H́nh ảnh trang

by the monks made them particularly violent on this occasion, Edwy entertained a strong prepossession against them; and seemed on that account determined not to second their project, of expelling the seculars from all the convents, and of possessing themselves of those rich establishments. War was therefore declared between the king and the monks; and the former soon found reason to repent his provoking such dangerous enemies. On the day of his coronation, his nobility were assembled in a great hall, and were indulging themselves in that riot and disorder, which, from the example of their German ancestors, had become habitual to the English; when Edwy, attracted by softer pleasures, retired into the queen's apartment, and in that privacy gave reins to his fondness towards his wife, which was only moderately checked by the presence of her mother. Dunstan conjectured the reason of the king's retreat; and carrying along with him Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, over whom he had gained an absolute ascendant, he burst into the apartment, upbraided. Edwy with his lasciviousness, probably bestowed on the queen the most opprobrious epithet that can be applied to her sex, and tearing him from her arms, pushed him back, in a disgraceful manner, into the banquet of the nobles. Edwy, though young, and opposed by the prejudices of the people, found an opportunity of taking revenge for this public insult. He questioned Dunstan concerning the administration of the treasury during the reign of his predecessor'; and when that minister refused to give any account of money expended, as he affirmed, by orders of the late king, he accused him of malversation in his office, and banished him the kingdom. But Dunstan's cabal was not inactive during his absence: they filled the public with high panegyrics on his sanctity: they exclaimed against the impiety of the king and queen: and having poisoned the minds of the people by these declamations, they proceeded to still more outrageous acts of violence against the royal

P Wallingford, p. 542. M. West. p. 195, 196.

¶ W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 7. Osberne, p. 83. 105.


Wallingford, p. 542. Alured. Beverl. p. 112.

authority. Archbishop Odo sent into the palace a party of soldiers, who seized the queen; and having burned her face with a redhot iron, in order to destroy that fatal beauty which had seduced Edwy, they carried her by force into Ireland, there to remain in perpetual exile3. Edwy, finding it in vain to resist, was obliged to consent to his divorce, which was pronounced by Odo'; and a catastrophe, still more dismal, awaited the unhappy Elgiva. That amiable princess, being cured of her wounds, and having even obliterated the scars with which Odo had hoped to deface her beauty, returned into England, and was flying to the embraces of the king, whom she still regarded as her husband, when she fell into the hands of a party whom the primate had sent to intercept her. Nothing but her death could now give security to Odo and the monks; and the most cruel death was requisite to satiate their vengeance. She was hamstringed; and expired a few days after at Glocester, in the most acute torments".

The English, blinded with superstition, instead of being shocked with this inhumanity, exclaimed that the misfortunes of Edwy and his consort were a just judgment for their dissolute contempt of the ecclesiastical statutes. They even proceeded to rebellion against their sovereign; and having placed Edgar at their head, the younger brother of Edwy, a boy of thirteen years of age, they soon put him in possession of Mercia, Northumberland, East Anglia, and chased Edwy into the southern counties. That it might not be doubtful at whose instigation this revolt was undertaken, Dunstan returned into England, and took upon him the government of Edgar and his party. He was first installed in the see of Worcester, then in that of London, and, on Odo's death, and the violent expulsion of Brithelm, his successor, in that of Canterbury; of all which he long kept possession. Odo is transmitted to us by the monks under the character of

s Osberne, p. 84. Gervase, p. 1644. p. 84. Gervase, p. 1645, 1646. p. 605. Wallingford, p. 544.

* Hoveden, p. 425: u Osberne, x Chron. Sax. p. 117. Flor. Wigorn. y Hoveden, p. 425. Osberne, p. 109.

a man of piety: Dunstan was even canonized; and is one of those numerous saints of the same stamp who disgrace the Romish calendar. Meanwhile the unhappy Edwy was excommunicated, and pursued with unrelenting vengeance; but his death, which happened soon after, freed his enemies from all farther inquietude, and gave Edgar peaceable possession of the government".


THIS prince, who mounted the throne in such early 959. youth, soon discovered an excellent capacity in the administration of affairs; and his reign is one of the most fortunate that we meet with in the ancient English history. He showed no aversion to war; he made the wisest preparations against invaders: and by this vigour and foresight he was enabled, without any danger of suffering insults, to indulge his inclination towards peace, and to employ himself in supporting and improving the internal government of his kingdom. He maintained a body of disciplined troops; which he quartered in the north, in order to keep the mutinous Northumbrians in subjection, and to repel the inroads of the Scots. He built and supported a powerful navy; and that he might retain the seamen in the practice of their duty, and always present a formidable armament to his enemies, he stationed three squadrons off the coast, and ordered them to make, from time to time, the circuit of his dominions. The foreign Danes dared not to approach a country which appeared in such a posture of defence: the domestic Danes saw inevitable destruction to be the consequence of their tumults and insurrections: the neighbouring sovereigns, the king of Scotland, the princes of Wales, of the isle of Man, of the Orkneys, and even of Ireland, were reduced to pay submission to so formidable a monarch. He carried his superiority to a great height, and might have excited an

2 Brompton, p. 863. den, 265. P. Concil. p. 432.

a See note B, at the end of the volume. See note C, at the end of the volume.

b Higa Spel.

universal combination against him, had not his power been so well established, as to deprive his enemies of all hopes of shaking it. It is said, that residing once at Chester, and having purposed to go by water to the abbey of St. John the baptist, he obliged eight of his tributary princes to row him in a barge upon the Dee. The English historians are fond of mentioning the name of Kenneth the third, king of Scots, among the number: the Scottish historians either deny the fact, or assert that their king, if ever he acknowledged himself a vassal to Edgar, did him homage, not for his crown, but for the dominions which he held in England.

But the chief means by which Edgar maintained his authority, and preserved public peace, was the paying of court to Dunstan and the monks, who had at first placed him on the throne, and who, by their pretensions to superior sanctity and purity of manners, had acquired an ascendant over the people. He favoured their scheme for dispossessing the secular canons of all the monasteries; he bestowed preferment on none but their partisans; he allowed Dunstan to resign the see of Worcester into the hands of Oswald, one of his creatures, and to place Ethelwold, another of them, in that of Winchester"; he consulted these prelates in the administration of all ecclesiastical, and even in that of many civil affairs; and though the vigour of his own genius prevented him from being implicitly guided by them, the king and the bishops found such advantages in their mutual agreement, that they always acted in concert, and united their influence in preserving the peace and tranquillity of the kingdom.

In order to complete the great work of placing the new order of monks in all the convents, Edgar summoned a general council of the prelates and the heads of the religious orders. He here inveighed against the dissolute lives of the secular clergy; the smallness of their tonsure,

e W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 8. Hoveden, p. 406. H. Hunting. lib. v. p. 356. Chron. Sax. p. 117, 118. W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 8. Hoveden, p. 425, 426. Osberne, p. 112. g W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 8. Hoveden, p. 425. Gervase, p. 1646. Brompton, p. 864. Flor. Wigorn. p. 606. Chron. Abb. St. Petri de Burgo, p. 27, 28.

[ocr errors]

which, it is probable, maintained no longer any resemblance to the crown of thorns; their negligence in attending the exercise of their function; their mixing with the laity in the pleasures of gaming, hunting, dancing, and singing; and their openly living with concubines, by which it is commonly supposed he meant their wives. He then turned himself to Dunstan the primate; and in the name of king Edred, whom he supposed to look down from heaven with indignation against all those enormities, he thus addressed him: "It is you, Dunstan, by whose advice I founded monasteries, built churches, and expended my treasure in the support of religion and religious houses. You were my counsellor and assistant in all my schemes: you were the director of my conscience: to you I was obedient in all things. When did you call for supplies, which I refused you? Was my assistance ever wanting to the poor? Did I deny support and establishments to the clergy and the convents? Did I not hearken to your instructions, who told me that these charities were, of all others, the most grateful to my Maker, and fixed a perpetual fund for the support of religion? And are all our pious endeavours now frustrated by the dissolute lives of the priests? Not that I throw any blame on you: you have reasoned, besought, inculcated, inveighed: but it now behoves you to use sharper and more vigorous remedies; and conjoining your spiritual authority with the civil power, to purge effectually the temple of God from thieves and intruders." It is easy to imagine that this harangue had the desired effect: and that, when the king and prelates thus concurred with the popular prejudices, it was not long before the monks prevailed, and established their new discipline in almost all the convents.

We may remark, that the declamations against the secular clergy are, both here and in all the historians, conveyed in general terms; and as that order of men are commonly restrained by the decency of their character, it is difficult to believe that the complaints against their i Abbas Rieval. p. 360, 361. Spel. Concil. p. 476, 477, 478.

« TrướcTiếp tục »