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Ethelfleda, lasting benefits to themselves and their country. The
one taught her pupil the art of warfare, and set him an example of patient endurance, stubborn determination, great policy, unshaken fidelity, and a perfect scorn of the pleasures of the flesh; after the birth of her first and only child, Elfwina, she deserted her husband's bed; from that time they appeared more as companions in arms than as husband and wife. The other taught her pupil the delights of learning, and guided his boyish ambition towards objects which were ultimately destined to raise the social and moral standard of his subjects; though she also set him an example of girlish attachment, and easy observance of the codes of Christianity, a delight in the pleasures of a court procured at any sacrifice, and a fondness for the concerns of wifehood,
however infamously attained. Her death, Henry of Huntingdon becomes enthusiastic while
describing the reign of Ethelfleda, and finally bursts forth into verse :
“Ethelfleda, terror of mankind !
Nature, for ever unconfin’d,
By thee, illustrious Amazon !” 2
* Ingulphus gives the following explanation of this extraordinary conduct: “Pariendo, suam sobolem primam difficultatem perpessa, tanta indignatione carnalem concubitum abhorruit, ut nunquam deinceps ad viri sui thorum rediens, se caelebitu castissimo contineret.”
2 Pennant's Tour in Wales, p. 121.
Edward honoured his sister's memory by depriving her daughter, Elfwina, of ail authority, and by conduct- Elfwina. ing her into Wessex,' under the pretence that she was about to wed? a Danish prince, to whose brother his own daughter was afterwards given in marriage by his son Athelstan. History is silent concerning the fate of this ill-used maiden. She may have lived in solitary confinement to extreme old age, or she may have fallen a victim to the vindictive jealousy of her uncle the king
Upon the death of Ethelfleda, Mercia became a fief The of the kingdom of Wessex, and its ealdormen, though men of they sometimes took a prominent part in the affairs of Mercia. the country, could no longer wield full authority like Penda the Cruel, Ethelbald the Arrogant, Offa the Terrible, and Ethered the vice-King, within the dominions entrusted to their charge. The Mercian ealdormen were Elfere the Regicide, Elfric the Treacherous, Edric the Arch-traitor, Leofric the Pious, Algar the Fiery, and Edwin the Dilatory. Elfere stabbed Edward the Martyr, helped Elfrida, wife of Edgar and mother of Ethelred the Unready, to overcome Dunstan and the Monastics, and was eaten of vermin. Elfric repeatedly betrayed the Unready King Edric did the same, and waded through pools of noble blood,4 until he rivalled Canute himself in power: his victims were Gunhilda, sister of Sweyn, her son, and her husband Palling; the ealdorman Elfhelm, father of Canute's first wife; Sigeferth and Morcar of the Five Burghs;
1 Flor, of Worcester, 920.
· Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Stamford.—Florence of t'orcester.
King Edmund the Ironside, and his brother the Athei-
The chief events in connexion with the lives of
FROM THE DEATH OF ETHELFLEDA TO THE TIME
EDWARD the Elder, Alfred's son, was the first king to Edward take the title of “King of England.” While the Athel- 901 to 924. ing he married a peasant girl
. This marriage was a grave scandal, and shook the credulity of those who looked upon the royal race as descended from Woden. In the year 894 a son was born of this marriage. He was called Athelstan. Athelstan was the solace of his grandfather's declining years. When seven years old Alfred conferred the honour of knighthood upon his grandson, and gave him at the same time a scarlet cloak, a belt, and a Saxon sword studded with diamonds. At the request of his grandfather he became the pupil of the Vice-king and the Lady of the Mercians, under whose charge he was instructed in those military exercises which afterwards enabled him to overthrow the united forces of Gael, Scot, Celt, Norse, and Dane, at Brunanburgh, and to consolidate the The Battle various sections of the Saxon Community, 937. anburgh,
The Saccon Chronicle celebrated in verse Athelstan's great victory, and stated that :
The field deluged
sank to her settle.
King' and Atheling?
2 His brother Edmund. 3 The above lines are taken from the first piece of poetry that appears in the Saxon Chronicles. The writer describes the events of the battle-field and the results of the contest with patriotic enthusiasm. Henry of Hun. tingdon translated this poetry into prose. His account of the Battle of Brunanburgh is unrivalled for majesty of language and brilliancy of description. Mentally, the reader beholds the various scenes of that bloody fight -as the spears transfixed the Danes through their shields ; as the West Saxons hewed with their swords the flying foe; as the Mercians engaged the