Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Eadburga was a very

bad woman. She was surpas- Eadburga singly handsome, and had great influence over her husband. When people offended her she accused them falsely to him, so as to deprive them of life or of power. As a rule, her husband did as she wished. But, unluckily for him, he refused to believe her accusation against a young man whom he loved. His wife determined to poison her husband's favourite. Not knowing what was in the wine cup presented to the object of his wife's hatred, Bertric partook of it and died. Thus Eadburga by her wickedness lost her husband, her throne, and the society of her friends, for the people of Wessex rose against her and sent her out of their country. They also passed a law that henceforth no king should reign over them who allowed his wife to sit beside him on the throne. King Ethelwulf broke this law.

Eadburga crossed over to France with great riches to the court of Charlemagne. The emperor wished to marry her, and asked her which she would prefer, bimself or his son ; she answered—“If I am to have my choice, I prefer your son, because he is younger than you.” He replied, “ If you had chosen me, you should have had my son, but as you have chosen him, you shall have neither of us.” Thereupon he caused her to become an abbess. For an unchaste act she was expelled from France. Thence, deserted by all save one faithful servant, she made her way to Pavia.

It was not unusual in the days of the Saxons for the King's eldest son to be chosen King during the lifetime of his father. Doubtless this was done in order to make sure his accession to the throne. Thus, Egfert, Offa's

i Florence of Westminster, under the year 855.

Egfert, 794.

son, was not merely the heir to the throne of Mercia, but he was actually elected and consecrated King nine years before his father's death. And yet the year 794 witnessed the death of father and son. The death of the latter intensifies the forlorn and destitute condition of his sister, the representative of a dozen monarchs, and the last of the race of Offa, in a foreign land

LEADING EVENTS.

633

Massacre of Welsh Students by Ethelfrid at Bangor Is
Coed

603 A.D.
The Bretwalda Edwin killed by Cadwallawn...
Cadwallawn killed by Oswald ......

634 The Bretwalda Oswald killed by Penda..

642 Penda killed by the Bretwalda Oswy....

655 The Accession of Offa

755 The Death of Offa, and the extinction of his Race 794

CHAPTER III.

FROM THE DEATH OF OFFA TO THE CONVERSION

OF GUTHRUM.

The Saxons looked upon their kings as generals and administrators. It was necessary for them to be able to lead their subjects to battle, and also to manage the internal affairs of their kingdoms. The Saxons did not acknowledge the hereditary rights of their kings. A son succeeded a father, not because he was his father's son, but because he was elected by the Witan to sit upon the throne. They selected the best man they could find. Thus it was that Egbert, son of Elmund,

Egbert, King of Kent, was elected by the Witan, composed of 800. the ealdormen, thanes, clergy and people of Wessex, to rule over that state. And these facts explain why Alfred and Edred became kings instead of their nephews.

Egbert had been the rival of Bertric, but Offa took the part of his son-in-law, and caused Egbert to leave the land. He went to the court of Charlemagne, where he learnt many useful things. No doubt Offa's influence with the emperor prevented Egbert's return to England during his lifetime. Egbert was looked up to because he was the last descendant of the house of Cerdic. He changed the name of the country from Britain to England, either on account of its shape, which resembles that of a triangle, or because it was inhabited chiefly by the descendants of the Angles.

Sax. Chron., 784.

1

827.

828.

Egbert, In 823 Egbert defeated the Mercians; and his son 623.

Ethelwulf annexed to his father's territories those of the men of Kent, of the men of Surrey, and of the South and East Saxons: in the same year the East Anglians sought Egbert's alliance, and also his protection against Mercia. In 827 Egbert conquered Mercia, and the whole of the country south of the Humber; he also led an army against the Northumbrians, and forced them to swear allegiance and obedience to him. He was the eighth and the last Bretwalda. In the same year he was crowned at Winchester as first king of the Saxons. And in a charter of 828 he is styled King of England.

His reign was distinguished by many battles, for as Offa, to establish his kingdom, “shed a deluge of blood;" so Egbert won and rescued the kingdom of Wessex by

the shedding of much blood. Egbert was succeeded Ethelwulf, by his son Ethelwulf, who also fought many battles.

One of these battles was against the Welsh of Wales, as Burhred, King of Mercia, who afterwards married his daughter, besought Ethelwulf to help him against his aggressive neighbours, who stoutly opposed the forces of the Mercians. The Welsh were unable to withstand the combined forces of the Kings of Mercia and Wessex—they were defeated, and forced to submit to their Saxon neighbours.

Ethelwulf went to Rome, and on his way back he married Judith, a girl of twelve years of age, daughter of Charles the Bald of France. During his absence in Italy and France, his eldest son Ethelwald, with the

836 to 858.

1 Flor. of Worcester.

2 Saxon Chronicle. The writer of this chronicle, under the year 855, had evidently a high opinion of Ethelwulf, as he traces his descent to Adam

help of the bishop of Sherborne and the Ealdorman of Civil DisSomerset, schemed to prevent his father re-assuming 856.

sension, the government of his kingdom. Ethelwald was not altogether successful in his ambitious projects, as the nobles did not wish to see the land rent asunder by civil strife; they therefore would not help him in his designs to prevent, by force of arms, the return of his father to England. Ethelwulf, religiously inclined, and solaced by the presence of his girl wife, was induced to divide the kingdom between himself and his son. Ethelwulf took the eastern part of the kingdom, and Ethelwaldthe western. The former seemed to have consoled himself at his curtailed rule by making Judith, contrary to the custom of the West Saxon Kings from the days of Offa's daughter, to sit beside him on the royal throne--and this was done without arousing the hostilities of his nobles by word or deed."

Ethelwulf was a pious man: he left land for the glory of God and the salvation of his soul; and he commanded his heirs to look after the poor.

In addition to Ethelwald, he was the father of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, Ethelred, and Alfred, all of whom reigned as kings. The first died before his father The second son married his father's girl-widow. But the people cried shame upon him, and she was sent to her home, 859. There she ran away with Baldwin the great forester of France. He became Earl of Flanders. From Baldwin and Judith descended Ma

Flor. of Worcester. · The Saxon Chronicle terms him Athelstan, and states that his father gave him in 836 the kingdoms of the Kentish men, of the East Saxons, of the men of Surrey, and of the South Saxons; it further states that in 853 Ethelbert ruled over these districts, and that his brother Ethelbald ruled Wessex.

3 Sax. Chronicle.

« ForrigeFortsett »