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CHARACTERS OF DUNSTAN AND EDWI.
root and branch—to prevent the priest from having a family. Considering all these practical reasons, which no clergyman could then fail to appreciate keenly; considering, moreover, that in the re-action against the gross vices of the flesh which the polished Roman society had practised, the superstitious purism of the Essenes and Montanists had been taken up into popular Christianity; we can hardly wonder that Dunstan and the best men of his time should make it the great work of their lives to put down marriage among the clergy. That their very triumph laid the foundation for other forms of evil and misery is certain. That Dunstan's character was disfigured by little affectations, was impulsive and wanted quiet strength, was harsh when he thought God's cause in danger, and superstitiously prone to mistake his own views for God's will, may be established from his words and acts. But he belongs none the less to the splendid army of idealists, who risk everything to destroy the habits in which vulgar men find happiness; it was only the fault of a narrow intellect, if the man was greater in himself than in his works.
Dunstan was summoned to attend the death-bed of Edred, 955 A.D., and receive the last instructions about some property that had been confided to his care. He arrived too late to find his patron alive, but thought himself qualified by a knowledge of Edred's intentions to discharge the trust.1 The new king, Edwi, was a boy of only eighteen; the secular historian of the times calls him loveable; the monkish biographers of Dunstan describe him as weak and profligate. Both accounts may be easily reconciled. Nearly fifty charters of donations to friends and monasteries in a single year attest Edwi's liberality; but at the same time indicate a weak and profuse prince; it would scarcely be wonderful if such a man, so early king, and endowed with singular beauty, attracted and yielded to the love of women in times which were certainly rather devout than moral. But Edwi's
'Allen's Enquiry, pp. 238, 239. 3 Cod. Dip., vols. ii. and v.
2 Ethelweard, M. B., p. 520.
QUARREL WITH EDWI.
great offence in the eyes of the church was an uncanonical marriage with his cousin. On the very day of the coronation, he deserted his guests for his wife; the nobles murmured, and Dunstan and Bishop Cynesige penetrated into the king's apartment, and brought him back into the banquet-hall; Anglo-Saxon decorum was scandalized with the news that their sovereign, probably tired out with the day's ceremony, had thrown the crown of state upon the ground. The breach between the king and queen and Dunstan was now irreparable. Edwi demanded an account of the treasures confided to Dunstan, and when the abbot refused, sequestered his property. The Glastonbury canons took part with royalty against their severe and unpopular abbot; Dunstan was deprived of his preferment, and fled in haste to Flanders, fearing personal violence (956 A.D.)
That Edwi now persecuted the monks is false. There were only two monasteries in the kingdom, those of Glastonbury and Abingdon, in which the Benedictine rule was established, and Edwi was the benefactor of both.1 But being himself uncanonically married, he was not likely to enforce measures against the married clergy whose crime was his own; and the refusal to reform irregularities was no doubt considered persecution by the high churchmen. The right to certain property had been contested, during more than thirty years, between his grandmother Eadgifa and a Kentish landowner; Edwi gave sentence against the queendowager; the case was one in which each party swore flatly against the other, and Eadgifa's best title was derived from an act of confiscation. But the monks declared that Edwi was robbing his grandmother, to punish her for her love of the church, and Edgar reversed the decision after his brother's death.
Cod. Dip., 441, 1194, 1208, are grants to Abingdon; the first mentioning "the Blessed Benedict, the most glorious patron of the monks." 438, to Glastonbury, is marked spurious by Mr. Kemble; but Mr. Allen quotes the Monasticon, to prove that a grant of sixty hides was made to that monastery.-Allen's Enquiry, p. 240; Cf. Malmesbury, De Antiq. Glas. Eccl., Gale, vol. iii., p. 319.
2 We only know Eadgifa's story from herself and her partisans. She accused Goda of foreclosing a mortgage which had been already paid off. After
Edwi is taxed with other acts of wholesale spoliation; that he took away crown lands from his opponents and gave them to his friends, is the natural explanation of this charge. It is probable that the public property might in many cases be resumed legally by a new king, or seized for trifling offences.1 A wise man in a critical period would have been careful how he meddled with property; but Edwi was profuse, and not wise. The fact that the grants in the first year of his reign were mostly made in Wessex, perhaps shows that he chiefly favoured the men of the southern province. Anyhow, in 957 A.D., a rebellion promoted by the Primate and Dunstan broke out: Mercia and Northumbria declared in favour of the king's brother Edgar; the Saxons were faithful to Edwi. At a time when insurrections were so frequent, and when provinces changed their master in a battle, we need scarcely wonder at Edgar's success; from viceroy he became joint-king, with the
he had occupied the estate nearly six years, the witan gave sentence in her favour; this king Edward enforced; and presently confiscating all Goda's estates, gave them to Eadgifa, who from pity restored to Goda all except her original property and one other manor, but kept the title-deeds. Under Athelstane, even these deeds were given back at the king's intercession, the queendowager still keeping the two manors to herself. These Goda's sons prevailed on Edwi to assign them. When Edgar reversed this decision, Eadgifa presented the title-deeds to Christchurch monastery.-Cod. Dip., 499, 737. In this story it is noteworthy that Eadgifa only professes to have proved her father's payment by an oath of thirty pounds value (i.e. sworn to by persons whose witnessing capacity was rated at that value); that, as Edward's wife, the king's verdict in her favour is not exempt from suspicion; and that the restoration of the deeds at her step-son's intercession, looks very much as if she were conscious of some illegality. Curiously enough, a charter of Edward's is extant, which gives the estates in question to Christchurch monastery, mentions Goda as the original owner, but gives no hint of Eadgifa. If the charter is genuine (and Mr. Kemble accepts it), it looks as if the queen had begged the forfeited property for life, with reversion to the monastery, and without respect to her original claim.-Cod. Dip., 896.
1 After the Conquest the crown-lands were constantly resumed by a new king. They were apparently liable to forfeiture in Anglo-Saxon times, if the lessee's tenant committed a crime involving slavery or death as its punishment. -Cod. Dip., 1090.
2 Mr. Allen inclines to think that Edgar was joint-king from the first. But such an arrangement was not natural, and Edgar was only twelve years old when his brother became king.
CHARACTER OF EDGAR.
northern provinces for his share; and one of his first acts was to recall Dunstan. Edwi seems, moreover, to have been forced to consent to a divorce from his queen; and a doubtful tradition asserts that she or some other lady, a royal mistress, died from the horrible mutilations which the clerical party inflicted on her. At this distance of time it can only be said, that rebels in the cause of religion have been capable of the worst atrocities, but that monkish biographers were quite as likely to invent a crime to do credit to their heroes. The infamy of this transaction, if true, would rest on archbishop Odo,1 not on Dunstan. In 958 A.D. Edwi died. The manner of his death is unknown, but it is said to have been tragical, and his subjects' love followed him.
The real government of England was now in the hands Dunstan, whom Edgar's witan had made bishop of Worcester and London successively (957, 958 A.D.), and who succeeded a little later to the primacy (962 A.D.) Edgar, whom his brother's death had left sole monarch of England, was still only fifteen years old. He has been described to us by the Saxon poets in terms that seem strangely inconsistent, as a devout man who honoured God's law and promoted his glory, but who was fond of foreign vices and heathen customs. The inconsistency really lies in Edgar's character and public acts. He had the brute courage of a soldier, and a fair portion of official activity, but wanted strength of will and political foresight. He put down rebellions when they broke out, and even extended his power by sea; but he never tried to reduce the Anglo
1 Odo was called popularly Odo the Good. But as a boy he quarrelled with his father, and as a bishop he asserted the rights of the church in a most offensive style. "We warn the king and princes and all who are in power, that they obey the archbishop and other bishops with great reverence."-Const. ii., Wilkins, vol. i., p. 212. The wild Danish blood in his veins might lead him to an act which perhaps was legal, and which he would certainly think righteous. By Ethelred's Laws, a little later—vi., 7, A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 317—it is decreed that all whores be banished, or in case of contumacy, put to death. Now, whether the victim were Edwi's uncanonical wife or a mistress, would make no difference in the eyes of an ecclesiastical lawyer.
Danish provinces to any orderly subjection; the first settlers had been military colonists, and under Edgar they are still designated as "the army." The organization of a fleet, and some petty wars against the Welsh and the Ostmen of Dublin, are the great achievements of Edgar's reign, over which the vain-glorious language of his charters, the friendly praises of monkish chroniclers, and the homage of eight tributary kings at Chester, have cast a false lustre. In his court Edgar, himself educated among the Anglian Danes, seems to have affected the habits of foreign civilization, which was now outstripping the progress of the insular Saxons. In his morals, the young king was the most infamous of Anglo-Saxon sovereigns; woman's honour was not safe from his lust, nor his friend's life from his violence. It is to Dunstan's credit, that in one flagrant case, where the protection of a convent had been violated, he condemned the guilty king to a penance which Edgar's vanity no doubt felt keenly, forbidding him to wear the royal crown for a space of seven years. But Dunstan was not in a condition to break with Edgar; the king condoned a series of crimes, far more atrocious than those which had lost Edwi half a kingdom, by enforcing the dues of the church, and supporting the monks against the married clergy.*
Yet, in spite of all drawbacks, Edgar's reign was long looked back upon with affection by the Saxons. His Danish
1 Edgar's Laws, Sup. 15; A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 279.
2 Edgar's panegyrists magnified this into the conquest of the greater part of Ireland. Cod. Dip., 514, and vol. vi., p. 237. The charter is probably spurious, and Moore rejects the whole story indignantly.-Hist. of Ireland, vol. ii., p. 88. Lappenberg, however, accepts the fact of an expedition.-Eng. Gesch., band i., p. 407; and I think a forger would have taken care to introduce nothing that should be startlingly new. Ecgfrith, king of Northumbria, had already invaded Ireland in 684 A.D.-Bede, H.E., lib. iv., c. 26.
Lappenberg, Eng. Gesch., band i., p. 403.
In accepting the story of Osbern about Edgar's penance, it is quite unnecessary to assume that he had not been crowned before, and the connection of the end of his penance with the second coronation may be imaginary. The story in Malmesbury of the mother who substitutes a slave for her daughter, appears slightly changed in Hemingburgh, and is there told of king John.-Malmesbury, lib. ii., 159; Hemingburgh, vol. i., p. 248.