THE THIRD BOOK.
22. THE COMING OF THE DANES
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 lineal succession of them which, after Egbertus, 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 anthors, and, namely, in the history or chronicle of Fabian; I shall not spend much travail thereupon, but rather refer the reader unto 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.
Here is to be noted, that before the reign of Edward the Confessor, the Danes obtained the crown under their captain Canutus, who reigned nineteen years. Haraldus Harefoot, son of Canutus, four years. Hardeknutus, son of Canutus, two years. Edward the Confessor, an Englishman, son of Etheldred, twenty-four years. Haraldus, son of Earl Goodwin, a usurper, one year. William Conqueror, a Norman.
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 a kingly blood, and near unto the crown, was, by the force and conspiracy of the forenamed 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 quickly out of France unto his own country of Westsax, where he in such wise behaved himself that he obtained the regiment and governance of the kingdom.
Bernulph, king of Mercia above mentioned, with 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 be was more established in his kingdom, and had proved the minds of his subjects, and especially God working withal, he afterward 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 was great odds of number, as six or eight against one, yet Egbert (through the might of the Lord, which 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 Welchmen, the town of Chester, 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 advices 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 made horrible destruction in Northumberland, and especially in the Isle of Lindefarne, 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 Sheppey, in Kent, or near to Kent; where Egbert, hearing thereof, assembled his people, and met with them at Carrum. But in that conflict 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 the said Egbert, with a small power, overthrew a great multitude of them, and so drave them back. The next year following the said Danes made their return into the land westward, where, joining with the Britons, by the help and power of them they assailed the lands of Egbert, and did much harm in many places of his dominion; so that after this day they were continually abiding in the realm of England, till the time of Hardicanute, last king of the Danes' blood, so that many of them were married to English women, and many Englishmen are descended of them.
And thus, as by the stories appear, 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, which I pray God be the last.
Then it followeth in the story, that the time of this persecution of the foresaid 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 Ethelwolfe his kingdom, who first was bishop of Winchester, 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.
Ethelwolfe, the son of Egbert, in his former age had entered into the order of subdeacon, 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 Paschalis: but that cannot be, for Paschalis then was not bishop; so that by the computation of time it should rather seem to be Gregory the Fourth. This Ethelwolfe (as being himself once nuzzled in that order) was always good and devout to holy church and religious orders, insomuch 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, proceeding in tenor much like to the donation of Ethelbaldus, king of Mercians above mentioned.
By the privileges and donations given by King Ethelwolfe to the clergy, it may appear how and when the churches of England began first to be endowed with temporalities and lands; also how their privileges and exemptions were 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 donation, contrary to the information of God's word, and with no small derogation from the cross of Christ.
These things thus done within the realm, the said Ethelwolfe the king, taking his journey to Rome, with Alfred his youngest son, committed him to the bringing up of Pope Leo the Fourth, where he also re-edifieth the English school at Rome; which being founded by King Offa, or rather by Jue, 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 Jue 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 light of St. Peter 100 marks, to the light of St. Paul 100 marks, to the use of the pope also another hundred. 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.
This Ethelwolfe had especially about him two bishops whose counsel he was most ruled by, Swithin, bishop of Winchester, and Adelstan, bishop of Shireborne. Of the which two the one was more skilful in temporal and civil affairs, touching the king's wars, and filling of his coffers, and other furniture for the king. The other (who was Swithin) was of a contrary sort, wholly disposed and indined 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 coneerning 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 tales of Robin Hood.
This Gregory the Fourth, in this present chapter above mentioned, was the third pope which succeeded after Paschalis the First, being but four years betwixt them; which Paschalis succeeded after Stephen the Fourth, who followed after Leo the Third, next pope unto Adrian above in our history mentioned, where we treated of Charles the Great. From the time of that Adrian the First, unto Pope Adrian the Third, the emperors had some stroke in the election (at least in the conflrmation) of the Roman pope. Notwithstanding, divers of these foresaid 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 the Third. 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 Ludovicus the emperor, in the time of this Gregory the Fourth, a general synod was commenced at Aquisgrane, where it was decreed by the said Gregory and his assistants, First, That every church should have sufficient of his own proper lands and revenues to find the priests thereof, that none should need to lack or go about a-begging. That none of the clergy, of what order or degree soever he be, should use any vesture of any precious or scarlet colour neither shall wear rings on their fingers, unless it be when prelates be at mass, or give their consecrations. That prelates should not keep too great ports or families, nor keep great horses, use dice or harlots; and the monks should not exceed measure in gluttony or riot. 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 was crept into the clergy. Moreover, by the said Pope Gregory the Fourth, at the commandment of Ludovicus, emperor, the feast of All Saints was first brought into the church.
After this pope, came Sergius the Second, which first brought in the altering of the pope's names, because he was named before Swine's Snout; which 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 the Fourth, to whom this King Ethelwolfe (as in this present chapter is above specified) did commit the tuition of his son Alured. By this Pope Leo the Fourth 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 practised.
Also, contrary to the law of Gregory the Fourth, 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, (rightly in her true colours, 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. For after this Leo above mentioned, 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 woman 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 the Eighth. This woman's proper name was Gilberta, (a Dutch woman of Magunce,) 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 unto the popedom, where she sat two years and six rnontlls. At last openly, in the face of a general procession, she fell in labour and travail of child, and so died. By reason whereof the cardinals even to this day do avoid to come near by that street where this shame was taken. By Benedictus the Third, who succeeded next in the whorish see, was first ordained (as most writers do record) the dirge to be said for the dead. Albeit before him Gregory the Third had done in that matter worthily for his part already.
After him sat Pope Nicholas the First, who enlarged the pope's decrees with many constitutions, equalling 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 lay men should sit in judgment upon the clergymen, or reason upon the pope's power. Also, that no Christian magistrate should have any power upon any prelate, alleging that a prelate is called god. Also, that all ellurch service should be in Latin, yet, notwithstanding, dispensing with the Sclavonians and Polonians to retain still their vulgar language. Sequences in the mass were by him first allowed. By this pope priests began to be restrained and debarred from marrying; whereof Hulderike, Bishop of Ausbrough, (a learned and a holy man,) sending a letter unto the pope, gravely and learnedly refuteth and reclaimeth against his undisereet proceedings touching that matter.
After this Pope Nicholas succeeded Adrianus the Second, Joannes the Ninth, Martinus the Second. After these came Adrian the Third, and Stephen the Fifth. By this Adrian it was first decreed, that no emperor after that time should intermeddle or have any thing to do in the election of the pope. And thus began the emperor's first decay, and the papacy to swell and rise aloft. And thus much concerning Romish matters for this time.
Then to return where we left, touching the story of King Ethelwolfe. About the latter end of his reign the Danes, which before had invaded the realm in the time of King Egbert, as is above declared, now made their entry again, 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 Angle. in Lindsie, at Rochester, about London, and in Westsex, where Ethelwolfe 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 Ethelwolfe, with his son Ethelbald, warring against them in Southery, at Okley, drave 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 civil and political, 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; albeit in all parts of his commendation I do not fully with him accord. The words of the writer be these.
"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 witll the desire of the kingdom of heaven, labouring and striving among themselves to enter into monkery, into voluntary exile and solitary life. forsook all, and followed the Lord. Where, 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 honour, 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, Suevians, Vandals, and Frisians; who, from the beginning of the reign of King Ethelwolfe till the coming of the Normans, by the space near of two hundred and thirty years, destroyed their 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 Englishmen, it availed nothing, whenas other navies still with greater power in other places were ready, upon a sudden and unawares, to approach upon 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 recompence falling upon them from that time, never suffered them to be quiet from foreign enemies till the coming of William the Norman, &c.
Moreover, concerning the outward occasions given of the Englishmen'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 under-king of West Saxons, in the north parts. This Osbright, upon a time journeying by the way, turned into the house of one of his nobles clled 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 on his return of this violence and injury received. Bruer, consulting with his friends, first went to the king, resigning into his hands all such service alld 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, desired his aid in revenging of the great villany of Osbright against him and his wife. Codrinus, hearing this, and glad to have some just quarrel to enter that 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 Holdernesse, 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 foresaid Osbright, where he, with the most part of his army, was slain. And so the Danes entered the possession of the city of York. Some others say, and it is by the most part of story writers re corded, 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 Norfolke and Suffolke, for the murdering of a certain Dane, being father to Inguar and Hubba, which was falsely imputed to King Edmund.
Illustration -- Battle between Danes and Saxons
In the mean season, King Ethelwolfe, as already noticed in this chapter, when he had chased the foresaid Danes from place to place, causing them to take the sea, he, in the mean while, departeth himself both from land and life, leaving behind him four sons, which reigned every one his order, after the decease of their father. The names of whom were Ethelbald, Ethelbright, Ethelred, and Alured.
King Ethelbald, the eldest son of Ethelwolfe, succeeding his father in the province of Westsax, and Ethelbright in the province of Kent, reigned both together the term of five years, one with the other. Ethelbald left this infamy behind him in stories, viz. for marrying his step-mother, 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 Alured his brother. In the beginning of this king's reign, the Danes landed in East England, or Northfolke and Suffolke. 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 of the kings then there reigning, called Osbright and Ella, which gave to 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 premised.
In the reign of this Ethelred the Northumberlanders, rebelling against the king, thought to recover again the former state of their kingdom out of the West Saxons' hand; by reason of which discord (as happeneth in all lands where dissension is) the strength of the English nation was not a little weakened, and the Danes the more thereby prevailed.
About the latter time of the reign of this Ethelred, which was about the year of our Lord 870, certain of the foresaid 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 Inguar and Hubba; who, joining together in one counsel, made all one course, and lastly landed in East England, or Northfolke, 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 was forced to forsake the field; and the king with a few persons fled unto the castle of Framingham, 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, that told him in the name of Inguar, prince of the Danes, which most victo riously (saith he) was come with innumerable le gions, 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 such 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, consulted 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 before would be a Christian. Incontinent 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 his people should be slain, did fly (as Fabian saith) to the castle of Framingham, or, (as mine author writeth,) to Halesdon, now called St. Edmundsbury, where this blessed man, being on every side compassed of his cruel enemies, yielded himself to their persecution. And for that he would not reny 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 was taken up, and solemnly buried at the said Halesdon, otherwise now named St. Edmundsbury. Whose brother, named Edwoldus. notwithstanding of right the kingdom fell next unto him,) setting apart the liking and pleasure of the world, became a hermit at the abbey of Cerum, in the county of Dorset.
Illustration -- The Death of St. Edmund
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 foresaid Inguar and Hubba, captains of the Danes, as they went in purchasing of their preys or booties, were slain at a place called Englefleld. Which princes of the Danes thus slain, the rest of them kept whole together, in such wise that the West Saxons might take of them none advantage. But yet within few days after the Danes were holden so short, that they were forced to issue out of the castle, and to defend themselves in plain battle. In the which (by the industry of King Ethelred and of Alured his brother) the Danes were discomfited, and many of them slain; which discomfit made them fly again into the castle, and there he kept them for a certain time. The king then, committing the charge of them to Ethelwold, duke of Baroke, or Barkshire, so departed. But when the Danes knew of the king's departure, they brake suddenly out of their hold, and took the duke improvided, and slew him, and much of his people. And so. adjoining 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 was brought unto King Ethelred, (which put him in great heaviness,) word also was brought the same time of the landing of Osrike, king of Denmark, who, with assistance of the other Danes, had gathered a great host, and were embattled upon Ashdon. To this battle King Ethelred, with his brother Alured, (forced by great need,) sped themselves to withstand the Danes. At which time the king a little staying behind, being yet at his service, Alured, which 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, (he being then at service and meditations,) such was his devotion, that he would not stir out one foot before their service was fully complete. In this mean while the Danes so fiercely invaded Alured and his men, that they won the hill; and the Christian men were in the valley, and in great danger to lose the whole 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 also of them their lives. Insomuch that their duke, or king, Osrike, or Osege, and five of their 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 unto the king, and had the better. Then the king again gathered his men, which at that field were dispersed, and, with fresh soldiers to them accompanied, met the Danes within two months after at the town of Merton, 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 honour 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, into 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 other kings were both before him and after him at that time. So that, as Malmesbury witnesseth, 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 Malmes bury 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 Excester, and was buried at the abbey of Winborne, or Woborne. After whose decease, for lack of issue of his body, the rule of the land fell unto his brother Alured.