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occupied by the piratical Danes, and the names of the kings of Mercia effaced from their monumental tablets. He departed for Rome, and a few days after his arrival he expired. He was buried at the Saxon school in that city. His queen, immediately after his departure, endeavoured to follow him. She died during the journey and was buried at Ticini.
Ceolwulph, whom the historian Ingulphus describes, as an Englishman by family but a barbarian in impiety, succeeded Buhred, one of whose attendants he appears to have been, in the sovereignty of Mercia. He was placed on the throne by the Danes, to whom he swore fidelity. His only care was to raise the tribute which his masters had imposed upon him as the price of his elevation, and under terror of losing his life by the hands of the barbarian chieftains who composed his court, he issued edicts forbidding any resistance to the Danish exactions. In his progresses through the kingdom, he completely stripped the few remaining cultivators of the land of all that remained to them : he fleeced the traders: he oppressed the widows and orphans, and he put the votaries of religion to innumerable and unheard of tortures, under the accusation that they concealed their treasures. On the abbot and fraternity of Croyland alone, he laid an imposition of one thousand pounds, which, says Ingulphus, so impoverished the monastery that converts ceased to frequent its walls; the greater part of the professed monks and novices either returned to their friends or dispersed themselves throughout the country, while the abbot Godric remaining in the monastery with a few who were attached to him, dragged out a miserable existence in the lowest poverty. “ It was then,” continues the monastic historian in a strain of lamentation, “that all the goblets of the monastery except three, together with the whole of the silver vessels except the crucibolum of king Wichtlaf and other plate and jewellery of immense value, which were either converted into coin or sold for money, scarcely sufficed to pacify the insatiable cravings of Ceolwulph.”
The success of the illustrious Alfred in the west and the south of the island was the signal for the fall of this wretched instrument of the Danish marauders. As this wise and heroic prince advanced towards the confines of Mercia, the Danes became more and more mistrustful of the wretch whom they had placed upon the throne for no other purpose than to give a sort of regal authority to their exactions; and it is probable that Ceolwulph, weary of a position in which he was the agent of the tyranny of others, had endeavoured to enter into some sort of a negotiation with Alfred. Whatever was the cause, he incurred the displeasure and drew upon himself the vengeance of his masters. They deposed him, and in a state of complete nakedness* and destitution, they expelled him from the palace, and left him to perish, an object of execration and contempt to all who beheld him. Shortly after this event, the victorious Alfred, before whom the Danes either bowed down in submission, or fled to their piratical chieftains on the coast, seized
upon the realm of Mercia and incorporated it with his other dominions. Thus fell, never to be resumed, the Mercian crown, which from the time when it was assumed by Penda, until the moment when the brows of Ceolwulph were deprived of its subjected and degraded honours, was in existence about two hundred and thirty years.
In Mercia, as in all the other Saxon kingdoms, we see a rude and courageous band of military colonists under a leader of their own choice, and claiming a share in all the benefits of conquest, seizing upon the lands, enslaving or expelling the people, and spreading their own name, manners and institutions over one of the most distant, though not the least distinguished of the deserted provinces of Rome. That this middle district of the island had not been neglected by the Romans there exist many interesting proofs, which are already noticed in the chapter respecting the antiquities of this county; and, since in mountainous provinces, the inhabitants of a conquered country seek refuge and retain, in proportion to the difficulties of these natural defences, their manners and their religion, so we may justly conclude, that Britons, and even the descendants of Roman settlers, continued to reside among the northern ravines of Derbyshire even when the surrounding plains were in the possession of the Saxons. An investigation of the traces which those people have left behind them would not ill repay the researches of the curious, but we have
Usque ad ipsa verenda nudatus. Ingulphus.
neither space nor time to be circumstantial upon this subject. But the civilization that partially remained among the Roman colonists and which had extended itself among the Britons, whom that great people taught as well as subdued, had not its usual influence over their Saxon invaders. The wars, which lasted three hundred years between these military adventurers and the previous possessors of the soil, who maintained their ground as long as they could, and receded step by step before their conquerors, fomented a spirit of mutual animosity, which totally precluded any communication of habits and manners. This was much to be lamented, as the Britons were christians upon a purer system of christianity than that which had gained ground at Rome after the enrichment of the Roman pontiff by Constantine and his successors. The Saxons were unfortunately doomed to receive christianity from the missionaries of the pope, and probably they did this the more readily as they found their enemies, the christian Britons, treated as schismatics by the papal edicts. Accordingly the enrichment of the priesthood was one of the first tenets they were taught, and this sort of practical devotion was well suited to a rude and illiterate people, whose chieftains and thanes were opulent in the spoils of a newly devastated country.
These sanguinary warriors could not easily be taught to pray, and their conversion was held sufficient when it induced them proudly and munificently to purchase the prayers of others. To found monasteries, largely endowed with surrounding manors, including not only the rents of those manors, but the enslaved serfs or tenants who cultivated them, was one of the chief marks of piety in the Saxon kings and their thanes; to quit the cares, the toils and the glories of their thrones, and to seek the indulgences of monastic quiet in these religious seclusions, on which they had themselves previously bestowed the means of luxurious retirement, was another. King Wichtlaf, as we have seen, gave the wine-bowl which he was accustomed to call his crucibolum and his capacious drinking horn, to the monks of Croyland.
Towards the latter end of the sixth century the Saxons of Kent were converted to the christian faith, and about fifty years afterwards, Peada, the eldest son and successor of the sanguinary Penda, encouraged by his example the establishment of christianity throughout Mercia. The monastery of Medeshamsted was commenced by this monarch, and completed by his two brothers who succeeded him. The latter, Ethelred, after a reign of thirty years, professed himself a monk, and retired to the monastery of Bardney. Two sisters of these pious princes are likewise lauded by the ecclesiastical writers for their sanctity; and their nephew, Kenred, after a short reign of four or five years, made a pilgrimage to Rome, and closed his life at the foot of the apostolic throne.
Vestiges of two factions in these early times are perceptible in the pages of the monkish writers. The accumulating power and wealth of the clergy necessarily raised much jealousy among the thanes or nobles, who soon found that all the charges of war were thrown upon them, while the ecclesiastic territories were exempted from all civil taxes and military service. These immunities seem at first to have been conferred as testimonies of particular respect on the more favoured establishments, but Ethelbald, one of the most powerful of the Mercian monarchs, issued, in the year 719, a statute,t by which he declared all the religious houses in his dominions, absolved from all taxes and civil or military services whatever, except those for the construction of roads and bridges, from which the edict says, none can be exempted. This latter clause proves the attention of Ethelbald to the intercourse of his subjects throughout his dominions; and it may be justly concluded that trade, which is the principal object of such intercourse, had become worthy of royal protection. But, this statute also shows that there existed a faction adverse to the immunities enjoyed by the ecclesiastics, for it speaks of similar grants having been treated with contumacy, and of persons, who, having no regard for the salvation of their souls, accused the holy possessors of forging the deeds of donation. This adverse faction, headed by a thane named Beonred, displayed its power in a successful rebellion. Ethelbald fell in battle, and the usurper possessed the throne for some months.
* To plaust hay or corn is a term used in the High Peak, for the carting of those articles; a word evidently derived from the Latin plaustrum: and the sord, from sordes, is the common expression for the rind or refuse of cheese and bacon. + Ingulphus, page 5.
The succeeding reign of Offa was marked with considerable dissension. He was a strongminded man, descended from Penda, by a different line, and owed his elevation to the monkish party, whose views he encouraged by founding the monastery of black monks at St. Albans, but in less than thirty years after his decease, we find the kingdom in a discordant state, and the throne occupied by Bernulph, whom Ingulphus describes as obstinate and perverse, and illustrious only for his wealth and powerful influence. The neighbouring kingdoms of the East Angles and the West Saxons took different parts in the commotions of Mercia, but Bernulph and his relative Ludican, who were supported by the disaffected thanes, were for some time successful: and Wichtlaf, who is termed the Duke of the Wicci, was called in as the leader of the ecclesiastical party, but he was for some time compelled to seek refuge in the marshes of Lincolnshire and the monastery of Croyland.
It is impossible to peruse the remainder of the Mercian history, while that district retained the denomination of a kingdom, without perceiving how much the dreadful inroads of the piratical Danes were indebted for their success, to the dissensions with which the realms were distracted. The monks nominated and favoured those princes who increased their domains and confirmed their immunities, while they, reluctantly and scarcely without compulsion, contributed either men or money to their best protectors. Bertulph, the brother of Wichtlaf, was supported by the West Saxons. He put to death his grand-nephew, but he seems to have been man of considerable policy, who endeavoured to conciliate the contending parties and to raise Mercia to its former rank in the heptarchy. He, however, compelled the monasteries to contribute to the sustenance of his army against the Danes, and again conciliated the friendship of the abbots by ample donations. But the greatness of Mercia was passed. The West Saxon monarchs were supreme, and Buhred had to defend a tributary sceptre, not only against the invasions of barbarians, but against the tumultuous factions by whom he was surrounded.
The church of Mercia was, at its establishment by Peada, under the government of a bishop named Diuma, a Scot, who was accompanied in his zealous endeavours in converting the pagan Saxons to christianity, by three other holy men. The success of their efforts was slow, and Cellach, the second bishop of Mercia, was obliged to retire into Scotland, to avoid the persecution carried on by Wulpher against the christian converts, at the beginning of his reign. But this persecution was not of long duration. Wulpher himself became a christian, and under his protection St. Ceadda, or Chad, fixed his episcopal seat at Lichfield. This diocess was very extensive, and was afterwarıls divided into four, the sees of which were fixed at Lichfield, Worcester, Hereford and Leicester.
It does not fall within our province to narrate the contentions between Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury and Wilfrid, archbishop of York, which occupied many years towards the close of the seventh century, and interested the sovereigns of Northumberland and Mercia. In the year 703, Wilfrid, having irritated his pupil and sovereign, Alfred of Deira, sought protection from Ethelred, king of Mercia, and was by him promoted to the see of Leicester ; but he soon incurred the displeasure of his royal patron; and, having by his haughty conduct created himself many enemies among the princes and prelates of the heptarchy, he carried his complaints to the pope.
There can be little doubt that the authority possessed by the archiepiscopal sees of Canterbury and York, was the occasion of frequent jealousies to the secular clergy of the other kingdoms. Offa was sensible of this; and therefore to prevent the interference of archbishops whose sees were in the domains of his enemies, with the clergy of his own realm, resolved that Mercia should have its own primate. For this purpose he privately solicited Pope Adrian I. to raise Lichfield to an archbishopric. After great opposition on the part of Lambert, the archbishop of Canterbury, this important point was attained, and Higbert, bishop of Lichfield, was declared an archbishop. Offa has been accused of purchasing this favour from the pope, by the tax called Peterpence, which was levied on Mercia and East Anglia, nominally for the support of the Saxon school at Rome. With her subsequent misfortunes, Mercia lost her archiepiscopal see; which she enjoyed only fourteen years.
The conversion of the Saxons of England to christianity is generally attributed to the labours
of St. Austin and the Benedictine monks who accompanied him in his mission, under the direction of Pope Gregory I. but it must not be forgotten that christianity was the religion of the vanquished Britons, and that it flourished in considerable purity throughout the Lowlands of Scotland. These Italian missionaries never entered Mercia, the inhabitants of which followed the example of their northern neighbours of Northumbria, and listened to the exhortations of the Scottish monks of St. Colomba ; for which, we may presume, they were prepared by the residence of many christian Britons in the mountainous districts, on whom, Bede tells us, emancipation was bestowed. The length of time that elapsed before christianity was generally embraced by the Saxon sovereigns, and the rapidity of its subsequent progress, has surprised many writers, but we are not to suppose
that it had not, during that period, made converts among the lower orders of the people, with whom, as it was taught by the Scottish and British clergy, it could not but be an acceptable persuasion to nations of free men as the Saxons were by their native institutions. It is plain from the letters of the pope, that he had heard of the increasing influence of christianity, and his fears arose, lest the converted Saxons should, like their instructers, the Scots and Britons, be reluctant to acknowledge the supremacy of the Roman see. Hence it appears that the ancient British christianity was that professed by the people, while the Romish christianity was received by the princes and the wealthy thanes. Even the Mercian kings, some of whom seem to have felt all the devotion of neophylites, were reluctant to receive the prelates nominated by the apostolic chair, and preferred religious men of Scotland or of their own dominions to the newly-founded bishoprics and monasteries. It was not until the year 816, when a council was held at Calcuith, that the rites and ceremonies of the Roman church were fully established, and it was there declared that no Scottish monk or other priest of that country should baptize or perform any divine ordinance in England.
But the most remarkable characteristic in the introduction of christianity among the Saxons of England, is the rapid conversions that were made in the highest classes of society, and the small degree of persecution with which it had to contend. Its saints were numerous, and generally of distinguished rank; its martyrs were extremely few. St. Werburga, whose name is bestowed on one of the churches of Derby, was a Mercian princess, and St. Alchmund, to whom another ancient edifice in the same borough is consecrated, was a Northumbrian prince. During the space of about two hundred years, in the Saxon annals, we have (says Rapin) seven kings, seven queens, together with eight princes and sixteen princesses, distinguished with the title of saints; besides ten kings and eleven queens who resigned their crowns and palaces for the cowl and the cloister.
The Political History of Mercia continued. The Earls of Mercia, &c.
FROM the time of the victory of Egbert over Bernulph, king of Mercia, at Ellisfield, near Winchester, which happened about the year 819, the state of Mercia became tributary to the kings of Wessex. The East Anglians, who since the time of Offa, had been subjected to Mercia, immediately revolted and joined the conqueror. The Mercians, however, as we have seen, struggled against their impending fate, and it was not until after the complete defeat of Wichtlaf and the mediation of the abbot of Croyland, with whom he had taken refuge, that the submission of Mercia was confirmed by a treaty. Buhred's queen was the daughter of Ethelwulph, king of Wessex, and he relied much upon that connexion in his endeavours to free his dominions from the ravages of the Danes, but although his brother-in-law, Ethelred, brought aid to him at Nottingham, he was obliged to purchase an inglorious truce with the invaders. About the time of the accession of Alfred to the throne, the Danish chieftain, Ubba, invaded Mercia, and Buhred again raised money from the monasteries in order to induce the barbarians to quit his territories. They soon returned, and Buhred unable to raise an army or to save his factious kingdom from their depredations, retired to Rome.
When Alfred had reduced the Danes to submission and taken from them the city of London, he conferred upon Ethelred, who had espoused his daughter Ethelfleda, the title of Duke of Mercia, and placed London under his government. This was in the year 887, when Mercia was still in the hands of the Danes. They possessed the towns of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln and Stamford, and Alfred, upon condition of their acknowledging his sovereignty over them, permitted them to retain these places, under the denomination of the five Danish Burghs of Mercia. The title of Ethelred, as it is said to be found in his charters, was “ Dux et Patricius Merciorum ;" but some of our historians assert that his title was Subregulus or Vice-regent of the Mercians.
In confining ourselves as strictly as possible to the history of Mercia, we pass over many of the leading events of the reign of the illustrious Alfred, which belongs to the general history of England. On the accession of Edward the Elder, the son of Alfred, the Danes again revolted, and renewed their ravages under pretence of supporting the claims of the prince Ethelward, the son of Alfred's elder brother. The courage and activity of Edward were well seconded by the Earl of Mercia and his heroic wife, the princess Ethelfeda, who in the arts of war as well as those of peace emulated the actions of her father. Some of the strong holds which the Danes held in Mercia were seized, and the Britons of Wales, who had been called upon to aid the cause of Ethelward, where checked and defeated in their progress towards the borders of Mercia. It was not, however, until two years after Ethelward had fallen in battle, that the Danes sued for peace. It was granted them, but uneasy under the authority which Ethelfleda and her husband exercised in Mercia, they renewed the war in the year 910. Their audacity cost them dear; they suffered severely in two battles, and, by the advice of his sister, king Edward established a line of military posts across the country, of which one was fixed near Becanwell or Bakewell in this county. Ethelred died in 912, and the sovereignty of Mercia, was exercised by Ethelfeda alone. Her first care was to repair those towns that had been demolished by the Danes, and to raise castles and other fortresses; the chief of which were Tamworth, Stafford, Warwick, Puncorn in Cheshire, Cherbury in Shropshire, Wensbury in Staffordshire, Leicester, Edesbury in Cheshire, besides the castles of Stamford, Bridgenorth and Scargate. Whilst she was thus employed, Hughan, a Welsh