtues of this worthy prince; whereunto, although there were no other ornaments adjoining besides, yet sufficient were they alone to set forth a prince worthy of excellent commendation. Now, besides these other qualities and gifts of God’s grace in him above-mentioned, remaineth another part of his no little praise and commendation, which is his learning and knowledge of good letters, wherein he not only was excellently expert himself, but also a worthy maintainer of the same through all his dominions. Where, before his time, no use of grammar or other sciences was practiced in this realm, especially about the west parts of the land, there, through the industry of this king, schools began to be erected and studies to flourish. Although among the Britons, in the town of Chester, in South Wales, long before that, in King Arthur’s time, as Galfridus writeth, both grammar and philosophy, with other tongues, were taught. After that, some writers record that in the time of Egbert, king of Kent, this island began to flourish with philosophy. About which time some also think that the university of Granchester, near to that which now is called Cambridge, began to be founded by Bede, following this conjecture therein, for that Alcuinus, before-mentioned, who after went to Rome, and from thence to France, in the time of Charlemagne, where he first began the university of Paris, was first trained up in the exercise of studies at the same school of Granchester.
Bede also, writing of Sigebert, king of East Anglia, declareth how that king, returning out of France into England, according to the examples which he did there see, ordered and disposed schools of learning, through the means of Felix, then bishop, and placed in them masters and teachers, after the use and manner of the Cantuarites. And yet before these times, moreover, it is thought that there were two schools or universities within the realm; a26 the one for Greek, at the town of Greglade, which afterward was called Kirkelade; the other for Latin, at a place then called Latinlade, afterward Lethelade, near Oxford.
But, however it chanced that the knowledge and study of good letters, once planted in this realm, afterward went to decay, yet King Alfred deserveth no little praise for restoring, or rather increasing the same; after whose time they have ever since continued, albeit not continually through every age in like perfection. But this we may see, what it is to have a prince learned himself, who, feeling and tasting the price and value of science and knowledge, is thereby not only the more apt to rule, but also to instruct and frame his subjects from a rude barbarity, to a more civil congruity of life, and to a better understanding of things, as we see in this famous prince to happen. Concerning his first education and bringing up, although it was somewhat late before he entered on his letters, yet, such was the apt towardness and docility of his nature, that being a child he had the Saxon Poems, as they were used then in his own tongue, by heart and memory. Afterwards with years and time he grew up in such perfection of learning and knowledge that, as mine author saith, “nullus Anglorum fuerit vel intelligendo acutior, vel interpretando elegantior;” which thing in him the more was to be marveled at, for that he was twelve years of age before he knew any letter. Then his mother, a29 careful and tender over him, having by chance a book in her hand, which he would fain have, promised to give him the same, so that he would learn it. Whereupon he, for greediness of the book, soon learned the letters, having for his schoolmaster Pleimundus, after wards bishop of Canterbury. And so daily grew he more and more in knowledge, that, at length, as mine author saith, “a great part of the Latin library he translated into English, converting to the uses of his citizens a notable prey of foreign ware and merchandise.” f45 Of the books by him and through him translated, were Orosius, the Pastoral of Gregory, the History of Bede, Boetius ‘de Consolatione Philosophies;’ also a book of his own making and in his own tongue, which in the English speech he called a Hand-book, in Greek called Enchiridion, in Latin a Manual. Besides the History of Bede, translated into the Saxon tongue, he also himself compiled a story in the same speech, called, ‘The Story of Alfred,’ both which books, in the Saxon tongue, I have seen, though the language I do not understand. As he was learned himself excellently well, so likewise did he inflame all his countrymen to the love of liberal letters, as the words of the story reporteth: “he exhorted and stirred his people to the study of learning, some with gifts, some by threats, suffering no man to aspire to any dignity in the court except he were learned.” Moreover, another story thus saith, speaking of his nobles: “also his nobles so much he did allure to the embracing of good letters, that they sent all their sons to school; or if they had no sons, yet their servants they caused to be learned; whereby the common proverb may be found, not so common as true, “such as is the prince, such be the subjects.” He began, moreover, to translate the Psalter into English, and had almost finished the same, had not death prevented him. In the prologue of the book, thus he writeth, declaring the cause why he was so earnest and diligent in translating good books from Latin into English; showing the cause thereof why he so did, as followeth: “the cause was, for that innumerable ancient libraries, which were kept in churches, were consumed with fire by the Danes; and that men had rather suffer peril of their life than follow the exercises of studies; and therefore he thought thereby to provide for the people of the English nation.” f50 It is told of him, both by Polychronicon, Malmesbury, Jornalensis, and other historians, whereof I have no names, that he, seeing his country to the westward to be so desolate of schools and learning, partly to profit himself, partly to furnish his country and subjects with better knowledge, first sent for Grinbald, a30 a learned monk, out of France, to come into England: he also sent for another learned man out of Wales, whose name was Asserius, a30 whom he made bishop of Sherborne; and out of Mercia he sent for Werefrith, a30 bishop of Worcester, to whom he gave the Dialogues of Gregory to be translated. But chiefly he used the counsel of Neotus, who then was counted for a holy man, an abbot of a certain monastery, in Cornwall, by whose advisement he sent for the learned men above recited, and also first ordained certain schools of divers arts at Oxford, and enfranchised the same with many great liberties; whereof perhaps the school now called New College first then begun by this Neotus, a30 might take its name; which afterwards, peradventure, the bishops of Winchester, after a larger manner, did re-edify and enlarge with greater possessions.
Moreover, among other learned men who were about King Alfred, histories make mention of Johannes Scotus, a30 a godly divine and a learned philosopher; but not that Scotus whom now we call Duns, for this Johannes Scotus came before him many years. This Johannes is described to have been of a sharp wit and of great eloquence, and well expert in the Greek tongue, pleasant and merry of nature and conditions, as appeareth by divers of his doings and answers. First, he coming to France out of his own country of Scotland, by reason of the great tumults of war, was there worthily entertained, and for his learning had in great estimation of Charles the Bald, a31 the French king; who commonly and familiarly used ever to have him about him, both at table and in chamber. Upon a time the king sitting at meat, and seeing something (belike in this John Scot) which seemed not very courtly, cast forth a merry word, asking him what difference there was betwixt a Scot and a sot? Whereunto the Scot, sitting over against the king somewhat lower replied again suddenly lather than advisedly, yet merrily, saying, “mensa tanturn,” that is, “the table only;” importing thereby himself to be the Scot, and so calling the king a sot by craft; which word how other princes would have stomached I know not, but this Charles, for the great reverence he bare to his learning, turned it but to laughter among his nobles, and so let it pass.
Another time the same king being at dinner was served with a certain dish of fish, wherein were two great fishes and a little one. After the king had taken thereof his repast, he set down to John Scot the aforesaid fish, to distribute unto the other two clerks sitting there with him, who were two tall and mighty persons, he himself being but a little man. John taketh the fish, of the which the two great ones he taketh and carveth to himself, while the little fish he reacheth to the other two. The king, perceiving his division thus made, reprehended the same. Then John, whose manner was ever to find out some honest matter to delight the king, answered him again, proving his division to stand just and equal: “for here,” saith he, “be two great ones and a little one,” pointing to the two great fishes and himself, “and likewise here again is a little one and two great;” pointing to the little fish, and the two great persons: “I pray you,” saith he, “what odds is there, or what distribution can be more equal?” Whereat the king with his nobles being much delighted, laughed merrily.
At the request of this Charles, sirnamed Bald, the French king, this Scotus translated the book of Dionysius, entitled, “De Hierarchia,” from Greek into Latin, word for word, “quo fit,” as my author saith, “ut vix intelligatur Latina litera, quum nobilitate magis Graeca, quam positione construitur Latina.” He wrote also a book, ‘De Corpore et Sanguine Domini,’ which was afterward condemned by the Pope, in the council of Vercelli. a32 The same John Scot, moreover, compiled a book of his own, giving it a Greek title, Peri< fusikw~n diare>sewn ,’ that is, ‘De naturae divisione;’ in which book (as saith my aforesaid author) is contained the resolution of many profitable questions, but so that he is thought to follow the Greek church rather than the Latin, and for the same was counted of some to be a heretic; because in that book some things there be which in all points accord not with the Romish religion. Wherefore the pope, writing to the said King Charles of this Scotus, complaineth, as in his own words here followeth:—“relation hath been made unto our apostleship, that a certain man called Johannes, a Scottish man, hath translated the book of Dionysius the Areopagite, of the names of God and of the heavenly orders, from Greek into Latin; which book, according to the custom of the church, ought first to have been approved by our judgment; namely, seeing the said John, albeit he be said to be a man of great learning and science, in time past, hath been noted by common rumor, to have been a man not of upright or sound doctrine in certain points.” For this cause, the said Scotus being constrained to remove from France, came into England, allured, as some testify, by the letters of Alured, or Alfred, by whom he was with great favor entertained, and was conversant a great space about the king; till, at length (whether before or after the death of the king, it is uncertain), he went to Malmesbury, where he taught certain scholars a few years, by whom at last most impiously he was murdered and slain with their penknives, and so died, as stories say, a martyr, buried at the said monastery of Malmesbury with this epitaph. “Clauditur in tumulo sanctus sophista Johannes, Qui ditatus erat jam vivens dogmate miro.
Martyrio tandem Christi conscendere regnum Qui meruit, regnans secli per secula cuncta.” King Alfred having these helps of learned men about him, and no less learned also himself, past his time not only to the great utility and profit of his subjects, but also to a rare and profitable example of other christian kings and princes for them to follow. This aforesaid Alfred had by his wife, called Ethelwitha, two sons, Edward and Ethelward; and three daughters, Elfleda, Ethelgora, and Ethelguida: “quas omnes liberalibus fecit artibus erudiri;” that is, “whom he set all to their books and study of liberal arts,” as my story testifieth. First, Edward, his eldest son, succeded him in the kingdom; the second son, Ethelward, died before his father; Ethelgora, his middle daughter, was made a nun; the other two were married, the one in Merceland, the other to the earl of Flanders. Thus King Alfred, that valiant, virtuous, and learned prince, after he had thus Christianly governed the realm in the term of twenty-nine years and six months, departed this life,5 Cal. Novemb. A.D. 901, and lieth buried at Winchester. Of Alfred this I find, moreover, greatly noted and commended in history, and not here to be forgotten, for the rare example thereof that, wheresoever he was, or whithersoever he went, he bare always about him in his bosom or pocket a little book containing the Psalms of David, and certain other orisons of his own collecting, whereupon he was continually reading or praying whensoever he was otherwise vacant, having leisure thereunto. Finally, what were the virtues of this famous king, this little table hereunder written, which is left in ancient writing in remembrance of his worthy and memorable life, doth sufficiently, in few lines, contain. f53 In the story of this Alfred, a little above, mention was made of Pleimund, schoolmaster to the said Alfred, and also bishop of Canterbury, as succeeding Ethelred there bishop before him; which Pleimund a33 governed that see thirty-four years. After Pleimund succeeded Athelm, who sat twelve years, and after him, Ulfelm, who sat thirteen years. Then followed Ode, a Dane, born in the said see of Canterbury, who governed the same twenty years, a34 being in great favor with King Athelstan, King Edmund, and Edwin, as in process hereafter (Christ willing), as place and order doth require, shall more at large be expressed.
As touching the course and proceedings of the Romish bishops there, where I last made mention of them, I ended with Pope Stephen V. After his time was much broil in the election of the bishops of Rome, one contending against another, insomuch that within the space of nine years were nine bishops, of whom the first was Formesus, who succeeded next unto the forenamed Stephen V, being made pope against the mind of certain in Rome, that would rather Sergius, then deacon of the church of Rome, to have been pope: notwithstanding, Mars and money prevailed on Formosus’ part. This Formosus, of whom partly also is mentioned in other places of this ecclesiastical history, being before bishop of Porto, a36 a sea port near Rome, had, on a time, I know not upon what causes, offended a37 Pope John VIII, by reason whereof, for fear of the pope, he voided away, and left his bishopric, and because he, being sent for again by the pope, would not return, therefore was excommunicated. At length, coming into France to make there his satisfaction unto the pope, he was degraded from a bishop into a secular man’s habit, swearing to the pope that he would no more re-enter into the city of Rome, nor claim his bishopric again; subscribing, moreover, with his own hand, to continue from that time in the state of a secular person. But then Pope Martin, the next pope after John, released the said Formosus of his oath, and restored him again unto his bishopric; whereby Formosus not only entered Rome again, but also obtained shortly after the papacy. Thus he being placed in the popedom, there arose a great doubt or controversy among the divines about his consecration, whether it was lawful or not; some holding against him, that forsomuch as he was solemnly deposed, degraded, unpriested, and also sworn not to reiterate the state ecclesiastical, therefore he ought to be taken no otherwise than for a secular man. Others alleged again, that whatsoever Formosus was, yet for the dignity of that order, and for the credit of them whom he ordained, his consecration ought to stand in force, especially seeing the said Formosus was afterward received and absolved by Pope Martin from that his perjury and degradation. a38 In the mean time, as witnesseth Sigebert, this Formosus sendeth for King Arnulph for aid against his adversaries; who then marching a39 to Rome, was prevented from entering, and besieged the Leonine quarter. But in the siege the Romans within so played the lions, that a poor hare, or such a like thing, running toward the city (saith the author), the host of Arnulph followed after with such a main cry, that the valiant Romans upon the walls for very fear, and where there was no hurt, east themselves desperately over the walls, so that Arnulph with little labor scaled the walls, and got the city. Thus Arnulph, obtaining the city of Rome, rescueth Pope Formosus, and beheadeth his adversaries; whom the pope to gratify with like recompence again, blesseth and crowneth him for emperor. Thus Formosus, sitting fast about the space of four or five years, followed his predecessors; after whose time, as I said, within the space of nine years, were nine bishops, as followeth. But in the mean time, concerning the story of this Formosus declared by Sigebert and many other chroniclers, this thing would I gladly ask, and more gladly learn, of some indifferent good Catholic person, who not of obstinacy, but of simple error being a papist, would answer it to his conscience, whether doth he think the holy order of priesthood, which he taketh for one of the seven sacraments, to be character indelebilis or not? If it be not indelebilis, that is, if it be such a thing as may be put off why then doth the pope’s doctrine so call and so hold the contrary, pre tending it to be indelebilis, unremovable? If it be indeed so as they teach and affirm, indelebilis character, why then did Pope John, or could Pope John, annihilate and evacuate one of his seven pope-holy sacraments, making of a priest a nonpriest or layman, uncharactering his own order, which is (as he saith) a character, which in no wise may be blotted out or removed? Again, howsoever Pope John, is to be judged in this matter to do either well or not well, this would I know, if he did well in so dispriesting and discharactering Formosus for such private offenses? If yea, how then standeth his doing with his own doctrine which teacheth the contrary? If he did not well, how then standeth his doctrine with his doings to be true, which teacheth that the pope with his synod of cardinals cannot err?
Moreover, if this Pope John did not err in his disordering Formosus, how then did Martin, his successor, not err in repealing the said doing of his predecessor? or how did not Pope Formosus himself err, who being unpriested by Pope John, afterward, without reiterating the character or order of priesthood, took upon him to be Pope, and made acts and laws in the church? Again, if Formosus now pope did not err, how then did Pope Stephen his successor afterward not err, who did annihilate the consecration, and all other acts of the said Formosus, as erroneous? Or again, if we say that this Stephen with his synod of cardinals did right, then how could it be that Pope Theodore, and Pope John IX, who came after the aforesaid Stephen, did not plainly err, who, approving the consecration of Formosus, did condemn and burn the acts synodal of Stephen and his cardinals, which before had condemned Formosus, according as in story here consequently may appear?
After Formosus had governed the see of Rome five years, succeeded first Boniface VI., who continued but five and twenty days. Then came Stephen VI., who so envied the name of his predecessor Formosus, that he abrogated and dissolved his decrees, and, taking up his body after it was buried, cut two fingers off his right hand, and commanded them to be cast into the Tiber, and then buried the body in a private or layman’s sepulcher. f56 Thus, after Stephen had sat in the chair of pestilence one year, succeeded to the same chair Pope Romanus, and sat three months, repealing the acts decreed by Stephen his predecessor, against Formosus. Next to him came Theodore II, who likewise taking part with Formosus against the aforesaid Stephen, reigned but twenty days. Then sat Pope John IX, who did fight and repugn against the Romans, and, to confirm the cause of Formosus more surely, did hold a synod at Ravenna of seventy-four bishops, the French king Charles and his archbishops being present at the same, at the which council were ratified all the decrees and doings of Formosus, and the contrary acts of the synod of Stephen VI were burned. This pope lived not pope fully two years, after whom succeeded Benedict IV, who kept the chair three years. After whom Leo V was next pope, who within forty days of his papacy, was, with strong hand, taken and cast into prison by one Christopher, his own house hold chaplain, whom he had long nourished before in his house; which tiling, saith Platina, could not be done without great conspiracy, and great slaughter of men. Which Christopher, being pope about the space of seven months, was likewise himself hoisted from his papal throne by Sergius, like as he had done to his master before; and thus within the space of nine years had been nine popes, one after another. Then Sergius, after he had thrust down Pope Christopher into a monastery, and shorn him monk, occupied the room seven years. This Sergius, a rude man and unlearned, very proud and cruel, had before been put back from the popedom by Formosus above-mentioned; by reason whereof, to revenge himself upon Formosus again, Sergius being now in his papacy, causing the body of Formosus, where it was buried, to be taken up and afterward set up in the papal chair, as in his pontificalibus, first degraded him, and then commanded his head to be smitten off, with the other three fingers that were left, as Sigebert writes; which done, he made his body to be thrown into the Tiber, deposing likewise all such as by the said Formosus before had been consecrated and invested. This body of Formosus, thus thrown into the Tiber, was afterward, as our writers say, found and taken up by certain fishers, and so brought into St. Peter’s temple; at the presence whereof, as they say, certain images there standing by, bowed down themselves, and reverenced the same—with he and all.
But such deceivable miracles of stocks and images, in monkish and friary temples, be to us no news, especially here in England, where we have been so inured to the like, and so many, that such wily practices cannot be to us invisible, though this crown-shorn generation think themselves to dance in a net. But the truth is, while they think to deceive the simple, these wily beguilers most of all deceive themselves, as they will find, except they repent. By this Pope Sergius first came up to bear about candles on Candlemas day, for the purifying of the blessed Virgin; as though the sacred conception of Jesus the Son of God, were to be purified as a thing impure, and that with candle-light!
After Sergius entered Pope Anastatius III., in whose time the body of Formosus, aforenamed, is thought to be found of fishermen in the river Tiber, and so brought (as is said) into the temple to be saluted of the images; which thing may be quickly tainted as a lie; for how is it to be thought that the body of Formosus, so long dead before, and now lying seven years in the river, could remain whole all that while, that fishers might take it up, and discern it to be the same? After Anastatius had sat two years followed Pope Lando I, the father, as some stories think, of Pope John, which John is said to have been the paramour of Theodora, a famous harlot of Rome, and set up of the same harlot, either against Lando, or after Lando his father, to succeed in his room. There is a story writer, called Luithprandus, who maketh mention of this Theodora and Pope John X, and saith, moreover, that this Theodora had a daughter, named Marozia, which Marozia had, by Pope Sergius above-mentioned a son, who was, afterward Pope John XI The same Marozia afterwards chanced to marry with Guido, marquis of Tuscany, through the means of which Guido and his friends at Rome, she brought to pass that this Pope John X was smothered with a pillow laid to his mouth, after he had reigned thirteen years, and so that the aforesaid John XI, her son, might succeed next after him; but because the clergy and people of Rome did not agree to his election, Pope Leo VI was in his place set up; thus, Pope John, the son of Sergius and Marozia, being dejected, Pope Leo reigned seven months.
After him, Pope Stephen VII or VIII a42 reigned two years, who, being poisoned, Pope John XI above-rehearsed, the son of Sergius and Marozia, was set up again in the papacy, where he reigned nearly the space of five years. Of the wickedness of Marozia, how she married two brethren, one after the death of the other, and how she governed all Rome and the whole church at that time, I let it pass. Although the Latin verses wherewith Luithprandus doth inveigh against such women as marry two brethren, were not unworthy here to be recited, and perhaps might be further applied than to that Marozia of Rome, a43 yet for shortness I let them also pass. After John XI followed Pope Leo VII three years and four months; Pope Stephen VIII three years and four months; Pope Martin III three years and six months; and, after him, Pope Agapetus II eight years and six months; about whose time, or a little before, began first the order of monks, called Ordo Cluniacensis. a44 But now to leave off these monstrous matters of Rome, and to return again to our country of England, where we last left off.
EDWARD THE ELDER f62 AFTER the reign of the famous King Alfred, his son Edward succeeded, sirnamed the Elder; where first is to be noted, that before the conquest of the Normans, there were in England three Edwards: first, this Edward the Elder; secondly, Edward the Martyr; thirdly, Edward the Confessor; whereof hereafter (by the grace of Christ) shall follow in order, as place shall give to be declared. This Edward began his reign A.D. 901, and governed the land right valiantly and nobly four and twenty years. In knowledge of good letters and learning he was not to be compared to his father; otherwise, in princely renown, in civil government, and in martial prowess, he was nothing inferior, but rather excelled him, through whose valiant acts the princedom of Wales and kingdom of Scotland, with Constantine king thereof, were first to him subdued. He adjoined, moreover, to his dominion, the country of East Anglia, that is, of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. All Merceland also he recovered, and Northumberland, out of the hands of the Danes. In all his wars he never lightly went without victory. The subjects of his provinces and dominions were so inured and hardened in continual practice and feats of war, that when they heard of any enemies coming (never tarrying for any bidding from the king or from his dukes), straightway they encountered with them; both in number and in knowledge of the order of war, excelling always their adversaries.
Malmesbury saith, “So was the coming and assaulting of their enemies, to the people and common soldiers but a trifle, to the king but a ridicule. f63 Among other adversaries who were busy rather than wise, in assailing this king, was one called Clito Ethelwold, a young man, King Edward’s uncle’s son; who, first occupying the town of Wimborne, a45 and taking thence a nun with him, whom he had already married, fled by night to Northumberland, to unite himself unto the Danes, and was made chief king and captain over them. Being chased from thence, Clito fled over into France, but shortly returning again into England, he landed in East England, where, with a company of Danes of that country gathering to him, he destroyed and pillaged much of the country about Crekinford and Crikeland; and so passing over the Thames, after he had spoiled the land there to Bradenstock, returned again to Norfolk and Suffolk; where, meeting with an ambush of Kentish men, which dragged and tarried after the main host of Edward, contrary to his commandment, he enclosed them, and slew the most part of them. Soon after, the two hosts meeting together, between the two ditches of St. Edmund’s land, after a long fight, Clito and many of the Danes were slain, and the remnant were constrained to seek for peace, which, upon certain conditions, and under a tribute, was to them granted.
In process, about the twelfth year of his reign, the Danes repenting them of their covenants, and minding to break the same, assembled a host, and met with the king in Staffordshire, at a place called Tottenhall, and soon after at Wodenfield, at which two places the king slew two kings, two earls, and many thousands of Danes that occupied the country of Northumberland.
Thus the importunate rage of the Danes being assuaged, King Edward having now some leisure given from wars to other studies, gave his mind to the building or repairing of cities, towns, and castles, that by the Danes were rased, shattered, and broken; as first, of Chester, a46 which city he enlarged to double that it was before, compassing the castle within the walls of the same, which before stood without. That done, the king built a strong castle at Hereford, on the edge of Wales. Also, for the strengthening of the country, he made a castle at the mouth of the water of Avon, and another castle at Buckingham, and the third fast thereby upon the river Ouse. Moreover, he built or re-edified the towns of Towcester and Wigmoor, and destroyed the castle that the Danes had made at Demesford.
Likewise upon the river Trent, against the old town of Nottingham, he built a new town on the south side, and made a bridge over the river between the said two towns. Also by the river Mersey he built a city or town in the north end of Mercia, and named it Thilwall; and after repaired the city of Manchester, that was sore defaced with wars of the Danes.
In this renewing and building of towns and castles, for the more fortifying of his realm, his sister Elfleda, daughter of King Alfred, and married to the duke of Mercia, as is before-mentioned, was no small helper. Of this Elfleda, it is firmly of writers affirmed, that she being, as is said, married to Ethelred, duke of Mercia, after she had once assayed the pains of travail, did so much abhor them, that it seemed to her, she said, not seemly for a noble woman to desire that whereof so great sorrow and travail should ensue. Yet notwithstanding, the same Elfleda, for all her delicate tenderness, was so hardy in warlike dangers, which nature giveth not to women, that, fighting against the Danes, four of her next knights, who were guardians of her body, were slain fast by her. This Elfleda, among her other noble acts, whereby she deserved praise, was a great helper and stirrer up of her brother Edward, who builded and newly repaired many castles and towns, as Tamworth beside Lichfield, Stafford, Warwick, Shrewsbury, Watrisbury, Eldsbury beside Chester in the forest, now destroyed; also, in the north end of Mercia, upon the river Mersey, a castle called Runcorn; as well as a bridge over the Severn, named Brimmis-bury bridge. a47 As touching the laws and statutes of this Edward, as also of his father Alfred, made before him, I omit here to record them for length of matter and waste of time; yet, notwithstanding, this admonition by the way I think good to note, that in the days of those ancient kings reigning in England, the authority both of conferring bishop-tics and spiritual promotions, and also of prescribing laws as well to the churchmen as to the laity, and of ordering and intermeddling in matters merely spiritual, was then in the hands of kings ruling in the land, and not only in the hand of the pope, as appeareth by the laws of Alfred. f64 By these and other such like constitutions it may appear, how the governance and direction of the church in those days depended not upon Monsieur le Pope of Rome, but upon the kings, who here, in their time (under the Lord), did govern the land. To this also the example of King Edward’s time gives testimony; which Edward, with Pleimundus abovementioned, archbishop of Canterbury, and with other bishops, in a synod assembled, assigned and elected seven bishops, in seven metropolitan churches of the realm; the first of whom was Fridelstan, the second Addstan, the third Werstan, the fourth Adeleme, the fifth Edelfus, the sixth Dernegus, the seventh Kenulphus; in which election the king’s authority seemed then alone to be sufficient.
This Edward, as in the beginning was said, reigned twenty-four years, who had three wives, Egwin, Elfied, and Ethelwid. Of Egwin he had his eldest son Athelstan, who next succeeded in the kingdom, and a daughter, married after to the duke of Northumberland. Of Elfled he received two sons, to wit, Ethelwald and Edwin, and six daughters. Ethelwald was excellently well seen in all knowledge of learning, much resembling, both in countenance and conditions, his grandfather Alfred; he died soon after his father. Of his six daughters. two of them, Elfled and Ethelhilda,were made nuns, the other four were married; Edgiva to Charles, the French king, in her father’s time; Ethilda, by king Athelstan, was married to Hugo, the son of Duke Robert; Edgitha and Algiva were both sent to Henry, prince of Almains. Of which two sisters, the former the said Henry married to his son Otho, who was the first emperor of the Almains; the other sister, who was Algiva, the aforesaid Henry married to a certain duke, about the borders of the Alps, in France. Of his third wife, Ethelwid, he received two sons, Edmund and Edred, who both reigned after Athelstan; and two daughters, Edburga, whom he made a nun, and Eadguina, who was married to Ebles, prince of Aquitaine, in France. These sons and daughters King Edward the Elder thus brought up; his daughters he set to spinning and to the needle; his sons he set to the study of learning, “to the end that they, being as first made philosophers, should be the more expert thereby to govern the commonwealth.” f67 ATHELSTAN, OR ADELSTAN f68 ATHELSTAN, or Adelstan, after the death of Edward his father, began his reign in England, and was crowned at Kingston. He was a prince of worthy memory, valiant and wise in all his acts, nothing inferior to his father Edward, in like worldly, renown of civil government, joined with much prosperous success in reducing this realm under the subjection of one monarchy; for he both expelled the Danes, subdued the Scots, and quieted the Welshmen, as well in North Wales as also in Cornwall. The first enemy against this Athelstan, was one Elfred, who, with a faction of seditious persons conspiring against the said Athelstan at Winchester, incontinently after the death of his father, went about to put out his eyes. Not withstanding, the king escaping that danger, through the help of God, was at that time delivered. Elfred, upon the same being accused, fled to Rome, there before the pope to purge himself by his oath. When being brought to the church of St. Peter, and there swearing, or rather forswearing, himself to be clear, who indeed was guilty thereof, suddenly upon his oath fell down; and so brought to the English house in Rome, within three days after departed. The pope sending word to King Athelstan, whether he would have the said Elfred buried among Christians or not, at length, through the persuasions of his friends and kinsfolks, it was concluded that he should be buried in Christian burial. This story although I find in no other writers mentioned, but only in the Chronicles of Malmesbury, yet, forasmuch as it beareth the witness and words of the king himself, as testified in an old deed of gift, given to the monastery of Malmesbury, I thought the same the more to be of credit. The words of the king proceed as follow in the note. f69 In the second year of the reign of King Athelstan, for an unity and a peace to be had between the king and the Danes of Northumberland, he married to Sitheric their king his sister, whereof mention is made before; but shortly after, within one year, this Sitheric died, after whose death King Athelstan seized that province into his own hand, putting out the son of the aforesaid Sitheric, called Anlaff, who, with his brother Godfrey, fled, the one into Ireland, the other to Constantine, king of the Scots; and, when he had thus accorded with the Danes of Northumberland, he shortly made subject unto him Constantine, king of Scots. But the said Constantine meeked himself so lowly to the king, that he restored him to his former dignity, saying, that it was more honor to make a king than to be a king.
Not long after, the said Constantine, king of Scots, did break covenant with King Athelstan; wherefore he assembled his knights, and made towards Scotland, where he subduing his enemies, and bringing them again unto due subjection, returned into England with victory. Here, by the way, in some story writers, who, forgetting the office of historians, seem to play the poets, is written and recorded for a marvel, that the said Athelstan, returning out of Scotland into England, came to York, and so into the church of St. John of Beverly, to redeem his knife, which before he had left there for a pledge at his going forth: in the which place he praying to God and to St. John of Beverly, that he might leave there some remembrance whereby they that came after might know that the Scots by right should be subdued to the English men, smote with sword, they say, upon a great hard stone standing near about the castle of Dunbar, that with the stroke thereof the stone was cut a large ell deep, with a lie no less deep also than was the stroke in the stone. But of this poetical or fabulous story, albeit Polychronicon, Fabian, Jornalensis, and others more, constantly accord in the same, yet in Malmesbury and Huntington no mention is made at all.
But peradventure, he that was the inventor first of this tale of the stone, was disposed to lie for the whetstone; wherefore in my mind he is worthy to have it. Of like truth and credit seemeth also to be this that followeth about the same year and time under the reign of King Athelstan, being the eighth year of his reign, of one Bristan, bishop of Winchester, who succeeded Frithstan, in the same see, and governed that bishopric four years. This Bristan, being a devout bishop in prayer and contemplation, used much, among his solitary walks, to frequent late the churchyard, praying for the souls there, and all Christian souls departed. Upon a time the said Bristan, after his wonted manner proceeding in his devotions, when he had done, came to “Requiescant in pace,” whereunto suddenly a great multitude of souls answering together with one voice, said, “Amen.”
Of this miracle albeit I have not much to say, hasting to other matters, yet this question would I ask of some indifferent papist, who were not willful, but of ignorance deceived, if this multitude which here answered “Amen,” were the souls of them buried in the churchyard or not? If yea, then how were they in purgatory, what time they were heard in that place answering “Amen,” except we should think purgatory to be in the churchyard at Winchester, where the souls were heard then so many answering and praying “Amen?” And yet this story is testified by the accord of writers of that time, Malmesbury, Polychronicon, Hoveden, Jornalensis, and others more. Much like miracles and prophecies also we read of Elphege who succeeded him; but because we haste to other things, let these fables pass.
Ye heard a little before, how King Athelstan, after the death of Sitheric, king of Northumberland, seized that land or province into his own hand, and put out his son Anlaff, who, after flying into Scotland, married the daughter of Constantine, king of Scots, by whose stirring and exhortation he gathered a company of Danes, Scots, and others, and entered the mouth of Humber with a strong navy of six hundred and fifteen ships. Whereof king Althelstan, with his brother Edmund, having knowledge, prepared his army, and at length joined in fight with him and his people at a place called Brimanbruch, or Brimford, where he fighting with them from morning to even, after a terrible slaughter on both sides, as the like hath not been seen lightly in England, had the victory. In which battle were slain five small and under-kings, with Constantine, king of Scots, and twelve dukes, with the more part of all the strangers which at that time they gathered to them.
Concerning this battle, I find in a certain written Chronicle the underwritten verses, which, because they should not be lost, I thought not unworthy here of rehearsal. f71 After this victory thus obtained of the Danes and Scots, King Athelstan also subdued, or at least quieted, the North Britons, whom he conventing together at Hereford, or thereabouts, forced them to grant unto him as a yearly tribute twenty pounds of gold, three hundred pounds of silver, and of heads of meat, five and twenty hundred, with hawks and dogs to a certain number. This done, he went to Exeter, and there likewise subduing the South Britons about Exeter and Cornwall, repaired the walls of Exeter with sufficient strength, and so returned.
Among these victorious and noble acts of this king, one blot there is of him written and noted, wherein he is as much worthy to be reprehended as in the other before to be commended; that is, the innocent death and murder of his brother Edwin, the occasion whereof was this: King Edward aforenamed, their father, in the time of his youth, coming by a certain village or grange where he had been nursed and brought up of a child, thought of courtesy to go see how his nurse did, where he, entering into the house, espied a certain young damsel, beautiful, and right seemly attired, Egwina by name. This Egwina, before being a poor man’s daughter, had a vision by night, that of her body sprang such a bright light of the moon, that the brightness thereof gave light to the realm of England, by reason whereof she was taken into the aforesaid house, and daintily brought up instead of their own daughter for hope of some commodity to ensue thereby, as afterward it came to pass; for King Edward, as it is declared, coming into the house, and ravished with the beauty of the maiden, had of her this Athelstan. Wherefore the said Athelstan being thus basely born of Egwina, the first wife to Edward, as is said, before he was married to her, and fearing his next brother Edwin, who was rightly born, especially being stirred thereunto through the sinister suggestion of his butler, did cast such displeasure to the aforesaid Edwin his brother, being yet but young, that, notwithstanding his innocent submission and purgation made against his accusers, he caused him to be set in an old rotten boat in the broad sea, only with one esquire with him, without any tackling or other provision to the same; where the young and tender prince being dismayed with the rage of winds and of the floods, and now weary of his life, cast himself overboard into the sea, and so was drowned. The esquire, however, shifting for himself as he could, and recovering the body of his master, brought it to Sandwich, where it was buried: which done, the king, afterwards coining to the remembrance of himself, was stricken with great repentance the space of seven years together, and at length was revenged of him that was the accuser of his brother. This accuser, as is said, was the king’s cup-bearer, who, as God the righteous Judge of all things would have it, upon a certain solemn feast, bearing the cup unto the king, chanced in the middle of the floor to stumble with one foot, helping and recovering himself with the other, saying in these words, “Thus one brother, as you see, helpeth another.” These words being thus spoken in the hearing of the king, so moved his mind, that forthwith he commanded the false-accuser of his brother to be had out to execution; whose just recompense I would wish to be a warning to all men, what it is to sow discord between brother and brother.
King Athelstan, besides his seven years’ lamentation for this act, built the two monasteries of Middleton and of Micheleries a48 for his brother’s sake, or, as the stories say, for his soul: whereby it may appear what was the cause most special in those days of building monasteries, to wit, for releasing the sins both of them departed, and them alive; which cause, how it standeth with the grace and verity of Christ’s gospel, and of his passion, let the Christian reader try and examine with himself. This cruel fact of the king towards Edwin, caused him afterward to be more tender and careful towards his other brethren and sisters left in his hands unmarried; which sisters, as is partly in the chapter before declared, he richly bestowed in great marriages, as one to the king of Northumberland, Sitheric; another he gave to Louis, king of Provence; the third to Henry, duke of Almain, for his son Otho, who was the first emperor of the Germans; whereby it is to be understood, that the empire at this time began first to be translated from France (where it remained about one hundred years and a half) unto Germany, where it hath ever since continued.
The fourth of his sisters, being a virgin of singular beauty, Hugo, duke of France, required to be given to him; sending to King Athelstan precious and sumptuous presents, such as were not before seen in England: among the which presents and gifts, besides sundry favors of rare odors and fine spices; and besides precious and costly gems, namely, emeralds of most refulgent green; besides also many fine coursers and palfries richly trapped; especially of one jewel do writers make mention, which was a certain vase, finely and subtly made of the precious stone onyx, so wrought and polished, that in it corn and vines appeared to be really growing, and men’s images walking. Over and besides was sent also the sword of Constantine the Great, with his name written in golden letters, and in the haft of the same, inlaid in gold, was one of the iron nails wherewith our Savior on the cross was nailed. Of the verity whereof I am not disposed at this present much to say what I suspect, but from the ecclesiastical story of Eusebius it is evident, that two of the aforesaid nails of Christ were spent on the bridle of Constantine, the third he cast into the sea in a raging tempest; wherefore if Christ were nailed with four nails, perhaps this nail might be one; if he were nailed but with three, I see not how this story can stand with other stories, neither how this fourth nail can stand with the truth. Among the rest, moreover, was the spear of Charlemagne, the same (as is reported) wherewith the side of our Savior was opened, which also the said Charlemagne was wont to carry in the field against his enemies: with a portion likewise of the holy cross enclosed in crystal; also a part of the crown of thorns in like manner enclosed. Of the which relics, part was given to Winchester, part to the church of Malmesbury, where King Athelstan was buried. As this king was endued and enlarged by the gift of God (the setter-up and disposer of all kings) with great victories of worldly renown, having under his subjection both the Scots and Britons, and the whole monarchy of the land; so he devised divers good and wholesome laws for the government of the same, as well concerning the state of the orders ecclesiastical, as also of the secular or lay people. Whereby it is to be understood, that the usurped power of the Bishop of Rome did not then extend itself so largely, nor so proudly derogate from the authority of kings and princes, but that every one in his own dominion had, under God, and not under the pope, the doing of all matters within the same his dominion contained, ‘whether they were causes temporal or spiritual, as by the decrees and constitutions of this king, and also of others as well before him as after him, may evidently be testified; as where he, amongst other laws, thus ordaineth touching the bishop, in the words that follow underwritten. f75 The said Athelstan besides prescribed other constitutions also, as touching tithes-giving, where he saith, and proclaimeth: “I Athelstan, king, charge and command all my officers through my whole realm, to give tithes unto God of my proper goods, as well in living cattle as in the corn and fruits of the ground; and that my bishops like-wise, of their proper goods, and mine aldermen, and my officers and headmen, shall do the same. Item, this I will, that my bishops and other headmen, do declare the same to such as be under their subjection, and that to be accomplished at the term of St. John the Baptist. Let us remember what Jacob said unto the Lord, ‘Of all things that thou givest to me I will offer tithes unto the Lord;’ also what the Lord saith in the Gospel of St. Matthew, ‘To him that hath it shall be given, and he shall abound.’ We must also consider how terribly it is written in books, that ‘if we will not offer our tenths, from us nine parts shall be taken away, and only the tenth part shall be left us.” And, in the same place whereto they belong, it followeth, “that the king would usurp no man’s goods wrongfully.” f77 Among his other laws and ordinances, to the number of thirty-five, divers other things are comprehended, pertaining as well to the spiritual, as also to the temporal jurisdiction.
Out of the laws of this king first sprang up the attachment of thieves, that such as stole above twelve pence, and were above twelve years old, should not be spared. Thus much, briefly, concerning the history of King Athelstan, and things in his time done, who reigned about the space of sixteen years: a50 as he did without issue, after him succeeded his brother Edmund, A.D. 941, who reigned four years and a half. a51 EDMUND F79 Edmund, the son of Edward the Elder by his third wife (as is declared) and brother of Athelstan, being of the age of twenty years, entered upon his reign, who had by his queen Elgina two sons, Edwin, and Edgar, surnamed Pacificus, who both reigned after him as followeth. This Edmund continued his reign four years and a half. By him were expelled the Danes, Scots, Normans and all foreign enemies out of the land. Such cities and towns as before were in the possession of strangers, as Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Stafford, and Leicester, he recovered out of their hands. Thus the realm being cleared of foreign power for a time, the king set his mind upon redressing and maintaining the state of the church; which all stood then in building of monasteries, and furnishing of churches, either with new possessions, or in restoring the old, which were taken away before. In the time of this Edmund, this I find in an old written story borrowed of William Carey, a citizen of London, a worthy treasurer of most worthy monuments of antiquity. The name of the author I cannot allege because the book beareth no title, lacking both the beginning and the later end, but the words thereof faithfully recited be these, “In the time of this king, there was scattering or dispersion made of the monks out of the monastery of Evesham, and canons subsituted in their place, through the doing of Athelmus and Ulricus, laymen, and of Osulfus, bishop,”etc. f80 A.D. 941.
Here as concerning this matter between monks and others of the clergy, first it is to be understood, that in the realm of England heretofore, before the time of Dunstan, the bishops’ sees and cathedral, churches were replenished with no monks, but with priests and canons, called then clerks, or men of the clergy. After this, beginneth to rise a difference or a sect between these two parties in strictness of life, and in habit; so that they who lived after a stricter rule of holiness were called monks, and professed chastity; that was, to live without wives, for so was chastity then defined in those blind days; as though holy matrimony were not chastity, according as Paphnutius did well define it in the Council of Nice. The other sort, who were not monks, but priests, or men of the clergy so called, lived more free from those monkish rules and observances, and were then commonly, or at least lawfully, married, and in their life and habit came nearer to the secular state of other Christians, by reason whereof great disdain and emulation were among them, insomuch that in many cathedral churches, where priests were before, there monks were put in; and on the contrary, where monks had intruded, there priests and canons again were placed, and monks thrust out; whereof more shall appear hereafter (by the grace of Christ), when we come to the life of Dunstan. In the mean time something to satisfy the cogitation of the reader, who peradventure either is ignorant, or else would know of the first coming in of monks into this realm and church of England in the Saxons’ time, this is to be noted, according as I find in old chronicles, namely, in the Latin history of Malmesbury, recorded touching the same. f81 About this time of King Edmund, or shortly after, hardness and strictness of life, joined with superstition, was had in veneration, and counted for great holiness: men, therefore, either to win public fame with men, or merits with God, gave themselves to lead a strict life, thinking thereby, the stranger their conversation was, and the further from the common trade of vulgar people, the more perfect to be towards God and man. There was at that time, and before that, a monastery in France named Fleury, after the order and rule of Benedict; from which monastery did spring a great part of our English monks, who being there professed, and afterward returning into England, did congregate men daily to their profession; and so, partly for strangeness of their rule, partly for outward holiness of their strict life, partly for the opinion of holiness that many had of them, were in great admiration, not only with the rude sort, but with kings and princes, who founded their houses, maintained their rules, and enlarged them with possessions. Among this order of monks coming from Fleury especially was one Oswald, first a monk of Fleury, then bishop of Worcester and York, a great patron and setter up of monkery. Touching this Oswald, Malmesbury, writing of his history, hath these words: “It was a common custom at that time among Englishmen, that if any good men were wellaffected or minded toward religion, they went to the monastery of the blessed St. Benedict in France, and there received the habit of a monk, whereupon the first origin of this religion began,” etc. But of this Oswald, bishop of York, and Dunstan, bishop of Canterbury, and Ethelwald, bishop of Winchester, how they replenished divers monasteries and cathedral churches with monks, and how they discharged married priests and canons out of their houses, to plant in monks in their cells, more shall be spoken, by the grace of Christ, hereafter.
Let us now return to the matter where we left off, of King Edmund, who, besides his noble victories against his enemies, and recovering the cities above expressed into his own hands, did also subdue the province of Cumberland; and, after he had put out the eyes of the two sons of Dunmail, king of Cumberland, he committed the governance thereof to Malcolm, king of Scots, upon promise of his trusty service and obedience, when the king should stand in any need of him. In the time of this king, Dunstan was not yet archbishop of Canterbury, but only abbot of Glastonbury, of whom many fabulous narrations pass among writers, importing more vanity than verity, whereof this is one of the first. What time Edgar, called Pacificus, was born, Dunstan, being at the same time abbot of Glastonbury, heard, as the monkish fables dream, a voice in the air of certain angels singing after this tenor, “Now peace cometh to the church of England in the time of this child, and of our Dunstan,” etc. This I thought to recite, that the Christian reader might the better ponder with himself the impudent and abominable fictions of this Romish generation.
But of the same mint also they have forged, how the said Dunstan heard the angels sing the Kyrieleson, usually sung at even-song in the church. f83 Which is as true as that the harp, hanging in a woman’s house played by itself the tune of the anthem, called, “Gaudent in coelis,” etc. What would not these deceivers feign in matters something likely, who, in things so absurd and so inconvenient, shame not to lie and to forge so impudently, and also so manifestly? Through the motion of this Dunstan, King Edmund built and furnished the monastery of Glastonbury, and made the said Dunstan abbot thereof.
Concerning the end and death of this king, sundry opinions there be, Alfridus a52 and Marianus say, that while this King Edmund endeavored himself to save his sewer from the danger of his enemies, who would have slain him at Pulcher a52 church, the king, in parting the fray, was wounded, and died shortly after. But Malmesbury saith, “that the king being at a feast at Pulcher church upon the day of St. Augustine, spied a felon sitting in the hall named Leof; whom he for his felony had exiled; and leaping over the table did fly upon him, and plucked the thief by the hair of the head to the ground; in which doing, the felon with a knife wounded the king to the death, and also with the same knife wounded many other of the king’s servants, and at length was hewn down and died forthwith.
By the laws of King Edmund (ordained and set forth, as well for the redress of church matters, as also of civil regiment) it would appear, that the state of causes both temporal and spiritual, appertained then to the king’s right (the false pretended usurpation of the bishop of Rome notwithstanding), as by these laws is to be seen: where he, by the advice of his lords and bishops did enact and determine concerning the chastity and pure life of ecclesiastical ministers, and such as were in the orders of the church, with the penalties also for those who transgressed the same. Item, For tithes to be paid for every Christian man, and for the church fees, and alms fees, etc. Item, For defiling of women professed, whom we call nuns, etc. Item, For every bishop to see his churches repaired of his own proper charge; and boldly to admonish the king, whether the houses of God were well maintained, etc. Item, For flying into the church for sanctuary, etc. Item, Concerning cases and determinations spousal or matrimonial, etc.
All which constitutions declare what interest kings had in those days in matters as well ecclesiastical as others, within their dominion; and that, not only in disposing the ordinances and rites that appertained to the institution of the church, but also in placing and setting bishops in their sees, etc.
In the time of this Edmund, Ulstan was archbishop of York, and Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, which Odo, being a Dane born, a53 as is before said, was promoted to that see by King Athelstan, for that, as they say, he being first bishop of Wilton, and present with King Athelstan in the field against Analavus before-mentioned, what time the said Athelstan had lost his sword, he, through his intercession up to heaven, did see a sword from heaven come down into the sheath of the king. Whereof relation being made unto the king by the aforesaid bishop, Athelstan upon the same was so affected towards Odo, that not only he accounted him a patron of his life, but also made him primate of Canterbury after the decease of Ulfelm. This Odo was the first from the coming in of the Saxons, who was archbishop of Canterbury, being no monk; for all the others before him were of the profession of monks, of whom a great part had been Italians unto Berctualdus. Notwithstanding this, Odo, being also a stranger born, after he was elected to the bishopric, to answer to the old custom of others before him, sailed over into France, and there, at Fleury, after the usual manner above-mentioned of Englishmen, received the profession and habit of monkish religion, as saith Malmesbury. And, like as the said Odo first being no monk, was made archbishop of Canterbury, so also Ulstan, being at the same time bishop of York and of Worcester, differed from divers of his predecessors before him in profession and habit; of whom the beforenamed author thus writeth in his third book, speaking of Ulstan, “Qui sanctitate discrepabat et habitu;” that is, “He differed in sanctimony and in habit.” Where by it is to be collected, that in those days there was a difference in habit and garment, not only between monks and bishops, but also between one bishop and another; albeit what difference it was, I do not find. But to return again to Odo, who, by the description of his manners, might seem not to be the worst who occupied that place, were it not that our lying histories, feigning false miracles about him, as they do of others, make him indeed to seem worse than he was, as where they imagine that he should see from heaven a sword fall into the scabbard of King Athelstan; also, where he should cover and defend the church of Canterbury with his prayers from rain; and where he should turn the bread of the altar (as the writer termeth it) into lively flesh, and from flesh into bread again, to confirm the people who before doubted about it. Where note again, good reader! that albeit this miracle were true, as no doubt it is untrue, yet is it to be noted, that in those days was a great doubt amongst Englishmen about the popish sacrament, and that transubstantiation was not received into the Christian creed. The like judgment is to be given also of that, where our English writers, testifying of the same Odo, say that he prophesied long before that Dunstan would be his successor in the church of Canterbury. But to let these fantasies and idle stories pass, this which we find of his own writing is certain, that the said Odo, in the reign of King Edmund, had a synod commenced of the chief prelates and men of the clergy in his time, to whom he directed this letter here following: the copy whereof I thought to give, for the reader to see what zealous care then reigned in archbishops to ward the church of the Lord. The words of his epistle proceed in this tenor:
THE LETTER OR EPISTLE OF ODO, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, SENT TO THE OTHER BISHOPS AND MEN OF THE CLERGY. F88 “By the divine grace of God, I Odo, of the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ archbishop, and metropolitan of the city of Dover, to my fellow-bishops and fellow-planters of the Catholic faith, and my fellow-brethren in the spiritual bond of charity, with greeting, wish prosperity in this world present, and in the world to come felicity. If it were so, or by any means could be, that all the riches of this world were laid before mine eyes, so that I being emperor had all things universally under my subjection, all those things gladly would I give, yea and myself also I would offer willingly for the health of your souls, as who also do desire, and trust likewise myself to be strengthened with the fervency of your holiness, as appertaining to those things wherein the Lord our God hath set Us to be workmen, etc.”
And after a few other words to the like effect, wherein he doth declare the heavy burden of his office, it followeth after this manner: “Wherefore most humbly, and as one unworthy, but yet a devout fellow-brother of yours, I beseech and exhort your holiness, that you will not show yourselves cold and negligent in the cure and regiment of souls, so that in the time of the fearful judgment, the Lord do not complain of you, saying, “My shepherds did not feed my flock, but they fed themselves;” and again, “They were princes of my flock, and I knew not of it.” But rather let us take heed and be diligent over the household of the Lord, over which he hath set us to be the leaders, to give them meat and true measure of corn in time convenient; that is to say, whole some doctrine. And, although upon mine own merits or worthiness, I do not presume to comfort or exhort any man, but as one being unworthy and faulty in transgressions innumerable, I am glad, and stand in need rather, to be strengthened by your brotherly admonitions; yet, for the ancient authority of my predecessors, as of Augustine of happy memory, and also of all other saints, by whose industry the rule of Christianity did first flourish and spring from this metropolitan see unto all quarters of England, therefore I have thought good to direct unto you these my letters to the profit of you all; especially, for that our renowned and princely king Edmund, with all his people, doth joy to follow that which he heareth in you and of you; and also forasmuch as all his subjects, who be under his imperial dominion, do love and delight to follow most joyfully the same, and report of your sincere conversation, etc.”
This Odo continued bishop the space of eighteen years. a54 After him Elsinus was elected and ordained by the king to succeed through favor and money; but, in going to Rome for the pope’s pall, in his journey through the Alps, he decayed and died for cold. Hereupon succeeded Dunstan, as in time and place (by the leave of Christ) followeth to be declared.
King Edmund gave to St. Edmund the Martyr before-mentioned, the town of Bredrichworth, which is now called St. Edmundsbury, with great revenues and lands appertaining to the same. But concerning the frivolous miracles which our monkish story-writers here feign of this good Edmund, by the way, or rather out of the way, I let them pass. And thus much concerning King Edmund, who, after he had reigned four years and a half, was slain, a55 as it is said, at Pulcher church, and buried at Glastonbury by Dunstan, leaving behind him two children, Edwin and Edgar, by his wife Elgina. But because the two aforesaid children were yet young, and under age, therefore Edred, brother to King Edmund, and uncle to the children, governed as protector about the space of nine years and a half, till Edwin the eldest son came of age. This Edred, with great moderation and fidelity to the young children behaved himself, during the time of his government. In his time Dunstan was promoted, through the means of Odo the archbishop, from abbot of Glastonbury to be bishop of Worcester. a56 By the counsel of this Dunstan, Edred was much ruled, and too much thereto addicted; insomuch that he is reported in stories to have submitted himself to much fond penance and castigation, inflicted on him by the said Dunstan. Such zealous devotion was then in princes, and more blind superstition in bishops. And here again is another miracle as fantastical as the other before, forged by Dunstan, that when that Edred being sick sent for Dunstan to be his confessor, by the way Dunstan should hear a voice declaring to him beforehand, that Edred was already departed; at the declaring whereof, Dunstan’s horse fell immediately dead under him ¾ with lie and all!
EDWIN, OR EDWY Edwin, the eldest son of King Edmund before-mentioned, after his uncle Edred, began his reign about A.D. 955, being crowned at Kingston by Odo, the archbishop of Canterbury. Of this Edwin it is reported by divers writers, that the first day of his coronation, sitting with his lords, he brake suddenly from them, and entered a secret chamber, to the company of a certain woman whom he inordinately retained, being, as some say, another man’s wife, whose husband he had before slain; as others say, being of his alliance, to the great mis-liking of his lords, and especially of the clergy.
Dunstan was as yet but abbot of Glastonbury; who, following the king into the chamber, brought him out by the hand, and accused him to Odo, the archbishop, causing him to be separate from the company of the aforesaid party, by the which Odo the king was for his fact suspended out of the church: by reason whereof the King, being with Dunstan displeased, banished him his land, and forced him for a season to flee to Flanders, where he was in the monastery of St. Amand. About the same season the monastic order of Benedict monks, or black monks, (as they were called) began to multiply and increase here in England; insomuch that where, beforetime, other priests and canons had been placed, there monks were in their rooms set in, and the secular priests (as they then were called) or canons, put out. But King Edwin, for the displeasure he bare to Dunstan, did so vex all the order of the said monks, that in Malmesbury, Glastonbury, and other places more, he thrust out the monks, and set secular priests in their stead. Notwithstanding, it was not long but these priests and canons were again removed, and the said monks in their stead restored, both in the aforesaid houses, and in divers other cathedral churches besides, as in the next story of King Edgar (Christ willing) shall more at large appear.
In fine, King Edwin being hated, by reason of certain his demeanours, of all his subjects, especially the Northumbrians and Mercians, was by them removed from his kingly honor, and his brother Edgar in his stead received, so that the river of Thames divided both their kingdoms. Which Edwin, after he had reigned about the term of four years, departed, leaving no heir of his body, wherefore the rule of the land fell unto Edgar, his younger brother.
EDGAR, SURNAMED PACIFICUS F89 Edgar, the second son of Edmund, and brother to Edwin, being of the age of sixteen years, began his reign over the realm of England, A.D. 959, but was not crowned till fourteen years after, a57 the causes whereof hereunder follow (Christ willing) to be declared. In the beginning of his reign he called home Dunstan, whom King Edwin had exiled. Then was Dunstan, a58 who before was abbot of Glastonbury, made bishop of Worcester, and then of London. Not long after this, Odo, the archbishop of Canterbury, deceaseth, after he had governed that church twentyfour years. a59 After whom, Elsinus, bishop of Winchester, first was elected; but shortly after died, as above related. After him, Brithilinus, bishop of Wells, was elected; but because he was thought not sufficient to furnish that room, Dunstan was ordained archbishop, and the other sent home again to his old church. Where note by the way, how in those days the donation and assigning of ecclesiastical dignities remained in the king’s hand; only they fetched their pall from Rome as a token of the pope’s confirmation. So Dunstan, being by the king made archbishop, took his journey to Rome for his pall of Pope John XII, which was about the beginning of the king’s reign. Thus Dunstan, obtaining his pall, shortly after his return again from Rome entreateth King Edgar that Oswald (who, as is said, was made monk at Fleury, and was nephew to Odo, late archbishop of Canterbury) might be promoted to the bishopric of Worcester, which thing to him was granted; and, not long after, through the means of the said Dunstan, Ethelwold, whom stories do feign to be the great patron of monkery, first monk at Glastonbury, then abbot of Abingdon, was also made bishop of Winchester. Of this Ethelwold, Malmesbury recordeth, that what time he was a monk in the house of Glastonbury, the abbot had a vision of him, which was this: how that there appeared to him in his sleep a certain great tree, the branches whereof extended throughout all the four quarters of the realm, which branches were all covered with many little monks’ cowls; where in the top of the tree was one great master-cowl, which, in spreading itself over the other cowls, enclosed all the rest; which master-cowl in the tree-top mine author, in the interpretation, applieth to the life of this Ethelwold. Of such prodigious fantasies our monkish histories be full; and not only our histories of England, but also the heathen histories of the Genthes, be stuffed with such kind of dreams of much like effect.
Of such a like dream we read of the mother of Athelstan; how the moon did spring out of her womb, and gave light to all England! Also of King Charles the emperor, how he was led by a thread to see the torments of hell. Likewise of Furceus, the hermit, mentioned in the third Book of Bede, who saw the joys of heaven, and the Four fires that should destroy the world; the one of lying, for breaking our promise made at baptism; the second fire was of covetousness; the third of dissension; the fourth was the fire of impiety and wrongful dealing. Item, in like sort of the dream of Dunstan, and of the same Ethelwold, to whom appeared the three bishops, Bristan, Birin, and Swithin, etc. Item of the dream of the mother of this Ethelwold, who being great with him, did see a golden eagle fly out of her mouth, etc.; of the dream likewise, or the vision of King Edgar, concerning the falling of the two apples; and of the pots, one being full, the other empty, of water, etc.; also of King Edward the Confessor, touching the ruin of the land by the conquest of the Normans. We read also in the History of Astyages, how he dreamed of Cyrus; and likewise of many other dreams in the books of the monks and of the ethnic writers; for what cannot either the idle vanity of man’s head or the deception of the lying spirit work by man, in fore-showing such earthly events as happen commonly in this present world? But here is a difference to be understood between these earthly dreams, speaking of earthly things and matters of human superstition; and between other spiritual revelations sent by God touching spiritual matters of the church, pertaining to man’s salvation.
But, to our purpose; by this dream, and by the event which followed after, it may appear how, and by what means, the multitude of monks began first to swarm in the churches of England, that is, in the days of this Edgar, by the means of these three bishops, Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald.
Albeit Dunstan was the chiefest ring leader of this race, yet Ethelwold, being now bishop of Winchester, and Oswald bishop of Worcester, were not much behind for their parts. By the instigation and counsel of these three aforesaid, King Edgar is recorded in histories to build either new out of the ground, or to re-edify monasteries decayed by the Danes, more than forty: as the house of Ely, Glastonbury, Abingdon, Burga by Stamford, f94 Thorney, Ramsey, Wilton, Winton, Winchcomb, Tavistock in Devonshire, with divers other more, in the setting up and building of the which the aforesaid Ethelwold was a great doer, and a founder under the king. Moreover, through the motion of this Dunstan and his fellows, king Edgar, in divers great houses and cathedral churches where prebendaries and priests were before, displaced the priests, and set in monks. Whereof we read in the Chronicle of Roger Hoveden, in words and form as followeth: “Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, who was then one of the king’s council, did urge the king chiefly to expel clerks out of monasteries, and in their rooms to bestow monks and nuns.” Thus the secular priests being put to their choice, whether to change their habit, or to leave their rooms, departed out of their houses, giving place for other better men to come in. Then the houses and monasteries of religious men through all the realm went up apace.
After the king’s mind was thus persuaded and incited by these bishops to advance monkery, then Oswald, bishop of Worcester, and also made archbishop of York after the decease of Oskitel, “Sui voti compos effectus,” as Hoveden writeth, having his see in the cathedral church there of St. Peter, began first with fair persuasions to assay the minds of the canons and priests, whether they could be content to change then profession, and to be made monks or no; and when he saw it would not take effect, he practiced this policy with them: near to the said church of St. Peter, within the churchyard, he erected another church of our Lady, f97 which when he had replenished with monks, he continually frequented; there he kept, there he sat, and was ever there conversant, by reason whereof the other church was left naked and desolate, and all the people gathered there, where the bishop was. The priests seeing themselves so to be left and neglected both by the bishop and by the people, to whom nothing remained but shame and contempt, were driven by shame either to relinquish the house (such as would not enter the monkish profession), or else to become monks (such as had nothing else to depend upon). After the like superstition, although not after the same subtlety, did Ethelwold also drive out the canons and priests from the new monastery in Winchester, afterward called Hyde, and place therein his monks. So in Oxford and in Mildune, with divers other places, the secular priests, with then wives, were expelled, to give place to monks. The cause thereof is thus pretended in certain story-writers, whom I see also Fabian to follow; for that the priests and clerks were thought slack and negligent in then church service, and set in vicars in then stead, while they lived in pleasure and mispent the patrimony of the church after then own lust. Then King Edgar gave to the vicars the same land which before belonged to the prebendaries; who also not long after showed themselves as negligent as the others. Wherefore King Edgar, as mine authors write, by the consent of Pope John XIII, voided dearly the priests, and ordained there monks; though certain of the nobles and some of the prelates were therewith not well contented, as in the chapter following may partly appear.
But forasmuch as we have entered upon the mention of monks and nuns, and of their profession, which I see so greatly in our monkish stories commended; lest perhaps the simple reader may be deceived thereby, in hearing the name of monks in all histories of times to be such an ancient thing in Christian life, even from the primitive church after the apostles’ time, both commonly recited and well received: therefore, to help the judgment of the ignorant, and to pre vent all error herein, it shall not be unprofitable, in following the present occasion here given, by way of a little digression, to inter meddle somewhat concerning the original institution of monks, what they were in the old time who were called Monachi; wherein the monks of the primitive time did differ from the monks of the middle time, and from these our monks now of this latter age; moreover, wherein all these three do differ from priests, as we call them, and from men of the clergy. Wherefore, to answer to the superstitious scruple of those who allege the old antiquity of the name and title of monks, first, I grant the name and order of monks to be of old continuance, nearly from the time of three hundred years after Christ; of whom divers old authors do discourse, as Augustine, Hieronymus, Basilius Magnus (who was also himself one of the first institutors and commenders of that superstition), Chrysostom, Nazianzen, Evagrius, Sozomen, Dionysius, and divers others. In the number of these monks, who then were divided into hermits or anchorites, and into Coenobites, were Antonius, Paulus, and Johannes, with divers other recluses, among whom were Hierome, Basil, Macharius, Isidore, Parebus, Nilammon, Simeon, with infinite others, both in Palestine, Syria, Thebes, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Africa, and Scythia; insomuch that Cassianus a60 maketh mention of a certain monastery at Thebes, wherein were above 5,000 monks, under the government of one abbot. And here also in England mention is made before of Bangor, wherein were 2,200 monks under one man’s ruling [A.D. 596] whereby it appeareth that there were monks then, and two hundred years before, in the primitive time of the church. But what monks these were, is to be considered: such as by tyranny of persecution were driven into solitary and desert places, or else such as not constrained by any, but of their own voluntary devotion, joined with some superstition, for the love they had unto spiritual contemplation, and for hatred of the wicked world, withdrew themselves from all company, either having nothing to themselves proper, or else all things common with others. Now all these were then nothing else but laymen: of which laymen there were two sundry sorts, one of the vulgar and common people, who only were partakers of the sacraments; the others, through following a monastical kind of life, were called monks, being nothing but laymen leading a more severe and stricter trade of life than others.
By the authors quoted in the note, it is evident that monks in the former age of the church, albeit they lived a solitary life, yet were they no other but laymen, differing from priests and also from the other monks who succeeded them afterwards in the middle age of the church, and that in three points: First, they were tied and bound to no prescribed form, either of diet or apparel, or any thing else, as we may see testified by the words of St. Augustine. And Sozomen, speaking of the monks of the same time, who in cities had several mansions separate from others, saith, “Some live in cities, so behaving themselves, as seeming nothing worth, and they differed nothing from the multitude,” etc. The second point wherein they were discrepant from the later monks was, that they remained in no other order but that of laymen, only being of a stricter life than the rest, and had nothing to do in matters and charges ecclesiastical; which was afterward broken by Pope Boniface IV, as followeth (the Lord willing) to be seen and said. Thirdly, the aforesaid monks of that age, albeit the most part of them lived sole and single from wives, yet some of them were married: certes, none of them were forbidden or restrained from marriage. Of such as were married speaketh Athanasius, who says, “he knew both monks and bishops, as married men, and fathers of children.” f103 The said monks of the old time, though they were better than the others who followed them, yet, all that notwithstanding, superstition with them, and among them, began then to creep into the church through the crafty subtlety of Satan, and all for the ignorance of our free justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Examples do declare the vain and prodigious superstition of these monastic sorts of men; which examples do not lack, if leisure rather did not lack to bring them in. But two or three shall suffice for many, which I purpose (the Lord willing) here to insert, to the intent the mind of the godly reader may the better consider and understand, how shortly after the time of Christ and his apostles, the doctrine of Christian justification began to be forgotten, true religion turned to superstition, and the price of Christ’s passion to be obscured through the vain opinion of men’s merits, etc. A certain abbot, named Moses, thus testifieth of himself in the Collations of Cassianus, that he so afflicted himself with much fasting and watching, that sometimes, for two or three days together, not only he felt no appetite to eat, but also had no remembrance of any meat at all, and by reason thereof was driven also from sleep; insomuch that he was caused to pray to God but for some portion of the night to be given him, for a little refreshing of sleep. In the same author mention is made of a certain old man, a hermit, who, because he had conceived in himself such a purpose as never to eat meat without he had some guest or stranger with him, sometimes was constrained to abstain five days together until Sunday, when he went to the church, and thence brought some stranger or other home with him.
Two other examples more will I add out of the said Cassianus, to declare how the subtlety of Satan, through superstition and false color of holiness, blindeth the miserable eyes of those who rather attend men’s traditions than the word of God. The said author relates that a certain abbot named Johannes, in the desert of Scythia, sent two of his novices with figs unto one that was sick in the wilderness, eighteen miles off from the church. It chanced that these two young novices, missing the way, wandered so long in the wild forest or wilderness, unable to find the cell, that for emptiness and weariness they waxed faint and tired; and yet rather would they die than taste the figs committed to them to carry, and so they did, for shortly after they were found dead, their figs lying whole by them. f105 Another story also Cassianus reciteth, of two monastic brethren, who making their progress in the desert of Thebes, purposed with themselves to take no sustenance but such as the Lord himself should minister unto them. It happened, as they were wandering desolate in the desert, and fainting almost for penury, that certain Mazises, a61 a kind of people by nature fierce and cruel, notwithstanding being suddenly altered into a new nature of humanity, came forth, and of their own accord, offered bread unto them; which bread, the one thankfully received as sent of God; the other, accounting it sent of man, and not of God, refused it, and so for lack perished. f107 Hereunto might I also annex the story of Mucius, who, to declare his obedience, did not stick, at the commandment of his abbot, to cast his son into the water, not knowing whether any were appointed there ready to rescue him from drowning; so far were the monks in those days drowned in superstition. What is this, but for man’s traditions and commandments to transgress the commandments of God, who saith, “Thou shalt do no murder;” “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God?” What man is so blind, that seeth not by these, and infinite examples more, what pernicious superstition had begun by reason of this monkery, almost from the beginning, to creep into the church? whereat I cannot marvel enough, seeing that age of the church had in it so many learned and famous doctors, who not only did approve and allow these monastic sects of life, but also certain were themselves the authors and institutors of the same, yea, and of men’s traditions made the service of God; in the number of whom may be reckoned Basilius Magnus, and Nazianzen, who, with immoderate austerity, did so pluck down themselves, that when they were called to the office of bishops, they were not able to sustain the labor thereof.
After these aforesaid monks of that time, above-recited, followed other monks of the middle age of the church, who, as in multitude, so also in superstition increasing, began, by little and little, from their desolate dens in the vast wilderness, to approach more near to great towns, where they had solemn monasteries founded by kings and queens, and king’s daughters, and other rich consuls, as is partly before touched upon, and also the causes withal for which they were first founded. All these impious and erroneous titles and causes we find alleged in histories, as in Malmesbury, Jornalensis, Henricus, and others. In those histories I also note, that most of the monasteries were erected first upon some great murder, either by war in the field, or privately committed at home, as shall well appear to them that read their books to whom I have referred.
But, to return to our monks again, who, as is said, first began to creep from the cold fields into warm towns and cloisters, from towns then into cities, and at length from their close cells and cities, into cathedral churches (as here appeareth by this story of King Edgar), where, not only did they abound in wealth and riches (especially these monks of our later time), but much more did they swim in superstition and pharisaical hypocrisy, being yoked and tied in all their doings to certain prescribed rules and formal observances; in watching, in sleeping, in eating, in rising, in praying, in walking, in talking, in looking, in tasting, in touching, in handling, in their gestures, in their vestures, every man appareled not as the proper condition of others would require, nor as the season of the year did serve, but as the compulsory rules and order of every sect did enforce.
The number of monkish sects was infinitely divers: some, after St. Basil’s rule, went in white; some after Benet’s rule, a62 in black; some, Cluniacenses, first set up by Otho a63 in the time of this King Edgar, wore after the rule of Benet’s order; some, after Hierome’s rule, were leather-girdled, and coped above their white coat; some Gregorians were copper-colored; some, ‘De valle umbrosa,’ a64 were grey monks; some, Grandimontenses, wore a coat of mail upon their bare bodies, with a black cloak thereupon: some, Cistercians, had white rochets on a black coat; some, Celestines, all in blue, both cloak, cowl and cap; some, Charter monks, wearing haircloth next their bodies; some, Flagellants, a65 going barefoot in long white linen shirts, with an open place in the back, where they beat themselves with scourges on the bare skin every day before the people’s eyes, till the blood ran down, saying, that it was revealed to them by an angel, that in so scourging themselves, within thirty days and twelve hours they should be made as pure from sin as they were when they first received baptism; some, starred monks; some, Jesuats, with a white girdle and a russet cowl. Briefly, who can reckon up the innumerable sects and disguised orders of their fraternities? some holding of St. Benet, some of St. Hierome, some of St. Basil, some of St. Bernard, some of St. Bridget, some of St. Bruno, some of St. Lewis; as though it were not enough for Christians to hold of Christ only. So subject were they to servile rules, that no part of Christian liberty remained among them; so drowned and sunk in superstition, that not only they had lost Christ’s religion, but also almost the sense and nature of men. For where men naturally are and ought to be ruled by the discreet government of reason in all outward doings wherein no one rule can serve for all men, the circumstance of time, place, person and business being so sundry and divers; on the contrary, among these, not reason, but only the knock of a bell ruled all their doings: their rising, their sleeping, their praying, their eating, their coming in, their going out, their talking, their silence; and altogether, like insensible people, either not having reason to rule themselves, or else as persons ungrateful to God, neither enjoying the benefit of reason created in them, nor yet using the grace of Christ’s liberty, whereunto he redeemed them.
Thus thou seest, gentle reader! sufficiently declared, what the monks were in the primitive time of the church, and what were the monks of the middle age, and of these our latter days of the church; whereunto join this withal, that whereas the monks of elder time, as is said, were mere laymen, and not spiritual ministers, afterwards Boniface IV made a decree, that monks might use the offices of preaching, christening, and hearing confessions; and also, that of absolving them from their sins: so that monks, who, in the beginning, were but laymen, and not spiritual ministers, forbidden by the general council of Chalcedon, as is above related, to intermeddle with matters ecclesiastical, afterwards, in process of time, did so much encroach upon the office of spiritual ministers, that at length the priests were discharged out of their cathedral churches, and monks put in their places; because that monks in those days, leading a stricter life, and professing chastity, had a greater countenance of holiness among the people than had the priests, who then, in the days of King Edgar, had wives (at least so many as would), no law forbidding them till the time of Hildebrand, now called Gregory VII, whereof more shall be said (Christ willing) in the book next following.
And thus much, by the way, as touching the order and profession of monks. Now, to turn in again from whence we digressed, that is, to the matter of King Edgar, who, following the counsel and leading of Dunstan, and the aforesaid Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, was somewhat thereby inclined to superstition; but, otherwise, of his own nature, well given to all virtues and princely acts worthy of much commendation and famous memory. So excellent was he in justice, and sharp in correction of vices, as well in his magistrates as other subjects, that never before his days was less felony by robbers, nor less extortion or bribery by false officers. Such provinces and lordships as were not yet come under the king’s subjection, he united and adjoined to his dominion; and so made one perfect monarchy of the whole realm of England, with all the islands and borders about the same. Such as were wicked he kept under; he repressed those that were rebels; the godly he maintained; he loved the modest; he was devout to God, and beloved of his subjects, whom he governed in much peace and quietness. And as he was a great seeker of peace, so God did bless him with much abundance of peace and rest from all wars, so that, as the history recordeth of him, “he neither tasted of any privy treason among his subjects, nor of any invasion of foreign enemies,” for which he was called Pacificus. So studious he was of the public profit of his realm, and fruitful in his government, that, as the said story saith of him, “no year passed in all the time of his reign, wherein he did not some singular and necessary commodity for the commonwealth.” A great maintainer he was of religion and learning, not forgetting herein the foresteps of King Alfred his predecessor. Among his other princely virtues this chiefly is to be regarded, that whereas other princes in much peace and quietness are commonly wont to grow into a dissolute negligence of life, or oblivion of their charge committed unto them; this king, in continuance of peace (that notwithstanding), kept ever with him such a watch, and a vigilant severity joined with a seemly clemency, that I cannot but recite here what our historians witness, testifying of his diligent and great care over the commonwealth, “that he would suffer no man, of what degree of nobility soever he were, to evade his laws without condign punishment.” And the same author adds, “in all his time there was neither any privy picker, nor open thief, but he that in stealing other men’s goods would venture, and suffer, as he was sure to do, the loss of his own life.” f112 Moreover, as the studious industry of this prince was forward in all other points, so his prudent provision did not lack in this also, in driving out the devouring and ravening wolves throughout all his land, wherein he used this policy, in causing Llewellyn, prince or king of Wales, to yield him yearly, by way of tribute, 300 wolves; by means whereof, within the space of four years after, in England and Wales, might scarcely be found one wolf alive.
This Edgar, among other of his politic deeds, had in readiness 3600 ships of war to scour the seas in the summer-time, whereof 1200 kept the east seas; as many defended the west side; and again, as many were in the south seas to repulse the invasion of foreign enemies. Moreover, in the winter season, the use and manner of this virtuous king was this: during all the time of his life, to ride over the land in progress, searching and inquiring diligently (to use the words of mine author), “how the laws and statutes by him ordained were kept, and that the poor should suffer no prejudice, or be oppressed in any manner of way by the mightier, etc. Briefly, as I see many things in this worthy prince to be commended, so this one thing in him I cannot but lament, to see him, like a phoenix, to fly alone; that of all his posterity so few there be that seek to keep him company. And although I have showed more already of this king than I think will well be followed, yet this more is to be added to the worthiness of his other acts, that whereas, by the multitude of the Danes dwelling in divers places of England, much excessive drinking was used, whereupon ensued drunkenness and many other vices, to the evil example and hurt of his subjects; he, therefore, to prevent that evil, ordained certain cups, with pins or nails set in them, adding thereunto a law, a66 that what person drank past the mark at one draught should forfeit a certain penny, whereof one half should fall to the accuser, and the other half to the ruler ‘of the borough or town where the offense was done.
It is reported of this Edgar, by divers, authors, that about the thirteenth year of his reign, he being at Chester, eight kings, called in histories Subreguli, to wit, petty-kings, or under-kings, came and did homage to him; of whom the first was the king of Scots, called Kenneth, Malcolm of Cumberland, Mackus, or Mascusinus, king of Monia; and of divers other islands; and all the kings of Wales, the names of whom were Dufual or Dunewald, Sifresh, Huwall, Jacob, and Vikyll or Juchel. All these kings, after they had given their fidelity to Edgar, the day following, for a pomp or royalty, he entered with these aforesaid kings the river Dee; where he, sitting in a boat, took the rule of the helm, and caused these eight kings, every person taking an our in his hand, to row him up and down the river, to and from the church of St. John, unto his palace again, in token that he was master and lord of so many provinces, whereupon he is reported to have said in this manner: “Tunc demum posse successores suos gloriari, se Reges Angliae esse, cum tanta praerogativa honorurn fruerentur.” But in my mind this king had done much better, if he had rather said with St.
Paul, “Absit mihi gloriari, nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi.”
And thus ye have heard hitherto, touching the commendation of King Edgar, such reports as the old monkish writers thought to bestow upon him, as upon the great patron of their monkish religion, who had built as many monasteries for them as there were Sundays in the year, as some say, or, but forty-eight, as Edmer reporteth.
Now, on the other side, what vices in him were reigning, let us likewise consider, according as we find in the said authors described, who most wrote to his advancement. The first vice is noted to be cruelty as well towards others, as especially towards a certain earl, being of his secret council, called Ethelwold. The story is this: Ordgar, duke of Devonshire, had a certain daughter, named Elfrick, whose beauty being highly commended to the king, and he being inflamed therewith, he sent this aforesaid Ethelwold (whom he especially trusted) to the party, to see and to bring him word again, and if her beauty were such as was reported, willing him also to make the match between them. Ethelwold well viewing the party, and seeing her beauty nothing inferior to her fame, and thinking first to serve his own turn, told all things contrary unto the king.
Whereupon the king, withdrawing his mind otherwise, in the end it came to pass that Ethelwold himself did marry her.
Not long after, the king, understanding further by the complaints and rumors of certain, how he was prevented and beguiled, set a fair face upon the matter before Ethelwold, and merrily jesting with him, told him how he would come and see his wife; and indeed appointed the day when he would be there. Ethelwold, the husband, perceiving this matter to go hardly with him, made haste to his wife, declaring to her the coming of the king, and also opening the whole order of the matter how he had done; desiring her of all love, ,as she would save his life, to disgrace and deform herself with garments and such attire as the king might take no delight in her.Elfrida hearing this, what did she, but, contrary to the request of her husband and promise of a wife, against the king’s coming trim herself at the glass, and deck her in her best array; whom, when the king beheld, he was not so much, enamoured with her as in hatred with her husband, who had so deceived him. Whereupon the king shortly after, making as though he would go to hunt in the forest of Harewood, sent for Ethelwold to come to him under the pretense of hunting, and there ran him through and slew him. After this the bastard son of Ethelwold coming to him, the king asked him how he liked that hunting? who answered, “That which pleaseth the king ought not to displease me.” For the death of this Ethelwold, Elfrida afterwards built a monastery of nuns, for remission of sins.
Another fault which Malmesbury noteth in him, was the coming in of strangers into this land, as Saxons, Flemings, and Danes, whom he with great familiarity retained, to the great detriment of the land, as the aforesaid story of Malmesbury recordeth, whose words be these: “whereby it happened that divers strangers, out of foreign countries, allured by his fame, came into the land, as Saxons, Flemings, and Danes also, all whom he retained with great familiarity; the coming of which strangers wrought great damage to the realm, and therefore is Edgar justly blamed in stories,” f115 etc. With this reprehension all the Saxon stories also do agree.
The third vice to him objected was his incontinency and his lasciviousness of life. He degraded a duke’s daughter, being a nun, and a virgin named Wilfrida, or Wilstrud, of which Wilfrida was born Editha, a bastard daughter of Edgar. Also a certain other virgin in the town of Andover, who was privily conveyed into his chamber by this means: the lascivious king, coming to Andover, not far from Winchester, and thinking to have his desire of a certain other duke’s daughter, of whose beauty he heard much speaking, commanded the maid to be brought unto him. The mother of the virgin, grieving to have her daughter so wronged, secretly, by night, conveyed to the king’s chamber, instead of her daughter, another maiden of beauty and favor not uncomely, who, in the morning rising to her work, and so being known by the king who she was, had granted unto her by the king such liberty and freedom, that of a servant she was made mistress both to her master, and also to her mistress. f116 Among other concubines Edgar had Egelfleda, or Elfleda, called Candida, the fair daughter of Duke Ordmer, she being also a professed nun, of whom he had Edward; for which he was en joined by Dunstan seven years’ penance, which being complete, he took to him as his lawful wife, Elfrida, the mother of Edmund and Ethelred, otherwise called Egelred, whereof more shall be said (the Lord willing) hereafter.
Over and besides all these vices, noted and objected to King Edgar, in our monkish story-writers, I also observe another no less, or rather a greater vice than the other before-recited, which was blind superstition, which brought idolatrous monkery into the church of Christ, with the wrongful expelling of lawful married priests out of their houses. Whereupon, what inconveniences ensued in this realm, especially in the house of the Lord, I leave to the consideration of those who have heard of the detestable enormities of those religious votaries: the occasion whereof, first and chiefly, began in this Edgar, through the instigation of Dunstan and his fellows; who, after they had inveigled the king, and had brought him over to their purpose, caused him to call a council of the clergy, where it was enacted and decreed that the canons of divers cathedral churches, collegiates, parsons, vicars, priests and deacons, with their wives and children, either should give over that kind of life. or else give room to monks, etc. For execution of which decree, two principal visitors were appointed; Athelwold, or Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, bishop of Worcester, as is before mentioned. f119 And thus much concerning the history of King Edgar, and of such things as in his time happened in the church, which Edgar, after he had entered into the parts of Britany, to subdue the rebellion of the Welshmen, and there had spoiled the country of Glamorgan, and wasted that of Odo, within ten days after, when he had reigned the space of sixteen years, died, and was buried at Glastonbury, leaving after him two bastards, to wit, Editha and Edward, and one son lawfully begotten, named Ethelred, or otherwise by corruption called Egelred: for Edmund, the elder son, died before his father.
Ye heard before how King Edgar is noted in all stories to be an incontinent liver. In consequence of his connection with Elfled, mother of Edward, he was stayed and kept back from his coronation a67 by Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, the space of seven years: and so the said king, beginning his reign in the sixteenth year of his age, being A.D. 959, was crowned in the thirty-first year of his age, A.D. 978, as is by the Saxon Chronicle of Worcester Church to be proved. For the more evident declaration of which matter, concerning the coronation of the king restrained, and the presumptuous behavior of Dunstan against the king, and his penance by the said Dunstan enjoined, ye shall hear both Osberne, a68 Malmesbury, and other authors speak in their own words, as followeth: “Perpetrato itaque in virginem velatam peccato,” etc. After Dunstan had understanding of the king’s offense perpetrated with the professed nun, and that the same was blazed amongst the people, with great ire and passion of mind he came to the king, who, seeing the archbishop coming, eftsoons of gentleness arose from his regal seat towards him, to take him by the hand, and to give him place. But Dunstan refusing to take him by the hand, and with stern countenance bending his brows, spake after this effect of words, as stories import, unto the king: “You that have not feared to corrupt a virgin made handfast to Christ, presume you to touch the consecrated hands of a bishop? You have defiled the spouse of your Maker, and think you by flattering service to pacify the friend of the bridegroom? No, Sir, his friend will not I be, who hath Christ to his enemy.” The king, terrified with these thundering words of Dunstan, and compuncted with inward repentance of his crime perpetrated, fell down with weeping at the feet of Dunstan, who, after he had raised him up from the ground again, began to utter to him the horribleness of his fact; and finding the king ready to receive whatsoever satisfaction he would lay upon him, enjoined him this penance for seven years’ space, as followeth: “That he should wear no crown all that space; that he should fast twice in the week; that he should distribute his treasure, left to him of his ancestors, liberally unto the poor; that he should build a monastery, of nuns, in order that as he had robbed God of one virgin through his transgression, so he should restore to him many again in times to come. Moreover, he should expel clerks of evil life out of churches, and place covents of monks in their room: that he should enact just and godly laws; and that he should write out portions of the holy Scriptures, to be distributed among the people of his realm.” a69 It followeth, then, in the story of Osberne, that when the seven years of the king’s penance were expired, Dunstan, calling together all the peers of the realm, with bishops, abbots, and other ecclesiastical degrees of the clergy, in the public sight of all the multitude, set the crown upon the king’s head, at Bath, a70 which was the one and thirtieth year of his age, and fourteenth of his reign: a71 so that he reigned only three years crowned king. All the other years besides, Dunstan, it is likely, ruled the land as he listed. Furthermore, as touching the son of the said Elfleda, Osberne writeth to this effect, “The child also which was born of Elfleda, he baptized in the holy fountain of regeneration, and so giving him the name of Edward, he did adopt him to be his son.” By this narration, agreeing also with the story of the Saxon book abovementioned, there is evinced a double in truth or error, either negligently overseen, or of purpose dissembled, in our later monkish story-writers, as in Malmesbury, Matthew Paris, Matthew of Westminster, and others; who, to conceal the fault of King Edgar, or to square with Dunstan’s fact in setting up Edward for the maintenance of their monkish order, first do falsely affirm that Editha , the daughter of Wilfrida, was born after Edward, and that for her this penance was enjoined on King Edgar. This neither is, nor can be so, as in process hereafter (the Lord willing) shall appear.
Secondly, they are deceived in this, that they affirm King Edgar to have two wives; and that Elfleda, the mother of Edward, was not a professed nun indeed, but dissembled so to be, to avoid the violence of the king; whereas, indeed, the truth of the story both giveth her to be a nun, and her son to be base, and she herself never to be married unto the king. f123 Now, forasmuch as we have hitherto entered mention of Wilfrida and Editha, and also of Elfleda and Dunstan, here should not be let pass to speak something of their lying miracles, falsely forged, to the great seduction of Christian people, by superstitious monks, who cared not what fables and lies they brought into the church, so that they might have the advantage of poor men’s purses and oblations. And first, here come in the fabulous miracles wrought at the tomb of Elfleda, the king’s concubine, which William of Malmesbury in certain verses expresseth; the English of which it is needless here to recite. Briefly, the effect is this: That both the blind, deaf, halt, and such as be mad, receive their health again, if they worship the tomb of this Elfleda. The like feignings and monstrous miracles we read also in chronicles of the doting Dunstan, drowned in all superstition, if he were not also a wicked sorcerer. First, how he, being yet a boy, chased away the devil, set about with a great company of dogs, and how the angels did open the church door for him to enter; then, how the lute or harp, hanging upon the wall, did sing or play without any finger these words: “The souls of the saints, who have followed the footsteps of Christ, and who have shed their blood for his love’s sake, are rejoicing in heaven; therefore they shall reign with Christ for ever.” Item, where a certain great beam or master-post was loosed out of its place, he, by making the sign of a cross, set it in right frame again. Moreover, how the said Dunstan, being tempted upon a time by the devil, with impure cogitations, caught the devil by the nose with a hot pair of tongs, and held him fast. Item, how heavenly spirits often appeared to him, and used to talk with him familiarly. Item, how he prophesied of the birth of King Edgar, of the death of King Egelred, of the death of Editha, and of Ethelwald, bishop of Winchester. Also, how our Lady, with her fellows, appeared visibly to him, singing this song: “Cantemus Domino, sociae, cantemus honorem; Dulcis amor Christi personet ore pio.” f126 Again, how the angels appeared to him, singing the hymn called “Kyrie Rex splendens,” and yet these prodigious fantasies, with others, are written of him in chronicles, and have been believed in churches.
Among many other false and lying miracles, forged in this corrupt time of monkery, the fabulous, or rather filthy legend of Editha, were not to be overpassed, if for shame and honesty it might well be recited. But to cast the dirt of these pope-holy monks in their own face, who so impudently have abused the church of Christ, and the simplicity of the people, with their ungracious vanities, let us see what this miracle is, and how honestly it is told.
Certain years after the death of Editha, saith William of Malmesbury, which years Capgrave in his new legend reckoneth to be thirteen, the said Editha, and also St. Dennis, holding her by the hand, appeared to Dunstan in a vision, willing and requiring him that the body of Editha, in the church of Wilton, should be taken up and shrined, to the intent it might be honored here on earth by her Servants, according as it is worshipped by her spouse in heaven. Dunstan, upon this, coming from Salisbury to Wilton, where Editha was interred, commanded her body to be taken up with much honor and solemnity; who, there, on opening her tomb (as both Malinesbury and Capgrave with shame enough record), found the whole body of this Editha consumed to earth, save only her thumb, and a few other parts. Whereof the said Editha, expounding the meaning, declared that her thumb remained sound for the much crossing she used with the same, and that the other parts were uncorrupted for a testimony of her abstinence and integrity. f127 What Satan hath so envied the true sincerity of Christian faith and doctrine, as to contaminate the same with such impudent tales, such filthy vanities, and such idolatrous fantasies as these? Such monks, with their detestable houses, where Christ’s people were so abominably abused, and seduced to worship dead carcasses of men and women, whether they deserved not to be rased and plucked down to the ground, let all chaste readers judge. But of these matters enough and too much.
Here followeth the Epitaph a73 written by Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon, upon the praise and commendation of King Edgar: “Autor opum, vindex scelerum, largitor honorum, Sceptiger Edgarus regna superna petit.
Hic alter Salomon, legum pater, orbita pacis,:
Quod caruit bellis, claruit inde magis.
Templa Deo, templis monachos, monachis dedit agros, Nequitae lapsum, justitiaeque locum.
Novit enim regno verum perquirere falso, Immensum modico, perpetuumque brevi.” Among his other laws, this king ordained that the Sunday should be solemnized from Saturday at nine o’clock till Monday morning. a74 EDWARD II, CALLED THE MARTYR F128 After the death of King Edgar no small trouble arose among the lords and bishops about the succession of the crown; the principal cause whereof arose on this occasion, as by the story of Simon of Durham, and Roger Hoveden, is declared. Immediately after the decease of the king, Alferus duke of Mercia, and many other nobles who held with Egelred, or Ethelred, the only right heir and lawful son of Edgar, disliking the placing and intruding of monks into churches, and the thrusting of the secular priests, with their wives and children, out of their ancient possessions, expelled the abbots and monks, and brought in again the aforesaid priests, with their wives; against whom, certain others there were on the contrary part that made resistance, as Ethelwill, duke of East Angles, Elfwold his brother, and the Earl Brithnoth, saying, in a council together assembled, “That they would never suffer the religious monks to be expelled and driven out of the realm, who held up all religion in the land;” and, thereupon, immediately levied an army, wherewith to defend by force such monasteries as were within the precincts of East Anglia.
In this hurly-burly amongst the lords, about the placing of monks, and putting out of priests, rose also the contention about the crown, who should be their king; the bishops and such lords as favored the monks, seeking to advance such a king as they knew would incline to their side; so that the lords thus divided, some of them would have Edward, and some agreed upon Egelred, the lawful son. Then Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, and Oswald, archbishop of York, with other their fellowbishops, abbots, and divers other lords and dukes, assembled together in a council; into which council Dunstan coming with his cross in his hand, and bringing Edward before the lords, so persuaded them, that, in the end, Edward, by Dunstan’s means, was elected, consecrated, and anointed for their king.
And thus hast thou, good reader, the very truth of this story, according to the writing of authors of most antiquity who lived nearest to that age, as Osberne and others; which Osberne, living in the days of William the Conqueror, wrote this story of Dunstan on the motion of Lanfranc, and allegeth, or rather translateth the same out of such Saxon stories as were written before his time. Besides this Osberne, we have also for witness hereof, Nicholas Trivet, in his English History, written in French, and also Johannes Paris, in his French History, written in the Latin tongue, where he plainly calleth Edward, “non legitimum filium,” that is, “no lawful son.”
Now, having laid the foundation for the truth and ground of this matter, let us come to examine how truly our later writers do say, who write that Editha, and not Edward, was the child for whom Dunstan enjoined the king seven years’ penance; and, also, how truly they report Edward to be the lawful heir, and Elfleda to be the lawful wife, to King Edgar. For first touching Editha, this is confessed by the said writers themselves, that she was of good years at the time Edgar, her father, was enjoined his penance; after which seven years of his penance were expired, he lived, at the most, but three years and a half; which seven years, and three years and a half, do make in all but ten years and a half. But now the said authors themselves do grant, that she was made abbess by her father, he being then alive. And how then can this stand with her legend, which saith, that she was not less than fifteen years of age? By which account it must needs fall out, that she could not be so little as five years old before the birth of that child for whom the king did penance. And thus much touching Editha.
Now, in like manner, to consider of the time of Edward. First, this by all writers is granted, that he was slain in the fifteenth year of his age, which age doth well agree to that bastard child which King Edgar had, and for which he did penance; for the more evidence whereof, let us come to the computation of the years in this sort: first, the penance of the king after the birth of this child lasted seven years; then, the king, after the same, lived three years and a half; after whose death Edward reigned other three years and a half, which in all make the full sum of fourteen years, about the count of which age, by their own reckoning, the said Edward, going on in his fifteenth year, was slain.
Thus have ye, by manifest demonstration, proved by the right casting up of the years, after their own grant and reckoning, that Editha, a75 daughter of Wilfrida, in no case can be the child that was born after Edward, and for whom the king was enjoined penance; but that Edward rather was born after Editha, and was the child for whom the penance was enjoined, contrary to the opinion commonly received in the church, which, for ignorance of the story, hath hitherto holden Edward to be a holy martyr, and right heir to the crown. How this error and opinion first sprang up, and by whom, albeit it pertain not to my story to discuss, yet were it no hard matter to conjecture.
First, after that Dunstan and Oswald, with other bishops, abbots, and certain lords and dukes of that faction, for the maintenance of monkery, had advanced Edward to be king, against Queen Elfrida, mother of Ethelred, and Alferus, duke of Mercia, and certain other nobles who held with the contrary side of the priests against the monks; in process of time, the monks that came to write stories, perceiving Dunstan to be reputed in the church of Rome for a holy saint, and the said King Edward for a holy martyr, and partly also to bolster up their own religion of monkery as much as they could, to the intent that they might save the credit both of Dunstan and the king, and especially bearing favor to their own religion, and partly that the reputation of the church of Rome should not be stained by opening the truth of this matter, either they did not see, or would not confess herein what they knew, but rather thought best to blanch the story, and colorably to hide the simple truth thereof; making the people falsely believe that Elfleda, the mother of Edward, was wife to King Edgar, and that Edward was lawfully born, and also that Editha was born after Edward, and was the child for which the king was enjoined penance. All which is false, and contrary both to the order of time above declared, and also to the plain words of Malmesbury, who, speaking of King Edgar’s last concubine, saith in plain words, “Dilexit unice, integram lecto uni deferens fidem, quoad legitimam uxorem accepit Elfthridem, filiam Ordgari:” that is, “He had a concubine whom he loved entirely, keeping true faith to her alone, until the time he married for his lawful wife Elfrida, the daughter of Duke Ordgar:” whereby we have to understand, that whatsoever woman this was of whom Malmesbury speaketh, certain it is, that Edgar lived incontinently till the time he married his lawful wife.
Furthermore, and to conclude: beside these arguments and allegations above-recited, let this also be appended, how the said Dunstan, with his accomplices, after the killing of King Edward, leaving the right heir of the crown, namely, Ethelred, went about (as Capgrave in their own legend confesseth) to set up Editha, the other bastard, to possess the crown; but that she, more wise than her brother Edward, refused the same. Whereby what is to be thought of the doings of Dunstan, and what could be the cause why he preferred both Edward and Editha to the crown, rather than the lawful heir, I leave to all indifferent readers thereof to judge.
After Dunstan and his fellows had thus set up Edward for their king, they were now where they would be, supposing all to be sure on their side, and that they had established the kingdom of monkery for ever, through the help of the young king, and the duke of East Angles, and certain other nobles whom they had drawn to their part. Howbeit, this matter passed not so well with them as they hoped; for, shortly after the coronation of this young king, Alferus, duke of Mercia, who followed much the deeds of the queen, with other great men, stoutly standing on the contrary side, drove out the monks from the cathedral churches, whom King Edgar before had set in, and restored the priests, as Ranulphus saith, with their concubines; but, in the history of the library of Jornalensis, I find it plainly expressed, with their wives. The very words of the author be these: “Alferus, duke of Mercia, with other great men, drove out the monks from the great monasteries, whom King Edgar had there set in before, and restored again the priests with their wives. Whereby it doth evidently appear that priests in those days were married, and had their lawful wives.
The like before that, in King Ina’s time, is plain, that bishops then had wives and children, as appeareth by the words of the law then set forth, and extant in the history of Jornalensis. And thus much, by the way, for priests’ wives and their children.
Now to our purpose again, which is to declare how the duke and nobles of England expelled the monks out of the monasteries after the death of King Edgar; whereof let us hear what the monkish story of the abbey of Crowland recordeth: “ The monks being expelled out of certain monasteries, the clerics again were brought in, who distributed the manors or farms of the said monasteries to the dukes and lords of the land, that they being obliged to them, should defend them against the monks. And so were the monks of Evesham thrust out, and the secular clerks placed therein, and the lands of the church given to the lords; with whom the queen, the king’s stepmother, holding at the same time, took part also with the said clerks against the king. On the contrary side stood the king and the holy bishops, talking part with the monks. Howbeit the lords and peers of the realm, staying upon the favor and power of the queen, triumphed over the monks.” f134 Thus, as there was much ado through all quarters of the realm about the matter among the lords, so arose no less contention between the priests and monks of England. The priests complaining to the king and Dunstan, said for themselves that it was uncomely, uncharitable, yea, and unnatural, to put out an old known dweller, for a new unknown; and that God was not pleased, that that should be taken from the ancient possessor, which by God was given him; neither that it could be of any good man accepted, to suffer any such injury to be done, lest peradventure the same thing, wherein he was prejudicial to another, might afterwards revert and redound upon himself at last. The monks on the other side said for their part, that Christ allowed neither the old dweller, nor the new comer, nor yet looked upon the person, but whoso would take the cross of penance upon him, and follow Christ in virtuous living, should be his disciple.
These and such other were the allegations of the monks; but whether a monk’s cowl, or a wifeless life, make a sufficient title to enter into other men’s possessions or no, I refer it to the judgment of the godly. The troublous cares in marriage, the necessary provision for housekeeping, the virtuous bringing up of children, the daily helping of poverty, and bearing of public charges, with other manifest perturbations and incumbrances daily incident to the state of matrimony, might rather appear, to godly wise men, to come nearer to the right cross of penance, than the easy and loitering idleness of monkery. In the end, upon this controversy, was holden a council of bishops and others of the clergy. First, at Reading, or at Winchester, a76 as Malmesbury saith, where the greater part, both of the nobles and commons, judged the priests to be greatly wronged, and sought by all means possible to bring them again to their old possessions and dignities. Jornalensis here maketh rehearsal a77 of an image of the crucifix, or a rood standing upon the frater-wall, where the council was holden. To this rood Dunstan required them all to pray, being belike not ignorant of some spiritual provision before hand. In the midst of their prayer the rood (or else some blind monk behind it in a trunk) through the wall, is reported to speak these words, “Absit hoc ut fiat; absit hoc ut fiat: judicastis bone, mutaretis non bene.” In remembrance whereof these verses were written under the rood’s feet: “Humano more crux praesens edidit ore,?
Coelitus affata, quae perspicis hic subarata; Absit ut hoc fiat, et caetera tunc memorata.” Of this Dunstanical, or rather Satanical oracle, Henry maketh no mention, nor Ranulph, nor yet Hoveden, nor Fabian, in their histories. Malmesbury, in his book De Regibus, reporteth it, but by hearsay, in these words, saying, “Aliae literae docent,” etc.; wherefore of the less credit it seemeth to be. Albeit if it were of credible truth, yet it proveth in this matter nothing else but Dunstan to be a sorcerer, as Polydore Virgil also himself seemeth to smell something in this matter. Notwithstanding all this the strife ceased not; insomuch that a new assembly of the clergy and others was appointed afterwards at a place called the Street of Calne, where the council was kept in an upper loft. In this council many grievous complaints were made, as Malinesbury saith, against Dunstan; but yet he kept his opinion, and would not remove from that which he had begun to maintain. And while they were in great contention and argument which way should be admitted and allowed (if that be true which in the stories is written), suddenly the joists of the loft failed, and the people with the nobles fell down, so that certain were slain, and many hurt. But Dunstan, they say, only standing upon a post of the gallery which remained unbroken, escaped without danger. Which thing, whether it so happened to portend the ruin of the realm and of the nobles, as Henry Huntingdon doth expound it, which after ensued by the Danes, or whether it was so wrought by Dunstan’s sorcery, as was not impossible, or whether it were a thing but feigned of the monkish writers, and not true; all this I leave to the readers to think therein what they like. The stories say further, that upon this, the matter ceased, and Dunstan had all his will.
These things thus done at Calne, it happened not long after, that King Edward, whom writers describe to be a virtuous and a meek prince, very pitiful and beneficial to the poor, about the fourth year of his reign came upon a time from hunting in the forest alone, without a company of his servants, to the place in the west country, where Queen Elfrida his mother, with her son Egelred, did live. When she was warned of his coming by her men, anon she calleth a servant of hers, who was of her special trust, opening to him all her conceived counsel, and showing him all points, how, and what to do, for the accomplishing of her wicked purpose. Which thing done, she made towards the king, and received him with all courtesy, desiring him to tarry that night; but he, in like courtesy, excused himself, and for speed desired to see his brother, and to take some drink upon his horse sitting, which was shortly brought. While the cup was at his mouth, the servant of the queen, being instigated, struck him in the body with a long two-edged dagger; after which stroke, the king took the horse with the spurs, and ran toward the way where he expected to meet with his company; but he bled so sore, that with faintness he fell from his horse, one foot remaining in the stirrup, by reason whereof he was drawn by his horse over fields and lands, till he came to a place named Corfegate, where he was found dead; and because neither the manner of his death, nor yet he himself, to be the king, was known, he was buried unhonorably at the town of Wareham, where the body remained the space of three years; after which it was taken up by Duke Alferus beforementioned, and with pomp and honor accordingly, was removed to the minster of Shaftesbury, and there bestowed in the place called Edwardstow.
Many tales run, more perchance than be true, concerning the finding and taking up of his body, which our most common histories ascribe to miracles and great wonders wrought about the place where the king was buried. As first, how a poor woman, born blind, received her sight by the means of St. Edward, there where he did lie. Also, how a pillar of fire from heaven descended over the place of his burial. Then, how the aforesaid Queen Elfrida , taking her horse to go to the place, was stopped by the way, so that neither her horse could be driven by any means, nor she herself on foot was able to approach near to the place where the corpse of St. Edward was. Furthermore, how the said queen, in repentance of her deed, afterward built two nunneries, one at Amesbury by Salisbury, the other at Werewell, where she kept herself in continual repentance all the lays of her life And thus, as ye have heard, was this virtuous young King Edward murdered, when he had reined almost four years, leaving no issue behind him, whereby the rule of the land fell to Egelred, his brother.
But here by the way is to be noted, upon the name of this Edward, that there were three Edwards before the conquest. The first was King Edward the Elder; the second, King Edward the Martyr, who was this king; the third was King Edward, called the Confessor, whereof hereafter shall follow, Christ willing, to be declared.
In the order and course of the Roman bishops, mention was made last of Agapetus II, after whom next succeeded Pope John XII, a78 of whom Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, received his pall, as in the story of King Edgar is before minded. This pope is noted to be very wicked and infamous, replete, from his first bringing up, with abominable vices; a whoremaster, an adulterer, incestuous, libidinous, a gamester, an extortioner, perjured, a fighter, a murderer, cruel and tyrannous. Of his cardinals, some he put out their eyes, from some he cut off their tongues, some their fingers, some their noses. In a general council before the Emperor Otho, the first of that name (who was the first emperor of the Germans), after the empire was translated out of France to Germany by Pope Agapetus, as is before historied, these objections were articulate against him: “ That he never said his service; that in saying his mass he did not communicate; that he ordained deacons in a stable; that he committed incest with two of his sisters; that playing at dice he called for the devil to help; that for money he made boys bishops; that he turned the palace of the Lateran to the vilest of uses; that he put out the eyes of Bishop Benedict; that he caused houses to be set on fire; that he brake open houses; that he drank to the devil; that he never crossed himself,” etc.
For these causes, and worthily, he was deposed by the consent of the emperor with the prelates, and Pope Leo was substituted in his place; but after his departing, through the harlots of Rome and their great promises the said Pope John was restored again to his place, and Leo, who had been set up by the emperor, was deposed. At length, about the tenth year of the popedom of this John, he being found without the city with another man’s wife, was so wounded of her husband, that within eight days after he died.
After him the Romans elected Pope Benedict V, without the consent of the Emperor Otho; whereupon the said emperor, being not a little displeased for displacing of Leo, whom he had before promoted, and for the choosing also of Benedict, came with his army and laid siege to Rome, and so set up Pope Leo again, the eighth of that name; which Leo, to gratify his benefactor again, crowned Otho for emperor, and entitled him to be called Augustus. Also the power which Charlemagne had given before to the clergy and people of Rome, this Leo, by a synodal decree, granted to the emperor and his successors; that is, touching the election of the bishop of Rome. The emperor again restored to the see of Rome all such donations and possessions which either Constantine (as they falsely pretend), or which Charlemagne took from the Lombards, and gave to them.
After Pope Leo had reigned a year and three months, succeeded Pope John XIII, against whom, for holding with the emperor, Petrus the head captain of the city, with two consuls, twelve aldermen, and divers other nobles, gathering their power together, laid hands upon him in the church of Lateran, and clapped the pope in prison eleven months. The emperor hearing this, with all speed returned with his army again to Rome; who, after execution done upon the authors and chief doers of that fact, among other committed the aforesaid Petrus to the pope’s arbitrement, whom he caused first to be stripped naked; then, his beard being shaven, to be hanged by the hair a whole day together; after that to be set upon an ass with his face turned backward, and his hands bound under the ass’s tail, and so to be led through the city, that all men might see him; that done, to be scourged with rods, and so banished the city. Thus ye see how the holy father followeth the injunction of the gospel, “Diligite inimicos vestros,” “Love your enemies.” [Luke 6:85.] From this pope proceeded first the christening of bells, A.D. 971.
Then came Pope Donus II; after whom Boniface VII was pope, who likewise seeing the citizens of Rome to conspire against him, was constrained to hide himself, and seeing no place there for him to tarry, took the treasure of St. Peter’s church, and so privily stole to Constantinople, in whose stead the Romans set up Pope John XIV. a79 Not long after, Boniface, returning again from Constantinople, by his money and treasure procured a garrison or company to take his part, by whose means Pope John was taken, his eyes being put out, and so thrown in prison, where he was, as some say, famished; some say he was slain by Ferrucius; neither did Boniface reign many days after, but suddenly died, A.D. 974, whose carcass, after his death, was drawn by the feet through the streets of Rome after the most despiteful manner, the people shrieking and exclaiming against him.
Next pope after him was Benedict VII, by the consent of the Emperor Otho II, and reigned nine years. After Benedict, succeeded in the see of Rome Pope John XV, and died the eighth month of his papacy; next to whom came John XVI.
In the time of this pope, Hugh Oapet, the French king, took Charles, the right heir to the crown, by the treason of the bishop of Laon; and when he had imprisoned him, he also committed to prison Arnulph, archbishop of Rheims, and placed in his room Gilbert, a monk of Fleury, a necromancer, who was schoolmaster to Duke Robert, the king’s son. But this Pope John XVI, a80 calling a council at Rheims, restored the said Arnulph again, and displaced Gilbert, who after, by the help of Otho, was made archbishop of Ravenna, and at length was pope, as in process hereafter (Christ granting) shall be declared.
After John XVI came Gregory V, A.D. 996. This Gregory, called before Bruno, was a German born, and therefore the more maliced of the clergy and people of Rome. Whereupon Crescentius, with the people and clergy, conventing against the said Gregory, set up John XVII; Gregory upon the same sped himself in all convenient haste to the Emperor Otho III in Germany, who, hearing the complaint of Gregory, and understanding his wrongs, set forward with his army well-appointed to Italy, got the city, and there took both Crescentius the consul, and John the pope; which John first having his eyes put out, was deprived after of his life.
Crescentius, the consul, was set upon a vile horse, having his nose and ears cut off, and so was led through the city, his face being turned to the horse’s tail, and afterward, having his members cut off, was hanged upon a gibbet.
Pope Gregory, thus being restored to his former state, reigned four years in his papacy (although Marianus Scorns, and Martinus, say, that he sat but two years), during which time-he assembled a council in Rome, where he, to establish the empire in his own country, by the consent and counsel of Otho, ordained seven princes of Germany to be electors of the emperor, which order yet to this day remaineth. What be the names of these seven electors and what is their office, thus I find in the verses expressed below. f141 These seven he ordained to be electors: three bishops, three princes, to wit, the Palatine, the duke of Saxony, and the Marquis Brandenburgh; to whom was added also the king of Bohemia, to give the odd voice, if the even voices could not agree. This constitution being first begun A.D. 997, was after established in Germany by Otho the emperor, A.D. 1002; and thus much by the way, or rather by digression, concerning the rages and tumults of the Romish church. Now to our matter again.
EGELRED, OR ETHELRED II, SURNAMED THE UNREADY F142 King Edward thus being murdered, as is aforesaid, the crown fell next to Egelred, his younger brother, and son to King Edgar by the aforesaid queen Elfrida, a81 as we have declared. This Egelred had a long reign given by God, which endured thirty and eight years, but was very unfortunate and full of great miseries; and he himself, by the histories, seemeth to have been a prince not of the greatest courage to govern a commonwealth. Our English historians, writing of him, report of his reign, that it was ungracious in the beginning, wretched in the middle, and hateful in the latter end. Of this Egelred we read, that when Dunstan the archbishop should christen him, as he did hold him over the font, something there happened that pleased not Dunstan, whereupon he sware, “By the mother of Christ, he will be a prince untoward and cowardly.” I find in William of Malmesbury, that this Egelred being of the age of ten years, when he heard that his brother Edward was slain, made such sorrow and weeping for him, that his mother, falling therewith in a rage, took wax candles, having nothing else at hand, wherewith she scourged him so sorely (well nigh till he swooned), that afterwards he could never abide any wax candles to burn before him. After this, about A.D. 978, the day of his coronation having been appointed by the queen-mother and the nobles, Dunstan arch bishop of Canterbury (who first refused so to do), and Oswald arch bishop of York, were enforced to crown the king, which they did at Kingston. In doing whereof, the report of stories goeth that Dunstan said thus, prophesying unto the king, “That forasmuch as he came to the kingdom by the death of his brother, and through the conspiracy of the wicked conspirators, and other Englishmen, they should not be without blood-shedding and sword, till there came a people of an unknown tongue, which should bring them into thraldom; neither should that trespass be cleansed, without long vengeance.” f145 Not long after the coronation of this king, a cloud was seen through out the land, which appeared the one half like blood, and the other half like fire, and changed afterwards into sundry colors, and vanished at last in the morning. Shortly after the appearance of this cloud, in the third year of his reign, the Danes arriving in sundry places of the land, first spoiled Southampton, either slaying the inhabitants, or leading them away captive.
From thence they went to the Isle of Thanet; then they invaded Chester, from whence they proceeded to Cornwall and Devonshire, and so to Sussex, where in those coasts they did much harm, and then withdrew to their ships. Roger Hoveden writing hereof, saith that London at the same time, or, as Fabian saith, a great part of London, was consumed with fire. About this time happened a variance between the aforesaid Egelred and the bishop of Rochester, insomuch that he made war against him, and besieged the city; and, notwithstanding Dunstan required the king, sending him admonishment, to give over for the sake of St. Andrew, yet continued he his siege, till the bishop offered him an hundred pounds of gold, which he received, and so departed. The Danes, seeing the discord that then was in the realm, and especially the hatred of the subjects against the king, rose again, and did great harm in divers places o, England; insomuch that the king was glad to grant them great sums of money, for peace to be had. For the assurance of this peace, Analaffe, captain of the Danes, became aChristian man, and so returned home to his country, and did no more harm. Besides these miseries before-recited, a sore sickness of the bloodyflux and hot fevers fell among the people, whereof many died, with a like murrain, also, among the beasts. Moreover, for lack of justice, many thieves, rioters, and bribers, were in the land, with much misery and mischief.
After him Elfric, as affirmeth Malmesbury; but as Polydore saith, Sirie.
After him Elfric a84 came, but Siric according to Malmesbury, while Polydore saith, Aluric; then E1phege.
About the same time, A.D. 995, Aldunus, a bishop, translated the body of St. Cuthbert, which first had been in a northern island, a85 and then at Chester-le-street, a86 from Chester to Dunhelm; or Durham; whereupon the bishop’s see of Durham first began. f149 Not long after the death of Dunstan, the Danes again entered England, in many and sundry places of the land, in such sort, that the king had to seek to which coast he should go first, to withstand his enemies; and, in conclusion, for the avoiding of more harm, he was compelled to appease them with great sums of money. But when that money was spent, they fell anew to robbing of the people, and to assailing the land in divers places, not only about the country of Northumberland, but they at last besieged the city of London. Being repulsed, however, by the manhood of the Londoners, they strayed to other countries adjoining, as to Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire, burning and killing wheresoever they went, so that for lack of a good head or governor, many things in the land perished; for the king gave himself up to gross vices, and also to the polling of his subjects, and, disinheriting men of their possessions, caused them to redeem the same again with great sums of money; for he paid great tribute to the Danes yearly, which was called Danegilt, a87 which tribute so increased, that from the first tribute of 10,000 l ., it was brought at last, in five or six years, to 40,000 l. , which yearly, till the coming of St. Edward, and after, was levied of the subjects of this land.
To this sorrow, moreover, were joined hunger and penury among the commons, insomuch that every one of them was constrained to pluck and steal from others, so that, what through the pillage of the Danes, and what by inward thieves and bribers, this land was brought into great affliction.
Albeit the greatest cause of this affliction, as to me appeareth, is not so much to be imputed to the king, as to the dissension among the lords themselves, who then did not agree one with another; but when they assembled in consultation together, either they drew divers ways, or if any thing was agreed, upon any matter of peace between the parties, it was soon broken; or else, if any good thing were devised for the prejudice of the enemy, anon the Danes were warned thereof by some of the same counsel. Of these the chief doers were Edric, duke of Mercia, and Alfrike, the admiral or captain of the ships, who betrayed the king’s navy to the Danes; wherefore the king apprehended Alfagar, son of the said Alfrike, and put out his eyes, as did he afterwards to the two sons of duke Edric.
The Danes thus prevailing more and more over the English, grew to such pride and presumption, that when they, by strength, caused the husbandmen to ear and sow the land, and to do all other vile labor belonging to the house, they would sit at home holding the wife at their pleasure, with daughter and servant: and when the husbandman came home, he could scarcely have of his own, as his servants had; so that the Dane had all at his will and fill, faring of the best, when the owner scarcely had his fill of the worst. Thus the common people being of them oppressed, were in such fear and dread, that not only they were constrained to suffer them in their doings, but also glad to please them, and called every one of them in the house where they had rule, Lord-Dane, which word, afterwards, in process of time, when the Danes were got rid of, was, for despight of the Danes, turned by the Englishmen to a name of opprobrium, so that when one Englishman would rebuke another, he would for the more part call him “Lurdane.”
And thus hitherto, through the assistance of Christ, we have brought this history down to the year of our Lord 1000. During the continuance of these great miseries upon this English nation, the land was brought into great ruin by the grievous tributes of the Danes, and also by sustaining manifold villanies and injuries, as well as other oppressions within the realm. In this year Egelred, through the counsel of certain his familiars about him, in the one and twentieth year of his reign, began a matter, which was the occasion, either given by the one, or taken by the other, of a new plague to ensue upon the Saxons, who had formerly driven out the Britons; which was, by joining with the Normans in marriage. For the king, this year, for the more strength, as he thought, both of him and the realm, married Emma, the daughter of Richard, duke of Normandy, which Richard was the third duke of the Normans, and the first of that name. By reason of this marriage, King Egelred was not a little elated; and, by presumption thereof, sent secret and strict commissions to the rulers of every town in England, that upon St. Brice’s day, at an hour appointed, the Danes should be suddenly slain; and so it was performed, which turned after to more trouble.
As soon as tidings came into Denmark of the murder of those Danes, Swanus, king of Denmark, with a great host and navy, landed in Cornwall; where, by treason of a Norman, named Hugh, who, by favor of Queen Emma, was made earl of Devonshire, the said Swanus took Exeter, and beat down the walls. From thence proceeding further into the land, they came to Wilton and Sherborne, where they cruelly spoiled the country, and slew the people. But, anon, Swanus hearing that the king was coming to him with the power of his land, took his ships and fetched his course about to Norfolk; where, after much wasting of that country, and spoiling the city of Norwich, and burning the town of Thetford, and destroying the country there-about, at length duke Uskatel met him and beat him, and slew many of the Danes. Wherefore Swanus for that year returned to Denmark, and there made great provision to re-enter the land again the next year following; and so he did, landing at Sandwich about the five and twentieth year of the reign of King Egelred, and spoiled that country. And as soon as he heard of any host of Englishmen coming toward him, he took shipping again, so that when the king’s army sought to meet him on one coast, he would suddenly land on another, and when the king provided to meet with him upon the sea, either they would feign to flee, or else they would with gifts blind the admiral of the king’s navy. And thus wearied they the Englishmen, and in conclusion brought them into extreme and unspeakable misery, insomuch that the king was fain to make peace with them, and to give to King Swanus 30,000 l ., after which peace thus made Swanus returned again to Denmark.
This peace continued not long, for the year next following, King Egelred made Edric, above mentioned, duke of Mercia, who was subtle of wit, glossing and eloquent of speech, untrustworthy, and false to the king and the realm; and soon after this, one Turkil, a prince of the Danes, landing in Kent with much people, did such harm there that the Kentishmen were fain to make peace with great gifts, on which they departed. But this persecution from the Danes, in one country or other in England, never ceased, nor did the king ever give them any notable battle; for when he was disposed to give them battle, this Edtie would always counsel him to the contrary, so that the Danes ever spoiled and robbed, and waxed rich, and the Englishmen ever poor and bare.
After this, Swanus being in Denmark, and heating of the increase of his people in England, brake his covenants before made, and with a great army and navy, in most defensible manner appointed, landing in Northumberland, proclaimed himself to be king of this land; where, when after much vexation he had subdued the people, and caused the earl with the rulers of the country to swear to him fealty, he passed over the river Trent to Gainsborough and to Northwatling-street, and, subduing the people there, forced them to give him host ages; these he committed with his navy unto Canute, his son, to keep, while he went further inland, and so, with a great host, came to Mercia, killing and slaying. He then took by strength Winchester and Oxford, and did there what he liked. This done, he came toward London, and hearing the king was there, passed by the river Thames, and came into Kent, and there besieged Canterbury, where he was resisted, the space of twenty days. At length, by the treason of a deacon, called Almaric, whom the bishop had preserved from death before, he won it, took the goods of the people, fired the city, and tithed the monks of St.
Augustine’s abbey; that is to say, they slew nine by cruel torment, and the tenth they kept alive as for their slave. They slew there of religious men to the number of 900 persons; of other men, with women and children, they slew above 8,000. And, finally, when they had kept the bishop Elphege in strait prison the space of seven months, because he would not condescend to give them 8,000 l. , after many villanies done unto him, they brought him to Greenwich, and there stoned him to death.
King Egelred, in the mean time, fearing the end of this persecution, sent his wife Emma, with his two sons, Alfred and Edward, to the duke of Normandy, with whom also he sent the bishop of London. The Danes proceeded still in their fury and rage, and when they had won a great part of West Saxony, they returned again to London, whereof the Londoners hearing, sent unto them certain great gifts and pledges. At last the king, about the five and thirtieth year of his reign, was chased unto the Isle of Wight, and, with a secret company, spent there a great part of the winter; and finally, without cattle or comfort, sailed into Normandy, to his wife.
Swanus being informed thereof, inflamed with pride, levied exceeding impositions upon the people, and, among others, required a great sum of money of St. Edmund’s lands, which the people there, claiming to be free from king’s tributes, refused to pay. For this, Swanus entered the territory of St. Edmund, and wasted and spoiled the country, despising the holy martyr, and menacing also the place of his sepulture. Wherefore the men of that country, fearing his tyranny, fell to prayer and fasting, so that shortly after Swanus died suddenly, crying and yelling among his knights. Some say that he was stricken with the sword of St. Edmund, whereof he died the third day after; in fear whereof Canute, his son, who ruled as king after his father, granted them the freedom of all their liberties, and, moreover, ditched the land of the said martyr with a deep ditch, and granted to the inhabitants thereof great freedoms, quitting them from all tax or tribute. He afterwards built a church over the place of his sepulture, and ordained there a house of monks, and endowed them with rich possessions. And after that time it was the usage of the kings of England, when they were crowned, to send their crowns for an offering to St. Edmund’s shrine, and to redeem the same again, afterwards, with a suitable price.
When King Egelred heard of the death of Swanus, he made provision and returned to England, for whose sudden coming Canute, being unprovided, fled to Sandwich, and there, cutting off the noses and hands of the hostages whom his father had left with him, sailed into Denmark, a88 who the next year returned again with a great navy, and landed in the south country; wherefore the eldest son of King Egelred, called Edmund Ironside, made provision with the aid of Edric, duke of Mercia, to meet him. But Edric, feigning himself sick, came not, but deceived him; for, as it was after proved, Edric had promised his allegiance to Canute. By reason of this, Canute entered the country of the West Saxons, and forced the people to be sworn unto him, and to give him pledges. During this season, King Egelred being in London, was taken with great sickness, and there died a89 and was buried in the north side of Paul’s church, behind the quire, after he had reigned unprosperously thirty-eight years; leaving after him his said eldest son, Edmund Ironside, and Alfred and Edward, who were in Normandy, sent thither before, as is above-rehearsed. This Egelred, although he was miserably assailed and vexed of his enemies, yet he with his council gave forth wholesome laws, containing good rules and lessons for all judges and justices to learn and follow. f151 Of this King Egelred I find noted in the book of Roger Hoveden, that he deposed and deprived of his possessions, a certain judge or justice named Walgeatus, the son of one Leonet, for false judgment and other proud doings, whom, notwithstanding, he loved above all others.
EDMUND IRONSIDE, A SAXON, AND CANUTE, A DANE, KINGS TOGETHER IN ENGLAND F152 After the death of Egelred, there was variance among the Englishmen about the election of their king; for the citizens of London, with certain other lords, named Edmund, the eldest son of Egelred, a young man of lusty and valiant courage, in martial adventures both hardy and wise, and who could very well endure all pains; wherefore he was sirnamed Ironside. But the more part of the lords favored Canute, the son of Swanus, especially the abbots, bishops, and men of the spiritualty, who before had sworn to his father. By means of this, many great battles were fought between these two martial princes, first in Dorsetshire, where Canute was compelled to fly the field, and after that, they fought another battle in Worcestershire, so sore that none could tell who had the better; but either for weariness, or for lack of day, they departed one from the other, and on the morrow fought again, but Canute was then compelled to forsake the field. After this they met in Mercia, and there fought again; where Edmund, as stories say, by the treason of that false Edric, duke of Mercia, whom he before had received to favor, had the worse. Thus there were many great conflicts between these two princes, but upon one occasion, when the hosts were ready to join, and a certain time of truce had been taken before battle, a knight, of the party of Edmund, stood up upon a high place, and said these words: “Daily we die, and none hath the victory: and when the knights be dead on either part, then the dukes, compelled by need, shall accord, or else they must fight alone, and this kingdom is not sufficient for two men, which sometimes sufficed seven. But if the covetousness of lordship in these twain be so great, that neither can be content to take part and live by the other, nor the one under the other, then let them fight alone, that will be lords alone. If all men fight, still, at the last, all men shall be slain, and none left to be under their lordship, nor able to defend the king that shall be, against strange enemies and nations.”
These words were so well approved of by both the hosts and the princes, that all were content to try the quarrel between those two only. Then the place and time were appointed, at which they should both meet in sight of the two hosts, and when either had attacked the other with sharp swords and strokes, on the motion of Canute, as some write, hastily they were both agreed, and kissed each other, to the comfort of both hosts; and, shortly after, they agreed upon a partition of the land, and, after that, during their lives they loved as brethren. Soon after, a son of wicked Edric, by the instigation of his father, as appeared afterwards, espied when King Edmund was at the draught, and with a spear, some say with a long knife, gave him a secret thrust, whereof the said Edmund shortly after died, after that he had reigned two years. He left behind two sons, Edmund and Edward, whom Edric, the wicked duke, after the death of their father, took from their mother, not knowing yet of the death of Edmund her husband, and presented them to King Canute, saluting him in these words, “Ave rex solus.” Thus Canute, after the death of Edmund Ironside, was king alone of the whole realm of England, and afterwards, by the advice of his council, he sent the aforesaid sons of Edmund Ironside to his brother Swanus, king of Sweden, to be slain; who abhorring that deed, sent them to Salomon, king of Hungary, where Edmund being married to the king’s daughter, died; Edward was married to Agatha, daughter of his brother, the emperor, Henry IV. f153 When Canute was established in the kingdom, he called a parliament in London, where, among other things there debated, it was propounded to the bishops, barons, and lords of parliament, present, whether, in the composition made between Edmund and Canute, there was any special remembrance made of the children or brethren of Edmund, by any partition of any part of the land. Whereunto the English lords, falsely flattering the foreign king, and speaking against their own minds, as also against their native country, answered, and said, “Nay.” Affirming, moreover, with an oath (for the king’s pleasure) that they, to the uttermost of their powers, would put off the blood of Edmund in all that they might; by reason of which answer and promise, many of them thought to have purchased with the king great favor. But, by the just retribution of God, it chanced far otherwise; for many of them, or the most part (such especially as Canute did perceive to be sworn before-time to Edmund and his heirs, and also considering that they were native Englishmen) he mistrusted and disdained ever after, insomuch that some he exiled, a great number he beheaded, and some, by God’s punishment, died suddenly, among whom wicked Edric also, the traitor, although with his sugared words he continued a while in the king’s favor, at length escaped not condign reward for his deceivable dealing. For, as the history of Jornalensis recordeth, as the king was in his palace beyond the Thames, this Edric, being probably accused, or else suspected of the king before, and coming unto him, began to reckon up his benefits and labors bestowed for his sake, first, in forsaking and betraying Egelred, then in slaying King Edmund’s son, with many such other deeds, which all, for his sake, he had done. “Well,” saith the king, “thou hast here rightly judged thyself, and worthily thou shalt die for slaying thy natural prince, and my sworn brother,” and so commanded him to be bound immediately hand and foot, and to be thrown into the Thames. Some stories say, that when he had saluted the king with “Ave rex solus,” and showed him the slaying of Edmund, Canute, promising that he would make him, therefore, higher than all the lords of the realm, commanded his head to be stricken off, and to be set upon London bridge, and his body to be cast into the town-ditch: and thus with shame ended he his wretched life; as all they commonly do, who, with like dissimulation, seek the destruction of their prince, and of their country.
This Canute, shortly after the death of King Edmund, by the counsel of Edric, exiled Edwy, being brother unto King Edmund, called rex rusticorum, ‘ the king of churls;’ a91 but afterwards, he was reconciled again to the king’s favor, and, lastly, slain by certain of the king’s secretaries, or servants. Also, through the counsel of the said Edric, and of Emma his wife, he sent the two sons of Edmund Iron-side, Edmund and Edward, to his brother Swanus, king of Denmark, a92 to be slain, as is before said. f154 In the mean time Swanus, king of Denmark, a93 brother to Canute, died; wherefore that land fell to Canute, who soon after sailed thither, and took possession of it, and after he had set it in order, he returned to England and married Emma, late wife of Egelred, and by her he had a son, called Hardknight, or Hardicanute. Moreover this Canute assembled a parliament at Oxford, where it was agreed that English men and Danes should hold the laws made by King Edgar, because they were thought so good and reasonable above any other laws. Thus the Danes being in England began, by little and little, to be Christian men. Canute went to Rome, a94 and returning again to England, governed that land the space of twenty years, leaving after him two sons, Harold and Hardicanute; which latter was made king of Denmark in his father’s time.
Harold I, called Harefoot for his activity and swiftness, son to Canute by Elgina, his first wife, began his reign over England A.D. 1086. Of him little is left in memory, save that he banished his step-mother Emma, and took her goods and jewels from her.
Hardicanute, being king of Denmark, and second son to Canute by his last wife Emma, was next king of England. In the time of these Danish kings, there was one Godwin, an earl in England, who had been before in great favor with Canute, for his acts done in Denmark against the Norwegians; a95 who afterwards married the sister (some say the daughter) of Canute. This Godwin was of a cruel and subtle wit, as is instanced not a little by the sons of King Egelred; for when those two, whose names were Alfred and Edward, came from Normandy into England, to visit their mother Emma, and brought with them a great company of Normans, this Godwin (having a daughter called Godith, whom he thought to marry to Edward, and set him up to be king), to bring his purpose about, used this device, namely, to persuade King Hardicanute, and the lords, not to suffer those Normans to be within the realm for jeopardy, but rather to punish them for example: by which means he obtained authority to order the matter himself, wherefore he met them on Guild down, and there most wretchedly murdered, or rather martyred the greater number of the Normans, and that without provocation. For, as Swanus before had tithed the monks of Canterbury, so he, with a cruel company of English soldiers, slew nine of the said Normans, and saved the tenth. And yet, passing the fury of Swanus, as not contented with that tyranny, he tithed again the said tithe, and slew every tenth knight, and that by cruel torment, as winding their entrails out of their bodies, as writeth Ranulphus. Among his other deeds, he put out the eyes of the elder brother, Alfred, and sent him to the abbey of Ely, where he, being fed with bread and water, endured not long. By some writers it is recorded, that he was there slain with the aforenamed torment, and that Edward was conveyed by some one to his mother; who, fearing the treason of Godwin, sent him soon over the sea into Normandy again.
This cruel act of Godwin and his men against the innocent Normans, whether it came of himself, or of the king’s setting on, seemeth to me to be the cause why the justice of God did shortly after revenge the quarrel of these Normans, in conquering and subduing the English nation by William the Conqueror, and the Normans who came with him. For so it was just and right, that as the Normans, coming with a natural English prince, were murdered of Englishmen; so afterwards, the Englishmen should be slain and conquered by the Normans, coming with a foreign king, not being of their natural country.
Then it followeth in the story, that this King Hardicanute, when he had reigned two years, being merry at Lambeth, suddenly was stricken dumb, and fell down to the ground, and within eight days died without issue, A.D. 1041. He was the last that reigned in England of the blood of the Danes.
The aforesaid Godwin had, by the daughter of Canute, his wife, but one son, who was drowned. By his second wife he had six sons; to wit, Swanus, Harold, Tostius, Wilmot, Sixth or Surth, and Leofric, with one daughter, called Goditha, who was afterwards married to King Edward the Confessor.
Concerning the story of this Alfred, I find it somewhat otherwise reported in our English chronicles, that it should be after the death of Hardicanute; forasmuch as the earls and barons after his death assembled and made a council, that never after, any of the Danes’ blood should be king of England, for the despite that they had done to Englishmen. For ever before, if the English and the Danes happened to meet upon a bridge, the Englishmen were not so hardy as to move a foot, but stood still till the Danes had passed over. And, moreover, if the Englishmen had not bowed down their heads to do reverence to the Danes, they would have been beaten and defiled. Far these despites and villanies they were driven out of the land after the death of Hardicanute, for they had no lord that might maintain them; and after this manner the Danes so evacuated England, that they never came again. f155 The earls and barons, by their common assent and council, sent into Normandy for these two brethren, Alfred and Edward, intending to crown Alfred, the elder brother, and to make him king of England; and to this the earls and barons made their oath. But the Earl Godwin of West Sax, falsely and traitorously thought to slay these two brethren, as soon as they came into England, to the intent that he might make Harold his son king; which son he had by his wife, Hardicanute’s daughter, a96 who was a Dane. So this Godwin went privily to Southampton, to meet the two brethren at their landing; and thus it fell out, that the messengers who went (saith mine author) into Normandy, found only Alfred the elder brother, for Edward his younger brother was gone to Hungary, to speak with his cousin, the outlaw, who was Edmund Ironside’s son.
When Alfred had heard these messengers, and perceived their tidings, he thanked God, and hastening with all speed to England, arrived at Southampton. There Godwin, the false traitor, having knowledge of his coming, welcomed and received him with much joy, pretending to lead him to London, where the barons waited to make him king; and so they together passed forth toward London. But when they came to Guild down, the traitor commanded all his men to slay all that were in Alfred’s company, who came with him from Normandy, and after that to take Alfred, and to lead him into the isle of Ely, where they should put out both his eyes, and so they did; for they slew all the company that were there, to the number of twelve gentlemen, who came with Alfred from Normandy, and after that they took Alfred, and in the isle of Ely they executed their commission. That done, they opened his body, took out his bowels, and setting a stake into the ground, fastened an end of his bowels there unto, and with needles of iron they pricked his tender body, thereby causing him to go about the stake, till all his bowels were drawn out. So died this innocent Alfred or Alured, being the right heir to the crown, through treason of wicked Godwin. When the lords of England heard thereof, and how Alfred, who should have been their king, was put to death through the false traitor Godwin, they were wondrous wroth; and swore between God and them that he should die a worse death than did Edric, who betrayed his lord, Edmund Ironside; and would immediately have put him to death, but that the traitor fled thence into Denmark, and there remained four years and more, losing all his lands in England.
Another Latin story I have, bearing no name, which saith that this coming in of Alfred and the Normans was in the time of Harold, Canute’s son f157 Also how Godwin, after he pretended great amity to them, suddenly in the night came upon them at Guildford, and after he had tithed the Normans, sent Alfred to Harold in London; who sent him to the isle of Ely, and caused his eyes to be put out. And thus much of Canute, and of his sons, Harold and Hardicanute.
Besides these two sons, Canute had also a daughter named Gunilda, a97 married to Henry III, emperor. Of her some write, that she being accused to the emperor of spouse-breach, and having no champion or knight that would fight for her, after the manner of that country, for trial of her cause, a certain little dwarf or boy, whom she brought with her out of England, stirred up of God, fought in her cause against a mighty big German, of a monstrous greatness; which silly dwarf, cutting by chance the sinews of his leg, afterwards struck him to the ground, and cut off his head, and so saved the life of the queen; if that be true which Malmesbury and Fabian report.
Of this Canute it is storied that he, following much the superstition of Egelnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, went on a pilgrimage to Rome, and there founded an hospital for English pilgrims. He gave the pope precious gifts, and burdened the land with a yearly tribute, called the Rome-shot.
He shrined the body of Berinus, and gave great lands and ornaments to the cathedral church of Winchester; he also built St. Benet’s in Norfolk, a98 which was before a hermitage; likewise St. Edmundsbury, a99 which King Athelstan before ordained for a college of priests, he turned to an abbey of monks of St. Benet’s order.
Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon, maketh mention of this Canute, as doth also Polydore, that he, after his coming from Rome, walking upon a time by the port of Southampton (but, as Polydore saith, and Fabian affirmeth the same, it was by the Thames’ side in London), when his flatterers coming about him, began to exalt him with high words, calling him a king of all kings, most mighty, who had under his subjection both the people, the land, and also the sea: Canute, revolving this matter in his mind (whether for pride of his heart exalted, or whether to try and refel their flattering words), commanded his chair of state to be brought to the sea side, at what time the tide should begin to flow. Polydore saith that no seat was brought; but sitting upon his garments, being folded together under him, there charged and commanded the floods arising and coming towards his feet, that they should touch neither him nor his clothes. But the water, keeping its ordinary course, came nearer and nearer, first to his feet, and so growing higher, began to wash him well-favoredly; where with the king abashed, and partly also afraid, started back, and looking at his lords, “Lo,” saith he, “ye call me such a mighty king, and yet I cannot command back this little water to stay at my word, but it is ready to drown me.
Wherefore all earthly kings may know that all their powers be but vain, and that none is worthy to have the name of a king, but he alone who hath all things subject to the power and authority of his word, who is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Creator above of all things, the Father of our Christ and Lord, who with him for ever is to be glorified: him let us worship and extol for our King for ever.” After this, as histories witness, he never suffered the crown to come upon his head, but went to Winchester, or, as some say, to Canterbury; but both those accounts may be true, for his going to Canterbury was to acknowledge that there was a Lord much higher, and of more power than he himself was, and therewithal to render up his crown for ever. With that, Egelnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, informed him of the image of the crucifix before mentioned, a100 which dissolved the matter between married priests and life of monks, and did many other miracles more, being then at Winchester; whereupon the king, provoked to go to Winchester to the rood, there resigned his regal crown, and made the rood king over all the land.
Here is also to be noted in this Canute, that although, as is said, he submitted in the beginning of his reign to King Edgar’s laws, yet afterwards, in process of time, he set forth peculiar laws of his own, among which, divers there be that concern as well causes ecclesiastical, as also temporal. Whereby it may appear, that the government of spiritual matters did not then depend upon the bishop of Rome, but appertained to the lawful authority of the temporal prince, no less than did matters and causes temporal, as by certain ordinances of the aforesaid Canute may be well perceived. f160 And here is an end of the Danish kings. Now to the English kings again, whose right line cometh in, in Edward here following.
EDWARD THE CONFESSOR F161 Forasmuch as God, who is the only maker of heirs, of his mercy and providence, thought it so good, after the woeful captivity of this English nation, to grant now some respite of deliverance, in taking away the Danish kings without any issue left behind them; who reigning here in England, kept the English people in miserable subjection about the space of eight and twenty years, and, from their first landing in the time of King Brightric, wasted and vexed this land the term of 254 years: now their tyranny here coming to an end, the next election and right to the crown fell, as appertained, to Edward, the younger son of King Egelred and Emma, a true-bred Englishman, who had been now long banished in Normandy, as is above declared; a man of gentle and soft spirit, more appliable to other men’s council, than able to trust to his own; of nature and condition so given from all war and bloodshed, that, being in his banishment, he wished rather to continue all his life long in that private estate, than by war or bloodshed to aspire to any kingdom. This Edward, after the death of Canute II, or Hardicanute, being sent for by the lords into Normandy, to take possession of the realm, although he something mistrusted the inconstant and fickle heads of Englishmen, yet, having sufficient pledges laid for him in Normandy, came over, accompanied by a few Normans, and not long after was crowned at Winchester, A.D. 1042, a101 by Edsine, then archbishop of Canterbury. Not long, after that, he married Goditha, or Editha, daughter of Earl Godwin, whom he treated after such a sort, that he lived with her as though she had not been his wife. Whether it were for hate of her kin, as most likely it was, or for love of chastity, it remaineth uncertain, but most writers agree that he continued his life in this manner; for the which he is highly exalted among our story-writers, and called holy King Edward. After he had thus taken upon him the government of the realm, he guided the same with much wisdom and justice for the space of four and twenty years, lacking two months; from whom issued, as out of a fountain, much godliness, mercy, pity, and liberality toward the poor; gentleness and justice toward all men; and, in all honest life, he gave a virtuous example to his people. He discharged the Englishmen from the great tribute called Dane-gilt, which before time was yearly levied to the great impoverishing of the people. He subdued the Scots and the Welshmen, who in their borders began to rebel against him. In much peace he continued his reign, having no foreign enemy to assault him: albeit, as some chronicles do show, certain Danes and Norwegians there were, who intended to set upon England, but as they were taking shipping, there was brought to them first one bowl, then another, of mead or methe, to drink for a bon viage. Thus one cup coming after another, after drink came drunkenness, after drunkenness followed jangling, of jangling came strife, and strife turned unto stripes, whereby many were slain, and the others returned to their homes again; and thus, the merciful providence of the Lord disposed of that journey.
In the time of this Edward, Emma his mother was accused of being familiar with Alwin, the bishop of Winchester; upon which accusation, by counsel of Earl Godwin, he took from her many of her jewels, and caused her to be kept a deal more strictly in the abbey of Warwel, and the bishop to be committed to the examination of the clergy. Polydore saith they were both in prison at Winchester, where she, sorrowing the defame both of herself and the bishop, and trusting to her conscience, desired justice of them, offering herself as ready to abide any lawful trial, yea, although it were the sharpest. Then divers of the bishops made entreaty to the king for them both, and had obtained the suit, had not Robert, then archbishop of Canterbury, stopped it; who, not well content with their labor, said unto them, “My brethren, how dare you defend her who is so unworthy the name of a woman? She hath defamed her own son the king, and hath lowered herself with the bishop. And if it be so, that the woman will purge the priest, who shall then purge the woman, who is accused of consenting to the death of her son Alfred, and who procured venom to the poisoning of her son Edward. But, whether she be guilty or guiltless, if she will go barefoot for herself four steps, and for the bishop five, continually upon nine ploughshares fire hot, and escape harmless, he shall be assoiled of this challenge, and she also.” To this she agreed, and the day was appointed, on which the king and a great part of his nobles were present, save only Robert, the archbishop. This Robert had been a monk of a house in Normandy, and a helper of the king in his exile, and so by the sending for of the king, came over and was made first bishop of London, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. Then was she led blind fold unto the place between two men, where the irons lay burning hot, and passed the nine shares unhurt. At last, said she, “Good Lord, when shall I come to the place of my purgation?” When they then opened her eyes, and she saw that she was past the pain, she kneeled down, giving God thanks. Then the king repented, saith the story, and restored unto her what he had before taken from her, and asked her forgiveness; but the archbishop fled into Normandy.
Not long after this, Eustace a102 earl of Boulogne, who had married King Edward’s sister, came into England, through the occasion of whom, when execution should be done upon the citizens of Dover for a fray between them and the earl’s men, variance happened between King Edward and Earl Godwin; who, perceiving that he could not withstand the king’s malice, although he gathered a great company to work therein what he could, fled into Flanders, and was outlawed with his five sons. King Edward repudiated his wife, the daughter of the said Godwin; but the second year after, by mediators, he was reconciled to the king again, and called from banishment, and for his good a-bearing he gave for pledges his son Wilmot and grandson Hacus, who were sent to the duke of Normandy, there to be kept. f164 During the time of the outlawry of Godwin, William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, came with a goodly company into England to see King Edward, and was honorably received: to whom the king made great cheer, and at his return enriched him with great gifts and pleasures; and there, as some write, made promise to him that, if he died without issue, the said William should succeed him in the kingdom of England.
In this king’s reign lived Marianus Scotus, the story-writer. As concerning the end of Earl Godwin, the cruel murderer of Alfred and of the Normans, although divers histories diversely do vary, yet in this the most part do agree, that as he sat at the table with King Ed ward at Windsor, it happened one of the cup-bearers, one of Earl Godwin’s sons, to stumble and recover again, so that he did shed none of the drink; whereat Godwin laughed, and said how the one brother had sustained the other, With which words the king calling to mind his brother’s death, who was slain by Godwin, beheld the earl, saying, “So should my brother Alfred have holpen me, had not Godwin been.” Godwin then, fearing the king’s displeasure to be newly kindled, after many words in excusing himself, said, “So might I safely swallow this morsel of bread, as I am guiltless of the deed;” but as soon as he had received the bread, forthwith he was choked. Then the king commanded him to be drawn from the table; and so he was conveyed by Harold his son to Winchester, and there buried.
About the thirteenth year of this king’s reign, the said King Ed ward sent Aldred, bishop of Worcester, to the emperor Henry IV, praying him that he would send to the king of Hungary, that his cousin Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, might come to England, forsomuch as he intended to make him king after him, who was called Edward the Outlaw; the which request was fulfilled, so that he came into England with his wife Agatha, and with his children, to wit, Edgar Etheling, Margaret, and Christina. But the year after his return into the realm, this Edward deceased in London, and was buried at Westminster, or, as Jornalensis saith, at Paul’s church in London. After whose decease, the king then received Edgar Etheling his son as his own child, thinking to make him his heir; but fearing partly the inconstant mutability of the Englishmen, partly the pride and malice of Harold, the son of Godwin, and of others (perceiving thereby that he could not bring that his purpose well to pass), he directed solemn ambassadors unto William, duke of Normandy, his kinsman, admitting and assigning him to be his lawful heir, next to succeed after him to the crown.
After the death of Godwin, Harold his son waxed so in the king’s favor, that he ruled the most and greatest causes of the realm, and was lieutenant of the king’s army; who, with his brother Toston or Tostius, sent by the king against the Welshmen, subdued their rebellion. But afterward, such envy grew between these two brethren, for that Tostius saw his brother Harold so greatly advanced in the king’s favor, that at Hereford Tostius slew all his brother’s men; whom when he had cut in pieces, he powdered their quarters and mangled parts in barrels of salt, vinegar, wine, and other liquors. That done, he made a power against his brother Harold, being king, with the aid of certain Danes and Norwegians, and fought a battle with him in the North, as after shall follow (God willing) to be seen. So ungracious were these wicked children of Earl Godwin, that if they had seen any fair mansion or manor-place, they would slay the owner thereof with all his kindred, and enter the possession thereof themselves.
At length it came in the mind of this Harold to sail over the sea, as Polydore saith, unto Normandy, to see his brother Wilmot, as also his cousin Hacus, whom the king had sent thither to be kept for pledges, as ye heard before. Polydore saith, “These pledges were Tostius and Biornan;” but that cannot be, for Tostius was then in England. But, as Henry archdeacon of Huntingdon saith, his journey was into Flanders, as seemeth more like; for it is not to be thought that Harold, who was a doer in the cruel murder of Alfred and of the Normans, would venture into Normandy, and therefore more like it is, that his sailing was into Flanders.
But, as the story proceedeth, he, being in the course of sailing, was weather-driven by tempest into the province of Ponthieu, where he was taken as a prisoner, and sent to Duke William of Normandy; to whom he was made to swear, that he in time following should marry his daughter, and that, after the death of King Edward, he should keep the land of England to his behoof, according to the will and mind of Edward, after some writers, and so to live in great honor and dignity, next unto him in the realm. This promise faithfully made to the duke, Harold returneth to England with his cousin Hacus, the son of his brother Swanus, delivered unto him; but Wilmot, brother of Harold, the duke keepeth still for performance of the covenants. Thus Harold, I say, returning home, sheweth the king all that he had done in the aforesaid matters, wherewith the king was well contented. Whereby it may be gathered that king Edward was right well willing that Duke William should reign after him, and also it seemeth not unlike but that he had given him his promise thereunto before.
Among all that were true and trusty to King Edward of the English nobility, none had like commendation as had Leofric, earl of Mercia and of Chester. This Leofric purchased many great liberties for the town of Coventry, and made it free of all manner of things, except only of horse.
Which freedom there was obtained by means of his wife Godiva, by riding, as the fame goeth, after a strange manner through the town. This Leofric, with his wife Godiva, builded also the abbey of Coventry, and endowed the same with great lands and riches.
You heard a little before of the coming over of Edward, called the Outlaw, son of King Edmund Ironside, whom King Edward had purposed to have made king after him; but soon after his coming over he deceased in London.
This Edward had, by his wife Agatha, a son called Edgar Etheling, and a daughter Margaret, who, being afterward married to the king of Scots, was the mother of Matilda, or Maud, queen of England, and of David, king of Scots.
This virtuous and blessed King Edward, after he had reigned three and twenty years and seven months, died, and was buried in the monastery of Westminster, which he had greatly augmented and repaired; but afterwards it was more enlarged after the form which it hath now, by Henry III., the son of King John.
They that write the history of this king, here make mention of a dream or revelation that should be showed to him in time of his sickness; how that because the peers and bishops of the realm were servants, not of God, but of the devil, God would give this realm to the hand of others. And when the king desired utterance to be given him, that he might declare the same to the people, whereby they might repent, it was answered again, that they would not repent; still, if they did, it should not be given to another people: but because it is a dream, I let it pass.
Divers laws were, before in divers countries of this realm used, as the law first of Dunuallo Molinucius, with the laws of Offa king of Mercia, a105 called Mercenelega: a106 then the laws of West Saxon kings, as of Ine, Alfred, etc., which were called West-Saxenelega: a106 the third were the laws of Canute, and of the Danes, called Danelega. a106 Of all these laws, which before were diversely in certain particular countries used and received, this Edward compiled one universal and common law for all people through the whole realm, called King Edward’s laws; which, being gathered out of the best and chiefest of the other laws, were so just, so equal, and so serving the public profit and weal of all estates, that mine authors say, “The people long after did rebel against their heads and rulers, to have the same laws again (being taken from them), and yet could not obtain them.”
Furthermore, I read and find in Matthew Paris, that when William the Conqueror, at his coming in, did swear to use and practice the same good laws of Edward, for the common laws of this realm; afterwards being established in his kingdom, he forswore himself, and placed his own laws in their room, much worse and obscurer than the others were.
Notwithstanding, among the said laws of Edward, and in the first chapter and beginning thereof, this I find among the ancient records of the Guildhall in London: “ The office of a king, with such other appurtenances as belong to the realm of Britain,” set forth and described in the Latin style; which I thought here not unmeet to be expressed in the English tongue, for those who understand no Latin. The tenor and meaning whereof thus followeth. f169 “The king, because he is the vicar of the highest King, is appointed for this purpose, to rule the earthly kingdom, and the Lord’s people, and, above all things, to reverence his holy church, to govern it, and to defend it from injuries; to pluck away wicked doers, and utterly to destroy them: which, unless he do, the name of a king agreeth not unto him, but he loseth the name of a king, as witnesseth Pope John; to the which pope, Pepin and Charles his son being not yet kings, but princes under the French king (not being very wise), did write, demanding this question, ‘Whether the kings of France ought so to continue, having but only the name of a king?’ Unto whom Pope John answereth again, that ‘it was convenient to call them kings, who vigilantly do defend and govern the church of God and his people, following the saying of King David, the Psalmograph, ‘He shall not dwell in my house which worketh pride,’ etc. Moreover, the king, by right and by his office, ought to defend and conserve fully and wholly, in all ampleness, without diminution, all the lands, honors, dignities, rights, and liberties, of the crown of his kingdom: and, further, to reduce into their pristine state, all such things as have been dispersed, wasted, and lost, which appertain to his kingdom. Also the whole and universal land, with all islands about the same in Norway and Denmark, be appertaining to the crown of his kingdom, and be of the appurtenances and dignity of the king, making one monarchy and one kingdom, which sometime was called the kingdom of the Britons, and now the kingdom of England; such bounds and limits as are beforementioned be appointed and limited to the name of this kingdom.”
Moreover, in the aforesaid laws of this King Edward, it followeth in the same book, where the said Edward, describing the office of a king, addeth in these words: “ A king,” saith he, “ought above all things to fear God, to love and to observe his commandments, and cause them to be observed through his whole kingdom. He ought also to keep, cherish, maintain, and govern the holy church within his kingdom with all integrity and liberty, according to the constitutions of his ancestors and predecessors, and to defend the same against all enemies, so that God, above all things, be honored, and ever be before his eyes. He ought also to set up good laws and customs, such as be wholesome and approved; such as be otherwise, to repeal them, and thrust them out of his kingdom. Item, He ought to do judgment and justice in his kingdom, by the counsel of the nobles of his realm. All these things ought a king in his own person to do, taking his oath upon the evangelists, and the blessed relics of saints, swearing in the presence of the whole state of his realm, as well of the temporality as of the spirituality, before he be crowned of the archbishops and bishops.
Three servants the king ought to have under him as vassals: fleshly lust, avarice, and greedy desire; whom if he keep under as his servants and slaves, he shall reign well and honorably in his kingdom. All things are to be done with good advisement and premeditation; and that properly belongeth to a king. For hasty rashness bringeth all things to ruin, according to the saying of the gospel, ‘Every kingdom divided in itself shall be desolate.’” After the duty and office of princes have been thus described, followeth the institution of subjects, declared in many good and necessary ordinances, very requisite and convenient for public government; of which laws, William the Conqueror was compelled, through the clamor of the people, to take some, but the most part he omitted, contrary to his own oath at his coronation, inserting and placing the most of his own laws in his language, to serve his purpose, and which as yet, to this present day, in the Norman language do remain. Now, the Lord willing, let us proceed in the story as in order followeth.
KING HAROLD II F170 Harold, the second son of Earl Godwin, and last king of the Saxons, notwithstanding that divers of the nobles went with Edgar Adding, the next heir after Edmund Ironside, yet he, through force and might contemning the young age of Edgar, and forgetting also his promise made to Duke William, took upon him to be king of England, A.D. 1066. When Harold Harefager, son of Canute, king of Norway and Denmark, heard of the death of King Edward, he came into England with 500 ships or more, who then joining with Tostius, brother to the said Harold, king of England, entered into the north parts, and claimed the land after the death of Edward. But the lords of the country arose, and gave them battle; notwithstanding the Danes had the victory. Therefore Harold, king of England, repaired towards them in all haste, and gave them another strong battle, and had the victory, where also Harold the Dane was slain by the hand of Harold king of England; and Tostius was also slain in the battle.
After this victory, Harold waxed proud and covetous, and would not divide the prey with his knights who had deserved it, but kept it to himself, whereby he lost the favor of many of his knights and people.
In the mean time, William, duke of Normandy, sent an ambassage to Harold, king of England, admonishing him of the covenant that was agreed between them; which was, to have kept the land to his use after the death of Edward. But because the daughter of Duke William, who had been promised to Harold, was dead, Harold thought himself thereby discharged, and said, “That such a nice foolish promise ought not to be holden concerning another’s land, without the consent of the lords of the same; and especially because he was thereunto, for need or for dread, compelled.”
Upon these answers received, Duke William, in the mean time, while the messengers went and came, gathered his knights and prepared his navy, and had the assent of the lords of his land to aid and assist him in his journey. And besides that, sending unto Rome to Pope Alexander concerning his title and voyage into England, the pope confirmed him as to the same, and sent unto him a banner, willing him to bear it in the ship wherein himself should sail. Thus Duke William, being purveyed of all things concerning his journey, sped him to the sea-side, and took shipping at the haven of St. Valery, where he tarried a long time ere he might have a convenient wind, on which account his soldiers, murmured, saying, “It was a woodness, and a thing displeasing God, to desire to have another man’s kingdom by strength; and, namely, when God was against it by sending contrary wind.” At last the wind shortly after came about, and they took shipping with a great company, and landed at Hastings, in Sussex.
For three causes Duke William entered this land to subdue Harold. One was, for that it was to him given by King Edward, his nephew. The second was to take wreak for the cruel murder of his nephew Alfred, King Edward’s brother, and of the Normans, which deed he ascribed chiefly to Harold. The third was, to revenge the wrong done to Robert, archbishop of Canterbury, who was exiled by the means and labor of Harold, in the time of King Edward.
Thus, while Harold was in the north, Duke William made so great speed, that he came to London before the king; out of which he was holden, till he made good surety that he and his people should pass through the city without tarrying; which promise he well observing, passed the bridge, and went over to Sussex, from whence he sent a monk unto Harold, and proffered him three manner of ways. First, either to render to him the possession of the land, and so to take it again of him under tribute, reigning under him; secondly, or else to abide and stand to the pope’s arbitrement betwixt them both; or, thirdly, to defend this quarrel in his own person against the duke, and they two only to try the matter by dint of sword, without any other bloodshedding.
But Harold refused all these offers, saying, “It should be tried by dint of swords, and not by one sword;” and so gathered his people and joined battle with the Normans, in the place where afterward was built the Abbey of Battle in Sussex. In the beginning of this fight, the Englishmen kept them in good army likely to vanquish the Normans; wherefore Duke William caused his men to give back, as though they fled, whereupon the Englishmen followed fast, and broke their army. Then the Normans, fiercely giving a charge upon them, in conclusion obtained the victory through the just providence of God. On which occasion King Harold, who before had so cruelly murdered Alfred, the true heir of the crown, with his company of Normans, was now wounded of the Normans in the left eye with an arrow, and thereof incontinent died; although Giraldus saith he fled away to Chester, and lived after that, a monk in the monastery of St.
James. This, however, is not likely, but rather that he was there slain, after he had reigned nine months, and was buried at Waltham, which proveth that he died not at Chester; and so was he the last that reigned in England of the blood of Saxons, which continued, to reckon from Hengist’s first reign in Kent, by the space of 610 years; and if it be reckoned from the years of the West Saxons, then it endured the space of 571 years. f173 This Duke William and King Edward were by the father’s side cousingermans removed: a108 for Richard, the first of that name, who was the third duke of Normandy after Rollo, was father to Duke Richard, the second of that name and brother to Emma, mother to King Edward; which Duke Richard II was father to Duke Robert, this Duke William’s father.
Albeit in this matter some others may gather otherwise and better perchance, yet, if I may say what I think, verily I suppose, that consanguinity is not so much the cause why God of his unknown judgments suffered the Normans here to prevail, as was rather the cruel murder of Alfred and of the innocent Normans, wrought by the cruel despight of Harold and the Englishmen, as is before declared, which merciless murder God here justly in this conquest recompensed.
Now it remaineth to these foreign affairs of kings and princes, to add something concerning the continuation of the archbishops of Canterbury, beginning where we left off, that is, with Elphege, whom we declared a little before to have been stoned by the vanes at Greenwich. After Elphege next succeeded Living, and after him Egelnoth, also abovementioned. Then Robert, a Norman, a great doer, as is declared, about King Edward, and a faithful counsellor unto him, but he abode not long. After whom Stigand invaded the see, as they report, by simony, being both archbishop of Canterbury, bishop of Winchester, and also abbot in another place, wherein he continued a great space, gathering and heaping goods together; till at length Duke William put him in prison, and there kept him, placing in his room Lanfranc, a Lombard, of whom more shall follow, Christ willing, hereafter to be declared.
Whereupon cometh the latter age of the church. Here now beginneth the fresh flowering blood of the church to faint, and strength to fail, oppressed with cold humors of worldly pomp, avarice, and tyranny; here now cometh in blind superstition, with cloaked hypocrisy, armed with rigorous laws, and cruel murdering of saints; here cometh in the order and name of cardinals, a109 whose name was not heard of before the time 1050 years after Christ, growing up in such excess and riches, that some of them now have two, some three hundred benefices at once. Here cometh in four orders of friars; here the supremacy of Rome raged in his ruff, which being once established in the consciences of men, the power of all other Christian princes did quake and decay, for dread of the pope’s interdict, suspense, and excommunication, which they feared no less than Christ’s own sentence from heaven. Thus the Roman bishop, under the title of St. Peter, doing what he lusted, and princes not daring that which was right; in the mean while the people of Christ were miserably governed and abused, especially here in England and Scotland, as in this history, Christ so permitting, shall appear. For here then came in tyranny without mercy, pomp and ambition without measure, error and blindness without knowledge, articles and canons without number, avarice without end, impropriations, abalienations, reservations, vowsons, or expectations of benefices, translations of cathedral churches, contributions, annuities, Petershots (as in our old chronicles they are termed), preventions of patronage, bulls, indulgences, and cases papal; with innumerable other grievances and proud proceedings of the Romish prelates, wherewith they brought all realms, with their princes, underneath their girdles; insomuch that the emperors, at length, could not take their crown but by the pope’s grace and license: and if any did otherwise, the pope’s ban was ready either to depose him, or to stir up civil war against him. Then began corruption to enter and increase; then turned the gold and good metal into dross and filthiness; then quenched the clear light of the gospel; the book of God’s word obscured in a dark tongue, which book King Athelstan before caused to be translated from Hebrew into English, A.D. 980; then shepherds and watchmen became wicked wolves, Christ’s friends changed into enemies. To be short, then came in the time that the Revelation speaketh of, when Satan, the old serpent, being tied up for a thousand years, was loosed for a certain space, of the which space, here, in these books, by the help and supportation of Christ our Lord, we intend something to entreat and speak of, though not of all things in general done in all places, yet that such things as be most principal may come to light, the knowledge whereof shall be necessary for all our countrymen to understand.
Although the church of Christ and the state of religion, first founded and grounded by Christ and his apostles, did not altogether and continually remain in its primitive perfection wherein it was first instituted, but in process of time began from better to worse, to decrease and decline into much superstition and inconvenience, partly through the coming in of Mahomet, A.D. 612, partly through the increase of wealth and riches, and partly through the decrease of knowledge and diligence in such as should be the guides of Christ’s flock; yet the infection and corruption of that time, though it were great, did not so abound in such excessive measure as afterwards in the other later times now following, about the thousand years expired after Christ, whereof we have to treat, Christ so permitting; about which time and year came Sylvester II who next succeeded after Gregory V already mentioned, and occupied the see of Rome about A.D. 1000, lacking one or two.
This Sylvester was a sorcerer, who, after the manner of those who work by familiars, as they call them, and by conjuration, compacted with the devil to be made pope; and so he was, through the operation of Satan, according to his request, which thing, some histories say, he did greatly repent before his death; but for a more ample declaration hereof, I will bring in the words of Johannes Stella, a Venetian, translated from Latin into English, concerning the said Sylvester, to the intent that our enchanters and sorcerers now-a-days, of whom there be too many in England, may the better, through his example, be admonished. The words of Stella be these, agreeing also with the narration of Benno, Platina, and many others, “Gibert, a Frenchman, called Sylvester II, being pope, sat in his papacy four years, one month, and eight days. He entered into his papacy through wicked and unlawful means, who from his youth being a monk, and leaving his monastery, gave himself wholly to the devil, to obtain what he required. And first coming to Seville, a city in Spain, he there applied to his book, and profited therein so much that he was made doctor, having amongst his auditors, Otho the emperor’s son, Robert the French king, Lotharius archbishop of Sens, with divers others; by whose advancement he was promoted, first to be bishop of Rheims, then archbishop, of Ravenna, and at last, through the operation of Satan, he was exalted to the papacy of Rome, upon this condition, that after his death he should give himself to the devil, by whose procurement he came to that promotion. Upon a certain time he demanded an answer of the devil, how long he should enjoy his popedom. To whom he answered again, ‘Until thou say mass in Jerusalem thou shalt live.’ At length, in the fourth year of his popedom, saying mass a111 at Lent-time in the temple of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem at Home, he there knew the time was come when he should die. Whereupon, being struck with repentance, he confessed his fault openly before the people, desiring them to cut his body all in pieces (being so seduced by deceits of the devil); and thus, being hewn in pieces, that they would lay it upon a cart, and bury it wheresoever the horses would carry it of their accord. And so the saying is, that by the providence of God (whereby the wicked may learn, that there is yet hope of remission with God, so that they will repent them in their life), the horses of their own accord stayed at the church of Lateran, and there he was buried where commonly, by the rattling of his bones within the tomb, is portended the death of popes, as the common report goeth.” F179 Thus much out of Johannes Stella concerning Sylvester, by whom our sorcerers and enchanters, or magicians, may learn to beware of the deceitful operation Of Satan, who in the end deceiveth and frustrateth all them that have to do with him, as the end of all such doth declare commonly, who use the like art or trade. The Lord and God of all mercy, through the Spirit of Jesus, our Redeemer, dissolve the works’ of Satan, and preserve the hearts of our nobles, and all other Englishmen, from such infection! Amen. After Sylvester succeeded John XIX, by whom was brought in, as Voluteran saith, the feast of All Souls, A.D. 1004, through the means and instigation of one Odilo, abbot of Cluny, to be celebrated next after the feast of All Saints. This monk Odilo, thinking that purgatory, as he heard, should be in the Mount Etna, dreamed upon a time, in the country of Sicily, that he, by his masses, had delivered divers souls from thence: saying moreover, “That he did hear the voices and lamentations of devils, crying out for that the souls were taken from them by the masses and funeral dirges.” Not long after him, came John XX and Sergius IV, after whom succeeded Benedict VIII, and then John XXI, who being promoted by art magic of Theophylact his nephew, Gratian, Brazutus, and other sorcerers, brought in first the fast of the even of John Baptist and St. Lawrence. After him followed Pope Benedict IX, also aspiring to his papacy by like marc, practising enchantments and conjuration in woods, after a horrible manner; who resisted the Emperor Henry III son to Conrad, and placed in his room Peter the king of Hungary, a112 with this verse: “Petra dedit Romam Petro, tibi Papa coronam.” Afterwards, for fear of Henry prevailing in baffle, he was fain to sell his seat to his successor, Gratian, called Gregory VI, for 1500 l . At which time there were three popes together in Rome, reigning and raging one against another, Benedict IX, Sylvester III, and Gregory VI; for which cause the said Henry, surnamed Niger, the emperor, coming to Rome, displaced these three monsters at one time, placing instead of them Clement II, and thereupon enacting that no bishop of Rome should henceforth be chosen, but by the consent and confirmation of the emperor. This constitution, though it was both agreeable, and also necessary for the public tranquillity of that city, the cardinals would not suffer long to stand, but did impugn it after ward by subtle practice and open violence, as in process, the Lord permitting, shall appear in the time of Henry IV and Henry V. In the time of this Clement, the Romans made an oath to the emperor concerning the election of the bishops, that they would themselves intermeddle no further therein, but as the assent of the emperor should go withal. Howbeit the emperor departing thence into Germany again, by and by they forgat their oath, and witch nine months after poisoned the bishop, which deed some impute to Stephen, his successor, called Damasus II. Others impute it to Brazutus, who, as histories record, within thirteen years poisoned six popes; that is, Clement II, Damasus II, Leo IX, Victor II, Stephen IX, and Nicholas II.
Thus Clement being poisoned, after him succeeded Damasus II, elected neither by consent of the people, nor of the emperor, but by force and invasion; who also within twenty-three days being poisoned, A.D. 1040, much contention and striving began in Rome about the papal scat; whereupon the Romans, through the counsel of the cardinals, sent to the aforesaid emperor, desiring him to give them a bishop: and so he did, whose name was Bruno, an Almain, and bishop of Toul, afterward called Leo IX. This Bruno, a113 being a simple man and easy to be led with evil counsel, coming from the emperor towards Rome in his pontifical apparel like a pope, there meeteth him by the way the abbot of Chugny, and Hildebrand a monk, who seeing him so in his pontificalibus began to rate him, laying to his charge, that he would so take his authority of the emperor, and not rather of the clergy of Rome and the people thereof, as other his predecessors were wont to do; and so counselled him to lay down that apparel, and to enter in with his own habit, till he had his election by them. Bruno, following their counsel, and confessing his fault before the clergy of Rome, obtained their favor, and so was nominated Leo.
IX., whereby Hildebrand was made a cardinal, and put in high room. Under this Pope Leo were two councils, one kept at Vercelli, where the doctrine of Berengarius aginst the real substance in the sacrament was first condemned, although Berengarius yet recanted not, which nevertheless was done after in the Council of Lateran, under Nicholas II A.D. 1059; the other was kept at Mentz, where, amongst many other decrees, it was enacted, That priests should be utterly excluded and debarred from marriage: Item, that no layman might give benefice or bishopric, or any spiritual promotion, etc.
This Leo IX being at Worms with the emperor on Christmas-day, did excommunicate the sub-deacon; because in reading the epistle, he did it not in the Roman tune, he being there present. The archbishop, moved therewith, departed from the altar (being then at mass) saying, He would not proceed any further in his service unless his sub-deacon was restored, whereupon the pope commanded him to be released, and so they went forward in their service.
After the death of Leo, whom Brazutus poisoned the first year of his popedom, Theophylactus did strive to be pope: but Hildebrand, to defeat him, went to the emperor (partly also being sent by the Romans for fear of the emperor’s displeasure), who assigned another bishop, a German, a114 called Victor II. This Victor holding a council at Florence, deposed divers bishops and priests for simony and fornication: for simony, in that they took of secular men their dignities for money; for fornication, in that, contrary to their canon, they were married, etc. The second year of his papacy, and little more, this pope also followed his predecessors, being poisoned by the aforesaid Brazutus, through the procurement of Hildebrand and his master.
Here now began the church and clergy of Rome to wring out of the emperor’s hand the election of the pope: electing Stephen IX for pope, contrary to their oath, and to the emperor’s assignment. Here was the church of Milan first brought to obedience of the Romish church by this Stephen IX bishop of Rome; who also shamed not to accuse the emperor Henry (of whom mention is made before) of heresy, for minishing the authority of the Roman see. So this was their heresy at that time, not to maintain the ambitious proceedings of the Romish prelate; and simony they called this, to take and enjoy any spiritual living at a secular man’s hand. Wherefore Stephen hearing this simony to reign in divers places, namely, in the churches of Burgundy and Italy, sent forth the cardinal Hildebrand to reform the matter, who was no less earnest in that kind of commission to help the matter forward.
Hildebrand, hearing that, applieth home, with all speed. So being returned to Rome, he assembleth all the companies and orders of the clergy together, making them to swear that they would admit none to be bishop, but who should be appointed by the public consent of them altogether.
This being done, Hildebrand taketh his journey into Florence, to fetch the bishop of Florence, to install him bishop; the clergy swearing unto him that no bishop should be ordained before his return again. But the people of Rome, not suffering the election to stand so long after the death of Stephen, elected one of their own city, called Benedict X. Hildebrand, hearing of this, was not a little offended; wherefore, returning to Rome with Gerhard, the bishop of Florence, he caused the clergy to proceed to a new election, saying, “That Benedict was not lawfully called, but came in by force and bribing.” But the clergy, not daring to attempt any new election at Rome, went to Sienna, a115 and there elected this Gerhard, bishop of Florence, whom Hildebrand brought with him. So were two popes in Rome together: but Gerhard, named Nicholas II, holding a council at Sutri, through the help of Godfrid, duke of Tuscany, and Guibert, the chancellor, and many Italian bishops, caused the other pope to be deposed.
Benedict, understanding them to be set against him through the means of Hildebrand, unpoped himself, and went to Velitri; living there more quietly than he would have done at Rome.
Here is to be touched by the way the error of the gloss upon the three and twentieth distinction, which falsely allegeth out of the chronicles, that Benedict X, who succeeded Stephen, was deposed; after whom came Johannes, bishop of Sabine, for money, and he again was deposed; that Benedict was then restored, and afterwards displaced again, and then Johannes, archpriest of the church of St. John ‘ad portam latinam,’ a116 was made pope, and he again deposed by the emperor; and all in one year: which story neither is found in any chronicle, nor agreeth to any Benedict, save only that Benedict IX, who was deposed, and then reigned three popes together: Benedict IX, Sylvester III, and Gregory VI, who before was called “Johannes ad portam latinam,” whom the emperor deposed. But that Benedict neither was the tenth, neither did he succeed Pope Stephen, as the gloss recordeth. Nicholas thus being set up without the mind both of the emperor and of the people of Rome, after his fellowpope was driven away, brake up the synod of Sutri, and came to Rome, where he assembled another council, called Coneilium Lateranurn; in which council first was promulgated the terrible sentence of excommunication mentioned in the decrees, and that beginneth, “In nomine Domini nostri,” etc. The effect whereof is this: first, that he, after a subtle practice, as far and as plainly as he durst speak, undermineth the emperor’s jurisdiction, and transferreth to a few cardinals and certain catholic persons the full authority of choosing the pope. Secondly, against all such as do creep into the seat of Peter by money or favor, without the full consent of the cardinals, he thundereth with terrible blasts of excommunication, accursing them and their children with devils, as wicked persons, to the anger of Almighty God, giving also authority and power to cardinals, with the clergy and laity, to depose all such persons, and call a council-general, wheresoever they will, against them. Item, in the said Council of Lateran, under Pope Nicholas II, Berengarius of Tours, archdeacon of Angers, a117 was driven to the recantation of his doctrine, denying the real substance of Christ’s holy body and blood to be in the sacrament, otherwise than sacra-mentally and in mystery.
In the same council also was hatched and invented the new-found device and term of ‘transubstantiation.’ It were too long here to declare the confederation betwixt this Nicholas and Robert Guiscard, whom this pope (contrary to all right and good law, displacing the right heir) made duke of Apulia, Calabria, Sicily, and captain-general of St. Peter’s lands; that through his force of arms and violence he might the better subdue all such as should rebel, to his obedience; and so did. Now let all men, who be godly wise, judge and understand how this standeth with the doctrine of Christ, the example of Peter, or the spirit of a Christian bishop, by outward arms and violence to conquer Christian men and countries, under the obedience of a bishop’s see. Thus Pope Nicholas II, well answering to his Greek name by might and force continued three years and a half; but, at length, he met with Brazutus’s cup, and so turned up his heels.
At the beginning of this Nicholas, or somewhat before, about A.D. 1056, Henry IV, after the decease of Henry III, was made emperor, being but a child, and reigned fifty years; but not without great molestation and much disquietness, and all through the ungracious wickedness of Hildebrand, as hereafter (the Lord so permitting) shall be declared.
Here, by the way, cometh to be noted an example, whereby all princes may learn and understand how the pope is to be handled, whosoever looketh to have any goodness at his hand. If a man stand in fear of his curse, he shall be made his slave; but if he be despised of you, you shall have him as you list. For the pope’s curse may well be compared to Domitian’s thunder: if a man give ear to the noise and crack, it seemeth a terrible thing; but if you consider the causes and effect thereof, it is a most vain ridicule.
In the reign of this Nicholas, A.D, 1060, Aldred, bishop of Worcester, after the decease of Kinsius, his predecessor, was made archbishop of York; who, coming to Rome with Tostius, earl of Northumberland, for his pall, as the manner was, could not obtain it, but was deprived of all his dignity, for some default (I cannot tell what) in his answer; and furthermore, after his return home, was spoiled of all that he brought with him. Whereupon, he returning again to Rome with Tostius, the aforesaid earl, there made his complaint, but could not be heard, till Tostius, a man of stout courage, taking the matter in hand, told the pope to his face, “That that curse of his was not to be feared in far countries, which his own neighbors, yea, and most vile vagabonds, derided and despised at home.”
Wherefore he required the pope either to restore Aldred again to his goods lost, or else that it should be known that they were lost through his means and subtlety. And, furthermore, it would come to pass that the king of England hearing this would debar him of St. Peter’s tribute, taking it for a great shame to him and his realm, if Aldred should come from Rome both deprived of dignity, and spoiled also of his goods, etc. In fine, the pope thus persuaded by the argument of his purse, was content to send home Aldred with his pall, according to his request.
After the death of Nicholas, the Lombards being oppressed before by Pope Nicholas, and brought under fear, were the more desirous, and thought it good to have a bishop of their company, and so elected the bishop of Parma, called Cadalous, to be pope: sending to the emperor, and desiring his favor and support therein; for the election of the pope (said they) most properly appertained unto him.
The emperor, well pleased and content, giveth his good leave and voice withal. Hildebrand, no less a wicked necromancer than a stout maintainer of popish liberties against good emperors, hearing this, setteth up, by a contrary faction, Anselm, bishop of Lucca, a118 after called Alexander II.
Cadalous, thus elected by the emperor and the cardinals, setteth forward to Rome with a sufficient army and strength of men. Alexander also, no less prepared, there received him with another army, where they had a great conflict, and many were slain on both sides; but Cadalous, as he had the better cause, so he had the worst fortune, who, being repelled, yet repaired himself, and came again with a greater power; albeit he prevailed not. The emperor, seeing this hurly-burly, to take up the matter, sent thither his ambassador, Anno, archbishop of Cologne; a119 who, coming to Rome, beginneth sharply to chide the pope for taking so upon him without the leave or knowledge of the emperor, declaring how the election of that see ought chiefly to appertain to the right of the emperor, as it hath done for the most part in the time of his predecessors. But Hildebrand, all set on wickedness and ambition, and also puffed up not a little with his late victories, not suffering the ambassador to tell his tale to the end, interrupted him in the middle of it; affirming, that if they should stand to law and custom, the liberty of that election should rather belong to the clergy than to the emperor. To make short, Anno the ambassador, bearing more with the clergy than with the emperor, was content to be persuaded, only requiring, in the emperor’s name, a council to be had, to decide the matter, whereat the emperor should be present himself; and so he was. In that council, held at Mantua, Alexander was declared pope; the other had his pardon granted. In this council, amongst many other considerations, it was concluded, concerning priests, that they should have no wives; that such as have concubines should say no mass; that priests’ children should not be secluded from holy orders; that no benefices should be bought for money; and that Allelujah should be suspended in time of Lent out of the church. This also was decreed (which made most for Hildebrand’s purpose) that no spiritual man whatso ever should enter into any church, by a secular person, and that the pope should be elected only by the cardinals. Benno the Cardinal writeth thus of Alexander, that after he perceived the frauds of Hildebrand, and of others the emperor’s enemies, and understanding that he was set up and enthronized only for a purpose; being at his mass, as he was preaching to the people, told them he would, not sit in that place, unless he had the license of the emperor; which when Hildebrand heard, he was stricken with such a fury, that scarcely he could keep his hands off him till mass was done. After the mass being finished, by force of soldiers and strength of men, he had Pope Alexander into a chamber, and there pommelled him all over with his fists, rating and rebuking him because he would seek for favor of the emperor. Thus, Alexander being kept in custody, and being stinted to a certain allowance, as about five groats a day, Hildebrand encroacheth all the whole revenues of the church to himself, procuring thereby much treasure. At length Alexander, under the miserable endurance of Hildebrand, died at eventide, after eleven years and a half of his popedom. And thus much of Romish matters.
These things thus discoursed concerning the matters of Rome, a120 now to return to our own country story, and having the order thereof, would require to enter again into the reign of William the Conqueror, the next king following in England; but as a certain oration of king Edgar’s, which should have been inserted before, chanced in the mean time to come to my hands, not unworthy to be read; I thought by the way, at the end of this Book to insert the same, although out of order; yet better I judge it out of order, than out of the book.
THE ORATION OF KING EDGAR TO THE CLERGY Because God hath showed his great mercy to work with us, it is meet, most reverend Fathers! that with worthy works we should answer his innumerable benefit. “For we possess not the land by our own sword, and our own arm hath not saved us; but his right hand and his holy arm, because he hath been delighted in us.” (Psalm 44:3.)
Therefore it is meet that we should submit both ourselves and our souls to him, that hath subjected all these things under our government; and we ought stoutly to labor, that they whom he hath made subject to us, might be subject to his laws. It belongs to me to rule the lay people with the law of equity, to do just judgment between man and his neighbor, to punish church-robbers, to hold under rebels, to deliver the helpless from the hand of the stronger, the needy also and the poor from them that rob them. It belongs also to my care to provide necessary things to the ministers of the churches, to the flocks of the monks, to the company of virgins, and to provide for their peace and quiet. The examining of all whose manners belongeth unto us; whether they live chastely, if they behave themselves honestly toward them that be without, whether they be diligent at God’s service, if they be earnest to teach the people, if they be sober in eating and drinking, if they keep measure in apparel, and if they be discreet in judgment. If ye had regarded these things with a trial of them, (O reverend Fathers! by your leaves I speak,) such horrible and abominable things of the clerks should not have come unto our ears.
Furthermore, what negligence is in God’s service, when scarce they will be present at the holy vigils! And when they come to mass, they seem rather to be gathered to play and laugh than to sing. I will tell that which good men be sorry for, and the evil laugh at. I will speak with sorrow (if so be I may express it) how they be riotous in banquetings, in chambering, in drunkenness, and in uushamefacedness; that now clerks’ houses may be thought to be resorts of harlots and covents of players. There he dice, there is dancing and singing, there is watching to midnight, with crying and shouting. Thus the goods of kings, the alms of princes, yea, and what is more, the price of that precious blood, is not esteemed.
Have our fathers then spent their treasure for purpose? Have the king’s coffers decayed by taking away many revenues, for this cause? Hath the king’s liberality given lands and possessions to Christ’s churches for this intent, that clerks’ paramours should be decked with the same? that riotous feasts might be dressed? that hounds, and hawks, and such other toys might be gotten? The soldiers cry out at these things. the people grudge, minstrels sing and dance; and yet ye regard it not, ye spare it, ye dissemble it.
Where is the sword of Levi, and the zeal of Simeon, (Genesis 34:25,) which killed the Shechemites and the circumcised, who bare the figure of them that defile Christ’s church with filthy deeds, because they abused Jacob’s daughter? Where in Moses’s spirit, who spared not his own kins-folk that worshipped the head of the calf? (Exodus 32:27.) Where is Phinehas, the priest’s dagger, who pacified God’s anger by holy zeal, when he killed him that played the harlot with the Midianitc? Where is Peter’s spirit, by whose power covetousness is destroyed, and simoniacal heresy is condemned? (Acts 4:4.) Be earnest, ye priests! be earnest to follow the ways of the Lord, and the righteousness of our God. (Deuteronomy 5:33.) It is time to do against them that have broken the law of God, have Constantine’s Sword, and ye have Peter’s sword in your hands; let us join right hands, let us couple sword to sword, that the lepers may be cast out of the temples, that the holy place of the Lord may be purged, and the sons of Levi may minister in his temple, who said to his father and mother, “I know you not,” and to his brothers, “I know not you.” Go to diligently, I pray you, lest we repent to have done that we have done, and to have given that we give, if we shall see that to be spent not in God’s service, but on the riotousness of wicked men, through vile and Corrupt liberty of life, for lack of chastisement. Let the relics of holy saints, Which they despise, and the holy altars before which they play the madmen, move you, Let the great devotion of our ancestors move yogi whose alms the madness of the clerks doth abuse. My great great grandfather, as ye know, gave the tenth part of all his lands to churches and abbies. My great grandfather, Alfred, a121 of holy memory, thought it not meet to spare his treasures, his goods, or costs, or rents, that he might enrich the church. My granfather, the elder Edward, your fatherhood is not ignorant how great things he gave to the churches.
It becometh you to remember with what gifts my father and his brothers did enrich Christ’s altars. O father of fathers, Dunstarn! behold,! pray thee, the eyes of my father looking on thee, from that bright place Of heaven; hearken to his complaining words sounding in thine ears, thus pitfully lamenting: “O father Dunstan, thou, thou I say, gavest me counsel to build abbies and churches, thou wast my helper and fellow-worker in all things. I chose thee as a shepherd and bishop of my soul, and a keeper of my mariners.
When did I not obey thee? What treasures did I prefer in respect of thy counsels? What possessions did I not despise, if thou badest me? If thou thoughtest meet to give any thing to the poor, I was ready. If thou thoughtest meet to give any thing to churches, I deferred not. If thou complainedst that monies or clerks wanted any thing, I supplied. Thou saidst that alms lasted for ever, and that there was none more fruitful than that which was given to abbies or churches; for with that both God’s servants are sustained, and that which remaineth is given to the poor. O worthy alms! O worthy price of the soul! O wholesome remedy for our sins, which now doth stink in the sweet furs of priests’ lemans, wherewith they adorn their ears and deck their fingers, apparelling their, delicate bodies with silk and purple! O father, is this the fruit of my alms, is this the effect of my desire, and of thy promise? What wilt thou answer to this complaint of my fathers? I know, I know: when thou didst see a thief, thou runnest not with him, neither hast thou put thy portion with adulterers. Thou hast rebuked, thou hast exhorted, thou hast blamed them; but words have been despised, now we must come to stripes of correction. Thou hast here with thee the worshipful father Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester. Thou hast the reverend prelate, Oswald, bishop of Worcester. I commit this businiess to you, that both by bishoply correction, and the king’s authority, the filthy livers may be cast out of the churches, and they that live orderly may be brought in, etc.
In this oration of King Edgar, above prefixed, three things are chiefly to be noted and considered of them that have judgment to mark and understand; to wit, the religious zeal and devotion of kings, both in giving to the church, and also in correcting the manners of churchmen. Secondly, the dissolute behavior and wantonness of the clergy, in then abusing the great donations and patrimonies of princes bestowed upon them. Thirdly, the blind ignorance and superstition of that time in both states, as well ecclesiastical as temporal, in esteeming Christ’s religion chiefly to consist in giving to churches, and in maintaining of monkery; falsely being persuaded that remission of their sins, and remedy of their souls therein, did lie in building monasteries, erecting churches and cloisters, and in placing monks in the same, and such other alms-deeds and works of devotion. Wherein appeareth how ignorant that time was of the true doctrine of Christ’s faith, and of the free grace of the gospel, which promiseth life, remedy, and justification, not by any devout merits of ours, nor by any works either of the law of God, or of the inventions of man, but only and freely by our faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, in whom only consist all the promises of God. Amen.
Now remaineth, as in the former Book before, so in this likewise, to prosecute the order and race of archbishops of Canterbury, as we have clone the race of kings, beginning with Ethelred, who succeeded next after Celnocke, the seventeenth archbishop of that see, mentioned where we left before.
THE NAMES AND ORDER OF THE ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY, FROM THE TIME OF KING EGBERT TO WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR 18 . Ethelred was archbishop of Canterbury for nineteen years. 19 . Pleimund, who was schoolmaster to King Alfred, possessed the see of Canterbury for twenty-nine years. a122 20 . Athelm was archbishop for twelve years. 21 . Ulfelm for thirteen years. 22 . Odo for twenty years. a123 By the prayers of Odo, the monkish stories say that the sword of King Athelstan was brought again into his scabbard, as is noted before in that kin-time. 23 . Elsius or Elsine, first bishop of Winchester, came to the see of Canterbury, which he occupied one year, by the commandment of King Edgar, some say by bribes, contrary to the mind of Odo.
Whereupon, on the first day of his consecration, he insulting the tomb of Odo with despite, shortly after went to Rome for his pall, where in his journey upon the Alps he died for cold, insomuch that though his horses were killed, and he put in their warm bellies, yet could he get no heat. f190 24 . Dunstan, 191 who was archbishop for twenty years. a124 Of Dunstan many monkish miracles be reigned, as of the harp upon the wall playing by itself, “Gandent in coelis,” etc. Of our Lady with her company appearing to him singing, “Cantemus Domino sociae, cantemus honorem; dulcis amor Christi personet ore pio.” Also of the angels singing “Kyrie eleison.” Item, of holding the devil by the nose with a pair of tongs, for tempting him with women. Item, of seeing the Holy Ghost at his mass in likeness of a dove. Item, in delivering the soul of Edwin from the devil. Item, in foreseeing the death of King Edred by the death and falling of his horse. Item, Of his mother being great with Dunstan: when all the candles Of others went out, her only candle remained a-light: and many other like fables. 25 . Ethelgar sat for one year. 26 . Siric was archbishop for five years, a125 and was the counselor to King Egelred, to redeem peace of the Danes with a great tribute. 27 . Elftic for eleven years. 28 . Elphege for six years. Elphege, because he denied to pay to the Danes a tribute, was stoned to death at Greenwich, and of some is called a martyr. 29 . Livingus for seven years. 30 . Egelnoth for seventeen years. 31 . Edsius for eleven years. 32 . Robert, who sat for two years, caused Godwin and his sons to be banished, accusing them of treason; but afterward they being restored, he went to Rome, and at his return died. 33 . Stigand, being an Englishman, in the time of William the Conqueror, the Norman, after being archbishop for seventeen years, was, by the croft of the said William, conveyed into Normandy, where a while with great honor he was entertained, At length, the said William procured secretly the pope’s letters to depose him, that he might place Lanfranc iN his room. This Stigand died at length in prison. 34 . Lanfranc held the see for nineteen years. f196