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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 23. KING EDWARD THE ELDER


    After the reign of the famous King Alfred, his son Edward succeeded, surnamed the Elder; where first is to be noted, that before the conquest of the Normans, there were in England three Edwards: first, this Edward the Elder; secondly, Edward the Martyr; third, Edward the Confessor; whereof hereafter (by the grace of Christ) shall follow in order, as place shall give to be declared. This Edward began his reign the year of our Lord 901, and governed the land right valiantly and nobly four and twenty years. In knowledge of good letters, and learning he was not to be compared to his father, otherwise in princely renown, in civil government, and such-like martial prowess, he was nothing inferior, but rather excelled him; through whose valiant acts first the princcdom of Wales and kingdom of Scotland, with Constantine, king thereof, were to him subdued. He adjoined moreover to his dominion the country of East Anglia, that is, of Norfolke, Suffolke, and Essex. All Merceland also he recovered, and Northumberland, out of the hands of the Danes. In all his wars he never lightly went without victory. The subjects of his provinces and dominions were so inured and hardened in continual practice and feats of war, that when they heard of any enemies coming, (never tarrying for any bidding from the king or from his dukes,) straightways they encountered with them, both in number and in knowledge of the order of war excelling always their adversaries. So was the coming and assaulting of their enemies to the people and common soldiers but a trifle, and to the king only derision. Among other adversaries which were busy, rather than wise, in assailing this king, was one called Clito Ethelwoldus. a young man, King Edward's uncle's son, who first occupying the town of Winborne, (taking thence a nun with him, whom then he had married,) fled by night to Northumberland, to adjoin himself unto the Danes, who was made chief king and captain over them. Then, chased from thence, he fled over into France; but shortly, returning again into England, he landed in East England, where the said Clito, with a company of Danes of that country gathered to him, destroyed and pillaged much of the country about Crekinford and Crikeland. And so passing over Thames, after he had spoiled the land there to Bradenstocke, returned again to Norfolk and Suffolke, where he, meeting with an ambushment of Kentishmen, which dragged and tarried after the main host of Edward, contrary to his commandment, enclosed them in, and slew the most part of them. Soon after the two hosts, meeting together between the two ditches of St. Edmund's land, after a long fight, Clito with many of the Danes were slain, and the remnant were constrained to seek for peace, which upon certain conditions and under a tribute was to them granted.

    In process, about the twelfth year of his reign, the Danes repenting them of their covenants, and minding to break the same, assembled a host, and met with the king in Staffordshire, at a place called Totenhall, and soon after at Wodnefield, at which two places the king slew two kings, two earls, and many thousands of Danes that occupied the country of Northumberland.

    Thus the importunate rage of the Danes being assuaged, King Edward having now some leisure given from wars to other studies, gave his mind to the building or repairing of cities, towns, and castles, that by the Danes were razed, shattered, and broken. As first of Chester, which city he double enlarged to that it was before, compassing the castle within the walls of the same, which before stood without. That done, the king builded a strong castle at Hereford, in the edge of Wales. Also, for the strengthening of the country, he made a castle at the mouth of the water of Aven, and an other castle at Buckingham, and the third fast thereby upon the river of Ouse. Moreover, he builded or re-edified the towns of Tocester and Wigmor, and destroyed the castle that the Danes had made at Demesford. Likewise upon the river of Trent, against the old town of Nottingham, he builded a new town on the south side, and made a bridge over the river between the said two towns. Also by the river of Merce he builded a city or town in the north end of Mercia, and named it Thilwall, and after repaired the city of Manchester, that sore was defaced with wars of the Danes.

    In this renewing and building of towns and castles, for the more fortifying of his realm, his sister Elfleda, daughter of King Alfred, and married to the duke of Mercia, (as is afore mentioned,) was no small helper. Of this Elfleda it is firmly of writers affirmed, that she being (as is said) married to Ethelred, duke of Mercia, after she had once assayed the pains of women in travailing with her child, so much she abhorred ever after the embracing of her husband, that it seemed to her (she said) not seemly for a noblewoman to use such fleshly liking, whereof so great sorrow and travail should ensue. And yet, notwithstanding, the same Elfleda, for all her delicate tenderness in eschewing the natural passion which necessity giveth to women, was so hardy in warlike dangers which nature giveth not to women, that, fighting against the Danes, (so venturous she was of stomach,) four of her next knights, which were guardians of her body, were slain fast by her. This Elfleda, among her other noble acts, whereby she deserved praise, was a great helper and stirrer up of her brother Edward, who builded and newly repaired many castles and towns, as Tamworth, besides Litchfield, Stafford, Warwike, Shrewesbury, Watrisbury, Eldsbury, besides Chester in the forest now destroyed. Also in the north end of Mercia, upon the river of Merce, a castle called Rimcorne; also a bridge over Severne, named Brimmisbury bridge.

    As touching the laws and statutes of this Edward, as also of his father Alfred, made before him, I omit here to record them for length of matter and waste of time; yet, notwithstanding, this admonition by the way I thing good to note, that in those days of these ancient kings reigning in England, the authority then both of conferring bishoprics and spiritual promotions, and also of prescribing laws as well to the churchmen as to the laity, and of ordering and intermeddling in matters merely spiritual, was then in the hands of kings ruling in the land, and not only in the hand of the pope, as appeareth by the laws of Alfred.

    By the laws and other such-like constitutions of King Alfred it appears, that the governance and direction of the church in those days depended not upon Monsieur le Pope of Rome, but upon the kings which here in their time (under the Lord) did govern the land. To this also the example of King Edward's time gives testimony; which Edward, with Picimundus, (above mentioned,) archbishop of Canterbury, and with other bishops in a synod assembled, assigned and elected seven bishops in seven metropolitan churches of the realm. Which were, the first Fridelstan, the second Adelstan, the third Werstan, the fourth Adelelme, the fifth Edulfus, the sixth Dernegus, the seventh Kenulphus; in which election the king's authority seemed then alone to be sufficient, &c.

    This Edward (as in the beginning was said) reigned twenty-four years, who had three wives, Egwin, Elfled, and Ethelwid. Of Egwin he had his eldest son, Adelstan, who next succeeded in the kingdom, and a daughter, married after to the duke of Northumberland. Of Elfled he received two sons, to wit, Ethelwald and Edwin, and six daughters. Ethelwald was excellently well seen in all knowledge of learning, much resenmbling both in countenance and conditions his grandfather Alfred, and died soon after his father. Of his six daughters, two of them, Elfled and Ethelhilda, were made nuns, the other four were married; Edgina to Charles the French king in his father's time; Ethilda, by King Ethelstan, was married to Hugo, the son of Duke Robert. Edgitha and Algina were both sent to Henricus, prince of Almains. Of which two sisters, the second the said Henricus married to his son Otho, who was the first emperor of the Almains. The other sister, which was Edgitha, the foresaid Henricus married unto a certain duke, about the border of the Alps in Italy. Of his third wife, Ethelwid, he received two sons, Edmund and Edred, which both reigned after Adelstan; and two daughters, Egburga, whom he made a nun, and Eadguina, who was married unto Ludo vicus, prince of Aquitania in France. These sons and daughters King Edward thus brought up: his daughters he set to spinning, and to the needle; his sons he set to the study of learning, to the end, that they, being at first made philosophers, should be the more expert thereby to govern the commonwealth.

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