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THE PREFACE TO BOOK IV
have provided a description of the exploits of the Britons down to the time of Caesar’s arrival in the island, written with whatever credit they deserve. But I have set forth the sequel, searched out with extreme care, as truthfully as possible, being taken out of good authors. And thus in my writing I have arrived at the collapse of the kingdom of the British, which originated in small beginnings, attained to its pinnacle, supported by arms, laws, religion, and counsel, and finally had its downfall, not otherwise than once did the great kingdoms of the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans. Thus, just like men and those things that belong to humankind, it was due to suffer death. And yet the power of nature is such, lest it seem too harsh, that as much as it takes away from mortals in one place, so much it is wont to give them elsewhere, balancing equal things with equals, and often giving more. For Troy had its fall, but afterwards Trojan refugees founded Alba, and out of Alba grew Rome. Thus after the Britons had been conquered, lest the island be lacking in liberty and government, the state of English, nature’s new child, as it were, began to exist therein, and gradually grew with great wealth. But in the beginning English rulers shared out the land, and a little later, not content within their borders, as each one sought to rule more widely, the fell into civil war, that which was assuredly no evil for the English name but rather (strange to relate) its greatest boon, so that you could easily believe these princes, waging so many wars between themselves, were striving for nothing else than to transform their commonwealth from the least to the greatest, as it in the end became. Finally rule was given to one, who made his English kingdom by far the greatest, and bequeathed it to his posterity very well fortified by its wealth. Now I must write chiefly about this thing, which I can best do if first I describe the division of this island between its princes, and its seven petty kings (for thus many existed at one time) contending among themselves, so that those who read of this ancient matter may first of all understand what borders the realms of these petty kings had (although they never consisted of fixed territories or borders), and what the outcomes of their various wars were, as will be fitly shown below, by which they sometimes greatly extended these borders, and sometimes contracted them into the most narrow limits.
HE first kingdom was that of Kent. For Hengist, as I have related above, possessed Kent and appointed himself its king. The kingdom he possessed was bounded on the east and the south by the ocean, on the north by the river Thames, and on the west it bordered on the kingdom of the West Saxons. In sum, it possessed the same area that today is occupied by the dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester. The petty kings Osca and Otha, his sons, followed Hengist, likewise Himeric and Ethelbert, the fifth from Hengist, a man of innocence and noble-minded, and most devoted to warfare. After he had procured peace abroad, being impatient of idleness, he was the first to commence civil war against the petty kings of his nation, and by this he is said to have advanced the border of his country all the way to the river Humber. Nor did Ethelbert appear to do this contrary to the laws of war, since the kingdom, snatched from the Britons, at the time lay open for those who sought to possess it, and whoever managed to acquire a portion thereof was of the opinion that his title was as good as the best. For the attainment of supreme glory, only knowledge of the true religion was lacking to this good prince (and the age bore few of his kind). Therefore by God’s will it came to pass that he had a Frankish wife named Bertha, and she indeed was most Christian. Along with here there came, among others, Bishop Lethard, a holy man, and since both of them daily observed the rites of their religion in the palace, doubtless the gradually began to illuminate the prince’s mind, plunged in deep darkness, with the beams of the heavenly Light, and led him to the knowledge of the Gospel, which in the end he willingly accepted. At that time St. Gregory sent into Briton Augustine and Miletus, monks of most upright life, with others. When they were brought to Kent they received a very kindly welcome from Ethelbert himself, who by the pious urgings of his wife and Lethard was so well instructed that he in no wise shrank from the name of a Christian. By their preaching and exhortation he, first of all, and then the rest of the English (as well be told in appropriate places) wholly accepted the doctrine of our religion. This was the year 602 A. D.
2. Augustine was driven onto an island of Kent called Thanet. This faces eastward, being scarcely nine miles in length and a little less in width, and, since a few years ago since a little arm of the sea which had divided it from the mainland became closed, nowadays it is in large part conjoined to the land. There is another island by the mouth of the Thames, not much larger, which they call Ho. They say that the reason that the English were made Christians, especially by the effort of Pope Gregory, is that some particularly handsome English slaves were put up for sale at Rome. Gregory (at the time only a Roman priest) saw theme and greatly admired the character and beauty they displayed. And this man, full of piety, lamented their lot, that such a excellent race of men was ignorant of the true God. Therefore, after assuming the papacy, nothing was more important to him than that the English be brought into the fellowship of Christians. In this way the Christian religion was finally restored in the island. For after King Lucius had originally received this, it was virtually extinguished and abolished, in part by the Romans, and in part by the English, although it still persisted among the British (that is to say, the Welsh), although it was only observed in private and secretly, out of fear of tyrants. Thus Augustine, meritorious in religion as being a man who regarded all perils and inconveniences as trifles in comparison with men’s salvation, was created an archbishop, and dealt with Gregory that the archiepiscopal see, which from the beginning of Christian worship, in the reign of Lucius, had been at London, might afterwards betranslated to Dorovernia, today’s Canterbury. And his companion Miletus was made a bishop. Augustine forthwith dedicated to Christ a magnificent temple at Dorovernia, which is said to have been formerly erected by the Romans for their gods, making it his metropolitan cathedral. Likewise, after he had laid the foundations for the Christian religion among the Kentishmen, he consulted with Gregory about establishing laws. And he so decreed that, out of the money given for households, one part should be shared with the bishop so he could maintain a house for hospitality, a second for the other priests, a third for the poor, and a fourth for maintaining the fabrics of church in a good condition; that rites should be performed in the best way; that the sinner should be punished so he would confess his fault and, if possible, restore what he had stolen; that in contracting marriages Englishmen would be allowed to marry women with the fourth, or possibly the fifth, degree of consanguinity (for the fifth is more definitely attested); that bishops created by Augustine should be consecrated by three or four bishops; that Augustine himself should have no authority over Frankish bishops; and lastly that a pregnant woman not a Christian should be baptized, and, in the ancient manner, be purged within thirty-three or forty-six days after giving birth, but, if she wished, she might enter into the church before that. Afterwards Gregory wrote a very kindly letter to King Ethelbert, in which he greatly praised his piety for having accepted Christian doctrine, and urged that he remain in that most holy way of life, by which merit he could expect a reward from God. I return to my former purpose.
3. Furthermore, at the behest of this same Augustine Ethelbert erected a church dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles, and endowed with right lavish gifts, and later it was distinguished by the tombs of Augustine himself and the Kentish kings. Afterwards he built a church at London specially for St. Paul (for he had shortly before brought that city within his diocese), and another to St. Anthony at Rochester, endowing both with his donatives. Besides these, he daily did pious works of that kind, while Augustine, who had long ago devoted his thoughts to the increase of religion both at home and abroad, foreseeing that within a short while he would give up the ghost, and fearing lest the sheep which with divine help he had brought into Christ’s fold might be destroyed by wandering in fatal fields for want of a shepherd, chose his companion Laurence, a man distinguished for his learning and morals, as his successor, and commended to him his flock, speaking in this way: “Laurence, I charge you that, disdaining all things, with prayer and preaching you have regard for the salvation of men, as behooves a good bishop.” Not long thereafter most right holy man died, after the fifteenth year he had sat in his see. “To sit,” as is demonstrated at De Rerum Inventoribus ΙV.vi, has not inappropriately come into use for presiding and participating in sacred affairs and administering God’s church, when speaking of a prelate. I point this out so that I do not seem to be speaking barbarously. His body was given to burial in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles, although it was as yet unfinished. But his happy soul returned to heaven, destined to dwell with God the Father and enjoy the reward of his labors. That this was so can be seen from the facts themselves, since by means of Augustine the Apostle to the English (thus Englishmen call him) many miracles are daily performed. But in the following year, the twenty-first since his conversion and the fifty-sixth of his reign, died Ethelbert. This was a man who deserves to be praised by all men (and especially men of the best sort) at all times, both because he received the Christian religion and, as it were, passed it on to his nation, and because he wholly relied on piety, since until his life’s final day he strove only to deserve well of his Christian commonwealth. And therefore after his death he was not undeservedly numbered among the saints. His body was taken to the Church of the Apostles and buried there, and today it is distinguished by many miracles.
4. After Ethelbert died at a ripe old age, Edbald his son was made king while still a boy, the sixth after Hengist. And when he came to the age he could rule in his own right, forgetful of his father’s wholesome precepts, he gave himself over to all the vices, and first of all he married his own stepmother, then he repudiated railed against, and abhorred the Christian religion. Hence it came about that many, partly out of fear of the king, partly inspired by their own folly, altered this best way of life, although Archbishop Laurence incessantly exhorted the people that they cleave to it, and for this the king was sorely angry with him. For a long time this good prelate patiently bore these insults, but in the end, when he observed that the tyrant’s hatred of the Christians was daily increasing, and he was wasting his time in preaching and giving good advice, he elected to depart and follow Bishops Miletus and Justus into France (elsewhere I shall show that they crossed over, having been expelled by the sons of King Sibert of the East Saxons). But as he was setting out on his journey, Saint Peter is said to have appeared to him in a dream and scourged him, because he was forgetful of Augustine’s mandate and chose, for the sake of avoiding punishment, to abandon to his flock to ravening wolves for the slaughter. Terrified by this, he abruptly changed this plan and broke off the effort. And when Edbald learned this, he was disturbed by this holy thing and begged pardon of Laurence, repudiated his shameful marriage, returned to his sanity and was baptized, recalled Miletus and Justus, and sp reformed his life that it was obvious his vicious youth stood him in good stead. But the Londoners, who still worshiped idols, refused to take back Miletus. For this reason he remained in Kent, and when Laurence died soon thereafter he was created Archbishop, the third after Augustine. After working many miracles, when he had sat for four years, he departed this life for heaven. Justus, a genuinely just man, succeeded Miletus. And Ceddas the brother of St. Ceddas succeeded Miletus in the bishopric of Miletus, Winas succeeded Ceddas, and Erchenwald, that most holy father, succeeded Winas. Erchenwald, so he might contribute all his goods and fortune to the religious community, founded two monasteries, one of Benedictine monks at Chertsey, a village in the County of Surrey, the other of nuns at Barking in a village standing on the bank of the Thames to the east, about seven miles from London. I return to my subject. Meanwhile Edbald, who in doing good works was not inferior to his father, died in the twenty-fifth year after he began to reign, he whom ever man rightly can and should praise to the skies. As he came to know the Gospel late, so he more earnestly fostered it, so much so that you cannot easily judge whether the father who accepted Christian doctrine or he who restored it after it had been everywhere repudiated deserved better of our religion. Then reigned his son Ercobert, a man scarce inferior to his father in religion and piety, since he was a conspicuous imitator of his father and grandfather. Forthwith he razed what gods’ temples still remained, so that vain superstition would be abolished wholly. For as long as shrines dedicated to these false deities existed, it was difficult to turn men’s minds and loyalties away from idolater. Thanks to these acts of piety brought it about that he ruled in peace for twenty-five years over a kingdom that he well equipped with laws.
5. At the same time Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury departed this life, having done many deeds for the increase of religion. And a little earlier he had established as Bishop of York Paul, who long ago had come as a companion, sent by Gregory, and assigned him the task of teaching the Gospel among the Northumbrians, which (as will be told elsewhere) he did diligently and well. Indeed, as Bede shows, a little while earlier Pope Boniface gave Justus the authority to consecrate bishops. And afterwards Pope Honorius sent the pallium to Honorius Archbishop of Canterbury, and confirmed and conceded that whenever either the Archbishop of Canterbury or York died and either see for any reason lay vacant, either survivor could consecrate another man in place of the other as surrogate lest this newborn religion among the English should suffer harm, if that responsibility should be sought of the Pope or Frankish archbishops. Honorius succeeded Justus, then came Theodatus and Theodorus, the seventh from Augustine. In the performance of his duties he convened a synod of bishops and other priests, in which very many things were decreed and established which conduced to a good and happy life for men of every condition. Bede summarizes these actions at Historia Ecclesiastica IV.v, so I have no need to describe them. Upon the death of Ercubert, his son Egbert succeeded. Because of the brevity of his reign, it was distinguished by nothing memorable. Some write that by the work of Egbert his uncles Ethelbert and Ethelbrit, right holy men, were put to death, and their bodies lie in the monastery at Ramsey. They go on to say that Egbert repented his crime, but that Lothar his son paid the penalty according to what is written at Exodus 34, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and to the fourth generation. This man, setting a precedent for bad government, immediately became involved in a civil war begun by Ethelbrit’s son Edric, who craved to avenge his father’s murder. In this, all at once the Kentishmen took up arms against him. He was gravely wounded and died as he was in the hands of the physicians. In the reign of Lothar, Archbishop Theodorus convened a second synod of many bishops, in which the state of religion and the clergy were, as it were, established and settled anew, for then the decrees of those four sacrosanct Greek councils were first adopted by the English Church, by which many crippling heresies were rooted out of this Christian land.
6. After Lothar, Edric the son of Ethelbrit, who was overthrown by a civil sedition of his own making, and was deprived of rule and life by his subjects. Learning of this, Cedovalla king of the West Saxons, who was always very hostile towards the Kentishmen, joined with his brother Molo made a sudden foray into Kent, and, encountering no resistance, gathered much plunder. He did not fail to destroy whatever he encountered, he cruelly burned with hatred against all men. The Kentishmen, afflicted by such a catastrophe, were compelled by necessity to abandon their timidity, form an army, and go to meet their enemy. The West Saxons could not withstand their onslaught and took to their heels, a great part of their booty abandoned, and they left Molo behind among his enemies. He, abandoned by his men, took refuge in the next cottage, which his pursuing enemies fired, killing them. The Kentishmen, freed for the moment from the present danger, took no counsel but strove among themselves about the creation of a king. Many men staked their claim on the crown, and after the seventh year, when Withred, the second son of Egbert, had suppressed the hatred among his countrymen and had paid their neighboring enemies to obtain a reconciliation, was created king amidst the great hopes of his subjects, the eleventh in the series of kings after Hengist. At the same time Archbishop Theodore departed this life, in whose place was set Brithwald, the first of English stock (all his predecessors were Italians), the eighth in the series of archbishops. Withred, an upright man and most loving of peace, when he discovered that King Ina of the West Saxons was preparing to make war on him, reconciled Ina by a large payment of money. Peace thus established, he then applied his mind to piety and most sedulously cultivated religion, and he furnished his kingdom with wholesome decrees. And finally, so that nothing would be to lacking to that fortune which men so highly esteem, he fathered three sons not unlike himself, Edbert, Ethelbert and Alric, who succeeded him in terms, enjoying great prosperity. After these kings, those who followed degenerated from the standard set by their forefathers, and idleness and impudence were dear to their hearts, so that I have this one memorable thing to say about them, that thanks to their sloth the Kentishmen fell into the power of the West Saxons. These were Edbert or Edelbert, who rashly entered into an undertaking greater than his strength against the Mercians. He was captured by them and soon released, but was not allowed back by his subjects, such was his standing among them. It is doubtful how his life ended thereafter, and he reigned two years. Cuthred, Badred, and Ethelwulf. This last, the eighteeenth and last king, was captured by Egbert of the West Saxons, and to the victor he yielded possession of that great kingdom. But some write he escaped and henceforth lived a private live. And thus the kingdom of the Kentishmen was added to that of the West Saxons. Kent enjoyed its own rule for about 363 years from Hengist down to the loss of its liberty.
7. The second kingdom was that of the South Saxons, and it took its origin from Edda the Saxon, thirty-two years after the advent of the English in the island. For while the Britons were being wearied by the varying flux of war, he gradually occupied the southern part of the island and gained a kingdom, which he bequeathed to his heirs, and hence they obtained the name of South, since the south wind, blowing from that quarter, blew over their land. But very few petty kings reigned there. For their rule began quickly, but did not long endure, since those petty kings were overcome in civil was and were the first to yield to the West Saxons. Some suspect their borders were the same as Winchester and Chicester dioceses in our day. After Ella, there were only four kings, Sisca, Ethelwalch, Berutius and Aldinius. This last King Ina of the West Saxons deprived of kingdom and life, as will become clearer below.
8. The third kingdom was that of the East Angles, because they occupied that part of the island which looks towards the rising sun, whence they got their name. Today this tract of land embraces Norwich and Ely dioceses, and is divided into three counties (for so they call their districts, as explained in Book I), Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridge. Their first petty king was Uffa, immediately followed by Titul and Redovald. This stout fellow fought a successful battle against King Ethelfred of Northumbria, as will be recounted elsewhere in the life of Ethelfred himself. He restored the kingdom to Edwin, a man whose character was of the best, and, having achieved martial glory, he accepted the Christian religion so he might be dearer to both God and men. But he did not long remain in this goodly discipline. For he was corrupted by the advice of his importunate wife, a bad woman, and repudiated religion, and not long afterwards went to Hell. Carpwald succeeded his impious father, a man well formed in nature, who from the outset, being brought to the baptismal font, began to live a pious life, when he was suddenly murdered by human wiles. Sigibert, his half-brother by his mother, obtained the realm, the fifth from Uffa. He forthwith embraced Christian teaching, and greatly increased it in his kingdom. Likewise, this wisest of princes, saying that nothing ornaments men as well as letters, those being most rare in the island at the time, founded schools throughout his realm at the urging of Bishop Felix, a Burgundian and a right learned man, and particularly at Cambridge, where boys might be educated from their early years. For this reason many erudite men came forth, and henceforth there flourished perpetually at Cambridge an academy of all the goodly disciplines. Wherefore England, which afterwards has always had men distinguished for learning ought to feel gratitude towards Sigibert especially, for he lay the first foundation of learning. This was the year of salvation 629. When Sigibert was now of an advanced age, he continually pondered how difficult it was to rule a kingdom as a good king should, and he decided to retire into private life for the future. Therefore the rule of the kingdom was transferred to his kinsman Egric, and he retired to a monastery. But not much later Penda, that most savage tyrant of the Mercians, heavily oppressed Erig in war, and for the sake of helping his fellow-citizens Sigibert was obliged to leave his monastery. So that he would not be deemed forgetful of religion and his chosen way of life, he went to war holding a rod instead of a scepter and armed only with a sword, and there he perished, along with Egric and nearly all the army. Thus this excellent man, fighting against God’s enemies, lost his life as if by martyrdom.
9. Then succeeded King Annas, seventh from Uffa, whom Penda likewise cut down. He was followed by Ethelher, then Ethelwald, Adulph, Elwold, Beorn, Ethelred, and Ethelbert, the tenth king in the series after Uffa. He was so reared and trained from early youth by his father Ethelred so that he shunned all the vices and exercised his mind only in the goodly arts. His many sayings and deeds go to show that he was such a prince that no man was more dutiful, more welcome, nor kinder or more popular. Very often he used to say that the more powerful men are, the more humbly they should comport themselves, since the Lord takes down the mighty from their seats and lifts up the lowly. He likewise exercised his pursuit of wisdom, not only in his words, but also in the gravity of his manners and the continence of his life. It soon transpired that by these virtues he won the affection and goodwill of all men, and, since he had now bridled his mind, it was his decision not to sully his body by consorting with women, and so he abhorred marriage. But his counselors earnestly exhorted him to have a thought for posterity and take a wife. In the end the matter was referred to his council and he, being only one of many, was swayed from his position, so that Alfreda, daughter of King Offa of the Mercians, was betrothed to him. After this, this most gentle prince, who was loving toward all, desired to enter into greater favor with his father-in-law. So he chose to go himself to fetch the girl, although they say that on the way he was frightened by many portents which foretold an unhappy ending to his life. When he first mounted his horse, the earth seemed to quake beneath his feet. Then, while on the road, he was of a sudden surrounded by a cloud and for a while could see nothing. And finally he seemed to see in a dream his palace roof topple. Even though frightened by these portents, and he was mightily terrified, nevertheless he suspected no deceit, being a man who measured other men’s morals according to his own, and continued on his way. When he arrived, Offa gave the young man a kindly reception, and his wife Quendreda, an intelligent woman but an impious one, was unmoved by affection, but rather she dared urge her husband to commit a great crime so that, Ethelbert being murdered, he might quickly seize the kingdom of the East Angles. At first the king shrank from so great a wrongdoing and harshly railed at his wife, but then, swayed by the woman’s importunity and boldness, he entered into the conspiracy. The work of murder was entrusted to a certain man of ready and bold mind, who was allowed to choose his time and place for doing the deed. Without any confederates, he came in the night, as if sent by Offa to fetch Ethelbert, and strangled him unawares. When the boy was dead, Offa immediately invaded and occupied his kingdom. But the maiden Alfreda, learning of her bridegroom’s death, heaped her parents with all manner of cures, and, moved by a sudden divine inspiration, he predicted that her mother would pay the due penalty for so great a crime, as happened soon thereafter. And she herself dedicated her virginity to God and went to a place called Croland and there she led a most holy life. This place, located in the fenlands between the Isle of Ely and the river Nyne, began to be famous about the year of salvation 694 for the memory of St. Guthlac, a monk who lived there a long time and there was buried. For this reason men inspired by miracles seen at this same place founded a Benedictine monastery by the Nyne, which even today flourishes in its piety. The body of Ethelbert the martyr was afterwards buried at Hereford, where it is glorious for its many miracles.
10. After this the kingdom of the East Angles was held, now by the Mercians, now by the West Saxons, and sometimes by the Kentishmen, until it was in the end possessed by Edmund, a holy man of the race of the East Angles. After he came to the kingship, while he cherished his subjects with peace, employing piety and liberality towards all men, he was oppressed by barbarian deceits and crowned with martyrdom. They say this was the cause of this thing. A certain Dacian named Lothebric, the father of Agner and Hubo (these will be mentioned more elsewhere), who delighted in birding, is said to have taken a small boat in wintertime, and while he ranged the shore bent on catching water birds, a gale suddenly arose and carried him out into deep water for two days. He was driven to and fro, and on the third day he at least arrived at the shore of the East Angles, and because of his ability at birding he was taken into Edmund’s household. Not many days passed before a certain servant, a fowler, was inspired by jealousy because this man was more skilled at birding, and murdered him by treachery. When the king refused to pardon him, because of this felony he fled into Dacia, and, enraged at Edmund for not having forgiven him, he devised the following crime. He told Agner and Hubo (who were very anxious) about their father’s misfortune, saying this was done among the East Angles by Edmund’s bidding. Agner, learning of his father’s death, is said to have become enraged with wrath and fury, and to have snatched up his arms and hastened to the island with a goodly band of soldiers to avenge this wrong. And when he arrived at the East Angles, he sent one of his men to discover where Edmund was staying, telling the man to demand in his name money and other needful things, as if he had already been conquered, and to inform him that he would reign no more unless he hastened to submit to the Dacians. Meanwhile he himself followed the messenger in a hostile manner, filling all with blood and fire. Edmund heard the message and was greatly amazed at the barbarians’ audacity. He was filled with no little fear, and, delaying a little while, pondered what was best to do in such a sudden matter. Finally this most innocent man, mindful of Christ’s saying he that loseth his life shall find it. set aside all his fear and replied to the messenger in this manner: “Tell your leader that Edmund, a Christian king, will never consent to submit to the Dacian people, who abhor Christian piety, unless they first embrace it." He had scarcely said this when Agner suddenly arrived. He entered the palace, having killed many men, and took Edmund. Some write that the king fled and of his own free will encountered the pursuing Dacians. Asked if he knew where the king was, he answered thus: “While I was in the palace, there too was Edmund whom you seek. When I left, so did he. Only God knows whether he will elude your grasp or not.” And when the Dacians, by means of an interpreter, heard God named, they well understood that he was the king. First they beat him nearly to death with clubs, pierced him with arrows, and then beheaded him. Thus this pious king won the palm of martyrdom. But the barbarians, raging against him in death, concealed his head among thick brambles lest the Christians should perform due rites in its honor. But this human piety proved vain in the face of divine piety. For after his body was found, the holy Christians sought for the head and, behold, a voice was heard in that part of the forest. And everybody ran there and found the head intact. There was also a wolf present there, who in a wonderful way was guarding the head, and this rapacious beast did not even drink the blood, which still flowed copiously. And this began to be famous among men as one of the miracles of St. Edmund. But some relate that a bitter battle was joined between Edmund and the Dacians, with much bloodshed on bother sides, before this holy man came into the hands of his enemies This was the year of human salvation 870. Edmund lived thirty-nine years and reigned sixteen. Today his body likes in the Benedictine monastery, built and dedicated to him by a very holy bishop of those parts named Alswin, in a town in the county of Suffolk called Bury.
11. These are the reasons for the martyrdom of Edmund which some authors have recorded, and I would not venture to affirm this is a true account, since it is well agreed that the Dacians did not come at that time for the sake of avenging the death of the father of Agner and Hubo, but that they had been in the island for some time previously. Then, defeated at York by the Northumbrians (as will be set forth in the life of King Alured of the West Saxons), they invaded the East Angles and, having killed Edmund, ruled them for some years thereafter. The truth of this is particularly attested by Saxo Grammaticus, a Dacian historian. For he wrote that that first King Frotho and then King Amleth overcame the Britons, the Scots, and finally the English who themselves had destroyed the Britons. They were frequently defeated by Frotho III, Regner and Ivar, and in the end they were given Agner, a stout man, as their governor, who greatly afflicted this disloyal nation. English writers persist in wrongly calling this man Inguar, just as in Saxo the names of English kings are never given rightly (I suppose this is a copyists’ error). But let us return to our subject. The Dacians, having conquered the East Angles, set one of their captains, named Guthorm, over them and called him a king. This ferocious man lorded it over them cruelly, and attempted to eradicate the English name and race, so that, driven nearly to desperation, they murdered him. He was followed by Eric, a Dacian by name, who right from the beginning of his reign followed in Guthorm’s footsteps, and the English, driven to the height of desperation, murdered this arrogant master. But this was not much to their profit, for they were so harassed afterwards, both by the Dacians desirous of avenging Eric’s murder and by the West Saxons seeking to expand their kingdom, so that (as will be related elsewhere) in the end they were compelled to submit themselves to Edward the Elder, King of the West Saxons. Thus the East Angles finally lost their kingdom and their name, which had endured longer than any of the others.
12. Fourth comes the kingdom of the East Saxons, if we believe Bede, who tells us that the Saxons and the English were different peoples. These established a kingdom for themselves, which took its origin from the petty king Erchenwin. His capital was London, which city (as I showed above) was later taken by Ethelbert King of Kent. It was enclosed by the same borders as the diocese of London in our day. But other writers, with whom I agree, suppose that the kingdom of the East Angles and the Saxons was the same, and that it was sometimes ruled by two petty kings, since they were conjoined. And it is agreed that London was the capital and royal seat of both peoples. After the foundation of the kingdom, Sladda and Sibert succeeded Sibert. Miletus Bishop of London sprinkled this latter with the wholesome water of baptism, and to him the king contributed the monastery which they call Westminster, although I more happily give my assent to some writers who prefer to identify this as the work of King Lucius. Sibert fathered three children, Serred, Sevard and Sigibert, in whom there was nothing of piety, no fear of God, no religion, as they abominated the name of Christianity. For they reached such a pitch of madness that they held the Eucharist in contempt and were willing to receive it, as they say, with unwashed hands. And when Miletus refused to give it to them unless they were first cleansed by holy baptism, they banished him from the realm. Thus being expelled, Miletus hastened to Archbishop Laurence at Canterbury. And here, after the good prelates had consulted together for some time, as if not knowing what to do, how they could come to the aid of religion which was everywhere failing, in the end they chose to defer to the unbridled impiety of these tyrants rather than to endure many inconveniences while accomplishing nothing of advantage to the Christian community. Therefore, according to Bede, Miletus, joined by Justus, crossed over into France as quickly as he could. Meanwhile Serred, joining battle with the West Saxons, was killed together with one of his brothers. Thus it pleased God that these savage tyrants pay the due forfeits for their impiety. Serred was succeeded by Sigibert, nicknamed the Small, Sevard’s brother, who, thinking otherwise about God than did his father, gladly embraced the Christian religion. But since loyalty is never secure, not long thereafter he was secretly murdered at home by his people, because as a young man he had mercifully spared his enemies, heeding Christ’s precept, Do good to them that hate you. Then reigned Suthelin, Siger and Sigehard, of whom I have nothing memorable to write, save that they were baptized. These were soon deprived of life and followed by Offa son of Siger, the ninth king in order after Erchenwin, a young man of wonderful character. Moved by piety, he went to Rome for the sake of gaining absolution, and there he offered up his soul to God. He made Colred his heir. After him came Suthred, eleventh and last of the kings of the East Saxons. I will have more to say of him when I write of King Egbert of the West Saxons, who adjoined this principality of the East Saxons to his realm, as well as the kingdoms of the Kentishmen and Northumbrians.
13. The fifth kingdom was that of the Mercians, i. e. of the Saxons of the Midlands, founded by Crida the Saxon, and this was by far the largest and most wealthy, both because it possessed the more fertile part of the island and because it flourished with a large population. Nothing certain is told us about its length and breadth, but men adjudge to have had the same borders by which the diocese of Lincoln, Coventry and Lichfield, and Worcester are enclosed today. And it is clear from the annals that a part of Hereford diocese lay within the confines of this kingdom, inasmuch as the oldest historical records record that it was later divided into five dioceses, just as there are some who distinguish the Mercians and Midlanders, who dwelt on this side of the Trent, and those more to the west, although they were a single people. Crida, a man mighty in his wealth and repute, gradually gained a principality in that part of the island by fighting industriously against the Britons, which in the end he handed down to his son Vibbas. Vibbas, no whit inferior to his father in virtue, not only preserved but also increased it by defeating the adjoining Britons. Then Caerl obtained the throne, and he was succeeded by Penda son of Vibbas, the fourth from Crida. Some write that he founded the empire of the Mercians, which I know nothing about. This man excelled for his prudence, counsel, reasoning, and likewise for his great courage and martial prowess. But great vices balanced these virtues, an unheard-of savagery of manner and bestial nature, inhuman cruelty, consummate perfidy, and an implacable hatred of Christianity. Relying on these virtues and vices from the day he was crowned king, as if the whole island were his due, he thought he should abstain from no opportunity for making war, and began to work harm on his allies as well as his enemies, so much that partly by force, partly by fraud, he conquered Edwin and Oswald, kings of the Northumbrians, and also Sigibert, Egric and Anna, those most noble kings of the East Angles, and put them to the sword. And yet this served his advantage for only a short while, for his unbridled greed, that had raged so long, at length found its deserved punishment. For King Oswy of the Northumbrians, aided by divine help more than mortal, first put him to rout, and then killed him as he fled together with nearly all his army. Thus dying, Penda left behind seven sons by his wife Chyneswida, Peda, Wilfer, Ethelred, Weda, Merwald, and two others whose names do not survive. Merwald fathered three daughters by his wife Ermenburga, Milburga, Mildreda and Milwida. These excellent virgins, partly by the sanctity of their lives, partly by their adherence to religion, in which they constantly exercised themselves, were later adjudged by the fathers as being worthy to be counted among the saints, as also were Chyneburga and Chyneswida.
14. Penda’s son Peda succeed him, a youth of god character. Oswy had gained the kingdom of the Mercians by right of battle, and yet yielded to him the southern part of Mercia, and bestowed on him his daughter Aluchefreda, on condition that he convert to Christianity, which he hastened to do, especially at the behest of Alfred or Egfred, the son of king Oswy himself, to whom he had espoused his sister Cymburga. So he was the first Christian king of the Mercians. The Mercians imitated his example and were all baptized within two years, although some mistakenly ascribe this to his brother Weda. Meanwhile Peda died, and the unhappy and impoverished nobility of the Mercians, which had now most grudgingly obeyed the victor’s government, and yearned to reclaim their liberty in any they could, revolted from Oswy, and chose as their king Wilfer, another son of Penda and a man of Christian piety. Mercian affairs began to prosper, and Wilfer, above all devoting himself to the welfare of his subjects, first published some wholesome laws, and then he did not cease exhorting all of them to religion until each and every one had been baptized. He waged a single war against Cenovalch, King of the West Saxons, and when he had conquered him he fined him of the Isle of Wight, which belonged to him at that time, and departed this life not long thereafter. By Ermanilda his wife he fathered Chenred and Vereburga. This girl was sent by her mother to the nunnery at Ely, and there she was dedicated to God, preserving her perpetual virginity, and after her life was through she was canonized. But I shall speak below, in a timely place, about the foundation of this college at Ely. When he lost his father Chenred was not yet old enough to govern, so it pleased the nobles that his uncle Ethelred should rule as regent until the time he grew of age. And so Ethelred was made the seventh king after Crida, a moderate man and who could deservedly stand comparison with his predecessors for his probity and piety. He lived as upright a life as he had as a private citizen, harsh to no man, kindly to all, who fought more to defend his kingdom by right of the sword than to enlarge it. He waged two wars, one against the Kentishmen (which he did to exercise himself in the military art, lest he be disdained as a sluggard by his neighbors), and the other against King Egfred of Northumbria, who had rashly invaded the Mercian territory, whom he routed at the first onslaught. Henceforth he turned aside from warfare, bent on being a soldier for Christ. Hence, scorning his royal life, in the thirtieth year of his reign he resigned the kingship to his nephew Chenred and became a monk. Chenred dutifully imitated his uncle’s virtues in all things, and five year later joined King Offa of the East Saxons in going to Rome, where he and his companion both became monks. He departed this life in the year of salvation 712. In his life of Pope Constantine Il Platina mentions them, saying that they came to Rome to fulfil a vow. Then reigned Celred, followed by Ethelbald. The beginning of his life was tranquil, but not its ending. For a long time he rejoiced in peace, vexed by no wars, which was his downfall. For the Mercians, wearied of this long idleness (for he had reigned for forty years), was eager of a change, such being the nature of the common man, and treacherously murdered this excellent king, whom in the opinion of all men was blessed. The guilty party was Berured, who usurped the throne. He did nothing noteworthy, except that he was finally overcome by Offa and paid the proper penalty for his crime, dying a cruel death. Having killed his enemy, Offa was next to obtain the throne.
15. The first flower of his manhood witnessed a contest of the virtues and the vices. For he suffered from an unquenchable thirst to enlarge his wealth and power, and for this reason he would both wage war against neighboring petty kings and contrive schemes against them. On the other hand, he exercised no little amount of virtue, being devoted to martial discipline, and he was so strong-minded in the conduct of his affairs that any great man of his time was still nothing by comparison. But in his maturity he greatly flourished with moral uprightness, probity and innocence. Therefore at the beginning of his reign, stained with Berured’s blood, there was nothing which he did not dare. For he harried the Northumbrians and Kentishmen, doing them great harm, and fought a great battle against King Cinewolph of the West Saxons, in which they long fought on equal terms, but in the end he emerged the victor. Having performed these excellent feats, he was so puffed up in mind that there was no act of cruelty he left undone. For he treacherously arranged the murder of Ethelbert, King of the East Angles, a most innocent man whom had chosen as his son-in-law, and seized his kingdom, as I have told in greater detail in my life of Ethelbert. Impelled by this great arrogance, he removed the archiepiscopal see from Canterbury to Lichfield, so that he could boast his kingdom surpassed the others in ecclesiastical as well as royal majesty. For he envied the Kentishmen this primacy. But Cenulph his successor afterwards restored this honor, wrongly stolen from the Kentishmen. He devised many other things to satisfy his avarice, and so at his whim he would plunder the goods of the clergy no less than of his other subjects. But he did not wallow long in vice. For first he had the thought that he must fear other men, and so entered into friendship with his neighbors and made them his allies. For he bestowed his daughter Egburga, being of marriageable age, to King Britric of the West Saxons. Sending ambassadors, he greatly strove to win the friendship and goodwill of Charlemagne, King of the Franks. There is a tradition that one of these ambassadors was Albin or Alchuin, at whose urging Charlemagne founded two academies, as will be told in the life of Alured. But let me return to my subject. Next, for fear of the punishment which he was bound to suffer for his sins, he decided God must be placated, and tithed his goods for the clergy and other poor men. He heaped lavish gifts on the cathedral which was then at Hereford. With great diligence he sought out the remains of St. Alban and placed them in a gold chest, decorated with gems, in the monastery which he himself had founded for St. Alban, and endowed this with great possessions, and installed a company of Benedictines. They say that the monastery of this same order at Bath was also the work of this king. But it seemed to Offa, who truly repented his sins, that he had not been generous enough in satisfying God, so he crossed the sea and went to Rome to gain absolution. And he made his kingdom tributary to Pope Hadrian I, imposing an annual tax of one silver penny per household. This was done in the year 774. I shall speak more of this tribute in the life of King Ina of the West Saxons, who at about the same time or a little earlier bestowed a gift of this kind on the Pope. Offa left the city for home, and, with old age coming on him, after showing himself in the end a good enough prince in all things, he handed over the kingdom to his son Egfred, and soon thereafter gave up the ghost.
16. From the outset of his reign Egfred, by nature a properly raised young man, began to imitate his father’s good works and to arouse great expectations. But this race, perhaps hateful to God, could not be perpetuated, the very thing I have shown above that the virgin Alfreda, daughter of Offa, had predicted. And so, having scarcely completed the fourth month of his reign, the young man died an early death. He made Cenulph his heir, of the stock of Penda. This man could bear comparison with any excellent prince for his greatness of mind, counsel, and the integrity of his life. He fought once against the Kentishmen, and took alive their king Edelbert or Edbert, but then was moved by compassion to free him. He always held his nobles in greatest honor, and gladly presented every initiative for their approval. Likewise he was particularly meritorious as regarding our religion. For he built an excellent church, together with a monastery, at the town we call Winchelcombe, invested it with monks of the Benedictine Order, and enriched it with many donatives. He reigned for twenty-four years. An excellent son named Chenelm followed this good father, a boy of the most chaste morals. After a few years, since he was full of piety and intent only on divine matters, by the working of his sister Quendreda, a most wicked woman, he was strangled in early boyhood by his tutor. Lest this crime ever be revealed, or his murderers held in blame, the body was buried in an out-of-the-way place. But according to that saying For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest, he could not be so concealed that he would not be found. For when the boy was nowhere to be seen, a suspicion of murder, and of the murderer’s identity, readily arose. Yet, because many men find miracles to their liking, they say that not much later a piece of paper written with gold letters appeared on the high altar of St. Peter’s at Rome, written anonymously, on which was described the martyrdom of the most innocent Chenelm. It told where his body lay, and in this manner, thanks to divine intervention, men learned of the murder of this most holy boy. Afterwards his body was discovered, and buried with great honor and pomp in the monastery at Winchelcombe, where today this most holy martyr is very piously worshipped, since many miracles have been performed there. But Quendreda, having branded her family and her nation with such an evil, did not attain to power, as she had hoped, but soon thereafter was most wretchedly stricken with blindness by God’s judgment, and, afflicted by many torments, dragged on her life to its end. After St. Chenelm, the kingdom of the Mercians was very shaken and weakened, and visibly began to totter towards its collapse.
17. Then followed Kings Cevolph, Bernulph, Ludicenus and Uthlac, men inglorious both for the integrity of their life and the deeds they performed. And Uthlac was conquered and sent under the yoke by King Egbert of the West Saxons. These were succeeded by Bertulph, who governed properly for several years at home, albeit from the outset he never fought a successful battle against King Edward, and finally he was defeated in battle and robbed of his kingdom by the Dacians, who at that time, under the leadership of King Regner, had sailed to the island, both greedy for loot and zealous to find a home therein, who ceaselessly harried the islanders. He left for France and led a private man’s life. But the Dacians, being far from their home and nation, eked out a daily living by plundering, and for this reason befouled everything with murder and blood, having no great fear of any weapons, no force, no deceits after they had begun to master the Mercians. For, being very bent on enlarging their empire, they strove to overmaster all the islanders by force or fraud, and to keep them in their loyalty once they had been mastered. Burthred, a mighty man and not a one to shirk exertion, being the rightful heir to the Mercian throne, made a quick incursion into Mercia with a great number of fighting men, killing his enemies everywhere, and because of the sudden panic he inspired, scattered and put them to rout, and proclaimed himself king. This was all the more welcome to the Mercian people because they had cast of the barbarian yoke and received a king of their own kind. Berthed reigned twenty years, and likewise bravely fought many a battle against the Dacians. But in the end he received a great reversal. Having been driven from his nation, he went to Rome to fulfil a vow, and, living there as a private man, he died not much later. Having gained Mercia and shared it out between themselves, the Dacians were very uncertain whom they should appoint as its ruler. They held the natives in suspicion and distrust, nor did they think it useful to appoint a man of their own race. But in the end, when they despaired of being able both to hold Mercia and be able to support the burden of the wars which in this hostile land constantly hung over their heads one after another, they created as king a certain Cevolph, a servant of Burthred, having first extracted an oath that he would abdicate whenever they commanded. Cevolph was the twenty-second king after Crida and the last of their kings, being a prince under whose rule the kingdom could not help but fall, so that this sorry ending of the kingdom was fitting for a king of basest stock, undistinguished by any virtues. And so King Alured of the West Saxons overcame him with no difficulty and gained power over the kingdom of the Mercians. This was the year of salvation 819.
18. The sixth kingdom was that of the Northumbrians or Bernicians, which was also divided into the kingdom of Deira. It took its beginning from Idas, the first possessor of that province after the coming of the English. This was eighty-eight years after the English had first arrived in the island, and the year of human salvation 507. Some would have it that in the beginning dukes first possessed Northumbria, who are said to have expanded its borders, but finally earls possessed it. We can conjecture that its width equaled the area of the dioceses of York, Carlisle and Durham. It is called Northumbria because it tends towards the north. And it was shady because of the height of its plentiful mountains. It is divided into to parts, into Berenicia, which lies towards Scotland, and Deira. They say that Allas or Ellas was the first to occupy it, and that he reigned there about thirty years. Idas, a keen, warlike man, so that he would deservedly bear the title of a king and his realm would be worthy of a king, so dealt in war that he soon advanced the boundaries of his rule from the Humber all the way to the Firth of Forth, having bested King Loth of the Picts and King Conran of the Scots in battle. Thus during the twelve years of his reign so much honor was garnered by this kingdom that it easily became a source both of wonder and fear to its neighbors. After Ida reigned his son Addas, Clappas, Theodulph, Freodulph, Theodoric, and Ethelricus, for a space of thirty-two years. And Ethelric his soon followed Ethelfred. They say that at the beginning of his reign King Ethelbert of Kent dealt with Ethelfred so that he warred against the Britons, who had retired into that part of Britain we call Wales, and particularly against the monks of Bangor, who are said to have been more than two thousand in number. For these, although they had received the Christian doctrine in the reign of King Lucius, were nevertheless so mindful of the insults their people had received that they were so far from willing to instruct the English in Christian discipline that they even refused their help to Augustine when he preached the Gospel. Indeed, since these monks regarded that nation as their enemy, doubtless they thought they “should not give holy things to the dogs,” as the proverb has it. And yet I would believe that Ethelfred warred against the Britons partly out of desire to expand his kingdom, and partly provoked by this long-standing hatred. At the time the Britons possessed the City of Legions, which the king sought to attack and strove to encircle in a siege. But the townsmen, preferring to suffer anything rather than a siege, trusted intheir own strength and suddenly burst upon their enemy. Ethelfred entrapped them by a trick and easily put them to rout. He raged especially against the monks of Bangor, who had collected there to beseech God for the safety of their people. He also routed the Scots, who, desirous to damage his prosperity in this war, had come to aid the Britons. After these things were happily accomplished, since now he lacked enemies abroad, so that he might free himself of every trouble at home as well, he began to debate with himself in what way he might cheat King Edwin of Deira , the son of Allas, of his kingdom and deprive him of his life. For he perceived that this young man, endowed with singular virtue, was daily growing less afraid and more a source of fear, since he could ride a horse, throw the spear, and compete with young men of his age with both skill and fortitude, and he did not allow himself to be corrupted by any vices or luxury, so that he could make himself worthy of his kingdom. This virtuous character frightened the king, who knew full well that every doughty young man was by nature eager to obtain rule. But when he finally adjudged he would never be safe unless by wiles he had overcome such a youth, who was most dear to all men, he banished him by a false accusation, thinking that if he were compelled by need, he would more readily fall to the commission of crimes. But the result was otherwise than he anticipated. Edwin took refuge with King Redovald of the East Anglians, by whom he was received kindly and highly esteemed. For the king perceived the young man’s virtue and could not help embracing him with fatherly love, and chose for his part so to protect him by his counsel, authority and arms, that no injury of his enemies could touch him.
19. When these things were reported to Ethelfred, he decided to destroy Edwin by any possible means, or be destroyed himself. Therefore on the first day possible he sent ambassadors to Redovald asking for Edwin to be sent home or, should he refuse this, to declare war on him. Redovald heard the ambassadors and refused to agree to violate hospitality or hand this most fine young man over to his worst themy. The ambassadors heard this response, issued their declaration of war, and went home. Then not many days intervened when, both kings were so angry that they came to blows. After a long combat Ethelfred was killed with a large number of his men. Meanwhile his sons Oswald, Oswy, Enfred, Oscric and Offa heard of their father’s death and fled to Scotland. They met a friendly reception from King Eugene IV, and he ensured that they were baptized. With his time, wealth and help he assisted them all, and particularly King Oswald against his enemies. The maiden Ebba followed her brothers into Scotland, and landed at the mouth of the Forth, which takes its name from a nearby promontory and is called Ebba today. As soon as he took possession of his kingdom Edward advanced its borders far and wide. He conquered the islands lying about which Beda (as I said in Book I of this work) calls the Menaviae, but others the Hebrides, and likewise compelled the Scots and Picts to remain in their in their obedience. He conquered Cadovallo, King of the Britons, a man savage by nature and mighty in his powers and courage. Having performed these famous exploits abroad, at home he was no less energetic in setting things aright. He ensured that in his kingdom justice was the mistress of all things, in such a way that nothing seemed lacking for this vigorous and wise man’s glory except for knowledge of the Christian religion. His first occasion for embracing this was an oracle by which, as he was fleeing the fury of Ethelfred (as will be shown below), he was advised to be of good hope, his second was the treaty and kinship he entered into with King Edbald of Kent, and lastly the wholesome urgings of Bishop Pauline of York. For Paulinus, a man distinguished for his holiness, was sent by Justus Archbishop of Canterbury about the year of salvation 624, who, together with Ethelberga the sister of Edbald, was sent Edmund, a man still ignorant of religion, so he might preach the Gospel to the Northumbrians, that by this means the king and people would be less opposed to Christianity, as indeed happened. Edwin cheerfully agreed that is wife might live with him as a professing Christian, and he went to far as to promise that he would enter into the company of Christians, if Christian doctrine were to be examined by his subjects and found to be holier than the rest. Meanwhile King Ceoloulph of the West Saxons, the fifth of his line, was envious of Edwin’s present happiness. He sent a chosen man, ready of hand, to the king to murder him. When the murderer came to the king, he drew his dagger and attacked him. Suspecting treachery, the king sprang backwards so quickly that a servant interposed himself between him and his attacker, and he was immediately stabbed. And the blow was so vigorous that it passed through the servant’s body and also inflicted a wound on Edwin, albeit a light one, and the murderer was torn asunder on the spot. On the very same day Ethelberga gave birth to a daughter named Ethanfreda, and Edwin gave thanks to his gods for both these gifts. But Paulinus advised him to thank Christ, and not his assortment of gods, for such benefits. The king gladly heard the priest giving good advice, and again promised to embrace religion immediately, if, with Christ’s good help, to his heart’s delight he might be able to avenge the injuries he had suffered at the hands of the West Saxon king. And as a guarantee of his pledge, he gave Paulinus his newly-received daughter to Paulinus for consecration, and she became the first of all the Northumbrians to receive baptism. But Paulinus again warned the king not to pray to Christ for vengeance, for by His example He taught men to spare their enemies, and to love them too. Afterwards Edmund, healed of his wound, prepared an army, marched against his enemy Ceolouph, conquered him, and consigned this conquered man to a cruel death. This matter having been concluded happily, Paulinus, who most earnestly strove to convert the king to Christian piety, took advantage of this opportunity and was at hand, telling Edwin that God had heard his prayers. He begged that he not be neglectful of religion or make excuses for delay, but immediately become a Christian. The king, who did nothing inadvisably and replied he was uninstructed in his business, summoned men to debate the Christian religion with Paulinus, so that he might someday gain a good understanding if it were superior to his idolatry or not.
20. While these enterprises of Paulinus were afoot, behold, the king received a letter from Pope Honorius, which employed many arguments by which he might be inspired to accept Christian piety. But king’s mind cleaved to the sect to which he had belonged since boyhood, and he had no inclination towards this new religion. And I should say this was done by divine intervention. For perhaps God wished this king, held to be the wisest of his age, to weigh this religion aright by hesitation, just as the Apostle Thomas had once done when the Gospel was a-growing, before he accepted this. This was done so that afterwards no man would suspect it was not true, and men would all the more eagerly turn their minds to it. While the learned men whiled away the time in their disputations, Edwin remembered the oracle, which at length induced his mind to believe. The oracle was as follows. While he was living with Redovaldas an exile from his homeland, and was sought by Ethelfred’s ambassadors for the killing, he began to be much troubled about his safety: he feared that if he remained he might become prey for his enemy, but if he secretly stole off to another land, that he might be accused of treachery for having had so little trust in such a kind host. Thus he was distraught when, behold, in the deep of night a man unknown of face or appearance encountered him and asked what gift he would give if he should tell him something which would free his mind of all sadness. To this complete stranger, whose words he mistrusted, he replied that he would freely give him whatever it was in his power to bestow. Then the other predicted, first, that he would elude his enemies’ snares, and then that he would reclaim his ancestral kingdom and, having overcome his enemies, he would enlarge it far and wide. The he placed his hand on the top of Edwin’s head and said, “Edwin, when you have gained power, as often as a man comes to you and places his hand on your head in this manner, you must be mindful of keeping your faith.” Having spoken thus, the divine prophet suddenly vanished from his sight, so that he was understood not to have been a mortal man (for human mind is ignorant of future fortune), but a messenger of God making such prophesies. The young man was wonderfully overjoyed by this oracle, and, though he pondered it long in his mind, he dared not speak of it to any man. And so, when Edwin protracted the business and was unswayed by any admonition, Paulinus, who had made no progress with his lengthy appeals, was moved by divine inspiration (as it is reasonable to believe) to go to the king at York. He approached him and placed his most holy hand on his head, and asked him to remember what this signified. They Edwin, frightened by the oracle’s wonderful sequel, unhesitatingly fell at the bishop’s feet and, looking up at him, is said to have spoken as follows. “This very day, almighty God, I finally acknowledge the works of Your Christ. Wherefore I beg piety for my lengthy impiety, by which I have until now been driven astray and have given You no thanks for Your benefits.” Then, turning to Paulinus, he said, “And I ask you, excellent prelate, that you grant me a brief space so I may deliberate again with my men about religion, and then you may add me to the number of Christian men as soon as you want.” And since in the city of York, filled with idols, there was no fit place in which divine services and ceremonies could conveniently be celebrated, the king was obliged to build a wooden church, which he chose to dedicate to Paul the Apostle. And so finally in his church, after a long debate about the Christian religion, Edwin together with many of his subjects was baptized by Paul in the eleventh year of his realm, the 130th after the coming of the English, which was the year of salvation 626. And when he was removed from the font, he lay the foundations and began to build a church out of squared stones. But, since he died an early death, he left this unfinished work for his successor Oswald to complete. Paulinus established his see in this church. Today it is an excellent one, able to withstand comparison with any other for its magnificence.
21. When Edwin had dedicated this city to God, by his example and at the behest of Paulinus, King Carpewald of the East Anglians was immediately inspired to join the Christian commonwealth together with all his people. Hearing of this, Pope Honorius was highly delighted and forthwith bestowed on Paulinus the pallium, the insignia of an archbishop, and wrote letters both to him and to Edwin full of grace and kindness, in which he particularly praised the uprightness, zeal, and piety of this bishop, who had done well by religion. He likewise praised the king to the skies with wonderful praises for having embraced the teaching of the Gospel and for setting an example for others. With paternal piety he urged him to defend this vigorously and faithfully, with patience and, if needs be, with his death, since it was destined that he would gain a worthy reward from God for his deeds. Because of these things the kingdom of the Northumbrians flourished greatly, and by the efforts of its king peace was enjoyed on all sides, but then it was suddenly thrown into a hurly-burly by the revolt of Cadwallo. Thus experience shows that there nothing achieved by human efforts that cannot be destroyed by the same. For King Penda of the Mercians, a most cruel tyrant, greatly distraught that Edmund’s affairs were speeding well, egged on Cadwallo, who begrudged enduring Northumbrian rule, to a revolt, and the two joined forces and hurled themselves against the Northumbrians. The king, hearing of the coming of these enemies, went out of his city with a small band of horseman, went to confront them to discover their plans before coming to blows them. But since they were not far off and far fewer in number than they had seemed, not hesitating because of the paucity of his own men, he attacked them. Both sided fought vigorously, nor were his men deterred from the fight because at their first collision they perceived the enemy forces to have been increased. Rather each man, inspired by his leader’s example, fought with might and main and stoutly attacked the oncoming multitude. And now they saw sure victory was at hand when Edmund, fighting valorously, was stricken and killed. His death forestalled a right noble victory, and this battle was very grievous and also ruinous to the fortunes of Northumbria. Disheartened by their leader’s death, the soldiers were routed and cut down. And the king’s son Offredus died in the same battle, at the very same moment. In order to save his life, his second son Edfred surrendered to Penda, who afterwards violated his oath and had him strangled. His wife Ethelberga, together with Paulinus and his two daughters Enfreda and Etheloreda, fled to her brother king Edbald of Kent. And thus at one stroke the wealth of the Northumbrians was brought to naught. This was the year of human salvation 632. Edmund lived sixty-eight years.
22. Going to Canterbury, Paulinus received a kindly welcome from Archbishop Honorius and, a little before his death, was appointed Bishop of Rochester in place of Bishop Romanus, and lived the chastest of lives. Hence we can see that once bishops possessed no wealth, that being of no great use to the priestly order, or because they did not care for this thing, since Paulinus was impoverished when he obtained Rochester, having lost the archbishopric of York. Then, because of persecution by tyrants, for some years the diocese of York was administered by bishops at Lindesfarne, and finally Ceddas, that holy prelate, received this position. He was followed by Wilfred who, having suffered many calamities, was twice within the forty-five years of his tenure banished from his archbishopric by the insolence of kings. Both he and Ceddas deserved well of religion and were entered in the number of the saints after their deaths. The church in the village called Ripon is the work of this Wilfred, where he established a priestly college, and there he lies buried. Bosas succeeded him, and John succeeded Bosas, the fifth from Paulinus.
23. After Edwin’s death in battle, historians agree the kingdom of the Northumbrians was divided between Osric and Enfred, so that the one received Bernicia and the other Deira. Although these men were Christians, they were led by their vices (and they were stained by many) to reduce religion itself. But God did not tolerate this sin for long, for scarce a year had passed when King Cadwallo of the Britons put both to the sword. For this reason some writers, both because of the base life and because of the brevity of their reign, do not enumerate them among the Northumbrian kings. Then Ethelfred’s third son Oswald was made king of Northumbria, the tenth from Idas. After his father’s death he had long lived as an exile in Scotland, where he was converted to Christianity and spent the flower of his youth in the company of good men, studying the goodly arts, and he particularly devoted his effort to learning the martial arts, and this he cultivated along with his religion in such a way that he never made war on any man unless provoked. For this reason king Cadwallo of the Britons held him in contempt. For he had lately killed two kings, boldly and cruelly laying waste to everything, and since no man had opposed him as he raged, therefore he grew arrogant and scorned and ignored all Englishmen, slandering them as unwarlike, slothful and idle, to the degree that he openly proclaimed he was born for their destruction. And his fierce mind, filled with such insolence, feared no danger. And so the haughty Briton made war on Oswald, having no conception how mighty his enemy was in arms. The Englishman did not hesitate to lead his army out onto a plains where once the soldiers of Aetius had built the Wall to ward off Pictish incursions, and although his enemy invited him to fight on that selfsame day, yet he held himself in camp and meanwhile gave orders for the cross to be carried throughout the camp and for his soldiers to adore it and pray for divine aid for their success. Having done this, the cross was set up as if as a trophy of coming victory, and afterwards that place was named the Heavenly Field. When the following day dawned and Mass had been said, he led his men out against the enemy, who was demanding a fight, and, giving the signal, impetuously joined battle. A great battle was fought by both sides, in which they fought on even terms until the Britons fell back a little. Perceiving this, Oswald renewed the fight and first made his fierce enemies take to their heels, and then pursued them in their flight until he had slain nearly all of their forces. Such an ending had Cadwallo, the cruelest enemy of the English. He was very fearsome in nature and in appearance, and for this reason they say that afterwards the Britons erected a statue of him, so that their enemies would see it and tremble. Cadwallader succeeded his father, who when destiny was bringing the Britons to their downfall, abandoned his kingdom, as said above, and went to Rome, where he died. When this war had been brought to a happy conclusion, Oswald, a king of great piety, after giving thanks to God for his victory and the other benefits he had received, thought nothing more important than the increase of religion, and most earnestly strove to accomplish this in his kingdom. Therefore by means of ambassadors he begged Aidan, a bishop well-endowed in all parts, who given him goodly instruction during his exile in Scotland, to come to him, and when Aidan came to Northumbria a little later he gave him a loving, kindly reception. And when the good bishop first came there, he decided nothing was more important to lay the everlasting foundations of religion among the Northumbians, and so he asked the king for a place fit to build an episcopal seat. And, although men differed over what place was suitable for such a divine work, he thought the island of Lindisfarne to be most suitable for this seat, because it was far from all throngs of men, in which, as in a solitary place, he might be freer to concentrate on holy things. So here he established his seat, duly establishing and providing everything pertaining to the episcopal dignity. This was the year of human salvation 640.
24. This place is near the border of England and Scotland to the east, on the right-hand shore of hte island, which is so surrounded by water at high tide that for a space of twelve hours it is virtually an island, and likewise when the tide ebbs for an equal time, it stays dry and joined to the mainland. It is about three miles in circumference. Today the English call this place the Holy Island, because there lie buried the bodies of Aidan, Cuthbert, and other saints. Even now the place preserves its nature, so that they are wrong who imagine that Lindesfarne is the same island as that nowadays called Farne, which is about seven miles distant, and I will speak of it below. So the episcopal seat was placed in htis island, and that holy man Aidan ceaselessly instructed the people in the Gospel. Oftentimes in the course of his preaching a thing happened worth the seeing. For Aidan, who was not yet adept at the English language, would teach the Christian doctrine in his own tongue and the king, who was well versed in that of the Scots, would receive the words from the mouth of that most holy man and translate them for the people. Hence it would happen that the bishop and the king together would preach the Gospel, and the people, induced by both this royal and priestly majesty, would more carefully heed and imbibe this. In this manner religion daily increased among the Northumbrians and churches were built everywhere, and particularly in the Heavenly Field a magnificent church was founded. For here, as soon as the pious king had set up his cross, the place became very famous for its many miracles, since in all the territory of the Berenicians no church had been built, no holy monument existed before the cross erected by Oswald. No less did the Northumbrians increase in their power. By the great piety of his mind alone, with which he embraced all men in equal friendship, with next to no slaughter and bloodshed, he received the Picts, Scots and English, nations of differing language, partly into friendship and partly into subjection. Thus God increased this goodly prince in wealth, thus He led him along the straight path to his heavenly rewards. But never did the greatness of this wisest of men’s power or wealth turn his mind away from kindness. In this man there was wonderful sanctity, wonderful zeal for piety, and never did he requite any man with evil for evil. Rather, he imitated the supreme example of Christ our King and had good prayers and good wishes for those who did him ill. What that he, who was not forgetful of that divine saying, By their fruits ye shall know them, desired to deserve well of all men, and so went about to the bedchambers of the ailing, relieving the afflicted with his words and gifts, freed debtors of their bonds by paying their creditors, protecting orphans and widows from the wiles of cheating men with fatherly charity, and punishing the cheaters? Among these works of piety one is especially worthy of mention. On the very day on which Christ was resurrected from death, while he was having his dinner and when Aidan happened to be in his presence, he happened to learn from his servants that a number of the poor were at his door asking for food. Then this pious prince, moved by charity, took a silver plate fill of food which chanced ot be at hand, and gave it to be poor to be divided. Moved by this fine act of charity Aidan turned to the king and, taking him by the hand, said, “This hand will never decay.” And it is reasonable to believe that this man, beIng holy, said this by way of a divinely inspired prophecy. For after the rest of Oswald’s body had been corrupted, always remained whole and was long preserved in a reliquary in St. Paul’s church in the royal city. Where this royal city is will be described below. Afterwards, when the citizens of Deira and Bernicia had been reconciled into each other’s good graces (for previously there were controversies between them), he decided to wage war against the enemies of the Christian religion, of which he had so far well deserved. King Penda of the Mercians had invaded, a man in those days most savage against Christian men, and he had robbed churches of their donatives and was striving, as he claimed, to obliterate the Christian name. And so Oswald took up arms against this raging tyrant, and when the war was begun he became enmeshed in the enemies’ deceits and died, fighting amidst those impious men. Panic-stricken by their king’s death, the Northumbrian army immediately turned tale. Oswald reigned nine years, and lived for thirty-eight. Because this man lived a spotless life, because he always worshiped God most piously, and because he died for religion, men later canonized him, not undeservedly, and even now his memory is preserved among men for his miracles. His royal city was once Debba or Bebba (I find both written), named after a certain queen, as Bede tells us. In later days, since the kings of Northumbria had their home in it, men called it royal. It was set on the right shore of the island, facing east, and set against the island of Ferne at a distance of about two miles. Today no traces of the city remain, in that place there is only a castle, and whether this was built then or later is wholly uncertain. Now the English call it Bamburg. But the island of Farna or Farnis is always girt with water, and its circumference is scarce a mile. And so, since Lindisfarne is twice daily approachable on foot at ebb tide, as shown above, it is a completely different island than Farne, although the similarity of names seems to show they are the same. Even nowadays this leads many men into error, so that they imagine Farne as the same island that was once called Linesfarne. In the beginning the name of both islands was Farne, although later this took its name from the river Lind, which flows to that place through a subterranean passage, and discharges into the ocean so that it is invisible save when the sea recedes, and that old name has endured. There is a third island in that tract of the sea, about a mile from Farne, which they call Colchett.
25. After suffering this catastrophe the kingdom of Northumbria was once more divided, and Oswald’s brother Oswy obtained Berenicia, the eleventh from Idas, while Deira came to Oswin the son of that Oscric whom I have already said to have been killed by Cadowallo. At the beginning of their reigns these two, by a wonderful harmony of mind, shared their counsel, began to join arms against their enemies, but soon they were driven by lust for power to a domestic war. And so armies were gathered by both sides, and they both elected to fight. But when this madness of hatred, which is often wont to blind men’s minds, cooled a little, and either one began to think more careful of the weight of peril confronting him, they were happy to postpone the day of the combat. Oswin, greatly unequal in resources, thinking it safer for the moment to retire than to fight, fled from his army in the night, in the company of a single servant, and fled to a man he imagined to be a friend. This traitor handed over the excellent young man to Oswy for the killing. In this manner Oswy obtained the entire kingdom. Then, thinking he should attempt more, decided first to assault King Penda of the Mercians at the earliest possible moment, he who (as I have mentioned above) had killed Edwin and his brother Oswald, if he could not first appease with gifts this savage enemy whom all mortals thought fearful. After trying this in vain, at length he thought he should resort to arms. And, although this war was full of peril, yet he relied on divine aid and, having a far smaller army than such a great business required, he was not content just to assault his enemy, but routed him at the first onslaught. Then a great slaughter of the fugitives was committed by his horsemen, and among these Penda fell. Oswy forthwith accept the Mercians’ submission, and thus he defended his own prestige and avenged the death of his kinsmen. Moreover, this victory restored the Northumbrian state and did much to help the Christian religion, which had suffered such a great loss by the death of Oswald that it came close to being obliterated by its savage enemy Penda. Next Oswy, content with his present success, set aside his arms and devoted himself to removing the infamy he had gained a little while earlier by murdering Oswin, and to atoning for his guilt. He began to worship God most piously, tearfully praying for absolution for his sins, bestowing gifts on the needy, and studiously striving to deserve well of all men. By which acts of piety it soon came about, as one may believe, that he became most dear to God and men. For, in addition to his other works of piety, it was by his doing that the Mercians, abandoning the savagery of their minds, came into the Christian commonwealth. Indeed, after the death of Penda, as soon as he had gained power over the kingdom of Mercia, he took great pains that its people should be instructed in Christian morals. He bestowed his daughter Aulchefreda on Peda the son of Penda, an excellent young man, and for her dowry he granted the south part of Mercia, as shown above, according to the condition that he embrace religion, which he quickly did, especially because this young king urged him. Likewise did the Mercians, follo0wing his example. Oswy ruled the Mercians for only three years. For they, zealous for their liberty, rebelled of a sudden. Likewise this best of kings founded the religious house at Whitby, and installed a college of nuns over whom he placed Congilda, a most holy woman, giving into her care his daughter Edelfreda, who became a nun. But after a long while this convent was destroyed by barbarians, and then restored and possessed by Benedictine monks. From this place there afterward issued the excellent monks who subsequently established a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin hard by the walls of York, although some write that this was the work of Alan Earl of Richmond, but I scarcely now how truly. And now let us return to our subject.
26. After this, while this goodly prince was devoting himself only to things which advanced Christianity, he fell into an illness which quickly consumed him, in the year of salvation 699, having lived for fifty-seven years. He fathered two sons by Enfreda the daughter of Deovin, Egred and Alwin, and three daughters, Ositha, Aluchefreda and Ethelfreda. He named his son Egfred as heir both of his kingdom and his virtue. Receiving the kingdom, he showed himself to be a good man in all things, and useful for his commonwealth. He particularly dealt so that Cuthbert, a man famed for sanctity of his life and for learning, was created Bishop of Lindesfarne. Afterward he married Etheldreda, daughter of King Annas of the East Angles, an excellent and beautiful girl. This one woman gave an example of chastity memorable for all the ages. For she was married twice and yet kept her body free of all masculine embraces. With her previous husband, who died immediately after their marriage, this was easy. But she lived twelve years with Egfred, a young man in the blossom of his youth, but never had intercourse with him. This is admirable that you scarcely know whether the woman’s steadfastness or the patience of her ardently loving husband is more praiseworthy, but both were accompanied by glory. For what man is there who knows how to impose a limit on the tickle of his flesh? At length the thing came to a dispute, and yet one with no violence. For Egfred, driven by a desire for children, now acted like a flatterer, now like a menacing man, in urging his wife to share his desire to procreate children, as the right of matrimony demands. But Etheldreda, who had dedicated her virginity to God, was not turned aside from her purpose by any seductions of pleasure or words. The King, who was endowed with a peaceable nature, although, the more his wife refused, the more he burned with love (thus we more eagerly desire that which is denied us). And yet he restrained his hand from violence. And, so that he might leave no stone unturned, he gave the responsibility of changing her mind to Wilfred Archbishop of York, in whom the virgin greatly confided. But he too made no headway, so unmoved remained her mind. Meanwhile Ethedreda, did not cease hounding her husband that with his permission it be permitted her to lead a private, chaste life, the marriage-bond untied, and in the end she obtained this. For the prudent prince could not help adoring his wife’s virginity, which he was certain had been dedicated to Christ. Obtaining her freedom, the virgin betook herself to the nun Ebba, her husband’s aunt, who at that time was flourishing in sanctity of life, and was abbess of a nunnery at a place where today exists the village of Coldingham, near Scotland, and there she became a nun. Afterwards this pious virgin, zealous to increase religion, returned to her East Angles and, as soon as she could, she restored a monastery in the Isle of Ely, and stocked it with nuns over which she herself presided. And when she at length died she was reckoned among the saints. They say that monastery was first founded at the expense of King Ethelbert of Kent at the behest of Archbishop Augustine, and was dedicated to the Blessed virgin Mary, and that in that place was established a college of Benedictines about the year of human salvation 599. But then, when Penda, the tyrant of the Mercians, created great desolation among the East Angles, that monastery too was destroyed, and this was the one which, as I have said, Etheldreda restored. But later, about the year 869, when the Dacians were raging against the East Angles under the leadership of Agner, destroying all altars and churches, the monastery was again leveled, which a few years later some good priests rebuilt, and installed a priestly college there. Lastly, about the year of human salvation 969, Etheluod, a monk and Bishop of Winchester, obtained from both King Edgar and Pope John XIII permission to eject those priests and replace them with his own monks, and even now they possess the place.
27. The Isle of Ely, surrounded by sweet water, is situated in the south of Cambridgeshire, which borders on Norfolk to the north and tends eastward. Thus its length eastward stretches about sixty-six miles, but it is about fourteen in breadth. Thus the entire circuit of the island is eighty miles, and especially in the winter it abounds in fens, from which men think it takes the name of Ely, for helos in Greek means a swamp. In it are a number of populous towns, especially that which is called by the same name of Ely, where there are both a city and the episcopal seat were located, as will be shown elsewhere. Afterwards Egfred, wholly enmeshed in war for the three remaining years of his life, first fought against the Mercians with ill success, then, although they had inflicted no injury on him, he sent an army into Ireland who cruelly afflicted the islanders, who were caught unawares. Afterwards he harried Eugene V King of Scots although his vassals earnestly begged him not to harm his friends. Finally, bent on punishing King Breude of the Picts for his malfeasances, even if Bishop Cuthbert urged him not to do that. Caught in an ambush, he perished with a good part of his army. Egfred reigned fifteen years, having lived forty. Alfred, said to be Oswy’s son by a concubine, then became the ninth king after Idas. During the reign of his brother Egfred he lived in exile, and by keenness of intellect and assiduous study he became very learned. And so, inheriting a kingdom ruined by the injuries of its enemies, with wonderful zeal he employed the goodly arts in repairing, cherishing and protecting it. And, content with the borders left by the Picts, who hatefully and greedily took advantage of their victory after his brother’s death, he devoted himself alike to peace and honorable leisure, and remained free of external wars throughout the nineteen years of his reign.
28. In these days flourished John, Bishop of York, famed for his studies of Scripture. Wearied of a public life, he resigned his position as archbishop and betook himself to Beverly, and there he built a house and filled it with a priestly college, and most chastely lived their for four years, free of cares. Today this place he splendid for his many miracles, is most religiously worshiped, as he has long since been canonized. He occupied the see for thirty-three years. Beverley is a town on the northeast coast, on a flat plain and well defended. Wilfred the Second, his pupil, succeded him, and after the fifteenth year of his tenure he was called to the ending of his life, and replaced by Egbert, the seventh archbishop after Paulinus. And when he departed this human life in the thirty-second year, Albert succeeded, then Embald, Embald the Second, Wilf, Widmund, and Wilfer, the thirteenth from Paulinus. These archbishops presided over the chrch at York for about one hundred and twenty years. Afterwards followed Adelbald, Lodevard, and Vulstan, the sixteenth after Paulinus, about whose sanctity I shall speak in a more appropriate place, when I recount the life of King Adelstan. After Alfred, the kings were Osred, Chenred, Osrich, and Ceoloulph, the seventeenth after Idas. To him Bede (who died at the same time) dedicated his Ecclesiasticae Historiae. He also wrote a commentary on The Acts of the Apostles, one on The Gospel According to Mark, a small book On Time, and a volume of Homilies, commonly in use today, particularly among the English. Likewise he wrote a commentaries on the seven canonic Epistles, on the Apocalypse, on Genesis, on Ezra, on The Book of Kings, and many other works which are not extant. After beginning the eighth year of his reign Ceoloulph bestowed the kingdom on his uncle Egbert and henceforth lived a monastic life. He too resigned the kingship and became a monk, after reigning twenty-one years. After him, the affairs of the Northumbrians began to decline towards their final end, with the people divided into factions. Oswolph succeeded to the throne, and he was soon overcome by domestic hatred and died. He was followed by Altred, who after ten years was likewise exhausted by civil discord and compelled to abdicate. In his place was substituted, and after he was quickly deposed Aswald followed him. And this man entered his reign with an ill omen, for eleven years later he was overcome by a popular revolt. His successor Osred, frightened by his example, scarce completed a single year before returning to private life. Finally Ehtelbert or Edelred, the twenty-fourth and last king after Idas, dared assume the responsibility, which had been ruinous to his predecessors, and yet he was unable to avoid their fate. For the fourth year after he had come to the kingship he was killed by his subjects. For a while the throne lay vacant, nobody having the courage to assume it. It was like Sejanus’ horse, as they say, in that all men feared it. But it is wonderful how no there exists no government so ruinous but that many mortals, inspired by greed, will not aspire to it. Thus Northumbria, devastated by ruin from within, lay exposed to harm both from neighboring peoples and barbarians for a period of more than thirth years. For in the meanwhile the Dacians, having left their paternal home and come to the island, laid hold of it and ultimately conquered it. King Egbert of the West Saxons added this kingdom, devastated by internal seditions and barbarian savagery, to his empire, as will be appropriately related below. In this way, the Northumbrian nation ceased to govern itself in the year of salvation 826. After King Alured, as will be told in his life, appointed Gormon the Dacian as his governor over the Dacians. Thus Northumbria came under barbarian power once again, and in the end Adelstan tore it from their grip and added it to his empire.
29. The seventh kingdom was that of the West Saxons, founded by its first king, Cerdic, in about the seventy-second year after the coming of the English, the year of human salvation 520. From its beginning, this kingdom’s borders were not very narrow, for we may conjecture they had the same length and breadth as the combined dioceses of Bath and Wells, Salisbury, and Exeter. But afterwards further grown ensued. For its kings, not content with that portion of the island they had originally gained, in the end staked a claim on all the territory formerly possessed by the Britons. Cerdic, the last to arrive, came into Britain from Germany with no small forces. At his first arrival the islanders received his attack, but by the fury of his onslaught suppressed and routed them with no difficulty. This martial success gained him peace. For the Britons, defeated elsewhere a little afterwards, had no stomach for fighting him. Thus Cerdic gradually occupied that part of the island which faces towards the west, and began to rule there, from which he was known by the name of The King of the West. For himself and his posterity he gained by far the fairest kingdom, and bequeathed it to them daily increased with wealth. Then Cenric received the rule from his father. After Cenric, Ceaulin. Selric and Ceolouph or Quichelm (I find both written in my sources, who disagree about the names of those petty kings). These are said to have made an equal division of the kingdom and to have lived most harmoniously, since both were just man, alike in their will and their wishes, and they governed mildly. This is a thing rarely to be seen or heard of, and not easy to do. And it is said that grace was superadded to this integrity, because both were converted to Christianity, and they completed their reigns just as they had begun them, dying at about the same time. But Ceoloulph, as other writers prefer to tell it (and I do not regret being of their opinion), began his life in one way, but ended it in very much another. For in the beginning he set traps against King Edwin of the Northumbrians, as I have related in his life, and finally encountered him in battle and was killed. Next followed Cynigill, and it was in his reign, by the work of Bishop Berinus, whom at that time Pope Honorius had sent to the island to preach the Gospel, that he accepted Christian teaching. This Berinus was an Italian, the holiest in human memory. He first established his episcopal seat at Dorchester, a town seven miles distant from Oxford, which was removed to Lincoln four hundred and sixty years later, in the reign of William Rufus. But let us continue with the rest.
30. After Cynigill reigned Cenovalch, the seventh after Cerdic. In the beginning of his realm he could be compared with the worst of sovereigns, but afterwards with the best. For as soon as he gained power he began to lead an exceedingly base manner of life. And since nothing satisfied him and he could not tolerate peace, he fought a battle against King Wilfer of the Mercians, and, bested by him, he lost the Isle of Wight. Neglecting religion, he wickedly divorced the sister of King Penda of the Mercians, and this was at once his downfall and his salvation. For because of this insult offered his sister Penda immediately made war on him and deprived him of his kingdom. Cenovalch, beset by this calamity, took refuge with King Annas of the East Anglians. Annas first gave the young man a kindly reception, and then sharply rebuked him for having scorned religion, for having renounced his wife, and lastly for having shamefully surrendered himself to vices. It is incredible to relate how he then repented his former life and, thanks to the admonitions of Annas, transformed from a bad man into a good one. He was quick to accept Gospel teaching, to take back his wife, and for thence, rendered more acceptable to God, he recovered his entire kingdom. And, mindful of this benefit, as a most loving champion of religion he founded a church of magnificent workmanship at Winchester, in which was established an episcopal seat. But afterwards this see was divided, and that of Salisbury established. And so this king, wholly devoted to piety, died after a reign of thirty years. Then his wife Sexburga reigned for scarce a single year, who was sufficiently strongminded to perform the office of a ruler, but was taken off by death and so unable to demonstrate her virtue. Kings Elcuin and Centuin followed, both young men distinguished in warfare, for the one inflicted a defeat on the Mercians and the other on the Britons. But the brevity of their lives begrudged them more long-enduring happiness, and they had scarce ruled nine years when they departed this life. I find it said by certain writers that they ruled jointly, but Bede does not agree with these, who tells us that they divided the kingdom. Then Cedovalla came to power, the tenth in the line of kings from Cerdic, and from the beginning of his rule he sought great fame for his deeds, and thought the way to do this was to trouble his neighbors. And so at the first possible moment he declared war on the South Saxons and worked great harm to them. He harried the Kentishmen, plundering their territory, although in this war he lost his brother Molo. Invading the Isle of Wight, he came close to destroying it. Afterwards, being converted to kindness and liberality, he deserved well of all men, so much so that there was could more of dutifulness and grace to be wanted in a man who was not yet suffused with religion. But not long thereafter, wishing to join the fellowship of Christians, he went to Rome, where he was baptized by Pope Sergius and given the name Peter. And soon thereafter he died and was buried in the Church of St. Peter First of the Apostles. Some are of the opinion that he was not baptized by Sergius, but rather that he was already a Christian convert and was anointed, as the custom was, and then changed his name, but this others hold to be far from the truth.
31. Afterwards Inas was created king, the eleventh from Cerdic, a man of great counsel and virtue. At the beginning of his reign, vigorous in martial affairs and minded to gain great praise, he declared war on the Kentishmen at the head of a great army. But the enemy, frightened by this sudden war, were so far from willing to come to blows that they preferred to purchase peace and quiet with a large sum of money rather than try the fortunes of war. And so, this affair with the Kentishmen happily settled, he turned against King Aldin of the South Saxons, hostile towards the West Saxons. That man he easily vanquished and gained control of the kingdom of the South Saxons. Finally, famed at home and abroad, he was at length free to pursue the goodly arts. In all things he loved the fair and the just, and when he realized that he could not rest amidst public affairs, he came to disdain royal honor, and a little later, in accordance with Christ’s teaching, he took up his cross and followed Christ Himself. But before doing this, he wished to aid religion with his wealth, since this most wise of men held it very base and foolish to leave the spending of his gains to another man, when he himself could share out what he had acquired. Therefore at lavish cost he built a church at wells and dedicated it to St. Antony the Apostle, in which he arranged for an episcopal seat to be established, and afterwards he endowed it with many possessions. In our day a very large college of priests flourishes there, in which there are always men of good morals, famed for their learning. Wherefore I regard it as no small honor that fourteen years ago I was made one of this college, as an Archdeacon of Wells, and I have a jurisdiction in the diocese of Wells that I sometimes find improving. Indeed, when I must work so that others may live well, then I am obliged to impose a rule of life on myself so that, using this, others may better regulate themselves. The city of Wells is situated in that part of the island which looks toward the west, at the roots of the hills which men call the Mendips, which rise like a wall to the north, very useful for the pasturing of flocks. But let me return to where I was when I digressed.
32. This same prince built a church at Glastonbury, together with a Benedictine monastery, and endowed it with most ample landholdings. And the monastery easily surpasses all others for its singular hospitality and observation of monastic life. In Book II of this work I recorded the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea, after having buried Christ, erected a small chapel. And I imagine that the reason why Inas placed the monastery there is because of its fame for this. This king performed almost countless works full of piety, and especially this, that he made his kingdom a tributary to the Pope, imposing a penny per household. And I suppose that King Offa of Mercia (who reigned not much later) did the same in imitation of his example. This was in about the year of salvation 739. This tribute, as some men write, was later increased by King Ethelwoph or Asthulph, who, as will be shown in the next Book of this work, gained rule over almost all the island. At that time all of England paid this household tax to the Pope out of of piety and religion, and the silver coins used for the purpose are popularly called Peter’s Pence, gathered by the Pope’s Tax Collector. I myself was once this Collector for several years, and it was in connection with this office that I first came into England. Finally Inas, wishing to put the state of his kingdom on a better footing, decreed most holy laws so that his subjects might live well and happily, but his wicked posterity gradually let these grow obsolete. And lastly, at the urging of his wife Ethelburga, a right prudent woman, and having grown wearied with human affairs, he handed over the kingdom to his kinsman Ethellard, an upright man whom he had already made his heir. And with this done, he went to Rome and there, as some tell it, he became a monk and soon died. Likewise Queen Ethelburga joined a nunnery set on the bank of the Thames in a village called Barking, and there she died. I have nothing memorable to say about Ethellard. Cuthred succeeded him, a ferocious man. At the beginning of his reign, suffering many injuries at the hands of the Mercians, he made war on them and stoutly defeated them. And then he was at peace from external cares, always enjoying goodly leisure. At the same time there existed a virgin at Oxford, Frideswida, the daughter of a certain leader named Didan. A lord named Algar was love with her and sought to seduce her, and when she denied him, he attempted to lay hands on her. But God, the Avenger of crime, was at hand. For when the lord pursued the fleeing girl and took refuge in the town, the gate was shut in his face and at that very moment his eyes lost their sight. But by her prayers the virgin appeased God towards Algar, so he began to see again. Hence there is a tradition that after that kings have feared to enter into the city of Oxford, thus easily is the human mind seized by superstition. But in our day this scruple has been removed from men’s minds by Henry VIII, who, armed with a clean conscience, has visited Oxford without any difficulty, and to the great joy of all its citizenry. Today there exists a monastery of Regular Canons, so called, consecrated to Frideswida. But let my discourse return to its path.
33. Next Sigibert obtained the kingdom, a man cruel and savage at home, mad and cowardly abroad, and since he did not gladly heed his councilors, he killed one of them, named Cumbran, who was well-disposed and so was earnestly offering good advice. Indignant at this, the rest entered into a conspiracy and deposed him during the first year of his reign. Then Sigibert, being timid by nature and fearing the worst, hid in a forest, but not even in this way could he avert the evil fortune that pursued him. For there he was murdered by a most humble servant of Cumbran, who was herding pigs. In his place the nobility substituted Cinewolph, an excellent lad born of the royal blood, the fifteenth after Cerdic. He fought a battle against King Offa of the Mercians and came off the vanquished, but not suffering any great damage. Next, when he was enjoying leisure, he banished a brother of Sigbert named Cineard, a young man with a ready hand, whom he held in suspicion. He, mindful of the insult and hot for revenge, secretly came back to his homeland soon thereafter with a band of desperate men, and unexpectedly surrounded the king while he was visiting the house of a certain noblewoman with whom he kept company. Cinewolph, distressed by this dubious danger, first ordered the house doors to be shut, hoping either to appease his opponents with friendly words or to overawe them with his majesty. But when neither availed, and when he perceived that had no hope of getting out without a fight, he grew angry, had the doors thrown open, and sprang at Cineard, who stood in the forefront, and all but killed him. Here, as he came close to avenging his impending death, he died while fighting bravely. When the crime became known, his henchmen, who were nearby, immediately fell on his murderers and attempted to avenge their prince’s death in a renewed struggle. They fought a while, the one side for their lives, the other for their glory, contending with might and main. At length Cineard, who now held the victory in his hand, fell fighting, and when he fell the rest of the murderers were cut down to a man. Next Britrich was made king, the sixteenth after Cerdic, a mild and modest man, with a penchant for peace rather than war. This is why the martial virtue of Egbert, who afterwards succeeded him, was a source of fear to him. For the royal pedigree, which had its origin in Cerdic, was by now so confused that every stout fellow judged he ought to stake a claim on the kingdom. This was particularly true of Egbert, who was born of royal stock. Therefore the king, so he might live more securely, ordered the young man to go into exile in France. This he bore with patience, as if knowing for a certainty that this would turn out for his good, as afterwards did happen. Thus Britrich was dragging out his life in idleness when some Dacian freebooters sailed into the mouth of the Humber and began to harry and plunder, first, the coastline, and then the interior. But since at the first news the king sent a large band of soldiers to prevent the Dacians from returning to their ships, and when they saw the islanders gathering against themselves on every side, they abandoned their loot and quickly retired to the harbor, boarded their ships, and went back from whence the had come. But this affair was the beginning of the coming evil. For the Dacians learned of the land’s fertility, soon returned to the island and from then on warred against the English until they had gained a goodly part of it, as another place will teach. Then Britrich died in the sixteenth year after he had begun to reign, and the year of human salvation 799. Hearing of his death, Egbert returned home out of France and was created king by the consent of all men.
34. But before I tell the rest of the story, I wish to discuss affairs in Scotland, such as they were at that time. King Amberclet, who I mentioned at the end of Book III, was killed fighting against the Picts, and he was followed by his brother Eugene VII, Mordacus son of Amberclet, and Etfin, men always responsible for peace at home and abroad, very upright in their handling of affairs .Likewise Eugene VIII and Fergus III were men who indulged in vises, but both cut down in the end as a well-deserved punishment, the one by his domestics, the other by his subjects. Afterwards Solvat And Achaius son of Etfin. This prince, so greatly praised, was afraid of the power of the Saxons, which was daily increasing, as soon as was possible entered into a pact of mutual defence with Charlemagne. They say this was accomplished not without the will of God, since even now the friendship between the Scots and the French remains intact, so that each constantly agrees with the other, which is to be attributed to the hatred both have with their neighbors, and because both hate the English and the English hate the both of them. He also sent to Charlemagne, who was summoning erudite men from far-flung corners of the world for the universities he intended to establish, the right learned Clement and John, and Charlemagne afterwards ensured that, by means of these two, all men would be instructed at Paris and Pavia. Then followed Convall II, Dungall and Alpin. He stoutly continued the war against the Picts started by Dungall, but finally he fought an unsuccessful battle against them, was captured, and was beheaded without any respect being shown his royal majesty. And, indignant at this thing, his son Kenneth II forthwith renewed the war, nor did he cease from his undertaking until he had captured the enemy king Druschen and subjected him to the same punishment. And, taking advantage of this victory, a little later he all but exterminated the Pictish race. And in this way the Scots long ago obtained the kingdom they now have in Britain. This was the year of human salvation 739, and the seven hundred forth-third of the Pictish kingdom in Britain. If we are to trust certain English chronicles, now the Pictish state had this downfall. They preserve the tradition that the Picts were not conquered by arms, but rather by treachery, when their leading men were invited to a feast by the Scots and suddenly murdered. But many regard this is as fanciful, since a single banquet could not serve for so many leading men and an entire people. His brother Donald succeeded Kenneth, since his son Ethus was too young to govern. This man, however, was dissolute, and for this reason died by his hand the sixth year after he began to reign. And yet, with the assistance of his subjects he waged war on the remaining Picts, who were now preparing to fight, and wholly removed them. Then came Kings Constantine and Eth. This later was deprived of both life and rule by Gregory, but he, thinking that he must erase this mark of shame by performing his duty, wonderfully increased the power of Scotland by recapturing Ireland. Donald II succeeded Gregory, and Constantine III, the son of Eth, succeeded Donald, about whom I shall say more in the life of King Edward of England. But now let me make an end to this Book.
Go to Book V