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much to the local militia, which did not even include the citizens of the towns. Hence in a fresh battle at Merton, although the Saxons claim to have conquered during the day, they were forced at nightfall to leave the field to the enemy. Five battles in about as many weeks, and the loss of their best soldiers and nobles, dispirited the Saxons; and Æthelred, who had shown himself a brave and honourable king, died about this time. The whole burden of monarchy devolved upon Alfred when he was only twenty-two. His succession had long been regarded as matter of course; it does not seem that any fresh meeting of the witan was held to sanction it.

Like most men of strong organizing capacity, Alfred was inclined to carry out with a high hand what he saw to be right and necessary. The times were thoroughly out of joint. Castles had to be built everywhere, fleets constructed, the terms of military service lengthened and drawn closer; and in order to do all this, it was necessary to strengthen the authority of the king and of the nobles, while the judicial powers of the great lords were yet the great curse of the country. It is scarcely wonderful, if the most contradictory complaints were brought against Alfred's government. The oppressive demands for service of every kind wearied his followers. The poor complained that they could get no justice, while the reeves saw with horror that forty-four of their number had been hanged on slight charges in a single year: one for punishing contempt of court with excessive severity, another for acquitting a sheriff who had seized goods to the king's use unjustly. Alfred became unpopular, and nobles and people fell away from him for a time. But necessity


This is not certain, but is highly probable; the citizens could scarcely have left their walls undefended, and the analogies of the Anglo-Norman period favour the supposition. See A. S. Chron., A., 994, for the contempt with which the Danes regarded the civic militias.

In toto illo regno præter illum solum, pauperes aut nullos aut etiam paucissimos habebant adjutores.-Asser, 497, M. B.


3 Miroir des Justices, p. 296, quoted by Lingard, vol. i., p. 178.

4 Ethelweard, M. B., lib. iv., p. 517. Asser, M. B., p. 481, cum adhuc juvenis homines sui regni ✶ ✶ suum auxilium ac patrocinium implorabant;



brought them round his standard again, and he was able in later life to extend the powers of English royalty while he learned to administer them with greater gentleness.

During the next seven years the contest continued without any decisive results. In Northumbria, Halfdene rewarded his followers with grants of land. The settlement was something like that of the Norman conquest two hundred years later; and its extent may be gathered from the fact that in the four counties of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, there are nearly a thousand places which have Dano-Norwegian names, against less than four hundred in all the rest of England. This endowing of the first adventurers would no doubt stop the supply of recruits to Guthrum's army. Guthrum himself seems to have felt the need of a larger basis of operations, and already in 874 A.D. had expelled the king of Mercia, and handed the province over to a creature of his own, "the unwise thane," Ceolwulf. To add to Alfred's perplexities a new sea-rover, Rollo, attacked the southern coast, 876 A.D. Fortunately he had only six ships; and the success of his first attempts was not such as to encourage a longer stay. The sea-rover looked longingly across the waters to the fruitful coasts of France; a dream interpreted by a captive promised success; and Alfred was induced to purchase peace by supplying him with fresh ships, which were nominally to be employed in trade. Rollo departed to found a dynasty in Normandy. But


ille vero noluit eos audire, &c. The passage is probably not by Asser, but the writer of St. Neot's life lived near enough to Alfred's times to know his character by report.

1 Worsaae's Danes in England, p. 71. Mr. H. Coleridge has given a list of more than a hundred words of distinctly Danish origin in Anglo-Saxon.Philolog. Trans., 1859, pp. 18-31. Dr. Lottner has followed this up by a paper arguing that "are," the plural present of "to be," is Scandinavian.-Philolog. Trans., 1860, p. 63.

2 So, at least, say the vague and uncertain accounts of this transaction. The pretext was not an unlikely one, as the same vessels might then serve for commerce or for war. (See p. 106.) Depping, however, assumes that commerce was the diplomatic phrase for piracy; comments on Alfred's wickedness, and accounts for it by the difficulties of his position and by English jealousy



the Saxons had no respite, for about this time Guthrum, finding that resistance was organized along the line of the Thames, had sailed round the coast, and disembarked his troops at Warham, in Dorsetshire. The Danes had now a new country to lay waste; they formed a junction with a fresh host of their countrymen, and as they advanced into Devonshire were supported by the Britons of the district. Treaties, even confirmed by hostages, bribes, battles, seemed alike unavailing to check the progress of the enemy. At last in 878 A.D. the Saxons, worn out with war and with no hearty love for their king, could no longer be mustered in force to meet the enemy; the Danes overran Wessex securely, and Alfred wandered in the marshes of Somersetshire. National minstrels delighted to record afterwards, how the neatherd's wife chided him for burning the cakes which he had been set to turn; and how, when he had shared his last loaf with a beggar, St. Cuthbert appeared to him in a dream by night, and foretold his speedy deliverance from his sufferings. Anyhow, in Easter 878 A.D. a new army began to gather round their king in the strong position of Athelney amid the Somersetshire marshes. Alfred led them through Selwood forest, and along the line of the Wiltshire hills, till they came in sight of the Danish host at Edington. The firm line of the Saxons sustained without breaking the furious charges of the Danes; and the Northmen were routed with tremendous loss, and pursued to their entrenchments in Chippenham. After a fortnight's siege the Danes purchased their lives, by terms which equally show the extremities to which they were reduced, and

of France. He winds up with a romantic story from an unpublished MS., that Rollo afterwards returned, and assisted Alfred to subdue his rebellious subjects. The fiction may at least serve to show how widely the story of their disaffection at one time had spread.-Depping, Expeditions Maritimes des Normands, vol. i., chap. 6. Cf. Gul. Gemit, lib. ii., c. 4-13, where Alfred is called Athelstane; and Dudo, who inverts their relations, and makes Alfred, whom he calls Alstem, assist Rollo with men and provisions against the Flemings.-Duchesne, p. 74. Conjecit statum communem cum occidentali exercitu.-Ethelweard, lib. iv., M. B., 515.




the respect they had inspired. The treaty of Wedmor, July, 878 A.D., provided that the kingdoms of Wessex and Anglia should be separated by a line from the source of the Thames to the Lea, along the Lea to Bedford, and along the Ouse to Watling Street. Of course Halfdene's kingdom of Northumbria was no subject of negotiation; but by this agreement the whole of Mercia was restored in its former dependent condition to Wessex. Freeman and villain were to be rated at equal values in the two nations; and the system of compurgation was to be common to both. As a pledge that they would keep the peace, the Danes gave hostages while they received none. But the most important consequence of their defeat, perhaps a condition of the treaty, was that Guthrum consented to be baptized. Alfred stood as his godfather. Thirty of the chief men among the Danes followed their chief's example; and paganism was no longer the battlecry of the Danes in Anglia.

The great result of the treaty of Wedmor was to ensure quiet in the country itself. But England could never be safe from attack, so long as piracy was the great profession in the north. In 885 A.D., a fresh body of sea-rovers landed in Kent. They were driven back from the walls of Rochester by the citizens, and took shelter in Anglia, relying on the sympathics of their countrymen. But the English fleet pursued and defeated them at the mouth of the Stour; and though the conquerors as they returned home sustained a reverse from a fresh squadron of adventurers, they had broken the power of the enemy for a time. Eight years later, 893 A.D., Hastings,1 who had gathered most of the pirates of the time under his flag, established his troops in fortified works at the mouths of the Lymne and Thames. The danger was great, for the Danes of Anglia and Northumbria, in defiance of sworn treaties, prepared to assist their countrymen. But the resources of the Anglo-Saxon king were also greater than they

It is uncertain whether this was the great sea-rover of that name or another, possibly his son. See Mr. Coxe's note; Wendover, vol. i., p. 349, and Mr. Hardy's note; Malmesbury, vol. i., p. 182.



had been in his first struggles. Wherever the Danes appeared in the open field they were beaten, and they never succeeded in taking a walled town; but they did fearful mischief in the open country, sailing round the coasts and attacking Exeter and Chester. At last in 896 A.D., they ventured some 20 miles up the Lea; Alfred rode to inspect their position; and hit upon the expedient of diverting the course of the river, so as to strand their ships. Hastings and his men were now glad to escape into the friendly Anglian districts; and in the summer of the next year, having made such shift for a fleet as they best could, they set sail for France. They had made little profit on nearly four years' stay in England. But they had kindled anew the love of piracy; and the southern shores for another year were infested with little squadrons of from three to twenty ships. Some of these were destroyed in battle; twenty were sunk in a storm; and the crews of two that were cast on the Sussex coast, were very deservedly hanged at Winchester.

It confounds all ordinary notions to know that these desolating wars had rather affected the civilization than the wealth of the kingdom. Asser, the native it is true of a poor country, Wales, assigns the great riches of the people as a reason why the monastic profession had declined in honour among the Saxons. Still more wonderful is it to hear of Alfred, with the limited revenue of a Saxon king, initiating and often completing great public works; restoring London, which had been burned down, with suitable magnificence; building stone

1 It has been surmised, with great probability, that Alfred derived the idea of this from the story of Cyrus draining the Gyndes, which he had himself translated.-Alfred's Orosius, book ii., chap. 4-5.

2 How London was burned down is uncertain. Ethelweard says, "obsidetur a rege Ælfredo urbs Lundonia."-M.B., 517. Roger of Wendover gives a strange account of Alfred's preparations for a siege, of the citizens throwing open the gates, and of Alfred then restoring the city.-Vol i., p. 345. It seems that in 872 A.D., London was the head-quarters of the Danes (A. S. Chron., A. 872), and this might account either for the city wanting repair, or for its citizens being in the Danish interest, according as we suppose that the Northmen took it, or made terms with the townsmen. In this latter case, the fire may have been accidental, or may have been Alfred's work. The Saxon Chronicle, A.

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