Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 27. KING EDWARD THE MARTYR

27. KING EDWARD THE MARTYR

    After that 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 which King Edgar before had set in, and restored again the priests, (as Ranulphus saith,) with their concubines; but in the History of the Library of Jornall I find it plainly expressed, with their wives. The words of the very author be these: Alferus, duke of Mcrcia, with other great men more, 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 has's time is plain, that bishops then had wives and children, as appeareth by the words of the law then sent forth, extant in the History of the said JornaLensis.

    Now to the purpose again of our matter, 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 clerks 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, and the lands of the church given to the lords; with whom the queen, the king's step-mother, holding the same time, took part also with the said clerks against the king. On the contrary part stood the king and the holy bishops taking part with the monks. Howbeit the lords and peers of the realm, staying upon the favour and power of the queen, triumphed over the monks, &c.

    Thus, as much ado there was 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, com plaining 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 in jury to be done, lest peradventure the same thing wherein he was prejudicial to another might after revert and redound upon himself at length. The monks, on the other side, said for their part, that Christ allowed neither the old dweller nor the newcomer, 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 cumbrances daily incident unto 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 other of the clergy. First, at Reading, or at Winchester, (as Guliel. saith,) where the greater part both of the nobles and commons judged the priests to have great wrong, and sought by all means possible to bring them again to their old possessions and dignities. Jornalensis here maketh rehearsal of an image of the crucifix, or a rood, standing upon the Frater wall where the council was holden. To this rood Dunstan requireth them all to pray, being belike not ignorant of some spiritual provision beforehand. 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 bene, mutaretis non bene. In remembrance whereof these verses were written under the rood's feet:

Humano more crux præsens edidit ore,
Cúlitus affata, quæ perspicis hic subarata,
Absit ut hoc fiat, et cætera tunc memorata.

    Of this Dunstanical, or rather Satanical, oracle, Henry maketh no mention, nor Ranulphus, nor yet Hovedenus, nor Fabian, in their histories. Gulielmus in his book De Regibus reporteth it, but by hearsay, in these words, saying, Aliæ literæ decent, &c. Wherefore the less it seemeth to be of credit. Albeit if it were of credible truth, yet it proveth in this matter nothing else but Dunstan to be a sorcerer, as Polydor Virgil also himself seemeth to smell something in this matter.

    Notwithstanding, for all this yet the strife ceased not; insomuch that a new assembly of the clergy and other was appointed after at a place called the Street of Calve, where the council was kept in an upper loft. In this council many grievous plaints were objected (as Malmesbury saith) against Dunstan; but yet he kept his opinion, and would not there remove from that which he began to maintain. And while they were in great contention and argument which way should be admitted and allowed, (if it be true that 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 floor which remained unbroken) escaped without danger. Which thing, whether it so happened to portend before the ruin of the realm and of the nobles (as Henry Huntington doth expound it) which after ensued by the Danes, or whether it was so wrought by Dunstan's sorcery, (as was not unpossible,) 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 them liketh. The stories say further that upon this the matter ceased, and Dunstan had all his will.

    These things thus done at Calve, it happened not long after the same, that King Edward, whom the writers describe to be a virtuous and a meek prince, much pitiful and beneficial to the poor, about the fourth year of his reign came upon a season from hunting in the forest alone, without the company of his servants, to the place in the west country where Alfrith his mother, with her son Egelred, did lie. When the queen the mother was warned of his coming by her men, anon she calleth a servant of hers which 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 so 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 drink upon his horse sitting, the which was shortly brought.

Illustration -- The Murder of King Edward the Martyr

    Now while the cup was at his mouth, the servant of the queen (being informed) struck him in the body with a long two-edged dagger. After the which stroke the king took the horse with the spurs, and ran toward the way where he supposed to meet with his company, but he bled so sore that, with faintness, he fell from his horse, his one foot being in the stirrup. By reason whereof he was drawn of his horse over fields and lands till he came to a place named Corifgate, where he was found dead; and for that neither the manner of his death nor yet he himself was known to be the king, he was buried unhonourably at the town of Warham, where the body remained the space of three years, and then after was taken up by Duke Alfer above mentioned, and with pomp and honour accordingly was removed to the minster of Shaftsbury, 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 foresaid Queen Alfrith, taking her horse to go to the place, was stopped by the way, 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 fact, afterward builded two nunneries, one at Amesbury, by Salisbury, the other at Werewell, where she kept herself in continual repentance all the days of her life. And thus, as ye have heard, was this virtuous young King Edward murdered when he had reigned almost four years, leaving no issue behind him, whereby the rule of the land fell to Egelredus, 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 Senior; the second, King Edward the Martyr, which was this king; the third was King Edward called the Confessor, whereof here after shall follow (Christ willing) to be declared.

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