Page images



by an expedition that penetrated to Caithness. At last, the oppressed nations combined in one vigorous effort to destroy the Saxon power. Anlaf appeared in the Humber with a fleet. of more than six hundred ships from Ireland; while Constantine of Scotland, and Owen, a petty prince of the Cumbrians, effected a junction with him from the north and west. But the invaders were detained by the siege of York, which remained faithful to Athelstane; and by the time the city was reduced, the Saxon king had crossed the Humber with his army. Like Baldulph and Alfred, Anlaf is said to have explored his enemy's camp in the disguise of a harper; and northern tradition commemorates the fidelity of a soldier, who recognized his former lord, but disdained to denounce him till he had quitted the camp. Neither skill nor courage saved Anlaf from an overwhelming defeat at Brunan-beorh, near Beverley; and Saxon song long commemorated the field on which five princes were routed, with greater slaughter than had been known since the Saxon invasion.


This con

The relations of England with the continent had long since been more intimate than might appear at first sight. In the seventh century, it was the custom in Northumbria for many Angles to send their children to be educated in French convents. Before Offa's accession, we find Pepin sending gifts to Eadbert, a king of Northumbria. nection with the northern province was continued in the reign of Charlemagne, who despatched an embassy with presents to king Ethelred, and would have taken measures to avenge his death by rebels, had not Alcuin interposed (796 A.D.) A little later (808 A.D.) the emperor actually interfered to procure the restoration of Eardulf, a Northumbrian king, to his throne. If we pass to the monarchies of the south, the rupture which ensued when proposals of alliance with Charlemagne were rejected, shows how closely learning and

commerce were

'The siege and the loyalty are explained by the fact, that Ragnald had won

bis principality from Anlaf's father.

2 Geoffrey of Monmouth, lib. ix., cap 1.

Sim. Dun., Hist. Dun., ii. 3; Twysden, p. 11.

3 Bede, H. E., lib. iii., cap. 8.



allied in the two countries.1 Ethelwulf's marriage to a daughter of Charles the Bald, indicated that England was rising, and that France was sinking, relatively, in the scale of nations. Alfred, however, found no more noble match than a Count of Flanders for his daughter. But under Edward and Athelstane, England had risen to the first rank among nations. Accordingly, of seven daughters whom Edward left behind him, Eadgiva was married to Charles the Simple, Carlovingian and titular king of France; Eadhilda to Hugh the Great, founder of the intrusive Capetian dynasty; Edith to Otho, emperor of Germany; Elgiva to Louis, king of Arles in Aquitaine; and Adive to the nameless head of the house of Montmorency. Nor were these alliances barren of result; Eadgiva's son, Louis d'Outremer, brought to England and there educated, was

1 Einhardi Annales, A. 808; Alcuin, Epist. 47, p. 57. In Carlovingian romance, Charlemagne is made to conquer England. Diplomatic writers of the 16th and 17th century, assert gravely that our kings, down to William the Conqueror, did homage to the kings of France; and Mezeray intimates his belief (tom. i., p. 197,) that England was included in Charlemagne's empire. M. Depping, in accounting for Alfred's imaginary compact with Rollo, that he should invade France, quietly observes, “Il régnait de la jalousie entre les rois Carlovingiens, et les rois Anglo-Saxons. Les prétentions qu' énoncaient autrefois lors de leur sacre les rois de France sur les royaumes des Merciens et des Anglo-Saxons se rapportent évidemment à des contestations très anciennes entre les souverains des deux pays."-Expeditions des Normands, tom. i., pp. 215, 216. French authors are too apt to forget that the imperial pretensions of Charlemagne devolved, not on the kings of France, but on the emperors of Germany. The source of M. Depping's mistake is curious. It seems that about 980 a.d., Ratold, abbot of Corbie, caused the Anglo-Saxon form of consecration to be copied for the use of the French kings. It is difficult to know why this was done, as a service of their own is preserved in Baluzius. The scribe, probably not understanding Latin, copied servilely the titles of the kings of England, inserting at the same time the French titles which his superior had given him; thus: quem in regnum Albionis totius videlicet Francorum eligimus. This form was used as late as the year 1365 A.D.; the mistake was repeated in the new copy then made; and has naturally misled M. Depping, who was not aware that the service had been first used at king Ethelred's consecration. See Lingard's A. S. Church, vol. ii., p. 368.

2 It appears from a charter that Bouchard, the first known count of Montmorency, was nephew by his mother to Edred, and therefore to Athelstane. During Edred's reign (953 A.D.) Bouchard visited England, and brought away the relics of St. Pavace, and a certain number of monks from Pershore, in Wor



restored by Athelstane's influence, and perhaps partly by English arms, to the throne, which his uncles Otho and Hugh had assailed.1 The power of the dukes of Normandy already appeared to threaten English interests. Athelstane entertained at his court the exiled Alan of Brittany, whom Rollo had dispossessed of his dominions; and when the young prince had come to man's estate, assisted him with English arms to recover his inheritance. Nevertheless, later on we find Athelstane on friendly terms with the duke of Normandy, who co-operated with the English policy in behalf of the Carlovingian line. Perhaps both countries preferred that a weak sovereign should reign in Paris.

Athelstane's laws exhibit in a fuller degree the same tendencies that prevailed under Alfred. They begin with enforcing the obligation to pay tithes and the Martinmas dues to the church; and Athelstane charges the royal revenue with the support of a pauper to every two of his farms. The frank-pledge or frith-guild system had been vigorously enforced under Edward; its laws are codified under Athelstane; and every freeman is now obliged to belong to some guild or to some lord. The beginnings of feudalism appear in a regulation which forbids the nobles to receive the vassals of other men, except with the leave of their first lord. The restriction of all trade, except for articles under twenty pence value, to the cities, is a great step towards the rigid protective system which another century saw established; and the same tendency appears in a law that two horses are to be kept to every plough, and that none are to be sold beyond sea. The processes of law seem to have been found ineffective in many cases, for a law is passed fining all who absent themselves three times from the gemot

cestershire. Bouquet, vol. ix., p. 622, cited in the Art de Vérifier les dates, tom. xii., Art. Montmorency. Adive accompanied her sister to the German court, and we can account for every other known sister of Edred. 1 Lappenberg, band i., pp. 380, 381.

2 Laws of Edward, 4; Laws of Athelstane, 2, 8; A. S. Laws, vol. i., pp. 161, 201, 205.

3 Laws of Athelstane, 22; cf. Laws of Alfred, 37; A. S. Laws, vol. i., pp. 211, 87.


to which they have been summoned.1


Lastly, as trade is spreading, a regulation of the coinage has become necessary; it is decreed that all money be of uniform weight, that it be only struck at certain recognized mints in privileged cities ;2 and the illicit coiner is to have his hand struck off. The larger powers of the laws and the moral view of offences are clearly unfavourable to mercy no less than to liberty.

Athelstane's strong, stern dominion, was endured with impatience by his new subjects; and his death, 940 a.d., proved the signal for a rising. The new king, Athelstane's brother Edmund, found himself in a few weeks menaced by a revolt which was headed by the pagan Anlaf, who sought to recover his inheritance, and favoured by the archbishop of York, who preferred the interests of Anglian independence to a Christian but Saxon king. A great battle at Tamworth ended in a decisive triumph for the Dano-Anglian forces: the provinces north and east of Watling Street were ceded to Anlaf, and Edmund was reduced for a time to the dominions which Alfred had enjoyed forty years before. But the death of Anlaf a year later gave Edmund an opportunity of retrieving his losses, which he did the more readily as York was still the metropolis of a separate principality, which divided the strength of the north. The inhabitants of the five Danish towns, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Stamford, and Lincoln, were expelled and replaced by Englishmen; the two princes of the north, Anlaf the younger and Reginald, were compelled to do homage and embrace Christianity; and the archbishop of York was confirmed, probably by some concessions, in a more loyal allegiance." The Cumbrian dynasty was next reduced, and the province made over to Scotland as the price of homage and support. But in the midst of his victories, Edmund perished in a brawl at his own table. Liofa, a noted outlaw, had entered the

'Laws of Athelstane, 20; A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 209. So in Anglo

Norman times there were three reasonable essoins or causes of default from a summons.-Glanville, book i., chap. vii.

2 A. S. Chron., A., 943.

3 Ethelweard, lib. iv., M. B., p. 520.




royal hall,' and seated himself at table; Edmund interfered in person to turn him out, and was stabbed to the heart, 946 A. D.

By a natural arrangement, Edmund's brother, Edred, was appointed king, as Edwi and Edgar, the sons of Edmund, were minors. The new king inherited the warlike ability, the devout tendencies, and unhappily also the sickly constitution, of his race. The nine years of his reign were on the whole prosperous, although the Northumbrians, in default of their natural leaders, rose up again in insurrection under Eric, whom his father Harald Blaatand of Denmark had sent over to seek his fortunes. The archbishop of York again joined the insurgents. But the native prince, Anlaf's son Maco, did not submit to be despoiled of his inheritance, and failing to cope with Eric by force of arms, assassinated him in a desert place, by the treachery of one of his gesith. Edred profited by these dissensions, and in two campaigns laid waste the whole of the north; threw Wulfstan of York into prison, carried off the chief nobles as hostages, divided the province into shires and baronies, and entrusted it to the charge of Osulf, the traitor, who had betrayed Eric." From this time forward, Northumbria, parcelled out into earldoms, ceases to have any proper history of its own, and is only a turbulent part of the Saxon dominion.

The martial character of the Saxon line since the time of Æthelwulf, had re-acted upon the court; and religion and war had become for a time as closely united in popular estimation as religion and peace had been under the first converts. The necessities of the national struggles, and the peculiar character of the war waged against the Danes, whose treaties were never so sacred as when they were guaranteed by their kings' baptisms, had no doubt contributed to this result. Turketul,

In the Frithiof-Saga, Frithiof, a
Liofa's offence lay in appearing

1 The hall was open to all guests. stranger and a beggar, enters king Ring's hall. while he was under ban.

2 Lappenberg, Eng. Gesch., band i., p. 392. 'Palgrave's Eng. Com., p. cccxviii.

« PreviousContinue »