Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 30. KING EDWARD THE CONFESSOR


    Forsomuch as God of his mercy and providence, who is only the maker of heirs, thought it so good, after the woeful captivity of this English nation, to grant now some respite of deliverance, in taking away the Danish kings without any issue left behind them; who reigning here in England, kept the English people in miserable subjection about the space of eight and twenty years, and from their first landing in the time of King Brightricus wasted and vexed this land the term of 255 years. Now their tyranny here coming to an end, the next election and right of the crown fell (as appertained) to Edward, the younger son of King Egelred and Emma, a mere Englishman; who had been now long banished in Normandy, as is above declared; a man of gentle and soft spirit, more appliable to other men's counsels than able to trust to his own; of nature and condition so given from all war and bloodshed, that being in his banishment, he wished rather to continue all his life long in that private estate, than by war or bloodshed to aspire to any kingdom. This Edward, after the death of Canute the Second, or Hardicanute, being sent for of the lords into Normandy, to take possession of the realm, although he something mistrusted the unconstant and fickle heads of Englishmen, (yet having sufficient pledges laid for him in Normandy,) came over, accompanied with a few Normans, and not long after was crowned at Winchester, in the year 1043, by Edsius, then archbishop of Canterbury. And not long after that he married Goditha, or Edithy, daughter of Earl Godwin, whom he entreated after such sort, that he neither put her from his bed, nor yet dealt with her fleshly. Whether it were for hate of her kin, (as most like it was,) or for love of chastity, it remaineth uncertain. But most writers agree, that he continued his life without offence with women; for the which he is highly exalted among our story writers, and called holy King Edward. After he had thus taken upon him the government of the realm, he guided the same with much wisdom and justice the space of four and twenty years, lacking two months; from whom issued (as out of a fountain) much godliness, mercy, pity, and liberality toward the poor, gentleness and justice toward all men, and in all honest life he gave a virtuous example to his people. He discharged the Englishmen of the great tribute called Danegelt, which beforetime was yearly levied to the great impoverishing of the people. He subdued the Scots and the Welchmen, which in their borders began to rebel against him. In much peace he continued his reign, having no foreign enemy to assault him; albeit, as some chronicles do show, certain Danes and Norwegians there were which intended to set upon England. But as they were taking shipping, there was brought to them first one bowl, then another, of mead, or methe, to drink for a good voyage. Thus one cup coming after another, after drink came drunkenness, after drunkenness followed jangling, of jangling came strife, and strife turned unto stripes; whereby many were slain, and the other returned to their home again. And thus the merciful providence of the Lord despatched that journey.

    In the time of this Edward, Emma his mother was accused to be familiar with Alwin the bishop of Winchester; upon which accusation (by counsel of Earl Godwin) he took from her many of her jewels, and caused her to be kept some deal more strictly in the abbey of Warwell, and the bishop committed to the examination of the clergy, Polydore saith they were both in prison at Winchester, where she sorrowing the dishonour both of herself and the bishop, and trusting upon her conscience, desireth them of justice, offering herself ready to abide any lawful trial, yea, although it were with the sharpest.

    Then divers of the bishops made labour to the king for them both, and had obtained, had not Robert, then archbishop of Canterbury, stopped the suit. Who, not well contented with their labour, said unto them, My brethren, how dare you defend her which is no woman, but a beast? She hath defamed her own son the king, and taken her lecherous leman the bishop. And if it be so, that the woman will purge the priest, who shall then purge the woman, that is accused to be consenting to the death of her son Alfred, and procured venom to the poisoning of her son Edward? But whether she be guilty or guiltless, if she will go barefooted for herself four steps, and for the bishop five, continually upon nine ploughshares fire hot, then if she escape harmless, he shall be assoiled of this challenge, and she also.

    To this she granted: the day was appointed, at which day the king and a great part of his nobles were present, except only Robert the archbishop. This Robert had been a monk of a house in Normandy, and a helper of the king in his exile; and so, by the sending for of the king, came over, and was made, first bishop of London, after archbishop of Canterbury. Then was she led blindfold unto the place between two men, where the irons lay burning hot, and passed the nine shares unhurt. At last saith she, Good Lord, when shall I come to the place of my purgation? When they then opened her eyes, and she saw that she was past the pain, she kneeled down, giving God thanks.

    Then the king repented, (saith the story,) and restored unto her that he had before taken from her, and asked her forgiveness. But the archbishop fled into Normandy.

    Near about this time, about the tenth year of his reign, fell passing great snow from the beginning of January to the seventeenth day of March. After which ensued a great mortality of men, murrain of cattle; and by lightning the corn was wonderfully blasted and wasted,

    Not long after this, a certain carl of Bologne, who had married King Edward's sister, came into England; through the occasion of whom, when execution should be done upon the citizens of Dover, for a fray between them and the earl's men, variance happened between King Edward and Earl Godwin, who, perceiving that he could not withstand the king's malice, (although he gathered a great company to work therein what he could,) fled into Flanders, and was outlawed with his five sons. King Edward repudiated his wife, the daughter of the said Godwin: but the second year after, by mediators, he was reconciled to the king again, and called from banishment, and for his good bearing he gave for pledges his two sons, Biornon and Tostius, which were sent to the duke of Normandy, there to be kept.

    During the time of the outlawry of Godwin, William, bastard duke of Normandy, came with a goodly company into England to see King Edward, and was honourably received. To whom the king made great cheer, and at his return enriched him with great gifts and pleasures; and there (as some write) made promise to him, that if he died without issue, the said William should succeed him in the kingdom of England.

    In this king's reign lived Marianus Scotus the story writer. As concerning the end of Earl Godwin, the cruel murderer of Alfred, and of the Normans, although divers histories diversly do vary, yet in this the most part do agree, that as he sat at the table with King Edward at Windsor, it happened one of the cup-bearers, one of Earl Godwin's sons, to stumble and recover again, so that he shed none of the drink, whereat Godwin laughed, and said how the one brother had sustained the other. With which words the king calling to mind his brother's death that was slain by Godwin, beheld the earl, saying, So should my brother Alfred have holpen me, had not Godwin been. Godwin then, fearing the king's displeasure to be newly kindled, after many words in excusing himself, said, So might I safely swallow this morsel of bread, as I am guiltless of the deed. But as soon as he had received the bread, forthwith he was choked. Then the king commanded him to be drawn from the table, and so was conveyed by Harold his son to Winchester, and there buried.

    About the thirteenth year of this king's reign, the said King Edward sent Aldred, bishop of Worcester, to the emperor Henricus the Fourth, praying him that he would send to the king of Hungary, that his cousin Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, might come into England, forsomuch as he intended to make him king after him, which was called Edward outlaw. The which request was fulfilled, so that he came into England with his wife Agatha, and with his children, to wit, Edgar Adeling, Margaret, and Christina. But the year after his return into this realm this Edward deceased at London, and was buried at Winchester, or, as Jornalensis saith, at Paul's church in London. After whose decease the king then received Edgar Adeling his son as his own child, thinking to make him his heir. But fearing partly the unconstant mutability of the Englishmen, partly the pride and malice of Harold the son of Godwin, and of others, (perceiving thereby that he could not bring that his purpose so well to pass,) directed solemn ambassadors unto William duke of Normandy, his kinsman, admitting and assigning him to be his lawful heir, next to succeed after him to the crown.

    After the death of Godwin, Harold his son waxed so in the king's favour, that he ruled the most and greatest causes of the realm, and was lieutenant of the king's army, who, with his brother Toston, or Tostius, (sent by the king against the Welchmen,) subdued their rebellion. But afterward such envy grew between these two brethren, for that Tostius saw his brother Harold so greatly advanced in the king's favour, that at Hertford the said Tostius slew all his brother's men. Whom, when he had cut in pieces, he powdered their quarters and mangled parts in barrels of salt, vinegar, wine, and other liquors. That done, he made a power against his brother Harold (being king) with the aid of certain Danes and Norwegians, and fought a battle with him in the north, as after shall follow (God willing) to be seen. So ungracious were these wicked children of Earl Godwin, that if they had seen any fair mansion or manor place, they would slay the owner thereof with all his kindred, and enter the possession thereof themselves.

    At length it came in the mind of this Harold to sail over the sea (as Polydor saith) unto Normandy, to see his brother Wilnotus, as also his cousin Hacus, whom the king had sent thither to be kept for pledges, as ye heard before. Polydore saith these pledges were Tosto and Biornon; but that cannot be, for Tostius was then in England. But, as Henricus archdeacon of Huntington saith, his journey was into Flanders, as seemeth more like. For it is not to be thought that Harold, who was a doer in the cruel murder of Alfred, and of the Normans, would venture into Normandy; and therefore more like it is that his sailing was into Flanders. But as the story proceedeth, he, being in the course of his sailing, was weather driven by tempest into the province of Pountith, where he was taken as prisoner, and sent to Duke William of Normandy, to whom he was made to swear that he in time following should marry his daughter; and that, after the death of King Edward, he should keep the land of England to his behoof, according to the will and mind of Edward, (after some writers,) and so to live in great honour and dignity next unto him in the realm. This promise faithfully made to the duke, Harold returneth into England, with his cousin Hacus, the son of his brother Swanus, being delivered unto him. But Wilnot, brother of Harold, the duke keepeth still for performance of the covenants. Thus Harold, I say, returning home, showeth the king all that he had done in the foresaid matters, wherewith the king was well contented. Whereby it may be gathered that King Edward was right well willing that Duke William should reign after him, and also it seemeth not unlike but that he had given him his promise thereunto before.

    Among all that were true and trusty to King Edward of the English nobility, none had like commendation, as had Leofric, earl of Mercia and of Chester. This Leofric purchased many great liberties for the town of Coventry, and made it free of all manner of things, except only of horse, which freedom there was obtained by means of his wife Godina, by riding (as the fame goeth) after a strange manner through the town. This Leofricus, with his wife Godina, builded also the abbey of Coventry, and endowed the same with great lands and riches.

    You heard a little before of the coming over of Edward called the outlaw, son of King Edmund Ironside, whom King Edward had purposed to have made king after him: but soon after his coming over he deceased at London. This Edward had by his wife Agatha a son and a daughter, called Edgar Adeling, and Margaret. Which Margaret, being afterward married to the king of Scots, was the mother of Matild, or Mawd, the queen of England, and of David, king of Scots, &c.

    This virtuous and blessed King Edward, after he had reigned three and twenty years and seven months, died, and was buried in the monastery of Westminster, which he had greatly augmented and repaired; but afterward was more enlarged, after this form which it hath now, by Henry the Third, son of King John.

Illustration -- The Tomb of Edward the Confessor

    They that write the history of this king here make mention of a dream or revelation that should be showed to him in time of his sickness; how that because the peers and bishops of the realm were servants, not of God, but of the devil, God would give this realm to the hand of others. And the king desired utterance to be given him, that he might declare the same to the people, whereby they might repent. It was answered again, that neither would they so do; or yet if they did, it should be given to another people. But, because it is a dream, I let it pass.

    Divers laws were before in divers countries of this realm used, as the law first of Dunuallo Melmucius, with the laws of Mercia, called Mercenelaga; then the laws of West Saxon kings, as of Jue, Offa, Alfred, &c., which was called West Saxenelaga; the third were the laws of Canute, and of Danes, called Danelaga. Of all these laws, which before were diversly in certain particular countries used and received, this Edward compiled one universal and common law for all people through the whole realm, which were called King Edward's laws; which laws, being gathered out of the best and chiefest of the other laws, were so just, so equal, and so serving the public profit and wealth of all estates, that, mine authors say, the people long after did rebel against their heads and rulers to have the same laws again, (being taken from them,) and yet could not obtain them.

    Furthermore, I read and find in Matthew Paris, that when William the Conqueror at his coming in did swear to use and practise the same good laws of Edward, for the common laws of this realm, afterward (being established in his kingdom) he forswore himself, and placed his own laws in their room, much worse and obscurer than the other were, &c.

    Notwithstanding, among the said laws of Edward, and in the first chapter and beginning there of, this I find among the ancient records of the Guildhall in London: The office of a king, with such other appurtenances as belong to the realm of Britain, set forth and described in the Latin style which I thought here not unmeet to be expressed in the English tongue for them tlmat understood no Latin. The tenor and meaning whereof thus followeth.

    The king, because he is the vicar of the highest King, is appointed for this purpose, to rule thie earthly kingdom, and the Lord's people, and above all things to reverence his holy church, to govern it, and to defend it fronn injuries; to pluck away wicked doers, and utterly to destroy them. Which unless he do, the name of a king agreeth not unto him, but he loseth the name of a king, as witnesseth Pope John; to the which pope Pipinus and Carolus his son (being not yet kings, but princes under the French king, being not very wise) did write demanding this question, whether the kings of France ought so to continue, having but only the name of a king. Unto whom Pope John an swereth again, that it was convenient to call them kings which vigilantly do defend and govern the church of God and his people, following the saying of King David the psalmograph; He shall not dwell in my house which worketh pride, &c.

    Moreover, the king by right and by his office ought to defend and conserve fully and wholly in all ampleness, without diminution, all the lands, honours, dignities, rights, and liberties of the crown of his kingdom. And fnrther, to reduce into their pristine state all such things as have been dispersed, wasted, and lost, which appertain to his kingdom. Also the whole and universal land, with all islands about the same in Norway and Denmark, be appertaining to the crown of his kingdom, and be of the appurtermances and dignity of the king; making one monarchy and one kingdom, which sometime was called the kingdom of Britain, and now the kingdom of England; such bounds and limits as is above said be appointed and limited to the name of this kingdom.

    Moreover, in the foresaid laws of this King Edward, it followeth in the same book, where the foresaid Edward, describing the office of a king, addeth in these words: A king, saith he, ought above all things to fear God, to love and to observe his commandments, and cause them to be observed through his whole kingdom. He ought also to keep, cherish, maintain, and govern the' holy church within his kingdom, with all integrity and liberty, according to the constitutions of his ancestors and predecessors, and to defend the same against all enemies, so that God above all things he honoured, and ever be before his eyes. He ought also to set up good laws and customs, such as be wholesome and approved; such as be otherwise, to repeal them, and thrust them out of his kingdom. Item, he ought to do judgment and justice in his kingdom, by the counsel of the nobles of his realm, All these things ought a king in his own person to do, taking his oath upon the evangelist, and the blessed relics of saints, swearing in the presence of the whole state of his realm (as well of the temporality as of the spirituality) before he be crowned of the archbishops and bishops. Three servants the king ought to have under him as vassals; fleshly lust, avarice, and greedy desire; whom if he keep under as his servants and slaves, he shall reign well and honourably in his kingdom. All things are to be done with good advisement and premeditation; and that properly belongeth to a king. For hasty rashness bringeth all things to ruin, according to the saying of the Gospel, Every kingdom divided in itself shall be desolate, &c.

    After the duty and office of princes thus described, consequently followeth the institution of subjects, declared in many good and necessary ordinances very requisite and convenient for public government. Of the which laws William the Conqueror was compelled, through the clamour of the people, to take some, but the most part he omitted, contrary to his own oath at his coronation, inserting and placing the most of his own laws in his language, to serve his purpose; and which as yet to this present day in the Norman language do remain. Now (the Lord willing) let us proceed in the story as in order followeth.

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