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and forcing him from his convent to the field of battle; he was slain,
refusing to use any weapon but a white rod. Egrick was also slain. The
crown now devolved on Anna, a nephew of Kedwald, a prince distinguished
by wisdom, and the father of an excellent family of children.

Norwich then became one of the chief seats of Anna, King of the
East Angles, who gave the Castle, with the lands belonging to it, to his
daughter Ethelfreda, on her marriage with Tombert, a prince of the
Gyrvii or Fenmen, who inhabited the fens of Lincolnshire and the adjacent
parts of Norfolk. At the same time, Tombert granted to Ethelfi'eda, as
a marriage settlement, the Isle of Ely, which for greater security was to
be held by castle-guard service to the Castle of Norwich.

Notwithstanding the good qualities and abilities of Anna, he was unable
to cope with the superior power of Penda, King of Mercia. After an
unequal contest of ten years he bravely fell with his son Formosius in an
obstinate battle fought in 654, near Blythburgh, not far from Halesworth
in Suffolk. Anna was succeeded by his brother Ethelhere, who was soon
after killed in a battle with the Mercians fought near the river Winwed-


field not far from Leeds. Snidheliri then ascended tlie throne of East
Anglia. He was the son of Sexbuld, who was baptized by the name of
Cedd_, in the province of the East Angles^ at the King's country seat
called Eendlesham^ in Suffolk.

Ethelwald, King of the East Angles^ brother to Anna^ King of the
same people, was his godfather. These kings_, were all slain in various
battles with the Mercians and Northumbrians. This is all we know about
them, and they were succeeded by three Kings, Ethelwald, Adulph, and
Edwald, who all reigned together, or soon after each other. Then
followed Borna and Ethelred, of whom we have no record. Next came
the son of Ethelred, named Ethelbert, a brave young prince, who
like his predecessors seems to have had his royal seat in Suffolk,

Ethelbert, before named, aspired to the hand of Etheldretha, a daughter
of OfFa, King of Mercia, a powerful prince. Attended by a numerous
retinue, Ethelbert a young handsome prince of virtuous disposition and
excelling in all the accomplishments of the age, arrived on the Mercian
frontiers to solicit Etheldretha for his bride. The announcement of the
purpose of his journey was met by OfFa with a warm invitation to proceed,
and by solemn assurances of a safe and respectful reception. Thus
encouraged on his ai-rival at the court, he was welcomed with the honours
claimed by his rank, and the affectionate attentions due to a favoured
suitor. But on retiring to his chamber after the festivity of a banquet
he was basely assassinated. The ancient chroniclers differ in the share of
this foul murder which they attribute to Offa, But the subsequent
conduct of the Mercian King betrays the purpose of the crime. He
immediately seized the East Anglian dominions and annexed them to his
own in 792, (Saxon Chron,, p, 65,)

The ancient chroniclers, with the pious desire of marking the retribu-
tive justice of heaven, felt some satisfaction in tracing the punishment of
Offals crimes, by the calamities of his house. Of his three daughters,
Elfleda was v/idowed by the murder of her husbandj Eadburga expelled
from the throne of Wessex for her atrocities, died wretchedly in exile ;
and Edeldretha, the destined bride of the young Ethelbert, horror stricken
at his assassination, fled from her father's court to the Abbey of Croyland,
and there ended her days in mournful seclusion.

Cynedreda the evil counsellor of her husb?aid's insatiable ambition,
perished miserably, and Offa himself survived to possess his ill-gotten
crow^n of East Anglia only two years, and then sunk into the grave the
victim of remorse and disease in 794. His son Ecyfrid, who succeeded
him, only possessed the throne of Mercia 141 days, and died childless.
Thus in a few years the race of Offa, whose elevation had been purchased
at the price of so much bloodshed and guilt, disappeared for ever,



Joliu Brame_, a monk of Thetforcl, was the author of a history of Attlc-
burg'h still extant in Bonnet College Library at Cambridge^ and according
to his account that town was a very important place and the ancient
capital of the East Anglian kings. He states "that in the year 841,
Edmund son of Alkmund, Kiug of Saxony, was born at Nuremberg in'
Saxony of King' Siward, and soon after it happened that Offa, King of
the East Angles, who had no heir, passed through Saxony on his journey
to the Holy Land, where he went on a pilgrimage to beseech God to give
him an heir, and calling on his cousin Alkmund, he adopted Edmund his
son as heir, and then hastened to Jerusalem, where, having performed his
vows, he returned ; but on his return, at a phice called St. George^s Arm, he
was taken violently ill, upon which he immediately sent for his council,
appointed Edmund his successor, and sent him his ring, which he received
from the bishop when he was made King of the East Angles. After he
was dead, the Angles went to the King of Saxony and demanded Edmund
his son and received him as Offals successor, and hastening home they
landed at Hunstanton, from whence they carried him to the ancient city
of Attleburgh."

Edmund the martyr succeeded his Uncle Ofifa in the 15th year of his
age. The events of his life as recorded by monkish writers are either
a tissue of fictions or are so distorted by them that it is not easy to
distinguish truth from falsehood. His biographers having seated him on
the throne, proceed to record his virtues as a sovereign in a strain of the
most pompous eulogy. No facts, however, are adduced to justify these
lavish encomiums. The truth seems to be that Edmund's tender years
and his natural disposition were such as to enable the monks to govern
him with ease. Piety, candour, gentleness, -and humility, formed the
distinguishing features of his character, and the possession of these
insured to him the reputation of all other good qualities. However they
might have befitted a cowl, they were certainly not calculated to sup-
port the dignity of a crown in the disastrous times in which Edmund
lived. The commencement of his misfortunes is enveloped in the same
obscurity as the other events of his life. - Most of our ancient annalists
and general historians ascribe the invasion of the Danes to the following
circumstances : —

Chief among the sea-kings who invaded England about this time was
Ragnar Lodbrog, whose celebrated death-song has been frequently trans-
lated, and is considered one of the oldest of the northern poems which
we possess. It was this famous sea-king who led on that terrible expedition


which overran France and destroyed Paris. After this, he returned to
Norway, and built two of the largest ships which had ever sailed upon
the northern seas. These he filled with armed men, and boldly steered
for the English shore. The art of navigation was then in its infancy, the
mighty vessels which Eagnar had built could not be managed, and they were
thrown on the coast of Northumberland and wrecked. A Saxon King
named Ella at this time ruled the northern kingdom, and he with an
overwhelming force encountered the sea-king, and after routing his army
made him prisoner and put him to death in the most cruel manner, by
shutting him up in a deep dungeon full of poisonous adders. The news
of the terrible death of Eagnar were not long in travelling to the rocky
coast of Norway, and all his countrymen rose as one man to revenge his

Eight Kings and twenty jarls or petty chieftains joined in the enterprise
at the head of which Hinguar and Hubba, the two sons of Eagnar, were
placed ; all the friends and relations of Eagnar, no matter how remote,
swelled the force that had congregated to avenge his death. Although the
mighty fleet was directed towards Northumbria, by some chance it passed
the coast and came to anchor on the shores of Norfolk, near Yarmouth.
No one in England was apprised of its approach. The Danes landed near
the old Eoman encampment, from whence a broad arm of the sea flowed
up the valley of the Tare to Norwich, but they did not immediately
commence hostilities. They moved their vessels along the shore and
took up their winter quarters within their entrenchments. They only
demanded a supply of horses, which the King of East Anglia soon sent
them. The rest of the Saxon states looked calmly on while many of the
Danes located themselves in the neighbourhood and gave names to
Ormesby, Eollesby, Scratby, Filby, Mautby.

With the first warm days of spring, the whole Danish host was in
motion ; such an army had never before overrun this island. The sons
of Eagnar strode sullenly onward at its head and halted not till they
reached York the metropolis of the Deira ; they swept through the city
in their devastating march, destroying all before them as they passed till
■they reached the banks of the Tyne. They fell back upon York, and
were attacked by Ella at the head of the Northumbrians. The assault
was so sudden that the Pagans were compelled to fly into the city for
shelter, followed by the Saxons. A terrible fight ensued, but the Danes
were victorious and the Saxon army perished. Ella fell into their hands,
and the sons of Eagnar horribly avenged their father^s death. Having
taken possession of Deira, the Danes began to fortify York and to
strengthen the principal towns in the neighbourhood. They established
themselves in the north, and next year made a tour southward laying


waste all the country in their march. They destroyed the Abbey of
Peterborouglij then one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in England.
After murdering the monks, the merciless Pagans crossed the fen country
and marched onwards to Norfolk in East Anglia, then a kingdom whose
inland barrier was marked by vast sheets of water that set in from the
Wash of Lincoln, and went winding away into the low marshes of Cam-
bridge far away beyond Ely, over a country above 100 miles in extent.

Along this boggy and perilous course the Pagans advanced with their
plunder, their cars, and their cavalry, razing the monastery at Ely to the
ground as they passed, nor pausing until they came to the residence of
the King of East Anglia at Thetford, nmv the river which divides Norfolk
from Suffolk.

The Danes being unable to gain admission into the town on this occa-
sion, encamped for the winter in the eastern outskirts of it, and
strengthened their position by a deep ditch and ramparts, some remains
of which may be seen on the Shadwell and Rushford heath. In the
following spring, Inguar laid siege to the town, and was met on the plains
outside by Edmund and his army. A fearful engagement took place,
the two armies fighting bravely for a whole day with no decisive result.
This memorable battle was fought on the plains between Thetford and
the villages of Barnham and Easton, where many vestiges of it may still
be seen in the remains of several fmnuli, or burial places. At the close
of the day, Edmund retired within the fortifications of the town, and on
the morrow, being extremely afiected by the loss of so many of his noble
followers, he refused to renew the combat, resolving, says the old chro-
nicler of Bury Abbey never more to fight against the Pagans, but, if it
were necessary, to yield himself up a sacrifice for the people. Inguar
thereupon sent a message to the King, offering to secure to him half of
his dominions if he would capitulate and become his vassal. Edmund,
though strongly advised by Bishop Humbert to accept the offer, refused
it with disdain, saying that he would never submit to a Pagan. Inguar
having been reinforced with 10,000 fresh troops brought over by his
brother Hubba, commenced an assault upon the town, and took it.
Edmund fled to Eglesdune, now called Hoxne and Hubba, with all his
forces, followed Edmund to Hoxne, where another battle took place, and
Edmund was defeated, and he hid himself under a bridge at night. He
was discovered by the glittering of his golden spurs in the moonlight to
a newly-married couple who were returning to their home. They betrayed
their monarch to the Danes, who gave him little time for flight before
they dragged him forth and tied him to a tree at Hoxne in Suffolk.
They had no words to waste ; slaughter was their work, and they com-
menced it at once. They began by shooting arrows at his limbs, without


injuring the body ; but finding that they could not get him to confess
their superiority, nor show any symptom of fear, Inguar at last uplifted
his heavy battle axe and severed his head at one blow. Thus East
Anglia, like a portion of Northumbrian became a Danish province, and
Gorm or Gothrum, a celebrated sea king, was placed upon the throne.

When Inguar and Hubba had quite reduced Thetford, they withdrew
with their army on their marauding expedition to other towns in the neigh-
bourhood, which they laid waste, and in some instances utterly destroyed.

Gloated with pillage and murder, they then brx)ke into Essex, and,
pleased with its fertility and the taste of the rich plunder it afibrded,
they seized upon some of its best towns and most productive districts,
and began to found homes and secure military stations. Thenceforth the
county of Essex became one of their chief haunts and constant battle-
fields. South Bemfleet, lying adjacent to Canway Island, in Hadleigh Bay,
was seized and fortified. A castle was there erected and garrisoned, and
to this point the treasure of the Essex town, and the captives taken from
the surrounding districts, were carried for security till either ransomed or
disposed of otherwise.

The now quiet homesteads of Rochford Hundred were often alarmed by
the tramp of bands of those merciless marauders, who, passing with their
narrow war vessels up the Crouch and the Blackwater, also made them-
selves masters of the Dengie Hundred. Their footprints are still to be
seen there in the remains of military works. Maldon, certainly one of
the ancient towns of Essex, was no doubt the point where they fixed their
chief station, on a point well adapted for military defence. Danbury, too,
as its name implies — Daneburgh — was one of their ports before they
secured a firm footing in the kingdom.

On the death of Alfred in 901, fresh troubles came to Essex. Ethel wald,
a son of Alfred's elder brother, resolved to dispute the crown with
Edward the Elder ; and landing on the Essex coast in 904, with an army
of Danes and Normans, took possession of it, but was slain the following
year. The Danes again submitted, as was their wont in case of defeat ;
the power of the King was restored, " and about this time,'' says the
Saxon Chronicle, "he became again master of the best part of Essex,
which had been many years in subjection to the Danes." To make his
hold secure, the King resolved on building a fortified town at Witham,
the first mention in history of this place ; and while the work was in
progress he came with an army, and encamped at Maldon. This was in
913, and seven years after he came again to Maldon, whose ancient works
and wealth had probably suff'ered greatly from the fierce struggle and the
phmdering spirit of its unwelcome guests, rebuilt and fortified, and of
course garrisoned it. During this time, Colchester from its strength had


defied the royal power — it had become a regular Danish town ; but the
year after Maldon had been made secure^ a force^ gathered from this and
the neighbouring counties, marched against it. It was taken after a siege,
the place plundered, and the Danish defenders and inhabitants slaughtered,
a few only escaping over the walls. To revenge the defeat, the Danes
collected an army from Suffolk and Norfolk, and, entering Essex, laid
siege to Maldon ; but the place gallantly held out, and, alarmed at the
forces marching to its relief, the assailants fled, hundreds being overtaken
by the avenging pursuers and slain. In November of the same year,.
King Edward occupied Colchester with an army of West Saxons, and
having repaired and partly built the walls, so effectually curbed the
turbulent spirit of the intruders that the land remained at rest for
seventy years.

In 993, fresh hordes swept along the Eastern coast. Ipswich was
pillaged ; Colchester was this time unassailed ; and the enemy advanced
upon Maldon, to which they laid siege, with a hankering, inspired by old
tradition, to possess again that stronghold of their fathers. Biythnoth,
the Earl of Essex, hurried to the defence of the town, and made
dispositions to raise the siege and save it from pillages. The Danes, who
warred for plunder alone, were willing to obtain it without fighting, and
sent a messenger to the advancing Saxon to say they would retire
on receiving a sum of money by way of ransom. The foil owing was the
bold response of Brythnoth to this overture : — " Hearest thou, mariner,
what this people saith ? They will give you spears for tribute, the
venomous edge and old swords ; these weapons that serve you not in
battle. Messenger of the sea forces, take an answer back — tell thy
people much unpleasant news — that here stands undaunted, an Earl with
his army, who mil defend this country, the land of Etheldred, mine elder
(i.e., chieftan) the people and the earth. There shall fall heathens in
battle. Too shameful it seemeth to me that you, with your treasures, go
to the ships without being fought with, now ye have come so far
liither, to our land ; nor shall ye so easily obtain treasure ; of us shall
point, and edge grim war play — first take care before we give ransome.^'
The spirit of the Earl, however, was greater than his power. He was
killed, his army defeated with great slaughter, and the place fell. Ethel-
dred was forced to make peace with the victors, but the faith thus pledged
was frailly kept, for in the following year they were ravaging the coasts
of Essex and committing horrible barbarities.

During the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, the sea was covered with
Danish fleets, and the coasts of Europe were a prey to their depredations.
For two hundred years, they almost incessantly ravaged England, and at
length subdued it. The first predetary incursions of the Danes into the


island were in 789 ; but their invasion of the kingdom of the East Angles,
of which Norfolk and Suffolk formed part, did not take place till 886,
when the natives being more anxious for their present interest than for
the common safety, entered into a separate treaty with the enemy, and
furnished them with horses, which enabled them to invade Northumberland.

Several reasons are assigned for the Danish invasion to revenge them-
selves for some pretended injuries, or national affronts ; though the true
motive probably was, England, divided against itself, situated in a happier
climate, much richer, and in every respect preferable to their own dreary
inhospitable country, presented an inviting prospect to the lawless desires
of uncivilized plunderers. When a rich nation loses the power of pro-
tecting itself against both internal and external enemies, it will not be
long before the former promotes its downfall by intestine divisions, and
the latter profit by their ingratitude.

The waj.' was carried on so fiercely by the Danes, that at length they
got possession of all the Eastern and a dozen other counties. The struggle
was at length decided on the soil of Essex. The English, under Edmund
Ironside, and the Danish Army under Canute, in 1010 met at ^^ Assun-
dune," or Ashingdon, in Rochford Hundred, where traces of the fierce
struggle are still to be found. Standing upon the hill Canewdon, where
Canute pitched his camp, and looking down upon the peaceful vale of the
river Crouch we behold the battlefield of the contending nations for the
realm of England. There the fierce warriors of Denmark in black array
encountered the Saxon strength, and shattered it ; there the nobles of
England rushing forward to restore the fortunes of the day, were
slaughtered in hundreds. Edric, who had so often acted the traitor^s part,
fled at the beginning of the day, and the English force was utterly routed.
This scene, now so calm and quiet, was strewed with the dead and dis-
turbed by the groans of the dying; and in yonder barrows at Hull
Bridge, and along the borders of the Crouch many of those who fought
in that fierce conflict have slumbered for u early a thousand years.


All the petty kingdoms of the Octarchy were gradually incorporated or
amalgamated into one grand confederation, which was necessary for the
defence of the whole country. A monarchy was established that lasted
about 250 years, but not without continual assaults of the Danes. As
the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, had got possession of the country by
conquest, the Danes had an equal right to get possession of it by force.
As the Angles and kindred tribes drove out the natives by force, they
were in turn liable to be expelled by the same means. Hence the con-


tiuual conflicts between the Angles in the eastern district and the Danes.
At the close of the eighth century, only three independent states existed
in England ; these were Nortli;nnbria, Wessex, and Merciu. Kent, Essex,
and Bast Anglia, though nominally distinct states, were in vassalage to
Mercia ; while Sussex was incorporated with Wessex. Mercia and Wesscx
were so equal in strength, that it was evident ere long a contest would
arise between them for the mastery, but while Cenwulf occupied the
throne of Mercia, peace was maintained. Two years after his death,
Beornwulf received the crown, and a war soon broke out between him and
Egbert, the King of Wessex, since a.u. 800. The cause of this contest
was the protection which Egbert aftbrded to the East Anglians who had
renounced the supremacy of Mercia. Egbert defeated Beornwulf at
Ellandune (Wilton) in 1823, and the annexation of Kent and Essex to
the victorious state followed as a matter of course. The Mercian King
and his successor Ludecan were slain in battles fought against the East
Anglians, whom they sought to punish for submitting to Wessex. Wiglaf,
whom the Mercian chiefs next raised to the throne, was expelled by
Egbert in 827, but was afterwards restored on condition that he should
hold his kingdom in tributary subjection.

Egbert is generally placed as the first King of England. This, however,
is not strictly correct, though it is stated that this monarch, abolishing
the distinction of Angles and Saxons and all provincial appellations,
commanded the island to be called England, and got himself crowned
King of England. To this statement Sharon Turner objects that if such
an event took place, Egbert and his successors ought to have been entitled
Bex Anglonim, whereas it is found that they sign themselves Kings of the
West Saxons till after the reign of Alfred.

Egbert was the son of Alcmund, the great grandson of Inigels, the
brother of Ina. He was the sole surviving descendant of Cerdic the
founder of Wessex. He was brought up in France under the great
Charlemagne, and after his return in 800 he was proclaimed King of
Wessex, and he subdued the natives in Cornwall and Wales. He had
then to contend with a new foe, the Northmen who began about this time
to harass the eastern and northern coasts, but after some success they
were routed Avith great slaughter at Hengstown Hill (Cornwall). The
conquered Northmen betook themselves to their ships and the Britons
renewed their allegiance. After a long and prosperous reign, Egbert
died in 8o6.

Ethelwolf succeeded to the crown of tlwrufi, for the Danes now appeared
in different parts of the coast and proved a powerful enemy and defeated
his troops in many engagements. He died January 13th, 857. Ethelbald
his eldest son and successor, died in 8(30, and Ethelbert Lis brother


reigned. At his decease in 866j Etlielred I., his next brother, was crowned.
In his reign the Danes spread their conquests over his dominions, but
received a severe check from his younger brother. Prince Alfred, who
assisted him on the field. In 871, the Danes abandoned East Anglia and
advanced into Wessex, where they fought several battles with Ethelred
who was killed.

Alfred ascended the throne in 872. 'This great and virtuous Prince,

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 48 of 70)