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ever thenceforth be entertained concerning the justice of his proceedings.
The dominion of Athe'atan was no sooner established over his English subjects, than he endeavoured to give security to the government, by providing against the insurrections of the Danes, which had created so much disturbance to his predecessors. He marched into Northumberland; and finding that the inhabitants bore with impatience the English yoke, he thought it prudent to confer on Sithric, a Danish nobleman, the title of king, and to attach him to his interests, by giving him his sister, Editha, in marriage. But this policy proved by accident the source of dangerous consequences. Sithric died in a twelvemonth after; and his two sons by a former marriage, Anlaf and Godfrid, founding pretensions on their father's elevation, assumed the sovereignty, without waiting for Athelstan's consent. They were soon expelled by the power of that monarch; and the former took shelter in Ireland, as the latter did in Scotland; where he received, during some time, protection from Constantine, who then enjoyed the crown of that kingdom. The Scottish prince, however, continually solicited, and even menaced by Athelstan, at last promised to deliver up his guest; but secretly detesting this treachery, he gave Godfrid warning to make his escape'; and that fugitive, after subsisting by piracy for some years, freed the king, by his death, from any farther anxiety. Athelstan, resenting Constantine's behaviour, entered Scotland with an army; and ravaging the country with impunity, he reduced the Scots to such distress, that their king was content to preserve his crown by making submissions to the enemy. The English historians assert, that Constantine did homage to Athelstan for his kingdom; and they add, that the latter prince, being urged by his courtiers to push the present favourable opportunity, and entirely subdue Scotland, replied, that it was more glorious to confer than conquer kingdoms ". But those annals, Hoveden, p. 422. " W. Malms.
r W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 6. H. Hunting. lib. v. p. 354. lib. ii. cap. 6. Anglia Sacra, vol. i.
Chron. Sax. p. 111. 1 Hoveden, p. 422.
so uncertain and imperfect in themselves, lose all credit, when national prepossessions and animosities have place: and on that account, the Scotch historians, who, without having any more knowledge of the matter, strenuously deny the fact, seem more worthy of belief.
Constantine, whether he owed the retaining of his crown to the moderation of Athelstan, who was unwilling to employ all his advantages against him, or to the policy of that prince, who esteemed the humiliation of an enemy a greater acquisition than the subjection of a discontented and mutinous people, thought the behaviour of the English monarch more an object of resentment than of gratitude. He entered into a confederacy with Anlaf, who had collected a great body of Danish pirates, whom he found hovering in the Irish seas; and with some Welsh princes, who were terrified at the growing power of Athelstan and all these allies made by concert an irruption with a great army into England. Athelstan, collecting his forces, met the enemy near Brunsbury in Northumberland, and defeated them in a general engagement. This victory was chiefly ascribed to the valour of Turketul, the English chancellor: for in those turbulent ages, no one was so much occupied in civil employments, as wholly to lay aside the military character *.
There is a circumstance, not unworthy of notice, which historians relate with regard to the transactions of this war. Anlaf, on the approach of the English army, thought that he could not venture too much to insure a fortunate event; and employing the artifice formerly practised by Alfred against the Danes, he entered the enemy's camp in the habit of a minstrel. The stratagem was for the present attended with like success. He gave such satisfaction to the soldiers, who flocked about him, that they introduced him to the king's tent; and Anlaf, having played before that prince and his nobles during their repast, was dismissed with a handsome reward. His prudence
* The office of chancellor among the Anglo-Saxons resembled more that of a secretary of state, than that of our present chancellor. See Spelman in voce Cancellarius.
kept him from refusing the present; but his pride determined him, on his departure, to bury it, while he fancied that he was unespied by all the world. But a soldier in Athelstan's camp, who had formerly served under Anlaf, had been struck with some suspicion on the first appearance of the minstrel; and was engaged by curiosity to observe all his motions. He regarded this last action as a full proof of Anlaf's disguise; and he immediately carried the intelligence to Athelstan, who blamed him for not sooner giving him information, that he might have seized his enemy. But the soldier told him, that, as he had formerly sworn fealty to Anlaf, he could never have pardoned himself the treachery of betraying and ruining his ancient master; and that Athelstan himself, after such an instance of his criminal conduct, would have had equal reason to distrust his allegiance. Athelstan, having praised the generosity of the soldier's principles, reflected on the incident, which he foresaw might be attended with important consequences. He removed his station in the camp; and as a bishop arrived that evening with a reinforcement of troops, (for the ecclesiastics were then no less warlike than the civil magistrates,) he occupied with his train that very place which had been left vacant by the king's removal. The precaution of Athelstan was found prudent: for no sooner had darkness fallen, than Anlaf broke into the camp, and hastening directly to the place where he had left the king's tent, put the bishop to death, before he had time to prepare for his defence".
There fell several Danish and Welsh princes in the action of Brunsbury'; and Constantine and Anlaf made their escape with difficulty, leaving the greater part of their army on the field of battle. After this success, Athelstan enjoyed his crown in tranquillity; and he is regarded as one of the ablest and most active of those ancient princes. He passed a remarkable law, which was calculated for the encouragement of commerce, and which it required some liberality of mind, in that age, to have
z Brompton, p. 839.
y W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 6. Higden, p. 263. Ingulph. p. 29.
devised that a merchant, who had made three long sea voyages on his own account, should be admitted to the rank of a thane or gentleman. This prince died at Glocester in the year 941, after a reign of sixteen years; and was succeeded by Edmund, his legitimate brother.
EDMUND, on his accession, met with disturbance from the restless Northumbrians, who lay in wait for every opportunity of breaking into rebellion. But marching suddenly with his forces into their country, he so overawed the rebels, that they endeavoured to appease him by the most humble submissions. In order to give him the surer pledge of their obedience, they offered to embrace christianity; a religion which the English Danes had frequently professed, when reduced to difficulties, but which, for that very reason, they regarded as a badge of servitude, and shook off as soon as a favourable opportunity offered. Edmund, trusting little to their sincerity in this forced submission, used the precaution of removing the Five-burgers from the towns of Mercia, in which they had been allowed to settle; because it was always found that they took advantage of every commotion, and introduced the rebellious or foreign Danes into the heart of the kingdom. He also conquered Cumberland from the Britons; and conferred that territory on Malcolm, king of Scotland, on condition that he should do him homage for it, and protect the north from all future incursions of the Danes.
Edmund was young when he came to the crown; yet was his reign short, as his death was violent. One day, as he was solemnizing a festival in the county of Glocester, he remarked that Leolf, a notorious robber, whom he had sentenced to banishment, had yet the boldness to enter the hall where he himself dined, and to sit at table with his attendants. Enraged at this insolence, he ordered him to leave the room; but on his refusing to obey, a Chron. Sax. p. 114. b W. Malms. lib. ii. cap. 7. Brompton, p. 857.
the king, whose temper, naturally choleric, was inflamed by this additional insult, leaped on him himself, and seized him by the hair: but the ruffian, pushed to extremity, drew his dagger, and gave Edmund a wound, of which he immediately expired. This event happened in the year 946, and in the sixth year of the king's reign. Edmund left male issue, but so young, that they were incapable of governing the kingdom; and his brother Edred was promoted to the throne.
THE reign of this prince, as those of his predecessors, was disturbed by the rebellions and incursions of the Northumbrian Danes, who, though frequently quelled, were never entirely subdued, nor had ever paid a sincere allegiance to the crown of England. The accession of a new king seemed to them a favourable opportunity for shaking off the yoke; but on Edred's appearance with an army, they made him their wonted submissions; and the king, having wasted the country with fire and sword, as a punishment of their rebellion, obliged them to renew their oaths of allegiance; and he straight retired with his forces. The obedience of the Danes lasted no longer than the present terror. Provoked at the devastations of Edred, and even reduced by necessity to subsist on plunder, they broke into a new rebellion, and were again subdued but the king, now instructed by experience, took greater precautions against their future revolt. He fixed English garrisons in their most considerable towns; and placed over them an English governor, who might watch all their motions, and suppress any insurrection on its first appearance. He obliged also Malcolm, king of Scotland, to renew his homage for the lands which he held in England.
Edred, though not unwarlike, nor unfit for active life, lay under the influence of the lowest superstition, and had blindly delivered over his conscience to the guidance of Dunstan, commonly called St. Dunstan, abbot of