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The British historians, in order to account for the easy conquest of their country by the Saxons, assign their treachery, not less than their valour, as a principal cause. principal cause. They alledge that Vortigern was artfully inveigled into a passion for Rowena, the daughter of Hengist; and, in order to marry her, was induced to settle the fertile province of Kent upon her father, from whence the Saxons could never after be removed. alledged also, that upon the death of Vortimer, which shortly happened after the victory he obtained at Egglesford, Vortigern, his father, was reinstated upon the throne. It is added, that this weak monarch accepting of a festival from Hengist, three hundred of his nobility were treacherously slaughtered, and himself detained as a captive.

After the death of Hengist, several other German tribes, allured by the success of their countrymen, came over in great numbers. A body of Saxons, under the conduct of Ella and his three sons, had some time before laid the foundation of the kingdom of the South Saxons, though not without great opposition and bloodshed. This new kingdom included Surry, Sussex, and the New Forest, and extended to the frontiers of Kent.

Another tribe of Saxons, under the command of Cerdic, and his son Kenric, landed in the west, and from thence took the name of West Saxons. These met with a very vigorous resistance from the natives, but being reinforced from Germany, and assisted by their countrymen on the island, they routed the Britons; and, although retarded in their progress by the celebrated King Arthur, they had strength. enough to keep possession of the conquests they had already made. Cerdic, therefore, with his son Kenric, established the third Saxon kingdom in the island, namely, that of the West Saxons, including the counties of Hants, Dorset, Wilts, Berks, and the isle of Wight.

It was in opposing this Saxon invader that the celebrated Prince Arthur acquired his fame. However unsuccessful all his valour might have been in the end, yet his name made so great a figure in the fabulous annals of the times, that some notice must be taken of him. This prince is of such obscure original, that some authors suppose him to be the son of King Ambrosius, and others only his nephew; others again affirm that he was a Cornish prince, and son of Gurlois, king of that province. However this be, it is certain he was a commander of great valour; and, could courage alone repair the miserable state of the Britons, his might have been effectual.

According to the most authentic historians, he is said to have worsted the Saxons in twelve successive battles. In one of these, namely, that fought at Caerbadon, in Berks, it is asserted that he killed no less than four hundred and forty of the enemy with his own hand. But the Saxons were too numerous and powerful to be extirpated by the desultory efforts of single valour; so that a peace, and not conquest, were the immediate fruits of his victories. The enemy, therefore, still gained ground; and this prince, in the decline of life, had the mortification, from some domestic troubles of his own, to be a patient spectator of their encroachments. His first wife had been carried off by Melnas, king of Somersetshire, who detained her a whole year at Glastonbury, until Arthur, discovering the place of her retreat, advanced with an army against the ravisher, and obliged him to give her back. In his second wife, perhaps, he might have been more fortunate, as we have no mention made of her; but it was otherwise with his third consort, who was debauched by his own nephew, Mordred. This produced a rebellion, in which the king and his traitorous kinsman, mecting in battle, slew each other.

In the mean time, while the Saxons were thus gaining ground in the west, their countrymen were not less active in other parts of the island. Adventurers still continued to pour over from Germany, one body of them, under the command of Uffa, seized upon the counties of Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk, and gave their commander the title of king of the East Angles, which was the fourth Saxon kingdom founded in Britain.

Another body of these adventurers formed a kingdom under the title of East Saxony, or Essex, comprehending Essex, Middlesex, and part of Hertfordshire. This kingdom, which was dismembered from that of Kent, formed the fifth Saxon principality founded in Britain.

The kingdom of Mercia was the sixth which was established by these fierce invaders, comprehending all the middle counties, from the banks of the Severn to the frontiers of the two last named kingdoms.

The seventh and last kingdom which they obtained, was that of Northumberland, one of the most powerful and extensive of them all. This was formed from the union of two smaller Saxon kingdoms; the one called Bernicia, containing the present county of Northumberland, and the bishopric of Durham; the subjects of the other, called the Deiri, extend

ing themselves over Lancashire and Yorkshire. These kingdoms were united in the person of Ethelfrid, king of Northumberland, by the expulsion of Edwin, his brother-in-law, from the kingdom of the Deiri, and the seizure of his dominions. In this manner, the natives being overpowered, or entirely expelled, seven kingdoms were established in Britain, which have been since well known by the name of the Saxon Heptarchy.

The Saxons being thus established in all the desirable parts of the island, and having no longer the Britons to contend with, began to quarrel among themselves. A country divided into a number of petty independent principalities, must ever be subject to contention, as jealousy and ambition have more frequent incentives to operate. After a series, therefore, of battles, treasons, and stratagems, all their petty principalities fell under the power of Egbert, king of Wessex, whose merits deserved dominion, and whose prudence secured his conquests. By him all the kingdoms of the Heptarchy were united under one common jurisdiction; but to give splendour to his authority, a general council of the clergy and laity was summoned at Winchester, where he was solemnly crowned king of England, by which name the united kingdom was thenceforward called.

Thus, about four hundred years after the first arrival of the Saxons in Britain, all the petty settlements were united into one great state, and nothing offered but prospects of peace, security, and increasing refinement.

It was about this period that St. Gregory undertook to send missionaries among the Saxons, to convert them to Christianity. It is said, that, before his elevation to the papal chair, he chanced one day to pass through the slave-market at Rome, and perceiving some children of great beauty who were set up for sale, he inquired about their country, and finding they were English Pagans, he is said to have cried out, in the Latin language, Non Angli, sed Angeli, forent, si essent Christiani. They would not be English, but angels, had they been Christians. From that time he was struck with an ardent desire to convert that unenlightened nation, and ordered a monk, named Augustine, and others of the same fraternity, to undertake the mission to Britain,

This pious monk, upon his first landing in the isle of Thanet, sent one of his interpreters to Ethelbert, the Kentish king, declaring he was come from Rome, with offers of eternal salvation. The king immediately ordered them to be fur

nished with all necessaries, and even visited them, though without declaring himself as yet in their favour. Augustine, however, encouraged by this favourable reception, and now seeing a prospect of success, proceeded with redoubled zeal to preach the gospel. The king openly espoused the Christian religion, while his example wrought so successfully on his subjects, that numbers of them came voluntarily to be baptized, their missioner loudly declaring against any coercive means towards their conversion. In this manner the other kingdoms, one after the other, embraced the faith; and England was soon as famous for its superstition, as it had once been for its averseness to Christianity.

PE

CHAP. III.

THE INVASION OF THE DANES.

EACE and unanimity had been scarcely established in England, when a mighty swarm of those nations called Danes, who had possessed the countries bordering on the Baltic, began to level their fury against England." A small body of them at first landed on the coasts, with a view to learn the state of the country; and, having committed some small depredations, fled to their ships for safety. About seven years after this first attempt, they made a descent upon the kingdom of Northumberland, where they pillaged a monastery; but their fleet being shattered by a storm, they were defeated by the inhabitants, and put to the sword. It was not till about five years after the accession of Egbert, that their invasions became truly formidable. From that time they continued with unceasing ferocity, until the whole kingdom was reduced to a state of the most distressful bondage.

Though often repulsed, they always obtained their end, of spoiling the country, and carrying the plunder away. It was their method to avoid coming, if possible, to a general engagement; but, scattering themselves over the face of the country, they carried away, indiscriminately, as well the inhabitants themselves, as all their moveable possessions.

At length, however, they resolved upon making a settlement in the country; and landing on the isle of Thanet, stationed themselves there. In this place they kept their ground, notwithstanding a bloody victory gained over them by Ethel

wolf. The reign of Ethelbald, his successor, was of no long continuance; however, in so short a space, he crowded a number of vices, sufficient to render his name odious to posterity.

This prince was succeeded by his brother Ethelred, a brave commander, but whose valour was insufficient to repress the Danish incursions. In these exploits he was always assisted by his younger brother, Alfred, afterwards surnamed the Great, who sacrificed all private resentment to the public good, having been deprived by the king of a large patrimony. It was during Ethelred's reign, that the Danes, penetrating into Mercia, took up their winter quarters at Nottingham; from whence, the king, attempting to dislodge them, received a wound in the battle, of which he died, leaving his brother Alfred, the inheritance of a kingdom that was now reduced to the brink of ruin.

The Danes had already subdued Northumberland and East Anglia, and had penetrated into the very heart of Wessex. The Mercians were united against Alfred; the dependence upon the other provinces of the empire was but precarious; the lands lay uncultivated, through fear of continual incursions; and all the churches and monasteries were burned to the ground. In this terrible situation of affairs, nothing appeared but objects of terror, and every hope was lost in despair. The wisdom and virtues of one man alone were found sufficient to bring back happiness, security, and order; and all the calamities of the times found redress from Alfred. This prince seemed born not only to defend his bleeding country, but even to adorn humanity. He had given very early instances of those great virtues which afterwards gave splendour to his reign; and was anointed by Pope Leo as future king, when he was sent by his father for his education to Rome. On his return from thence, he became every day more the object of his father's fond affections; and that, perhaps, was the reason why his education was at first neglected. He had attained the age of twelve before he was made acquainted with the lowest elements of literature; but hearing some Saxon poems read, which recounted the praise of heroes, his whole mind was roused, not only to obtain a similitude of glory, but also to be able to transmit that glory to posterity. Encouraged by the queen, his mother, and assisted by a penetrating genius, he soon learned to read these compositions, and proceeded from thence to a knowledge of Latin authors, who directed his taste, and rectified his ambition.

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