Britain Under Trojan, Roman, Saxon Rule - England Under Richard III - The Reign of Henry VII

[PDF] Britain Under Trojan Roman Saxon Rule England Under Richard III The Reign Of Henry VII
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The unhappy Britons had a third time recourse to Rome, which had declared its resolution forever to abandon them. The Britons, thus rejected, were reduced to despair, deserted their habitations, abandoned tillage, and flying for protection to the forests and mountains, suffered equally from hunger and from the enemy. The barbarians themselves began to feel the pressures of famine in a country which they had ravaged; and being harassed by the dispersed Britons, who had not dared to resist them in a body, they retreated with their spoils into their own country.

The Britons, taking advantage of this interval, returned to their usual occupations; and the favorable seasons which succeeded, seconding their industry, made them soon forget their past miseries, and restored to them great plenty of all the necessaries of life.

The Britons, entirely occupied in the enjoyment of the present interval of peace, made no provision for resisting the enemy, who, invited by their former timid behavior, soon threatened them with a new invasion. We are not exactly informed what species of civil government the Romans, on their departure, had left among the Britons, but it appears probable that the great men in the different districts assumed a kind of regal, though precarious authority, and lived in a great measure independent of each other.

To this disunion of counsels were also added the disputes of theology; and the disciples of Pelagius, who was himself a native of Britain, having increased to a great multitude, gave alarm to the clergy, who seem to have been more intent on suppressing them, than on opposing the public enemy. Of all the barbarous nations, known either in ancient or modern times, the Germans seem to have been the most distinguished both by their manners and political institutions, and to have carried to the highest pitch the virtues of valor and love of liberty; the only virtues which can have place among an uncivilized people, where justice and humanity are commonly neglected.

Kingly government, even when established among the Germans, for it was not universal, possessed a very limited authority; and though the sovereign was usually chosen from among the royal family, he was directed in every measure by the common consent of the nation over whom he presided. When any important affairs were transacted, all the warriors met in arms; the men of greatest authority employed persuasion to engage their consent; the people expressed their approbation by rattling their armor, or their dissent by murmurs; there was no necessity for a nice scrutiny of votes among a multitude, who were usually carried with a strong current to one side or the other; and the measure, thus suddenly chosen by general agreement, was executed with alacrity, and prosecuted with vigor.

Even in war, the princes governed more by example than by authority, but in peace, the civil union was in a great measure dissolved, and the inferior leaders administered justice, after an independent manner, each in his particular district. These were elected by the votes of the people in their great councils; and though regard was paid to nobility in the choice, their personal qualities, chiefly their valor, procured them, from the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, that honorable but dangerous distinction.

They attended him as his ornament in peace, as his defence in war, as his council in the administration of justice. Their constant emulation in military renown dissolved not that inviolable friendship which they professed to their chieftain and to each other.

To die for the honor of their band was their chief ambition; to survive its disgrace, or the death of their leader, was infamous. The leaders and their military companions were maintained by the labor of their slaves, or by that of the weaker and less warlike part of the community whom they defended. The contributions which they levied went not beyond a bare subsistence; and the honors, acquired by a superior rank, were the only reward of their superior dangers and fatigues.

All the refined arts of life were unknown among the Germans: tillage itself was almost wholly neglected; they even seem to have been anxious to prevent any improvements of that nature; and the leaders, by annually distributing anew all the land among the inhabitants of each village, kept them from attaching themselves to particular possessions, or making such progress in agriculture as might divert their attention from military expeditions, the chief occupation of the community.

The Saxons had been for some time regarded as one of the most warlike tribes of this fierce people, and had become the terror of the neighboring nations. They had diffused themselves from the northern parts of Germany and the Cimbrian Chersonesus, and had taken possession of all the sea-coast from the mouth of the Rhine to Jutland; whence they had long infested by their piracies all the eastern and southern parts of Britain, and the northern of Gaul.

The dissolution of the Roman power invited them to renew their inroads; and it was an acceptable circumstance that the deputies of the Britons appeared among them, and prompted them to undertake an enterprise to which they were of themselves sufficiently inclined. Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, possessed great credit among the Saxons, and were much celebrated both for their valor and nobility.

We shall not attempt to trace any higher the origin of those princes and nations. It is evident what fruitless labor it must be to search, in those barbarous and illiterate ages, for the annals of a people, when their first leaders, known in any true history, were believed by them to be the fourth in descent from a fabulous deity, or from a man exalted by ignorance into that character. The dark industry of antiquaries, led by imaginary analogies of names, or by uncertain traditions, would in vain attempt to pierce into that deep obscurity which covers the remote history of those nations.

These two brothers, observing the other provinces of Germany to be occupied by a warlike and necessitous people, and the rich provinces of Gaul already conquered or overrun by other German tribes, found it easy to persuade their countrymen to embrace the sole enterprise which promised a favorable opportunity of displaying their valor and gratifying their avidity. The Scots and Picts were unable to resist the valor of these auxiliaries; and the Britons, applauding their own wisdom in calling over the Saxons, hoped thenceforth to enjoy peace and security under the powerful protection of that warlike people.

But Hengist and Horsa, perceiving, from their easy victory over the Scots and Picts, with what facility they might subdue tae Britons themselves, who had not been able to resist those feeble invaders, were determined to conquer and fight for their own grandeur, not for the defence of their degenerate allies. They sent intelligence to Saxony of the fertility and riches of Britain, and represented as certain the subjection of a people so long disused to arms, who, being now cut off from the Roman empire, of which they had been a province during so many ages, had not yet acquired any union among themselves, and were destitute of all affection to their new liberties, and of all national attachments and regards.

The Britons now began to entertain apprehensions of their allies, whose numbers they found continually augmenting; but thought of no remedy, except a passive submission and connivance. This weak expedient soon failed them. The Britons, impelled by these violent extremities, ana roused to indignation against their treacherous auxiliaries, were necessitated to take arms; and having deposed Vortigern, who had become odious from his vices, and from the bad event of his rash counsels, they put themselves under the Command of his son, Vortimer.

They fought many battles with their enemies; and though the victories in these actions be disputed between the British and Saxon annalists, the progress still made by the Saxons proves that the advantage was commonly on their side. In one battle, however, fought at Faglesford, now Ailsford, Horsa, the Saxon general, was slain and left the sole command over his countrymen in the hands of Hengist. The private and public edifices of the Britons were reduced to ashes; the priests were slaughtered on the altars by those idolatrous ravagers; the bishops and nobility shared the fate of the vulgar; the people, flying to the mountains and deserts, were intercepted and butchered in heaps: some were glad to accept of life and servitude under their victors: others, deserting their native country, took shelter in the province of Armorica; where, being charitably received by a people of the same language and manners, they settled in great numbers, and gave the country the name of Brittany.

The British writers assign one cause which facilitated the entrance of the Saxons into this island—the love with which Vortigern was at first seized for Rovena, the daughter of Hengist, and which that artful warrior made use of to blind the eyes of the imprudent monarch.

After the death of Vortimer, Ambrosius, a Briton, though of Roman descent, was invested with the command over his countrymen, and endeavored, not without success, to unite them in their resistance against the Saxons. Those contests increased the animosity between the two rations, and roused the military spirit of the ancient inhabitants, which had before been sunk into a fatal lethargy. Hengist, however, notwithstanding their opposition, still maintained his ground in Britain and in order to divide the forces and attention of the natives he called over a new tribe of Saxons, under the command of his brother Octa, and of Ebissa, the son of Octa; and he settled them in Northumberland.

He himself remained in the southern parts of the island, and laid the foundation of their kingdom of Kent, comprehending the county of that name Middlesex, Essex, and part of Surrey. He fixed his royal seat at Canterbury, where he governed about forty years, and he died in or near the year , leaving his new-acquired dominions to his posterity. The success of Hengist excited the avidity of the other northern Germans; and at different times, and under different leaders, they flocked over in multitudes to the invasion of mis island.

The resistance, however, though unequal, was still maintained by the Britons; but became every day more feeble; and their calamities admitted of few intervals, till they were driven into Cornwall and Wales, and received protection from the remote situation or inaccessible mountains of those countries. The first Saxon state, after that of Kent, which was established in Britain, was the kingdom of South Saxony.

The Britons, now armed, did not tamely abandon their possessions; nor were they expelled till defeated in many battles by their war-like invaders. These Saxons, from the situation of the country in which they settled, were called the West Saxons , and landed in the year , under the command of Cerdic, and of his son Kenric. None of the other tribes of Saxons met with such vigorous resistance, or exerted such valor and perseverance in pushing their conquests. Cerdic was even obliged to call for the assistance of his countrymen from the kingdoms of Kent and Sussex, as well as from Germany, and he was thence joined by a fresh army under the command of Porte, and of his sons Bleda and Megla.

But Kenric, who had prevailed in the other wing, brought timely assistance to his father, and restored the battle, which ended in a complete victory gained by the Saxons. The war still continued, though the success was commonly on the side of the Saxons, whose short swords and manner of fighting gave them great advantage over the missile weapons of the Britons. Cerdic was not wanting to in good fortune; and in order to extend his conquests, he laid siege to Mount Badon or Banesdowne, near Bath, whither the most obstinate of the discomfited Britons had retired.

The southern Britons, in this extremity, applied for assistance to Arthur, prince of the Silures, whose heroic valor now sustained the declining fate of his country. But poets, though they disfigure the most certain history by their fictions, ana use strange liberties with truth where they are the sole historians, as among the Britons, have commonly some foundation for their wildest exaggerations. Certain it is, that the siege of Badon was raised by the Britons in the year ; and the Saxons were there discomfited in a great battle. He and his son Kenric, who succeeded him, established the kingdom of the West Saxons, or of Wessex, over the counties of Hants, Dorset, Wilts, Berks, and the Isle of Wight, and left their new-acquired dominions to their posterity.

Cerdic died in , Kenric in While the Saxons made this progress in the south, their countrymen were not less active in other quarters. In the year , a great tribe of adventurers, under several leaders, landed on the east coast of Britain; and after fighting many battles, of which history has preserved no particular account, they established three new kingdoms in this island. This latter kingdom was dismembered from that of Kent, and comprehended Essex, Middlesex, and part of Hertfordshire; that of the East Angles, the counties of Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk: Mercia was extended over all the middle counties from the banks of the Severn to the frontiers of these two kingdoms.

The Saxons, soon after the landing of Hengist, had been planted in Northumberland; but as they met with an obstinate resistance, and made but small progress in subduing the inhabitants, their affairs were in so unsettled a condition, that none of their princes for a long time assumed the appellation of king. He entirely subdued the county now called Northumberland, the bishopric of Durham, as well as some of the south-east counties of Scotland; and he assumed the crown under the title of king of Bernicia.

How far his dominions extended into the country now called Scotland is uncertain: but it cannot be doubted, that all the lowlands, especially the east coast of that country, were peopled in a great measure from Germany; though the expeditions, made by the several Saxon adventurers, have escaped the records of history.

The language spoken in those countries, which is purely Saxon, is a stronger proof of this event than can be opposed by the imperfect, or rather fabulous annals, which are obtruded on us by the Scottish historians. Thus was established, after a violent contest of near a hundred and fifty years, the Heptarchy, or seven Saxon kingdoms, in Britain; and the whole southern part of the island, except Wales and Cornwall, had totally changed its inhabitants, language, customs, and political institutions.

None of the other northern conquerors, the Franks, Goths, Vandals, or Burgundians, though they overran the southern provinces of the empire like a mighty torrent, made such devastations in the conquered territories, or were inflamed into so violent an animosity against the ancient inhabitants. As the Saxons came over at intervals in separate bodies, the Britons, however at first unwarlike, were tempted to make resistance; and hostilities, being thereby prolonged, proved more destructive to both parties, especially to the vanquished.

The first invaders from Germany, instead of excluding other adventurers, who must share with them the spoils of the ancient inhabitants, were obliged to solicit fresh supplies from their own country; and a total extermination of the Britons became the sole expedient for providing a settlement and subsistence to the new planters. Hence there have been found in history few conquests more ruinous than that of the Saxons, and few revolutions more violent than that which they introduced. So long as the contest was maintained with the natives, the several Saxon princes preserved a union of counsels and interests; but after the Britons were shut up in the barren countries of Cornwall and Wales, and gave no further disturbance to the conquerors, the band of alliance was in a great measure dissolved among the princes of the Heptarchy.

Though one prince seems still to have been allowed, or to have assumed, an ascendant over the whole, his authority, if it ought ever to be deemed regular or legal, was extremely limited; and each state acted as if it had been independent, and wholly separate from the rest Wars, therefore, and revolutions and dissensions, were unavoidable among a turbulent and military people; and these events, however intricate or confused, ought now to become the objects of our attention But, added to the difficulty of carrying on at once the history of seven independent kingdoms, there is great discouragement to a writer, arising from the uncertainty, at least barrenness, of the accounts transmitted to us.

The monks, who were the only annalists during those ages, lived remote from public affairs, considered the civil transactions as entirely subordinate the ecclesiastical, and, besides partaking of the ignorance and barbarity which were then universal, were strongly infected with credulity, with the love of wonder, and with a propensity to imposture; vices almost inseparable from their profession and manner of life.

The history of that period abounds in names, but is extremely barren of events; or the events are related so much without circumstances and causes, that the most profound or most eloquent writer must despair of rendering them either instructive or entertaining to the reader. Even the great learning and vigorous imagination of Milton sunk under the weight; and this author scruples not to declare, that the skirmishes of kites or crows as much merited a particular narrative, as the confused transactions and battles of the Saxon Heptarchy.

Escus succeeded his father, Hengist, in the kingdom of Kent; but seems not to have possessed the military genius of that conqueror, who first made way for the entrance of the Saxon arms into Britain. Escus was content to possess in tranquillity the kingdom of Kent, which he left in to his son Octet, in whose time the East Saxons established their monarchy, and dismembered the provinces of Essex and Middlesex from that of Kent.

His death, after a reign of twenty two years, made room for his son Hermenric in , who performed nothing memorable during a reign of thirty-two years; excepting associating with him his son Ethelbert in the government, that he might secure the succession hi his family, and prevent such revolutions as are incident to a turbulent and barbarous monarchy.

Ethelbert revived the reputation of his family, which had languished for some generations. The inactivity of his predecessors, and the situation of his country, secured from all hostility with the Britons, seem to have much enfeebled the warlike genius of the Kentish Saxons; and Ethelbert, in his first attempt to aggrandize his country, and distinguish his own name, was unsuccessful.

An association was formed against him; and Ethelbeit, intrusted with the command of the allies, gave him battle, and obtained a decisive victory. He reduced all the princes, except the king of Northumberland, to a strict dependence upon him; and even established himself by force on the throne of Mercia, the most extensive of the Saxon kingdoms. Apprehensive, however, of a dangerous league against him, like that by which he himself had been enabled to overthrow Ceaulin, he had the prudence to resign the kingdom of Mercia to Webba, the rightful heir, the son of Crida, who had first founded that monarchy.

But governed still by ambition more than by justice, he gave Webba possession of the crown on such conditions, as rendered him little better than a tributary prince under his artful benefactor. But the most memorable event which distinguished the reign of this great prince, was the introduction of the Christian religion among the English Saxons.

The superstition of the Germans, particularly that of the Saxons, was of the grossest and most barbarous kind; and being founded on traditional tales, received from their ancestors, not reduced to any system, not supported by political institutions, like that of the druids, it seems to have made little impression on its votaries, and to have easily resigned its place to the new doctrine promulgated to them.

Woden, whom they deemed the ancestor of all their princes, was regarded as the god of war, and, by a natural consequence, became their supreme deity, and the chief object of their religious worship. They believed that, if they obtained the favor of this divinity by their valor, for they made less account of the other virtues, they should be admitted after their death into his hall; and reposing on couches, should satiate themselves with ale from the skulls of their enemies, whom they had slain in battle.

Incited by this idea of paradise, which gratified at once the passion of revenge and that of intemperance, the ruling inclinations of barbarians, they despised the dangers of war, and increased their native ferocity against the vanquished by their religious prejudices. We know little of the other theological tenets of the Saxons; we only learn that they were polytheists; that they worshipped the sun and moon; that they adored the god of thunder, under the name of Thor; that they had images in their temples; that they practised sacrifices; believed firmly in spells and enchantments; and admitted in general a system of doctrines which they held as sacred, but which, like all other superstition must carry the air of the wildest extravagance, if propounded to those who are not familiarized to it from their earliest infancy.

The constant hostilities which the Saxons maintained against the Britons, would naturally indispose them for receiving the Christian faith, when preached to them by such inveterate enemies; and perhaps the Britons, as is objected to them by Gildas and Bede, were not over-fond of communicating to their cruel invaders the doctrine of eternal life and salvation. But as a civilized people, however subdued by arms, still maintain a sensible superiority over barbarous and ignorant nations, all the other northern conquerors of Europe had been already induced to embrace the Christian faith, which they found established in the empire; and it was impossible but the Saxons, informed of this event, must have regarded with some degree of veneration a doctrine which had acquired the ascendant over all their brethren.

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However limited in their news, they could not but have perceived a degree of cultivation in the southern countries beyond what they themselves possessed; and it was natural for them to yield to that superior knowledge, as well as zeal, by which the inhabitants of the Christian kingdoms were even at that time distinguished. But these causes might long have failed of producing any considerable effect, had not a favorable incident prepared the means of introducing Christianity into Kent. But before he was admitted to this alliance, he was obliged to stipulate, that the princess should enjoy the free exercise of her religion; a concession not difficult to be obtained from the idolatrous Saxons.

Her popularity in the court, and her influence over Ethelbert, had so well paved the way for the reception of the Christian doctrine, that Gregory, surnamed the Great, then Roman pontiff, began to entertain hopes of effecting a project which lie himself, before he mounted the papal throne, had once embraced, of converting the British Saxons. It happened that this prelate, at that time in a private station, had observed in the market place of Rome some Saxon youth exposed to sale, whom the Roman merchants, in their trading voyages to Britain, had bought of their mercenary parents.

They are called to the mercy of God from his anger— de ira. But what is the name of the king of that province? The controversy between the pagans and the Christians was not entirely cooled in that age; and no pontiff before Gregory had ever carried to greater excess an intemperate zeal against the former religion.

He had waged war with all the precious monuments of the ancients, and even with their writings, which, as appears from the strain of his own wit, as well as from the style of his compositions, he had not taste or genius sufficient to comprehend. Ambitious to distinguish his pontificate by the conversion of the British Saxons, he pitched on Augustine, a Roman monk, and sent him with forty associates to preach the gospel in this island.

These missionaries, terrified with the dangers which might attend their proposing a new doctrine to so fierce a people, of whose language they were ignorant, stopped some time in France, and sent back Augustine to lay the hazards and difficulties before the pope, and crave his permission to desist from the undertaking.

This princess, though stained with every vice of treachery and cruelty, either possessed or pretended great zeal for the cause; and Gregory acknowledged, that to her friendly assistance was, in a great measure, owing the success of that undertaking. Ethelbert, already well disposed towards the Christian faith, assigned him a habitation in the Isle of Thanet, and soon after admitted him to a conference. You are welcome, however, to remain here in peace; and as you have undertaken so long a journey, solely, as it appears, for what you believe to be for our advantage, I will supply you with all necessaries, and permit you to deliver your doctrine to my subjects.

Augustine, encouraged by this favorable reception, and seeing now a prospect of success, proceeded with redoubled zeal to preach the gospel to the Kentish Saxons.

He attracted their attention by the austerity of his manners, by the severe penances to which he subjected himself, by the abstinence find self-denial which he practised; and having excited then wonder by a course of life which appeared so contrary to nature, he procured more easily their belief of miracles, which, it was pretended, he wrought for their conversion. Influenced by these motives, and by the declared favor of the court, numbers of the Kentish men were baptized; and the king himself was persuaded to submit to that rite of Christianity. His example had great influence with his subjects; but he employed no force to bring them over to the new doctrine.

Augustine thought proper, in the commencement of his mission, to assume the appearance of the greatest lenity; he told Ethelbert, that the service of Christ must be entirely voluntary, and that no violence ought ever to be used in propagating so salutary a doctrine. The intelligence received of these spiritual conquests afforded great joy to the Romans, who now exulted as much in those peaceful trophies as their ancestors had ever done in their most sanguinary triumphs and most splendid victories.

The pontiff also answered some questions, which the missionary had put concerning the government of the new church of Kent. The more to facilitate the reception of Christianity, Gregory enjoined Augustine to remove the idols from the heathen altars, but not to destroy the altars themselves; because the people, he said, would be allured to frequent the Christian worship, when they found it celebrated in a place which they were accustomed to revere.

And as the pagans practised sacrifices, and feasted with the priests on their offerings, he also exhorted the missionary to persuade them, on Christian festivals, to kill their cattle in the neighborhood of the church, and to indulge themselves in those cheerful entertainments to which they had been habituated. Augustine was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, was endowed by Gregory with authority over all the British churches, and received the pall, a badge of ecclesiastical honor, from Rome. The marriage of Ethelbert with Bertha, and, much more his embracing Christianity, begat a connection of his subjects with the French, Italians, and other nations on the continent, and tended to reclaim them from that gross ignorance and barbarity, in which all the Saxon tribes had been hitherto involved.

He governed the kingdom of Kent fifty years; and dying in , left the succession to his son, Eadbald. This prince, seduced by a passion for his mother-in-law, deserted, for some time, the Christian faith, which permitted not these incestuous marriages: his whole people immediately returned with him to idolatry. Laurentius, the successor of Augustine found the Christian worship wholly abandoned, and was prepared to return to France, in order to escape the mortification of preaching the gospel without fruit to the infidels.

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He appeared before that prince, and, throwing off his vestments, showed his body all torn with bruises and stripes which he had received. Eadbald, wondering that any man should have dared to treat in that manner a person of his rank, was told by Laurentius, that he had received this chastisement from St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, who had appeared to him in a vision, and severely reproving him for his intention to desert his charge, had inflicted on him these visible marks of his displeasure.

Eadbald reached not the fame or authority of his father, and died in , after a reign of twenty-five years, leaving two sons, Erminfrid and Ercombert.

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Ercombert, though the younger son, by Emma, a French princess, found means to mount the throne. He is celebrated by Bede for two exploits—for establishing the fast of Lent in his kingdom, and for utterly extirpating idolatry, which, notwithstanding the prevalence of Christianity, had hitherto been tolerated by the two preceding monarchs. He reigned twenty-four years, and left the crown to Egbert, his son, who reigned nine years. This prince is renowned for his encouragement of learning; but infamous for putting to death his two cousins-german, sons of Erminfrid, his uncle.

The ecclesiastical writers praise him for his bestowing on his sister, Domnona, some lands in the Isle of Thanet, where she founded a monastery. The bloody precaution of Egbert could not fix the crown on the head of his son Edric. Lothaire, brother of the deceased prince, took possession of the kingdom; and in order to secure the power in his family, he associated with him Richard, his son, in the administration of the government.

Edric, the dispossessed prince, had recourse to Edilwach, king of Sussex, for assistance; and being supported by that prince, fought a battle with his uncle, who was defeated and slain. Richard fled into Germany, and afterwards died in Lucca, a city of Tuscany. Lothaire reigned eleven years; Edric, his successor, only two. Upon the death of the latter, which happened in Widred, his brother, obtained possession of the crown. But as the succession had been of late so much disjointed by revolutions and usurpations, faction began to prevail among the nobility; which invited Cedwalla, king of Wessex, with his brother Mollo, to attack the kingdom.

Eadbert, Ethelbert, and Alric, his descendants, successively mounted the throne. After the death of the last, which happened in , the royal family of Kent was extinguished; and every factious leader, who could entertain hopes of ascending the throne, threw the state into confusion.

He also spread the terror of the Saxon arms to the neighboring people; and by his victories over the Scots and Picts, as well as Welsh, extended on all sides the bounds of his dominions. Having laid siege to Chester, the Britons marched out with all their forces to engage him; and they were attended by a body of twelve hundred and fifty monks from the monastery of Bangor, who stood at a small distance from the field of battle, in order to encourage the combatants by their presence and exhortations.

Redwald, however, was strongly solicited, by the king of Northumberland, to kill or deliver up his guest: rich presents were promised him if he would comply, and war denounced against him in case of his refusal. After rejecting several messages of this kind, his generosity began to yield to the motives of interest; and he retained the last ambassador, till he should come to a resolution in a case of such importance.

He marched suddenly with an army into the kingdom of Northumberland, and fought a battle with Adelfrid; in which that monarch was defeated and killed, after revenging himself by the death of Regner, son of Redwald. Oswald, and Oswy, yet infants, were carried into Scotland; and Edwin obtained possession of the crown of Northumberland. He reclaimed his subjects from the licentious life to which they had been accustomed; and it was a common saying, that during his reign a woman or child might openly carry every where a purse of gold, without any danger of violence or robbery.

There is a remarkable instance, transmitted to us, of the affection borne him by his servants. Cuichelme, king of Wessex, was his enemy; but finding himself unable to maintain open war against so gallant and powerful a prince, he determined to use treachery against him, and he employed one Eumer for that criminal purpose, The assassin, having obtained admittance, by pretending to deliver a message from Cuichelme, drew his dagger, and rushed upon the king. The East Angles conspired against Redwald, their king; and having put him to death, they offered their crown to Edwin, of whose valor and capacity they had had experience, while he resided among them.

Edwin, after his accession to the crown, married Ethelburga, the daughter of Ethelbert, king of Kent. Edwin, like a prudent prince, hesitated on the proposal, but promised to examine the foundations of that doctrine, and declared that, if he found them satisfactory, he was willing to be converted.

Besides the authority and influence of the king, they were moved by another striking example. Coifi, the high priest, being converted after a public conference with Paullinus, led the way in destroying the images, which he had so long worshipped, and was forward in making this atonement for his past idolatry. This able prince perished with his son Osfrid, in a great battle which he fought against Penda, king of Mercia, and Caedwalla, king of the Britons.

Eanfrid, the elder surviving son, fled to Penda, by whom he was treacherously slain. The younger son, Vuscfraea, with Yffi, the grandson of Edwin, by Osfrid, sought protection in Kent, and not finding themselves in safety there, retired into France to King Dagobert, where they died. Both these Northumbrian kings perished soon after, the first in battle against Caedwalla, the Briton; the second by the treachery of that prince. Oswald, the brother of Eanfrid, of the race of Bernicia, united again the kingdom of Northumberland in the year , and restored the Christian religion in his dominions.

He gained a bloody and well-disputed battle against Caedwalla; the last vigorous effort which the Britons made against the Saxons. Oswald is much celebrated for his sanctity and charity by the monkish historians; and they pretend that his relics wrought miracles, particularly the curing of a sick horse, which had approached the place of his interment.

His son Egfrid succeeded him; who perishing in battle against the Picts, without leaving any children, because Adelthrid, his wife, refused to violate her vow of chastity, Alfred, his natural brother, acquired possession of the kingdom, which he governed for nineteen years; and he left it to Osred, his son, a boy of eight years of age. This prince, after a reign of eleven years, was murdered by Kenred, his kinsman, who, after enjoying the crown only a year, perished by a like fate.

Osric, and after him Celwulph, the son of Kenred, next mounted the throne, which the latter relinquished in the year , in favor of Eadbert, his cousin-german, who, imitating his predecessor, abdicated the crown, and retired into a monastery. Oswolf, son of Eadbert, was slain in a sedition, a year after his accession to the crown; and Mollo, who was not of the royal family, seized the crown.

He perished by the treachery of Ailred, a prince of the blood; and Ailred, having succeeded in his design upon the throne, was soon after expelled by his subjects. Ethelred, his successor, the son of Mollo, underwent a like fate. Celwold, the next king, the brother of Ailred, was deposed and slain by the people; and his place was filled by Osred, his nephew, who, after a short reign of a year, made way for Ethelbert, another son of Mollo whose death was equally tragical with that of almost all his predecessors.

The Last Great Anglo Saxon King - Absolute History

The history of this kingdom contains nothing memorable except the conversion of Earpwold, the fourth king, and great-grandson of Una, the founder of the monarchy. The authority of Edwin, king of Northumberland, on whom that prince entirety depended, engaged him to take this step; but soon after, his wife, who was an idolatress, brought him back to her religion; and he was found unable to resist those allurements which have seduced the wisest of mankind. After his death, which was violent, like that of most of the Saxon princes that did not early retire into monasteries, Sigebert, his successor and half-brother, who had been educated in France, restored Christianity, and introduced learning among the East Angles.

Some pretend that he founded the university of Cambridge, or rather some schools in that place. It is almost impossible, and quite needless, to be more particular in relating the transactions of the East Angles. What instruction or entertainment can it give the reader, to hear a long bead-roll of barbarous names, Egric, Annas, Ethelbert, Ethelwald, Aldulf, Elfwald, Beorne, Ethelred, Ethelbert, who successively murdered, expelled, or inherited from each other, and obscurely filled the throne of that kingdom?

Mercia, the largest, if not the most powerful, kingdom of the Heptarchy, comprehended all the middle counties of England; and as its frontiers extended to those of all the other kingdoms, as well as to Wales, it received its name from that circumstance. Wibba, the son of Crida, founder of the monarchy, being placed on the throne by Ethelbert, king of Kent, governed his paternal dominions by a precarious authority; and after his death, Ceorl, his kinsman, was, by the influence of the Kentish monarch, preferred to his son Penda, whose turbulent character appeared dangerous to that prince.

Penda was thus fifty years of age before he mounted the throne; and his temerity and restless disposition were found nowise abated by time, experience, or reflection. He engaged in continual hostilities against all the neighboring states; and, by his injustice and violence, rendered himself equally odious to his own subjects and to strangers. Sigebert, Egric, and Annas, three kings of East Anglia, perished successively in battle against him; as did also Edwin and Oswald, the two greatest princes that had reigned over Northumberland.

At last Oswy, brother to Oswald, having defeated and slain him in a decisive battle, freed the world from this sanguinary tyrant. Peada, his son, mounted the throne of Mercia in , and lived under the protection of Oswy, whose daughter he had espoused. This princess was educated in the Christian faith, and she employed her influence, with success, in converting her husband and his subjects to that religion. Thus the fair sex have had the merit of introducing the Christian doctrine into all the most considerable kingdoms of the Saxon Heptarchy. Peada died a violent death. Besides making a successful expedition into Kent, he repulsed Egfrid, king of Northumberland, who had invaded his dominions; and he slew in battle Elswin, the brother of that prince.

Desirous, however, of composing all animosities with Egfrid, he paid him a sum of money as a compensation for the loss of his brother. After a prosperous reign of thirty years, he resigned the crown to Kendred, son of Wolfhere, and retired into the monastery of Bardney.

The Uses Made of History by the Kings of Medieval England

Gransden, Bede's reputation as an historian in medieval England, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, xxxii , They believed that, if they obtained the favor of this divinity by their valor, for they made less account of the other virtues, they should be admitted after their death into his hall; and reposing on couches, should satiate themselves with ale from the skulls of their enemies, whom they had slain in battle. The leaders and their military companions were maintained by the labor of their slaves, or by that of the weaker and less warlike part of the community whom they defended. Underground Catholic clergy are persecuted in England through the s. Iron Age background [ edit ] John Creighton But these were so much resented by the ungrateful prince, that he conspired against the life of his protector, and treacherously murdered him.

But all these successes were stained by his treacherous murder of Ethelbert, king of the East Angles, and his violent seizing of that kingdom. Carrying his hypocrisy still further, Offa, feigning to be directed by a vision from heaven, discovered at Verulam the relics of St Alban, the martyr, and endowed a magnificent monastery in that place. Offa died, after a reign of thirty-nine years, in This prince was become so considerable in the Heptarchy, that the emperor Charlemagne entered into an alliance and friendship with him; a circumstance which did honor to Offa; as distant princes at that time had usually little communication with each other.

That emperor being a great lover of learning and learned men, in an age very barren of that ornament, Offa, at his desire, sent him over Alcuin, a clergyman much celebrated for his knowledge, who received great honors from Charlemagne, and even became his preceptor in the sciences. The chief reason why he had at first desired the company of Alcuin, was that he might oppose his learning to the heresy of Felix, bishop of Urgel, in Catalonia; who maintained that Jesus Christ, considered in his human nature, could more properly be denominated the adoptive than the natural son of God.

Such were the questions which were agitated in that age, and which employed the attention not only of cloistered scholars, but of the wisest and greatest princes. This prince waged war against Kent, and taking Egbert, the king, prisoner, he cut off his hands, and put out his eyes; leaving Cuthred, his own brother, in possession of the crown of that kingdom.

Kenulph was killed in an insurrection of the East Anglians, whose crown his predecessor, Offa, had usurped. He left his son Kenelm, a minor; who was murdered the same year by his sister Quendrade, who had entertained the ambitious views of assuming the government. But she was supplanted by her uncle Ceolulf; who, two years after, was dethroned by Beornulf The reign of this usurper, who was not of the royal family, was short and unfortunate; he was defeated by the West Saxons, and killed by his own subjects, the East Angles.

This kingdom made no great figure in the Heptarchy; and the history of it is very imperfect. Sleda succeeded to his father, Erkinwin, the founder of the monarchy; and made way for his son Sebert, who, being nephew to Ethelbert, king of Kent, was persuaded by that prince to embrace the Christian faith. The names of the other princes, who reigned successively in Essex, are Sigebert the little, Sigebert the good, who restored Christianity, Swithelm, Sigheri, Offa.

This last prince, having made a vow of chastity, notwithstanding his marriage with Keneswitha, a Mercian princess, daughter to Penda, went in pilgrimage to Rome, and shut himself up during the rest of his life in a cloister. Selred, his successor, reigned thirty-eight years; and was the last of the royal line; the failure of which threw the kingdom into great confusion, and reduced it to dependence under Mercia.

His successor. Sigered, unable to defend his kingdom, submitted to the victorious arms of Egbert. The history of this kingdom, the smallest in the Heptarchy, is still more imperfect than that of Essex. During his time, the South Saxons fell almost into a total dependence on the kingdom of Wessex; and we scarcely know the names of the princes who were possessed of this titular sovereignty. Adelwalch, the last of them, was subdued in battle by Ceadwalla, king of Wessex, and was slain in the action; leaving two infant sons, who, falling into the hand of the conqueror, were murdered by him.

The abbot of Bedford opposed the order for this execution; but could only prevail on Ceadwalla to suspend it till they should be baptized. Bercthun and Audhum, two noblemen of character, resisted some time the violence of the West Saxons; but their opposition served only to prolong the miseries of their country; and the subduing of this kingdom was the first step which the West Saxons made towards acquiring the sole monarchy of England.

The kingdom of Wessex, which finally swallowed up all the other Saxon states, met with great resistance on its first establishment; and the Britons, who were now inured to arms, yielded not tamely their possessions to those invaders. Cerdic, the founder of the monarchy, and his son Kenric, fought many successful, and some unsuccessful battles, against the natives; and the martial spirit, common to all the Saxons, was, by means of these hostilities, carried to the greatest height among this tribe.

Ceaulin, who was the son and successor of Kenric, and who began his reign in , was still, more ambitious and enterprising than his predecessors; and by waging continual war against the Britons, he added a great part of the counties of Devon and Somerset to his other dominions. Carried along by the tide of success, he invaded the other Saxon states in his neighborhood, and becoming terrible to all, he provoked a general confederacy against him. Escwin then peaceably acquired the crown; and, after a short reign of two years, made way for Kentwin, who governed nine years.

Ceodwalla, his successor, mounted not the throne without opposition; but proved a great prince, according to the ideas of those times; that is, he was enterprising, warlike, and successful. He entirely subdued the kingdom of Sussex, and annexed it to his own dominions He made inroads into Kent; but met with resistance from Widred, the king, who proved successful against Mollo, brother to Ceodwalla, and slew him in a skirmish. Ceodwalla at last, tired with wars and bloodshed, was seized with a fit of devotion; bestowed several endowments on the church; and made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he received baptism, and died in Ina, his successor, inherited the military virtues of Ceodwalla, and added to them the more valuable ones of justice, policy, and prudence.

He made war upon the Britons in Somerset; and, having finally subdued that province, he treated the vanquished with a humanity hitherto unknown to the Saxon conquerors.

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He allowed the proprietors to retain possession of their lands, encouraged marriages and alliances between them and his ancient subjects, and gave them the privilege of being governed by the same laws. These laws he augmented and ascertained; and though he was disturbed by some insurrections at home, his long reign of thirty-seven years may be regarded as one of the most glorious and most prosperous of the Heptarchy.

In the decline of his age he made a pilgrimage to Rome; and after his return, shut himself up in a cloister, where he died. Though the kings of Wessex had always been princes of the blood, descended from Cerdic, the founder of the monarchy, the order of succession had been far from exact; and a more remote prince had often found means to mount the throne, in preference to one descended from a nearer branch of the royal family.

Ina, therefore, having no children of his own and lying much under the influence of Ethelburga, his queen, left by will the succession to Adelard, her brother, who was his remote kinsman; but this destination did not take place without some difficulty. Oswald, a prince more nearly allied to the crown, took arms against Adelard; but he being suppressed, and dying soon after, the title of Adelard was not any further disputed; and in the year , he was succeeded by his cousin Cudred.

The reign of this prince was distinguished by a great victory, which he obtained by means of Edelhun, his general, over Ethelbald, king of Mercia. His death made way for Sigebert, his kinsman, who governed so ill, that his people rose in an insurrection, and dethroned him, crowning Cenulph in his stead. The exiled prince found a refuge with Duke Cumbran, governor of Hampshire; who, that he might add new obligations to Sigebert, gave him many salutary counsels for his future conduct, accompanied with some reprehensions for the past. But these were so much resented by the ungrateful prince, that he conspired against the life of his protector, and treacherously murdered him.

Cenulph, who had obtained the crown on the expulsion of Sigebert, was fortunate in many expeditions against the Britons of Cornwall; but afterwards lost some reputation by his ill success against Offa, king of Mercia. The king had an intrigue with a young woman, who lived at Merton, in Surrey, whither having secretly retired, he was on a sudden environed, in the night time, by Kynehard and his followers, and after making a vigorous resistance, was murdered, with all his attendants. The nobility and people of the neighborhood, rising next day in arms, took revenge on Kynehard for the slaughter of their king, and put every one to the sword who had been engaged in that criminal enterprise.

This event happened in Brthric next obtained possession of the government, though remotely descended from the royal family; but he enjoyed not that dignity without inquietude. By living in the court, and serving in the armies of that prince, the most able and most generous that had appeared in Europe during several ages, he acquired those accomplishments which afterwards enabled him to make such a shining figure on the throne.

It was not long ere Egbert had opportunities of displaying his natural and acquired talents. Brithric, king of Wessex, had married Eadburga, natural daughter of Offa, king of Mercia, a profligate woman, equally infamous for cruelty and for incontinence. Having great influence over her husband, she often instigated him to destroy such of the nobility as were obnoxious to her; and where this expedient failed, she scrupled not being herself active in traitorous attempts against them. In the kingdoms of the Heptarchy, an exact rule of succession was either unknown or not strictly observed; and thence the reigning prince was continually agitated with jealousy against all the princes of the blood, whom he still considered as rivals, and whose death alone could give him entire security in his possession of the throne.

From this fatal cause, together with the admiration of the monastic life, and the opinion of merit attending the preservation of chastity even in a married state, the royal families had been entirely extinguished in all the kingdoms except that of Wessex; and the emulations, suspicions, and conspiracies, which had formerly been confined to the princes of the blood alone, were now diffused among all the nobility in the several Saxon states.

Egbert was the sole descendant of those first conquerors who subdued Britain, and who enhanced their authority by claiming a pedigree from Woden, the supreme divinity of their ancestors. But that prince, though invited by this favorable circumstance to make attempts on the neighboring Saxons, gave them for some time no disturbance, and rather chose to turn his arms against the Britons in Cornwall, whom he defeated in several battles. The Mercians, before the accession of Egbert, had very nearly attained the absolute sovereignty in the Heptarchy: they had reduced the East Angles under subjection, and established tributary princes in the kingdoms of Kent and Essex.

Northumberland was involved in anarchy; and no state of any consequence remained but that of Wessex, which, much inferior in extent to Mercia, was supported solely by the great qualities of its sovereign. Egbert led his army against the invaders; and encountering them at Ellandun, in Wiltshire, obtained a complete victory, and by the great slaughter which he made of them in their flight, gave a mortal blow to the power of the Mercians.