25. KING EDMUND
Edmund, the son of Edward the Elder by his third wife, (as is declared,) and brother of Ethelstan, being of the age of twenty years, entered his reign, who had by his queen Elgina two sons, Edwin, and Edgarus, surnamed Pacifiens, which both reigned after him as followeth. This Edmund continued his reign six years and a half. By him were expelled the Danes, Scots, Normans, and all foreign enemies out of the land. Such cities and towns which before were in the possession of strangers, as Lincolne, Nottingham, Derby, Stafford, and Leicester, he recovered out of their hands. Thus the realm, being cleared of foreign power for a time, then the king set his study and mind in the redressing and maintaining the state of the church; which all stood then in building of monasteries, and furnishing of churches either with new possessions, or with restoring the old which were taken away before. In the time of this Edmund, this I find in an old written story borrowed of William Cary, a citizen of London, a worthy treasurer of most worthy monuments of antiquity. The name of the author I can not allege, because the book beareth no title, lacking both the beginning and the latter end; but the words thereof faithfully recited be these: In the time of this king, there was a scattering or dispersion made of the monks out of the monastery of Eusham, and canons substituted in their place, through the doing of Athelmus and Ulricus, laymen, and of Osulfus, bishop. &c.
Where, as concerning this matter between monks and others of the clergy, first it is to be understood, that in the realm of England heretofore, before time time of Dunstan, the bishops' sees and cathedral churches were replenished with no monks, but with priests and canons, called then clerks, or men of the clergy. After this beginneth to rise a difference or a sect between these two parties in strictness of life and in habit; so that they which lived after a strict rule of holiness were called monks, and professed chastity, that was, to live from wives, (for so was chastity then defined in those blind days,) as though holy matrimony wore no chastity, according as Paphnutius did well define it in the Council of Nice. The other sort, which were no monks, but priests or men of the clergy so called, lived more free from those monkish rules and observances, and were then commonly (or at least lawfully) married, and in their life and habit came nearer to the secular sort of other Christians. By reason whereof great disdain and emulation was among them, insomuch that in many cathedral churches, whereas priests were before, there monks were put in; and, contrary, sometime whereas monks were intruded, there priests and canons again were placed, and monks thrust out; whereof more shall appear here after (by time grace of Christ) when we come to the life of Dunstan. In the mean time, something to satisfy the cogitation of the reader, which peradventure either is ignorant, or else would know of the first coming in of monks into this realm and church of England in the Saxons' time; this is to be noted, according as I find in old chronicles, namely, in time Latin History of Gulielm. de gestis Pontificum Anglorum, recorded touching the same. About this time of King Edmund, or shortly after, when hardness and strictness of life, joined with superstition, was had in veneration, and counted for great holiness; men therefore, either to win public fame with men, or merits with God, gave themselves to lead a strict life, thinking thereby (the stranger their conversation was, and the further from the common trade of vulgar people) the more perfect to be towards God and man. There was at that time (and before that) a monastery in France named Floriake, after the order and rule of Benedict; from the which monastery did spring a great part of our English monks, who being there professed, and afterward returning into England, did congregate men daily to their profession. And so, partly for strangeness of their rule, partly for outward holiness of their strict life, partly for the opinion of holiness that many had of them, were in great admiration, not only with the rude sort, but with kings and princes, who founded their houses, maintained their rules, and enlarged them with posses sions. Among the which order of monks coming from Floriake especially was one Oswaldus, first a monk of Floriake, then bishop of Worcester and York, a great patron and setter up of monkery. Touching the which Oswaldus, William in his book De Pontific., writing of his history, hath these words: It was a common custom at that time among English men, that if any good men were well affected or minded toward religion, they went to the monastery of blessed St. Benedict in France, and there received the habit of a monk, whereupon the first origin of this religion began, &c. But of this Oswald, bishop of York, and Dunstan, bishop of Canterbury, and Ethelwald, bishop of Winchester, how they replenished divers monasteries and cathedral churches with monks, and how they discharged married priests and canons out of their houses, to plant in monks in their cells, more shall be spoken (by the grace of Christ) hereafter. Now let us return again to the matter where we left, of King Edmund; who, besides his noble victories against his enemies, and recovering the cities above expressed into his own hands, did also subdue the province of Cumberland. And after he had put out the eyes of the two sons of Dunmail, king of Cumberland, he committed the governance thereof to Malcolm, king of the Scots, upon promise of his trusty service and obedience, when the king should stand in any need of him. In the time of this king Dunstan was not yet archbishop of Canterbury, but only abbot of Glastenbury; of whom many fabulous narrations pass among the writers, importing more vanity than verity, whereof this is one of the first. What time Edgarus called Pacificus was born, Dunstan being the same time abbot of Glastenbury, (as the monkish fables dream,) heard a voice in the air of certain angels singing after this tenor, and saying, Now peace cometh to the church of England in the time of this child and of our Dunstan, &c. This I thought to recite, that the Christian reader might the better ponder with himself the impudent and abominable fictions of this Romish generation. But of the same mint also they have forged, how the said Dunstan should hear the angels sing the Kyrie-leson, used to be sung at even-song in the church. Which is as true as that the harp, hanging in a woman's house, played by itself the tune of the anthem called Gaudent in cúlis, &c. What would not these deceivers feign in matters something likely, which in things so absurd and so inconvenient shame not to lie and to forge so impudently and also so manifestly? Through the motion of this Dunstan King Edmund builded and furnished the monastery of Glastenbury, and made the said Dunstan abbot thereof.
Concerning the end and death of this king sundry opinions there he. Alfridus and Marianus say, that while this King Edmund endeavoured himself to save his sewer from the danger of his enemies, which would have slain him at Pulcher church, the king, in parting of the fray, was wounded, and died shortly after. But Gulielmus de Regibus, lib. 2, saith, That the king being at a feast at Pulcher church upon the day of St. Augustine, spied a felon sitting in the hall, named Leof, whom he before for his felony had exiled; and, leaping over the table, did fly upon him, and plucked the thief by the hair of the head to the ground. In which doing the felon with a knife wounded the king to the death, and also with the same knife wounded many other of the king's servants, and at length was all to behewed, and died forthwith.
By the laws of King Edmund (ordained and set forth, as well for the redress of church matters as also of civil regiment) it may appear that the state, both of causes temporal, and likewise spiritual, appertained then to the king's right, (the false pretended usurpation of the bishop of Rome notwithstanding,) as by these laws is to be seen; where he, by the advice of his lords and bishops, did enact and determine concerning the chastity and pure life of ecclesiastical ministers, and such as were in the orders of the church, with the penalties also for them which transgressed the same.
Item, for tithes to be paid for every Christian man, and for the church fees, and alms fees, &c.
Item, for deflouring of women professed, which we call nuns, &c.
Item, for every bishop to see his churches repaired of his own proper charge, and boldly to admonish the king whether the houses of God were well maintained, &c.
Item, for flying into the church for sanctuary, &c. Item, concerning cases and determinations, spousal or matrimonial, &c.
All which constitutions declare what interest kings had in those days in matters, as well ecclesiastical as others, within their dominion; and that not only in disposing the ordinances and rites, such as appertained to the institution of the church, but also in placing and setting bishops in their sees, &c.
In the time of this Edmund was Ulstanus, archbishop of York, and Odo, archbishop of Canterbury; which Odo being a Dane born, (as is before tonched,) was promoted to that see by King Ethelstan, for that (as they say) he being first bishop of Wilton, and present with King Ethelstan in the field against Analanus before mentioned,what time the said Ethelstan had lost his sword, he, through his intercession up to heaven, did see a sword from heaven come down into the sheath of the king. Whereof relation being made unto the king by the foresaid bishop, Ethelstan upon the same was so affected towards Odo, that not only he counted him for a patron of his life, but also made him primate of Canterbury after the decease of Ulfelmus. This Odo was the first, from the coming of the Saxons till his time, which was archbishop of Canterbury, being no monk. For all the other before him were of the profession of monks, of whom a great part had been Italians unto Berctualdus. Notwithstanding, this Odo, being also a stranger born, after he was elected into the bishopric, to answer to the old custom of others before him, sailed over into France, and there at Floriake (after the usual manner above mentioned of Englishmen) received the profession and habit of monkish religion, as saith my foresaid author. And like as the said Odo first, being no monk, was made archbishop of Canterbury; so also Olstanus, the same time being bishop of York and of Worcester, differed from divers his predecessors before him in profession and habit; of whom the forenamed author thus writeth in his third book, speaking of Ulstanus: Qui sanctitate discrepabat et habitu, that is, He differed in sanctimony and in habit. Whereby it is to be collected, that in those days was a difference in habit and garment, not only between monks and bishops, but also between one bishop and another; albeit what difference it was yet I do not find. But I return again to Odo, who, by the description of his manners, might seem not to be the worst that occupied that place, were it not that our lying histories, feigning false miracles upon him, '(as they do of others,) make him indeed to seem worse than he was. As where they imagine that he should see from heaven a sword fall into the scabbard of King Ethelstan. Item, where he should cover and defend the church of Canterbury with his prayers from rain. And also where he should turn the bread of the altar (as the writer termeth it) into lively flesh, and from flesh into bread again, to confirm the people, which before doubted in the same. Where note again, good reader, that albeit this miracle were true, as no doubt it is untrue, yet is it to be noted that in those days was a great doubt amongst Englishmen of the popish sacrament, and that transubstantiation was not received into the Christian creed. The like judgment is to he given also of that, where our English writers, testifying of the same Odo, say that he should prophesy long before of Dunstan to be his successor in the church of Canterbury. But to let these fantasies and idle stories pass, this which we find of Odo his own writing is certain, that the said Odo, in the reign of King Edmund, had a synod commenced of the thief prelates and clergy in his time, to whom he directed a pastoral letter.
Odo continued bishop the space of twenty years. After whom Elsinus was elected and ordained by the king to succeed through favour and money; but in going to Rome for the pope's pall, in his journey through the Alps, he decayed and died for cold. Whereupon succeeded Dunstan, as in time and place (by the leave of Christ) followeth to he declared.
This Edmund gave to St. Edmnnd the martyr before mentioned the town of Bredrichcehworth, which is now called St. Edmundsbury, with great revenues and lands appertaining to the same. But concerning the frivolous miracles which our monkish story writers here feign of this good Edmund, by the way, (or rather out of the way,) I let them pass.
And thus much concerning the reign of King Edmund, who, after he had reigned six years and a half, was slain, as is said, at Pulcherchurch, and buried at Glastenbury of Dunstan; leaving behind him two children, Edwin and Edgar, by his wife Elgina. But because the foresaid children were yet young and under age, therefore Edred, brother to King Edmund, and uncle to the children, governed as protector about the space of nine years and a half, till Edwin the eldest son came to age. This Edred with great moderation and fidelity to the young children behaved himself, during the time of his government. In his time Dunstan was promoted, through the means of Odo the archbishop, from abbot of Glastenbury to be bishop of Worcester, and after of London. By the counsel of this Dunstan, Edred was much ruled, and too much thereto addicted; insomuch that the foresaid Edred is reported in stories to submit himself unto much fond penance and castigations, inflicted to him of the said Dunstan. Such zealous devotion was then in princes, and more blind superstition in bishops. And here again is another miracle as fantastical as the other before, forged of Dunstan. When Edred being sick sent for Dunstan to be his confessor, Dunstan by the way heard a voice declaring to him before, that Edred was already departed, at the declaring whereof Dunstan's horse fell immediately dead under him.
Edwin, the eldest son of King Edmund afore mentioned, after his uncle Edred, began his reign about the year of our Lord 955, being crowned at Kingston by Odo the archbishop of Canterbury. Of this Edwin it is reported of divers writers, that the first day of his coronation, sitting with his lords, he brake suddenly from them, and entered a secret chamber, to the company of a certain woman whom he inordinately retained, (being, as some say, another man's wife,) whose husband he had before slain, as others say, being of his alliance, to the great misliking of his lords, and especially of the clergy. Dunstan was yet but abbot of Glastenbury; who, following the king into the chamber, brought him out by the hand, and accused him to Odo the archbishop, causing him to be separate from the company of the foresaid party; by the which Odo the king was for his fact suspended out of the church. By reason whereof the king, being with Dunstan displeased, banished him his land, and forced him for a season to fly into Flanders, where he was in the monastery of St. Amandus. About the same season the monastical order of Benedict monks, or black monks, (as they were called,) began to multiply and increase here in England. Insomuch that where beforetime other priests and canons had been placed, there monks were in their rooms set in, and the secular priests (as they then were called, or canons) put out. But King Edwin, for that displeasure he bare to Dunstan, did so vex all the order of the said monks, that in Malmesbury, Glastenbury, and other places more, he thrust out the monks, and set in secular priests in their stead.
Notwithstanding, it was not long but these priests and canons were again removed, and the said monks in their stead restored, both in the foresaid houses, and in divers other churches cathedral besides, as in the next story of King Edgar (Christ willing) shall more at large appear.
In fine, King Edwin being hated, by reason of certain his demeanours, of all his subjects, (especially the Northumbrians and Mercians,) was by them removed from his kingly honour, and his brother Edgar in his stead received; so that the river of Thames divided both their kingdoms. Which Edwin, after he had reigned about the term of four years, departed, leaving no heir of his body. Wherefore the rule of the land fell unto Edgar, his younger brother.