Page images

pond) notices only one journey of Alfred to Rome-that which is here referred to, while Asser, Florence of Worcester, and Huntingdon represent the young prince as making a second journey to Rome, in company with Ethelwulf, two years later. A subsequent entry in the Saxon Chronicle (inserted in the "Harmony" from a later MS.) suggests the idea that Alfred remained at Rome during the interval of the two journeys, and this would so far reconcile the two statements as they represent Ethelwulf and Alfred to have been at Rome together.

But there is the additional difficulty, in accepting this last entry as authentic, that it makes the Pope (Leo) consecrate Alfred king "after that he had heard that Ethelwulf was dead," whereas Leo himself died the same summer in which the two Saxon princes were at Rome, and Ethelwulf lived two years after his return; besides which, there is no sort of evidence or probability that Alfred did not at least accompany his father home.

Suspicion is said to attach to the whole account on the ground of the improbability that the young prince was consecrated king while he had elder brothers living. But all the Chronicles agree in that particular, and it is also clear that Alfred was a favourite son; so that, in an elective monarchy, and at a time when the several kingdoms of the Heptarchy were scarcely consolidated, and partitions of territory were a common practice, it might be the policy of Ethelwulf to obtain so high a sanction to the pretensions of the best beloved of his sons to some share in the succession. It may also be considered that the object of Ethelbald's rebellion during his father's absence may have been to defeat the plans of Ethelwulf in favour of Alfred.

It is also objected that Alfred's continued sojourn at Rome cannot be reconciled with his want of early education, as related by the chroniclers. In an age when it was a rare occurrence for a layman, of whatever rank, to be able to read or write, and particularly in the state of ignorance which Alfred himself describes as existing in his own times, there is no difficulty in accepting his own account of the late period at which he acquired the knowledge of letters, unless we adopt the suggestion of his having remained at Rome for a period of some duration. In his father's court his boyish years would probably be employed in active exercises and accomplishments, and his only mental acquirement might be learning by rote the old songs and ballads of his country which he afterwards took so much pains to learn to read. But if the young prince resided for great part of three years in a most lettered and polished court, under the guardianship of so enlightened a prelate as Pius IV, the total neglect of the first rudiments of education in such a case seems wholly unaccountable. We incline therefore, on the whole, to the commonly received tradition of the repeated visit, particularly as the accounts in the Chronicles are not conflicting and all that can be said is-that in some of them the notice of the second journey is omitted. Taking that view, the very tender years of Alfred joined to the limited period of his first visit, and the distractions and unsettled state of affairs during the second, may account for a neglect which to our ideas appears almost incredible.



= LEWIS LE DEBONNAIRE, emp. 814—840.— (2nd wife) JUDITH

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

assd emp. and

k. Italy. 817, d. 855.


assoc. emp.

k. Italy 850 d. 876.

k. of Lorraine 855-869.

Lorr. 869 Ital. & emp. 875 d. 877

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]






The beautiful gem, of which an engraving is given in this work, was accidentally found, according to Gorham's History of St Neot's, "in 1693, at Newton Park, some distance north of the site of Athelney abbey in Somersetshire, near the junction of the Parrot and the Thone; the spot to which Alfred retired during the Danish troubles, and where he afterwards founded a monastery." It is now preserved in the Ashmolean museum at Oxford. In 1698 it was in the possession of colonel Nathaniel Palmer, of Fairfield in Somersetshire; and in 1718 it was deposited in the Ashmolean Museum, by his son Thomas Palmer, esq.

The gift of the jewel is registered among other donations as follows:

A. D. 1718. Thomas Palmer de Fairfield in agro Somerset. Arm. Vir doctrina et virtutum comitatu spectatissimus picturam senis cujusdam (sancti forsan Cuthberti) auro crystalloque munitam, inter cimelia hujusce musei reponendam transmisit. Perantiquum hoc opus magni quondam Alfredi peculium Academiæ Oxon. legavit Thomas Palmer in eodem pago Militum Tribunus.

On a slip of paper in the same Register it is said:

Perantiquum hoc opus repertum erat prope Athelney pago Somersetensi oppidum ab Ælfredo rege frequentatum.

The engraving was made to embellish a small volume, published several years ago, on the " Coronation Service, or Consecration of the Anglo-Saxon kings, as it illustrates the origin of the

Constitution, by the Rev. Thomas Silver, D. C. L. of St. John's College, Oxford; formerly Anglo-Saxon Professor. Oxford, printed by W. Baxter, for J. Parker; and J. Murray, London. 1831." The same author,-who has allowed his engraving to be used for the present work-in a letter to the duke of Marlborough and the Right Hon. Baron Churchill, Lay-Rectors of the manor and parish of Charlbury, on the sacrilege and impolicy of the forced Commutation of Tithes, &c. Oxford 1842, has made some further observations on the subject, modifying the explanation which he had given of the Gem in the former work. The Gem has been frequently described and engraved; but all former representations of it are infinitely inferior to the exact delineation of it which accompanies these remarks.' The main substance or setting of it is of pure gold, containing coloured stones, covered by a remarkably thick crystal, through which is seen the miniature, formed of enamelled mosaic, the compartments being let into cells of gold; the figure is that of a man, holding a fleurde-lis in each hand. Though manufactured nearly a thousand years ago, it is in perfect preservation, and only looks a little dull and dingy for the great length of time that has passed over it. The length of the Gem is about two inches, and it is about half an inch thick. Round the edge are engraved the words ALFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN Alfred had me worked, in pierced gold letThe narrow end of the Gem, at which the first and last


(1) A loose description, by Dr Musgrave, appeared in 1698, with two figures. [Philos. Trans. Dec. 1698, No. 247, vol. xx, p. 441.]—It was noticed more at large by Dr Hickes in 1700. [Philos. Trans. No. 260, vol. xxii, p. 464.]—A very detailed but not quite accurate account was given by Dr Hickes in 1705, with engravings of the obverse, reverse, and edge, the first figure being from a drawing by sir Robert Harley. [Hickesii Ling. Vett. Septent. Thesuar. tom. i. pp. viii. 142, 143. Oxon. 1705.]-It was described by Hearne, in 1711. [Hearne's Dissertation on the word Estel, pp. xxiv, xxv, prefixed to Leland's Itinerary, vol. vii, edit. Oxon. 1769.]—It again exercised the talents of Dr Musgrave, in 1715, in a very elegant dissertation, accompanied by three engravings. [Musgravius, De Icuncula quondam M. Regis Ælfredi. 1715.-The opinions of the two former antiquarians were reviewed by Mr Wise, in 1722, whose criticism is accompanied with a figure of the obverse only. [Wise, in Asser. De Reb. Gest. Ælfredi, App. pp. 171, 172. Oxon. 1722.]—Some criticisms by Mr Pegge, and by Dr Mills, appeared in 1765. [Archæologia, vol. ii, pp. 73, 79.]—Engravings of this gem may be seen in Wotton, Ling. Vett. Septent. Thesaur. Conspectus, p. 18, edit. 1708; Shelton's Translation of Wotton, with notes, p. 14, edit. 1735; Marmora Oxon. P. III. fig. cxxxvii, edit. Chandler, 1763; Camden's Brit. vol. i, p. 77, edit. Gibson, 1722, and vol. i, p. 59, edit. Gough, 1789; in Life and Times of King Alfred the Great by the Rev. Dr Giles; and in Dr Pauli's Life of Alfred.-Most of these figures, however, seem to be copied from Hickes's plate, with little variation; they are much too large, and distorted representations.

« PreviousContinue »