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THELRED was substituted in place of the dead Edward, the thirtieth king after Cerdic, thanks to whose idleness the condition of the commonwealth came to such a pass that we can justly say its old age commenced in his reign. These evils had been forecast by Archbishop Dunstan a little before they ensued. This good prelate refused to crown Ethelred, as he aspired to throne because of his brother’s murder. But when he was compelled to do this, then he delivered a prophecy that the English people would lose its liberty and universally pay a heavy price. Ethelred was the least skilled at warfare of all men, being a sluggard and a devotee of idleness and luxury. Which thing, being well known to all men, gave him an evil reputation with everybody, and he was deemed a no-account by England’s neighbors and by the barbarians. And so Dacian pirates, relying on their courage, riotously invaded the island, slaughtering everything, and marching in ever direction. And since the coastal regions had no garrisons, they were with ease made the Dacian’s special prey. And the Dacians, made more ferocious by this success, turned themselves in every direction, wasting everything. The king did not dare confront them, and so of necessity he gave them a great sum of gold to return to their native land as quickly as possible. But this condition for peace greatly deceived the king. For, so far from relieving his kingdom of its present trouble, it afflicted it with a far greater one. For the Dacians, allured by the gold, soon broke the truce and again attacked the island, and did not to so with slackness or trepidation. Rather, they did this after having assembled a mighty army and outfitted a fleet. Report of new war unhinged the king, since had hoped that they would be content with the profit they had made and would undertake nothing, and so he was hardly ready to wage war. Nonetheless he outfitted a fleeet as soon as he could, and placed over it Elfric, a man fierce in spirit and might but, I know not why, a disloyal one. For when the Dacians arrived, he gave out that he was minded to confront them, as he pretended to prepare himself for a fight, but he defected to the enemy. This thing so crushed the islanders’ spirits that, contrary to all men’s expectations, next to no fight was put up. Rather, in the blink of an eye some ships fled in fear, others were captured, and the greatest number sunk. And, receiving fair weather, the Dacians landed ashore and burst forth in all directions, hot for plundering. But those who entered Norhumbria, when each man was rashly engaged in plundering, they were partly killed by the rustics, and partly defeated and put to rout. And those who sought to storm London and had surrounded it with a siege, since its citizens held out more staunchly than anyone had expected, lost hope for the siege and freely abandoned it. But after suffering this reversal, they were no more behindhand in harrying, harassing, and oppressing the English king. And in the end they gathered together into one body, not in the manner of rioters, but with good military order preserved, and attacked the enemy. And since Ethelred, scarcely equal in strength, could not put up a resistance against them, out of consternation he sent them ambassadors to threat of peace. And those who were sent made a peace with the enemy on these terms, that England would pay annual tribute to the Dacians. And although this was shameful, yet in view of the necessity of the times it was very opportune. After this, Elfric, the Admiral of the royal fleet, who had been living among the enemy, abandoned hope and returned to Etheldred for the sake of obtaining pardon for his crime. And for his crime the king had his eyes put out, but spared his life. Peace had scarcely been procured in this way when Ethelred began to abuse it. For while he led his life in sloth, he grew harsher and crueller to his subjects than he had been before. He singled out the rich and despoiled them, disgraced others, and banished yet others for the most trifling of crimes. Likewise freedom was granted to tattle-tales to destroy whatever men they wanted, and his ears were so open for their slander that no man was free from danger. The mind of the people was so wounded by these thefts that each and every man cursed him openly. When the Dacians learned this, they bethought themselves of another sudden invasion of England, thinking that the popular mind would be so provoked to desertion by the vices of their that king, that it would take little effort to make them surrender. Therefore their king Swino I promptly turned his mind to waging war against Ethelred and gradually assembed forces not to be despised. And before I narrate this, I shall at this point make timely mention of Richard, the second Duke of Normandy, as promised, to that the due order of their dukes may be observed.
2. Richard was moderate in his manner of living, most skilled at the martial art, and worthy of his father’s dukedome, which he governed soberly. For when waging war it was his habit to make a proclamation to his soldiers that they should not violate friends nor lay hands on holy property, so that both at home and in the field he might measure everything by honor and right religion. King Robert of France, the son of King Hugh Capet, had particular experience of his martial virtue. For when he was treacherously attacked by some of his nobles, he escaped their clutches only by Richard’s help and advice. And yet there was some admixture of vice with his virtues. For he was infamous for his lust, for he loved many women, including a girl of low birth with whom his nobles warned him not to consort. Yet so far was he from abstaining from her that, quite contrary to their advice, he married her. And by her he fathered three male children, Richard and Robert, who subsequently ruled Normandy, and William, who embraced the life of a monk. And he had the like number of daughters, Alice, the eldest, married to Reginald Count of Brittany, Eleanor, married to Baldwin count of Flanders, and a third, who married the King of Navarre. At length Richard died, full of years, and his son Richard III succeeded him, a very illustrious man, who died three years later, not without suspicion of poison. He was followed by his brother Robert, whose exploits will be shown at a convenient place. Now I must return to King Sweno of the Dacians.
3. He set out for the east coast of England with many ships, and when he arrived and had unshipped his soldiers, and been told by his scouts that the inhabitants of those places were unready, he marched forward, leaving a small guard for his ships, stormed villages, burned buildings, made booty out of men and cattle, and made his way northward. He enjoyed the pleasures of plundering with no man offering resistance, and first invaded Northumbria. They, partly terrified by the present danger, and partly remembering that they had obeyed other Dacians, as has been shown above, and so, thinking the Dacians were returning to their own subjects, not to enemies, freely surrendered. Then he attacked the Mercians and overcame them with next to no trouble. First he headed southward, subduing all the inhabitants. Made more ferocious by this success, the Dacian made up his mind to assault London, where he had heard Ethelred to have retired because of the commotion. Therefore, having made all his preparations, he hastened to take the city by storm, and suddenly encircled it so that by this ultimate peril he might frighten the citizenry, or try their strength. On their side the townsmen, although quaking with unanticipated fear, yet thinking their fortune was linked to that of the whole nation, since London was its capital, defended themselves with great energy. For some went out to meet the enemy and others harassed them from the walls, and each man played his own part and did his utmost to withstand their power. At the last, although the Dacians pressed them most stoutly, the English remained undaunted by this rough work, so they might protect their king from harm. Indeed, they dared suddenly to throw open the gates and mount a skirmishing sally against the enemy. But the Dacian commander, who desired to support his men and retain the victory he had nearly won, although surrounded left and right by his enemy and having lost many of his men, burst through the opposing spears and marched day and night with his remaining army in the direction of Bath. There was a singular fight, in which England greatly displayed its martial virtue, since under the generalship of Ethelred, a man devoid of courage and counsel, they preventing such a strong enemy from storming the city. While Sweno loitered at Bath, he began to suffer from such a shortage of provisions that he was compelled to allow the English to redeem the tribute imposed on the island a little before, and so, receiving the money, he returned to Dacia, intent on returning as soon as possible with a larger army.
4. Meanwhile Ethelred imagined this sale of the tribute implied that the Dacians should henceforth keep their peace. But the lords thought otherwise. Seeing in their minds that such a weight of evil could not easily be removed from their necks, they urged Ethelred to prepare an army as soon as he could. And Sweno did not delay for many days, just as the English nobles judged, and flew back to England. Nor was there any longer day until the English were present, and both sides came together with equal hatred and spirit. At first the fight was arduous, but soon some Englishmen went over to the enemy, and it became so deadly that in the end Ethelred perceived that his affairs were in deadly danger. And so, after the defeat, he assembled his men and addressed them as follows: “I could hold my silence forever, my lords, if I had my father’s virtue in giving counsel and in ruling the kingdom well, or if our soldiers lacked the strength to defend our nation. For my part, I admit that death for one’s country is a fine thing, and I am ready to sacrifice myself for our nation or to cast myself into the middle of our enemies. Here I see that my nation and whatever belongs to the English are destined for ruin, unless we quickly take counsel. We are being conquered by the Dacians, not by arms, but by the disloyalty of our own men. In the beginning I readied a great fleet against our enemy, but Elfric the traitor betrayed it. Then we frequently fought with unhappy results, again by the deceit of our own. Hence we were compelled to enter into a shameful pact with our enemy, so that we might yield to a necessity that God alone can overcome. This pact was made to our perdition, since our enemies, for whom nothing is holy, nothing true, were not ashamed to do that very thing which is contrary to law and right, and, in despite of our hopes, break it. Therefore, since our enemies are over our head, now let it be the task of you, whom I know have always heeded my commands, to provide, consult and provide help for your collapsing country.” When he had said this, all of them became more concerned with the common safety and deciding what was best, and they convened a council to deliberate what was to be done. Yet here they were for a long time anxious and doubtful, like the men in the Greek proverb who held a wolf by the ears. If they committed themselves to battle, they foresaw that they more to fear from their own countrymen, who out of panic were hoping to defect,than from their very enemy. On the other hand, should they retreat, they faced a foul and shameful surrender. And yet they thought this the lesser evil, thinking that in this way many would be saved from slaughter, and someday, if they remained safe, they could regain their nation’s freedom. All agreed to this opinion. Therefore the king determined to entrust himself and all his fortunes to Richard II Duke of Normandy, whose sister Emma he had married. But, lest he do so rashly, he sent ahead Emma to her brother Richard with his two sons Alfred and Edward, to test the duke’s mind. Richard gave his sister and her sons a kindly welcome, and promised her husband Ethelred assistance in defending his kingdom. Meanwhile Sweno had occupied a large part of England and was gradually subduing the rest, when Ethelred, thinking that now was the time to abandon his nation to the enemy, fled to Richard in Normandy. And then at length Sweno gained rule over all of England. And so the Dacians won the kingdom of the island, the next after the English. This was in 1004 A. D.
5. Sweno used his victory over the English very cruelly, so that they would be weakened and he henceforth would be free of danger. He so lacked any limit in sating his savagery and plundering other men’s possessions that he did not stay his hand from priests and sacred property. Indeed, this impious man, planning to abolish the English name and by all means to banish the Christian religion from men’s hearts, after he had stripped the nobles bare and looted many churches of their donatives, finally sacked the monastery of Bury, wherein lay the body of St. Edmund King and Martyr, and devastated all the countryside round about. But soon thereafter Sweno paid a due forfeit to the monks, those devotees of miracles. For they say that he was exulting in the company of his solders, boasting of the kingdom he had won, suddenly he was stricken, as if by a dagger from heaven, and collapsed, shouting that he was killed, and he died on the spot. All those present, amazed by this sudden event, yet seeing no murderer, thought this was the doing of their gods. And a very fine tale came down to later times that he was killed with the very same dagger St. Edmund had worn in life. But Sweno had a very different, and very much happier, ending, as Saxo Grammaticus tells us. For he relates that this king, after having many varied adventures, subjected the English, and granted King Ethelred (who in the manuscript of Saxo he is wrongly identified as Adelstan) peace on the condition that after his death all his heritage would come to himself, and that he later converted to Christianity and with great piety atoned for the deeds of his prior life. These things are not abhorrent to the truth, that Sueno died a Christian death and that Ethelred reigned in this precarious way, since it is well agreed that, after having been expelled from his kingdom, he died in England and not in exile. And I should not omit this, that a sure proof and demonstration of Sweno’s piety is that in his reign the Dacians accepted Christian teaching. But let me continue with the sequel.
6. Not long after the death of Sweno, the Dacians created as their king his son Canute, a young man of excellent character and loftiness of mind, distinguished for his Christian piety. The English, who longed for nothing more than to cast the Dacian yoke from off their necks, heard the rumor of Sweno’s death, and, overjoyed, immediately sent a letter to Ethelred announcing the demise of their enemy, and urged him to consent to come home as soon as he could, to snatch his kingdom out of the hands of foreigners. And for the achievement of this they all promised their help and fortunes. This thing raised the king’s spirits, who, full of the desire for revenge, did not hesitate in putting this into action. But he feared the common people might be wavering, and to test their sentiment he sent his elder son Edward ahead into England, who would find out if they remained loyal. Edward went flying, with his great sagacity he sounded the minds of all men, and he returned with the same speed to Normandy to report to his father that all was safe enough, if he would only hurry. Made hopeful by this news, Ethelred decided to risk his fortune. Therefore, supported by the help of Duke Richard, he promptly sailed to England. His arrival was all the more welcome to the islanders because Dacian domination was deadly to the English race and name, so that they had already started to loathe them heartily, albeit Canute greatly strove to keep them faithful by using all generosity and kindness. And so that he would receive divine aid in ruling his kingdom aright, it is said that, next to God, he took care to appease St. Edmund (who had previously shown his wrath against his father Sweno) with prayers and many gifts. Among these donations, the popular report goes, was a crown, given on the condition that, if he so chose, he could buy it back for a great sum of money, whence arose a custom for later kings to do the same, but this was not long observed, if it ever was. For, as Persius says, “what has gold to do with holy things?” He likewise enriched the church with various donatives and the monks with ample landholdings. A few days after Ethelred landed in England, he readied a great army and marched against Canute, then staying at Lincoln, and drove him from that place, wasted the entire province with fire and sword, and killed a goodly part of the inhabitants. Lincoln is a populous city located towards the east, and a part of it, set on a hill, is decorated by a magnificent church sacred to the Blessed Virgin Mary and defended by a strong castle. Another part of it is built on a flat plain, facing southward, and is watered by the river Witham, as it is commonly called, and has fields both very fertile and very pleasant. And Canute, who departed because he was unequal in strength, boarded a ship he kept ready at the mouth of the Humber, and sailed back to the port of Sandwich in Kent, where his fleet rode at anchor. There he cut off the hands and noses of some noblemen given to Sweno as hostages to guarantee the peace treaty, and, leaving a garrison to defend the port, he immediately departed for Dacia, determined to gain his revenge as soon as his domestic affairs allowed. In the interim he was obliged to place a domestic war ahead of his one in England, and overcame in battle the Sclavs or Wends, a very untrustworthy people. Having done so brilliantly and planning greater things in his mind, which later came to pass (since the end of one thing very often serves as the beginning of another), he formed plansto attack the Norwegians, by whom he had been cheated of his kingdom a little while early. But while he was still in the beginning of his affairs and did not think it safe to wage so many wars at once, he had deferred this to another time. For the Norwegians, hearing of Sweno’s death, chose Olaf as their king so they no more have to obey a foreign ruler. And so for the present he remained intent on his English war, and industriously made ready the things necessary for this business.
7. At about the same time various prodigies were reported, which men readily pronounced to portend a change in the kingdom. In particular, the sea was said to have given a sign of future calamity, which without any visible cause which could take away the wonder of the thing, rose to an unusual height, drowning villages and some men. Meanwhile Ethelred, being a man who was sluggish in doing all things, did not prepare an army against an enemy who was bound to come, nor did he prepare the things necessary for waging a war, but, with a womanish greed for revenge, he so oppressed those Dacians who had children by English wives and possessed all their fortunes in the island, that, after a great slaughter had been inflicted, a goodly number were captured and tortured to death. Among these were Sigifred and Morgand, high nobles of the Dacians, who were accused before the king on false charges by Edric Straton, a man of considerable physical and mental power, but not endowed with a good character. And so crime was piled on crime. For among the captives was the wife of Sigifred, a woman of singular chastity and exceedingly elegant beauty. The king’s son Edmund had previously corrupted her, although after her husband’s death he married her. As soon as these things were reported to Canute, they so fired his mind that he speedily wound up his business in Dacia and returned to England, especially bent on avenging the injury suffered by his countrymen. And leaving men to protect his ship, he ravaged this way though Kent and came to the West Saxons, leaving nothing undamaged along the way which he could harm with sword or fire. At the moment, Ethelred was suffering from a disease and prevented from action, so he ordered his son Edmund to gather an army and go straightway against the enemy. Edmund was fierce and strong both of mind and body, and so had the name of Ironsides. Ethelred had not fathered him on Emma, but on a second wife named Ethelgina, a low-born woman, and by his excellent virtue he covered his father with glory and ennobled his mother. And so Edmund, having discovered the enemy’s route of march, prepared as large forces as he could and got there before them, going through obscure byways, bent on attacking them. Edric Straton was his associate in this war and in all his counsels, and he, begrudging the young man his glory, urged him not to burst upon the enemy, a device that only served to destroy the fellow. Edmund heeded what he said, waiting for a better opportunity for fighting to be offered. Meanwhile Edric, being a traitor, earnestly strove to betray Edmund to the enemy, and when he saw he was making no headway, he thought there was no further point in dissimulation, and so openly went over to Canute. As a result that a goodly portion of the islanders, stricken with fear, volunteered hostages and leagued with the Dacians, submitting to their rule. Only the Mercians remained loyal, proclaiming they would never desert as long as they had a leader. While these things were in train, Ethelred, a little relieved of his disease, set out against the enemy, but when he received tidings of the setback, he was overcome by chagrin and disgust for his unfortunate life and turned aside to London, where he began to ail worse than ever. But Edmund, exercising his courageous mind amidst such confusion, thought it best to ignore the enemy and fight to recover those towns which had defected out of fear. Therefore, for the present preferring that counsel to attacking the enemy, attacked some places and took them by storm, leveled others to the ground, punishing those who had gone over to the enemy so that others would remain loyal out of fear of similar handling. Canute realized that his enemy’s plan would turn out to his harm unless he could prevent it. And so he sent a portion of his forces into Northumbria to plunder the patrimony of Utred, the first earl of that region, created by Ethelred, a stout man who frequently commanded Edmund’s army, so that he would be compelled to return home for the sake of defending his property. Nor were the Dacians cheated of their hope. For as soon as he received news of the harm he had suffered, Utred went flying to Northumbria. And there, although for a while he offered stout resistance, in the end he despaired of his safety and surrendered himself and all of Northumbria to the enemy. But afterwards, by a supreme act of treachery and contrary to the rules of war, he was strangled. Meanwhile Edmund, deprived of Utred’s help, fled to his father at London. When Canute heard of this, he left Northumbria protected by a garrison and, taking ship, returned to his fleet on the Kentish shore. In that year Ethelred was afflicted both by a protracted illness and a sorrowing mind, and died, a man who from the outset was more suitable for idleness than waging war, and addicted to the pleasures of the body more than the virtues of the mind. But in his old age he was improved by long experience, and strove mightily, although in vain, to prop up his collapsing nation. He was buried with great pomp in the church of St. Paul at London. By his first wife Elgina (or, as some less accurately report, his concubine) he had Edwin, Adelstan, and a single daughter Edgina. Likewise by Emma he fathered Edward, that most holy man, and Alured or Alfred. He introduced excellent laws. This was the thirty-eighth year of his reign, and the third after his flight to Normandy, and the year of human salvation 1015.
8. At this time there existed men famed for their intellect and sanctity, one of whom was Ethelwold the monk, made Bishop of Winchester for his singular learning. The works of his piety survive, especially two religious houses, a nunnery at Winchester and a Benedictine monastery called Petersburg, since it was consecrated to St. Peter. This is is in the east part of Northamptonshire and belongs to the diocese of Lincoln. And when he had ended his life he began to wax famous for miracles, and so after his death he was numbered among the saints. Elpheg succeeded Ethelwold, a man endowed in all points, afterwards created Archbishop of Canterbury. When Canterbury was taken and sacked by the Dacians, then, out of his zeal for propagating religion, by his preaching and example he exhorted those of the barbarians who were pagans to accept the worship of true piety, and attained to the palm of martyrdom. Dunstan lived at this time, who deserved well, both by giving upright counsel and prudent advice concerning his nation and by increasing religion. And (praise be to God) his sanctity and piety were so famous that his memory increased day by day, and in his life he shone for his many miracles. Passing through all the ranks of dignity, he attained to the office of archbishop. He had previously been Abbot of Glastonbury, then Bishop of Worcester, and at the same time of London, since he was sufficient and worthy to perform many great offices. Lastly he was made Archbishop of Canterbury and consecrated Kings Edward and Ethelred. And, when his life had run its course, he died in the twenty-eighth year he sat in that office, and was canonized for his life’s sanctity. He was succeeded by Archbishops Ethelgar, Siric and Aluric, who presided over that dioceses for a total of about eighteen years. Elpheg followed, the twenty-seventh in the order of Archbishops of Canterbury, whom some put in the time of Ethelred, but which cannot square with chronology if the reckoning of years is counted aright. For there were fourteen years from the death of Dunstan to that of Ethelred, when Aluric was sitting. Therefore it is necessary that Elphig ruled that diocese after that time, and to have lost his life by martyrdom while Canute ruled all of England after the death of Edmund. And about 978 A. D. died Oswald Archbishop of York, in the twenty-third year he occupied that see. He was a man who deserved sainthood for the purity of his life, and the Benedictine monastery built by him in the village in the diocese of Lincoln called Ramsey, hard by Ely, stands as a monument to his piety. There followed Adulph, Vulstan, Alfred, Chinse, and Adred, the twenty-fourth archbishop. He and Alured of Canterbury consecrated King Harald, about whom more will be said in life of William, who defeated him. In these times the episcopal see at Lindesfarne was translated to Durham, and the body of St. Cuthbert was brought there, as has been related elsewhere.
9. On the death of his father, Edmund was proclaimed king by the Londoners, but the rest of the people called Canute their king, partly out of fear, partly out of their desire for innovation. But Edmund, fiercer in mind, immediately recalled his men from winter camp, and, entering into the hope of recovering places, made forced marches with a quick army into the West Country. The more to terrorize the enemy, he came with his army in battle array and first of all launched assaults against Glocester and Bristol. And here with no less spirit than counsel he attacked the Dacians who had been left behind to garrison these towns out of fear of siege, but who were compelled to come out in fight because they had been provisioned for only a few days. For a little while the enemies sustained this assault, even if they were terrified by the sudden commotion, but then they were turned to flight and each man looked out for himself and fled to safety. Amazed at this thing, some of the neighboring people out of necessity gave hostages and surrendered. Meanwhile some of these Dacians who had escaped the slaughter, came to Canute in Kent, and told him of the outcome of this adventure. Just as if he had heard nothing about his men’s reversal, he collected his forces and eagerly attacked London, commanding his ships to come there also by sailing up the Thames, and surrounded the city in a siege. No great slaughter was done, since no battle was fought, since Canute was hastening to fight Edmund. For in the interim he heard that Edmund had turned back to Andover, a village fifteen miles from Salisbury. And when he came there, he pitched camp at a place visible to his enemy and brought out his army drawn up in battle array. Edmund did not refuse the fight when he saw the enemy standards displayed. They fought from the third hour until nearly nightfall, when the battle still hung in the balance. Then Edric left the battle and climbed a watchtower. There he shouted that Edmund had been killed, showing a bloody sword. While he was thus shouting, the English archers came close to killing him. But this trick scarcely stood its authors in good stead. The English were so incensed with indignation that they encouraged each other and burst upon the enemy with such an onrush that first they moved them from their place, then with their boiling spirits they put them to rout. They would have worked a great slaughter, had the night (which was now far advanced) permitted. Thus put to flight, Canute traveled all night towards Winchester, and retreated to a safe place. But Edmund, as I find in some writers, did not follow his enemy, but rather turned in the direction of Salisbury to bring aid to its citizens, oppressed by a second band of Danes. Canute came there not long thereafter. Then they drew up their armies not far from the city and joined battle. The fight was sharp, since they had fresh spirits and bodies, and long fought on equal conditions. Then night separated the soldiers, all of whom were by now exhausted. On the following day the English stood under arms from sunrise, until Canute came out to fight. The battle was a sharp one, with the same result, much blood being shed on both sides, and at dusk they departed, the outcome still in doubt. The following day both armies stood at leisure and ate, and on the next they piled together the bodies of their dead and burned them, and yet they did not set their arms aside. On both sides more than twenty thousand men had been lost. The following night Canute silently broke camp and departed for London, which his fleet was all but besieging. When daylight revealed the enemies’ escape, Edmund followed in their tracks and with a light skirmish freed the Londoners from the siege. And so he triumphantly entered the city with great pomp and joy. Canute, his hopes dashed, took great spoils from the nearby places and went back to his fleet, which a little before had betaken itself to the river which flows by Rochester. Once called this river the Medegware, today it is the Medway.
10. Here Canute stayed a few days, partly to enlarge his army, and partly to discover his enemies’ counsel by means of scouts, and this he found out with no trouble. For Edmund, impatient of delay, gathered his forces as quickly as he could and pitched camp not far from that of his enemy. There he delivered a long harangue, exhorting his solders to remember all the battles they had fought, and at length to smash the ferocity of their enemies, to urge and press them so that in a single battle they might attack and defeat them, and thus they could finally make an end of such great efforts. Inspired by these encouragements, and also tiring of the insolence of an enemy who daily hounded and harmed them, they keenly rushed against the Dacians. Likewise Canute, who prior to the arrival of the English had daily and hourly commanded his men to stand at the ready, came out in battle array. The fight lasted more than four hours, then the Dacians began to give ground. When Canute saw this, he ordered his horsemen to join the fray, but since some were fearful and hung back and others were slow in replacing them, his whole battle-line was thrown into disarray. Then, as their fear got the best of their sense of shame, they entirely fled and turned tail. Thirty-five hundred Danes were killed, and among them many captains of high nobility. The English lost six hundred at most, and footmen at that. Edmund desired to take advantage of his victory, I mean to pursue his enemies, to destroy them all that day, and doubtless he would have done so, had fate not stood in the way. For while he debated pursuing his enemy, having fought so great a battle, he had the thought that it would be useful to devote the remainder of the day and the following night to sleep for himself and his weary soldiers. This delay is thought to have been the salvation of the Dacians, but not so for the English. For when the next day dawned Edmund was intent on gathering the spoils so that he might then pursue the enemy. Then he was informed that the scattered Dacians had gathered themselves, crossed the Thames, and were now directing their arms against the East Anglians. So he flew there to bring aid to his subjects, gave the signal, and attacked the enemies. And although some English killed Danes in the rear guard, and others struck those in the middle of the van from left and right, yet the enemy did not give ground. Each man took the initiative in exhorting his comrades, and Edmund, fighting in the forefront, warned his captains to keep their men in good order, likewise calling out that this day would either set the seal on all their toils and victories, if they would press a little harder, or be the beginning of their great woes, if they would fall back a little farther. At this word the sharp fight so blazed up that the Dacians gradually began to fall back. When Canute saw this, he immediately made an assault on the left wing, where the greatest danger threatened, to relieve his men, and whoever he met he laid low with great might. So it came about that a great part of the English, wearied by long fighting, heard a rumor of this slaughter and, terrified, gave way to flight. And Edmund, thrusting himself ahead of all the others, delayed the rout a while. But their order was now in disarray and he could not restore it. Here the English, their avenues of escape blocked by the enemy, had neither the courage to resist nor the hope of flight, and were killed nearly to a man. Among these was every stout warrior. Together with a very few fighting men, Edmund came to Gloucester as he fled towards the East Anglians, not stopping along the way. Within the space of two hours Canute followed, but could not overtake him.
11. Although this catastrophe both weakened the Englishmen’s strength and broke their spirits, especially since London and many other prominent places now defectedf to the Dacians out of fear, nevertheless Edmund was no slower in preparing an army, as had done the Dacians, and by forced marches he approached his enemy. It was destined that, if they fought once more, this one battle would settle the matter once and for all, as Edmund had decided to risk his all on this final fight. Therefore when both armies faced each other beneath their banners not far from the bank of the Severn, then, as some tell it, Edric began to deal so the kings might have a conference before they fought, since he was convinced this would be to the advantage of both Dacians and English. And so at last Edric, who before now had done everything most unrighteously, desired to feign probity in arranging a peace between these two vigorous generals. They thought his advise not to be rejected at that time, since they imagined everything would be in vain, came together and conversed a little while, not without great expectation by all men, but they were wholly at sixes and sevens when it came to making an agreement. Some say they did agree on a peace, according to a pact that Canute would receive Mercia and Edmund the West Country. But others (whom I do not hesitate to follow) thus say the matter was conducted, that one of the captains (it is unknown whether he was an Englishman or a Dacian) took advantage of the occasion to say in the presence of both kings, “We have fought enough, my good generals, enough blood of both peoples has been shed, enough proof has been given of your prowess and that of your men, and yet you are incapable of tolerating your fortune, be it good or bad. When either of you conquers, he fiercely oppresses the vanquished, and if either of you is vanquished, he renews his fight with the victor. What in Devil’s name is this insuperable will? Do you prize war more than peace? Where in the end will your lust for power or your greed for honor take you? If you are fighting for a kingdom, divide this most opulent one, which once was enough for seven kings. But if it is glory which impels you to roll the uncertain dice of rule and slavery, you should find another way to decide which of you is the better man, without great slaughter, without the great bloodshed of both your peoples.” Thus he spoke, and his last remark was not displeasing to Edmund. Canute, whom the fates favored, liked it too. Therefore a plan was made that the kings should fight in single combat, and the vanquished would yield his possessions to the victor. Not far away was a little island in the Severn, named Olvea, which nowadays they call Olen. Here landed both kings, in arms, with their forces standing glumly on either bank, since they were watching this spectacle with minds held in suspense. The sign was given, the two kings fell to and fought a single combat. Edmund, was notable for his large size and courageous heart, towering over the other man, holding a shield before him in his left hand, warded off his blow what a great clang. Canute, a man of moderate stature but with great strength and daring, was momentarily thrown off balance by this blow, but again lunged at his enemy. At this point they fought by trading strokes, and hope for victory hung in the balance. Then the Dacian, being entirely outmatched, now began to feel fear. Then he said as loudly as he could, “What necessity, my bold fellow, urges us to seek early death, fighting over a kingdom. Better to put down our arms and agree on a peace. You may use Canute as you want, he is at your service and will do you your pleasure.” The young man was suddenly mollified by these words and, casting away his arms, extended his right hand. The armies did likewise, for they had been expecting the same fortune as there kings experienced in the fight. Afterwards, with peace being settled and a truce arranged for many years, they divided the kingdom between them. The West Country went to Edmund, the rest to Canute. But mortal affairs are subject to change and very fragile.
12. While the Dacians stayed at London, Edmund, having fought such great wars, was enjoying the peace he had gained, when he suddenly departed this life. The death of this prince was very regrettable, both because it took him away in the flower of his youth, and became it made the entire kingdom take a fall. I should make too great an excursion if I chose to repeat all the various written accounts of Edmund’s death. Some, whom I am minded to follow, say that Edric’s son (as far as I know, his name is not given) furtively attacked the king while he was at the stool and stabbed him through the belly and groin. Others, who are fond of fables, give it abroad that Edric himself at his house so outfitted a statue holding a sword in its hand that, whenever he chose, it would strike somebody who approached. Then he gave a feast for Edmund, and while he was studying the statue he was run through by the point of that sword. Yet others (to omit the rest) say he perished of disease. And yet no uncertain rumor spread abroad that Edric was responsible for that crime, and that immediately after the death of Edmund he saluted Canute as king of all England, producing the head of his victim. They say that the Dacian king, abominating this crime, punished the traitor Edric as he deserved. Others, on the other hand, have left it in writing that Canute loved this fellow wonderfully and advanced him to the highest honors, for it was by his doing that he eventually gained the whole kingdom. But let me now add what Saxo Grammaticus records about these events. He narrates the division of the English kingdom between these kings and about the murder of Edmund, but affirms that his own Dacians were superior in the war. For he says that the kings fought, and that as the Dacian battle-line was falling back it was restored and made victorious by the virtue of a certain standard-bearer named Thimo, and that out of consternation Edmund made Canute his partner in the kingdom. He also says that seven years after the death of Edmund some bold young men first said in jest that Canute was king became of fraud rather than by his virtue, and afterwards gave it out in earnest that the King of England had been killed by his deception, and that Canute in his anger had cruelly punished these detractors, and, lest this crime be attributed to him, that he always denied he had been involved in Edmund’s murder. I have touched on these, as I should, so that my history might be made the plainer by including the testimony of many historians. Let me return to my purpose. Edmund reigned for one year, and was buried with great estate in the monastery of Glastonbury. Together with this prince there fell all the majesty of the kingdom since afterwards, like a human body done in by old age, and gravely troubled by the Dacians, it recuperated for twenty-six years under the rule of Ethelred’s son Edward. Then, as another place will show, it was destined to die utterly.
13. Canute, having gained so great a kingdom, called a parliament of his nobles at his earliest convenience, in which he was created king according to ancestral custom, and was consecrated by Alured Archbishop of Canterbury. this was the year of human salvation 1016. Thus having been made King of England, Canute created a privy council, by whose advice all the business of the realm was to be conducted. And after this nothing was more important for him than to proscribe Edmund’s sons Edmund and Edward. And so they left for Hungary and, being well received there, lived out their lives in exile. This Edward left two male children, Edmund and Edgar, and the like number of females, Margaret and Christina, about whom I will appropriately say more in my life of King William of Normandy. Thus settling his domestic affairs, since his only sons were Harald and Sweno, sired on a concubine, he married Emma, the former wife of King Ethelred, since he desired legitimate children who might lawfully succeed him. She, together with her sons Edward and Alfred, had been in exile in Normandy at the court of her brother Richard, to whom Canute in turn gave his sister Hesthritha as a wife. In this same parliament he arranged that the nobles, and then the entire populace, would swear an oath of allegiance to himself. Then he made Hirc Earl of Northumbria and Thrugill Earl of the East Angles, both Dacians. Some say he made also made Edric Earl of Mercia. Finally, he devised and instituted very salubrious laws, which afterwards, together with the others, were all but abolished by Norman perversity. The parliament dissolved, he decided it was especially important to ornament the kingdom with manners and nobility, and for himself to deserve well generally of the English. But then he received the sudden news of a Norwegian attack on Dacia, and was asked to come to the aid of his people as quickly as possible. The matter seemed to be of no small importance. For King Olav of Norway, when he heard that Canute’s powers were growing greater than he deemed safe for his own affairs, and fearing lest he seek to regain his ancestral kingdom, was desirous of disrupting his victories. So he joined forces with his brother Harald, an energetic man, and invaded Dacia, devastating its lands everywhere, and fighting daily skirmishes with the garrisons of its places. It seemed that within a short time he would occupy everything, unless Canute were quick to counter this impending danger. Therefore that very instant Canute had a levy of soldiers both English and Dacian, and, with these men readied, he took ship. Obtaining a fair wind, sailed to Dacia with incredible speed. There he found his enemies standing to arms, all fields having been devastated. Then he ordered his standards to be advanced and his warriors to follow them. Everything happened quicker than it takes to tell, since the English desired to demonstrate their virtue by some outstanding feat, so as to ingratiate themselves with their prince. The battle was joined with such bold spirits that the heaven rang with their shouting. For a long time its outcome was doubtful, but in the end the English pressed forward and the enemy was bested. On the following day Canute, following his enemy, headed towards Norway. And when he came here he was met by ambassadors sent about peace and surrender, who begged that all the Norwegians be spared. He gave them a friendly hearing and, having taken hostages, kindly forgave whatever wrongs they had done him. And thus Norway was recovered. But Olav, despairing of victory, went to his father-in-law, Duke Gerithslaus of the Easterlings, so that he might live there safer as an exile. So when he wished to throw another man’s fortunes into confusion, he ruined his own. And yet this innocent man ruined nothing, for by means of these catastrophes he was found to be a very upright man, and in all men’s judgment was regarded as very holy. Now, Norway is a peninsula in the north, set in the German sea, having a soil bad for crops, being stony and salty in all places. And Sweden is in that same tract of the sea, it faces Dacia and Norway on its west. Men think these are what our men call the Glessariae and the Greeks called the Electrides because of their abundance of amber. Now the King of Dacia possesses them both. A little later Canute suppressed a conspiracy against himself entered into by Olav and Lord Ulvo. He would have been very much overwhelmed if he did not perceive it early and destroy it quickly, putting the men responsible to death. I return to my subject.
14. In that battle Canute had particular experience of the Englishmen’s loyalty and courage, and henceforth he wonderfully loved them and gave them the greatest rewards. These matters settled in Dacia, the king returned to England not much later, where he kept the allegiance and friendship of its cities by honorably addressing all their nobles by name, by heaping them with gifts, by lowering old tributes rather than imposing new ones, and by offering the no hope or reason for making war. At the same time, since he had already turned his mind to the observation of holy piety, and thinking he needed to do well by religion in some way, he built two monasteries, one among the English in the Norfolk fenlands, which was called the monastery of St. Benedict. There had been hermits’ cells here before. This place is is about seven miles from Norwich. The other was in Norway. And since I have mentioned Norwich, it is needful that I describe its location. It is a city belonging to the County of Norfolk, on the east coast twelve miles inland, placed on two hills separated by the river Wensum, which runs through the valleys into the French sea, making a harbor at the village of Yarmouth. But back to our subject. Finally, in the year of human salvation 1029, the thirteenth of his reign, he went to Rome to fulfil a vow, and was kindly received by Pope John XX. Having performed his vow, after a few days he returned to England safely. Then not many days past when he was obliged to enter into a great war against Richard Duke of Normandy, for at the time that man, having no fear of the laws, divorced his wife Hestritha, the sister of Canute himself (as I have said before) on flimsy grounds. Bent on punishing Richard for this insult, the Dacian king outfitted a fleet as quickly as he could and crossed over to Normandy. But when he had unshipped his army, he had scarce pitched camp on enemy soil when he learned of the death of his son Sweno, his governor of Normandy, whom he loved uniquely. This thing so wounded his mind that he fell into a fever, by which he was soon consumed and departed this life. O human wealth, always infirm, often failing us in mid-course! While Canute seemed to be the happiest of men, behold, a fatal power snatched him away in the midst of his career. After this his soldiers, having obtained from the Normans a treaty giving them leave to depart, quickly returned whence they had come, after they had celebrated the king’s funeral at Rouen. English annals make no mention of this Norman war, nor record that Canute died there, as I shall show below. I attach no great importance to this thing, since it matters little where a man dies or is buried, as long as his life is not unknown. A little before his death, nothing was more foreign to Canute than to entertain doubts about the manner of living well or badly, since he relied on nothing other than piety, as is clearly shown by this most memorable deed. It happened that for the sake of refreshment he was walking along the seashore not far from the port of Southampton And there, while he was at his leisure, a flattering soldier hailed him as the most powerful of kings, who ruled men, sea, and land far and wide. He held his silence, and then, his mind brooding on God’s power, found a way to disprove the vain assertions of his followers. He took off his cloak and cast it on the ground in a circle, and sat on it near the water, as the tide chanced to be coming in. Then he said, “Water, I command you not to touch my feet.” When he said this, and while his followers were wondering what was his purpose in doing this, the rising tide drenched him. Then he moved back, saying, “Do you see, princes, you call me a king, when by my command I am unable to restrain or delay this little wave? No mortal is worthy of such name. There is only one king, the Father of our Jesus Christ, with whom He reigns, by Whose will all things are regulated. We worship Him, we call Him king, we do not only confess, but also proclaim that He is the Lord of our peoples, the Ruler of heaven, earth, and sea, and none other.” After this he went to Winchester and with his own hands set his crown on the statue of crucified Christ which hung in the church of the apostles Peter and Paul, and no more wore that decoration upon his head. Canute died in the twentieth year of his reign and was buried at Winchester. By his wife Emma he fathered Canute, wrongly called by English writers Hardecanute, and Gonnilda, who married the Emperor Henry. In those days flourished men distinguished for holiness. Alpheg, whom I have already mentioned, was crowned with martyrdom in about the ninth year of this king’s reign, the sixth he was in office, when Canterbury was captured, and made his way to heaven. Likewise Living and Athelnot were Archbishops of Canterbury, the latter being the twenty-ninth after Augustine. And he was most dear to Canute, who greatly relied on his help and wit in managing his affairs. There also lived men most preeminent in war and counsel, Edulph, Hirc Earl of Northumbria, and Trugill, Earl of East Anglia.
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