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Title: William of Malmesbury's Chronicle of the Kings of England

Author: of Malmesbury William

Editor: J. A. Giles

Translator: John Sharpe

Release date: December 28, 2015 [eBook #50778]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Charlie Howard and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Transcriber’s Notes

Cover created by Transcriber and placed into the Public Domain.

Table of Contents added by Transcriber and placed into the Public Domain.

The Timeline in the page headers of the original book is represented here by sidenotes, beginning with “[A.D. year]”, placed between nearby paragraphs, and shaded in some versions of this eBook.

Other notes may be found at the end of this eBook.

An Anglo-Saxon Chief.


With Notes and Illustrations.






William of Malmesbury,” according to archbishop Usher, “is the chief of our historians;” Leland records him “as an elegant, learned, and faithful historian;” and Sir Henry Saville is of opinion, that he is the only man of his time who has discharged his trust as an historian. His History of the Kings of England was translated into English by the Rev. John Sharpe, and published in quarto, in 1815.

Though the language of Mr. Sharpe’s work is by no means so smooth as the dialect of the present day would require, yet the care with which he examined MSS., and endeavoured to give the exact sense of his author, seemed so important a recommendation, that the editor of the present volume has gladly availed himself of it as a ground-work for his own labours. The result of this plan is, that the public are enabled to purchase without delay and at an insignificant expense, the valuable contemporary historian, who has hitherto been like a sealed book to the public, or only accessible through a bulky volume, the scarcity of which served to exclude it from all but public libraries or the studies of the wealthy.

But the translation of Mr. Sharpe has by no means been reprinted verbatim. Within the last ten years a valuable edition of the original text, with copious collations of MSS., has been published by the English Historical Society. This edition has been compared with the translation, and numerous passages retouched and improved. Some charters, also, have been added, and a large number of additional notes appended at the foot of the pages, together with a few other improvements and additions calculated to render this interesting history more acceptable to the reading public.

J. A. G.

Bampton, June, 1847.



The author whose work is here presented to the public in an English dress, has, unfortunately, left few facts of a personal nature to be recorded of him; and even these can only be casually gleaned from his own writings. It is indeed much to be regretted that he who wrote so well on such a variety of topics, should have told so little to gratify the curiosity of his readers with respect to himself. Every notice of such an ardent lover of literature as Malmesbury, must have been interesting to posterity, as a desire to be acquainted with the history of those who have contributed to our instruction or amusement seems natural to civilized man. With the exception indeed of the incidental references made by successive chroniclers, who borrowed from his history, there is nothing to be learned of him from extrinsic sources till the time of Leland, who indignantly observes, that even at Malmesbury, in his own monastery, they had nearly lost all remembrance of their brightest ornament.

To himself then we are indebted for the knowledge of his being descended from both English and Norman parents; his father having probably come hither at the conquest. The exact time of his birth cannot be ascertained; though perhaps an approximation to it may be made. In the “Commentary on Jeremiah,”1 Malmesbury observes, that he “had long since, in his youthful days, amused himself with writing history, that he was now forty years of age;” and, in another place, he mentions a circumstance which occurred “in thevii time of king Henry;”2 apparently implying that Henry was then dead. Now, admitting the expression of “long since” to denote a period of ten years, this, as his “Histories of the Kings” and “of the Prelates” were completed in the year 1125, must have been written about 1135, the time of Henry’s death, and would of course place his own birth about 1095 or 1096.3

The next circumstance to be noticed is, that when a boy, he was placed in the monastery whence he derived his name, where in due time he became librarian, and, according to Leland, precentor; and ultimately refused the dignity of abbat. His death is generally supposed to have taken place about 1143; though it is probable that he survived this period some time: for his “Modern History” terminates at the end of the year 1142; and it will appear, from a manuscript hereafter to be described, that he lived at least long enough after its publication to make many corrections, alterations, and insertions, in that work as well in the other portions of his History.

With these facts, meagre as they are, the personal account of him must close. But with regard to his literary bent and attainments there is ample store of information in his writings. From his earliest youth he gave his soul to study, and to the collecting of books;4 and he visited many of the most celebrated monasteries in the kingdom, apparently in prosecution of this darling propensity. The ardour of his curiosity, and the unceasing diligence of his researches, in this respect, have perhaps been seldom surpassed. He seems to have procured every volume within his reach; and to have carefully examined and digested its contents, whetherviii divinity, history, biography, poetry, or classical literature. Of his acquirements as a scholar it is indeed difficult to speak in terms of sufficient commendation. That he had accurately studied nearly all the Roman authors, will be readily allowed by the classical reader of his works. From these he either quotes or inserts so appositely, as to show how thoroughly he had imbibed their sense and spirit. His adaptations are ever ready and appropriate; they incorporate with his narrative with such exactness that they appear only to occupy their legitimate place. His knowledge of Greek is not equally apparent; at least his references to the writers of Greece are not so frequent, and even these might probably be obtained from translations: from this, however, no conclusion can be drawn that he did not understand the language. With respect to writers subsequent to those deemed classics, his range was so extensive that it is no easy matter to point out many books which he had not seen, and certainly he had perused several which we do not now possess.

Malmesbury’s love of learning was constitutional: he declares in one of his prefaces, that had he turned to any other than literary pursuits, he should have deemed it not only disgraceful, but even detrimental to his better interest. Again, his commendations of Bede show how much he venerated a man of congenial inclinations and studies; and how anxious he was to form himself on the same model of accurate investigation and laborious research, and to snatch every possible interval from the performance of his monastic duties, for the purposes of information and improvement.

His industry and application were truly extraordinary. Even to the moment when we reluctantly lose sight of him, he is discovered unceasingly occupied in the correction of his works.5 In the MSS. of the “History of the Kings”ix may be found traces of at least four several editions; and the “History of the Prelates” supplies nearly as many varieties. And though it may reasonably be imagined thatx a great portion of the alterations are merely verbal, and of course imperceptible in a translation, yet they contribute in an extraordinary degree to the polish and elegance of his style.6 Another excellent feature of Malmesbury’s literary character is, his love of truth. He repeatedly declares that, in the remoter periods of his work, he had observed the most guarded caution in throwing all responsibility, for the facts he mentions, on the authors from whom he derived them; and in his own times he avers, that he has recorded nothing that he had not either personally witnessed, or learned from the most credible authority. Adhering closely to this principle, he seems to have been fully impressed with the difficulty of relating the transactions of the princes, his contemporaries, and on this account he repeatedly apologizes for his omissions. But here is seen his dexterous management in maintaining an equipoise between their virtues and vices; for he spares neither William the First, nor his sons who succeeded him: indeed several of his strictures in the earlier editions of this work, are so severe, that he afterwards found it necessary to modify and soften them.

His character and attainments had early acquired a high degree of reputation among his contemporaries. He was entreated by the monks of various monasteries to write either the history of their foundations, or the lives of their patron saints. He associated with persons of the highest consequencexi and authority; and in one instance, at least, he took a share in the important political transactions of his own times. Robert earl of Gloucester, the natural son of Henry the First, was the acknowledged friend and patron of Malmesbury. This distinguished nobleman, who was himself a profound scholar, seems to have been the chief promoter of learning at that period. Several portions of our author’s work are dedicated to him, not merely through motives of personal regard, but from the conviction that his attainments as a scholar would lead him to appreciate its value as a composition, and the part which he bore in the transactions of his day, enable him to decide on the veracity of its relation.

Having thus stated the leading features of Malmesbury’s life, his avocations and attainments, it may not be irrelevant to consider the form and manner which he has adopted in the history before us. A desire to be acquainted with the transactions of their ancestors seems natural to men in every stage of society, however rude or barbarous. The northern nations, more especially, had their historical traditions, and the songs of their bards, from the remotest times. Influenced by this feeling, the Anglo-Saxons turned their attention to the composition of annals very early after their settlement in Britain; and hence originated that invaluable register the Saxon Chronicle,7 in which facts are briefly related as they arose;—in chronological order, indeed, but without comment or observation. After the Norman conquest, among other objects of studious research in England, history attracted considerable attention, and the form, as well as the matter, of the Saxon Chronicle, became the prevailing standard. It might readily be supposed that Malmesbury’s genius and attainments would with difficulty submit to the shackles of a mere chronological series, which afforded no field for the exercise of genius or judgment. Accordingly, following the bent of his inclination, he struck into a different and freer path; and to a judicious selection of facts gave the added charm of wisdom and experience. It may therefore be useful to advert to the exemplification of this principle in the scope and design of the work immediately before us. Hisxii first book comprises the exploits of the Anglo-Saxons, from the period of their arrival till the consolidation of the empire under the monarchy of Egbert. Herein too is separately given the history of those powerful but rival kingdoms, which alternately subjugated, or bowed down to the dominion of, each other, and deluged the country with blood, as the love of conquest or the lust of ambition prompted. The second portion of the work continues the regal series till the mighty revolution of the Norman conquest. The three remaining books are occupied with the reigns of William and his sons, including a very interesting account of the first Crusade. His Modern History carries the narrative into the turbulent reign of Stephen.

Such is the period embraced: and to show these times, “their form and pressure,” Malmesbury collected every thing within his reach. His materials, as he often feelingly laments, were scanty and confined, more especially in the earlier annals. The Chronicles of that era afforded him but little, yet of that little he has made the most, through the diligence of his research and the soundness of his judgment. His discrimination in selecting, and his skill in arranging, are equally conspicuous. His inexhaustible patience, his learning, his desire to perpetuate every thing interesting or useful, are at all times evident. Sensibly alive to the deficiencies of the historians who preceded him, he constantly endeavours to give a clear and connected relation of every event. Indeed, nothing escaped his observation which could tend to elucidate the manners of the times in which he wrote. History was the darling pursuit of Malmesbury, and more especially biographical history, as being, perhaps, the most pleasing mode of conveying information. He knew the prevailing passion of mankind for anecdote, and was a skilful master in blending amusement with instruction. Few historians ever possessed such power of keeping alive the reader’s attention; few so ably managed their materials, or scattered so many flowers by the way. Of his apt delineation of character, and happy mode of seizing the most prominent features of his personages, it is difficult to speak in terms of adequate commendation. He does not weary with a tedious detail, “line upon line,” nor does he complete hisxiii portrait at a sitting. On the contrary, the traits are scattered, the proportions disunited, the body dismembered, as it were; but in a moment some master-stroke is applied, some vivid flash of Promethean fire animates the canvass, and the perfect figure darts into life and expression: hence we have the surly, ferocious snarl of the Conqueror, and the brutal horse-laugh of Rufus. Malmesbury’s history, indeed, may be called a kind of biographical drama; where, by a skilful gradation of character and variety of personage, the story is presented entire, though the tediousness of continued narrative is avoided. Again, by saying little on uninteresting topics, and dilating on such as are important, the tale, which might else disgust from the supineness or degeneracy of some principal actor, is artfully relieved by the force of contrast: and the mind, which perhaps recoils with indignation from the stupid indifference of an Ethelred, hangs, with fond delight, on the enterprising spirit and exertion of an Ironside.

It may be superfluous, perhaps, after enumerating qualities of this varied kind, in an author, who gives a connected history of England for several centuries, to observe, that readers of every description must derive instruction and delight from his labours. Historians, antiquaries, or philosophers, may drink deeply of the stream which pervades his work, and find their thirst for information gratified. The diligent investigator of the earlier annals of his own country, finds a period of seven hundred years submitted to his inspection, and this not merely in a dry detail of events, but in a series of authentic historical facts, determined with acuteness, commented on with deliberation, and relieved by pleasing anecdote or interesting episode. When the narrative flags at home, the attention is roused by events transacting abroad, while foreign is so blended with domestic history, that the book is never closed in disgust. The antiquary here finds ample field for amusement and instruction in the various notices of arts, manners, and customs, which occur. The philosopher traces the gradual progress of man towards civilization; watches his mental improvement, his advance from barbarism to comparative refinement; and not of man alone, but of government, laws, and arts, as well as of all those attainments which serve to exalt and embellish human nature. These are topics carefully, though perhaps only incidentally,xiv brought forward; but they are points essentially requisite in every legitimate historian. Here, however, it must be admitted, that in the volume before us, a considerable portion of the marvellous prevails; and though, perhaps, by many readers, these will be considered as among the most curious parts of the work, yet it may be objected, that the numerous miraculous tales detract, in some measure, from that soundness of judgment which has been ascribed to our author. But it should be carefully recollected, that it became necessary to conform, in some degree, to the general taste of the readers of those days, the bulk of whom derived their principal amusement from the lives of saints, and from their miracles, in which they piously believed: besides, no one ever thought of impeaching the judgment of Livy, or of any other historian of credit, for insertions of a similar nature. Even in these relations, however, Malmesbury is careful that his own veracity shall not be impeached; constantly observing, that the truth of the story must rest on the credit of his authors; and, indeed, they are always so completely separable from the main narrative, that there is no danger of mistaking the legend for history.

Having thus noticed the multifarious topics embraced by Malmesbury, it may be necessary to advert to his style: although, after what has been premised, it might seem almost superfluous to add, that it admits nearly of as much variety as his facts. This probably arises from that undeviating principle which he appears to have laid down, that his chief efforts should be exerted to give pleasure to his readers; in imitation of the rhetoricians, whose first object was to make their audience kindly disposed, next attentive, and finally anxious to receive instruction.8 Of his style, therefore, generally speaking, it may not be easy to give a perfect description. To say to which Roman author it bears the nearest resemblance, when he imitated almost every one of them, from Sallust to Eutropius, would be rash indeed. How shall we bind this classical Proteus, who occasionally assumes the semblance of Persius, Juvenal, Horace, Lucan, Virgil, Lucretius; and who never appears in his proper shape so long as he can seize the form of an ancient classic?9xv Often does he declare that he purposely varies his diction, lest the reader should be disgusted by its sameness; anxiously careful to avoid repetition, even in the structure of his phrases. It may be said, however, that generally, in his earlier works, (for he was apparently very young when he wrote his History of the Kings,) his style is rather laboured; though, perhaps, even this may have originated in an anxiety that his descriptions should be full; or, to use his own expression, that posterity should be wholly and perfectly informed. That his diction is highly antithetical, and his sentences artfully poised, will be readily allowed; and perhaps the best index to his meaning, where he may be occasionally obscure, is the nicely-adjusted balance of his phrase. That he gradually improved his style, and in riper years, where he describes the transactions of his own times, became terse, elegant, and polished, no one will attempt to dispute; and it will be regretted, that this interesting portion of history should break off abruptly in the midst of the contest between the empress Maud and Stephen.

In this recapitulation perhaps enough has been said to make an attempt at translating such an author regarded with kindness and complacency. To prevent a work of such acknowledged interest and fidelity from remaining longer a sealed book to the English reader, may well justify an undertaking of this kind; and it should be remarked that a translation of Malmesbury may serve to diffuse a very different idea of the state of manners and learning in his days from that which has been too commonly entertained; and at the same time to rescue a set of very deserving men from the unjust obloquy with which they have been pursued for ages. For without the least design of vindicating the institutions of monachism or overlooking the abuses incident to it, we may assert that, in Malmesbury’s time, religious houses were the grand depositaries of knowledge, and monks the best informed men of the age.

It remains briefly to speak of the mode in which the translation has been conducted. The printed text of Malmesbury10xvi was found so frequently faulty and corrupted that, on a careful perusal, it was deemed necessary to seek for authentic manuscripts. These were supplied by that noble institution, the British Museum; but one more especially, which, on an exact comparison with others, was found to possess indisputable proofs of the author’s latest corrections. This, Bib. Reg. 13, D. II, has been collated throughout with the printed copy; the result has produced numerous important corrections, alterations, and insertions, which are constantly referred to in the notes. In addition to this, various other MSS. have been repeatedly consulted; so that it is presumed the text, from which the translation has been made, is, by these means, completely established.

As the plan pursued by Malmesbury did not often require him to affix dates to the several transactions, it has been deemed necessary to remedy this omission. The chronology here supplied has been constructed on a careful examination and comparison of the Saxon Chronicle and Florence of Worcester, which are considered the best authorities; although even these occasionally leave considerable doubt as to the precise time of certain events. The remoteness of the period described by Malmesbury makes notes also in some measure indispensable. These are derived as frequently as possible from contemporary authors. Their object is briefly to amend, to explain, and to illustrate. By some perhaps they may be thought too limited; by others they may occasionally be considered unnecessary; but they are such as were deemed likely to be acceptable to readers in general.

With these explanations the translator takes leave of the reader, and is induced to hope that the present work will not be deemed an unimportant accession to the stock of English literature.


CHAP. I. Of the arrival of the Angles, and of the Kings of Kent. [A.D. 449.] 5
CHAP. II. Of the kings of the West Saxons. [A.D. 495.] 17
CHAP. III. Of the kings of the Northumbrians. [A.D. 450.] 40
CHAP. IV. Of the kings of the Mercians. [A.D. 626–874.] 70
CHAP. V. Of the kings of the East Angles. [A.D. 520–905.] 88
CHAP. VI. Of the kings of the East Saxons. [A.D. 520–823.] 90
CHAP. I. The history of king Egbert. [A.D. 800–839.] 94
CHAP. II. Of king Ethelwulf. [A.D. 839–858.] 97
CHAP. III. Of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, and Ethelred, sons of Ethelwulf. [A.D. 858–872.] 110
CHAP. IV. Of king Alfred. [A.D. 872–901.] 113
CHAP. V. Of Edward the son of Alfred. [A.D. 901–924.] 122
CHAP. VI. Of Athelstan, the son of Edward. [A.D. 924–940.] 128
CHAP. VII. Of kings Edmund, Edred, and Edwy. [A.D. 940–955.] 141
CHAP. VIII. Of king Edgar, son of king Edmund. [A.D. 959–975.] 147
CHAP. IX. Of St. Edward king and martyr the son of Edgar. [A.D. 975–978.] 162
CHAP. X. Of king Ethelred and king Edmund. [A.D. 979–1017.] 165
CHAP. XI. Of king Canute. [A.D. 1017–1031.] 196
CHAP. XII. Of king Harold and Hardecanute. [A.D. 1036–1042.] 205
CHAP. XIII. Of St. Edward, son of king Ethelred. [A.D. 1042–1066.] 213
CHAP. I. Of William the Second. [A.D. 1087–1100.] 327
CHAP. II. The Expedition to Jerusalem. [A.D. 1095–1105.] 355
BOOK I. 481
BOOK II. 498
INDEX. 536
Transcriber’s Notes.



To my respected Lord, the renowned Earl Robert, son of the King, health, and, as far as he is able, his prayers, from William, Monk of Malmesbury.

The virtue of celebrated men holds forth as its greatest excellence, its tendency to excite the love of persons even far removed from it: hence the lower classes make the virtues of their superiors their own, by venerating those great actions, to the practice of which they cannot themselves aspire. Moreover, it redounds altogether to the glory of exalted characters, both that they do good, and that they gain the affection of their inferiors. To you, Princes, therefore, it is owing, that we act well; to you, indeed, that we compose anything worthy of remembrance; your exertions incite us to make you live for ever in our writings, in return for the dangers you undergo to secure our tranquillity. For this reason, I have deemed it proper to dedicate the History of the Kings of England, which I have lately published, more especially to you, my respected and truly amiable Lord.2 None, surely, can be a more suitable patron of the liberal arts than yourself, in whom are combined the magnanimity of your grandfather, the munificence of your uncle, the circumspection of your father; more especially as you add to the qualities of these men, whom you alike equal in industry and resemble in person, this peculiar characteristic, a devotion to learning. Nor is this all: you condescend to honour with your notice those literary characters who are kept in obscurity, either by the malevolence of fame, or the slenderness of their fortune. And as our nature inclines us, not to condemn in others what we approve in ourselves, therefore men of learning find in you manners congenial to their own; for, without the slightest indication of moroseness, you regard them with kindness, admit them with complacency, and dismiss them with regret. Indeed, the greatness of your fortune has made no difference in you, except that your beneficence can now almost keep pace with your inclination.

Accept, then, most illustrious Sir, a work in which you may contemplate yourself as in a glass, where your Highness’s sagacity will discover that you have imitated the actions of the most exalted characters, even before you could have heard their names. The Preface to the first book declares the contents of this work; on deigning to peruse which, you will briefly collect the whole subject-matter. Thus much I must request from your Excellency, that no blame may attach to me because my narrative often wanders wide from the limits of our own country, since I design this as a compendium of many histories, although, with a view to the larger portion of it, I have entitled it a History of the Kings of England.



The history of the English, from their arrival in Britain to his own times, has been written by Bede, a man of singular learning and modesty, in a clear and captivating style. After him you will not, in my opinion, easily find any person who has attempted to compose in Latin the history of this people. Let others declare whether their researches in this respect have been, or are likely to be, more fortunate; my own labour, though diligent in the extreme, has, down to this period, been without its reward. There, are, indeed, some notices of antiquity, written in the vernacular tongue after the manner of a chronicle,12 and arranged according to the years of our Lord. By means of these alone, the times succeeding this man have been rescued from oblivion: for of Elward,13 a noble and illustrious man, who attempted to arrange these chronicles in Latin, and whose intention I could applaud if his language did not disgust me, it is better to be silent. Nor has it escaped my knowledge, that there is also a work of my Lord Eadmer,14 written with a chastened elegance of style, in which, beginning from King Edgar, he has but hastily glanced at the times down to William the First: and thence, taking a freer range, gives a narrative, copious, and of great utility to the studious, until the death of Archbishop Ralph.15 Thus from the time of Bede there is a period of two hundred and twenty-three years left unnoticed in his history; so that the regular series of time, unsupported by a connected relation, halts in the middle. This circumstance has induced me, as well out of love to my4 country, as respect for the authority of those who have enjoined on me the undertaking, to fill up the chasm, and to season the crude materials with Roman art. And that the work may proceed with greater regularity, I shall cull somewhat from Bede, whom I must often quote, glancing at a few facts, but omitting more.

The First Book, therefore, contains a succinct account of the English, from the time of their descent on Britain, till that of King Egbert, who, after the different Princes had fallen by various ways, gained the monarchy of almost the whole island.

But as among the English arose four powerful kingdoms, that is to say, of Kent, of the West Saxons, of the Northumbrians, and of the Mercians, of which I purpose severally to treat if I have leisure; I shall begin with that which attained the earliest to maturity, and was also the first to decay. This I shall do more clearly, if I place the kingdoms of the East Angles, and of the East Saxons, after the others, as little meriting either my labours, or the regard of posterity.

The Second Book will contain the chronological series of the Kings to the coming of the Normans.

The three following Books will be employed upon the history of three successive kings, with the addition of whatever, in their times, happened elsewhere, which, from its celebrity, may demand a more particular notice. This, then, is what I purpose, if the Divine favour shall smile on my undertaking, and carry me safely by those rocks of rugged diction, on which Elward, in his search after sounding and far-fetched phrases, so unhappily suffered shipwreck. “Should any one, however,” to use the poet’s expression,16 “peruse this work with sensible delight,” I deem it necessary to acquaint him, that I vouch nothing for the truth of long past transactions, but the consonance of the time; the veracity of the relation must rest with its authors. Whatever I have recorded of later times, I have either myself seen, or heard from credible authority. However, in either part, I pay but little respect to the judgment of my contemporaries: trusting that I shall gain with posterity, when love and hatred shall be no more, if not a reputation for eloquence, at least credit for diligence.




Of the arrival of the Angles, and of the Kings of Kent. [A.D. 449.]

In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 449, Angles and Saxons first came into Britain; and although the cause of their arrival is universally known, it may not be improper here to subjoin it: and, that the design of my work may be the more manifest, to begin even from an earlier period. That Britain, compelled by Julius Cæsar to submit to the Roman power, was held in high estimation by that people, may be collected from their history, and be seen also in the ruins of their ancient buildings. Even their emperors, sovereigns of almost all the world, eagerly embraced opportunities of sailing hither, and of spending their days here. Finally, Severus and Constantius, two of their greatest princes, died upon the island, and were there interred with the utmost pomp. The former, to defend this province from the incursions of the barbarians, built his celebrated and well-known wall from sea to sea. The latter, a man, as they report, of courteous manners, left Constantine, his son by Helena, a tender of cattle,17 a youth of great promise, his6 heir. Constantine, greeted emperor by the army, led away, in an expedition destined to the continent, a numerous force of British soldiers; by whose exertions, the war succeeding to his wishes, he gained in a short time the summit of power. For these veterans, when their toil was over, he founded a colony on the western coast of Gaul, where, to this day, their descendants, somewhat degenerate in language and manners from our own Britons, remain with wonderful increase.18

In succeeding times, in this island, Maximus, a man well-fitted for command, had he not aspired to power in defiance of his oath, assumed the purple, as though compelled by the army, and preparing immediately to pass over into Gaul, he despoiled the province of almost all its military force. Not long after also, one Constantine, who had been elected emperor on account of his name, drained its whole remaining warlike strength; but both being slain, the one by Theodosius, the other by Honorius, they became examples of the instability of human greatness. Of the forces which had followed them, part shared the fate of their leaders; the rest, after their defeat, fled to the continental Britons. Thus when the tyrants had left none but half-savages in the country, and, in the towns, those only who were given up to luxury, Britain, despoiled of the support of its youthful19 population, and bereft of every useful art, was for a long time exposed to the ambition of neighbouring nations.

For immediately, by an excursion of the Scots and Picts, numbers of the people were slain, villages burnt,20 towns destroyed, and everything laid waste by fire and sword. Part of the harassed islanders, who thought anything more advisable than contending in battle, fled for safety to the mountains; others, burying their treasures in the earth, many of which are dug up in our own times, proceeded to Rome to ask assistance. The Romans, touched with pity, and deeming it above all things important to yield succour to their oppressed allies, twice lent their aid, and defeated the enemy. But at length, wearied with the distant voyage, they declined returning in future; bidding them rather themselves not7 degenerate from the martial energy of their ancestors, but learn to defend their country with spirit, and with arms. They accompanied their advice with the plan of a wall, to be built for their defence; the mode of keeping watch on the ramparts; of sallying out against the enemy, should it be necessary, together with other duties of military discipline. After giving these admonitions, they departed, accompanied by the tears of the miserable inhabitants; and Fortune, smiling on their departure, restored them to their friends and country. The Scots, learning the improbability of their return, immediately began to make fresh and more frequent irruptions against the Britons; to level their wall, to kill the few opponents they met with, and to carry off considerable booty; while such as escaped fled to the royal residence, imploring the protection of their sovereign.


At this time Vortigern was King of Britain; a man calculated neither for the field nor the council, but wholly given up to the lusts of the flesh, the slave of every vice: a character of insatiable avarice, ungovernable pride, and polluted by his lusts. To complete the picture, as we read in the History of the Britons, he had defiled his own daughter, who was lured to the participation of such a crime by the hope of sharing his kingdom, and she had borne him a son. Regardless of his treasures at this dreadful juncture, and wasting the resources of the kingdom in riotous living, he was awake only to the blandishments of abandoned women. Roused at length, however, by the clamours of the people, he summoned a council, to take the sense of his nobility on the state of public affairs. To be brief, it was unanimously resolved to invite over from Germany the Angles and Saxons, nations powerful in arms, but of a roving life. It was conceived that this would be a double advantage: for it was thought that, by their skill in war, these people would easily subdue their enemies; and, as they hitherto had no certain habitation, would gladly accept even an unproductive soil, provided it afforded them a stationary residence. Moreover, that they could not be suspected of ever entertaining a design against the country, since the remembrance of this kindness would soften their native ferocity. This counsel was adopted, and ambassadors, men of rank, and worthy to represent the country, were sent into Germany.

8 The Germans, hearing that voluntarily offered, which they had long anxiously desired, readily obeyed the invitation; their joy quickening their haste. Bidding adieu, therefore, to their native fields and the ties of kindred, they spread their sails to Fortune, and, with a favouring breeze, arrived in Britain in three of those long vessels which they call “ceols.”21 At this and other times came over a mixed multitude from three of the German nations; that is to say, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. For almost all the country lying to the north of the British ocean, though divided into many provinces, is justly denominated Germany, from its germinating so many men. And as the pruner cuts off the more luxuriant branches of the tree to impart a livelier vigour to the remainder, so the inhabitants of this country assist their common parent by the expulsion of a part of their members, lest she should perish by giving sustenance to too numerous an offspring; but in order to obviate discontent, they cast lots who shall be compelled to migrate. Hence the men of this country have made a virtue of necessity, and, when driven from their native soil, they have gained foreign settlements by force of arms. The Vandals, for instance, who formerly over-ran Africa; the Goths, who made themselves masters of Spain; the Lombards, who, even at the present time, are settled in Italy; and the Normans, who have given their own name to that part of Gaul which they subdued. From Germany, then, there first came into Britain, an inconsiderable number indeed, but well able to make up for their paucity by their courage. These were under the conduct of Hengist and Horsa, two brothers of suitable disposition, and of noble race in their own country. They were great-grandsons of the celebrated Woden, from whom almost all the royal families of these barbarous nations deduce their origin; and to whom the nations of the Angles, fondly deifying him, have consecrated by immemorial superstition the fourth day of the week, as they have the sixth to his wife Frea. Bede has related in what particular parts of9 Britain, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes,22 fixed their habitations: my design, however, is not to dilate, though there may be abundance of materials for the purpose, but to touch only on what is necessary.


The Angles were eagerly met on all sides upon their arrival: from the king they received thanks, from the people expressions of good-will. Faith was plighted on either side, and the Isle of Thanet appropriated for their residence. It was agreed, moreover, that they should exert their prowess in arms for the service of the country; and, in return, receive a suitable reward from the people for whose safety they underwent such painful labours. Ere long, the Scots advanced, as usual, secure, as they supposed, of a great booty with very little difficulty. However, the Angles assailed them, and scarcely had they engaged, before they were put to flight, whilst the cavalry pursued and destroyed the fugitives. Contests of this kind were frequent, and victory constantly siding with the Angles, as is customary in human affairs, while success inflamed the courage of one party, and dread increased the cowardice of the other, the Scots in the end avoided nothing so cautiously as an engagement with them.

In the meantime, Hengist, not less keen in perception than ardent in the field, with consent of Vortigern, sends back some of his followers to his own country, with the secret purpose, however, of representing the indolence of the king and people, the opulence of the island, and the prospect of advantage to new adventurers. Having executed their commission adroitly, in a short time they return with sixteen ships, bringing with them the daughter of Hengist; a maiden, as we have heard, who might justly be called the master-piece of nature and the admiration of mankind. At an entertainment, provided for them on their return, Hengist commanded his daughter to assume the office of cup-bearer, that she might gratify the eyes of the king as he sat at table. Nor was the design unsuccessful: for he, ever eager after female beauty, deeply smitten with the gracefulness10 of her form and the elegance of her motion, instantly conceived a vehement desire for the possession of her person, and immediately proposed marriage to her father; urging him to a measure to which he was already well inclined. Hengist, at first, kept up the artifice by a refusal; stating, that so humble a connection was unworthy of a king: but, at last, appearing to consent with reluctance, he gave way to his importunities, and accepted, as a reward, the whole of Kent, where all justice had long since declined under the administration of its Gourong (or Viceroy), who, like the other princes of the island, was subject to the monarchy of Vortigern. Not satisfied with this liberality, but abusing the imprudence of the king, the barbarian persuaded him to send for his son and brother, men of warlike talents, from Germany, pretending, that he would defend the province on the east, while they might curb the Scots on the northern frontier. The king assenting, they sailed round Britain, and arriving at the Orkney Isles, the inhabitants of which they involved in the same calamity with the Picts and Scots, at this and after times, they finally settled in the northern part of the island, now called Northumbria. Still no one there assumed the royal title or insignia till the time of Ida, from whom sprang the regal line of the Northumbrians; but of this hereafter. We will now return to the present subject.


Vortimer, the son of Vortigern, thinking it unnecessary longer to dissemble that he saw himself and his Britons circumvented by the craft of the Angles, turned his thoughts to their expulsion, and stimulated his father to the same attempt. At his suggestion, the truce was broken seven years after their arrival; and during the ensuing twenty, they frequently fought partial battles,23 and, as the chronicle relates, four general actions. From the first conflict they parted on equal terms: one party lamenting the loss of Horsa, the brother of Hengist; the other, that of Katigis, another of Vortigern’s sons. The Angles, having the advantage in all the succeeding encounters, peace was concluded; Vortimer, who had been the instigator of the war,11 and differed far from the indolence of his father, perished prematurely, or he would have governed the kingdom in a noble manner, had God permitted. When he died, the British strength decayed, and all hope fled from them; and they would soon have perished altogether, had not Ambrosius, the sole survivor of the Romans, who became monarch after Vortigern, quelled the presumptuous barbarians by the powerful aid of warlike Arthur. It is of this Arthur that the Britons fondly tell so many fables, even to the present day; a man worthy to be celebrated, not by idle fictions, but by authentic history. He long upheld the sinking state, and roused the broken spirit of his countrymen to war. Finally, at the siege of Mount Badon,24 relying on an image of the Virgin, which he had affixed to his armour, he engaged nine hundred of the enemy, single-handed, and dispersed them with incredible slaughter. On the other side, the Angles, after various revolutions of fortune, filled up their thinned battalions with fresh supplies of their countrymen; rushed with greater courage to the conflict, and extended themselves by degrees, as the natives retreated, over the whole island: for the counsels of God, in whose hand is every change of empire, did not oppose their career. But this was effected in process of time; for while Vortigern lived, no new attempt was made against them. About this time, Hengist, from that bad quality of the human heart, which grasps after more in proportion to what it already possesses, by a preconcerted piece of deception, invited his son-in-law, with three hundred of his followers, to an entertainment; and when, by more than usual compotations, he had excited them to clamour, he began, purposely, to taunt them severally, with sarcastic raillery: this had the desired effect, of making them first quarrel, and then come to blows. Thus the Britons were basely murdered to a man, and breathed their last amid their cups. The king himself, made captive, purchased his liberty at the price of three provinces. After this, Hengist died, in the thirty-ninth year after his arrival; he12 was a man, who urging his success not less by artifice than courage, and giving free scope to his natural ferocity, preferred effecting his purpose rather by cruelty than by kindness. He left a son named Eisc;25 who, more intent on defending, than enlarging, his dominions, never exceeded the paternal bounds. At the expiration of twenty-four years, he had for his successors, his son Otha, and Otha’s son, Ermenric, who, in their manners, resembled him, rather than their grandfather and great grandfather. To the times of both, the Chronicles assign fifty-three years; but whether they reigned singly, or together, does not appear.

After them Ethelbert, the son of Ermenric, reigned fifty-three years according to the Chronicle; but fifty-six according to Bede. The reader must determine how this difference is to be accounted for; as I think it sufficient to have apprized him of it, I shall let the matter rest.26 In the infancy of his reign, he was such an object of contempt to the neighbouring kings, that, defeated in two battles, he could scarcely defend his frontier; afterwards, however, when to his riper years he had added a more perfect knowledge of war, he quickly, by successive victories, subjugated every kingdom of the Angles, with the exception of the Northumbrians. And, in order to obtain foreign connections, he entered into affinity with the king of France, by marrying his daughter Bertha. And now by this connection with the Franks, the nation, hitherto savage and wedded to its own customs, began daily to divest itself of its rustic propensities and incline to gentler manners. To this was added the very exemplary life of bishop Luidhard, who had come over with the queen, by which, though silently, he allured the king to the knowledge of Christ our Lord. Hence it arose, that his mind, already softened, easily yielded to the preaching of the blessed Augustine; and he was the first of all his race who renounced the errors of paganism, that he might obscure, by the glory of his faith,13 those whom he surpassed in power. This, indeed, is spotless nobility; this, exalted virtue; to excel in worth those whom you exceed in rank. Besides, extending his care to posterity, he enacted laws, in his native tongue, in which he appointed rewards for the meritorious, and opposed severer restraints to the abandoned, leaving nothing doubtful for the future.27

[A.D. 618.]     EDBALD.

Ethelbert died in the twenty-first year after he had embraced the Christian faith, leaving the diadem to his son Edbald. As soon as he was freed from the restraints of paternal awe, he rejected Christianity, and overcame the virtue of his stepmother.28 But the severity of the divine mercy opposed a barrier to his utter destruction: for the princes, whom his father had subjugated, immediately rebelled, he lost a part of his dominions, and was perpetually haunted by an evil spirit, whereby he paid the penalty of his unbelief. Laurentius, the successor of Augustine, was offended at these transactions, and after having sent away his companions, was meditating his own departure from the country, but having received chastisement from God, he was induced to change his resolution.29 The king conversing with him on the subject, and finding his assertions confirmed by his stripes, became easily converted, accepted the grace of Christianity, and broke off his incestuous intercourse. But, that posterity might be impressed with the singular punishment due to apostacy, it was with difficulty he could maintain his hereditary dominions, much less rival the eminence of his father. For the remainder of his life, his faith was sound, and he did nothing to sully his reputation. The monastery also, which his father had founded without the walls of Canterbury,30 he ennobled with large estates, and sumptuous presents. The praises and merits of both these men ought ever to be proclaimed, and had in honour by the English; because they allowed the Christian faith to acquire14 strength, in England, by patient listening and willingness to believe. Who can contemplate, without satisfaction, the just and amiable answer which Bede makes king Ethelbert to have given to the first preaching of Augustine? “That he could not, thus early, embrace a new doctrine and leave the accustomed worship of his country; but that, nevertheless, persons who had undertaken so long a journey for the purpose of kindly communicating to the Angles what they deemed an inestimable benefit, far from meeting with ill-treatment, ought rather to be allowed full liberty to preach, and also to receive the amplest maintenance.” He fully kept his promise; and at length the truth of Christianity becoming apparent by degrees, himself and all his subjects were admitted into the number of the faithful. And what did the other? Though led away at first, more by the lusts of the flesh than perverseness of heart, yet he paid respect to the virtuous conduct of the prelates, although he neglected their faith; and lastly, as I have related, was easily converted through the sufferings of Laurentius, and became of infinite service to the propagation of Christianity. Both, then, were laudable: both deserved high encomiums; for the good work, so nobly begun by the one, was as kindly fostered by the other.

To him, after a reign of twenty-four years, succeeded Erconbert, his son, by Emma, daughter of the king of France. He reigned an equal number of years with his father, but under happier auspices; alike remarkable for piety towards God, and love to his country. For his grandfather, and father, indeed, adopted our faith, but neglected to destroy their idols; whilst he, thinking it derogatory to his royal zeal not to take the readiest mode of annihilating openly what they only secretly condemned, levelled every temple of their gods to the ground, that not a trace of their paganism might be handed down to posterity. This was nobly done: for the mass of the people would be reminded of their superstition, so long as they could see the altars of their deities. In order, also, that he might teach his subjects, who were too much given to sensual indulgence, to accustom themselves to temperance, he enjoined the solemn fast of Lent to be observed throughout his dominions. This was an extraordinary act for the king to attempt in those times:15 but he was a man whom no blandishments of luxury could enervate; no anxiety for power seduce from the worship of God. Wherefore he was protected by the favour of the Almighty; every thing, at home and abroad, succeeded to his wishes, and he grew old in uninterrupted tranquillity. His daughter Ercongotha, a child worthy of such a parent, and emulating her father in virtuous qualities, became a shining light in the monastery of Kalas in Gaul.31

[A.D. 664–686.]     EGBERT—LOTHERE.

His son Egbert, retaining his father’s throne for nine years, did nothing memorable in so short a reign; unless indeed it be ascribed to the glory of this period, that Theodore32 the archbishop, and Adrian the abbat, two consummate scholars, came into England in his reign. Were not the subject already trite, I should willingly record what light they shed upon the Britons; how on one side the Greeks, and on the other the Latins, emulously contributed their knowledge to the public stock, and made this island, once the nurse of tyrants, the constant residence of philosophy: but this and every other merit of the times of Egbert is clouded by his horrid crime, of either destroying, or permitting to be destroyed, Elbert and Egelbright, his nephews.33

To Egbert succeeded his brother Lothere, who began his reign with unpropitious omens. For he was harassed during eleven years by Edric, the son of Egbert, and engaged in many civil conflicts which terminated with various success, until he was ultimately pierced through the body with a dart, and died while they were applying remedies to the wound. Some say, that both the brothers perished by a premature death as a just return for their cruelty; because Egbert, as I have related, murdered the innocent children of his uncle; and Lothere ridiculed the notion of holding them up as martyrs: although the former had lamented the action, and had granted a part of the Isle of Thanet to the mother of his nephews, for the purpose of building a monastery.

16 Nor did Edric long boast the prosperous state of his government; for within two years he was despoiled both of kingdom and of life, and left his country to be torn in pieces by its enemies. Immediately Cædwalla, with his brother Mull, in other respects a good and able man, but breathing an inextinguishable hatred against the people of Kent, made vigorous attempts upon the province; supposing it must easily surrender to his views, as it had lately been in the enjoyment of long continued peace, but at that time was torn with intestine war. He found, however, the inhabitants by no means unprepared or void of courage, as he had expected. For, after many losses sustained in the towns and villages, at length they rushed with spirit to the conflict. They gained the victory in the contest, and having put Cædwalla to flight, drove his brother Mull into a little cottage, which they set on fire. Thus, wanting courage to sally out against the enemy, the fire gained uncontrolled power, and he perished in the flames. Nevertheless Cædwalla ceased not his efforts, nor retired from the province; but consoled himself for his losses by repeatedly ravaging the district; however, he left the avenging of this injury to Ina, his successor, as will be related in its place.

[A.D. 774–823.]     DOWNFALL OF KENT.

In this desperate state of the affairs of Kent, there was a void of about six years in the royal succession. In the seventh, Withred, the son of Egbert, having repressed the malevolence of his countrymen by his activity, and purchased peace from his enemies by money, was chosen king by the inhabitants, who entertained great and well-founded hopes of him. He was an admirable ruler at home, invincible in war, and a truly pious follower of the Christian faith, for he extended its power to the utmost. And, to complete his felicity, after a reign of thirty-three years, he died in extreme old age, which men generally reckon to be their greatest happiness, leaving his three children his heirs. These were Egbert, Ethelbert, and Alric, and they reigned twenty-three, eleven, and thirty-four years successively, without deviation from the excellent example and institutions of their father, except that Ethelbert, by the casual burning of Canterbury, and Alric, by an unsuccessful battle with the Mercians, considerably obscured the glory of their reigns. So it is that, if any thing disgraceful occurs, it is not concealed; if any thing17 fortunate, it is not sufficiently noticed in the Chronicles; whether it be done designedly, or whether it arise from that bad quality of the human mind, which makes gratitude for good transient; whereas the recollection of evil remains for ever. After these men the noble stock of kings began to wither, the royal blood to flow cold. Then every daring adventurer, who had acquired riches by his eloquence, or whom faction had made formidable, aspired to the kingdom, and disgraced the ensigns of royalty. Of these, Edbert otherwise called Pren, after having governed Kent two years, over-rating his power, was taken prisoner in a war with the Mercians, and loaded with chains. But being set at liberty by his enemies, though not received by his own subjects, it is uncertain by what end he perished. Cuthred, heir to the same faction and calamity, reigned, in name only, eight years. Next Baldred, a mere abortion of a king, after having for eighteen years more properly possessed, than governed the kingdom, went into exile, on his defeat by Egbert, king of the West Saxons. Thus the kingdom of Kent, which, from the year of our Lord 449, had continued 375 years, became annexed to another. And since by following the royal line of the first kingdom which arose among the Angles, I have elicited a spark, as it were, from the embers of antiquity, I shall now endeavour to throw light on the kingdom of the West Saxons, which, though after a considerable lapse of time, was the next that sprang up. While others were neglected and wasted away, this flourished with unconquerable vigour, even to the coming of the Normans; and, if I may be permitted the expression, with greedy jaws swallowed up the rest. Wherefore, after tracing this kingdom in detail down to Egbert, I shall briefly, for fear of disgusting my readers, subjoin some notices of the two remaining; this will be a suitable termination to the first book, and the second will continue the history of the West Saxons alone.

Of the kings of the West Saxons. [A.D. 495.]

The kingdom of the West Saxons,—and one more magnificent or lasting Britain never beheld,—sprang from Cerdic, and soon18 increased to great importance. He was a German by nation, of the noblest race, being the tenth from Woden, and, having nurtured his ambition in domestic broils, determined to leave his native land and extend his fame by the sword. Having formed this daring resolution he communicated his design to Cenric his son, who closely followed his father’s track to glory, and with his concurrence transported his forces into Britain in five ceols. This took place in the year of our Saviour’s incarnation 495, and the eighth after the death of Hengist. Coming into action with the Britons the very day of his arrival, this experienced soldier soon defeated an undisciplined multitude, and compelled them to fly. By this success he obtained perfect security in future for himself, as well as peace for the inhabitants of those parts. For they never dared after that day to attack him, but voluntarily submitted to his dominion. Nevertheless he did not waste his time in indolence; but, on the contrary, extending his conquests on all sides, by the time he had been twenty-four years in the island, he had obtained the supremacy of the western part of it, called West-Saxony. He died after enjoying it sixteen years, and his whole kingdom, with the exception of the isle of Wight, descended to his son. This, by the royal munificence, became subject to his nephew, Withgar; who was as dear to his uncle by the ties of kindred, for he was his sister’s son, as by his skill in war, and formed a noble principality in the island, where he was afterwards splendidly interred. Cenric moreover, who was as illustrious as his father, after twenty-six years, bequeathed the kingdom, somewhat enlarged, to his son Ceawlin.

The Chronicles extol the singular valour of this man in battle, so as to excite a degree of envious admiration; for he was the astonishment of the Angles, the detestation of the Britons, and was eventually the destruction of both. I shall briefly subjoin some extracts from them. Attacking Ethelbert king of Kent, who was a man in other respects laudable, but at that time was endeavouring from the consciousness of his family’s dignity to gain the ascendency, and, on this account, making too eager incursions on the territories of his neighbour, he routed his troops and forced him to retreat. The Britons, who, in the times of his father and grandfather, had escaped destruction either by a show of submission, or19 by the strength of their fortifications at Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath, he now pursued with ceaseless rancour; ejected them from their cities, and chased them into mountainous and woody districts, as at the present day. But about this time, as some unluckly throw of the dice in the table of human life perpetually disappoints mankind, his military successes were clouded by domestic calamity: his brother Cutha met an untimely death, and he had a son of the same name taken off in battle; both young men of great expectation, whose loss he frequently lamented as a severe blow to his happiness. Finally, in his latter days, himself, banished from his kingdom, presented a spectacle, pitiable even to his enemies. For he had sounded, as it were, the trumpet of his own detestation on all sides, and the Angles as well as the Britons conspiring against him, his forces were destroyed at Wodensdike;34 he lost his kingdom thirty-one years after he had gained it; went into exile, and shortly after died. The floating reins of government were then directed by his nephews, the sons of Cutha, that is to say, Celric during six, Ceolwulf during fourteen years: of these the inferior with respect to age, but the more excellent in spirit, passed all his days in war, nor ever neglected, for a moment, the protection and extension of his empire.

[A.D. 577–626.]     CYNEGILS AND CUICHELM.

After him, the sons of Celric, Cynegils and Cuichelm, jointly put on the ensigns of royalty; both active, both contending with each other only in mutual offices of kindness; insomuch, that to their contemporaries they were a miracle of concord very unusual amongst princes, and to posterity a proper example. It is difficult to say whether their courage or their moderation exceeded in the numberless contests in which they engaged either against the Britons, or against Penda, king of the Mercians: a man, as will be related in its place, wonderfully expert in the subtleties of war; and who, overpassing the limits of his own territory, in an attempt to add Cirencester to his possessions, being unable to withstand the power of these united kings, escaped with only a few followers. A considerable degree of guilt indeed attaches to Cuichelm, for attempting to take off, by the hands of an assassin, Edwin king of the Northumbrians, a20 man of acknowledged prudence. Yet, if the heathen maxim,

Who asks if fraud or force availed the foe?35

be considered, he will be readily excused, as having done nothing uncommon, in wishing to get rid, by whatever means, of a rival encroaching on his power. For he had formerly lopped off much from the West Saxon empire, and now receiving fresh ground of offence, and his ancient enmity reviving, he inflicted heavy calamities on that people. The kings, however, escaped, and were, not long after, enlightened with the heavenly doctrine, by the means of St. Birinus the bishop, in the twenty-fifth year of their reign, and the fortieth after the coming of the blessed Augustine, the apostle of the Angles. Cynegils, veiling his princely pride, condescended to receive immediately the holy rite of baptism: Cuichelm resisted for a time, but warned, by the sickness of his body, not to endanger the salvation of his soul, he became a sharer in his brother’s piety, and died the same year. Cynegils departed six years afterwards, in the thirty-first year of his reign, enjoying the happiness of a long-extended peace.

Kenwalk his son succeeded: in the beginning of his reign, to be compared only to the worst of princes; but, in the succeeding and latter periods, a rival of the best. The moment the young man became possessed of power, wantoning in regal luxury and disregarding the acts of his father, he abjured Christianity and legitimate marriage; but being attacked and defeated by Penda, king of Mercia, whose sister he had repudiated, he fled to the king of the East Angles. Here, by a sense of his own calamities and by the perseverance of his host, he was once more brought back to the Christian faith; and after three years, recovering his strength and resuming his kingdom, he exhibited to his subjects the joyful miracle of his reformation. So valiant was he, that, he who formerly was unable to defend his own territories, now extended his dominion on every side; totally defeating in two actions the Britons, furious with the recollection of their ancient liberty, and in consequence perpetually meditating resistance; first, at a place called Witgeornesburg,36 and then at a mountain named21 Pene;37 and again, avenging the injury of his father on Wulfhere, the son of Penda, he deprived him of the greatest part of his kingdom: moreover he was so religious, that, first of all his race, he built, for those times, a most beautiful church at Winchester, on which site afterwards was founded the episcopal see with still more skilful magnificence.


But since we have arrived at the times of Kenwalk, and the proper place occurs for mentioning the monastery of Glastonbury,38 I shall trace from its very origin the rise and progress of that church as far as I am able to discover it from the mass of evidences. It is related in annals of good credit that Lucius, king of the Britons, sent to Pope Eleutherius, thirteenth in succession from St. Peter, to entreat, that he would dispel the darkness of Britain by the splendour of Christian instruction. This surely was the commendable deed of a magnanimous prince, eagerly to seek that faith, the mention of which had barely reached him, at a time when it was an object of persecution to almost every king and people to whom it was offered. In consequence, preachers, sent by Eleutherius, came into Britain, the effects of whose labours will remain for ever, although the rust of antiquity may have obliterated their names. By these was built the ancient church of St. Mary of Glastonbury, as faithful tradition has handed down through decaying time. Moreover there are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in certain places to the following effect: “No other hands than those of the disciples of Christ erected the church of Glastonbury.” Nor is it dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the Gauls, as Freculphus relates in the fourth chapter of his second book, it may be believed that he also planted the word on this side of the channel also. But that I may not seem to balk the expectation of my readers by vain imaginations, leaving all doubtful matter, I shall proceed to the relation of substantial truths.

22 The church of which we are speaking, from its antiquity called by the Angles, by way of distinction, “Ealde Chirche,” that is, the “Old Church,” of wattle-work, at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country; claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean. Hence, here arrived whole tribes of the lower orders, thronging every path; here assembled the opulent divested of their pomp; and it became the crowded residence of the religious and the literary. For, as we have heard from men of old time, here Gildas, an historian neither unlearned nor inelegant, to whom the Britons are indebted for whatever notice they obtain among other nations, captivated by the sanctity of the place, took up his abode for a series of years.39 This church, then, is certainly the oldest I am acquainted with in England, and from this circumstance derives its name. In it are preserved the mortal remains of many saints, some of whom we shall notice in our progress, nor is any corner of the church destitute of the ashes of the holy. The very floor, inlaid with polished stone, and the sides of the altar, and even the altar itself above and beneath are laden with the multitude of relics. Moreover in the pavement may be remarked on every side stones designedly interlaid in triangles and squares, and figured with lead, under which if I believe some sacred enigma to be contained, I do no injustice to religion. The antiquity, and multitude of its saints, have endued the place with so much sanctity, that, at night, scarcely any one presumes to keep vigil there, or, during the day, to spit upon its floor: he who is conscious of pollution shudders throughout his whole frame: no one ever brought hawk or horses within the confines of the neighbouring cemetery, who did not depart injured either in them or in himself. Within the memory of man, all persons who, before undergoing the ordeal40 of fire or water, there put up23 their petitions, exulted in their escape, one only excepted: if any person erected a building in its vicinity, which by its shade obstructed the light of the church, it forthwith became a ruin. And it is sufficiently evident, that, the men of that province had no oath more frequent, or more sacred, than to swear by the Old Church, fearing the swiftest vengeance on their perjury in this respect. The truth of what I have asserted, if it be dubious, will be supported by testimony in the book which I have written, on the antiquity of the said church, according to the series of years.


In the meantime it is clear, that the depository of so many saints may be deservedly styled an heavenly sanctuary upon earth. There are numbers of documents, though I abstain from mentioning them for fear of causing weariness, to prove how extremely venerable this place was held by the chief persons of the country, who there more especially chose to await the day of resurrection under the protection of the mother of God. Willingly would I declare the meaning of those pyramids, which are almost incomprehensible to all, could I but ascertain the truth. These, situated some few feet from the church, border on the cemetery of the monks. That which is the loftiest and nearest the church, is twenty-eight feet high and has five stories: this, though threatening ruin from its extreme age, possesses nevertheless some traces of antiquity, which may be clearly read though not perfectly understood. In the highest story is an image in a pontifical habit. In the next a statue of regal dignity, and the letters, Her Sexi, and Blisperh. In the third, too, are the names, Pencrest, Bantomp, Pinepegn. In the fourth, Bate, Pulfred, and Eanfled. In the fifth, which is the lowest, there is an image, and the words as follow, Logor, Peslicas, and Bregden, Spelpes, Highingendes Bearn. The other pyramid is twenty-six feet high and has four stories, in which are read, Kentwin, Hedda the bishop, and Bregored and Beorward. The meaning of these I do not hastily decide, but I shrewdly conjecture that within, in stone coffins, are contained the24 bones of those persons whose names are inscribed without.41 At least Logor is said to imply the person from whom Logperesbeorh formerly took its name, which is now called Montacute; Bregden, from whom is derived Brentknolle and Brentmarsh; Bregored and Beorward were abbats of that place in the time of the Britons; of whom, and of others which occur, I shall henceforward speak more circumstantially. For my history will now proceed to disclose the succession of abbats, and what was bestowed on each, or on the monastery, and by what particular king.

[A.D. 425–474.]     DEATH OF ST. PATRICK.

And first, I shall briefly mention St. Patrick, from whom the series of our records dawns. While the Saxons were disturbing the peace of the Britons, and the Pelagians assaulting their faith, St. Germanus of Auxerre assisted them against both; routing the one by the chorus of Hallelujah,42 and hurling down the other by the thunder of the Evangelists and Apostles. Thence returning to his own country, he summoned Patrick to become his inmate, and after a few years, sent him, at the instance of Pope Celestine, to preach to the Irish. Whence it is written in the Chronicles, “In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 425, St. Patrick is ordained to Ireland by Pope Celestine.” Also, “In the year 433 Ireland is converted to the faith of Christ by the preaching of St. Patrick, accompanied by many miracles.” In consequence executing his appointed office with diligence, and in his latter days returning to his own country, he landed in Cornwall, from his altar,43 which even to this time is held in high veneration by the inhabitants for its sanctity and efficacy in restoring the infirm. Proceeding to Glastonbury, and there becoming monk, and abbat, after some years he paid the debt of nature. All doubt of the truth of this25 assertion is removed by the vision of a certain brother, who, after the saint’s death, when it had frequently become a question, through decay of evidence, whether he really was monk and abbat there, had the fact confirmed by the following oracle. When asleep he seemed to hear some person reading, after many of his miracles, the words which follow—“this man then was adorned by the sanctity of the metropolitan pall, but afterwards was here made monk and abbat.” He added, moreover, as the brother did not give implicit credit to him, that he could show what he had said inscribed in golden letters. Patrick died in the year of his age 111, of our Lord’s incarnation 472, being the forty-seventh year after he was sent into Ireland. He lies on the right side of the altar in the old church: indeed the care of posterity has enshrined his body in silver. Hence the Irish have an ancient usage of frequenting the place to kiss the relics of their patron. Wherefore the report is extremely prevalent that both St. Indract and St. Briget, no mean inhabitants of Ireland, formerly came over to this spot. Whether Briget returned home or died at Glastonbury is not sufficiently ascertained, though she left here some of her ornaments; that is to say, her necklace, scrip, and implements for embroidering, which are yet shown in memory of her sanctity, and are efficacious in curing divers diseases. In the course of my narrative it will appear that St. Indract, with seven companions, was martyred near Glastonbury, and afterwards interred in the old church.44

Benignus succeeded Patrick in the government of the abbey; but for how long, remains in doubt. Who he was, and how called in the vernacular tongue, the verses of his epitaph at Ferramere express, not inaptly:

Beneath this marble Beon’s ashes lie,
Once rev’rend abbat of this monastery:
Saint Patrick’s servant, as the Irish frame
The legend-tale, and Beon was his name.

The wonderful works both of his former life, and since his recent translation into the greater church, proclaim the singular26 grace of God which he anciently possessed, and which he still retains.

The esteem in which David, archbishop of Menevia, held this place, is too notorious to require repeating. He established the antiquity and sanctity of the church by a divine oracle; for purposing to dedicate it, he came to the spot with his seven suffragan bishops, and every thing being prepared for the due celebration of the solemnity, on the night, as he purposed, preceding it, he gave way to profound repose. When all his senses were steeped in rest, he beheld the Lord Jesus standing near, and mildly inquiring the cause of his arrival; and on his immediately disclosing it, the Lord diverted him from his purpose by saying, “That the church had been already dedicated by himself in honour of his Mother, and that the ceremony was not to be profaned by human repetition.” With these words he seemed to bore the palm of his hand with his finger, adding, “That this was a sign for him not to reiterate what himself had done before. But that, since his design savoured more of piety than of temerity, his punishment should not be prolonged: and lastly, that on the following morning, when he should repeat the words of the mass, ‘With him, and by him, and in him,’ his health should return to him undiminished.” The prelate, awakened by these terrific appearances, as at the moment he grew pale at the purulent matter, so afterwards he hailed the truth of the prediction. But that he might not appear to have done nothing, he quickly built and dedicated another church. Of this celebrated and incomparable man, I am at a loss to decide, whether he closed his life in this place, or at his own cathedral. For they affirm that he is with St. Patrick; and the Welsh, both by the frequency of their prayers to him and by various reports, without doubt confirm and establish this opinion; openly alleging that bishop Bernard sought after him more than once, notwithstanding much opposition, but was not able to find him. But let thus much suffice of St. David.

After a long lapse of time, St. Augustine, at the instance of St. Gregory, came into Britain in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 596, and the tradition of our ancestors has handed down, that the companion of his labours, Paulinus, who was bishop of Rochester after being archbishop of27 York, covered the church, built, as we have before observed, of wattle-work, with a casing of boards. The dexterity of this celebrated man so artfully managed, that nothing of its sanctity should be lost, though much should accrue to its beauty: and certainly the more magnificent the ornaments of churches are, the more they incline the brute mind to prayer, and bend the stubborn to supplication.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 601, that is, the fifth after the arrival of St. Augustine, the king of Devonshire, on the petition of abbat Worgrez, granted to the old church which is there situated the land called Ineswitrin, containing five cassates.45 “I, Maworn, bishop, wrote this grant. I, Worgrez, abbat of the same place, signed it.”

[A.D. 596–692.]     GRANTS TO GLASTONBURY.

Who this king might be, the antiquity of the instrument prevents our knowing. But that he was a Briton cannot be doubted, because he called Glastonbury, Ineswitrin, in his vernacular tongue; and that, in the British, it is so called, is well known. Moreover it is proper to remark the extreme antiquity of a church, which, even then, was called “the old church.” In addition to Worgrez, Lademund and Bregored, whose very names imply British barbarism, were abbats of this place. The periods of their presiding are uncertain, but their names and dignities are indicated by a painting in the larger church, near the altar. Blessed, therefore, are the inhabitants of this place, allured to uprightness of life, by reverence for such a sanctuary. I cannot suppose that any of these, when dead, can fail of heaven, when assisted by the virtues and intercession of so many patrons. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 670, and the 29th of his reign, Kenwalk gave to Berthwald, abbat of Glastonbury, Ferramere, two hides, at the request of archbishop Theodore. The same Berthwald, against the will of the king and of the bishop of the diocese, relinquishing Glastonbury, went to govern the monastery of Reculver. In consequence, Berthwald equally renowned for piety and high birth, being nephew to Ethelred, king of the Mercians, and residing in the vicinity of Canterbury, on the demise of archbishop Theodore, succeeded to his see. This may be sufficient for me to have inserted on the antiquity of the church of Glastonbury.28 Now I shall return in course to Kenwalk, who was of a character so munificent that he never refused to give any part of his patrimony to his relations; but with noble-minded generosity conferred nearly the third of his kingdom on his nephew.46 These qualities of the royal mind, were stimulated by the admonitions of those holy bishops of his province, Agilbert, of whom Bede relates many commendable things in his history of the Angles, and his nephew Leutherius, who, after him, was, for seven years, bishop of the West Saxons. This circumstance I have thought proper to mention, because Bede has left no account of the duration of his episcopacy, and to disguise a fact which I learn from the Chronicles, would be against my conscience; besides, it affords an opportunity for making mention of a distinguished man, who by a mind, clear, and almost divinely inspired, advanced the monastery of Malmesbury, where I carry on my earthly warfare, to the highest pitch. This monastery was so slenderly endowed by Maildulph, a Scot, as they say, by nation, a philosopher by erudition, and a monk by profession, that its members could scarcely procure their daily subsistence; but Leutherius, after long and due deliberation, gave it to Aldhelm,47 a monk of the same place, to be by him governed with the authority then possessed by bishops. Of which matter, that my relation may obviate every doubt, I shall subjoin his own words.

“I, Leutherius, by divine permission, bishop supreme of the Saxon see, am requested by the abbats who, within the jurisdiction of our diocese, preside over the conventual assemblies of monks with pastoral anxiety, to give and to grant that portion of land called Maildulfesburgh, to Aldhelm the priest, for the purpose of leading a life according to strict rule; in which place, indeed, from his earliest infancy and first initiation in the study of learning, he has been instructed in the liberal arts, and passed his days, nurtured in the bosom of the holy mother church; and on which account fraternal love appears principally to have conceived this request. Wherefore assenting to the petition of the aforesaid abbats, I willingly grant that place to him and his successors, who shall sedulously follow the laws of the holy29 institution. Done publicly near the river Bladon;48 this eighth before the kalends of September, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 672.”

[A.D. 670.]     PIETY OF ALDHELM.

But when the industry of the abbat was superadded to the kindness of the bishop, then the affairs of the monastery began to flourish exceedingly; then monks assembled on all sides; there was a general concourse to Aldhelm; some admiring the sanctity of his life, others the depth of his learning. For he was a man as unsophisticated in religion as multifarious in knowledge; whose piety surpassed even his reputation; and he had so fully imbibed the liberal arts, that he was wonderful in each of them, and unrivalled in all. I greatly err, if his works written on the subject of virginity,49 than which, in my opinion, nothing can be more pleasing or more splendid, are not proofs of his immortal genius: although, such is the slothfulness of our times, they may excite disgust in some persons, not duly considering how modes of expression differ according to the customs of nations. The Greeks, for instance, express themselves impliedly, the Romans clearly, the Gauls gorgeously, the Angles turgidly. And truly, as it is pleasant to dwell on the graces of our ancestors and to animate our minds by their example, I would here, most willingly, unfold what painful labours this holy man encountered for the privileges of our church, and with what miracles he signalized his life, did not my avocations lead me elsewhere; and his noble acts appear clearer even to the eye of the purblind, than they can possibly be sketched by my pencil. The innumerable miracles which now take place at his tomb, manifest to the present race the sanctity of the life he passed. He has therefore his proper praise; he has the fame acquired by his merits.50 We proceed with the history.

30 After thirty-one years, Kenwalk dying, bequeathed the administration of the government to his wife Sexburga; nor did this woman want spirit for discharging the duties of the station. She levied new forces, preserved the old in their duty; ruled her subjects with moderation, and overawed her enemies: in short, she conducted all things in such a manner, that no difference was discernible except that of her sex. But, breathing more than female spirit, she died, having scarcely reigned a year.

Escwin passed the next two years in the government; a near relation to the royal family, being grand-nephew to Cynegils, by his brother Cuthgist. At his death, either natural or violent, for I cannot exactly find which, Kentwin, the son of Cynegils, filled the vacant throne in legitimate succession. Both were men of noted experience in war; as the one routed the Mercians, the other the Britons, with dreadful slaughter: but they were to be pitied for the shortness of their career; the reign of the latter not extending beyond nine, that of the former, more than two years, as I have already related. This is on the credit of the Chronicles. However, Bede records that they did not reign successively, but divided the kingdom between them.

Next sprang forth a noble branch of the royal stock, Cædwalla, grand-nephew of Ceawlin, by his brother Cutha: a youth of unbounded promise, who allowed no opportunity of exercising his valour to escape him. He, having long since, by his active exertions, excited the animosity of the princes of his country, was, by a conspiracy, driven into exile. Yielding to this outrage, as the means of depriving the province of its warlike force, he led away all the military population with him; for, whether out of pity to his broken fortunes, or regard for his valour, the whole of the youth accompanied him into exile. Ethelwalch, king of the South Saxons, hazarding an engagement with him, felt the first effects of his fury: for he was routed with all the forces he had collected, and too late repented his rash design.51 The spirits of his followers being thus elated, Cædwalla, by a sudden and unexpected return, drove the rivals of his power from31 the kingdom. Enjoying his government for the space of two years, he performed many signal exploits. His hatred and hostility towards the South Saxons were inextinguishable, and he totally destroyed Edric, the successor of Ethelwalch, who opposed him with renovated boldness: he nearly depopulated the Isle of Wight, which had rebelled in confederacy with the Mercians: he also gained repeated victories over the people of Kent, as I have mentioned before in their history. Finally, as is observed above, he retired from that province, on the death of his brother, compensating his loss by the blood of many of its inhabitants. It is difficult to relate, how extremely pious he was even before his baptism, insomuch that he dedicated to God the tenth of all the spoils which he had acquired in war. In which, though we approve the intention, we condemn the example; according to the saying: “He who offers sacrifice from the substance of a poor man, is like him who immolates the son in the sight of the father.” That he went to Rome to be baptized by Pope Sergius, and was called Peter; and that he yielded joyfully to the will of heaven, while yet in his initiatory robes, are matters too well known to require our illustration.

[A.D. 686–694.]     INA.

After his departure to Rome, the government was assumed by Ina, grand-nephew of Cynegils by his brother Cuthbald, who ascended the throne, more from the innate activity of his spirit, than any legitimate right of succession. He was a rare example of fortitude; a mirror of prudence; unequalled in piety. Thus regulating his life, he gained favour at home and respect abroad. Safe from any apprehensions of treachery, he grew old in the discharge of his duties for fifty-eight years, the pious conciliator of general esteem. His first expedition was against the people of Kent, as the indignation at their burning Moll had not yet subsided. The inhabitants resisted awhile: but soon finding all their attempts and endeavours fail, and seeing nothing in the disposition of Ina which could lead them to suppose he would remit his exertions, they were induced, by the contemplation of their losses, to treat of a surrender. They tempt the royal mind with presents, lure him with promises, and bargain for a peace for thirty thousand marks of gold, that, softened by so high a price, he should put an end to the war, and, bound in golden chains, sound a retreat. Accepting32 the money, as a sufficient atonement for their offence, he returned into his kingdom. And not only the people of Kent, but the East Angles52 also felt the effects of his hereditary anger; all their nobility being first expelled, and afterwards routed in battle. But let the relation of his military successes here find a termination. Moreover how sedulous he was in religious matters, the laws he enacted to reform the manners of the people, are proof sufficient;53 in which the image of his purity is reflected even upon the present times. Another proof are the monasteries nobly founded at the king’s expense. But54 more especially Glastonbury, whither he ordered the bodies of the blessed martyr, Indract, and of his associates, to be taken from the place of their martyrdom and to be conveyed into the church. The body of St. Indract he deposited in the stone pyramid on the left side of the altar, where the zeal of posterity afterwards also placed St. Hilda: the others were distributed beneath the pavement as chance directed or regard might suggest. Here, too, he erected a church, dedicated to the holy apostles, as an appendage to the ancient church, of which we are speaking, enriched it with vast possessions, and granted it a privilege to the following effect:

[A.D. 725.]     INA’S GRANTS.

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: I, Ina, supported in my royal dignity by God, with the advice of my queen, Sexburga, and the permission of Berthwald, archbishop of Canterbury, and of all his suffragans; and also at the instance of the princes Baltred and Athelard, to the ancient church, situate in the place called Glastonbury (which church the great high-priest and chiefest minister formerly through his own ministry, and that of angels, sanctified by many and unheard-of miracles to himself and the eternal Virgin Mary, as was formerly revealed to St. David,) do grant out of those33 places, which I possess by paternal inheritance, and hold in my demesne, they being adjacent and fitting for the purpose, for the maintenance of the monastic institution, and the use of the monks, Brente ten hides, Sowy ten hides, Pilton twenty hides, Dulting twenty hides, Bledenhida one hide, together with whatever my predecessors have contributed to the same church:55 to wit, Kenwalk, who, at the instance of archbishop Theodore, gave Ferramere, Bregarai, Coneneie, Martineseie, Etheredseie; Kentwin, who used to call Glastonbury, “the mother of saints,” and liberated it from every secular and ecclesiastical service, and granted it this dignified privilege, that the brethren of that place should have the power of electing and appointing their ruler according to the rule of St. Benedict: Hedda the bishop, with permission of Cædwalla, who, though a heathen, confirmed it with his own hand, gave Lantokay: Baltred, who gave Pennard, six hides: Athelard who contributed Poelt, sixty hides; I, Ina, permitting and confirming it. To the piety and affectionate entreaty of these people I assent, and I guard by the security of my royal grant against the designs of malignant men and snarling curs, in order that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal Virgin Mary, as it is the first in the kingdom of Britain and the source and the fountain of all religion, may obtain surpassing dignity and privilege, and, as she rules over choirs of angels in heaven, it may never pay servile obedience to men on earth. Wherefore the chief pontiff, Gregory, assenting, and taking the mother of his Lord, and me, however unworthy, together with her, into the bosom and protection of the holy Roman church; and all the princes, archbishops, bishops, dukes, and abbats of Britain consenting, I appoint and establish, that, all lands, places, and possessions of St. Mary of Glastonbury be free, quiet, and undisturbed, from all royal taxes and works, which are wont to be appointed, that is to say, expeditions, the building of bridges or forts, and from the edicts or molestations of all archbishops or bishops, as is found to be confirmed and granted by my predecessors, Kenwalk, Kentwin, Cædwalla, Baltred, in the ancient charters of the same church. And whatsoever questions shall arise, whether of homicide, sacrilege, poison, theft, rapine, the disposal34 and limits of churches, the ordination of clerks, ecclesiastical synods, and all judicial inquiries, they shall be determined by the decision of the abbat and convent, without the interference of any person whatsoever. Moreover, I command all princes, archbishops, bishops, dukes, and governors of my kingdom, as they tender my honour and regard, and all dependants, mine as well as theirs, as they value their personal safety, never to dare enter the island of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the eternal Virgin, at Glastonbury, nor the possessions of the said church, for the purpose of holding courts, making inquiry, or seizing, or doing anything whatever to the offence of the servants of God there residing: moreover I particularly inhibit, by the curse of Almighty God, of the eternal Virgin Mary, and of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and of the rest of the saints, any bishop on any account whatever from presuming to take his episcopal seat or celebrate divine service or consecrate altars, or dedicate churches, or ordain, or do any thing whatever, either in the church of Glastonbury itself, or its dependent churches, that is to say—Sowy, Brente, Merlinch, Sapewic, Stret, Sbudeclalech, Pilton, or in their chapels, or islands, unless he be specially invited by the abbat or brethren of that place. But if he come upon such invitation, he shall take nothing to himself of the things of the church, nor of the offerings; knowing that he has two mansions appointed him in two several places out of this church’s possessions, one in Pilton, the other in the village called Poelt, that, when coming or going, he may have a place of entertainment. Nor even shall it be lawful for him to pass the night here unless he shall be detained by stress of weather or bodily sickness, or invited by the abbat or monks, and then with not more than three or four clerks. Moreover let the aforesaid bishop be mindful every year, with his clerks that are at Wells, to acknowledge his mother church of Glastonbury with litanies on the second day after our Lord’s ascension; and should he haughtily defer it, or fail in the things which are above recited and confirmed, he shall forfeit his mansions above-mentioned. The abbat or monks shall direct whom they please, celebrating Easter canonically, to perform service in the church of Glastonbury, its dependent churches, and in their chapels. Whosoever, be he of what dignity, profession, or35 degree, he may, shall hereafter, on any occasion whatsoever, attempt to pervert, or nullify this, the witness of my munificence and liberality, let him be aware that, with the traitor Judas, he shall perish, to his eternal confusion, in the devouring flames of unspeakable torments. The charter of this donation was written in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 725, the fourteenth of the indiction, in the presence of the king Ina, and of Berthwald, archbishop of Canterbury.”


What splendour he [Ina] added to the monastery, may be collected from the short treatise which I have written about its antiquities.56 Father Aldhelm assisted the design, and his precepts were heard with humility, nobly adopted, and joyfully carried into effect. Lastly, the king readily confirmed the privilege which Aldhelm had obtained from pope Sergius, for the immunity of his monasteries; gave much to the servants of God by his advice, and finally honoured him, though constantly refusing, with a bishopric; but an early death malignantly cut off this great man from the world. For scarcely had he discharged the offices of his bishopric four years, ere he made his soul an offering to heaven, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 709, on the vigil of St. Augustine the apostle of the Angles, namely the eighth before the Kalends of June.57 Some say, that he was the nephew of the king, by his brother Kenten; but I do not choose to assert for truth any thing which savours more of vague opinion, than of historic credibility; especially as I can find no ancient record of it, and the Chronicle clearly declares, that Ina had no other brother than Ingild, who died some few years before him. Aldhelm needs no support from fiction: such great things are there concerning him of indisputable truth, so many which are beyond the reach of doubt. The sisters, indeed, of Ina were Cuthburga and Cwenburga. Cuthburga was given in marriage to Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians, but the contract being soon after dissolved, she led a life dedicated to God, first at Barking,58 under the abbess Hildelitha, and afterwards as superior of the convent at Wimborne; now a mean village, but formerly celebrated36 for containing a full company of virgins, dead to earthly desires, and breathing only aspirations towards heaven. She embraced the profession of holy celibacy from the perusal of Aldhelm’s books on virginity, dedicated indeed to the sisterhood of Barking, but profitable to all, who aspire to that state. Ina’s queen was Ethelburga, a woman of royal race and disposition: who perpetually urging the necessity of bidding adieu to earthly things, at least in the close of life, and the king as constantly deferring the execution of her advice, at last endeavoured to overcome him by stratagem. For, on a certain occasion, when they had been revelling at a country seat with more than usual riot and luxury, the next day, after their departure, an attendant, with the privity of the queen, defiled the palace in every possible manner, both with the excrement of cattle and heaps of filth; and lastly he put a sow, which had recently farrowed, in the very bed where they had lain. They had hardly proceeded a mile, ere she attacked her husband with the fondest conjugal endearments, entreating that they might immediately return thither, whence they had departed, saying, that his denial would be attended with dangerous consequences. Her petition being readily granted, the king was astonished at seeing a place, which yesterday might have vied with Assyrian luxury, now filthily disgusting and desolate: and silently pondering on the sight, his eyes at length turned upon the queen. Seizing the opportunity, and pleasantly smiling, she said, “My noble spouse, where are the revellings of yesterday? Where the tapestries dipped in Sidonian dyes? Where the ceaseless impertinence of parasites? Where the sculptured vessels, overwhelming the very tables with their weight of gold? Where are the delicacies so anxiously sought throughout sea and land, to pamper the appetite? Are not all these things smoke and vapour? Have they not all passed away? Woe be to those who attach themselves to such, for they in like manner shall consume away. Are not all these like a rapid river hastening to the sea? And woe to those who are attached to them, for they shall be carried away by the current. Reflect, I entreat you, how wretchedly will these bodies decay, which we pamper with such unbounded luxury. Must not we, who gorge so constantly, become more disgustingly putrid? The mighty37 must undergo mightier torments, and a severer trial awaits the strong.” Without saying more, by this striking example, she gained over her husband to those sentiments, which she had in vain attempted for years by persuasion.59

For after his triumphal spoils in war; after many successive degrees in virtue, he aspired to the highest perfection, and went to Rome. There, not to make the glory of his conversion public, but that he might be acceptable in the sight of God alone, he was shorn in secret; and, clad in homely garb, grew old in privacy. Nor did his queen, the author of this noble deed, desert him; but as she had before incited him to undertake it, so, afterwards, she made it her constant care to soothe his sorrows by her conversation, to stimulate him, when wavering, by her example; in short, to omit nothing that could be conducive to his salvation. Thus united in mutual affection, in due time they trod the common path of all mankind. This was attended, as we have heard, with singular miracles, such as God often deigns to bestow on the virtues of happy couples.

[A.D. 725–741.]     ETHELARD—CUTHRED.

To the government succeeded Ethelard, the cousin of Ina; though Oswald, a youth of royal extraction, often obscured his opening prospects. Exciting his countrymen to rebellion, he attempted to make war on the king, but soon after perishing by some unhappy doom, Ethelard kept quiet possession of the kingdom for fourteen years, and then left it to his kinsman, Cuthred, who for an equal space of time, and with similar courage, was ever actively employed:—

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I, Cuthred, king of the West Saxons, do hereby declare that all the gifts of former kings—Kentwin, Baldred, Kedwall, Ina, Ethelard, and Ethelbald king of the Mercians, in country houses, and in villages and lands, and farms, and mansions, according to the confirmations made to the ancient city of Glastonbury, and confirmed by autograph and by the sign of the cross, I do, as was before said, hereby decree that this grant of former kings shall remain firm and inviolate, as long as the revolution of the pole shall carry the lands and seas with regular movement38 round the starry heavens. But if any one, confiding in tyrannical pride shall endeavour on any occasion to disturb and nullify this my testamentary grant, may he be separated by the fan of the last judgment from the congregation of the righteous, and joined to the assembly of the wicked for ever, paying the penalty of his violence. But whoever with benevolent intention shall strive to approve, confirm, and defend this my grant, may he be allowed to enjoy unfailing immortality before the glory of Him that sitteth on the throne, together with the happy companies of angels and of all the saints. A copy of this grant was set forth in presence of king Cuthred, in the aforesaid monastery, and dedicated to the holy altar by the munificence of his own hand, in the wooden church, where the brethren placed the coffin of abbat Hemgils, the 30th of April, in the year of our Lord 745.”

The same Cuthred, after much toil, made a successful campaign against Ethelbald, king of Mercia, and the Britons, and gave up the sovereignty after he had held it fourteen years.

Sigebert then seized on the kingdom; a man of inhuman cruelty among his own subjects, and noted for cowardice abroad; but the common detestation of all conspiring against him, he was within a year driven from the throne, and gave place to one more worthy. Yet, as commonly happens in similar cases, the severity of his misfortunes brought back some persons to his cause, and the province which is called Hampshire, was, by their exertions, retained in subjection to him. Still, however, unable to quit his former habits, and exciting the enmity of all against him by the murder of one Cumbran, who had adhered to him with unshaken fidelity, he fled to the recesses of wild beasts. Misfortune still attending him thither also, he was stabbed by a swineherd. Thus the cruelty of a king, which had almost desolated the higher ranks, was put an end to by a man of the lowest condition.

[A.D. 776–784.]     DEATH OF CYNEWOLF.

Cynewolf next undertook the guidance of the state; illustrious for the regulation of his conduct and his deeds in arms: but suffering extremely from the loss of a single battle, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, against Offa, king of the Mercians, near Bensington, he was also finally doomed to a disgraceful death. For after he had reigned thirty-one39 years,60 neither indolently nor oppressively, either elated with success, because he imagined nothing could oppose him, or alarmed for his posterity, from the increasing power of Kineard, the brother of Sigebert, he compelled him to quit the kingdom. Kineard, deeming it necessary to yield to the emergency of the times, departed as if voluntarily; but soon after, when by secret meetings he had assembled a desperate band of wretches, watching when the king might be alone, for he had gone into the country for the sake of recreation, he followed him thither with his party. And learning that he was there giving loose to improper desires, he beset the house on all sides. The king struck with his perilous situation, and holding a conference with the persons present, shut fast the doors, expecting either to appease the desperadoes by fair language, or to terrify them by threats. When neither succeeded, he rushed furiously on Kineard, and had nearly killed him; but, surrounded by the multitude, and thinking it derogatory to his courage to give way, he fell, selling his life nobly. Some few of his attendants, who, instead of yielding, attempted to take vengeance for the loss of their lord, were slain. The report of this dreadful outrage soon reached the ears of the nobles, who were waiting near at hand. Of these Esric, the chief in age and prudence, conjuring the rest not to leave unrevenged the death of their sovereign to their own signal and eternal ignominy, rushed with drawn sword upon the conspirators. At first Kineard attempted to argue his case; to make tempting offers; to hold forth their relationship; but when this availed nothing, he stimulated his party to resistance. Doubtful was the conflict, where one side contended with all its powers for life, the other for glory. And victory, wavering for a long time, at last decided for the juster cause. Thus, fruitlessly valiant, this unhappy man lost his life, unable long to boast the success of his treachery. The king’s body was buried at Winchester, and the prince’s at Repton; at that time a noble monastery, but at present, as I have heard, with few, or scarcely any inmates.

40 After him, for sixteen years, reigned Bertric: more studious of peace than of war. Skilful in conciliating friendship, affable with foreigners, and giving great allowances to his subjects, in those matters at least which could not impair the strength of the government. To acquire still greater estimation with his neighbours, he married the daughter of Offa, king of Mercia, at that time all-powerful; by whom, as far as I am acquainted, he had no issue. Supported by this alliance he compelled Egbert, the sole survivor of the royal stock, and whom he feared as the most effectual obstacle to his power, to fly into France. In fact Bertric himself, and the other kings, after Ina, though glorying in the splendour of their parentage, as deriving their origin from Cerdic, had considerably deviated from the direct line of the royal race. On Egbert’s expulsion, then, he had already begun to indulge in indolent security, when a piratical tribe of the Danes, accustomed to live by plunder, clandestinely arriving in three ships, disturbed the tranquillity of the kingdom. This band came over expressly to ascertain the fruitfulness of the soil, and the courage of the inhabitants, as was afterwards discovered by the arrival of that multitude, which over-ran almost the whole of Britain. Landing then, unexpectedly, when the kingdom was in a state of profound peace, they seized upon a royal village, which was nearest them, and killed the superintendent, who had advanced with succours; but losing their booty, through fear of the people, who hastened to attack them, they retired to their ships. After Bertric, who was buried at Warham, Egbert ascended the throne of his ancestors; justly to be preferred to all the kings who preceded him. Thus having brought down our narrative to his times, we must, as we have promised, next give our attention to the Northumbrians.

Of the kings of the Northumbrians. [A.D. 450.]

We have before related briefly, and now necessarily repeat, that Hengist, having settled his own government in Kent, had sent his brother Otha, and his son Ebusa, men of activity and tried experience, to seize on the northern parts of Britain. Sedulous in executing the command, affairs41 succeeded to their wishes. For frequently coming into action with the inhabitants, and dispersing those who attempted resistance, they conciliated with uninterrupted quiet such as submitted. Thus, though through their own address and the good will of their followers, they had established a certain degree of power, yet never entertaining an idea of assuming the royal title, they left an example of similar moderation to their immediate posterity. For during the space of ninety-nine years, the Northumbrian leaders, contented with subordinate power, lived in subjection to the kings of Kent. Afterwards, however, this forbearance ceased; either because the human mind is ever prone to degeneracy, or because that race of people was naturally ambitious. In the year, therefore, of our Lord’s incarnation 547, the sixtieth after Hengist’s death, the principality was converted into a kingdom. The most noble Ida, in the full vigour of life and of strength, first reigned there. But whether he himself seized the chief authority, or received it by the consent of others, I by no means venture to determine, because the truth is unrevealed. However, it is sufficiently evident, that, sprung from a great and ancient lineage, he reflected much splendour on his illustrious descent, by his pure and unsullied manners. Unconquerable abroad, at home he tempered his kingly power with peculiar affability. Of this man, and of others, in their respective places, I could lineally trace the descent, were it not that the very names, of uncouth sound, would be less agreeable to my readers than I wish. It may be proper though to remark, that Woden had three sons; Weldeg, Withleg, and Beldeg; from the first, the kings of Kent derived their origin; from the second, the kings of Mercia; and from the third, the kings of the West-Saxons and Northumbrians, with the exception of the two I am going to particularize. This Ida, then, the ninth from Beldeg, and the tenth from Woden, as I find positively declared, continued in the government fourteen years.

[A.D. 450–560.]     IDA—ALLA.

His successor Alla, originating from the same stock, but descending from Woden by a different branch, conducted the government, extended by his exertions considerably beyond its former bounds, for thirty years. In his time, youths from Northumbria were exposed for sale, after the common and42 almost native custom of this people; so that, even as our days have witnessed, they would make no scruple of separating the nearest ties of relationship through the temptation of the slightest advantage. Some of these youths then, carried from England for sale to Rome, became the means of salvation to all their countrymen. For exciting the attention of that city, by the beauty of their countenances and the elegance of their features, it happened that, among others, the blessed Gregory, at that time archdeacon of the apostolical see, was present. Admiring such an assemblage of grace in mortals, and, at the same time, pitying their abject condition, as captives, he asked the standers-by, “of what race are these? Whence come they?” They reply, “by birth they are Angles; by country are Deiri; (Deira being a province of Northumbria,) subjects of King Alla, and Pagans.” Their concluding characteristic he accompanied with heartfelt sighs: to the others he elegantly alluded, saying, “that these Angles, angel-like, should be delivered from (de) ira, and taught to sing Alle-luia.” Obtaining permission without delay from pope Benedict, the industry of this excellent man was all alive to enter on the journey to convert them; and certainly his zeal would have completed this intended labour, had not the mutinous love of his fellow citizens recalled him, already on his progress. He was a man as celebrated for his virtues, as beloved by his countrymen; for by his matchless worth, he had even exceeded the expectations they had formed of him from his youth. His good intention, though frustrated at this time, received afterwards, during his pontificate, an honourable termination, as the reader will find in its proper place. I have made this insertion with pleasure, that my readers might not lose this notice of Alla, mention of whom is slightly made in the life of Pope Gregory, who, although he was the primary cause of introducing Christianity among the Angles, yet, either by the counsel of God, or some mischance, was never himself permitted to know it. The calling, indeed, descended to his son.

On the death of Alla, Ethelric, the son of Ida, advanced to extreme old age, after a life consumed in penury, obtained the kingdom, and after five years, was taken off by a sudden death. He was a pitiable prince, whom fame would have43 hidden in obscurity, had not the conspicuous energy of the son lifted up the father to notice.

[A.D. 588–603.]     ETHELFRID.

When, therefore, by a long old age, he had satisfied the desire of life, Ethelfrid, the elder of his sons, ascended the throne, and compensated the greenness of his years by the maturity of his conduct. His transactions have been so displayed by graceful composition, that they want no assistance of mine, except as order is concerned. Bede has eagerly dwelt on the praises of this man and his successors; and has dilated on the Northumbrians at greater length, because they were his near neighbours: our history, therefore, will select and compile from his relation. In order, however, that no one may blame me for contracting so diffuse a narrative, I must tell him that I have done it purposely, that they who have been satiated with such high-seasoned delicacies, may respire a little on these humble remnants: for it is a saying trite by use and venerable for its age, “that the meats which cloy the least are eaten with keenest appetite.” Ethelfrid then, as I was relating, having obtained the kingdom, began at first vigorously to defend his own territories, afterwards eagerly to invade his neighbours, and to seek occasion for signalizing himself on all sides. Many wars were begun by him with foresight, and terminated with success; as he was neither restrained from duty by indolence, nor precipitated into rashness by courage. An evidence of these things is Degstan,61 a noted place in those parts, where Edan, king of the Scots, envying Ethelfrid’s successes, had constrained him, though averse, to give battle; but, being overcome, he took to flight, though the triumph was not obtained without considerable hazard to the victor. For Tedbald, the brother of Ethelfrid, opposing himself to the most imminent dangers that he might display his zeal in his brother’s cause, left a mournful victory indeed, being cut off with his whole party. Another proof of his success is afforded by the city of Carlegion, now commonly called Chester, which, till that period possessed by the Britons, fostered the pride of a people hostile to the king. When he bent his exertions to subdue this city, the townsmen preferring any extremity to a siege, and at the same confiding in their numbers, rushed out in multitudes to battle. But deceived by a stratagem, they were44 overcome and put to flight; his fury being first vented on the monks, who came out in numbers to pray for the safety of the army. That their number was incredible to these times is apparent from so many half-destroyed walls of churches in the neighbouring monastery, so many winding porticoes, such masses of ruins as can scarcely be seen elsewhere. The place is called Bangor; at that day a noted monastery, but now changed into a cathedral.62 Ethelfrid, thus, while circumstances proceeded to his wishes abroad, being desirous of warding off domestic apprehensions and intestine danger, banished Edwin, the son of Alla, a youth of no mean worth, from his kingdom and country. He, wandering for a long time without any settled habitation, found many of his former friends more inclined to his enemy than to the observance of their engagements; for as it is said,

“If joy be thine, ’tis then thy friends abound:
Misfortune comes, and thou alone art found.”63

At last he came to Redwald, king of the East Angles, and bewailing his misfortunes, was received into his protection. Shortly after there came messengers from Ethelfrid, either demanding the surrender of the fugitive, or denouncing hostilities. Determined by the advice of his wife not to violate, through intimidation, the laws of friendship, Redwald collected a body of troops, rushed against Ethelfrid, and attacked him suddenly, whilst suspecting nothing less than an assault. The only remedy that courage, thus taken by surprise, could suggest, there being no time to escape, he availed himself of. Wherefore, though almost totally unprepared, though beset with fearful danger on every side, he fell not till he had avenged his own death by the destruction of Regnhere, the son of Redwald. Such an end had Ethelfrid, after a reign of twenty-four years: a man second to none in martial experience, but entirely ignorant of the holy faith. He had two sons by Acca, the daughter of Alla, sister of Edwin, Oswald aged twelve, and Oswy four years; who, upon the death of their father, fled through the management of their governors, and escaped into Scotland.


[A.D. 617–633.]     EDWIN.

In this manner, all his rivals being slain or banished, Edwin, trained by many adversities, ascended, not meanly qualified, the summit of power. When the haughtiness of the Northumbrians had bent to his dominion, his felicity was crowned by the timely death of Redwald, whose subjects, during Edwin’s exile among them, having formerly experienced his ready courage and ardent disposition, now willingly swore obedience to him. Granting to the son of Redwald the empty title of king, himself managed all things as he thought fit. At this juncture, the hopes and the resources of the Angles centred totally in him; nor was there a single province of Britain which did not regard his will, and prepare to obey it, except Kent: for he had left the Kentish people free from his incursions, because he had long meditated a marriage with Ethelburga, sister of their king. When she was granted to him, after a courtship long protracted, to the intent that he should not despise that woman when possessed whom he so ardently desired when withheld, these two kingdoms became so united by the ties of kindred, that, there was no rivalry in their powers, no difference in their manners. Moreover, on this occasion, the faith of Christ our Lord, infused into those parts by the preaching of Paulinus, reached first the king himself, whom the queen, among other proofs of conjugal affection, was perpetually instructing; nor was the admonition of bishop Paulinus wanting in its place. For a long time, he was wavering and doubtful; but once received, he imbibed it altogether. Then he invited neighbouring kings to the faith; then he erected churches, and neglected nothing for its propagation. In the meanwhile, the merciful grace of God smiled on the devotion of the king; insomuch, that not only the nations of Britain, that is to say, the Angles, Scots, and Picts, but even the Orkney and Mevanian isles, which we now call Anglesey, that is, islands of the Angles, both feared his arms, and venerated his power. At that time, there was no public robber; no domestic thief; the tempter of conjugal fidelity was far distant; the plunderer of another man’s inheritance was in exile: a state of things redounding to his praise, and worthy of celebration in our times. In short, such was the increase of his power, that justice and peace willingly met and kissed each other, imparting mutual acts of kindness.46 And now indeed would the government of the Angles have held a prosperous course, had not an untimely death, the stepmother of all earthly felicity, by a lamentable turn of fortune, snatched this man from his country. For in the forty-eighth year of his age, and the seventeenth of his reign, being killed, together with his son, by the princes whom he had formerly subjugated, Cadwalla of the Britons and Penda of the Mercians, rising up against him, he became a melancholy example of human vicissitude. He was inferior to none in prudence: for he would not embrace even the Christian faith till he had examined it most carefully; but when once adopted, he esteemed nothing worthy to be compared to it.

[A.D. 635.]     OSWALD.

Edwin thus slain, the sons of Ethelfrid, who were also the nephews of Edwin, Oswald, and Oswy, now grown up, and in the budding prime of youth, re-sought their country, together with Eanfrid, their elder brother, whom I forgot before to mention. The kingdom, therefore, was now divided into two. Indeed, Northumbria, long since separated into two provinces, had elected Alla, king of the Deirans, and Ida, of the Bernicians. Wherefore Osric, the cousin of Edwin, succeeding to Deira, and Eanfrid, the son of Ethelfrid, to Bernicia, they exulted in the recovery of their hereditary right. They had both been baptized in Scotland, though they were scarcely settled in their authority, ere they renounced their faith: but shortly after they suffered the just penalty of their apostacy through the hostility of Cadwalla. The space of a year, passed in these transactions, improved Oswald, a young man of great hope, in the science of government. Armed rather by his faith, for he had been admitted to baptism while in exile with many nobles among the Scots, than by his military preparations, on the first onset he drove Cadwalla,64 a man elated with the recollection of his former deeds, and, as he used himself to say, “born for the extermination of the Angles,” from his camp, and afterwards destroyed him with all his forces. For when he had collected the little army which he was able to muster, he excited them to the conflict, in which, laying aside all thought of flight, they must determine either to conquer or die, by suggesting,47 “that it must be a circumstance highly disgraceful for the Angles to meet the Britons on such unequal terms, as to fight against those persons for safety, whom they had been used voluntarily to attack for glory only; that therefore they should maintain their liberty with dauntless courage, and the most strenuous exertions; but, that of the impulse to flight no feeling whatever should be indulged.” In consequence they met with such fury on both sides, that, it may be truly said, no day was ever more disastrous for the Britons, or more joyful for the Angles: so completely was one party routed with all its forces, as never to have hope of recovering again; so exceedingly powerful did the other become, through the effects of faith and the accompanying courage of the king. From this time, the worship of idols fell prostrate in the dust; and he governed the kingdom, extended beyond Edwin’s boundaries, for eight years, peaceably and without the loss of any of his people. Bede, in his History, sets forth the praises of this king in a high style of panegyric, of which I shall extract such portions as may be necessary, by way of conclusion. With what fervent faith his breast was inspired, may easily be learned from this circumstance. If at any time Aidan the priest addressed his auditors on the subject of their duty, in the Scottish tongue, and no interpreter was present, the king himself would directly, though habited in the royal robe, glittering with gold, or glowing with Tyrian purple, graciously assume that office, and explain the foreign idiom in his native language. It is well known too, that frequently at entertainments, when the guests had whetted their appetites and bent their inclinations on the feast, he would forego his own gratification;65 procuring, by his abstinence, comfort for the poor. So that I think the truth of that heavenly sentence was fulfilled even on earth, where the celestial oracle hath said, “He that dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness remaineth for ever.” And moreover, what the hearer must wonder at, and cannot deny, that identical royal right hand,48 the dispenser of so many alms, remains to this day perfect, with the arm, the skin and nerves, though the remainder of the body, with the exception of the bones, mouldering into dust, has not escaped the common lot of mortality. It is true the corporeal remains of some of the saints are unconscious altogether of decay. Wherefore let others determine by what standard they will fix their judgment; I pronounce this still more gracious and divine on account of its singular manifestation; because things ever so precious degenerate by frequency, and whatever is more unusual, is celebrated more generally. I should indeed be thought prolix were I to relate how diligent he was to address his prayers on high, and to fill the heavens with vows. This virtue of Oswald is too well known to require the support of our narrative. For at what time would that man neglect his supplications, who, in the insurrection excited by Penda king of the Mercians, his guards being put to flight and himself actually carrying a forest of darts in his breast, could not be prevented by the pain of his wounds or the approach of death, from praying for the souls of his faithful companions? In such manner this personage, of surpassing celebrity in this world, and highly in favour with God, ending a valuable life, transmitted his memory to posterity by a frequency of miracles; and indeed most deservedly. For it is not common, but even more rare than a white crow, for men to abound in riches, and not give indulgence to their vices.66

[A.D. 642.]     OSWALD.

When he was slain, his arms with the hands and his head were cut off by the insatiable rage of his conqueror, and fixed on a stake. The dead trunk indeed, as I have mentioned, being laid to rest in the calm bosom of the earth, turned to its native dust; but the arms and hands, through the power of God, remain, according to the testimony of an author of veracity, without corruption. These being placed by his brother Oswy in a shrine, at the city of Bebbanburg,67 so the Angles call it, and shown for a miracle, bear testimony to the fact. Whether they remain at that place at the present day, I venture not rashly to affirm, because I waver in my opinion. If other historians have precipitately recorded any matter, let them be accountable: I hold common report49 at a cheaper rate, and affirm nothing but what is deserving of entire credit. The head was then buried by his before-mentioned brother at Lindisfarne; but it is said now to be preserved at Durham in the arms of the blessed Cuthbert.68 When Ostritha, the wife of Ethelred, king of the Mercians, daughter of king Oswy, through regard to her uncle, was anxious to take the bones of the trunk to her monastery of Bardney, which is in the country of the Mercians not far from the city of Lincoln, the monks refused her request at first; denying repose even to the bones of that man when dead whom they had hated whilst living, because he had obtained their country by right of arms. But at midnight being taught, by a miraculous light from heaven shining on the relics, to abate their haughty pride, they became converts to reason, and even entreated as a favour, what before they had rejected. Virtues from on high became resident in this place: every sick person who implored this most excellent martyr’s assistance, immediately received it. The withering turf grew greener from his blood, and recovered a horse:69 and some of it being hung up against a post, the devouring flames fled from it in their turn. Some dust, moistened from his relics, was equally efficacious in restoring a lunatic to his proper senses. The washings of the stake which had imbibed the blood fresh streaming from his head, restored health to one despairing of recovery. For a long time this monastery, possessing so great a treasure, flourished in the sanctity of its members and the abundance of its friends, more especially after king Ethelred received the tonsure there, where also his tomb is seen even to the present day. After many years indeed, when the barbarians infested these parts, the bones of the most holy Oswald were removed to Gloucester. This place, at that period inhabited by monks, but at the present time by canons, contains but few inmates. Oswald, therefore, was the man who yielded the first fruits of holiness to his nation; since no Angle before50 him, to my knowledge, was celebrated for miracles. For after a life spent in sanctity, in liberally giving alms, in frequent watchings and prayer, and lastly, through zeal for the church of God, in waging war with an heathen, he poured out his spirit, according to his wishes, before he could behold, what was his greatest object of apprehension, the decline of Christianity. Nor indeed shall he be denied the praise of the martyrs, who, first aspiring after a holy life, and next opposing his body to a glorious death, certainly trod in their steps: in a manner he deserves higher commendation, since they barely consecrated themselves to God; but Oswald not only himself, but all the Northumbrians with him.

[A.D. 655–670.]     OSWY. EGFRID.

On his removal from this world, Oswy his brother assumed the dominion over the Bernicians, as did Oswin, the son of Osric, whom I have before mentioned, over the Deirans. After meeting temperately at first on the subject of the division of the provinces, under a doubtful truce, they each retired peaceably to their territories; but not long after, by means of persons who delighted in sowing the seeds of discord, the peace, of which they had so often made a mockery by ambiguous treaties, was finally broken, and vanished into air. Horrid crime! that there should be men who could envy these kings their friendly intimacy, nor abstain from using their utmost efforts to precipitate them into battle. Here then fortune, who had before so frequently caressed Oswin with her blandishments, now wounded him with her scorpion-sting. For thinking it prudent to abstain from fighting, on account of the smallness of his force, he had secretly withdrawn to a country-seat, where he was immediately betrayed by his own people, and killed by Oswy. He was a man admirably calculated to gain the favour of his subjects by his pecuniary liberality; and, as they relate, demonstrated his care for his soul by his fervent devotion. Oswy, thus sovereign of the entire kingdom, did every thing to wipe out this foul stain, and to increase his dignity, extenuating the enormity of that atrocious deed by the rectitude of his future conduct. Indeed the first and highest point of his glory is, that he nobly avenged his brother and his uncle, and gave to perdition Penda king of the Mercians, that destroyer of his neighbours, and fomenter of hostility. From this period he either governed the Mercians, as well as51 almost all the Angles, himself, or was supreme over those who did. Turning from this time altogether to offices of piety, that he might be truly grateful for the favours of God perpetually flowing down upon him, he proceeded to raise up and animate, with all his power, the infancy of the Christian faith, which of late was fainting through his brother’s death. This faith, brought shortly after to maturity by the learning of the Scots, but wavering in many ecclesiastical observances, was now settled on canonical foundations:70 first by Agilbert and Wilfrid, and next by archbishop Theodore: for whose arrival in Britain, although Egbert, king of Kent, as far as his province is concerned, takes much from his glory, the chief thanks are due to Oswy.71 Moreover he built numerous habitations for the servants of God, and so left not his country destitute of this advantage also. The principal of these monasteries, at that time for females, but now for males, was situate about thirty miles north of York, and was anciently called Streaneshalch, but latterly Whitby. Begun by Hilda, a woman of singular piety, it was augmented with large revenues by Elfled, daughter of this king, who succeeded her in the government of it; in which place also she buried her father with all due solemnity, after he had reigned twenty-eight years. This monastery, like all others of the same order, was destroyed in the times of the Danish invasion, which will be related hereafter, and bereaved of the bodies of many saints. For the bones of St. Aidan the bishop, of Ceolfrid the abbat, and of that truly holy virgin Hilda, together with those of many others, were, as I have related in the book which I lately published on the Antiquity of the Church of Glastonbury, at that time removed to Glastonbury; and those of other saints to different places. Now the monastery, under another name, and somewhat restored as circumstances permitted, hardly presents a vestige of its former opulence.

To Oswy, who had two sons, the elder who was illegitimate being rejected, succeeded the younger, Egfrid, legitimately born, more valued on account of the good qualities of his most pious wife Etheldrida, than for his own; yet he52 was certainly to be commended for two things which I have read in the history of the Angles, his allowing his wife to dedicate herself to God, and his promoting the blessed Cuthbert to a bishopric, whose tears at the same time burst out with pious assent.72 But my mind shudders at the bare recollection of his outrage against the holy Wilfrid, when, loathing his virtues, he deprived the country of this shining character. Overbearing towards the suppliant, a malady incident to tyrants, he overwhelmed the Irish, a race of men harmless in genuine simplicity and guiltless of every crime, with incredible slaughter. On the other hand, inactive towards the rebellious, and not following up the triumphs of his father, he lost the dominion of the Mercians, and moreover, defeated in battle by Ethelred the son of Penda, their king, he lost his brother also. Perhaps these last circumstances may be truly attributed to the unsteadiness of youth, but his conduct towards Wilfrid, to the instigation of his wife,73 and of the bishops; more especially as Bede, a man who knew not how to flatter, calls him, in his book of the Lives of his Abbats, the most pious man, the most beloved by God. At length, in the fifteenth year of his reign, as he was leading an expedition against the Picts, and eagerly pursuing them as they purposely retired to some secluded mountains, he perished with almost all his forces; the few who escaped by flight carried home news of the event; and yet the divine Cuthbert, from his knowledge of future events, had both attempted to keep him back, when departing, and at the very moment of his death, enlightened by heavenly influence, declared, though at a distance, that he was slain.

While a more than common report every where noised the death of Egfrid, an intimation of it, “borne on the wings of haste,” reached the ears of his brother Alfrid. Though the elder brother, he had been deemed, by the nobility, unworthy53 of the government, from his illegitimacy, as I have observed, and had retired to Ireland, either through compulsion or indignation. In this place, safe from the persecution of his brother, he had, from his ample leisure, become deeply versed in literature, and had enriched his mind with every kind of learning. On which account the very persons who had formerly banished him, esteeming him the better qualified to manage the reins of government, now sent for him of their own accord. Fate rendered efficacious their entreaties; neither did he disappoint their expectations. For during the space of nineteen years, he presided over the kingdom in the utmost tranquillity and joy; doing nothing that even greedy calumny itself could justly carp at, except the persecution of that great man Wilfrid. However he held not the same extent of territory as his father and brother, because the Picts, proudly profiting by their recent victory, and attacking the Angles, who were become indolent through a lengthened peace, had curtailed his boundaries on the north.

[A.D. 685–730.]     OSRED.—CEOLWULF.

He had for successor his son, Osred, a boy of eight years old; who disgracing the throne for eleven years, and spending an ignominious life in the seduction of nuns, was ultimately taken off by the hostility of his relations. Yet he poured out to them a draught from the same cup; for Kenred after reigning two, and Osric eleven years, left only this to be recorded of them; that they expiated by a violent death, the blood of their master, whom they supposed they had rightfully slain. Osric indeed deserved a happier end, for, as a heathen74 says, he was more dignified than other shades, because, while yet living he had adopted Ceolwulf, Kenred’s brother, as his successor. Then Ceolwulf ascended the giddy height of empire, seventh in descent from Ida: a man competent in other respects, and withal possessed of a depth of literature, acquired by good abilities and indefatigable attention. Bede vouches for the truth of my assertion, who, at the very juncture when Britain most abounded with scholars, offered his History of the Angles, for correction, to this prince more especially; making choice of his authority, to confirm by his high station what had been well written; and of his learning, to rectify by his talents what might be carelessly expressed.

54 In the fourth year of his reign, Bede, the historian, after having written many books for the holy church, entered the heavenly kingdom, for which he had so long languished, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 734; of his age the fifty-ninth. A man whom it is easier to admire than worthily to extol: who, though born in a remote corner of the world, was able to dazzle the whole earth with the brilliancy of his learning. For even Britain, which by some is called another world, since, surrounded by the ocean, it was not thoroughly known by many geographers, possesses, in its remotest region, bordering on Scotland, the place of his birth and education. This region, formerly exhaling the grateful odour of monasteries, or glittering with a multitude of cities built by the Romans, now desolate through the ancient devastations of the Danes, or those more recent of the Normans,75 presents but little to allure the mind. Here is the river Wear, of considerable breadth and rapid tide; which running into the sea, receives the vessels, borne by gentle gales, on the calm bosom of its haven. Both its banks76 have been made conspicuous by one Benedict,77 who there built churches and monasteries; one dedicated to Peter, and the other to Paul, united in the bond of brotherly love and of monastic rule. The industry and forbearance of this man, any one will admire who reads the book which Bede composed concerning his life and those of the succeeding abbats: his industry, in bringing over a multitude of books, and being the first person who introduced in England constructors of stone edifices, as well as makers of glass windows; in which pursuits he spent almost his whole life abroad: the love of his country and his taste for elegance beguiling his painful labours, in the55 earnest desire of conveying something to his countrymen out of the common way; for very rarely before the time of Benedict were buildings of stone78 seen in Britain, nor did the solar ray cast its light through the transparent glass. Again, his forbearance: for when in possession of the monastery of St. Augustine at Canterbury, he cheerfully resigned it to Adrian, when he arrived, not as fearing the severity of St. Theodore the archbishop, but bowing to his authority. And farther, while long absent abroad, he endured not only with temper, but, I may say, with magnanimity, the substitution of another abbat, without his knowledge, by the monks of Wearmouth; and on his return, admitted him to equal honour with himself, in rank and power. Moreover, when stricken so severely with the palsy that he could move none of his limbs, he appointed a third abbat, because the other, of whom we have spoken, was not less affected by the same disease. And when the disorder, increasing, was just about to seize his vitals, he bade adieu to his companion, who was brought into his presence, with an inclination of the head only; nor was he better able to return the salutation, for he was hastening to a still nearer exit, and actually died before Benedict.

[A.D. 690.]     CEOLFRID.

Ceolfrid succeeded, under whom the affairs of the monastery flourished beyond measure. When, through extreme old age, life ceased to be desirable, he purposed going to Rome, that he might pour out, as he hoped, his aged soul an offering to the apostles his masters. But failing of the object of his desires, he paid the debt of nature at the city of Langres. The relics of his bones were in after time conveyed to his monastery; and at the period of the Danish devastation, with those of St. Hilda, were taken to Glastonbury.79 The merits of these abbats, sufficiently eminent in56 themselves, their celebrated pupil, Bede, crowns with superior splendour. It is written indeed, “A wise son is the glory of his father:” for one of them made him a monk, the other educated him. And since Bede himself has given some slight notices of these facts, comprising his whole life in a kind of summary, it may be allowed to turn to his words, which the reader will recognize, lest any variation of the style should affect the relation. At the end then of the Ecclesiastical History of the English80 this man, as praiseworthy in other respects as in this, that he withheld nothing from posterity, though it might be only a trifling knowledge of himself, says thus:

“I, Bede, the servant of Christ, and priest of the monastery of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth, have, by God’s assistance, arranged these materials for the history of Britain. I was born within the possessions of this monastery, and at seven years of age, was committed, by the care of my relations, to the most reverend abbat Benedict, to be educated, and, after, to Ceolfrid; passing the remainder of my life from that period in residence at the said monastery, I have given up my whole attention to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of my regular discipline and my daily duty of singing in the church, have ever delighted to learn, to teach, or to write. In the nineteenth year of my life, I took deacon’s, in the thirtieth, priest’s orders; both, at the instance of abbat Ceolfrid, by the ministry of the most reverend bishop John:81 from which time of receiving the priesthood till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have been employed for the benefit of myself or of my friends, in making these extracts from the works of the venerable fathers, or in making additions, according to the form of their sense or interpretation.” Then enumerating thirty-six volumes which he published in seventy-eight books, he proceeds, “And I pray most earnestly, O merciful Jesus, that thou wouldst grant me, to whom thou hast already given the knowledge of thyself, finally to come to thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and to appear for ever in thy presence. Moreover I humbly entreat all persons,57 whether readers or hearers, whom this history of our nation shall reach, that they be mindful to intercede with the divine clemency for my infirmities both of mind and of body, and that, in their several provinces, they make me this grateful return; that I, who have diligently laboured to record, of every province, or of more exalted places, what appeared worthy of preservation or agreeable to the inhabitants, may receive, from all, the benefit of their pious intercessions.”

Here my abilities fail, here my eloquence falls short: ignorant which to praise most, the number of his writings, or the gravity of his style. No doubt he had imbibed a large portion of heavenly wisdom, to be able to compose so many volumes within the limits of so short a life. Nay, they even report, that he went to Rome for the purpose either of personally asserting that his writings were consistent with the doctrines of the church; or of correcting them by apostolical authority, should they be found repugnant thereto. That he went to Rome I do not however affirm for fact: but I have no doubt in declaring that he was invited thither, as the following epistle will certify; as well as that the see of Rome so highly esteemed him as greatly to desire his presence.

[A.D. 701.]     SERGIUS’S EPISTLE.

Sergius the bishop, servant of the servants of God, to Ceolfrid the holy abbat sendeth greeting:—

“With what words, and in what manner, can we declare the kindness and unspeakable providence of our God, and return fit thanks for his boundless benefits, who leads us, when placed in darkness, and the shadow of death, to the light of knowledge?” And below, “Know, that we received the favour of the offering which your devout piety hath sent by the present bearer, with the same joy and goodwill with which it was transmitted. We assent to the timely and becoming prayers of your laudable anxiety with deepest regard, and entreat of your pious goodness, so acceptable to God, that, since there have occurred certain points of ecclesiastical discipline, not to be promulgated without farther examination, which have made it necessary for us to confer with a person skilled in literature, as becomes an assistant of God’s holy universal motherchurch, you would not delay paying ready obedience to this, our admonition; but would send without loss of time, to our lowly presence, at the church of58 the chief apostles, my lords Peter and Paul, your friends and protectors, that religious servant of God, Bede, the venerable priest of your monastery; whom, God willing, you may expect to return in safety, when the necessary discussion of the above-mentioned points shall be, by God’s assistance, solemnly completed: for whatever may be added to the church at large, by his assistance, will, we trust, be profitable to the things committed to your immediate care.”

So extensive was his fame then, that even the majesty of Rome itself solicited his assistance in solving abstruse questions, nor did Gallic conceit ever find in this Angle any thing justly to blame. All the western world yielded the palm to his faith and authority; for indeed he was of sound faith, and of artless, yet pleasing eloquence: in all elucidations of the holy scriptures, discussing those points from which the reader might imbibe the love of God, and of his neighbour, rather than those which might charm by their wit, or polish a rugged style. Moreover the irrefragable truth of that sentence, which the majesty of divine wisdom proclaimed to the world forbids any one to doubt the sanctity of his life, “Wisdom will not enter the malevolent soul, nor dwell in the person of the sinful;” which indeed is said not of earthly wisdom, which is infused promiscuously into the hearts of men, and in which, even the wicked, who continue their crimes until their last day, seem often to excel, according to the divine expression, “The sons of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light;” but it rather describes that wisdom which needs not the assistance of learning, and which dismisses from its cogitations those things which are void of understanding, that is to say, of the understanding of acting and speaking properly. Hence Seneca in his book, “De Causis,”82 appositely relates that Cato, defining the duty of an orator, said, “An orator is a good man, skilled in speaking.” This ecclesiastical orator, then, used to purify his knowledge, that so he might, as far as possible, unveil the meaning of mystic writings. How indeed could that man be enslaved to vice who gave his whole soul and spirit to elucidate the scriptures? For, as he confesses in his third book on Samuel, if his expositions were productive of no advantage to his readers, yet were they of considerable59 importance to himself, inasmuch as, while fully intent upon them, he escaped the vanity and empty imaginations of the times. Purified from vice, therefore, he entered within the inner veil, divulging in pure diction the sentiments of his mind.

[A.D. 735.]     DEATH OF BEDE.

But the unspotted sanctity and holy purity of his heart were chiefly conspicuous on the approach of death. Although for seven weeks successively, from the indisposition of his stomach, he nauseated all food, and was troubled with such a difficulty of breathing that his disorder confined him to his bed, yet he by no means abandoned his literary avocations. During whole days he endeavoured to mitigate the pressure of his disorder and to lose the recollection of it by constant lectures to his pupils, and by examining and solving abstruse questions, in addition to his usual task of psalmody. Moreover the gospel of St. John, which from its difficulty exercises the talents of its readers even to the present day, was translated by him into the English language, and accommodated to those who did not understand Latin. Occasionally, also, would he admonish his disciples, saying, “Learn, my children, while I am with you, for I know not how long I shall continue; and although my Maker should very shortly take me hence, and my spirit should return to him that sent and granted it to come into this life, yet have I lived long, God hath rightly appointed my portion of days, I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.”

Often too when the balance was poised between hope and fear, he would remark “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.83 I have not passed my life among you in such manner as to be ashamed to live, neither do I fear to die, because we have a kind Master;” thus borrowing the expression of St. Ambrose when dying. Happy man! who could speak with so quiet a conscience as neither being ashamed to live, nor afraid to die; on the one hand not fearing the judgment of men, on the other waiting with composure the hidden will of God. Often, when urged by extremity of pain, he comforted himself with these remarks, “The furnace tries the gold, and the fire of temptation the just man: the sufferings of this present time are not worthy60 to be compared to the future glory which shall be revealed in us.”84 Tears and a difficulty of breathing accompanied his words. At night, when there were none to be instructed or to note down his remarks, he passed the whole season in giving thanks and singing psalms, fulfilling the saying of that very wise man,85 “that he was never less alone than when alone.” If at any time a short and disturbed sleep stole upon his eye-lids, he immediately shook it off, and showed that his affections were always intent on God, by exclaiming “Lift me up, O Lord, that the proud calumniate me not. Do with thy servant according to thy mercy.” These and similar expressions which his shattered memory suggested, flowed spontaneously from his lips whenever the pain of his agonizing disorder became mitigated. But on the Tuesday before our Lord’s ascension his disease rapidly increased, and there appeared a small swelling in his feet, the sure and certain indication of approaching death. Then the congregation being called together, he was anointed and received the sacrament. Kissing them all, and requesting from each that they would bear him in remembrance, he gave a small present, which he had privately reserved, to some with whom he had been in closer bonds of friendship. On Ascension day, when his soul, tired of the frail occupation of the body, panted to be free, lying down on a hair-cloth near the oratory, where he used to pray, with sense unimpaired and joyful countenance, he invited the grace of the Holy Spirit, saying, “O King of glory, Lord of virtue, who ascendedst this day triumphant into the heavens, leave us not destitute, but send upon us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth.” This prayer ended, he breathed his last, and immediately the senses of all were pervaded by an odour such as neither cinnamon nor balm could give, but coming, as it were, from paradise, and fraught with all the joyous exhalations of spring. At that time he was buried in the same monastery, but at present, report asserts that he lies at Durham with St. Cuthbert.

With this man was buried almost all knowledge of history down to our times, inasmuch as there has been no Englishman61 either emulous of his pursuits, or a follower of his graces, who could continue the thread of his discourse, now broken short. Some few indeed, “whom the mild Jesus loved,” though well skilled in literature, have yet observed an ungracious silence throughout their lives; others, scarcely tasting of the stream, have fostered a criminal indolence. Thus to the slothful succeeded others more slothful still, and the warmth of science for a long time decreased throughout the island. The verses of his epitaph will afford sufficient specimen of this indolence; they are indeed contemptible, and unworthy the tomb of so great a man:

“Presbyter hic Beda, requiescit carne sepultus;
Dona, Christe, animam in cœlis gaudere per ævum:
Daque illi sophiæ debriari fonte, cui jam
Suspiravit ovans, intento semper amore.”86

Can this disgrace be extenuated by any excuse, that there was not to be found even in that monastery, where during his lifetime the school of all learning had flourished, a single person who could write his epitaph, except in this mean and paltry style? But enough of this: I will return to my subject.

Ceolwulf thinking it beneath the dignity of a Christian to be immersed in earthly things, abdicated the throne after a reign of eight years, and assumed the monastic habit at Lindisfarne, in which place how meritoriously he lived, is amply testified by his being honourably interred near St. Cuthbert, and by many miracles vouchsafed from on high.

[A.D. 737, 738.] KING EADBERT.

He had made provision against the state’s being endangered, by placing his cousin, Eadbert,87 on the throne, which he filled for twenty years with singular moderation and virtue. Eadbert had a brother of the same name, archbishop of York, who, by his own prudence and the power of the king, restored that see to its original state. For, as is well known to any one conversant in the history of the Angles,8862 Paulinus, the first prelate of the church of York, had been forcibly driven away, and died at Rochester, where he left that honourable distinction of the pall which he had received from pope Honorius. After him, many prelates of this august city, satisfied with the name of a simple bishopric, aspired to nothing higher: but when Eadbert was seated on the throne, a man of loftier spirit, and one who thought, that, “as it is over-reaching to require what is not our due, so is it ignoble to neglect our right,” he reclaimed the pall by frequent appeals to the pope. This personage, if I may be allowed the expression, was the depository and receptacle of every liberal art; and founded a most noble library at York. For this I cite Alcuin,89 as competent witness; who was sent from the kings of England to the emperor Charles the Great, to treat of peace, and being hospitably entertained by him, observes, in a letter to Eanbald, third in succession from Eadbert, “Praise and glory be to God, who hath preserved my days in full prosperity, that I should rejoice in the exaltation of my dearest son, who laboured in my stead, in the church where I had been brought up and educated, and presided over the treasures of wisdom, to which my beloved master, archbishop Egbert, left me heir.” Thus too to Charles Augustus:90 “Give me the more polished volumes of scholastic learning, such as I used to have in my own country, through the laudable and ardent industry of my master, archbishop Egbert. And, if it please your wisdom, I will send some of our youths, who may obtain thence whatever is necessary, and bring back into France the flowers of Britain; that the garden of Paradise may not be confined to York, but that some of its scions may be transplanted to Tours.”

This is the same Alcuin, who, as I have said, was sent into France to treat of peace, and during his abode with Charles, captivated either by the pleasantness of the country or the kindness of the king, settled there; and being held in high estimation, he taught the king, during his leisure from63 the cares of state, a thorough knowledge of logic, rhetoric, and astronomy. Alcuin was, of all the Angles, of whom I have read, next to St. Aldhelm and Bede, certainly the most learned, and has given proof of his talents in a variety of compositions. He lies buried in France, at the church of St. Paul, of Cormaric,91 which monastery Charles the Great built at his suggestion: on which account, even at the present day, the subsistence of four monks is distributed in alms, for the soul of our Alcuin, in that church.

[A.D. 738.]     KINGS OF FRANCE.

But since I am arrived at that point where the mention of Charles the Great naturally presents itself, I shall subjoin a true statement of the descent of the kings of France, of which antiquity has said much: nor shall I depart widely from my design; because to be unacquainted with their race, I hold as a defect in information; seeing that they are our near neighbours, and to them the Christian world chiefly looks up: and, perhaps, to glance over this compendium may give pleasure to many who have not leisure to wade through voluminous works.


The Franks were so called, by a Greek appellative, from the ferocity of their manners, when, by order of the emperor Valentinian the First, they ejected the Alani, who had retreated to the Mæotian marshes. It is scarcely possible to believe how much this people, few and mean at first, became increased by a ten years’ exemption from taxes: such, before the war, being the condition on which they engaged in it. Thus augmenting wonderfully by the acquisition of freedom, and first seizing the greatest part of Germany, and next the whole of Gaul, they compelled the inhabitants to list under their banners. Hence the Lotharingi and Allamanni, and other nations beyond the Rhine, who are subject to the emperor of Germany, will have themselves more properly to be called Franks; and those whom we suppose Franks, they call by an ancient appellative Galwalæ, that is to say, Gauls. To this opinion I assent; knowing that Charles the Great, whom none can deny to have been king of the Franks, always used the same vernacular language with the Franks on the other side of the Rhine. Any one who shall read the64 life of Charles will readily admit the truth of my assertion.92 In the year then of the Incarnate Word 425 the Franks were governed by Faramund, their first king. The grandson of Faramund was Meroveus, from whom all the succeeding kings of the Franks, to the time of Pepin, were called Merovingians. In like manner the sons of the kings of the Angles took patronymical appellations from their fathers. For instance; Eadgaring the son of Edgar; Eadmunding the son of Edmund, and the rest in like manner; commonly, however, they are called ethelings. The native language of the Franks, therefore, partakes of that of the Angles, by reason of both nations originating from Germany. The Merovingians reigned successfully and powerfully till the year of our Lord’s incarnation, 687. At that period Pepin, son of Ansegise, was made mayor of the palace93 among the Franks, on the other side of the Rhine. Seizing opportunities for veiling his ambitious views, he completely subjugated his master Theodoric, the dregs as it were of the Merovingians, and to lessen the obloquy excited by the transaction, he indulged him with the empty title of king, while himself managed every thing, at home and abroad, according to his own pleasure. The genealogy of this Pepin, both to and from him, is thus traced: Ausbert, the senator, on Blithilde, the daughter of Lothaire, the father of Dagobert, begot Arnold: Arnold begot St. Arnulph, bishop of Metz: Arnulph begot Flodulph, Walcthise, Anschise: Flodulph begot duke Martin, whom Ebroin slew: Walcthise begot the most holy Wandregesil the abbat: duke Anschise begot Ansegise: Ansegise begot Pepin. The son of Pepin was Carolus Tudites, whom they also call Martel, because he beat down the tyrants who were raising up in every part of France, and nobly defeated the Saracens, at that time infesting Gaul. Following the practice of his father, whilst he was himself satisfied with the title of earl, he kept the kings65 in a state of pupilage. He left two sons, Pepin and Caroloman. Caroloman, from some unknown cause, relinquishing the world, took his religious vows at Mount Cassin. Pepin was crowned king of the Franks, and patrician of the Romans, in the church of St. Denys, by pope Stephen, the successor of Zachary. For the Constantinopolitan emperors, already much degenerated from their ancient valour, giving no assistance either to Italy or the church of Rome, which had long groaned under the tyranny of the Lombards, this pope bewailed the injuries to which they were exposed from them to the ruler of the Franks; wherefore Pepin passing the Alps, reduced Desiderius, king of the Lombards, to such difficulties, that he restored what he had plundered to the church of Rome, and gave surety by oath that he would not attempt to resume it. Pepin returning to France after some years, died, leaving his surviving children, Charles and Caroloman, his heirs. In two years Caroloman departed this life. Charles obtaining the name of “Great” from his exploits, enlarged the kingdom to twice the limits which it possessed in his father’s time, and being contented for more than thirty years with the simple title of king, abstained from the appellation of emperor, though repeatedly invited to assume it by pope Adrian. But when, after the death of this pontiff, his relations maimed the holy Leo, his successors in the church of St. Peter, so as to cut out his tongue, and put out his eyes, Charles hastily proceeded to Rome to settle the state of the church. Justly punishing these abandoned wretches, he stayed there the whole winter, and restored the pontiff, now speaking plainly and seeing clearly, by the miraculous interposition of God, to his customary power. At that time the Roman people, with the privity of the pontiff, on the day of our Lord’s nativity, unexpectedly hailed him with the title of Augustus; which title, though, from its being unusual, he reluctantly admitted, yet afterwards he defended with proper spirit against the Constantinopolitan emperors, and left it, as hereditary, to his son Louis. His descendants reigned in that country, which is now properly called France, till the time of Hugh, surnamed Capet, from whom is descended the present Louis. From the same stock came the sovereigns of Germany and Italy, till the year of our Lord 912, when Conrad, king of the Teutonians, seized66 that empire. The grandson of this personage was Otho the Great, equal in every estimable quality to any of the emperors who preceded him. Thus admirable for his valour and goodness, he left the empire hereditary to his posterity; for the present Henry, son-in-law of Henry, king of England, derives his lineage from his blood.

To return to my narrative: Alcuin, though promoted by Charles the Great to the monastery of St. Martin in France, was not unmindful of his countrymen, but exerted himself to retain the emperor in amity with them, and stimulated them to virtue by frequent epistles. I shall here subjoin many of his observations, from which it will appear clearly how soon after the death of Bede the love of learning declined even in his own monastery: and how quickly after the decease of Eadbert the kingdom of the Northumbrians came to ruin, through the prevalence of degenerate manners.

He says thus to the monks of Wearmouth, among whom Bede had both lived and died, obliquely accusing them of having done the very thing which he begs them not to do, “Let the youths be accustomed to attend the praises of our heavenly King, not to dig up the burrows of foxes, or pursue the winding mazes of hares; let them now learn the Holy Scriptures, that, when grown up, they may be able to instruct others. Remember the most noble teacher of our times, Bede, the priest, what thirst for learning he had in his youth, what praise he now has among men, and what a far greater reward of glory with God.” Again, to those of York he says, “The Searcher of my heart is witness that it was not for lust of gold that I came to France or continued there, but for the necessities of the church.” And thus to Offa, king of the Mercians, “I was prepared to come to you with the presents of king Charles and to return to my country, but it seemed more advisable to me, for the peace of my nation, to remain abroad, not knowing what I could have done among those persons, with whom no one can be secure, or able to proceed in any laudable pursuit. Behold every holy place is laid desolate by Pagans, the altars are polluted by perjury, the monasteries dishonoured by adultery, the earth itself stained with the blood of rulers and of princes.” Again, to king Ethelred, third in the sovereignty after Eadbert, “Behold the church of St. Cuthbert is sprinkled with67 the blood of God’s priests, despoiled of all its ornaments, and the holiest spot in Britain given up to Pagan nations to be plundered; and where, after the departure of St. Paulinus from York, the Christian religion first took its rise in our own nation, there misery and calamity took their rise also. What portends that shower of blood which in the time of Lent, in the city of York, the capital of the whole kingdom, in the church of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, we saw tremendously falling on the northern side of the building from the summit of the roof, though the weather was fair? Must not blood be expected to come upon the land from the northern regions?” Again, to Osbert, prince of the Mercians, “Our kingdom of the Northumbrians has almost perished through internal dissensions and perjury.” So also to Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, “I speak this on account of the scourge which has lately fallen on that part of our island which has been inhabited by our forefathers for nearly three hundred and forty years. It is recorded in the writings of Gildas, the wisest of the Britons, that those very Britons ruined their country through the avarice and rapine of their princes, the iniquity and injustice of their judges, their bishops’ neglect of preaching, the luxury and abandoned manners of the people. Let us be cautious that such vices become not prevalent in our times, in order that the divine favour may preserve our country to us in that happy prosperity for the future which it has hitherto in its most merciful kindness vouchsafed us.”

It has been made evident, I think, what disgrace and what destruction the neglect of learning and the immoral manners of degenerate men brought upon England! These remarks obtain this place in my history merely for the purpose of cautioning my readers.

[A.D. 758.]     OSWULPH.

Eadbert, then, rivalling his brother in piety, assumed the monastic habit, and gave place to Oswulph, his son, who being, without any cause on his part, slain by his subjects, was, after a twelvemonth’s reign, succeeded by Moll. Moll carried on the government with commendable diligence for eleven years,94 and then fell a victim to the treachery of68 Alcred. Alcred in his tenth year was compelled by his countrymen to retire from the government which he had usurped. Ethelred too, the son of Moll, being elected king, was expelled by them at the end of five years. Alfwold was next hailed sovereign; but he also, at the end of eleven years, experienced the perfidy of the inhabitants, for he was cut off by assassination, though guiltless, as his distinguished interment at Hexham and divine miracles sufficiently declare. His nephew, Osred,95 the son of Alcred, succeeding him, was expelled after the space of a year, and gave place to Ethelred, who was also called Ethelbert. He was the son of Moll, also called Ethelwald, and, obtaining the kingdom after twelve years of exile, held it during four, at the end of which time, unable to escape the fate of his predecessors, he was cruelly murdered. At this, many of the bishops and nobles greatly shocked, fled from the country. Some indeed affirm that he was punished deservedly, because he had assented to the unjust murder of Osred, whereas he had it in his power to quit the sovereignty and restore him to his throne. Of the beginning of this reign Alcuin thus speaks: “Blessed be God, the only worker of miracles, Ethelred, the son of Ethelwald, went lately from the dungeon to the throne, from misery to grandeur; by the infancy of whose reign we are detained from coming to you.”96 Of his death he writes97 thus to Offa king of the Mercians: “Your esteemed kindness is to understand that my lord, king Charles, often speaks to me of you with affection and sincerity, and in him you have the firmest friend. He therefore sends becoming presents to your love, and to the several sees of your kingdom. In like manner he had appointed presents for king Ethelred, and for the sees of his bishops, but, oh, dreadful to think, at the very moment of despatching these gifts and letters there came a sorrowful account, by the69 ambassadors who returned out of Scotland through your country, of the faithlessness of the people, and the death of the king. So that Charles, withholding his liberal gifts, is so highly incensed against that nation as to call it perfidious and perverse, and the murderer of its sovereigns, esteeming it worse than pagan; and had I not interceded he would have already deprived them of every advantage within his reach, and have done them all the injury in his power.”

[A.D. 796–827.]     KING EGBERT.

After Ethelred no one durst ascend the throne;98 each dreading the fate of his predecessor, and preferring a life of safety in inglorious ease, to a tottering reign in anxious suspense: for most of the Northumbrian kings had ended their reigns by a death which was now become almost habitual. Thus being without a sovereign for thirty-three years, that province became an object of plunder and contempt to its neighbours. For when the Danes, who, as I have before related from the words of Alcuin, laid waste the holy places, on their return home represented to their countrymen the fruitfulness of the island, and the indolence of its inhabitants; these barbarians came over hastily, in great numbers, and obtained forcible possession of that part of the country, till the time we are speaking of: indeed they had a king of their own for many years, though he was subordinate to the authority of the king of the West Saxons. However, after the lapse of these thirty-three years, king Egbert obtained the sovereignty of this province, as well as of the others, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 827, and the twenty-eighth of his reign. And since we have reached his times, mindful of our engagement, we shall speak briefly of the kingdom of the Mercians; and this, as well because we admire brevity in relation, as that there is no great abundance of materials.


Of the kings of the Mercians. [A.D. 626–874.]

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 626, and the hundred and thirty-ninth after the death of Hengist, Penda the son of Pybba, tenth in descent of Woden, of noble lineage, expert in war, but at the same time an irreligious heathen, at the age of fifty assumed the title99 of king of the Mercians, after he had already fostered his presumption by frequent incursions on his neighbours. Seizing the sovereignty, therefore, with a mind loathing quiet and unconscious how great an enormity it was even to be victorious in a contest against his own countrymen, he began to attack the neighbouring cities, to invade the confines of the surrounding kings, and to fill everything with terror and confusion. For what would not that man attempt, who, by his lawless daring, had extinguished those luminaries of Britain, Edwin and Oswald, kings of the Northumbrians, Sigebert, Ecgric, and Anna, kings of the East Angles; men, in whom nobility of race was equalled by sanctity of life? Kenwalk also, king of the West Saxons, after being frequently harassed by him, was driven into exile; though, perhaps, he deservedly paid the penalty of his perfidy towards God, in denying his faith; and towards Penda himself, in repudiating his sister. It is irksome to relate, how eagerly he watched opportunities of slaughter, and as a raven flies greedily at the scent of a carcase, so he joined Cadwalla,100 and was of infinite service to him, in recovering his dominions. In this manner, for thirty years, he attacked his countrymen, but did nothing worthy of record against strangers. His insatiable desires, however, at last found an end suitable to their deserts; for being routed, with his allies, by Oswy, who had succeeded his brother Oswald, more through the assistance71 of God than his military powers, Penda increased the number of infernal spirits. By his queen Kyneswith his sons were Peada, Wulfhere, Ethelred, Merwal, and Mercelin: his daughters, Kyneburg, and Kyneswith; both distinguished for inviolable chastity. Thus the parent, though ever rebellious towards God, produced a most holy offspring for Heaven.

[A.D. 655–661.]     PEADA—WULFHERE.

His son Peada succeeded him in a portion of the kingdom, by the permission of Oswy, advanced to the government of the South Mercians; a young man of talents, and even in his father’s lifetime son-in-law to Oswy. For he had received his daughter, on condition of renouncing paganism and embracing Christianity; in which faith he would soon have caused the province of participate, the peaceful state of the kingdom and his father-in-law’s consent tending to such a purpose, had not his death, hastened, as they say, by the intrigues of his wife, intercepted these joyful prospects. Then Oswy resumed the government, which seemed rightly to appertain to him from his victory over the father, and from his affinity to the son. The spirit, however, of the inhabitants could not brook his authority more than three years; for they expelled his generals, and Wulfhere, the son of Penda, being hailed as his successor, the province recovered its liberty.

Wulfhere, that he might not disappoint the hopes of the nation, began to act with energy, to show himself an efficient prince by great exertions both mental and personal, and finally to afford Christianity, introduced by his brother and yet hardly breathing in his kingdom, every possible assistance. In the early years of his reign he was heavily oppressed by the king of the West Saxons, but in succeeding times, repelling the injury by the energy of his measures, he deprived him of the sovereignty of the Isle of Wight; and leading it, yet panting after heathen rites, into the proper path, he soon after bestowed it on his godson, Ethelwalch, king of the South Saxons, as a recompence for his faith. But these and all his other good qualities are stained and deteriorated by the dreadful brand of simony; because he, first of the kings of the Angles, sold the sacred bishopric of London to one Wini, an ambitious man. His wife was Ermenhilda, the daughter of Erconbert, king of Kent, of72 whom he begat Kinred, and Wereburga, a most holy virgin who lies buried at Chester. His brother Merewald married Ermenburga, the daughter of Ermenred, brother of the same Erconbert; by her he had issue, three daughters; Milburga, who lies at Weneloch; Mildritha in Kent, in the monastery of St. Augustine; and Milgitha: and one son, Merefin. Alfrid king of the Northumbrians married Kyneburg, daughter of Penda: who, after a time, disgusted with wedlock, took the habit of a nun in the monastery which her brothers, Wulfhere and Ethelred, had founded.

Wulfhere died at the end of nineteen years, and his brother Ethelred ascended the throne; more famed for his pious disposition than his skill in war. Moreover he was satisfied with displaying his valour in a single but illustrious expedition into Kent, and passed the remainder of his life in quiet, except that attacking Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, who had passed beyond the limits of his kingdom, he admonished him to return home, by the murder of his brother Elfwin. He atoned however for this slaughter, after due deliberation, at the instance of St. Theodore, the archbishop, by giving Egfrid a large sum of money.101 Subsequently to this, in the thirtieth year of his reign, he took the cowl, and became a monk at Bardney, of which monastery he was ultimately promoted to be abbat. This is the same person who was contemporary with Ina, king of the West Saxons, and confirmed by his authority also the privilege which St. Aldhelm brought from Rome. His wife was Ostritha, sister of Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, by whom she had issue a son named Ceolred.

He appointed Kenred, the son of his brother Wulfhere his successor, who, equally celebrated for piety to God and uprightness towards his subjects, ran his mortal race with great purity of manners, and proceeding to Rome in the fifth year of his reign, passed the remainder of his life there in the offices of religion; chiefly instigated to this by the melancholy departure of a soldier, who, as Bede relates,10273 disdaining to confess his crimes when in health, saw, manifestly, when at the point of death, those very demons coming to punish him to whose vicious allurements he had surrendered his soul.

[A.D. 709–756.]     BONIFACE’S EPISTLE.

After him reigned Ceolred, the son of Ethelred his uncle, as conspicuous for his valour against Ina, as pitiable for an early death; for not filling the throne more than eight years, he was buried at Lichfield, leaving Ethelbald, the grand-nephew of Penda by his brother Alwy, his heir. This king, enjoying the sovereignty in profound and long-continued peace, that is, for the space of forty-one years, was ultimately killed by his subjects, and thus met with a reverse of fortune. Bernred, the author of his death, left nothing worthy of record, except that afterwards, being himself put to death by Offa, he received the just reward of his treachery. To this Ethelbald, Boniface,103 archbishop of Mentz, an Angle by nation, who was subsequently crowned with martyrdom, sent an epistle, part of which I shall transcribe, that it may appear how freely he asserts those very vices to have already gained ground among the Angles of which Alcuin in after times was apprehensive. It will also be a strong proof, by the remarkable deaths of certain kings, how severely God punishes those guilty persons for whom his long-suspended anger mercifully waits.

[A.D. 756.]     BONIFACE’S EPISTLE.]

104To Ethelbald, my dearest lord, and to be preferred to all other kings of the Angles, in the love of Christ, Boniface the archbishop, legate to Germany from the church of Rome,74 wisheth perpetual health in Christ. We confess before God that when we hear of your prosperity, your faith, and good works, we rejoice; and if at any time we hear of any adversity befallen you, either in the chance of war or the jeopardy of your soul, we are afflicted. We have heard that, devoted to almsgiving, you prohibit theft and rapine, are a lover of peace, a defender of widows, and of the poor; and for this we give God thanks. Your contempt for lawful matrimony, were it for chastity’s sake, would be laudable; but since you wallow in luxury and even in adultery with nuns, it is disgraceful and damnable; it dims the brightness of your glory before God and man, and transforms you into an idolater, because you have polluted the temple of God. Wherefore, my beloved son, repent, and remember how dishonourable it is, that you, who, by the grant of God, are sovereign over many nations, should yourself be the slave of lust to his disservice. Moreover, we have heard that almost all the nobles of the Mercian kingdom, following your example, desert their lawful wives and live in guilty intercourse with adultresses and nuns. Let the custom of a foreign country teach you how far distant this is from rectitude. For in old Saxony, where there is no knowledge of Christ, if a virgin in her father’s house, or a married woman under the protection of her husband, should be guilty of adultery, they burn her, strangled by her own hand, and hang up her seducer over the grave where she is buried; or else, cutting off her garments to the waist, modest matrons whip her and pierce her with knives, and fresh tormentors punish her in the same manner as she goes from town to town, till they destroy her. Again the Winedi,105 the basest of nations, have this custom—the wife, on the death of her husband, casts herself on the same funeral pile to be consumed with him. If then the gentiles, who know not God, have so zealous a regard for chastity, how much more ought you to possess, my beloved son, who are both a Christian and a king? Spare therefore your own soul, spare a multitude of people, perishing by your example, for whose souls you must give account. Give heed to this too, if the nation of the Angles, (and we are reproached in France and75 in Italy and by the very pagans for it,) despising lawful matrimony, give free indulgence to adultery, a race ignoble and despising God must necessarily proceed from such a mixture, which will destroy the country by their abandoned manners, as was the case with the Burgundians, Provençals, and Spaniards, whom the Saracens harassed for many years on account of their past transgressions. Moreover, it has been told us, that you take away from the churches and monasteries many of their privileges, and excite, by your example, your nobility to do the like. But recollect, I entreat you, what terrible vengeance God hath inflicted upon former kings, guilty of the crime we lay to your charge. For Ceolred, your predecessor, the debaucher of nuns, the infringer of ecclesiastical privileges, was seized, while splendidly regaling with his nobles, by a malignant spirit, who snatched away his soul without confession and without communion, while in converse with the devil and despising the law of God. He drove Osred also, king of the Deirans and Bernicians, who was guilty of the same crimes, to such excess that he lost his kingdom and perished in early manhood by an ignominious death. Charles also, governor of the Franks, the subverter of many monasteries and the appropriator of ecclesiastical revenues to his own use, perished by excruciating pain and a fearful death.” And afterwards, “Wherefore, my beloved son, we entreat with paternal and fervent prayers that you would not despise the counsel of your fathers, who, for the love of God, anxiously appeal to your highness. For nothing is more salutary to a good king than the willing correction of such crimes when they are pointed out to him; since Solomon says ‘Whoso loveth instruction, loveth wisdom.’ Wherefore, my dearest son, showing you good counsel, we call you to witness, and entreat you by the living God, and his Son Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, that you would recollect how fleeting is the present life, how short and momentary is the delight of the filthy flesh, and how ignominious for a person of transitory existence to leave a bad example to posterity. Begin therefore to regulate your life by better habits, and correct the past errors of your youth, that you may have praise before men here, and be blest with eternal glory hereafter. We wish your Highness health and proficiency in virtue.”

76 I have inserted in my narrative portions of this epistle, to give sufficient knowledge of these circumstances, partly in the words of the author and partly in my own, shortening the sentences as seemed proper, for which I shall easily be excused, because there was need of brevity for the sake of those who were eager to resume the thread of the history. Moreover, Boniface transmitted an epistle of like import to archbishop Cuthbert, adding that he should remonstrate with the clergy and nuns on the fineness and vanity of their dress. Besides, that he might not wonder at his interfering in that in which he had no apparent concern, that is to say, how or with what manners the nation of the Angles conducted itself, he gave him to understand, that he had bound himself by oath to pope Gregory the Third, not to conceal the conduct of the nations near him from the knowledge of the apostolical see; wherefore, if mild measures failed of success, he should take care to act in such manner, that vices of this kind should not be kept secret from the pope. Indeed, on account of the fine texture of the clerical vestments, Alcuin obliquely glances at Athelard the archbishop, Cuthbert’s successor, reminding him that, when he should come to Rome to visit the emperor Charles the Great, the grandson of Charles of whom Boniface was speaking above, he should not bring the clergy or monks dressed in party-coloured or gaudy garments, for the clergy amongst the Franks dressed only in ecclesiastical habits.

Nor could the letters of so great a man, which he was accustomed to send from watchful regard to his legation and pure love of his country, be without effect. For both Cuthbert, the archbishop, and king Ethelbald summoned a council for the purpose of retrenching the superfluities which he had stigmatised. The acts of this synod, veiled in a multiplicity of words, I shall forbear to add, as I think they will better accord with another part of my work, when I come to the succession of the bishops: but as I am now on the subject of kingly affairs, I shall subjoin a charter of Ethelbald’s, as a proof of his devotion, because it took place in the same council.

“It often happens, through the uncertain change of times, that those things which have been confirmed by the testimony and advice of many faithful persons, have been made77 of none effect by the contumacy of very many, or by the artifices of deceit, without any regard to justice, unless they have been committed to eternal memory by the authority of writing and the testimony of charters. Wherefore I Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, out of love to heaven and regard for my own soul, have felt the necessity of considering how I may, by good works, set it free from every tie of sin. For since the Omnipotent God, through the greatness of his clemency, without any previous merit on my part, hath bestowed on me the sceptre of government, therefore I willingly repay him out of that which he hath given. On this account I grant, so long as I live, that all monasteries and churches of my kingdom shall be exempted from public taxes, works, and impositions, except the building of forts and bridges, from which none can be released. And moreover the servants of God shall have perfect liberty in the produce of their woods and lands, and the right of fishing, nor shall they bring presents either to king or princes except voluntarily, but they shall serve God without molestation.”

[A.D. 749–777.]     LULLUS—OFFA.

Lullus106 succeeded Boniface, an Englishman by birth also; of whose sanctity mention is made in the life of St. Goar, and these verses, which I remember to have heard from my earliest childhood, bear witness:

“Lullus, than whom no holier prelate lives,
By God’s assistance healing medicine gives,
Cures each disorder by his powerful hand,
And with his glory overspreads the land.”

However, to return to my history, Offa, descended from Penda in the fifth degree, succeeded Ethelbald. He was a man of great mind, and one who endeavoured to bring to effect whatever he had preconceived; he reigned thirty-nine years. When I consider the deeds of this person, I am doubtful whether I should commend or censure. At one time, in the same character, vices were so palliated by virtues, and at another virtues came in such quick succession upon vices that it is difficult to determine how to characterize the changing Proteus. My narrative shall give examples of each. Engaging in a set battle with Cynewulf, king of the78 West Saxons, he easily gained the victory, though the other was a celebrated warrior. When he thought artifice would better suit his purpose, this same man beheaded king Ethelbert, who had come to him through the allurement of great promises, and was at that very time within the walls of his palace, soothed into security by his perfidious attentions, and then unjustly seized upon the kingdom of the East Angles which Ethelbert had held.

The relics of St. Alban, at that time obscurely buried, he ordered to be reverently taken up and placed in a shrine, decorated to the fullest extent of royal munificence, with gold and jewels; a church of most beautiful workmanship was there erected, and a society of monks assembled. Yet rebellious against God, he endeavoured to remove the archiepiscopal see formerly settled at Canterbury, to Lichfield, envying, forsooth, the men of Kent the dignity of the archbishopric: on which account he at last deprived Lambert, the archbishop, worn out with continual exertion, and who produced many edicts of the apostolical see, both ancient and modern, of all possessions within his territories, as well as of the jurisdiction over the bishoprics. From pope Adrian, therefore, whom he had wearied with plausible assertions for a long time, as many things not to be granted may be gradually drawn and artfully wrested from minds intent on other occupations, he obtained that there should be an archbishopric of the Mercians at Lichfield, and that all the prelates of the Mercians should be subject to that province. Their names were as follow: Denebert, bishop of Worcester, Werenbert, of Leicester, Edulph, of Sidnacester, Wulpheard, of Hereford; and the bishops of the East Angles, Alpheard, of Elmham, Tidfrid, of Dunwich; the bishop of Lichfield was named Aldulph. Four bishops however remained suffragan to Lambert, archbishop of Canterbury, London, Winchester, Rochester, and Selsey. Some of these bishoprics are now in being, some are removed to other places, others consolidated by venal interest, for Leicester, Sidnacester, and Dunwich, from some unknown cause, are no longer in existence. Nor did Offa’s rapacity stop here, for he showed himself a downright public pilferer, by converting to his own use the lands of many churches, of which Malmesbury was one. But this iniquity did not long deform canonical institutions, for soon79 after Kenulf, Offa’s successor, inferior to no preceding king in power or in faith, transmitted a letter to Leo, the successor of Adrian, and restored Athelard who had succeeded Lambert, to his former dignity. Hence Alcuin, in an epistle to the same Athelard, says “Having heard of the success of your journey, and your return to your country, and how you were received by the pope, I give thanks with every sentiment of my heart to the Lord our God, who, by the precious gift of his mercy, directed your way with a prosperous progress, gave you favour in the sight of the pope, granted you to return home with the perfect accomplishment of your wishes, and hath condescended, through you, to restore the holiest seat of our first teacher to its pristine dignity.” I think it proper to subjoin part of the king’s epistle and also of the pope’s, though I may seem by so doing to anticipate the regular order of time; but I shall do it on this account, that it is a task of greater difficulty to blend together disjointed facts than to despatch those I had begun.

[A.D. 790.]     KENULF’S EPISTLE.

To the most holy and truly loving lord Leo, pontiff of the sacred and apostolical see, Kenulf, by the grace of God king of the Mercians, with the bishops, princes, and every degree of dignity under our authority, sendeth the salutation of the purest love in Christ.

“We give thanks ever to God Almighty, who is wont, by the means of new guides, the former being taken to the life eternal, to guide the church, purchased by his precious blood, amid the diverse storms of this world, to the haven of salvation, and to shed fresh light upon it, in order that it be led into no error of darkness, but may pursue the path of truth without stumbling; wherefore the universal church justly rejoices, that when the true rewarder of all good men took the most glorious pastor of his flock, Adrian, to be eternally rewarded in heaven, still his kind providence gave a shepherd to his flock, not less skilled, to conduct the sheep of God into the fold of life. We also, who live on the farthest confines of the world, justly boast, beyond all other things, that the church’s exaltation is our safety, its prosperity our constant ground of joy; since your apostolical dignity and our true faith originate from the same source. Whentfore I deem it fitting to incline the ear of our obedience, with all due humility, to your holy commands, and80 to fulfil, with every possible endeavour, what shall seem just to your piety for us to accomplish: but to avoid, and utterly reject, all that shall be found inconsistent with right. But now, I, Kenulf, by the grace of God king, humbly entreat your excellence that I may address you as I wish, without offence, on the subject of our progress, that you may receive me with peaceful tranquillity into the bosom of your piety, and that the liberal bounty of your benediction may qualify me, gifted with no stock of merit, to rule my people; in order that God may deign, through your intercession, to defend the nation, which, together with me, your apostolical authority has instructed in the rudiments of the faith, against all attacks of adversaries, and to extend that kingdom which he hath given. This benediction all the Mercian kings before me were, by your predecessors, deemed worthy to obtain. This, I humbly beg, and this, O most holy man, I desire to receive, that you would more especially accept me as a son by adoption, as I love you as my father, and always honour you with all possible obedience. For among such great personages faith ever should be kept inviolate, as well as perfect love, because paternal love is to be looked upon as filial happiness in God, according to the saying of Hezekiah, ‘A father will make known thy truth to his sons, O Lord.’ In which words I implore you, O loved father, not to deny to your unworthy son the knowledge of the Lord in your holy words, in order that, by your sound instruction, I may deserve, by the assistance of God, to come to a better course of life. And moreover, O most affectionate father, we beg, with all our bishops, and every person of rank among us, that, concerning the many inquiries on which we have thought it right to consult your wisdom, you would courteously reply, lest the traditions of the holy fathers and their instructions should, through ignorance, be misunderstood by us; but let your reply reach us in charity and meekness, that, through the mercy of God, it may bring forth fruit in us. The first thing our bishops and learned men allege is, that, contrary to the canons and papal constitutions enacted for our use by the direction of the most holy father Gregory, as you know, the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Canterbury is divided into two provinces, to whose power, by the same father’s command, twelve bishops ought to be subject,81 as is read throughout our churches, in the letter which he directed to his brother and fellow bishop, Augustine, concerning the two metropolitans of London and York, which letter doubtlessly you also possess. But that pontifical dignity, which was at that time destined to London, with the honour and distinction of the pall, was, for his sake, removed and granted to Canterbury. For since Augustine, of blessed memory, who, at the command of St. Gregory, preached the word of God to the nation of the Angles, and so gloriously presided over the church of the Saxons, died in that city, and his body was buried in the church of St. Peter, the chief of apostles, which his successor St. Laurentius consecrated, it seemed proper to the sages of our nation, that the metropolitan dignity should reside in that city where rests the body of the man who planted the true faith in these parts. The honour of this pre-eminence, as you know, king Offa first attempted to take away and to divide it into two provinces, through enmity against the venerable Lambert and the Kentish people; and your pious brother and predecessor, Adrian, at the request of the aforesaid king, first did what no one had before presumed, and honoured the prelate of the Mercians with the pall. But yet we blame neither of these persons, whom, as we believe, Christ crowns with eternal glory. Nevertheless we humbly entreat your excellence, on whom God hath deservedly conferred the key of wisdom, that you would consult with your counsellors on this subject, and condescend to transmit to us what may be necessary for us to observe hereafter, and what may tend to the unity of real peace, as we wish, through your sound doctrine, lest the coat of Christ, woven throughout without seam, should suffer any rent among us. We have written this to you, most holy father, with equal humility and regard, earnestly entreating your clemency, that you would kindly and justly reply to those things which have been of necessity submitted to you. Moreover we wish that you would examine, with pious love, that epistle which, in the presence of all our bishops, Athelard the archbishop wrote to you more fully on the subject of his own affairs and necessities, as well as on those of all Britain; that whatever the rule of faith requires in those matters which are contained therein, you would condescend truly to explain. Wherefore last year I sent my own embassy,82 and that of the bishops by Wada the abbat, which he received, but idly and foolishly executed. I now send you a small present as a token of regard, respected father, by Birine the priest, and Fildas and Ceolbert, my servants, that is to say, one hundred and twenty mancuses,107 together with letters, begging that you would condescend to receive them kindly, and give us your blessing. May God Almighty long preserve you safe to the glory of his holy church.”

[A.D. 787.]     POPE LEO’S EPISTLE.

To the most excellent prince, my son Kenulf, king of the Mercians, of the province of the Saxons, pope Leo sendeth greeting. Our most holy and reverend brother Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, arriving at the holy churches of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, as well for the faithful performance of his vow of prayer as to acquaint us with the cause of his ecclesiastical mission to the apostolical see, hath brought to us the enclosures of your royal excellence, where finding, in two epistles filled with true faith, your great humility, we return thanks to Almighty God, who hath taught and inclined your most prudent excellence to have due regard with us in all things towards St. Peter, the chief of apostles, and to submit with meekness to all apostolical constitutions. Moreover, in one of these epistles we find that, were it requisite, you would even lay down your life for us, for the sake of our apostolical office. And again, you confess that you rejoice much in the Lord at our prosperity, and that when these our letters of kindest admonition reach the ears of your cordiality, you will receive them with all humility and spiritual joy of heart, as sons do the gift of a father. It is added too that you had ordered a small present out of your abundance to be offered to us, an hundred and twenty mancuses, which, with ardent desire for the salvation of your soul, we have accepted. The aforesaid archbishop, with his attendants, has been honourably and kindly received by us, and has been rendered every necessary assistance. In the meantime, trusting to your most prudent excellence when you observe, even in your own royal letters, that no Christian can presume to run counter to our apostolical83 decisions, we therefore endeavour, with all possible diligence, to transmit and ordain what shall be of service to your kingdom, that as a canonical censure enjoins your royal excellence, and all the princes of your nation, and the whole people of God, to observe all things which the aforesaid archbishop Athelard our brother, or the whole body of the evangelical and apostolical doctrine and that of the holy fathers and of our predecessors the holy pontiffs ordain, you ought by no means to resist their orthodox doctrine in any thing, as our Lord and Saviour says in the Gospel, “He who receiveth you receiveth me,” and “he who receives a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward.” And how much more do we praise the Almighty for this same lord archbishop, whom you have so highly commended to us as being, what he really is, honourable, and skilful, and prudent, of good morals, worthy before God and men. O loving son and excellent king, we praise God, that hath pointed out to you a prelate who, like a true shepherd, is able to prescribe due penance, according to the doctrine of the holy Scriptures, and to rescue the souls of those who are under his sacerdotal authority from the nethermost hell, snatching them from inextinguishable fire, bringing them into the haven of salvation, and offering for them to God Almighty a sacrifice, fit and pure in the sight of the Divine Majesty. And since the aforesaid archbishop hath pleased us extremely in every respect, in all holiness and conversation of life, confiding much to him, we give him such prelatical power by the authority of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, whose office, though unworthily, we fill, that if any in his province, as well kings and princes as people, shall transgress the commandments of the Lord, he shall excommunicate him until he repent; and if he remain impenitent, let him be to you as an heathen and a publican. But with respect to the aforesaid Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, since your excellent prelates have demanded from us that we do him justice concerning the jurisdiction which he lately held, as well of bishops as monasteries, and of which he has been unjustly deprived, as you know, and which have been taken from his venerable see: we, making most diligent search, have found in our sacred depository, that St. Gregory, our predecessor, delivered that diocese to his deputed archbishop84 St. Augustine, with the right of consecrating bishops, to the full number of twelve. Hence we also, having ascertained the truth, have, by our apostolical authority, placed all ordinations or confirmations on their ancient footing, and do restore them to him entire, and we deliver to him the grant of our confirmation, to be duly observed by his church, according to the sacred canons.”

In the meantime Offa, that the outrages against his countrymen might not secretly tend to his disadvantage, in order to conciliate the favour of neighbouring kings, gave his daughter Eadburga in marriage to Bertric, king of the West Saxons; and obtained the amity of Charles the Great, king of the Franks, by repeated embassies, though he could find little in the disposition of Charles to second his views. They had disagreed before, insomuch that violent feuds having arisen on both sides, even the intercourse of traders was prohibited. There is an epistle of Alcuin to this effect, part of which I shall subjoin, as it affords a strong proof of the magnanimity and valour of Charles, who spent all his time in war against the Pagans, rebels to God. He says,108 “The ancient Saxons and all the Friesland nations were converted to the faith of Christ through the exertions of king Charles, urging some with threats, and others with rewards. At the end of the year the king made an attack upon the Sclavonians and subjugated them to his power. The Avares, whom we call Huns, made a furious attempt upon Italy, but were conquered by the generals of the aforesaid most Christian king, and returned home with disgrace. In like manner they rushed against Bavaria, and were again overcome and dispersed by the Christian army. Moreover the princes and commanders of the same most Christian king took great part of Spain from the Saracens, to the extent of three hundred miles along the sea-coast: but, O shame! these accursed Saracens, who are the Hagarens, have dominion over the whole of Africa, and the larger part of Asia Major. I know not what will be our destination, for some ground of difference, fomented by the devil, has arisen between king Charles and king Offa, so that, on both sides,85 all navigation is prohibited the merchants. Some say that we are to be sent into those parts to treat of peace.”

In these words, in addition to what I have remarked above, any curious person may determine how many years have elapsed since the Saracens invaded Africa and Asia Major. And indeed, had not the mercy of God animated the native spirit of the emperors of the Franks, the pagans had long since subjugated Europe also. For, holding the Constantinopolitan emperors in contempt, they possessed themselves of Sicily and Sardinia, the Balearic isles, and almost all the countries surrounded by the sea, with the exception of Crete, Rhodes, and Cyprus. In our time however they have been compelled to relinquish Sicily by the Normans, Corsica and Sardinia by the Pisans, and great part of Asia and Jerusalem itself by the Franks and other nations of Europe. But, as I shall have a fitter place to treat largely of these matters hereafter, I shall now subjoin, from the words of Charles himself, the treaty which was ratified between him and Offa king of the Mercians.


Charles, by the grace of God king of the Franks and Lombards, and patrician of the Romans, to his esteemed and dearest brother Offa king of the Mercians, sendeth health:—First, we give thanks to God Almighty for the purity of the Catholic faith, which we find laudably expressed in your letters. Concerning pilgrims, who for the love of God or the salvation of their souls, wish to visit the residence of the holy apostles, let them go peaceably without any molestation; but if persons, not seeking the cause of religion, but that of gain, be found amongst them, let them pay the customary tolls in proper places. We will, too, that traders have due protection within our kingdom, according to our mandate, and if in any place they suffer wrongful oppression, let them appeal to us or to our judges, and we will see full justice done. Let your kindness also be apprized that we have sent some token of our regard, out of our dalmatics109 and palls, to each episcopal see of your kingdom or of Ethelred’s, as an86 almsgiving, on account of our apostolical lord Adrian, earnestly begging that you would order him to be prayed for, not as doubting that his blessed soul is at rest, but to show our esteem and regard to our dearest friend. Moreover we have sent somewhat out of the treasure of those earthly riches, which the Lord Jesus hath granted to us of his unmerited bounty, for the metropolitan cities, and for yourself a belt, an Hungarian sword, and two silk cloaks.”

I have inserted these brief extracts from the epistle that posterity may be clearly acquainted with the friendship of Offa and Charles; confiding in which friendly intercourse, although assailed by the hatred of numbers, he passed the rest of his life in uninterrupted quiet, and saw Egfert his son anointed to succeed him. This Egfert studiously avoided the cruel path trod by his father, and devoutly restored the privileges of all the churches which Offa had in his time abridged. The possessions also which his father had taken from Malmesbury he restored into the hands of Cuthbert, then abbat of that place, at the admonition of the aforesaid Athelard archbishop of Canterbury, a man of energy and a worthy servant of God, and who is uniformly asserted to have been its abbat before Cuthbert, from the circumstance of his choosing there to be buried. But while the hopes of Egfert’s noble qualities were ripening, in the first moments of his reign, untimely death cropped the flower of his youthful prime; on which account Alcuin writing to the patrician Osbert, says, “I do not think that the most noble youth Egfert died for his own sins, but because his father, in the establishment of his kingdom, shed a deluge of blood.” Dying after a reign of four months, he appointed Kenulf, nephew of Penda in the fifth degree by his brother Kenwalk, to succeed him.

Kenulf was a truly great man, and surpassed his fame by his virtues, doing nothing that malice could justly find fault with. Religious at home, victorious abroad, his praises will be deservedly extolled so long as an impartial judge can be found in England. Equally to be admired for the extent of his power and for the lowliness of his mind; of which he gave an eminent proof in restoring, as we have related, its faltering dignity to Canterbury, he little regarded earthly grandeur in his own kingdom at the expense of deviating from87 anciently-enjoined canons. Taking up Offa’s hatred against the Kentish people, he sorely afflicted that province, and led away captive their king Eadbert, surnamed Pren; but not long after, moved with sentiments of pity, he released him. For at Winchelcombe, where he had built a church to God, which yet remains, on the day of its dedication he freed the captive king at the altar, and consoled him with liberty; thereby giving a memorable instance of his clemency. Cuthred,110 whom he had made king over the Kentish people, was present to applaud this act of royal munificence. The church resounded with acclamations, the street shook with crowds of people, for in an assembly of thirteen bishops and ten dukes, no one was refused a largess, all departed with full purses. Moreover, in addition to those presents of inestimable price and number in utensils, clothes, and select horses, which the chief nobility received, he gave to all who did not possess landed property111 a pound of silver, to each presbyter a marca of gold, to every monk a shilling, and lastly he made many presents to the people at large. After he had endowed the monastery with such ample revenues as would seem incredible in the present time, he honoured it by his sepulture, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign. His son Kenelm, of tender age, and undeservedly murdered by his sister Quendrida, gained the title and distinction of martyrdom, and rests in the same place.

[A.D. 796–825.]     KENELM—WITHLAF.

After him the kingdom of the Mercians sank from its prosperity, and becoming nearly lifeless, produced nothing worthy to be mentioned in history. However, that no one may accuse me of leaving the history imperfect, I shall glance over the names of the kings in succession. Ceolwulf, the brother of Kenulf, reigning one year was expelled in the second by Bernulf; who in the third year of his reign being overcome and put to flight by Egbert, king of the West Saxons, was afterwards slain by the East Angles, because he had attempted to seize on East Anglia, as a kingdom subject to the Mercians from the time of Offa. Ludecan, after88 a reign of two years, was despatched by these Angles, as he was preparing to avenge his predecessor: Withlaf, subjugated in the commencement of his reign by the before-mentioned Egbert, governed thirteen years, paying tribute to him and to his son, both for his person and his property: Berthwulf reigning thirteen years on the same conditions, was at last driven by the Danish pirates beyond the sea: Burhred marrying Ethelswith, the daughter of king Ethelwulf, the son of Egbert, exonerated himself, by this affinity, from the payment of tribute and the depredations of the enemy, but after twenty-two years, driven by them from his country, he fled to Rome, and was there buried at the school of the Angles, in the church of St. Mary; his wife, at that time continuing in this country, but afterwards following her husband, died at Pavia. The kingdom was next given by the Danes to one Celwulf, an attendant of Burhred’s, who bound himself by oath that he would retain it only at their pleasure: after a few years it fell under the dominion of Alfred, the grandson of Egbert. Thus the sovereignty of the Mercians, which prematurely bloomed by the overweening ambition of an heathen, altogether withered away through the inactivity of a driveller king, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation eight hundred and seventy-five.

Of the kings of the East Angles. [A.D. 520–905.

[A.D. 616–793.]     EORPWALD—EDMUND.

As my narrative has hitherto treated of the history of the four more powerful kingdoms in as copious a manner, I trust, as the perusal of ancient writers has enabled me, I shall now, as last in point of order, run through the governments of the East Angles and East Saxons, as suggested in my preface. The kingdom of the East Angles arose anterior to the West Saxons, though posterior to the kingdom of Kent. The first112 and also the greatest king of the East Angles was Redwald, tenth in descent from Woden as they affirm; for all the southern provinces of the Angles and Saxons on this side of89 the river Humber, with their kings, were subject to his authority. This is the person whom I have formerly mentioned as having, out of regard for Edwin, killed Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians. Through the persuasion of Edwin too he was baptized; and after, at the instigation of his wife, abjured the faith. His son, Eorpwald, embraced pure Christianity, and poured out his immaculate spirit to God, being barbarously murdered by the heathen Richbert. To him succeeded Sigebert, his brother by the mother’s side, a worthy servant of the Lord, polished from all barbarism by his education among the Franks. For, being driven into banishment by Redwald, and for a long time associating with them, he had received the rites of Christianity, which, on his coming into power he graciously communicated to the whole of his kingdom, and also instituted schools of learning in different places. This ought highly to be extolled: as men heretofore uncivilized and irreligious, were enabled, by his means, to taste the sweets of literature. The promoter of his studies and the stimulator of his religion was Felix the bishop, a Burgundian by birth, who now lies buried at Ramsey. Sigebert moreover renouncing the world and taking the monastic vow, left the throne to his relation, Ecgric, with whom, being attacked in intestine war by Penda, king of the Mercians, he met his death, at the moment when, superior to his misfortunes, and mindful of his religious profession, he held only a wand in his hand. The successor of Ecgric was Anna, the son of Eni, the brother of Redwald, involved in similar destruction by the same furious Penda; he was blessed with a numerous and noble offspring, as the second book will declare in its proper place. To Anna succeeded his brother Ethelhere, who was justly slain by Oswy king of the Northumbrians, together with Penda, because he was an auxiliary to him, and was actually supporting the very army which had destroyed his brother and his kinsman. His brother Ethelwald, in due succession, left the kingdom to Adulf and Elwold, the sons of Ethelhere. Next came Bernred. After him Ethelred. His son was St. Ethelbert, whom Offa king of the Mercians killed through treachery, as has already been said, and will be repeated hereafter. After him, through the violence of the Mercians, few kings reigned in Eastern Anglia till the time of St. Edmund, and he was90 despatched in the sixteenth year of his reign, by Hingwar, a heathen; from which time the Angles ceased to command in their own country for fifty years. For the province was nine years without a king, owing to the continued devastations of the pagans; afterwards both in it and in East Saxony, Gothrun, a Danish king, reigned for twelve years, in the time of king Alfred. Gothrun had for successor a Dane also, by name Eohric, who, after he had reigned fourteen years, was taken off by the Angles, because he conducted himself with cruelty towards them. Still, however, liberty beamed not on this people, for the Danish earls continued to oppress them, or else to excite them against the kings of the West Saxons, till Edward, the son of Alfred, added both provinces to his own West Saxon empire, expelling the Danes and freeing the Angles. This event took place in the fiftieth year after the murder of St. Edmund, king and martyr, and in the fifteenth113 of his own reign.

Of the kings of the East Saxons. [A.D. 520–823.]

Nearly co-eval with the kingdom of the East Angles, was that of the East Saxons; which had many kings in succession, though subject to others, and principally to those of the Mercians. First, then, Sleda,114 the tenth from Woden, reigned over them; whose son, Sabert, nephew of St. Ethelbert, king of Kent, by his sister Ricula, embraced the faith of Christ at the preaching of St. Mellitus, first bishop of London; for that city belongs to the East Saxons. On the death of Sabert, his sons, Sexred and Seward, drove Mellitus into banishment, and soon after, being killed by the West Saxons, they paid the penalty of their persecution against Christ. Sigbert, surnamed the Small, the son of Seward, succeeding, left the kingdom to Sigebert, the son of Sigebald,91 who was the brother of Sabert. This Sigebert, at the exhortation of king Oswy, was baptized in Northumbria by bishop Finan, and brought back to his nation, by the ministry of bishop Cedd,115 the faith which they had expelled together with Mellitus. After gloriously governing the kingdom, he left it in a manner still more glorious; for he was murdered by his near relations, merely because, in conformity to the gospel-precept, he used kindly to spare his enemies, nor regard with harsh and angry countenance, if they were penitent, those who had offended him. His brother Suidelm, baptized by the same Cedd in East Anglia, succeeded. On his death, Sighere, the son of Sigbert the Small, and Sebbi, the son of Seward, held the sovereignty. Sebbi’s associate dying, he himself voluntarily retired from the kingdom in his thirtieth year, becoming a monk, as Bede relates. His sons Sighard and of Sighere, governed the kingdom for a short time; a youth of engaging countenance and disposition, in the flower of his age, and highly beloved by his subjects. He, through the persuasion of Kyneswith, daughter of king Penda, whom he had anxiously sought in marriage, being taught to aspire after heavenly affections, went to Rome with Kenred king of the Mercians, and St. Edwin bishop of Worcester; and there taking the vow, in due time entered the heavenly mansions. To him succeeded Selred, son of Sigebert the Good, during thirty-eight years; who being slain, Swithed assumed the sovereignty of the East Saxons;116 but in the same year that Egbert king of the West Saxons subdued Kent, being expelled by him, he vacated the kingdom; though London, with the adjacent country, continued subject to the kings of the Mercians as long as they held their sovereignty.

[A.D. 653–823.]     OF THE KINGS OF KENT.

The kings of Kent, it is observed, had dominion peculiarly in Kent, in which are two sees; the archbishopric of Canterbury, and the bishopric of Rochester.

92 The kings of the West Saxons ruled in Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Dorsetshire; in which there is one bishop, whose see is now at Sarum or Salisbury; formerly it was at Ramsbury, or at Sherborne: in Sussex, which for some little time possessed a king of its own;117 the episcopal see of this county was anciently in the island of Selsey, as Bede relates, where St. Wilfrid built a monastery; the bishop now dwells at Chichester: in the counties of Southampton and Surrey; which have a bishop, whose see is at Winchester: in the county of Somerset, which formerly had a bishop at Wells, but now at Bath: and in Domnonia, now called Devonshire, and Cornubia, now Cornwall; at that time there were two bishoprics, one at Crediton, the other at St. German’s; now there is but one, and the see is at Exeter.

The kings of the Mercians governed the counties of Gloucester, Worcester, and Warwick; in these is one bishop whose residence is at Worcester: in Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire; these have one bishop, who has part of Warwickshire and Shropshire; his residence is at the city of Legions, that is Chester or Coventry; formerly it was at Lichfield: in Herefordshire; and there is a bishop having half Shropshire and part of Warwickshire, and Gloucestershire; whose residence is at Hereford: in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, half of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire; which counties are under the jurisdiction of a bishop now resident at Lincoln, but formerly at Dorchester in the county of Oxford: in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, which belong to the diocese of York; formerly they had their own bishop, whose seat was at Leicester.

The kings of the East Angles had dominion over the county of Cambridge; there is a bishop, whose seat is at Ely: and in Norfolk and Suffolk: whose see is at Norwich; formerly at Elmham or Thetford.

The kings of the East Saxons ruled in Essex, in Middlesex,93 and half of Hertfordshire; where there anciently was, and still remains, the bishop of London.

The kings of the Northumbrians governed all the country which is beyond the river Humber, even into Scotland; and there were the archbishop of York, the bishops of Hexham, of Ripon, of Lindisfarne, and of Candida Casa [Whitherne]; Hexham and Ripon are no more; Lindisfarne is translated to Durham.

Such were the divisions of the kingdom of England, although the kings, according to the vicissitude of the times, now one, and then the other, would exceed their boundaries through their courage, or lose them by their indolence; but all these several kingdoms Egbert subjugated by his abilities, and consolidated into one empire, reserving to each their own laws. Wherefore, since I have passed beyond his times, fulfilling my promise in a review of the different periods, I will here fix the limits of my first volume, that the various tracks of the different kingdoms may unite in the general path of the West Saxon Empire.



[A.D. 800.]     PROLOGUE TO BOOK II.

A long period has elapsed since, as well through the care of my parents as my own industry, I became familiar with books. This pleasure possessed me from my childhood: this source of delight has grown with my years. Indeed I was so instructed by my father, that, had I turned aside to other pursuits, I should have considered it as jeopardy to my soul and discredit to my character. Wherefore mindful of the adage “covet what is necessary,” I constrained my early age to desire eagerly that which it was disgraceful not to possess. I gave, indeed, my attention to various branches of literature, but in different degrees. Logic, for instance, which gives arms to eloquence, I contented myself with barely hearing. Medicine, which ministers to the health of the body, I studied with somewhat more attention. But now, having scrupulously examined the several branches of94 Ethics, I bow down to its majesty, because it spontaneously unveils itself to those who study it, and directs their minds to moral practice; History more especially; which, by an agreeable recapitulation of past events, excites its readers, by example, to frame their lives to the pursuit of good, or to aversion from evil. When, therefore, at my own expense, I had procured some historians of foreign nations, I proceeded, during my domestic leisure, to inquire if any thing concerning our own country could be found worthy of handing down to posterity. Hence it arose, that, not content with the writings of ancient times, I began, myself, to compose; not indeed to display my learning, which is comparatively nothing, but to bring to light events lying concealed in the confused mass of antiquity. In consequence rejecting vague opinions, I have studiously sought for chronicles far and near, though I confess I have scarcely profited any thing by this industry. For perusing them all, I still remained poor in information; though I ceased not my researches as long as I could find any thing to read. However, what I have clearly ascertained concerning the four kingdoms, I have inserted in my first book, in which I hope truth will find no cause to blush, though perhaps a degree of doubt may sometimes arise. I shall now trace the monarchy of the West Saxon kingdom, through the line of successive princes, down to the coming of the Normans: which if any person will condescend to regard with complacency, let him in brotherly love observe the following rule: “If before, he knew only these things, let him not be disgusted because I have inserted them; if he shall know more, let him not be angry that I have not spoken of them;” but rather let him communicate his knowledge to me, while I yet live, that at least, those events may appear in the margin of my history, which do not occur in the text.

The history of king Egbert. [A.D. 800–839.]

[A.D. 800–828.]     OF KING EGBERT.

My former volume terminated where the four kingdoms of Britain were consolidated into one. Egbert, the founder of this sovereignty, grand-nephew of king Ina, by his brother Ingild, of high rank in his own nation, and liberally95 educated, had been conspicuous among the West Saxons from his childhood. His uninterrupted course of valour begat envy, and as it is almost naturally ordained that kings should regard with suspicion whomsoever they see growing up in expectation of the kingdom, Bertric, as before related, jealous of his rising character, was meditating how to destroy him. Egbert, apprised of this, escaped to Offa, king of the Mercians. While Offa concealed him with anxious care, the messengers of Bertric arrived, demanding the fugitive for punishment, and offering money for his surrender. In addition to this they solicited his daughter in marriage for their king, in order that the nuptial tie might bind them in perpetual amity. In consequence Offa, who would not give way to hostile threats, yielded to flattering allurements, and Egbert, passing the sea, went into France; a circumstance which I attribute to the counsels of God, that a man destined to rule so great a kingdom might learn the art of government from the Franks; for this people has no competitor among all the Western nations in military skill or polished manners. This ill-treatment Egbert used as an incentive to “rub off the rust of indolence,” to quicken the energy of his mind, and to adopt foreign customs, far differing from his native barbarism. On the death, therefore, of Bertric, being invited into Britain by frequent messages from his friends, he ascended the throne, and realized the fondest expectations of his country. He was crowned in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 800, and in the thirty-fourth year of the reign of Charles the Great, of France, who survived this event twelve years. In the meantime Egbert, when he had acquired the regard of his subjects by his affability and kindness, first manifested his power against those Britons who inhabit that part of the island which is called Cornwall, and having subjugated them, he proceeded to make the Northern Britons,118 who are separated from the others by an arm of the sea, tributary to him. While the fame of these victories struck terror into the rest, Bernulf king of the Mercians, aiming at something great, and supposing it would redound to his glory if he could remove the terror of others by his own audacity, proclaimed war96 against Egbert. Deeming it disgraceful to retreat, Egbert met him with much spirit, and on then coming into action, Bernulf was defeated and fled. This battle took place at Hellendun, A.D. 824.119 Elated with this success, the West Saxon king, extending his views, in the heat of victory, sent his son Ethelwulf, with Alstan, bishop of Sherborne, and a chosen band, into Kent, for the purpose of adding to the West Saxon dominions that province, which had either grown indolent through long repose, or was terrified by the fame of his valour. These commanders observed their instructions effectually, for they passed through every part of the country, and driving Baldred its king, with little difficulty, beyond the river Thames, they subjugated to his dominion, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, Kent, Surrey, the South Saxons, and the East Saxons, who had formerly been under the jurisdiction of his predecessors. Not long after the East Angles, animated by the support of Egbert, killed by successive stratagems, Bernulf and Ludecan, kings of the Mercians. The cause of their destruction was, their perpetual incursions, with their usual insolence, on the territories of others. Withlaf their successor, first driven from his kingdom by Egbert, and afterwards admitted as a tributary prince, augmented the West Saxon sovereignty. In the same year the Northumbrians perceiving that themselves only remained and were a conspicuous object, and fearing lest he should pour out his long-cherished anger on them, at last, though late, gave hostages, and yielded to his power. When he was thus possessed of all Britain, the rest of his life, a space of nine years, passed quietly on, except that, nearly in his latter days, a piratical band of Danes made a descent, and disturbed the peace of the kingdom. So changeable is the lot of human affairs, that he, who first singly governed all the Angles, could derive but little satisfaction from the obedience of his countrymen, for a foreign enemy was perpetually harassing97 him and his descendants. Against these invaders the forces of the Angles made a stand, but fortune no longer flattered the king with her customary favours, but deserted him in the contest: for, when, during the greater part of the day, he had almost secured the victory, he lost the battle as the sun declined; however, by the favour of darkness, he escaped the disgrace of being conquered. In the next action, with a small force, he totally routed an immense multitude. At length, after a reign of thirty-seven years and seven months, he departed this life, and was buried at Winchester; leaving an ample field of glory for his son, and declaring, that he must be happy, if he was careful not to destroy, by the indolence natural to his race, a kingdom that himself had consolidated with such consummate industry.

Of king Ethelwulf. [A.D. 839–858.]

[A.D. 838–851.]     OF KING ETHELWULF.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 837,120 Ethelwulf, whom some call Athulf, the son of Egbert, came to the throne, and reigned twenty years and five months. Mild by nature he infinitely preferred a life of tranquillity to dominion over many provinces; and, finally, content with his paternal kingdom, he bestowed all the rest, which his father had subjugated, on his son Ethelstan; of whom it is not known when, or in what manner, he died. He assisted Burhred, king of the Mercians, with an army against the Britons, and highly exalted him by giving him his daughter in marriage. He frequently overcame the piratical Danes, who were traversing the whole island and infesting the coast with sudden descents, both personally and by his generals; although, according to the chance of war, he himself experienced great and repeated calamities; London and almost the whole of Kent being laid waste. Yet these disasters were ever checked by the alacrity of the king’s advisers, who suffered not the enemy to trespass with impunity, but fully avenged themselves on them by the effect of their united counsels. For he possessed at that time, two most excellent prelates,98 St. Swithun of Winchester, and Ealstan of Sherborne, who perceiving the king to be of heavy and sluggish disposition, perpetually stimulated him, by their admonitions, to the knowledge of governing. Swithun, disgusted with earthly, trained his master to heavenly pursuits; Ealstan, knowing that the business of the kingdom ought not to be neglected, continually inspirited him against the Danes: himself furnishing the exchequer with money, as well as regulating the army. Any peruser of the Annals121 will find many affairs of this kind, both entered on with courage, and terminated with success through his means. He held his bishopric fifty years; happy in living for so long a space in the practice of good works. I should readily commend him, had he not been swayed by worldly avarice, and usurped what belonged to others, when by his intrigues he seized the monastery of Malmesbury for his own use. We feel the mischief of this shameful conduct even to the present day, although the monastery has baffled all similar violence from the time of his death till now, when it has fallen again into like difficulty.122 Thus the accursed passion of avarice corrupts the human soul, and forces men, though great and illustrious in other respects, into hell.

Ethelwulf, confiding in these two supporters, provided effectually for external emergencies, and did not neglect the interior concerns of his kingdom. For after the subjugation of his enemies, turning to the establishment of God’s worship, he granted every tenth hide of land within his kingdom to the servants of Christ, free from all tribute, exempt from all services. But how small a portion is this of his glory? Having settled his kingdom, he went to Rome, and there offered to St. Peter that tribute which England pays to this day,123 before pope Leo the fourth, who had also, formerly,99 honourably received, and anointed as king, Alfred,124 his son, whom Ethelwulf had sent to him. Continuing there a whole year, he nobly repaired the School of the Angles, which, according to report, was first founded by Offa, king of the Mercians, and had been burned down the preceding year.125 Returning home through France, he married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks.



For Louis the Pious, son of Charles the Great, had four sons; Lothaire, Pepin, Louis, and Charles, surnamed the Bald; of these Lothaire, even in his father’s life-time, usurping the title of emperor, reigned fifteen years in that part of Germany situated near the Alps which is now called Lorraine, that is, the kingdom of Lothaire, and in all Italy together with Rome. In his latter days, afflicted with sickness, he renounced the world. He was a man by far more inhuman than all who preceded him; so much so, as even frequently to load his own father with chains in a dungeon. Louis indeed was of mild and simple manners, but he was unmercifully persecuted by Lothaire, because Ermengarda, by whom he had his first family, being dead, he was doatingly fond of Charles, his son by his second wife Judith.100 Pepin, another son of Louis, had dominion in Aquitaine126 and Gascony. Louis, the third son of Louis, in addition to Norica, which he had already, possessed the kingdoms which his father had given him, that is to say, Alemannia, Thuringia, Austrasia, Saxony, and the kingdom of the Avares, that is, the Huns. Charles obtained the half of France on the west, and all Neustria, Brittany, and the greatest part of Burgundy, Gothia, Gascony, and Aquitaine, Pepin the son of Pepin being ejected thence and compelled to become a monk in the monastery of St. Methard; who afterwards escaping by flight, and returning into Aquitaine, remained there in concealment a long time; but being again treacherously deceived by Ranulph the governor, he was seized, brought to Charles at Senlis, and doomed to perpetual exile. Moreover, after the death of the most pious emperor, Louis, Lothaire, who had been anointed emperor eighteen years before his father’s decease, being joined by Pepin with the people of Aquitaine, led an army against his brothers, that is, Louis, the most pious king of the Bavarians, and Charles, into the county of Auxerre to a place called Fontenai:127 where, when the Franks with all their subject nations had been overwhelmed by mutual slaughter, Louis and Charles ultimately triumphed; Lothaire being put to flight. After this most sanguinary conflict, however, peace was made between them, and they divided the sovereignty of the Franks, as has been mentioned above. Lothaire had three sons by Ermengarda the daughter of Hugo: first, Louis, to whom he committed the government of the Romans and of Italy; next, Lothaire, to whom he left the imperial crown; lastly, Charles, to whom he gave Provence. Lothaire died in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 855, of his reign the101 thirty-third. Charles his son, who governed Provence, survived him eight years, and then Louis, emperor of the Romans, and Lothaire his brother, shared his kingdom of Provence. But Louis king of the Norici, that is, of the Bavarians, the son of Louis the emperor, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 865, after the feast of Easter, divided his kingdom between his sons. To Caroloman he gave Norica, that is, Bavaria, and the marches bordering on the Sclavonians and the Lombards; to Louis, Thuringia, the Eastern Franks, and Saxony; to Charles he left Alemannia, and Curnwalla, that is, the county of Cornwall.128 Louis himself reigned happily over his sons, in full power for ten years, and then died in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 876, when he had reigned fifty-four years. Charles king of the West Franks, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, entering Italy, came to offer up his prayers in the church of the apostles, and was there elected emperor by all the Roman people, and consecrated by pope John on the 25th of December, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 875. Thence he had a prosperous return into Gaul. But in the thirty-eighth year of his reign, and the beginning of the third of his imperial dignity, he went into Italy again, and held a conference with pope John; and returning into Gaul, he died, after passing Mount Cenis, on the 13th of October, in the tenth of the Indiction, in the year of our Lord 877, and was succeeded by his son Louis. Before the second year of his reign was completed this Louis died in the palace at Compeigne, on the sixth before the Ides of April, in the year of our Lord 879, the twelfth of the Indiction. After him his sons, Louis and Caroloman, divided his kingdom. Of these, Louis gained a victory over the Normans in the district of Vimeu, and died soon after on the 12th of August, in the year of our Lord 881, the fifteenth of the Indiction, having reigned two years, three months, and twenty-four days. He was succeeded in his government by his brother Caroloman, who, after reigning three years and six days, was wounded by a wild boar129 in the forest of Iveline, in Mount Ericus.102 He departed this life in the year of our Lord 884, the second of the Indiction, the 24th of December. Next Charles king of the Suavi, the son of Louis king of the Norici, assumed the joint empire of the Franks and Romans, in the year of the Incarnate Word 885, the third of the Indiction; whose vision, as I think it worth preserving, I here subjoin:

[A.D. 885.]     CHARLES’S VISION.

“In the name of God most high, the King of kings. As I, Charles by the free gift of God, emperor, king of the Germans, patrician of the Romans, and emperor of the Franks, on the sacred night of the Lord’s day, after duly performing the holy service of the evening, went to the bed of rest and sought the sleep of quietude, there came a tremendous voice to me, saying, ‘Charles, thy spirit shall shortly depart from thee for a considerable time:’ immediately I was rapt in the spirit, and he who carried me away in the spirit was most glorious to behold. In his hand he held a clue of thread emitting a beam of purest light, such as comets shed when they appear. This he began to unwind, and said to me, ‘Take the thread of this brilliant clue and bind and tie it firmly on the thumb of thy right hand, for thou shalt be led by it through the inextricable punishments of the infernal regions.’ Saying this, he went before me, quickly unrolling the thread of the brilliant clue, and led me into very deep and fiery valleys which were full of pits boiling with pitch, and brimstone, and lead, and wax, and grease. There I found the bishops of my father and of my uncles: and when in terror I asked them why they were suffering such dreadful torments? they replied, ‘We were the bishops of your father and of your uncles, and instead of preaching, and admonishing them and their people to peace and concord, as was our duty, we were the sowers of discord and the fomenters of evil. On this account we are now burning in these infernal torments, together with other lovers of slaughter and of rapine; and hither also will your bishops and ministers come, who now delight to act as we did.’ While I was fearfully listening to this, behold the blackest demons came flying about me, with fiery claws endeavouring to snatch away the thread of life which I held in my hand, and to draw it to them; but repelled by the rays of the clue, they were unable103 to touch it. Next running behind me, they tried to gripe me in their claws and cast me headlong into those sulphureous pits: but my conductor, who carried the clue, threw a thread of light over my shoulders, and doubling it, drew me strongly after him, and in this manner we ascended lofty fiery mountains, from which arose lakes, and burning rivers, and all kinds of burning metals, wherein I found immersed innumerable souls of the vassals and princes of my father and brothers, some up to the hair, others to the chin, and others to the middle, who mournfully cried out to me, ‘While we were living, we were, together with you, and your father, and brothers, and uncles, fond of battle, and slaughter, and plunder, through lust of earthly things: wherefore we now undergo punishment in these boiling rivers, and in various kinds of liquid metal.’ While I was, with the greatest alarm, attending to these, I heard some souls behind me crying out, ‘The great will undergo still greater torment.’ I looked back and beheld on the banks of the boiling river, furnaces of pitch and brimstone, filled with great dragons, and scorpions, and different kinds of serpents, where I also saw some of my father’s nobles, some of my own, and of those of my brothers and of my uncles, who said, ‘Alas, Charles, you see what dreadful torments we undergo on account of our malice, and pride, and the evil counsel which we gave to our kings and to you, for lust’s sake.’ When I could not help groaning mournfully at this, the dragons ran at me with open jaws filled with fire, and brimstone, and pitch, and tried to swallow me up. My conductor then tripled the thread of the clue around me, which by the splendour of its rays overcame their fiery throats: he then pulled me with greater violence, and we descended into a valley, which was in one part dark and burning like a fiery furnace, but in another so extremely enchanting and glorious, that I cannot describe it. I turned myself to the dark part which emitted flames, and there I saw some kings of my race in extreme torture; at which, affrighted beyond measure and reduced to great distress, I expected that I should be immediately thrown into these torments by some very black giants, who made the valley blaze with every kind of flame. I trembled very much, and, the thread of the clue of light assisting my eyes, I saw, on the side of the valley, the light somewhat104 brightening, and two fountains flowing out thence: one was extremely hot; the other clear and luke-warm; two large casks were there besides. When, guided by the thread of light, I proceeded thither, I looked into the vessel containing boiling water, and saw my father Louis, standing therein up to his thighs. He was dreadfully oppressed with pain and agony, and said to me, ‘Fear not, my lord Charles; I know that your spirit will again return into your body, and that God hath permitted you to come hither, that you might see for what crimes myself and all whom you have beheld, undergo these torments. One day I am bathed in the boiling cask; next I pass into that other delightful water; which is effected by the prayers of St. Peter and St. Remigius, under whose patronage our royal race has hitherto reigned. But if you, and my faithful bishops and abbats, and the whole ecclesiastical order will quickly assist me with masses, prayers and psalms, and alms, and vigils, I shall shortly be released from the punishment of the boiling water. For my brother Lothaire and his son Louis have had these punishments remitted by the prayers of St. Peter and St. Remigius, and have now entered into the joy of God’s paradise.’ He then said to me, ‘Look on your left hand;’ and when I had done so, I saw two very deep casks boiling furiously. ‘These,’ said he, ‘are prepared for you, if you do not amend and repent of your atrocious crimes.’ I then began to be dreadfully afraid, and when my conductor saw my spirit thus terrified, he said to me, ‘Follow me to the right of that most resplendent valley of paradise.’ As we proceeded, I beheld my uncle Lothaire sitting in excessive brightness, in company with glorious kings, on a topaz-stone of uncommon size, crowned with a precious diadem: and near him, his son Louis crowned in like manner. Seeing me near at hand he called me to him in a kind voice, saying, ‘Come to me, Charles, now my third successor in the empire of the Romans; I know that you have passed through the place of punishment where your father, my brother, is placed in the baths appointed for him; but, by the mercy of God, he will be shortly liberated from those punishments as we have been, by the merits of St. Peter and the prayers of St. Remigius, to whom God hath given a special charge over the kings and people of the Franks, and unless he shall continue to favour and assist the105 dregs of our family, our race must shortly cease both from the kingdom and the empire. Know, moreover, that the rule of the empire will be shortly taken out of your hand, nor will you long survive. Then Louis turning to me, said, ‘The empire which you have hitherto held by hereditary right, Louis the son of my daughter is to assume.’ So saying, there seemed immediately to appear before me a little child, and Lothaire his grandfather looking upon him, said to me, ‘This infant seems to be such an one as that which the Lord set in the midst of the disciples, and said, “Of such is the kingdom of God, I say unto you, that their angels do always behold the face of my father who is in heaven.” But do you bestow on him the empire by that thread of the clue which you hold in your hand.’ I then untied the thread from the thumb of my right hand, and gave him the whole monarchy of the empire by that thread, and immediately the entire clue, like a brilliant sun-beam, became rolled up in his hand. Thus, after this wonderful transaction, my spirit, extremely wearied and affrighted, returned into my body. Therefore, let all persons know willingly or unwillingly, forasmuch as, according to the will of God, the whole empire of the Romans will revert into his hands, and that I cannot prevail against him, compelled by the conditions of this my calling, that God, who is the ruler of the living and the dead, will both complete and establish this; whose eternal kingdom remains for ever and ever, amen.”

The vision itself, and the partition of the kingdoms, I have inserted in the very words I found them in.130 This Charles, then, had scarcely discharged the united duties of the empire and kingdom for two years, when Charles, the son of Louis who died at Compeigne, succeeded him: this is the Charles who married the daughter of Edward, king of England, and gave Normandy to Rollo with his daughter Gisla, who was the surety of peace and pledge of the treaty. To this Charles, in the empire, succeeded Arnulph; a king of the imperial line, tutor of that young Louis of whom the vision above recited speaks. Arnulph dying after fifteen years, this Louis succeeded him, at whose death, one Conrad, king of the106 Teutonians, obtained the sovereignty. His son Henry, who succeeded him, sent to Athelstan king of the Angles, for his two sisters, Aldgitha and Edgitha, the latter of whom he married to his son Otho, the former to a certain duke near the Alps. Thus the empire of the Romans and the kingdom of the Franks being severed from their ancient union, the one is governed by emperors and the other by kings. But as I have wandered wide from my purpose, whilst indulging in tracing the descent of the illustrious kings of the Franks, I will now return to the course I had begun, and to Ethelwulf.

On his return after his year’s peregrination and marriage with the daughter of Charles the Bald, as I have said, he found the dispositions of some persons contrary to his expectations. For Ethelbald his son, and Ealstan bishop of Sherborne, and Enulph earl of Somerset conspiring against him, endeavoured to eject him from the sovereignty; but through the intervention of maturer counsel, the kingdom was divided between the father and his son. This partition was extremely unequal; for malignity was so far successful that the western portion, which was the better, was allotted to the son, the eastern, which was the worse, fell to the father. He, however, with incredible forbearance, dreading “a worse than civil war,” calmly gave way to his son, restraining, by a conciliatory harangue, the people who had assembled for the purpose of asserting his dignity. And though all this quarrel arose on account of his foreign wife, yet he held her in the highest estimation, and used to place her on the throne near himself, contrary to the West Saxon custom. For that people never suffered the king’s consort either to be seated by the king or to be honoured with the appellation of queen, on account of the depravity of Eadburga, daughter of Offa, king of the Mercians; who, as we have before mentioned, being married to Bertric, king of the West Saxons, used to persuade him, a tender-hearted man, as they report, to the destruction of the innocent, and would herself take off by poison those against whom her accusations failed. This was exemplified in the case of a youth much beloved by the king, whom she made away with in this manner: and immediately afterwards Bertric fell sick, wasted away and died, from having previously drunk of the107 same potion, unknown to the queen. The rumour of this getting abroad, drove the poisoner from the kingdom. Proceeding to Charles the Great, she happened to find him standing with one of his sons, and after offering him presents, the emperor, in a playful, jocose manner, commanded her to choose which she liked best, himself, or his son. Eadburga choosing the young man for his blooming beauty, Charles replied with some emotion, “Had you chosen me, you should have had my son, but since you have chosen him, you shall have neither.” He then placed her in a monastery where she might pass her life in splendour; but, soon after, finding her guilty of incontinence he expelled her.131 Struck with this instance of depravity, the Saxons framed the regulation I have alluded to, though Ethelwulf invalidated it by his affectionate kindness. He made his will a few months before he died, in which, after the division of the kingdom between his sons Ethelbald and Ethelbert, he set out the dowry of his daughter, and ordered, that, till the end of time, one poor person should be clothed and fed from every tenth hide of his inheritance, and that every year, three hundred mancas of gold132 should be sent to Rome, of which one-third should be given to St. Peter, another to St. Paul for lamps, and the other to the pope for distribution. He died two years after he came from Rome, and was buried at Winchester in the cathedral. But that I may return from my digression to my proposed series, I shall here subjoin the charter of ecclesiastical immunities which he granted to all England.


“Our Lord Jesus Christ reigning for evermore. Since we perceive that perilous times are pressing on us, that there are in our days hostile burnings, and plunderings of our wealth, and most cruel depredations by devastating enemies, and many tribulations of barbarous and pagan nations, threatening even our destruction: therefore I Ethelwulf king of the West Saxons, with the advice of my bishops and nobility, have established a wholesome counsel108 and general remedy. I have decided that there shall be given to the servants of God, whether male or female or laymen,133 a certain hereditary portion of the lands possessed by persons of every degree, that is to say, the tenth manse,134 but where it is less than this, then the tenth part; that it may be exonerated from all secular services, all royal tributes great and small, or those taxes which we call Witereden. And let it be free from all things, for the release of our souls, that it may be applied to God’s service alone, exempt from expeditions, the building of bridges, or of forts; in order that they may more diligently pour forth their prayers to God for us without ceasing, inasmuch as we have in some measure alleviated their service. Moreover it hath pleased Ealstan bishop of Sherborne, and Swithun bishop of Winchester, with their abbats and the servants of God, to appoint that all our brethren and sisters at each church, every week on the day of Mercury, that is to say, Wednesday, should sing fifty psalms, and every priest two masses, one for king Ethelwulf, and another for his nobility, consenting to this gift, for the pardon and alleviation of their sins; for the king while living, they shall say, ‘Let us pray: O God, who justifiest.’ For the nobility while living, ‘Stretch forth, O Lord.’ After they are dead; for the departed king, singly: for the departed nobility, in common: and let this be firmly appointed for all the times of Christianity, in like manner as that immunity is appointed, so long as faith shall increase in the nation of the Angles. This charter of donation was written in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 844,135 the fourth of the indiction, and on the nones, i. e. the fifth day of November, in the city of Winchester, in the church of St. Peter, before the high altar, and they have done this for the honour of St. Michael109 the archangel, and of St. Mary the glorious queen, the mother of God, and also for the honour of St. Peter the chief of the apostles, and of our most holy father pope Gregory, and all saints. And then, for greater security, king Ethelwulf placed the charter on the altar of St. Peter, and the bishops received it in behalf of God’s holy faith, and afterwards transmitted it to all churches in their dioceses according to the above-cited form.”

[A.D. 858.]     WEST SAXON KINGS.

From this king the English chronicles trace the line of the generation of their kings upwards, even to Adam, as we know Luke the evangelist has done with respect to our Lord Jesus; and which, perhaps, it will not be superfluous for me to do, though it is to be apprehended, that the utterance of barbarous names may shock the ears of persons unused to them. Ethelwulf was the son of Egbert, Egbert of Elmund, Elmund of Eafa, Eafa of Eoppa, Eoppa was the son of Ingild, the brother of king Ina, who were both sons of Kenred; Kenred of Ceolwald, Ceolwald of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, Cuthwin of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Creoding, Creoding of Cerdic, who was the first king of the West Saxons; Cerdic of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, Gewis of Wig, Wig of Freawin, Freawin of Frithogar, Frithogar of Brond, Brond of Beldeg, Beldeg of Woden; and from him, as we have often remarked, proceeded the kings of many nations. Woden was the son of Frithowald, Frithowald of Frealaf, Frealaf of Finn, Finn of Godwulf, Godwulf of Geat, Geat of Tætwa, Tætwa of Beaw, Beaw of Sceldi, Sceldi of Sceaf; who, as some affirm, was driven on a certain island in Germany, called Scamphta, (of which Jornandes,136 the historian of the Goths, speaks,) a little boy in a skiff, without any attendant, asleep, with a handful of corn at his head, whence he was called Sceaf; and, on account of his singular appearance, being well received by110 the men of that country, and carefully educated, in his riper age he reigned in a town which was called Slaswic, but at present Haitheby; which country, called old Anglia, whence the Angles came into Britain, is situated between the Saxons and the Gioths. Sceaf was the son of Heremod, Heremod of Itermon, Itermon of Hathra, Hathra of Guala, Guala of Bedwig, Bedwig of Streaf, and he, as they say, was the son of Noah, born in the Ark.137

Of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, and Ethelred, sons of Ethelwulf.

[A.D. 858–872.]

In the year of our Lord 857,138 the two sons of Ethelwulf divided their paternal kingdom; Ethelbald reigned in West Saxony, and Ethelbert in Kent. Ethelbald, base and perfidious, defiled the bed of his father by marrying, after his decease, Judith his step-mother. Dying, however, at the end of five years, and being interred at Sherborne, the whole government devolved upon his brother. In his time a band of pirates landing at Southampton, proceeded to plunder the populous city of Winchester, but soon after being spiritedly repulsed by the king’s generals, and suffering considerable loss, they put to sea, and coasting round, chose the Isle of Thanet, in Kent, for their winter quarters. The people of Kent, giving hostages, and promising a sum of money, would have remained quiet, had not these pirates, breaking the treaty, laid waste the whole district by nightly predatory excursions, but roused by this conduct they mustered a force and drove out the truce-breakers. Moreover Ethelbert, having ruled the kingdom with vigour and with mildness,111 paid the debt of nature after five years, and was buried at Sherborne.

In the year of our Lord 867, Ethelred, the son of Ethelwulf, obtained his paternal kingdom, and ruled it for the same number of years as his brothers. Surely it would be a pitiable and grievous destiny, that all of them should perish by an early death, unless it is, that in such a tempest of evils, these royal youths should prefer an honourable end to a painful government. Indeed, so bravely and so vigorously did they contend for their country, that it was not to be imputed to them that their valour did not succeed in its design. Finally, it is related, that this king was personally engaged in hostile conflict against the enemy nine times in one year, with various success indeed, but for the most part victor, besides sudden attacks, in which, from his skill in warfare, he frequently worsted those straggling depredators. In these several actions the Danes lost nine earls and one king, besides common people innumerable.

[A.D. 867–871.]     BATTLE OF ESCHENDUN.

One battle memorable beyond all the rest was that which took place at Eschendun.139 The Danes, having collected an army at this place, divided it into two bodies; their two kings commanded the one, all their earls the other. Ethelred drew near with his brother Alfred. It fell to the lot of Ethelred to oppose the kings, while Alfred was to attack the earls. Both armies eagerly prepared for battle, but night approaching deferred the conflict till the ensuing day. Scarcely had the morning dawned ere Alfred was ready at his post, but his brother, intent on his devotions, had remained in his tent; and when urged on by a message, that the pagans were rushing forward with unbounded fury, he declared that he should not move a step till his religious services were ended. This piety of the king was of infinite advantage to his brother, who was too impetuous from the thoughtlessness of youth, and had already far advanced. The battalions of the Angles were now giving way, and even bordering on flight, in consequence of their adversaries pressing upon them from the higher ground, for the Christians were fighting in an unfavourable situation, when the112 king himself, signed with the cross of God, unexpectedly hastened forward, dispersing the enemy, and rallying his subjects. The Danes, terrified equally by his courage and the divine manifestation, consulted their safety by flight. Here fell Oseg their king, five earls, and an innumerable multitude of common people.

The reader will be careful to observe that during this time, the kings of the Mercians and of the Northumbrians, eagerly seizing the opportunity of the arrival of the Danes, with whom Ethelred was fully occupied in fighting, and somewhat relieved from their bondage to the West Saxons, had nearly regained their original power. All the provinces, therefore, were laid waste by cruel depredations, because each king chose rather to resist the enemy within his own territories, than to assist his neighbours in their difficulties; and thus preferring to avenge injury rather than to prevent it, they ruined their country by their senseless conduct. The Danes acquired strength without impediment, whilst the apprehensions of the inhabitants increased, and each successive victory, from the addition of captives, became the means of obtaining another. The country of the East Angles, together with their cities and villages, was possessed by these plunderers; its king, St. Edmund, slain by them in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 870, on the tenth of November, purchased an eternal kingdom by putting off this mortal life. The Mercians, often harassed, alleviated their afflictions by giving hostages. The Northumbrians, long embroiled in civil dissensions, made up their differences on the approach of the enemy. Replacing Osbert their king, whom they had expelled, upon the throne, and collecting a powerful force, they went out to meet the foe; but being easily repelled, they shut themselves up in the city of York, which was presently after set on fire by the victors; and when the flames were raging to the utmost and consuming the very walls, they perished for their country in the conflagration. In this manner Northumbria, the prize of war, for a considerable time after, felt the more bitterly, through a sense of former liberty, the galling yoke of the barbarians. And now Ethelred, worn down with numberless labours, died and was buried at Wimborne.


Of king Alfred. [A.D. 872—901.]

[A.D. 872–878.]     ALFRED’S DREAM.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 872, Alfred, the youngest son of Ethelwulf, who had, as has been related before, received the royal unction and crown from pope Leo the fourth at Rome, acceded to the sovereignty and retained it with the greatest difficulty, but with equal valour, twenty-eight years and a half. To trace in detail the mazy labyrinth of his labours was never my design; because a recapitulation of his exploits in their exact order of time would occasion some confusion to the reader. For, to relate how a hostile army, driven by himself or his generals, from one part of a district, retreated to another; and, dislodged thence, sought a fresh scene of operation and filled every place with rapine and slaughter; and, if I may use the expression, “to go round the whole island with him,” might to some seem the height of folly: consequently I shall touch on all points summarily. For nine successive years battling with his enemies, sometimes deceived by false treaties, and sometimes wreaking his vengeance on the deceivers, he was at last reduced to such extreme distress, that scarcely three counties, that is to say, Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Somersetshire, stood fast by their allegiance, as he was compelled to retreat to a certain island called Athelney, which from its marshy situation was hardly accessible. He was accustomed afterwards, when in happier circumstances, to relate to his companions, in a lively and agreeable manner, his perils there, and how he escaped them by the merits of St. Cuthbert;140 for it frequently happens that men are pleased with the recollection of those circumstances, which formerly they dreaded to encounter. During his retreat in this island, as he was one day in the house alone, his companions being dispersed on the river side for the purpose of fishing, he endeavoured to refresh his weary frame with sleep: and behold! Cuthbert, formerly bishop of Lindisfarne, addressed114 him, while sleeping, in the following manner:—“I am Cuthbert, if ever you heard of me; God hath sent me to announce good fortune to you; and since England has already largely paid the penalty of her crimes, God now, through the merits of her native saints, looks upon her with an eye of mercy. You too, so pitiably banished from your kingdom, shall shortly be again seated with honour on your throne; of which I give you this extraordinary token: your fishers shall this day bring home a great quantity of large fish in baskets; which will be so much the more extraordinary because the river, at this time hard-bound with ice, could warrant no such expectation; especially as the air now dripping with cold rain mocks the art of the fisher. But, when your fortune shall succeed to your wishes, you will act as becomes a king, if you conciliate God your helper, and me his messenger, with suitable devotion.” Saying thus, the saint divested the sleeping king of his anxiety; and comforted his mother also, who was lying near him, and endeavouring to invite some gentle slumbers to her hard couch to relieve her cares, with the same joyful intelligence. When they awoke, they repeatedly declared that each had had the self-same dream, when the fishermen entering, displayed such a multitude of fishes as would have been sufficient to satisfy the appetite of a numerous army.

[A.D. 878–890.]     DEFEAT OF THE DANES.

Not long after, venturing from his concealment, he hazarded an experiment of consummate art. Accompanied only by one of his most faithful adherents, he entered the tent of the Danish king under the disguise of a minstrel;141 and being admitted, as a professor of the mimic art, to the banqueting room, there was no object of secrecy that he did not minutely attend to both with eyes and ears. Remaining there several days, till he had satisfied his mind on every matter which he wished to know, he returned to Athelney: and assembling his companions, pointed out the indolence of the enemy and the easiness of their defeat. All were eager for the enterprise, and himself collecting forces from every side, and learning exactly the situation of the barbarians from scouts he had sent out for that purpose, he suddenly attacked and routed them with incredible slaughter. The115 remainder, with their king, gave hostages that they would embrace Christianity and depart from the country; which they performed. For their king, Gothrun, whom our people call Gurmund, with thirty nobles and almost all the commonalty, was baptized, Alfred standing for him; and the provinces of the East Angles, and Northumbrians142 were given up to him, in order that he might, under fealty to the king, protect with hereditary right, what before he had overrun with predatory incursion. However, as the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, he domineered over these tributary provinces with the haughtiness of a tyrant for eleven years, and died in the twelfth, transmitting to his posterity the inheritance of his disloyalty, until subdued by Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred, they were, though reluctantly, compelled to admit one common king of England, as we see at the present day. Such of the Danes as had refused to become Christians, together with Hastings, went over sea, where the inhabitants are best able to tell what cruelties they perpetrated. For overrunning the whole maritime coasts to the Tuscan sea, they unpeopled Paris and Tours, as well as many other cities seated on the Seine and Loire, those noted rivers of France. At that time the bodies of many saints being taken up from the spot of their original interment and conveyed to safer places, have ennobled foreign churches with their relics even to this day. Then also the body of St. Martin, venerated, as Sidonius says, over the whole earth, in which virtue resides though life be at an end, was taken to Auxerre, by the clergy of his church, and placed in that of St. German, where it astonished the people of that district by unheard-of miracles. And when they who came thither, out of gratitude for cures performed, contributed many things to requite the labours of those who had borne him to this church, as is commonly the case, a dispute arose about the division of the money; the Turonians claiming the whole, because their patron had called the contributors together by his miracles: the natives, on the other hand, alleging that St. German was not unequal in merit, and was of equal116 kindness; that both indeed had the same power, but that the prerogative of their church preponderated. To solve this knotty doubt, a leprous person was sought, and placed, nearly at the last gasp, wasted to a skeleton, and already dead, as it were, in a living carcass, between the bodies of the two saints. All human watch was prohibited for the whole night: the glory of Martin alone was vigilant; for the next day, the skin of the man on his side appeared clear, while on that of German, it was discoloured with its customary deformity. And, that they might not attribute this miracle to chance, they turned the yet diseased side to Martin. As soon as the morning began to dawn, the man was found by the hastening attendants with his skin smooth, perfectly cured, declaring the kind condescension of the resident patron, who yielded to the honour of such a welcome stranger. Thus the Turonians, both at that time and afterwards, safely filled their common purse by the assistance of their patron, till a more favourable gale of peace restored them to their former residence. For these marauders infesting France for thirteen years, and being at last overcome by the emperor Ernulph and the people of Brittany in many encounters, retreated into England as a convenient receptacle for their tyranny. During this space of time Alfred had reduced the whole island to his power, with the exception of what the Danes possessed. The Angles had willingly surrendered to his dominion, rejoicing that they had produced a man capable of leading them to liberty. He granted London, the chief city of the Mercian kingdom, to a nobleman named Ethered, to hold in fealty, and gave him his daughter Ethelfled in marriage. Ethered conducted himself with equal valour and fidelity; defended his trust with activity, and kept the East Angles and Northumbrians, who were fomenting rebellion against the king, within due bounds, compelling them to give hostages. Of what infinite service this was, the following emergency proved. After England had rejoiced for thirteen years in the tranquillity of peace and in the fertility of her soil, the northern pest of barbarians again returned. With them returned war and slaughter; again arose conspiracies of the Northumbrians and East Angles: but neither strangers nor natives experienced the same fortune as in former years; the one party, diminished117 by foreign contests, were less alert in their invasions; while the other, now experienced in war and animated by the exhortations of the king, were not only more ready to resist, but also to attack. The king himself was, with his usual activity, present in every action, ever daunting the invaders, and at the same time inspiriting his subjects, with the signal display of his courage. He would oppose himself singly to the enemy; and by his own personal exertions rally his declining forces. The very places are yet pointed out by the inhabitants where he felt the vicissitudes of good and evil fortune. It was necessary to contend with Alfred even after he was overcome, after he was prostrate; insomuch that when he might be supposed altogether vanquished, he would escape like a slippery serpent, from the hand which held him, glide from his lurking-place, and, with undiminished courage, spring on his insulting enemies: he was insupportable after flight, and became more circumspect from the recollection of defeat, more bold from the thirst of vengeance. His children by Elswitha, the daughter of earl Athelred, were Ethelswitha, Edward who reigned after him; Ethelfled who was married to Ethered earl of the Mercians; Ethelwerd, whom they celebrate as being extremely learned; Elfred and Ethelgiva, virgins. His health was so bad that he was constantly disquieted either by the piles or some disorder of the intestines. It is said, however, that he entreated this from God, in his supplications, in order that, by the admonition of pain, he might be less anxious after earthly delights.


Yet amid these circumstances the private life of the king is to be admired and celebrated with the highest praise. For although, as some one has said, “Laws must give way amid the strife of arms,” yet he, amid the sound of trumpets and the din of war, enacted statutes by which his people might equally familiarise themselves to religious worship and to military discipline. And since, from the example of the barbarians, the natives themselves began to lust after rapine, insomuch that there was no safe intercourse without a military guard, he appointed centuries, which they call “hundreds,” and decennaries, that is to say, “tythings,” so that every Englishman, living according to law, must be a member of both. If any one was accused of a crime, he118 was obliged immediately to produce persons from the hundred and tything to become his surety; and whosoever was unable to find such surety, must dread the severity of the laws. If any who was impleaded made his escape either before or after he had found surety, all persons of the hundred and tything paid a fine to the king. By this regulation he diffused such peace throughout the country, that he ordered golden bracelets, which might mock the eager desires of the passengers while no one durst take them away, to be hung up on the public causeways, where the roads crossed each other. Ever intent on almsgiving, he confirmed the privileges of the churches, as appointed by his father, and sent many presents over sea to Rome and to St. Thomas in India. Sighelm, bishop of Sherborne, sent ambassador for this purpose, penetrated successfully into India, a matter of astonishment even in the present time. Returning thence, he brought back many brilliant exotic gems and aromatic juices in which that country abounds, and a present more precious than the finest gold, part of our Saviour’s cross, sent by pope Marinus to the king. He erected monasteries wherever he deemed it fitting; one in Athelney, where he lay concealed, as has been above related, and there he made John abbat, a native of Old Saxony; another at Winchester, which is called the New-minster, where he appointed Grimbald abbat, who, at his invitation, had been sent into England by Fulco archbishop of Rheims, known to him, as they say, by having kindly entertained him when a child on his way to Rome. The cause of his being sent for was that by his activity he might awaken the study of literature in England, which was now slumbering and almost expiring. The monastery of Shaftesbury also he filled with nuns, where he made his daughter Ethelgiva abbess. From St. David’s he procured a person named Asser,143 a man of skill in literature, whom he made bishop of Sherborne. This man explained the meaning of the works of Boethius, on the Consolation of Philosophy, in clearer terms, and the king himself translated them into the English language. And since there was no good scholar in his own kingdom, he sent for Werefrith119 bishop of Worcester out of Mercia, who by command of the king rendered into the English tongue the books of Gregory’s Dialogues. At this time Johannes Scotus is supposed to have lived; a man of clear understanding and amazing eloquence. He had long since, from the continued tumult of war around him, retired into France to Charles the Bald, at whose request he had translated the Hierarchia of Dionysius the Areopagite, word for word, out of the Greek into Latin. He composed a book also, which he entitled περὶ φύσεων μερισμοῦ, or Of the Division of Nature,144 extremely useful in solving the perplexity of certain indispensable inquiries, if he be pardoned for some things in which he deviated from the opinions of the Latins, through too close attention to the Greeks. In after time, allured by the munificence of Alfred, he came into England, and at our monastery, as report says, was pierced with the iron styles of the boys whom he was instructing, and was even looked upon as a martyr; which phrase I have not made use of to the disparagement of his holy spirit, as though it were matter of doubt, especially as his tomb on the left side of the altar, and the verses of his epitaph, record his fame.145 These, though rugged and deficient in the polish of our days, are not so uncouth for ancient times:

“Here lies a saint, the sophist John, whose days
On earth were grac’d with deepest learning’s praise:
Deem’d meet at last by martyrdom to gain
Christ’s kingdom, where the saints for ever reign.”

Confiding in these auxiliaries, the king gave his whole soul to the cultivation of the liberal arts, insomuch that no Englishman was quicker in comprehending, or more elegant in translating. This was the more remarkable, because until twelve years of age he absolutely knew nothing of literature.146120 At that time, lured by a kind mother, who under the mask of amusement promised that he should have a little book which she held in her hand for a present if he would learn it quickly, he entered upon learning in sport indeed at first, but afterwards drank of the stream with unquenchable avidity. He translated into English the greater part of the Roman authors, bringing off the noblest spoil of foreign intercourse for the use of his subjects; of which the chief books were Orosius, Gregory’s Pastoral, Bede’s History of the Angles, Boethius Of the Consolation of Philosophy, his own book, which he called in his vernacular tongue “Handboc,” that is, a manual.147 Moreover he infused a great regard for literature into his countrymen, stimulating them both with rewards and punishments, allowing no ignorant person to aspire to any dignity in the court. He died just as he had begun a translation of the Psalms. In the prologue to “The Pastoral” he observes, “that he was incited to translate these books into English because the churches which had formerly contained numerous libraries had, together with their books, been burnt by the Danes.” And again, “that the pursuit of literature had gone to decay almost over the whole island, because each person was more occupied in the preservation of his life than in the perusal of books; wherefore he so far consulted the good of his countrymen, that they might now hastily view what hereafter, if peace should ever return, they might thoroughly comprehend in the Latin language.” Again, “That he designed to transmit this book, transcribed by his order, to every see, with a golden style in which was a mancus of gold; that there was nothing of his own opinions inserted in this or his other translations, but that everything was derived from those celebrated men Plegmund148 archbishop of Canterbury, Asser the bishop, Grimbald and John the priests.” But, in short, I may thus briefly elucidate his121 whole life: he so divided the twenty-four hours of the day and night as to employ eight of them in writing, in reading, and in prayer, eight in the refreshment of his body, and eight in dispatching the business of the realm. There was in his chapel a candle consisting of twenty-four divisions, and an attendant, whose peculiar province it was to admonish the king of his several duties by its consumption. One half of all revenues, provided they were justly acquired, he gave to his149 monasteries, all his other income he divided into two equal parts, the first was again subdivided into three, of which the first was given to the servants of his court, the second to artificers whom he constantly employed in the erection of new edifices, in a manner surprising and hitherto unknown to the English, the third he gave to strangers. The second part of the revenue was divided in such a mode that the first portion should be given to the poor of his kingdom, the second to the monasteries, the third to scholars,150 the fourth to foreign churches. He was a strict inquirer into the sentences passed by his magistrates, and a severe corrector of such as were unjust. He had one unusual and unheard-of custom, which was, that he always carried in his bosom a book in which the daily order of the Psalms was contained, for the purpose of carefully perusing it, if at any time he had leisure. In this way he passed his life, much respected by neighbouring princes, and gave his daughter Ethelswitha in marriage to Baldwin earl of Flanders, by whom he had Arnulf and Ethelwulf; the former received from his father the county of Boulogne, from the other at this day are descended the earls of Flanders.151

[A.D. 893.]     KING ALFRED’S DEATH.

Alfred, paying the debt of nature, was buried at Winchester, in the monastery which he had founded; to build the offices of which Edward, his son, purchased a sufficient space of ground from the bishop and canons, giving, for every foot, a mancus of gold of the statute weight. The endurance of122 the king was astonishing, in suffering such a sum to be extorted from him; but he did not choose to offer a sacrifice to God from the robbery of the poor. These two churches were so contiguous, that, when singing, they heard each others’ voices; on this and other accounts an unhappy jealousy was daily stirring up causes of dissension, which produced frequent injuries on either side. For this reason that monastery was lately removed out of the city, and became a more healthy, as well as a more conspicuous, residence. They report that Alfred was first buried in the cathedral, because his monastery was unfinished, but that afterwards, on account of the folly of the canons, who asserted that the royal spirit, resuming its carcass, wandered nightly through the buildings, Edward, his son and successor, removed the remains of his father, and gave them a quiet resting-place in the new minster.152 These and similar superstitions, such as that the dead body of a wicked man runs about, after death, by the agency of the devil, the English hold with almost inbred credulity,153 borrowing them from the heathens, according to the expression of Virgil,

“Forms such as flit, they say, when life is gone.”154

Of Edward the son of Alfred. [A.D. 901–924.]

[A.D. 901.]     EDWARD.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation, 901, Edward, the son of Alfred, succeeded to the government, and held it twenty-three years: he was much inferior to his father in literature, but greatly excelled in extent of power. For Alfred, indeed, united the two kingdoms of the Mercian and West Saxons, holding that of the Mercians only nominally, as he had assigned it to prince Ethelred: but at his death Edward first brought the Mercians altogether under his power, next, the West155 and East Angles, and Northumbrians, who had123 become one nation with the Danes; the Scots, who inhabit the northern part of the island; and all the Britons, whom we call Welsh, after perpetual battles, in which he was always successful. He devised a mode of frustrating the incursions of the Danes; for he repaired many ancient cities, or built new ones, in places calculated for his purpose, and filled them with a military force, to protect the inhabitants and repel the enemy. Nor was his design unsuccessful; for the inhabitants became so extremely valorous in these contests, that if they heard of an enemy approaching, they rushed out to give them battle, even without consulting the king or his generals, and constantly surpassed them, both in number and in warlike skill. Thus the enemy became an object of contempt to the soldiery and of derision to the king. At last some fresh assailants, who had come over under the command of Ethelwald, the son of the king’s uncle, were all, together with himself, cut off to a man; those before, settled in the country, being either destroyed or spared under the denomination of Angles. Ethelwald indeed had attempted many things in the earlier days of this king; and, disdaining subjection to him, declared himself his inferior neither in birth nor valour; but being driven into exile by the nobility, who had sworn allegiance to Edward, he brought over the pirates; with whom, meeting his death, as I have related, he gave proof of the folly of resisting those who are our superiors in power. Although Edward may be deservedly praised for these transactions, yet, in my opinion, the palm should be more especially given to his father, who certainly laid the foundation of this extent of dominion. And here indeed Ethelfled, sister of the king and relict of Ethered, ought not to be forgotten, as she was a powerful accession to his party, the delight of his subjects, the dread of his enemies, a woman of an enlarged soul, who, from the difficulty experienced in her first labour, ever after refused the embraces of her husband; protesting that it was unbecoming the daughter of a king to give way to a delight which, after a time, produced such painful consequences. This spirited heroine assisted her brother greatly with her advice, was of equal service in building cities, nor could you easily discern, whether it was more owing to fortune or her own exertions, that a woman should be able to124 protect men at home, and to intimidate them abroad. She died five years before her brother, and was buried in the monastery of St. Peter’s, at Gloucester; which, in conjunction with her husband, Ethered, she had erected with great solicitude. Thither too she had transferred the bones of St. Oswald, the king, from Bardney; but this monastery being destroyed in succeeding time by the Danes, Aldred, archbishop of York, founded another, which is now the chief in that city.

As the king had many daughters, he gave Edgiva to Charles, king of France, the son of Lewis the Stammerer, son of Charles the Bald, whose daughter, as I have repeatedly observed, Ethelwulf had married on his return from Rome; and, as the opportunity has now presented itself, the candid reader will not think it irrelevant, if I state the names of his wives and children. By Egwina, an illustrious lady, he had Athelstan, his first-born, and a daughter, whose name I cannot particularise, but her brother gave her in marriage to Sihtric, king of the Northumbrians. The second son of Edward was Ethelward, by Elfleda, daughter of earl Etheline; deeply versed in literature, much resembling his grandfather Alfred in features and disposition, but who departed, by an early death, soon after his father. By the same wife he had Edwin, of whose fate what the received opinion is I shall hereafter describe, not with confidence, but doubtingly. By her too he had six daughters; Edfleda, Edgiva, Ethelhilda, Ethilda, Edgitha, Elgifa: the first and third vowing celibacy to God, renounced the pleasure of earthly nuptials; Edfleda in a religious, and Ethelhilda in a lay habit: they both lie buried near their mother, at Winchester. Her father gave Edgiva, as I have mentioned, to king Charles,156 and her brother, Athelstan, gave Ethilda to Hugh:157 this same brother also sent Edgitha and Elgifa to Henry,158 emperor of Germany, the second of whom he gave to his son Otho, the other to a certain duke, near the Alps.125 Again; by his third wife, named Edgiva, he had two sons, Edmund and Edred, each of whom reigned after Athelstan: two daughters, Eadburga, and Edgiva; Eadburga, a virgin, dedicated to Christ, lies buried at Winchester; Edgiva, a lady of incomparable beauty, was united, by her brother Athelstan, to Lewis, prince of Aquitaine.159 Edward had brought up his daughters in such wise, that in childhood they gave their whole attention to literature, and afterwards employed themselves in the labours of the distaff and the needle that thus they might chastely pass their virgin age. His sons were so educated, as, first, to have the completest benefit of learning, that afterwards they might succeed to govern the state, not like rustics, but philosophers.

[A.D. 912.]     EDWARD.

Charles, the son-in-law of Edward, constrained thereto by Rollo, through a succession of calamities, conceded to him that part of Gaul which at present is called Normandy. It would be tedious to relate for how many years, and with what audacity, the Normans disquieted every place from the British ocean, as I have said, to the Tuscan sea. First Hasten, and then Rollo; who, born of noble lineage among the Norwegians, though obsolete from its extreme antiquity, was banished, by the king’s command, from his own country, and brought over with him multitudes, who were in danger, either from debt or consciousness of guilt, and whom he had allured by great expectations of advantage. Betaking himself therefore to piracy, after his cruelty had raged on every side at pleasure, he experienced a check at Chartres. For the townspeople, relying neither on arms nor fortifications, piously implored the assistance of the blessed Virgin Mary. The shift too of the virgin, which Charles the Bald had brought with other relics from Constantinople, they displayed to the winds on the ramparts, thronged by the garrison, after the fashion of a banner. The enemy on seeing it began to laugh, and to direct their arrows at it. This, however, was not done with impunity; for presently their eyes became dim, and they could neither retreat nor advance. The townsmen, with joy perceiving this, indulged126 themselves in a plentiful slaughter of them, as far as fortune permitted. Rollo, however, whom God reserved for the true faith, escaped, and soon after gained Rouen and the neighbouring cities by force of arms, in the year of our Lord 876, and one year before the death of Charles the Bald, whose grandson Lewis, as is before mentioned, vanquished the Normans, but did not expel them: but Charles, the brother of that Lewis, grandson of Charles the Bald, by his son Lewis, as I have said above, repeatedly experiencing, from unsuccessful conflicts, that fortune gave him nothing which she took from others, resolved, after consulting his nobility, that it was advisable to make a show of royal munificence, when he was unable to repel injury; and, in a friendly manner, sent for Rollo. He was at this time far advanced in years; and, consequently, easily inclined to pacific measures. It was therefore determined by treaty, that he should be baptized, and hold that country of the king as his lord. The inbred and untameable ferocity of the man may well be imagined, for, on receiving this gift, as the by standers suggested to him, that he ought to kiss the foot of his benefactor, disdaining to kneel down, he seized the king’s foot and dragged it to his mouth as he stood erect. The king falling on his back, the Normans began to laugh, and the Franks to be indignant; but Rollo apologized for his shameful conduct, by saying that it was the custom of his country. Thus the affair being settled, Rollo returned to Rouen, and there died.

The son of this Charles was Lewis: he being challenged by one Isembard, that had turned pagan, and renounced his faith, called upon his nobility for their assistance: they not even deigned an answer; when one Hugh, son of Robert, earl of Mont Didier, a youth of no great celebrity at the time, voluntarily entered the lists for his lord and killed the challenger. Lewis, with his whole army pursuing to Ponthieu, gained there a glorious triumph; either destroying or putting to flight all the barbarians whom Isembard had brought with him. But not long after, weakened by extreme sickness, the consequence of this laborious expedition, he appointed this Hugh, a young man of noted faith and courage, heir to the kingdom. Thus the lineage of Charles the Great ceased with him, because either his wife was barren,127 or else did not live long enough to have issue. Hugh married one of the daughters of Edward,160 and begot Robert; Robert begot Henry; Henry, Philip; and Philip, Lewis, who now reigns in France. But to return to our Edward: I think it will be pleasing to relate what in his time pope Formosus commanded to be done with respect to filling up the bishoprics, which I shall insert in the very words I found it.161

[A.D. 912.]     POPE FORMOSUS.

“In the year of our Lord’s nativity 904, pope Formosus sent letters into England, by which he denounced excommunication and malediction to king Edward and all his subjects, instead of the benediction which St. Gregory had given to the English nation from the seat of St. Peter, because for seven whole years the entire district of the Gewissæ, that is, of the West-Saxons, had been destitute of bishops. On hearing this, king Edward assembled a council of the senators of the English, over which presided Plegmund, archbishop of Canterbury, interpreting carefully the words of the apostolic legation. Then the king and the bishops chose for themselves and their followers a salutary council, and, according to our Saviour’s words, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few,’162 they elected and appointed one bishop to every province of the Gewissæ, and that district which two formerly possessed they divided into five. The council128 being dissolved, the archbishop went to Rome with splendid presents, appeased the pope with much humility, and related the king’s ordinance, which gave the pontiff great satisfaction. Returning home, in one day he ordained in the city of Canterbury seven bishops to seven churches:—Frithstan to the church of Winchester; Athelstan to Cornwall; Werstan to Sherborne; Athelelm to Wells; Aidulf to Crediton in Devonshire: also to other provinces he appointed two bishops; to the South-Saxons, Bernegus, a very proper person; and to the Mercians, Cenulph, whose see was at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire. All this the pope established, in such wise, that he who should invalidate this decree should be damned everlastingly.”

Edward, going the way of all flesh, rested in the same monastery with his father, which he had augmented with considerable revenues, and in which he had buried his brother Ethelward four years before.

Of Athelstan, the son of Edward. [A.D. 924–940.]

[A.D. 927.]     ATHELSTAN.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 924, Athelstan, the son of Edward, began to reign, and held the sovereignty sixteen years. His brother, Ethelward, dying a few days after his father, had been buried with him at Winchester. At this place, therefore, Athelstan, being elected king by the unanimous consent of the nobility, he was crowned at a royal town, which is called Kingston; though one Elfred, whose death we shall hereafter relate in the words of the king, with his factious party, as sedition never wants adherents, attempted to prevent it. The ground of his opposition, as they affirm, was, that Athelstan was born of a concubine. But having nothing ignoble in him, except this stain, if after all it be true, he cast all his predecessors into the shade by his piety, as well as the glory of all their triumphs, by the splendour of his own. So much more excellent is it to have that for which we are renowned inherent, than derived from our ancestors; because the former is exclusively our own, the latter is imputable to others. I forbear relating how many new and magnificent monasteries he founded; but I will not conceal that there was scarcely an old one in England129 which he did not embellish, either with buildings, or ornaments, or books, or possessions. Thus he ennobled the new ones expressly, but the old, as though they were only casual objects of his kindness. With Sihtric, king of the Northumbrians, who married, as I have before said, one of his sisters, he made a lasting covenant; he dying after a year, Athelstan took that province under his own government, expelling one Aldulph, who resisted him. And as a noble mind, when once roused, aspires to greater things, he compelled Jothwel, king of all the Welsh, and Constantine, king of the Scots, to quit their kingdoms; but not long after, moved with commiseration, he restored them to their original state, that they might reign under him, saying, “it was more glorious to make than to be a king.” His last contest was with Anlaf, the son of Sihtric, who, with the before-named Constantine, again in a state of rebellion, had entered his territories under the hope of gaining the kingdom. Athelstan purposely retreating, that he might derive greater honour from vanquishing his furious assailants, this bold youth, meditating unlawful conquests, had now proceeded far into England, when he was opposed at Bruneford163 by the most experienced generals, and most valiant forces. Perceiving, at length, what danger hung over him, he assumed the character of a spy. Laying aside his royal ensigns, and taking a harp in his hand, he proceeded to our king’s tent: singing before the entrance, and at times touching the trembling strings in harmonious cadence, he was readily admitted, professing himself a minstrel, who procured his daily sustenance by such employment. Here he entertained the king and his companions for some time with his musical performance, carefully examining everything while occupied in singing. When satiety of eating had put an end to their sensual enjoyments, and the business of war was resumed among the nobles, he was ordered to depart, and received the recompence of his song; but disdaining to take it away, he hid it beneath him in the earth. This circumstance was remarked by a person, who had formerly served under him, and immediately related it to Athelstan. The king, blaming him130 extremely for not having detected his enemy as he stood before them, received this answer: “The same oath, which I have lately sworn to you, O king, I formerly made to Anlaf; and had you seen me violate it towards him, you might have expected similar perfidy towards yourself: but condescend to listen to the advice of your servant, which is, that you should remove your tent hence, and remaining in another place till the residue of the army come up, you will destroy your ferocious enemy by a moderate delay.” Approving this admonition, he removed to another place. Anlaf advancing, well prepared, at night, put to death, together with the whole of his followers, a certain bishop,164 who had joined the army only the evening before, and, ignorant of what had passed, had pitched his tent there on account of the level turf. Proceeding farther, he found the king himself equally unprepared; who, little expecting his enemy capable of such an attack, had indulged in profound repose. But, when roused from his sleep by the excessive tumult, and urging his people, as much as the darkness of the night would permit, to the conflict, his sword fell by chance from the sheath; upon which, while all things were filled with dread and blind confusion, he invoked the protection of God and of St. Aldhelm, who was distantly related to him; and replacing his hand upon the scabbard, he there found a sword, which is kept to this day, on account of the miracle, in the treasury of the kings. Moreover, it is, as they say, chased in one part, but can never be inlaid either with gold or silver. Confiding in this divine present, and at the same time, as it began to dawn, attacking the Norwegian, he continued the battle unwearied through the day, and put him to flight with his whole army. There fell Constantine, king of the Scots, a man of treacherous energy and vigorous old age; five other kings, twelve earls, and almost the whole assemblage of barbarians. The few who escaped were preserved to embrace the faith of Christ.

Concerning this king a strong persuasion is prevalent among the English, that one more just or learned never governed the kingdom. That he was versed in literature, I131 discovered a few days since, in a certain old volume, wherein the writer struggles with the difficulty of the task, unable to express his meaning as he wished. Indeed I would subjoin his words for brevity’s sake, were they not extravagant beyond belief in the praises of the king, and just in that style of writing which Cicero, the prince of Roman eloquence, in his book on Rhetoric, denominates “bombast.” The custom of that time excuses the diction, and the affection for Athelstan, who was yet living, gave countenance to the excess of praise. I shall subjoin, therefore, in familiar language, some few circumstances which may tend to augment his reputation.

[A.D. 924.]     ATHELSTAN.

King Edward, after many noble exploits, both in war and peace, a few days before his death subdued the contumacy of the city of Chester, which was rebelling in confederacy with the Britons; and placing a garrison there, he fell sick and died at Faringdon, and was buried, as I before related, at Winchester. Athelstan, as his father had commanded in his will, was then hailed king, recommended by his years,—for he was now thirty,—and the maturity of his wisdom. For even his grandfather Alfred, seeing and embracing him affectionately when he was a boy of astonishing beauty and graceful manners, had most devoutly prayed that his government might be prosperous: indeed, he had made him a knight165 unusually early, giving him a scarlet cloak, a belt studded with diamonds, and a Saxon sword with a golden scabbard. Next he had provided that he should be educated in the court of Ethelfled his daughter, and of his son-in-law Ethered; so that, having been brought up in expectation of succeeding to the kingdom, by the tender care of his aunt and of this celebrated prince, he repressed and destroyed all envy by the lustre of his good qualities; and, after the death of his father, and decease of his brother, he was crowned at Kingston. Hence, to celebrate such splendid events, and the joy of that illustrious day, the poet justly exclaims:


Of royal race a noble stem
Hath chased our darkness like a gem.
Great Athelstan, his country’s pride,
Whose virtue never turns aside;
Sent by his father to the schools,
Patient, he bore their rigid rules,
And drinking deep of science mild,
Passed his first years unlike a child.
Next clothed in youth’s bewitching charms,
Studied the harsher lore of arms,
Which soon confessed his knowledge keen,
As after in the sovereign seen.
Soon as his father, good and great,
Yielded, though ever famed, to fate,
The youth was called the realm to guide,
And, like his parent, well preside.
The nobles meet, the crown present,
On rebels, prelates curses vent;
The people light the festive fires,
And show by turns their kind desires.
Their deeds their loyalty declare,
Though hopes and fears their bosoms share.
With festive treat the court abounds;
Foams the brisk wine, the hall resounds:
The pages run, the servants haste,
And food and verse regale the taste.
The minstrels sing, the guests commend,
Whilst all in praise to Christ contend.
The king with pleasure all things sees,
And all his kind attentions please.
[A.D. 926.]     ATHELSTAN.

The solemnity of the consecration being finished, Athelstan, that he might not deceive the expectation of his subjects, and fall below their opinion, subdued the whole of England, except Northumbria, by the single terror of his name. One Sihtric, a relation of that Gothrun who is mentioned in the history of Alfred, presided over this people, a barbarian both by race and disposition, who, though he ridiculed the power of preceding kings, humbly solicited affinity with Athelstan, sending messengers expressly for the purpose; and himself shortly following confirmed the proposals of the ambassadors. In consequence, honoured by a union with his sister, and by various presents, he laid the basis of a perpetual treaty. But, as I have before observed, dying at the end of a year, he afforded Athelstan an opportunity for uniting Northumbria, which belonged to him both by ancient right and recent affinity, to his sovereignty. Anlaf, the son of Sihtric, then133 fled into Ireland, and his brother Guthferth into Scotland. Messengers from the king immediately followed to Constantine, king of the Scots, and Eugenius, king of the Cumbrians, claiming the fugitive under a threat of war. The barbarians had no idea of resistance, but without delay coming to a place called Dacor, they surrendered themselves and their kingdoms to the sovereign of England. Out of regard to this treaty, the king himself stood for the son of Constantine, who was ordered to be baptized, at the sacred font. Guthferth, however, amid the preparations for the journey, escaped by flight with one Turfrid, a leader of the opposite party; and afterwards laying siege to York, where he could succeed in bringing the townsmen to surrender neither by entreaties nor by threats, he departed. Not long after, being both shut up in a castle, they eluded the vigilance of the guards, and escaped. Turfrid, losing his life quickly after by shipwreck, became a prey to fishes. Guthferth, suffering extremely both by sea and land, at last came a suppliant to court. Being amicably received by the king, and sumptuously entertained for four days, he resought his ships; an incorrigible pirate, and accustomed to live in the water like a fish. In the meantime Athelstan levelled with the ground the castle which the Danes had formerly fortified in York, that there might be no place for disloyalty to shelter in; and the booty which had been found there, which was very considerable, he generously divided, man by man, to the whole army. For he had prescribed himself this rule of conduct, never to hoard up riches; but liberally to expend all his acquisition either on monasteries or on his faithful followers. On these, during the whole of his life, he expended his paternal treasures, as well as the produce of his victories. To the clergy he was humble and affable; to the laity mild and pleasant; to the nobility rather reserved, from respect to his dignity; to the lower classes, laying aside the stateliness of power, he was kind and condescending. He was, as we have heard, of becoming stature, thin in person, his hair flaxen, as I have seen by his remains, and beautifully wreathed with golden threads. Extremely beloved by his subjects from admiration of his fortitude and humility, he was terrible to those who rebelled against him, through his invincible courage. He compelled the rulers of the northern134 Welsh, that is, of the North Britons, to meet him at the city of Hereford, and after some opposition to surrender to his power. So that he actually brought to pass what no king before him had even presumed to think of: which was, that they should pay annually by way of tribute, twenty pounds of gold, three hundred of silver, twenty-five thousand oxen, besides as many dogs as he might choose, which from their sagacious scent could discover the retreats and hiding places of wild beasts; and birds, trained to make prey of others in the air. Departing thence, he turned towards the Western Britons, who are called the Cornwallish, because, situated in the west of Britain, they are opposite to the extremity of Gaul.166 Fiercely attacking, he obliged them to retreat from Exeter, which, till that time, they had inhabited with equal privileges with the Angles, fixing the boundary of their province on the other side of the river Tamar, as he had appointed the river Wye to the North Britons. This city then, which he had cleansed by purging it of its contaminated race, he fortified with towers and surrounded with a wall of squared stone. And, though the barren and unfruitful soil can scarcely produce indifferent oats, and frequently only the empty husk without the grain, yet, owing to the magnificence of the city, the opulence of its inhabitants, and the constant resort of strangers, every kind of merchandise is there so abundant that nothing is wanting which can conduce to human comfort. Many noble traces of him are to be seen in that city, as well as in the neighbouring district, which will be better described by the conversation of the natives, than by my narrative.

On this account all Europe resounded with his praises, and extolled his valour to the skies: foreign princes with justice esteemed themselves happy if they could purchase his friendship either by affinity or by presents. Harold king of Norway sent him a ship with golden beak and a purple sail, furnished within with a compacted fence of gilded shields. The names of the persons sent with it, were Helgrim and Offrid: who, being received with princely magnificence in the city of York, were amply compensated, by rich presents, for the labour of their journey. Henry the First, for there were many of the name, the son of Conrad, king of the135 Teutonians and emperor of the Romans, demanded his sister, as I have before related, for his son Otho: passing over so many neighbouring kings, but contemplating from a distance Athelstan’s noble descent, and greatness of mind. So completely indeed had these two qualities taken up their abode with him, that none could be more noble or illustrious in descent; none more bold or prompt in disposition. Maturely considering that he had four sisters, who were all equally beautiful, except only as their ages made a difference, he sent two to the emperor at his request; and how he disposed of them in marriage has already been related: Lewis prince of Aquitania, a descendant of Charles the Great, obtained the third in wedlock: the fourth, in whom the whole essence of beauty had centred, which the others only possessed in part, was demanded from her brother by Hugh king of the Franks.167 The chief of this embassy was Adulph, son of Baldwin earl of Flanders by Ethelswitha daughter of king Edward.168 When he had declared the request of the suitor in an assembly of the nobility at Abingdon, he produced such liberal presents as might gratify the most boundless avarice: perfumes such as never had been seen in England before: jewels, but more especially emeralds, the greenness of which, reflected by the sun, illumined the countenances of the by-standers with agreeable light: many fleet horses with their trappings, and, as Virgil says, “Champing their golden bits:” an alabaster vase so exquisitely chased, that, the cornfields really seemed to wave, the vines to bud, the figures of men actually to move, and so clear and polished, that it reflected the features like a mirror; the sword of Constantine the Great, on which the name of its original possessor was read in golden letters; on the pommel, upon thick plates of gold, might be seen fixed an iron spike, one of the four which the Jewish faction prepared for the crucifixion of our Lord: the spear of Charles the Great, which whenever that invincible emperor hurled in his expeditions against the Saracens, he always came off conqueror; it was reported to be the same, which, driven into the side of our Saviour by136 the hand of the centurion,169 opened, by that precious wound, the joys of paradise to wretched mortals: the banner of the most blessed martyr Maurice, chief of the Theban legion;170 with which the same king, in the Spanish war, used to break through the battalions of the enemy however fierce and wedged together, and put them to flight: a diadem, precious from its quantity of gold, but more so for its jewels, the splendour of which threw the sparks of light so strongly on the beholders, that the more stedfastly any person endeavoured to gaze, so much the more he was dazzled, and compelled to avert his eyes; part of the holy and adorable cross enclosed in crystal; where the eye, piercing through the substance of the stone, might discern the colour and size of the wood; a small portion of the crown of thorns, enclosed in a similar manner, which, in derision of his government, the madness of the soldiers placed on Christ’s sacred head. The king, delighted with such great and exquisite presents, made an equal return of good offices; and gratified the soul of the longing suitor by a union with his sister. With some of these presents he enriched succeeding kings: but to Malmesbury he gave part of the cross and crown; by the support of which, I believe, that place even now flourishes, though it has suffered so many shipwrecks of its liberty, so many attacks of its enemies.171 In this place he ordered Elwin and Ethelwin, the sons of his uncle Ethelward, whom he had lost in the battle against Anlaf, to be honourably buried, expressing his design of resting here himself: of which battle it is now proper time to give the account of that poet, from whom I have taken all these transactions.


His subjects governing with justest sway,
Tyrants o’eraw’d, twelve years had pass’d away,
When Europe’s noxious pestilence stalk’d forth,
And poured the barbarous legions from the north.
The pirate Anlaf now the briny surge
Forsakes, while deeds of desperation urge.
Her king consenting, Scotia’s land receives
The frantic madman, and his host of thieves:
Now flush’d with insolence they shout and boast,
And drive the harmless natives from the coast.
Thus, while the king, secure in youthful pride,
Bade the soft hours in gentle pleasures glide,
Though erst he stemmed the battle’s furious tide,
With ceaseless plunder sped the daring horde,
And wasted districts with their fire and sword.
The verdant crops lay withering on the fields
The glebe no promise to the rustic yields.
Immense the numbers of barbarian force,
Countless the squadrons both of foot and horse.
At length fame’s rueful moan alarmed the king,
And bade him shun this ignominious sting,
That arms like his to ruffian bands should bend:
’Tis done: delays and hesitations end.
High in the air the threatening banners fly,
And call his eager troops to victory,
His hardy force, a hundred thousand strong
Whom standards hasten to the fight along.
The martial clamour scares the plund’ring band,
And drives them bootless tow’rds their native land.
The vulgar mass a dreadful carnage share,
And shed contagion on the ambient air,
While Anlaf, only, out of all the crew
Escapes the meed of death, so justly due,
Reserved by fortune’s favor, once again
When Athelstan was dead, to claim our strain.
[A.D. 937.]     DEATH OF ELFRED.

This place seems to require that I should relate the death of Elfred in the words of the king, for which I before pledged the faith of my narrative. For as he had commanded the bodies of his relations to be conveyed to Malmesbury, and interred at the head of the sepulchre of St. Aldhelm; he honoured the place afterwards to such a degree, that he esteemed none more desirable or more holy. Bestowing many large estates upon it, he confirmed them by charters, in one of which, after the donation, he adds: “Be it known to the sages of our kingdom, that I have not unjustly seized the lands aforesaid, or dedicated plunder to God; but that I have received them, as the English nobility, and even John, the pope of the church of Rome himself, have judged138 fitting on the death of Elfred. He was the jealous rival both of my happiness and life, and consented to the wickedness of my enemies, who, on my father’s decease, had not God in his mercy delivered me, wished to put out my eyes in the city of Winchester: wherefore, on the discovery of their infernal contrivances, he was sent to the church of Rome to defend himself by oath before pope John. This he did at the altar of St. Peter; but at the very instant he had sworn, he fell down before it, and was carried by his servants to the English School, where he died the third night after. The pope immediately sent to consult with us, whether his body should be placed among other Christians. On receiving this account the nobility of our kingdom, with the whole body of his relations, humbly entreated that we would grant our permission for his remains to be buried with other Christians. Consenting, therefore, to their urgent request, we sent back our compliance to Rome, and with the pope’s permission he was buried, though unworthy, with other Christians. In consequence all his property of every description was adjudged to be mine. Moreover, we have noted this in writing, that, so long as Christianity reigns, it may never be abrogated, whence the aforesaid land, which I have given to God and St. Peter, was granted me; nor do I know any thing more just, than that I should bestow this gift on God and St. Peter, who caused my rival to fall in the sight of all persons, and conferred on me a prosperous reign.”

In these words of the king, we may equally venerate his wisdom, and his piety in sacred matters: his wisdom, that so young a man should perceive that a sacrifice obtained by rapine could not be acceptable to God: his piety in so gratefully making a return to God, out of a benefit conferred on him by divine vengeance. Moreover, it may be necessary to observe, that at that time the church of St. Peter was the chief of the monastery, which now is deemed second only: the church of St. Mary, which the monks at present frequent, was built afterwards in the time of king Edgar, under abbat Elfric. Thus far relating to the king I have written from authentic testimony: that which follows I have learned more from old ballads, popular through succeeding times, than from books written expressly for the information of139 posterity. I have subjoined them, not to defend their veracity, but to put my reader in possession of all I know. First, then, to the relation of his birth.


There was in a certain village, a shepherd’s daughter, a girl of exquisite beauty, who gained through the elegance of her person what her birth could never have bestowed. In a vision she beheld a prodigy: the moon shone from her womb, and all England was illuminated by the light. When she sportively related this to her companions in the morning, it was not so lightly received, but immediately reached the ears of the woman who had nursed the sons of the king. Deliberating on this matter, she took her home and adopted her as a daughter, bringing up this young maiden with costlier attire, more delicate food, and more elegant demeanour. Soon after, Edward, the son of king Alfred, travelling through the village, stopped at the house which had been the scene of his infantine education. Indeed, he thought it would be a blemish on his reputation to omit paying his salutations to his nurse. He became deeply enamoured of the young woman from the first moment he saw her, and passed the night with her. In consequence of this single intercourse, she brought forth her son Athelstan, and so realized her dream. For at the expiration of his childish years, as he approached manhood, he gave proof by many actions what just expectations of noble qualities might be entertained of him. King Edward, therefore, died, and was shortly followed by his legitimate son Ethelward. All hopes now centred in Athelstan: Elfred alone, a man of uncommon insolence, disdaining to be governed by a sovereign whom he had not voluntarily chosen, secretly opposed with his party to the very utmost. But he being detected and punished, as the king has before related, there were some who even accused Edwin, the king’s brother, of treachery. Base and dreadful crime was it thus to embroil fraternal affection by sinister constructions. Edwin, though imploring, both personally and by messengers, the confidence of his brother, and though invalidating the accusation by an oath, was nevertheless driven into exile. So far, indeed, did the dark suggestions of some persons prevail on a mind distracted with various cares, that, forgetful of a brother’s love, he expelled the youth, an object of pity even to strangers. The140 mode adopted too was cruel in the extreme: he was compelled to go on board a vessel, with a single attendant, without a rower, without even an oar, and the bark crazy with age. Fortune laboured for a long time to restore the innocent youth to land, but when at length he was far out at sea, and sails could not endure the violence of the wind, the young man, delicate, and weary of life under such circumstances, put an end to his existence by a voluntary plunge into the waters. The attendant wisely determining to prolong his life, sometimes by shunning the hostile waves, and sometimes by urging the boat forward with his feet, brought his master’s body to land, in the narrow sea which flows between Wissant and Dover. Athelstan, when his anger cooled, and his mind became calm, shuddered at the deed, and submitting to a seven years’ penance, inflicted severe vengeance on the accuser of his brother: he was the king’s cup-bearer, and on this account had opportunity of enforcing his insinuations. It so happened on a festive day, as he was serving wine, that slipping with one foot in the midst of the chamber, he recovered himself with the other. On this occasion, he made use of an expression which proved his destruction: “Thus brother,” said he, “assists brother.” The king on hearing this, ordered the faithless wretch to be put to death, loudly reproaching him with the loss of that assistance he might have had from his brother, were he alive, and bewailing his death.

The circumstances of Edwin’s death, though extremely probable, I the less venture to affirm for truth, on account of the extraordinary affection he manifested towards the rest of his brothers; for, as his father had left them very young, he cherished them whilst children with much kindness, and, when grown up, made them partakers of his kingdom; it is before related to what dignity he exalted such of his sisters as his father had left unmarried and unprovided for. Completing his earthly course, and that a short one, Athelstan died at Gloucester. His noble remains were conveyed to Malmesbury and buried under the altar. Many gifts, both in gold and silver, as well as relics of saints purchased abroad in Brittany, were carried before the body: for, in such things, admonished, as they say, in a dream, he expended the treasures which his father had long since141 amassed, and had left untouched. His years, though few, were full of glory.

Of kings Edmund, Edred, and Edwy. [A.D. 940–955.]

[A.D. 940–944.]     KING EDMUND.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 940, Edmund the brother of Athelstan, a youth of about eighteen, received and held the government for six years and a half. In his time the Northumbrians, meditating a renewal of hostilities, violated the treaty which they had made with Athelstan, and created Anlaf, whom they had recalled from Ireland, their king. Edmund, who thought it disgraceful not to complete his brother’s victorious course, led his troops against the delinquents; who presently retreating, he subjugated all the cities on this side the river Humber. Anlaf, with a certain prince, Reginald,172 the son of that Gurmund of whom we have spoken in the history of Alfred, sounding the disposition of the king, offered to surrender himself, proffering his conversion to Christianity as a pledge of his fidelity, and receiving baptism. His savage nature, however, did not let him remain long in this resolution, for he violated his oath, and irritated his lord. In consequence of which, the following year he suffered for his crimes, being doomed to perpetual exile. The province which is called Cumberland Edmund assigned to Malcolm, king of the Scots, under fealty of an oath.

Among the many donations which the king conferred on different churches, he exalted that of Glastonbury, through his singular affection towards it, with great estates and honours; and granted it a charter in these words:

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I Edmund, king of the Angles, and governor and ruler of the other surrounding nations, with the advice and consent of my nobility, for the hope of eternal retribution, and remission of my transgressions, do grant to the church of the holy mother of God, Mary of Glastonbury, and the venerable Dunstan, whom I have there constituted abbat, the franchise and jurisdiction,142 rights, customs, and all the forfeitures of all their possessions; that is to say,173 burhgeritha, and hundred-setena, athas and ordelas, and infangenetheofas, hamsocne, and fridebrice, and forestel and toll, and team, throughout my kingdom, and their lands shall be free to them, and released from all exactions, as my own are. But more especially shall the town of Glastonbury, in which is situated that most ancient church of the holy mother of God, together with its bounds, be more free than other places. The abbat of this place, alone, shall have power, as well in causes known as unknown; in small and in great; and even in those which are above, and under the earth; on dry land, and in the water; in woods and in plains; and he shall have the same authority of punishing or remitting the crimes of delinquents perpetrated within it, as my court has; in the same manner as my predecessors have granted and confirmed by charter; to wit, Edward my father, and Elfred his father, and Kentwin, Ina, and Cuthred, and many others, who more peculiarly honoured and esteemed that noble place. And that any one, either bishop, or duke,174 or prince, or any of their servants, should dare to enter it for the purpose of holding courts, or distraining, or doing any thing contrary to the will of the servants of God there, I inhibit under God’s curse. Whosoever therefore shall benevolently augment my donation, may his life be prosperous in this present world; long may he enjoy his happiness: but whosoever shall presume to invade it through his own rashness, let him know for certain that he shall be compelled with fear and trembling to give account before the tribunal of a rigorous judge, unless he shall first atone for his offence by proper satisfaction.”

[A.D. 946.]     EDMUND KILLED.

The aforesaid donation was granted in the year of our143 Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation 944, in the first of the indiction, and was written in letters of gold in the book of the Gospels, which he presented to the same church elegantly adorned. Such great and prosperous successes, however, were obscured by a melancholy death. A certain robber named Leofa, whom he had banished for his crimes, returning after six years’ absence totally unexpected, was sitting, on the feast of St. Augustine, the apostle of the English, and first archbishop of Canterbury, among the royal guests at Puckle-church,175 for on this day the English were wont to regale in commemoration of their first preacher; by chance too, he was placed near a nobleman whom the king had condescended to make his guest. This, while the others were eagerly carousing, was perceived by the king alone; when, hurried with indignation and impelled by fate, he leaped from the table, caught the robber by the hair, and dragged him to the floor; but he secretly drawing a dagger from its sheath plunged it with all his force into the breast of the king as he lay upon him. Dying of the wound, he gave rise over the whole kingdom to many fictions concerning his decease. The robber was shortly torn limb from limb by the attendants who rushed in, though he wounded some of them ere they could accomplish their purpose. St. Dunstan, at that time abbat of Glastonbury, had foreseen his ignoble end, being fully persuaded of it from the gesticulations and insolent mockery of a devil dancing before him. Wherefore, hastening to court at full speed, he received intelligence of the transaction on the road. By common consent then it was determined, that his body should be brought to Glastonbury and there magnificently buried in the northern part of the tower. That such had been his intention, through his singular regard for the abbat, was evident from particular circumstances. The village also where he was murdered was made an offering for the dead, that the spot which had witnessed his fall might ever after minister aid to his soul.

In his fourth year, that is, in the year of our Lord 944, William, the son of Rollo, duke of Normandy, was treacherously killed in France, which old writers relate as having been done with some degree of justice. Rinulph, one of the Norman nobility, owing William a grudge from some unknown144 cause, harassed him with perpetual aggressions. His son, Anschetil, who served under the earl, to gratify his lord durst offer violence to nature for taking his father in battle: he delivered him into the power of the earl, relying on the most solemn oath, that he should suffer nothing beyond imprisonment. As wickedness, however, constantly discovers pretences for crime, the earl, shortly after feigning an excuse, sends Anschetil to Pavia bearing a letter to the duke of Italy, the purport of which was his own destruction. Completing his journey, he was received, on his entrance into the city, in the most respectful manner; and delivering the letter, the duke, astonished at the treachery, shuddered, that a warrior of such singular address should be ordered to be despatched. But as he would not oppose the request of so renowned a nobleman, he laid an ambush of a thousand horsemen, as it is said, for Anschetil when he left the city. For a long time, with his companions whom he had selected out of all Normandy, he resisted their attack; but at last he fell nobly, compensating his own death by slaying many of the enemy. The only survivor on either side was Balso, a Norman, a man of small size, but of incredible courage; although some say that he was ironically called short. This man, I say, alone hovered round the city, and by his single sword terrified the townspeople as long as he thought proper. No person will deem this incredible, who considers what efforts the desperation of a courageous man will produce, and how little military valour the people of that region possess. Returning thence to his own country, he laid his complaint of the perfidy of his lord before the king of France. Fame reported too, that Rinulph, in addition to his chains, had had his eyes put out. In consequence the earl being cited to his trial at Paris, was met, under the pretence of a conference, as they assert, and killed by Balso; thus making atonement for his own perfidy, and satisfying the rage of his antagonist in the midst of the river Seine. His death was the source of long discord between the French and Normans, till by the exertions of Richard his son it had a termination worthy such a personage. A truer history176 indeed relates, that being at enmity with Ernulph, earl of Flanders, he had possessed himself of one of his castles, and that being invited145 out by him to a conference, on a pretended design of making a truce, he was killed by Balso, as they were conversing in a ship: that a key was found at his girdle, which being applied to the lock of his private cabinet, discovered certain monastic habiliments;177 for he ever designed, even amid his warlike pursuits, one day to become a monk at Jumiéges; which place, deserted from the time of Hasten, he cleared of the overspreading thorns, and with princely magnificence exalted to its present state.

[A.D. 946–955.]     EDRED—EDWY.

In the year of our Lord 946, Edred, Edward’s third son, assuming the government, reigned nine years and a half. He gave proof that he had not degenerated in greatness of soul from his father and his brothers; for he nearly exterminated the Northumbrians and the Scots, laying waste the whole province with sword and famine, because, having with little difficulty compelled them to swear fidelity to him, they broke their oath, and made Iricius their king. He for a long time kept Wulstan, archbishop of York, who, it was said, connived at the revolt of his countrymen, in chains, but afterwards, out of respect to his ecclesiastical dignity, released and pardoned him. In the meantime, the king himself, prostrate at the feet of the saints, devoted his life to God and to Dunstan, by whose admonition he endured with patience his frequent bodily pains,178 prolonged his prayers, and made his palace altogether the school of virtue. He died accompanied with the utmost grief of men, but joy of angels; for Dunstan, learning by a messenger that he was sick, while urging his horse in order to see him, heard a voice thundering over his head, “Now king Edred sleeps in the Lord.” He lies buried in the cathedral at Winchester.

In the year of our Lord 955, Edwy, son of Edmund, the brother of Athelstan the former king, taking possession of the kingdom, retained it four years: a wanton youth, who abused the beauty of his person in illicit intercourse. Finally, taking a woman nearly related to him as his wife, he doated on her beauty, and despised the advice of his counsellors.146 On the very day he had been consecrated king, in full assembly of the nobility, when deliberating on affairs of importance and essential to the state, he burst suddenly from amongst them, darted wantonly into his chamber, and rioted in the embraces of the harlot. All were indignant of the shameless deed, and murmured among themselves. Dunstan alone, with that firmness which his name implies,179 regardless of the royal indignation, violently dragged the lascivious boy from the chamber, and on the archbishop’s compelling him to repudiate the strumpet,180 made him his enemy for ever. Soon after, upheld by most contemptible supporters, he afflicted with undeserved calamities all the members of the monastic order throughout England,—who were first despoiled of their property, and then driven into exile. He drove Dunstan himself, the chief of monks, into Flanders. At that time the face of monachism was sad and pitiable. Even the monastery of Malmesbury, which had been inhabited by monks for more than two hundred and seventy years, he made a sty for secular canons. But thou, O Lord Jesus, our creator and redeemer, gracious disposer, art abundantly able to remedy our defects by means of those irregular and vagabond men. Thou didst bring to light thy treasure, hidden for so many years—I mean the body of St. Aldhelm, which they took up and placed in a shrine. The royal generosity increased the fame of the canons; for the king bestowed on the saint an estate, very convenient both from its size and vicinity. But my recollection shudders even at this time, to think how cruel he was to other monasteries, equally on account of the giddiness of youth, and the pernicious counsel of his concubine, who was perpetually poisoning his uninformed mind. But let his soul, long since placed in rest by the interposition of Dunstan,181147 pardon my grief: grief, I say, compels me to condemn him, “because private advantage is not to be preferred to public loss, but rather public loss should outweigh private advantage.” He paid the penalty of his rash attempt even in this life, being despoiled of the greatest part of his kingdom;182 shocked with which calamity, he died, and was buried in the new minster at Winchester.

Of king Edgar, son of king Edmund. [A.D. 959–975.]

[A.D. 959–975.]     OF KING EDGAR.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 959, Edgar, the honour and delight of the English, the son of Edmund, the brother of Edwy, a youth of sixteen years old, assuming the government, held it for about a similar period. The transactions of his reign are celebrated with peculiar splendour even in our times. The Divine love, which he sedulously procured by his devotion and energy of counsel, shone propitious on his years. It is commonly reported, that at his birth Dunstan heard an angelic voice, saying, “Peace to England so long as this child shall reign, and our Dunstan survives.” The succession of events was in unison with the heavenly oracle; so much while he lived did ecclesiastical glory flourish, and martial clamour decay. Scarcely does a year elapse in the chronicles, in which he did not perform something great and advantageous to his country; in which he did not build some new monastery. He experienced no internal treachery, no foreign attack. Kinad, king of the Scots, Malcolm, of the Cambrians, that prince of pirates, Maccus, all the Welsh kings, whose names were Dufnal, Giferth, Huval, Jacob, Judethil, being summoned to his court, were bound to him by one, and that a lasting oath; so that meeting him at Chester, he exhibited them on the river Dee in triumphal ceremony. For putting them all on board the same vessels he compelled them to row him as he sat at the prow: thus displaying his regal magnificence, who held so many kings in subjection. Indeed, he is reported to have said, that henceforward his successors might truly boast of being kings148 of England, since they would enjoy so singular an honour. Hence his fame being noised abroad, foreigners, Saxons, Flemings, and even Danes, frequently sailed hither, and were on terms of intimacy with Edgar, though their arrival was highly prejudicial to the natives: for from the Saxons they learned an untameable ferocity of mind; from the Flemings an unmanly delicacy of body; and from the Danes drunkenness; though they were before free from such propensities, and disposed to observe their own customs with native simplicity rather than admire those of others. For this history justly and deservedly blames him; for the other imputations which I shall mention hereafter have rather been cast on him by ballads.


At this time the light of holy men was so resplendent in England, that you would believe the very stars from heaven smiled upon it. Among these was Dunstan, whom I have mentioned so frequently, first, abbat of Glastonbury; next, bishop of Worcester; and lastly, archbishop of Canterbury: of great power in earthly matters, in high favour with God; in the one representing Martha, in the other Mary. Next to king Alfred, he was the most extraordinary patron of the liberal arts throughout the whole island; the munificent restorer of monasteries; terrible were his denunciations against transgressing kings and princes; kind was his support of the middling and poorer classes. Indeed, so extremely anxious was he to preserve peace ever in trivial matters, that, as his countrymen used to assemble in taverns, and when a little elevated quarrel as to the proportions of their liquor, he ordered gold or silver pegs to be fastened in the pots, that whilst every man knew his just measure, shame should compel each neither to take more himself, nor oblige others to drink beyond their proportional share. Osberne,183 precentor of Canterbury, second to none of these times in composition, and indisputably the best skilled of all in music, who wrote his life with Roman elegance, forbids me to relate farther praiseworthy anecdotes of him. Besides, in addition to this, if the divine grace shall accompany my design, I intend after the succession of the kings at least to particularize the names of all the bishops of each province in England, and to offer them to the knowledge of my countrymen, if I shall be able149 to coin anything worth notice out of the mintage of antiquity. How powerful indeed the sanctity and virtue of Dunstan’s disciples were, is sufficiently evidenced by Ethelwold, made abbat of Abingdon from a monk of Glastonbury, and afterwards bishop of Winchester, who built so many and such great monasteries, as to make it appear hardly credible how the bishop of one see should be able to effect what the king of England himself could scarcely undertake. I am deceived, and err through hasty opinion, if what I assert be not evident. How great are the monasteries of Ely, Peterborough, and Thorney, which he raised from the foundations, and completed by his industry; which though repeatedly reduced by the wickedness of plunderers, are yet sufficient for their inhabitants. His life was composed in a decent style by Wulstan,184 precentor of Winchester, who had been his attendant and pupil: he wrote also another very useful work, “On the Harmony of Sounds,” a proof that he was a learned Englishman, a man of pious life and correct eloquence. At that time too Oswald, nephew of Odo, who had been archbishop before Dunstan, from a monk of Flory becoming bishop of Worcester and archbishop of York, claimed equal honours with the others. Treading the same paths, he extended the monastic profession by his authority, and built a monastery at Ramsey in a marshy situation. He filled the cathedral of Worcester with monks, the canons not being driven out by force, but circumvented by pious fraud.185 Bishop Ethelwold, by the royal command, had before expelled the canons from Winchester, who, upon the king’s giving them an option either to live according to rule, or depart the place, gave the preference to an easy life, and were at that time without fixed habitations wandering over the whole island. In this manner these three persons, illuminating England, as it were, with a triple light, chased away the thick darkness of error. In consequence, Edgar advanced the monastery of Glastonbury, which he ever loved beyond all others, with great possessions, and was anxiously vigilant150 in all things pertaining either to the beauty or convenience of the church, whether internally or externally. It may be proper here to subjoin to our narrative the charter he granted to the said church, as I have read it in their ancient chartulary.186


[A.D. 973.]     EDGAR’S CHARTER.

“Edgar of glorious memory, king of the Angles, son of king Edmund, whose inclinations were ever vigilantly bent on divine matters, often coming to the monastery of the152 holy mother of God at Glastonbury, and studying to honour this place with dignity superior to others, hath by the common consent of the bishops, abbats, and nobility, conferred on it many and very splendid privileges;—the first of which is, that no person, unless a monk of that place, shall there be abbat, either in name or in office, nor any other, except such as the common consent of the meeting shall have chosen according to the tenor of the rule. But should necessity so ordain, that an abbat or monk of another monastery be made president of this place, then he deems it proper that none shall be appointed, but such as the congregation of the monastery may elect, to preside over them in the fear of the Lord; nor shall this be done, if any, even the lowest of the congregation, can be there found fit for the office. He hath appointed too, that the election of their abbat shall rest for ever in the monks, reserving only to himself and his heirs the power of giving the pastoral staff to the elected brother. He hath ordained also, that so often as the abbat or the monks of this place shall appoint any of their society to be dignified with holy orders, they shall cause any bishop canonically ordained, either in his own cathedral, or in the monastery of St. Mary at Glastonbury, to ordain such monks and clerks as they deem fit to the church of St. Mary. He hath granted moreover, that as he himself decides in his own dominions, so the abbat or the convent shall decide the causes of their entire island,187 in all matters ecclesiastical or secular, without the contradiction of any one. Nor shall it be lawful for any person to enter that island which bore witness to his birth, whether he be bishop, duke, or prince, or person of whatever order, for the purpose of there doing any thing prejudicial to the servants of God: this he forbids altogether, in the same manner as his predecessors have sanctioned and confirmed by their privileges; that is to say, Kentwin, Ina, Ethelard, Cuthred, Alfred, Edward, Athelstan, and Edmund. When, therefore, by the common consent,153 as has been said, of his prelates, abbats, and nobility, he determined to grant these privileges to the place aforesaid, he laid his own horn, beautifully formed of ivory and adorned with gold, upon the altar of the holy mother of God, and by that donation confirmed them to the same holy mother of God, and her monks, to be possessed for ever. Soon after he caused this horn to be cut in two in his presence, that no future abbat might give or sell it to any one, commanding part of it to be kept upon the spot for a testimony of the aforesaid donation. Recollecting, however, how great is the temerity of human inconstancy, and on whom it is likely to creep, and fearing lest any one hereafter should attempt to take away these privileges from this place, or eject the monks, he sent this charter of royal liberality to the renowned lord, pope John, who had succeeded Octavian in the honour of the pontificate, begging him to corroborate these grants by an apostolical bull. Kindly receiving the legation, the pope, with the assenting voice of the Roman council, confirmed what had been already ordained, by writing an apostolical injunction, terribly hurling on the violators of them, should any be so daring, the vengeance of a perpetual curse. This confirmation therefore of the aforesaid pope, directed to the same place, king Edgar, of worthy memory, laid upon the altar of the holy mother of God for a perpetual remembrance, commanding it to be carefully kept in future for the information of posterity. We have judged it proper to insert both these instruments, lest we should be supposed to invent such things against those persons who seek to enter into the fold of St. Mary, not like shepherds, by the door, but like thieves and robbers, some other way. “Be it known to all the faithful, that I, John the twelfth, through the mercy of God unworthy pope of the holy Roman See, am intreated by the humble request of the noble Edgar, king of the Angles, and of Dunstan, archbishop of the holy church of Canterbury, for the monastery of St. Mary, Glastonbury; which, induced by the love of the heavenly King, they have endowed with many great possessions, increasing in it the monastic order, and having confirmed it by royal grant, they pray me also so to do. Wherefore assenting to their affectionate request, I take that place into the bosom of the Roman church, and the protection of the holy apostles, and support154 and confirm its immunities as long as it shall remain in the same conventual order in which it now flourishes. The monks shall have power to elect their own superior; ordination, as well of monks as of clerks, shall be at the will of the abbat and convent. We ordain, moreover, that no person shall have liberty to enter this island, either to hold courts, to make inquiry, or to correct; and should any one attempt to oppose this, or to take away, retain, diminish, or harass with vexatious boldness, the possessions of the same church, he shall become liable to a perpetual curse, by the authority of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the holy mother of God, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all saints, unless he recant. But the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all who maintain the rights of the place aforesaid. Amen. And let this our deed remain unshaken. Done in the time of Edward, abbat of the said monastery.” The aforesaid king Edgar confirmed these things at London, by his solemn charter, in the twelfth year of his reign; and in the same year, that is, of our Lord 965,188 the pope aforesaid allowed them in a general synod at Rome, and commanded all members of superior dignity who were present at the said general council, to confirm them likewise. Let the despisers then of so terrible a curse consider well what an extensive sentence of excommunication hangs over their heads: and indeed to St. Peter the apostle, the chief of apostles, Christ gave the office either of binding or loosing, as well as the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But to all the faithful it must be plain and evident, that the head of the Roman church must be the vicar of this apostle, and the immediate inheritor of his power. Over this church then John of holy memory laudably presided in his lifetime, as he lives to this day in glorious recollection, promoted thereto by the choice of God and of all the people. If then the ordinance of St. Peter the apostle be binding, consequently that of John the pope must be so likewise; but not even a madman would deny the ordinance of Peter the apostle to be binding, consequently no one in his sober senses can say that the ordinance of John the pope is invalid. Either, therefore, acknowledging the power conferred by Christ on St. Peter and his successors, they will abstain from transgressing against the authority of so dreadful155 an interdict, or else contemning it, they will, with the devil and his angels, bring upon themselves the eternal duration of the curse aforewritten. In consequence, it is manifest that no stranger ever seized this monastery for himself, who did not, as shall appear, disgracefully lose it again; and that this occurred, not by any concerted plan of the monks, but by the judgment of God, for the avenging his holy authority. Wherefore let no man reading this despise it, nor make himself conspicuous by being angry at it; for should he, perhaps he will confess that to be said of himself which was designed to be spoken of another. The monastic order, for a long time depressed, now joyfully reared its head, and hence it came to pass that our monastery also resumed its ancient liberties: but this I think will be more suitably related in the words of the king himself.


“I, Edgar, king of all Albion, and exalted, by the subjection of the surrounding kings maritime or insular, by the bountiful grace of God, to a degree never enjoyed by any of my progenitors, have often, mindful of so high an honour, diligently considered what offering I should more especially make from my earthly kingdom, to the King of kings. In aid of my pious devotion, heavenly love suddenly insinuated to my watchful solicitude, that I should rebuild all the holy monasteries throughout my kingdom, which, as they were outwardly ruinous, with mouldering shingles and worm-eaten boards, even to the rafters, so, what was still worse, they had become internally neglected, and almost destitute of the service of God; wherefore, ejecting those illiterate clerks, subject to the discipline of no regular order, in many places I have appointed pastors of an holier race, that is, of the monastic order, supplying them with ample means out of my royal revenues to repair their churches wherever ruinated. One of these pastors, by name Elfric, in all things a true priest, I have appointed guardian of that most celebrated monastery which the Angles call by a twofold name Maldelmes-burgh. To which, for the benefit of my soul, and in honour of our Saviour, and the holy mother of God the virgin Mary, and the apostles Peter and Paul, and the amiable prelate Aldhelm, I have restored, with munificent liberality, a portion of land: and more especially a piece of ground,189156 with meadows and woods. This, leased out by the aforesaid priest, was unjustly held by the contentious Edelnot; but his vain and subtle disputation being heard by my counsellors, and his false defence being, in my presence, nullified, by them, I have restored it to the use of the monastery in the year of our Lord 974, in the fourteenth of my reign, and the first of my royal consecration.”

[A.D. 973.]     EDGAR’S VISION.

And here I deem it not irrelevant to commit to writing what was supernaturally shown to the king. He had entered a wood abundant in game, and, as usually happens, while his associates were dispersed in the thicket for the purpose of hunting, he was left alone. Pursuing his course, he came to the outlet of the wood, and stopping there waited for his companions. Shortly after, seized with an irresistible desire to sleep, he alighted from his horse, that the enjoyment of a short repose might assuage the fatigue of the past day. He lay down, therefore, under a wild apple-tree, where the clustering branches had formed a shady canopy all around. A river, flowing softly beside him, adding to his drowsiness, by its gentle murmur soothed him to sleep; when a bitch, of the hunting breed, pregnant, and lying down at his feet, terrified him in his slumbers. Though the mother was silent, yet the whelps within her womb barked in various sonorous tones, incited, as it were, by a singular delight in the place of their confinement. Astonished at this prodigy, as he lifted up his eyes towards the summit of the tree, he saw, first one apple, and then another, fall into the river, by the collision of which, the watery bubbles being put in commotion, a voice articulately sounded, “Well is thee.” Soon after, driven by the rippling wave, a little pitcher appeared upon the stream, and after that a larger vessel, overflowing with water, for the former was empty: and although by the violence of the stream the greater vessel pressed upon the lesser that it might discharge its waters into it; yet it ever happened that the pitcher escaped, still empty, and again, as in a haughty and insulting manner, attacked the larger. Returning home, as the Psalmist says, “He thought upon what had been done, and sought out his spirit.” His mother addressed him, however, that she might cheer both his countenance157 and his heart; saying, it should be her care to entreat God, who knew how to explain mysteries by the light of his inspiration. With this admonition he dispelled his grief and dismissed his anxiety, conscious of his mother’s sanctity, to whom God had vouchsafed many revelations. Her name was Elfgiva, a woman intent on good works, and gifted with such affection and kindness, that she would even secretly discharge the penalties of those culprits whom the sad sentence of the judges had publicly condemned. That costly clothing, which, to many women, is the pander of vice, was to her the means of liberality; as she would give a garment of the most beautiful workmanship to the first poor person she saw. Even malice itself, as there was nothing to carp at, might praise the beauty of her person and the work of her hands. Thoroughly comprehending the presage, she said to her son next morning, “The barking of the whelps while the mother was sleeping, implies, that after your death, those persons who are now living and in power, dying also, miscreants yet unborn will bark against the church of God. And whereas one apple followed the other, so that the voice, ‘Well is thee,’ seemed to proceed from the dashing of the second against the first, this implies that from you, who are now a tree shading all England, two sons will proceed; the favourers of the second will destroy the first, when the chiefs of the different parties will say to each of the boys, ‘Well is thee,’ because the dead will reign in heaven, the living on earth, Forasmuch as the greater pitcher could not fill the smaller, this signifies, that the Northern nations, which are more numerous than the English, shall attack England after your death; and, although they may recruit their deficiencies by perpetual supplies of their countrymen, yet they shall never be able to fill this Angle of the world, but instead of that, our Angles, when they seem to be completely subjugated, shall drive them out, and it shall remain under its own and God’s governance, even unto the time before appointed by Christ. Amen.”

Farther perusal will justify the truth of the presage. The manifest sanctity both of parent and child ought here to be considered; that the one should see a mystery when broad awake without impediment, and that the other should be able to solve the problem by the far-discerning eye of prophecy.158 The rigour of Edgar’s justice was equal to the sanctity of his manners, so that he permitted no person, be his dignity what it might, to elude the laws with impunity. In his time there was no private thief, no public freebooter, unless such as chose to risk the loss of life for their attacks upon the property of others.190 How, indeed, can it be supposed that he would pass over the crimes of men when he designed to exterminate every beast of prey from his kingdom; and commanded Judwall, king of the Welsh, to pay him yearly a tribute of three hundred wolves? This he performed for three years, but omitted in the fourth, declaring that he could find no more.

[A.D. 973.]     EDGAR’S CHARACTER.

Although it is reported that he was extremely small both in stature and in bulk, yet nature had condescended to enclose such strength in that diminutive body, that he would voluntarily challenge any person, whom he knew to be bold and valiant, to engage with him, and his greatest apprehension was, lest they should stand in awe of him in these encounters. Moreover, at a certain banquet, where the prating of coxcombs generally shows itself very freely, it is reported that Kinad, king of the Scots, said in a sportive manner, that it seemed extraordinary to him how so many provinces should be subject to such a sorry little fellow. This was caught up with malignant ear by a certain minstrel, and afterwards cast in Edgar’s teeth, with the customary raillery of such people. But he, concealing the circumstance from his friends, sent for Kinad, as if to consult him on some secret matter of importance, and leading him aside far into the recesses of a wood, he gave him one of two swords, which he had brought with him. “Now,” said he, “as we are alone, I shall have an opportunity of proving your strength; I will now make it appear which ought deservedly to command the other; nor shall you stir a foot till you try the matter with me, for it is disgraceful in a king to prate at a banquet, and not to be prompt in action.” Confused, and not daring to utter a word, he fell at the feet of his sovereign159 lord, and asked pardon for what was merely a joke; which he immediately obtained. But what of this? Every summer, as soon as the festival of Easter was passed, he ordered his ships to be collected on each coast; cruising to the western part of the island with the eastern fleet; and, dismissing that, with the western to the north; and then again with the northern squadron towards the east, carefully vigilant lest pirates should disturb the country. During the winter and spring, travelling through the provinces, he made inquiry into the decisions of men in power, severely avenging violated laws, by the one mode advancing justice, by the other military strength; and in both consulting public utility. There are some persons, indeed, who endeavour to dim his exceeding glory by saying, that in his earlier years he was cruel to his subjects, and libidinous in respect of virgins. Their first accusation they exemplify thus. There was, in his time, one Athelwold, a nobleman of celebrity and one of his confidants. The king had commissioned him to visit Elfthrida, daughter of Ordgar, duke of Devonshire, (whose charms had so fascinated the eyes of some persons that they commended her to the king), and to offer her marriage, if her beauty were really equal to report. Hastening on his embassy, and finding everything consonant to general estimation, he concealed his mission from her parents and procured the damsel for himself. Returning to the king, he told a tale which made for his own purpose; that she was a girl nothing out of the common track of beauty, and by no means worthy such transcendent dignity. When Edgar’s heart was disengaged from this affair, and employed on other amours, some tattlers acquainted him, how completely Athelwold had duped him by his artifices. Paying him in his own coin, that is, returning him deceit for deceit, he showed the earl a fair countenance, and, as in a sportive manner, appointed a day when he would visit his far-famed lady. Terrified, almost to death, with this dreadful pleasantry, he hastened before to his wife, entreating that she would administer to his safety by attiring herself as unbecomingly as possible: then first disclosing the intention of such a proceeding. But what did not this woman dare? She was hardy enough to deceive the confidence of her first lover, her first husband; to call up every charm by art, and to omit nothing which160 could stimulate the desire of a young and powerful man. Nor did events happen contrary to her design. For he fell so desperately in love with her the moment he saw her, that, dissembling his indignation, he sent for the earl into a wood at Warewelle,191 called Harewood, under pretence of hunting, and ran him through with a javelin: and when the illegitimate son of the murdered nobleman approached with his accustomed familiarity, and was asked by the king how he liked that kind of sport, he is reported to have said, “Well, my sovereign liege, I ought not to be displeased with that which gives you pleasure.” This answer so assuaged the mind of the raging monarch, that, for the remainder of his life, he held no one in greater estimation than this young man; mitigating the offence of his tyrannical deed against the father, by royal solicitude for the son. In expiation of this crime, a monastery which was built on the spot by Elfthrida is inhabited by a large congregation of nuns.

To this instance of cruelty, they add a second of lust. Hearing of the beauty of a certain virgin, who was dedicated to God, he carried her off from a monastery by force, ravished her, and repeatedly made her the partner of his bed. When this circumstance reached the ears of St. Dunstan, he was vehemently reproved by him, and underwent a seven years’ penance; though a king, submitting to fast and to forego the wearing of his crown for that period.192 They add a third, in which both vices may be discovered. King Edgar coming to Andover, a town not far from Winchester, ordered the daughter of a certain nobleman, the fame of whose beauty had been loudly extolled, to be brought to him. The mother of the young lady, shocked at the proposed concubinage of her daughter, assisted by the darkness of night placed an attendant in his bed; a maiden indeed neither deficient in elegance nor in understanding. The night having passed, when aurora was hastening into day, the woman attempted to rise; and being asked, “why in such haste?” she replied, “to perform the daily labour of her mistress.” Retained though with difficulty, on her knees she bewailed her wretched situation to the king, and entreated her freedom as161 the recompence of her connexion with him; saying, “that it became his greatness, not to suffer one who had ministered to his royal pleasure, any longer to groan under the commands of cruel masters.” His indignation being excited, and sternly smiling, while his mind was wavering between pity to the girl, and displeasure to her mistress, he, at last, as if treating the whole as a joke, released her from servitude, and dismissed his anger. Soon after, he exalted her with great honour, to be mistress of her former tyrants, little consulting how they liked it, loved her entirely, nor left her bed till he took Elfthrida, the daughter of Ordgar, to be his legitimate wife. Elfthrida bore him Edmund, who dying five years before his father, lies buried at Romsey, and Ethelred, who reigned after him. Besides, of Egelfleda, surnamed the fair, the daughter of the most powerful duke, Ordmer, he begot Edward; and St. Editha of Wulfritha, who it is certain was not a nun at that time, but being a lay virgin had assumed the veil through fear of the king, though she was immediately afterwards forced to the royal bed; on which, St. Dunstan, offended that he should desire lustfully a person who had been even the semblance of a nun, exerted the pontifical power against him. But however these things may be, this is certain, that from the sixteenth year of his age, when he was appointed king, till the thirtieth, he reigned without the insignia of royalty; for at that time, the princes and men of every order assembling generally, he was crowned with great pomp at Bath, survived only three years, and was buried at Glastonbury. Nor is it to be forgotten, that when abbat Ailward opened his tomb in the year of our Lord 1052, he found the body unconscious of corruption; which instead of inclining him to reverence, served only to increase his audacity. For when the receptacle which he had prepared, seemed too small to admit the body, he profaned the royal corpse by cutting it. Whence the blood immediately gushing out in torrents, shook the hearts of the by-standers with horror. In consequence his royal remains were placed upon the altar in a shrine, which he had himself given to this church, with the head of St. Apollinaris, and the relics of Vincent the martyr; which purchased, at a great price, he had added to the beauty of the house of God. The violator of the sacred body presently became distracted,162 and not long after, going out of the church, met his death by a broken neck. Nor did the display of royal sanctity stop thus; it proceeded still further, a man, lunatic and blind, being there cured. Deservedly then does the report prevail among the English, that no king, either of his own or former times in England, could be justly and fairly compared to Edgar: for nothing could be more holy than his life, nothing more praiseworthy than his justice; those vices excepted which he afterwards obliterated by abundant virtues: a man who rendered his country illustrious through his distinguished courage, and the brilliancy of his actions, as well as by the increase of the servants of God. After his departure, the state and the hopes of the English met with a melancholy reverse.193

Of St. Edward king and martyr the son of Edgar. [A.D. 975–978.]

[A.D. 975–977.]     COUNCIL AT CALNE.

In the year of our Lord 975, Edward the son of Edgar began to reign, and enjoyed the sovereignty for three years and a half. Dunstan, in common consent with the other bishops, elevated him to the royal dignity, in opposition, as it is said, to the will of some of the nobility, and of his step-mother; who was anxious to advance her son Ethelred, a child scarcely seven years of age, in order that herself might govern under colour of his name. Then, from the increasing malice of men, the happiness of the kingdom was impaired; then too, comets were seen, which were asserted certainly to portend either pestilence to the inhabitants, or a change in the government. Nor was it long ere there followed a scarcity of corn; famine among men; murrain among cattle; and an extraordinary accident at a royal town called Calne. For as soon as Edgar was dead, the secular canons who had been for some time expelled their monasteries, rekindled the former feuds, alleging, that it was a great and serious disgrace, for new comers to drive the ancient inmates from their dwellings; that it could not be esteemed grateful to God, who had granted them their ancient habitations: neither could it be so to any considerate man, who might dread that163 injustice as likely to befall himself, which he had seen overtake others. Hence they proceeded to clamour and rage, and hastened to Dunstan; the principal people, as is the custom of the laity, exclaiming more especially, that the injury which the canons had wrongfully suffered, ought to be redressed by gentler measures. Moreover, one of them, Elferius, with more than common audacity, had even overturned almost all the monasteries which that highly revered monk Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, had built throughout Mercia. On this account a full synod being convened, they first assembled at Winchester. What was the issue of the contest of that place, other writings declare;194 relating, that the image of our Saviour, speaking decidedly, confounded the canons and their party. But men’s minds being not yet at rest on the subject, a council was called at Calne; where, when all the senators of England, the king being absent on account of his youth, had assembled in an upper chamber, and the business was agitated with much animosity and debate; while the weapons of harsh reproach were directed against that firmest bulwark of the church, I mean Dunstan, but could not shake it; and men of every rank were earnestly defending their several sides of the question; the floor with its beams and supporters gave way suddenly and fell to the ground. All fell with it except Dunstan, who alone escaped unhurt by standing on a single rafter which retained its position: the rest were either killed, or subjected to lasting infirmity. This miracle procured the archbishop peace on the score of the canons; all the English, both at that time and afterwards, yielding to his sentiments.

Meanwhile king Edward conducted himself with becoming affection to his infant brother and his step-mother; he retained only the name of king, and gave them the power; following the footsteps of his father’s piety, and giving both his attention and his heart to good council. The woman, however, with that hatred which a step-mother only can entertain, began to meditate a subtle stratagem, in order that not even the title of king might be wanting to her child, and to lay a treacherous164 snare for her son-in-law, which she accomplished in the following manner. He was returning home, tired with the chase and gasping with thirst from the exercise, while his companions were following the dogs in different directions as it happened, when hearing that they dwelt in a neighbouring mansion, the youth proceeded thither at full speed, unattended and unsuspecting, as he judged of others by his own feelings. On his arrival, alluring him to her with female blandishment, she made him lean forward, and after saluting him while he was eagerly drinking from the cup which had been presented, the dagger of an attendant pierced him through. Dreadfully wounded, with all his remaining strength he clapped spurs to his horse in order to join his companions; when one foot slipping, he was dragged by the other through the trackless paths and recesses of the wood, while the streaming blood gave evidence of his death to his followers. Moreover, they then commanded him to be ingloriously interred at Wareham; envying him even holy ground when dead, as they had envied him his royal dignity while living. They now publicly manifested their extreme joy as if they had buried his memory with his body; but God’s all-seeing eye was there, who ennobled the innocent victim by the glory of miracles. So much is human outweighed by heavenly judgment. For there lights were shown from above; there the lame walked; there the dumb resumed his faculty of speech; there every malady gave way to health. The fame of this pervading all England, proclaimed the merits of the martyr. The murderess excited by it, attempted a progress thither; and was already urging forward the horse she had mounted, when she perceived the manifest anger of God; for the same creature which she had heretofore constantly ridden, and which was used to outstrip the very wind in speed, now by command of God, stood motionless. The attendants, both with whips and clamours, urged him forward that he might carry his noble mistress with his usual readiness; but their labour was in vain. They changed the horse; and the same circumstance recurred. Her obdurate heart, though late, perceived the meaning of the miracle; wherefore, what she was not herself permitted to do, she suffered to be performed by another: for that Elferius, whom I before blamed for destroying the monasteries, repenting165 of his rashness, and being deeply distressed in mind, took up the sacred corpse from its unworthy burial-place, and paid it just and distinguished honours at Shaftesbury. He did not escape unpunished, however, for, within a year afterwards, he was eaten of the vermin which we call lice. Moreover, since a mind unregulated is a torment to itself, and a restless spirit endures its own peculiar punishment in this life, Elfthrida declining from her regal pride, became extremely penitent; so that at Werewell, for many years, she clothed her pampered body in hair-cloth, slept at night upon the ground without a pillow; and mortified her flesh with every kind of penance. She was a beautiful woman; singularly faithful to her husband; but deserving punishment from the commission of so great a crime. It is believed and commonly reported, that from her violence to Edward, the country for a long time after groaned under the yoke of barbarian servitude.

At Shaftesbury, truly shines a splendid proof of royal sanctity; for to his merit must it be attributed, that there a numerous choir of women dedicated to God, not only enlighten those parts with the blaze of their religion, but even reach the very heavens. There reside sacred virgins wholly unconscious of contamination, there, continent widows, ignorant of a second flame after the extinction of the first; in all whose manner, graceful modesty is so blended with chastened elegance, that nothing can exceed it. Indeed it is matter of doubt which to applaud most, their assiduity in the service of God or their affability in their converse with men: hence assent is justly given to those persons who say that, the world, which has long tottered with the weight of its sins, is entirely supported by their prayers.

Of king Ethelred and king Edmund. [A.D. 979–1017.]

[A.D. 978, 979.] ETHELRED—EDMUND.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 979, Ethelred, son of Edgar and Elfthrida, obtaining the kingdom, occupied, rather than governed it for thirty-seven years. The career of his life is said to have been cruel in the beginning, wretched in the middle, and disgraceful in the end. Thus, in the murder to which he gave his concurrence, he was cruel; base in his166 flight, and effeminacy; miserable in his death. Dunstan, indeed, had foretold his worthlessness, having discovered it by a very filthy token: for when quite an infant, the bishops standing round, as he was immersed in the baptismal font, he defiled the sacrament by a natural evacuation: at which Dunstan, being extremely angered, exclaimed, “By God, and his mother, this will be a sorry fellow.” I have read, that when he was ten years of age, hearing it noised abroad that his brother was killed, he so irritated his furious mother by his weeping, that not having a whip at hand, she beat the little innocent with some candles she had snatched up: nor did she desist, till herself bedewed him, nearly lifeless, with her tears. On this account he dreaded candles during the rest of his life, to such a degree that he would never suffer the light of them to be brought into his presence. The nobility being assembled by the contrivance of his mother, and the day appointed for Dunstan, in right of his see, to crown him, he, though he might be ill-affected to them, forbore to resist, being a prelate of mature age, and long versed in secular matters. But, when placing the crown on his head he could not refrain from giving vent with a loud voice, to that prophetic spirit which he had so deeply imbibed. “Since,” said he, “thou hast aspired to the kingdom by the death of thy brother, hear the word of God; thus saith the Lord God: the sin of thy abandoned mother, and of the accomplices of her base design, shall not be washed out but by much blood of the wretched inhabitants; and such evils shall come upon the English nation as they have never suffered from the time they came to England until then.” Nor was it long after, that is, in his third year, that seven piratical vessels came to Southampton, a port near Winchester, and having ravaged the coast fled back to the sea: this I think right to mention because many reports are circulated among the English, concerning these vessels.

[A.D. 988–994.]     DUNSTAN’S PROPHECY.
[A.D. 1012.]     TREACHERY OF EDRIC.

A quarrel between the king and the bishop of Rochester had arisen from some unknown cause; in consequence of which he led an army against that city. It was signified to him by the archbishop, that he should desist from his fury, and not irritate St. Andrew, under whose guardianship that bishopric was; for as he was ever ready to pardon, so was he equally formidable to avenge. This simple message167 being held in contempt, he graced the intimation with money, and sent him a hundred pounds, as a bribe, that he should raise the siege and retire. He therefore took the money, retreated, and dismissed his army. Dunstan, astonished at his avarice, sent messengers to him with the following words, “Since you have preferred silver to God, money to the apostle, and covetousness to me; the evils which God has pronounced will shortly come upon you; but they will not come while I live, for this also hath God spoken.” Soon after the death of this holy man, which was in the tenth year of his reign, the predictions speedily began to be fulfilled, and the prophecies to have their consummation. For the Danes infested every port, and made descents on all sides with great activity, so that it was not known where they could be opposed. But Siric, the second archbishop after Dunstan, advised that money should repel those whom the sword could not: thus a payment of ten thousand pounds satisfied the avarice of the Danes. This was an infamous precedent, and totally unworthy the character of men, to redeem liberty, which no violence can ever extirpate from a noble mind, by money. They now indeed abstained a short time from their incursions; but as soon as their strength was recruited by rest, they returned to their old practices. Such extreme fear had seized the English, that there was no thought of resistance: if any indeed, mindful of their ancient glory, made an attempt to oppose, or engage them, they were unsuccessful, from the multitude of their enemies, and the desertion of their allies. The leader of revolt was one Elfric, whom the king had appointed to command the fleet: he, instead of trying his fortune, as he ought, in a naval conflict, went over, on the night preceding the battle, a base deserter to the enemy, whom he had apprised, by messengers, what preparations to make; and though the king, for this perfidious crime, ordered his son’s eyes to be put out, yet he returned again, and again deserted. All Northumbria being laid waste, the enemy was met in battle and worsted. London was besieged, but honourably defended by its citizens. In consequence, the besiegers, after suffering severely and despairing of taking the city, retired; and devastating the whole province to the eastward, compelled the king to pay a sum of money,168 amounting to sixteen thousand pounds. Moreover, hostages being given, he caused their king Anlaf to come to him, stood for him at the font, and soothing him with royal munificence, bound him by an oath that he should never return into England again. The evil however was not thus put to rest. For they could never provide against their enemies from Denmark, springing up afresh, like the heads of the hydra. The province in the west of England, called Devonshire, was laid waste; the monasteries destroyed; and the city of Exeter set on fire: Kent was given up to plunder; the metropolitan city and seat of the patriarchs, burnt; the holy patriarch himself, the most reverend Elphege, carried away and bound in chains: and at last, when required to plunder his tenants in order to ransom himself, and refusing to do so, he was stoned, struck with a hatchet, and glorified heaven with his soul. After he was murdered, God exalted him; insomuch, that when the Danes, who had been instrumental to his death, saw that dead wood besmeared with his blood miraculously grew green again in one night, they ran eagerly to kiss his remains, and to bear them on their shoulders. Thus they abated their usual pride, and suffered his sacred corpse to be carried to London. There it was honorably buried; and when taken up, ten years afterwards, free from every taint of corruption, it conferred honour on his cathedral at Canterbury.195 To the present moment both its blood remains fresh, and its soundness unimpaired, and it is considered a miracle, that a carcass should be divested of life, and yet not decay. That I may not be tedious in mentioning severally all the provinces which the Danes laid waste, let it be briefly understood, that out of thirty-two counties, which are reckoned in England, they had already overrun sixteen; the names of which I forbear to enumerate on account of the harshness of the language. In the meantime, the king, admirably calculated for sleeping, did nothing but postpone and hesitate, and if ever he recovered his senses enough to raise himself upon his elbow, he quickly relapsed into his original wretchedness, either from the oppression of indolence, or the adverseness of fortune. His brother’s ghost also, demanding dire expiation, tormented him. Who can tell how often he collected his169 army? how often he ordered ships to be built? how frequently he called out commanders from all quarters? and yet nothing was ever effected. For the army, destitute of a leader and ignorant of military discipline, either retreated before it came into action, or else was easily overcome. The presence of the leader is of much avail in battle; courage manifested by him avails also; experience, and more especially, discipline avail much; and as I have said, the want of these, in an army, must be an irreparable injury to its countrymen, as well as a pitiable object of contempt to an enemy. For soldiers are a kind of men, who, if not restrained before the battle, are eager to plunder; and if not animated during it, are prone to flight. When the ships, built for the defence of the sea-coast, were lying at anchor, a tempest suddenly arising dashed them together, and rendered them useless by the destruction of their tackling: a few, fitted from the wrecks of the others, were, by the attack of one Wulnod, whom the king had banished, either sunk, or burnt, and consequently disappointed the expectations of all England. The commanders, if ever they met to confer, immediately chose different sides, and rarely or never united in one good plan; for they gave more attention to private quarrels, than to public exigences: and, if in the midst of pressing danger, they had resolved on any eligible secret design, it was immediately communicated to the Danes by traitors. For besides Elfric, the successor of Elfere who had murdered the late king, there was one Edric, a man infamously skilled in such transactions, whom the king had made governor of the Mercians. This fellow was the refuse of mankind, the reproach of the English; an abandoned glutton, a cunning miscreant; who had become opulent, not by nobility, but by specious language and impudence. This artful dissembler, capable of feigning anything, was accustomed, by pretended fidelity, to scent out the king’s designs, that he might treacherously divulge them. Often, when despatched to the enemy as the mediator of peace, he inflamed them to battle. His perfidy was sufficiently conspicuous in this king’s reign, but much more so in the next; of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. Ulfkytel, earl of the East Angles, was the only person who, at that time, resisted the invaders with any degree of spirit; insomuch170 that although the enemy had nominally the victory, yet the conquerors suffered much more than the conquered:196 nor were the barbarians ashamed to confess this truth, while they so frequently bewailed that victory. The valour of the earl was more conspicuously eminent, after the death of Ethelred, in that battle which mowed down the whole flower of the province; where, when he was surrounded from the rear, deeming it disgraceful to fly, he gave fresh confidence to the king by his blood; but this happened some time after.197 At this juncture, that the measure of king Ethelred’s misery might be full, a famine ravaged all England, and those whom war had spared perished from want. The enemy over-ran the country with such freedom, that they would carry off their booty to their ships through a space of fifty miles, without fearing any resistance from the inhabitants. In the midst of these pressing evils, the expedient of buying off hostilities by money was again debated and adopted; for first twenty-four, and soon after, thirty thousand pounds were given to the Danes: with what advantage, succeeding times will show. To me, indeed, deeply reflecting upon the subject, it seems wonderful, how a man, as we have been taught to suppose, neither very foolish, nor excessively heartless, should pass his life in the wretched endurance of so many calamities. Should any one ask me the reason of this, I could not easily answer, except by saying, that the revolt of the generals proceeded from the haughtiness of the king. Their perfidy has been spoken of before: I now hasten to instances of his violence, which was so intolerable, that he spared not even his own relations. For, besides the English, whom he despoiled of their hereditary possessions without any cause, or defrauded of their property for supposititious crimes: besides the Danes, whom, from light suspicion only, he ordered to be all butchered on the same day throughout England; which was a dreadful spectacle to behold; each one compelled to betray his dearest guests, now become dearer from the tenderest connexions of171 affinity, and to cut short their embraces with the sword: yet besides all this, I say, he was so inconstant towards his wife, that he scarcely deigned her his bed, and degraded the royal dignity by his intercourse with harlots. She too, a woman, conscious of her high descent, became indignant at her husband, as she found herself endeared to him neither by her blameless modesty nor her fruitfulness; for she had borne him two children, Elfred and Edward. She was the daughter of Richard, earl of Normandy, the son of William, who, after his father, presided over that earldom for fifty-two years, and died in the twenty-eighth year of this king. He lies at the monastery of Fescamp, which he augmented with certain revenues, and which he adorned with a monastic order, by means of William, formerly abbat of Dijon. Richard was a distinguished character, and had also often harassed Ethelred: which, when it became known at Rome, the holy see, not enduring that two Christians should be at enmity, sent Leo, bishop of Treves, into England, to restore peace: the epistle describing this legation was as follows:—


“John the fifteenth, pope of the holy Roman church, to all faithful people, health. Be it known to all the faithful of the holy mother church, and our children spiritual and secular, dispersed through the several climates of the world, that inasmuch as we had been informed by many of the enmity between Ethelred, king of the West-Saxons, and Richard the marquis, and were grieved sorely at this, on account of our spiritual children; taking, therefore, wholesome counsel, we summoned one of our legates, Leo, bishop of the holy church of Treves, and sent him with our letters, admonishing them, that they should return from their ungodliness. He, passing vast spaces, at length crossed the sea, and, on the day of the Lord’s nativity, came into the presence of the said king; whom, having saluted on our part, he delivered to him the letters we had sent. And all the faithful people of his kingdom, and senators of either order, being summoned, he granted, for love and fear of God Almighty, and of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, and on account of our paternal admonition, the firmest peace for all his sons and daughters, present and future, and all his faithful people, without deceit. On which account he sent Edelsin, prelate of the holy church of Sherborne, and Leofstan, son of Alfwold,172 and Edelnoth, son of Wulstan, who passed the maritime boundaries, and came to Richard, the said marquis. He, peaceably receiving our admonitions, and hearing the determination of the said king, readily confirmed the peace for his sons and daughters, present and future, and for all his faithful people, with this reasonable condition, that if any of their subjects, or they themselves, should commit any injustice against each other, it should be duly redressed; and that peace should remain for ever unshaken and confirmed by the oath of both parties: on the part of king Ethelred, to wit, Edelsin, prelate of the holy church of Sherborne; Leofstan, the son of Alfwold; Edelnoth, the son of Wulstan. On the part of Richard, Roger, the bishop; Rodolph, son of Hugh; Truteno, the son of Thurgis.

“Done at Rouen, on the kalends of March, in the year of our Lord 991, the fourth of the indiction. Moreover, of the king’s subjects, or of his enemies, let Richard receive none, nor the king of his, without their respective seals.”

[A.D. 1002.]     ISIDORE—GERBERT.

After the death of this John, Gregory succeeded; after whom came John XVI.; then Silvester, also called Gerbert, about whom it will not be absurd, in my opinion, if I commit to writing those facts which are generally related about him.198 Born in Gaul, from a lad he grew up a monk at Flory; afterwards, when he arrived at the double path of Pythagoras,199 either disgusted at a monastic life or seized by lust of glory, he fled by night into Spain, chiefly designing to learn astrology and other sciences of that description from the Saracens. Spain, formerly for many years possessed by the Romans, in the time of the emperor Honorius, fell under the power of the Goths. The Goths were Arians down to the days of St. Gregory, when that people were united to the Catholic church by Leander bishop of Seville, and by king Recared, brother of Hermengildus,200 whom his father173 slew on Easter night for professing the true faith. To Leander succeeded Isidore,201 celebrated for learning and sanctity, whose body purchased, for its weight in gold, Aldefonsus king of Gallicia in our times conveyed to Toledo. The Saracens, who had subjugated the Goths, being conquered in their turn by Charles the Great, lost Gallicia and Lusitania, the largest provinces of Spain; but to this day they possess the southern parts. As the Christians esteem Toledo, so do they hold Hispalis, which in common they call Seville, to be the capital of the kingdom; there practising divinations and incantations, after the usual mode of that nation. Gerbert then, as I have related, coming among these people, satisfied his desires. There he surpassed Ptolemy with the astrolabe,202 and Alcandræus in astronomy, and Julius Firmicus in judicial astrology; there he learned what the singing and the flight of birds portended; there he acquired the art of calling up spirits from hell: in short, whatever, hurtful or salutary, human curiosity has discovered. There is no necessity to speak of his progress in the lawful sciences of arithmetic and astronomy, music and geometry, which he imbibed so thoroughly as to show they were beneath his talents, and which, with great perseverance, he revived in Gaul, where they had for a long time been wholly obsolete. Being certainly the first who seized on the abacus203 from the Saracens,174 he gave rules which are scarcely understood even by laborious computers. He resided with a certain philosopher of that sect, whose good will he had obtained, first by great liberality, and then by promises. The Saracen had no objection to sell his knowledge; he frequently associated with him; would talk with him of matters at times serious, at others trivial, and lend him books to transcribe. There was however one volume, containing the knowledge of his whole art, which he could never by any means entice him to lend. In consequence Gerbert was inflamed with anxious desire to obtain this book at any rate, “for we ever press more eagerly towards what is forbidden, and that which is denied is always esteemed most valuable.”204 Trying, therefore, the effect of entreaty, he besought him for the love of God, and by his friendship; offered him many things, and promised him more. When this failed he tried a nocturnal stratagem. He plied him with wine, and, with the help of his daughter, who connived at the attempt through the intimacy which Gerbert’s attentions had procured, stole the book from under his pillow and fled. Waking suddenly, the Saracen pursued the fugitive by the direction of the stars, in which art he was well versed. The fugitive too, looking back, and discovering his danger by means of the same art, hid himself under a wooden bridge which was near at hand; clinging to it, and hanging in such a manner as neither to touch earth nor water.205 In this manner the eagerness of the pursuer being eluded, he returned home. Gerbert, then quickening his pace, arrived at the sea-coast. Here, by his incantations, he called up the devil, and made an agreement with him to be under his dominion for ever, if he would defend him from the Saracen, who was again pursuing, and transport him to the opposite coast: this was accordingly done.

Probably some may regard all this as a fiction, because the vulgar are used to undermine the fame of scholars, saying that the man who excels in any admirable science, holds converse with the devil. Of this, Boethius, in his book, On175 the Consolation of Philosophy, complains; and affirms, that he had the discredit of such practices on account of his ardent love of literature, as if he had polluted his knowledge by detestable arts for the sake of ambition. “It was hardly likely,” says he, “that I, whom you dress up with such excellence as almost to make me like God, should catch at the protection of the vilest spirits; but it is in this point that we approach nearest to a connection with them, in that we are instructed in your learning, and educated in your customs.” So far Boethius. The singular choice of his death confirms me in the belief of his league with the devil; else, when dying, as we shall relate hereafter, why should he, gladiator-like, maim his own person, unless conscious of some unusual crime? Accordingly, in an old volume, which accidentally fell into my hands, wherein the names and years of all the popes are entered, I found written to the following purport, “Silvester, who was also called Gerbert, ten months; this man made a shameful end.”

[A.D. 1002.]     ROBERT, KING OF FRANCE.

Gerbert, returning into Gaul, became a public professor in the schools, and had as brother philosophers and companions of his studies, Constantine, abbat of the monastery of St. Maximin, near Orleans, to whom he addressed the Rules of the Abacus;206 and Ethelbald bishop, as they say, of Winteburg, who himself gave proof of ability, in a letter which he wrote to Gerbert, on a question concerning the diameter in Macrobius,207 and in some other points. He had as pupils, of exquisite talents and noble origin, Robert, son of Hugh surnamed Capet; and Otho, son of the emperor Otho. Robert, afterwards king of France, made a suitable return to his master, and appointed him archbishop of Rheims. In that church are still extant, as proofs of his science, a clock constructed on mechanical principles: and an hydraulic organ, in which the air escaping in a surprising manner, by the force of heated water, fills the cavity of the instrument, and the brazen pipes emit modulated tones through the multifarious apertures. The king himself, too, was well skilled in sacred music, and in this and many other respects, a liberal benefactor to the church: moreover, he composed that beautiful sequence, “The grace of the Holy Spirit be with176 us;” and the response, “He hath joined together Judah and Jerusalem;” together with more, which I should have pleasure in relating, were it not irksome to others to hear. Otho, emperor of Italy after his father, made Gerbert archbishop of Ravenna, and finally Roman pontiff. He followed up his fortune so successfully by the assistance of the devil, that he left nothing unexecuted which he had once conceived. The treasures formerly buried by the inhabitants, he discovered by the art of necromancy, and removing the rubbish, applied to his own lusts. Thus viciously disposed are the wicked towards God, and thus they abuse his patience, though he had rather that they repent than perish. At last, he found where his master would stop, and as the proverb says, “in the same manner as one crow picks out another crow’s eyes,” while endeavouring to oppose his attempts with art like his own.

There was a statue in the Campus Martius near Rome, I know not whether of brass or iron, having the forefinger of the right hand extended, and on the head was written, “Strike here.” The men of former times supposing this should be understood as if they might find a treasure there, had battered the harmless statue, by repeated strokes of a hatchet. But Gerbert convicted them of error by solving the problem in a very different manner. Marking where the shadow of the finger fell at noon-day, when the sun was on the meridian, he there placed a post; and at night proceeded thither, attended only by a servant carrying a lanthorn. The earth opening by means of his accustomed arts, displayed to them a spacious entrance. They see before them a vast palace with golden walls, golden roofs, every thing of gold; golden soldiers amusing themselves, as it were, with golden dice; a king of the same metal, at table with his queen; delicacies set before them, and servants waiting; vessels of great weight and value, where the sculpture surpassed nature herself. In the inmost part of the mansion, a carbuncle of the first quality, though small in appearance, dispelled the darkness of night. In the opposite corner stood a boy, holding a bow bent, and the arrow drawn to the head. While the exquisite art of every thing ravished the eyes of the spectators, there was nothing which might be handled though it might be seen: for immediately, if any one stretched forth his hand177 to touch any thing, all these figures appeared to rush forward and repel such presumption. Alarmed at this, Gerbert repressed his inclination: but not so the servant. He endeavoured to snatch off from a table, a knife of admirable workmanship; supposing that in a booty of such magnitude, so small a theft could hardly be discovered. In an instant, the figures all starting up with loud clamour, the boy let fly his arrow at the carbuncle, and in a moment all was in darkness; and if the servant had not, by the advice of his master, made the utmost despatch in throwing back the knife, they would have both suffered severely. In this manner, their boundless avarice unsatiated, they departed, the lantern directing their steps. That he performed such things by unlawful devices is the generally received opinion. Yet, however, if any one diligently investigate the truth, he will see that even Solomon, to whom God himself had given wisdom, was not ignorant of these arts: for, as Josephus relates,208 he, in conjunction with his father, buried vast treasures in coffers, which were hidden, as he says, in a kind of necromantic manner, under ground: neither was Hyrcanus, celebrated for his skill in prophecy and his valour; who, to ward off the distress of a siege, dug up, by the same art, three thousand talents of gold from the sepulchre of David, and gave part of them to the besiegers; with the remainder building an hospital for the reception of strangers. But Herod, who would make an attempt of the same kind, with more presumption than knowledge, lost in consequence many of his attendants, by an eruption of internal fire. Besides, when I hear the Lord Jesus saying, “My father worketh hitherto, and I work;” I believe, that He, who gave to Solomon power over demons to such a degree, as the same historian declares, that he relates there were men, even in his time, who could eject them from persons possessed, by applying to the nostrils of the patient a ring having the impression pointed out by Solomon: I believe, I say, that he could give, also, the same science to this man: but I do not affirm that he did give it.

[A.D. 1002.]     POPE SILVESTER.

But leaving these matters to my readers, I shall relate what I recollect having heard, when I was a boy, from a certain monk of our house, a native of Aquitaine, a man in178 years, and a physician by profession. “When I was seven years old,” said he, “despising the mean circumstances of my father, a poor citizen of Barcelona, I surmounted the snowy Alps, and went into Italy. There, as was to be expected in a boy of that age, having to seek my daily bread in great distress, I paid more attention to the food of my mind than of my body. As I grew up I eagerly viewed many of the wonders of that country and impressed them on my memory. Among others I saw a perforated mountain, beyond which the inhabitants supposed the treasures of Octavian were hidden. Many persons were reported to have entered into these caverns for the purpose of exploring them, and to have there perished, being bewildered by the intricacy of the ways. But, as hardly any apprehension can restrain avaricious minds from their intent, I, with my companions, about twelve in number, meditated an expedition of this nature, either for the sake of plunder, or through curiosity. Imitating therefore the ingenuity of Dædalus, who brought Theseus out of the labyrinth by a conducting clue, we, also carrying a large ball of thread, fixed a small post at the entrance. Tying the end of the thread to it, and lighting lanterns, lest darkness, as well as intricacy, should obstruct us, we unrolled the clue; and fixing a post at every mile, we proceeded on our journey along the caverns of the mountain, in the best manner we were able. Every thing was dark, and full of horrors; the bats, flitting from holes, assailed our eyes and faces: the path was narrow, and made dreadful on the left-hand by a precipice, with a river flowing beneath it. We saw the way strewed with bare bones: we wept over the carcasses of men yet in a state of putrefaction, who, induced by hopes similar to our own, had in vain attempted, after their entrance, to return. After some time, however, and many alarms, arriving at the farther outlet, we beheld a lake of softly murmuring waters, where the wave came gently rolling to the shores. A bridge of brass united the opposite banks. Beyond the bridge were seen golden horses of great size, mounted by golden riders, and all those other things which are related of Gerbert. The mid-day beams of Phœbus darting upon them, with redoubled splendour, dazzled the eyes of the beholders. Seeing these things at a distance, we should have been delighted with a nearer view,179 meaning, if fate would permit, to carry off some portion of the precious metal. Animating each other in turn, we prepared to pass over the lake. All our efforts, however, were vain: for as soon as one of the company, more forward than the rest, had put his foot on the hither edge of the bridge, immediately, wonderful to hear, it became depressed, and the farther edge was elevated, bringing forward a rustic of brass with a brazen club, with which, dashing the waters, he so clouded the air, as completely to obscure both the day and the heavens. The moment the foot was withdrawn, peace was restored. The same was tried by many of us, with exactly the same result. Despairing, then, of getting over, we stood there some little time; and, as long as we could, at least glutted our eyes with the gold. Soon after returning by the guidance of the thread, we found a silver dish, which being cut in pieces and distributed in morsels only irritated the thirst of our avidity without allaying it. Consulting together the next day, we went to a professor, of that time, who was said to know the unutterable name of God. When questioned, he did not deny his knowledge, adding, that, so great was the power of that name, that no magic, no witchcraft could resist it. Hiring him at a great price, fasting and confessed, he led us, prepared in the same manner, to a fountain. Taking up some water from it in a silver vessel, he silently traced the letters with his fingers, until we understood by our eyes, what was unutterable with our tongues. We then went confidently to the mountain, but we found the farther outlet beset, as I believe, with devils, hating, forsooth, the name of God because it was able to destroy their inventions. In the morning a Jew-necromancer came to me, excited by the report of our attempt; and, having inquired into the matter, when he heard of our want of enterprise, “You shall see,” said he, venting his spleen with loud laughter, “how far the power of my art can prevail.” And immediately entering the mountain, he soon after came out again, bringing, as a proof of his having passed the lake, many things which I had noted beyond it: indeed some of that most precious dust, which turned every thing that it touched into gold: not that it was really so, but only retained this appearance until washed with water; for nothing effected by necromancy can, when put into water, deceive the sight180 of the beholders. The truth of my assertion is confirmed by a circumstance which happened about the same time.

“There were in a public street leading to Rome, two old women, the most drunken and filthy beings that can be conceived; both living in the same hut, and both practising witchcraft. If any lone stranger happened to come in their way, they used to make him appear either a horse, or a sow, or some other animal; expose him for sale to dealers, and gluttonize with the money. By chance, on a certain night, taking in a lad to lodge who got his livelihood by stage-dancing, they turned him into an ass: and so possessed a creature extremely advantageous to their interests, who caught the eyes of such as passed by the strangeness of his postures. In whatever mode the old woman commanded, the ass began to dance, for he retained his understanding, though he had lost the power of speech. In this manner the women had accumulated much money; for there was, daily, a large concourse of people, from all parts, to see the tricks of the ass. The report of this induced a rich neighbour to purchase the quadruped for a considerable sum; and he was warned, that, if he would have him as a constant dancer, he must keep him from water. The person who had charge of him rigidly fulfilled his orders. A long time elapsed; the ass sometimes gratified his master by his reeling motions, and sometimes entertained his friends with his tricks. But, however, as in time all things surfeit, he began at length to be less cautiously observed. In consequence of this negligence, breaking his halter, he got loose, plunged into a pool hard by, and rolling for a long time in the water, recovered his human form. The keeper, inquiring of all he met, and pursuing him by the track of his feet, asked him if he had seen an ass; he replied that himself had been an ass, but was now a man: and related the whole transaction. The servant astonished told it to his master, and the master to pope Leo, the holiest man in our times. The old women were convicted, and confessed the fact. The pope doubting this, was assured by Peter Damian, a learned man, that it was not wonderful that such things should be done: he produced the example of Simon Magus,209 who caused Faustinianus181 to assume the figure of Simon, and to become an object of terror to his sons, and thus rendered his holiness better skilled in such matters for the future.”

[A.D. 1050.]     DEATH OF SILVESTER.

I have inserted this narrative of the Aquitanian to the intent that what is reported of Gerbert should not seem wonderful to any person; which is, that he cast, for his own purposes, the head of a statue, by a certain inspection of the stars when all the planets were about to begin their courses, which spake not unless spoken to, but then pronounced the truth, either in the affirmative or negative. For instance, when Gerbert would say, “Shall I be pope?” the statue would reply, “Yes.” “Am I to die, ere I sing mass at Jerusalem?” “No.” They relate, that he was so much deceived by this ambiguity, that he thought nothing of repentance: for when would he think of going to Jerusalem, to accelerate his own death? Nor did he foresee that at Rome there is a church called Jerusalem, that is, “the vision of peace,” because whoever flies thither finds safety, whatsoever crime he may be guilty of. We have heard, that this was called an asylum in the very infancy of the city, because Romulus, to increase the number of his subjects, had appointed it to be a refuge for the guilty of every description. The pope sings mass there on three Sundays, which are called “The station at Jerusalem.” Wherefore upon one of those days Gerbert, preparing himself for mass, was suddenly struck with sickness; which increased so that he took to his bed: and consulting his statue, he became convinced of his delusion and of his approaching death. Calling, therefore, the cardinals together, he lamented his crimes for a long space of time. They, being struck with sudden fear were unable to make any reply, whereupon he began to rave, and losing his reason through excess of pain, commanded himself to be maimed, and cast forth piecemeal, saying, “Let him have the service of my limbs, who before sought their homage; for my mind never consented to that abominable oath.”

And since I have wandered from my subject, I think it may not be unpleasant to relate what took place in Saxony182 in the time of this king, in the year of our Lord 1012, and is not so generally known. It is better to dilate on such matters than to dwell on Ethelred’s indolence and calamities: and it will be more pleasing certainly, and nearer the truth, if I subjoin it in the original language of the person who was a sufferer, than if I had clothed it in my own words. Besides, I think it ornamental to a work, that the style should be occasionally varied.

“I Ethelbert,210 a sinner, even were I desirous of concealing the divine judgment which overtook me, yet the tremor of my limbs would betray me; wherefore I shall relate circumstantially how this happened, that all may know the heavy punishment due to disobedience. We were, on the eve of our Lord’s nativity, in a certain town of Saxony, in which was the church of Magnus the martyr, and a priest named Robert had begun the first mass. I was in the churchyard with eighteen companions, fifteen men and three women, dancing, and singing profane songs to such a degree that I interrupted the priest, and our voices resounded amid the sacred solemnity of the mass. Wherefore, having commanded us to be silent, and not being attended to, he cursed us in the following words, ‘May it please God and St. Magnus, that you may remain singing in that manner for a whole year.’ His words had their effect. The son of John the priest seized his sister who was singing with us, by the arm, and immediately tore it from her body; but not a drop of blood flowed out. She also remained a whole year with us, dancing and singing. The rain fell not upon us; nor did cold, nor heat, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor fatigue assail us: we neither wore our clothes nor shoes, but we kept on singing as though we had been insane. First we sank into the ground up to our knees: next to our thighs; a covering was at length, by the permission of God, built over us to keep off the rain. When a year had elapsed, Herbert, bishop of the city of Cologne, released us from the tie wherewith our hands were bound, and reconciled us before the altar of St. Magnus. The daughter of the priest, with the other two women, died immediately; the rest of us slept three whole days and nights: some died afterwards, and are famed for miracles: the remainder betray their punishment by the trembling of183 their limbs. This narrative was given to us by the lord Peregrine, the successor of Herbert, in the year of our Lord 1013.”


In that city, which formerly was called Agrippina, from Agrippa the son-in-law of Augustus, but afterwards named Colonia by the emperor Trajan, because being there created emperor he founded in it a colony of Roman citizens; in this city, I repeat, there was a certain bishop, famed for piety, though to a degree hideous in his person; of whom I shall relate one miracle, which he predicted when dying, after having first recorded what a singular chance elevated him to such an eminent station. The emperor of that country going to hunt on Quinquagesima Sunday, came alone, for his companions were dispersed, to the edge of a wood, where this rural priest, deformed and almost a monster, had a church. The emperor, feigning himself a soldier, humbly begs a mass, which the priest immediately begins. The other in the meantime was revolving in his mind why God, from whom all beautiful things proceed, should suffer so deformed a man to administer his sacraments. Presently, when that verse in the tract occurred, “Know ye that the Lord himself is God,” the priest looked behind him, to chide the inattention of an assistant, and said with a louder voice, as if in reply to the emperor’s thoughts, “He made us; and not we ourselves.” Struck with this expression, the emperor esteeming him a prophet, exalted him, though unwilling and reluctant, to the archbishopric of Cologne, which, when he had once assumed, he dignified by his exemplary conduct; kindly encouraging those who did well, and branding with the stigma of excommunication such as did otherwise, without respect of persons. The inhabitants of that place proclaim a multitude of his impartial acts; one of which the reader will peruse in that abbreviated form which my work requires. In a monastery of nuns in that city, there was a certain virgin who had there grown up, more by the kindness of her parents than through any innate wish for a holy life: this girl, by the attraction of her beauty and her affable language to all, allured many lovers; but while others, through fear of God or the censure of the world, restrained their desires, there was one who, excited to wantonness by the extent of his wealth and the nobility of his descent,184 broke through the bounds of law and of justice, and despoiled her of her virginity; and carrying her off kept her as his lawful wife. Much time elapsed while the abbess entreated, and his friends admonished him not to persevere in so dreadful a crime. Turning a deaf ear, however, to his advisers, he continued as immoveable as a rock. By chance at this time the prelate was absent, occupied in business at Rome; but on his return the circumstance was related to him. He commands the sheep to be returned to the fold directly; and after much altercation the woman was restored to the monastery. Not long after, watching an opportunity when the bishop was absent, she was again carried away. Excommunication was then denounced against the delinquent, so that no person could speak to, or associate with him. This, however, he held in contempt, and retired to one of his estates afar off, not to put the command in force, but to elude its power: and there, a turbulent and powerful man, he lived in company with his excommunicated paramour. But when it pleased God to take the bishop to himself, and he was lying in extreme bodily pain upon his bed, the neighbours flocked around him that they might partake the final benediction of this holy man. The offender alone not daring to appear, prevailed on some persons to speak for him. The moment the bishop heard his name he groaned, and then, I add his very words, spoke to the following effect, “If that wretched man shall desert that accursed woman, he shall be absolved; but if he persist, let him be ready to give account before God, the following year, at the very day and hour on which I shall depart: moreover, you will see me expire when the bell shall proclaim the sixth hour.” Nor were his words vain; for he departed at the time which he had predicted; and the other, together with his mistress, at the expiration of the year, on the same day, and at the same hour, was killed by a stroke of lightning.

But king Ethelred, after the martyrdom of Elphege, as we have related, gave his see to a bishop named Living.211 Moreover, Turkill, the Dane, who had been the chief cause of the archbishop’s murder, had settled in England, and held the East Angles in subjection. For the other Danes, exacting185 from the English a tribute of eight thousand pounds, had distributed themselves, as best suited their convenience, in the towns, or in the country; and fifteen of their ships, with the crews, had entered into the king’s service. In the meantime Thurkill sent messengers to Sweyn, king of Denmark, inviting him to come to England; telling him that the land was rich and fertile, but the king a driveller; and that, wholly given up to wine and women, his last thoughts were those of war: that in consequence he was hateful to his own people and contemptible to foreigners: that the commanders were jealous of each other, the people weak, and that they would fly the field, the moment the onset was sounded.


Sweyn212 was naturally cruel, nor did he require much persuasion; preparing his ships, therefore, he hastened his voyage. Sandwich was the port he made, principally designing to avenge his sister Gunhilda. This woman, who possessed considerable beauty, had come over to England with her husband Palling, a powerful nobleman, and by embracing Christianity, had made herself a pledge of the Danish peace. In his ill-fated fury, Edric had commanded her, though proclaiming that the shedding her blood would bring great evil on the whole kingdom, to be beheaded with the other Danes. She bore her death with fortitude; and she neither turned pale at the moment, nor, when dead, and her blood exhausted, did she lose her beauty; her husband was murdered before her face, and her son, a youth of amiable disposition, was transfixed with four spears. Sweyn then proceeding through East Anglia against the Northumbrians, received their submission without resistance: not indeed, that the native ardour of their minds, which brooked no master, had grown cool, but because Utred, their prince, was the first to give example of desertion. On their submission all the other people who inhabit England on the north, gave him tribute and hostages. Coming southward, he compelled those of Oxford and Winchester, to obey his commands; the Londoners alone, protecting their lawful sovereign within their walls, shut their186 gates against him. The Danes, on the other hand, assailing with greater ferocity, nurtured their fortitude with the hope of fame; the townsmen were ready to rush on death for freedom, thinking they ought never to be forgiven, should they desert their king, who had committed his life to their charge. While the conflict was raging fiercely on either side, victory befriended the juster cause; for the citizens made wonderful exertions, every one esteeming it glorious to show his unwearied alacrity to his prince, or even to die for him. Part of the enemy were destroyed, and part drowned in the river Thames, because in their headlong fury, they had not sought a bridge. With his shattered army Sweyn retreated to Bath, where Ethelmer, governor of the western district, with his followers, submitted to him. And, although all England was already bending to his dominion, yet not even now would the Londoners have yielded, had not Ethelred withdrawn his presence from among them. For being a man given up to indolence, and, through consciousness of his own misdeeds, supposing none could be faithful to him, and at the same time wishing to escape the difficulties of a battle and a siege, he by his departure left them to their own exertions. However, they applied the best remedy they could to their exigencies, and surrendered after the example of their countrymen. They were men laudable in the extreme, and such as Mars himself would not have disdained to encounter, had they possessed a competent leader. Even while they were supported by the mere shadow of one, they risked every chance of battle, nay even a siege of several months’ continuance. He in the meantime giving fresh instance of his constitutional indolence, fled from the city, and by secret journeys came to Southampton, whence he passed over to the Isle of Wight. Here he addressed those abbats and bishops who, even in such difficulties, could not bring themselves to desert their master, to the following effect: “That they must perceive in what dreadful state his affairs, and those of his family were; that he was banished from his paternal throne by the treachery of his generals, and that he, in whose hands their safety was formerly vested, now required the assistance of others; that though lately a monarch and a potentate, he was now an outcast and a fugitive; a melancholy change for him, because it certainly is more tolerable187 never to have had power, than to have lost it when possessed; and more especially disgraceful to the English, as this instance of deserting their prince would be noised throughout the world; that through mere regard to him they had exposed their houses and property to plunderers, and, unprovided, taken to a voluntary flight; food was matter of difficulty to all; many had not even clothing; he commended their fidelity indeed, but still could find no security from it; the country was now so completely subdued, the coast so narrowly watched, that there was no escape unattended with danger: that they should, therefore, confer together, what was to be done: were they to remain, greater peril was to be apprehended from their countrymen, than from their enemies, for perhaps they might purchase the favour of their new master by joining to distress them; and certainly to be killed by an enemy was to be ascribed to fortune, to be betrayed by a fellow citizen was to be attributed to want of exertion; were they to fly to distant nations, it would be with the loss of honour; if to those who knew them, the dread would be, lest their dispositions should take a tinge from their reverse of fortune; for many great and illustrious men had been killed on similar occasions; but, however, he must make the experiment, and sound the inclinations of Richard, duke of Normandy, who, if he should kindly receive his sister and nephews, might probably not unwillingly afford him his protection. His favour shown to my wife and children,” continued he, “will be the pledge of my own security. Should he oppose me, I am confident, nay fully confident, I shall not want spirit to die here with honour, in preference to living there with ignominy. Wherefore this very month of August, while milder gales are soothing the ocean, let Emma make a voyage to her brother, and take our children, our common pledges, to be deposited with him. Let their companions be the bishop of Durham and the abbat of Peterborough; I myself will remain here till Christmas, and should he send back a favourable answer, I will follow directly.”


On the breaking up of the conference, all obeyed; they set sail for Normandy, while he remained anxiously expecting a favourable report. Shortly after he learned from abroad, that Richard had received his sister with great affection, and188 that he invited the king also to condescend to become his inmate. Ethelred, therefore, going into Normandy, in the month of January, felt his distresses soothed by the attentions of his host. This Richard was son of Richard the first, and equalled his father in good fortune and good qualities; though he certainly surpassed him in heavenly concerns. He completed the monastery at Feschamp, which his father had begun. He was more intent on prayer and temperance, than you would require in any monk, or hermit. He was humble to excess, in order that he might subdue by his patience, the petulance of those who attacked him. Moreover it is reported, that at night, secretly escaping the observation of his servants, he was accustomed to go unattended to the matins213 of the monks, and to continue in prayer till day-light. Intent on this practice, one night in particular, at Feschamp, he was earlier than customary, and finding the door shut, he forced it open with unusual violence, and disturbed the sleep of the sacristan. He, astonished at the noise of a person knocking in the dead of night, got up, that he might see the author of so bold a deed; and finding only a countryman in appearance, clothed in rustic garb, he could not refrain from laying hands on him; and, moved with vehement indignation, he caught hold of his hair, and gave this illustrious man a number of severe blows, which he bore with incredible patience, and without uttering a syllable. The next day, Richard laid his complaint before the chapter,214 and with counterfeited anger, summoned the monk to meet him at the town of Argens, threatening that, “he would take such vengeance for the injury, so that all France should talk of it.” On the day appointed, while the monk stood by, almost dead with fear, he detailed the matter to the nobility, largely exaggerating the enormity of the transaction, and keeping the culprit in suspense, by crafty objections to what he urged in mitigation. Finally, after he had been mercifully judged by the nobility, he pardoned him; and to make his forgiveness more acceptable, he annexed all that town, with its appurtenances, reported to be abundant in the best wine, to the office of this sacristan: saying, “That he was an admirable monk, who189 properly observed his appointed charge, and did not break silence, though roused with anger.” In the twenty-eighth year of his dukedom, he died, having ordered his body to be buried at the door of the church, where it would be subjected to the feet of such as passed by, and to the spouts of water which streamed from above. In our time, however, William, third abbat of that place, regarding this as disgraceful, removed the long-continued reproach, and taking up the body, placed it before the high altar. He had a brother, Robert, whom he made archbishop of Rouen, though by this he tarnished his reputation. For he, cruelly abusing this honour, at first, committed many crimes and many atrocious acts; but growing in years, he certainly wiped off some of them by his very liberal almsgiving. After Richard, his son of the same name obtained the principality, but lived scarcely a year. A vague opinion indeed has prevailed, that, by the connivance of his brother Robert, whom Richard the second begat on Judith, daughter of Conan, earl of Brittany, a certain woman, skilled in poisons, took the young man off. In atonement for his privity to this transaction he departed for Jerusalem, after the seventh year of his earldom; venturing on an undertaking very meritorious at that time, by commencing, with few followers, a journey, exposed to incursions of barbarians, and strange, by reason of the customs of the Saracens. He persevered nevertheless, and did not stop, but safely completed the whole distance, and purchasing admission at a high price, with bare feet, and full of tears, he worshipped at that glory of the Christians, the sepulchre of our Lord. Conciliating the favour of God, as we believe, by this labour, on his return homewards he ended his days at Nice, a city of Bithynia; cut off, as it is said, by poison. This was administered by his servant Ralph, surnamed Mowin, who had wrought himself up to the commission of this crime, from a hope of obtaining the dukedom. But on his return to Normandy, the matter becoming known to all, he was detested as a monster, and retired to perpetual exile. To Robert succeeded William, his son, then a child, of whom as I shall have to speak hereafter, I shall now return to my narrative.


In the meantime Sweyn, as I have before related, oppressed England with rapine and with slaughter: the inhabitants190 were first plundered of their property, and then proscribed. In every city it was matter of doubt what should be done: if revolt was determined on, they had none to take the lead; if submission was made choice of, they would have a harsh ruler to deal with. Thus their public and private property, together with their hostages, was carried to the fleet; as he was not a lawful sovereign, but a most cruel tyrant. The Deity, however, was too kind to permit England to fluctuate long in such keen distress, for the invader died shortly after, on the purification of St. Mary,215 though it is uncertain by what death. It is reported, that while devastating the possessions of St. Edmund,216 king and martyr, he appeared to him in a vision, and gently addressed him on the misery of his people; that on Sweyn’s replying insolently, he struck him on the head; and that, in consequence of the blow, he died, as has been said, immediately after. The Danes then elected Canute, the son of Sweyn, king; while the Angles, declaring that their natural sovereign was dearer to them, if he could conduct himself more royally than he had hitherto done, sent for king Ethelred out of Normandy. He despatched Edward, his son, first, to sound the fidelity of the higher orders and the inclination of the people, on the spot; who, when he saw the wishes of all tending in his favour, went back in full confidence for his father. The king returned, and, being flattered by the joyful plaudits of the Angles, that he might appear to have shaken off his constitutional indolence, he hastened to collect an army against Canute, who was at that time in Lindsey, where his father had left him with the ships and hostages, and was levying fresh troops and horses, that, mustering a sufficient force, he might make a vigorous attack upon his enemies unprepared: vowing most severe vengeance, as he used to say, on the deserters. But, circumvented by a contrivance similar to his own, he retreated. Escaping at that time with much difficulty, and putting to sea with his remaining forces, he coasted the British ocean from east to south, and landed at Sandwich. Here, setting all divine and human laws at defiance, he mutilated his hostages, who were young men of great nobility and elegance, by depriving them191 of their ears, and nostrils, and some even of their manhood. Thus tyrannizing over the innocent, and boasting of the feat, he returned to his own country. In the same year the sea-flood, which the Greeks call Euripus, and we Ledo,217 rose to so wonderful a height, that none like it was recollected in the memory of man, for it overflowed the villages, and destroyed their inhabitants, for many miles.

[A.D. 1015.]     COUNCIL AT OXFORD.

The year following a grand council of Danes and English, was assembled at Oxford, where the king commanded two of the noblest Danes, Sigeferth, and Morcar, accused of treachery to him by the impeachment of the traitor Edric, to be put to death. He had lured them, by his soothing expressions, into a chamber, and deprived them, when drunk to excess, of their lives, by his attendants who had been prepared for that purpose. The cause of their murder was said to be, his unjustifiable desire for their property. Their dependants, attempting to revenge the death of their lords by arms, were worsted, and driven into the tower of St. Frideswide’s church at Oxford, where, as they could not be dislodged, they were consumed by fire: however, shortly after, the foul stain was wiped out by the king’s penitence, and the sacred place repaired. I have read the history of this transaction, which is deposited in the archives of that church. The wife of Sigeferth, a woman remarkable for her rank and beauty, was carried prisoner to Malmesbury; on which account, Edmund, the king’s son, dissembling his intention, took a journey into those parts. Seeing her, he became enamoured; and becoming enamoured, he made her his wife; cautiously keeping their union secret from his father, who was as much an object of contempt to his family as to strangers. This Edmund was not born of Emma, but of some other person, whom fame has left in obscurity. With that exception, he was a young man in every respect of noble disposition; of great strength both of mind and person, and, on this account, by the English, called “Ironside:” he would have shrouded the indolence of his father, and the meanness of his mother, by his own conspicuous virtue, could the fates have spared him. Soon after, at the instigation of his wife, he asked of his father the192 possessions of Sigeferth, which were of large extent among the Northumbrians, but could not obtain them; by his own exertions, however, he procured them at last, the inhabitants of that province willingly submitting to his power.

[A.D. 1016.]     DEATH OF ETHELRED.

The same summer Canute, having settled his affairs in Denmark, and entered into alliance with the neighbouring kings, came to England, determined to subdue it or perish in the attempt. Proceeding from Sandwich into Kent, and thence into West Saxony, he laid every thing waste with fire and slaughter, while the king was lying sick at Cosham.218 Edmund indeed attempted to oppose him, but being thwarted by Edric, he placed his forces in a secure situation. Edric, however, thinking it unnecessary longer to dissemble, but that he might, now, openly throw off the mask, revolted to Canute with forty ships, and all West Saxony following his example, delivered hostages, and gave up their arms. Yet the Mercians repeatedly assembling stood forward to resist: and if the king would but come, and command whither they were to march, and bring with him the leading men of London, they were ready to shed their blood for their country. But he, accustomed to commit his safety to fortifications, and not to attack the enemy, remained in London; never venturing out, for fear, as he said, of traitors. On the contrary, Canute was gaining towns and villages over to his party; and was never unemployed; for he held consultations by night, and fought battles by day. Edmund, after long deliberation, esteeming it best, in such an emergency, to recover, if possible, the revolted cities by arms, brought over Utred, an earl, on the other side of the Humber, to the same sentiments. They imagined too, that such cities as were yet doubtful which side to take, would determine at once, if they would only inflict signal vengeance on those which had revolted. But Canute, possessed of equal penetration, circumvented them by a similar contrivance. Giving over the West Saxons and that part of Mercia which he had subjugated, to the custody of his generals, he proceeded himself against the Northumbrians; and, by depopulating the country, compelled Utred to retire, to defend his own possessions; and notwithstanding he surrendered himself, yet with inhuman levity he ordered him to193 be put to death. His earldom was given to Eric, whom Canute afterwards expelled England, because he pretended to equal power with himself. Thus all being subdued, he ceased not pursuing Edmund, who was gradually retreating, till he heard that he was at London with his father. Canute then remained quiet till after Easter, that he might attack the city with all his forces. But the death of Ethelred preceded the attempt: for in the beginning of Lent, on St. Gregory’s day,219 he breathed out a life destined only to labours and misery: he lies buried at St. Paul’s in London. The citizens immediately proclaimed Edmund king, who, mustering an army, routed the Danes at Penn,220 near Gillingham, about Rogation-day. After the festival of St. John, engaging them again at Sceorstan,221 he retired from a drawn-battle. The English had begun to give way, at the instance of Edric; who being on the adversaries’ side, and holding in his hand a sword stained with the blood of a fellow whom he had dexterously slain, exclaimed, “Fly, wretches! fly! behold, your king was slain by this sword!” The Angles would have fled immediately, had not the king, apprised of this circumstance, proceeded to an eminence, and taking off his helmet, shown his face to his comrades. Then brandishing a dart with all his forces, he launched it at Edric; but being seen, and avoided, it missed him, and struck a soldier standing near; and so great was its violence, that it even transfixed a second. Night put a stop to the battle, the hostile armies retreating as if by mutual consent, though the English had well-nigh obtained the victory.

After this the sentiments of the West Saxons changed, and they acknowledged their lawful sovereign. Edmund proceeded to London, that he might liberate those deserving citizens whom a party of the enemy had blocked up immediately after his departure; moreover they had surrounded the whole city, on the parts not washed by the river Thames, with a trench; and many men lost their lives on both sides in the skirmishes. Hearing of the king’s approach, they194 precipitately took to flight; while he pursuing directly, and passing the ford called Brentford, routed them with great slaughter. The remaining multitude which were with Canute, while Edmund was relaxing a little and getting his affairs in order, again laid siege to London both on the land and river side; but being nobly repulsed by the citizens, they wreaked their anger on the neighbouring province of Mercia, laying waste the towns and villages, with plunder, fire, and slaughter. The best of the spoil was conveyed to their ships assembled in the Medway; which river flowing by the city of Rochester, washes its fair walls with a strong and rapid current. They were attacked and driven hence also by the king in person; who suddenly seizing the ford, which I have before mentioned at Brentford,222 dispersed them with signal loss.


While Edmund was preparing to pursue, and utterly destroy the last remains of these plunderers, he was prevented by the crafty and abandoned Edric, who had again insinuated himself into his good graces; for he had come over to Edmund, at the instigation of Canute, that he might betray his designs. Had the king only persevered, this would have been the last day for the Danes; but misled by the insinuations of a traitor, who affirmed that the enemy would make no farther attempt, he brought swift destruction upon himself, and the whole of England. Being thus allowed to escape, they again assembled; attacked the East Angles, and, at Assandun,223 compelled the king himself, who came to their assistance, to retreat. Here again, the person I am ashamed to mention so frequently, designedly gave the first example of flight. A small number, who, mindful of their former fame, and encouraging each other, had formed a compact body, were cut off to a man. On this field of battle Canute gained the kingdom; the glory of the Angles fell; and the whole flower of the country withered. Amongst these was Ulfkytel, earl of East Anglia, who had gained immortal honour in the time of Sweyn, when first attacking the pirates, he showed that they might be overcome: here195 fell, too, the chief men of the day, both bishops and abbats. Edmund flying hence almost alone, came to Gloucester, in order that he might there re-assemble his forces, and attack the enemy, indolent, as he supposed, from their recent victory. Nor was Canute wanting in courage to pursue the fugitive. When everything was ready for battle, Edmund demanded a single combat; that two individuals might not, for the lust of dominion, be stained with the blood of so many subjects, when they might try their fortune without the destruction of their faithful adherents: and observing, that it must redound greatly to the credit of either to have obtained so vast a dominion at his own personal peril. But Canute refused this proposition altogether; affirming that his courage was surpassing, but that he was apprehensive of trusting his diminutive person against so bulky an antagonist: wherefore, as both had equal pretensions to the kingdom, since the father of either of them had possessed it, it was consistent with prudence that they should lay aside their animosity, and divide England.224 This proposition was adopted by either army, and confirmed with much applause, both for its equity and its beneficent regard to the repose of the people who were worn out with continual suffering. In consequence, Edmund, overcome by the general clamour, made peace, and entered into treaty with Canute, retaining West Saxony himself and giving Mercia to the other. He died soon after on the festival of St. Andrew,225 though by what mischance is not known, and was buried at Glastonbury near his grandfather Edgar. Fame asperses Edric, as having, through regard for Canute, compassed his death by means of his servants: reporting that there were two attendants on the king to whom he had committed the entire care of his person, and, that Edric seducing them by promises, at length made them his accomplices, though at first they were struck with horror at the enormity of the crime; and that, at his suggestion, they drove an iron hook into his posteriors, as he was sitting down for a necessary196 purpose. Edwin, his brother on the mother’s side, a youth of amiable disposition, was driven from England by Edric, at the command of Canute, and suffering extremely for a considerable time, “both by sea and land,” his body, as is often the case, became affected by the anxiety of his mind, and he died in England, where he lay concealed after a clandestine return, and lies buried at Tavistock. His sons, Edwy and Edward, were sent to the king of Sweden to be put to death; but being preserved by his mercy, they went to the king of Hungary, where, after being kindly treated for a time, the elder died; and the younger married Agatha, the sister of the queen. His brothers by Emma, Alfred and Edward, lay securely concealed in Normandy for the whole time that Canute lived.

I find that their uncle Richard took no steps to restore them to their country: on the contrary, he married his sister Emma to the enemy and invader; and it may be difficult to say, whether to the greater ignominy of him who bestowed her, or of the woman who consented to share the nuptial couch of that man who had so cruelly molested her husband, and had driven her children into exile. Robert, however, whom we have so frequently before mentioned as having gone to Jerusalem, assembling a fleet and embarking soldiers, made ready an expedition, boasting that he would set the crown on the heads of his grand-nephews; and doubtlessly he would have made good his assertion, had not, as we have heard from our ancestors, an adverse wind constantly opposed him: but assuredly this was by the hidden counsel of God, in whose disposal are the powers of all kingdoms. The remains of the vessels, decayed through length of time, were still to be seen at Rouen in our days.

Of king Canute. [A.D. 1017–1031.]

[A.D. 1017.]     OF KING CANUTE.

Canute began to reign in the year of our Lord 1017, and reigned twenty years. Though he obtained the sovereignty unjustly, yet he conducted himself with great affability and firmness. At his entrance on the government, dividing the kingdom into four parts, himself took the West Saxons, Edric the Mercians, Thurkill the East Angles, and Eric the Northumbrians.197 His first care was to punish the murderers of Edmund, who had, under expectation of great recompence, acknowledged the whole circumstances: he concealed them for a time, and then brought them forward in a large assembly of the people, where they confessed the mode of their attack upon him, and were immediately ordered to execution. The same year, Edric, whom words are wanting to stigmatize as he deserved, being, by the king’s command, entrapped in the same snare which he had so frequently laid for others, breathed out his abominable spirit to hell. For a quarrel arising, while they were angrily discoursing, Edric, relying on the credit of his services, and amicably, as it were, reproaching the king, said, “I first deserted Edmund for your sake, and afterwards even despatched him in consequence of my engagements to you.” At this expression the countenance of Canute changed with indignation, and he instantly pronounced this sentence: “Thou shalt die,” said he, “and justly; since thou art guilty of treason both to God and me, by having killed thy own sovereign, and my sworn brother; thy blood be upon thy head, because thy mouth hath spoken against thee, and thou hast lifted thy hand against the Lord’s anointed:” and immediately, that no tumult might be excited, the traitor was strangled in the chamber where they sat, and thrown out of the window into the river Thames: thus meeting the just reward of his perfidy. In process of time, as opportunities occurred, Thurkill and Eric were driven out of the kingdom, and sought their native land. The first, who had been the instigator of the murder of St. Elphege, was killed by the chiefs the moment he touched the Danish shore.226 When all England, by these means, became subject to Canute alone, he began to conciliate the Angles with unceasing diligence; allowing them equal rights with the Danes, in their assemblies, councils, and armies: on which account, as I have before observed, he sent for the wife of the late king out of Normandy, that, while they were paying obedience to their accustomed sovereign, they should the less repine at the dominion of the Danes. Another design he had in view by this, was, to acquire favour with Richard; who would think198 little of his nephews, so long as he supposed he might have others by Canute. He repaired, throughout England, the monasteries, which had been partly injured, and partly destroyed by the military incursions of himself, or of his father; he built churches in all the places where he had fought, and more particularly at Assingdon, and appointed ministers to them, who, through the succeeding revolutions of ages, might pray to God for the souls of the persons there slain. At the consecration of this edifice, himself was present, and the English and Danish nobility made their offerings: it is now, according to report, an ordinary church, under the care of a parish priest. Over the body of the most holy Edmund, whom the Danes of former times had killed, he built a church with princely magnificence, appointed to it an abbat, and monks: and conferred on it many large estates. The greatness of his donation, yet entire, stands proudly eminent at the present day; for that place surpasses almost all the monasteries of England. He took up, with his own hands, the body of St. Elphege, which had been buried at St. Paul’s in London, and sending it to Canterbury, honoured it with due regard. Thus anxious to atone for the offences of himself or of his predecessors, perhaps he wiped away the foul stain of his former crimes with God: certainly he did so with man. At Winchester, he displayed all the magnificence of his liberality: here he gave so largely, that the quantity of precious metals astonished the minds of strangers; and the glittering of jewels dazzled the eyes of the beholders: this was at Emma’s suggestion, who with pious prodigality exhausted his treasures in works of this kind, while he was meditating fierce attacks on foreign lands. For his valour, incapable of rest, and not contented with Denmark, which he held from his father, and England, which he possessed by right of war, transferred its rage against the Swedes. These people are contiguous to the Danes, and had excited the displeasure of Canute by their ceaseless hostility. At first he fell into an ambush, and lost many of his people, but afterwards recruiting his strength, he routed his opponents, and brought the kings of that nation, Ulf and Eglaf, to terms of peace. The English, at the instance of earl Godwin, behaved nobly in this conflict. He exhorted them, not to forget their ancient fame, but clearly to display their valour to their new lord:199 telling them, that it must be imputed to fortune, that they had formerly been conquered by him, but it would be ascribed to their courage, if they overcame those who had overcome him. In consequence, the English put forth all their strength, and gaining the victory, obtained an earldom for their commander, and honour for themselves. Thence, on his return home, he entirely subdued the kingdom of Norway, putting Olave, its king, to flight; who, the year following, returning with a small party into his kingdom, to try the inclinations of the inhabitants, found them faithless, and was slain with his adherents.

[A.D. 1030, 1031.] CANUTE’S EPISTLE.

In the fifteenth year of his reign, Canute went to Rome, and after remaining there some time, and atoning for his crimes by giving alms to the several churches, he sailed back to England.227 Soon after, with little difficulty, he subdued Scotland, then in a state of rebellion, and Malcolm her king, by leading an army thither. I trust it will not appear useless, if I subjoin the epistle, which he transmitted to the English, on his departure from Rome, by the hands of Living, abbat of Tavistock, and afterwards bishop of Crediton, to exemplify his reformation of life, and his princely magnificence.

[A.D. 1031.]     CANUTE’S EPISTLE.

Canute, king of all England, Denmark, Norway, and part of the Swedes, to Ethelnoth, metropolitan, and Elfric archbishop of York, and to all bishops, nobles, and to the whole nation of the English high and low, health. I notify to you, that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the forgiveness of my sins; for the safety of my dominions, and of the people under my government. I had long since vowed such a journey to God, but, hitherto hindered by the affairs of my kingdom, and other causes preventing, I was unable to accomplish it sooner. I now return thanks most humbly to my Almighty God, for suffering me, in my lifetime, to approach the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the holy saints within and without the city of Rome, wherever I could discover them, and there, present, to worship and adore according to my desire. I have been the more diligent in the performance of this, because I have learned from the wise, that St. Peter, the apostle, has received from God, great power in binding and in loosing: that he carries the key of the kingdom of heaven; and consequently I have judged200 it matter of special importance to seek his influence with God. Be it known to you, that at the solemnity of Easter, a great assembly of nobles was present with pope John, and the emperor Conrad, that is to say, all the princes of the nations from mount Garganus228 to the neighbouring sea. All these received me with honour, and presented me with magnificent gifts. But more especially was I honoured by the emperor, with various gifts and offerings, in gold and silver vessels, and palls and costly garments. Moreover, I spoke with the emperor himself, and the sovereign pope and the nobles who were there, concerning the wants of all my people, English as well as Danes; observing that there ought to be granted to them more equitable regulations, and greater security on their passage to Rome; that they should not be impeded by so many barriers229 on the road, nor harassed with unjust exactions. The emperor assented to my request, as did Rodolph the king, who has the chief dominion over those barriers; and all the princes confirmed by an edict, that my subjects, traders, as well as those who went on a religious account, should peaceably go and return from Rome, without any molestation from warders of barriers, or tax-gatherers. Again I complained before the pope, and expressed my high displeasure, that my archbishops were oppressed by the immense sum of money which is demanded from them when seeking, according to custom, the apostolical residence to receive the pall: and it was determined that it should be so no longer. Moreover, all things which I requested for the advantage of my kingdom, from the sovereign pope, and the emperor, and king Rodolph, and the other princes, through whose territories our road to Rome is situated, they have freely granted, and confirmed by oath, under the attestation of four archbishops, and twenty bishops, and an innumerable multitude of dukes and nobles who were present. Wherefore I give most hearty thanks to God Almighty, for having successfully completed all that I had wished, in the manner I had designed, and fully satisfied my intentions. Be it known then, that since I have vowed to God himself, henceforward to reform my life in all things,201 and justly, and piously to govern the kingdoms and the people subject to me, and to maintain equal justice in all things; and have determined, through God’s assistance, to rectify any thing hitherto unjustly done, either through the intemperance of my youth, or through negligence; therefore I call to witness, and command my counsellors, to whom I have entrusted the counsels of the kingdom, that they by no means, either through fear of myself, or favour to any powerful person, suffer, henceforth, any injustice, or cause such, to be done in all my kingdom. Moreover, I command all sheriffs, or governors throughout my whole kingdom, as they tender my affection, or their own safety, not to commit injustice towards any man, rich or poor, but to allow all, noble and ignoble, alike to enjoy impartial law, from which they are never to deviate, either on account of royal favour, the person of any powerful man, or for the sake of amassing money for myself: for I have no need to accumulate money by unjust exaction. Be it known to you therefore, that returning by the same way that I went, I am now going to Denmark, through the advice of all the Danes, to make peace and firm treaty with those nations, who were desirous, had it been possible, to deprive me both of life and of sovereignty: this, however, they were not able to perform, God, who by his kindness preserves me in my kingdom and in my honour, and destroys the power of all my adversaries, bringing their strength to nought. Moreover, when I have established peace with the surrounding nations, and put all our sovereignty here in the East in tranquil order, so that there shall be no fear of war or enmity on any side, I intend coming to England, as early in the summer as I shall be able to get my fleet prepared. I have sent this epistle before me, in order that my people may rejoice at my prosperity; because, as yourselves know, I have never spared, nor will I spare, either myself or my pains for the needful service of my whole people. I now therefore adjure all my bishops, and governors, throughout my kingdom, by the fidelity they owe to God and me, to take care that, before I come to England, all dues owing by ancient custom be discharged: that is to say, plough-alms,230 the tenth of animals born in the202 current year,231 and the pence owing to Rome for St. Peter, whether from cities or villages: and in the middle of August, the tenth of the produce of the earth: and on the festival of St. Martin, the first fruits of seeds, to the church of the parish where each one resides, which is called in English ‘Circscet.’232 If these and such like things are not paid before I come to England, all who shall have offended will incur the penalty of a royal mulct,233 to be exacted without remission, according to law.” Nor was this declaration without effect; for he commanded all the laws which had been enacted by ancient kings, and chiefly by his predecessor Ethelred, to be observed for ever, under the penalty of a royal mulct: in the observance of which,234 the custom even at the present day, in the time of good kings, is to swear by the name of king Edward, not that he indeed appointed, but that he observed them.

At that time there were in England very great and learned men, the principal of whom was Ethelnoth, archbishop after Living. He was appointed primate from being dean,235 and performed many works truly worthy to be recorded: encouraging even the king himself in his good actions by the authority of his sanctity, and restraining him in his excesses: he first exalted the archiepiscopal cathedral by the presence of the body of St. Elphege, and afterwards personally at Rome, restored it to its pristine dignity.236 Returning home, he transmitted to Coventry the arm of St. Augustine237 the teacher, which he had purchased at Pavia, for an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. Moreover, Canute took a journey to the church of Glastonbury, that he might visit the remains of his brother Edmund, as he used to call203 him; and praying over his tomb, he presented a pall, interwoven, as it appeared, with party-coloured figures of peacocks. Near the king stood the before-named Ethelnoth, who was the seventh monk of Glastonbury that had become archbishop of Canterbury: first Berthwald: second Athelm, first bishop of Wells: third his nephew Dunstan: fourth Ethelgar, first abbat of the New-minster at Winchester, and then bishop of Chichester:238 fifth Siric, who, when he was made archbishop, gave to this his nursing-mother seven palls, with which, upon his anniversary, the whole ancient church is ornamented: sixth Elphege, who from prior of Glastonbury was, first, made abbat of Bath, and then bishop of Winchester: seventh Ethelnoth, who upon showing to the king the immunities of predecessors, asked, and obtained from the king’s own hand a confirmation of them, which was to the following effect.


“The Lord reigning for evermore, who disposes and governs all things by his unspeakable power, who wonderfully determines the changes of times and of men, and justly brings them to an uncertain end, according to his pleasure; and who from the secret mysteries of nature mercifully teaches us, how lasting, instead of fleeting and transitory, kingdoms are to be obtained by the assistance of God: wherefore I Canute king of England, and governor and ruler of the adjacent nations, by the counsel and decree of our archbishop Ethelnoth, and of all the priests of God, and by the advice of our nobility, do, for the love of heaven, and the pardon of my sins, and the remission of the transgressions of my brother, king Edmund, grant to the church of the holy mother of God, Mary, at Glastonbury, its rights and customs throughout my kingdom, and all forfeitures throughout its possessions, and that its lands shall be free from all claim and vexation as my own are. Moreover, I inhibit more especially, by the authority of the Almighty Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the curse of the eternal Virgin, and so command it to be observed by the judges and primates of my kingdom as they tender their safety, every person, be they of what order or dignity they may, from entering, on204 any account, that island;239 but all causes, ecclesiastical as well as secular, shall await the sole judgment of the abbat and convent, in like manner as my predecessors have ratified and confirmed by charters; that is to say, Kentwin, Ina, Cuthred, Alfred, Edward, Ethelred, Athelstan, the most glorious Edmund, and the equally glorious Edgar. And should any one hereafter endeavour, on any occasion, to break in upon, or make void the enactment of this grant, let him be driven from the communion of the righteous by the fan of the last judgment; but should any person endeavour diligently, with benevolent intention, to perform these things, to approve, and defend them, may God increase his portion in the land of the living, through the intercession of the most holy mother of God, Mary, and the rest of the saints. The grant of this immunity was written and published in the Wooden Church, in the presence of king Canute, in the year of our Lord 1032, the second indiction.”

By the advice of the said archbishop also, the king, sending money to foreign churches, very much enriched Chartres, where at that time flourished bishop Fulbert, most renowned for sanctity and learning. Who, among other demonstrations of his diligence, very magnificently completed the church of our lady St. Mary, the foundations of which he had laid: and which moreover, in his zeal to do every thing he could for its honour, he rendered celebrated by many musical modulations. The man who has heard his chants, breathing only celestial vows, is best able to conceive the love he manifested in honour of the Virgin. Among his other works, a volume of epistles is extant; in one of which,240 he thanks that most magnificent king Canute, for pouring out the bowels of his generosity in donations to the church of Chartres.

In the fifteenth year of Canute’s reign, Robert king of France, of whom we have before briefly spoken, departed this life: a man so much given to alms, that when, on festival days, he was either dressing, or putting off the royal robes, if he had nothing else at hand, he would give even205 these to the poor, if his attendants did not purposely drive away the needy who were importuning him. He had two sons, Odo, and Henry: the elder, Odo,241 was dull: the other crafty and impetuous. Each parent had severally divided their affections on their children: the father loved the first-born, often saying that he should succeed him: the mother regarded the younger, to whom the sovereignty was justly due, if not for his age, yet certainly for his ability. It happened, as women are persevering in their designs, that she did not cease until, by means of presents, and large promises, she had gotten to her side all the chief nobility who are subject to the power of France. In consequence, Henry, chiefly through the assistance of Robert the Norman, was crowned ere his father had well breathed his last. Mindful of this kindness, when, as I before related, Robert went to Jerusalem, Henry most strenuously espoused the cause of William, his son, then a youth, against those who attempted to throw off his yoke. In the meantime Canute, finishing his earthly career, died at Shaftesbury, and was buried at Winchester.

Of king Harold and Hardecanute. [A.D. 1036–1042.]


In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1036,242 Harold, whom fame243 reported to be the son of Canute, by the daughter of earl Elfelm, succeeded, and reigned four years and as many months. He was elected by the Danes and the citizens of London, who, from long intercourse with these barbarians, had almost entirely adopted their customs. The English resisted for a long time, rather wishing to have one of the sons of Ethelred, who were then in Normandy, or else Hardecanute, the son of Canute by Emma, at that time in Denmark,206 for their king. The greatest stickler for justice, at this juncture, was earl Godwin; who professing himself the defender of the fatherless, and having queen Emma and the royal treasures in his custody, for some time restrained his opponents by the power of his name: but at last, overcome by numbers and by violence, he was obliged to give way. Harold, secure in his sovereignty, drove his mother-in-law into exile. Not thinking she should be safe in Normandy, where, her brother and nephews being dead, disgust at the rule of a deserted orphan created great disorders, she passed over into Flanders, to earl Baldwin, a man of tried integrity: who afterwards, when king Henry died leaving a young son, Philip, for some years nobly governed the kingdom of France, and faithfully restored it to him, for he had married his aunt, when he came of age. Emma passed three years securely under the protection of this man, at the expiration of which, Harold dying at Oxford, in the month of April,244 was buried at Westminster. The Danes and the English then uniting in one common sentiment of sending for Hardecanute, he came, by way of Normandy, into England in the month of August. For Ethelred’s sons were held in contempt nearly by all, more from the recollection of their father’s indolence, than the power of the Danes. Hardecanute, reigning two years except ten days, lost his life amid his cups at Lambeth nigh London, and was buried near his father at Winchester: a young man who evinced great affection towards his brother and sister. For his brother, Edward, wearied with continual wandering, revisiting his native land in the hope of fraternal kindness, was received by him with open arms, and entertained most affectionately. He was rash, however, in other respects, and at the instigation of Elfric, archbishop of York, and of others whom I am loath to name, he ordered the dead body of Harold to be dug up, the head to be cut off, and thrown into the Thames, a pitiable spectacle to men! but it was dragged up again in a fisherman’s net, and buried in the cemetery of the Danes at London. He imposed a rigid, and intolerable tribute upon England, in order that he might pay, according to his promise, twenty marks to the soldiers207 of each of his vessels. While this was harshly levied throughout the kingdom, two of the collectors, discharging their office rather too rigorously, were killed by the citizens of Worcester; upon which, burning and depopulating the city by means of his commanders, and plundering the property of the citizens, he cast a blemish on his fame and diminished the love of his subjects. But here I will not pass over in silence, what tattlers report of Alfred the first-born of Ethelred. Doubtful what to do between Harold’s death and the arrival of Hardecanute, he came into the kingdom, and was deprived of his eyes by the treachery of his countrymen, and chiefly of Godwin, at Gillingham: from thence being sent to the monastery of Ely, he supported, for a little time, a wretched subsistence upon homely food; all his companions, with the exception of the tenth, being beheaded: for by lot every tenth man was saved.245 I have mentioned these circumstances, because such is the report; but as the Chronicles are silent, I do not assert them for fact. For this reason, Hardecanute, enraged against Living, bishop of Crediton, whom public opinion pointed out as author of the transaction, expelled him from his see: but, soothed with money, he restored him within the year. Looking angrily too upon Godwin, he obliged him to clear himself by oath; but he, to recover his favour entirely, added to his plighted oath a present of the most rich and beautiful kind; it was a ship beaked with gold, having eighty soldiers on board, who had two bracelets on either arm, each weighing sixteen ounces of gold; on their heads were gilt helmets; on their left shoulder they carried a Danish axe, with an iron spear in their right hand; and, not to enumerate everything, they were equipped with such arms, as that splendour vying with terror, might conceal the steel beneath the gold. But farther, as I had begun to relate, his sister Gunhilda, the daughter of Canute by Emma, a young woman of exquisite beauty, who was sighed for, but not obtained, by many lovers in her father’s time, was by Hardecanute given in marriage to Henry, emperor of the208 Germans. The splendour of the nuptial pageant was very striking, and is even in our times frequently sung in ballads about the streets: where while this renowned lady was being conducted to the ship, all the nobility of England were crowding around and contributing to her charges whatever was contained in the general purse, or royal treasury. Proceeding in this manner to her husband, she cherished for a long time the conjugal tie; at length being accused of adultery, she opposed in single combat to her accuser, a man of gigantic size, a young lad of her brother’s246 establishment, whom she had brought from England, while her other attendants held back in cowardly apprehension. When, therefore, they engaged, the impeacher, through the miraculous interposition of God, was worsted, by being ham-strung. Gunhilda, exulting at her unexpected success, renounced the marriage contract with her husband; nor could she be induced either by threats or by endearments again to share his bed: but taking the veil of a nun, she calmly grew old in the service of God.

This emperor possessed many and great virtues; and nearly surpassed in military skill all his predecessors: so much so, that he subdued the Vindelici and the Leutici,247 and the other nations bordering on the Suevi, who alone, even to the present day, lust after pagan superstitions: for the Saracens and Turks worship God the Creator, looking upon Mahomet not as God, but as his prophet. But the Vindelici worship fortune, and putting her idol in the most eminent situation, they place a horn in her right hand, filled with that beverage, made of honey and water, which by a Greek term we call “hydromel.” St. Jerome proves, in his eighteenth book on Isaiah, that the Egyptians and almost all the eastern nations do the same. Wherefore on the last day of November, sitting round in a circle, they all taste it; and if they find the horn full, they applaud with loud clamours: because in the ensuing year, plenty with her209 brimming horn will fulfil their wishes in everything: but if it be otherwise, they lament. Henry made these nations in such wise tributary to him, that upon every solemnity on which he wore his crown, four of their kings were obliged to carry a cauldron in which flesh was boiled, upon their shoulders, to the kitchen, by means of levers passed through rings.


Frequently, when disengaged from the turmoils of his empire, Henry gave himself up to good fellowship and merriment, and was replete with humour; this may be sufficiently proved by two instances. He was so extremely fond of his sister, who was a nun, that he never suffered her to be from his side, and her chamber was always next his own. As he was on a certain time, in consequence of a winter remarkable for severe frost and snow, detained for a long while in the same place, a certain clerk248 about the court, became too familiar with the girl, and often passed the greatest part of the night in her chamber. And although he attempted to conceal his crime by numberless subterfuges, yet some one perceived it, for it is difficult not to betray guilt either by look or action, and the affair becoming notorious, the emperor was the only person in ignorance, and who still believed his sister to be chaste. On one particular night, however, as they were enjoying their fond embraces, and continuing their pleasures longer than usual, the morning dawned upon them, and behold snow had completely covered the ground. The clerk fearing that he should be discovered by his track in the snow, persuades his mistress to extricate him from his difficulty by carrying him on her back. She, regardless of modesty so that she might escape exposure, took her paramour on her back, and carried him out of the palace. It happened at that moment, that the emperor had risen for a necessary purpose, and looking through the window of his chamber, beheld the clerk mounted. He was stupified at the first sight, but observing still more narrowly, he became mute with shame and indignation. While he was hesitating whether he should pass over the crime unpunished,210 or openly reprehend the delinquents, there happened an opportunity for him to give a vacant bishopric to the clerk, which he did: but at the same time whispered in his ear, “Take the bishopric, but be careful you do not let women carry you any more.” At the same time he gave his sister the rule over a company of nuns, “Be an abbess,” said he, “but carry clerks no longer.” Both of them were confused, and feeling themselves grievously stricken by so grave an injunction, they desisted from a crime which they thought revealed by God.

He had also a clergyman about his palace, who abused the depth of his learning and the melody of his voice by the vicious propensities of the flesh, being extremely attached to a girl of bad character, in the town; with whom having passed one festival night, he stood next morning before the emperor at mass, with countenance unabashed. The emperor concealing his knowledge of the transaction, commanded him to prepare himself to read the gospel, that he might be gratified with the melody of his voice: for he was a deacon. Conscious of his crime, he made use of a multitude of subterfuges, while the emperor, to try his constancy, still pressed him with messages. Refusing, however, to the very last, the emperor said, “Since you will not obey me in so easy a command, I banish you from the whole of my territories.” The deacon, yielding to the sentence, departed directly. Servants were sent to follow him, and in case he should persist in going, to bring him back after he had left the city. Gathering, therefore, immediately all his effects together, and packing them up, he had already gone a considerable distance, when he was brought back, not without extreme violence, and placed in the presence of Henry, who smiled and said: “You have done well, and I applaud your integrity for valuing the fear of God more than your country, and regarding the displeasure of heaven more than my threats. Accept, therefore, the first bishopric, which shall be vacant in my empire; only renounce your dishonourable amour.”

As nothing however is lasting in human enjoyments, I shall not pass over in silence a certain dreadful portent which happened in his time. The monastery of Fulda, in Saxony, is celebrated for containing the body of St. Gall,211 and is enriched with very ample territories. The abbat of this place furnishes the emperor with sixty thousand warriors against his enemies; and possesses from ancient times the privilege of sitting at his right hand on the most distinguished festivals. This Henry we are speaking of was celebrating Pentecost at Mentz. A little before mass, while the seats were preparing in the church, a quarrel arose between the attendants of the abbat, and those of the archbishop, which of their masters should sit next the sovereign: one party alleging the dignity of the prelate, the other ancient usage. When words made but little for peace, as the Germans and Teutonians possess untractable spirits, they came to blows. Some snatched up staves, others threw stones, while the rest unsheathed their swords: finally each used the weapon that his anger first supplied. Thus furiously contending in the church, the pavement soon streamed with blood: but the bishops hastening forward, peace was restored amid the remains of the contending parties. The church was cleansed, and mass performed with joyful sound. But now comes the wonder: when the sequence was chanted, and the choir paused at that verse, “Thou hast made this day glorious:” a voice in the air replied aloud, “I have made this day contentious.” All the others were motionless with horror, but the emperor the more diligently attended to his occupation, and perceiving the satisfaction of the enemy: “You,” said he, “the inventor and also the instigator of all wickedness, have made this day contentious and sorrowful to the proud; but we, by the grace of God, who made it glorious, will make it gracious to the poor.” Beginning the sequence afresh, they implored the grace of the Holy Spirit by solemn lamentation. You might suppose he had come upon them, for some were singing, others weeping, and all beating their breasts. When mass was over, assembling the poor by means of his officers, he gave them the whole of the entertainment which had been prepared for himself and his courtiers: the emperor placing the dishes before them, standing at a distance according to the custom of servants, and clearing away the fragments.


In the time of his father, Conrad, he had received a silver pipe, such as boys in sport spirt water with, from a certain clerk, covenanting to give him a bishopric, when he should212 become emperor. This, when he was of man’s estate, on his application he readily gave to him. Soon after he was confined to his bed with severe sickness: his malady increasing, he lay for three days insensible and speechless, while the vital breath only palpitated in his breast: nor was there any other sign of life, than the perception of a small degree of breathing, on applying the hand to his nostrils. The bishops being present, enjoined a fast for three days, and entreated heaven with tears and vows, for the life of the king. Recovering by these remedies, as it is right to think, he sent for the bishop whom he had so improperly appointed, and deposed him by the judgment of a council: confessing, that for three whole days he saw malignant demons blowing fire upon him through a pipe; fire so furious that ours in comparison would be deemed a jest, and have no heat: that afterwards there came a young man half scorched, bearing a golden cup of immense size, full of water; and that being soothed by the sight of him, and bathed by the water, the flame was extinguished, and he recovered his health: that this young man was St. Laurence, the roof of whose church he had restored when gone to decay; and, among other presents, had honoured it with a golden chalice.

Here many extraordinary things occur, which are reported of this man; for instance, of a stag, which took him on its back, when flying from his enemies, and carried him over an unfordable river: and some others which I pass by because I am unwilling to go beyond the reader’s belief. He died when he had completed the eighteenth year of his empire, and was buried at Spires, which he re-built, and called by that name, on the site of the very ancient and ruined Nemetum: his epitaph is as follows:


Cæsar, as was the world once great,
Lies here, confin’d in compass straight.
Hence let each mortal learn his doom;
No glory can escape the tomb.
The flower of empire, erst so gay,
Falls with its Cæsar to decay,
And all the odours which it gave
Sink prematurely to the grave.
The laws which sapient fathers made,
A listless race had dared evade,
But thou reforming by the school
Of Rome, restor’dst the ancient rule.
Nations and regions, wide and far,
Whom none could subjugate by war,
Quell’d by thy sword’s resistless strife,
Turn’d to the arts of civil life.
What grief severe must Rome engross,
Widow’d at first by Leo’s loss,
And next by Cæsar’s mournful night,
Reft of her other shining light;
Living, what region did not dread,
What country not lament thee, dead?
So kind to nations once subdued,
So fierce to the barbarians rude,
That, those who fear’d not, must bewail,
And such as griev’d not, fears assail.
Rome, thy departed glory moan,
And weep thy luminaries gone.

This Leo, of whom the epitaph speaks, had been Roman pontiff, called to that eminence from being Bruno bishop of Spires. He was a man of great and admirable sanctity; and the Romans celebrate many of his miracles. He died before Henry, when he had been five years pope.

Of St. Edward, son of king Ethelred. [A.D. 1042–1066.]

[A.D. 1042, 1043.] EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1042, St. Edward, the son of Ethelred, assumed the sovereignty, and held it not quite twenty-four years; he was a man from the simplicity of his manners little calculated to govern; but devoted to God, and in consequence directed by him. For while he continued to reign, there arose no popular commotions, which were not immediately quelled; no foreign war; all was calm and peaceable both at home and abroad; which is the more an object of wonder, because he conducted himself so mildly, that he would not even utter a word of reproach to the meanest person. For when he had once gone out to hunt, and a countryman had overturned the standings by which the deer are driven into the toils, struck with noble indignation he exclaimed, “By God and his mother, I will serve you just such a turn, if ever it come in my way.” Here was a noble mind, who forgot that he was a king, under such circumstances, and could not think himself allowed to injure a man even of the lowest condition. In the meantime, the regard214 his subjects entertained for him was extreme, as was also the fear of foreigners; for God assisted his simplicity, that he might be feared, for he knew not how to be angry. But however indolent or unassuming himself might be esteemed, he had nobles capable of elevating him to the highest pitch: for instance, Siward, earl of the Northumbrians; who, at his command, engaging with Macbeth, the Scottish king, deprived him both of life and of his kingdom, and placed on the throne Malcolm, who was the son of the king of Cumbria:249 again, Leofric, of Hereford; he, with liberal regard, defended him against the enmity of Godwin, who trusting to the consciousness of his own merits, paid little reverence to the king. Leofric and his wife Godifa, generous in their deeds towards God, built many monasteries, as, Coventry, St. Mary’s at Stow, Wenlock, Leon, and some others; to the rest he gave ornaments and estates; to Coventry he consigned his body, with a very large donation of gold and silver. Harold too, of the West Saxons, the son of Godwin; who by his abilities destroyed two brothers, kings of the Welsh, Rees and Griffin; and reduced all that barbarous country to the state of a province under fealty to the king. Nevertheless, there were some things which obscured the glory of Edward’s times: the monasteries were deprived of their monks; false sentences were passed by depraved men; his mother’s property, at his command, was almost entirely taken from her. But the injustice of these transactions was extenuated by his favourers in the following manner: the ruin of the monasteries, and the iniquity of the judges, are said to have taken place without his knowledge, through the insolence of Godwin and his sons, who used to laugh at the easiness of the king: but afterwards, on being apprised of this, he severely avenged it by their banishment: his mother had for a long time mocked at the needy state of her son, nor ever assisted him; transferring her hereditary hatred of the father to the child; for she had both loved Canute more when living, and more commended him when dead: besides, accumulating money by every method, she had hoarded it, regardless of the poor, to whom she would give nothing, for fear of diminishing her heap. Wherefore that which had215 been so unjustly gathered together, was not improperly taken away, that it might be of service to the poor, and replenish the king’s exchequer. Though much credit is to be attached to those who relate these circumstances, yet I find her to have been a religiously-disposed woman, and to have expended her property on ornaments for the church of Winchester, and probably upon others.250 But to return: Edward receiving the mournful intelligence of the death of Hardecanute, was lost in uncertainty what to do, or whither to betake himself. While he was revolving many things in his mind, it occurred as the better plan to submit his situation to the opinion of Godwin. To Godwin therefore he sent messengers, requesting, that he might in security have a conference with him. Godwin, though for a long time hesitating and reflecting, at length assented, and when Edward came to him and endeavoured to fall at his feet, he raised him up; and when relating the death of Hardecanute, and begging his assistance to effect his return to Normandy, Godwin made him the greatest promises. He said, it was better for him to live with credit in power, than to die ingloriously in exile: that he was the son of Ethelred, the grandson of Edgar: that the kingdom was his due: that he was come to mature age, disciplined by difficulties, conversant in the art of well-governing from his years, and knowing, from his former poverty, how to feel for the miseries of the people: if he thought fit to rely on him, there could be no obstacle; for his authority so preponderated in England, that wherever he inclined, there fortune was sure to favour: if he assisted him, none would dare to murmur; and just so was the contrary side of the question: let him then only covenant a firm friendship with himself; undiminished honours for his sons, and a marriage with his daughter, and he who was now shipwrecked almost of life and hope, and imploring the assistance of another, should shortly see himself a king.

[A.D. 1043.]     EARL GODWIN.

There was nothing which Edward would not promise, from the exigency of the moment: so, pledging fidelity on both sides, he confirmed by oath every thing which was demanded. Soon after convening an assembly at Gillingham, Godwin,216 unfolding his reasons, caused him to be received as king, and homage was paid to him by all. He was a man of ready wit, and spoke fluently in the vernacular tongue; powerful in speech, powerful in bringing over the people to whatever he desired. Some yielded to his authority; some were influenced by presents; others admitted the right of Edward; and the few who resisted in defiance of justice and equity, were carefully marked, and afterwards driven out of England.

Edward was crowned with great pomp at Winchester, on Easter-day, and was instructed by Eadsine,251 the archbishop, in the sacred duties of governing. This, at the time, he treasured up with readiness in his memory, and afterwards displayed in the holiness of his conduct. The above-mentioned Eadsine, in the following year, falling into an incurable disease, appointed as his successor Siward, abbat of Abingdon; communicating his design only to the king and the earl, lest any improper person should aspire to so great an eminence, either by solicitation or by purchase. Shortly after the king took Edgitha, the daughter of Godwin, to wife; a woman whose bosom was the school of every liberal art, though little skilled in earthly matters: on seeing her, if you were amazed at her erudition, you must absolutely languish for the purity of her mind, and the beauty of her person. Both in her husband’s life-time, and afterwards, she was not entirely free from suspicion of dishonour; but when dying, in the time of king William, she voluntarily satisfied the by-standers of her unimpaired chastity, by an oath. When she became his wife, the king acted towards her so delicately, that he neither removed her from his bed, nor knew her after the manner of men. I have not been able to discover, whether he acted thus from dislike to her family, which he prudently dissembled from the exigency of the times, or out of pure regard to chastity: yet it is most notoriously affirmed, that he never violated his purity by connexion with any woman.

But since I have gotten thus far, I wish to admonish my reader, that the track of my history is here but dubious,217 because the truth of the facts hangs in suspense. It is to be observed, that the king had sent for several Normans, who had formerly slightly ministered to his wants when in exile. Among these was Robert, whom, from being a monk of Jumièges, he had appointed bishop of London, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. The English of our times vilify this person, together with the rest, as being the impeacher of Godwin and his sons; the sower of discord; the purchaser of the archbishopric: they say too, that Godwin and his sons were men of liberal mind, the stedfast promoters and defenders of the government of Edward; and that it was not to be wondered at, if they were hurt at seeing men of yesterday, and strangers, preferred to themselves: still, that they never uttered even a harsh word against the king, whom they had formerly exalted to the throne. On the opposite hand the Normans thus defended themselves: they allege, that both himself and his sons acted with the greatest want of respect, as well as fidelity, to the king and his party; aiming at equal sovereignty with him; often ridiculing his simplicity; often hurling the shafts of their wit against him: that the Normans could not endure this, but endeavoured to weaken their power as much as possible; and that God manifested, at last, with what kind of purity Godwin had served him. For, after his piratical ravages, of which we shall speak hereafter, when he had been reinstated in his original favour, and was sitting with the king at table, the conversation turning on Alfred, the king’s brother, “I perceive,” said he, “O king, that on every recollection of your brother, you regard me with angry countenance; but God forbid that I should swallow this morsel, if I am conscious of any thing which might tend, either to his danger or your disadvantage.” On saying this, he was choked with the piece he had put into his mouth, and closed his eyes in death: being dragged from under the table by Harold his son, who stood near the king, he was buried in the cathedral of Winchester.

[A.D. 1044–1052.]     PARTIES AND FEUDS.

On account of these feuds, as I have observed, my narrative labours under difficulties, for I cannot precisely ascertain the truth, by reason either of the natural dislike of these nations for each other, or because the English disdainfully bear with a superior, and the Normans cannot endure an218 equal. In the following book, however, when the opportunity occurs for relating the arrival of the Normans in England, I shall proceed to speak of their habits; at present I shall glance, with all possible truth, at the grudge of the king against Godwin and his sons.

[A.D. 1050.]     GODWIN BANISHED.

Eustace,252 earl of Boulogne, the father of Godfrey and Baldwin, who, in our times, were kings of Jerusalem, had married the king’s sister, Goda, who had borne a son, named Ralph, to her former husband, Walter of Mantes. This son, at that time earl of Hereford, was both indolent and cowardly; he had been beaten in battle by the Welsh, and left his county and the city, together with the bishop, to be consumed with fire by the enemy; the disgrace of which transaction was wiped off by the valour of Harold, who arrived opportunely. Eustace, therefore, crossing the channel, from Whitsand to Dover, went to king Edward on some unknown business. When the conference was over, and he had obtained his request, he was returning through Canterbury,253 where one of his harbingers, dealing too fiercely with a citizen, and demanding quarters with blows, rather than entreaty or remuneration, irritated him to such a degree, that he put him to death. Eustace, on being informed of the fact, proceeded with all his retinue to revenge the murder of his servant, and killed the perpetrator of the crime, together with eighteen others: but the citizens flying to arms, he lost twenty-one of his people, and had multitudes wounded; himself and one more with difficulty making their escape during the confusion. Thence returning to court and procuring a secret audience, he made the most of his own story, and excited the anger of the king against the English. Godwin, being summoned by messengers, arrived at the palace.219 When the business was related, and the king was dwelling more particularly on the insolence of the citizens of Canterbury, this intelligent man perceived that sentence ought not to be pronounced, since the allegations had only been heard on one side of the question. In consequence, though the king ordered him directly to proceed with an army into Kent, to take signal vengeance on the people of Canterbury, still he refused: both because he saw with displeasure, that all foreigners were gaining fast upon the favour of the king; and because he was desirous of evincing his regard to his countrymen. Besides, his opinion was more accordant, as it should seem, with equity, which was, that the principal people of that town should be mildly summoned to the king’s court, on account of the tumult; if they could exculpate themselves, they should depart unhurt; but if they could not, they must make atonement, either by money, or by corporal punishment, to the king, whose peace they had broken, and to the earl, whom they had injured: moreover, that it appeared unjust to pass sentence on those people unheard, who had a more especial right to protection. After this the conference broke up; Godwin paying little attention to the indignation of the king, as merely momentary. In consequence of this, the nobility of the whole kingdom were commanded to meet at Gloucester, that the business might there be canvassed in full assembly. Thither came those, at that time, most renowned Northumbrian earls, Siward and Leofric, and all the nobility of England. Godwin and his sons alone, who knew that they were suspected, not deeming it prudent to be present unarmed, halted with a strong force at Beverstone, giving out that they had assembled an army to restrain the Welsh, who, meditating independence on the king, had fortified a town in the county of Hereford, where Sweyn, one of the sons of Godwin, was at that time in command. The Welsh, however, who had come beforehand to the conference, had accused them of a conspiracy, and rendered them odious to the whole court; so that a rumour prevailed, that the king’s army would attack them in that very place. Godwin, hearing this, sounded the alarm to his party; told them that they should not purposely withstand their sovereign lord; but if it came to hostilities, they should not retreat without avenging themselves. And, if better220 counsels had not intervened, a dreadful scene of misery, and a worse than civil war, would have ensued. Some small share of tranquillity, however, being restored, it was ordered that the council should be again assembled at London; and that Sweyn, the son of Godwin, should appease the king’s anger by withdrawing himself: that Godwin and Harold should come as speedily as possible to the council, with this condition: that they should be unarmed, bring with them only twelve men, and deliver up to the king the command of the troops which they had throughout England. This on the other hand they refused; observing, that they could not go to a party-meeting without sureties and pledges; that they would obey their lord in the surrender of the soldiers, as well as in every thing else, except risking their lives and reputation: should they come unarmed, the loss of life might be apprehended; if attended with few followers, it would detract from their glory. The king had made up his mind too firmly, to listen to the entreaties of those who interceded with him; wherefore an edict was published, that they should depart from England within five days. Godwin and Sweyn retired to Flanders, and Harold to Ireland. His earldom was given to Elgar, the son of Leofric, a man of active habits; who, receiving, governed it with ability, and readily restored it to him on his return; and afterwards, on the death of Godwin, when Harold had obtained the dukedom of his father, he boldly reclaimed it, though, by the accusation of his enemies, he was banished for a time. All the property of the queen was seized, and herself delivered into the custody of the king’s sister at Wherwell, lest she alone should be void of care, whilst all her relations were sighing for their country.

[A.D. 1051.]     RETURN OF GODWIN.

The following year, the exiles, each emerging from his station, were now cruising the British sea, infesting the coast with piracy, and carrying off rich booty from the substance of their countrymen. Against these, on the king’s part, more than sixty sail lay at anchor. Earls Odo and Ralph, relations of the king, were commanders of the fleet. Nor did this emergency find Edward himself inactive; since he would pass the night on ship-board, and watch the sallies of the plunderers; diligently compensating, by the wisdom of his counsel, for that personal service which age and infirmity221 denied. But when they had approached each other, and the conflict was on the eve of commencing, a very thick mist arose, which in a moment obscured the sight of the opponents, and repressed the pitiable audacity of men. At last Godwin and his companions were driven, by the impetuosity of the wind, to the port they had left; and not long after returning to their own country with pacific dispositions, they found the king at London, and were received by him on soliciting pardon. The old man, skilled in leading the minds of his audience by his reputation and his eloquence, dexterously exculpated himself from every thing laid to his charge; and in a short time prevailed so far, as to recover his honours, undiminished, for himself and for his children; to drive all the Normans, branded with ignominy, from England; and to get sentence passed on Robert, the archbishop, and his accomplices, for disturbing the order of the kingdom and stimulating the royal mind against his subjects. But he, not waiting for violent measures, had fled of his own accord while the peace was in agitation, and proceeding to Rome, and appealing to the apostolical see on his case, as he was returning through Jumièges, he died there, and was buried in the church of St. Mary, which he chiefly had built at vast expense. While he was yet living, Stigand, who was bishop of Winchester, forthwith invaded the archbishopric of Canterbury: a prelate of notorious ambition, who sought after honours too keenly, and who, through desire of a higher dignity, deserting the bishopric of the South Saxons, had occupied Winchester, which he held with the archbishopric. For this reason he was never honoured with the pall by the papal see, except that one Benedict, the usurper, as it were, of the papacy, sent him one; either corrupted by money to grant a thing of this kind, or else because bad people are pleased to gratify others of the same description. But he, through the zeal of the faithful, being expelled by Nicholas, who legally assumed the papacy from being bishop of Florence, laid aside the title he so little deserved. Stigand, moreover, in the time of king William, degraded by the Roman cardinals and condemned to perpetual imprisonment, could not fill up the measure of his insatiable avidity even in death. For on his decease, a small key was discovered among his secret recesses, which on being applied to222 the lock of a chamber-cabinet, gave evidence of papers, describing immense treasures, and in which were noted both the quality and the quantity of the precious metals which this greedy pilferer had hidden on all his estates: but of this hereafter: I shall now complete the history of Godwin which I had begun.

[A.D. 1065.]     GODWIN’S FAMILY.

When he was a young man he had Canute’s sister to wife, by whom he had a son, who in his early youth, while proudly curveting on a horse which his grandfather had given him, was carried into the Thames, and perished in the stream: his mother, too, paid the penalty of her cruelty; being killed by a stroke of lightning. For it is reported, that she was in the habit of purchasing companies of slaves in England, and sending them into Denmark; more especially girls, whose beauty and age rendered them more valuable, that she might accumulate money by this horrid traffic. After her death, he married another wife,254 whose descent I have not been able to trace; by her he had Harold, Sweyn, Wulnod, Tosty, Girth, and Leofwine. Harold became king for a few months after Edward; and being overcome by William at Hastings, there lost his life and kingdom, together with his two younger brothers. Wulnod, given by his father as an hostage, was sent over to Normandy by king Edward, where he remained all that king’s time in inextricable captivity; and being sent back into England during William’s reign, grew old in confinement at Salisbury: Sweyn being of an obstinate disposition, and faithless to the king, frequently revolted from his father, and his brother Harold, and turning pirate, tarnished the virtues of his forefathers, by his depredations on the coast: at last struck with remorse for the murder of Bruno,255 a relation, or as some say, his brother, he went to Jerusalem, and returning thence was surprised by the Saracens, and put to death: Tosty, after the death of Siward, was preferred to the earldom of Northumbria by king Edward,223 and presided over that province for nearly ten years; at the end of which he impelled the Northumbrians to rebel, by the asperity of his manners. For finding him unattended, they drove him from the district; not deeming it proper to kill him, from respect to his dignity: but they put to death his attendants both English and Danes, appropriating to their own use, his horses, his arms, and his effects. As soon as this rumour, and the distracted state of the country reached the king, Harold set forward to avenge the outrage. The Northumbrians, though not inferior in point of numbers, yet preferring peace, excused themselves to him for the transaction; averring, that they were a people free-born, and freely educated, and unable to put up with the cruelty of any prince; that they had been taught by their ancestors either to be free, or to die; did the king wish them to be obedient, he should appoint Morcar, the son of Elgar, to preside over them, who would experience how cheerfully they could obey, provided they were treated with gentleness. On hearing this, Harold, who regarded the quiet of the country more than the advantage of his brother, recalled his army, and, after waiting on the king, settled the earldom on Morcar. Tosty, enraged against every one, retired with his wife and children to Flanders, and continued there till the death of Edward: but this I shall delay mentioning, while I record what, as I have learned from ancient men, happened in his time at Rome.


Pope Gregory the Sixth,256 first called Gratian, was a man of equal piety and strictness. He found the power of the Roman pontificate so reduced by the negligence of his predecessors, that, with the exception of a few neighbouring towns, and the offerings of the faithful, he had scarcely anything whereon to subsist. The cities and possessions at a distance, which were the property of the church, were forcibly seized by plunderers; the public roads and highways throughout all Italy were thronged with robbers to such a degree, that no pilgrim could pass in safety unless strongly224 guarded. Swarms of thieves beset every path, nor could the traveller devise any method of escaping them. Their rage was equally bent against the poor and the rich; entreaty or resistance were alike unavailing. The journey to Rome was discontinued by every nation, as each had much rather contribute his money to the churches in his own country, than feed a set of plunderers with the produce of his labours. And what was the state of that city which of old was the only dwelling-place of holiness? Why there an abandoned set of knaves and assassins thronged the very forum. If any one by stratagem eluded the people who lay in wait upon the road, from a desire even at the peril of destruction to see the church of the apostle; yet then, encountering these robbers, he was never able to return home without the loss either of property or of life. Even over the very bodies of the holy apostles and martyrs, even on the sacred altars were swords unsheathed, and the offerings of pilgrims, ere well laid out of their hands, were snatched away and consumed in drunkenness and fornication. By such evils was the papacy of Gregory beset. At first he began to deal gently with his subjects; and, as became a pontiff, rather by love than by terror; he repressed the delinquents more by words than by blows; he entreated the townsmen to abstain from the molestation of pilgrims, and the plunder of sacred offerings. The one, he said, was contrary to nature, that the man who breathed the common air could not enjoy the common peace; that Christians surely ought to have liberty of proceeding whither they pleased among Christians, since they were all of the same household, all united by the tie of the same blood, redeemed by the same price: the other, he said, was contrary to the command of God, who had ordained, that “they who served at the altar, should live by the altar;” moreover, that “the house of God ought to be the house of prayer, not a den of thieves,” nor an assembly of gladiators; that they should allow the offerings to go to the use of the priests, or the support of the poor; that he would provide for those persons whom want had compelled to plunder, by giving them some honest employment to procure their subsistence; that such as were instigated by avaricious desire, should desist immediately for the love of God and the credit of the world. He invited, by mandates225 and epistles, those who had invaded the patrimony of the church, to restore what did not belong to them, or else to prove in the Roman senate, that they held it justly; if they would do neither, they must be told that they were no longer members of the church, since they opposed St. Peter, the head of the church, and his vicar. Perpetually haranguing to this effect, and little or nothing profiting by it, he endeavoured to cure the inveterate disorder by having recourse to harsher remedies. He then separated from the body of the church, by the brand of excommunication, all who were guilty of such practices, and even those who associated or conversed with the delinquents. Though he acted strictly according to his duty, yet his diligence in this business had well nigh proved his destruction; for as one says, “He who accuses a mocker, makes himself an enemy,” so the abandoned crew began to kick against this gentle admonition; to utter their threats aloud; to clash their arms around the walls of the city, so as nearly even to kill the pope. Finding it now absolutely necessary to cut short the evil, he procured arms and horses from every side, and equipped troops of horse and foot. Taking possession, in the first place, of the church of St. Peter, he either killed or put to flight the plunderers of the oblations. As fortune appeared to favour his designs, he proceeded farther; and despatching all who dared resist, restored to their original jurisdiction all the estates and towns which had been for a considerable time lost, In this manner, peace, which had been long driven into banishment by the negligence of many, was restored to the country by the exertions of an individual. Pilgrims now began securely to travel on the public ways, which had been deserted; they feasted their eyes with pleasure on the ancient wonders within the city; and, having made their offerings, they returned home with songs of joy. In the meantime the common people of Rome, who had been accustomed to live by theft, began to call him sanguinary, and not worthy to offer sacrifice to God, since he was stained by so many murders; and, as it generally happens that the contagion of slander spreads universally, even the cardinals themselves joined in the sentiments of the people; so that, when this holy man was confined by the sickness which proved his death, they, after consulting among226 themselves, with matchless insolence recommended him not to think of ordering himself to be buried in the church of St. Peter with the rest of the popes, since he had polluted his office by being accessory to the death of so many men. Resuming spirit, however, and sternly regarding them, he addressed them in the following manner:

“If you possessed either a single spark of human reason, or of the knowledge of divine truth, you would hardly have approached your pontiff with so inconsiderate an address; for, throughout my whole life, I have dissipated my own patrimony for your advantage, and at last have sacrificed the applause of the world for your rescue. If any other persons were to allege what you urge in defamation of me, it would become you to silence them by explaining away the false opinions of fools. For whom, I pray you, have I laid up treasure? For myself perhaps? and yet I already possessed the treasures of my predecessors, which were enough for any man’s covetousness. To whom have I restored safety and liberty? You will reply, to myself perhaps? And yet I was adored by the people, and did, without restraint, whatever I pleased; entire orations teemed with my praises; every day resounded my applause. These praises and these applauses have been lost to me, through my concern for your poverty. Towards you I turned my thoughts; and found that I must adopt severer measures. A sacrilegious robber fattened on the produce of your property, while your subsistence was only from day to day. He, from the offerings belonging to you, was clad in costly silk; while you, in mean and tattered clothing, absolutely grieved my sight. In consequence, when I could endure this no longer, I acted with hostility to others, that I might get credit for the clergy, though at the loss of the citizens. However, I now find I have lavished my favours on the ungrateful; for you publicly proclaim what others mutter only in secret. I approve, indeed, your freedom, but I look in vain for your affection. A dying parent is persecuted by his sons concerning his burial. Will you deny me the house common to all living? The harlot, the usurer, the robber, are not forbidden an entrance to the church, and do you refuse it to the pope? What signifies it whether the dead or the living enter the sanctuary, except it be, that the living is subject to many temptations,227 so that he cannot be free from spot even in the church; often finding matter of sin in the very place where he had come to wash it away; whereas the dead knows not how, nay, he who wants only his last sad office, has not the power to sin. What savage barbarity then is it to exclude from the house of God him in whom both the inclination and the power of sinning have ceased! Repent, then, my sons, of your precipitate boldness, if perchance God may forgive you this crime, for you have spoken both foolishly and bitterly even to this present hour. But that you may not suppose me to rest merely on my own authority, listen to reason. Every act of man ought to be considered according to the intention of his heart, that the examination of the deed may proceed to that point whence the design originated; I am deceived if the Truth does not say the same; ‘If thine eye be simple thy whole body shall be full of light; if evil, all thy body shall be dark.’ A wretched pauper hath often come to me to relieve his distress. As I knew not what was about to happen, I have presented him with divers pieces of money, and dismissed him. On his departure he has met with a thief on the public road, has incautiously fallen into conversation with him, proclaimed the kindness of the apostolical see, and, to prove the truth of his words, produced the purse. On their journey the way has been beguiled with various discourse, until the dissembler, loitering somewhat behind, has felled the stranger with a club, and immediately despatched him; and, after carrying off his money, has boasted of a murder which his thirst for plunder had excited. Can you, therefore, justly accuse me for giving that to a stranger which was the cause of his death? for even the most cruel person would not murder a man unless he hoped to fill his pockets with the money. What shall I say of civil and ecclesiastical laws? By these is not the self-same fact both punished and approved under different circumstances? The thief is punished for murdering a man in secret, whereas the soldier is applauded who destroys his enemy in battle; the homicide, then, is ignominious in one and laudable in the other, as the latter committed it for the safety of his country, the former for the gratification of his desire for plunder. My predecessor Adrian the First, of renowned memory, was applauded for giving up the investiture of the churches to228 Charles the Great; so that no person elected could be consecrated by the bishop till the king had first dignified him with the ring and staff: on the other hand the pontiffs of our time have got credit for taking away these appointments from the princes. What at that time, then, might reasonably be granted, may at the present be reasonably taken away. But why so? Because the mind of Charles the Great was not assailable by avarice, nor could any person easily find access unless he entered by the door. Besides, at so vast a distance, it could not be required of the papal see to grant its consent to each person elected, so long as there was a king at hand who disposed of nothing through avarice, but always appointed religious persons to the churches, according to the sacred ordinances of the canons. At the present time luxury and ambition have beset every king’s palace; wherefore the spouse of Christ deservedly asserts her liberty, lest a tyrant should prostitute to an ambitious usurper. Thus, on either side, may my cause be denied or affirmed; it is not the office of a bishop either himself to fight, or to command others to do so; but it belongs to a bishop’s function, if he see innocence made shipwreck of, to oppose both hand and tongue. Ezekiel accuses the priests for not strongly opposing and holding forth a shield for the house of Israel in the day of the Lord. Now there are two persons in the church of God, appointed for the purpose of repressing crimes; one who can rebuke sharply; the other, who can wield the sword. I, as you can witness for me, have not neglected my part; as far as I saw it could profit, I did rebuke sharply. I sent a message to him whose business it was to bear the sword; he wrote me word back, that he was occupied in his war with the Vandals, entreating me not to spare my labour nor his expense in breaking up the meetings of the plunderers. If I had refused, what excuse could I offer to God after the emperor had delegated his office to me? Could I see the murder of the townspeople, the robbery of the pilgrims, and slumber on? But he who spares a thief, kills the innocent. Yet it will be objected that it is not the part of a priest to defile himself with the blood of any one: I grant it. But he does not defile himself, who frees the innocent by the destruction of the guilty. Blessed, truly blessed, are they who always keep judgment229 and do justice. Phineas and Mattathias were priests most renowned in fame, both crowned with the sacred mitre, and both habited in sacerdotal garb; and yet they both punished the wicked with their own hands. The one transfixed the guilty couple with a javelin: the other mingled the blood of the sacrificer with the sacrifice. If then those persons, regarding, as it were, the thick darkness of the law, were, through divine zeal, transported for mysteries, the shadows only of those which were to be; shall we, who see the truth with perfect clearness, suffer our sacred things to be profaned? Azarias the priest drove away king Ozias, when offering incense, and no doubt would have killed him, had he not quickly departed; the divine vengeance, however, anticipated the hand of the priest, for a leprosy preyed on the body of the man whose mind had coveted unlawful things; the devotion of a king was disturbed, and shall not the desires of a thief be so? It is not enough to excuse, I even applaud this my conduct; indeed I have conferred a benefit on the very persons I seem to have destroyed. I have diminished their punishment in accelerating their deaths. The longer a wicked man lives the more he will sin, unless he be such as God hath graciously reserved for a singular example. Death in general is good for all; for by it the just man finds repose in heaven,—the unjust ceases from his crimes,—the bad man puts an end to his guilt,—the good proceeds to his reward,—the saint approaches to the palm,—the sinner looks forward to pardon, because death has fixed a boundary to his transgressions. They then surely ought to thank me, who through my conduct have been exempted from so many sufferings. I have urged these matters in my own defence, and to invalidate your assertions: however, since both your reasoning and mine may be fallacious, let us commit all to the decision of God. Place my body, when laid out in the manner of my predecessors, before the gates of the church; and let them be secured with locks and bars. If God be willing that I should enter, you will hail a miracle; if not, do with my dead body according to your inclination.”

Struck by this address, when he had breathed his last, they carried out the remains of the departed prelate before the doors, which were strongly fastened; and presently a230 whirlwind, sent by God, broke every opposing bolt, and drove the very doors, with the utmost violence, against the walls. The surrounding people applaud with joy, and the body of the pontiff was interred, with all due respect, by the side of the other popes.


At the same time something similar occurred in England, not by divine miracle, but by infernal craft; which when I shall have related, the credit of the narrative will not be shaken, though the minds of the hearers should be incredulous; for I have heard it from a man of such character, who swore he had seen it, that I should blush to disbelieve. There resided at Berkeley a woman addicted to witchcraft, as it afterwards appeared, and skilled in ancient augury: she was excessively gluttonous, perfectly lascivious, setting no bounds to her debaucheries, as she was not old, though fast declining in life. On a certain day, as she was regaling, a jack-daw, which was a very great favourite, chattered a little more loudly than usual. On hearing which the woman’s knife fell from her hand, her countenance grew pale, and deeply groaning, “This day,” said she, “my plough has completed its last furrow; to-day I shall hear of, and suffer, some dreadful calamity.” While yet speaking, the messenger of her misfortunes arrived; and being asked, why he approached with so distressed an air? “I bring news,” said he, “from that village,” naming the place, “of the death of your son, and of the whole family, by a sudden accident.” At this intelligence, the woman, sorely afflicted, immediately took to her bed, and perceiving the disorder rapidly approaching the vitals, she summoned her surviving children, a monk, and a nun, by hasty letters; and, when they arrived, with faltering voice, addressed them thus: “Formerly, my children, I constantly administered to my wretched circumstances by demoniacal arts: I have been the sink of every vice, the teacher of every allurement: yet, while practising these crimes, I was accustomed to soothe my hapless soul with the hope of your piety. Despairing of myself, I rested my expectations on you; I advanced you as my defenders against evil spirits, my safeguards against my strongest foes. Now, since I have approached the end of my life, and shall have those eager to punish, who lured me to sin, I entreat you by your mother’s breasts, if you have any regard, any231 affection, at least to endeavour to alleviate my torments; and, although you cannot revoke the sentence already passed upon my soul, yet you may, perhaps, rescue my body, by these means: sew up my corpse in the skin of a stag; lay it on its back in a stone coffin; fasten down the lid with lead and iron; on this lay a stone, bound round with three iron chains of enormous weight; let there be psalms sung for fifty nights, and masses said for an equal number of days, to allay the ferocious attacks of my adversaries. If I lie thus secure for three nights, on the fourth day bury your mother in the ground; although I fear, lest the earth, which has been so often burdened with my crimes, should refuse to receive and cherish me in her bosom.” They did their utmost to comply with her injunctions: but alas! vain were pious tears, vows, or entreaties; so great was the woman’s guilt, so great the devil’s violence. For on the first two nights, while the choir of priests was singing psalms around the body, the devils, one by one, with the utmost ease bursting open the door of the church, though closed with an immense bolt, broke asunder the two outer chains; the middle one being more laboriously wrought, remained entire. On the third night, about cock-crow, the whole monastery seemed to be overthrown from its very foundation, by the clamour of the approaching enemy. One devil, more terrible in appearance than the rest, and of loftier stature, broke the gates to shivers by the violence of his attack. The priests grew motionless with fear,257 their hair stood on end, and they became speechless. He proceeded, as it appeared, with haughty step towards the coffin, and calling on the woman by name, commanded her to rise. She replying that she could not on account of the chains: “You shall be loosed,” said he, “and to your cost:” and directly he broke the chain, which had mocked the ferocity of the others, with as little exertion as though it had been made of flax. He also beat down the cover of the coffin with his foot, and taking her by the hand, before them all, he dragged her out of the church. At the doors appeared a black horse, proudly neighing, with iron hooks projecting over his whole back; on which the wretched creature was placed, and, immediately, with the whole party, vanished from the eyes of the232 beholders; her pitiable cries, however, for assistance, were heard for nearly the space of four miles. No person will deem this incredible, who has read St. Gregory’s Dialogues;258 who tells, in his fourth book, of a wicked man that had been buried in a church, and was cast out of doors again by devils. Among the French also, what I am about to relate is frequently mentioned. Charles Martel, a man of renowned valour, who obliged the Saracens, when they had invaded France, to retire to Spain, was, at his death, buried in the church of St. Denys; but as he had seized much of the property of almost all the monasteries in France for the purpose of paying his soldiers, he was visibly taken away from his tomb by evil spirits, and has nowhere been seen to his day. At length this was revealed to the bishop of Orleans, and by him publicly made known.


But to return to Rome: there was a citizen of this place, youthful, rich, and of senatorial rank, who had recently married; and, who calling together his companions, had made a plentiful entertainment. After the repast, when by moderate drinking they had excited hilarity, they went out into the field to promote digestion, either by leaping, or hurling, or some other exercise. The master of the banquet, who was leader of the game, called for a ball to play with, and in the meantime placed the wedding ring on the outstretched finger of a brazen statue which stood close at hand. But when almost all the others had attacked him alone, tired with the violence of the exercise, he left off playing first, and going to resume his ring, he saw the finger of the statue clenched fast in the palm. Finding, after many attempts, that he was unable either to force it off, or to break the finger, he retired in silence; concealing the matter from his companions, lest they should laugh at him at the moment, or deprive him of the ring when he was gone. Returning thither with some servants in the dead of night, he was surprised to find the finger again extended, and the ring taken away. Dissembling his loss, he was soothed by the blandishments of his bride. When the hour of rest arrived, and he had placed himself by the side of his spouse, he was conscious of something dense, and cloud-like, rolling between them, which might be felt, though not seen,233 and by this means was impeded in his embraces: he heard a voice too, saying, “Embrace me, since you wedded me to-day; I am Venus, on whose finger you put the ring; I have it, nor will I restore it.” Terrified at such a prodigy, he had neither courage, nor ability to reply, and passed a sleepless night in silent reflection upon the matter. A considerable space of time elapsed in this way: as often as he was desirous of the embraces of his wife, the same circumstance ever occurred; though in other respects, he was perfectly equal to any avocation, civil or military. At length, urged by the complaints of his consort, he detailed the matter to her parents; who, after deliberating for a time, disclosed it to one Palumbus, a suburban priest. This man was skilled in necromancy, could raise up magical figures, terrify devils, and impel them to do anything he chose. Making an agreement, that he should fill his purse most plentifully, provided he succeeded in rendering the lovers happy, he called up all the powers of his art, and gave the young man a letter which he had prepared; saying, “Go, at such an hour of the night, into the high road, where it divides into four several ways, and stand there in silent expectation. There will pass by human figures of either sex, of every age, rank, and condition; some on horseback, some on foot; some with countenances dejected, others elated with full-swollen insolence; in short, you will perceive in their looks and gestures, every symptom both of joy and of grief: though these should address you, enter into conversation with none of them. This company will be followed by a person taller, and more corpulent than the rest, sitting in a chariot; to him you will, in silence, give the letter to read, and immediately your wish will be accomplished, provided you act with resolution.” The young man took the road he was commanded; and, at night, standing in the open air, experienced the truth of the priest’s assertion by everything which he saw; there was nothing but what was completed to a tittle. Among other passing figures, he beheld a woman, in meretricious garb, riding on a mule; her hair, which was bound above in a golden fillet, floated unconfined on her shoulders; in her hand was a golden wand, with which she directed the progress of her beast; she was so thinly clad, as to be almost naked, and her gestures were wonderfully indecent. But234 what need of more? At last came the chief, in appearance, who, from his chariot adorned with emeralds and pearls, fixing his eyes most sternly on the young man, demanded the cause of his presence. He made no reply, but stretching out his hand, gave him the letter. The demon, not daring to despise the well-known seal, read the epistle, and immediately, lifting up his hands to heaven, “Almighty God,” said he, “in whose sight every transgression is as a noisome smell, how long wilt thou endure the crimes of the priest Palumbus?” The devil then directly sent some of those about him to take the ring by force from Venus, who restored it at last, though with great reluctance. The young man thus obtaining his object, became possessed of his long desired pleasures without farther obstacle; but Palumbus, on hearing of the devil’s complaint to God concerning him, understood that the close of his days was predicted. In consequence, making a pitiable atonement by voluntarily cutting off all his limbs, he confessed unheard-of crimes to the pope in the presence of the Roman people.

At that time the body of Pallas, the son of Evander, of whom Virgil speaks, was found entire at Rome, to the great astonishment of all, for having escaped corruption so many ages. Such, however, is the nature of bodies embalmed, that, when the flesh decays, the skin preserves the nerves, and the nerves the bones. The gash which Turnus had made in the middle of his breast measured four feet and a half. His epitaph was found to this effect,

Pallas, Evander’s son, lies buried here
In order due, transfix’d by Turnus’ spear.

Which epitaph I should not think made at the time, though Carmentis the mother of Evander is reported to have discovered the Roman letters, but that it was composed by Ennius, or some other ancient poet.259 There was a burning lamp at his head, constructed by magical art; so that no235 violent blast, no dripping of water could extinguish it. While many were lost in admiration at this, one person, as there are always some people expert in mischief, made an aperture beneath the flame with an iron style, which introducing the air, the light vanished. The body, when set up against the wall, surpassed it in height, but some days afterwards, being drenched with the drip of the eves, it acknowledged the corruption common to mortals; the skin and the nerves dissolving.


At that time too, on the confines of Brittany and Normandy, a prodigy was seen in one, or more properly speaking, in two women: there were two heads, four arms, and every other part two-fold to the navel; beneath, were two legs, two feet, and all other parts single. While one was laughing, eating, or speaking, the other would cry, fast, or remain silent: though both mouths ate, yet the excrement was discharged by only one passage. At last, one dying, the other survived, and the living carried about the dead, for the space of three years, till she died also, through the fatigue of the weight, and the stench of the dead carcass.260 Many were of opinion, and some even have written, that these women represented England and Normandy, which, though separated by position, are yet united under one master. Whatever wealth these countries greedily absorb, flows into one common receptacle, which is either the covetousness of princes, or the ferocity of surrounding nations. England, yet vigorous, supports with her wealth Normandy now dead and almost decayed, until she herself perhaps shall fall through the violence of spoilers. Happy, if she shall ever again breathe that liberty, the mere shadow of which she has long pursued! She now mourns, borne down with calamity, and oppressed with exactions; the causes of which misery I shall relate, after I have despatched some things pertaining to my subject. For since I have hitherto recorded the civil and military transactions of the kings of England, I236 may be allowed to expatiate somewhat on the sanctity of certain of them; and at the same time to contemplate what splendour of divine love beamed on this people, from the first dawning of their faith: since I believe you can no where find the bodies of so many saints entire after death, typifying the state of final incorruption. I imagine this to have taken place by God’s agency, in order that a nation, situated, as it were, almost out of the world, should more confidently embrace the hope of a resurrection from the contemplation of the incorruption of the saints. There are, altogether, five which I have known of, though the residents in many places boast of more; Saint Etheldrida,261 and Werburga, virgins; king Edmund; archbishop Elphege;262 Cuthbert the ancient father: who with skin and flesh unwasted, and their joints flexile, appear to have a certain vital warmth about them, and to be merely sleeping. Who can enumerate all the other saints, of different ranks and professions? whose names and lives, singly to describe, I have neither intention nor leisure: yet oh that I might hereafter have leisure! But I will be silent, lest I should seem to promise more than I can perform. In consequence, it is not necessary to mention any of the commonalty, but merely, not to go out of the path of my subject history, the male and female scions of the royal stock, most of them innocently murdered; and who have been consecrated martyrs, not by human conjecture, but by divine acknowledgment. Hence may be known how little indulgence they gave to the lust of pleasure, who inherited eternal glory by means of so easy a death.


In the former book, my history dwelt for some time on the praises of the most holy Oswald, king and martyr; among whose other marks of sanctity, was this, which, according to some copies, is related in the History of the Angles.263 In the monastery at Selsey, which Wilfrid of holy memory had237 filled with Northumbrian monks, a dreadful malady broke out, and destroyed numbers; the remainder endeavoured to avert the pestilence by a fast of three days. On the second day of the fast, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, appearing to a youth who was sick with the disorder, animated him by observing: “That he should not fear approaching death, as it would be a termination of his present illness, and an entrance into eternal life; that no other person of that monastery would die of this disorder, because God had granted this to the merits of the noble king Oswald, who was that very day supplicating for his countrymen: for it was on this day that the king, murdered by the faithless, had in a moment ascended to the heavenly tribunal: that they should search, therefore, in the scroll, in which the names of the dead were written, and if they found it so, they should put an end to the fast, give loose to security and joy, and sing solemn masses to God, and to the holy king.” This vision being quickly followed by the death of the boy, and the anniversary of the martyr being found in the martyrology, and at the same time the cessation of the disorder being attested by the whole province, the name of Oswald was from that period inserted among the martyrs, which before, on account of his recent death, had only been admitted into the list of the faithful. Deservedly, I say, then, deservedly is he to be celebrated, whose glory the divine approbation so signally manifested, as to order him to be dignified with masses, in a manner, as I think, not usual among men. The undoubted veracity of the historian precludes the possibility of supposing this matter to be false; as does also the blessed bishop Acca,264 who was the friend of the author.

Egbert, king of Kent, the son of Erconbert, whom I have mentioned before, had some very near relations, descended from the royal line; their names were Ethelred265 and Ethelbert, the sons of Ermenred his uncle. Apprehensive that they might grow up with notions of succeeding to the kingdom, and fearful for his safety, he kept them about him for some time, with very homely entertainment: and, at last, grudging them his regards, he removed them from his court.238 Soon after, when they had been secretly despatched by one of his servants named Thunre, which signifies Thunder, he buried them under heaps of rubbish, thinking that a murder perpetrated in privacy would escape detection. The eye of God however, which no secrets of the heart can deceive, brought the innocents to light, vouchsafing many cures upon the spot; until the neighbours, being roused, dug up the unsightly heaps of turf and rubbish cast upon their bodies, and forming a trench after the manner of a sepulchre, they erected a small church over it. There they remained till the time of king Edgar, when they were taken up by St. Oswald, archbishop266 of Worcester, and conveyed to the monastery of Ramsey; from which period, granting the petitions of the suppliant, they have manifested themselves by many miracles.

Offa king of the Mercians murdered many persons of consequence for the security, as he supposed, of his kingdom, without any distinction of friend or foe; among these was king Ethelbert;267 thereby being guilty of an atrocious outrage against the suitor of his daughter. His unmerited death, however, is thought to have been amply avenged by the short reign of Offa’s son. Indeed God signalised his sanctity by such evident tokens, that at this very day the episcopal church of Hereford is consecrated to his name. Nor should any thing appear idle or irrelevant, which our pious and religious ancestors have either tolerated by their silence, or confirmed by their authority.

What shall my pen here trace worthy of St. Kenelm, a youth of tender age? Kenulf, king of the Mercians, his father, had consigned him, when seven years old, to his sister Quendrida, for the purpose of education. But she, falsely entertaining hopes of the kingdom for herself, gave her little brother in charge to a servant of her household, with an order to despatch him. Taking out the innocent, under pretence of hunting for his amusement or recreation, he murdered and hid him in a thicket. But strange to tell, the crime which had been so secretly committed in England, gained publicity in Rome, by God’s agency: for a dove, from heaven, bore a parchment scroll to the altar of St. Peter, containing an exact account both of his death and239 place of burial. As this was written in the English language it was vainly attempted to be read by the Romans and men of other nations who were present. Fortunately, however, and opportunely, an Englishman was at hand, who translated the writing to the Roman people, into Latin, and gave occasion to the pope to write a letter to the kings of England, acquainting them with the martyrdom of their countryman. In consequence of this the body of the innocent was taken up in presence of a numerous assembly, and removed to Winchcomb. The murderous woman was so indignant at the vocal chaunt of the priests and loud applause of the laity, that she thrust out her head from the window of the chamber where she was standing, and, by chance, having in her hands a psalter, she came in course of reading to the psalm “O God my praise,” which, for I know not what charm, reading backwards, she endeavoured to drown the joy of the choristers. At that moment, her eyes, torn by divine vengeance from their hollow sockets, scattered blood upon the verse which runs, “This is the work of them who defame me to the Lord, and who speak evil against my soul.” The marks of her blood are still extant, proving the cruelty of the woman, and the vengeance of God. The body of the little saint is very generally adored, and there is hardly any place in England more venerated, or where greater numbers of persons attend at the festival; and this arising from the long-continued belief of his sanctity, and the constant exhibition of miracles.

[A.D. 1065.]     SAINT WISTAN.

Nor shall my history be wanting in thy praise, Wistan,268 blessed youth, son of Wimund, son of Withlaf king of the Mercians, and of Elfleda, daughter of Ceolwulf, who was the uncle of Kenelm; I will not, I say, pass thee over in silence, whom Berfert thy relation so atrociously murdered. And let posterity know, if they deem this history worthy of perusal, that there was nothing earthly more praiseworthy than your disposition; at which a deadly assassin becoming irritated, despatched you: nor was there any thing more innocent than your purity towards God; invited by which, the secret Judge deemed it fitting to honour you: for a pillar of light, sent down from heaven, piercing the sable robe of night,240 revealed the wickedness of the deep cavern, and brought to view the crime of the murderer. In consequence, Wistan’s venerable remains were taken up, and by the care of his relations conveyed to Rependun;269 at that time a famous monastery, now a villa belonging to the earl of Chester, and its glory grown obsolete with age; but at present thou dwellest at Evesham, kindly favouring the petitions of such as regard thee.


Bede has related many anecdotes of the sanctity of the kings of the East Saxons, and East Angles, whose genealogy I have in the first book of this work traced briefly; because I could no where find a complete history of the kings. I shall however, dilate somewhat on St. Edmund, who held dominion in East Anglia, and to whom the time of Bede did not extend. This province, on the south and east, is surrounded by the ocean; on the north, by deep lakes, and stagnant pools, which, stretching out a vast distance in length, with a breadth of two or three miles, afford abundance of fish for the use of the inhabitants; on the west it is continuous with the rest of the island, but defended by the earth’s being thrown up in the form of a rampart.270 The soil is admirable for pasture, and for hunting; it is full of monasteries, and large bodies of monks are settled on the islands of these stagnant waters; the people are a merry, pleasant, jovial race, though apt to carry their jokes to excess. Here, then, reigned Edmund; a man devoted to God, ennobled by his descent from ancient kings, and though he presided over the province in peace for several years, yet never through the effeminacy of the times did he relax his virtue. Hingwar and Hubba, two leaders of the Danes, came over to depopulate the provinces of the Northumbrians and East Angles. The former of these seized the unresisting king, who had cast away his arms and was lying on the ground in prayer, and, after the infliction of tortures,271 beheaded him. On the death of this saintly man, the purity of his past life was evidenced by unheard-of miracles. The Danes had cast away the head, when severed from the body241 by the cruelty of the executioners, and it had been hidden in a thicket. While his subjects, who had tracked the footsteps of the enemy as they departed, were seeking it, intending to solemnize with due honour the funeral rites of their king, they were struck with the pleasing intervention of God: for the lifeless head uttered a voice, inviting all who were in search of it to approach. A wolf, a beast accustomed to prey upon dead carcasses, was holding it in its paws, and guarding it untouched; which animal also, after the manner of a tame creature, gently followed the bearers to the tomb, and neither did nor received any injury. The sacred body was then, for a time, committed to the earth; turf was placed over it, and a wooden chapel, of trifling cost, erected. The negligent natives, however, were soon made sensible of the virtue of the martyr, which excited their listless minds to reverence him, by the miracles which he performed. And though perhaps the first proof of his power may appear weak and trivial, yet nevertheless I shall subjoin it. He bound, with invisible bands, some thieves who had endeavoured to break into the church by night: this was done in the very attempt; a pleasant spectacle enough, to see the plunder hold fast the thief, so that he could neither desist from the enterprise, nor complete the design. In consequence, Theodred bishop of London, who lies at St. Paul’s, removed the lasting disgrace of so mean a structure, by building a nobler edifice over those sacred limbs, which evidenced the glory of his unspotted soul, by surprising soundness, and a kind of milky whiteness. The head, which was formerly divided from the neck, is again united to the rest of the body showing only the sign of martyrdom by a purple seam. One circumstance indeed surpasses human miracles, which is, that the hair and nails of the dead man continue to grow: these, Oswen, a holy woman, used yearly to clip and cut, that they might be objects of veneration to posterity. Truly this was a holy temerity, for a woman to contemplate and handle limbs superior to the whole of this world. Not so Leofstan, a youth of bold and untamed insolence, who, with many impertinent threats, commanded the body of the martyr to be shown to him; for he was desirous, as he said, of settling the uncertainty of report by the testimony of his own eyesight. He paid dearly, however, for his audacious experiment;242 for he became insane, and shortly after, died, swarming with vermin. He felt indeed that Edmund was now capable of doing, what he before used to do; that is,

“To spare the suppliant, but confound the proud,”

by which means he so completely engaged the inhabitants of all Britain to him, that every person looked upon himself as particularly happy, in contributing either money or gifts to St. Edmund’s monastery: even kings themselves, who rule others, used to boast of being his servants, and sent him their royal crown; redeeming it, if they wished to use it, at a great price. The exactors of taxes also, who, in other places, gave loose to injustice, were there suppliant, and ceased their cavilling at St. Edmund’s boundary,272 admonished thereto by the punishment of others who had presumed to overpass it.

My commendations shall also glance at the names of some maidens of the royal race, though I must claim indulgence for being brief upon the subject, not through fastidiousness, but because I am unacquainted with their miracles. Anna king of the East Angles had three daughters, Etheldrida, Ethelberga, and Sexberga. Etheldrida, though married to two husbands, yet by means of saintly continence, as Bede relates, without any diminution of modesty, without a single lustful inclination, triumphantly displayed to heaven the palm of perpetual virginity. Ethelberga, first a nun, and afterwards abbess, in a monastery in France called Brigis,273 was celebrated for unblemished chastity; and it is well worthy of remark, that as both sisters had subdued the lusts of the flesh while living, so, when dead, their bodies remained uncorrupt, the one in England, and the other in France; insomuch, that their sanctity, which is abundantly resplendent, may suffice

“To cast its radiance over both the poles.”

Sexberga was married to Erconbert king of Kent, and, after his death, took the veil in the same monastery where her sister Etheldrida was proclaimed a saint. She had two daughters by king Erconbert, Earcongota and Ermenhilda.243 Of Ercongota, such as wish for information will find it in Bede;274 Ermenhilda married Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, and had a daughter, Werburga, a most holy virgin. Both are saints: the mother, that is to say, St. Ermenhilda, rests at Ely, where she was abbess after her mother, Sexberga; and the daughter lies at Chester, in the monastery of that city, which Hugo earl of Chester, ejecting a few canons who resided there in a mean and irregular manner, has recently erected. The praises and miracles of both these women, and particularly of the younger, are there extolled and held in veneration; and though they are favourable to all petitions without delay, yet are they more especially kind and assistant to the supplications of women and youths.


Merewald the brother of Wulfhere, by Ermenburga, the daughter of Ermenred brother of Erconbert king of Kent, had two daughters: Mildritha and Milburga. Mildritha, dedicating herself to celibacy, ended her days in the Isle of Thanet in Kent, which king Egbert had given to her mother, to atone for the murder of her brothers, Ethelred and Ethelbert.275 In after times, being transferred to St. Augustine’s monastery at Canterbury, she is there honoured by the marked attention of the monks, and celebrated equally for her kindness and affability to all, as her name276 implies. And although almost every corner of that monastery is filled with the bodies of saints of great name and merit, any one of which would be of itself sufficient to irradiate all England, yet no one is there more revered, more loved, or more gratefully remembered; and she, turning a deaf ear to none who love her, is present to them in the salvation of their souls.

Milburga reposes at Wenlock:277 formerly well known to the neighbouring inhabitants; but for some time after the arrival of the Normans, through ignorance of the place of her burial, she was neglected. Lately, however, a convent of244 Clugniac monks being established there, while a new church was erecting, a certain boy running violently along the pavement, broke into the hollow of the vault, and discovered the body of the virgin; when a balsamic odour pervading the whole church, she was taken up, and performed so many miracles, that the people flocked thither in great multitudes. Large spreading plains could hardly contain the troops of pilgrims, while rich and poor came side by side, one common faith impelling all. Nor did the event deceive their expectations: for no one departed, without either a perfect cure, or considerable abatement of his malady, and some were even healed of the king’s evil, by the merits of this virgin, when medical assistance was unavailing.

Edward the Elder, of whom I have before spoken at large, had by his wife Edgiva, several daughters. Among these was Eadburga, who, when she was scarcely three years old, gave a singular indication of her future sanctity. Her father was inclined to try whether the little girl was inclined to God, or to the world, and had placed in a chamber the symbols of different professions; on one side a chalice, and the gospels; on the other, bracelets and necklaces. Hither the child was brought in the arms of her indulgent attendant, and, sitting on her father’s knee, was desired to choose which she pleased. Rejecting the earthly ornaments with stern regard, she instantly fell prostrate before the chalice and the gospels, and worshipped them with infant adoration. The company present exclaimed aloud, and fondly hailed the prospect of the child’s future sanctity; her father embraced the infant in a manner still more endearing. “Go,” said he, “whither the Divinity calls thee; follow with prosperous steps the spouse whom thou hast chosen, and truly blessed shall my wife and myself be, if we are surpassed in holiness by our daughter.” When clothed in the garb of a nun, she gained the affection of all her female companions, in the city of Winchester, by the marked attention she paid them. Nor did the greatness of her birth elevate her; as she esteemed it noble to stoop to the service of Christ. Her sanctity increased with her years, her humility kept pace with her growth; so that she used secretly to steal away the socks of the several nuns at night, and, carefully washing and anointing them, lay them again upon their beds. Wherefore,245 though God signalized her, while living, by many miracles, yet I more particularly bring forward this circumstance, to show that charity began all her works, and humility completed them: and finally, many miracles in her life-time, and since her death, confirm the devotion of her heart and the incorruptness of her body, which the attendants at her churches at Winchester and Pershore relate to such as are unacquainted with them.

[A.D. 1065.]     ST. EDITHA’S CHASTITY.

St. Editha, the daughter of king Edgar, ennobles, with her relics, the monastery of Wilton, where she was buried, and cherishes that place with her regard, where, trained from her infancy in the school of the Lord, she gained his favour by unsullied virginity, and constant watchings: repressing the pride of her high birth by her humility. I have heard one circumstance of her, from persons of elder days, which greatly staggered the opinions of men: for she led them into false conclusions from the splendour of her costly dress; being always habited in richer garb than the sanctity of her profession seemed to require. On this account, being openly rebuked by St. Ethelwold, she is reported to have answered with equal point and wit, that the judgment of God was true and irrefragable, while that of man, alone, was fallible; for pride might exist even under the garb of wretchedness: wherefore, “I think,” said she, “that a mind may be as pure beneath these vestments, as under your tattered furs.” The bishop was deeply struck by this speech; admitting its truth by his silence, and blushing with pleasure that he had been chastised by the sparkling repartee of the lady, he held his peace. St. Dunstan had observed her, at the consecration of the church of St. Denys, which she had built out of affection to that martyr, frequently stretching out her right thumb, and making the sign of the cross upon her forehead; and being extremely delighted at it, “May this finger,” he exclaimed, “never see corruption:” and immediately, while celebrating mass, he burst into such a flood of tears, that he alarmed with his faltering voice an assistant standing near him; who inquiring the reason of it, “Soon,” said he, “shall this blooming rose wither; soon shall this beloved bird take its flight to God, after the expiration of six weeks from this time.” The truth of the prelate’s prophecy was very shortly fulfilled; for on the appointed day, this noble, firmly-minded246 lady, expired in her prime, at the age of twenty-three years. Soon after, the same saint saw, in a dream, St. Denys kindly taking the virgin by the hand, and strictly enjoining, by divine command, that she should be honoured by her servants on earth, in the same manner as she was venerated by her spouse and master in heaven. Miracles multiplying at her tomb, it was ordered, that her virgin body should be taken up, and exalted in a shrine; when the whole of it was found resolved into dust, except the finger, with the abdomen and parts adjacent. In consequence of which, some debate arising, the virgin herself appeared, in a dream, to one of those who had seen her remains, saying, “It was no wonder, if the other parts of the body had decayed, since it was customary for dead bodies to moulder to their native dust, and she, perhaps, as a girl, had sinned with those members; but it was highly just, that the abdomen should see no corruption which had never felt the sting of lust; as she had been entirely free from gluttony or carnal copulation.”

Truly both these virgins support their respective monasteries by their merits; each of them being filled with large assemblies of nuns, who answer obediently to the call of their mistresses and patronesses, inviting them to virtue. Happy the man, who becomes partaker of those virgin orisons which the Lord Jesus favours with kind regard. For, as I have remarked of the nuns of Shaftesbury, all virtues have long since quitted the earth, and retired to heaven; or, if any where, (but this I must say with the permission of holy men,) are to be found only in the hearts of nuns; and surely those women are highly to be praised, who, regardless of the weakness of their sex, vie with each other in the preservation of their continence, and by such means ascend, triumphant, to heaven.

I think it of importance to have been acquainted with many of the royal family of either sex; as it may be gathered from thence that king Edward, concerning whom I was speaking before I digressed, by no means degenerated from the virtues of his ancestors. In fact he was famed both for miracles, and for the spirit of prophecy, as I shall hereafter relate. In the exaction of taxes he was sparing, and he abominated the insolence of collectors: in eating and drinking he was free from the voluptuousness which his247 state allowed: on the more solemn festivals, though dressed in robes interwoven with gold, which the queen had most splendidly embroidered, yet still he had such forbearance, as to be sufficiently majestic, without being haughty; considering in such matters, rather the bounty of God, than the pomp of the world. There was one earthly enjoyment in which he chiefly delighted; which was, hunting with fleet hounds, whose opening in the woods he used with pleasure to encourage: and again, with the pouncing of birds, whose nature it is to prey on their kindred species. In these exercises, after hearing divine service in the morning, he employed himself whole days. In other respects he was a man by choice devoted to God, and lived the life of an angel in the administration of his kingdom. To the poor and to the stranger, more especially foreigners and men of religious orders, he was kind in invitation, munificent in his presents, and constantly exciting the monks of his own country to imitate their holiness. He was of a becoming stature; his beard and hair milk-white; his countenance florid; fair throughout his whole person; and his form of admirable proportion.


The happiness of his times had been revealed in a dream to Brithwin bishop of Wilton, who had made it public. For in the time of Canute, when, at Glastonbury, he was once intent on heavenly watchings, and the thought of the near extinction of the royal race of the Angles, which frequently distressed him, came into his mind, sleep stole upon him thus meditating; when behold! he was rapt on high, and saw Peter, the chief of the apostles, consecrating Edward, who at that time was an exile in Normandy, king; his chaste life too was pointed out, and the exact period of his reign, twenty-four years, determined; and, when inquiring about his posterity, it was answered, “The kingdom of the English belongs to God; after you he will provide a king according to his pleasure.”

But now to speak of his miracles. A young woman had married a husband of her own age, but having no issue by the union, the humours collecting abundantly about her neck, she had contracted a sore disorder; the glands swelling in a dreadful manner. Admonished in a dream to have the part affected washed by the king, she entered the palace, and248 the king himself fulfilled this labour of love, by rubbing the woman’s neck with his fingers dipped in water. Joyous health followed his healing hand: the lurid skin opened, so that worms flowed out with the purulent matter, and the tumour subsided. But as the orifice of the ulcers was large and unsightly, he commanded her to be supported at the royal expense till she should be perfectly cured. However, before a week was expired, a fair, new skin returned, and hid the scars so completely, that nothing of the original wound could be discovered: and within a year becoming the mother of twins, she increased the admiration of Edward’s holiness. Those who knew him more intimately, affirm that he often cured this complaint in Normandy: whence appears how false is their notion, who in our times assert, that the cure of this disease does not proceed from personal sanctity, but from hereditary virtue in the royal line.

A certain man, blind from some unknown mischance, had persisted in asserting about the palace, that he should be cured, if he could touch his eyes with the water in which the king’s hands had been washed. This was frequently related to Edward, who derided it, and looked angrily on the persons who mentioned it; confessing himself a sinner, and that the works of holy men did not belong to him. But the servants, thinking this a matter not to be neglected, tried the experiment when he was ignorant of it, and was praying in church. The instant the blind man was washed with the water, the long-enduring darkness fled from his eyes, and they were filled with joyful light; and the king, inquiring the cause of the grateful clamour of the by-standers, was informed of the fact. Presently afterwards, when, by thrusting his fingers towards the eyes of the man he had cured, and perceiving him draw back his head to avoid them, he had made proof of his sight, he, with uplifted hands, returned thanks to God. In the same way he cured a blind man at Lincoln, who survived him many years, a proof of the royal miracle.

That you may know the perfect virtue of this prince, in the power of healing more especially, I shall add something which will excite your wonder. Wulwin, surnamed Spillecorn, the son of Wulmar of Nutgareshale, was one day cutting timber in the wood of Bruelle, and indulging in a249 long sleep after his labour, he lost his sight for seventeen years, from the blood, as I imagine, stagnating about his eyes: at the end of this time, he was admonished in a dream to go round to eighty-seven churches, and earnestly entreat a cure of his blindness from the saints. At last he came to the king’s court, where he remained for a long time, in vain, in opposition to the attendants, at the vestibule of his chamber. He still continued importunate, however, without being deterred, till at last, after much difficulty, he was admitted by order of the king. When he had heard the dream, he mildly answered, “By my lady St. Mary, I shall be truly grateful, if God, through my means, shall choose to take pity upon a wretched creature.” In consequence, though he had no confidence in himself, with respect to miracles, yet, at the instigation of his servants, he placed his hand, dipped in water, on the blind man. In a moment the blood dripped plentifully from his eyes, and the man, restored to sight, exclaimed with rapture, “I see you, O king! I see you, O king!” In this recovered state, he had charge of the royal palace at Windsor, for there the cure had been performed, for a long time; surviving his restorer several years. On the same day, from the same water, three blind men, and a man with one eye, who were supported on the royal arms, received a cure; the servants administering the healing water with perfect confidence.

[A.D. 1065.]     POPES AND EMPERORS.

On Easter-day, he was sitting at table at Westminster, with the crown on his head, and surrounded by a crowd of nobles. While the rest were greedily eating, and making up for the long fast of Lent by the newly provided viands, he, with mind abstracted from earthly things, was absorbed in the contemplation of some divine matter, when presently he excited the attention of the guests by bursting into profuse laughter: and as none presumed to inquire into the cause of his joy, he remained silent as before, till satiety had put an end to the banquet. After the tables were removed, and as he was unrobing in his chamber, three persons of rank followed him; of these earl Harold was one, the second was an abbat, and the third a bishop, who presuming on their intimacy asked the cause of his laughter, observing, that it seemed just matter of astonishment to see him, in such perfect tranquillity both of time and occupation, burst into a vulgar laugh, while250 all others were silent. “I saw something wonderful,” said he, “and therefore I did not laugh without a cause.” At this, as is the custom of mankind, they began to inquire and search into the matter more earnestly, entreating that he would condescend to disclose it to them. After much reluctance, he yielded to their persevering solicitations, and related the following wonderful circumstance, saying, that the Seven Sleepers in mount Cœlius had now lain for two hundred years on their right side, but that, at the very hour of his laughter, they turned upon their left; that they would continue to lie in this manner for seventy-four years, which would be a dreadful omen to wretched mortals. For every thing would come to pass, in these seventy-four years, which the Lord had foretold to his disciples concerning the end of the world; nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; earthquakes would be in divers places; pestilence and famine, terrors from heaven and great signs; changes in kingdoms; wars of the gentiles against the Christians, and also victories of the Christians over the pagans. Relating these matters to his wondering audience, he descanted on the passion of these sleepers, and the make of their bodies, though totally unnoticed in history, as readily as though he had lived in daily intercourse with them. On hearing this the earl sent a knight; the bishop a clergyman; and the abbat a monk, to Maniches the Constantinopolitan emperor, to investigate the truth of his declaration; adding letters and presents from the king. After being kindly entertained, Maniches sent them to the bishop of Ephesus, giving them at the same time what is called a holy letter, that the martyr-relics of the Seven Sleepers should be shown to the delegates of the king of England.278 It fell out that251 the presage of king Edward was proved by all the Greeks, who could swear they had heard from their fathers that the men were lying on their right side; but after the entrance of the English into the vault, they published the truth of the foreign prophecy to their countrymen. Nor was it long before the predicted evils came to pass; for the Hagarens, and Arabs, and Turks, nations averse to Christ, making havoc of the Christians, overran Syria, and Lycia, and Asia Minor altogether, devastating many cities too of Asia Major, among which was Ephesus, and even Jerusalem itself. At the same time, on the death of Maniches emperor of Constantinople, Diogenes, and Michaelius, and Bucinacius, and Alexius, in turn hurled each other headlong from the throne; the last of whom, continuing till our time, left for heir his son John more noted for cunning and deceit than worth. He contrived many hurtful plots against the pilgrims on their sacred journey; but venerating the fidelity of the English, he showed them every civility, and transmitted his regard for them to his son.279 In the next seven years were three popes, Victor, Stephen, Nicholas,280 who diminished the vigour of the papacy by their successive deaths. Almost immediately afterwards too died Henry, the pious emperor of the Romans, and had for successor Henry his son, who brought many calamities on the city of Rome by his folly and his wickedness. The same year Henry, king of France, a good and active warrior, died by poison. Soon after a comet, a star denoting, as they say, change in kingdoms, appeared trailing its extended and fiery train along the sky. Wherefore a certain monk of our monastery,281 by name Elmer, bowing down with terror at the sight of the brilliant star, wisely exclaimed, “Thou art come! a matter of lamentation to many a mother art thou come; I have seen252 thee long since; but I now behold thee much more terrible, threatening to hurl destruction on this country.” He was a man of good learning for those times, of mature age, and in his early youth had hazarded an attempt of singular temerity. He had by some contrivance fastened wings to his hands and feet, in order that, looking upon the fable as true, he might fly like Dædalus, and collecting the air on the summit of a tower, had flown for more than the distance of a furlong; but, agitated by the violence of the wind and the current of air, as well as by the consciousness of his rash attempt, he fell and broke his legs, and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.

Another prophecy similar to this, Edward uttered when dying, which I shall here anticipate. When he had lain two days speechless, on the third, sadly and deeply sighing as he awoke from his torpor, “Almighty God,” said he, “as this shall be a real vision, or a vain illusion, which I have seen, grant me the power of explaining it, or not, to the by-standers.” Soon after speaking fluently, “I saw just now,” continued he, “two monks near me, whom formerly, when a youth in Normandy, I knew both to have lived in a most religious manner, and to have died like perfect Christians. These men, announcing themselves as the messengers of God, spake to the following effect: ‘Since the chiefs of England, the dukes, bishops, and abbats, are not the ministers of God, but of the devil, God, after your death, has delivered this kingdom for a year and a day, into the hand of the enemy, and devils shall wander over all the land.’ And when I said that I would show these things to my people; and promised that they should liberate themselves by repentance, after the old example of the Ninevites; ‘Neither of these,’ said they, ‘shall take place; for they will not repent, nor will God have mercy on them.’ When then, said I, may cessation from such great calamities be hoped for? They replied, ‘Whenever a green tree shall be cut through the middle, and the part cut off, being carried the space of three acres from the trunk, shall, without any assistance, become again united to its stem, bud out with flowers, and stretch forth its fruit, as before, from the sap again uniting; then may a cessation of such evils be at last expected.’”

253 Though others were apprehensive of the truth of this prediction, yet Stigand, at that time archbishop, received it with laughter; saying, that the old man doted through disease. We, however, find the truth of the presage experimentally; for England is become the residence of foreigners, and the property of strangers: at the present time, there is no Englishman, either earl, bishop, or abbat; strangers all, they prey upon the riches and vitals of England; nor is there any hope of a termination to this misery. The cause of which evil, as I have long since promised, it is now high time that my narrative should endeavour briefly to disclose.

[A.D. 1065.]     DEATH OF EDWARD.
[A.D. 1066.]     HAROLD.

King Edward declining into years, as he had no children himself, and saw the sons of Godwin growing in power, despatched messengers to the king of Hungary, to send over Edward, the son of his brother Edmund, with all his family: intending, as he declared, that either he, or his sons, should succeed to the hereditary kingdom of England, and that his own want of issue should be supplied by that of his kindred. Edward came in consequence, but died almost immediately at St. Paul’s282 in London: he was neither valiant, nor a man of abilities. He left three surviving children; that is to say, Edgar, who, after the death of Harold, was by some elected king; and who, after many revolutions of fortune, is now living wholly retired in the country, in extreme old age: Christina, who grew old at Romsey in the habit of a nun: Margaret, whom Malcolm king of the Scots espoused. Blessed with a numerous offspring, her sons were Edgar, and Alexander, who reigned in Scotland after their father in due succession: for the eldest, Edward, had fallen in battle with his father; the youngest, David, noted for his meekness and discretion, is at present king of Scotland. Her daughters were, Matilda, whom in our time king Henry has married, and Maria, whom Eustace the younger, earl of Boulogne, espoused. The king, in consequence of the death of his relation, losing his first hope of support, gave the succession of England to William earl of Normandy.283 He was well worthy of such a gift, being a young man of superior mind, who had raised himself to the highest eminence by his unwearied254 exertion: moreover, he was his nearest relation by consanguinity, as he was the son of Robert, the son of Richard the second, whom we have repeatedly mentioned as the brother of Emma, Edward’s mother. Some affirm that Harold himself was sent into Normandy by the king for this purpose: others, who knew Harold’s more secret intentions, say, that being driven thither against his will, by the violence of the wind, he imagined this device, in order to extricate himself. This, as it appears nearest the truth, I shall relate. Harold being at his country-seat at Boseham,284 went for recreation on board a fishing boat, and, for the purpose of prolonging his sport, put out to sea; when a sudden tempest arising, he was driven with his companions on the coast of Ponthieu. The people of that district, as was their native custom, immediately assembled from all quarters; and Harold’s company, unarmed and few in number, were, as it easily might be, quickly overpowered by an armed multitude, and bound hand and foot. Harold, craftily meditating a remedy for this mischance, sent a person, whom he had allured by very great promises, to William, to say, that he had been sent into Normandy by the king, for the purpose of expressly confirming, in person, the message which had been imperfectly delivered by people of less authority; but that he was detained in fetters by Guy earl of Ponthieu, and could not execute his embassy: that it was the barbarous and inveterate custom of the country, that such as had escaped destruction at sea, should meet with perils on shore: that it well became a man of his dignity, not to let this pass unpunished: that to suffer those to be laden with chains, who appealed to his protection, detracted somewhat from his own greatness: and that if his captivity must be terminated by money, he would gladly give it to earl William, but not to the contemptible Guy. By these means, Harold was liberated at William’s command, and conducted to Normandy by Guy in person. The earl entertained him with much respect, both in banqueting and in vesture, according to the custom of his country; and the better to learn his disposition, and at the same time to try his courage, took him with him in an expedition he at that time led against Brittany. There, Harold, well proved both in ability and courage, won the255 heart of the Norman; and, still more to ingratiate himself, he of his own accord, confirmed to him by oath the castle of Dover, which was under his jurisdiction, and the kingdom of England, after the death of Edward. Wherefore, he was honoured both by having his daughter, then a child, betrothed to him, and by the confirmation of his ample patrimony, and was received into the strictest intimacy. Not long after his return home, the king was crowned285 at London on Christmas-day, and being there seized with the disorder of which he was sensible he should die, he commanded the church of Westminster to be dedicated on Innocents-day.286 Thus, full of years and of glory, he surrendered his pure spirit to heaven, and was buried on the day of the Epiphany, in the said church, which he, first in England, had erected after that kind of style which, now, almost all attempt to rival at enormous expense. The race of the West Saxons, which had reigned in Britain five hundred and seventy-one years, from the time of Cerdic, and two hundred and sixty-one from Egbert, in him ceased altogether to rule. For while the grief for the king’s death was yet fresh, Harold, on the very day of the Epiphany, seized the diadem, and extorted from the nobles their consent; though the English say, that it was granted him by the king: but I conceive it alleged, more through regard to Harold, than through sound judgment, that Edward should transfer his inheritance to a man of whose power he had always been jealous. Still, not to conceal the truth, Harold would have governed the kingdom with prudence and with courage, in the character he had assumed, had he undertaken it lawfully. Indeed, during Edward’s lifetime, he had quelled, by his valour, whatever wars were excited against him; wishing to signalize himself with his countrymen, and looking forward256 with anxious hope to the crown. He first vanquished Griffin king of the Welsh, as I have before related, in battle; and, afterwards, when he was again making formidable efforts to recover his power, deprived him of his head; appointing as his successors, two of his own adherents, that is, the brothers of this Griffin, Blegent and Rivallo, who had obtained his favour by their submission. The same year Tosty arrived on the Humber, from Flanders, with a fleet of sixty ships, and infested with piratical depredations those parts which were adjacent to the mouth of the river; but being quickly driven from the province by the joint force of the brothers, Edwin and Morcar, he set sail towards Scotland; where meeting with Harold Harfager king of Norway, then meditating an attack on England with three hundred ships, he put himself under his command. Both, then, with united forces, laid waste the country beyond the Humber; and falling on the brothers, reposing after their recent victory and suspecting no attack of the kind, they first routed, and then shut them up in York. Harold, on hearing this, proceeded thither with all his forces, and, each nation making every possible exertion, a bloody encounter followed: but the English obtained the advantage, and put the Norwegians to flight. Yet, however reluctantly posterity may believe it, one single Norwegian for a long time delayed the triumph of so many, and such great men. For standing on the entrance of the bridge, which is called Standford Brigge,287 after having killed several of our party, he prevented the whole from passing over. Being invited to surrender, with the assurance that a man of such courage should experience the amplest clemency from the English, he derided those who entreated him; and immediately, with stern countenance, reproached the set of cowards who were unable to resist an individual. No one approaching nearer, as they thought it unadvisable to come to close quarters with a man who had desperately rejected every means of safety, one of the king’s followers aimed an iron javelin at him from a distance; and transfixed him as he was boastfully flourishing about, and too incautious from his security, so that he yielded the victory to the English. The army immediately257 passing over without opposition, destroyed the dispersed and flying Norwegians. King Harfager and Tosty were slain; the king’s son, with all the ships, was kindly sent back to his own country. Harold, elated by his successful enterprise, vouchsafed no part of the spoil to his soldiers. Wherefore many, as they found opportunity, stealing away, deserted the king, as he was proceeding to the battle of Hastings. For with the exception of his stipendiary and mercenary soldiers, he had very few of the people288 with him; on which account, circumvented by a stratagem of William’s, he was routed, with the army he headed, after possessing the kingdom nine months and some days. The effect of war in this affair was trifling; it was brought about by the secret and wonderful counsel of God: since the Angles never again, in any general battle, made a struggle for liberty, as if the whole strength of England had fallen with Harold, who certainly might and ought to pay the penalty of his perfidy, even though it were at the hands of the most unwarlike people. Nor in saying this, do I at all derogate from the valour of the Normans, to whom I am strongly bound, both by my descent, and for the privileges I enjoy. Still289 those persons appear to me to err, who augment the numbers of the English, and underrate their courage; who, while they design to extol the Normans, load them with ignominy. A mighty commendation indeed! that a very warlike nation should conquer a set of people who were obstructed by their multitude, and fearful through cowardice! On the contrary, they were few in number and brave in the extreme; and sacrificing every regard to their bodies, poured forth their spirit for their country. But, however, as these matters await a more detailed narrative, I shall now put a period to my second book, that I may return to my composition, and my readers to the perusal of it, with fresh ardour.




[A.D. 1066.]     BATTLE OF HASTINGS.

Normans and English, incited by different motives, have written of king William: the former have praised him to excess; extolling to the utmost both his good and his bad actions: while the latter, out of national hatred, have laden their conqueror with undeserved reproach. For my part, as the blood of either people flows in my veins, I shall steer a middle course: where I am certified of his good deeds, I shall openly proclaim them; his bad conduct I shall touch upon lightly and sparingly, though not so as to conceal it; so that neither shall my narrative be condemned as false, nor will I brand that man with ignominious censure, almost the whole of whose actions may reasonably be excused, if not commended. Wherefore I shall willingly and carefully relate such anecdotes of him, as may be matter of incitement to the indolent, or of example to the enterprising; useful to the present age, and pleasing to posterity. But I shall spend little time in relating such things as are of service to no one, and which produce disgust in the reader, as well as ill-will to the author. There are always people, more than sufficient, ready to detract from the actions of the noble: my course of proceeding will be, to extenuate evil, as much as can be consistently with truth, and not to bestow excessive commendation even on good actions. For this moderation, as I imagine, all true judges will esteem me neither timid, nor unskilful. And this rule too, my history will regard equally, with respect both to William and his two sons; that nothing shall be dwelt on too fondly; nothing untrue shall be admitted. The elder of these did little worthy of praise, if we except the early part of his reign; gaining, throughout the whole of his life, the favour of the military at the expense of the people. The second, more obsequious to his father than to his brother, possessed his spirit, unsubdued either by prosperity or adversity: on regarding his warlike expeditions, it is matter of doubt, whether he was more cautious or more bold; on contemplating their event, whether he was more fortunate, or unsuccessful.259 There will be a time, however, when the reader may judge for himself. I am now about to begin my third volume; and I think I have said enough to make him attentive, and disposed to receive instruction: his own feelings will persuade him to be candid.

Of William the First. [A.D. 1066–1087.]

[A.D. 1066.]     WILLIAM THE FIRST.

Robert, second son of Richard the Second, after he had, with great glory, held the duchy of Normandy for seven years, resolved on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He had, at that time, a son seven years of age, born of a concubine, whose beauty he had accidentally beheld, as she was dancing, and had become so smitten with it, as to form a connexion with her: after which, he loved her exclusively, and, for some time, regarded her as his wife. He had by her this boy, named, after his great-great-grandfather, William, whose future glory was portended to his mother by a dream; wherein she imagined her intestines were stretched out, and extended over the whole of Normandy and England: and, at the very moment, also, when the infant burst into life and touched the ground, he filled both hands with the rushes strewed upon the floor, firmly grasping what he had taken up. This prodigy was joyfully witnessed by the women, gossipping on the occasion; and the midwife hailed the propitious omen, declaring that the boy would be a king.

Every provision being made for the expedition to Jerusalem,290 the chiefs were summoned to a council at Feschamp, where, at his father’s command, all swore fidelity to William: earl Gilbert was appointed his guardian; and the protection of the earl was assigned to Henry, king of France. While Robert was prosecuting his journey, the Normans, each in his several station, united in common for the defence of their country, and regarded their infant lord with great affection. This fidelity continued till the report was spread of Robert’s death, upon which their affection changed with his fortune; and then they began severally to fortify their towns, to build castles, to carry in provisions,260 and to seek the earliest opportunities of revolting from the child. In the meantime, however, doubtlessly by the special aid of God who had destined him to the sovereignty of such an extended empire, he grew up uninjured; while Gilbert, almost alone, defended by arms what was just and right: the rest being occupied by the designs of their respective parties. But Gilbert being at this time killed by his cousin Rodulph, fire and slaughter raged on all sides. The country, formerly most flourishing, was now torn with intestine broils, and divided at the pleasure of the plunderers; so that it was justly entitled to proclaim, “Woe to the land whose sovereign is a child.”291

William, however, as soon as his age permitted, receiving the badge of knighthood from the king of France, inspirited the inhabitants to hope for quiet. The sower of dissension was one Guy, a Burgundian on his father’s side, and grandson to Richard the Second by his daughter. William and Guy had been children together, and at that time were equally approaching to manhood. Mutual intercourse had produced an intimacy between them which had ripened into friendship. Moreover, thinking, as they were related, that he ought to deny him nothing, he had given him the castles of Briony and Vernon. The Burgundian, unmindful of this, estranged himself from the earl, feigning sufficient cause of offence to colour his conduct. It would be tedious, and useless, to relate what actions were performed on either side, what castles were taken; for his perfidy had found abettors in Nigel, viscount of Coutances, Ralph, viscount of Bayeux, and Haimo Dentatus, grandfather of Robert, who was the occupier of many estates in England in our time. With these persons, this most daring plunderer, allured by vain expectation of succeeding to the earldom, was devastating the whole of Normandy. A sense of duty, however, compelled the guardian-king to succour the desperate circumstances of his ward. Remembering, therefore, the kindness of his father, and that he had, by his influence, exalted him to the kingdom, he rushed on the revolters at Walesdun. Many thousands of them were there slain; many drowned in the river Orne, by its rapidity, while, being hard-pressed, they spurred their horses to ford the261 current. Guy, escaping with difficulty, betook himself to Briony; but was driven thence by William, and unable to endure this disgrace, he retired, of his own accord, to Burgundy, his native soil. Here too his unquiet spirit found no rest; for being expelled thence by his brother, William, earl of that province, against whom he had conceived designs, it appears not what fate befell him. Nigel and Ralph were admitted to fealty: Haimo fell in the field of battle; after having become celebrated by his remarkable daring for having unhorsed the king himself; in consequence of which he was despatched by the surrounding guards, and, in admiration of his valour, honourably buried at the king’s command. King Henry received a compensation for this favour, when the Norman lord actively assisted him against Geoffrey Martel at Herle-Mill, which is a fortress in the country of Anjou. For William had now attained his manly vigour; an object of dread even to his elders, and though alone, a match for numbers. Unattended he would rush on danger; and when unaccompanied, or with only a few followers, dart into the thickest ranks of the enemy. By this expedition he gained the reputation of admirable bravery, as well as the sincerest regard of the king; so that, with parental affection, he would often admonish him not to hold life in contempt by encountering danger so precipitately; a life, which was the ornament of the French, the safeguard of the Normans, and an example to both.


At that time Geoffrey292 was earl of Anjou, who had boastingly taken the surname of Martel, as he seemed, by a certain kind of good fortune, to beat down all his opponents. Finally, he had made captive, in open battle, his liege lord, the earl of Poitou; and, loading him with chains, had compelled him to dishonourable terms of peace; namely, that he should yield up Bourdeaux and the neighbouring cities, and pay an annual tribute for the rest. But he, as it is thought, through the injuries of his confinement and want of food, was, after three days, released from eternal ignominy by a timely death. Martel then, that his effrontery might be complete, married the stepmother of the deceased; taking his brothers under his protection until they should be capable262 of governing the principality. Next entering the territories of Theobald, earl of Blois, he laid siege to the city of Tours; and while he was hastening to the succour of his subjects, made him participate in their afflictions; for being taken, and shut up in prison, he ceded the city from himself and his heirs for ever. Who shall dare cry shame on this man’s cowardice, who, for the enjoyment of a little longer life, defrauded his successors for ever of the dominion of so great a city? for although we are too apt to be severe judges of others, yet we must know, that we should consult our own safety, if we were ever to be placed in similar circumstances. In this manner Martel, insolent from the accession of so much power, obtained possession of the castle of Alençon, even from the earl of Normandy; its inhabitants being faithlessly disposed. Irritated at this outrage, William retaliated, and invested Danfrunt, which at that time belonged to the earl of Anjou. Geoffrey, immediately, excited by the complaints of the besieged, hastily rushed forward with a countless force. Hearing of his approach, William sends Roger Montgomery293 and William Fitz-Osberne to reconnoitre. They, from the activity of youth, proceeding many miles in a short time, espied Martel on horseback, and apprized him of the dauntless boldness of their lord. Martel immediately began to rage, to threaten mightily what he would do; and said that he would come thither the next day, and show to the world at large how much an Angevin could excel a Norman in battle: at the same time, with unparalleled insolence, describing the colour of his horse, and the devices on the arms he meant to use. The Norman nobles, with equal vanity, relating the same of William, return and stimulate their party to the conflict. I have described these things minutely, for the purpose of displaying the arrogance of Martel. On this occasion, however, he manifested none of his usual magnanimity, for he retreated without coming to battle; on hearing which, the inhabitants263 of Alençon surrendered, covenanting for personal safety; and, afterwards, those of Danfrunt also, listed under the more fortunate standard.

[A.D. 1047.]     WILLIAM OF ARCHES.

In succeeding years William, earl of Arches, his illegitimate uncle, who had always been faithless and fluctuating from his first entrance on the duchy, rebelled against him; for, even during the siege of Danfrunt, he had unexpectedly stolen away, and had communicated to many persons the secrets of his soul. In consequence of this, William had committed the keeping of his castle to some men, whom he had erroneously deemed faithful; but the earl, with his usual skill in deception, had seduced even these people to his party, by giving them many things, and promising them more. Thus possessed of the fortress, he declared war against his lord. William, with his customary alacrity, contrary to the advice of his friends, laid siege to Arches, declaring publicly, that the miscreants would not dare attempt any thing, if they came into his sight. Nor was his assertion false: for more than three hundred soldiers, who had gone out to plunder and forage, the instant they beheld him, though almost unattended, fled back into their fortifications. Being inclined to settle this business without bloodshed, he fortified a castle in front of Arches, and turned to matters of hostile operation which required deeper attention, because he was aware that the king of France, who had already become adverse to him from some unknown cause, was hastening to the succour of the besieged. He here gave an instance of very laudable forbearance; for though he certainly appeared to have the juster cause, yet he was reluctant to engage with that person, to whom he was bound both by oath and by obligation. He left some of his nobility, however, to repress the impetuosity of the king; who, falling into an ambush laid by their contrivance, had most deservedly to lament Isembard, earl of Ponthieu, who was killed in his sight, and Hugh Bardulf, who was taken prisoner. Not long after, in consequence of his miscarriage, retiring to his beloved France, the earl of Arches, wasted with hunger, and worn to a skeleton, consented to surrender, and was preserved, life and limb, an example of clemency, and a proof of perseverance. During the interval of this siege, the people of the fortress called Moulin, becoming disaffected,264 at the instigation of one Walter, went over to the king’s side. An active party of soldiers was placed there, under the command of Guy, brother of the earl of Poitou, who diligently attended for some time to his military duties: but on hearing the report of the victory at Arches, he stole away into France, and contributed, by these means, considerably to the glory of the duke.

King Henry, however, did not give indulgence to inactivity; but, muttering that his armies had been a laughing-stock to William, immediately collected all his forces, and, dividing them into two bodies, he over-ran the whole of Normandy. He himself headed all the military power which came from that part of Celtic Gaul which lies between the rivers Garonne and Seine; and gave his brother Odo the command over such as came from that part of Belgic Gaul which is situated between the Rhine and the Seine. In like manner William divided his army, with all the skill he possessed; approaching by degrees the camp of the king, which was pitched in the country of Briony, in such a manner, as neither to come to close engagement, nor yet suffer the province to be devastated in his presence. His generals were Robert, earl of Aux; Hugo de Gournay, Hugo de Montfort, and William Crispin, who opposed Odo at a town called Mortemar. Nor did he, relying on the numerous army which he commanded, at all delay coming to action; yet making only slight resistance at the beginning, and afterwards being unable to withstand the attack of the Normans, he retreated, and was himself the first to fly. And here, while Guy, earl of Ponthieu, was anxiously endeavouring to revenge his brother, he was made captive, and felt, together with many others surpassing in affluence and rank, the weight of that hand which was so fatal to his family. When William was informed of this success by messengers, he took care that it should be proclaimed in the dead of night, near the king’s tent. On hearing which he retired, after some days spent in Normandy, into France; and, soon after, ambassadors passing between them, it was concluded, by treaty, that the king’s partizans should be set at liberty, and that the earl should become legally possessed of all that had been, or should hereafter be, taken from Martel.

It would be both tedious and useless, to relate their perpetual265 contentions, or how William always came off conqueror. What shall we say besides, when, magnanimously despising the custom of modern times, he never condescended to attack him suddenly, or without acquainting him of the day. Moreover, I pass by the circumstance of king Henry’s again violating his friendship; his entering Normandy, and proceeding through the district of Hiesmes to the river Dive, boasting that the sea was the sole obstacle to his farther progress. But William now perceiving himself reduced to extremities by the king’s perfidy, at length brandished the arms of conscious valour, and worsted the royal forces which were beyond the river—for part of them, hearing of his arrival, had passed over some little time before—with such entire loss, that henceforth France had no such object of dread as that of irritating the ferocity of the Normans. The death of Henry soon following, and, shortly after, that of Martel, put an end to these broils. The dying king delegated the care of his son Philip, at that time extremely young, to Baldwin earl of Flanders. He was a man equally celebrated for fidelity and wisdom; in the full possession of bodily strength, and also ennobled by a marriage with the king’s sister. His daughter, Matilda, a woman who was a singular mirror of prudence in our time, and the perfection of virtue, had been already married to William. Hence it arose, that being mediator between his ward, and his son-in-law, Baldwin restrained, by his wholesome counsels, the feuds of the chiefs, and of the people.

[A.D. 1058.]     FULK, EARL OF ANJOU.

But since the mention of Martel has so often presented itself, I shall briefly trace the genealogy of the earls of Anjou,294 as far as the knowledge of my informant reaches. Fulk the elder, presiding over that county for many years, until he became advanced in years, performed many great and prudent actions. There is only one thing for which I have heard him branded: for, having induced Herbert earl of Maine to come to Saintes, under the promise of yielding him that city, he caused him, in the midst of their conversation, to be surrounded by his attendants, and compelled him to submit to his own conditions: in other respects he was266 a man of irreproachable integrity. In his latter days, he ceded his principality to Geoffrey his son so often mentioned. Geoffrey conducted himself with excessive barbarity to the inhabitants, and with equal haughtiness even to the person who had conferred this honour upon him: on which, being ordered by his father to lay down the government and ensigns of authority, he was arrogant enough to take up arms against him. The blood of the old man, though grown cold and languid, yet boiled with indignation; and in the course of a few days, by adopting wiser counsels, he so brought down the proud spirit of his son, that after carrying his saddle295 on his back for some miles, he cast himself with his burden at his father’s feet. He, fired once more with his ancient courage, rising up and spurning the prostrate youth with his foot, exclaimed, “You are conquered at last! you are conquered!” repeating his words several times. The suppliant had still spirit enough to make this admirable reply, “I am conquered by you alone, because you are my father; by others I am utterly invincible.” With this speech his irritated mind was mollified, and having consoled the mortification of his son by paternal affection, he restored him to the principality, with admonitions to conduct himself more wisely: telling him that the prosperity and tranquillity of the people were creditable to him abroad, as well as advantageous at home. In the same year the old man, having discharged all secular concerns, made provision for his soul, by proceeding to Jerusalem; where compelling two servants by an oath to do whatever he commanded, he was by them publicly dragged naked, in the sight of the Turks, to the holy sepulchre. One of them had twisted a withe about his neck, the other with a rod scourged his bare back, whilst he cried out, “Lord, receive the wretched Fulk, thy perfidious, thy runagate; regard my repentant soul, O Lord Jesu Christ.” At this time he obtained not his request; but, peacefully returning home, he died some few years after. The precipitate boldness of his267 son Geoffrey has been amply displayed in my preceding history. He dying, bequeathed to Geoffrey, his sister’s son, his inheritance, but his worldly industry he could not leave him. For being a youth of simple manners, and more accustomed to pray in church, than to handle arms, he excited the contempt of the people of that country, who knew not how to live in quiet. In consequence, the whole district becoming exposed to plunderers, Fulk, his brother, of his own accord, seized on the duchy. Fulk was called Rhechin, from his perpetual growling at the simplicity of his brother, whom he finally despoiled of his dignity, and kept in continual custody. He had a wife, who, being enticed by the desire of enjoying a higher title, deserted him and married Philip king of France; who so desperately loved her, regardless of the adage,

“Majesty and love
But ill accord, nor share the self-same seat,”

that he patiently suffered himself to be completely governed by her, though he was at the same time desirous of ruling over every other person. Lastly, for several years, merely through regard for her, he suffered himself to be pointed at like an idiot, and to be excommunicated from the whole Christian world. The sons of Fulk were Geoffrey and Fulk. Geoffrey obtaining the hereditary surname of Martel, ennobled it by his exertions: for he procured such peace and tranquillity in those parts, as no one ever had seen, or will see in future. On this account being killed by the treachery of his people, he forfeited the credit of his consummate worth. Fulk succeeding to the government, is yet living;296 of whom as I shall perhaps have occasion to speak in the times of king Henry, I will now proceed to relate what remains concerning William.

[A.D. 1058.]     GEOFFREY MARTEL.

When, after much labour, he had quelled all civil dissension, he meditated an exploit of greater fame, and determined to recover those countries anciently attached to Normandy, though now disunited by long custom. I allude to268 the counties of Maine and Brittany; of which Mans, long since burnt by Martel and deprived of its sovereign Hugo, had lately experienced some little respite under Herbert the son of Hugo; who, with a view to greater security against the earl of Anjou, had submitted, and sworn fidelity to William: besides, he had solicited his daughter in marriage, and had been betrothed to her, though he died by disease ere she was marriageable. He left William his heir, adjuring his subjects to admit no other; telling them, they might have, if they chose, a mild and honourable lord; but, should they not, a most determined assertor of his right. On his decease, the inhabitants of Maine rather inclined to Walter of Mantes, who had married Hugo’s sister: but at length, being brought to their senses by many heavy losses, they acknowledged William. This was the time, when Harold was unwillingly carried to Normandy by an unpropitious gale; whom, as is before mentioned, William took with him in his expedition to Brittany, to make proof of his prowess, and, at the same time, with the deeper design of showing to him his military equipment, that he might perceive how far preferable was the Norman sword to the English battle-axe. Alan, at that time, earl of Brittany, flourishing in youth, and of transcendent strength, had overcome his uncle Eudo, and performed many famous actions; and so far from fearing William, had even voluntarily irritated him. But he, laying claim to Brittany as his hereditary territory, because Charles had given it with his daughter, Gisla, to Rollo, shortly acted in such wise, that Alan came suppliantly to him, and surrendered himself and his possessions. And since I shall have but little to say of Brittany hereafter, I will here briefly insert an extraordinary occurrence, which happened about that time in the city of Nantes.

[A.D. 1065.]     STORY OF TWO CLERKS.

There were in that city two clerks, who though not yet of legal age, had obtained the priesthood from the bishop of that place, more by entreaty than desert: the pitiable death of one of whom, at length taught the survivor, how near they had before been to the brink of hell. As to the knowledge of literature, they were so instructed, that they wanted little of perfection. From their earliest infancy, they had in such wise vied in offices of friendship, that according to the269 expression of the comic writer,297 “To serve each other they would not only stir hand and foot, but even risk the loss of life itself.” Wherefore, one day, when they found their minds more than usually free from outward cares, they spoke their sentiments, in a secret place, to the following effect: “That for many years they had given their attention sometimes to literature, and sometimes to secular cares; nor had they satisfied their minds, which had been occupied rather in wrong than proper pursuits; that in the meanwhile, the bitter day was insensibly approaching, which would burst the bond of union which was indissoluble while life remained: wherefore they should provide in time, that the friendship which united them while living should accompany him who died first to the place of the dead.” They agreed, therefore, that whichever should first depart, should certainly appear to the survivor, either waking or sleeping, if possible within thirty days, to inform him, that, according to the Platonic tenet, death does not extinguish the spirit, but sends it back again, as it were from prison, to God its author. If this did not take place, then they must yield to the sect of the Epicureans, who hold, that the soul, liberated from the body, vanishes into air, or mingles with the wind. Mutually plighting their faith, they repeated this oath in their daily conversation. A short time elapsed, and behold a violent death suddenly deprived one of them of life. The other remained, and seriously revolving the promise of his friend, and constantly expecting his presence, during thirty days, found his hopes disappointed. At the expiration of this time, when, despairing of seeing him, he had occupied his leisure in other business, the deceased, with that pale countenance which dying persons assume, suddenly stood before him, when awake, and busied on some matter. The dead first addressing the living man, who was silent: “Do you know me?” said he; “I do,” replied the other; “nor am I so much disturbed at your unusual presence, as I wonder at your prolonged absence.” But when he had accounted for the tardiness of his appearance; “At length,” said he, “at length, having overcome every impediment, I am present; which presence, if you please, my friend, will be advantageous to you, but to me totally unprofitable; for I am doomed, by a sentence270 which has been pronounced and approved, to eternal punishment.” When the living man promised to give all his property to monasteries, and to the poor, and to spend days and nights in fasting and prayer, for the release of the defunct; he replied, “What I have said is fixed; for the judgments of God, by which I am plunged in the sulphureous whirlpool of hell, are without repentance. There I shall be tossed for my crimes, as long as the pole whirls round the stars, or ocean beats the shores. The rigour of this irreversible sentence remains for ever, devising lasting and innumerable kinds of punishment: now, therefore, let the whole world seek for availing remedies! And that you may experience some little of my numberless pains, behold,” said he, stretching out his hand, dripping with a corrupted ulcer, “one of the very smallest of them; does it appear trifling to you?” When the other replied, that it did appear so; he bent his fingers into the palm, and threw three drops of the purulent matter upon him; two of which touching his temples, and one his forehead, penetrated the skin and flesh, as if with a burning cautery, and made holes of the size of a nut. When his friend acknowledged the acuteness of the pain, by the cry he uttered, “This,” said the dead man, “will be a strong proof to you, as long as you live, of my pains; and, unless you neglect it, a singular token for your salvation. Wherefore, while you have the power; while indignation is suspended over your head; while God’s lingering mercy waits for you; change your habit, change your disposition; become a monk at Rennes, in the monastery of St. Melanius.” When the living man was unwilling to agree to these words, the other, sternly glancing at him, “If you doubt, wretched man,” said he, “turn and read these letters;” and with these words, he stretched out his hand, inscribed with black characters, in which, Satan, and all the company of infernals sent their thanks, from hell, to the whole ecclesiastical body; as well for denying themselves no single pleasure, as for sending, through neglect of their preaching, so many of their subject-souls to hell, as no former age had ever witnessed. With these words the speaker vanished; and the hearer distributing his whole property to the church and to the poor, went to the monastery; admonishing all, who heard or saw him, of his sudden conversion, and extraordinary interview,271 so that they exclaimed, “It is the right hand of the Almighty that has done this.”


I feel no regret at having inserted this for the benefit of my readers: now I shall return to William. For since I have briefly, but I hope not uselessly, gone over the transactions in which he was engaged, when only earl of Normandy, for thirty years, the order of time now requires a new series of relation; that I may, as far as my inquiries have discovered, detect fallacy, and declare the truth relating to his regal government.

When king Edward had yielded to fate, England, fluctuating with doubtful favour, was uncertain to which ruler she should commit herself: to Harold, William, or Edgar: for the king had recommended him also to the nobility, as nearest to the sovereignty in point of birth; concealing his better judgment from the tenderness of his disposition. Wherefore, as I have said above, the English were distracted in their choice, although all of them openly wished well to Harold. He, indeed, once dignified with the diadem, thought nothing of the covenant between himself and William: he said, that he was absolved from his oath, because his daughter, to whom he had been betrothed, had died before she was marriageable. For this man, though possessing numberless good qualities, is reported to have been careless about abstaining from perfidy, so that he could, by any device, elude the reasonings of men on this matter. Moreover, supposing that the threats of William would never be put into execution, because he was occupied in wars with neighbouring princes, he had, with his subjects, given full indulgence to security. For indeed, had he not heard that the king of Norway was approaching, he would neither have condescended to collect troops, nor to array them. William, in the meantime, began mildly to address him by messengers; to expostulate on the broken covenant; to mingle threats with entreaties; and to warn him, that ere a year expired, he would claim his due by the sword, and that he would come to that place, where Harold supposed he had firmer footing than himself. Harold again rejoined what I have related, concerning the nuptials of his daughter, and added, that he had been precipitate on the subject of the kingdom, in having confirmed to him by oath another’s right, without the universal consent and edict272 of the general meeting, and of the people: again, that a rash oath ought to be broken; for if the oath, or vow, which a maiden, under her father’s roof, made concerning her person, without the knowledge of her parents, was adjudged invalid; how much more invalid must that oath be, which he had made concerning the whole kingdom, when under the king’s authority, compelled by the necessity of the time, and without the knowledge of the nation.298 Besides it was an unjust request, to ask him to resign a government which he had assumed by the universal kindness of his fellow subjects, and which would neither be agreeable to the people, nor safe for the military.


In this way, confounded either by true, or plausible, arguments, the messengers returned without success. The earl, however, made every necessary preparation for war during the whole of that year; retained his own soldiers with increased pay, and invited those of others: ordered his ranks and battalions in such wise, that the soldiers should be tall and stout; that the commanders and standard-bearers, in addition to their military science, should be looked up to for their wisdom and age; insomuch, that each of them, whether seen in the field or elsewhere, might be taken for a prince, rather than a leader. The bishops and abbats of those days vied so much in religion, and the nobility in princely liberality, that it is wonderful,299 within a period of less than sixty300 years, how either order should have become so unfruitful in goodness, as to take up a confederate war against justice: the former, through desire of ecclesiastical promotion, embracing wrong in preference to right and equity; and the latter, casting off shame, and seeking every occasion273 for begging money as for their daily pay. But at that time the prudence of William, seconded by the providence of God, already anticipated the invasion of England; and that no rashness might stain his just cause, he sent to the pope, formerly Anselm, bishop of Lucca, who had assumed the name of Alexander, alleging the justice of the war which he meditated with all the eloquence he was master of. Harold omitted to do this, either because he was proud by nature, or else distrusted his cause; or because he feared that his messengers would be obstructed by William and his partisans, who beset every port. The pope, duly examining the pretensions of both parties, delivered a standard to William, as an auspicious presage of the kingdom: on receiving which, he summoned an assembly of his nobles, at Lillebourne, for the purpose of ascertaining their sentiments on this attempt. And when he had confirmed, by splendid promises, all who approved his design, he appointed them to prepare shipping, in proportion to the extent of their possessions. Thus they departed at that time; and, in the month of August, re-assembled in a body at St. Vallery,301 for so that port is called by its new name. Collecting, therefore, ships from every quarter, they awaited the propitious gale which was to carry them to their destination. When this delayed blowing for several days, the common soldiers, as is generally the case, began to mutter in their tents, “that the man must be mad, who wished to subjugate a foreign country; that God opposed him, who withheld the wind; that his father purposed a similar attempt, and was in like manner frustrated; that it was the fate of that family to aspire to things beyond their reach, and find God for their adversary.” In consequence of these things, which were enough to enervate the force of the brave, being publicly noised abroad, the duke held a council with his chiefs, and ordered the body of St. Vallery to be brought forth, and to be exposed to the open air, for the purpose of imploring a274 wind. No delay now interposed, but the wished-for gale filled their sails. A joyful clamour then arising, summoned every one to the ships. The earl himself first launching from the continent into the deep, awaited the rest, at anchor, nearly in mid-channel. All then assembled round the crimson sail of the admiral’s ship; and, having first dined, they arrived, after a favourable passage, at Hastings. As he disembarked he slipped down, but turned the accident to his advantage; a soldier who stood near calling out to him, “you hold England,302 my lord, its future king.” He then restrained his whole army from plundering; warning them, that they should now abstain from what must hereafter be their own;303 and for fifteen successive days he remained so perfectly quiet, that he seemed to think of nothing less than of war.

[A.D. 1066.]     HAROLD’S SPIES TAKEN.

In the meantime Harold returned from the battle with the Norwegians; happy, in his own estimation, at having conquered; but not so in mine, as he had secured the victory by parricide. When the news of the Norman’s arrival reached him, reeking as he was from battle, he proceeded to Hastings, though accompanied by very few forces. No doubt the fates urged him on, as he neither summoned his275 troops, nor, had he been willing to do so, would he have found many ready to obey his call; so hostile were all to him, as I have before observed, from his having appropriated the northern spoils entirely to himself. He sent out some persons, however, to reconnoitre the number and strength of the enemy: these, being taken within the camp, William ordered to be led amongst the tents, and, after feasting them plentifully, to be sent back uninjured to their lord. On their return, Harold inquired what news they brought: when, after relating at full, the noble confidence of the general, they gravely added, that almost all his army had the appearance of priests, as they had the whole face, with both lips, shaven. For the English leave the upper lip unshorn, suffering the hair continually to increase; which Julius Cæsar, in his treatise on the Gallic War,304 affirms to have been a national custom with the ancient inhabitants of Britain. The king smiled at the simplicity of the relators, observing, with a pleasant laugh, that they were not priests, but soldiers, strong in arms, and invincible in spirit. His brother, Girth, a youth, on the verge of manhood, and of knowledge and valour surpassing his years, caught up his words: “Since,” said he, “you extol so much the valour of the Norman, I think it ill-advised for you, who are his inferior in strength and desert, to contend with him. Nor can you deny being bound to him, by oath, either willingly, or by compulsion. Wherefore you will act wisely, if, yourself withdrawing from this pressing emergency, you allow us to try the issue of a battle. We, who are free from all obligation, shall justly draw the sword in defence of our country. It is to be apprehended, if you engage, that you will be either subjected to flight or to death: whereas, if we only fight, your cause will be safe at all events: for you will be able both to rally the fugitives, and to avenge the dead.”

His unbridled rashness yielded no placid ear to the words of his adviser, thinking it base, and a reproach to his past life, to turn his back on danger of any kind; and, with similar impudence, or to speak more favourably, imprudence, he drove away a monk, the messenger of William, not deigning him even a complacent look; imprecating only, that God would decide between him and the earl. He was the bearer276 of three propositions: either that Harold should relinquish the kingdom, according to his agreement, or hold it of William; or decide the matter by single combat in the sight of either army. For William305 claimed the kingdom, on the ground that king Edward, by the advice of Stigand, the archbishop, and of the earls Godwin and Siward, had granted it to him, and had sent the son and nephew of Godwin to Normandy, as sureties of the grant. If Harold should deny this, he would abide by the judgment of the pope, or by battle: on all which propositions, the messenger being frustrated by the single answer I have related, returned, and communicated to his party fresh spirit for the conflict.

[A.D. 1066.]     BATTLE OF HASTINGS.

The courageous leaders mutually prepared for battle, each according to his national custom. The English, as we have heard, passed the night without sleep, in drinking and singing, and, in the morning, proceeded without delay towards the enemy; all were on foot, armed with battle-axes, and covering themselves in front by the junction of their shields, they formed an impenetrable body, which would have secured their safety that day, had not the Normans, by a feigned flight, induced them to open their ranks, which till that time, according to their custom, were closely compacted. The king himself on foot, stood, with his brother, near the standard; in order that, while all shared equal danger, none might think of retreating. This standard William sent, after the victory, to the pope; it was sumptuously embroidered, with gold and precious stones, in the form of a man fighting.

On the other side, the Normans passed the whole night in confessing their sins, and received the sacrament in the morning: their infantry, with bows and arrows, formed the vanguard, while their cavalry, divided into wings, were thrown back. The earl, with serene countenance, declaring aloud, that God would favour his, as being the righteous side, called for his arms; and presently, when, through the277 hurry of his attendants, he had put on his hauberk the hind part before,306 he corrected the mistake with a laugh; saying, “My dukedom shall be turned into a kingdom.” Then beginning the song of Roland,307 that the warlike example of that man might stimulate the soldiers, and calling on God for assistance, the battle commenced on both sides. They fought with ardour, neither giving ground, for great part of the day. Finding this, William gave a signal to his party, that, by a feigned flight, they should retreat. Through this device, the close body of the English, opening for the purpose of cutting down the straggling enemy, brought upon itself swift destruction; for the Normans, facing about, attacked them thus disordered, and compelled them to fly. In this manner, deceived by a stratagem, they met an honourable death in avenging their country; nor indeed were they at all wanting to their own revenge, as, by frequently making a stand, they slaughtered their pursuers in heaps: for, getting possession of an eminence, they drove down the Normans, when roused with indignation and anxiously striving to gain the higher ground, into the valley beneath, where, easily hurling their javelins and rolling down stones on them as they stood below, they destroyed them to a man. Besides, by a short passage, with which they were acquainted, avoiding a deep ditch, they trod under foot such a multitude of their enemies in that place, that they made the hollow level with the plain, by the heaps of carcasses. This vicissitude of first one party conquering, and then the other, prevailed as long as the life of Harold continued; but when he fell, from having his brain pierced with an arrow, the flight of the English ceased not until night. The valour of both leaders was here eminently conspicuous.

Harold, not merely content with the duty of a general in exhorting others, diligently entered into every soldier-like office; often would he strike the enemy when coming to close quarters, so that none could approach him with impunity; for immediately the same blow levelled both horse and rider. Wherefore, as I have related, receiving the fatal278 arrow from a distance, he yielded to death. One of the soldiers with a sword gashed his thigh, as he lay prostrate; for which shameful and cowardly action, he was branded with ignominy by William, and dismissed the service.

William too was equally ready to encourage by his voice and by his presence; to be the first to rush forward; to attack the thickest of the foe. Thus everywhere raging, everywhere furious, he lost three choice horses, which were that day pierced under him. The dauntless spirit and vigour of the intrepid general, however, still persisted, though often called back by the kind remonstrance of his body-guard; he still persisted, I say, till approaching night crowned him with complete victory. And no doubt, the hand of God so protected him, that the enemy should draw no blood from his person, though they aimed so many javelins at him.


This was a fatal day to England, a melancholy havoc of our dear country, through its change of masters. For it had long since adopted the manners of the Angles, which had been very various according to the times: for in the first years of their arrival, they were barbarians in their look and manners, warlike in their usages, heathens in their rites; but, after embracing the faith of Christ, by degrees, and in process of time, from the peace they enjoyed, regarding arms only in a secondary light, they gave their whole attention to religion. I say nothing of the poor, the meanness of whose fortune often restrains them from overstepping the bounds of justice: I omit men of ecclesiastical rank, whom sometimes respect to their profession, and sometimes the fear of shame, suffer not to deviate from the truth: I speak of princes, who from the greatness of their power might have full liberty to indulge in pleasure; some of whom, in their own country, and others at Rome, changing their habit, obtained a heavenly kingdom, and a saintly intercourse. Many during their whole lives in outward appearance only embraced the present world, in order that they might exhaust their treasures on the poor, or divide them amongst monasteries. What shall I say of the multitudes of bishops, hermits, and abbats? Does not the whole island blaze with such numerous relics of its natives, that you can scarcely pass a village of any consequence but you279 hear the name of some new saint, besides the numbers of whom all notices have perished through the want of records? Nevertheless, in process of time, the desire after literature and religion had decayed, for several years before the arrival of the Normans. The clergy, contented with a very slight degree of learning, could scarcely stammer out the words of the sacraments; and a person who understood grammar, was an object of wonder and astonishment. The monks mocked the rule of their order by fine vestments, and the use of every kind of food. The nobility, given up to luxury and wantonness, went not to church in the morning after the manner of Christians, but merely, in a careless manner, heard matins and masses from a hurrying priest in their chambers, amid the blandishments of their wives. The commonalty, left unprotected, became a prey to the most powerful, who amassed fortunes, by either seizing on their property, or by selling their persons into foreign countries; although it be an innate quality of this people, to be more inclined to revelling, than to the accumulation of wealth. There was one custom, repugnant to nature, which they adopted; namely, to sell their female servants, when pregnant by them and after they had satisfied their lust, either to public prostitution, or foreign slavery. Drinking in parties was a universal practice, in which occupation they passed entire nights as well as days. They consumed their whole substance in mean and despicable houses; unlike the Normans and French, who, in noble and splendid mansions, lived with frugality. The vices attendant on drunkenness, which enervate the human mind, followed; hence it arose that engaging William, more with rashness, and precipitate fury, than military skill, they doomed themselves, and their country to slavery, by one, and that an easy, victory. “For nothing is less effective than rashness; and what begins with violence, quickly ceases, or is repelled.” In fine, the English at that time, wore short garments reaching to the mid-knee; they had their hair cropped; their beards shaven; their arms laden with golden bracelets; their skin adorned with punctured designs. They were accustomed to eat till they became surfeited, and to drink till they were sick. These latter qualities they imparted to their conquerors; as to the rest, they adopted their manners. I would not, however,280 have these bad propensities universally ascribed to the English. I know that many of the clergy, at that day, trod the path of sanctity, by a blameless life; I know that many of the laity, of all ranks and conditions, in this nation, were well-pleasing to God. Be injustice far from this account; the accusation does not involve the whole indiscriminately. “But, as in peace, the mercy of God often cherishes the bad and the good together; so, equally, does his severity, sometimes, include them both in captivity.”

Moreover, the Normans, that I may speak of them also, were at that time, and are even now, proudly apparelled, delicate in their food, but not excessive. They are a race inured to war, and can hardly live without it; fierce in rushing against the enemy; and where strength fails of success, ready to use stratagem, or to corrupt by bribery. As I have related, they live in large edifices with economy; envy their equals; wish to excel their superiors; and plunder their subjects, though they defend them from others; they are faithful to their lords, though a slight offence renders them perfidious. They weigh treachery by its chance of success, and change their sentiments with money. They are, however, the kindest of nations, and they esteem strangers worthy of equal honour with themselves. They also intermarry with their vassals. They revived, by their arrival, the observances of religion, which were everywhere grown lifeless in England. You might see churches rise in every village, and monasteries in the towns and cities, built after a style unknown before; you might behold the country flourishing with renovated rites; so that each wealthy man accounted that day lost to him, which he had neglected to signalize by some magnificent action. But having enlarged sufficiently on these points, let us pursue the transactions of William.


When his victory was complete, he caused his dead to be interred with great pomp; granting the enemy the liberty of doing the like, if they thought proper. He sent the body of Harold308 to his mother, who begged it, unransomed; though281 she proffered large sums by her messengers. She buried it, when thus obtained, at Waltham; a church which he had built at his own expense, in honour of the Holy Cross, and had endowed for canons. William then, by degrees proceeding, as became a conqueror, with his army, not after an hostile, but a royal manner, journeyed towards London, the principal city of the kingdom; and shortly after, all the citizens came out to meet him with gratulations. Crowds poured out of every gate to greet him, instigated by the nobility, and principally by Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, and Aldred, of York. For, shortly before, Edwin and Morcar, two brothers of great expectation, hearing, at London, the news of Harold’s death, solicited the citizens to exalt one of them to the throne: failing, however, in the attempt, they had departed for Northumberland, conjecturing, from their own feelings, that William would never come thither. The other chiefs would have chosen Edgar, had the bishops supported them; but, danger and domestic broils closely impending, neither did this take effect. Thus the English, who, had they united in one opinion, might have repaired the ruin of their country, introduced a stranger, while they were unwilling to choose a native, to govern them. Being now decidedly hailed king, he was crowned on Christmas-day by archbishop Aldred; for he was careful not to accept this office from Stigand, as he was not canonically an archbishop.

Of the various wars which he carried on, this is a summary. Favoured by God’s assistance, he easily reduced the city of Exeter,309 when it had rebelled; for part of the wall282 fell down accidentally, and made an opening for him. Indeed he had attacked it with the more ferocity, asserting that those irreverent men would be deserted by God’s favour, because one of them, standing upon the wall, had bared his posteriors, and had broken wind, in contempt of the Normans. He almost annihilated the city of York, that sole remaining shelter for rebellion, and destroyed its citizens with sword and famine. For there Malcolm, king of the Scots, with his party; there Edgar, and Morcar, and Waltheof, with the English and Danes, often brooded over the nest of tyranny; there they frequently killed his generals; whose deaths, were I severally to commemorate, perhaps I should not be superfluous, though I might risk the peril of creating disgust; while I should be not easily pardoned as an historian, if I were led astray by the falsities of my authorities.

Malcolm willingly received all the English fugitives, affording to each every protection in his power, but more especially to Edgar, whose sister he had married, out of regard to her noble descent. On his behalf he burnt and plundered the adjacent provinces of England; not that he supposed, by so doing, he could be of any service to him, with respect to the kingdom; but merely to distress the mind of William, who was incensed at his territories being subject to Scottish incursions. In consequence, William, collecting a body of foot and horse, repaired to the northern parts of the island, and first of all received into subjection the metropolitan city, which English, Danes, and Scots obstinately defended; its citizens being wasted with continued want. He destroyed also in a great and severe battle, a considerable number of the enemy, who had come to the succour of the besieged; though the victory was not bloodless on his side, as he lost283 many of his people. He then ordered both the towns and fields of the whole district to be laid waste; the fruits and grain to be destroyed by fire or by water, more especially on the coast, as well on account of his recent displeasure, as because a rumour had gone abroad, that Canute, king of Denmark, the son of Sweyn, was approaching with his forces. The reason of such a command, was, that the plundering pirate should find no booty on the coast to take with him, if he designed to depart again directly; or should be compelled to provide against want, if he thought proper to stay. Thus the resources of a province,310 once flourishing, and the nurse of tyrants, were cut off by fire, slaughter, and devastation; the ground, for more than sixty miles, totally uncultivated and unproductive, remains bare to the present day. Should any stranger now see it, he laments over the once-magnificent cities; the towers threatening heaven itself with their loftiness; the fields abundant in pasturage, and watered with rivers: and, if any ancient inhabitant remains, he knows it no longer.


Malcolm surrendered himself, without coming to an engagement, and for the whole of William’s time passed his life under treaties, uncertain, and frequently broken. But when in the reign of William, the son of William, he was attacked in a similar manner, he diverted the king from pursuing him by a false oath. He was slain soon after, together with his son, by Robert Mowbray, earl of Northumberland, while, regardless of his faith, he was devastating the province with more than usual insolence. For many years, he lay buried at Tynemouth: lately he was conveyed by Alexander his son, to Dunfermlin, in Scotland.

284 Edgar, having submitted to the king with Stigand and Aldred the archbishops, violated his oath the following year, by going over to the Scot: but after living there some years, and acquiring no present advantage, no future prospects, but merely his daily sustenance, being willing to try the liberality of the Norman, who was at that time beyond the sea, he sailed over to him. They say this was extremely agreeable to the king, that England should be thus rid of a fomenter of dissension. Indeed it was his constant practice, under colour of high honour, to carry over to Normandy all the English he suspected, lest any disorders should arise in the kingdom during his absence. Edgar, therefore, was well received, and presented with a considerable largess: and remaining at court for many years, silently sunk into contempt through his indolence, or more mildly speaking, his simplicity. For how great must his simplicity be, who would yield up to the king, for a single horse, the pound of silver, which he received as his daily stipend? In succeeding times he went to Jerusalem with Robert, the son of Godwin,311 a most valiant knight. This was the time when the Turks besieged king Baldwin, at Rama; who, unable to endure the difficulties of a siege, rushed through the midst of the enemy, by the assistance of Robert alone, who preceded him, and hewed down the Turks, on either hand, with his drawn sword; but, while excited to greater ferocity by his success, he was pressing on with too much eagerness, his sword dropped from his hand, and when stooping down to recover it, he was surrounded by a multitude, and cast into chains. Taken thence to Babylon, as they report, when he refused to deny Christ, he was placed as a mark in the middle of the market-place, and being transfixed with darts, died a martyr. Edgar, having lost his companion, returned, and received many gifts from the Greek285 and German emperors; who, from respect to his noble descent, would also have endeavoured to retain him with them; but he gave up every thing, through regard to his native soil. “For, truly, the love of their country deceives some men to such a degree, that nothing seems pleasant to them, unless they can breathe their native air.” Edgar, therefore, deluded by this silly desire, returned to England; where, as I have before said, after various revolutions of fortune, he now grows old in the country in privacy and quiet.

[A.D. 1103.]     OF EDWIN AND MORCAR.

Edwin and Morcar were brothers; the sons of Elfgar, the son of Leofric. They had received charge of the county of Northumberland, and jointly preserved it in tranquillity. For, as I have before observed, a few days previous to the death of St. Edward the king, the inhabitants of the north had risen in rebellion and expelled Tosty, their governor; and, with Harold’s approbation, had requested, and received, one of these brothers, as their lord. These circumstances, as we have heard from persons acquainted with the affair, took place against the inclination of the king, who was attached to Tosty; but being languid through disease, and worn down with age, he become so universally disregarded, that he could not assist his favourite. In consequence, his bodily ailments increasing from the anxiety of his mind, he died shortly after. Harold persisted in his resolution of banishing his brother: wherefore, first tarnishing the triumphs of his family by piratical excursions, he was, as I have above written, afterwards killed with the king of Norway. His body being known by a wart between the shoulders, obtained burial at York. Edwin and Morcar, by Harold’s command, then conveyed the spoils of war to London, for he himself was proceeding rapidly to the battle of Hastings; where, falsely presaging, he looked upon the victory as already gained. But, when he was there killed, the brothers, flying to the territories they possessed, disturbed the peace of William for several years; infesting the woods with secret robberies, and never coming to close or open engagement. Often were they taken captive, and as often surrendered themselves, but were again dismissed with impunity, from pity to their youthful elegance, or respect to their nobility. At last, murdered, neither by the force nor craft of their enemies, but by the treachery of their286 partisans, their fate drew tears from the king, who would even long since have granted them matches with his relations, and the honour of his friendship, would they have acceded to terms of peace.

Waltheof, an earl of high descent, had become extremely intimate with the new king, who had forgotten his former offences, and attributed them rather to courage, than to disloyalty. For Waltheof, singly, had killed many of the Normans in the battle of York; cutting off their heads, one by one, as they entered the gate. He was muscular in the arms, brawny in the chest, tall and robust in his whole person; the son of Siward, a most celebrated earl, whom, by a Danish term, they called “Digera,” which implies Strong. But after the fall of his party, he voluntarily surrendered himself, and was honoured by a marriage with Judith, the king’s niece, as well as with his personal friendship. Unable however to restrain his evil inclinations, he could not preserve his fidelity. For all his countrymen, who had thought proper to resist, being either slain, or subdued, he became a party even in the perfidy of Ralph de Waher; but the conspiracy being detected,312 he was taken; kept in chains for some time, and at last, being beheaded, was buried at Croyland: though some assert, that he joined the league of treachery, more through circumvention than inclination. This is the excuse the English make for him, and those, of the greater credit, for the Normans affirm the contrary, to whose decision the Divinity itself appears to assent, showing many and very great miracles at his tomb: for they declare, that during his captivity, he wiped away his transgressions by his daily penitence.

On this account perhaps the conduct of the king may reasonably be excused, if he was at any time rather severe against the English; for he scarcely found any one of them faithful. This circumstance so exasperated his ferocious mind, that he deprived the more powerful, first of their wealth, next of their estates, and finally, some of them of their lives. Moreover, he followed the device of Cæsar, who287 drove out the Germans, concealed in the vast forest of Ardennes, whence they harassed his army with perpetual irruptions, not by means of his own countrymen, but by the confederate Gauls; that, while strangers destroyed each other, he might gain a bloodless victory. Thus, I say, William acted towards the English. For, allowing the Normans to be unemployed, he opposed an English army, and an English commander, to those, who, after the first unsuccessful battle, had fled to Denmark and Ireland, and had returned at the end of three years with considerable force: foreseeing that whichever side might conquer, it must be a great advantage to himself. Nor did this device fail him; for both parties of the English, after some conflicts between themselves, without any exertion on his part, left a victory for the king; the invaders being driven to Ireland, and the royalists purchasing the empty title of conquest, at their own special loss, and that of their general. His name was Ednoth,313 equally celebrated, before the arrival of the Normans, both at home and abroad. He was the father of Harding, who yet survives: a man more accustomed to kindle strife by his malignant tongue, than to brandish arms in the field of battle. Thus having overturned the power of the laity, he made an ordinance, that no monk, or clergyman, of that nation, should be suffered to aspire to any dignity whatever; excessively differing from the gentleness of Canute the former king, who restored their honours, unimpaired, to the conquered: whence it came to pass, that at his decease, the natives easily expelled the foreigners, and reclaimed their original right. But William, from certain causes, canonically deposed some persons, and in the place of such as might die, appointed diligent men of any nation, except English. Unless I am deceived, their inveterate frowardness towards the king, required such a measure; since, as I have said before, the Normans are by nature kindly disposed to strangers who live amongst them.

[A.D. 1074.]     RALPH DE WALER.

Ralph, whom I mentioned before, was, by the king’s gift, earl of Norfolk and Suffolk; a Breton on his father’s side; of a disposition foreign to every thing good. This man, in288 consequence of being betrothed to the king’s relation, the daughter of William Fitz-Osberne, conceived a most unjust design, and meditated attack on the sovereignty. Wherefore, on the very day of his nuptials, whilst splendidly banqueting, for the luxury of the English had now been adopted by the Normans, and when the guests had become intoxicated and heated with wine, he disclosed his intention in a copious harangue. As their reason was entirely clouded by drunkenness, they loudly applauded the orator. Here Roger earl of Hereford, brother to the wife of Ralph, and here Waltheof, together with many others, conspired the death of the king. Next day, however, when the fumes of the wine had evaporated, and cooler thoughts influenced the minds of some of the party, the larger portion, repenting of their conduct, retired from the meeting. Among these is said to have been Waltheof, who, at the recommendation of archbishop Lanfranc, sailing to Normandy, related the matter to the king; concealing merely his own share of the business. The earls, however, persisted in their design, and each incited his dependents to rebel. But God opposed them, and brought all their machinations to nought. For immediately the king’s officers, who were left in charge, on discovering the affair, reduced Ralph to such distress, that seizing a vessel at Norwich, he committed himself to the sea. His wife, covenanting for personal safety, and delivering up the castle, followed her husband. Roger being thrown into chains by the king, visited, or rather inhabited, a prison, during the remainder of his life; a young man of abominable treachery, and by no means imitating his father’s conduct.


His father, indeed, William Fitz-Osberne,314 might have been compared, nay, I know not if he might not even have been preferred, to the very best princes. By his advice, William had first been inspirited to invade, and next, assisted by his valour, to keep possession of England. The energy of his mind was seconded by the almost boundless liberality of his hand. Hence it arose, that by the multitude of soldiers, to whom he gave extravagant pay, he repelled the rapacity of the enemy, and ensured the favour of the people. In consequence,289 by this boundless profusion, he incurred the king’s severe displeasure; because he had improvidently exhausted his treasures. The regulations which he established in his county of Hereford, remain in full force at the present day; that is to say, that no knight315 should be fined more than seven shillings for whatever offence: whereas, in other provinces, for a very small fault in transgressing the commands of their lord, they pay twenty or twenty-five. Fortune, however, closed these happy successes by a dishonourable termination, when the supporter of so great a government, the counsellor of England and Normandy, went into Flanders, through fond regard for a woman, and there died by the hands of his enemies. For the elder Baldwin, of whom I have before spoken, the father of Matilda, had two sons; Robert, who marrying the countess of Frisia, while his father yet lived, took the surname of Friso: Baldwin, who, after his father, presided some years over Flanders, and died prematurely. His two children by his wife Richelda surviving he had entrusted the guardianship of them to Philip king of France, whose aunt was his mother, and to William Fitz-Osberne. William readily undertook this office, that he might increase his dignity by an union with Richelda. But she, through female pride, aspiring to things beyond her sex, and exacting fresh tributes from the people, excited them to rebellion. Wherefore despatching a messenger to Robert Friso, they entreat him to accept the government of the country; and abjure all fidelity to Arnulph, who was already called earl. Nor indeed were there wanting persons to espouse the party of the minor: so that for a long time, Flanders was disturbed by intestine commotion. This, Fitz-Osberne, who was desperately in love with the lady, could not endure, but entered Flanders with a body of troops; and, being immediately well received by the persons he came to defend, after some days, he rode securely from castle to castle, in a hasty manner with few attendants. On the other hand, Friso, who was acquainted with this piece of folly, entrapped290 him unawares by a secret ambush, and killed him, fighting bravely but to no purpose, together with his nephew Arnulph.

Thus possessed of Flanders, he often irritated king William, by plundering Normandy. His daughter married Canute king of the Danes, of whom was born Charles,316 who now rules in Flanders. He made peace with king Philip, giving him his daughter-in-law in marriage, by whom he had Lewis, who at present reigns in France; but not long after, being heartily tired of the match, because his queen was extremely corpulent, he removed her from his bed, and in defiance of law and equity, married the wife of the earl of Anjou. Robert, safe by his affinity with these princes, encountered nothing to distress him during his government; though Baldwin, the brother of Arnulph, who had an earldom in the province of Hainault and in the castle of Valenciennes, by William’s assistance made many attempts for that purpose. Three years before his death, when he was now hoary-headed, he went to Jerusalem, for the mitigation of his transgressions. After his return he renounced the world, calmly awaiting his dissolution with Christian earnestness. His son was that Robert so universally famed in the expedition into Asia, which, in our times, Europe undertook against the Turks; but through some mischance, after his return home, he tarnished that noble exploit, being mortally wounded in a tournament, as they call it. Nor did a happier fate attend his son Baldwin, who, voluntarily harassing the forces of Henry king of England, in Normandy, paid dearly for his youthful temerity: for, being struck on the head with a pole, and deceived by the professions of several physicians, he lost his life; the principality devolving on Charles, of whom we have spoken before.

[A.D. 1073.]     DEFEAT OF THE DANES.

Now, king William conducting himself with mildness towards the obedient but with severity to the rebellious, possessed the whole of England in tranquillity, holding all the Welsh tributary to him. At this time too, beyond sea, being never unemployed, he nearly annihilated the county of Maine,291 leading thither an expedition composed of English; who, though they had been easily conquered in their own, yet always appeared invincible in a foreign country. He lost multitudes of his men at Dol,317 a town of Brittany, whither, irritated by some broil, he had led a military force. He constantly found Philip king of France, the daughter of whose aunt he had married, unfaithful to him; because he was envious of the great glory of a man who was vassal both to his father and to himself. But William did not the less actively resist his attempts, although his first-born son Robert, through evil counsel, assisted him in opposition to his father. Whence it happened, that in an attack at Gerborai, the son became personally engaged with his father; wounded him and killed his horse: William, the second son, departed with a hurt also, and many of the king’s party were slain. In all other respects, during the whole of his life, he was so fortunate, that foreign and distant nations feared nothing more than his name. He had subdued the inhabitants so completely to his will, that without any opposition, he first caused an account to be taken of every person; compiled a register of the rent of every estate throughout England;318 and made all free men, of every description, take the oath of fidelity to him. Canute, king of the Danes, who was most highly elevated both by his affinity to Robert Friso and by his own power, alone menaced his dignity; a rumour being generally prevalent, that he would invade England, a country due to him from his relationship to the ancient Canute: and indeed he would have effected it, had not God counteracted his boldness by an unfavourable wind. But this circumstance292 reminds me briefly to trace the genealogy of the Danish kings, who succeeded after our Canute; adding at the same time, somewhat concerning the Norwegians.

As it has been before observed, Harold succeeded in England; Hardecanute, and his sons, in Denmark: for Magnus the son of Olave, whom I have mentioned in the history of our Canute, as having been killed by his subjects, had recovered Norway, which Canute had subdued. Harold dying in England, Hardecanute held both kingdoms for a short time. On his decease, Edward the Simple succeeded, who, satisfied with his paternal kingdom, despised his foreign dominions as burdensome and barbarous. One Sweyn, doubtlessly a most exalted character, was then made king of the Danes.319 When his government had prospered for several years, Magnus, king of the Norwegians, with the consent of some of the Danes, expelled him by force, and subjected the land to his own will. Sweyn, thus expelled, went to the king of Sweden, and collecting, by his assistance, Swedes, Vandals, and Goths, he returned, to regain the kingdom: but, through the exertions of the Danes, who were attached to the government of Magnus, he experienced a repetition of his former ill-fortune. This was a great and memorable battle among those barbarous people: on no other occasion did the Danes ever experience severer conflict, or happier success. Indeed, to this very time, they keep unbroken the vow, by which they had bound themselves, before the contest, that they would consecrate to future ages the vigil of St. Lawrence, for on that day the battle was fought, by fasting and alms; and then also Sweyn fled, but soon after, on the death of Magnus, he received his kingdom entire.

[A.D. 1069.]     DENMARK AND NORWAY.

To Magnus, in Norway, succeeded one Sweyn, surnamed Hardhand; not elevated by royal descent, but by boldness and cunning: to him Olave, the uncle of Magnus, whom they call a saint; to Olave, Harold Harvagre, the brother of Olave, who had formerly, when a young man, served under the emperor of Constantinople. Being, at his command, exposed to a lion, for having debauched a woman of quality, he strangled the huge beast by the bare vigour of his arms. He was slain in England by Harold, the son of293 Godwin. His sons, Olave and Magnus, divided the kingdom of their father; but Magnus dying prematurely, Olave seized the whole. To him succeeded his son Magnus, who was lately miserably slain in Ireland, on which he had rashly made a descent. They relate, that Magnus, the elder son of Harold, was, after the death of his father, compassionately sent home by Harold, king of England; and that in return for this kindness, he humanely treated Harold, the son of Harold, when he came to him after William’s victory: that he took him with him, in an expedition he made to England, in the time of William the younger, when he conquered the Orkney and Mevanian Isles,320 and meeting with Hugo, earl of Chester, and Hugo, earl of Shrewsbury, put the first to flight, and the second to death. The sons of the last Magnus, Hasten and Siward, yet reign conjointly, having divided the empire: the latter, a seemly and spirited youth, shortly since went to Jerusalem, passing through England, and performed many famous exploits against the Saracens; more especially in the siege of Sidon, whose inhabitants raged furiously against the Christians through their connection with the Turks.

But Sweyn, as I have related, on his restoration to the sovereignty of the Danes, being impatient of quiet, sent his son Canute twice into England; first with three hundred, and then with two hundred, ships. His associate in the former expedition was Osbern, the brother of Sweyn; in the latter, Hacco: but, being each of them bribed, they frustrated the young man’s designs, and returned home without effecting their purpose. In consequence, becoming highly disgraced by king Sweyn for bartering their fidelity for money, they were driven into banishment. Sweyn, when near his end, bound all the inhabitants by oath, that, as he had fourteen sons, they should confer the kingdom on each of them in succession, as long as his issue remained. On his decease, his son Harold succeeded for three years: to him Canute, whom his father had formerly sent into England. Remembering his original failure, he prepared, as we have heard, more than a thousand vessels against England: his father-in-law, Robert Friso, the possessor of six hundred more, supporting him. But being detained, for almost two294 years, by the adverseness of the wind, he changed his design, affirming, that it must be by the determination of God, that he could not put to sea: but afterwards, misled by the suggestions of some persons, who attributed the failure of their passage to the conjurations of certain old women, he sentenced the chiefs, whose wives were accused of this transgression, to an intolerable fine; cast his brother, Olave, the principal of the suspected faction into chains, and sent him into exile to his father-in-law. The barbarians, in consequence, resenting this attack upon their liberty, killed him while in church, clinging to the altar, and promising reparation. They say that many miracles were shown from heaven at that place; because he was a man strictly observant of fasting and almsgiving, and pursued the transgressors of the divine laws more rigorously than those who offended against himself; from which circumstance, he was consecrated a martyr by the pope of Rome. After him, the murderers, that they might atone for their crime by some degree of good, redeemed Olave from captivity, for ten thousand marks. After ignobly reigning during eight years, he left the government to his brother Henry: who living virtuously for twenty-nine years, went to Jerusalem, and breathed his last at sea. Nicholas, the fifth in the sovereignty, still survives.321

[A.D. 1085.]     ROBERT GUISCARD.

The king of Denmark then, as I have said, was the only obstacle to William’s uninterrupted enjoyment: on whose account he enlisted such an immense multitude of stipendiary soldiers out of every province on this side the mountains, that their numbers oppressed the kingdom. But he, with his usual magnanimity, not regarding the expense, had engaged even Hugo the Great, brother to the king of France, with his bands to serve in his army. He was accustomed to stimulate and incite his own valour, by the remembrance of Robert Guiscard; saying it was disgraceful to yield, in courage, to him whom he surpassed in rank. For Robert, born of middling parentage in Normandy, that is, neither very low nor very high, had gone, a few years before William’s arrival in England, with fifteen knights, into Apulia, to remedy the narrowness of his own circumstances,295 by entering into the service of that inactive race of people. Not many years elapsed, ere, by the stupendous assistance of God, he reduced the whole country under his power. For where his strength failed, his ingenuity was alert: first receiving the towns, and after, the cities into confederacy with him. Thus he became so successful, as to make himself duke of Apulia and Calabria; his brother Richard, prince of Capua; and his other brother, Roger, earl of Sicily. At last, giving Apulia to his son Roger, he crossed the Adriatic with his other son Boamund, and taking Durazzo, was immediately proceeding against Alexius, emperor of Constantinople, when a messenger from pope Hildebrand stopped him in the heat of his career. For Henry, emperor of Germany, son of that Henry we have before mentioned, being incensed against the pope, for having excommunicated him on account of the ecclesiastical investitures, led an army against Rome; besieged it; expelled Hildebrand, and introduced Guibert of Ravenna. Guiscard learning this by the letter of the expelled pope, left his son Boamund, with the army, to follow up his designs, and returned to Apulia; where quickly getting together a body of Apulians and Normans, he proceeded to Rome. Nor did Henry wait for a messenger to announce his approach; but, affrighted at the bare report, fled with his pretended pope. Rome, freed from intruders, received its lawful sovereign; but soon after again lost him by similar violence. Then too, Alexius, learning that Robert was called home by the urgency of his affairs, and hoping to put a finishing hand to the war, rushed against Boamund, who commanded the troops which had been left. The Norman youth, however, observant of his native spirit, though far inferior in number, turned to flight, by dint of military skill, the undisciplined Greeks and the other collected nations. At the same time, too, the Venetians, a people habituated to the sea, attacking Guiscard, who having settled the object of his voyage was now sailing back, met with a similar calamity: part were drowned or killed, the rest put to flight. He, continuing his intended expedition, induced many cities, subject to Alexius, to second his views. The emperor took off, by crime, the man he was unable to subdue by arms: falsely promising his wife an imperial match. By her artifices, he296 drank poison,322 which she had prepared, and died; deserving, had God so pleased, a nobler death: for he was unconquerable by the sword of an enemy, but fell a victim to domestic treachery. He was buried at Venusium in Apulia, having the following epitaph:

Here Guiscard lies, the terror of the world,
Who from the Capitol Rome’s sovereign hurl’d.
No band collected could Alexis free,
Flight only; Venice, neither flight nor sea.

And since mention has been made of Hildebrand, I shall relate some anecdotes of him, which I have not heard trivially, but from the sober relation of a person who would swear that he had learned them from the mouth of Hugo abbat of Clugny; whom I admire and commend to notice, from the consideration, that he used to declare the secret thoughts of others by the prophetic intuition of his mind. Pope Alexander, seeing the energetic bent of his disposition, had made him chancellor323 of the holy see. In consequence, by virtue of his office, he used to go through the provinces to correct abuses. All ranks of people flocked to him, requiring judgment on various affairs; all secular power was subject to him, as well out of regard to his sanctity as his office. Whence it happened, one day, when there was a greater concourse on horseback than usual, that the abbat aforesaid, with his monks, was gently proceeding in the last rank; and beholding at a distance the distinguished honour of this man, that so many earthly rulers awaited his nod, he was revolving in his mind sentiments to the following effect: “By what dispensation of God was this fellow, of diminutive stature and obscure parentage, surrounded by a retinue of so many rich men? Doubtless, from having such a crowd of attendants, he was vain-glorious, and conceived loftier notions than were becoming.” Scarcely, as I have said, had he imagined this in his heart, when the archdeacon, turning back his horse, and spurring him, cried out from a distance, beckoning the abbat, “You,” said he, “you have imagined falsely, wrongly deeming me guilty of a thing of which I am innocent altogether; for I neither impute this as glory to297 myself, if glory that can be called which vanishes quickly, nor do I wish it to be so imputed by others, but to the blessed apostles, to whose servant it is exhibited.” Reddening with shame, and not daring to deny a tittle, he replied only, “My lord, I pray thee, how couldst thou know the secret thought of my heart which I have communicated to no one?” “All that inward sentiment of yours,” said he, “was brought from your mouth to my ears, as though by a pipe.”

Again, entering a country church, in the same province, they prostrated themselves before the altar, side by side. When they had continued their supplications for a long period, the archdeacon looked on the abbat with an angry countenance. After they had prayed some time longer, he went out, and asking the reason of his displeasure, received this answer, “If you love me, do not again attack me with an injury of this kind; my Lord Jesus Christ, beautiful beyond the sons of men, was visibly present to my entreaties, listening to what I said and kindly looking assent; but, attracted by the earnestness of your prayer, he left me and turned to you. I think you will not deny it to be a species of injury to take from a friend the author of his salvation. Moreover, you are to know that mortality of mankind and destruction hang over this place; and the token by which I formed such a conclusion was my seeing the angel of the Lord standing upon the altar with a naked sword, and waving it to and fro: I possess a more manifest proof of the impending ruin, from the thick, cloudy air which, as you see, already envelopes that province. Let us make haste to escape, then, lest we perish with the rest.” Having said this, they entered an inn for refreshment; but, as soon as food was placed before them, the lamentations of the household took away their famished appetites: for first one, and then another, and presently many of the family suddenly lost their lives by some unseen disaster. The contagion then spreading to the adjoining houses, they mounted their mules, and departed, fear adding wings to their flight.

[A.D. 1085.]     OF POPE GREGORY VII.

Hildebrand had presided for the pope at a council in Gaul, where many bishops being degraded, for having formerly acquired their churches by simony, gave place to better men. There was one, to whom a suspicion of this apostacy attached,298 but he could neither be convicted by any witnesses, nor confuted by any argument. When it was supposed he must be completely foiled, still like the slippery snake he eluded detection; so skilled was he in speaking, that he baffled all. Then said the archdeacon, “Let the oracle of God be resorted to, let man’s eloquence cease; we know for certain that episcopal grace is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that whosoever purchases a bishopric, supposes the gift of the Holy Ghost may be procured by money. Before you then, who are assembled by the will of the Holy Ghost, let him say, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and if he shall speak it articulately, and without hesitation, it will be manifest to me that he has obtained his office, not by purchase, but legally.” He willingly accepted the condition, supposing nothing less than any difficulty in these words; and indeed he perfectly uttered, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,” but he hesitated at the “Holy Ghost.” A clamour arose on all sides, but he was never able, by any exertion, either at that time or for the remainder of his life, to name the Holy Spirit. The abbat so often mentioned was a witness of this miracle; who taking the deprived bishop with him into different places, often laughed at the issue of the experiment. Any person doubting the certainty of this relation, must be confuted by all Europe, which is aware that the numbers of the Clugniac order were increased by this abbat.


On the death of Alexander, therefore, Hildebrand, called Gregory the Seventh, succeeded.324 He openly asserted what others had whispered, excommunicating those persons who, having been elected, should receive the investiture325 of their churches, by the ring and staff, through the hands of the laity. On this account Henry, emperor of Germany, being incensed that he should so far presume without his concurrence, expelled him from Rome, as I observed, after the expiration of eleven years, and brought in Guibert. Not long after, the pope, being seized with that fatal disease which he had no doubt would be mortal, was requested by the cardinals299 to appoint his successor; referring him to the example of St. Peter, who, in the church’s earliest infancy, had, while yet living, nominated Clement. He refused to follow this example, because it had anciently been forbidden by councils: he would advise, however, that if they wished a person powerful in worldly matters, they should choose Desiderius, abbat of Cassino, who would quell the violence of Guibert successfully and opportunely by a military force; but if they wanted a religious and eloquent man, they should elect Odo bishop of Ostia. Thus died a man, highly acceptable to God, though perhaps rather too austere towards men. Indeed it is affirmed, that in the beginning of the first commotion between him and the emperor, he would not admit him within his doors, though barefooted, and carrying shears326 and scourges, despising a man guilty of sacrilege, and of incest with his own sister. The emperor, thus excluded, departed, vowing that this repulse should be the death of many a man. And immediately doing all the injury he was able to the Roman see, he excited thereby the favourers of the pope, on every side, to throw off their allegiance to himself; for one Rodulph, revolting at the command of the pope, who had sent him a crown in the name of the apostles, he was immersed on all sides in the tumult of war. But Henry, ever superior to ill fortune, at length subdued him and all others faithlessly rebelling. At last, driven from his power, not by a foreign attack, but the domestic hatred of his son, he died miserably. To Hildebrand succeeded Desiderius, called Victor, who at his first mass fell down dead, though from what mischance is unknown; the cup, if it be possible to credit such a thing, being poisoned. The election then fell upon Odo, a Frenchman by birth, first archdeacon of Rheims, then prior of Clugny, afterwards bishop of Ostia, lastly pope by the name of Urban.

Thus far I shall be pardoned, for having digressed, as from the mention of William’s transactions, some things occurred which I thought it improper to omit: now, the300 reader, who is so inclined, shall learn the more common habits of his life, and his domestic manners. Above all then, he was humble to the servants of God; affable to the obedient; inexorable to the rebellious. He attended the offices of the Christian religion, as much as a secular was able; so that he daily was present at mass, and heard vespers and matins. He built one monastery in England, and another in Normandy; that at Caen327 first, which he dedicated to St. Stephen, and endowed with suitable estates, and most magnificent presents. There he appointed Lanfranc, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, abbat: a man worthy to be compared to the ancients, in knowledge, and in religion: of whom it may be truly said, “Cato the third is descended from heaven;” so much had an heavenly savour tinctured his heart and tongue; so much was the whole Western world excited to the knowledge of the liberal arts, by his learning; and so earnestly did the monastic profession labour in the work of religion, either from his example, or authority. No sinister means profited a bishop in those days; nor could an abbat procure advancement by purchase. He who had the best report for undeviating sanctity, was most honoured, and most esteemed both by the king and by the archbishop. William built another monastery near Hastings, dedicated to St. Martin, which was also called Battle, because there the principal church stands on the very spot, where, as they report, Harold was found in the thickest heaps of the slain. When little more than a boy, yet gifted with the wisdom of age, he removed his uncle Malger, from the archbishopric of Rouen. He was a man not ordinarily learned, but, through his high rank, forgetful of his profession, he gave too much attention to hunting and hawking; and consumed the treasures of the church in riotous living. The fame of this getting abroad, he never, during his whole life-time, obtained the pall, because the holy see refused the distinction of that honour, to a man who neglected his sacred office. Wherefore being frequently cited, his nephew301 reprehending his offences, and still conducting himself in the same manner, he was, from the urgency of the case, ultimately degraded. Some report that there was a secret reason for his being deprived: that Matilda, whom William had married, was very nearly related to him: that Malger, in consequence, through zeal for the Christian faith, could not endure that they should riot in the bed of consanguinity; and that he hurled the weapon of excommunication against his nephew, and his consort: that, when the anger of the young man was roused by the complaints of his wife, an occasion was sought out, through which the persecutor of their crime might be driven from his see: but that afterwards, in riper years, for the expiation of their offence, he built the monastery to St. Stephen at Caen; and she also one, in the same town, to the Holy Trinity;328 each of them choosing the inmates according to their own sex.


To Malger succeeded Maurilius of Feschamp; a monk commendable for many virtues, but principally for his abstinence. After a holy and well-spent life, when he came, by the call of God, to his end, bereft of vital breath, he lay, as it were, dead for almost half a day. Nevertheless, when preparation was made to carry him into the church, recovering his breath, he bathed the by-standers in tears of joy, and comforted them, when lost in amazement, with this address: “Let your minds be attentive while you hear the last words of your pastor. I have died a natural death, but I am come back, to relate to you what I have seen; yet shall I not continue with you long, because it delights me to sleep in the Lord. The conductors of my spirit were adorned with every elegance both of countenance and attire; the gentleness of their speech accorded with the splendour of their garments; so much so, that I could wish for nothing more than the attentions of such men. Delighted therefore with their soothing approbation, I went, as it appeared to me, towards the east. A seat in paradise was promised me, which I was shortly to enter. In a moment, passing over Europe and302 entering Asia, we came to Jerusalem; where, having worshipped the saints, we proceeded to Jordan. The residents on the hither bank joining company with my conductors, made a joyful party. I was now hastening to pass over the river, through longing desire to see what was beyond it, when my companions informed me, that God had commanded, that I must first be terrified by the sight of the demons; in order that the venial sins, which I had not wiped out by confession, might be expiated, by the dread of terrific forms. As soon as this was said, there came opposite to me, such a multitude of devils, brandishing pointed weapons, and breathing out fire, that the plain appeared like steel, and the air like flame. I was so dreadfully alarmed at them, that had the earth clave asunder, or the heaven opened, I should not have known whither to have betaken myself for safety. Thus panic-struck, and doubting whither to go, I suddenly recovered my life, though instantaneously about to lose it again, that by this relation I might be serviceable to your salvation, unless you neglect it:” and almost as soon as he had so said, he breathed out his soul. His body, then buried under ground, in the church of St. Mary, is now, by divine miracle, as they report, raised up more than three feet above the earth.

Moreover, William, following up the design he had formerly begun in Normandy, permitted Stigand, the pretended and false archbishop, to be deposed by the Roman cardinals and by Ermenfred bishop of Sion. Walkelin succeeded him at Winchester, whose good works, surpassing fame, will resist the power of oblivion, as long as the episcopal see shall there continue: in Kent succeeded Lanfranc, of whom I have before spoken, who was, by the gift of God, as resplendent in England,

As Lucifer, who bids the stars retire,
Day’s rosy harbinger with purple fire;

so much did the monastic germ sprout by his care, so strongly grew the pontifical power while he survived. The king was observant of his advice in such wise, that he deemed it proper to concede whatever Lanfranc asserted ought to be done. At his instigation also was abolished the infamous custom of those ill-disposed people who used to sell their slaves into Ireland. The credit of this action, I know303 not exactly whether to attribute to Lanfranc, or to Wulstan bishop of Worcester; who would scarcely have induced the king, reluctant from the profit it produced him, to this measure, had not Lanfranc commended it, and Wulstan, powerful from his sanctity of character, commanded it by episcopal authority: Wulstan, than whom none could be more just; nor could any in our time equal him in the power of miracles, or the gift of prophecy: of which I propose hereafter to relate some particulars, should it meet his most holy approbation.

But since the die of fortune is subject to uncertain casts, many adverse circumstances happened during those times. There was a disgraceful contention329 between the abbat of Glastonbury and his monks; so that after altercation they came to blows. The monks being driven into the church, bewailed their miseries at the holy altar. The soldiers, rushing in, slew two of them, wounded fourteen, and drove away the rest. Nay the rage of the military had even bristled the crucifix with arrows. The abbat, rendered infamous by such a criminal outrage, was driven into exile during the whole of the king’s life; but, upon his decease, he was restored to his honours, a sum of money being paid to such as interceded for him, for the expiation of his transgression.


Again, a cruel and ignominious end overtook Walker bishop of Durham, whom the Northumbrians, a people ever ripe for rebellion, throwing off all respect for his holy orders, put to death, after having severely insulted him. A considerable number of Lorrainers were killed there also, for the bishop was of that country. The cause of the murder was this. The bishop, independently of his see, was warder330 of the whole county: over public business he had set his relation Gilbert, and over domestic, the canon Leobin; both men of diligence in their respective employments, but rash. The bishop endured their want of moderation in this respect, out of regard to their activity; and, as he had placed them in office,304 treated them with great kindness. “For our nature ever indulges itself, and favourably regards its own kind works.” This Leobin caused Liwulph, a servant so dearly beloved by St. Cuthbert that the saint himself used to appear to him, even when waking, and prescribe his decisions; him, I say, he caused to be killed by Gilbert; smitten with envy at his holding the higher place in the prelate’s esteem for his knowledge and equity in legal determinations. Walker, terrified with this intelligence, offered the furious family of the deceased the result of a legal inquiry,331 affirming that Leobin would be the cause of his death and of that of his friends. When the matter came to a trial, this ferocious race of people were not to be soothed by reasons of any kind; on the contrary, they threw the whole blame on the bishop, because they had seen both the murderers familiarly entertained in his court after the death of Liwulph. Hence arose clamour and indignation, and Gilbert, as he was of his own accord, going out of the church, where he had been sitting with the bishop, that he might, at his personal peril, save the life of his master, was impiously slain. The bishop, while making overtures of peace before the gates, next glutted the rage of the people with his blood; the fomenter of the crime, too, Leobin, was half-burnt, as he would not quit the church till it was set on fire, and when he rushed out he was received on a thousand spears. This had been predicted by Edgitha, relict of king Edward; for when she had formerly seen Walker, with his milk-white hair, rosy countenance, and extraordinary stature, conducted to Winchester to be consecrated; “We have here,” said she, “a noble martyr:” being led to form such a presage by reflecting on the mutinous disposition of that people. To him succeeded William, abbat of St. Carilef, who established monks at Durham.

Moreover, the year before the king’s death, there was a mortality both among men and cattle, and severe tempests, accompanied with such thunder and lightning, as no person before had ever seen or heard. And in the year he died, a contagious fever destroyed more than half the people; indeed the attack of the disease killed many, and then, from the unseasonableness of the weather, a famine following, it305 spread universally and cut off those whom the fever had spared.

In addition to his other virtues he, more especially in early youth, was observant of chastity; insomuch that it was very commonly reported that he was impotent. Marrying, however, at the recommendation of the nobility, he conducted himself, during many years, in such wise, as never to be suspected of any criminal intercourse. He had many children by Matilda, whose obedience to her husband and fruitfulness in children excited in his mind the tenderest regard for her, although there are not wanting persons who prate about his having renounced his former chastity; and that, after he had acceded to the royal dignity, he was connected with the daughter of a certain priest, whom the queen caused to be removed, by being hamstrung by one of her servants; on which account he was exiled, and Matilda was scourged to death with a bridle. But I esteem it folly to believe this of so great a king; though I decidedly assert that a slight disagreement arose between them, in latter times, on account of their son Robert, whom his mother was said to supply with a military force out of her revenues. Nevertheless, he proved that his conjugal affection was not in the least diminished by this circumstance, as he buried her with great magnificence, on her death, four years before his own; and weeping most profusely for many days showed how keenly he felt her loss: moreover, from that time, if we give credit to report, he refrained from every gratification. The queen332 was buried at Caen, in the monastery of the Holy Trinity. The same proof of regard was evident in the care he took of the funeral of queen Edgitha; who, placed by his attention near her husband at Westminster, has a tomb richly wrought with gold and silver.


His sons were Robert, Richard, William, and Henry, The two last reigned after him successively in England: Robert, irritated that Normandy was refused him during his father’s life-time, went indignantly to Italy, that by marrying the daughter of Boniface the marquis, he might procure306 assistance in those parts, to oppose the king: but failing of this connexion, he excited Philip king of France against his father. Wherefore, disappointed of his paternal blessing and inheritance, at his death, he missed England, retaining with difficulty the duchy of Normandy: and pawning even this, at the expiration of nine years, to his brother William, he joined the expedition into Asia, with the other Christians. From thence, at the end of four years, he returned with credit for his military exploits; and without difficulty sat himself down in Normandy, because his brother William being recently dead, king Henry, unsettled on account of his fresh-acquired power, deemed it enough to retain England under his command: but as I must speak of this in another place, I will here pursue the relation I had begun concerning the sons of William the Great.

Richard afforded his noble father hopes of his future greatness; a fine youth and of aspiring disposition, considering his age: but an untimely death quickly withered the bud of this promising flower. They relate that while hunting deer in the New-forest, he contracted a disorder from a stream of infected air. This is the place which William his father, desolating the towns and destroying the churches for more than thirty miles, had appropriated for the nurture and refuge of wild beasts;333 a dreadful spectacle, indeed, that where before had existed human intercourse and the worship of God, there deer, and goats, and other animals of that kind, should now range unrestrained, and these not subjected to the general service of mankind. Hence it is truly asserted that, in this very forest, William his son, and his grandson Richard, son of Robert, earl of Normandy, by the severe judgment of God, met their deaths, one by a wound in the breast by an arrow, the other by a wound in the neck, or as some say, from being suspended by the jaws on the branch of a tree, as his horse passed beneath it.


His daughters were five; first, Cecilia, abbess of Caen, who still survives: the second, Constantia, married to Alan307 Fergant, earl of Brittany, excited the inhabitants, by the severity of her justice, to administer a poisonous potion to her: the third, Adela, the wife of Stephen, earl of Blois, a lady celebrated for secular industry, lately took the veil at Marcigny. The names of the two others have escaped me.334 One of these, as we have said, was betrothed to Harold, and died ere she was marriageable: the other was affianced, by messengers, to Alphonso, king of Gallicia, but obtained, from God, a virgin death. A hard substance, which proved the frequency of her prayers, was found upon her knees after her decease.

Honouring the memory of his father, by every practicable method, in the latter part of his life, he caused his bones, formerly interred at Nicea, to be taken up by means of a person sent for that purpose, in order to convey them elsewhere; who, successfully returning, stopped in Apulia, on hearing of the death of William, and there buried this illustrious man’s remains. He treated his mother, who, before the death of his father, had married one Herlewin de Conteville, a man of moderate wealth, with singular indulgence as long as she lived. William’s brothers, by this match, were Robert, a man of heavy, sluggish disposition, whom he made earl of Moreton; and Odo, whom, while he was earl, he made bishop of Bayeux; and when king, created him earl of Kent. Being of quicker talents than the other, he was governor of all England, under the king, after the death of William Fitz-Osberne. He had wonderful skill in accumulating treasure; possessed extreme craft in dissembling: so that, though absent, yet, stuffing the scrips of the pilgrims with letters and money, he had nearly purchased the Roman papacy from the citizens. But when, through the rumour of his intended journey, soldiers eagerly flocked to him from all parts of the kingdom, the king, taking offence, threw him into confinement; saying, that he did not seize the bishop of Bayeux, but the earl of Kent. His partisans being intimidated by threats, discovered such quantities of gold, that the heap of precious metal would surpass the belief of the present age; and, at last, many sackfuls of wrought gold were also taken out of the rivers, which he had secretly buried in certain308 places. When released, at the death of his brother, he joined Robert’s party, as he was averse to his nephew William: but then too matters turning out unfavourably, he was banished England, and went over to his nephew and his bishopric in Normandy. Afterwards, proceeding with him on his enterprize to Jerusalem, he died at Antioch while it was besieged by the Christians.

King William kindly admitted foreigners to his friendship; bestowed honours on them without distinction, and was attentive to almsgiving; he gave many possessions in England to foreign churches, and scarcely did his own munificence, or that of his nobility, leave any monastery unnoticed, more especially in Normandy, so that their poverty was mitigated by the riches of England. Thus, in his time, the monastic flock increased on every side; monasteries arose, ancient in their rule, but modern in building: but here I perceive the muttering of those who say, it would have been better that the old should have been preserved in their original state, than that new ones should have been erected from their plunder.

He was of just stature, extraordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead bare of hair: of such great strength of arm, that it was often matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was on full gallop: he was majestic, whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person: of excellent health, so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last: so given to the pleasures of the chase, that, as I have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of many miles grow desolate, that, when at liberty from other avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures. He gave sumptuous and splendid entertainments, at the principal festivals; passing, during the years he could conveniently remain in England, Christmas at Gloucester; Easter at Winchester; Pentecost at Westminster. At these times a royal edict summoned thither all the principal persons of every order, that the ambassadors from foreign nations might admire the splendour of the assemblage, and the costliness of the banquets. Nor was he at any time more affable or indulgent; in order that the visitants might proclaim universally,309 that his generosity kept pace with his riches. This mode of banqueting was constantly observed by his first successor; the second omitted it.


His anxiety for money is the only thing for which he can deservedly be blamed.335 This he sought all opportunities of scraping together, he cared not how; he would say and do some things, and, indeed, almost any thing, unbecoming such great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have here no excuse whatever to offer, unless it be, as one has said, that, “Of necessity, he must fear many, whom many fear.” For, through dread of his enemies, he used to drain the country of money, with which he might retard or repel their attacks; very often, as it happens in human affairs, where strength failed, purchasing the forbearance of his enemies with gold. This disgraceful calamity is still prevalent, and every day increases; so that both towns and churches are subjected to contributions: nor is this done with firm-kept faith on the part of the imposers, but whoever offers more, carries the prize; all former agreements being disregarded.

Residing in his latter days in Normandy, when enmity had arisen between him and the king of France, he, for a short period, was confined to the house: Philip, scoffing at this forbearance, is reported to have said, “The king of England is lying-in at Rouen, and keeps his bed, like a woman after her delivery;” jesting on his belly, which he had been reducing by medicine. Cruelly hurt at this sarcasm, he replied, “When I go to mass, after my confinement, I will make him an offering of a hundred thousand candles.”336 He swore this, “by the Resurrection and Glory of God:” for he was wont purposely to swear such oaths as, by the very form of his mouth, would strike terror into the minds of his hearers.

310 Not long after, in the end of the month of August, when the corn was ripe on the ground, the clusters on the vines, and the orchards laden with fruit in full abundance, collecting an army, he entered France in a hostile manner, trampling down, and laying every thing waste: nothing could assuage his irritated mind, so determined was he to revenge this injurious taunt at the expense of multitudes. At last he set fire to the city of Mantes, where the church of St. Mary was burnt, together with a recluse who did not think it justifiable to quit her cell even under such an emergency; and the whole property of the citizens was destroyed. Exhilarated by this success, while furiously commanding his people to add fuel to the conflagration, he approached too near the flames, and contracted a disorder from the violence of the fire and the intenseness of the autumnal heat. Some say, that his horse leaping over a dangerous ditch, ruptured his rider, where his belly projected over the front of the saddle. Injured by this accident, he sounded a retreat, and returning to Rouen, as the malady increased he took to his bed. His physicians, when consulted, affirmed, from an inspection of his urine, that death was inevitable. On hearing this, he filled the house with his lamentations, because death had suddenly seized him, before he could effect that reformation of life which he had long since meditated. Recovering his fortitude, however, he performed the duties of a Christian in confession and receiving the communion. Reluctantly, and by compulsion, he bestowed Normandy on Robert; to William he gave England; while Henry received his maternal possessions. He ordered all his prisoners to be released and pardoned: his treasures to be brought forth, and distributed to the churches: he gave also a certain sum of money to repair the church which had been burnt. Thus rightly ordering all things, he departed on the eighth of the ides of September, [Sept. 6,] in the fifty-ninth year of his age: the twenty-second of his reign: the fifty-second of his duchy: and in the year of our Lord 1087. This was the same year, in which Canute, king of Denmark, as we have before related, was killed; and in which the Spanish Saracens raging against the Christians, were shortly compelled to retire to their own territories by Alphonso, king of Gallicia; unwillingly evacuating even the cities they had formerly occupied.

311 The body, embalmed after royal custom, was brought down the river Seine to Caen, and there consigned to the earth, a large assembly of the clergy attending, but few of the laity. Here might be seen the wretchedness of earthly vicissitude; for that man who was formerly the glory of all Europe, and more powerful than any of his predecessors, could not find a place of everlasting rest, without contention. For a certain knight, to whose patrimony the place pertained, loudly exclaiming at the robbery, forbade his burial: saying, that the ground belonged to himself by paternal right; and that the king had no claim to rest in a place which he had forcibly invaded. Whereupon, at the desire of Henry, the only one of his sons who was present, a hundred pounds of silver337 were paid to this brawler, and quieted his audacious claim: for at that time, Robert his elder born was in France, carrying on a war against his own country: William had sailed for England, ere the king had well breathed his last; thinking it more advantageous to look to his future benefit, than to be present at the funeral of his father. Moreover, in the dispersion of money, neither slow, nor sparing, he brought forth from its secret hoard, all that treasure which had been accumulated at Winchester, during a reign of so many years: to the monasteries he gave a piece of gold; to each parish church five shillings in silver: to every county a hundred pounds to be divided to each poor man severally. He also very splendidly adorned the tomb of his father, with a large mass of gold and silver and the refulgence of precious stones.

[A.D. 1087.]     BERENGAR OF TOURS].

At this time lived Berengar, the heresiarch of Tours, who denied, that the bread and wine, when placed on the altar and consecrated by the priest, were, as the holy church affirms, the real and substantial body of the Lord. Already was the whole of Gaul infected with this his doctrine, disseminated by means of poor scholars, whom he allured by daily hire. On this account pope Leo, of holiest memory, alarmed for the catholic faith, calling a council against him at Vercelli, dispersed the darkness of this misty error, by the effulgence of evangelical testimony. But when, after his death, the poison of heresy again burst forth from the bosoms of some worthless people where it had long been nurtured, Hildebrand, in councils, when he was archdeacon, at Tours,312 and after, when pope, at Rome, compelled him, after being convicted, to the abjuration of his opinion; which matters, any person desirous of seeing will find recorded in their proper place. Archbishop Lanfranc and Guimund, the most eloquent man of our times, first monk of St. Leofrid, in Normandy, afterwards bishop of Aversa in Apulia, confuted him; but principally and most forcibly the latter. And, indeed, though Berengar disgraced the earlier part of his life by defending certain heresies, yet he came so much to his senses in riper age, that without hesitation, he was by some esteemed a saint; admired for innumerable good qualities, but especially for his humility and almsgiving: showing himself master of his large possessions, by dispersing, not their slave by hoarding and worshipping them. He was so guarded with respect to female beauty, that he would never suffer a woman to appear before him, lest he should seem to enjoy that beauty with his eye, which he did not desire in his heart. He was used neither to despise the poor nor flatter the rich: to live by nature’s rule, “and having food and raiment,” in the language of the apostle, “therewith to be content.” In consequence, Hildebert, bishop of Mans, a first-rate poet, highly commends him; whose words I have purposely inserted, that I may show this celebrated bishop’s regard to his master; and at the same time his opinion will serve for an example to posterity, how he thought a man ought to live: although, perhaps, from the strength of his affection, he may have exceeded the bounds of just commendation.



Fame, which the world allows his due,
Shall Berengar, when dead, pursue:
Whom, plac’d on faith’s exalted height
The fifth day ravish’d with fell spite:
Sad was that day, and fatal too,
Where grief and loss united grew,
Wherein the church’s hope and pride,
The law, with its supporter, died.
What sages taught, or poets sung
Bow’d to his wit, and honey’d tongue.
Then holier wisdom’s path he trod,
And fill’d his heart and lips with God.
His soul, his voice, his action prov’d
The great Creator’s praise he lov’d,
So good, so wise, his growing fame
Shall soar above the greatest name:
Whose rank preserv’d his honours gain’d,
Preferr’d the poor to rich: maintain’d
The sternest justice. Wealth’s wide power
Ne’er gave to sloth, or waste, an hour,
Nor could repeated honours, high,
Seduce him from humility;
Who ne’er on money set his mind,
But griev’d he could no object find
Where he might give: and help’d the poor
Till poverty assail’d his door.
His life by nature’s laws to guide,
His mind from vice, his lips from pride,
Still was his care: to false, the true
Prefer, and nothing senseless do:
Evil to none, but good impart,
And banish lucre, hand and heart.
Whose dress was coarse, and temperance just
Awaited appetite’s keen gust:
Was chastity’s perpetual guest,
Nor let rank lust disturb his rest.
When nature form’d him, “See,” said she,
“While others fade, one born for me.”
Ere justice sought her place of rest
On high, he lock’d her in his breast.
A saint from boyhood, whose great name
Surpasses his exceeding fame,
Which, though the wide world it may fill,
Shall never reach his merit still.
Pious and grave, so humble yet,
That envy ne’er could him beset;
For envy weeps, whom still before
She hated, prone now to adore;
First for his life, but now his fate
She moans, laments his frail estate.
Man truly wise and truly blest!
Thy soul and body both at rest,
May I, when dead, abide with you,
And share the self-same portion too.

You may perceive in these verses, that the bishop exceeded the just measure of praise; but eloquence is apt to recommend itself in such wise; thus a brilliant style proceeds in graceful strain; thus

“Bewitching eloquence sheds purple flowers.”

But though Berengar himself changed his sentiments, yet was he unable to convert all whom he had infected throughout the world; “so dreadful a thing it is to seduce others from what is right, either by example or by word; as, perhaps,314 in consequence, you must bear the sins of others after having atoned for your own.” Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, whom Mary, the mother of our Lord, was seen to cure when sick, by the milk of her breasts, is said to have predicted this; for, when lying in the last extremity, he was visited by many persons, and the house was scarcely large enough to hold the company, he darted his eye through the throng, and endeavoured to drive away Berengar, with all the force he had remaining; protesting that an immense devil stood near him, and attempted to seduce many persons to follow him, by beckoning with his hand, and whispering some enticement. Moreover, Berengar himself, when about to expire on the day of the Epiphany, sadly sighing, at the recollection of the wretched people whom, when a very young man, in the heat of error, he had infected with his opinions, exclaimed, “To-day, in the day of his manifestation, my Lord Jesus Christ will appear to me, either to glorify me, as I hope, for my repentance; or to punish me, as I fear, for the heresy I have propagated on others.”

We indeed believe, that after ecclesiastical benediction, those mysteries are the very body and blood of the Saviour; induced to such an opinion, by the authority of the ancient church, and by many miracles recently manifested. Such as that which St. Gregory exhibited at Rome; and such as Paschasius relates to have taken place in Germany; that the priest Plegild visibly touched the form of a boy, upon the altar, and that after kissing him he partook of him, turned into the similitude of bread, after the custom of the church: which, they relate, Berengar used arrogantly to cavil at, and to say, that “it was the treacherous covenant of a scoundrel, to destroy with his teeth, him whom he had kissed with his mouth.” Such, too, is that concerning the Jewish boy, who by chance running playfully into a church, with a Christian of the same age, saw a child torn to pieces on the altar, and severally divided to the people; which when, with childish innocence, he related as truth to his parents, they placed him in a furnace, where the fire was burning and the door closed: whence, after many hours, he was snatched by the Christians, without injury to his person, clothes, or hair; and being asked how he could escape the devouring flames, he replied, “That beautiful woman whom I saw sitting in315 the chair, whose son was divided among the people, always stood at my right hand in the furnace, keeping off the threatening flames and fiery volumes with her garments.”

[A.D. 1087.]     THE TOMB OF WALWIN.

At that time, in a province of Wales, called Ros, was found the sepulchre of Walwin, the noble nephew of Arthur; he reigned, a most renowned knight, in that part of Britain which is still named Walwerth; but was driven from his kingdom by the brother and nephew of Hengist, (of whom I have spoken in my first book,) though not without first making them pay dearly for his expulsion. He deservedly shared, with his uncle, the praise of retarding, for many years, the calamity of his falling country. The sepulchre of Arthur is no where to be seen, whence ancient ballads fable that he is still to come. But the tomb of the other, as I have suggested, was found in the time of king William, on the sea-coast, fourteen feet long: there, as some relate, he was wounded by his enemies, and suffered shipwreck; others say, he was killed by his subjects at a public entertainment. The truth consequently is doubtful; though neither of these men was inferior to the reputation they have acquired.

This, too, was the period in which Germany, for fifty years, bewailed the pitiable, and almost fatal government of Henry, of whom I have spoken in the history of William. He was neither unlearned nor indolent; but so singled out by fate for every person to attack, that whoever took up arms against him seemed, to himself, to be acting for the good of religion. He had two sons, Conrad and Henry: the first, not violating the rights of nature towards his father, having subjugated Italy, died at Arezzo, a city of Tuscany: the other, in his early age, attacking his parent when he was somewhat at rest from external molestation, compelled him to retire from the empire, and when he died shortly after, honoured him with an imperial funeral. He still survives, obstinately adhering to those very sentiments, on account of which he thought himself justified in persecuting his father; for he grants the investiture of churches by the staff and ring; and looks upon the pope as not legally elected without his concurrence; although Calixtus, who now presides over the papal see, has greatly restrained this man’s inordinate ambition: but let the reader wait my farther relation of these matters in their proper order.

316 Moreover, pope Hildebrand dying, as I have said, and Urban being elected by the cardinals, the emperor persisted in his intention of preferring Guibert, of proclaiming him pope, and of bringing him to Rome, by the expulsion of the other. The army, however, of the marchioness Matilda, a woman, who, forgetful of her sex, and comparable to the ancient Amazons, used to lead forth her hardy troops to battle, espoused the juster cause, as it seemed, by her assistance, in succeeding time, Urban obtaining the papal throne, held quiet possession of it for eleven years. After him Paschal was appointed by the Romans, who held Henry’s concurrence in contempt. Guibert yet burdened the earth with his existence, the only sower of sedition, who never, during his whole life, laid aside his obstinacy, nor conformed to justice; saying, that the decision of the emperor ought to be observed; not that of the assassins, or parchment-mongers of Rome.338 In consequence, both of them being excommunicated in several councils, they treated the sentence with ridicule. Notwithstanding these circumstances, there were many things praiseworthy in the emperor: he was eloquent, of great abilities, well read, actively charitable; had many good qualities, both of mind and person: was ever prepared for war, insomuch that he was sixty-two times engaged in battle; was equitable in adjusting differences; and when matters were unsuccessful, he would prefer his griefs to heaven, and wait for redress from thence. Many of his enemies perished by untimely deaths.

I have heard a person of the utmost veracity relate, that one of his adversaries, a weak and factious man, while reclining at a banquet, was, on a sudden, so completely surrounded by mice, as to be unable to escape. So great was the number of these little animals, that there could scarcely be imagined more in a whole province. It was in vain, that they were attacked with clubs and fragments of the benches which were at hand: and though they were for a long time assailed by all, yet they wreaked their deputed curse on no317 one else; pursuing him only with their teeth, and with a kind of dreadful squeaking. And although he was carried out to sea about a javelin’s cast by the servants, yet he could not by these means escape their violence; for immediately so great a multitude of mice took to the water, that you would have sworn the sea was strewed with chaff. But when they began to gnaw the planks of the ship, and the water, rushing through the chinks, threatened inevitable shipwreck, the servants turned the vessel to the shore. The animals, then also swimming close to the ship, landed first. Thus the wretch, set on shore, and soon after entirely gnawed in pieces, satiated the dreadful hunger of the mice.

I deem this the less wonderful, because it is well known, that in Asia, if a leopard bite any person, a party of mice approach directly, to discharge their urine on the wounded man; and that a filthy deluge of their water attends his death; but if, by the care of servants driving them off, the destruction can be avoided during nine days; then medical assistance, if called in, may be of service. My informant had seen a person wounded after this manner, who, despairing of safety on shore, proceeded to sea, and lay at anchor; when immediately more than a thousand mice swam out, wonderful to relate, in the rinds of pomegranates, the insides of which they had eaten; but they were drowned through the loud shouting of the sailors. “For the Creator of all things has made nothing destitute of sagacity; nor any pest without its remedy.”

[A.D. 1087.]     OF MARIANUS SCOTUS.

During this emperor’s reign flourished Marianus Scotus,339 first a monk of Fulda, afterwards a recluse at Mentz, who, by renouncing the present life, secured the happiness of that which is to come. During his long continued leisure, he examined the writers on Chronology, and discovered the disagreement of the cycles of Dionysius the Little with the evangelical computation. Wherefore reckoning every year from the beginning of the world, he added twenty-two, which were wanting, to the above mentioned cycles; but he had few, or no followers of his opinion. Wherefore I am often led to wonder, why such unhappiness should318 attach to the learned of our time, that in so great a number of scholars and students, pale with watching, scarcely one can obtain unqualified commendation for knowledge. So much does ancient custom please, and so little encouragement, though deserved, is given to new discoveries, however consistent with truth. All are anxious to grovel in the old track, and everything modern is contemned; and therefore, as patronage alone can foster genius, when that is withheld, every exertion languishes.

But as I have mentioned the monastery of Fulda, I will relate what a reverend man, Walker, prior of Malvern, whose words if any disbelieve he offends against holiness, told me had happened there. “Not more than fifteen years have elapsed,” said he, “since a contagious disease attacked the abbat of that place, and afterwards destroyed many of the monks. The survivors, at first, began each to fear for himself, and to pray, and give alms more abundantly than usual. In process of time, however, for such is the nature of man, their fear gradually subsiding, they began to omit them; the cellarer more especially: who publicly and absurdly exclaimed, that the stock of provision was not adequate to such a consumption; that he had lately hoped for some reduction of expense from so many funerals, but that his hopes were at an end, if the dead consumed what the living could not. It happened on a certain night, when, from some urgent business, he had deferred going to rest for a long time, that having at length despatched every concern, he went towards the dormitory. And now you shall hear a strange circumstance: he saw in the chapter-house, the abbat, and all who had died that year, sitting in the order they had departed: when affrighted and endeavouring to escape, he was detained by force. Being reproved and corrected, after the monastic manner, with a scourge, he heard the abbat speak precisely to the following effect: that it was foolish to look for advantage by another’s death, when all were subject to one common fate; that it was an impious thing, that a monk who had passed his whole life in the service of the church should be grudged the pittance of a single year after his death; that he himself should die very shortly, but that whatever others might do for him, should redound only to the advantage of those319 whom he had defrauded; that he might now go and correct, by his example, those whom he had corrupted by his expressions.” He departed, and demonstrated that he had seen nothing imaginary, as well by his recent stripes, as by his death, which shortly followed.


In the meantime, while employed on other subjects, both matter and inclination have occurred for the relation of what was determined in William’s time, concerning the controversy still existing between the archbishops of Canterbury and York. And that posterity may be fully informed of this business, I will subjoin the opinions of the ancient fathers.

Pope Gregory to Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury.

“Let your jurisdiction not only extend over the bishops you shall have ordained, or such as have been ordained by the bishop of York, but also over all the priests of Britain, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Boniface to Justus, archbishop of Canterbury.

“Far be it from every Christian, that anything concerning the city of Canterbury be diminished or changed, in present or future times, which was appointed by our predecessor pope Gregory, however human circumstances may be changed: but more especially, by the authority of St. Peter the prince of apostles, we command and ordain, that the city of Canterbury shall ever hereafter be esteemed the metropolitan see of all Britain; and we decree and appoint, immutably, that all the provinces of the kingdom of England shall be subject to the metropolitan church of the aforesaid see. And if any one attempt to injure this church, which is more especially under the power and protection of the holy Roman church, or to lessen the jurisdiction conceded to it, may God expunge him from the book of life; and let him know, that he is bound by the sentence of a curse.”

Alexander to William, king of England.

“The cause of Alric, formerly called bishop of Chichester, we have entrusted to our brother bishop, Lanfranc, to be by him diligently reconsidered and determined. We have also commended to him the labour of deciding the dispute which has arisen between the archbishop of York,320 and the bishop of Dorchester, on matters belonging to their dioceses; strictly ordering him to examine this cause most diligently and bring it to a just termination. Besides, we have so fully committed to him the authority of our personal and pontifical power in considering and settling causes, that whatever he shall, according to justice, have determined, shall be regarded as firm and indissoluble hereafter, as though it had been adjudged in our presence.”


“In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation 1072, of the pontificate of pope Alexander the eleventh, and of the reign of William, glorious king of England, and duke of Normandy, the sixth; by the command of the said pope Alexander, and permission of the same king, in presence of himself, his bishops, and abbats, the question was agitated concerning the primacy which Lanfranc,340 archbishop of Canterbury, claimed in right of his church, over that of York; and concerning the ordination of certain bishops, of which it was not clearly evident, to whom they especially pertained; and at length, after some time it was proved and shown by the distinct authority of various writings, that the church of York ought to be subject to that of Canterbury, and to be obedient to the appointments of its archbishop, as primate of all England, in all such matters as pertained to the Christian religion. But the homage of the bishop of Durham, that is of Lindisfarne, and of all the countries beyond the limits of the bishop of Lichfield, and the great river Humber, to the farthest boundaries of Scotland, and whatever on this side of the aforesaid river justly pertains to the diocese of the church of York, the metropolitan of Canterbury allowed for ever to belong to the archbishop of York and his successors: in such sort, that if the archbishop of Canterbury chose to call a council, wherever he deemed fit, the archbishop of York was bound to be present at his command, with all his suffragan bishops, and be obedient to his canonical injunctions. And Lanfranc the archbishop proved from the ancient custom of his predecessors, that the archbishop of York was bound to make profession, even with an oath, to the archbishop of Canterbury; but through321 regard to the king, he dispensed with the oath from Thomas, archbishop of York; and received his written profession only: but not forming a precedent for his successors who might choose to exact the oath, together with the profession, from Thomas’s successors. If the archbishop of Canterbury should die, the archbishop of York shall come to Canterbury; and, with the other bishops of the church aforesaid, duly consecrate the person elect as his lawful primate. But if the archbishop of York shall die, his successor, accepting the gift of the archbishopric from the king, shall come to Canterbury, or where the archbishop of Canterbury shall appoint, and shall from him receive canonical ordination. To this ordinance consented the king aforesaid, and the archbishops, Lanfranc of Canterbury, and Thomas of York; and Hubert subdeacon of the holy Roman church, and legate of the aforesaid pope Alexander; and the other bishops and abbats present. This cause was first agitated at the festival of Easter in the city of Winchester, in the royal chapel, situated in the castle; afterwards in the royal town called Windsor, where it received its termination, in the presence of the king, the bishops, and abbats of different orders, who were assembled at the king’s court on the festival of Pentecost.

“The signature of William the king: the signature of Matilda the queen.

“I Hubert, subdeacon of the holy Roman church, and legate from pope Alexander, have signed.

“I Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, have signed.

“I Thomas, archbishop of York, have signed.

“I William, bishop of London, have assented.

“I Herman, bishop of Sherborne, have signed.

“I Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, have signed.

“I Walter, bishop of Hereford, have assented.

“I Giso, bishop of Wells, have assented.

“I Remigius, bishop of Dorchester, have signed.

“I Walkelin, bishop of Winchester, have signed.

“I Herefast, bishop of Helmham, have signed.

“I Stigand, bishop of Chichester, have assented.

“I Siward, bishop of Rochester, have assented.

“I Osberne, bishop of Exeter, have assented.

“I Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, have assented.

322 “I Gosfrith, bishop of Coutances and one of the nobles of England, have assented.

“I Scotland, abbat of St. Augustine’s monastery, have assented.

“I Thurstan, abbat of the monastery which is situated in the isle of Ely, have assented.

“I Ailnoth, abbat of Glastonbury, have assented.

“I Elfwin, abbat of the monastery of Ramsey, have assented.

“I Wulnoth, abbat of Chertsey, have assented.

“I Ailwyn, abbat of Evesham, have assented.

“I Frederic, abbat of St. Alban’s, have assented.

“I Goffrid, abbat of the monastery of St. Peter, near London, have assented.

“I Baldwin, abbat of St. Edmund’s monastery, have assented.

“I Turald, abbat of Burgh, have assented.

“I Adelelm, abbat of Abingdon, have assented.

“I Ruald, abbat of the New minster at Winchester, have assented.

“It becomes every Christian to be subject to Christian laws, and by no means to run counter to those things which have been wholesomely enacted by the holy fathers. For hence arise strifes, dissensions, envyings, contentions, and other things, which plunge the lovers of them into eternal punishment. And the more exalted the rank of any person is, so much the more exact should be his obedience to divine commands: wherefore I Thomas, now ordained metropolitan bishop of the church of York, hearing and knowing your authorities, make unlimited profession of canonical obedience to you, Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, and your successors; and I promise to observe whatever shall be canonically enjoined me, either by you or them. Of this matter I was doubtful, while I was yet about to be ordained by you: wherefore I promised obedience unconditionally to you, but conditionally to your successors.”

The archbishop of Canterbury, as I remember to have observed in my first book, originally had subject to him, these bishops: London, Winchester, Rochester, Sherborne, Worcester, Hereford, Lichfield, Selsey, Leicester, Helmham, Sidnacester, Dunwich; in the time of king Edward the323 Elder were added, Cornwall, Crediton, Wells in West Saxony, and Dorchester in Mercia, as I noticed in my second book.


The archbishop of York had all the bishops on the farther side of the Humber subject to him, as Ripon, Hexham, Lindisfarne, Candida Casa, which is now called Whitherne; and all the bishops of Scotland and the Orkneys; as the archbishop of Canterbury had those of Ireland and Wales. The bishoprics of Ripon and Hexham have long since perished by hostile ravages; Leicester, Sidnacester, and Dunwich, by means that I cannot account for; and, in the time of king Edward the Simple, Cornwall and Crediton were united, and the bishopric translated to Exeter. In king William’s time, at this council, it was determined that, according to the decrees of the canons, the bishops should quit the villages, and fix their abode in the cities of their dioceses; Lichfield therefore migrated to Chester, which was anciently called the City of Legions; Selsey to Chichester; Helmham first to Thetford, and now, by bishop Herbert, to Norwich; Sherborne to Salisbury; Dorchester to Lincoln. For Lindisfarne had long before passed to Durham, and lately Wells to Bath.

In this assembly Lanfranc, who was yet uninstructed in English matters, inquired of the elder bishops, what was the order of sitting in council, as originally appointed. They, alleging the difficulty of the question, deferred their answer till the next day; when, carefully calling circumstances to mind, they asserted that they had seen the arrangement as follows: that the archbishop of Canterbury, presiding at the council, should have, on the right hand, the archbishop of York, and next him the bishop of Winchester; and on his left, the bishop of London. But should it ever happen, through necessity, that the primate of Canterbury should be absent, or should he be dead, the archbishop of York, presiding at the council, should have the bishops of London on his right hand, and of Winchester on his left; and the rest should take their seats according to the time of their ordination.

At that time, too, the claim of the archbishop of York on the see of Worcester and Dorchester was decided and set at rest. For he said that they ought to be subject to his jurisdiction; which, after having pondered for some time in secret, when he proceeded to Rome with Lanfranc to receive324 their palls from the pope, he brought publicly before the Roman court. Lanfranc, though for the most part unmoved by injury, could not help betraying, by his countenance, his emotion at such a wanton and unheard-of attack, though he for some time refrained from speaking. But pope Alexander, who felt much for Lanfranc’s distress, for he had even condescendingly risen from his seat when he approached, professing that he paid him this mark of respect, not from honour to the archbishop but regard to his learning, removed from himself the unpleasant task of deciding, and referred the adjudication of it to an English council. In consequence, as I have related, the matter, after deep investigation, came to this termination in the present council; that, as these bishops were on this side of the Humber, they should belong to Canterbury, but all beyond that river to York.

Here the pious simplicity of St. Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, and his noble confidence in God, demand praise and approbation. For when called in question as well concerning this business, as on his slender attainments in learning, he had retired to consider more carefully what answer he should make, his mind undisturbed by tumult: “Believe me,” said he, “we have not yet sung the service for the sixth hour: let us sing the service therefore.” And, on his companions suggesting the necessity of first expediting the business they had met upon; that there was ample time for singing, and that the king and the nobility would laugh at them, if they heard of it: “Truly,” said he, “let us first do our duty towards God, and afterwards settle the disputes of men.” Having sung the service, he directly proceeded towards the council-chamber, without devising any subterfuge, or any attempt to disguise the truth. To his dependents, who were desirous of withholding him, and who could not be persuaded but their cause was in danger, he said, “Know for certain, that I here visibly perceive those holy archbishops, Dunstan of Canterbury, and Oswald of York; who, defending me this day with their prayers, will darken the understandings of my gainsayers.” Then giving his benediction to a monk, a man of little eloquence, but somewhat acquainted with the Norman language, on summing up his cause, he obtained that he, who was before thought unworthy of the management of his own diocese, should be humbly325 entreated by the archbishop of York, to condescend to visit those parts of his province, which himself, through dread of enemies, or ignorance of the language, had refrained from approaching. But I will no longer torture the patience of my readers, who perhaps do not regard this matter with pleasure, as they are in expectation of the history of William’s successors; though, if I am not too partial to myself, a variety of anecdote can be displeasing to no one, unless he be morose enough to rival the superciliousness of Cato. But whoever is so inclined, will find such other matters in the fourth and fifth book, for here the third shall terminate.341



[A.D. 1072.]     PREFACE TO BOOK IV.

I am aware, that many persons think it unwise in me, to have written the history of the kings of my own time; alleging, that in such a work, truth is often made shipwreck of, while falsehood meets with support: because to relate the crimes of contemporaries, is attended with danger; their good actions with applause. Whence it arises, say they, that, as all things have, now, a natural tendency to evil rather than to good, the historian passes over any disgraceful transaction, however obvious, through timidity; and, for the sake of approbation, feigns good qualities, when he cannot find them. There are others, who, judging of us by their own indolence, deem us unequal to so great a task, and brand our undertaking with malignant censure. Wherefore, impelled by the reasoning of the one, or the contempt of the other, I had long since voluntarily retired to leisure and to silence: but, after indulging in them for a time, the accustomed inclination for study again strongly beset me; as it was impossible for me to be unoccupied, and I knew not how to give myself up to those forensic avocations, which are beneath the notice of a literary character. To this was to be added the326 incitements of my friends, to whose suggestions, though only implied, I ought to pay regard: and they indeed gently urged me, already sufficiently disposed, to prosecute my undertaking. Animated, therefore, by the advice of those whom I love most affectionately, I advance to give them a lasting pledge of friendship from the stores of my research. Grateful also to those who are in fear for me, lest I should either excite hatred, or disguise the truth, I will, by the help of Christ, make such a return for their kindness, as neither to become odious, nor a falsifier. For I will describe, both what has been done well, or otherwise, in such wise, and so safely steer between Scylla and Charybdis, that my opinions shall not be concealed, though some matters may be omitted in my history. Moreover, to those who undervalue the labours of others, I make the same answer as St. Jerome formerly did to his critics; “Let them read if they like: if not, let them cast it aside; because I do not obtrude my work on the fastidious, but I dedicate it, if any think it worth their notice, to the studious;” which even these men will readily pronounce to be consonant to equity, unless they are of the number of those, of whom it is said; “Fools are easy to confute, but not so easy to restrain.” I will relate, then, in this, the fourth book of my work, every thing which may be said of William, son of William the Great, in such manner that neither shall the truth suffer, nor shall the dignity of the prince be obscured. Some matters also will be inserted in these pages, which in his time were calamitous in this country, or glorious elsewhere, as far as my knowledge extends. More especially, the pilgrimage of the Christians to Jerusalem, which it will be proper to annex in this place; because an expedition, so famous in these times, is well worth hearing, and will also be an incitement to valour. Not indeed that I have any confidence these transactions will be better treated by me than by others who have written on the subject, but that, what many write, many may read. Yet, lest so long a preface should disgust my reader, I will immediately enter on my work.


Of William the Second. [A.D. 1087–1100.

[A.D. 1087.]     BIRTH OF WILLIAM II.

William then, the son of William, was born in Normandy many years before his father came to England; and being educated with extreme care by his parents, as he had naturally an ambitious mind, he at length reached the summit of dignity. He would no doubt have been a prince incomparable in our time, had not his father’s greatness eclipsed him; and had not the fates cut short his years too early for his maturer age to correct errors, contracted by the licentiousness of power, and the impetuosity of youth. When childhood was passed, he spent the period of youth in military occupations; in riding, throwing the dart, contending with his elders in obedience, with those of his own age in action: and he esteemed it injurious to his reputation, if he was not the foremost to take arms in military commotions; unless he was the first to challenge the adversary, or when challenged, to overcome him. To his father he was ever dutiful; always exerting himself in his sight in battle, ever at his side in peace. His hopes gradually expanding, he already aspired after the succession, especially on the rejection of his elder brother, while the tender age of the younger gave him no uneasiness. Thus, adopted as his successor by his father during his last illness, he set out to take possession of the kingdom ere the king had breathed his last: where being gladly received by the people, and obtaining the keys of the treasury, he by these means subjected all England to his will. Archbishop Lanfranc, the grand mover of every thing, had educated him, and made him a knight,342 and now he favoured his pretensions to the throne; by his authority and assistance William was crowned on the day of the saints Cosmas and Damian,343 and passed the remainder of the winter quietly and with general favour.

At the expiration of this period, in the beginning of spring, his first contention was with his uncle, Odo, bishop of328 Bayeux. For when Odo, on his release from confinement, as I have related, had firmly established his nephew, Robert, in the duchy of Normandy, he came to England, and received from the king the earldom of Kent. But when he saw every thing in the kingdom managed, not at his own pleasure, as formerly, for the administration of public affairs was now committed to William, bishop of Durham, he was moved with envy, and having revolted from the king, he tainted many others by insinuating, that the kingdom belonged to Robert, who was of gentler disposition, and whose youthful follies had been corrected by many adversities; that William, delicately brought up, and overbearing from that ferocity of mind which was manifest in his countenance, would dare every thing, in defiance of right and equity: that it must soon come to pass, that they would lose the honours they had already obtained with so much difficulty: that nothing was gained by the father’s death, if those whom he had cast into prison, were to be killed by the son. To this effect he used, at first, secretly to mutter, together with Roger Montgomery, Gosfrith, bishop of Coutances, with his nephew Robert earl of Northumberland, and others; afterwards they were more open in their clamours, repeating and disseminating them by letters and by emissaries. Moreover, even William, bishop of Durham, the confidential minister of the king, had joined in their treachery. This was matter of great concern to William, it is said; because, together with the breach of friendship, he was disappointed of the resources of the distant provinces. Odo now carried off booty of every kind to Rochester, plundering the king’s revenues in Kent, and especially the lands of the archbishop; breathing eternal hatred against him, because, he said, it was by his advice, that his brother had cast him into chains. Nor was this assertion false: for when William the elder formerly complained to Lanfranc, that he was deserted by his brother: “Seize, and cast him into chains,” said he. “What!” replied the king, “he is a clergyman!” Then the archbishop with playful archness, as Persius says, “balancing the objection with nice antithesis,”344 rejoined, “you will not seize the bishop of Bayeux, but confine the earl of Kent.”



Bishop Gosfrith with his nephew, depopulating Bath, and Berkeley, and part of the county of Wilts, treasured up their spoils at Bristol. Roger Montgomery sending out his army with the Welsh from Shrewsbury, plundered Worcestershire. They had now hostilely approached Worcester, when the king’s soldiers who guarded it, relying on the blessing of bishop Wulstan, to whom the custody of the castle was committed, though few in number, dispersed this multitude; and after wounding and killing many, took some of them prisoners. Moreover, Roger Bigod at Norwich, and Hugo de Grentmeisnil at Leicester, each with their party, were plundering in their respective neighbourhoods. In vain, however, did the whole power of revolt rage against a man, who was deficient neither in prudence nor in good fortune. For seeing almost all the Normans leagued in one furious conspiracy, he sent alluring letters, summoning to him such brave and honest English as yet remained; and complaining to them on the subject of his wrongs, he bound them to his party, by promising them wholesome laws, a diminution of tribute, and free leave to hunt.345 With equal cunning he circumvented Roger Montgomery, when riding with him, with dissembled perfidy; for taking him aside, he loaded him with odium, saying, that he would willingly retire from the government, if it seemed meet to him and to the rest whom his father had left as his guardians; that he could not understand, why they were so outrageous; if they wanted money, they might have what they pleased; if an increase of their estates, they might have that also; in short, they might have whatever they chose; only let them be careful that the judgment of his father was not called in question: for, if they thought it ought to be disregarded in the instance of himself, it might be a bad example for them: for the same person made him king, who had made them earls. Excited by these words and promises, the earl, who, next to Odo, had been the chief leader of the faction, was the first to desert. Proceeding, therefore, immediately against the rebels, he laid siege to the castles of his uncle at Tunbridge and at Pevensey, and seizing him in the latter compelled him to swear, as he dictated, that he would depart England, and deliver up Rochester. To fulfil this promise he sent him330 forward with a party he could rely on, intending to follow at his leisure. At that time almost all the young nobility of England and Normandy were at Rochester: three sons of earl Roger, Eustace the younger of Boulogne, and many others not deserving notice. The royal party, accompanying the bishop, were few and unarmed, for who could fear treachery where he was present? and going round the walls, they called the townsmen to open the gates; for so the bishop in person, and the absent king commanded. Observing from the wall, however, that the countenance of the bishop ill agreed with the language of the speakers, they suddenly sallied out, took horse in an instant, and carried off, together with the bishop, the whole party, captive. The report of this transaction quickly reached the king. Fierce from the injury, and smothering his indignation, he calls together his faithful English subjects, and orders them to summon all their countrymen to the siege, unless any wished to be branded with the name of “Nidering,”346 which implies “abandoned.” The English who thought nothing more disgraceful than to be stigmatised by such an appellation, flocked in troops to the king, and rendered his army invincible. Nor could the townsmen longer delay submission; experiencing, that a party, however noble, or however numerous, could avail nothing against the king of England. Odo, now taken a second time, abjured England for ever: the bishop of Durham of his own accord retired beyond sea, the king allowing him to escape uninjured out of regard to his former friendship: the rest were all admitted to fealty. During the interval of this siege, some of the king’s fleet destroyed a party which the earl of Normandy had sent to assist the traitors, partly by slaughter, and partly by shipwreck; the remainder, intent on escaping, endeavoured to make sail; but being soon after disappointed by its falling calm, they became matter for laughter to our people, but their own destruction; for, that they might not be taken alive, they leaped from their vessels into the sea.


[A.D. 1088.]     TREATY WITH ROBERT.

The next year, as the sense of injuries ever grows keener from reconsideration, the king began carefully to examine, how he might revenge his griefs, and repay his brother for this insult. In consequence, by his practices, he bribed the garrison, and obtained possession of the castle of St. Vallery, the adjoining port, and the town which is called Albemarle. The earl had not the courage to resist, but, by means of ambassadors, acquainted his lord, the king of France, with the violence of his brother, and begged his assistance. The French king, inactive, and surfeited with daily gluttony, came hiccupping, through repletion, to the war: but, as he was making great professions, the money of the king of England met him by the way; with which his resolution being borne down, he unbuckled his armour, and went back to his gormandizing. In this manner, Normandy, for a long time, groaned under intestine war, sometimes one party, sometimes the other being victorious: the nobility, men of fickle temper, and faithful to neither brother, exciting their mutual fury. A few, better advised, attentive to their own advantage, for they had possessions in both countries, were mediators of a peace: the basis of which was, that the king should get possession of Maine for the earl; and the earl should cede to the king those castles which he already held, and the monastery of Feschamp. The treaty was ratified and confirmed by the oath of the nobles on both sides.

Not long after the king went abroad to execute these conditions. Each leader made great efforts to invade Maine; but when they had completed their preparations, and were just ready to proceed, an obstacle arose, through the spirit of Henry, the younger brother, loudly remonstrating against their covetousness, which had shared their paternal possessions between themselves, and blushed not at having left him almost destitute. In consequence he took possession of Mount St. Michael, and harassed, with constant sallies, the besieging forces of his brothers. During this siege, a noble specimen of disposition was exhibited, both by the king and by the earl: of compassion in the one, and of magnanimity in the other. I shall subjoin these instances, for the information of my readers.

The king, going out of his tent, and observing the enemy at a distance, proudly prancing, rushed unattended against a332 large party; spurred on by the impetuosity of his courage, and at the same time confident that none would dare resist him. Presently his horse, which he had that day purchased for fifteen marks of silver, being killed under him, he was thrown down, and for a long time dragged by his foot; the strength of his mail, however, prevented his being hurt. The soldier who had unhorsed him, was at this instant drawing his sword to strike him, when, terrified at the extremity of his danger, he cried out, “Hold, rascal, I am the king of England.” The whole troop trembled at the well-known voice of the prostrate monarch, and immediately raised him respectfully from the ground, and brought him another horse. Leaping into the saddle without waiting assistance, and darting a keen look on the by-standers: “Who unhorsed me?” said he. While the rest were silent through fear, the bold perpetrator of the deed readily defended himself, saying, “’Twas I, who took you, not for a king, but for a soldier.” The king, soothed, and regaining the serenity of his countenance, exclaimed, “By the crucifix347 at Lucca,” for such was his oath, “henceforth thou shalt be mine, and, placed on my roll, shalt receive the recompence of this gallant service.” Nobly done, magnanimous king! what encomium shall I pass on this speech! Equal to Alexander the Great in glory; who, through admiration of his courage, preserved, unhurt, a Persian soldier, who had attempted to strike him from behind, but was frustrated in his design by the treachery of his sword.

But now to relate the compassion of the earl. When the blockade had so far proceeded that the besieged were in want of water, Henry sent messengers to Robert, to expostulate with him on the thirst he endured, and to represent, that it was impious to deprive him of water, the common right of mankind: let him try his courage another way if he chose; and not employ the violence of the elements, but the valour of a soldier. On which, wrought upon by the natural tenderness of his disposition, he ordered his party to be more remiss in their duty where they kept guard, that his thirsty333 brother might not be deprived of water. This circumstance, when related to the king, who was always inclined to warmth of temper, made him say to the earl, “You well know how to carry on war indeed, who allow your enemies plenty of water: and pray, how shall we subdue them, if we indulge them in food and drink?” But he smiling, uttered this kind and truly laudable expression, “Oh, shame! should I suffer my brother to die with thirst? and where shall we find another, if we lose him?” On this the king, deriding the mild temper of the man, put an end to the war without accomplishing his design; and as the commotions of the Scots and Welsh required his presence, he retired with both his brothers to his kingdom.


Immediately he led an expedition, first against the Welsh, and then against the Scots, in which he performed nothing worthy of his greatness; but lost many of his soldiers, and had his sumpter-horses intercepted. And, not only at that time, but frequently, in Wales, was fortune unfavourable to him; which may seem strange to any one, when the chance of war was generally on his side in other places. But it appears to me that the unevenness of the country, and the badness of the weather, as it assisted their rebellion, was also an impediment to his valour. But king Henry, who now reigns, a man of excellent talents, discovered a mode of counteracting their designs: which was, by stationing in their country the Flemings, to be a barrier to them, and constantly keep them within bounds. At that time, by the industry of earl Robert, who had long since gained the good graces of the Scot, the basis of a peace was laid between Malcolm and William. But various grounds of difference still existing on both sides, and justice wavering through their mutual animosity, Malcolm came of his own accord to Gloucester, a hearty solicitor for peace, so that it were on equitable conditions. He obtained, however, nothing more than permission to return uninjured to his kingdom: for the king disdained to take a man by subtlety, whom he might have conquered by arms. But the next winter he was dispatched by the party of Robert, earl of Northumberland, rather through stratagem than force. When his wife, Margaret, a woman distinguished for almsgiving and for chastity, heard of his death, disgusted with the continuance of334 life, she earnestly entreated of God to die. They were both remarkable for piety, but the queen more especially. For during her whole life, wherever she might be, she had twenty-four poor persons whom she supplied with meat and clothing. In Lent, waiting for the singing of the priests, she used to watch all night in the church, herself assisting at triple matins, of the Trinity, of the Cross, of St. Mary, and afterwards repeating the Psalter; with tears bedewing her garments, and agitating her breast. Departing from the church, she used to feed the poor; first three, then nine, then twenty-four, at last three hundred: herself standing by with the king, and pouring water on their hands. Edgar his son, when expelled by his uncle, was restored by William; assuredly with a noble compassion, and worthy of so great a personage, who, forgetting the injuries of the father, replaced the son, when suppliant, on his throne.


Greatness of soul was pre-eminent in the king, which, in process of time, he obscured by excessive severity; vices, indeed, in place of virtues, so insensibly crept into his bosom, that he could not distinguish them. The world doubted, for a long time, whither he would incline; what tendency his disposition would take. At first, as long as archbishop Lanfranc survived, he abstained from every crime; so that it might be hoped, he would be the very mirror of kings. After his death, for a time, he showed himself so variable, that the balance hung even betwixt vices and virtues. At last, however, in his latter years, the desire after good grew cold, and the crop of evil increased to ripeness: his liberality became prodigality; his magnanimity pride; his austerity cruelty. I may be allowed, with permission of the royal majesty, not to conceal the truth; for he feared God but little, man not at all. If any one shall say this is undiscerning, he will not be wrong; because wise men should observe this rule, “God ought to be feared at all times; man, according to circumstances.” He was, when abroad, and in public assemblies, of supercilious look, darting his threatening eye on the by-stander; and with assumed severity and ferocious voice, assailing such as conversed with him. From apprehension of poverty, and of the treachery of others, as may be conjectured, he was too much given to lucre, and to cruelty. At home and at table, with his intimate companions,335 he gave loose to levity and to mirth. He was a most facetious railer at any thing he had himself done amiss, in order that he might thus do away obloquy, and make it matter of jest. But I shall dilate somewhat on that liberality, in which he deceived himself; and afterwards on his other propensities, that I may manifest what great vices sprang up in him under the semblance of virtues.

For, in fact, there are two kinds of givers: the one is denominated prodigal, the other liberal. The prodigal are such as lavish their money on those things, of which they will leave either a transient, or perhaps no memory in this world; neither will they gain mercy by them from God. The liberal, are those who redeem the captive from the plunderer, assist the poor, or discharge the debts of their friends. We must give, therefore, but with discrimination and moderation; for many persons have exhausted their patrimony by giving inconsiderately. “For what can be more silly, than to take pains to be no longer able to do that which you do with pleasure?”348 Some, therefore, when they have nothing to give turn to rapine, and get more hatred from those from whom they take, than good will from those to whom they give. We lament that thus it happened to this king; for, when in the very beginning of his reign, through fear of tumults, he had assembled soldiers, and denied them nothing, promising still greater remuneration hereafter; the consequence was, that as he had soon exhausted his father’s treasures, and had then but moderate revenues, his substance failed, though the spirit of giving remained, which, by habit, had almost become nature. He was a man who knew not how to take off from the price of any thing, or to judge of the value of goods; but the trader might sell him his commodity at whatever rate, or the soldier demand any pay he pleased. He was anxious that the cost of his clothes should be extravagant, and angry if they were purchased at a low price. One morning, indeed, while putting on his new boots, he asked his chamberlain what they cost; and when he replied, “Three shillings,” indignantly and in a rage he cried out, “You son of a whore, how long has the king worn boots of so paltry a price? go, and bring336 me a pair worth a mark of silver.” He went, and bringing him a much cheaper pair, told him, falsely, that they cost as much as he had ordered: “Aye,” said the king, “these are suitable to royal majesty.” Thus his chamberlain used to charge him what he pleased for his clothes; acquiring by these means many things for his own advantage.

The fame of his generosity, therefore, pervaded all the West, and reached even to the East. Military men came to him out of every province on this side of the mountains, whom he rewarded most profusely. In consequence, when he had no longer aught to bestow, poor and exhausted, he turned his thoughts to rapine. The rapacity of his disposition was seconded by Ralph, the inciter of his covetousness; a clergyman of the lowest origin, but raised to eminence by his wit and subtilty. If at any time a royal edict issued, that England should pay a certain tribute, it was doubled by this plunderer of the rich, this exterminator of the poor, this confiscator of other men’s inheritance. He was an invincible pleader, as unrestrained in his words as in his actions; and equally furious against the meek or the turbulent. Wherefore some people used to laugh,349 and say, that he was the only man who knew how to employ his talents in this way, and cared for no one’s hatred, so that he could please his master. At this person’s suggestion, the sacred honours of the church, as the pastors died, were exposed to sale: for whenever the death of any bishop or abbat was announced, directly one of the king’s clerks was admitted, who made an inventory of every thing, and carried all future rents into the royal exchequer. In the meantime some person was sought out fit to supply the place of the deceased; not from proof of morals, but of money; and, at last, if I may so say, the empty honour was conferred, and even that purchased, at a great price. These things appeared the more disgraceful, because, in his father’s time, after the decease of a bishop or abbat, all rents were reserved entire, to be given up to the succeeding pastor; and persons truly meritorious, on account of their religion, were elected. But in the lapse of a very few years, every thing was changed. There was no man rich except the money-changer; no clerk, unless he was a lawyer; no priest, unless (to use a word which is hardly337 Latin350) he was a farmer. Men of the meanest condition, or guilty of whatever crime, were listened to, if they could suggest any thing likely to be advantageous to the king: the halter was loosened from the robber’s neck, if he could promise any emolument to the sovereign. All military discipline being relaxed, the courtiers preyed upon the property of the country people, and consumed their substance, taking the very meat from the mouths of these wretched creatures.351 Then was there flowing hair and extravagant dress; and then was invented the fashion of shoes352 with curved points; then the model for young men was to rival women in delicacy of person, to mince their gait, to walk with loose gesture, and half naked. Enervated and effeminate, they unwillingly remained what nature had made them; the assailers of others’ chastity, prodigal of their own. Troops of pathics, and droves of harlots, followed the court; so that it was said, with justice, by a wise man, that England would be fortunate if Henry could reign;353 led to such an opinion, because he abhorred obscenity from his youth.

Here, were it necessary, I could add, that archbishop Anselm attempted to correct these abuses; but failing of the co-operation of his suffragans, he voluntarily quitted the kingdom, yielding to the depravity of the times. Anselm, than whom none ever was more tenacious of right; none in the present time so thoroughly learned; none so completely338 spiritual; the father of his country, the mirror of the world: he, when just about to set sail, after waiting in port for a wind, was rifled, as though he had been a public robber; all his bags and packages being brought out and ransacked. Of this man’s injuries I could speak farther, had the sun witnessed any thing more unjust than this single transaction, or were it not necessary to omit a relation, which has been anticipated by the eloquence of the very reverend Edmer.354

Hence may be perceived how fierce a flame of evil burst forth from what the king conceived to be liberality. In repressing which as he did not manifest so much diligence as negligence, he incurred a degree of infamy, not only great, but scarcely to be wiped out. I think undeservedly, however; because he never could have exposed himself to such disgrace, had he only recollected the dignity of his station. I pass over, therefore, these matters slightly, and hasten in my composition, because I blush to relate the crimes of so great a king; rather giving my attention to refute and extenuate them.

The Jews in his reign gave proofs of their insolence towards God. At one time, at Rouen, they endeavoured to prevail, by means of presents, on some converted Jews, to return to Judaism;355 at another, at London, entering into controversy with our bishops; because the king, in jest, as I suppose, had said, that if they mastered the Christians in339 open argument, he would become one of their sect. The question therefore was agitated with much apprehension on the part of the bishops and clergy, fearful, through pious anxiety, for the Christian faith. From this contest, however, the Jews reaped nothing but confusion: though they used repeatedly to boast that they were vanquished, not by argument, but by power.


In later times, that is, about the ninth year of his reign, Robert, earl of Normandy, at the admonition of pope Urban, as will be related hereafter, took the resolution of going to Jerusalem, and pawned Normandy to his brother, for the sum of ten thousand marks. In consequence, an edict for an intolerable tax was circulated throughout England. On this the bishops and abbats, in great numbers, went to court, to complain of the injury; observing that they could not raise so great an impost, unless they drove away their wretched husbandmen altogether. To this the courtiers, with angry countenance, as usual, replied, “Have you not shrines adorned with gold and silver, full of dead men’s bones?” deigning the petitioners no other answer. In consequence, perceiving the drift of the reply, they took off the gold from the shrines of their saints; robbed their crucifixes; melted their chalices; not for the service of the poor, but of the king’s exchequer. For almost every thing, which the holy parsimony of their ancestors had saved, was consumed by the rapacity of these freebooters.

Just so, too, were their proceedings against their vassals; first taking their money, then their land: neither the poor man’s poverty, nor the rich man’s abundance, protecting him. He so restricted the right of hunting, which he had formerly allowed, that it became a capital offence to take a stag. This extreme severity, which was tempered by no affability, was the cause of many conspiracies, among the nobility, against his safety: one of whom, Robert de Mowbray earl of Northumberland, in consequence of very high words between him and the king, retired to his province, with the intention of making powerful efforts against his lord; but William pursuing him, he was taken, and doomed to perpetual captivity. Another, William de Hou, being accused of treachery towards the king, challenged his accuser to single combat; but being unable to justify himself in the duel, he340 was deprived of his sight, and of his manhood. The same accusation involved many innocent and honourable men; among whom was William de Aldrey, a man of handsome person, who had stood godfather356 with the king. Being sentenced to be hanged, he made his confession to Osmund bishop of Salisbury, and was scourged at every church of the town. Parting his garments to the poor, he went naked to the gallows, often making the blood gush from his delicate flesh by falling on his knees upon the stones. He satisfied the minds of the bishop, and of the people who followed him to the place of punishment, by exclaiming, “God help my soul, and deliver it from evil, as I am free from the charge, of which I am accused: the sentence, indeed, passed upon me will not be revoked, but I wish all men to be certified of my innocence.” The bishop then, commending his soul to heaven, and sprinkling him with holy water, departed. At his execution, he manifested an admirable degree of courage; neither uttering a groan before, nor even a sigh, at the moment of his death.


But still there are some proofs of noble magnanimity in the king, the knowledge of which, I will not deny posterity. As he was once engaged in hunting in a certain forest, a foreign messenger acquainted him that the city of Mans, which he had lately added to his dominions on the departure of his brother, was besieged. Unprepared as he was, he turned his horse instantly, and shaped his journey to the sea. When his nobles reminded him, that it would be necessary to call out his troops, and put them in array; “I shall see,” said he, “who will follow me: do you think I shall not have people enough? If I know the temper of the young men of my kingdom, they will even brave shipwreck to come to me.” In this manner he arrived, almost unattended, at the sea-coast. The sky at that time was overcast, the wind contrary, and a tempest swept the surface of the deep. When he determined to embark directly, the mariners besought him, to wait till the storm should subside, and the wind be favourable. “Why,” said William, “I have never heard of a king perishing by shipwreck: no, weigh anchor immediately, and you shall see the elements conspire to obey me.” When the report of his having341 crossed the sea reached the besiegers, they hastily retreated. One Helias, the author of the commotion, was taken; to whom, when brought before him, the king said jocularly, “I have you, master.” But he, whose haughty spirit, even in such threatening danger, knew not how to be prudent, or to speak submissively, replied, “You have taken me by chance; if I could escape, I know what I would do.” At this William, almost beside himself with rage, and seizing Helias, exclaimed, “You scoundrel! and what would you do? Begone, depart, fly: I give you leave to do whatever you can; and by the crucifix at Lucca, if you should conquer me, I will ask no return for this favour.” Nor did he falsify his word, but immediately suffered him to escape; rather admiring than following the fugitive. Who could believe this of an unlettered man? And perhaps there may be some person, who, from reading Lucan, may falsely suppose, that William borrowed these examples from Julius Cæsar;357 but he had neither inclination, nor leisure to attend to learning; it was rather the innate warmth of his temper, and his conscious valour which prompted him to such expressions. And indeed, if our religion would allow it, as the soul of Euphorbus was formerly said to have passed into Pythagoras of Samos, so might it equally be asserted, that the soul of Julius Cæsar had migrated into king William.

He began and completed one very noble edifice, the palace358 in London; sparing no expense to manifest the greatness of his liberality. His disposition therefore the reader will be able to discover from the circumstances we have enumerated.

Should any one be desirous, however, to know the make of his person, he is to understand, that he was well set; his complexion florid, his hair yellow; of open countenance; different-coloured eyes, varying with certain glittering specks; of astonishing strength, though not very tall, and his belly342 rather projecting; of no eloquence, but remarkable for a hesitation of speech, especially when angry. Many sudden and sorrowful accidents happened in his time, which I shall arrange singly, according to the years of his reign; chiefly vouching for their truth on the credit of the Chronicles.

[A.D. 1092–1100.]     ADVERSE EVENTS.

In the second year of his reign, on the third before the ides of August, a great earthquake terrified all England with a horrid spectacle; for all the buildings were lifted up, and then again settled as before. A scarcity of every kind of produce followed; the corn ripened so slowly, that the harvest was scarcely housed before the feast of St. Andrew.

In his fourth year was a tempest of lightning, and a whirlwind: finally, on the ides of October, at Winchcombe, a stroke of lightning beat against the side of the tower with such force, that, shattering the wall where it joined to the roof, it opened a place wide enough to admit a man; entering there, it struck a very large beam, and scattered fragments of it over the whole church; moreover it cast down the head of the crucifix, with the right leg, and the image of St. Mary. A stench so noisome followed, as to be insufferable to human nostrils. At length, the monks, with auspicious boldness, entering, defeated the contrivances of the devil, by the sprinkling of holy water. But what could this mean? such a thing was unknown to every previous age. A tempest of contending winds, from the south-east, on the sixteenth before the kalends of November, destroyed more than six hundred houses in London. Churches were heaped on houses, and walls on partitions. The tempest proceeding yet farther, carried off altogether the roof of the church of St. Mary le Bow, and killed two men. Rafters and beams were whirled through the air, an object of surprise to such as contemplated them from a distance; of alarm, to those who stood nigh, lest they should be crushed by them. For four rafters, six and twenty feet long, were driven with such violence into the ground, that scarcely four feet of them were visible. It was curious to see how they had perforated the solidity of the public street, maintaining there the same position which they had occupied in the roof from the hand of the workman, until, on account of their inconvenience to passengers, they were cut off level with the ground, as they could not be otherwise removed.

343 In his fifth year, a similar thunder-storm at Salisbury entirely destroyed the roof of the church-tower, and much injured the wall, only five days after Osmund, the bishop of famed memory, had consecrated it.

In his sixth year there was such a deluge from rain, and such incessant showers as none had ever remembered. Afterwards, on the approach of winter, the rivers were so frozen, that they bore horsemen and waggons; and soon after, when the frost broke, the bridges were destroyed by the drifting of the ice.

In his seventh year, on account of the heavy tribute which the king, while in Normandy, had levied, agriculture failed; of which failure the immediate consequence was a famine. This also gaining ground a mortality ensued, so general, that the dying wanted attendance, and the dead, burial. At that time, too, the Welsh, fiercely raging against the Normans, and depopulating the county of Chester and part of Shropshire, obtained Anglesey by force of arms.

In his tenth year, on the kalends of October, a comet appeared for fifteen days, turning its larger train to the east, and the smaller to the south-east. Other stars also appeared, darting, as it were, at each other. This was the year in which Anselm, that light of England, voluntarily escaping from the darkness of error, went to Rome.

In his eleventh year, Magnus, king of Norway, with Harold, son of Harold, formerly king of England, subdued the Orkney, Mevanian, and other circumjacent isles; and was now obstinately bent against England from Anglesey. But Hugh, earl of Chester, and Hugh, earl of Shrewsbury, opposed him; and ere he could gain the continent, forced him to retire. Here fell Hugh of Shrewsbury, being struck from a distance with a fatal arrow.

In his twelfth year an excessive tide flowed up the Thames, and overwhelmed many villages, with their inhabitants.

In his thirteenth year, which was the last of his life, there were many adverse events; but the most dreadful circumstance was that the devil visibly appeared to men in woods and secret places, and spoke to them as they passed by. Moreover in the county of Berks, at the village of Finchampstead, a fountain so plentifully flowed with blood for fifteen whole days, that it discoloured a neighbouring pool.344 The king heard of it and laughed; neither did he care for his own dreams, nor for what others saw concerning him.

They relate many visions and predictions of his death, three of which, sanctioned by the testimony of credible authors, I shall communicate to my readers. Edmer, the historian of our times, noted for his veracity, says that Anselm, the noble exile, with whom all religion was also banished, came to Marcigny that he might communicate his sufferings to Hugo, abbat of Clugny. There, when the conversation turned upon king William, the abbat aforesaid observed, “Last night that king was brought before God; and by a deliberate judgment, incurred the sorrowful sentence of damnation.” How he came to know this he neither explained at the time, nor did any of his hearers ask: nevertheless, out of respect to his piety, not a doubt of the truth of his words remained on the minds of any present. Hugh led such a life, and had such a character, that all regarded his discourse and venerated his advice, as though an oracle from heaven had spoken. And soon after, the king being slain as we shall relate, there came a messenger to entreat the archbishop to resume his see.

[A.D. 1100.]     DEATH OF WILLIAM II.

The day before the king died, he dreamed that he was let blood by a surgeon; and that the stream, reaching to heaven, clouded the light, and intercepted the day. Calling on St. Mary for protection, he suddenly awoke, commanded a light to be brought, and forbade his attendants to leave him. They then watched with him several hours until daylight. Shortly after, just as the day began to dawn, a certain foreign monk told Robert Fitz Hamon, one of the principal nobility, that he had that night dreamed a strange and fearful dream about the king: “That he had come into a certain church, with menacing and insolent gesture, as was his custom, looking contemptuously on the standers by; then violently seizing the crucifix, he gnawed the arms, and almost tore away the legs: that the image endured this for a long time, but at length struck the king with its foot in such a manner that he fell backwards: from his mouth, as he lay prostrate, issued so copious a flame that the volumes of smoke touched the very stars.” Robert, thinking that this dream ought not to be neglected, as he was intimate with him, immediately related it to the king. William, repeatedly345 laughing, exclaimed, “He is a monk, and dreams for money like a monk: give him a hundred shillings.” Nevertheless, being greatly moved, he hesitated a long while whether he should go out to hunt, as he had designed: his friends persuading him not to suffer the truth of the dreams to be tried at his personal risk. In consequence, he abstained from the chase before dinner, dispelling the uneasiness of his unregulated mind by serious business. They relate, that, having plentifully regaled that day, he soothed his cares with a more than usual quantity of wine. After dinner he went into the forest, attended by few persons; of whom the most intimate with him was Walter, surnamed Tirel, who had been induced to come from France by the liberality of the king. This man alone had remained with him, while the others, employed in the chase, were dispersed as chance directed. The sun was now declining, when the king, drawing his bow and letting fly an arrow, slightly wounded a stag which passed before him; and, keenly gazing, followed it, still running, a long time with his eyes, holding up his hand to keep off the power of the sun’s rays. At this instant Walter, conceiving a noble exploit, which was while the king’s attention was otherwise occupied to transfix another stag which by chance came near him, unknowingly, and without power to prevent it, Oh, gracious God! pierced his breast with a fatal arrow.359 On receiving the wound, the king uttered not a word; but breaking off the shaft of the weapon where it projected from his body, fell upon the wound, by which he accelerated his death. Walter immediately ran up, but as he found him senseless and speechless, he leaped swiftly upon his horse, and escaped by spurring him to his utmost speed. Indeed there was none to pursue him: some connived at his flight; others pitied him; and all346 were intent on other matters. Some began to fortify their dwellings; others to plunder; and the rest to look out for a new king. A few countrymen conveyed the body, placed on a cart, to the cathedral at Winchester; the blood dripping from it all the way. Here it was committed to the ground within the tower, attended by many of the nobility, though lamented by few. Next year,360 the tower fell; though I forbear to mention the different opinions on this subject, lest I should seem to assent too readily to unsupported trifles, more especially as the building might have fallen, through imperfect construction, even though he had never been buried there. He died in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1100, of his reign the thirteenth, on the fourth before the nones of August, aged above forty years. He formed mighty plans, which he would have brought to effect, could he have spun out the tissue of fate, or broken through, and disengaged himself from, the violence of fortune. Such was the energy of his mind, that he was bold enough to promise himself any kingdom whatever. Indeed the day before his death, being asked where he would keep his Christmas, he answered, in Poitou; because the earl of Poitou, wishing anxiously to go to Jerusalem, was said to be about to pawn his territory to him. Thus, not content with his paternal possessions, and allured by expectation of greater glory, he grasped at honours not pertaining to him. He was a man much to be pitied by the clergy, for throwing away a soul which they could not save; to be beloved by stipendiary soldiers, for the multitude of his gifts; but not to be lamented by the people, because he suffered their substance to be plundered. I remember no council being held in his time, wherein the health of the church might be strengthened through the correction of abuses. He hesitated a long time ere he bestowed ecclesiastical honours, either for the sake of emolument, or of weighing desert. So that on the day he died, he held in his own hands three bishoprics, and twelve vacant abbeys. Besides, seeking occasion from the schism between Urban in Rome and Guibert at Ravenna, he forbade the payment of the tribute361347 to the holy see: though he was more inclined to favour Guibert; because the ground and instigation of the discord between himself and Anselm was, that this man, so dear to God, had pronounced Urban to be pope, the other an apostate.


In his time began the Cistertian order, which is now both believed and asserted to be the surest road to heaven.362 To speak of this does not seem irrelevant to the work I have undertaken, since it redounds to the glory of England to have produced the distinguished man who was the author and promoter of that rule. To us he belonged, and in our schools passed the earlier part of his life. Wherefore, if we are not envious, we shall embrace his good qualities the more kindly in proportion as we knew them more intimately. And, moreover, I am anxious to extol his praise, “because it is a mark of an ingenuous mind to approve that virtue in others, of which in yourself you regret the absence.” He was named Harding, and born in England of no very illustrious parents. From his early years, he was a monk at Sherborne; but when secular desires had captivated his youth, he grew disgusted with the monastic garb, and went first to Scotland, and afterwards to France. Here, after some years’ exercise in the liberal arts, he became awakened to the love of God. For, when manlier years had put away childish things, he went to Rome with a clerk who partook of his studies; neither the length and difficulty of the journey, nor the scantiness of their means of subsistence by the way, preventing them, both as they went and returned, from singing daily the whole psalter. Indeed the mind of this celebrated man was already meditating the design which soon after, by the grace of God, he attempted to put in execution. For returning into Burgundy, he was shorn at Molesmes, a new and magnificent monastery. Here he readily admitted the first elements of the order, as he had formerly seen them; but when additional matters were proposed for his observance, such as he had neither read in the rule nor seen elsewhere, he began, modestly and as became a monk, to ask the reason of them, saying: “By reason the supreme Creator has made all things; by reason he governs all things; by reason the fabric of the world revolves; by reason even the planets move; by reason the elements are directed; and348 by reason, and by due regulation, our nature ought to conduct itself. But since, through sloth, she too often departs from reason, many laws were, long ago, enacted for her use; and, latterly, a divine rule has been promulgated by St. Benedict, to bring back the deviations of nature to reason. In this, though some things are contained the design of which I cannot fathom, yet I deem it necessary to yield to authority. And though reason and the authority of the holy writers may seem at variance, yet still they are one and the same. For since God hath created and restored nothing without reason, how can I believe that the holy fathers, no doubt strict followers of God, could command anything but what was reasonable, as if we ought to give credit to their bare authority. See then that you bring reason, or at least authority, for what you devise; although no great credit should be given to what is merely supported by human reason, because it may be combated with arguments equally forcible. Therefore from that rule, which, equally supported by reason and authority, appears as if dictated by the spirit of all just persons, produce precedents, which if you fail to do, in vain shall you profess his rule, whose regulations you disdain to comply with.”

Sentiments of this kind, spreading as usual from one to another, justly moved the hearts of such as feared God, “lest haply they should or had run in vain.” The subject, then, being canvassed in frequent chapters, ended by bringing over the abbat himself to the opinion that all superfluous matters should be passed by, and merely the essence of the rule be scrutinized. Two of the fraternity, therefore, of equal faith and learning, were elected, who, by vicarious examination, were to discover the intention of the founder’s rule; and when they had discovered it, to propound it to the rest. The abbat diligently endeavoured to induce the whole convent to give their concurrence, but “as it is difficult to eradicate from men’s minds, what has early taken root, since they reluctantly relinquish the first notions they have imbibed,” almost the whole of them refused to accept the new regulations, because they were attached to the old. Eighteen only, among whom was Harding, otherwise called Stephen, persevering in their holy determination, together with their abbat, left the monastery, declaring that the purity of the349 institution could not be preserved in a place where riches and gluttony warred against even the heart that was well inclined. They came therefore to Citeaux; a situation formerly covered with woods, but now so conspicuous from the abundant piety of its monks, that it is not undeservedly esteemed conscious of the Divinity himself. Here, by the countenance of the archbishop of Vienne, who is now pope, they entered on a labour worthy to be remembered and venerated to the end of time.

Certainly many of their regulations seem severe, and more particularly these: they wear nothing made with furs or linen, nor even that finely spun linen garment, which we call Staminium;363 neither breeches, unless when sent on a journey, which at their return they wash and restore. They have two tunics with cowls, but no additional garment in winter, though, if they think fit, in summer they may lighten their garb. They sleep clad and girded, and never after matins return to their beds: but they so order the time of matins that it shall be light ere the lauds364 begin; so intent are they on their rule, that they think no jot or tittle of it should be disregarded. Directly after these hymns they sing the prime, after which they go out to work for stated hours. They complete whatever labour or service they have to perform by day without any other light. No one is ever absent from the daily services, or from complines, except the sick. The cellarer and hospitaller, after complines, wait upon the guests, yet observing the strictest silence. The abbat allows himself no indulgence beyond the others,—every where present,—every where attending to his flock; except that he does not eat with the rest, because his table is with the strangers and the poor. Nevertheless, be he where he may, he is equally sparing of food and of speech; for never more than two dishes are served either to him or to his company; lard and meat never but to the sick. From the Ides of September till Easter, through regard for whatever festival, they do not take more than one meal a day, except on Sunday. They never leave the cloister but for the purpose of labour, nor do they ever speak, either there or elsewhere, save only to the abbat or prior. They pay unwearied attention to the350 canonical365 services, making no addition to them except the vigil for the defunct. They use in their divine service the Ambrosian chants366 and hymns, as far as they were able to learn them at Milan. While they bestow care on the stranger and the sick, they inflict intolerable mortifications on their own bodies, for the health of their souls.

The abbat, at first, both encountered these privations with much alacrity himself, and compelled the rest to do the same. In process of time, however, the man repented;367 he had been delicately brought up, and could not well bear such continued scantiness of diet. The monks, whom he had left at Molesmes, getting scent of this disposition, either by messages or letters, for it is uncertain which, drew him back to the monastery, by his obedience to the pope, for such was their pretext: compelling him to a measure to which he was already extremely well-disposed. For, as if wearied out by the pertinacity of their entreaties, he left the narrow confines of poverty, and resought his former magnificence. All followed him from Citeaux, who had gone thither with him, except eight. These, few in number but great in virtue, appointed Alberic, one of their party, abbat, and Stephen prior. The former not surviving more than eight years was, at the will of heaven, happily called away. Then, doubtless by God’s appointment, Stephen though absent was elected abbat; the original contriver of the whole scheme; the especial and celebrated ornament of our times. Sixteen abbeys which he has already completed, and seven which he has begun, are sufficient testimonies of his abundant merit. Thus, by the resounding trumpet of God, he directs the people around him, both by word and deed, to heaven; acting fully up to his own precepts; affable in speech, pleasant in look, and with a mind always rejoicing in the Lord.351 Hence, openly, that noble joy of countenance; hence, secretly, that compunction, coming from above; because, despising this state of a sojourner, he constantly desires to be in a place of rest. For these causes he is beloved by all; “For God graciously imparts to the minds of other men a love for that man whom he loves.” Wherefore the inhabitant of that country esteems himself happy if, through his hands, he can transmit his wealth to God. He receives much, indeed, but expending little on his own wants, or those of his flock, he distributes the rest to the poor, or employs it immediately on the building of monasteries; for the purse of Stephen is the public treasury of the indigent. A proof of his abstinence is that you see nothing there, as in other monasteries, flaming with gold, blazing with jewels, or glittering with silver. For as a Gentile says, “Of what use is gold to a saint?” We think it not enough in our holy vases, unless the ponderous metal be eclipsed by precious stones; by the flame of the topaz, the violet of the amethyst, and the green shade of the emerald: unless the sacerdotal robes wanton with gold; and unless the walls glisten with various coloured paintings, and throw the reflexion of the sun’s rays upon the ceiling. These men, however, placing those things which mortals foolishly esteem the first, only in a secondary point of view, give all their diligence to improve their morals, and love pure minds, more than glittering vestments; knowing that the best remuneration for doing well, is to enjoy a clear conscience. Moreover, if at any time the laudable kindness of the abbat either desires, or feigns a desire, to modify aught from the strict letter of the rule, they are ready to oppose such indulgence, saying, that they have no long time to live, nor shall they continue to exist so long as they have already done; that they hope to remain stedfast in their purpose to the end, and to be an example to their successors, who will transgress if they should give way. And, indeed, through human weakness, the perpetual law of which is that nothing attained, even by the greatest labour, can long remain unchanged, it will be so. But to comprise, briefly, all things which are or can be said of them,—the Cistertian monks at the present day are a model for all monks, a mirror for the diligent, a spur to the indolent.


At this time three sees in England were transferred from352 their ancient situations; Wells to Bath, by John; Chester to Coventry, by Robert; Thetford to Norwich, by Herbert; all through greater ambition, than ought to have influenced men of such eminence. Finally, to speak of the last first: Herbert, from his skill in adulation, surnamed Losinga,368 was first abbat of Ramsey, and then purchased the bishopric of Thetford, while his father, Robert, surnamed as himself, was intruded on the abbey of Winchester. This man, then, was the great source of simony in England; having craftily procured by means of his wealth, both an abbey and a bishopric. For he hood-winked the king’s solicitude for the church by his money, and whispered great promises to secure the favour of the nobility: whence a poet of those times admirably observes,

“A monster in the church from Losing rose,
Base Simon’s sect, the canons to oppose.
Peter, thou’rt slow; see Simon soars on high;
If present, soon thou’d’st hurl him from the sky.369
Oh grief, the church is let to sordid hire,
The son a bishop, abbat is the sire.
All may be hoped from gold’s prevailing sway,
Which governs all things; gives and takes away;
Makes bishops, abbats, basely in a day.”

Future repentance, however, atoned for the errors of his youth: he went to Rome, when he was of a more serious age, and there resigning the staff and ring which he had acquired by simony, had them restored through the indulgence of that most merciful see; for the Romans regard it both as more holy and more fitting, that the dues from each church should rather come into their own purse, than be subservient to the use of any king whatever. Herbert thus returning home, removed the episcopal see, which had formerly been at Helmham, and was then at Thetford, to a town, celebrated for its trade and populousness, called Norwich. Here he settled a congregation of monks, famous for their numbers and their morals; purchasing everything for them out of his private fortune. For, having an eye to the probable complaints of his successors, he gave none of the353 episcopal lands to the monastery, lest they should deprive the servants of God of their subsistence, if they found any thing given to them which pertained to their see. At Thetford, too, he settled Clugniac monks, because the members of that order, dispersed throughout the world, are rich in worldly possessions, and of distinguished piety towards God. Thus, by the great and extensive merit of his virtues, he shrouded the multitude of his former failings; and by his abundant eloquence and learning, as well as by his knowledge in secular affairs, he became worthy even of the Roman pontificate. Herbert thus changed, as Lucan observes of Curio, became the changer and mover of all things; and, as in the times of this king, he had been a pleader in behalf of simony, so was he, afterwards, its most strenuous opposer; nor did he suffer that to be done by others, which he lamented he had ever himself done through the presumption of juvenile ardour: ever having in his mouth, as they relate, the saying of St. Jerome, “We have erred when young; let us amend now we are old.” Finally, who can sufficiently extol his conduct, who, though not a very rich bishop, yet built so noble a monastery; in which nothing appears defective, either in the beauty of the lofty edifice, the elegance of its ornaments, or in the piety and universal charity of its monks. These things soothed him with joyful hope while he lived, and when dead, if repentance be not in vain, conducted him to heaven.370

John was bishop of Wells; a native of Touraine, and an approved physician, by practice, rather than education. On the death of the abbat of Bath, he easily obtained the abbey from the king, both because all things at court were exposed to sale, and his covetousness seemed palliated by some degree of reason, that so famed a city might be still more celebrated, by becoming the see of a bishop. He at first began to exercise his severity against the monks, because they were dull, and in his estimation, barbarians; taking away all the lands ministering to their subsistence, and furnishing them with but scanty provision by his lay dependants. In process of time, however, when new monks354 had been admitted, he conducted himself with more mildness; and gave a small portion of land to the prior, by which he might, in some measure, support himself and his inmates. And although he had begun austerely, yet many things were there by him both nobly begun and completed, in decorations and in books; and more especially, in a selection of monks, equally notable for their learning and kind offices. But still he could not, even at his death, be softened far enough totally to exonerate the lands from bondage; leaving, in this respect, an example not to be followed by his successors.

There was in the diocese of Chester, a monastery, called Coventry, which, as I have before related, the most noble earl Leofric, with his lady Godiva, had built; so splendid for its gold and silver, that the very walls of the church seemed too scanty to receive the treasures, to the great astonishment of the beholders. This, Robert bishop of the diocese eagerly seized on, in a manner by no means episcopal; stealing from the very treasures of the church wherewith he might fill the hand of the king, beguile the vigilance of the pope, and gratify the covetousness of the Romans. Continuing there many years, he gave no proof of worth whatever: for, so far from rescuing the nodding roofs from ruin, he wasted the sacred treasures, and became guilty of peculation; and a bishop might have been convicted of illegal exactions, had an accuser been at hand. He fed the monks on miserable fare, made no attempts to excite in them a love for their profession, and suffered them to reach only a very common degree of learning; lest he should make them delicate by sumptuous living, or strictness of rule and depth of learning should spirit them up to oppose him. Contented therefore with rustic fare, and humble literary attainments, they deemed it enough, if they could only live in peace. Moreover, at his death, paying little attention to the dictates of the canons, by which it is enacted, that bishops ought to be buried in their cathedrals, he commanded himself to be interred, not at Chester, but at Coventry; leaving to his successors by such a decision, the task, not of claiming what was not due to them, but as it were, of vindicating their proper right.

[A.D. 1100.]     JOSCELYN.

Here, while speaking of the times of William, I should be355 induced to relate the translation of the most excellent Augustine, the apostle of the English and of his companions, had not the talents of the learned Joscelyn, anticipated me:371 of Joscelyn, who being a monk of St. Bertin, formerly came to England with Herman bishop of Salisbury, skilled equally in literature and music. For a considerable time he visited the cathedrals and abbeys, and left proofs of uncommon learning in many places; he was second to none after Bede in the celebration of the English saints; next to Osberne372 too, he bore away the palm in music. Moreover he wrote innumerable lives of modern saints, and restored, in an elegant manner, such of those of the ancients as had been lost through the confusion of the times, or had been carelessly edited. He also so exquisitely wrought the process of this translation, that he may be said to have realized it to the present race, and given a view of it to posterity. Happy that tongue, which ministered to so many saints! happy that voice, which poured forth such melody! more especially as in his life, his probity equalled his learning. But, as I have hitherto recorded disgraceful transactions of certain bishops, I will introduce others of different lives and dispositions, who were in being at the same time; that our age may not be said to have grown so negligent as not to produce one single saint. Such as are desirous, may find this promise completed in a subsequent book, after the narrative of king Henry’s transactions.

The Expedition to Jerusalem. [A.D. 1095–1105.]

I shall now describe the expedition to Jerusalem, relating in my own words what was seen and endured by others. Besides too, as opportunity offers, I shall select from ancient writers, accounts of the situation and riches of Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem; in order that he who is unacquainted356 with these matters, and meets with this work, may have something to communicate to others. But for such a relation there needs a more fervent spirit, in order to complete effectually, what I begin with such pleasure. Invoking, therefore, the Divinity, as is usual, I begin as follows.

In the year of the incarnation 1095, pope Urban the second, who then filled the papal throne, passing the Alps, came into France. The ostensible cause of his journey, was, that, being driven from home by the violence of Guibert, he might prevail on the churches on this side of the mountains to acknowledge him. His more secret intention was not so well known; this was, by Boamund’s advice, to excite almost the whole of Europe to undertake an expedition into Asia; that in such a general commotion of all countries, auxiliaries might easily be engaged, by whose means both Urban might obtain Rome; and Boamund, Illyria and Macedonia. For Guiscard, his father, had conquered those countries from Alexius, and also all the territory extending from Durazzo to Thessalonica; wherefore Boamund claimed them as his due, since he obtained not the inheritance of Apulia, which his father had given to his younger son, Roger. Still nevertheless, whatever might be the cause of Urban’s journey, it turned out of great and singular advantage to the Christian world. A council, therefore, was assembled at Clermont,373 which is the most noted city of Auvergne. The number of bishops and abbats was three hundred and ten. Here at first, during several days, a long discussion was carried on concerning the catholic faith, and the establishing peace among contending parties.374 For, in addition to those crimes in which every one indulged, all, on this side of the Alps, had arrived at such a calamitous state, as to take each other captive on little or no pretence; nor were they suffered to357 go free, unless ransomed at an enormous price. Again too, the snake of simony had so reared her slippery crest, and cherished, with poisonous warmth, her deadly eggs, that the whole world became infected with her mortal hissing, and tainted the honours of the church. At that time, I will not say bishops to their sees merely, but none aspired even to any ecclesiastical degree, except by the influence of money. Then too, many persons putting away their lawful wives, procured divorces, and invaded the marriage-couch of others. Wherefore, as in both these cases, there was a mixed multitude of offenders, the names of some powerful persons were singled out for punishment. Not to be tedious, I will subjoin the result of the whole council, abbreviating some parts, in my own language.


In a council at Clermont, in the presence of pope Urban, these articles were enacted. “That the catholic church shall be pure in faith; free from all servitude: that bishops, or abbats, or clergy of any rank, shall receive no ecclesiastical dignity from the hand of princes, or of any of the laity: that clergymen shall not hold prebends in two churches or cities: that no one shall be bishop and abbat at the same time: that ecclesiastical dignities shall be bought and sold by no one: that no person in holy orders shall be guilty of carnal intercourse: that such as not knowing the canonical prohibition had purchased canonries, should be pardoned: but that they should be taken from such as knew they possessed them by their own purchase, or that of their parents: that no layman from Ash-Wednesday, no clergyman from Quadragesima, to Easter, shall eat flesh: that, at all times, the first fast of the Ember Weeks, should be in the first week of Lent: that orders should be conferred, at all times, on the evening of Saturday, or on a Sunday, continuing fasting:375 that on Easter-eve, service should not be celebrated till after the ninth hour: that the second fast should be observed in the week of Pentecost: that from our Lord’s Advent, to the octave of the Epiphany; from Septuagesima to the octaves of Easter; from the first day of the Rogations358 to the octaves of Pentecost; and from the fourth day of the week at sunset, at all times, to the second day in the following week at sunrise, the Truce of God be observed:376 that whoever laid violent hands on a bishop should be excommunicated; that whoever laid violent hands on clergymen or their servants should be accursed: that whoever seized the goods of bishops or clergymen at their deaths, should be accursed: that whoever married a relation, even in the sixth degree of consanguinity, should be accursed: that none should be chosen bishop, except a priest, deacon, or subdeacon who was of noble descent, unless under pressing necessity, and licence from the pope: that the sons of priests and concubines should not be advanced to the priesthood, unless they first made their vow: that whosoever fled to the church, or the cross, should, being insured from loss of limb, be delivered up to justice; or if innocent, be released: that every church should enjoy its own tithes, nor pass them away to another: that laymen should neither buy nor sell tithes; that no fee should be demanded for the burial of the dead. In this council the pope excommunicated Philip, king of France, and all who called him king or lord, and obeyed or spoke to him, unless for the purpose of correcting him: in like manner too his accursed consort, and all who called her queen or lady, till they so far reformed as to separate from each other: and also Guibert of Ravenna, who calls himself pope: and Henry, emperor of Germany, who supports him.”

Afterwards, a clear and forcible discourse, such as should come from a priest, was addressed to the people, on the subject of an expedition of the Christians, against the Turks. This I have thought fit to transmit to posterity, as I have learned it from those who were present, preserving its sense unimpaired. For who can preserve the force of that eloquence? We shall be fortunate, if, treading an adjacent path, we come even by a circuitous route to its meaning.


[A.D. 1095.]     POPE URBAN’S SPEECH.

“You recollect,”377 said he, “my dearest brethren, many things which have been decreed for you, at this time; some matters, in our council, commanded; others inhibited. A rude and confused chaos of crimes required the deliberation of many days; an inveterate malady demanded a sharp remedy. For while we give unbounded scope to our clemency, our papal office finds numberless matters to proscribe; none to spare. But it has hitherto arisen from human frailty, that you have erred, and that, deceived by the speciousness of vice, you have exasperated the long suffering of God, by too lightly regarding his forbearance. It has arisen too from human wantonness, that, disregarding lawful wedlock, you have not duly considered the heinousness of adultery. From too great covetousness also, it has arisen, that, as opportunity offered, making captive your brethren, bought by the same great price, you have outrageously extorted from them their wealth. To you, however, now suffering this perilous shipwreck of sin, a secure haven of rest is offered, unless you neglect it. A station of perpetual safety will be awarded you, for the exertion of a trifling labour against the Turks. Compare, now, the labours which you underwent in the practice of wickedness, and those which you will encounter in the undertaking I advise. The intention of committing adultery, or murder, begets many fears; for, as Soloman says, ‘There is nothing more timid than guilt:’ many labours; for what is more toilsome than wickedness? But, ‘He who walks uprightly, walks securely.’ Of these labours, of these fears, the end was sin; the wages of sin is death; the death of sinners is most dreadful. Now the same labours and apprehensions are required from you, for a better consideration. The cause of these labours, will be charity; if thus warned by the command of God, you lay down your lives for the brethren: the wages of charity will be the grace of God; the grace of God is followed by eternal life. Go then prosperously: Go, then, with confidence, to attack the enemies of God. For they long since, oh sad reproach to360 Christians! have seized Syria, Armenia, and lastly, all Asia Minor, the provinces of which are Bithynia, Phrygia, Galatia, Lydia, Caria, Pamphylia, Isauria, Lycia, Cilicia; and, now they insolently domineer over Illyricum, and all the hither countries, even to the sea which is called the Straits of St. George. Nay, they usurp even the sepulchre of our Lord, that singular assurance of our faith; and sell to our pilgrims admissions to that city, which ought, had they a trace of their ancient courage left, to be open to Christians only. This alone might be enough to cloud our brows; but now, who except the most abandoned, or the most envious of Christian reputation, can endure that we do not divide the world equally with them? They inhabit Asia, the third portion of the world, as their native soil, which was justly esteemed by our ancestors equal, by the extent of its tracts and greatness of its provinces, to the two remaining parts. There, formerly, sprang up the first germs of our faith; there, all the apostles, except two, consecrated their deaths; there, at the present day, the Christians, if any survive, sustaining life by a wretched kind of agriculture, pay these miscreants tribute, and even with stifled sighs, long for the participation of your liberty, since they have lost their own. They hold Africa also, another quarter of the world, already possessed by their arms for more than two hundred years; which on this account I pronounce derogatory to Christian honour, because that country was anciently the nurse of celebrated geniuses, who, by their divine writings, will mock the rust of antiquity as long as there shall be a person who can relish Roman literature:378 the learned know the truth of what I say. Europe, the third portion of the world remains; of which, how small a part do we Christians inhabit? for who can call all those barbarians who dwell in remote islands of the Frozen Ocean, Christians, since they live after a savage manner? Even this small portion of the world, belonging to us, is oppressed by the Turks and Saracens. Thus for three hundred years, Spain and the Balearic isles have been subjugated to them, and the possession of the remainder is eagerly anticipated by feeble men, who, not having courage to engage in close encounter, love a flying mode of warfare. For the Turk361 never ventures upon close fight; but, when driven from his station, bends his bow at a distance, and trusts the winds with his meditated wound; and as he has poisoned arrows, venom, and not valour, inflicts the death on the man he strikes. Whatever he effects, then, I attribute to fortune, not to courage, because he wars by flight, and by poison. It is apparent too, that every race, born in that region, being scorched with the intense heat of the sun, abounds more in reflexion, than in blood; and, therefore, they avoid coming to close quarters, because they are aware how little blood they possess. Whereas the people who are born amid the polar frosts, and distant from the sun’s heat, are less cautious indeed; but, elate from their copious and luxuriant flow of blood, they fight with the greatest alacrity. You are a nation born in the more temperate regions of the world; who may be both prodigal of blood, in defiance of death and wounds; and are not deficient in prudence. For you equally preserve good conduct in camp, and are considerate in battle. Thus endued with skill and with valour, you undertake a memorable expedition. You will be extolled throughout all ages, if you rescue your brethren from danger. To those present, in God’s name, I command this; to the absent I enjoin it. Let such as are going to fight for Christianity, put the form of the cross upon their garments, that they may, outwardly, demonstrate the love arising from their inward faith; enjoying by the gift of God, and the privilege of St. Peter, absolution from all their crimes: let this in the meantime soothe the labour of their journey; satisfied that they shall obtain, after death, the advantages of a blessed martyrdom. Putting an end to your crimes then, that Christians may at least live peaceably in these countries, go, and employ in nobler warfare, that valour, and that sagacity, which you used to waste in civil broils: Go, soldiers every where renowned in fame, go, and subdue these dastardly nations. Let the noted valour of the French advance, which, accompanied by its adjoining nations, shall affright the whole world by the single terror of its name. But why do I delay you longer by detracting from the courage of the gentiles? Rather bring to your recollection the saying of God, ‘Narrow is the way which leadeth to life.’ Be it so then: the track to be followed is narrow, replete with death,362 and terrible with dangers; still this path will lead to your lost country. No doubt you must, ‘by much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.’ Place then, before your imagination, if you shall be made captive, torments and chains; nay, every possible suffering that can be inflicted. Expect, for the firmness of your faith, even horrible punishments; that so, if it be necessary, you may redeem your souls at the expense of your bodies. Do you fear death? you men of exemplary courage and intrepidity. Surely human wickedness can devise nothing against you, worthy to be put in competition with heavenly glory: for the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared ‘to the glory which shall be revealed in us.’ Know ye not, ‘that for men to live is wretchedness, and happiness to die?’ This doctrine, if you remember, you imbibed with your mother’s milk, through the preaching of the clergy: and this doctrine your ancestors, the martyrs, held out by example. Death sets free from its filthy prison the human soul, which then takes flight for the mansions fitted to its virtues. Death accelerates their country to the good: death cuts short the wickedness of the ungodly. By means of death, then, the soul, made free, is either soothed with joyful hope, or is punished without farther apprehension of worse. So long as it is fettered to the body, it derives from it earthly contagion; or to say more truly, is dead. For, earthly with heavenly, and divine with mortal, ill agree. The soul, indeed, even now, in its state of union with the body, is capable of great efforts; it gives life to its instrument, secretly moving and animating it to exertions almost beyond mortal nature. But when, freed from the clog which drags it to the earth, it regains its proper station, it partakes of a blessed and perfect energy, communicating after some measure with the invisibility of the divine nature. Discharging a double office, therefore, it ministers life to the body when it is present, and the cause of its change, when it departs. You must observe how pleasantly the soul wakes in the sleeping body, and, apart from the senses, sees many future events, from the principle of its relationship to the Deity. Why then do ye fear death, who love the repose of sleep, which resembles death? Surely it must be madness, through lust of a transitory life, to deny yourselves that363 which is eternal. Rather, my dearest brethren, should it so happen, lay down your lives for the brotherhood. Rid God’s sanctuary of the wicked: expel the robbers: bring in the pious. Let no love of relations detain you; for man’s chiefest love is towards God. Let no attachment to your native soil be an impediment; because, in different points of view, all the world is exile to the Christian, and all the world his country. Thus exile is his country, and his country exile. Let none be restrained from going by the largeness of his patrimony, for a still larger is promised him; not of such things as soothe the miserable with vain expectation, or flatter the indolent disposition with the mean advantages of wealth, but of such as are shewn by perpetual example and approved by daily experience. Yet these too are pleasant, but vain, and which, to such as despise them, produce reward a hundred-fold. These things I publish, these I command: and for their execution I fix the end of the ensuing spring. God will be gracious to those who undertake this expedition, that they may have a favourable year, both in abundance of produce, and in serenity of season. Those who may die will enter the mansions of heaven; while the living shall behold the sepulchre of the Lord. And what can be greater happiness, than for a man, in his life-time, to see those places, where the Lord of heaven was conversant as a man? Blessed are they, who, called to these occupations, shall inherit such a recompence: fortunate are those who are led to such a conflict, that they may partake of such rewards.”


I have adhered to the tenor of this address, retaining some few things unaltered, on account of the truth of the remarks, but omitting many. The bulk of the auditors were extremely excited, and attested their sentiments by a shout; pleased with the speech, and inclined to the pilgrimage. And immediately, in presence of the council, some of the nobility, falling down at the knees of the pope, consecrated themselves and their property to the service of God. Among these was Aimar, the very powerful bishop of Puy, who afterwards ruled the army by his prudence, and augmented it through his eloquence. In the month of November, then, in which this council was held, each departed to his home: and the report of this good resolution soon becoming general, it364 gently wafted a cheering gale over the minds of the Christians: which being universally diffused, there was no nation so remote, no people so retired, as not to contribute its portion. This ardent love not only inspired the continental provinces, but even all who had heard the name of Christ, whether in the most distant islands, or savage countries. The Welshman left his hunting; the Scot his fellowship with lice;379 the Dane his drinking party; the Norwegian his raw fish. Lands were deserted of their husbandmen; houses of their inhabitants; even whole cities migrated. There was no regard to relationship; affection to their country was held in little esteem; God alone was placed before their eyes. Whatever was stored in granaries, or hoarded in chambers, to answer the hopes of the avaricious husbandman, or the covetousness of the miser, all, all was deserted; they hungered and thirsted after Jerusalem alone. Joy attended such as proceeded; while grief oppressed those who remained. But why do I say remained? You might see the husband departing with his wife, indeed, with all his family; you would smile to see the whole household laden on a carriage, about to proceed on their journey.380 The road was too narrow for the passengers, the path too confined for the travellers, so thickly were they thronged with endless multitudes. The number surpassed all human imagination, though the itinerants were estimated at six millions.381 Doubtless, never did so many nations unite in one opinion; never did so immense a population subject their unruly passions to one, and almost to no, direction. For the strangest wonder to behold was, that such a countless multitude marched gradually through various Christian countries without plundering, though there was none to restrain them. Mutual regard365 blazed forth in all; so that if any one found in his possession what he knew did not belong to him, he exposed it everywhere for several days to be owned; and the desire of the finder was suspended, till perchance the wants of the loser might be repaired.382

The long-looked for month of March was now at hand, when, the hoary garb of winter being laid aside, the world, clad in vernal bloom, invited the pilgrims to the confines of the east; nor, such was the ardour of their minds, did they seek delay. Godfrey, duke of Lorraine, proceeded by way of Hungary: second to none in military virtue, and, descended from the ancient lineage of Charles the Great, he inherited much of Charles both in blood and in mind. He was followed by the Frisons, Lorrainers, Saxons, and all the people who dwell between the Rhine and the Garonne.383 Raimund, earl of St. Giles, and Aimar, bishop of Puy, nobly matched in valour, and alike noted for spirit against the enemy and piety to God, took the route of Dalmatia. Under their standard marched the Goths and Gascons, and all the people scattered throughout the Pyrenees and the Alps. Before them, by a shorter route, went Boamund, an Apulian by residence, but a Norman by descent. For embarking at Brindisi, and landing at Durazzo, he marched to Constantinople by roads with which he was well acquainted. Under his command, Italy, and the whole adjacent province, from the Tuscan sea to the Adriatic, joined in the war. All these assembling at the same time at Constantinople, partook somewhat of mutual joy. Here, too, they found Hugh the Great, brother of Philip, king of France: for having inconsiderately, and with a few soldiers, entered the territories of the emperor, he was taken by his troops, and detained in free custody. But Alexius, emperor of Constantinople, alarmed at the arrival of these chiefs, willingly, but, as it were, induced by their entreaties, released him. Alexius was a man famed for his duplicity, and never attempted any thing of importance, unless by stratagem. He had taken off Guiscard, as I before366 related, by poison, and had corrupted his wife by gold; falsely promising by his emissaries to marry her. Again, too, he allowed William, earl of Poitou, to be led into an ambush of the Turks, and, after losing sixty thousand soldiers, to escape almost unattended; being incensed at his reply, when he refused homage to the Greek. In after time, he laid repeated snares for Boamund, who was marching against him to avenge the injuries of the crusaders; and when these failed he bereaved him of his brother Guido, and of almost all his army; making use of his usual arts either in poisoning the rivers, or their garments: but of this hereafter. Now, however, removing the army from the city, and mildly addressing the chiefs, his Grecian eloquence proved so powerful, that he obtained from them all homage, and an oath, that they would form no plot against him; and that if they could subdue the cities pertaining to his empire, they would restore them to him, thus purchasing another’s advantage at the expense of their own blood. The credit of maintaining his liberty appeared more estimable to Raimund alone; so that he neither did homage to him, nor took the oath. Collecting, then, all their forces, they made an attack on Nicea, a city of Bithynia: for they chose to assault this first, both as it was an obstacle to the crusaders, and as they were eager to revenge the death of those pilgrims who had recently been slain there. For one Walter, a distinguished soldier, but precipitate, (for you will scarcely see prudence and valour united in the same person, as one retards what the other advances,) incautiously roaming around the walls, had perished with a numerous party, which Peter the hermit had allured, by his preaching, from their country.

Now, too, in the month of September, Robert earl of Normandy, brother of king William whose name is prefixed to this book, earnestly desiring to enter on the expedition, had as his companions Robert of Flanders, and Stephen of Blois who had married his sister. They were earls of noble lineage and corresponding valour. Under their command were the English and Normans, the Western Franks and people of Flanders, and all the tribes which occupy the continental tract from the British Ocean to the Alps. Proceeding on their journey, at Lucca they found pope Urban, who being enraged at Guibert, as I have said, was, by the assistance367 of Matilda, carrying war into Italy and around the city of Rome. He had now so far succeeded that the Roman people, inclining to his party, were harassing that of Guibert, both by words and blows; nor did the one faction spare the other, either in the churches or in the streets, until Guibert, being weakest, left the see vacant for Urban, and fled to Germany.

[A.D. 1097.]     ANCIENT ROME.

Of Rome, formerly the mistress of the globe, but which now, in comparison of its ancient state, appears a small town; and of the Romans, once “Sovereigns over all and the gowned nation,”384 who are now the most fickle of men, bartering justice for gold, and dispensing with the canons for money; of this city and its inhabitants, I say, whatever I might attempt to write, has been anticipated by the verses of Hildebert, first, bishop of Mans, and afterwards archbishop of Tours.385 Which I insert, not to assume the honour acquired by another man’s labour, but rather as a proof of a liberal mind, while not envying his fame, I give testimony to his charming poetry.


Rome, still thy ruins grand beyond compare,
Thy former greatness mournfully declare,
Though time thy stately palaces around
Hath strewed, and cast thy temples to the ground.
Fall’n is the power, the power Araxes dire
Regrets now gone, and dreaded when entire;
Which arms and laws, and ev’n the gods on high
Bade o’er the world assume the mastery;
Which guilty Cæsar rather had enjoyed
Alone, than e’er a fostering hand employed.
Which gave to foes, to vice, to friends its care,
Subdued, restrained, or bade its kindness share
This growing power the holy fathers reared,
Where near the stream the fav’ring spot appeared
From either pole, materials, artists meet,
And rising walls their proper station greet;
Kings gave their treasures, fav’ring too was fate,
And arts and riches on the structure wait.
Fall’n is that city, whose proud fame to reach,
I merely say, “Rome was,” there fails my speech.
Still neither time’s decay, nor sword, nor fire,
Shall cause its beauty wholly to expire.
Human exertions raised that splendid Rome,
Which gods in vain shall strive to overcome.
Bid wealth, bid marble, and bid fate attend,
And watchful artists o’er the labour bend,
Still shall the matchless ruin art defy
The old to rival, or its loss supply.
Here gods themselves their sculptur’d forms admire,
And only to reflect those forms aspire;
Nature unable such like gods to form,
Left them to man’s creative genius warm;
Life breathes within them, and the suppliant falls,
Not to the God, but statues in the walls.
City thrice blessed! were tyrants but away,
Or shame compelled them justice to obey.

Are not these sufficient to point out in such a city, both the dignity of its former advantages, and the majesty of its present ruin? But that nothing may be wanting to its honour, I will add the number of its gates, and the multitude of its sacred relics; and that no person may complain of his being deprived of any knowledge by the obscurity of the narrative, the description shall run in an easy and familiar style.386

The first is the Cornelian gate, which is now called the gate of St. Peter, and the Cornelian way. Near it is situated the church of St. Peter, in which his body lies, decked with gold and silver, and precious stones: and no one knows the number of the holy martyrs who rest in that church. On the same way is another church, in which lie the holy virgins Rufina and Secunda. In a third church, are Marius and Martha, and Audifax and Abacuc, their sons.

The second is the Flaminian gate, which is now called the gate of St. Valentine,387 and the Flaminian way, and when it arrives at the Milvian bridge, it takes the name of the Ravennanian way, because it leads to Ravenna; and there, at the first stone without the gate, St. Valentine rests in his church.

The third is called the Porcinian388 gate, and the way the369 same; but where it joins the Salarian, it loses its name, and there, nearly in the spot which is called Cucumeris, lie the martyrs, Festus, Johannes, Liberalis, Diogenes, Blastus, Lucina, and in one sepulchre, the Two Hundred and Sixty,389 in another, the Thirty.

The fourth is the Salarian390 gate and way; now called St. Silvester’s. Here, near the road, lie St. Hermes, and St. Vasella, and Prothus, and Jacinctus, Maxilian, Herculan, Crispus; and, in another place, hard by, rest the holy martyrs Pamphilus and Quirinus, seventy steps beneath the surface. Next is the church of St. Felicity, where she rests, and Silanus her son; and not far distant, Boniface the martyr. In another church, there are Crisantus, and Daria, and Saturninus, and Maurus, and Jason, and their mother Hilaria, and others innumerable. And in another church, St. Alexander, Vitalis, Martialis, sons of St. Felicity; and seven holy virgins, Saturnina, Hilarina, Duranda, Rogantina, Serotina, Paulina, Donata. Next the church of St. Silvester, where he lies under a marble tomb; and the martyrs, Celestinus, Philippus, and Felix; and there too, the Three Hundred and Sixty-five martyrs rest in one sepulchre; and near them lie Paulus and Crescentianus, Prisca and Semetrius, Praxides and Potentiana.

The fifth is called the Numentan391 gate. There lies St. Nicomede, priest and martyr; the way too is called by the same name. Near the road are the church and body of St. Agnes; in another church, St. Ermerenciana, and the martyrs, Alexander, Felix, Papias; at the seventh stone on this road rests the holy pope Alexander, with Euentius and Theodolus.

The sixth is the Tiburtine392 gate and way, which is now called St. Lawrence’s: near this way lies St. Lawrence in his church, and Habundius the martyr: and near this, in another church, rest these martyrs, Ciriaca, Romanus, Justinus, Crescentianus; and not far from hence the church of St. Hyppolitus, where he himself rests, and his family, eighteen in number; there too repose, St. Trifonia, the wife370 of Decius, and his daughter Cirilla, and her nurse Concordia. And in another part of this way is the church of Agapit the martyr.

The seventh is called, at present, the Greater gate,393 formerly the Seracusan, and the way the Lavicanian, which leads to St. Helena. Near this are Peter, Marcellinus, Tyburtius, Geminus, Gorgonius, and the Forty Soldiers,394 and others without number; and a little farther the Four Coronati.395

The eighth is the gate of St. John,396 which by the ancients was called Assenarica. The ninth gate is called Metrosa;397 and in front of both these runs the Latin way. The tenth is called the Latin gate,398 and way. Near this, in one church, lie the martyrs, Gordianus and Epimachus, Sulpicius, Servilianus, Quintinus, Quartus, Sophia, Triphenus. Near this too, in another spot, Tertullinus, and not far distant, the church of St. Eugenia, in which she lies, and her mother Claudia, and pope Stephen, with nineteen of his clergy, and Nemesius the deacon.

The eleventh is called the Appian gate399 and way. There lie St. Sebastian, and Quirinus, and originally the bodies of the apostles rested there. A little nearer Rome, are the martyrs, Januarius, Urbanus, Xenon, Quirinus, Agapetus, Felicissimus; and in another church, Tyburtius, Valerianus, Maximus. Not far distant is the church of the martyr Cecilia; and there are buried Stephanus, Sixtus, Zefferinus, Eusebius, Melchiades, Marcellus, Eutychianus, Dionysius, Antheros, Pontianus, pope Lucius, Optacius, Julianus, Calocerus, Parthenius, Tharsicius, Politanus, martyrs: there too is the church and body of St. Cornelius: and in another church, St. Sotheris: and not far off, rest the martyrs, Hippolytus, Adrianus, Eusebius, Maria, Martha, Paulina, Valeria, Marcellus, and near, pope Marcus in his church.371 Between the Appian and Ostiensian way, is the Ardeatine way, where are St. Marcus, and Marcellianus. And there lies pope Damasus in his church; and near him St. Petronilla, and Nereus, and Achilleus, and many more.

The twelfth gate and way is called the Ostiensian, but, at present, St. Paul’s,400 because he lies near it in his church. There too is the martyr Timotheus: and near, in the church of St. Tecla, are the martyrs Felix, Audactus, and Nemesius. At the Three Fountains401 is the head of the martyr St. Anastasius.

The thirteenth is called the Portuan402 gate and way; near which in a church are the martyrs, Felix, Alexander, Abdon and Sennes, Symeon, Anastasius, Polion, Vincentius, Milex, Candida, and Innocentia.

The fourteenth is the Aurelian403 gate and way, which now is called the gate of St. Pancras, because he lies near it in his church, and the other martyrs, Paulinus, Arthemius, St. Sapientia, with her three daughters, Faith, Hope, and Charity. In another church, Processus and Martinianus; and, in a third, two Felixes; in a fourth Calixtus, and Calepodius; in a fifth St. Basilides. At the twelfth milliary within the city, on Mount Celius, are the martyrs Johannes, and Paulus, in their dwelling, which was made a church after their martyrdom: and Crispin and Crispinianus, and St. Benedicta. On the same mount, is the church of St. Stephen, the first martyr; and there are buried the martyrs Primus, and Felicianus; on Mount Aventine St. Boniface; and on Mount Nola, St. Tatiana rests.

Such are the Roman sanctuaries; such the sacred pledges upon earth: and yet in the midst of this heavenly treasure, as it were, a people drunk with senseless fury, even at the very time the crusaders arrived, were disturbing everything with wild ambition, and, when unable to satisfy their lust of money, pouring out the blood of their fellow citizens over the very bodies of the saints.404 The earls, confiding then372 in Urban’s benediction, having passed through Tuscany and Campania, came by Apulia to Calabria, and would have embarked immediately had not the seamen, on being consulted, forbade them, on account of the violence of the southerly winds. In consequence, the earls of Normandy and Blois passed the winter there; sojourning each among their friends, as convenient. The earl of Flanders, alone, ventured to sea, experiencing a prosperous issue to a rash attempt: wherefore part of this assembled multitude returned home through want; and part of them died from the unwholesomeness of the climate. The earls who remained however, when by the vernal sun’s return they saw the sea sufficiently calm for the expedition, committed themselves to the ocean, and, by Christ’s assistance, landed safely at two ports. Thence, through Thessaly, the metropolis of which is Thessalonica, and Thracia, they came to Constantinople. Many of the lower order perished on the march through disease and want; many lost their lives at the Devil’s Ford, as it is called from its rapidity; and more indeed would have perished, had not the advanced cavalry been stationed in the river, to break the violence of the current; by which means the lives of some were saved, and the rest passed over on horseback. The whole multitude then, to solace themselves for their past labours, indulged in rest for fifteen days, pitching their camp in the suburbs of the city; of which, as the opportunity has presented itself, I shall briefly speak.


Constantinople was first called Byzantium: which name is still preserved by the imperial money called Bezants. St. Aldhelm, in his book On Virginity,405 relates that it changed its appellation by divine suggestion: his words are as follow. As Constantine was sleeping in this city, he imagined that there stood before him an old woman, whose forehead was furrowed with age; but, that presently, clad in an imperial robe, she became transformed into a beautiful girl, and so fascinated his eyes, by the elegance of her youthful charms, that he could not refrain from kissing her: that Helena, his mother, being present, then said, “She shall be yours for373 ever; nor shall she die, till the end of time.” The solution of this dream, when he awoke, the emperor extorted from heaven, by fasting and almsgiving. And behold, within eight days, being cast again into a deep sleep, he thought he saw pope Silvester, who died some little time before, regarding his convert406 with complacency, and saying, “You have acted with your customary prudence, in waiting for a solution, from God, of that enigma which was beyond the comprehension of man. The old woman you saw, is this city, worn down by age, whose time-struck walls, menacing approaching ruin, require a restorer. But you, renewing its walls, and its affluence, shall signalize it also with your name; and here shall the imperial progeny reign for ever. You shall not, however, lay the foundations at your own pleasure; but mounting the horse on which, when in the novitiate of your faith, you rode round the churches of the apostles at Rome, you shall give him the rein, and liberty to go whither he please: you shall have, too, in your hand, your royal spear,407 whose point shall describe the circuit of the wall on the ground. You will be regulated, therefore, in what manner to dispose the foundations of the wall by the track of the spear on the earth.”

The emperor eagerly obeyed the vision, and built a city equal to Rome; alleging that the emperor ought not to reign in Rome, where the martyred apostles, from the time of Christ, held dominion. He built in it two churches, one of which was dedicated to peace; the other to the apostles; bringing thither numerous bodies of saints, who might conciliate the assistance of God against the incursions of its enemies. He placed in the circus, for the admiration and ornament of the city, the statues of triumphal heroes, brought from Rome, and the tripods from Delphi; and the images of heathen deities to excite the contempt of the beholders. They relate that it was highly gratifying to the mind of the emperor, to receive a mandate from heaven, to found a city in that place, where the fruitfulness of the soil, and the temperature of the atmosphere conduced to the health of its inhabitants: for as he was374 born in Britain,408 he could not endure the burning heat of the sun. But Thracia is a province of Europe, as the poets observe, extremely cool, “From Hebrus’ ice, and the Bistonian north;” and near to Mœsia, where, as Virgil remarks, “With wonder Gargara the harvest sees.”409 Constantinople, then, washed by the sea, obtains the mingled temperature both of Europe and of Asia; because, from a short distance, the Asiatic east tempers the severity of the northern blast. The city is surrounded by a vast extent of walls, yet the influx of strangers is so great, as to make it crowded. In consequence they form a mole in the sea, by throwing in masses of rock, and loads of sand; and the space obtained by this new device, straitens the ancient waters. The sea wonders to see fields unknown before, amid its glassy waves; and surrounds and supplies its city with all the conveniences of the earth. The town is encompassed on every side, except the north, by the ocean, and is full of angles in the circuit of its walls, where it corresponds with the windings of the sea; which walls contain a space of twenty miles in circumference. The Danube,410 which is likewise called the Ister, flows in hidden channels under ground, into the city; and on certain days being let out by the removal of a plug, it carries off the filth of the streets into the sea. All vied with the emperor in noble zeal to give splendour to this city, each thinking he was bound to advance the work in hand: one contributing holy relics, another riches, Constantine all things.


After Constantine the Great, the following emperors reigned here. Constantine his son; Julian the Apostate; Jovinian, Valens, Theodosius the Great; Arcadius, Theodosius the Younger; Marchianus, Leo the First; Zeno, Anastasius, Justin the Great; Justinian, who, famed for his literature and his wars, built a church in Constantinople to Divine Wisdom; that is, to the Lord Jesus Christ, which he called Hagia Sophia; a work, as they report, surpassing every other375 edifice in the world, and where ocular inspection proves it superior to its most pompous descriptions: Justin the Younger; Tiberius, Mauricius, the first Greek; Focas, Heraclius, Heracleonas, Constans, Constantine, the son of Heraclius; who, coming to Rome, and purloining all the remains of ancient decoration, stripped the churches even of their brazen tiles, anxiously wishing for triumphal honours, at Constantinople, even from such spoils as these; his covetousness, however, turned out unfortunately for him, for being shortly after killed at Syracuse, he left all these honourable spoils to be conveyed to Alexandria by the Saracens; Constantine, Leo the Second; Justinian, again Justinian, Tiberius, Anastasius, Philippicus, Theodosius, Leo the Third; all these reigned both at Constantinople and at Rome: the following in Constantinople only; Constantine, Leo, Constantine, Nicephorus, Stauratius, Michael, Theophilus, Michael, Basilius, Leo, Alexander, Constantine, two Romanuses, Nicephorus, Focas, Johannes, Basilius, Romanus, Michael, Constantine, Theodora the empress, Michael, Sachius, Constantine, Romanus, Diogenes, Nicephorus, Buthanus, Michael;411 who, driven from the empire by Alexius, secretly fled to Guiscard in Apulia, and surrendering to him his power, imagined he had done something prejudicial to Alexius: hence Guiscard’s ambition conceived greater designs; falsely persuading himself that he might acquire by industry, what the other had lost by inactivity: how far he succeeded, the preceding book hath explained. In the same city is the cross of our Saviour, brought by Helena from Jerusalem. There too rest the apostles, Andrew, James the brother of our Lord; Matthias: the prophets Elizeus, Daniel, Samuel, and many others: Luke the Evangelist: martyrs innumerable: confessors, Johannes Chrysostom, Basilius, Gregorious Nazianzen, Spiridion: virgins, Agatha, Lucia; and lastly all the saints whose bodies the emperors were able to collect thither out of every country.

[A.D. 1097.]     SIEGE OF NICE.

The earls, then, of Normandy and Blois, did homage to the Greek. For the earl of Flanders had already passed on,376 disdaining to perform this ceremony, from the recollection that he was freely born and educated. The others, giving and receiving promises of fidelity, proceeded in the first week of June to Nice, which the rest had already besieged from the middle of May. Uniting, therefore, their forces, much carnage ensued on either side; since every kind of weapon could easily be hurled by the townsmen on those who were beneath them; and the arm even of the weakest had effect on persons crowded together. Moreover the Turks dragged up, with iron hooks, numberless dead bodies of our people, to mangle them in mockery; or to cast them down again when stripped of their raiment. The Franks were grieved at this: nor did they cease venting their rage by slaughter, till the Turks, wearied by extremity of suffering, on the day of the summer solstice, surrendered themselves to the emperor by means of secret messengers. He, who knew only how to consult his own advantage, gave orders to the Franks to depart: choosing rather, that the city should be reserved for the undisguised disloyalty of the Turks, than the distrusted power of the Franks. He ordered, however, silver and gold to be distributed to the chiefs, and copper coin to those of inferior rank, lest they should complain of being unrewarded. Thus the Turks, who, passing the Euphrates, had now for the space of fifty years been possessed of Bithynia, which is a part of Asia Minor that is called Romania, betook themselves to flight to the eastward. Nevertheless, when the siege was ended, they attempted, at the instigation of Soliman,412 who had been sovereign of all Romania, to harass the army on its advance. This man collecting, as is computed, three hundred and sixty thousand archers, attacked our people, expecting anything rather than hostility, with such violence, that overwhelmed with an iron shower of arrows, they were terrified and turned their backs. At that time, by chance, duke Godfrey and Hugh the Great, and Raimund, had taken another route, that they might plunder the enemies’ country to a wider extent, and obtain forage with more facility. But the Norman, sensible of his extreme377 danger, by means of expeditious messengers on a safe track, acquainted Godfrey and the rest of the approach of the Turks. They without a moment’s delay, turned against the enemy, and delivered their associates from danger. For these were now indiscriminately slaughtered in their tents, unprepared for resistance, and filling the air with prayers and lamentations. Nor did the enemy take any particular aim, but trusting his arrows to the wind, he never, from the thickness of the ranks, drew his bow in vain. What alone retarded destruction was, that the attack took place near a thicket of canes, which prevented the Turks from riding full speed. At length, however, perceiving the advanced guard of the approaching chiefs, the Christians left the thicket, and shouting the military watch-word, “It is the will of God,”413 they attack the scattered ranks of the enemy, making a signal to their companions, at the same time to assail them in the rear. Thus the Turks, pressed on either side, forthwith fled, shrieking with a dreadful cry, and raising a yell which reached the clouds. Nor had they recourse to their customary practice of a flying battle, but throwing down their bows, they manifested, by a flight of three successive days, something greater than mere human apprehension. Nor was there, indeed, any person to follow them; for our horses, scarce able to support life on the barren turf, were unequal to a vigorous pursuit: showing immediately their want of strength by their panting sides. Asia was formerly, it is true, a land most fruitful in corn; but, both in distant and in recent times, it had been so plundered by the savage Turks, that it could scarcely suffice for the maintenance of a small army, much less of a multitude, so vast as to threaten devouring whole harvests and drinking rivers dry. For, when they departed from Nice, they were still estimated at seven hundred thousand: of the remainder, part had been wasted by the sword, part by sickness, and still more had deserted to their homes.

378 Thence, then, they arrived at Heraclea by the route of Antioch and Iconium, cities of Pisidia. Here they beheld in the sky a portent fashioned like a flaming sword; the point of which extended towards the east. All the period from the kalends of July, when they left Nice, till the nones of October, had elapsed when they arrived at Antioch in Syria. The situation of this city, I should describe, had not my wish in this respect been anticipated by the eloquence of Ambrosius in Hegesippus:414 were I not also fearful, that I may be blamed for the perpetual digressions of my narrative. Still, however, I will relate so much as the labour I have undertaken seems to require.

[A.D. 1097.]     SIEGE OF ANTIOCH.

Antioch, which was named after his father, Antiochus, by Seleucus, king of Asia, is surrounded with a vast wall, which even contains a mountain within it. Next to Rome, and Constantinople, and Alexandria, it obtains precedence over the cities of the world. It is secure by its walls, lofty from its situation; and if ever taken, must be gained more by ingenuity than force. The nearest river to it, which I learn is now called Fervus, though originally Orontes, falls into the sea twelve miles from the city; its tide impetuous, and growing colder from its violence, ministers to the health of the inhabitants by its effect on the atmosphere. Capable too of receiving supplies by shipping for the service of its citizens, it can at all times mock the perseverance of its besiegers. Here the venerable title of Christian was first conceived: hence, first St. Paul, the spring and spur of this religion, went forth to preach; here the first pontific seat was filled by St. Peter; in honour to whom the church there founded remained uninjured through the whole domination of the Turks: and equally also did another, consecrated in honour of St. Mary, strike the eyes of beholders with its beauty, exciting wonder that they should reverence the church of him whose faith they persecuted.

This city, then, the Franks invested from October till June;415 pitching their tents around the walls after they had379 passed the river. Foreseeing, however, the difficulty of taking it, and judging it expedient to provide against the cowardice of certain of their party, the chiefs, in common, took an oath, that they would not desist from the siege till the city should be taken by force or by stratagem. And, that they might more easily complete their design, they built many fortresses on this side of the river, in which soldiers were placed to keep guard. Aoxianus, too, the governor of the city, observing that the Franks acted neither jestingly nor coldly, but set heartily to besiege it, sent his son Sansadol to the Sultan, emperor of Persia, to make known the boldness of the Franks, and to implore assistance. Sultan among the Persians implies the same as Augustus among the Romans: Commander of all the Saracens, and of the whole east. I imagine this empire has continued so long, and still increases, because the people, as I have related, are unwarlike; and being deficient in active blood, know not how to cast off slavery, when once admitted; not being aware, as Lucan says,416 that

“Arms were bestowed that men should not be slaves.”

But the western nations, bold and fierce, disdain long-continued subjugation to any people whatever; often delivering themselves from servitude, and imposing it on others. Moreover, the Roman empire first declined to the Franks, and after to the Germans: the eastern continues ever with the Persians.

Sansadol therefore being despatched to the chief of this empire, hastened his course with youthful ardour, while his father was by no means wanting to the duties of a commander, in the protection of the city. The valour of the besieged was not content merely to defend their own party, but voluntarily harassed ours; frequently and suddenly attacking them when foraging or marketing: for, making a bridge of the vessels they found there, they had established a mart beyond the river. Through Christ’s assistance, therefore, becoming resolute, they seized their arms, and boldly repelled their enemies, so that they never suffered them to reap the honour of the day. To revenge this disgrace, the Turks wreaked their indignation on the Syrian and Armenian380 inhabitants of the city; throwing, by means of their balistæ417 and petraries, the heads of those whom they had slain into the camp of the Franks, that by such means they might wound their feelings.


And now, everything which could be procured for food being destroyed around the city, a sudden famine, which usually makes even fortresses give way, began to oppress the army; so much so, that the harvest not having yet attained to maturity, some persons seized the pods of beans before they were ripe, as the greatest delicacy: others fed on carrion, or hides soaked in water; others passed parboiled418 thistles through their bleeding jaws into their stomachs. Others sold mice, or such like dainties, to those who required them; content to suffer hunger themselves, so that they could procure money. Some, too, there were, who even fed their corpse-like bodies with other corpses, eating human flesh; but at a distance, and on the mountains, lest others should be offended at the smell of their cookery. Many wandered through unknown paths, in expectation of meeting with sustenance, and were killed by robbers acquainted with the passes. But not long after the city was surrendered.

For Boamund, a man of superior talents, had, by dint of very great promises, induced a Turkish chief,419 who had the custody of the principal tower, on the side where his station lay, to deliver it up to him. And he, too, to palliate the infamy of his treachery by a competent excuse, gave his son as an hostage to Boamund; professing that he did so by the express command of Christ, which had been communicated to him in a dream. Boamund, therefore, advanced his troops to the tower, having first, by a secret contrivance, obtained from the chiefs the perpetual government of the city, in case he could carry it. Thus the Franks, in the dead of the night, scaling the walls by rope ladders, and displaying on the top of the tower the crimson standard of Boamund, repeated with joyful accents the Christian watchword, “It is the will of God! It is the will of God!” The Turks381 awaking, and heavy from want of rest, took to flight through narrow passages; and our party, following with drawn swords, made dreadful slaughter of the enemy. In this flight fell Aoxianus, governor of the city, being beheaded by a certain Syrian peasant: his head, when brought to the Franks, excited both their laughter and their joy.

Not long rejoicing in this complete victory, they had the next day to lament being themselves besieged by the Turks from without. For the forces which had been solicited by Sansadol were now arrived under the command of Corbaguath, an eastern satrap, who had obtained from the emperor of Persia three hundred thousand men,420 under twenty-seven commanders. Sixty thousand of these ascended over the rocks to the citadel, by desire of the Turks, who still remained in possession of it. These woefully harassed the Christians by frequent sallies: nor was there any hope left, but from the assistance of God, since want was now added to the miseries of war—want, the earliest attendant on great calamities. Wherefore, after a fast of three days, and earnest supplications, Peter the hermit was sent ambassador to the Turks, who spake with his usual eloquence to the following effect: “That the Turks should now voluntarily evacuate the Christian territory, which they had formerly unjustly invaded; that it was but right, as the Christians did not attack Persia, that the Turks should not molest Asia; that they should therefore, either by a voluntary departure, seek their own country, or expect an attack on the following morning; that they might try their fortune, by two, or four, or eight, that danger might not accrue to the whole army.”

Corbaguath condescended not to honour the messenger even with a reply; but playing at chess and gnashing his teeth, dismissed him as he came; merely observing, “that the pride of the Franks was at an end.” Hastily returning,382 Peter apprised the army of the insolence of the Turk. Each then animating the other, it was publicly ordered, that every person should, that night, feed his horse as plentifully as possible, lest he should falter from the various evolutions of the following day. And now the morning dawned, when, drawn up in bodies, they proceeded, with hostile standard, against the enemy. The first band was led by the two Roberts, of Normandy and Flanders, and Hugh the Great; the second by Godfrey; the third by the bishop of Puy; the reserve by Boamund, as a support to the rest. Raimund continued in the city, to cover the retreat of our party, in case it should be necessary. The Turks, from a distance, observing their movements, were, at first, dubious what they could mean. Afterwards, recognizing the standard of the bishop, for they were extremely afraid of him, as they said he was the pope of the Christians and the fomenter of the war; and seeing our people advancing so courageously and quickly, they fled ere they were attacked. Our party, too, exhilarated with unexpected joy, slew them as they were flying, as far as the strength of the infantry, or exertion of the cavalry, would permit. They imagined, moreover, that they saw the ancient martyrs, who had formerly been soldiers, and who had gained eternal remuneration by their death, I allude to George and Demetrius, hastily approaching with upraised banner from the mountainous districts, hurling darts against the enemy, but assisting the Franks. Nor is it to be denied, that the martyrs did assist the Christians, as the angels formerly did the Maccabees, fighting for the self-same cause. Returning, then, to the spoil, they found in their camp sufficient to satisfy, or even totally to glut, the covetousness of the greediest army. This battle took place A.D. 1098, on the fourth before the kalends of July; for the city had been taken the day before the nones of June. Soon after, on the kalends of the ensuing August, the bishop of Puy, the leader of the Christians, and chief author of this laudable enterprise, joyfully yielded to the common lot of mortals; and Hugh the Great, by permission of the chiefs, as it is said, returned to France, alleging as a reason, the perpetual racking of his bowels.

But when, by a long repose of seven months at Antioch, they had obliterated the memory of their past labours, they383 began to think of proceeding on their route. And first of all Raimund, ever unconscious of sloth, ever foremost in military energy; and next to him the two Roberts, and Godfrey, proceeded upon the march. Boamund alone, for a time, deferred his advance, lured by the prospect of a magnificent city and the love of wealth. A plausible reason, however, lay concealed beneath his covetousness, when he alleged, that Antioch ought not to be exposed to the Turks without a chief, as they would directly attack it. He therefore took up his residence in the city; and this harsh governor drove Raimund’s followers, who occupied one of the streets, without the walls.

The others, however, passing through Tripoli,421 and Berith, and Tyre, and Sidon, and Accaron, and Caiphas, and Cæsarea of Palestine, where they left the coast to the right hand, came to Ramula; being kindly received by some of the cities, and signalizing their valour by the subjugation of others. For their design was to delay no longer, as it was now the month of April, and the produce of the earth had become fully ripe. Ramula is a very small city, without walls: if we credit report, the place of the martyrdom of St. George; whose church, originally founded there, the Turks had somewhat defaced: but at that time, through fear of the Franks, they had carried off their property and retreated to the mountains. The next morning, at early dawn, Tancred, the nephew of Boamund, a man of undaunted courage, and some others, taking arms, proceeded to Bethlehem, desirous of exploring its vicinity. The Syrians of the place, who came out to meet them, manifested their joy with weeping earnestness, through apprehension for their safety, on account of the smallness of their numbers; for few more than a hundred horsemen were of the party. But our people having suppliantly adored the sacred edifice,422 immediately stretch anxiously forward towards Jerusalem. The Turks, confident of their force, fiercely sallied out, and for some time skirmished with our troops, for the whole army had now384 come up; but they were soon repulsed by the exertions of the Franks, and sought security from their encircling walls.


The numbers who have already written on the subject, admonish me to say nothing of the situation and disposition of Jerusalem, nor is it necessary for my narrative to expatiate on such a field. Almost every person is acquainted with what Josephus, Eucherius, and Bede, have said: for who is not aware, that it was called Salem from Melchisedec; Jebus from the Jebusites; Jerusalem from Solomon? Who has not heard how often, falling from adverse war, it buried its inhabitants in its ruins, through the different attacks of Nabugodonosor, of Titus, or of Adrian? It was this last who rebuilt Jerusalem, called Ælia, after his surname, enclosing it with a circular wall, of greater compass, that it might embrace the site of the sepulchre of our Lord, which originally stood without: Mount Sion, too, added to the city, stands eminent as a citadel. It possesses no springs;423 but water, collected in cisterns, prepared for that purpose, supplies the wants of the inhabitants: for the site of the city, beginning from the northern summit of Mount Sion, has so gentle a declivity, that the rain which falls there does not form any mire, but running like rivulets, is received into tanks, or flowing through the streets, augments the brook Kedron. Here is the church of our Lord, and the temple, which they call Solomon’s, by whom built is unknown, but religiously reverenced by the Turks; more especially the church of our Lord, where they daily worshipped, and prohibited the Christians from entering, having placed there a statue of Mahomet. Here also is a church of elegant workmanship, containing the holy sepulchre, built by Constantine the Great, and which has never suffered any injury from the enemies of our faith, through fear, as I suppose, of being struck by that celestial fire which brightly shines in lamps, every year, on the Vigil424 of Easter. When this miracle had385 a beginning, or whether it existed before the times of the Saracens, history has left no trace. I have read in the writings of Bernard425 the monk, that about two hundred and fifty years ago, that is, A.D. 870, he went to Jerusalem and saw that fire, and was entertained in the Hospital which the most glorious Charles the Great had there ordered to be built, and where he had collected a library at great expense. He relates, that both in Egypt and in that place, the Christians, under the dominion of the Turks, enjoyed such security, that if any traveller lost a beast of burden by accident, in the midst of the high road, he might leave his baggage and proceed to the nearest city for assistance, and without doubt find every thing untouched at his return. Still, from the suspicion that they might be spies, no foreign Christian could live there securely, unless protected by the signet of the emperor of Babylon. The natives purchased peace from the Turks at the expense of three talents or bezants annually. But as Bernard mentions the name of Theodosius, the then patriarch, this gives me an occasion of enumerating the whole of the patriarchs.


James the brother of our Lord and son of Joseph; Simon son of Cleophas, the cousin of Christ, for Cleophas was the brother of Joseph; Justus, Zaccheus, Tobias, Benjamin, Johannes, Maccabæus, Philip, Seneca, Justus, Levi, Effrem, Jesse, Judas; these fifteen were circumcised: Mark, Cassian, Publius, Maximus, Julian, Gaius; who first celebrated Easter and Lent after the Roman manner: Symmachus, Gaius, Julian, Capito, Maximus, Antonius, Valens, Docilianus, Narcissus, Dius, Germanio, Gordius, Alexander, Mazabanus, Irmeneus, Zabdas, Ermon, Macharius; in his time the Holy Cross was found by St. Helena: Cyriacus, Maximus, Cyrillus, who built the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and of Mount Calvary, and of Bethlehem, and of the Valley of Jehosaphat. All these were called bishops. After them386 arose the patriarchs: Cyrillus the first patriarch; Johannes, Prailius, Juvenalis,426 Zacharias, in whose time came Cosdroe427 king of Persia to Jerusalem, and destroyed the churches of Judea and Jerusalem, and slew with his army six and thirty thousand of the Christians: Modestus, who was appointed patriarch by the emperor Heraclius, when he returned victorious from Persia: Sophronius, in whose time the Saracens came and thrust out all the Christians from Jerusalem, except the patriarch, whom they suffered to remain out of reverence to his sanctity: this was the period when the Saracens overran the whole of Egypt, and Africa, and Judea, and even Spain, and the Balearic Isles. Part of Spain was wrested from them by Charles the Great, but the remainder, together with the countries I have enumerated, they have possessed for nearly five hundred years, down to the present day: Theodorus,428 Ilia, Georgius, Thomas, Basilius, Sergius, Salomontes, Theodosius, whom Bernard relates to have been an abbat, and that he was torn from his monastery, which was fifteen miles distant from Jerusalem, and made patriarch of that city: then too they say that Michael was patriarch in Babylon over Egypt, the patriarchate of Alexandria being removed thither: Ilia, Sergius, Leonthos, Athanasius, Christodolus, Thomas, Joseph, Orestes; in his time came Sultan Achim, the nephew of the patriarch Orestes, from Babylon, who sent his army to Jerusalem, destroyed all the churches, that is to say, four thousand, and caused his uncle, the patriarch, to be conveyed to Babylon and there slain: Theophilus, Nicephorus: he built the present church of the Holy Sepulchre, by the favour of Sultan Achim: Sophronius; in his time the Turks, coming to Jerusalem, fought with the Saracens, killed them all, and possessed the city; but the Christians continued there under the dominion of the Turks: Cuthimus, Simeon; in whose time came the Franks and laid387 siege to Jerusalem, and rescued it from the hands of the Turks and of the king of Babylon.


In the fourth year, then, of the expedition to Jerusalem, the third after the capture of Nice, and the second after that of Antioch, the Franks laid siege to Jerusalem,—a city well able to repay the toils of war, to soothe its labours, and to requite the fondest expectation. It was now the seventh day of June, nor were the besiegers apprehensive of wanting food or drink for themselves, as the harvest was on the ground, and the grapes were ripe upon the vines; the care alone of their cattle distressed them, which, from the nature of the place and of the season, had no running stream to support them, for the heat of the sun had dried up the secret springs of the brook Siloah, which, at uncertain periods, used to shed abroad its refreshing waters. This brook, when at any time swollen with rain, increases that of Kedron; and then passes on, with bubbling current, into the valley of Jehosaphat. But this is extremely rare; for there is no certain period of its augmentation or decrease. In consequence, the enemy, suddenly darting from their caverns, frequently killed our people, when straggling abroad for the purpose of watering the cattle. In the meantime the chiefs were each observant at their respective posts, and Raymond actively employed before the tower of David.429 This fortress, defending the city on the west, and strengthened, nearly half way up, by courses of squared stone soldered with lead, repels every fear of invaders when guarded by a small party within. As they saw, therefore, that the city was difficult to carry on account of the steep precipices, the strength of the walls, and the fierceness of the enemy, they ordered engines to be constructed. But before this, indeed, on the seventh day of the siege, they had tried their fortune by erecting ladders, and hurling swift arrows against their opponents: but, as the ladders were few, and perilous to those who mounted them, since they were exposed on all sides and nowhere protected from wounds, they changed their design. There was one engine which we call the Sow, the ancients, Vinea; because the machine, which is constructed of388 slight timbers, the roof covered with boards and wickerwork, and the sides defended with undressed hides, protects those who are within it, who, after the manner of a sow, proceed to undermine the foundations of the walls. There was another, which, for want of timber, was but a moderate sized tower, constructed after the manner of houses:430 they call it Berefreid: this was intended to equal the walls in height. The making of this machine delayed the siege, on account of the unskilfulness of the workmen and the scarcity of the wood. And now the fourteenth day of July arrived, when some began to undermine the wall with the sows, others to move forward the tower. To do this more conveniently, they took it towards the works in separate pieces, and, putting it together again at such a distance as to be out of bowshot, advanced it on wheels nearly close to the wall. In the meantime, the slingers with stones, the archers with arrows, and the cross-bow-men with bolts, each intent on his own department, began to press forward and dislodge their opponents from the ramparts; soldiers, too, unmatched in courage, ascend the tower, waging nearly equal war against the enemy with missile weapons and with stones. Nor, indeed, were our foes at all remiss; but trusting their whole security to their valour, they poured down grease and burning oil upon the tower, and slung stones on the soldiers, rejoicing in the completion of their desires by the destruction of multitudes. During the whole of that day the battle was such that neither party seemed to think they had been worsted; on the following, which was the fifteenth of July, the business was decided. For the Franks, becoming more experienced from the event of the attack of the preceding day, threw faggots flaming with oil on a tower adjoining the wall, and on the party who defended it, which, blazing by the action of the wind, first seized the timber and then the stones, and drove off the garrison. Moreover the beams which the Turks had left hanging down from the walls in order that, being forcibly drawn back, they might, by their recoil, batter the tower in pieces in case it should advance too near, were by the Franks dragged to them, by cutting away the ropes; and being placed from the engine to the389 wall, and covered with hurdles, they formed a bridge of communication from the ramparts to the tower. Thus what the infidels had contrived for their defence became the means of their destruction; for then the enemy, dismayed by the smoking masses of flame and by the courage of our soldiers, began to give way. These advancing on the wall, and thence into the city, manifested the excess of their joy by the strenuousness of their exertions. This success took place on the side of Godfrey and of the two Roberts; Raymond knew nothing of the circumstance, till the cry of the fugitives and the alarm of the people, throwing themselves from the walls, who thus met death while flying from it, acquainted him that the city was taken. On seeing this, he rushed with drawn sword on the runaways, and hastened to avenge the injuries of God, until he had satiated his own animosity. Moreover, adverting to the advantages of quiet for the moment, he sent unhurt to Ascalon five hundred Ethiopians, who, retreating to the citadel of David, had given up the keys of the gates under promise of personal safety. There was no place of refuge for the Turks, so indiscriminately did the insatiable rage of the victors sweep away both the suppliant and the resisting. Ten thousand were slain in the temple of Solomon; more were thrown from the tops of the churches, and of the citadel. After this, the dead bodies were heaped and dissolved into the aery fluid by means of fire; lest putrifying in the open air, they should pour contagion on the heavy atmosphere. The city being thus expiated by the slaughter of the infidels, they proceeded with hearts contrite and bodies prostrate to the sepulchre of the Lord, which they had so long earnestly sought after, and for which they had undergone so many labours. By what ample incense of prayer, they propitiated heaven, or by what repentant tears they once again brought back the favour of God, none, I am confident, can describe; no, not if the splendid eloquence of the ancients could revive or Orpheus himself return; who, as it is said, bent e’en the listening rocks to his harmonious strain. Be it imagined then, rather than expressed.


So remarkable was the example of forbearance exhibited by the chiefs, that, neither on that, nor on the following day, did any of them, through lust of spoil, withdraw his mind390 from following up the victory. Tancred alone, beset with ill-timed covetousness, carried off some valuable effects from the temple of Solomon; but, afterwards, reproved by his own conscience, and the address of some other persons, he restored, if not the same things, yet such as were of equal value.431 At that time, if any man, however poor, seized a house, or riches of any kind, he did not afterwards encounter the brawlings of the powerful, but held, what he had once possessed, as his hereditary right. Without delay, then, Godfrey, that brilliant mirror of Christian nobility, in which, as in a splendid ceiling,432 the lustre of every virtue was reflected, was chosen king;433 all, in lively hope, agreeing, that they could in no wise better consult the advantage of the church; deferring, in the meantime, the election of a patriarch, who was to be appointed by the determination of the Roman Pontiff.434

[A.D. 1099.]     BATTLE OF ASCALON.

But the emperor of Babylon, not the city built by Nimrod and enlarged by Semiramis and now said to be deserted, but that which Cambyses, son of Cyrus, built in Egypt, on the spot where Taphnis formerly stood: the emperor of Babylon, I say, venting his long-conceived indignation against the Franks, sent the commander of his forces, to drive them, as he said, out of his kingdom. Hastening to fulfil the command, when he heard that Jerusalem was taken, he redoubled his diligence, though he had by no means been indolent before. The design of the barbarian was to besiege the Christians in Jerusalem, and after the victory, which he, falsely presaging, already obtained in imagination, to destroy utterly the sepulchre of our Lord. The Christians, who desired nothing less than again to endure the miseries of a siege, taking courage through God’s assistance, march out of the city towards Ascalon, to oppose the enemy; and carry with them part of the cross of Christ, which a certain Syrian, an inhabitant of391 Jerusalem, had produced, as it had been preserved in his house, in succession from father to son. This truly was a fortunate and a loyal device, that the secret should be all along kept from the Turks. Obtaining moreover a great booty of sheep and cattle, near Ascalon, they issued a general order, to leave the whole of it in the open plain, lest it should be an impediment when engaging the next morning, as they would have spoil more than enough if they conquered, so that, free from incumbrance, they might avenge the injuries of heaven. In the morning, therefore, as the army was on its march, you might see, I believe by divine instinct, the cattle with their heads erect, proceeding by the side of the soldiers, and not to be driven away by any force. The enemy perceiving this at a distance, and their sight being dazzled by the rays of the sun, lost their confidence, ere the battle could commence, as they thought the multitude of their opponents was countless: yet were they, themselves, by no means deficient in numbers, and by long exercise, trained to battle. They endeavoured therefore to hem in the Franks, who were proceeding at a slow rate, by dividing their force into two bodies, and by curving their wings. But the leaders, and more especially Robert the Norman, who was in the advanced guard, eluding stratagem by stratagem, or rather cunning by valour, led on their archers and infantry, and broke through the centre of the heathens. Moreover the Lorraine cavalry, which was stationed with its commander in the rear, advancing by the flanks, prevented their flight, and occupied the whole plain. Thus the Turks, penetrated in the front, and hemmed in on every side, were slain at the pleasure of the victors; the remainder escaping through favour of approaching night. Many golden utensils were found in their camp; many jewels, which, though from their scarcity unknown in our country, there shine in native splendour. Nor was there ever a more joyful victory for the Christians, because they obtained the most precious spoil without loss.

Returning therefore to Jerusalem, when, by a rest of many days, they had recruited their strength, some of them, sighing for their native country, prepared to return by sea. Godfrey and Tancred only remained; princes, truly noble, and, to whose glory, posterity, if it judge rightly, never can392 set limits: men, who, from the intense cold of Europe, plunged into the insupportable heat of the East: prodigal of their own lives, so that they could succour suffering Christianity. Who, besides the fears of barbarous incursions, in constant apprehension from the unwholesomeness of an unknown climate, despised the security of rest and of health in their own country; and although very few in number, kept in subjection so many hostile cities by their reputation and prowess. They were memorable patterns, too, of trust in God; not hesitating to remain in that climate, where they might either suffer from pestilential air, or be slain by the rage of the Saracens. Let the celebration of the poets then give way; nor let ancient fiction extol her earliest heroes. No age hath produced aught comparable to the fame of these men. For, if the ancients had any merit, it vanished after death with the smoke of their funeral pile; because it had been spent, rather on the vapour of earthly reputation, than in the acquisition of substantial good. But the utility of these men’s valour will be felt, and its dignity acknowledged, as long as the world shall continue to revolve, or pure Christianity to flourish. What shall I say of the good order and forbearance of the whole army? There was no gluttony; no lewdness, which was not directly corrected by the authority of the commanders, or the preaching of the bishops. There was no wish to plunder as they passed through the territories of the Christians; no controversy among themselves, which was not easily settled by the examination of mediators. Wherefore, since the commendation of an army so well-ordered redounds to the glory of its conductors, I will signalize, in my narrative, the exploits and the adventures of each respective chief; nor will I subtract any thing from the truth, as I received it on the faith of my relators. But let no one who has had a fuller knowledge of these events, accuse me of want of diligence, since we, who are secluded on this side of the British ocean, hear but the faint echo of Asiatic transactions.


King Godfrey takes the lead in my commendation: he was the son of Eustace count of Boulogne, of whom I have spoken in the time of king Edward, but more ennobled maternally, as by that line he was descended from Charles the Great. For, his mother, named Ida, daughter of the ancient393 Godfrey duke of Lorraine, had a brother called Godfrey after his father, surnamed Bocard. This was at the time when Robert Friso, of whom I have spoken above, on the death of Florence, duke of Friesland, married his widow Gertrude; advancing Theodoric, his son-in-law, to the succession of the duchy. Bocard could not endure this; but expelling Friso, subjected the country to his own will. Friso, unable to revenge himself by war, did it by stratagem; killing Bocard through the agency of his Flemings, who drove a weapon into his posteriors, as he was sitting for a natural occasion. In this manner the son-in-law succeeded to the duchy, by the means of his father-in-law. The wife of this Godfrey was the marchioness Matilda, mentioned in the former book, who on her husband’s death spiritedly retained the duchy, in opposition to the emperor; more especially in Italy, for of Lorraine and the hither-countries he got possession. Ida then, as I began to relate, animated her son Godfrey with great expectations of getting the earldom of Lorraine: for the paternal inheritance had devolved on Eustace her eldest son; the youngest, Baldwin, was yet a boy. Godfrey arriving at a sufficient age to bear arms, dedicated his services to the emperor Henry, who is mentioned in the preceding book. Acquiring his friendship, therefore, by unremitting exertions, he received from the emperor’s singular liberality the whole of Lorraine as a recompence. Hence it arose, that when the quarrel broke out between the pope and Henry, he went with the latter to the siege of Rome; was the first to break through that part of the wall which was assigned for his attack, and facilitated the entrance of the besiegers. Being in extreme perspiration, and panting with heat, he entered a subterraneous vault which he found in his way, and when he had there appeased the violence of his thirst by an excessive draught of wine, he brought on a quartan fever. Others say that he fell a victim to poisoned wine, as the Romans, and men of that country, are used to infect whole casks. Others report, that a portion of the walls fell to his lot, where the Tiber flowing, exhales destructive vapours in the morning; that by this fatal pest, all his soldiers, with the exception of ten, lost their lives; and that himself, losing his nails and his hair, never entirely recovered. But be it which it might of these, it appears that he was never free from a slow fever,394 until hearing the report of the expedition to Jerusalem, he made a vow to go thither, if God would kindly restore his health. The moment this vow was made, the strength of the duke revived; so that, recovering apace, he shook disease from his limbs, and rising with expanded breast, as it were, from years of decrepitude, shone with renovated youth. In consequence, grateful for the mercies of God showered down upon him, he went to Jerusalem the very first, or among the first; leading a numerous army to the war. And though he commanded a hardy and experienced band, yet none was esteemed readier to attack, or more efficient in the combat than himself. Indeed it is known, that, at the siege of Antioch, with a Lorrainian sword, he cut asunder a Turk, who had demanded single combat, and that one half of the man lay panting on the ground, while the horse, at full speed, carried away the other: so firmly the miscreant sat. Another also who attacked him he clave asunder from the neck to the groin, by taking aim at his head with a sword; nor did the dreadful stroke stop here, but cut entirely through the saddle, and the back-bone of the horse. I have heard a man of veracity relate, that he had seen what I here subjoin: during the siege, a soldier of the duke’s had gone out to forage; and being attacked by a lion, avoided destruction for some time, by the interposition of his shield. Godfrey, grieved at this sight, transfixed the ferocious animal with a hunting spear. Wounded, and becoming fiercer from the pain, it turned against the prince with such violence as to hurt his leg with the iron which projected from the wound; and had he not hastened with his sword to rip it up, this pattern of valour must have perished by the tusk of a wild beast. Renowned from these successes, he was exalted to be king of Jerusalem, more especially because he was conspicuous in rank and courage without being arrogant. His dominion was small and confined, containing, besides the few surrounding towns, scarcely any cities. For the king’s bad state of health, which attacked him immediately after the Babylonish war, caused a cessation of warlike enterprise; so that he made no acquisitions: yet, by able management, he so well restrained the avidity of the barbarians for the whole of that year, that nothing was lost. They report that the king, from being unused to a state of indolence, fell again395 into his original fever; but I conjecture, that God, in his own good time, chose early to translate, to a better kingdom, a soul rendered acceptable to him and tried by so many labours, lest wickedness should change his heart, or deceit beguile his understanding. Revolving time thus completing a reign of one year, he died placidly, and was buried on Mount Golgotha;435 a king as unconquerable in death, as he had formerly been in battle; often kindly repressing the tears of the by-standers. Being asked who was to succeed him, he mentioned no person by name, but said merely, “whoever was most worthy.” He never would wear the ensign of royalty, saying, “it was too great arrogance for him to be crowned for glory, in that city, in which God had been crowned in mockery.” He died on the fifteenth before the kalends of August.

[A.D. 1100.]     BALDWIN.

On Godfrey’s decease, Tancred and the other chiefs declared that Baldwin, his brother, who was at that time settled in Mesopotamia, should be king: for Eustace, the elder brother, who came to Jerusalem with Godfrey, had long since returned to his native land. The acts of Baldwin shall be related briefly, but with unsullied truth; supported in their credibility by the narrative of Fulcher436 of Chartres, who was his chaplain, and wrote somewhat of him, in a style, not altogether unpolished, but, as we say, without elegance or correctness, and which may serve to admonish others to write more carefully. Baldwin, undertaking the holy pilgrimage with the rest, had for companions many knights of disposition similar to his own. Confiding in these associates, he began to levy fresh troops for his purpose; to watch for brilliant opportunities wherein to manifest his prowess: and, finally, not content with that commendation which was common to all, leaving the rest and departing three days’ journey from Antioch, he got possession, by the consent of its inhabitants, of Tarsus, a noble city of Cilicia: Tarsus, formerly the nursing-mother of the apostle Paul, in honour of whom the cathedral there is dedicated. The Tarsians voluntarily396 submitted to his protection, as they were Christians, and hoped by his aid to be defended from the Turks. The Cilicians, therefore, eagerly yielded to his power, more especially after the surrender of Turbexhel, a town by situation impregnable, to whose sovereignty the inferior towns look up. This being yielded, as I have said, the others followed its decision. And not only Cilicia, but Armenia, and Mesopotamia, eagerly sought alliance with this chief: for these provinces were almost free from the domination of the Turks, though infested by their incursions. Wherefore the prince of the city of Edessa, who was alike pressed by the hatred of the citizens and the sword of the enemy, sent letters to Baldwin, descriptive of his difficulties, desiring him to come with all speed, and receive a compensation for the labour of his journey, by his adoption, as he had no issue of either sex. This is a city of Mesopotamia in Syria, very noted for the fruitfulness of its soil and for the resort of merchants, twenty miles distant from the Euphrates, and a hundred from Antioch. The Greeks call it Edessa; the Syrians Rothasia. Baldwin, therefore, exacting an oath of fidelity from the ambassadors, passed the Euphrates with only sixty-nine horsemen: a wonderful instance, it may be said, either of fortitude, or of rashness, in not hesitating to proceed among the surrounding nations of barbarians, whom any other person, with so small a force, would have distrusted either for their race or their unbelief. By the Armenians and Syrians, indeed, coming out to meet him on the road with crosses and torches, he was received with grateful joy, and kindly entertained. But the Turks, endeavouring to attack his rear, were frustrated in all their attempts by the skill of Baldwin: the Samosatians setting the first example of flight. Samosata is a city beyond the Euphrates, from which arose Paul of Samosata,437 the confutation of whose heresy, whoever is desirous may read in the History of Eusebius. And, if I well remember, Josephus says, that Antony was laying siege397 to this city, when Herod came to him. The Turks inhabiting that city then, who were the first instigators of outrage against the Franks, were the first to give way. Thus, Baldwin, coming safely to Edessa, found nothing to disappoint his expectations: for being received with surpassing favour by the prince, and soon after, on his being killed by his faithless citizens, obtaining the lawful sovereignty of the city, for the whole time during which the Franks were labouring at Antioch and at Jerusalem, he was not free from hostilities; worsting his opponents in repeated attacks.


But in the month of November, being reminded by Boamund, prince of Antioch, that they should enter on their progress to Jerusalem, he prepared for marching, and by the single display of the white standard, which was his ensign in battle, overthrowing the Turks who had broken the peace on his expected departure, he left Antioch to the right; and came to Laodicea. Here, by the liberality of earl Raymond, who presided over the city, getting, at a cheap rate, a sufficiency of supplies for his people, he passed Gibellum, and followed the recent track of Boamund, who had encamped and awaited him. Daibert, archbishop of Pisa, joined them for the march: he had landed his confederate party at Laodicea, as did also two other bishops. These forces when united were estimated at five and twenty thousand; many of whom, when they entered the territories of the Saracens, were, through the scarcity of commodities, overtaken by famine, and many were dismounted, from their horses being starved. Their distress was increased by an abundance of rain; for in that country it pours down like a torrent in the winter months only. In consequence, these poor wretches, having no change of garments, died from the severity of the cold; never getting under cover during several successive days. For this calamity, indeed, there was no remedy, as there was a deficiency both of tents and of wood: but they in some measure appeased their hunger, by constantly chewing the sweet reeds, which they call cannamel;438 so denominated from cane and honey. Thus, twice only, obtaining necessaries398 at an exorbitant price from the inhabitants of Tripoli and Cæsarea, they came to Jerusalem on the day of the winter solstice. They were met at the gates by king Godfrey with his brother Eustace, whom he had detained till this time, who showed them every degree of respect and generosity. Having performed in Bethlehem all the accustomed solemnities of our Lord’s nativity, they appointed Daibert patriarch: to which transaction I doubt not, that the consent of pope Urban was obtained; for he was reverend from age, eloquent, and rich. After the circumcision of our Lord, therefore, assuming palms439 in Jericho, which antiquity has made the ensign of pilgrims, each one hastily endeavoured to reach his home. The cause of their speed was the stench of the unburied dead bodies, the fumes of which exhaled in such a manner as to infect the air itself. In consequence, a contagious pestilence spreading in the atmosphere, consigned to death many who had recently arrived. The rest quickened their march, by the cities on the coast, that is to say, Tiberias and Cæsarea Philippi; for they were urged by scantiness of provision, and the fear of the enemy. Their want, as I have said, was remedied by the celerity of their march; and to the fury of three hundred soldiers who harassed them from the town of Baldac, they opposed a military stratagem. For feigning a flight for a short time, that by leaving the narrow passes themselves, they might induce the Turks to enter them, they retreated purposely, and then returning, routed the straggling enemy at their pleasure. They had supposed our people unprepared for fight, as their shields and bows were injured by the excessive rains; not being aware, that among men, victory consists not in reliance on excellence of arms, or of armour, but in the more noble power of courage, and of the well-nerved arm.


At that time, indeed, Baldwin returned safely to Edessa, and Boamund to Antioch. But in the beginning of the month of July, a vague report reached the ears of Baldwin, that the brilliant jewel of our commanders was dimmed;399 Boamund being taken, and cast into chains, by one Danisman, a heathen, and a potentate of that country. In consequence, collecting a body of the people of Edessa and Antioch, he was in hopes of revenging this singular disgrace of the Christians. Moreover the Turk, who had taken this chieftain more by stratagem and chance than by courage or military force, as he had come with a small party to get possession of the city of Meletima, aware that the Franks would use their utmost efforts against him for the disgrace of the thing, betook himself to his own territories; marshalling his troops, not as though he intended to retreat, but rather to exhibit a triumph. Baldwin then proceeding two days’ march beyond Meletima, and seeing the enemy decline the hazard of a battle, thought fit to return; but first, with the permission of Gabriel the governor, brought over the city to his own disposal. In the meantime, intelligence reaching him of his brother’s death, and of the general consent of the inhabitants and chiefs to his election, he entrusted Edessa to Baldwin, his nearest relation by blood, and moreover a prudent and active man, and prepared for receiving the crown of Jerusalem. Wherefore collecting two hundred horse, and seven hundred foot, he proceeded on a march pregnant with death and danger; whence many, who were falsely supposed faithful, contemplating the boldness of the attempt, clandestinely deserted. He, with the remainder, marched forward to Antioch, where from the resources of his sagacious mind, he became the cause of great future advantage to his distressed people, by advising them to choose Tancred as their chief. Thence, he came to Tripoli, by the route of Gibesium and Laodicea. The governor of this city, a Turk by nation, but, from natural disposition, rich in bowels of mercy, afforded him the necessary provisions without the walls; at the same time, kindly intimating, that he should act cautiously, as Ducach, king of Damascus, had occupied a narrow pass through which he had heard he was to march. But he, ashamed of being moved by the threats of the Saracen, resolutely proceeded on his destination. When he came to the place, he perceived the truth of the governor’s information: for about five miles on this side the city of Berith, there is a very narrow passage near the sea, so confined by steep precipices,400 and narrow defiles, that were a hundred men to get possession of the entrance, they might prevent any number, however great, from passing. Such as travel from Tripoli to Jerusalem have no possible means of avoiding it. Baldwin, therefore, arriving on the spot, sent out scouts to examine the situation of the place, and the strength of the enemy. The party returning, and hardly intelligible through fear, pointed out the difficulty of the pass, and the confidence of the enemy, who had occupied it. But Baldwin, who fell little short of the best soldier that ever existed, feeling no alarm, boldly drew up his army and led it against them. Ducach then despatched some to make an onset, and lure the party unguardedly forward; retaining his main body in a more advantageous position. For this purpose, at first they rushed on with great impetuosity, and then made a feint to retreat, to entice our people into the defile. This stratagem could not deceive Baldwin, who, skilled by long-continued warfare, made a signal to his men to make show of flight; and to induce a supposition that they were alarmed, he commanded the bag and baggage which they had cast down, to be again taken up, and the cattle to be goaded forward, as well as the ranks to be opened, that the enemy might attack them. The Turks at this began to exult, and, raging so horribly that you might suppose the Furies yelling, pursued our party. Some getting into vessels took possession of the shore, others riding forward began to kill such pilgrims as were incautiously loitering near the sea. The Franks continued their pretended flight till they reached a plain which they had before observed. No confusion deprived these men of their judgment; even the very emergency by which they had been overtaken nurtured and increased their daring; and though a small body, they withstood innumerable multitudes both by sea and land. For the moment it appeared they had sufficiently feigned alarm, they closed their ranks, turned their standards, and hemmed in the now-charging enemy on all sides. Thus the face of affairs was changed, the victors were vanquished, and the vanquished became victors. The Turks were hewn down with dreadful carnage; the remainder anxiously fled to their vessels, and when they had gotten more than a bow-shot out to sea, they still urged them forward as fiercely with their401 oars, as though they supposed they could be drawn back to land by the arm of their adversaries. And that you may not doubt of this miracle as fanciful, but as evident, feel it as it were, only four Christian soldiers fell in procuring by their blood this victory to the survivors. Wherefore I assert, that the Christians would never be conquered by the pagans, were they to implore the Divine assistance on their courage, ere they entered the conflict; and, when in battle, conciliate the friendly powers of heaven to their arms. But since, in peace they glut themselves in every kind of vice, and in battle rely only upon their courage; therefore it justly happens, that their valour is often unsuccessful. The earl then, rejoicing in his splendid victory, on returning to spoil the slain, found several Turks alive, whom he dismissed without personal injury, but despoiled them of their wealth. To avoid any hidden stratagem, he that night retreated with his party, and rested under the shelter of some olive trees. Next day, at dawn, he approached the defile, with the light troops, to be an eye-witness of the nature of the place; and, finding everything safe, and making a signal by smoke, as had been agreed upon, he intimated to his associates the departure of the enemy; for the Turks, who the day before were wantonly galloping around the hill, perceiving the carnage of their companions, had all fled in the dead of the night. Laying aside every delay, they instantly followed their commander. The governor of Berith sent them food on their march, astonished at the valour of so small a force. The Tyrians and Sidonians, and Accaronites, who are also called Ptholoamites, acted in the same manner, venerating with silent apprehension the bravery of the Franks. Nor were Tancred’s party, in Caiphas, less generous, although he was absent. The ancient name of this town I am unable to discover; because all the inland cities, which we read of in Josephus as formerly existing, are either not in being, or else, changed into inconsiderable villages, have lost their names; whereas those on the coast remain entire. In this manner, by Cæsarea of Palestine, and Azotus, they came to Joppa. Here he was first congratulated on his kingdom, the citizens with great joy opening the gates to him.

[A.D. 1100.]     DEFEAT OF THE TURKS.

Being afterwards accompanied by the inhabitants of Joppa to Jerusalem, where he was favourably received, he indulged402 in a repose of seven days’ continuance. Then, that the Turks might be convinced that the spirit of his reign would proceed to their signal disadvantage, he led his troops towards Ascalon. When at a short distance from that city, he proudly displayed his forces, and with very little exertion compelled the attacking Ascalonites to retreat, by waiting a favourable opportunity for accomplishing his designs. Finally, conceiving his glory satisfied for that time by their repulse, he drew off to the mountains to pursue the enemy, and also at their expense to procure necessaries for his troops, who were famished with hunger from the barrenness of the land: for a scanty harvest had that year denied sustenance; deceiving the expectations of the province by a meagre produce. He ascended therefore the mountainous districts, whither the Turkish inhabitants of the country had retreated on leaving their towns, concealing the Syrians with them in sequestered caverns. The Franks, however, discovered a mode of counteracting the device of the fugitives, by letting smoke into their hiding-places; by which the miscreants were dislodged, and came out one by one. The Turks were killed to a man; the Syrians spared. The army turning aside thence, and marching towards Arabia, passed by the sepulchres of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and of their three wives, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. The place is in Hebron, thirteen miles distant from Jerusalem. For the body of Joseph lies at Neapolis, formerly called Sichem, covered with white marble, and conspicuous to every traveller; there, too, are seen the tombs of his brothers, but of inferior workmanship. The army then came into the valley where God formerly overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, darting fire from heaven on the wicked. The lake there extends for eighteen miles, incapable of supporting any living creature, and so horrible to the palate, as to distort the mouths of such as drink it, and distend their jaws with its bitter taste. A hill overhangs the valley, emitting, in various places, a salt scum, and all over transparent, as it were, with congealed glass. Here is gathered what some call nitre; some call it crystal salt. Passing the lake, they came to a very opulent town, abundant in those luscious fruits which they call dates; in devouring which they were hardly able to fill the cavities of the stomach, or constrain403 the greediness of their palates, they were so extremely sweet. Every thing else had been taken away, through the alarm of the inhabitants, except a few Ethiopians, the dark wool of whose hair resembled smut. Our people, thinking it beneath their valour to kill persons of this description, treated them, not with indignation, but with laughter. Adjacent to this town is a valley, where to this day is seen the rock which Moses struck, to give water to the murmuring tribes. The stream yet runs so plentifully, and with such a current, as to turn the machinery of mills. On the declivity of the hill stands a church in honour of the legislator Aaron: where, through the mediation and assistance of his brother, he used to hold converse with God. Here learning from guides conversant in the roads, who from Saracens had been converted to Christianity, that from hence to Babylon was all barren country, and destitute of every accommodation, they returned to Jerusalem, to consecrate to God the first fruits of his reign, acquired in the subjugation of so many hostile countries.


The royal insignia being prepared, Baldwin was crowned with great ceremony, in Bethlehem, on Christmas-day, by Daibert the patriarch; all wishing him prosperity. For both at that time, and afterwards, he deserved, by his own exertions, and obtained, through the favour of others, every degree of royal respect, though sovereign of a very small, and I had almost said, a despicable kingdom. Wherefore the Christians ought to regard the mercy of our Lord Christ, and to walk in the contemplation of his power, through whose assistance they were objects of apprehension, though unable to do harm. For there were scarcely, in the whole service, four hundred horsemen and so many foot, to garrison Jerusalem, Ramula, Caiphas, and Joppa. For those who came thither by sea, with minds ill at ease, amid so many hostile ports, after having adored the saints, determined to return home, as there was no possibility of proceeding by land. Moreover, an additional difficulty was, that in the month of March Tancred had departed to assume the government of Antioch, nor could he or the king aid each other from the length of the journey: indeed, should necessity require it, he could not, without fear of irreparable loss, march his troops from one town to another. I pronounce it therefore404 to be a manifest miracle, that safe alone, through God’s protection, he was an object of dread to such a multitude of barbarians.

In this year, which was A.D. 1101, the sacred fire,440 which used to signalize the Vigil of Easter, delayed its appearance longer than usual. For on the Saturday, the lessons being read, alternately in Greek and Latin, the “Kyrie eleeson”441 repeated thrice and the melody of the clarions resounding, still when no fire appeared, and the setting sun induced the evening and led on the night, then all departed sorrowful to their homes. It had been determined, after mature deliberation, that on that night no person should remain in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, for fear any one of infected conscience should irritate God still more through his irreverent intrusion. But when the twilight was proceeding into day, a procession of the Latins was ordered to go to the Temple of Solomon, that by prayer they might call down the mercy of God: the same was performed around the Sepulchre of our Lord, by the Syrians plucking their beards and hair through violence of grief. The mercy of God could endure no longer, light being instantly sent into one lamp of the Sepulchre. Which, when a Syrian perceived glittering through a window, he expressed his joy by the clapping of his hands, and accelerated the advance of the patriarch. He, opening the recess of the sepulchral chamber by the keys which he carried, and lighting a taper, brought forth the celestial gift,442 imparting it to all who crowded round him for that purpose; afterwards the whole of the lamps, throughout the church, were divinely lighted up, the one which was next to be illumined evincing its approaching ignition by emitting smoke in a miraculous manner. Thus, doubtless, the constant manner of Christ has been to terrify those he loved that he might again kindly soothe them, and that the dread of his power might redound to his praise. For since even the common gifts of God are405 lightly esteemed by men merely from their constant recurrence, he often enhances the grant of his indulgences by withholding them, that what was most ardently desired might be more gratefully regarded.

[A.D. 1102.]     SIEGE OF CÆSAREA.

At that time a fleet of Genoese and Pisans had touched at Laodicea, and thence made a prosperous voyage to Joppa, and the crews, drawing their vessels on shore, spent Easter with the king at Jerusalem. He, bargaining for their services, engaged to give them the third of the spoil of each city they should take, and any particular street they might choose. Thus he impelled them, inconsiderate and blinded, more through lust of gold than love of God, to barter their blood, and lay siege immediately to Azotus, which they constrained to surrender after three days. Nor did the townspeople yield very reluctantly, as they feared the anger of the king should they be taken by storm: for, the preceding year, assisted by the machination of fortune, they had vigorously repulsed Godfrey when making a similar attempt. For, indeed, when by means of scaling ladders he had advanced his forces on the walls, and they, now nearly victorious, had gotten possession of the parapet, the sudden fall of a wooden tower, which stood close to the outside of the wall, deprived them of the victory and killed many, while still more were taken and butchered by the cruelty of the Saracens. Leaving Azotus, Baldwin laid siege to Cæsarea of Palestine, with his whole force, and with determined courage; but perceiving the resolution of its citizens and the difficulty of the enterprise, he ordered engines to be constructed. Petraries443 were therefore made, and a great tower built of twenty cubits in height, surpassing the altitude of the wall. Our people, however, impatient of delay and of such lingering expectation, erecting their ladders and attempting to overtop the wall, arrived at the summit by the energy of their efforts, with conscious valour indignantly raging, that they had now been occupied in conflict with the Saracens during fifteen days, and had lost the whole of that time; and although the Cæsareans resisted with extreme courage, and rolled down large stones on them as they ascended, yet despising all danger, they broke through their opponents in a close body, and fought with an outstretched arm, and a drawn sword. The406 Turks, unable longer to sustain the attack and taking to flight, either cast themselves down headlong, or fell by the hand of their enemies. Many were reserved for slavery; a few for ransom. Among these was the governor of the city, and a bishop named Arcadius. The scene was enough to excite laughter in a by-stander, to see a Turk disgorging bezants,444 when struck on the neck by the fist of a Christian. The wretched males, through fear of extreme indigence, had hid money in their mouths; the females in parts not to be particularized: you perceive that my narrative blushes to speak plainly, but the reader understands what I wish, or rather what I wish not to speak.


Still, however, the emperor of Babylon could not be at rest, but would frequently send commanders and armies to attack the Franks. Arriving at Ascalon on ship-board, they scoured about Ramula, taking advantage of the king’s occupation, who was then busied in the contest with Cæsarea. They frequently, therefore, by depopulating the country, irritated him to engage. But he, with equal subtlety, that their mad impetuosity might subside, suffered them, when eagerly advancing, to grow languid by declining battle. By this procrastination he effected that many, weary of delay, withdrew, while he attacked the remainder, consisting of eleven thousand horse and twenty-one thousand infantry, with his own two hundred and fifty cavalry and less than seven hundred foot. Addressing a few words to his soldiers, to whom he pledged victory if they persevered, and fame if they fell; and calling to their recollection that if they fled France was a great way off, he dashed first against the enemy; and the contest continuing for some time, when he saw his ranks giving way, he remedied circumstances which seemed almost bordering on desperation. Thus dismaying407 the Turks by his well-known appearance, he laid their leader prostrate with his lance; on whose death the whole battalions fled. Our soldiers, who in the onset were so hemmed in as to be unable to see each other, then exercised their valour in such wise, under the ensign of the Holy Cross which preceded them, that they killed five thousand. Eighty of the cavalry and rather more of the infantry were slain on the side of the Franks. However subsequent successes consoled them, as they despatched five hundred Arabian horse. These had been traversing before Joppa for two days, but effecting little, they were returning to Ascalon, and seeing our troops at a distance, and, hoping they were their own, were approaching to congratulate them on their victory. But at length perceiving, by the weapons hurled against them, that they were Franks, they turned pale and, to use the words of the poet,445 became like him who,

“With unshod foot, had trod upon a snake.”

In consequence, enervated with astonishment, they exposed their backs to their destroyers. Thus the king coming to Joppa, corrected, by a true account, the falsity of the letter which had been sent to Tancred by the people of that city, erroneously declaring that the king had perished with his army. And, indeed, already had Tancred prepared for his march to Jerusalem, when a messenger arriving, and showing the royal signet, dispelled his sorrow, and restored his satisfaction.

It would be tedious, if I were to relate all his contests; to tell how he subdued Tiberias, Sidon, Accaron, that is, Ptolemais, and, ultimately, all the cities on the coast; or, how he distinguished almost each day by the slaughter of the Turks, either through secret attack or open warfare. The relation of his exploits requires the exclusive labours of a man who abounds in pompous diction, and undisturbed leisure: I have neither; and, what chiefly acts as an obstacle, want clear information on the subject. For it is by no means the part of an historian of veracity to give entire credit to flattering reports, or to deceive the credulity of his readers. Consequently, I shall only subjoin what I have found recorded, whereby this man’s exalted devotion may be408 clearly proved, and his good report live for ever. This I may be bold to assert, that he often, with an inconsiderable force, engaged in mighty conflicts, and that he never fled the field, except at Ramula and at Accaron. And indeed signal victories ensued to each of these flights, because they proceeded more from rash valour, than from fear; as the reader will discover from the insertion of a few facts.

In the month of September, on the seventh before the ides of which the battle aforesaid took place, William, earl of Poitou, proceeded towards Jerusalem, leading with him troops estimated at sixty thousand horse and still more foot. There accompanied him, Stephen, earl of Burgundy, and Hugh de Lusignan, brother of earl Raymond, Hugh the Great, and Stephen of Blois, anxious to atone for the disgrace of their former desertion, by renovated and determined valour. Proceeding, therefore, by Constantinople, after he had by an insolent answer, as I before related, offended Alexius, he fell into the snares of Solyman; the emperor rather procuring than preventing his disaster. For Solyman, aware that the army was suffering from hunger and thirst, as they had been wandering about the marshes and desolate places for several days, encountered them with three hundred thousand archers. Never was there conflict more disastrous to the Franks; as it was impossible for flight to save the coward, or courage to rescue the bold from danger: for the battle was fought in a confined situation, and nothing could prevent the effect of clouds of arrows on men who were crowded together. More than a hundred thousand were slain; and all the booty carried off. Thus Solyman, obtaining splendid offerings to the manes of his countrymen from the spoils of the Franks, revenged the loss of Nice. But, as they had proceeded by many roads, all were not slain; nor was every thing plundered. For, except the Poitevin, who lost nearly whatever he possessed, the other earls had boldly defended their baggage. All, therefore, except Hugh the Great, who died, and was entombed in the city of Tarsus, collecting again their soldiers after the flight, hastened to Antioch. Tancred, a knight of celebrated kindness, gave them ample proof of his generosity; assisting them all, as far as he was able, with money: but more especially William, whom the inconstancy409 of Fortune had now as deeply depressed as she had formerly highly exalted, who, in addition to the loss of treasure, by which he was not so much affected as it was transitory and capable of reparation, was left almost the sole survivor of so many valorous soldiers. Proceeding on their march with renovated courage, they sought every opportunity of giving battle. The city of Tortosa was the first to feel their rage; by attacking and plundering which, they in some degree compensated their former losses. Thence they came to the defile, which I have mentioned above, where the king had long awaited them, in order to give assistance in case the Turks should oppose their passage. Defended by his valour, and meeting with kind entertainment at Joppa, they proceeded the following Easter to Jerusalem, where they joyfully beheld, and reverently adored the sacred fire. Returning afterwards to Joppa, they took ship, each designing to revisit his native land. The Poitevin, from the continued favour of the wind, reached home; the rest were violently driven back.

[A.D. 1100.]     RAMULA BESIEGED.

But now, in the beginning of May, the Turks and Arabs laid siege to Ramula; recruiting the losses of their army in the former year, by making up its original numbers. The bishop of the city, prudently watching an opportunity, retired from the place and went secretly to Joppa. Baldwin had already gone out, relying on a false assertion that the enemy did not exceed five hundred; in consequence of which, he neither put his forces in order, nor called out his infantry, the trumpeters merely sounding for the cavalry to follow the king; though his friends earnestly advised him, to be on his guard against the subtlety of the Turks. The two Stephens, of Blois and of Burgundy, followed the king on horseback, that, instead of being branded as indolent and cowardly, they might return to their respective homes partakers of the credit of the triumph: far different, however, from their expectations, were the glory and the victory which the fates were preparing for them. For Baldwin, perceiving the multitude of the enemy and finding himself deceived in his opinion, filled with rage, and fierce in conscious valour, hesitated what was to be done. If he gave way, he contemplated the tarnish of his ancient glory; if he fought, the destruction of his followers.410 Nevertheless, innate courage prevailed, and fear had already yielded, when, swayed by the advice of his comrades, he acquiesced in a plan of retiring, through the midst of the enemy, into a castle. The rest, following with loud clamour, broke through the thickest ranks, consecrating their souls to God, and nobly avenging their deaths. The earls, too, so wearied with striking that their hands grew stiff upon their swords, yielded to fate. The king escaping to the fortress, had some few companions remaining out of the two hundred he had led forth; who entreating that he would deign to protract his life by flight, and observing that their danger was of little consequence to the world, while his life was of advantage to many, in as much as he would be an example of valour to every age, by his singular constancy of mind though in adverse circumstances, he esteemed himself worthy to live. Wherefore, accompanied by five knights, he eluded his assailants, and escaped to the mountains. One of the five was Robert the Englishman, as I said before; the others, from the great distance, report has not brought to our knowledge: he, with three more, was taken; the fifth escaped with the king. The Turks vented the whole of their fury on those who had retired to the castle, among whom was Hugh de Lusignan and Geoffrey de Vincennes: only three survivors told their mournful tale to the people of Jerusalem. The king, concealing himself during the day, and, at night, urging his jaded courser through untrodden paths, arrived at Azotus, by the singular and miraculous protection of God; as the Turks had but just departed, after having been plundering around the city for the space of two days. Coming thence by sea to Joppa, he despatched an account of the certainty of his being still living to the people of Jerusalem. The bearer of the epistle was a low Syrian fellow, who, even had he been discovered, would have deceived the enemy, from the meanness of his garb, and his using the common language of the country. Escaping the hands of the infidels by lone paths with which he was acquainted, he arrived the third day at Jerusalem. Upon this the cavalry who garrisoned the city, taking with them the bands of auxiliary infantry, and purposing to proceed to Joppa, took a route close to the sea; avoiding the inland districts. The rear, however,411 of the party, were cut off, by the Turks pressing on them; as they were left unprotected either by horse or foot. Thus collecting ninety horse from Jerusalem, and eighty from Tiberias, which Hugh, that most intrepid commander, had brought to their assistance, the attendants also, through necessity, were advanced to the rank of knights. The battle was delayed only till the next day, the Turks being now so ferocious as to prepare their engines, and to meditate an attack on the walls of Joppa. This was prevented by the activity of Baldwin, and by the cross of Christ preceding them, which had been wanting in the former battle. They then, with all the force of the kingdom, rushed eagerly on the enemy, and the contest was fierce: but they, after their usual custom, surrounding our troops, thought they had completely overcome the Christians, and shouted with cheerful cry: but the Lord Jesus was present; who, at length looked down from heaven, and showering courage on the Franks, put the enemy, driven from the field, to flight. It had happened in the preceding action, that, though frequently driven from their tents, they afterwards conquered through their numbers; but now, as the infantry wounded them from a distance with their arrows, and the cavalry close at hand with their lances, they placed all their hopes in swiftness, and continued their flight.

[A.D. 1113.]     BALDWIN’S MARRIAGE.

He fought another battle in later years, in which our soldiers, pressed by the numbers of the Turks and compelled to fly, lost even their protecting standard. But after they had fled some distance they rallied; shame animating the timid to repel such ignominy. Then indeed the contest was strenuous; fighting foot to foot, and breast to breast. Our party recovered the cross, routing the enemy, and regaining the field. Many fell here with whom I had been acquainted; among these was Godfrey, Baldwin’s bastard-grand-nephew, who, from a boy, manifested valour in his countenance and truth in his soul. In the beginning, indeed, both retreats, as it may be said, were the source of ignominy; but, in the end, true food for glory; the one more celebrated, the other more advantageous. Finally, to repair his losses, and also to be united with him in marriage, the countess of Sicily came shortly after to Jerusalem, pouring such treasures into the royal palace, that it was matter of surprise, whence a412 woman could accumulate such endless heaps of precious utensils:446 and at this time, indeed, he received her to his bed, but shortly after he put her away. It is said that she was afflicted with a cancerous complaint, which preyed upon her womb.447 This, however, is well known, that the king had no issue; nor is it wonderful, that a man, to whom leisure was burdensome, should be averse to the embraces of a wife, as he passed all his time in war. By these exertions he effected, that his admirable and nearly godlike valour should operate as an incitement to the present race, and be matter of astonishment to posterity. He died, during an expedition into Arabia, in the month of April, and was publicly buried at Jerusalem, near his brother, as the fourth month was adding to the seventeenth year of his reign. He was a man who gained his reputation by repeated labours, and on whose fame envy hath cast no shade, except it be, that he was too sparing of his money; though there is a ready and well-founded excuse for such a fault, if it be considered, that the necessary largesses to such as remained with him, prevented him from purchasing the favour of those who departed.

He was succeeded by his kinsman, Baldwin, prince of Edessa, already celebrated for his former campaigns, whom he had, when dying, named as king. He bravely defended the kingdom for many years, and augmented it with the sovereignty of Antioch, which he obtained when Roger,448 the son of Richard, was killed. He governed both countries with laudable conduct; with less presumptuous haughtiness, perhaps,413 but with great and consummate prudence, though there are some who wound his fair fame, accusing him of excessive parsimony. Wherefore, last year, when the Turks had taken him, while riding a short distance from Jerusalem, his people grieved but little for him, and for nearly a year it remained unknown, both to subjects and even to tale-bearers, whither he was taken, or whether or not he breathed the vital air. However, the people of Jerusalem, nothing discouraged on account of his absence, refused either to elect a king or to discontinue the order or command of the soldiers, till the certainty of the matter could be known. At last, the place where he lay captive being discovered, some knights of surpassing boldness, assuming the guise of merchants, and hiding weapons beneath their garments, entered the town, and rescued the king from jeopardy; protesting, that they did not act thus through respect for his niggardliness, but out of gratitude to Gozelin of Turbexhel,449 who never hesitated to bestow all he possibly could upon the military. He has now lived long, a provident man, and subject to no other imputation.450 The principality of Antioch pertains to the son of Boamund, of whom I proceed to speak.

[A.D. 1123.]     BOAMUND.
[A.D. 1123.]     BOAMUND’S MARRIAGE.

Boamund451 was the son of Robert Guiscard by a Norman woman; he had another son named Roger, born of an Apulian, who was, by his father, surnamed “Purse,” because his paternal and attentive observation had discovered, that, from a mere child, he had pleasure in counting money. As to Boamund, who was somewhat older, he never could retain anything, but even gave away his childish presents. Roger, therefore, received Apulia, which seemed to belong to him414 in right of his mother: Boamund went with his father to the Durazzian war. And when the townspeople, through confidence of their walls, boasted, that the city was called Durachium,452 because it could endure all sieges undismayed; and “I,” said Guiscard, “am called Durandus; and I will endure in besieging, until I take away the name from the city; so that, henceforth it shall no longer be called Durachium, but Mollucium.” The firmness of this answer so terrified them, that they immediately opened their gates. Thus, secure in his rear, he subdued, with the less difficulty, the other cities as far as Thessalonica. He had now arrived there, and had already, both by himself and by his son, taught Alexius that he might be overcome, when, beguiled by the treachery of his wife, he failed, by death, of a noble enterprise. Boamund, then, returning to Apulia, possessed some castles through his brother’s indulgence, and acquired many others by his own courage and prudence. Indeed the dukedom had fallen to his brother only in appearance; all the most warlike spirits following him. Nor was this of light importance: for, observant of his father’s purpose, he was averse to Guibert, and strongly espoused the cause of Urban; urging him, when hesitating, to proceed into France to the council of Clermont, whither the letters of Raymond earl of Provence, and of the bishop of Chorges, invited him. The council being ended, he readily embraced the opportunity, and transported his forces into Greece; and thence moving forward his army, he quietly awaited Raymond and Godfrey. Joining them on their arrival, he possessed great influence from his military skill and from his courage, which was never surpassed. But, as what he performed in company with others, only entitles him to a share in the general praise; and my former narrative has related how he had been taken prisoner; it may be proper to mention in what manner he rescued himself from captivity. When Danisman perceived that no advantage resulted to him, from detaining so great a man in confinement, he changed his intentions, and began sedulously to treat of terms of peace; for he was neither inclined to put him415 to death, lest he should excite the fierce hatred of the Christians against himself; nor would he set him at liberty,453 without the hope of a lasting peace. Boamund, therefore, promising the infidel perpetual amity, returned to Antioch, bringing with him the silver fetters with which he had been confined; and being favourably received by his people, he took possession of Laodicea, and the other cities which Tancred, lest he should have been thought slumbering in indolence, whilst his uncle was sighing in prison, had acquired during his captivity. Not long after he came into France, offering up, in honour of St. Leonard, the chains with which he had been burdened; for this saint454 is said to be so especially powerful in loosing fetters, that the captive may freely carry away his chains, even in the sight of his enemies, who dare not mutter a syllable. He then married one of the daughters of the king of France, and sending another to Tancred, went to Apulia, followed by the French nobility, who deserted their country in hope of greater advantages, as well as to be eye-witnesses of what could be effected by that energetic valour, which was so universally extolled by fame. Wherefore arranging his affairs in Apulia, he again burst forth against Alexius; alleging as a cause of attacking him, his cruelty to the crusaders, for which he was very noted. But being deceived by the subtlety of the emperor, who alienated his commanders from him by bribery, or took them off by poison, he had little or no success. Dejected at this, he returned to Apulia, where, in a few days, while purposing to proceed to Antioch, he died, not an old man, yet equal to any in prudence, leaving a son of tender age. He was a man firm in adversity, and circumspect in prosperity; for he had even provided himself an antidote, when apprehensive of poison. It was a knife, which, placed before him when eating, strange to tell, indicated, by the moistness of416 its handle, whenever poison was brought into the apartment. After him Tancred presided over Antioch; a nephew worthy of such an uncle. Tancred was removed from this world by an early death, and Roger the son of Richard succeeded. Though rivalling the fame of his predecessors in battle, yet he incurred the disgrace of being avaricious. In consequence of this, when the soldiery avoided him, he engaged the Turks with a trifling stipendiary, and a small native force, and fell nobly revenging his death: for being taken by them, stripped of his armour, and commanded to yield up his sword; he refused to deliver it to any but the commander, as he considered all present unworthy to receive the surrender of so dignified a character. The unhappy chief gave credit to his specious words, and taking off his helmet, stretched out his hand to receive Roger’s sword. When, indignant, and mustering all his remaining powers for the effort, he cut off the Turk’s head, and being immediately stabbed, escaped the disgrace of slavery by the act his courage had suggested. Baldwin the second, king of Jerusalem, revenging his death in a signal manner, faithfully reserved the dominion of the city, and his daughter, for Boamund the son of Boamund.


Raymond was the son of the most noble William,455 earl of Toulouse, who, being a man of enterprise and ability, rendered his country, which had been obscured through the indolence of his predecessors, illustrious by his own good qualities. His wife Almodis was repeatedly married to different persons, and had a numerous issue by them all; a woman of such sad, unbridled lewdness, that, when one husband became disgusting to her from long intercourse, she would depart and take up her abode with another: to sum up all, she had been first united to the earl of Arles; presently, becoming weary of him, she connected herself with William; and then after bearing him two sons, she lured the earl of Barcelona to marry her. Moreover, William, when at the point of death, gave to his son of his own name but not of his own disposition, the county of Toulouse, because, though he was of slender talents, the people of Toulouse would attempt no innovation against him, as they were accustomed to the government of his family. But Raymond,417 who was of brighter abilities, received Chorges, and increased it wonderfully by the addition of Arles, Narbonne, Provence, and Limoges. Again, he purchased Toulouse of his brother who went to Jerusalem many years previous to the grand crusade; but these things were achieved by a considerable lapse of time, and a life expended on the labour. Thus, ever engaged in war, he had no desire for a legitimate wife, enjoying himself in unrestrained concubinage. Finally, he condescended to honour with his adoption and inheritance, Bertrand, his son by one of his mistresses, as he, in some respects, resembled his father. To this son he married the niece456 of Matilda the marchioness, a native of Lombardy, that by such affinity he might secure his possessions on that side. In the latter part of his life, too, he himself espoused the daughter of the king of Tarragona, covenanting for a noble dowry; namely, the perpetual peace of the adjacent provinces. Soon after this, on contemplating his grey hairs, he made a vow to go to Jerusalem, that his bodily powers, though decayed and feeble, might still, though late, enter into the service of God. The chief promoter of this was the bishop of Chorges, by whose especial exertions he had always been thwarted, and in one contest, had even lost an eye, which mark of deformity, so far from concealing,