The story is well known, but in relating it many commentators have combined inconsistent features from the two accounts. The following summary draws on both authors, but indicates some of the differences; the similarities and inconsistencies will be analysed in detail below. Their skin was green; they spoke an unknown language and says William they were dressed in strange and strangely-coloured clothing.
Ralph says that they were taken to the house of Sir Richard de Calne, at nearby Wykes. Both authors agree that they refused all food for several days according to Ralph, the girl later said that they thought that the food they were offered was inedible. Then by chance they saw some freshly cut bean plants; at first they tried to find the beans within the stalks, but once a bystander had taken the beans out of the pods for them they eagerly ate the beans.
For some time they ate only beans, but gradually they became used to normal food and perhaps as a result lost their green colouring. It was decided to baptise the children. The boy was sickly and died, either before or soon after baptism. The girl flourished. Once they had learnt our language the children or the surviving girl, according to Ralph explained that they had come from a land where the sun never shone, but where the light was like that of twilight here — Ralph adds that everything in the land was green.
William reports that the children said it was a Christian land with churches; they called it 1 Some writers have stated that a third author, Gervase of Tilbury, also gives an account of the Green Children Harris , This confusion may have first arisen with Harold Wilkins, who in a popular book on Mysteries Solved and Unsolved , —1 attributed to Gervase what seems to be no more than a garbled extract from William of Newburgh. Ralph, on the other hand, says that they had followed the cattle into a cavern and had become lost; following the sound of bells, they had eventually come out into our land where the villagers had found them.
Ralph says that for many years the girl was a servant in the household of Sir Richard de Calne, from whom he had heard the story, but that she was badly behaved; William says that she married a man in Lynn, and he had heard that she was still alive shortly before he wrote. However, it is unlikely that it continued to circulate widely after its original currency in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; it probably remained relatively unknown even locally until revived by Keightley. Their story has been cited in academic discussions of medieval cosmology Bartlett , , of medieval childhood Orme , 74—5; , 92 , of the relations between the races of Norman Britain Cohen , and of the purposes and methods of twelfth-century historical writers Partner , —28; Otter , —4; Freeman , ; , ; Watkins , 63—4; Clarke ; Staunton , —7.
To folklorists it is the primary although perhaps also unique exemplar of a standard folktale motif Motif F And the name has been adopted by coincidence — but they have since recognised and emphasised the connection by an Anglo- Norwegian musical duo Green Children This paper attempts to unravel the strands of the original story and to put it into its historical context; in doing so, it may also suggest how it has come to be treated in such disparate ways.
The back cover of the CD album of the same name Spinside Records SPNR comprises a photograph of two oddly-dressed children looking very much like younger incarnations of the singers themselves standing at the entrance of a cave. The first printed edition appeared in Antwerp in with a reprint in Heidelberg in and a new edition by Jean Picard or Picart of Paris in ibid.
This early association of the two texts was to be very important for the transmission of the story, as we shall see. In the early sixteenth century, before the appearance of the first printed texts, the antiquary John Leland c. He makes no comment on the significance of the story of the Green Children and no attempt to judge its veracity. At the end of the sixteenth century, William Camden — mentions the story of the Green Children in the description of Suffolk in his celebrated work Britannia.
In Latin puer is ambiguous. They presumably did not refer back to the original Newburgh account or thought it inappropriate to correct their author , and were probably unaware of any other source that indicated that the children were a boy and a girl. Burton had clearly read William of Newburgh — he refers elsewhere to his writings — although William gives no hint that the children had fallen from heaven.
In Francis Godwin — , later bishop of Llandaff and afterwards of Hereford, had accompanied Camden on an expedition to investigate the antiquities of Wales, for a second edition of the Britannia Woolf Neubrigensis, de reb. And in spite of his claim that he or rather his fictional narrator, Domingo Gonsales cannot recall exactly which chapter the story appeared in, he made much greater use of it than is immediately apparent. There are a number of subtle allusions to it in his description of the moon and its people, all , no DM84 ; this copy was at one time owned by Dr John Dee.
As might be expected, the description of the manner in which the Lunars dispose of delinquent children contains other hints of the story of the Green Children. Lunar children lose their original strange colour when on Earth, to become more like us in colour Godwin , —5 — at least like the inhabitants of North America! When Gonsales first meets the Lunars he is astounded not only by their size most of them giants to our eyes and their colour, but by the nature and colour of their clothing. Their language, too, is incomprehensible ibid. Finally, in the antiquary and biographer John Aubrey — , responding to a theory put forward by his friend the astronomer Edmond Halley that the earth was hollow, containing within it two other concentric spheres around a solid core, drew the Green Children into the discussion.
In spite of these references to the Green Children in seventeenth-century literature, there is no evidence that the story had survived independently in oral tradition in Suffolk. They were also unorthodox. Herbert assures us that woad can be used to produce a green dye as well as the normal blue colour, and that the Britons who dyed themselves green were of higher status than those who wore blue [Herbert] —41, 1:lvi.
Later commentators have followed his lead. Most recent writers, even in Suffolk, seem to have derived their versions of the story from one or other of these published accounts. There is nothing to suggest the existence of a long-lived oral 13 Briggs takes the Coggeshall text from Keightley by way of Hartland. But there seems little doubt that once the story of the Green Children had appeared in print — perhaps particularly in local guidebooks — it re-entered local tradition, where it survives today.
According to this version, their green coloration was due to arsenic administered by their wicked uncle; and fleeing from the wood where they were abandoned perhaps Thetford Forest? I have heard it said that until quite recently there was a hole in a field beside the Swanton Morley-Bawdswell road. It was neither an old well nor a drain. It did not appear to have been used by fox, badger or rabbit. Surrounded by coarse clumps of grass and bracken and of unguessed depth, the hole remained a mystery.
A whisper spread that it was an entrance to St.
Martin's Land where it is always dusk and where the Green Children live. These pixies have always been a constant trouble to the people of East Anglia. The hole was filled in! Tyler-Whittle , —4 14 Swanton Morley and Bawdeswell usually so spelt lie in central Norfolk, about 35 miles 56 km north of Woolpit. Most extraordinary of the developments undergone by the story of the Green Children in the twentieth century was the sudden appearance of an account of a similar event, said to have occurred in Spain in The story of the Green Children of Banjos is a hoax. It would be invidious to suggest whether John Macklin originated it or whether he was misled by an informant.
Those who have recounted it since have made no attempt to find corroborative evidence, but have simply copied and elaborated on their source — a common practice among authors in this field. Kevin Crossley-Holland b. Another dramatisation, this time in Suffolk dialect, by Shirley Bignell, appears as one of two Suffolk Tales on an audio CD, with notes for teachers and intended for classroom use Bignell Prynne Most of these new versions have of necessity elaborated on the bare bones of the story as told by Ralph and William, for example by giving names to the villagers and even to the children and inventing dialogue.
The Green Children of the Woods by James Lloyd Carr — , though patently inspired by the Woolpit tale, tells a rather different story set in Essex and London in Instead, Crowley makes a number of unacknowledged changes to the story. A kindly village woman finds the Green Children at one of the wolf-pits.
Gone is the extraordinary image of the villagers walking eight miles with the weeping children to Wykes; gone are Sir Richard de Calne and his 17 For a discussion of these later uses of the story of the Green Children by writers of fiction see also Clark a. These and other unexplained changes sadly add nothing to our appreciation of the strange interplay of the realistic and the fantastic that imbues the original. Both children having refused all food but beans, the girl at last accepts a bowl of milk from the woman who has taken them in.
She took it now, with a kind of reverent fear, and as carefully as though it were mass-wine, she drank some. She gave the bowl back to the woman, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, her face frightened yet resolute, as though she had drunk poison on purpose.
Crowley , 35 This is a rite of passage, and it is treated with appropriate solemnity and ceremony. By partaking of ordinary human food, the girl commits herself to the human world and abandons hope of returning to her own land. As we shall see, the well-known belief that mortals who eat Otherworld food are condemned to dwell forever in that Otherworld has as a corollary an understanding that human food holds similar dangers for fairies. Though we can read this element into the original story and we shall discuss its significance below , Crowley seems alone among recent rewriters to have recognised it and made it explicit.
Crowley does not acknowledge his immediate source. The literary works discussed so far have been, for the most part, retellings or reworkings of the original.
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Other authors have been inspired to produce variations on the theme or incorporate elements of it in new contexts. Perhaps the most unusual and best-known reworking is the sole novel by the eminent literary critic and poet Sir Herbert Read — , The Green Child, first published in King , —8; Melville The two children, aged about four, come walking into the unnamed village from the direction of the moors.
Moreover, these children, who were lightly clothed in a green web-like material of obscure manufacture, were further distinguished by the extraordinary quality of their flesh, which was of a green, semi-translucent texture, perhaps more like the flesh of a cactus plant than anything else, but of course much more delicate and sensitive. It has been reprinted several times since, and has been translated into at least Italian Read b , Spanish Read ; and Russian Read The Roman Catholic theologian John S. In she returned to the theme, and included her own more complex retelling in a new anthology called The Armless Maiden.
This collection of rather dark reworkings of fairy tales brings out some of the more sinister aspects of familiar stories, and their apparent portrayal of themes of child abuse and incest. It is dedicated to children at risk and to adult survivors of childhood abuse Windling , Her retelling is set in Arizona, where the narrator Emily is living with her mother and her brothers in a trailer park. Then her mother had killed him and fled with her children.
The origin of the Green Children is never explained — the girl is too young to remember their home clearly and the boy never speaks. Emily believes that their mother, unable to provide for them, had deliberately abandoned them where they would be found and brought up by a kindly family. In a poignant ending ibid. The theme, perhaps, is one of exile or exclusion. A more recent literary treatment of the Green Children is that in a chapter in the well-received first novel by the American Kevin Brockmeier The Truth about Celia, published in He composes a series of short stories about Celia, what might have happened to her, how she might have grown up, the effects of her disappearance on family and neighbours.
These stories, in various narrative voices, make up the book. The narrator of this story within a story is a strange local character, Curran, who, like St Christopher, carries people across the river on his back. Brockmeier presents a number of interesting variations on the original theme — although at least to this reader the story is spoilt by his strange concept of a medieval world that bears little resemblance to the historical and geographical reality of twelfth-century Suffolk!
Yet to separate it from the environment of the novel robs it of much of its deeper meaning. Some of these recent retellings have uncovered great depths of meaning in the original story; all have treated it as a folktale, a narrative that can be recast without doing violence to any historical truth.
To explain their origin would be to destroy that power. There have been equally wide-ranging approaches to the interpretation of the story and the assessment of its significance. Lady Gurdon herself included the story alongside accounts of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century encounters with fairies in the Stowmarket area, and Katharine Briggs accorded the children a place in her Dictionary of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures , —1.
His confidence is impressive as his apparent conviction that such stories passed down through the male line! Baughman seems to have based this particular Motif F On the other hand one can note the several other motifs to be found in the story to which Briggs does not refer — for example, the fate of the boy is encapsulated in Motif F The works of William of Newburgh in particular have been studied in this context by Nancy Partner and Monika Otter In the twelfth century the Welsh, Irish, and Scots found themselves trapped in a suffocating English circumscription of their identity: inferior, feral, barbarian.
The Normans, meanwhile, took advantage of a flexibility within Englishness to disappear into that powerfully ascendant term. She discusses ibid. He devotes several pages to discussion of the Green Children story and its treatment by William of Newburgh and Ralph of Coggeshall ibid. He concludes The evidence suggests that most of our writers really did believe that mermen could be caught in the sea, that witches could fly into the air and werewolves speak to humans.
These are among the remarkable things that had occurred in their days, and if they sometimes harboured doubts about what had happened, or expected that others would, that did not diminish their belief that wonderful things did happen. All such stories may hold hidden meanings, and some we may identify, but some cannot be explained. And no one yet has succeeded in explaining the story of the green children. But such straightforward claims do not attempt to explain every strange detail of the story as it was recorded by William of Newburgh and Ralph of Coggeshall.
To do that, others have gone much further along the path of rationalisation. Thus he identifies the children as members of a family of Flemish immigrants, perhaps made homeless by local violence against Flemish settlers after Flemish mercenaries had supported the rebellion of Robert, Earl of Leicester in or possibly following anti-Flemish legislation in Harris , 90—2. Their incomprehensible language was Flemish, their strangely-coloured clothing the product of the well- known weaving and dyeing skills of the Flemings.
To the suggestion that these identifications must have been equally obvious to a man like Richard de Calne, Harris can only respond that Richard may have kept his suspicions to himself in order to protect the girl from persecution ibid. Though Harris presents a feasible scenario, his arguments are not convincing.
The writers of such books have usually found inspiration in the work of the American Charles Hoy Fort — Fort devoted much of the latter half of his life to collecting records of anomalous events, from unexplained lights in the sky and falls of frogs or fish to strange disappearances, and between and published four extraordinary books, The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo! In a perceptive article, Michel Meurger has pointed out that Bishop Godwin, in his fictional use of the story of the Green Children in his The Man in the Moone, is a precursor of those many later authors who have found in both folklore and early historical sources reflections of phenomena that, when they have been reported in more recent times, have been identified as interventions by extraterrestrials in human affairs, such as UFOs and alien abductions Meurger , —9.
From Folklore to Flying Saucers Other than these works, the genre of science fiction does not seem to have made much use of the tale. But, as we have seen, there have been interpretations of the story that have employed sf themes and motifs. They are the work of authors who have believed that they could explain the Green Children by the adoption of an extraterrestrial hypothesis. Is it surprising that Lunan first published his theory in an sf magazine? The rarity of treatments of the story as science fiction since the time of Francis Godwin is perhaps made up for by the many misguided attempts to treat it as science fact.
Neither of these two essays argued that the story of the Green Children was in itself science fiction. But it has now been discussed by contributors to a volume titled Medieval Science Fiction Kears and Paz a. In their introductory chapter, the editors of this volume consider the significance of this provocative title Kears and Paz b. Indeed, in the case of the Green Children of Woolpit, William took great pains to investigate the truth of the accounts of the Green Children that he had heard: Certainly I long hesitated about this matter, although it is spoken of by many people.
It seemed to me ridiculous to take on trust a story that had either no rational basis or a very obscure one. At last I was overcome by the evidence of so many witnesses of such weight; so that I was forced to believe it Many of their interpretations have in common a reliance on secondary sources, a failure to recognise the differences between the two surviving versions, and a lack of any attempt to analyse the story in detail. The purpose of this essay is to remedy this situation and to put the study of this strange story on a sounder footing, and to review critically some of the many interpretations.
Our starting point must be with the two historians who provide our only primary versions of the story. The first, William of Newburgh c. He was educated in the Augustinian priory of Newburgh, near Coxwold, north Yorkshire Gransden , —8; William of Newburgh , 1—5. He became a canon there and in about or began writing a history at the request of Ernald, abbot of nearby Rievaulx Abbey.
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He relied upon earlier historians like Henry of Huntingdon, paraphrasing his sources usually without crediting them but adding a great deal of new information. The approach is also that of most of his contemporaries. He was willing to credit accounts transmitted and vouched for by people he trusted. Through contacts with other Augustinian houses he acquired detailed information on events elsewhere, particularly in London and East Anglia Gransden , He may have died in about or The earliest surviving manuscript, now in the British Library, seems to be a draft, with changes, erasures and corrections.
Ralph has also been credited with the writing of Visio Thurkilli, a report of the vision or dream of an Essex peasant called Thurkill. Thurkill described how, while his body lay in a coma for two days, his spirit had journeyed through the world of the afterlife, and had seen Purgatory and the regions of the damned and the blessed. It was H. Ward who first attributed this work to Ralph in Although the evidence is circumstantial the attribution seems to have won general acceptance Ralph of Coggeshall , v—vi; Gurevich , 54; Zaleski , 81—2; Carozzi , —15; Watkins , 18; Staunton , The afterlife they describe is very different from the Otherworld of the Green Children, but, as we shall see later, there are similarities and perhaps mutual influences that link the Otherworlds of folklore and such visions of the afterlife.
See Gransden , —4 and Carpenter , —16 for fuller discussions of the sequence of composition. Such a claim, indeed the very phrase, is a commonplace among Anglo- Norman chroniclers Watkins , 95 — indeed Ralph of Coggeshall uses identical wording when describing how he heard from Gervase of Tilbury about strange events in which Gervase had been involved in France to which we shall return later Ralph of Coggeshall , Yet Ralph was certainly ideally placed in Coggeshall to hear a report straight from the mouth of Thurkill, from the neighbouring village of Stisted.
It is in this context that he includes the story of the Green Children, as Chapter 27 of his first book, following accounts of the woes of England in the reign of King Stephen Chapter 22 , events in Scotland under King David I —53 and the accession of Malcolm IV —65 Chapters 23—5 , and successions to the bishoprics of York and Durham in —4 Chapter Chapter 27 is devoted to the Green Children, and, as we have already noted, Chapter 28 tells us of marvellous discoveries of a toad and two dogs embedded, yet alive, in stone, and the theft from a fairy hill of a cup later given to Henry II William of Newburgh , — Yet Ralph of Coggeshall also interrupts his narrative with tales of wonder, but at what seems to be a rather less traumatic point in his history.
He then, like William, returns to his interrupted historical narrative. Wonders, miracles and portents were very much part of the medieval view of the world. William seems to devote at least as much effort to investigating reports of such things and satisfying himself that the witnesses were bona fide as he does in the case of more natural events. He was not alone in this. Carl Watkins , 94—9 discusses the great efforts made by medieval chroniclers to evaluate the trustworthiness of reports of wonders.
When confronted by wonderful accounts that defied these patterns [the customary course of nature], the chronicler expected his public to be sceptical, and so deployed the full credentials of his witnesses to convince his audience of the report. On the other hand, in a study of twelfth-century historiography, Monika Otter places William among a small group of historians who test the limits of referentiality and historicity by inviting in phenomena and episodes that strain belief, often, it seems, for the sole purpose of raising the question of what should be done with such troublesome intruders.
Otter , 94 33 However, William is concerned to make it clear that that the events he relates were well attested by eyewitnesses. Ralph of Coggeshall, though equally careful to name witnesses, seems less concerned to seek explanations. Apart from frequent references to freakish weather, famines and pestilences, earthquakes and extraordinary appearances in the heavens Ralph of Coggeshall , xv—xvi , he records a number of other unusual events, like the strange affair of the visit paid to Coggeshall Abbey in the days of Abbot Peter —94 by a group of men dressed like Templars, who appeared to one man only, then vanished ibid.
By the damned, I mean the excluded. He was a humble and plainspoken man, who repeated his story in a straightforward manner on numerous occasions, even when he was nearing death. All this, to his audience, added to the credibility of what he said Watkins , We can expect, when comparing the two extant versions of the story of the Green Children, to see the results of this process — Ralph and William will have selected and ordered their material into coherent narratives. As the Latin texts show Appendix , there is no obvious use of identical wording or phraseology, no point at which we can say Ralph is quoting William, or vice versa.
On the surface, the two historians seem to have composed their accounts independently, drawing on different sources of information. Ralph acknowledges a single source, the same Richard de Calne and his family who had given the children refuge when they were first found. Sir Richard must have enjoyed entertaining his friends with the tale.
As in the case of Brother Robert and his tale of the vanishing Templars, Ralph and his contemporaries take frequent and consistent repetition of a story as prima-facie evidence of its truth. As a recent writer has 34 In a similar vein, perhaps, in the nineteenth century the Reverend J. William of Newburgh, on the other hand, seems convinced not by the repetition of a single version but by the number of sources from which he heard it.
As we shall see, the apparent independence of our two basic texts is illusory. Yet the very existence of two accounts is of some comfort to the student. But in this case there is no doubt that the two historians are describing a single event that they both believe actually occurred. We can legitimately look for similarities and discrepancies in their accounts. Although, as we shall see, there is reason to think that Ralph and William derived some at least of their knowledge of the Green Children from the same source, both writers had many independent sources of information.
Just as Ralph, abbot of a small Cistercian abbey, seems to have kept himself well informed on national events through links with other Cistercian houses Gransden , —5 , William of Newburgh had contacts with other Augustinians. Gransden ibid. Even closer to Woolpit, as Harris points out , 83 , was the Augustinian priory of Ixworth Page , —7 , only two miles 3 km from the house of Richard de Calne at Wykes to which, Ralph of Coggeshall tells us, the villagers first took the children Map 2. Analysing the texts There are clearly two elements in the story of the Green Children as transmitted to us by William and Ralph.
Firstly, there is the framing narrative — the discovery of the children, their appearance and behaviour, and their ultimate fate. Secondly, we have the story told by both children according to William of Newburgh , or by the surviving child, the girl according to Ralph of Coggeshall — the description of their homeland and of the circumstances surrounding their arrival in our land. The versions by Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newburgh are summarised in parallel columns in these tables.
Incidents and themes are numbered in sequence and are referred to by these numbers in the text. The full texts in both Latin and English, however, are included in an Appendix below. They were taken weeping to the house of Sir Richard de Calne at Wykes. A common source? Two reporters and neither claims to be an eyewitness whose stories are so consistent can rarely be truly independent. The similarities suggest that Ralph and William must have derived parts at least of their accounts from a single source. This is a disappointing conclusion if we had hoped for independent testimony from the two authors.
It confirms, however, that a story was circulating. Yet it raises the question of what the apparent common source was, and leads us to consider how the two authors may have treated it. Yet, although we can suggest when the extant manuscripts were written, it is not in fact evident which of our authors wrote the earlier account of the Green Children. We know that Ralph lived close to the events he describes and preferred to use and credit oral sources, William was far away in Yorkshire and is well known for paraphrasing uncredited written accounts.
It surely seems likely that Ralph, if not already writing his Chronicon sequentially in the s, was at least collecting material — he might have written down a version of the de Calne story at that time.
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Augustinian Newburgh Priory lay only a mile and a half from Cistercian Byland Abbey, with which it had strong connections Gransden , and n. And it was, as we have seen, Abbot Ernald of Cistercian Rievaulx, not many miles further away, who had encouraged William to begin his Historia. The monks of Byland and Rievaulx would certainly have been in regular communication with Cistercian houses in south-east England — such as Coggeshall. If William had sight of a text written by Ralph he would certainly have recast it in his own words when incorporating it into his Historia, as was his normal practice.
He also ibid. There is no direct evidence of contact between William of Newburgh and Ralph of Coggeshall. However, if Ralph correctly credits his source the similarity of the accounts is such that the origin of the basic story as told by William also must lie in the de Calne household. The de Calne version then is common to both authors. However, William claims to have heard or read a number of other reports about the Green Children.
If so, it is only to be expected that they differed in details. The story, as he relates it, probably represents his attempt to combine a number of inconsistent versions into a coherent whole. He comments at the end that the children said many other things in response to persistent questioners curiose percunctantibus — and we have no basis on which to judge how he decided what to include and what to omit, or what changes he might have made in the interests of credibility.
Gransden , n. Ralph on the other hand gives no date in his text. Wykes lay in the parish of Bardwell eight miles 13 km north of Woolpit and carried with it the advowson of Bardwell church Map 2. It was certainly the property of the de Calne family — presumably originally from Calne in Wiltshire — at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Rye , 42; Davis , Richard de Calne himself has proved more elusive, although the name seems to occur more than once in the family.
Unfortunately even the authoritative prosopogaphy of Domesday Descendants has little to say of Richard de Calne Keats-Rohan , Ralph of Coggeshall gives no reason why the children were taken to Wykes rather than to Bury St Edmunds. Bury was hardly any further away — and Woolpit, after all, belonged to the abbot. Suffolk writers Eric Rayner , and Norman Scarfe , —7 take the identification for granted. This is a tempting circumstance, but I believe it is a misreading of the historical evidence. As we shall see, during this period and indeed, according to Abbot Samson, considerably earlier the advowson and revenues of its church were alienated Arnold , —54; Jocelin of Brakelond , 43—5.
However, the manor of Woolpit still belonged to the abbot, and lay within the jurisdiction of the Abbey — the Liberty of St Edmund, comprising the whole of West Suffolk Scarfe , 39—40, fig. Richard de Calne would seem to have had no authority over the village. Lunan , 46; , 50 concludes that Richard de Calne held the manors of Wykes and Knettishall a few miles to the north by If this is so, it would certainly be possible for the Green Children to have been taken to him some time in the reign of Stephen — though Lunan himself dates their discovery much later, to , 46—7; , 99— And it may well be true, as we shall see, that Richard de Calne already held Wykes before the death of Henry I in The earliest contemporary record of Richard de Calne seems to be in , when he witnessed the confirmation of a grant of property at Lambourne in Essex by Peter de Valognes, lord of Benington, Hertfordshire, and a great landowner in East Anglia Gervers , —8.
Later it becomes clear that Richard was a tenant of the Valognes fiefdom Keats-Rohan , It gives no clue as to the location of any land s he held at that time or later. The Peter de Valognes of and was the second of that name. His grandfather, also Peter, the first lord of Benington Sanders , 12 , was prominent in the Domesday Book, with large land holdings in many counties Keats-Rohan , —3.
Although the property to which the records relate is not named, it seems likely that it is the manor of Wykes. A landowner with property in both Suffolk and Essex, if travelling between his two holdings, might well have broken his journey at Coggeshall — providing opportunities for Ralph to hear the story of the Green Children. It might well have been before , when he was already a knight of the Valognes fiefdom; it was almost certainly before , when he was assessed for feudal relief in Suffolk.
This might suggest that he incorporates it at this point in his text because of its similarity in content to the Orford episode both entailed the mysterious appearance of strange humans or human-like beings , not necessarily because it was contemporary or subsequent Clark , This date seems to provide a terminus ante quem for the death of Richard de Calne, Walter presumably being his heir. A caveat should be noted. Yet William clearly did not find her age surprising; he was, of course, over sixty years of age himself when he wrote his Historia — and if our reconstruction is correct, Richard de Calne must have been in his seventies when he died.
The beans would have been 40 We may also note the remarkable case of Maud de Bidun, already married and then widowed by the age of ten in , who eventually died in at the age of eighty, still in possession of her original dowry Round , xxxvi—vii! Faba beans were among the earliest of plants to be domesticated and are now grown and consumed widely Salunkhe and Kadam , ; Belsey , 1. Broad beans are best plucked for eating when young, and can be cropped throughout the summer Huxley et al.
Grown largely in the eastern counties, they are now harvested over a period of 10 to 14 days in early August ibid. The events take place, then, in high summer. The geographical setting The discovery of the Green Children is quite closely defined in time. The same is true of its geographical context. This concern with locality seems to be an aspect of an unwritten contract between the medieval historian and his readers that what he presented was historia history — res gestae — things that had happened not fabula fiction ibid.
The contract was one that could easily be broken by an unscrupulous writer. It may perhaps be recognition of the fragility of the contract that led one of our historians, William of Newburgh, to devote his prologue to a scathing attack on Geoffrey of Monmouth. William seems to be particularly incensed at the way in which Geoffrey made his fictitious king conquer real nations of the known world, and assigned fictitious archbishops to real places ibid.
Woolpit lies in East Anglia Map 1 , which in the early Middle Ages was the most agriculturally productive and most densely populated part of rural England Darby , and The village had belonged to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds since before the Domesday Book survey of , having been given to the abbot by Earl Ulfketel Copinger —11, ; Page , —9.
However, in the early twelfth century the Abbey seems to have lost its right to appoint the priest to Woolpit church and its revenue from the church.
In , the newly appointed Abbot Samson said that this had been the case for more than sixty years past Arnold , —4; Jocelin of Brakelond , 43—5. Two high-ranking royal servants in succession were granted the benefice: Geoffrey Ridel later Bishop of Ely in about and William de Coutances later Bishop of Lincoln in about Although these surviving records give us no information on the discovery of the Green Children, they provide a useful background, and throw light on the relationship between the Abbey and its manors like Woolpit.
Here the road from Bury made a junction with an important route linking the medieval ports of Ipswich and Lynn by way of Stowmarket and Thetford, a route that originally skirted Woolpit on the northern side. At some time this main route was diverted to run through the village itself, perhaps after the establishment of a market there Taylor , —7.
Just six miles 9 km further east was Stowmarket, an important place that already had a market at the time of Domesday Book Hollingsworth , 36 and 68; Letters Woolpit itself had a market later, and an annual fair first mentioned in that was to become famous for the sale of horses Kirby , 62; Hervey , ; Dymond and Martin , 60—3; Paine , 8. Pilgrims to Woolpit are first mentioned between and , although the image and pilgrimage to it were particularly popular in the fifteenth century Paine , 8—9. Sadly, the tradition that it was a holy well, noted for its healing powers particularly for diseases of the eyes and attracting visitors from as far away as Ireland, can be traced no earlier than Paine , 10— The area did not escape the impact of national events during the twelfth century.
This was not, then, an isolated district in which nothing ever happened. The villagers of Woolpit would have been used to travellers of all sorts. Nor would it be surprising if the story of certain local events in the mid-twelfth century spread rapidly and widely. However, Aybes and Yalden , —5 , take it — together with some forty other instances of similarly derived place- or field-names ibid. Moreover, there is a significant difference in the terminology used by our two authors. It may be that William, or a local informant, understood rightly or wrongly the name of the village to refer to a prominent feature of the landscape at Woolpit, much more noticeable than a wolf- trap.
However, it may be possible to identify their location, on a map if not on the ground. Norman Scarfe has discussed a manuscript map of part of Woolpit, drawn in about , in the 42 The idea that these ditches were Roman in origin seems to have been first put forward by the antiquary Dr Thomas Gale ? With the aid of the map of c. Any continuation of either alignment south of the road is masked by woodland, but the boundary of the Liberty of St Edmund itself ran eastwards along the road for a short distance before turning south along the eastern edge of Woolpit parish.
Sickness, starvation or exposure — whatever experiences the children had been through together would have borne hardest on a younger child. It is fruitless to speculate as to the actual age of either child. In Latin a puer could be any age up to seventeen, even when the term was applied strictly in law, while puella might refer even to a young married woman Lewis and Short , s. This, he argues, supports his view that the girl was suffering from chlorosis — a condition that was thought at one time, as we shall see below, to be prevalent among adolescent females.
This is an interesting point, but not I think convincing. We shall turn instead to those particulars in which the children palpably did differ from the perceived human norm. What colour were the Green Children? Thus the colour term in Greek must refer to the darker green of the leaves of a leek, rather than the pallid body of the plant.
Nor is it the extreme ashen pallor of sixteenth- or seventeenth-century sufferers from green sickness or morbus virgineus Dixon , —41; Humphreys , —1. Yet colour terms are notoriously uncertain and unstable in meaning — and particularly problematic when one is dealing with usage in different languages, in different cultures, or in different periods Gage passim. There is little doubt about the meaning of Latin viridis and prassinus — yet neither Ralph nor William saw the Green Children, and we do not know in what language they first heard the story recounted.
This can signify a range of colour including blue, grey and the green of vegetation Bevan et al. To his history of Hamburg and its archbishops written between and , Adam of Bremen added a geographical and ethnographical account of Scandinavia and the northern seas, and the people of those areas, which formed part of the vast archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen. Were the Green Children fairies? If the children were indeed green would the villagers of Woolpit have regarded this as proof of their fairy nature?
Indeed, have fairies or elves characteristically ever been green? In his discussion of medieval fairy beliefs and the reactions of the medieval Church, Richard Firth Green refers to the Green Children only once, in a paragraph on the various colours of fairy that were described in his sources Green , 4. Perhaps the categorisation of fairies by colour was a post-medieval development. Harms , Thus of all four types of fairy, it is the green fairies who have most dealings with humankind, and whose behaviour reflects many familiar fairy traits, such as music and dancing, and giving rewards for good housekeeping.
Green clothing presents no such problem. The three Otherwordly riders who in the fourteenth century reportedly according to an account of a miracle at the shrine of St Cuthbert on Farne Island abducted the peasant Richard of Sunderland were riding green horses, like the more familiar Green Knight, but were themselves merely clad in green Wade , 18; Craster , Indeed, in spite of some evidence for green fairies in Irish literature Cross , , reports of actual green-skinned fairies seem to be quite uncommon, except as we have noted above.
Baughman , cites only two instances from Scotland and from the Yorkshire moors. But we can now draw upon two sources of information on recent encounters with fairies, both made available by the enterprise of Simon Young. In one instance ibid. Although this episode presents more interaction between the viewers and the putative fairies than other cases reported by Young most of them merely brief sightings of enigmatic entities — even if it was failed interaction, since the children did not respond when addressed — it still lacks the circumstance and the long-term relationship and communication that developed between the Green Children of Woolpit and their hosts.
Green-skinned fairies, then, are acceptable as a class, but not particularly commonly reported, and the colour certainly does not uniquely identify a fairy. This is not the place to ponder too deeply the folkloric significance if there is any of the story of Gawain and his dealings with the Green Knight. If there were it would mean that they were ill. Yet even here the similarities are not close. It is worth noting how unique the figure of the Green Knight is in medieval literature — as the quotation above from Brewer , indicates. An examination of these may indicate whether green coloration entered into twelfth-century concepts of such beings.
Again the report comes from the vicinity of Stowmarket, for the de Bradwell house was at Dagworth, only two miles 3 km north of Stowmarket and four miles 6 km from Woolpit Map 2. Malekin, by her own account, had been stolen away as a baby when her mother left her at the edge of a field while working on the harvest at Lanaham — assumed to be Lavenham, about ten miles 16 km distant to the south-west. She begged for food, which was set out for her to take. A housemaid, who once persuaded her to show herself, described her as looking like a very small child in a white dress.
Malekin is puzzling: not quite a fairy, not quite a house-spirit, not quite a changeling. When she allowed herself to be observed, she looked perfectly human, if diminutive. This mound has been identified as the large round barrow called Willy Howe near Wold Newton , about which other stories of fairies and hidden treasure were recorded much later Grinsell , —9; Briggs , —7. He found an open door in the mound, and inside it a large well-lit hall with people seated at a feast.
William himself attributes this 54 Lanaham seems to be an unusual form of this place-name, though the similar Laneham is recorded Copinger , Other twelfth-century accounts of brushes with Otherworldly beings are well known. Gerald of Wales relates the story of the Welsh monk Elidurus who claimed that, as a boy, he had had dealings with the inhabitants of a land reached through an underground tunnel Gerald of Wales , 75—8; , —6; Westwood , —6 — a story to which we must return later for some similarities to that of the Green Children. Thus, Otherworld people might be of unusual appearance, or differ in stature and in beauty from humans.
It would surely have warranted comment if they differed in colour — there is no comment, and we are left to assume that their colour was unexceptional. There is nothing to suggest that greenness was considered a general attribute of medieval fairies. But our sources are inconsistent as to their actual appearance. Perhaps various types of fairy were envisaged — possibly in different localities — with different characteristics, or perhaps fairies should be considered to be polymorphous, and able to change their appearance at will.
But if someone wished to concoct a story of such visitors, there would have been no reason in local belief or preconception for them to describe the children as green. Hence, we have every right to suppose that the story is true in at least this regard: if the Green Children existed at all, they were green. They do not seem to have met the challenge very successfully. Ralph may have suspected, however, that their coloration was not only temporary but artificial — a colour applied to the skin. As he puts it: …in colore cutis ab omnibus mortalibus nostrae habitabilis discrepabant.
Nam tota superficies cutis eorum viridi colore tingebatur. There are natural vegetable sources of green dye — for example, ferns, nettles or foxgloves — but these do not provide a rich or stable green colour, and do not seem to have been used in practical cloth dyeing in the medieval period. The process of a first dyeing with blue, then a second dyeing with yellow, is recorded on a Babylonian clay tablet of the seventh century BC Cardon , — A medieval dye-house would not contain a vat of green dye, nor apparently would it provide any ready way to colour the skin green.
In practice, in a medieval context, its adoption is problematic. If the Green Children were stained green, it was not with any readily-available green dye. Arsenic, chlorosis or favism? For only when the children became accustomed to more normal food than their original diet of raw beans did their green colour begin to fade. Unfortunately for this theory green skin is not apparently a symptom of arsenic poisoning — though yellowness, through jaundice, might be Macpherson , s.
King A greenish pallor, although sometimes mentioned, does not seem to have been the defining symptom of this condition. King , 2. Others have seen psychological significance in the fact that the malady was common in a period when young women were bound as much by the constraints of Victorian society as they were physically by tight corsets Dixon , —1 ,61 and Nancy M.
Theriot has discussed its social and psychological implications within nineteenth-century American families Theriot , — There is sometimes with this marked state of the countenance a slight tinge of green, of yellow, or of slate-colour. In the confirmed stage of chlorosis, the state of pallor of the complexion is still more marked….
The coloured plate shows the face of a girl or young woman that is indeed pale, but shows no trace of greenness. By the end of the nineteenth century the nature and the symptoms of chlorosis were being questioned. He concluded: The green tint of the face or of the skin from which the name is derived is a somewhat uncertain feature. Some authors deny its existence; others believe it is only recognisable in those of dark complexion. To the ordinary eye, the color is a yellowish pallor in brunettes and a whitish, although extreme, pallor in blondes.
One wonders how many Victorian doctors and their predecessors were misled by the name of the condition to identify a green complexion when none was present. King , 19, 43—5. King , 47, ; Lange , King , 19—20 , but it seems to have been in popular use earlier. For example, Margaret Countess of Cumberland wrote that she had suffered from green sickness until her marriage at the age of seventeen, in ibid. King , King , 43—5. However, not all modern medical authorities deny the possibility of a green complexion in rare medical circumstances.
Dr William H. It was in about ; The patient was thirty-five years old, and was diagnosed as suffering from severe iron-deficiency anaemia due to uterine bleeding. Crosby suggests ibid. He compares this to the colour of a maturing bruise — blue, with a fringe of yellow, shading to green between the two areas. Thus, though he does not describe the shade of green displayed by his unfortunate patient, we can perhaps assume it to have been a yellowish green.
Another is due any day. The same coloration was visible on the backs of her hands and fingers. Although at first sight her complexion appears mostly yellow, it certainly shades to a greenish tinge on her temples and cheeks. This coloration had persisted for two months. The girl complained of mild fatigue, and her mother had noticed a loss of appetite. No explanation is offered. Treated with doses of iron iron salt therapy , the girl regained her normal colour, her energy and her appetite within a few days. Perdahl-Wallace and Schwartz ibid. A green complexion was never the defining symptom of the condition, and the girl seems to have shown little sign of the other distressing symptoms reported by Victorian and earlier writers.
Perhaps we should conclude instead that in rare circumstances iron-deficiency anaemia — whether or not itself contributing to the condition formerly known as chlorosis — can cause a strange yellow tending to greenish coloration of the skin of the sufferer. It was not a constant feature — but nor was it a myth; simply a very rare feature. Bertha brought over a French bishop to the court of Canterbury; and being zealous for the propagation of her reli gion, she had been very assiduous in her devotional exercises, had supported the credit of her faith by an irreproachable conduct, and had employed every art of insinuation and address to reconcile her husband to her religious principles.
Her popularity in the court, and her influence over Ethelbert, had so well paved the way for the reception of the Christian doctrine, that Gregory, sirnamed the Great, the present Roman pontiff, began to entertain hopes of effectuating a project, which he himself, before he mounted the papal throne, had once embraced for converting the British Saxons.
Struck with the beauty of their fair complexions and blooming coun tenances, Gregory asked to what country they belonged; and being told they were Angles, he replied, that they ought more properly to be denominated an gels; and it was a pity that the Prince of Darkness should enjoy so fair a prey, and that so beautiful a frontispiece should cover a mind devoid of internal grace and righteousness.
They are called to the mercy of God from his anger, De ira. But what is the Name of the King of that province? He was told it was Aella or Alla: Alleluiah, cried he: We must endeavour that the praises of God be sung in their country. THE controversy between the Pagans and the Christians was not entirely cooled in that age; and no pontiff before Gregory had ever carried to greater excesses his intemperate zeal against the former religion. He had declared war against all the precious monuments of the antients, and even against their writings; which, as appears from the strain of his own wit, as well as the style of his com positions, he had not taste nor genius sufficient to comprehend.
Ambitious to distinguish his pontificate by the conversion of the British Saxons, he pitched on Augustine, a Roman monk, and sent him with forty associates to preach the gos pel in this island. These missionaries, terrified with the dangers, which might attend their proposing a new doctrine to so fierce a people, of whose language they were entirely ignorant, stopped some time in France, and sent back Augus tine to lay the hazards and difficulties before the Pope, and crave his permission to desist from the undertaking. Ethelbert, already well disposed towards the Christian faith, assigned him a habitation in the isle of Thanet; and soon after admitted him to a conference.
Here Augustine, by means of his interpreters, delivered to him the tenets of the Christian faith, and promised him eternal joys above, and a kingdom in heaven without end, if he would be persuaded to receive that salutary doctrine. Influenced by these motives, and by the declared favour of the court, numbers of the Kentish men were baptized; and the King himself was persuaded to submit to that rite of Christianity. His example wrought powerfully on his subjects; but he employ ed no force to bring them over to the new doctrine. The pontiff also answered some questions, which the mis sionary had put concerning the government of the new church of England.
Be sides other queries, which it is not necessary here to relate, Augustine asked, Whether cousin-germans might be allowed to marry? Gregory answered, that that liberty had indeed been formerly granted by the Roman law; but that experience had shown, that no posterity could ever come from such marriages; and he therefore prohibited them. Augustine asks, Whether a woman pregnant might be baptized? Gregory answers, that he sees no objection. How soon after the birth the child might receive baptism?
It was answered, Immediately, if requisite. How soon a husband might have commerce with his wise after her delivery? Not till she had given suck to her child; a practice to which Gregory exhorts all women. How soon a man might enter the church, or receive the sacrament, after having had commerce with his wife? And on the whole, it appears, that Gregory and his missionary, if sym pathy of manners have any influence, were better calculated than men of more refined understandings, for making a progress with the ignorant and barbarous Saxons.
These political compliances show, that, notwithstand ing his ignorance and prejudices, he was not unacquainted with the arts of go verning mankind. Lau rentius, the successor of Augustine, found the Christian worship wholly deserted, and was preparing to return into France, in order to save himself the mortifica tion of preaching the gospel without fruit to the infidels. He appeared before that prince; and throwing off his vestment, showed his body all torn with bruises and stripes, which he had received.
Eadbald, wondering that any man should have dared to treat in that manner a person of his rank, was told by Laurentius, that he had received this chastisement from St. He reigned twenty-four years; and left the crown to Egbert, his son, who reign ed nine years. The ecclesiastical writers praise him for his bestowing on his sister Domnona, some lands in the isle of Thanet, where she founded a monastery.
Lothaire, brother to the deceased prince, took possession of the throne; and in order to secure the kingdom in his family, he associated with him Richard, his son, in the administration of the government. Edric, the dispos sessed prince, had recourse to Edilwach, King of Sussex, for assistance in main taining his right; and being supported by that prince, fought a battle with his uncle, who was defeated and slain.
Richard fled into Germany, and died at last in Lucca, a city of Tuscany. Eadbert, Ethelbert, and Alric, his descendants successively mounted the throne. After the death of the last, which happened in , the royal family of Kent was extinguished; and every factious leader, who could entertain hopes of ascending the throne, threw the state into confusion. He also spread the terror of the Saxon arms to the neigh bouring people; and by his victories over the Scots and Picts, as well as Welsh, extended on all sides the bounds of his dominions.
Having laid siege to Chester, the Britains marched out with all their forces to engage him; and they were at tended with a body of monks from the monastery of Bangor, who stood at a small distance from the field of battle, in order to encourage the combatants by their presence and exhortations. The Britains, astonished with this event, received a total defeat: Chester was obliged to surren der: And Adelfrid, pursuing his victory, made himself master of Bangor, and entirely demolished the monastery.
This prince, now grown to man's estate, wandered from place to place, in con tinual danger from the attempts of Adelfrid; and received at last protection in the court of Redwald, King of the East-Angles; where his engaging and gallant deportment procured him the affections of every one. Redwald, however, was strongly sollicited by the King of Northumberland to kill or deliver up his guest: Rich presents were promised him, if he would comply; and war denounced against him, in case of his refusal.
After rejecting several messages of this kind, his generosity began to yield to the motives of interest; and he retained the last ambassador, till he should come to a resolution in a case of such importance. Edwin, informed of his friend's hesitation, was yet determined at all hazards to remain in East Anglia; and thought, that if the protection of that court failed him, it were better to die than prolong a life so much exposed to the persecutions of his powerful rival.
Redwald, therefore, embracing more generous resolutions, thought it safest to prevent Adelfrid, before he was aware of his intention, and to attack him while he was yet unprepared for defence. His own sons, Eanfrid, Oswald, and Oswy, yet infants, fled into Scotland; and Edwin obtained possession of the crown of Northumberland. The assassin, having obtained admittance, by pretending to deliver a message from Cuichelme, drew his dagger, and rushed upon the King. THE East-Angles conspired against Redwald, their King; and having put him to death, they offered their crown to Edwin, of whose valour and capacity they had had experience, while he resided among them.
The people soon after imitated his example. Besides the authority and influence of the King, they were moved by another striking example. Eadfrid, the eldest surviving son, fled to Penda, by whom he was treacherously slain. Both these Northumbrian kings perished soon after, the first in battle against Caedwalla, the Britain; the second by the treachery of that prince.
Mary Matilda Betham
Oswald the brother of Eanfrid, of the race of Bernicia, united again the kingdom of Northumberland in the year , and restored the christian religion in his cominions. He gained a great and well disputed battle against Caedwalla; the last vigorous effort which the Britains made against the Saxons. Ethelred, his successor, the son of Mollo, shared a like fate. THE history of this kingdom contains nothing memorable, except the con verting to christianity Earpwold, the fourth king and great-grandson of Uffa, the founder of the monarchy.
Some pretend that he founded founded the university of Cambridge, or rather some schools in that place. It is almost impossible, and quite needless to be more particular in relating the trans actions of the East-Angles. Ethelbert, the last of these princes, was treacherously mur dered by Offa, King of Mercia, in the year , and his state was thenceforth united with that of Offa, as we shall relate presently.
MERCIA, the largest, if not the most powerful kingdom of the Heptarchy, comprehended all the middle counties of England; and as its frontiers ex tended to those of all the other six kingdoms, as well as to Wales, it received its name from that circumstance. Wibba, the son of Crida, founder of the mo narchy, being placed on the throne by Ethelbert, King of Kent, governed his paternal dominions by a very precarious authority; and after his death, Ceorl, his kinsman, was, by the influence of the Kentish monarch, preferred to his son, Penda, whose turbulent disposition appeared dangerous to that prince.
Penda was thus fifty years of age before he mounted the throne; and his temerity and martial disposition were found no-wise unabated by time, experience, or reflection. Peada, his son, obtained the crown of Mercia in , and lived under the protection of Oswy, whose daughter he had espoused. Thus the fair sex have had the merit of introducing the christian doctrine into all the most considerable kingdoms of the Saxon Heptarchy.
His son, Wolfhere, succeeded to the government; and after having reduced to dependance the kingdoms of Essex, and East-Anglia, he lest the crown to his brother, Ethelred, who, tho' a lover of peace, showed himself not unfit for mili tary enterprizes. Desirous, however, of composing all animosities with Egfrid, he payed him a sum of money, as a compensation for the loss of his brother.
He defeated the former in a bloody battle at Otford upon the Darent, and reduced his kingdom to a state of dependance: He gained a victory over the latter at Bensington in Oxfordshire; and conquering that county, together with that of Glocester, annexed it to his other dominions. But all these successes were stained by his treacherous murder of Ethelbert, King of the East Angles, and his violent seizure of that kingdom. This young prince, who is said to have possessed great merit, had made suit to Elfrida, the daughter of Offa, and was invited with all his retinue to Hereford, in order to solemnize the nuptials.
The treacherous prince, desirous of re-establishing his character in the world, and perhaps of appeasing the remorses of his own con science, payed great court to the clergy, and practised all the Monkish devotions, which were so much esteemed in that ignorant and superstitious age. Carrying his hypocrisy still farther, Offa, feigning to be directed by visions from heaven, found out at Verulam, the relicts of St. THIS prince was become so considerable in the Heptarchy, that the Emperor Charlemagne entered into an alliance and friendship with him; a circumstance, which did him honour; as distant princes then had very little communication with each other.
That emperor being a great lover of learning and learned men, in an age which was very barren of that ornament, Offa, at his desire, sent him over Alcuin, a clergyman, much celebrated for his knowledge, who received great honours from Charlemagne, and even became his preceptor in the sciences. This heresy was condemned in the council of Francfort, held in , and consisting of bishops. This prince waged war against Kent; and taking Egbert, the King, prisoner, he cut off his hands, and put out his eyes; leaving Cuthred, his own brother, in possession of the crown of that kingdom.
Kenulph was killed in an insurrection of the East-Anglians, whose crown his predecessor, Offa, had usurped. THIS kingdom made no great figure in the Heptarchy; and the history of it is very imperfect. His sons and conjunct successors, Sexted and Seward, relapsed into idolatry, and were soon after slain in a battle against the West-Saxons. But on his refusing them, unless they would submit to be bapt zed, they expelled him their dominions.
The other princes names, who reigned successively in Essex, are Sigebert the little, Sigebert the good, who re stored christianity, Swithelm, Sigheri, Offa. This last prince, having made a vow of virginity, notwithstanding his marriage with Keneswitha, a Mercian prin cess, daughter to Penda, went in pilgrimage to Rome, and shut himself up during the rest of his life in a cloyster. Switherd first acquired the crown, and his death made way for Sigeric, who ended his life in a pilgrimage to Rome. His Successor, Sigered, unable to de fend his kingdom, submitted to the victorious arms of Egbert.
THE history of this kingdom, the smallest in the Heptarchy, is still more imperfect than that of Essex. During his time, the South-Saxons fell almost into a total de pendance on the kingdom of Wessex; and we scarce know the names of the kings, who were possessed of this titular sovereignty. Adelwalch, the last of them, was subdued in battle by Ceadwalla, King of Wessex, and was slain in the action; leaving two infant sons, who, falling into the hand of the conqueror, were murdered by him.
The abbot of Redford opposed the order for this barbarous execution; but could prevail on Ceadwalla only to suspend it, till they should be baptized. THE kingdom of Wessex, which finally swallowed up all the other Saxon states, met with great opposition on its first establishment; and the Britains, who were now enured to arms, yielded not tamely their posses sions to these invaders. Cerdic, the founder of the monarchy, and his son, Kenric, fought many successful, and some unsuccessful battles, against the na tives; and the martial spirit, common to all the Saxons, was by means of these hostilities, carried to the greatest height among this tribe.
Ceaulin, the son and successor of Kenric, who began his reign in , was even more ambitious and enterprizing than his predecessors; and by waging continual war against the Britains, he added a great part of the counties of Devon and Somerset to his other dominions. Carried away by the tide of success, he invaded the other Saxon states in his neighbourhood, and becoming terrible to all, he provoked a general confederacy against him.
Cui chelme and Cuthwin, his sons, governed jointly the kingdom; till the expulsion of the latter in , and the death of the former in , made way for Cealric, to whom succeeded Ceobald in , by whose death, which happened in , Kynegils inherited the crown. Escwin then peaceably acquired the crown; and after a short reign of two years, made way for Kentwin, who governed nine years. Ceodwalla, his successor, mounted not the throne without opposition; but proved a great prince, according to the ideas of those times; that is, he was enterprizing, warlike, and successful.
He subdued en tirely the kingdom of Sussex, and annexed it to his own dominions. He made war upon the Bri tains in Somerset; and having finally subdued that province, he treated the van quished with an humanity, hitherto unknown to the Saxon conquerors. THO' the Kings of Wessex had always been princes of the blood, descended from Cerdic, the founder of the monarchy, the order of succession had been far from exact; and a more remote prince had often found means to mount the throne, in preference to one descended from a nearer branch of the royal family.
The exiled prince found a refuge with duke Cumbran, governor of Hampshire; who, that he might add to his other kind ness towards Sigebert, gave him many falutary counsels for his future conduct, accompanied with some reprehensions for the past. But these were so much re sented by the ungrateful prince, that he conspired against the life of his protec tor, and treacherously murdered him. Kynehard also, brother to the deposed Sigebert, gave him disturbance; and tho' expelled the kingdom, he hovered on the frontiers, and waited an opportunity of attack ing his rival.
This event happened in BRITHRIC next obtained possession of the government, tho' very remotely de scended from the royal family; but enjoyed not that dignity without inquietude. IT was not long before Egbert had opportunities of displaying his natural and acquired talents. Having great influence over her husband, she often incited him to destroy such of the nobility as were obnoxious to her; and where this expedient failed her, she scrupled not being herself active in traiterous attempts upon their life.
He attained that dignity in the last year of the eighth century. IN all the kingdoms of the heptarchy, an exact rule of succession was either un known or not strictly observed; and thence the reigning prince was continually agitated with jealousy against all the princes of the blood, whom he still consi dered as rivals, and whose death alone could give him entire security in his pos session of the throne.
Egbert was the sole descendant of those first conquerors who subdued Britain, and who enhanced their authority by claiming a pedigree from Woden, the supreme divinity of their ancestors. He was recalled from the conquest of that country by an inroad made into his dominions by Bernulf, King of Mercia.
THE Mercians, before the accession of Egbert, had very nearly attained the absolute sovereignty over the heptarchy: They had reduced the East-Angles un der subjection, and established tributary princes in the kingdoms of Kent and Essex. Northumberland was involved in anarchy; and no state of any consequence remained but that of Wessex, which, much inferior in extent to Mercia, was supported alone by the great qualities of its sovereign. Bernulf, the Mercian King, who marched against them, was defeated and slain; and two years after, Ludecan, his successor, met with the same fate.
These insurrections and calamities facilitated the enterprizes of Egbert, who advanced into the heart of the Mercian territories, and made easy conquests over a disheartened and divided people. Egbert, however, still allowed to Northumberland, as he had done to Mercia and East-Anglia, the power of elect ing a King, who paid him tribute, and was dependant on him. Kent, Northumberland, and Mercia, which had successively aspired to general dominion, were now incorpo rated in his empire; and the other subordinate kingdoms seemed willingly to share the same fate. His territories were nearly of the same extent with what is now properly denominated England; and a favourable prospect was afforded the Anglo-Saxons, of establishing a civilized monarchy, possessed of tranquillity within itself, and secure against foreign invasion.
THE Saxons, tho' they had been so long settled in the island, seem not as yet to have been much improved beyond their German ancestors, either in arts, ci vility, knowledge, humanity, justice, or obedience to the laws. Even Christia nity, tho', among other advantages, it opened the way to connexions between them and the more polished states of Europe, had not hitherto been very effectual, in ba nishing their ignorance, or softening their barbarous manners. As they received that doctrine thro' the corrupted channels of Rome, which had strongly tinctured the original purity of the Christian faith, it carried along with it a great mixture of credulity and superstition, equally destructive to the understanding and to mo rals.
ANOTHER inconvenience, which attended this corrupt species of Christianity, was the superstitious attachment to Rome, and the gradual subjection of the king dom to a foreign jurisdiction. Pilgrim ages to Rome were represented as the most meritorious acts of devotion. New reliques, continually sent from that endless mint of superstition, and magnified by the lying miracles, invented in convents, operated on the astonished minds of the multitude: And every prince attained the eulogies of the monks, the only historians of those ages, not in proportion to his civil and military virtues, but to his devoted attachment towards their order, and his superstitious reverence for Rome.
THE sovereign pontiff, encouraged by this blindness and submissive disposition of the people, advanced every day in his enterprizes on the independance of the English churches. The great topic, by which he confounded the imaginations of men, was, that St. Peter, to whose custody the keys of heaven were entrusted, would certainly refuse admittance to every one who had been wanting in respect to his successor. This conceit, well calculated for vulgar conceptions, had a powerful operation on the people during several ages; and has not even at present lost all influence in the catholic countries.
HAD this abject superstition produced general peace and tranquillity, it had made some atonement for the ills attending it; but, added to the usual avidity of men for power and riches, it engendered frivolous controversies in theology, which were so much the more fatal, as they admitted not, like the others, of any final determination from established possession.
The disputes, excited in Britain, were of the most ridiculous kind, and entirely worthy of those ignorant and bar barous ages. There were some intricacies, observed by all the Christian church es, in adjusting the day of keeping Easter; which depended on a complicated consideration of the course of the sun and moon: And it happened that the mis sionaries, who had converted the Scots and Britains, had followed a different ca lendar from what was observed at Rome in the age when Augustine converted the Saxons.
The priests also of all the Christian churches were accustomed to shave part of their head; but the form given to this tonsure, was different in the for mer from what was practised in the latter. The Scots and Britains pleaded the antiquity of their usages: The Romans, and their disciples, the Saxons, insisted on the universality of theirs.
That Easter must necessarily be kept by a rule, which comprehended both the day of the year, and age of the moon, was agreed by all: That the shaving of a priest could not be omitted without the utmost im piety, was a point undisputed: But the Romans and Saxons called their anta gonists schismatics; because they celebrated Easter on the very day of the full moon in March, if that day fell on a Sunday, instead of waiting till the Sunday following; and because they shaved their whole forehead from ear to ear, instead of making that tonsure on the crown of the head, and in a circular form.
This opinion it seems somewhat difficult to comprehend; and no one, unacquainted with the ecclesiastical history of those ages, could imagine the height of zeal and violence with which it was then inculcated. THE Saxons, from the first introduction of Christianity among them, had ad mitted the use of images; and perhaps, Christianity, without some of those ex terior ornaments, had not made so quick a progress with these idolaters: But they had not paid any species of worship or address to images; and this abuse never pre vailed among Christians, till it received the sanction of the second council of Nice.
Their language was every where nearly the same; their customs, laws, institutions civil and religious; and as the race of their antient kings was totally extinct in all their subjected states, the people readily transferred their allegiance to a prince, who seemed to merit it, by the splendor of his victories, the vigor of his administration, and the superior nobility of his birth. An union also in government opened to them the agreeable prospect of future tranquillity; and it appeared more probable, that they would thenceforth become terrible to their neighbours, than be exposed to their inroads and devastations.
But these flattering views were soon overcast by the appearance of the Danes, who, during some centuries, kept the Anglo-Saxons in perpetual inquietude, committed the most barbarous ravages upon them, and at last reduced them to the most grievous servitude. THE emperor Charlemagne, tho' naturally generous and humane, had been induced by bigotry to exercise great severities against the pagan Saxons in Ger many, whom he subdued; and besides often ravaging their country by fire and sword, he had in cold blood decimated all the inhabitants for their revolts, and had obliged them, by the most rigorous edicts, to make a seeming compliance with the christian doctrine.
That religion, which had easily made its way among the British-Saxons by insinuation and address, appeared shocking to their German brethren, when imposed on them by the violence of Charlemagne; and the most generous and warlike of these pagans had fled northward into Jutland, in order to escape the fury of his persecutions.
They invaded the provinces of France, which were exposed by the degeneracy and dissensions of Charlemagne's posterity; and being known there under the general name of Nor mans, which they received from their northern situation, they became the terror of all the maritime and even of the inland countries.
They were also tempted to visit England in their frequent excursions; and being able by sudden inroads to make great progress over a people, who were not defended by any naval force, who had relaxed their military institutions, and who were sunk into a superstition, which had become odious to the Danes and antient Saxons, they made no dis tinction in their hostilities between the French and English kingdoms.
A small body of them landed in that kingdom, with a view of learning the state of the country; and when the magistrate of the place questioned them concerning the reason of their enterprize, and cited them to appear before the king, and account for their intentions, they killed him, and flying to their ships, escaped into their own country.
They were not so fortunate in their next year's enterprize, when they disembarked from thirty-five ships, and were encountered by Egbert, at Charmouth in Dorsetshire. While England remained in this state of inquietude, and defended itself more by temporary expedients than by any regular plan of administration, Egbert, who alone was capable of providing ef fectually against this new evil, unfortunately died; [year ] and left the government to his son, Ethelwolf.
But no inconveniencies seem to have arisen from this partition; as the continual terror of the Danish in vasions prevented all domestic dissension. They avoided coming to a general en gagement, which was not suited to their plan of operations. Their vessels were small, and ran easily up the creeks and rivers; where they drew them ashore, and having formed an entrenchment around them, which they guarded with part of their number, they scattered themselves every where, and carrying off the inha bitants, and cattle, and goods, they hastened to their ships, and suddenly disap peared.
If the military force of the county was assembled for there was no time for troops to march from a distance the Danes either were able to repulse them and to continue their ravages with impunity, or they betook themselves to their vessels; and setting sail, invaded suddenly some distant quarter, which was not prepared for their reception. Every season of the year was dangerous; and no man could esteem himself a moment in safety, be cause of the present absence of the enemy.
But the English, more military than the Britains, whom, a few centuries before, they had treated with like violence, rouzed themselves with a vigour proportioned to the exigency. He passed there a twelvemonth in exercises of devotion; and failed not in that most essential part of devotion, liberality to the church of Rome.
Peters, another those of St. And immediately after, he summoned the states of the whole kingdom, and with the same facility, conferred a perpetual and very important donation on the church. THE ecclesiastics, in those days of ignorance, made very rapid advances in the acquisition of power and grandeur; and inculcating the most absurd and most interested doctrines, tho' they met sometimes, from the contrary interests of the laity, with an opposition, which it required time and address to overcome, they found no obstacle in their reason or understanding.
Not content with the dona tions of land made them by the Saxon princes and nobles, and with the temporary oblations from the devotion of the people, they had cast a wishful eye on a vast revenue, which they claimed as belonging to them by a divine, indefeizable and inherent title. However little versed in the scriptures, they had been able to discover, that the priests, under the Jewish law, possessed a tenth of all the pro duce of land; and forgeting, what they themselves taught, that the moral part only of that law was obligatory on christians, they insisted, that this donation was a perpetual property, conferred by heaven on those who officiated at the al tar.
His younger brother, Alfred, seconded him in all his enterprizes; and generously sacrificed to the publick good all resentment, which he might entertain, on account of his being excluded by Ethered from a large patrimony, which had been left him by his father. Encouraged by these successes, and by the superiority, which they had acquired in arms, they now ventured, under the command of Hinguar and Hubba, their chiestains, to leave the sea-coast, and penetrating into Mercia, they took up their winter quarters at Nottingham, where they threatened the kingdom with a final subjection.
The Danes being defeated in an action, shut themselves up in their garrison; but quickly making thence an irrup tion, they routed the West-Saxons, and raised the siege. Amidst these confusions, Ethered died of a wound, which he had received in an action with the Danes; and left the inheritance of his cares and misfortunes, rather than of his grandeur, to his brother, Alfred, who was now twenty-two years of age. Alfred, on his return home, became every day more the object of his father's most tender affections; but being in dulged in all youthful pleasures, he was much neglected in his education; and he had already reached his twelfth year, when he was yet totally ignorant of the lowest elements of literature.
Encou raged by the Queen, and stimulated by his own ardent inclination, he soon learned to read these compositions; and proceeded thence to the knowledge of the Latin tongue, where he met with authors, that better prompted his heroic spirit, and directed his generous views. He had scarce buried his brother, when he was obliged to take the field, in order to oppose the Danes, who had seized Wilton, and were exercising their usual ra vages on the countries around.
Their loss, how ever, in the action was so considerable, that, fearing Alfred would receive daily reinforcements from his subjects, they were contented to stipulate for a safe re treat, and promised to depart the kingdom. For that purpose, they were con ducted to London, and allowed to take up their winter quarters there; but care less of their engagements, they immediately set themselves to the committing spoil on the neighbouring country.
He was brother-in law to Alfred, and the last who bore the title of king in Mercia. THIS last incident quite broke the spirit of the Saxons, and reduced them to despair. There passed here an incident, which has been recorded by all the historians, and was long preserved by popular tradition; tho' it contains nothing memorable in itsell, except so far as every circumstance is interesting, which attends so great virtue and dignity, reduced to such distress.
The wife of the neat-herd was ignorant of the condition of her royal guest; and observing him one day busy by the fire-side in trimming his bow and arrows, she desired him to take care of some cakes, which were toasting, while she was em ployed elsewhere in other domestic affairs. By degrees, Alfred, as he found the search of the enemy become more remiss, collected some of his retainers, and retired into the center of a bog, formed by the stagnating waters of the Thone and Parret, in Somersetshire.
He thence made frequent and unexpected sallies upon the Danes, who often felt the vigour of his arm, but knew not from what quarter the blow came. ALFRED lay here concealed, but not unactive, during a twelvemonth; when the news of a prosperous event reached his ears, and called him into the field. WHEN Alfred observed this symptom of successful resistance in his subjects, he left his retreat; but before he would assemble them in arms, or urge them to any attempt, which, if unfortunate, might, in their present despondency, prove fatal, he resolved, himself, to inspect the situation of the enemy, and to judge of the probability of success.
For this purpose, he entered their camp under the disguise of a harper, and passed unsuspected thro' every quarter. He remarked the supine security of the Danes, their contempt of the English, their negligence in foraging and plundering, and their dissolute wasting of what they gained by rapine and violence.
The King, no less generous than brave, gave them their lives; and even formed a scheme for converting them, from mortal enemies, into faithful subjects and confederates. He knew, that the kingdoms of East-Anglia and Northumberland were left totally desolate by the frequent inroads of the Danes; and he now purposed to re-people them by settling there Guthrum and his followers. He hoped that the new planters would at last betake themselves to industry, when, by reason of his resistance, and the exhausted condit on of the country, they could no longer subsist by plunder; and that they might serve him as a rampart against any future incursions of their countrymen.
Guthrum and his army had no aversion to this proposal; and, without much instruction, or argument, or conference, they were all admitted to bap tism. THE King employed this interval of tranquillity in restoring order to the state, which had been shaken by so many violent convulsions, in establishing civil and military institutions, in composing the minds of men to industry and justice, and in providing against the return of like calamities. He was, more properly than his grandfather Egbert, the sole monarch of the English, for so the Saxons were now universally called because the kingdom of Mercia was at last incorpo rated in his state, and was governed by Ethelbert, his brother-in-law, who bore the title of earl: And tho' the Danes, who peopled East-Anglia and Northum berland, were, for some time, ruled immediately by their own princes, they all acknowledged a subordination to Alfred, and submitted to his superior autho rity.
As equality among subjects is the great source of concord, Alfred gave the same laws to the Danes and English, and put them entirely on the same footing in the administration both of civil and criminal justice. The fine for the murder of a Dane was the same with that for the murder of an Englishman; the great symbol of equality in those ages.
Tho' the Danes might suddenly, by surprise, disembark on the coast, which was generally become desolate by their frequent ravages, they were encountered by the English fleet in their retreat; and escaped not, as for merly, by abandoning their booty, but paid, by their total destruction, the pe nalty of the disorders which they had committed.
IN this manner, Alfred repelied several inroads of these pyratical Danes, and maintained his kingdom, during some years, in safety and tranquillity. The greater part of the enemy disembarked in the Rother, and seized the sort of Apuldore. Alfred lost not a moment in opposing this new enemy. MEAN while, the Danish invaders in Essex, having united their force under the command of Hastings, advanced into the inland country, and made spoil of all around them; but had soon reason to repent of their temerity.
The pyratical Danes wil lingly followed in an excursion any prosperous leader, who gave them hopes of booty, but were not so easily engaged to relinquish their enterprize, or submit to return baffled, and without plunder, into their native country. Great numbers of them, after Hastings' departure, seized and fortified Shobury at the mouth of the Thames; and having left a garrison there, they coasted along the river, till they came to Boddington in the county of Glocester; where, being reinfor ced by some Welsh, they threw up entrenchments, and prepared for their defence.
These roved about for some time in England, still pursued by the vigilance of Alfred; they attacked Leicester with success, defended themselves in Hartford, and then fled to Quatford; where they were finally broken and subdued. THE well-timed severity of this execution, together with the excellent posture of defence, established every where, restored full tranquillity in England, and provided for the future security of the government. THE merit of this prince, both in private and public life, may with advan tage to be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age or any nation, can present to us.
He seems indeed to be the com plete model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice: So happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they blended; and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds! His civil and his military virtues are almost equally the objects of our admiration; excepting only, that the former, being more rare among princes, as well as more useful, seem chiefly to challenge our applause.
Fortune alone, by throwing him into that barbarous age, deprived him of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we may at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.
BUT we should give but an imperfect idea of Alfred's merit, were we to con fine our narration to his military exploits, and were not more particular in our account of his institutions for the execution of justice, and of his zeal for the en couragement of arts and sciences. Tho' the great armies of the Danes were broke, the country was full of straggling troops of that nation, who, being accustomed to live by plunder, were become incapable of industry, and who, from the natural ferocity of their manners, indulged themselves in the commission of violence, even be yond what was requisite to supply their necessities.
These were the evils, for which it was necessary that the vigilance and activity of Alfred should pro vide a remedy. Ten neighbouring householders were formed into one corporation, who, under the name of a tything, decennary, or fribourg, were answerable for each other's conduct, and over whom one person, called a tything man, headbourg, or borsholder, was appointed to preside.
WHEN any person in any tything or decennary was guilty of a crime, the borsholder was summoned to answer for him; and if he was not willing to be surety for his appearance and his clearing himself, the criminal was committed to prison, and there detained till his trial. Thirty-one days were allowed them for producing the criminal; and if that time elapsed without their being able to find him, the borsholder, with two other members of the decennary, was obliged to appear, and together with three chief members of the three neighbouring decen naries making twelve in all to swear that his decennary was free from all privity both of the crime committed, and of the escape of the criminal.
By this institution every man was obliged from his own interest to keep a watchful eye over the conduct of his neighbours; and was in a manner surety for the behaviour of those who were placed under the division, to which he belonged: Whence these decennaries received the name of frank-pledges. SUCH a regular distribution of the people, and such a strict confinement in their habitation, may not be necessary in times, when men are more enured to obe dience and justice, and might perhaps be regarded as destructive of liberty and commerce in a polished state; but were well calculated to reduce these fierce and licentious people under the salutary restraint of law and government.
But Alfred took care to temper these rigors by other institutions favourable to the freedom and security of the citizens; and nothing could be more popular and liberal than his plan for the administration of justice. The borsholder summoned together his whole decennary to assist him in deciding any lesser differences, which occurred among the members of this small community. Their method of decision deserves to be noted; as being the origin of juries; an institu tion, admirable in itself, and the best calculated for the preservation of liberty and the administration of justice, that ever was devised by the wit of man.
And beside these monthly meetings of the hundred, there was an an nual meeting, appointed for a more general inspection of the police of the district; the enquiry into crimes, the correction of abuses in magistrates, and the obliging every person to shew the decennary in which he was registered. THE next superior court to that of the hundred was the county-court, which met twice a year after Michaelmas and Easter, and consisted of all the freeholders of the county, who possessed an equal vote in the decision of causes. His office also empowered him to guard the rights of the crown in the county; and to levy the fines im posed; which in that age formed no contemptible part of the public revenue.
THERE lay an appeal, in default of justice, from all these courts to the King himself in council; and as the people, sensible of the equity and great talents of Alfred, placed their chief confidence in him, he was soon over-whelmed with appeals from all parts of England. THE better to guide the magistrates in the administration of justice, Alfred framed a body of laws; which, tho' now lost, served long as the basis of Eng lish jurisprudence, and is generally esteemed the origin of what is denominated the COMMON LAW. The similarity of many of these institutions to the customs of the antient Germans, to the practice of the other northern conquerors, and to the Saxon laws during the Heptarchy, pre vents us from regarding Alfred as the sole author of this plan of government; and leads us rather to think, that, like a wise man, he contented himself with re forming, extending, and executing the institutions, which he found previously established.
As good morals and knowledge are almost inseparable, in every age, tho' not in every individual; the care of Alfred for the encouragement of learning among his subjects was another useful branch of his legislation, and tended to reform the English from their former dissolute and barbarous manners: But the King was guided in this pursuit less by his political views, than by his natural bent and propensity towards letters.
And he esteemed it nowise derogatory from his other great characters of sovereign, legislator, warrior, and politician, thus to lead the way to his people in the pursuits of literature. MEANWHILE, this prince was not negligent in encouraging the vulgar and mechanical arts, which have a more sensible, tho' not a closer connexion with the interests of society.
Both living and dead, Alfred was regarded, by foreigners no less than his own subjects, as the greatest prince after Charlemagne who had appeared in Europe during several ages, and as one of the wisest and best who had ever adorned the annals of any nation.
The eldest son, Edmund, died without issue, in his father's lifetime. The third, Ethelward, inherited his father's passion for letters, and lived a private life. The second, Edward, succeeded to his power; and passes by the appellation of Edward the Elder, being the first of that name who sat on the English throne. The East-Anglian Danes joined his party: The Five-burgers, who were seated in the heart of Mercia, began to put themselves in motion; and the English found that they were again menaced with those convulsions, from which the valour and policy of Alfred had so lately redeemed them.
This disobedience proved in the issue fortunate to Edward. Some discontents, however, prevailed on his accession; and Alfred, a nobleman of considerable power, was thence encouraged to enter into a conspi racy against him. This event is related by historians with circumstances, which the reader, according to the degree of credit he is disposed to give them, may impute, either to the invention of monks, who forged them, or to their artifice, who found means to make them real. Alfred, it is said, being seized upon strong suspicions, but without any certain proof, firmly denied the conspiracy imputed to him; and in order to justify himself, he offered to swear to his innocence before the Pope, whose persen, it was supposed, contained such superior sanctity, that no one could presume to give a false oath in his presence, and yet hope to escape the immediate vengeance of heaven.
The King accepted of the condition, and Al fred was conducted to Rome; where, either conscious of his innocence, or ne glecting the superstition, to which he appealed, he ventured to make the oath re quired of him, before John, who then filled the papal chair. But no sooner had he pronounced the fatal words, than he fell into convulsions, of which in three days after he expired. THE dominion of Athelstan was no sooner established over his English sub jects, 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.