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GODWIN, 4 earl of Wessex,=Gytha, sister of Ulf, Canute's brother-in-law.

IIAROLD, king of Edgitha=Edward the Sweyn, Tosti, Gurth, Leofwine, Wulfnoth,
England,
Confessor.
k. by Saracens. k. at Stam- k. at

k. at a hostage.
k. at Hastings.

ford Bridge Hastings. Hastings.

Haco.
Harold, and
other sons exiles.

1 Florence of Worcester.
2 Saxon Chronicle. Dr. Lingard states “The descent of Harold can be traced no further back than his grand-
father Wulfnoth.

3 Ingulfus. 4 William of Malmesbury states that Godwin's first wife was Canute's sister, and that their son was drowned in the Thames.

G

CHAPTER XII.

EDRIC OF MERCIA, OR THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN SAXON

AND DANE FOR SUPREMACY.

Edric of
Mercia.

4

EDRIC was the master spirit of his time. In days of
cruelty and treachery, he was the most cruel and
treacherous of his contemporaries. By means of subtle
genius, persuasive eloquence, matchless perfidy, and
relentless cruelty, he ruled the land. Two kings' he
betrayed time after time: one king he killed : twos
kings he placed upon the throne. Had Edric not lived,
there would have been no Danish Conquest of England:
ancient writers look upon him as the cause of the
subjugation of their country.
In
very

truth Edric was the fit successor of Penda, of Offa, of the regicide Elfere, and of Elfric. It seemed as if the very soil of Mercia bred traitors and rebels. In after time Algar of Mercia allied himself with Griffith of Wales, and fought against his own countrymen: his sons, Edwin and Morcar, were passive traitors to Edward the Confessor, active ones to Harold, son of Godwin, and compulsory ones to William of Normandy. We must, however, recollect that treachery appeared to be studied in those days as a fine art. The catastrophe at Calne was the result of treachery. The king's mother had been won by treachery and murder; his half-brother had been sent to an early grave by guile and the dagger. Moreover, the king himself endea| Ethelred the Unready, and Edmund the Ironside. 2 Edmund. Sweyn and Canute.

4 Lingard, vol. i., p. 157.

3

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voured, by one foul and sweeping act of cruel treachery, Edric of to destroy his enemies in one day. It will thus be Mercia. seen that treachery was practised in church and state, in the camp and at the court. Edric, however, determined to out-Herod them all. He soon became known

a new traitor, but one of the highest order." We have no information concerning Edric's forefathers: neither their names nor their positions in life are mentioned by the chroniclers, except that we are informed that he was of low origin, and further that he was the lowest of the people. One writers gives the names of his brothers and that of his father. One of his nephews, Wulfnoth, became the ealdorman of Sussex, in which position he was succeeded by his His relason Godwin, and by his grandson Gurth. Henry of tionship Huntingdon and the Saxon Chronicle style Wulfnoth “ Child of the South-Saxons,” a term equivalent in some respects to that of Atheling: Matthew of Westminster styles him “the king's servant.” It is stated that Wulfnoth was a herdsman in early life, and that Godwino helped him. Another nephew, Edric the Forester, was as successful against the Normans amidst the woods and hills along the Welsh borders as Hereward was amongst the Fens. From these particulars we gather that Edric belonged to an historic family, many of whose members were perfectly free from guile and cruelty, and who willingly sacrificed their lives for their country.

Ethelred began to reign when ten years old. His

2

1 St. Brice's Day, 1002.

Henry of Huntingdon. 3 Florence of Worcester.

4 Matt. of Westminster.
5 The MS. Chronicle of Kadulphus Niger.

Lapponberg: Sharon Turner.

994,

youth was the chief cause of the disasters that happened to the Saxons during his reign. He had no general to lead his soldiers to war: he had no one to give him sound advice in the council chamber. When he heard of the death of his half-brother Edward he wept aloud : his tears so irritated his mother, that, not having a whip at hand, she beat him with candles in so savage a manner that he dreaded candles to the end of his life, and could not suffer the light of them to be brought into his presence. This incident shows that in his youth he could not go to his mother for comfort and

advice. Olave and

The unprotected state of England soon became known Sweyn,

to the Danes and Norwegians, who invaded its shores under Olave of Norway and Sweyn of Denmark in 994. They were bought off, and some of them were allowed to winter in the land. In the year 1002 two events took place in England: each event led to a change of dynasty. The first was Ethelred's marriage with Emma, “the Pearl of Normandy,” daughter of Richard I., Duke of Normandy, called by the Saxons Elfgiva (“the gift of the fairies "). This marriage was an act of policy in order to secure the aid of the Normans against the Danes. It paved the way for the Norman Conquest. One chronicler observed that this marriage, in conjunction with the attacks of the Danes, was a double chastisement and a snare, and that if the Saxons escaped the open attacks of the Danes, they would not have the firmness to break the meshes in which the subtlety of the Normans would entangle them unawares. The

1 Will, of Malmesbury.

2 Ethelred married Emma for the same purpose that Vortigern married Rowena.

Henry of Huntingdon.

3

second event was the massacre on St. Brice's Day: this led to the Danish Conquest.

Edward the Elder began the perilous custom of employing Norwegian and Danish auxiliary forces; they were called huscarls. Under Ethelred several of these northern soldiers held posts of trust in the army and the navy. Palling, a Dane, whose wife was Gunhilda, Sweyn's sister, was an admiral of the king's fleet. Naturally the huscarls had a kindly feeling towards their own countrymen. The king's marriage was hateful to them, for they feared that the son of this union might become king of England and Normandy, and so, sufficiently powerful to drive them out of the country. Thereupon they determined to take the king's life? by treachery, to kill every member of Massacre the Witan, and afterwards to seize the kingdom “with-Brice's

Day, 1002 out any gainsaying." This is one reason why Ethelred ordered the Danes throughout the land to be killed. From another source we learn that this massacre was brought about through the insolence of the Danes, who, after peace had been declared, insulted and violated the wives and daughters of the nobles. One chronicler stated that Ethelred ordered the massacre of the Danes, because he was “elated with pride” after his marriage with Emma; and another4 asserted that he did so“ from light suspicion.” According to Florence of Worcester, it was plot against plot, and a simple question as to which party should strike the first blow, for he distinctly states that Ethelred gave orders for the

· Saxon Chronicle. 2 Matt. of Westminster. 3 Henry of Huntingdon.

4 Will. of Malmesbury: he does not mention what the king suspected; no doubt his suspicion had reference to some Danish plot against his life or authority.

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