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Ethelwald, his cousin-german, son of King Ethelbert, the elder brother of Alfred, insisted on his preferable title ;* and arming nis partisans, took possession of Winburne, where he seemed determined to defend himself to the last extremity, and to await the issue of his pretensions. But when the king approached the town with a great army, Ethelwald, having the prospect of certain destruction, made his escape, and fled first into Normandy, thence into Northumberland, where he hoped that the people, who had been recently subdued by Alfred, and who were impatient of peace, would, on the intelligence of that great prince's death, seize the first pretence or opportunity of rebellion. The event did not disappoint his expectations : the Northumbrians declared for him, and Ethelwald, having thus connected his interests with the Danish tribes, went beyond sea, and collecting a body of these freebooters, he excited the hopes of all those who had been accustomed to subsist by rapine and violence. The East Anglian Danes joined his party; the Five-burgers, who were seated in the heart of Mercia, began to put themselves in motion; and the English found that they were again menaced with those convulsions from which the valor and policy of Alfred had so lately rescued them. The rebels, headed by Ethelwald, made an incursion into the counties of Glocester, Oxford, and Wilts ; and having exercised their ravages in these places, they retired with their booty, before the king, who had assembled an army, was able to approach them. Edward, however, who was determined that his preparations should not be fruitless,.conducted his forces into East Anglia, and retaliated the injuries which the inhabitants had committed, by spreading the like devastation among them. Satiated with revenge, and loaded with booty, he gave orders to retire; but the authority of those ancient kings, which was feeble in peace, was not much better established in the field; and the Kentish men, greedy of more spoil, ventured, contrary to repeated orders, to stay behind him, and to take up their quarters in Bury. This disobedience proved, in the issue, fortunate to Edward. The Danes assaulted the Kentish men, but met with so vigorous a resistance, that, though they gained the field of battle, they bought that advantage by the loss of their bravest leaders
* Chron. Sax. p. 99, 100.
Chron. Sax. p. 100. H. Hunting. lib. v. p. 352.
and, among the rest, by that of Ethelwald, who perished in the action.* The king, freed from the fear of so dangerous a competitor, made peace on advantageous terms with the East Angles.*
In order to restore England to such a state of tranquillity as it was then capable of attaining, nought was wanting but the subjection of the Northumbrians, who, assisted by the scattered Danes in Mercia, continually infested the bowels of the kingdom. Edward, in order to divert the force of these enemies, prepared a fleet to attack them by sea, hoping that when his ships appeared on their coast, they must at least remain at home, and provide for their defence. But the Northumbrians were less anxious to secure their own property, than greedy to commit spoil on their enemy; and, concluding that the chief strength of the English was embarked on board the fleet, they thought the opportunity favorable, and entered Edward's territories with all their forces. The king, who was prepared against this event, attacked them, on their return, at Tetenhall, in the county of Stafford, put them to rout, recovered all the booty, and pursued them with great slaughter into their own country.
All the rest of Edward's reign was a scene of continued and successful action against the Northumbrians, the East Angles, the Five-burgers, and the foreign Danes, who invaded him from Normandy and Brittany. Nor was he less provident in putting his kingdom in a posture of defence, than vigorous in assaulting the enemy. He fortified the towns of Chester, Eddesbury, Warwick, Cherbury, Buckingham, Towtester, Maldon, Huntingdon, and Colchester. He fought two signal battles at Temsford and Maldon. I He vanquished Thurketill
, a great Danish chief, and obliged him to retire with his followers into France, in quest of spoil and adven
He subdued the East Angles, and forced them to swear allegiance to him: he expelled the two rival princes of Northumberland, Reginald and Sidroc, and acquired, for the present, the dominion of that province: several tribes of the Britons were subjected by him; and even the Scots, who, during the reign of Egbert, had, under the conduct of Kenneth, their king, increased their power by the final subjection of the Picts,
* Chron. Sax. p. 101. Brompton, p. 832.
Chron. Sax. p. 108. Flor. Wigorn. p. 601.
pre nevertheless obliged to give him marks of submission.* In all these fortunate achievements, he was assisted by the activity and prudence of his sister Ethelfleda, who was widow of Ethelbert, earl of Mercia, and who, after her husband's death, retained the government of that province. This princess, who had been reduced to extremity in childbed, refused afterwards all commerce with her husband ; not from any weak superstition, as was common in that age, but because she deemed all domestic occupations unworthy of her masculine and ambitious spirit. She died before her brother; and Edward, during the remainder of his reign, took upon himself the immediate government of Mercia, which before had been intrusted to the authority of a governor. The Saxon Chronicle fixes the death of this prince in 925: $ his kingdom devolved to Athelstan, his natural son.
[925.] The stain in this prince's birth was not, in those times, deemed so considerable as to exclude him from the throne
; and Athelstan, being of an age, as well as of a capacity, fitted for government, obtained the preference to Edward's younger children, who, though legitimate, were of too tender years to rule a nation so much exposed both to foreign invasion and to domestic convulsions. Some discontents, however, prevailed on his accession; and Alfred, a nobleman of considerable power, was thence encouraged to enter into a conspiracy against him. This incident is related by historians, with circumstances which the reader, according to the degree of credit he is disposed to give them, may impute either to the invention of monks, who forged them, or to their artifice, who found means of making them real. Alfred, it is said, being seized upon strong suspicions, but without any certain proof, firmly denied the conspiracy imputed to him ; and, in order to justify himself, he offered to swear to his innocence before the pope, whose person, it was supposed, contained such superior sanctity, that no one could presume to give a false oath in his presence, and yet hope to escape the immediate vengeance of Heaven. The king accepted of the condition, and Alfred was conducted to Rome, where, either conscious of his inno
* Chron. Sax. p. 110. Hoveden, p. 421.
+ W. Malms. lib. i. cap. 5. M. West. p. 182. Ingulph. p. 28. Hig. den; p. 261. Chron. Sax. p. 110. Brompton, p. 831.
§ Page 110.
cence, or neglecting the superstition to which he appealed, how ventured to make the oath required of him, before John, who then filled the papal chair ; but no sooner had he pronounced the fatal words, than he fell into convulsions, of which, three days after, he expired. The king, as if the guilt of the conspirator were now fully ascertained, confiscated his estate, and made a present of it to the monastery of Malmesbury,* secure that no doubts would ever thenceforth be entertained concern ing the justice of his proceedings.
The dominion of Athelstan was no sooner established over his English subjects, than he endeavored to give security to the government, by providing against the insurrections of the Danes, which had created so much disturbance to his prede
He marched into Northumberland; and, finding that the inhabitants bore with impatience the English yoke, he thought it prudent to confer on Sithric, a Danish nobleman, the title of king, and to attach him to his interests by giving him his sister Editha in marriage. But this policy proved by accident the source of dangerous consequences. Sithric died in a twelvemonth after; and his two sons by a former marriage; Anlaf and Godfrid, founding pretensions on their father's elevation, assumed the sovereignty, without waiting for Athelstan's consent. They were soon expelled by the power of that monarch ; and the former took shelter in Ireland, as the latter did in Scotland, where he received, during some time, protection from Constantine, who then enjoyed the crown of that kingdom. The Scottish prince, however, continually solicited, and even menaced by Athelstan, at last promised to deliver up his guest; but secretly detesting this treachery, he gave Godfrid warning to make his escape ; and that fugitive, after subsisting by piracy for some years, freed the king, by his death, from any further anxiety. Athelstan, resenting Constantine's behavior, entered Scotland with an army, and, ravaging the country with impunity, he reduced the Scots to such distress, that their king was content to preserve his crown by making submissions to the enemy. The English historians assert,s that Constantine did homage to Athelstar. for his king. dom; and they add, that the latter prince, being urged by his courtiers to push the present favorable opportunity, and entire
* W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 6. Spel. Concil. p. 407.
Chron. Sax. p. 111. Hoveden, p. 422. H. Hunting. lib. F. p. 35%
jy subdue Scotland, replied, that it was more glorious to confer than conquer kingdoms.* But those annals, so uncertain and imperfect in themselves, lose all credit when national prepossessions and animosities have place ; and, on that account, the Scotch historians, who, without having any more knowledge of the matter, strenuously deny the fact, seem more worthy of belief.
Constantine, whether he owed the retaining of his crown to the moderation of Athelstan, who was unwilling to employ all his advantages against him, or to the policy of that prince who esteemed the humiliation of an enemy a greater acquisition than the subjection of a discontented and mutinous people, thought the behavior of the English monarch more an object of resentment than of gratitude. He entered into a confederacy with Anlaf, who had collected a great body of Danish pirates, whom he found hovering in the Irish seas, and with some Welsh princes, who were terrified at the growing power of Athelstan; and all these allies made by concert an irruption with a great army into England. Athelstan, collecting his forces, met the enemy near Brunsbury, in Northumberland, and defeated them in a general engagement. This victory was chiefly ascribed to the valor of Turketul, the English chancellor ; for, in those turbulent ages, no one was so much occupied in civil employments as wholly to lay aside the military character.
There is a circumstance, not unworthy of notice, which historians relate, with regard to the transactions of this war. Anlaf, on the approach of the English army, thought that he could not venture too much to insure a fortunate event, and employing the artifice formerly practised by Alfred against the Danes, he entered the enemy's camp, in the habit of a minstrel. The stratagem was, for the present, attended with like success.
He gave such satisfaction to the soldiers, who flocked about him, that they introduced him to the king's tent; and Anlaf, having played before that prince and his nobles during their repast, was dismissed with a handsome reward. His prudence kept him from refusing the present; but his pride determined him, on his departure, to bury it while he fancied that he was unespied by all the world. But
* W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 6. Anglia Sacra, vol. i. p. 212.
+ The office of chancellor, among the Anglo-Saxons, resemblea more that of a secretary of state than that of our present chancellor, See Spelman in voce Cancellarius.