23. ALFRED THE GREAT
Among the Saxon kings hitherto in this story afore mentioned, I find few or none to be preferred (or almost to be compared) to this Alured, or Alfred, 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 wars, 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 or 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, matches with both the other 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 both rude and barbarous. All which his heroical properties joined together in one prince, as it is a thing most rare, and seldom seen in princes now-a-days; 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 defence of the realm public, against the raging tyranny of the Danes, as they be described in the Latin histories of Roger Hoveden and Huntington; whom Fabian also seemeth in this part some what to follow. King Alfred. therefore, the first of all the English kings, taking his crown and unction at Rome of Pope Leo the Fourth, (as Malmesbury and Polychronicon do record,) in the beginning of his reign, perceiving his lords and people much wasted and decayed by the reason of the great wars of Ethelred, had against the Danes, yet as well as he could gathered a strength of men unto him, and in the seconnd month that he was made king he met with the Danes beside Wilton, where he gave them battle. But being far overmatched, through the multitude of the contrary part, was put there to the worse, although not without a great slaughter of the pagan army. Which army of the Danes, after that victory, by compaction made with King Alfred to depart out of his dominion of Westsax, removed from Reading to London, where they abode all that winter; where Halden, their king, truce with Burthred, king of Mercians, the next year following voided those parts, and drew to Lindsey, robbing and spoiling the towns and villages as they went, and holding the common people under their servage. From thence after to Repingdon, where they, joining with the three other kings of the Danes, (called Surdrim, Osketell, and Hamond,) grew thereby in mighty force and strength. Who, then dividing their army in 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 the which year King Alfred and his men had a conflict on the sea with six of the Danes' ships, of which one they took, the other fled away. In this year 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 foresaid army of the three Dane kings above mentioned from Grantbridge returned again to West Saxony, and entered the castle of Warrham; where Alfred with a sufficient power of men was ready to assault them. But the Danes, seeing his strength, durst not attempt with him, but sought delays whiles 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 void the country of the West Saxons. The king, upon the surety, let them go. But they, falsely breaking their league, privily in the night brake out, taking their journey toward Excester. In which journey they lost sixscore of their small ships by a tempest at Sandwich (as Henry Huntington in his story recordeth). Then King Alfred followed after the horsemen of the Danes, but could not overtake them before they came to Excester, 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 double as many again. After this truce taken with King Alfred, the Danes then voided to the land of Mercia; part of that kingdom they kept themselves, 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 bear any dominion on the other side of Thames southward. Whereupon the foresaid three kings, with all the forces and strength they could make, marched toward Chippenham in Westsex with such a multitude, that the king with his people was not able to resist them; insomuch that the people which inhabited there, some fled over the sea, some remained with the king, divers submitted themselves to the Danes. Thus Alfred, being overset with 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 Sommersetshire, called Etheling; where he had right scant to live with, but such as he and his people might purchase by hunting and fishing. This Edeling, or Etheling, or Ethelingsey, standeth in a great marsh or moor, so that there is no access unto 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 which isle is venison, and other wild beasts, with fowl and fishes, 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 Punwolphus; by whom the king then unknown was entertained and cherished with such poor fare as he and his wife could make him. For the which King Alfred afterward set the poor swineherd to learning, and made him bishop of Winchester.
Illustration -- King Alfred and the Cakes
In the mean season, while King Alfred accompanied with a few was thus in the desert wood, waiting the event of these miseries, certain stories record of a poor beggar, which there came and asked his alms of the king. And the night following he appeared to the king in his sleep, saying his name was Cutbert, promising (as sent from God unto him for his good charity) great victories against the Danes. But to let these dreaming fables pass, although they be testified by divers authors. Notwithstanding the king in process of time was strengthened and comforted more, through the providence of God, respecting the miserable ruin of the Englishmen. 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 a bushment of King Alfred's men, (who for their safeguard there lay in garrison,) were slain to the number of one thousand three hundred men, and their ensign called the raven was taken. Hovedenus in his book of Continuationes writeth, that in the same conflict both Inguar and Hubba were slain 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 that be was strongly acconnpanied.
Then the king put himself in a bold and dangerous venture. For he, apparelling him in the habit of a minstrel, (as he was very skilful in all Saxon poems,) with his instrument of music entered into the tents of the Danes, lying then at Eddendun; and in showing there his interlude and songs, espied all their sloth and idleness, and heard much of their counsel; and after, returning to his company, declared unto them the whole manner of the Danes. Shortly upon the same, the king suddenly in the night fell upon the foresaid Danes, and distressed and slew of them a great multitude, chased them from that coast, Insomuch that through his strong and valiant assaults upon his enemies, out of his tower of Edeing newly fortified, he so encumbered them, that he clearly voided the country of them between that and Selwood. His subjects eftsoons, hearing of these his valiant victories and manful deeds, drew to him daily out of all coasts; who, through the help of God, and their assistance, held the Danes so short, that he won from them Winchester, and divers other good towns. Briefly, at length he forced them to seek for peace; the which was concluded upon certain covenants. Whereof one and the principal was, that the forenamed Gutrum their king should be christened. The other was, that such as would not be christened should depart and void the country.
Upon these covenants, first, the said Gutrum, the Danish prince, coming to Winchester, was there christened with twenty of his greatest dukes or nobles. Which Gutrum, King Alfred being his godfather at his baptism, named him Athelstan; who, after a certain season that he had feasted the said Danes, he, according to his promise before made, gave unto their king the country of East An glia, containing Northfolke and Suffolke, 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 Angles under his obedience. And albeit that he held the same province as in fee of the king, and promised to dwell there as his liege man; yet that notwithstanding be continued more like a tyrant, by the term of eleven years, and died in the twelfth year. During the which space King Alfred, having some more rest and peace, repaired certain towns and strongholds afore 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. He endowed richly the church of St. Cuthbert in Durham. He sent also to India to pay and perform his vows to St. Thomas of Inde, 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 builded 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 said Danes. This done, the king returned to London, and repaired the same honourably, (as saith Hovedenus,) and made it habitable, which before was sore decayed and feebled by the Danes.
The third year after this, which was the nineteenth year of the reign of King Alfred, the foresaid Athelstan, the Danish king of Northfolk, (which by Alfred was christened before,) 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; which was in East England, in the North, and in the West in two places. Before the landing of these Danes, it chanced King Alfred, hearing of the death of King Athelstan, and of other complaints of the Danes, was then in East England when these tidings came to him.
When King Alfred was hereof ascertained, forso much as some of the Danes were landed in 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, therefore, sending messengers in all haste to Ethelred, duke of Mercia, to assemble to him a host to withstand the Danes which landed in the West, made forth toward his enemies there, where he was in East Anglia, whom be 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, again the Danes took shipping, 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 them, forsomuch as the king then was gone westward.
The fourth host of the Danes the same year came to Chester, which at length they won; but then the country adjoining pressed so sore upon them, and besieged them so long, keeping themselves within the city, that at the last the Danes, wearied with the long siege, were compelled to eat their own horses for hunger. But by appointment at last they gave over the town, and went about by North Wales to Northumberland, which was about the three and twentieth year of King Alfred; which Alfred in the mean while with his host sped him thitherward. Then the Danes, leaving their strong holds and castles, garnished with men and victual, took again shipping, and set their course in such wise that they landed in Sussex, and so came to the port of Lewes; and from thence toward London, and builded a tower or castle near unto the river of Luy, twenty miles from London. But the Londoners, hearing thereof, manned out a certain number of men of arms, who, with the assistance of them of that country, put the Danes from that tower, and after beat it down to the ground. Soon after the king came down thither, and, to prevent the dangers that might ensue, commanded the river of Luy to be divided in three streams; so that where a ship might sail in times before, there a little boat might scantly 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 to the river of Severn; where upon the borders thereof they builded them a castle, there resting themselves for a time, whom the king eftsoons with his army pursued. In the mean time, the Londoners at Luy, taking the Danes' ships, some of them they brought to London, the rest they fired. During all these three years, from the first coming of the Danes to Luy, England was afflicted with three manner of sorrows; with the Danes, with pestilence of men, and 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 unto his realm, and sustained 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, some to North folke, part sailed over to France, some other came to Westsax, 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 banged, and thirty of their ships were taken.
Not long after this, King Alfred, when he had reigned nine and twenty years and six months, changed this mortal life. And thus much (and more peradventure than will seem to this our ecclesiastical history appertaining) touching the painful labours and travails of this good king; which he no less valiantly achieved than patiently sustained for the necessary defence 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 commonwealth, thus the histories of him do record: That at what time he being young, perceiving himself somewhat disposed to the vice of the flesh, and thereby letted from many virtuous purposes, did not as many young princes and kings' sons in the world be now wont to do, that is, to resolve themselves into all kind of carnal licence and dissolute sensuality, running and following without bridle whithersoever their licence 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, having about them flatterers, who bolster them in their faults, only their horses give to them no more than to any other; but if they sit not fast, they will cast them. But this young king, seeing in himself the inclination of his fleshly nature, 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 to him some continual sickness, in quenching of that vice, whereby he might be more profitable to the public business of the commonwealth, and more apt to serve God in his calling.
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 unworthily to be recited how he divided his goods in two equal parts; 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: the first to the behoof of his house and family; the second upon the workmen and builders of his new works, whereof he had great delight and cunning; the third upon 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 the monasteries; the third portion to the schools of Oxford, for the maintaining of good letters; the fourth be sent to foreign churches without the realm. This also is left in stories written to his commendation for his great tolerance and sufferance, that when be had builded 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 pendens, (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 William de Reg. and other writers is told of him. That he so divided the day and night in three parts, if he were not let by wars and other great business, that eight hours be spent in study and learning, and 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. The which order he kept duly by the burning of waxen tapers kept in his closet by certain persons for the same purpose.
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 extirpating 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, through his dominions, and none so hardy neither by day nor night to take it down. And no great marvel therein, if the realm in those days was brought into such an order, and that justice then was so well ministered, when the king himself was so vigilant in overseeing the doings of his judges and officers. He was a vigilant inquisitor of the doings of his judges, and a strict punisher of their misdoings. 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.
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 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, whereof he not only was excellently expert himself, but also a worthy maintainer of the same through all his dominions, where before no use of grannmar or other sciences was practised in this realm, especially about the west parts of the land, where, through the industry of the 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, was then 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 Grantchester, near to that which now is called Cambridge, began to be founded by Beda; following this conjecture therein, for that Alcuinus, (before mentioned,) which after went to Rome, and from thence to France, in the time of Charles the Great, where he first began the university of Paris, was first trained up in the exercise of studies at the same school of Grantchester. Beda, writing also of Sigebert, king of East Angles, deelareth how the said Sigebert, 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 Cantuarits. And yet before these times, moreover, it is thought that there were two schools or universities within the realm; the one Greek, at the town of Greglade, which afterward was called Kirklade; the other for Latin, which place was then called Latinlade, afterward Lethelade, near to Oxford.
But howsoever it chanced that the knowledge and study of good letters, being 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 congruency of life, and to a better understanding of things, as we see in this famous prince to happen. Concerning whose first education and bringing up, although it was somewhat late before he entered any letter, yet such was the apt towardness and docility of his nature, that, being a child, he had the Saxon poems (such as were used then in his own tongue) by heart and memory. Who afterwards with years and time grew up in such perfection of learning and knowledge, insomuch that (as mine author saith) nullus Anglonum fuerit vel intelligendo acutior, vel interpretando elegantior. The which thing in him the more was to be marvelled, for that he was twelve years of age before he knew any letter. Then his mother, 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, eftsoons learned the letters, having to his schoolmaster Pleimundus, after 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, &c. Of which books by him and through him translated was Orosius, Pastorale Gregoril, the History of Beda, Boetius de Consolatione Philosophiæ. 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 it Enchiridion, in Latin a Manual. Besides the History of Beda translated into the Saxons' tongue, he also himself compiled a story in the same speech, called The Story of Alfred, &c., which both books in the Saxons' tongue I have seen, though the language I do not understand. And 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 hs nobles: Also his nobles so much he did allure to the embracing of good letters, that they set 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 in English, and had almost finished the same, had not death prevented him. In the prologue of the book entitled Pastorale Grego, 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 to follow the exercises of studies; and therefore he thought thereby to provide for the people of the English nation, &c.
It is told of him, both in Polychronicon, Malmesbury, Jornalensis, and other stories more, whereof I have no names, that he, seeing his country (namely, 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 Grimbaldus, a learned monk, out of France, to come into England. Also he sent for another learned man out from the parts of Wales, whose name was Asserion, whom he made bishop of Shireborne. Item, out of Mercia he sent for Werefrithus, bishop of Worcester, to whom he put 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 the advisement of which Neotus he sent for these learned men above recited; and also ordained certain schools of divers arts, first at Oxford, and also franchised the same with many great liberties. Whereof perhaps the school, now called the New College, (first then begun of this Neotus,) might take his name; which afterward peradventure the bishops of Winchester after a larger manner did re-edify and enlarge with greater possessions.
Moreover, among other learned men which were about King Alfred, histories make mention of Johannes Scotus, (a godly divine, and a learned phi losopher,) but not that Scotus whom now we call Duns. For that Johannes Scotus came after this many years. This Johannes is described to be of a sharp wit, of great eloquence, and well expert in the Greek tongue, pleasant and merry of nature and conditions, as appeareth by divers 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 Carolus Calvus the French king; whom he commonly and familiarly used ever to have 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 of him what difference there was betwixt a Scot and sot. Whereunto the Scot, sitting over against the king somewhat lower, replied again suddenly, rather than advisedly, (yet merrily,) saying, Mensa tantum, 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 taken of stomach I know not; but this Charles, for the great reverence he bare to his learning, turned it but to a 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, setting down to Johannes Scotus the foresaid fish, to distribute unto the other two clerks, sitting there with him; which were two tall and mighty persons, he himself being but a little man. Johannes taketh the fish, of the which the two great he taketh and carveth to himself; the little fish he reacheth to the other two. The king perceiving his division thus made, reprehended the same. Then Jobannes, whose manner was ever to find out some honest matter to delight the king, answered to him again, proving his division to stand just and equal. For here (saith he) be two great and a little, 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 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, surnamed Bald, the French king, this Scotus translated the book of Dionysius, entitled De Hierarchia, from Greek into Latin, word for word. He wrote also a book On the Body and Blood of the Lord, which was afterward condemned by the pope.
The same Johannes Scotus, moreover, compiled a book of his own, giving it a Greek title, Пηρι φυσικων δαιρεδεν [ec greek] that is, Concerning Natural Distinctions. In which book (as saith my foresaid 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 he 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 Scottishman, 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 rumour to have been a man not of upright or sound doctrine in certain points, &c. 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, of whom he was with great favour en tertained and 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 the which scholars at last most im piously he was murdered and slain with their penknives, and so died, as stories say, a martyr, buried at the said monastery of Malmesbury.
King Alfred, having these helps of learned men about him, and no less learned also himself, passed over his time not only to 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 foresaid Alfred had by his wife, called Ethelwitha, two sons, Edward and Ethelward; and three daughters, Elfleda, Ethelgora, and Ethelguida; whom he set all to their books and study of liberal arts, as my story testifieth. First, Edward his eldest son succeeded 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, the valiant, virtuous, and learned prince, after he had thus Christianly governed the realm the term of nine and twenty years and six months, departed this life, Nov., and lieth buried at Winchester, A.D. 901. Of whom this I find moreover greatly noted and commended in history, and not here to be forgotten, for the rare example thereof, touching this Alfred, 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,
In the story of this Alfred, a little above mention was made of Pleimundus, schoolmaster to the said Alfred, and also bishop of Canterbury, succeeding Etheredus, there bishop before him; which Pleimundus governed that see the number of thirty and four years. After Pleimundus succeeded Athelmus, and sat twelve years. After him came Ulfelmus thirteen years. Then followed Odo, a Dane, born in the said see of Canterbury, and governed the same twenty years, being in great favour with King Ethelstan, King Edmund, and Edwin, as in process hereafter, (Christ willing,) as place and order doth require, shall more at large be expressed.