Massacre on St. Brice's


massacre of all the Danes of every age and of both

sexes, because the Danes bad formed a conspiracy to Day. 1002. kill him and his nobles, and to reduce the whole of

England under their rule. We must not, therefore, forget the circumstances that surrounded the king when he issued his fiat against the Danes. In fact, this massacre, unlike the dynastic one in Italy and the religious one in France, was a political or massacre: it was brought about from fear of loss of life and of supremacy, rather than through a spirit of wild revenge or of wanton cruelty.

The slaughter of the Danes was not so great as is commonly believed, as the king's order could not have been executed in Northumbria, East Anglia, or the seven Burghs, as the Danes formed the bulk of the population in those parts. And it is not unlikely that those Danes who had accompanied Olave and Sweyn, and who had been allowed to settle in England, alone were killed. Amongst the slain were Palling, Gunhilda, and their son. They had been put under the protection of Edric. With a refined cruelty, he caused both husband and child to be killed in Gunhilda's very presence, and then ordered her head to be cut off, though he stated that her death would bring great evil upon the whole kingdom.

The massacre of the Danes upon St. Brice's Day may be looked upon as the first move in the game

of slaughter instigated by Edric, and as the first thread of that web in which he hoped to mesh those who stood between him and supreme power, for he was the ruling

1 The Sicilian Vespers, 1272. 2 St. Bartholomew's, 1572. 3 The towns of Leicester, Stamford, Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, York, and Chester. 4 Lappenberg

5 Matt. of Westminster. 6 Will. of Malmesbury.


Ethelred=(1) Elfleda, a Saxon lady: (2) Emma of Normandy.

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Edward=Agatha (niece to Henry II., died in Hungary.

Emperor of Germany.)

(2) EMMA was the mother of
Edgar, the

Margaret=Malcolm, king Christina,

of Scotland.

a nun.
Alfred. Edward the Godat =Walter of

Matilda: =Henry I. of England.

Maria-Eustace III. of

Saxon Chronicle.

2 Flor. of Worcester.
3 William of Malmesbury states that Henry married Matilda "in our time,” thus showing that he was
their contemporary.

+ She also married Eustace II. of Boulogne, of Dover notoriety: by his second wife, Ida, Eustace became the father of Eustace III., and of Godfrey and Baldwin, successively kings of Jerusalem. Assassination of Elfhelm, 1006.

Edric's Marriage, 1007.

spirit upon that barbarous day. His next victim was Elfhelm, ealdorman of Mercia Edric invited him to a great feast at Shrewsbury. During the hunt which followed, a ruffian, known as “the town's hound," suddenly sprang upon Elfhelm and killed him. The assassin had been bribed by Edric.

Edric had gained the king's favour by his riches, by his smooth tongue, and persuasive language. He was made ealdorman of Mercia 1007; and he also obtained the hand of the king's daughter, Elgitha.

Ethelred appears to have been as great a match-maker as Athelstan. The latter married his sisters to ruling princes: the former married his daughters to the leading men in the land, whom he attached to his cause by these marriages.

In the year 1004 Sweyn paid his second visit to England, and plundered and burnt down Norwich and other places. In 1006 he again landed upon our shores, and England is said to have trembled before him like the rustling of a bed of reeds shaken by the west wind.' King Ethelred, naturally indolent, was sick with sorrow and perplexity at his manor in Shropshire. His army was a mere rabble, ignorant of military discipline, and without a leader. The days of peace under Edgar had made the Saxons unfit for war: and his fleets had been allowed to decay. In his desperation the king had been advised to buy off the invaders. He had already on three different occasions paid them 10,000, 16,000, and The Danes

Sweyn, 1004.

Flor. of Worcester. 2 Canute married his daughter Elfgiva. She was the mother of Harold Harefoot, King of England, and of Sweyn, King of Norway.

Florence of Worcester states that Sweyn was the son of a priest, and Harold the son of a cobbler; and that they were adopted by Elfgiva, who assured the king that she was their mother,-hence Mary of Modena was not the first suspected of having deceived a royal husband.

No doubt Elfgiva informed Canute of her father's assassination through Edric's instrumentality ; but she did not live to see her husband revenge the death of his father-in-law. 3 Matt. of Westminster.

6 Will. of Malmesbury. + Flor. of Worcester.

6 See previous page. ? Henry of Huntingdon.

bought off 24,000 pounds of silver; and in the year 1007 Sweyn consented to a peace upon the receipt of 36,000 pounds of silver. These ruinous sums of money bought off the invader only for a short time. In 1008 the Witan, at which the King presided, determined to build a large The Saxon fleet for the defence of the country, and to get armour fleet, 1008. for the sailors. It was decreed that the whole of England should contribute in the proportion of one ship for three hundred and ten hides of land, and a breast-plate and helmet for nine hides. A hide was as much land as one plough could till in a year. This was the first direct tax levied in England: it was a thoroughly voluntary one. With the money thus raised one thousand vessels were built. After their construction they were brought together at Sandwich, with supplies of provisions and chosen troops on board, and there they laid at anchor. Such a naval force had never been seen in England before. But the money and the labour of the nation were brought to nought through the conduct of Brihtric, who falsely accused his nephew Wulfnoth Wulfnoth to the King. Wulfnoth fled with twenty vessels, and was pursued by his uncle with eighty, who vowed he would bring him back “dead or alive." A storm arose and shattered the fleet under Brihtric. The wrecks were set on fire by Wulfnoth. The evil tidings soon reached the rest of the fleet, which returned to London.

1 Matt. of Westminster. • Florence of Worcester.

3 Henry of Huntingdon.

Destruction of Canterbury,


The army was also broken up. Henceforth Ethelred took no active part in the defence of his kingdom.

We now pass on to the year 1011, when Canterbury was betrayed to the Danes, who put some of the men to the sword, others perished in the flames that enveloped the town, several were thrown headlong from the walls, women were dragged by their hair through the streets and then burnt to death: infants, torn from their mother's breasts, were caught on the point of spears, or crushed beneath the wheels of waggons. The venerable Archbishop Elphege was loaded with fetters and tortured. For seven months' he was kept in prison, as the Danes expected he would pay the sum

of three thousand pounds of silver for his release. He Arch- refused to pay it. Thereupon they dragged him before bishop Elphege's

their popular assembly, and pelted him with stones, martyr., bones, and ox skulls, and finally, one of them, who had dom, 1012.

been confirmed by the archbishop the day before his martyrdom, put an end to his sufferings, out of pity, by splitting his head with an axe. Thus fell this noble man, whose courage and consistency excites the admiration of mankind.

In 1012 Edric and other members of the Witan prevailed upon the Danes to leave England for 48,000

pounds of silver. The following year Sweyn entered Sweyn: his England for the last time. His track was marked by and death, blood, famine, and pestilence. The whole country was

at his mercy. Oxford fell before the Danes. Winchester opened its gates to Sweyn. At Bath he was proclaimed king. The Londoners alone stood firm, and resisted his attacks as long as the king remained with them; but whenhe fled from the city in order to join


"Florence of Worcester.

2 William of Malmesbury.

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