26. KING EDGAR
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 in the year of our Lord 959, but was not crowned till fourteen years after; the causes whereof hereunder follow (Christ willing) to be declared. In the beginning of his reign he called home Dunstan, whom King Edwin before had exiled. Then was Dunstan, which before was abbot of Glastenbury, made bishop of Worcester, and then of London. Not long after, this Odo, the archbishop of Canterbury, deceased, after he had governed that church twenty-four years. After whom Brithilinus, bishop of Winchester, first was elected; but because he was thought not sufficient to furnish that room, Dunstan was ordained archbishop, 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 set 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 the Thirteenth, 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 Oswaldus (who, as is said, was made monk at Floriake, and was nephew to Odo, late bishop of Canterbury) might be promoted to be bishop of Worcester, which thing to him was granted. And not long after, through the means of the said Dunstan, Ethelwoldus, (whom stories do feign to be the great patron of monkery,) first monk at Glastenbury, then abbot of Abendon, was also made bishop of Winchester. Of this Ethelwold Gulielmus recordeth, that what time he was a monk in the house of Glastenbury, 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 applleth to the life of this Ethel wold. Of such prodigious fantasies our monkish histories be full, and not only our histories of England, but also of the heathen stories of the Gentiles be stuffed with such kind of dreams of much like effect.
Of such a like dream we read of the mother of Ethelstan, 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 Beda, 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 the covetous, the third of dissension, the fourth was of 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, Bristanus, Birmus, and Swithinus, &c. Of the dream of the mother of this Ethelwold, who, being great with him, did see a golden eagle fly out of her mouth, &c. Of the dream likewise, or the vision, of King Edgar concerning the falling of the two apples, and of the pots, one being full of water, the other empty, &c. Also of King Edward the Confessor, touching the ruin of the land by the conqueror 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 foreshowing 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 ringleader 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 foresaid, 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, Glastenbury, Abbington, Burga by Stamford, Thorney, Ramsey, Wilton, Wenton, Winchcombe, Thamstoke in Devonshire, with divers more. In the setting up and building of the which the foresaid 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 Chronicles 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, &c. 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, &c.
After the king's mind was thus persuaded and incited by these bishops to advance monkery, then Oswaldus, bishop of Worcester, and also made archbishop of York after the decease of Oskitellus, (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 their profession and to be made monks, or no. Which when he saw it would not take effect, he practised this policy with them: Near to the said church of St. Peter, within the churchyard, be erected another church of our Lady, which when he had replenished with monks, there 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 to be left and neglected both of the bishop and of the people, to whom nothing remained but shame and contempt, were driven of 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 stay 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 Hida, and placed his monks. So in Oxford and in Mildune, with divers other places more, the secular priests with their wives were expelled, to give place to monks. The cause whereof 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 their church service, and set in vicars in their stead, while they lived in pleasure, and misspent the patrimony of the church after their 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 the Thirteenth, voided clearly the priests, and ordained there monks. Although certain of the nobles, and some of the prelates, were therewith not well contented, as in the chapter following may partly appear.
But forsomuch as we have entered into 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 time 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 prevent all error herein, it shall not be unprofitable, in following the present occa sion here given, (by way of a little digression,) to intermeddle somewhat concerning the original institution of monks, what they were in the old time which 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 later 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 such, which 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, during near from the time of three hundred years after Christ. Of whom divers old authors do record, as Augustinus, Hieronymus, Basilius Magnus, who was also himself one of the first institutors and commenders of that superstition, Chrysostomus, Nazianzenus, Euagrius, Sozomenus, Dionysius, and divers others. In the number of these monks (which then were divided into hermits or anchorites, and into C?nobites) were Antoninus, Paulus, Johannes, with divers other recluses. Among the which was Hierom, Basil, Macharius, Isidorus, Pambus, Nilammon, Simeon, with infinite others, both in Palestina, Syria, Thebaide, Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Africa, and in Scythia. Insomuch that Cassianus maketh mention of a certain monastery in Thebaide, wherein were above five thousand monks under the government of one abbot. And here also in England mention is made before of Bangor, wherein were two thousand and two hundred monks under one man's ruling, in the year of our Lord 596. Whereby it appeareth that monks were then, and two hundred years before, in the primitive time of the church. But what monks these were is to be considered; such as either by tyranny of persecution were driven into solitary and desert places; or else such as, not con strained of any, but of their own voluntary devotion, (joined with some superstition among, 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. And all these were then nothing else but laymen; of which laymen there were two sundry sorts, one of the vulgar and common people, which only were partakers of the sacraments; the other, in following a monastical kind of life, were called monks, (being nothing but laymen,) leading a more severe and stricter trade of life than the others, as appears from the following words of Augustine, "One thing pertaineth to monks, another thing unto them of the clergy; they of the clergy feed their flock, I am fed," &c. Also the same appeareth likewise by the fourth canon of the Council of Chaleedon, where it is provided that monks should not intermeddle with matters of the church.
By these foresaid authors alleged, it is evident that monks in the former age of the church, albeit they lived a solitary life, yet they were then no other but only laymen, differing from priests, and differing from the other monks which succeeded them afterwards in the middle age of the church, and that in three points: First, they were tied and bound to no prescript 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, which in cities had separate mansions from others, saith, Some live in cities, so behaving themselves as seeming nothing worth, and they differed nothing from the multitude, &c. The second point wherein they were discrepant from the later monks was, in that they remained no other but in the order of laymen, (only being of it stricter life than the rest,) and had nothing to do in matters and charges ecclesiastical; which was afterward broken by Pope Boniface the Fourth, as followeth (the Lord willing) to be seen and said. Thirdly, the foresaid 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 saith that he knew both monks and bishops married men, and fathers of children, &c.
And yet the said monks of the old time, though they were better then the other which 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 monastical sort 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, &c. 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 some times 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 a little refreshing of sleep to be given him some piece of the night. In the same author mention is made of a certain old man, a hermit, who because he had conceived in himself such a purpose never to eat meat without he had some guest or stranger with him, sometime was constrained to abstain five days together until Sunday, while he came to the church, and there brought some stranger or other home with him.
Two other examples yet more will I add out of the said Cassianus, to declare how the subtlety of Satan, through superstition and false colour of holiness, blindeth the miserable eyes of such, which rather attend men's traditions than the word of God. In the fortieth chapter of the said author, in his book De Gastrimargia, is told of a certain abbot named Joannes, in the desert wilderness of Seythia, who sent two of his novices with figs unto one that was sick in the wilderness eighteen miles off from the church. It chanced these two young novices, missing the way, wandered so long in the wild forest or wilderness, and could not 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 did; for shortly after they were found dead, their figs lying whole by them.
Another story he also reciteth of two monastical brethren, who making their progress in the desert of Thebaide, 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 al most for penury, certain Mazises, 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, as counting it sent of man, and not of God, refused it, and so for lack perished.
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 commandment of God, which saitlm, 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 hath 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 doctors, who not only did approve and allow these monastical sects of life, but also certain themselves were the authors and institutors of the same, yea, and of men's traditions made the service of God. In number of whom may be reckoned Basilius Magnus, and Nazianzenus, 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 labour thereof.
After these foresaid monks of that time above rehearsed 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, and the causes also touched withal for the which they were first founded. All these impious and erroneous titles and causes we find alleged in stories, as in Malmesburiensis, Jornalensis, Henricus, and others more, In which histories I also note, that the most part of these aforesaid 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 whom I have alleged. But to return to our monks again, who (as is said) first began to creep from the cold field 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 they did abound in wealth and riches, (especially these monks of our later time,) but much more did swim in superstition and Pharisaical hypocrisy, being yoked and tied in all their, doings to certain prescript 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 apparelled not as the proper condition of others would require, nor as the season of the year did serve, but as the coacted rules and order of every sect did enforce them. The number of which sects was infinitely divers; some, after Basilius's rule, went in white; some, after Benet's rule, in black; some Cluniacensis, first set up by Otho in the time of this King Edgar, wearing after the rule of Benet's order; some, after Hierome's rule, leather-girdled, and coped above their white coat; some Gregorians, copper-coloured; some De valle umbrosa, grey monks; some Grandimontenses, wearing a coat of mails upon their bare bodies, with a black cloak thereupon; some Cistercians, who 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, 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 so pure from sin, as they were when they first received baptism; some starred monks; some Jesuits, with a white girdle and russet cowl. Briefly, who can reckon 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 onmly. So subject were they to servile rules, that no part of Christian liberty re mained 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 nmaturally are and ought to be ruled by the discreet government of reason in all outward doings, wherein one rule can serve for all men; the circumstance of time, place, person, and business being so sundry and divers; contrary, among these, no 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 later days of the church. Whereunto join this withal, that where the monks of elder time (as is said) were mere lay men, and no spiritual ministers; afterward Bonifacius the Fourth made a decree, anno 606, that monks might use the office of preaching, of christening, of hearing confessions, and also of absolving them of their sins, &c. So then monks, who in the beginning were but laymen, and no spiritual ministers, forbidden by the general Council of Chalcedon (as is above related) to intermeddle with matters ecclesiastical, afterward, in process of time, did so much encroach upou the office of spiritual ministers, that at length the priests were discharged out of their cathedral churches, and monks set 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 the priests, who then in the days of King Edgar had wives, (at least so many as would,) no law forbidding them to the contrary, till the time of Hildebrand, now called Gregory the Seventh, 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 foresaid 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 them 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 story recordeth of him, he neither tasted of any privy treason among his subjects, nor of any invasion of foreign enemies. So studious he was of the public profit of his realm, and fruitful in his government, that, as the said story testifieth of him, no year passed in all the time of his reign, wherein he did not some singular and necessary commodity for the commonwealth, &c. A great maintainer he was of religion and learning, not forgetting herein the footsteps of King Alfred, his predecessor. Among his other princely virtues, this chiefly is to be regarded, that whereas other princes commonly in much peace and quietness are 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 here but recite the witness of our story writers, testifying of his diligent care over the commonwealth: That he would suffer no man, of what degree of nobility soever he were, to dally out his laws without condign punishment, &c. 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) the loss of his own life.
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 Ludwallus, prince or king of Wales, to yield to him yearly by way of tribute three hundred wolves. By means whereof, within the space of four years after, in England and Wales might scantly be found one wolf alive.
This Edgar, among other of his politic deeds, had in readiness three thousand six hundred ships of war to scour the seas in the summer time; whereof one thousand two hundred kept the east seas, as many defended the west side; again, as many were on the south seas, to repulse the invasion of foreign enemies. Moreover, in 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 inquithng diligently (to use here the words of mine author) how his laws and statutes by him ordained were kept, and that the poor should suffer no prejudice, or be oppressed any manner of ways by the mightier, &c. 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 ph?nix, 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, that what person thank 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 offence 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 sub reguli,) to wit, petty kings, or under kings, came and did homage to him. Of whom the first was the king of Scots, called Kinadius, Macolinus of Cumberland, Mackus or Mascusinus, king of Monia, and of divers other islands, and all the kings of Wales, the names of whom were Dufnall, or Dune waldus, Sifresh, Huwall, Jacob, Ulkel, Juchel. All which kings, after they had given there fidelity to Edgar, the next day following (for a pomp or royalt) he entered with these aforesaid kings into the river of Dee; where he, sitting in a boat, took the rule of the helm, and caused these eight kings, every person taking an oar 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.
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 builded so many monasteries for them as were Sundays in the year, (as some say,) or, as Edmer reporteth, but forty and eight.
Now, on the other side, what vices in him were reigning let us likewise consider, according as we find in the said authors described, which most write to his advancement. Whereof the first vice is noted to be cruelty, as well upon others, as namely upon a certain earl, being of his secret council, called Ethelwold. The story is this: Ordgarus, duke of Devonshire, had a certain daughter named Elfrida, whose beauty being highly commended to the king, he being inflamed therewith, sent this foresaid Ethelwold (whom he specially 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 no thing 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 other wise, in the end it came to pass that Ethelwold himself did marry her.
Not long after, the king understanding further by the complaints and rumours 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 delighting 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, trimmed herself at the glass, and decked 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 Harwood, sent for Ethelwold to come to him under the pretence 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 again, that which pleaseth the king ought not to displease him; for the death of which Ethelwold Elfrida afterward builded a monastery of nuns in 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 foresaid 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 which he retained with great familiarity. The coming of which strangers bred great damage to the realm, and therefore is Edgar justly blamed in stories, &c. With the which reprehension the Saxon stories also do agree.
The third vice to him objected was, his incontinent and lascivious lust in deflouring maids, as first of 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 of another certain virgin in the town of Andevar, who was privily conveyed into his bed by this means: The lascivious king coming to Andevar, not far from Winchester, and thinking to have his pleasure of a certain 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 made a concubine, secretly by night conveyed to the king's bed, instead of her daughter, another maiden, of beauty and favour not uncomely; who in the morning rising to her work, and so being known of the king what she was, had granted unto her of the king such liberty and freedom, that of a servant she was made mistress both to her master, and also to her mistress.
Another concubine he had also besides these aforesaid, which was Egelfleda, or Efreda, called Candida, the white daughter of Duke Ordmere, (as Guliel. Malmsbur. recordeth,) she being also a professed nun, of whom he begot Edward in bastardy; for the which he was enjoined by Dunstan seven years' penance. After which penance being com plete, then he took to him a lawful wife, (as Malmsb. saith,) Elfritha, the mother of Edmund and Ethelred, or 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 greater, vice than the other afore recited, which was, blind superstition and idolatrous monkery brought into the church of Christ, with the wrongful expulsing of lawflml married priests out of their houses. Where upon what inconveniences ensued after in this realm, especially in the house of the Lord, I leave it to the consideration of them which 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 to their purpose, they caused him to call a council of the clergy; where it was enacted that the canons of divers cathedral churches, colleginers, parsons, vicars, priests, and deacons, with their wives and children, either should give over that kind of life, or else give room to monks, &c. For execution of which decree two principal visitors were appointed, Athelwold or Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, bishop of Worcester, as is partly before touched.
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 Britain to subdue the rebellion of the Welchmen, and there had spoiled the country of Glamorgan, and wasted the country of Odo, within ten days after, when he had reigned the space of sixteen years, he died, and was buried at Glastenbury, leaving after him two bastards, to wit, Editha and Edward, and one son lawfully be gotten, named Ethelred, or otherwise by corruption called Egelred, for Edmund the elder son died before his father.
You heard before how King Edgar is noted in all stories to be an incontinent liver in deflouring maids and virgins. Of which virgins three notoriously are expressed in authors, to wit, Ulstrude, or Ulfride; the second was the duke's maid at Andevar, near to Winchester; the third was Elfled, mother of Edward, for the which Elfled he was stayed and kept back from his coronation 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 the year of the Lord 959, was crowned at his age one and thirty, A.D. 974, as in the Saxon chronicle of Worcester church may be proved. For the more evident declaration of which matter, concerning the coronation of the king restrained, and the presumptuous behaviour of Dunstan against the king, and his penance by the said Dunstan enjoined, ye shall hear both Osberne, Malmesburiensis, and other authors speak in their own words as followeth: Perpetrato itaque in virginem velatem peccato, &c. After that Dunstan had understanding of the king's offence 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 maid 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 which hath Christ to his enemy, &c. The king, terrified with these thundering words of Dunstan, and compuncted with inward repentance of his sin 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 be should fast twice in the week, he should distribute his treasure left to him of his ancestors liberally unto the poor, he should build a monastery of nuns at Sbaftsbury; that as he had robbed God of one virgin through his transgression, so should he restore to him many again in times to come, Moreover, he should expel clerks of evil life (meaning such priests as had wives and children) out of churches, and place convents of monks in their room, &c.
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, which was the one and thirtieth year of his age, and the thirteenth year of his reign; so that he reigned only but three years crowned king. All the other years besides Dunstan belike ruled the land as he listed. Furthermore, as touching the son of the said Elfled, thus the story writeth: The child also which was gotten of the harlot he baptized in the holy fountain of regeneration, and so giving his name to be called Edward, did adopt him to be his son, &c.
By the which narration of Osbern, agreeing also with the story of the Saxon book above mentioned, is convinced a double untruth or error, either negligently overseen, or of purpose dissembled in our later monkish story writers, as in Malmesbury, Matth. Paris, Matth. Westm., and others besides. Who, to conceal the fault of King Edgar, or to bear with Dunstan's fact, in setting up Edward for the maintenance of their monkish order, first, do falsely affirm, that Editha, the daughter of Ulfride, was born after Edward, and that for her this penance was enjoined to King Edgar. Which 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.
After the death of Edgar, no small trouble arose amongst the lords and bishops for succession of the crown; the principal cause whereof rose upon this occasion, as by the story of Simon of Durhann and Roger Hoveden is declared. Immediately after the decease of the king, Alferus, duke of Mercia, and many other nobles which held with Ethelred, the only right heir and lawful son of Edgar, misliking the placing and intruding of regular orders 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 foresaid priests with their wives. Against whom certain other there were on the contrary part that made resistance, as Ethelwin, duke of East Angles, Elfwoldus, his brother, and the Earl Brithnothus, saying in a council to gether assembled, that they would never suffer the religious monks to be expelled and driven out of the realm, which held up all religion in the land; and thereupon eftsoons levied an army, whereby to defend by force the monasteries, such as were within the precinct 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 favoured 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 consented upon Egelred the lawful son. Then Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, and Oswald, archbishop of York, with other their fellow bishops, abbots, and divers other lords and dukes, assembled in a council together. In the which council Dunstan, coming in 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 which lived nearest to that age, as Osbern and others; which Osbern, living in the days of William the Conqueror, wrote this story of Dunstan through the motion of Lanfranc, and allegeth, or rather translateth, the same out of such Saxon stories as were written before his time. Besides which Osbern, we have also for witness hereof Nicholas Trivet, in his English story written in French, and also Joannes Paris in his French story written in the Latin tongue, where he plainly calleth Edward, no lawful son. Whereunto add, moreover, the testimony of Vincentius and Antoninus, who in plain terms likewise report the same.
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, which write that Editha, and not Edward, was the child for whom Dunstan enjoined to the king seven years penance; and also how truly they report Edward to be a lawful heir, and Elfled to be a lawful wife to King Edgar.
For, first, touching Editha, this is confessed by the said writers themselves, that she was of good years at what time Edgar her father was enjoined his penance. After the which seven years of his penance 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 can this then 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 years do well agree to that child which King Edgar begat in bastardy, and for the which he did his penance; for the more evidence whereof, let us come to the supputation 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, the said Edward going on his fifteenth year by their own reckoning, was slain.
And thus have ye by manifest demonstration proved by the right casting of the years, after their own grant and reckoning, that Editha, daughter of Ulfride, in no case can be the child which 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 unto the crown. Which error and opinion how it first sprang, 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 Alfrith, mother of Ethelred, and Alferus, duke of Mercia, and certain other nobles which held the contrary side of the priests against the monks; in process of time the monks that came after 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 so much as they could, to the intent therefore that they might save both the credit of Dunstan and of the king, and especially bearing favour to their own religion, and partly that the reputation of the Church of Rome should not be distained 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 colourably to hide the simple truth thereof, making the people falsely believe that Elfleda, the mother of Edward, was wife to King Edgar, and Edward to be lawfully born, and also that Editha was born after Edward, and to be 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, which speaking of King Edgar's last concubine, saith in plain words, He had a concubine whom he loved entirely, keeping true faith of his bed to her alone, until the time he married for his lawful wife Elfrid, the daughter of Duke Ordgar, &c. Whereby we have to understand, that whatsoever concubine this was which Malmesbury speaketh of, certain it is that Edgar lived in whoredom till the time he married his lawful wife. Furthermore, and finally to conclude, beside these arguments and allegations above recited, let this also be perpended, how the said Dunstan with his complices, after the killing of King Edward, leaving the right heir of the crown, (which was Ethelred,) went about (as Capgrave and 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 should 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.