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Edwin, and six daughters. Four of the latter were united to continental potentates (1). His second union (2) was followed by the birth of two more sons, Edmund and Edred, who in the course of time succeeded to his sceptre; and of three daughters. One of these, a lady of exquisite beauty (3), was wedded to the prince of Acquitain.
Edward imitated his father as well in his plan of education as in his government. The first part of his daughters' lives was devoted to letters they were afterwards taught to use the needle, and the distaff. His sons received the best literary education of the day, that they might be well qualified for the offices of government to which they were born (4).
The Reign of Athelstan.
Immediately after Edward's interment, Ethelward, the eldest son of his first marriage, the pattern of the illustrious Alfred, in manners, countenance, and acquisitions, was taken away from the hopes of his countrymen (5). On his death the Anglo-Saxon sceptre was given by the witena-gemot to Athelstan, and he was crowned at Kingston. He was thirty years of age at his accession. His father's will directed the choice of the approving nobles (6).
Athelstan, the eldest but illegitimate son (7) of Edward, was born in Alfred's lifetime. He could be only six years of age when his grandfather died, and yet, interested by his beauty and manners, Alfred had invested him prematurely with the dignity of knighthood, and given him a purple vestment, a jewelled belt, and a Saxon sword, with a golden sheath. His aunt, Ethelfleda,
(1) Malmsb. 47.
(2) His second wife was Æadgifu, whose will is printed in Saxon, with a Latin translation, in the Appendix to Lye's Saxon Dictionary.
(3) Edgivam speciositatis eximiæ mulierem. Malmsb. 47.
(4) Malmsb. 47. Edward was for some time under an excommunication from Rome, for keeping his bishoprics vacant. The king appeased the pope by filling seven sees in one day. Malmsb. 48. Edward was buried in the same monastery where his father and brother Ethelwerd lay. Ibid.
(5) Malmsb. 46. Flor. 347. Sax. Ch. 111. Malmsbury says, the prince died in a few days after his father. The MS. Saxon Chronicle, Tib. b. iv. particularises sixteen days, "sythe hrade ther gefor ymbe 16 dagas æt Oxanforda."
(6) Malmsb. 48, 49.
(7) His mother was a shepherd's daughter of extraordinary beauty. Malmsb. 52. Bromton, 831. Matt. West. 351. She is called Egwina, illustris femina, by H. Silgrave, MS. Cleop. A. 12., and in J. Bever's Chron. MSS. Harl. 641. It was her daughter who married Sigtryg. Ibid.
joined with her husband in superintending his education; and the attainments of Athelstan reflected honour on their attentions (1).
The Anglo-Saxon sovereign became a character of dignity and consequence in Europe, in the person of Athelstan. His connections with the most respectable personages on the Continent give to his reign a political importance.
Sigtryg, the son of Ingwar (2), and grandson of Ragnar Lodbrog, was a reigning king in Northumbria at the accession of Athelstan. He is chiefly known in the Saxon annals, for having murdered his brother (3); and in Irish history, for his piratical depredations (4). He, therefore, deserves the character of barbarian, both in mind and in nation (5). Athelstan, however, to conciliate his friendship during the first years of his government, gave him his own sister in Editta marriage. Their nuptials were celebrated with magnificence (6). Perhaps the circumstance of the king's birth, and the existence of legitimate brethren, disposed him to court the alliance, rather than to encounter the enmity, of the Anglo-Danes, while his power was young. Sigtryg embraced Christianity on the occasion; but soon repenting, put away his wife, and resumed his idolatry (7). Roused by the insult, Athelstan prepared to attack him; but Sigtryg died before he invaded (8). His sons fled before the king; the warlike Anlaf into Ireland, and Godefrid into Scotland.
Athelstan pursued Godefrid; he sent messages to Eugenius, king of the Cumbri, and to Constantine, king of the Scots, to demand the fugitives. The Scottish prince obeyed the necessity, and came with homage to England. Godefrid, with a friend, escaped during the journey; and endeavoured, but in vain, to interest York in his favour. Retiring from this city, he was besieged, but again eluded the danger. His friend perished at sea; the prince, after as much misery on the waters as upon land, submitted to Athelstan, and was honourably received at his court. Four days' enjoyment satiated him with the charms of civilized life. His early habits impelled
(1) Malmsb. 49.
(2) He is named the son of Ivar in the Annals of Ulster. See them, p. 65, 66, 67.
(3) 914. Niel rex occisus est a fratre Sihtrico. Sim. Dun. 133. So Huntingdon, 354. The Annals of Ulster contain a similar incident, which they date in 887, p. 65. They call the brother Godfred. Whether this is a misnomer, or whether Sigtryg perpetrated two fratricides, I cannot decide.
(4) See the Annals of Ulster.
(5) So Malmsbury entitles him, gente et animo barbarus, p. 50. (6) Hoveden, 422. Flor. 328. The MS. Chronicle, Tib. b. iv. mentions the place and the day of this marriage. It says that the two kings met and concluded the nuptials at Tamworth, on 30th of January, " 925, hær Æthelstan cyning and Sihtric Northymbra cyning heo gesamnodon æt Tameworththige, 3 kal. Februarn, and Æthelstan his sweostor him forgeaf." MSS. Tib. b. iv.
(7) Matt. West. 360.
The Annals of Ulster express it thus : 926, Sigtryg O'Ivar died in his old age," p. 67.
(8) 926. Sihtricus vita decessit. Flor. 348.
him to abandon that tranquillity which is so grateful to the cultured mind, and he fled to maritime piracy (1).
Athelstan exerted his power with an effect to which Edward's superiority had never reached. He drove Ealdred from Bebbanburh, demolished the castle at York (2), and added Northumbria to his paternal dominions (3).
But Athelstan was not permitted to enjoy his triumph unmolested. The Northmen chieftains saw that the progress of Athelstan's power was advancing to their complete subjection. The states on the Baltic were still full of fierce and active adventurers who had to seek fame and fortune in other regions; and descendants of Ragnar Lodbrog yet existed, both enterprising and popular. These circumstances occasioned a great effort to be made against Athelstan, which not only threatened to emancipate Northumbria from his authority, but to overwhelm his inherited government. The greatness of the confederacy and the preparations by which it was supported, excited great attention in Europe, as well as in England. It is narrated in a Northern Saga, as well as in the English Chronicles; and, from a careful comparison of all the documents, the following facts seem to be an authentic detail.
In 934, Athelstan had ravaged Scotland with his army, as far as Dunfoeder and Wertmore, while his fleet spread dismay to Caithness (4). Constantine was then unable to withstand the storm, but he prepared for a day of retaliation. Anlaf also, the son of Sigtryg, though he had obtained a sovereignty in Ireland, was planning to regain his power in Northumbria. In Wales, the princes, humbled by Athelstan (5), were ready to co
(1) Malmsb. 50.
(2). Malmsb. 50. In Edward's reign, Reginwald, a pagan king, came with a great fleet and conquered York. Two of his leaders are mentioned, Scula, and the cruel Onlafbald, to whom he gave possessions. He drove out Aldred and his brother, and defeated Constantine. Ibid. 74. Sim. Dun. 23. This was in 919. Ibid. 133. Reginwald had before attacked Dublin. Ibid. In 921, he submitted to Edward. Ibid. 153. The Annals of Ulster state, in 917, that the Gals, from Ireland, attacked the Scotch, and Northern Saxons, and that Reginald McBeolach, one of the leaders of the Gals, attacked the Scotch and Saxons in the rear with great slaughter, p. 66.
(3) Matt. West. 360. Flor. 348. The MS. Tib. b. iv. gives a passage in Saxon not in the printed Chronicle, but of the same import with the Latin of Florence, ad an. 926. On comparing the two MS. Chronicles of Tib. b. i. and Tib. b. iv. I find that they contain in several places passages which are no where else preserved, but in Florence, or Matthew of Westminster, Hoveden, or in Huntingdon. The Annals of these writers and of Ethelwerd, seem, therefore, to be but Latin translations of Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, some of which are now lost.
(4) Mailros, 147. Sax. Chron. 111. Sim. Dun. 134. The cause of the invasion was Constantine's violation of his treaty. The Scottish king gave up his son as an hostage, with many presents. Sax. Chron. 349.
(5) Florence mentions the prior subjection of Huwal, king of the West Britons, and Wer, the king of Gwent, in 926, p. 348. Matt. West. names these princes Hunwall and Wilferth, p. 360.
operate for the diminution of his strength. The Anglo-Danes (as, for convenience and dispatch, we will hereafter term the descendants of the Northern colonists of Northumbria and East Anglia) beheld with displeasure the preponderance of the Saxon sovereign, and the petty state of Cumbria had no choice but to follow the impulse of the potent neighbours who surrounded it. All these powers confederated (1) against Athelstan, and the united mass of their hostilities was increased by fleets of warriors from Norway and the Baltic (2). By an attack of this magnitude, it seemed a certain calculation that the single force of Athelstan must be overthrown. England had never been assailed before with a confederacy of so much power, formed with so much skill, and consisting of so many parts.
Such a combination of hostility could not be completed, and the armaments, necessary for its successful explosion, could not be collected without Athelstan's knowledge.
He prepared to meet the storm with firmness and energy; and, to multiply his own means of defence, he circulated promises of high reward to every warrior who should join his standard (3).
Thorolf and Egil, two of those navigating vikingr whose weapons were ready for any enterprise, heard the tidings as they sailed by Saxony and Flanders. They came in the autumn with three. hundred companions to proffer their services to Athelstan, who gladly received them (4). And Rollo assisted him from Normandy. Anlaf (5) commenced the warfare, by entering the Humber with a fleet of 615 ships (6). The gover
(1) The members of the confederacy are stated from Ingulf, 29. 37.; Flor. Wig. 349.; Sax. Ch. 111-114.; Hoveden, 422.; and the Egilli Saga, in Johnston's Celto Scandicæ, p. 31. Florence, Alured Bev. and Hoveden, say, that Constantine incited Anlaf to the attempt.
(2) The British Chronicle in the Cotton Library, MS. Cleopatra, b. v. says, "Ac y doeth gwyr Denmarc y geisiaw goresgyn yr ynys y arnaw.' "And the men of Denmark came who sought to conquer the island from him." It adds, "Ac y rodes ynter kyffranc ydunt ac yny kyffranc hwnnw y llas brenhin yr yscottieit, phymp brenhin o Denmarc." "And he gave them battle, and in this battle were slain the king of Scotland, and five kings of Denmark." This Chronicle ends near the year 1200. The Saxon song mentions Northmanna to have been in the battle. Thær geflemed wearth Northmanna bregu," p. 113. The Annals of Ulster call the struggle, "6 a great and destructive war between the Saxons and Normans," p. 67. So Hunt. mentions Froda as ductor Normannus, p. 354. Ingulf mentions Danorum and Norreganorum, 37.
(3) Adalsteinn autem copias sibi contraxit, præbuitque stipendia omnibus, exteris et indigenis, hoc pacto rem facere cupiebant. Egilli Skallagrimi Saga, p. 31.
(4) Egilli Saga, p. 31, 32. They are called Vikingum in p. 43. On Rollo, see W. Gem. 229. and Dudo.
(5) In the Egilli Saga he is called Olafr. In the Annals of Ulster, Olave, p. 67. In the Brut Jeuan Breckfa, Awlaff, p. 485. In Bromton, Aulaf. Other English Chronicles call him Anlaf, Anlavus, Analaph, and Onlaf.
(6) Mailros, 147. and Sim. Dun. 25. Hoveden, 422. The ship in which Egil afterwards left England contained one hundred men or more. Egil Saga, p. 55. If Anlaf's ships were of this size, his army must have been sixty thousand. We may take forty thousand as a safer average.
nors, whom Athelstan had left in Northumbria, are named Alfgeirr, and Gudrekr. Their forces were soon overpowered. Gudrekr fell, and Alfgeirr fled to his sovereign with the tidings (1). Among the allies of Anlaf, the Northern Saga names Hryngr, and Adils, as British princes. The latter perhaps may have been Edwal, the son of Anarawd, who was reigning in North Wales at this period (2); but it is probable that Hryngr was a Danish leader (3).
The Northern account states, that the first array collected by the friends of Athelstan, being unequal to a contest, pretended negotiations, and that fictitious offers of money were made by the AngloSaxons, to gain time till all their army could be assembled (4). When their preparations were complete, Athelstan closed the intercourse by a message to Anlaf (5), that he should have permission to withdraw from England unmolested, if he restored his plunder, and would acknowledge himself the subject of the Saxon king.
The messengers reached Anlaf's camp at night; he arose from his bed and assembled his earls. The tidings were added, that Athelstan had that day marched into the city a powerful host. The Welsh prince exclaimed, that the negotiations had been mere artifice; and proposed, that he and Hryngr should attempt a nightattack on the advanced part of Athelstan's army, commanded by Alfgeirr and Thorolf (6).
Anlaf, brave and active, resolved to inspect the army before he attempted the surprise, that the blow might be directed to the most important quarter. He put off his regal vestments, and concealing himself under the disguise of a harper, he went singing through the Saxon army, till he reached the royal tent. His music and dancing gratified Athelstan, till the business of the camp demanded his presence. The minstrel was then dismissed with presents, but his pride revolted against accepting a gift from Athelstan. He took it to avoid detection, but he disdained to keep it, and he buried it in the sand as he left the encampment.
Visits Athelstan's camp.
(1) Egilli Saga, 33, 34.
(2) Eeidwal Foel acceded in 913, on the death of Anarawd. Brut y Tywys, p. 435. The MS. Cleop. mentions that he fell against the Saxons, but misdates the year to 941, p. 5.
(3) There is an Icelandic fragment which expressly states, that Harald Blaatand, or Blue Tooth, sent his son Hryngr with an army to England; but that Hryngr there, dolo circumventus et occisus est. 1 Langb. 149. Now as the old Icelandic Annals (1 Langb. 187.) place the accession of Harald in 907, and as he was reigning at the time of this battle, I think it highly probable that Hryngr, the son of Harald, was the opponent of Athelstan. Langbeck wants to make this son of Harald the Eric who will be mentioned in the reign of Edred; but that Eric was unquestionably the son of Harald Harfragre.
(4) Egilli Saga, 38, 39.
(5) The Saga says, Adils, but the meeting seems to imply Anlaf. (6) Egilli Saga, 40. 42.