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bounded dissolution of morals that prevailed in the eleventh century among the clergy, who sank under the weight of a doctrine which they had neither strength to live up to nor to contest.1 Still more important for England was Dunstan's influence in training the young king. It is doubtful if Ethelred could ever have been good for much; the race of Alfred was rotting away under vices which seemed to be sapping energy and intellect; but in the character of a man who combined the superstition of a monk and unbridled passions with incapacity to act, it is impossible not to recognize the results of that rigid narrow-minded training which destroys the will in order to save the soul. So long as Dunstan lived, all was outwardly well. His pupil indeed was not always obedient; he once ravaged the church lands in a quarrel with the citizens of Rochester, and forced the primate to buy him off; but the ascendancy of unworthy favourites had not yet brought treason and anarchy into the land. But in 988 A.D. Dunstan died; the Danish ships had already appeared on the seas to ravage the English coasts; and men were looking forward with awe to the completion of the first thousand years since the birth of Christ, and believing that their Lord would return to judge the world. The death of Dunstan seemed to be the beginning of woes.

The event soon corresponded to these presages. In 988 A.D. the Danes appeared at Watchet, and in 991 A.D. they burned Ipswich; the fatal precedent was then introduced, by the counsel of the archbishop Siric, of buying them off. Of course, claim

1 Malmesbury's evidence on this point (lib. iii., p. 418) has been called in question, on account of his tendency to flatter the Normans. But it is confirmed by the general tone of Elfric's Pastoral Canons, by the Institutes of Polity, and by the sermon of Wulfstan, quoted in the Biog. Ang. Sax., pp. 507, 508. In the history of the Abbey of Ramsey, there is a curious story of a bishop Etheric, under Canute, who makes a Dane with whom he is dining drunk, and so cheats him of an estate.-Cap. 85; Gale, vol. iii., p. 441.

2 Ethelredus monachum potius quam militem actione prætendebat.—Vita S. Elphegi, Ang. Sac., ii., 131. One of the most curious transactions of the reign is, that in 1013 A.D., when Ethelred and his family were fugitives, Abbot Elfsige, who was in attendance on the queen, found means to purchase the body of St. Florentine, all but the head, for five hundred pounds.-A. S. Chron., A., 1013.



ants for the tribute of cowards were never wanting, and during the next ten years, 991-1001 A.D., the Danes ravaged the country far and wide. It was no one leader with views of ultimate conquest; but men whose only object was to destroy and plunder. Anlaf was bought off; the Christian feelings of the ferocious Olaf were successfully appealed to; but Sweyn and a host of inferior captains kept the field. With inexplicable baseness the nobles of the Anglo-Saxons, sometimes actuated by Danish affinities, more often by the sordid lust of gain, betrayed the trusts committed to them, and sent private intelligence to the enemy, or refused to lead their soldiers into battle. The city militias, on the other hand, appear to have done their duty nobly, and London in particular beat back the invaders with more loss than they ever thought to have sustained from townsmen. But the country was paralyzed by the conduct of the king. At times sunk in pleasure, at times rousing himself with a flash of activity to some effort which proved useless because isolated, he completed the ruin of the country by the gigantic measures taken to defend it; and the fleet starved while it waited for the forces that were not yet mustered. The crisis was complicated in the year 1000 A.D. by a war with Normandy. The war was impolitic, for the Normans were the natural allies of England against the Danes; and the English forces were repulsed with loss by the men of the Cotentin, whom their wives assisted to do battle against the invaders. It would seem that the relations of the two countries were extensive, for Richard imprisoned a number of Englishmen who were in his dominions for the sake of commerce or of good government. Already once before, in 991 A.D., Pope John XV. had interfered in the interests of Christendom, and negotiated a peace; on this occasion a marriage was arranged between Ethelred, now a widower, and Emma, the sister of the Norman duke (1002 A.D.)3 This connection of the two courts alarmed the


A.S. Chron., A., 994.

2 A. S. Chron., A., 999.

3 Gul. Gemit., lib. iv., cap. 4, who, however, places the marriage before the The Saxon Chronicle gives the true date, 1002. A.D.



jealousy of the Danes; they had lately sustained a defeat in Devon from the ealdorman Palig, and had agreed to sell peace; but they had not left the country; only they were scattered up and down it in no regular military array; and they were quite resolved at no very distant date to effect its conquest. They now resolved to anticipate, by the murder of the king and witan, any league that might be formed against them.' Their plan was disclosed, and Ethelred and his nobles, panic-struck and frenzied, took refuge in the last resource of cowards, assassination. Orders were sent over the country to exterminate the Danes on the next St. Bride's day, November 13. The people, who had seen their wives and daughters insulted, their houses occupied, and their stores consumed by the invaders in time of peace, executed their commission with fearful secrecy, sparing none, however exalted, and sometimes torturing their victims. Even Gunhilde, the sister of Sweyn, saw her children and husband put to death before she herself was murdered. When all excuses have been exhausted, it remains certain that the crime revolted the public feeling of the times; "it was such wickedness as the heathen themselves knew not of;" the Sicilian vespers and the Irish massacre are its appropriate parallels. But the extent of the slaughter must not be overrated; it was probably confined to the countries south and west of Watling Street; and it certainly only aimed at the invading soldiery, for names that indicate a Danish origin are still to be found as before in the charters of the witan. The Danes vowed revenge, and for the next four years kept their vow terribly. Scarcely anywhere were they met in the field: Hugo a Norman had been appointed governor of Exeter, and betrayed his trust; Ælfric of Mercia deserted to the invaders; Wulfnoth of Sussex, threatened with ruin by a court intrigue, turned pirate, with the fleet under his charge. Only the ealdorman of East Anglia, Ulfkytel, did his duty manfully; and though

1 "Because it was made known to the king that they would treacherously bereave him of his life, and afterwards all his witan."-A. S. Chron., A., 1002 Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 156.

2 Gul. Gemit., lib. iv., cap. 6.



his forces were half-hearted, he succeeded in driving Sweyn back to his ships. Amid the miseries of the time, few impressed the popular mind more deeply than the murder of the primate. Ælfeg was captured by the Danes, when Canterbury was betrayed to them by Elfmær, one of the superior clergy, and was saved from the horrible sack of the town that a ransom might be extorted from him. After seven months captivity, they fixed the sum at three thousand pounds of gold, calculating, no doubt, on the people's attachment to him. Elfeg answered that he had no private property; and that he would never take the money of Christian men to give it to pagans, or counsel the king to an act so inconsistent with the honour of the kingdom. He proceeded to preach to the hus-ting; a blow from an axe cut his sermon short, and he was struck and stoned to death. Ten equally resolute men in high place might have saved the monarchy.

Sweyn now aimed at establishing a kingdom. The Angles had gone over to his side, and proved among the most bitter foes of the Saxons.? Above all, the fortunes of the kingdom were now swayed by a family of remarkable men, who had risen from the ranks by merit, and aimed at establishing their position by holding the balance between conflicting interests. Eadric Streona had married Ethelred's daughter, Eadgitha, and in 1007 A.D. had been made ealdorman of Mercia. His brother Brihtric had been the cause of Wulfnoth's revolt; from another brother, Ægelmær, Godwin, afterwards so celebrated, descended. Eadric was distinguished by craft and eloquence:

1 Lapidibus.-Vita S. Elph., Ang. Sac., ii., p. 140. 'They led him to their hus-ting, and cast upon him bones and the heads of oxen," (A. S. Chron., A., 1012,) as if a banquet were going on at the time.


Angli quo amplius cognatum populum afflictari cernebant eo ferociores instare. Vita S. Elph., Ang. Sac., ii., p. 135.

3 This relationship has been doubted, but the language of Florence of Worcester is express.-Vol. i., p. 160. There is a great resemblance between the character of Eadric, given by Florence, and that ascribed to Godwin and his sons, in the Westminster life of king Edward the Confessor, although the latter is from the favourable point of view. Caution, dissimulation, and treachery, are the main features, which are relieved in Harold and Tostig by courage and generosity.-Lives of Edw. Conf., L., p. 409.



he was treacherous and cruel above any man even in those disorderly times; he never shrunk from assassinating a rival, or betraying the national cause: on one occasion, when the Danes had been intercepted, and lay at Ethelred's mercy, the weak king had been induced by Eadric's counsels to spare them. Yet Ethelred's cause was sufficiently hopeless without a traitor in the camp; Sweyn swept over England in the summer of 1013 A.D., taking hostages from the towns; and only foiled by the desperate resistance of London. It is characteristic of the Danes, that many of them were drowned in the Thames, because they disdained to cross it by bridge or ford. At last even London gave way, and concluded peace; Ethelred followed his family to the Norman court; and England remained in the hands of Sweyn and Thurkill, a Danish captain who had served Ethelred faithfully, but who now, on the king's flight, indemnified himself by plunder for his short loyalty to the cause of order.

Fortunately, next year, 1014 A.D., while Sweyn, in the midst of his ting, was blaspheming St. Edmund, the saint appeared armed, pierced through the ranks of warriors who crowded round their lord, and smote the monarch to the ground, as St. Mercury had slain Julian the Apostate.1 The Danes now elected Canute as their leader, while the Saxon witan recalled Ethelred, on condition that he would follow good counsel, and govern mercifully. But Ethelred could not be false to his nature the expedient of a new Danish massacre appeared to him the most easy way of terminating the war; and although it could not be carried out as fully as before, the more powerful Danish thanes were assassinated. Thurkill, who once more had taken service against his countrymen, now joined them, fearing for his own safety; while the English forces were headed

1 Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 168. The Saxon Chronicle says simply "Sweyn ended his days." It is difficult not to suspect that the beautiful later legend must be rationalized into a sudden death by aneurism or apoplexy, resulting from overwork or a feast. So in the Yngl. Saga, cap. 16, king Vanlandi is trodden to death in sleep by the night-mare, while his gesith in vain press round him to help.-Deutsche Mythologie, p. 1194.

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