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by other nations, mourns over his foreign vices, and his introduction of heathen customs, outlandish men and harmful people into England.
The Birth of Dunstan
AN EXAMINATION CONCERNING THE TRIBUTE OF WOLVES'
HEADS, AND EDGAR'S TRIUMPH AT CHESTER.
We shall now leave Dunstan for awhile. History books Edgar and
the wolves inform us that the Welsh princes were so completely subdued by Edgar, and that the Saxon king had such regard for the Welsh people, that he obliged their princes to hunt down the wolves in their domains, and present the heads of three hundred of them every year to him: thereby acknowledging him as their lord, and, at the same time, freeing their own people from these fierce animals.
This story envelopes Edgar with a twofold mantle, that of the autocratic king, and that of the humane
If it were a true story, one's imagination could easily picture the great hunting parties throughout Wales, and the anxiety of its princes, lest they could not make up the stipulated number of Heads. But it must be put aside as one of the interesting legends concocted by Edgar's monkish admirers. It might be true that foreigners came to witness' his glory and to hear the words of wisdom that fell from his lips, but neither his glory nor his wisdom could have much influence over Welsh wolves. In fact, this story rests upon the authority of one chronicler. The same writer states that Athelstan drove Idwal Voel from his kingdom, and afterwards restored him to it, with the words
Flor. of Worcester, 959.
2 Will. of Malmesbury.
Edgar “It was more glorious to make than to be a king !” upon the No allusion is made to this tribute by any Welsh or
Saxon writer. Even upon the showing of the Norman monk, this story cannot be true, for he states that Edgar commanded Judwall to pay him yearly a tribute of 300 wolves. Judwall, no doubt, stands for Idwal Voel. And the Welsh chroniclers assert that Idwal was killed in battle by the Saxons in 943, whereas Edgar began to reign in 959.
Dr. Lingard, and very many other historians, aver that once upon a time a most interesting spectacle was witnessed on the Dee at Chester-the appearance of no less than nine kings in one boat. The steersman was Edgar of England, and the eight oarsmen were the monarchs who held sway over almost the whole of the Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles. What a day that must have been at Chester when this most interesting and significant event took place! The River's mouth must have been thronged with vessels. There must have lain at anchor the ships of the Saxon monarch who had navigated the whole of the seas encompassing Great Britain. There, too, must have been anchored the vessels that brought to Chester the kings of Cumbria and of Scotland, “that prince of pirates, Maccus" (what fierce looking and broad-chested fellows they must have been! but what must he have been himself ?), not to mention the small craft of the sight-seers. It certainly was in the opinion of the inhabitants and of the lookers-on a day of days — a day from which to chronicle all subsequent events as long as their lives lasted. But what must have been the happy and proud thoughts that tenanted the breasts of the Saxon king and the Saxon premier, Dunstan of
Canterbury (if he were present), as the one steered Edgar "to the admiration of many," and the other officiated upon the in the monastery of John the Baptist? To the one it was a regal, to the other an ecclesiastical triumph.
Such a train of thoughts as the above would probably enter the mind of the readers of Dr. Lingard's account of this, to him and to many others, historical fact.
It is almost a pity to try to dispel the mists that surround this interesting legend—for legend it must be pronounced to be—and so disbelieve the magnificent effects of Edgar's declaration to his nobles in the words “that now at last all his successors might boast that they were kings of England, since he had enjoyed a procession of such honour and triumph in the obedience of so many kings.”
Had this procession actually taken place, the chroniclers would, doubtless, have agreed upon the date of its occurrence, the number of tributary kings, the town near which, and the river upon which, it took place. They would, moreover, have coincided as to the names of the performers. But there is no unanimity amongst them in these particulars. There are also other facts and points which tend to throw doubt upon the story of King Edgar and his contemporary princes at Chester.
Florence of Worcester says that the reputed occurrence took place in 973; Matthew of Westminster says in 974; William of Malmesbury does not give the date; the Saxon Chroniclet says Edgar was at
· Matthew of Westminster; he wrote his chronicle in the 13th and 14th centuries.
? He wrote in the 11th and 12th centuries. * His chronicle was written in the 12th century.
We have evidence to conclude that facts were recorded in its pages contemporaneous with their occurrence; hence the great reliance placed upon its statements.
Chester in 972; Henry of Huntingdon' says he was there in 970.
Florence of Worcester, Matthew of Westminster, and William of Malmesbury, say there were eight tributary kings at Chester; but the Saxon Chronicle and Henry of Huntingdon give six as the number.
In the Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the Princes) we read that in the year 971 “Edgar, King of the Saxons, collected a very great fleet at Caerleon upon Usk.” It gives no information about his visit to Chester, and the procession upon the waters of the Dee; it simply states that Edgar collected a very great fleet, and that that fleet lay at anchor before Caerleon, a town in Monmouthshire, situated on the river Usk.
All that the earliest authorities state is that Edgar held a Court at Chester, and that he there received the homage of the kings. Henry of Huntingdon says that six subordinate kings pledged him their fealty there : but he does not give their names, nor does he say a word about the triumphant procession by water. The Saxon Chronicle is equally silent on these two vital points. Nor does Humphrey Lloyd, in his Historie of Cambria, or any other Welsh historian, allude to this matter.
The names given by the monkish chroniclers do not correspond with the names of the Welsh kings who were contemporary with Edgar up to the year 974, except that of Howell, given by Matthew of Westminster; and it will be borne in mind that 974 is the year given by this chronicler as the one in which Edgar's triumph took place at Chester. This is a curious coincidence.
Written in the first part of 12th century.