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prince, encouraged by the insurgent Danes, entered Mercia at the head of a considerable army, but he had scarcely made a junction with his allies when he was met and defeated by Ethelfleda, and compelled to take refuge in the town of Derby.
The Saxon princess immediately carried her arms into the unprotected territories of the Cambrian prince, laid the country waste, took and demolished the castle of Brecananmere (now Brecknock) and made prisoners his queen and her attendants. She then with her victorious army, marched upon Derby, which was strongly garrisoned by the Danish burghers and by Hughan with the remnant of his forces. Her first assault upon the town was unsuccessful. The castle, which stood on the elevated ground that rises south of the town from the banks of the Derwent, was strongly fortified and well defended. Four of her principal officers, the wardens of her person, fell before the walls, and it was not till the gate was burnt down by the direction of the Lord of Ely, one of the confidential counsellors of Ethelfleda, that the Saxon Soldiers were able to force their way into the citadel. The destruction that ensued was sanguinary, and the Cambrian prince fell in the conflict. The Danish chieftain, who held the government of the town, fled into Northumberland, and the castle was completely demolished.*
In the ensuing year, 919, Ethelfeda compelled the Northumbrian Danes to acknowledge her dominion, and obtained by capitulation the town of Leicester. She died at Tamworth on the 19th of July in that year, and was buried by the side of her husband in the eastern porch of the cathedral church of St. Peter at Gloucester. The heroic character of this princess has been the subject of high eulogium : her father had made her his companion in the camp and in his councils, and she made his actions the examples of her own conduct. Ingulphus says, her brother, Edward the Elder, was greatly indebted to her courage and wisdom, and he calls her "virago prudentissima et antiquis Amazonibus præferenda :” a heroine of the highest prudence, and surpassing the ancient Amazons. —She was the mother of only one daughter, and it is related of her, that having suffered severely in giving birth to that princess, she devoted her life to military affairs and to government. Her abstinence from her husband's bed was not the consequence of that superstitious restraint which was prevalent at that period: it was a devotion to the recovery and welfare of the country placed under her dominion, which she fixed in her estimation above the pleasures or the cares of domestic life.
On the death of Ethelfleda, the sovereignty of Mercia was resumed by her brother, Edward the Elder. This was an act of indispensable policy : for whatever might have been the hereditary claims of his niece Elwina, the daughter of Ethelfleda, it would have been imprudent to have entrusted an extensive and disturbed territory to the dominion of a youthful female, particularly if it be true that she had already betrothed herself and promised the sovereignty of Mercia to Reginald, one of the Danish chieftains. According to some authors, it is said that she was consigned by her uncle to a nunnery, and by others, that she was disposed of in marriage to a thane of the West Saxons. The Danes, though compelled to acknowledge the sovereignty of Edward, were still in
possession of a great part of the kingdom, north of the Trent. The succours they received from Norway and Denmark enabled them to make further ravages, and the ensuing reign of the brave Athelstan the son of Edward, was a series of desperate conflicts. The five Mercian towns, already mentioned, were again in the hands of the invaders, and although Athelstan and his brother Edmund, who succeeded him, were generally successful in checking and chastising these barbarians, yet no peace made with them was of any considerable duration. After a cessation of arms, to which two of the Danish chieftains of Northumbria had been compelled by king Edmund to submit, no sooner had he retired into Wessex than the Danish princes engaged the Mercian Danes to aid them in their renewal of the war. Edmund, apprized of their movements, returned into Mercia and dispossessed the Danes of Derby, Leicester, and the three other places which they still retained in that province.
* The bones, spear-heads, &c. that have recently been found in ground to the south of Babington hill, and in castle fields, are supposed to have remained there ever since this memorable conflict.
But it was not only by the irruptions of the Danes and their attempts at conquest, that the peace of the kingdom was disturbed : jealousies had arisen between the secular clergy and the monks, and : de clamorous dissensions of those whose duty it was to inculcate the christian doctrines of peace and good-will, prevented the kingdom from enjoying the advantages that might have resulted from its temporary deliverance from the ravages of the northern invaders. The onasteries were desolate, and those monks who escaped the swords of the plunderers fled into distant countries. On the return of more tranquil times, the secular clergy were not slow in possessing themselves of the monastic lands, which they bestowed upon the resident priests, and placed under the protection of their bishops. Alfred was unwilling to disturb this new arrangement, and was probably more inclined to encourage the residence of the priesthood among the people than to restore the monastic establishments to their former wealth and influence. In compliance with the remonstrances of the pope, he built and moderately endowed some new monasteries, but was very reluctant to grant any aid for the repair and restoration of those which the ravages of war had left in ruins. So far do we find him favouring the secular priesthood, in preference to the monks, that in his hereditary kingdom of Wessex he caused Plegmundus, the archbis'.op of Canterbury, to consecrate seven bishops at one time.
It annot be supposed that the monks saw this preference without envy and displeasure, particula ly when they perceived that it made a part of the state policy of the three succeeding reigns. Su h resolute and heroic monarchs as Edward the Elder, and his two sons, Athelstan and Edmr and, were not likely to yield either to monkish prayers or monkish denunciations, though the Latter, struck with the uncommon talents of Dunstan, the celebrated abbot of Glastonbury, opened to his ambition the road to power.
After the victories obtained over the Danes by this succession of prudent and warlike princes, the kingdom might have obtained stability and flourished under equal laws, but for the growing animosity between the monks and the secular clergy. The former, reduced everywhere to a state of want by the devastations of the invaders as well as by the imposts laid upon them by various sovereigns for the support of the armies, increased in sanctity and in the affection of the lower orders of the people. This was particularly the case in the districts occupied by the Danish settlers, who received the first rudiments of christianity from the few survivors of those whom they had slaughtered and plundered, and who, either from necessity or devotion, lingered among the ruins of their monastic establishments. In Mercia the secular clergy were nearly extirpated. The manors which formerly constituted the wealth of the religious houses in that province, were in the hands of the military thanes or were held by the Danish soldiery. To the latter of these, in particular, the secular clergy were extremely obnoxious, on account of their dependence upon the suffragon bishops, whose authority the Danes considered as connected with that of the Saxon monarchs.
When Ethelward disputed the right of succession to the crown with his cousin, Edward the Elder, his claim was espoused by the Danes, who were then quietly settled in Mercia and East Anglia, and to the care of the monks was confided the tuition of his infant son Turketul, * who was probably born of a Danish mother. The child imbibed from his instructors much of their knowledge and piety, and when on the defeat and death of his father, he was taken to the court of his victorious kinsman and restored to his paternal estates, he retained that regard for the monks which had been implanted in his mind during his earliest years. He seems to have been a man of talent and probity, but attached even with prejudice to the principles in which he had been educated. King Edward urged him in vain to espouse some one or other of the illustrious daughters of his thanes and dukes, but that devotion to chastity which he had acquired among his monkish preceptors was unsurmountable. When the monarch saw this he endeavoured to persuade him to accept of ecclesiastical dignities, and these persuasions were seconded by Plegmund, archbishop of Canterbury, who was originally a Mercian monk, and had been one of the counsellors and friends of Alfred the Great. “ But he, with various excuses,” says Ingulphus,t
Some writers make Turketul the son of another prince of the name of Ethelward.
+ Ingulphus, page 36.
“escaping from all honours of this description, retained almost as much horror of them through every period of his life, as though they were the snares of Satan for the subversion of souls.” The king, still desirous of placing him in a situation which his learning and virtue might be of service to the state, made him his chancellor. *
When Athelstan led an army into the north to repress the insurrection of Anlaff, the tributary king of Northumberland, who was aided by Constantine, king of Scotland, and Eugenius, king of Cumberland, he was attended by his chancellor, Turketul, who commanded a chosen division of Mercians and Londoners, and was present at the celebrated battle of Brunford, in Northumberland, in which the king of Scotland, with several Irish, British and Danish chieftains, was slain. This victory is said to be chiefly owing to the prudence and intrepidity of Turketul, who, accompanied by a stout'and valiant soldier named Singrin, a centurion in the troop of Londoners, pierced through the opposing squadrons, and arriving at the spot where the king of Scotland was encouraging his troops, smote him from his horse to the ground and endeavoured all he could to take him alive as his prisoner. “Then the Scots rallied in compact bodies, and made every effort to preserve their fallen sovereign. Multitudes fell upon the few followers of Turketul and Singrin, and Turketul himself became the principal object of their vengeance, who at that moment, as he frequently afterwards confessed, began to repent his temerity. The Scots advancing had nearly overpowered his small but valiant band, and were dragging their king out of his grasp, when the centurion Singrin, with one blow of his sword, dispatched the struggling prince. Constantine being slain, the Scots again gave way and left an open road to Turketul and his soldiers. As soon as the death of the Scottish monarch was known, Anlaff took to flight, and a most unheard-of slaughter of the barbarian troops ensued. Turketul was accustomed to glorify God for his preservation in this dreadful battle, and esteem himself most happy and fortunate, that he had not killed any man and had severely wounded none, although in fighting for one's country, and particularly against pagans, this is permissible.”+
This brave but peaceable chancellor was subsequently employed in a mission more suitable to his disposition. The victory obtained by Athelstan had spread his renown throughout the continent, and the most powerful princes courted his alliance. The emperor Henry and Hugh the Great, king of France, sent ambassadors with presents, to demand two of the sisters of Athelstan in marriage with their sons, and Lewis, prince of Aquitaine, sued to be the husband of a third. The chancellor Turketul was appointed to conduct the princesses, who, Ingulphus says, surpassed Diana in the honour of chastity, and Helen in corporeal beauty.
On his return to England, Turketul devoted himself with earnestness to the object he had nearest his heart, and exhausted his powers of persuasion with the hope of inducing Athelstan and his successor Edmund to restore the monasteries. These princes respected his motives and sometimes appeared to encourage his views; but such a measure was not contemplated without alarm by the thanes and the secular ecclesiastics, who dreaded lest they should be called upon to make restitution to the monasteries of the monastic manors in their possession. The poor, whom the wars and the extortions of the nobility and clergy had reduced to a state of abject destitution, deplored the desolation of those establishments, at the gates of which their fathers had met with temporary relief in periods of famine and misery; and the benevolent spirit of Turketul induced him to take part in their complaints. Still his representations obtained for his cause little more than promises, when in the court of Edmund he met with a young and powerful assistant, who sought his patronage, and whom he honoured with his intimate friendship. This was Dunstan, so well known in history under the name of St. Dunstan. The extraordinary proficiency of this youthful priest, who had been brought up under his uncle, Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, in all the acquirements of that age, recommended him to the notice of Athelstan. His skill in music and painting was great, and as it excited admiration so it created envy among some ecclesiastics of the court; and their ignorance of these arts as well as other branches of knowledge, then
There is some doubt respecting the existence of this office before the Conquest. Lambard affirms that the use of the great seal and the office of chancellor, were brought from Normandy by Edward the Confessor.
+ Ingulphus, page 37.
not generally cultivated, but in which he also excelled, he treated with proud contempt. Those whom he offended had sufficient influence to procure his expulsion from court; and though he was shortly after recalled, through the entreaties of his patron Turketul, he never forgot the disgrace, and he even then requested that he might be permitted to retire to the village of Glastonbury, where he passed some years in seclusion, corresponding with few except his patron the chancellor. Whether there had been a monastery at Glastonbury previously to the retirement of Dunstan is uncertain, but he obtained permission from king Edmund to draw together a company of Benedictine monks in that place, over whom he presided. As a testimony of his friendship, Turketul bestowed upon him an elegant chalice, which long afterwards was preserved and known by the name of the chalice of Turketul.
In the following reign of Edred, the third son of Edward the Elder, the chancellor, proceeding on an important mission to the archbishop of York, paid a visit to the desolate abbey of Croyland, where he was hospitably received by three venerable old men, the only remains, with two others, who had retired to the monasteries of Wynton and Malmesbury, of this once populous and wealthy establishment. He was deeply affected by their condition, and on his return to the court, he declared to the king his determination to profess himself a monk, and to endow the abbey of Croyland with all his possessions. He obtained the permission of the monarch with much difficulty, but having resolved not to be frustrated in his intentions, he resigned the chancellorship, and a charter* was granted, at his intercession, to the monastery of Croyland, of which he became the abbot.
Dunstan was of a very different disposition from his friend and patron Turketul, on whose secession from court, he was made the confessor and prime minister of his sovereign.
He was ambitious and fond of wealth. Instead of the horror with which Turketul regarded the rich benefices of the secular clergy as snares for the soul, he determined to promote his friends and partisans, the monks, to the highest offices in the church. On this account the monks extolled his sanctity, and in preaching to the people they did not hesitate to attribute to him an abundance of miracles. His popularity was great in every part of the realm, and the secular ecclesiastics, though supported by the nobility, began to tremble at his influence. Secure in the countenance of his sovereign, he was rapidly placing the wealth and power of the realm under the control of the party whose cause he espoused, when the death of Edred afforded to his enemies an opportunity to triumph over him.
Edwy, the nephew of the deceased monarch, was a youth of fourteen, and his council was composed of thanes and secular priests, who immediately called upon Dunstan to account for the sums of money with which Edred had entrusted him. The monks were deprived of all ecclesiastic emoluments and dignities, and were even expelled from some of their monastic establishments, the revenues of which were bestowed upon the secular priests; and in order to take from the monks the aid of their most strenuous champion, Dunstan was banished the realm, and he retired to a monastery in Flanders.
The partisans of the monks, in the mean time, were not idle. In Mercia and all the districts where the Danes had settled they were numerous, and there they raised a considerable force and proclaimed Edgar, the younger brother of Edwy, king in his stead. This measure was probably resolved upon by the advice of Dunstan, who was instantly recalled by the monks acting in the name of Edgar. Their opponents were taken by surprise; the people generally espoused the cause of the monks, and it was rumoured that the king of Denmark was preparing a fleet to assist or to take advantage of the insurrection. Under these circumstances, the council of Edwy was obliged to submit to a compromise, and it was agreed that Edgar should reign in Mercia, which was then understood to comprise Northumbria and East Anglia ; and, indeed, the whole country, excepting the small kingdom of Essex, that lay north of the Thames.
• The animosity of the monkish party towards the seculars must have been strong and unrestrained, for in this charter, the new abbot is thus mentioned, “ Turketulus, qui jurta Psalmistæ vocem propheticam, odit Ecclesian Malignantium, et dilexit decorem domus Domini.” Turketul, who, according to the prophetic voice of the Psalmist, hated the Church of the Malignants and loved the beauty of the House of the Lord.
Mercia thus became for a short period an independent kingdom, but on the death of Edwy, which happened before he attained his nineteenth year, the whole of England fell under the dominion of his brother Edgar. As he owed to the monks his first elevation to the crown, Edgar's gratitude and interest induced him to listen to their counsels and to favour their objects, and it must be confessed that the country was, during his reign, free from internal commotions and at the same time respected by foreign states. Dunstan, who was made archbishop of Canterbury, continued to repress the party of the nobility and secular clergy, and to promote the monks to dignities in the church and to offices of trust in the state. If we may give credit to the historians of those days, we might venture to say after them, that the reign of Edgar, the wise and peaceable, was the golden age of England.
But the adversaries of the monks, though repressed by the determined conduct of Edgar, were powerful, and waited only for an opportunity to resume their authority; and this they found on the death of the king, who was succeeded by his son Edward, a youth fourteen years old, to whom Dunstan was appointed the guardian. Among those who opposed the influence of the monks, was Alfer, duke of Mercia, who encouraged the seculars to resist the encroachments of their antagonists, and joining the party of the dowager queen Elfeda, who was desirous that her own son Ethelred should ascend the throne, he endeavoured to despoil the monks of their possessions. From many of the monastic establishments in Mercia, the monks were ejected and the seculars installed in their place, who readily surrendered the manors of the monasteries to the thanes, in order to induce them to defend their cause against the monkish faction. Edward, on whom the monks have bestowed the appellation of martyr, reigned only four years, and was slain by the order of his step-mother, when he accidentally visited her, while he was hunting in the neighbourhood of Corfe castle, which was then her residence. His body was thrown into a well at Warham, but the duke of Mercia, opposed as he had been to the counsellors of the youthful monarch, could not bear that such an indignity should be shown to his corpse.
He went, attended by an immense concourse of people, and removed it to the monastery at Shaftesbury.
These dissensions between the secular and the regular priesthood divided the people into violent factions, of which aspiring men among the nobility took advantage. Alfer, the duke of Mercia, now protected the secular ecclesiastics, but at the same time, became the patron or rather the proprietor of the manors, which the monasteries were compelled to surrender to their adversaries. Still the monks had their friends, who, with superstitious devotion, continued to enrich the monastic establishments. According to the statement of Ingulphus, the treasure of the abbey of Croyland had accumulated, in the thirty years from its restoration to the death of the abbot Turketul, to the sum of ten thousand pounds, which, if we consider the difference in the value of money, may be estimated at little less than one million and a quarter in our present currency. But the wealth of the monasteries served only as an inducement to the nobles and the court to render them subservient to their wants, and to seek occasions to levy imposts upon them. A great inequality of property ensued. Many of the class of the thanes sunk into poverty and obscurity, while a few became possessed of such immense tracks of territory, that they rivalled one another and excited the jealousy of the sovereign. In such a condition of the nation, the people impoverished and despised, without attachment to the owners of the land whom they served, and totally estranged from all the professors of religion, whether secular or regular, except hermits and wandering fanatics, who were to be met with in every district, were ready to submit to any change either foreign or domestic. The Saxon power, which for more than four hundred years had been establishing its dominion over this country, sunk into the hands of a turbulent nobility and priesthood: it soon fell prostrate before the Danes, and in less than half a century its nobility was completely extinguished and replaced by a band of adventurers from Normandy. This downfall of the Saxon name and dominion in England might be the subject of much political reflection, and might be made to afford fearful examples to statesmen in modern times ; but we leave it to the general historians of the kingdom, who have, it must be lamented, too much neglected a period which time, as well as the intricacies of its leading events, have combined to in