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after many perils and escapes, totally routed the Danes under Guthrum at
Eddington, in Somerset, a.d. 879, and compelled them to locate themselves
in East Anglia,- which Guthrum held as feudatory " Prince. Here the
Danes built houses and \'illages and churches, improved lands, were made
denizens, and had a short code of laws given them by King Alfred. The
Danes were again rebellious, but were subdued, and the East Angles were
taken into the King^s government a.d. 896,

Alfred the Great divided the whole kingdom into counties, hundreds
and tythings, and he instituted great and petty officers for the regulation
and good government of his people, as well as for carrying into execution
that excellent body of laws formed by him which, though now lost, is
generally esteemed the origin of the common law. The hundreds in each
county were divided into tythings, or dwelHngs of ten householders.
Every householder was answerable to the King for the good beha%dour of
his family, his servants, or even his guests, provided they continued with
him above three days.

A tything man, headborough, or householder, presided over each tything,
and all the ten householders were mutually pledges for each other. If
any person in the tything was suspected of an offence, he was imprisoned
unless the headborough gave security for him. If he made his escape
either before or after finding sureties, the headborough become liable to
inquiiy ; and if the escape was made in consequence of any neglect, he was
exposed to the penalties of the law. Any person who refused to enter himself
in these tythings was deemed an outlaw and put to death. Nor could any
one be received into a different tything without producing a certificate
from that to which he before belonged. By this institution, every man
was obliged by his own interest to keep a watchful eye over the conduct
of his neighbours, and was in some measure, surety for the good behaviour
of those who were placed under the division to which he belonged. King
Alfred began in 886 and in 889 finished his division of England into
counties, hundreds, wapentakes, wards, rapes, &c., and caused a general
survey to be made, the rolls whereof were lodged at Westminster, from
whence '^'^ Domesday Book '' derives its origin.

Kuig Alfred, a true King of men, died October 26th, 900, aged 51 ;
justly named the Great for he made England a great country under a free


government. His son, Edward tlie Elder, succeeded when England was
pretty well divided between the Danes in the east and the Anglo-Saxons
in the west ; but after various conflicts he subdued the Danes, in which
he was much assisted by his heroic sister Elfrida. In 921 he compelled
the Danes in East Anglia to take the oath of allegiance to him, and he
died in 925. Athelstan succeeded, and giuned many victories over tho
rebellious Danes. He died, aged 46, in 941.

Athelstan was the first who, by blending the whole of the Saxon and
Danish provinces of which the Octarchy was oi'iginally composed into one
kingdom, became in reality, a& in title, the first King of England. His
amiable qualities as well as talents are celebrated by all the chronicles of
his time. The latter part of his reign was tranquil and glorious, and the
high reputation which his personal virtues, even more than his successes
and power, had obtained for him not only in his own kingdom, but
throughout Europe is remarkably expressed in public transactions.

Edmund I., surnamed the Pious, v/as crowned, and he reigned from 941
to 9 18, when he was basely murdered at the age of 25 years while he was
feasting with his nobles at his manor of Puckle Kirk, in Gloucestershire,
where he was cdebrating the memory of the conversion of the Saxons.
He had tAvo sons by Elgiva, his Queen — Edwin or Edwy and Edgar — who
being too young to govern the kingdom, did not immediately succeed
their father. Edred his brother was crowned, and he reigned till Novem-
ber 23rd, 955, leaving two sons, but his nephew ascended the throne.

Edwy resented the insolence of the clergy with more zeal than prudence,
and they fomented an insurrection against him, when Edgar his brother
was placed on the throne of East Anglia and Mercia. Edwy died of grief
in 959, and Edgar surnamed the Peaceable succeeded him. He reigned
from 959 till 975, when he died aged 32. Edward the Martyr, his natural
son, had the crown ; but the succession was disputed between him and
Etheldred son of Elfrida, who at length caused him to be barbarously
murdered. Etheldred II. succeeded, and being much troubled by the
Danes, in East Anglia, ordered a land-tax to be levied to satisfy tho

In 1003, Etheldred married a daughter of Richard II., Duke of Nor-
mandy, and on November 13th he issued a secret order for the general
massacre of all the Danes who had settled in England during the preceding
reigns. Thus a large number of them in East Anglia were slaughtered.
This inhuman cruelty did not long remain unpunished. Soon after, Sweyn,
King of Denmark, landed in Norfolk with a large army, sailed up Avith his
fleet to Norwich, burnt the city, and Thetford, devastated the whole
country and proceeded to plunder and destroy in every part. In Keut,
43,000 people were butchered.


Etheldreclj by the advice of his nobles^ gave Sweyn £48^000 to leave
the country and thereupon Sweyn sailed away with all his booty. As
might have been expected^ he returned soon after with a greater araiy
than before, conquered England, and compelled Etheldred to fly for refuge
to the Court of Richard, Duke of Normandy, whose sister Emma he had
married. In 1013, Sweyn was proclaimed King of England, but he died
suddenly next year. Then Etheldred returned back to England and
Sweyn's son Canute took the field against him but was forced to fly to
his ships.

Etheldred II. was restored to his kingdom, but died in 1016, aged 58,
when his son Edmund II., surnamed Ironside, assumed the crown; but in
the same year Canute returned and was proclaimed. These competitors
agreed to divide the kingdom, and the Danes held Northumberland,
Mercia, and East Anglia, by conquest. In 1017, Edmund was assassinated
by Edric his brother-in-law, and Canute reigned alone. He divided
England into four governments. East Anglia with the title of Duke, he
gave to Turketel, whom he afterwards banished, and he levied a land-tax
of £82,000 to reward his Danish followers.

In 1034, he founded the Abbey of St. Bennet in the Holme, and died
November 12th, 1036. He was succeeded by his son Harold Harefoot,
who met with some opposition to his coming to the crown. Most of the
great men of the kingdom would have preferred Hardy Canute to him,
but he was crowned, the last will of his father being in his favour. He
reigned a few years in inglorious ease and died in 1030, during one of
the sharpest winters that had been known in England. Hardy Canute
next mounted the throne, but died suddenly in 1041 when Edward the
Confessor was proclaimed King.

He married Editha, daughter of Earl Godwin, whose son Harold was
Earl of East Anglia. Edward abolished the Dane gelt or land-tax and
expelled the Danes, but they had increased prodigiously in Norwich and
Norfolk during the fifty years from 1010 to 1060. Edward the Confessor
caused a survey to be made of all England, and then Norwich was found
to contain 1320 burgesses, of whom one was so much the King^s vassal
that he might not depart or do homage to any other without his licence.
He frequently resided in the County of Essex.

Havering-atte-Bower, which had been a favourite seat of some former
Saxon Kings, possessed walks and wooded solitudes peculiarly attractive
to Edward^s retired habits and religious feelings, and thither he often
came to escape from the cares of government to prayer. A cmious
legend is related of this sovereign in connexion with one of his sojourns
here. In "Legenda Aurea," the story is given as follows : — '^ As the church
of Olavering (Havering), in this county, was consecrating, and was to be


dedicated to Christ and St. John tlie Evangelist, King Edward the
Confessoi", riding that way, ab'ghted out of devotion to be present at the
consecration. During the procession, a fair old man came to the King
and begged alms of him in the name of God and St. John the Evangelist.
The King having nothing else to give, as his almoner was not at hand,
took the ring from his finger and gave it to the poor inun. Some years
after two English pilgrims, having lost their way as they were travelling
to the Holy Land, saw a company clothed in white, with two lights carried
before them, and behind them came a fair old man. The pilgrims joining
them, the old man enquired who they were and from whence they came.
After hearing their story, he brought them into a fine city, where there
was a room furnished with all manner of dainties. When they had well
refreshed themselves, and rested there all night, the old man set them
again in the right way ; and, at parting, he told them he was John
Evangelist ; adding as the legend goes on, ' Say ye unto Edwarde your
Kyng that I grete hym well by the token that he gaaf to me this ryngo
wytli his own hands at the halowying of my chirche, which rynge ye
shall deliver hym agayn. And say ye to hym, that he dyspose his goodes,
fur wythin sixe monethes he shall be in the joye of heven wyth me,
where he shall have his rewarde for his chastite and for his good livinge.'
At their return home the two pilgrims waited upon the King, who was
then at this bower, and delivered to him that message and the ring, from
which circumstance this place is said to have received the name of
Havering." This whole story is wrought in basso-relievo in the chapel
at Westminster, where Edward the Confessor lies buried, on the back of
the screen that divides it from the altar.

Harold II., the eldest son of Earl Godwin, Earl of East Anglia, claimed
the crown of England by virtue of a verbal gift which he said King
Edward had made of it before he died. The late King had recalled his
nephew, Edward the Outlaw, from Hungary, and intended to make him his
heir; but the prince died shortly after his arrival, leaving a child of
about ten years old, named Edgar Atheling. No one appeared to pay
much regard to his pretensions, and the competition for the throne lay
between two formidable aspirants, Harold and William of Normandy,
neither of whom had any hereditary right.

Harold was not of royal blood, and William was a bastard; but the
Witanagement crowned Harold, and he was the last of the Saxon Kings.
William asserted that Edward had made a bargain with him that he
should ascend the throne of England, but thie late King was not com-
petent to do such an act, as the cro^vvn could only be disposed of by the
Witanagemote, the great council of the nation. William, however, made
vast preparations for an invasion, and Harold had to take active measure


for tlie preservation of his unstable throne. He had another enemy in
the person of his own brother Tostig, Avho had been expelled from his
earldom of North umbria in the late reign, and who entertained great
hatred to his brother because he refused to reinstate him. Tostig soon
made an inroad into the country,, but through the activity of Edwin and
Morcar he failed in his endeavours. He had, however, formed an alliance
with Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, who in the course of the
autumn entered the Humber with 500 ships, defeated Edwin and Morcar
near York, and proceeded ta invest the city. When Harold was apprised
of the danger, he left the south coast, where he expected the Norman
invasion, marched northwards, and encountered his opponents, whom he
defeated near Stamford Bridge on September the 25th, 1066. Three
days after, William landed with his forces at Pevensey, in Sussex, and
fortified himself there. Harold hastily returned southward, and, flushed
with victory, took no steps to collect additional forces to supply the place
of the brave warriors who had fallen at Stamford Bridge. Nearly all
the Thanes in Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as other counties, were in
favour of Harold, and hastened to his standard. The opposing armies
met on October the 13th, 1066, near Hastings at a place afterwards called
Battle. The contest was fierce; and for some time, notwithstanding all
the efforts of the Normans, the English, with obstinate valour, kept their
ground, and the former began to give way. William impetuously
addressed his troops, and led another charge, but still the main body of
the English army, unmoved and impenetrable, resisted the Norman attack.
The Norman soldiers were ordered to feign a retreat, and the English,
rushing forward were slain in great numbers. The manoeuvre was suc-
cessfully repeated, but still large bodies of the English remained in firm
array. At last Harold was killed by an arrow, and his army broke up
and retired from the field. The body of the King was removed to
Waltham Abbey and entombed within the choir.

The whole of the Anglo-Saxon period was one of perpetual war in
Eastern England. Each county was a battle-field, and what a scene must
many a battle-field have presented, where thousands were left without
assistance and without pity, with their wounds exposed to the piercing
air, while, the blood freezing as it flowed, bound them to the earth,
amidst the trampling of horses and the insults of an enraged foe ! If
they were spared by the humanity of the enemy and carried from the field,
it was but a prolongation of torment. Conveyed in uneasy vehicles, often
to a remote distance, through roads almost impassable, they were lodged in
ill-prepared receptacles, for the wounded and the sick where the varied
scenes of distress baffled all the efforts of skill and humanity, and rendered
it almost impossible to give to each sufferer the attention he demanded.


During tlio whole of tliu Anglo-Saxon period, incessant petty wars on
the incursions of the Danes converted the whole eastern district into a
scene of desolation, overspread by heaths, moors, marshes, swamps, and
bogs. The serfs in Norfolk and in all other counties were classed with
cattle. The labourers were bought and sold like oxen, a man being worth
as much as a horse. Men were disposed of in wills, and in oue of the
laws it is written, " Let every man know his teams of men, horses, and


Under the Saxon monarchy, this county as well as others was committed
to the government of certain nobles called Atheliugs and Eorls, now
Earls. These Avere titles of honour and office, and implied that the persons
who bore them had the charge and custody of the county, and adminis-
tered justice in it. They vrere allowed the third penny, or third part of
the pleas of the county, the other two parts being received by the Yice-
comes, or Earls, deputy (answering to the present High Sheriff) for the
King^s use, and by him accounted for in the Exchequer.

We have a list of these Earls from the time of Edgar to the Conquest,
by the name of Earls of the East Angles.

1. Athelstan, sm-named Half King, whose wife Alfiven was nurse to King
Edgar and she had four sons, Ethelwold, Alfwold, Ethelson, and Aylwin.
He ended his days in Glastonbury Abbey, and his wife founded Chatteris
Nunner}' in Cambridgeshire, where she was buried.

2. Ethelwold, son of the former, being employed by King Edgar to
solicit the affections of Elfrida, daughter of Orgar, Earl of Devon, he
deceived the King and took her for his own wife. Edgar had heard of
her beauty and sent his favourite Ethelwold to see whether her claims
corresponded to report, and if so, to demand her in marriage.

When he was introduced to the lady, he was so struck with her beauty,
that he himself sued for her and succeeded. On his return to the King,
he gave a false account of her charms, and afterwards desired the King's
leave to marry her for the sake of her fortune, which was great, insinuating
to Edgar, that as her little beauty made her unworthy of a monarch, her
great wealth would be a prize to a private person. Tlie King loved
Ethelwold too well to oppose his desires. Accordingly he married the
Princess, and confined her in a castle whence he would never suffer her to
come out, to hide her deformity, as he pretended, from the eyes of the
Court. But it was not possible for him to conceal her long in a castle.
The King being dissatisfied was resolved to see her, and Ethelwold
implored her to lessen the effect of her charms as much as possible by
mean attire whenever the King might visit her. She promised compliance

428 HisTOfiy OP easteen England,

with this requestj but either from vanity or revengej or both, took a
directly opposite course and arrayed herself iu her richest apparel, adorned
with jewels, in order to captivate the King, whose visit she expected.
She cared little for her living husband now exposed to the wrath of a
powerful King,

Edgar appointed a day for hunting in Hare Wood (this being only a
stratagem), he went to the Castle, saw Elfrida, decked out in all her
beauty, and was so enchanted with her charms that he resolved to have
her, and to revenge himself on Ethelwold, Some time after, the body of
the latter was found dead in the middle of a wood, and it was not doubted
that he had been murdered by order of the King, who married the widow.
Over the place where his blood was spilt, she erected a monastery for
nuns, to sing over him, to expiate her guilt, A poor atonement indeed.
King Edgar died July 8th, 975, in his 32nd year, having reigned sixteen

3. Aylwiu succeeded his eldest brother, Ethelwold, in this earldom. Ho
was Alderman of all England, and in 969 founded Ramsey Abbey in
Huntingdonshire, where his statute, inscribed Totius Angica Aldermcums,
is still to be seen. He died in 993, having had three wives, Ethelflede,
who died in 977. Ethelgiva, who died in 985, and Ulgiva, who died in

4. Ulfkitel succeeded, and in 1004, when Sweyn invaded Norfolk and
burned Norwich, found himself obliged to make peace with the Danes.
But when Sweyn burned Thetford, he attacked him, and gave him a
severe check. This earl was killed at the battle of Ashdown in 1010,

5. The next earl was a Dane, Turketel or Turk el, who fought with his
predecessor in 1010, and went over from Sweyn to Ethedred, for whom
he defended Loudon against the Danes in 1013. Canute on his accession
advanced him to the earldom and created him a duke. The date of his
death is uncertain.

6. The sixth earl was Harold, afterwards King of England, and slain
at the battle of Hastings, October 14th, 1066.

7. On Harold^s succeeding to the government of Wessex, Kent, &c.,
Alfgar, son of Leofric, Duke of Mercia, was created Earl of East Anglia.


The Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Danes were kindred Teutonic tribes,
and all idolalters for some time after their settlement in this island. The
names of their deities are still preserved in the names of the days of the
week. Of these Odin or Woden was the object of the greatest venera-
tion. The Edda of the Scandinavians gives us an account of their
worship in the ninth and tenth centuries, and it is supposed that the


superstition of the Anglo-Saxon tribes when they came hither did not
materially differ from it, bnt what sort of idolatry it was is now of little

Chi'istianity appears to have been introdnced into this Eastern district
in the seventh century. We know that East Anglia formed but one
diocese for several centuries, that St. Felix, from Burgundy in France, was
the first bishop, that his seat was at Dunwich in Suffolk, and that he was
buried in Felixstow. Sigebert, who had been banished, was recalled to
the throne of East Anglia, and he having been converted, brought over
with him St. Felix, a priest, and made him Bishop of the East Angles,
who then inhabited Norfolk and Suffolk. He was consecrated by
Honorius, Archbishop of Canterbury, and he governed this extensive see
for seventeen years. He was so successful as a preacher that he lived to
see the Church of Rome established in every part of East Anglia. He is
said to have been a prelate of great learning and astonishing eloquence,
and what he taught he carefully practised. He died on March, 8th, 647,
and was buried in his Cathedral Church at Dunwich. He was afterwards
canonised, and the 8th of March was consecrated to his memory. The
King and the bishop co-operated in the erection of schools, and some
historians attribute the foundation of the University of Cambridge to the
munificence of Sigebert. If that King founded the University, it appears
to have been of little use for many centuries.

The national mind then in its infancy could not entirely rid itself of
Pagan ideas, and society long remained in that early stage in which super-
stition is inevitable, and in which if men do not have the mental disease
in one form they will have it in another. Wliat followed is well known
to students of history. The superstition of the people, instead of being
diminished, was only turned into a new channel. The new religion was
soon corrupted by the old follies ; the worship of idols was succeedad by
the adoration of saints ; the worship of Cybele gave place to the worship
of the Virgin Mary.

The Venerable Bede in his ''^ Ecclesiastical History," under date a.d, 627,
gives the following account of the reception of Christianity by the East
Angles : " Edwin was so zealous for the worship of the truth that he
likewise persuaded Earpwald, King of the East Saxons in Essex and son
of Redwald, to abandon his idolatrous superstitions, and with his whole
province to receive the faith and sacraments of Christ. And, indeed, his
father Redwald had long before been admitted to the sacrament of the
Christian faith, but in vain, for on his return home he was seduced by his
wife and certain perverse teachers, and turned back from the sincerity of
the faith.'' * * * *

" Earpwald was not long after he had embraced the Christian faith,


slain by one Richbertj a Pagan, and from that time tlie province of East
Anglia was under error for three years, till the crown came into posses-
sion of Sigebert, brother to the same Earpwald, a most Christian and
learned man, who was banished, and went to liv^e in France during his
brother^s life, and was there admitted to the sacraments of the faith,
whereof he made it his business to make all his province partake as soon
as he came to the throne. His exertions were much promoted by the
Bishop Felix, who coming to Honorius the Archbishop, from Burgundy,
where he had been born and ordained, and having told him what he
desired, he sent him to preach the Word of Life to the aforesaid nation
of the Angles. Nor were his pious wishes in vain; for the pious hus-
bandman reaped therein a large harvest of believers, delivering all that
province (according to the signification of his name Felix) from long
iniquity and misery, and bringing it to the faith and works of righteous-
ness, and the gifts of everlasting happiness. He had the see of his
bishopric appointed him in the City of Donmoc, and having presided
over the same province seventeen years, he ended his days in peace."

Donmoc was afterwards called Dunwich, in Suffolk, but having been
swallowed up by the sea, it is no longer in existence. The name of the
bishop appears to be still preserved by the pretty village of Felixstow,
the dwelling of Felix on the Suffolk coast. He was a very pious man
and an eloquent preacher, and so successful that he converted the whole
of the Bast Angles to the Christian religion before it was corrupted.
He was a prelate of great learning and astonishing eloquence, and what
he taught he carefully practised. He died on March 8tli, 647, and was
buried in his Church at Dunwich now under the sea.

Bergisil, or Bregilsas, also called Boniface by historians, succeeded
Thomas the Deacon, and held the see seventeen years.

Bisa, or Bosa, was consecrated to the see in 669 by Theodore, Arch-
bishop of Canterbury. He was a very grave and reverend person, but
being old and infirm, he was unable to attend to his episcopal duties ; he
therefore divided his province into two sees, one remaining at North
Elmham in Norfolk. He was present at the council at Hertford in 678,
and died in the same year.

In 673, Bisus, the third bishop of the East Angles, divided the diocese
into two parts, one he continued at Dunwich, and the other he established

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 49 of 70)