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3. Edward the Elder.

A.D. 901-978.


Alfred the Great

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Edward the Elder

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The history of the tenth century may be very shortly treated. The reigns of Edward, called the Elder (to 925), and of his son

Athelstan Edmund Eured Athelstan (to 940), were occupied in the repression of the rebellions of the English Danes. Edwy Edgar. The defeat of the latter at Brunsbury, in Northumberland, made Athelstan sole king of England. After this event, his alliance was sought for by foreign powers, and the importance of England began to be felt abroad. The first treaty with France was made in his reign. One sister married Charles III., king of France; another, Hugues le Grand, father of the founder of the Capet dynasty; and a third, Otho the Great, emperor of Germany. Three foreign princes were educated at his court-Haco of Norway, Louis IV. of France, his nephew, and Alain of Bretagne.

Athelstan, whose reign had been characterized by great vigour and sagacity, died in A.D. 940, and was succeeded by his brother Edmund, who was assassinated by Leolf, an outlaw, A.D. 946.

In the reign of Edred, a third brother, began the influence of the famous Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, a man of great ability and ambition, who endeavoured to reform the monastic system by introducing the rigid rules of St. Benedict, interdicting the marriage of priests and monks, and requiring the exclusive devotion of their lives to the cultivation of learning, varied and relieved only by hard labour.

Edred's successor was Edwy, his nephew, A.D. 955, whose reign presents nothing notable except his resisting the ecclesiastical encroachments attempted by Dunstan, who was banished from the kingdom; and the cruel treatment of Edwy's queen Elgiva, by

A.D. 975.]



Odo, archbishop of Canterbury. The monks had, at this period, gained great ascendency over the minds of the people, and they succeeded in raising Edgar to the throne of Mercia and Northumberland during his brother Edwy's lifetime. The latter did not

long survive the partition.

No reign of the Anglo-Saxon kings was so prosperous as that of Edgar, though disgraced by the king's own immoralities. During the sixteen years he filled the throne, England enjoyed uninterrupted peace, feared and respected by enemies at home and abroad. This was due to the wise and vigorous measures he took to preserve tranquillity at home, and to maintain the fleet and army in efficiency, and ever ready to keep intruders at bay. He sailed round his kingdom once a year, accompanied by his fleet, consisting of three or four hundred vessels. Throughout this reign, Dunstan, who had been recalled from exile, and installed Archbishop of Canterbury, exercised great influence on the councils of the king, promoted ecclesiastical changes, among other innovations, extending to all the monasteries the austere rules of the Benedictines. By imposing on his subjects an annual tribute of 300 wolves' heads Edgar extirpated this animal out of England. A.D. 975.-Edgar was succeeded by his son Edward, whose assassination by his Edward the Martyr. Ethelred stepmother, Elfrida, obtained for him the title of Martyr. The story of his cruel death is shortly told : "Edward has been hunting at Wareham, and becomes separated from his companions. A dwarf appears out of the forest coverts, and proposes to guide him to a place of rest and refreshment. He reaches the home of the widowed queen, who meets him at the door with a betraying kiss. She brings out wine to the wearied boy, and as he lifts the goblet to his lips, without dismounting from his horse, he is stabbed in the back. He spurs his steed from the fatal porch; faints, and falls; is dragged in the stirrups, and is traced by his blood. We may well believe that the guilty woman, as the chroniclers record, suffered the most fearful terrors that can afflict an evil conscience; and we may also believe that


many a less innocent saint has been canonized than this poor boy, Edward the Martyr." "1

Cotemporary Events.-The Mohammedans establish themselves in India during the first half of the tenth century. The Normans, under Rollo, established themselves in the northwest of France, 905. The Saracens in Genoa, 931. Feudalism firmly established throughout


Questions.-1. Who were the most efficient of the Saxon kings from 901 to 978; and how were their reigns distinguished? 2. Write the story of Edward the Martyr.

4. Ethelred-Edmund Ironside.

A.D. 978-1016.


The reign of Ethelred was long and disastrous. The Danes, under Rollo, a sea-king, had established themselves in the fertile province of Neustria, in France, and given to it the name of Normandy (912). Rollo governed the province under the title of Duke, and as vassal of the king of France. In imitation of this, Sweyn, king of Denmark, sought to establish his dynasty and race in England; and the whole reign of Ethelred was taken up, not so much in resisting incursions of the Danes as in bribing them off. The money raised for this purpose became a tax called the Danegelt. The Saxon nobility, as well as their king, were unequal to the difficulties of the position: the king was irresolute, and many of the nobility were traitors.

Meanwhile, Ethelred married Emma, sister of Richard II. duke

1 Knight's Popular History of England.

TO 1016.]




of Normandy; and while thus strengthening himself by alliance with the French Normans, Ethelred gave orders for a general massacre of the Danes settled in England, the execution of which began on the festival of St. Brice. Amongst the Edmund Ironside Edwy Alfred Edward the Confessor. victims was the sister of the king of Denmark. The terrible reprisals that ere long followed resulted in the flight of Ethelred with his queen, and her two sons, Alfred and Edward, to Normandy. Sweyn died a few weeks after he had established himself in the island, leaving his conquests and claims to his son Canute, who was extensively supported in the west and south of England. Ethelred was, meanwhile, invited back by the Witenagemote, but dying soon after, was succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside, 1016.

Edmund, a chivalrous prince, while bravely defending his rights, had to contend not only against the valour and skill of Canute, but against the treachery of his own subjects; amongst whom, conspicuous in infamy, was his brother-in-law, Edric, duke of Cercia, with whose connivance Edmund Ironside was murdered, leaving

Edmund Ironside.


two sons, who were brought up at the court of Stephen, king of Hungary; the one died, but the other, Edward, married

Edgar Atheling. Margaret Queen of Scotland. Agatha, daughter of Henry II., emperor of Germany. She bore him a son, whom we shall hear of in a future chapter under the name of Edgar Atheling,1 and a daughter, Margaret, afterwards Queen of Scotland.

Cotemporary Events.-During the tenth century Europe was torn by dissensions between feudal nobles and kings, and by the inroads of Northmen in one quarter, and Saracens in others. There was a general belief that the end of the world was at hand.

Questions.-1. What were the principal events in the reigns of Ethelred and Edmund Ironside? 2. What led to the supremacy of the Danish Royal Family?

1 Atheling means heir-apparent.

5. Canute the Dane,

A.D. 1016-1042.


Canute proved himself a wise, just, and able king. He banished, or put to death, many of the English nobility, whom perfidy to their native kings, or hostility to his own supremacy, rendered dangerous. By his impartial administration of the laws, he gained the confidence and admiration of his subjects, English as well as Danes; and by his marriage with Emma, sister of the Duke of Normandy, and widow of Ethelred, he obtained an important ally, and conciliated the English people. The influence of Earl Godwin, a Saxon nobleman, began in this reign. To him was committed the government of Wessex.

Canute found time to make a pilgrimage to Rome, an indication that his authority was well established in England. While in Italy, he met Conrad, emperor of Germany, whose son, Henry III., Canute's daughter married. The letter which he addressed from Denmark "to all the nations of England," after returning from his pilgrimage, may be quoted: "And now, be it known to you all, that I have dedicated my life to God, to govern my kingdoms with justice, and to observe the right in all things. If, in the time that is past, and in the violence and carelessness of youth, I have violated justice, it is my intention, by the help of God, to make full compensation. Therefore, I beg and command those unto whom I have intrusted the government, as they wish to preserve my good-will, and save their own souls, to do no injustice either to poor or rich. Let those who are noble, and those who are not, equally obtain their rights, according to the laws, from which no deviation shall be allowed, either from fear of me, or through favour to the powerful, or for the purpose of supplying my treasury. I want no money raised by injustice."

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