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way, and one of the sons of Hakon the Bad (1), and sailed to England. His abilities made his advance the march of victory. The perfidious Edric crowned the treasons of his life by flying to Canute with forty ships. Wessex submitted to the invaders, and gave hostages for its fidelity (2).

The hostilities of the contending parties were now fast assuming the shape of decision. To Canute's well-arranged army, Edmund, the son of Ethelred, endeavoured to oppose a competent force; but the panic of the king, excited by rumoured treachery, disappointed his hopes. Edmund then roused the Northern chiefs to predatory excursions, but the energy of Canute prevented success. The Danes marched through Buckinghamshire to Bedford, and thence advanced to York. Uhtred, the earl of Northumbria, and the people, abandoned Edmund, and gave hostages to Canute (3). Leaving his friend Eric Jarl in the government of the country, Canute returned to his ships. At this crisis, the death of Ethelred released England from its greatest enemy (4).

(1) Knytlinga Saga, p. 10. Eric had gained great fame in two battles; one against Olave, Tryggva's son, the other against the Jomsburgers, Snorre, ii. p. 23. Svein had given Norway to Eric and his brother Hakon. When Eric came to England, he left his brother Hakon to govern all Norway, whom St. Olave expelled. Snorre, p. 211. Hakon was drowned. Ib. 321.

(2) Sax. Chron. 146.

(3) The Knytlinga Saga gives a particular description of Canute's exertions, interspersed with many quotations from the scallds, Ottar the Swarthy, Hallvardr, and Thordr, 104-107. Among the nobles who came with Canute were, Ulfr Jarl, the son of Sprakalegs, who had married Canute's sister, Astrida. Heming, and his brother, Thorkell the Lofty, sons of the Earl-street Haralldr, were also in his army. Ib.

(4) We have a contemporary picture of the internal state of England during this reign, in the Sermon of Lupus, one of the Anglo-Saxon bishops :

“We perpetually pay them (the Danes) tribute, and they ravage us daily. They ravage, burn, spoil, and plunder, and carry off our property to their ships. Such is their successful valour, that one of them will in battle put ten of our men to flight. Two or three will drive a troop of captive Christians through the country from sea to sea. Very often they seize the wives and daughters of our thanes, and cruelly violate them before the great chieftain's face. The slave of yesterday becomes the master of his lord to-day, or he flies to the Vikingr, and seeks his owner's life in the earliest battle.

"Soldiers, famine, flames, and effusion of blood, abound on every side. Theft and murder, pestilence, diseases, calumny, hatred, and rapine, dreadfully afflict us.

"Widows are frequently compelled into unjust marriages; many are reduced to penury and are pillaged. The poor men are sorely seduced and cruelly betrayed, and, though innocent, are sold far out of this land to foreign slavery. Cradle children are made slaves out of this nation, through an atrocious violation of the law for little stealings. The right of freedom is taken away the rights of the servile are narrowed, and the right of charity is diminished.

“Freemen may not govern themselves, nor go where they wish, nor possess their own as they like. Slaves are not suffered to enjoy what they have obtained from their allowed leisure, nor what good men have benevolently given for them. The clergy are robbed of their franchises, and stripped of all their comforts."

After mentioning many vices, he adds, that "far and wide the evil custom has prevailed of men being ashamed of their virtue; of good actions even incurring


The Reign of Edmund Ironside.

At length the sceptre of the Anglo-Saxons came into the hand of a prince able to wield it with dignity to himself, and prosperity to his people. Like Athelstan, he was illegitimately born; but his spirit was full of energy; and his constitution was so hardy, that he obtained the surname of Ironside. It was his misfortune that he attained the crown in a stormy season; and, before his character and talents could be duly known or estimated, he had to conflict with a king, perhaps greater than himself. Had Edmund, like his father, acceded to the crown of a tranquil, united, and thriving nation, the abilities of a Canute might have been foiled. But Edmund suceeded to the care of a divided people, half of whose territory was in the occupation of his enemy. He had no interval of respite to recruit his strength, or reform his country. He was dishonourably killed in the full exertion of his abilities.


An important struggle ensued between Edmund and Canute for the possession of London. It was long besieged in vain, sometimes by a part of Canute's forces, sometimes by all. London was at this time defended, on the south, by a wall which extended along the river (1). The ships of Canute, from Greenwich, proceeded to London. The Danes built a strong military work on the south bank of the river, and drew up their ships on the west of the bridge, so as to cut off all access to the city. Edmund vigorously defended it a while in person; and when his presence was required elsewhere, the brave citizens made it impregnable (2).

During the siege, Edmund fought two battles with the Danes in the country one at Pen in Dorsetshire; the other, the most celebrated, at Scearstan, about Midsummer.


contempt; and of the public worship being publicly derided." Sermo Lupi ap. Hickes, Dissert. Epist. p. 99–106. Elfric, another contemporary, thought the state of things so bad that he believed doomsday to be approaching, and the world very near its end. MSS. Vit. St. Neot.

(1) Stephanides, in his description of London, written about 1190, so declares : "Similiterque ab austro Lundonia murata et turrita fuit," p. 3. Lond. 1723.

(2) Sax. Chron. 148.; Flor. 385.; and Knytlinga Saga, 135–137. The verses of the Scallds, Thordr, and Ottar the Swarthy, are cited on this subject. Snorre gives an account of Saint Olave, the Norwegian sea-king, assisting in the struggle at London. The principal achievement of Olave was to destroy the fortified bridge from Southwark, which he calls a great emporium to the city, which the Danes defended. The effort, somewhat romantic, is sung by Ottar and Sigvatr, af Olafi Helga, p. 11–13.


Battle at


Edmund selected the bravest soldiers for his first Scearstan. line of attack, and placed the rest as auxiliary bodies; then noticing many of them individually, he appealed to their patriotism and their courage, with that fire of eloquence which rouses man to energetic deeds. He conjured them to remember their country, their beloved families, and paternal habitations for all these they were to fight; for all these they would conquer. To rescue or to surrender these dear objects of their attachments, would be the alternative of that day's struggle. His representations warmed his soldiers; and in the height of their enthusiasm, he bade the trumpets to sound, and the charge of battle to begin. Eagerly his brave countrymen rushed against their invaders, and were nobly led by their heroic king. He quitted his royal station to mingle in the first ranks of the fight; and yet, while he used his sword with deadly activity, his vigorous mind watched eagerly every movement of the field. He struggled to blend the duty of commander and the gallant bearing of a soldier. Edric and two other generals, with the men of Wilts and Somerset, aided Canute. On Monday, the first day of the conflict, both armies fought with unprevailing courage, and mutual fatigue compelled them to separate (1).

In the morning the awful struggle was renewed. In the midst of the conflict, Edmund forced his way to Canute, and struck at him vehemently with his sword. The shield of the Dane saved him from the blow; but it was given with such strength, that it divided the shield, and cut the neck of the horse below it. A crowd of Danes then rushed upon Edmund; and, after he had slain many, he was obliged to retire. Canute was but slightly wounded (2). While the king was thus engaged, Edric struck off the head of one Osmear, whose countenance resembled the king's, and raising it on high, exclaimed to the Anglo-Saxons that they fought to no purpose. "Fly, ye men of Dorset and Devon! Fly, and save yourselves. Here is your Edmund's head (3).” The astonished English gazed in terror. The king was not then visible, for he was piercing the Danish centre. Edric was believed, and panic began to spread through every rank. At this juncture Edmund, appeared receding before the pressure of the Danes, who had rescued Canute. He saw the malice, and sent his spear as his avenger: Edric shunned the point, and it pierced two men near him. But his presence was now unavailing. In vain he threw off his helmet, and, gaining an eminence, exposed his disarmed head to undeceive his warriors. The fatal spirit

(1) Flor. Wig. 385, 386. (2) I der his paragraph from the Knytlinga Saga, p. 130. Ottar the Swarthy celebrates the battle, and places it near the Tees, p. 131., in Johnstone's Celto Scandicæ.

(3) Flor. Wig. 386.

had gone forth; and, before its alarms could be counteracted, the army was in flight. All the bravery and skill of Edmund could only sustain the combat till night interposed (1).

The difficulty of the battle disinclined Canute from renewing it. He left the contested field at midnight, and marched afterwards to London to his shipping. The morn revealed his retreat to Edmund. The perfidious Edric, discerning the abilities of the king, made use of his relationship and early connection (he had married Edmund's sister, and had been his foster-father) to obtain a reconciliation. Edmund consented to receive him on his oath of fidelity (2).

Edmund followed Canute to London, and raised the siege of the city. A conflict soon followed between the rivals at Brentford (3). Both parties claim the victory (4). As Canute immediately afterwards beleaguered London again, the laurel seems to have been obtained by him. Baffled by the defence, he avenged himself on Mercia, whose towns, as usual, were committed to the flames, and he withdrew up the Medway. Edmund again urged the patriotic battle at Otford in Kent, and drove him to Shepey. A vigorous pursuit might have destroyed all Canute's hopes; but the perfidious counsels of Edric preserved the defeated invader (5).

When Edmund withdrew to Wessex, Canute passed into Essex; and thence advancing, plundered Mercia without mercy. Edmund, earnest for a decisive effort, again assembled all the strength of England, and pursued the Dane, who was retiring to his ships with his plunder. At Assandun, in the north part of Essex, the armies met. Edmund arranged his countrymen into three divisions, and, riding round every rank, he roused them, by his impressive exhortations, to remember their own valour, and their former victories. He entreated them to protect the kingdom from Danish avarice, and to punish, by a new defeat, the enemies they had already conquered. Canute brought his troops gradually into the field. Edmund made a general and impetuous attack. His vigour and skill again brought victory to his arms. The star of Canute was clouded; when Edric, his secret ally, deserting Edmund in the very hour of success, fled from the field with the men of Radnor, and all the battalions he commanded. The charge of Canute on the exposed and inferior Anglo-Saxons was then decisive. The valour of Edmund was forgotten. Flight

Battle of Assandun.

(1) Flor. Wig. 386.

(2) It is the Knytlinga Saga which informs us that Edric had brought up Edmund: :---" Cujus tamen nutricius iste Heidricus fuit," p. 139.

(3) Flor. Wig. 387. Sax. Chron. 149. The Knytlinga Saga quotes the verses of the scalld Ottar on this battle, p. 134.

(4) Florence and his countrymen give the victory to Edmund. The Knytlinga Saga says, Canute conquered; and adds, that the town was destroyed, p. 134.

(5) Flor. 387. Snorre mentions, that St. Olave fought at Canterbury; and quotes Oltar the Swarthy upon it, p. 14.; but I cannot be certain that it was at this period.

and destruction overspread the plain. A few, jealous of their glory, and anxious to give a rallying point to the rest, fought desperately amid surrounding enemies, and were all cut off but one man. In this dismal conflict the flower of the nobility of England perished (1).

The betrayed Edmund disdained the death of despair, and attempted new efforts to rescue his afflicted country. He retired to Gloucester; and such was his activity and eloquence, that a fresh army was around him before Canute overtook him. Edmund then challenged Canute to decide their quarrel by a single combat (2). Some authorities (3) assert that they fought in the islet of Olney, near the bridge of Gloucester, a small plain almost encircled by the winding of the river (4); other chroniclers declare, that Canute declined the meeting (5): but the result was, that a pacification was agreed upon between the princes; and England was divided between them. Canute was to reign in the north, and Edmund in the south. The rival princes exchanged arms and garments; the money for the fleet was agreed upon, and the armies separated (6).

Edmund challenges Canute.

The brave Edmund did not long survive the pacification. He perished the same year. The circumstances attending his assassination are variously given. Malmsbury mentions that two of his chamberlains were seduced by Edric to wound him at a most private moment with an iron hook; but he states this to be only rumour (7). The king's violent death, and its author, are less reservedly avowed by others (8). The northern accounts go even farther. The Knytlinga Saga and Saxo carry up the crime as high

(1) Malmsb. 72. Flor. Wig. 388. Sax. Chron. 150. The Knytlinga Saga, and the scalld Ottar, notice this conflict, p. 134. Snorre places one of St. Olave's battles in a place which he calls Hringmaraheide. He says this was in the land of Ulfkell, p. 13. This expression somewhat approximates it to the battle of Assandun, for Ulfkell governed the eastern districts of the island; and Dr. Gibson places this conflict at Assington in Essex. Camden thought it was Ashdown, in the north part of that county.

(2) I follow Malmsbury in ascribing the proposal to Edmund, p. 72.

(3) Huntingdon, 363.; Matt. West. 400.; Peterb. 36.; Knygt. 2316.; Bromton, 905.; Higden, 274.; Rieval, 364.; Rad. Nig. MS.; Vesp. D. 10. p. 25.; mention the duel.

(4) The kings are stated to have caught each other's spears in their shields, and with their swords advanced to a closer conflict. Their battle lasted till the strength of Canute began to fail before the impetuosity of Edmund. The Dane is then described as proposing to the Anglo-Saxon an amicable arrangement, by dividing the kingdom.

(5) These are Malmsb. 72. and the Encom. Emmæ, 169., two important authorities. The Saxon Chronicle, Florence, Hoveden, and some others, neither mention the challenge nor the conflict. The Knytlinga Saga is as silent, and this silence turns the scale against the combat.

(6) Flor. Wig. 389. Sax. Chron. 150.

(7) Malmsb. 72.

(8) As Hunt. 363.; Matt. West. 401.; Hist. El. 502.; Hist. Ram. 434.; Petrob. 37.; Ingulf, 57.; and many others. Hermannus, who wrote within fifty years after

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