Chronicles (1 of 6): The Historie of England (6 of 8) - The Sixt Booke of the Historie of England
by Raphael Holinshed
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[Sidenote: Fabian. Ran. Higd. The Welshmen rebel and are chastised.] Toward the latter end of king Edgars daies, the Welshmen mooued some rebellion against him. Wherevpon he assembled an armie, and entering the countrie of Glamorgan, did much hurt in the same, chastising the inhabitants verie sharpelie for their rebellious attempts. Amongst other spoiles taken in those parties at that time by the men of war, the bell of saint Ellutus was taken away, and hanged about a horsses necke, and (as hath beene reported) in the after noone, it chanced that king Edgar laid him downe to rest, wherevpon in sleepe there appeared one vnto him, and smote him on the breast with a speare. By reason of which vision he caused all things that had beene taken away to be restored againe. But within nine daies after the [Sidenote: Will Malmes. King Edgar departeth this life.] king died. Whether anie such thing chanced, or that he had anie such vision it forceth not. But truth it is, that in the 37 yeere of his age, after he had reigned 16 yeeres and two moneths he departed this life, the 8 day of Iulie, and was buried at Glastenburie.

[Sidenote: Wherefore Edgar is praised of some writers.] This Edgar is highlie renowmed of writers for such princelie qualities as appeared in him, but chieflie for that he was so beneficiall to the church, namelie to moonks, the aduancement of whome he greatlie sought, both in building abbeies new from the ground, in reparing those that were decaied: also by inriching them with great reuenues, and in conuerting collegiat churches into monasteries, remoouing secular priests, and bringing in moonks in their places. There passed no one yeere of his reigne, wherin he founded not one abbeie or other. The abbeie of Glastenburie which his father had begun he finished. The abbeie of Abington also he accomplished and set in good order. The abbeies of Peterborough & Thornie he established. The nunrie of Wilton he founded and richlie endowed, where his daughter Editha was professed, and at length became abbesse there. To be briefe, he builded (as the chronicles record) to the number of 40 [Sidenote: Fabian. Ran. Higd. Hen. Hunt.] abbeies and monasteries, in some of which he placed moonks, and in some nuns. By his example in those daies, other nobles, as also prelates, & some of the laitie, did begin the foundation of sundrie abbeies and monasteries: as Adelwold bishop of Winchester builded [Sidenote: Wil. Malm.] the abbeie of Elie, and (as some say) Peterborough & Thornie, though they were established by the king (as before is mentioned.) Also earle [Sidenote: Hen. Hunt.] Ailewin, at the exhortation of the same bishop Adelwold, builded the abbeie of Ramsey, though some attribute the dooing thereof vnto Oswald the archbishop of Yorke, and some to king Edward the elder.

[Sidenote: Matt. West. Moonks esteemed & secular priests little regarded.] To conclude, the religious orders of moonks and nuns in these daies florished, and the state of secular priests was smallie regarded, insomuch that they were constreined to auoid out of diuerse colleges, and to leaue the same vnto moonks, as at Worcester and Winchester, wherein the new monasterie, bicause the kings liued not in such sort as was then thought requisite, the prebends were taken [Sidenote: Ran. Higd. lib. 6 cap. 9] from them and giuen to vicars. But when the vicars were thought to vse themselues no better, but rather worse than the other before them, they were likewise put out, and moonks placed in their roomes by authoritie of pope John the 13. This reformation, or rather deformation was vsed by king Edgar in many other places of the realme.

[Sidenote: Wil. Malm. Ran. Higd. Tho. Eliot.] He was (as appeareth by diuers writers) namelie in his beginning, cruell against his owne people, and wanton in lusting after yoong women (as you haue heard before.) Of stature & proportion of bodie [Sidenote: Edgar small of stature but strong and hardie.] he was but small and low, but yet nature had inclosed within so little a personage such strength, that he durst incounter and combat with him that was thought most strong, onelie doubting this, least he which should haue to doo with him should stand in feare of him. And as it chanced at a great feast (where oftentimes men vse their toongs more [Sidenote: Kenneth king of Scots.] liberallie than needeth) Kenneth the king of Scots cast out certeine words in this maner: "It may (saith hee) seeme a maruell that so manie countries and prouinces should be subiect to such a little sillie bodie as Edgar is." These words being borne awaie by a iester or minstrell, and afterwards vttered to Edgar with great reproch, he wiselie dissembled the matter for a time, although he kept the remembrance thereof inclosed within his breast: and vpon occasion, at length feigned to go on hunting, taking the king of Scots forth with him: and hauing caused one of his seruants to conuey two swords into a place within the forrest by him appointed in secret wise, of purpose he withdrew from the residue of his companie, and there accompanied onelie with the Scotish king, came to the place where the swords were [Sidenote: The noble courage of king Edgar.] laid; and there taking the one of them, deliuered the other to the Scotish king, willing him now to assaie his strength, that they might shew by proofe whether of them ought to be subiect to the other; "Start not, but trie it with me (saith he:) for it is a shame for a king to be full of brags at bankets, and not to be readie to fight when triall should be made abroad." The Scotish king herewith being astonied and maruellouslie abashed, fell downe at his feet, and with much humilitie confessed his fault, & desired pardon for the same, which vpon such his humble submission king Edward easilie granted.

This noble prince had two wiues, Egelfrida or Elfrida, surnamed the white, the daughter of a mightie duke named Ordiner, by whome he had issue a sonne named Edward that succeeded him. His second wife was called Alfreda the daughter of Orgar duke of Deuon or Cornewall (as some saie) by whome he had issue Edmund that died before his father, and Egelred which afterwards was king. Also he had issue a base [Sidenote: Wil. Malm.] daughter named Editha, begotten of his concubine Wilfrid (as before ye haue heard.) The state of the realme in king Edgars daies was in good point, for both the earth gaue hir increase verie plentiouslie, the elements shewed themselues verie fauorable, according to the course of times: peace was mainteined, and no inuasion by forraine enimies attempted. For Edgar had not onelie all the whole Ile of Britaine in subiection, but also was ruler & souereigne lord ouer all the kings of the out Iles that lie within the seas about all the coasts of the same Britaine euen vnto the [Sidenote: Ireland subiect to king Edgar.] realme of Norwaie. He brought also a great part of Ireland vnder his subiection, with the citie of Dublin, as by authentike recordes it dooth and may appeare.

* * * * *

Contention amongest the peeres and states about succession to the crowne, the moonkes remoued and the canons and secular priests restored by Alfer duke of Mercia and his adherents, a blasing starre with the euents insuing the same, the rood of Winchester speaketh, a prettie shift of moonks to defeat the priests of their possessions, the controuersie betwene the moonks and the priests ended by a miracle of archbishop Dunstane, great hope that Edward would tread his fathers steps, the reuerent loue he bare his stepmother queene Alfred and hir sonne Egelred, hir diuelish purpose to murther Edward hir step-sonne accomplished, his obscure funerall in respect of pompe, but famous by meanes of miracles wrought by and about his sepulture, queene Alfred repenting hir of the said prepensed murther, dooth penance, and imploieth hir substance in good woorkes as satisfactorie for hir sinnes, king Edwards bodie remoued, and solemnlie buried by Alfer duke of Mercia, who was eaten up with lice for being against the said Edwards aduancement to the crowne, queene Alfreds offense by no meanes excusable.


[Sidenote: EDWARD.] After the deceasse of king Edgar, there was some strife and [Sidenote: Some write that the father king Edgar appointed Edward to succeed him. Simon Dun. Iohn Capg.] contention amongst the lords & peeres of the realme about the succession of the crowne: for Alfred the mother of Egelredus or Ethelredus, and diuers other of hir opinion, would gladlie haue aduanced the same Egelredus to the rule: but the archbishop Dunstan taking in his hands the baner of the crucifix, presented his elder brother Edward vnto the lords as they were assembled togither, and there pronounced him king, notwithstanding that both queene Alfred and hir friends, namelie Alfer the duke of Mercia were sore against him, especiallie for that he was begot in vnlawfull bed of Elfleda the nun, for which offense he did seuen yeares penance, and not for lieng with Wilfrid (as maister Fox thinketh.) But Dunstane iudging (as is to be [Sidenote: Alfer duke of Mercia and other immediately upon Edgars death before the crowne was established, renounced the moonks and restored the canons. Simon Dun.] thought) that Edward was more fit for their behoofe to continue the world in the former course as Edgar had left it, than his brother Egelred (whose mother and such as tooke part with hir vnder hir sonnes authoritie were likelie inough to turne all vpside downe) vsed the matter so, that with helpe of Oswald the archbishop of Yorke, and other bishops, abbats, and certeine of the nobilitie, as the earle of Essex and such like, he preuailed in his purpose, so that (as before is said) the said Edward, being the second of that name which gouerned this land before the conquest, was admitted king, and began his reigne ouer England in the yeare of our Lord 975, in the third yeare of [Sidenote: 975.] the emperour Otho the second, in the 20 yeare of the reigne of Lothar king of France, and about the fourth yeare of Cumelerne king of Scotland. He was consecrated by archb. Dunstane at Kingston vpon Thames, to the great griefe of his mother in law Alfred and hir friends. About the beginning of his reigne a blasing starre was [Sidenote: Wil. Malm.] seene, signifieng (as was thought) the miserable haps that followed. And first there insued barrennesse of ground, and thereby famine amongest the people, and morraine of cattell.

[Sidenote: Alfer or Elfer, duke of Mercia.] Also duke Alfer or Elfer of Mercia, and other noble men destroyed the abbies which king Edgar and bishop Adelwold had builded within the limits of Mercia. The priests or canons, which had beene expelled in Edgars time out of the prebends and benefices, began to complaine of the wrongs that were doone to them, in that they had beene put out of possession from their liuings, alleging it to be a great offense and miserable case, that a stranger should come and remoue an old inhabitant, for such maner of dooing could not please God, not yet be allowed of anie good man, which ought of reason to doubt least the same should hap to him which he might see to haue beene another mans vndooing. About this matter was hard hold, for manie of the temporall lords, and namelie the same Alfer, iudged that the priests had [Sidenote: Iohn Capg. Wil. Malm. Ran. Higd. Matt. West. Simon Dun.] wrong. In so much that they remoued the moonks out of their places, and brought into the monasteries secular priests with their wiues. But Edelwin duke of the Eastangles, & Alfred his brother, with Brightnoth or Brightnode earle of Essex, withstood this dooing, & gathering an armie, with great valiancie mainteined the moonks in their houses, [Sidenote: Simon Dun.] within the countrie of Eastangles. Herevpon were councels holden, as at Winchester, at Kirthling in Eastangle, and at Calne.

[Sidenote: Polydor.] At Winchester, when the matter was brought to that passe that the priests were like to haue had their purpose, an image of the rood that stood there in the refectorie where they sat in councell, vttered [Sidenote: A pretie shift of the moonks to disappoint the priests. Polydor.] certeine woords in this wise; God forbid it should be so, God forbid it should be so: ye iudged well once, but ye may not change well againe. As though (saith Polydor Virgil) the moonks had more right, which had bereft other men of their possessions, than the priests which required restitution of their owne. But (saith he) bicause the image of Christ hanging on the crosse was thought to speake these words, such credit was giuen thereto, as it had beene an oracle, that the priests had their sute dashed, and all the trouble was ceassed. So the moonks held those possessions, howsoeuer they came to them, by the helpe of God, or rather (as saith the same Polydor) by the helpe of man. For there were euen then diuers that thought this to be rather an oracle of Phebus than of God, that is to say, not published by Gods power, but by the fraud and craftie deceit of men.

[Sidenote: Wil. Malm.] The matter therefore was not so quieted, but that vpon new trouble an other councell was had at a manour house belonging to the king, called Calne, where they that were appointed to haue the hearing of the matter, sat in an vpper loft. The king by reason of his yoong yeeres was spared, so that he came not there. Heere as they were busied in arguing the matter, either part laieng for himselfe what could be said, Dunstane was sore reuiled, and had sundrie reproches laid against him: but suddenlie euen in the verie heat of their communication, the ioists of the loft failed, and downe came all the companie, so that manie were slaine and hurt, but Dunstane alone [Sidenote: Dunstane by woorking miracles had his will, when arguments failed.] standing vpon one of the ioists that fell not, escaped safe and sound. And so this miracle with the other made an end of the controuersie betweene the priests and moonks, all the English people following the mind of the archbishop Dunstane, who by meanes thereof had his will.

In this meane while, king Edward ruling himselfe by good counsell of such as were thought discreet and sage persons, gaue great hope to the world that he would walke in his fathers vertuous steps, as alreadie he well began, and bearing alwaie a reuerence to his mother in law, [Sidenote: Polydor. Will. Malms.] and a brotherlie loue to hir sonne Egelred, vsed himselfe as became him towards them both. Afterward by chance as he was hunting in a foruest neere the castell of Corfe, where his mother in law and his brother the said Egelred then soiourned, when all his companie were spred abroad in following the game, so that he was left alone, he [Sidenote: The wicked purpose of queene Alfred.] tooke the waie streight vnto his mother in lawes house, to visit hir and his brother. The queene hearing that he was come, was verie glad thereof, for that she had occasion offered to woorke that which she had of long time before imagined, that was, to slea the king hir sonne in law, that hir owne sonne might inioy the garland. Wherefore she required him to alight, which he in no wise would yeeld vnto, but said that he had stolne from his companie, and was onelie come to see hir and his brother, and to drinke with them, and therefore would returne to the forrest againe to see some more sport.

[Sidenote: The shameful murther of K. Edward.] The queene perceiuing that he would not alight, caused drinke to be fetched, and as he had the cup at his mouth, by hir appointment, one of hir seruants stroke him into the bodie with a knife, wherevpon feeling himselfe wounded, he set spurres to the horsse thinking to gallop awaie, and so to get to his companie. But being hurt to the death, he fell from his horsse, so as one of his feet was fastened in the stirrup, by reason whereof his horsse drew him foorth through [Sidenote: Matth. West. Fabian. Sim. Dun. Wil. Malm.] woods and launds, & the bloud which gushed out of the wound shewed token of his death to such as followed him, and the waie to the place where the horsse had left him. That place was called Corphes gate or Corfes gate. His bodie being found was buried without anie solemne funeralls at Warham. For they which enuied that he should inioy the crowne, enuied also the buriall of his bodie within the church: but the memorie of his fame could not so secretlie be buried with the bodie, as they imagined. For sundrie miracles shewed at the place where his bodie was interred, made the same famous (as diuerse haue [Sidenote: Miracles.] reported) for there was sight restored to the blind, health to the sicke, and hearing to the deafe, which are easilier to be told than beleeued.

Queene Alfred also would haue ridden to the place where he laie, mooued with repentance (as hath beene said) but the horsse wherevpon she rode would not come neere the graue, for anie thing that could be doone to him. Neither by changing the said horsse could the matter be holpen: for euen the same thing happened to the other horsses. Heerevpon the woman perceiued hir great offense towards God for murthering the innocent, and did so repent hir afterward for the same, that besides the chastising of hir bodie in fasting, and other [Sidenote: Building of abbeies in those daies was thought to be a full satisfaction for all manner of sinnes.] kind of penance, she imploied all hir substance and patrimonie on the poore, and in building and reparing of churches and monasteries. She founded two houses of nuns (as is said) the one at Warwell, the other at Ambresburie, and finallie professed hirselfe a nun in one of them, that is to say, at Warwell, which house she builded (as some affirme) in remembrance of hir first husband that was slaine there by king Edgar for hir sake (as before is mentioned.)

The bodie of this Edward the second, and surnamed the martyr, after that it had remained three yeeres at Warham where it was first buried, was remooued vnto Shaftesburie, and with great reuerence buried [Sidenote: Elferus.] there by the forenamed Alfer or Elfer, duke of Mercia, who also did sore repent himselfe, in that he had beene against the aduancement of the said king Edward (as ye haue heard.) But yet did not he escape woorthie punishment: for within one yeere after, he was eaten to [Sidenote: Polydor.] death with lice (if the historie be true.) King Edward came to his [Sidenote: Will. Malmes.] death after he had reigned three yeeres, or (as other write) three yeeres and eight moneths. Whatsoeuer hath beene reported by writers of the murther committed on the person of this king Edward, sure it is that if he were base begotten (as by writers of no meane credit it should appeere he was in deed) great occasion vndoubtedlie was giuen vnto queene Alfred to seeke reuenge for the wrongfull keeping backe of hir son Egelred from his rightfull succession to the crowne: but whether that Edward was legitimate or not, she might yet haue deuised some other lawfull meane to haue come by hir purpose, and not so to haue procured the murther of the young prince in such vnlawfull maner. For hir dooing therein can neither be woorthilie allowed, nor throughlie excused, although those that occasioned the mischiefe by aduancing hir stepsonne to an other mans right, deserued most blame in this matter.

Thus farre the sixt booke comprising the first arriuall of the Danes in this land, which was in king Britricus his reigne, pag. 652, at which time the most miserable state of England tooke beginning.


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