: TALES OF :
TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS
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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
HEREFORD CATHEDRAL ...... frontispiece
THE QUEEN HANDS THE DRUGGED CUP TO
ETHELBERT ...... facing page 8
THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF THE CATHEDRAL . on the cover
IN BLACK AND WHITE
THE CATHEDRAL . 1 7
THE NAVE . . . . . . . .24
THE SCREEN ......... 33
TOMB OF BISHOP CANTELUPE . . . . .40
TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS
IT is possible that anyone who visits Hereford
Cathedral, after having visited the other two
great Cathedral Churches of the West of England,
Worcester and Gloucester, may feel a little dis-
appointed, for it is smaller and plainer than either
of them, and there are not so many stories that
can be told about it. It has no Royal Tomb, nor
any great outstanding Saint, yet in one respect it
is the most interesting of the three.
Indeed, in this one respect, it is the most interest-
ing of all the English Cathedrals, for it does not only
carry our thoughts back, as the others do, to the days
when the torch of Christianity was re-lit in England
by missionaries from lona and Canterbury, but it
takes them farther back still to the days when the
early British Church existed, and had Bishops of
her own ; for, as doubtless you know, Christianity
6 ENGLISH MINSTERS
was brought to Britain from Gaul as early as
two hundred years after Christ.
We do not know who brought it. The names
of the first missionaries are forgotten. Probably
they were humble Christian soldiers who came in
the ranks of the Roman legions, and they would
be followed by a few priests sent after them by the
Church in Gaul to minister to them ; and from the
ranks of these priests one or two Bishops would be
It all happened so long ago that it seems vague
and far away, and it is difficult to pick out authentic
We can only say with an old historian, that
' we see that the Light of the Word shined here,
but see not who kindled it.'
Perhaps you know also that this early Christianity
was swept away from all parts of the country,
except in Ireland and Wales, by the coming of the
heathen Angles, Saxons, and Danes.
We can easily understand how these two parts of
what to us is one Kingdom, managed to hold the
Faith. They were more or less undisturbed by the
fierce invaders who came from the North of
Germany and from Denmark, and who were quite
content to settle down in fertile England without
taking the trouble to cross the Irish Channel and
fight with the savage Irish tribes, or penetrate into
the wild and hilly regions of Wales.
So it came about that, while the English people
were so harassed and worried with war and cruelty
that they forgot all about the new doctrines which
had been beginning to gain a slender foothold in
their land, the people of Wales had still their
Church and Bishops.
These Bishops seem to have held much the same
Sees as the Welsh Bishops hold to-day. Bangor,
Llandaff, Menevia or St. Davids, Llanelwy or
St. Asaph, and three others with strange Welsh
names, one of which was Casrffawydd, which
meant the * place of beeches,' and which we now
know as Hereford.
For in these days Wales was larger than it is
now, and was bounded by the Severn, and Cser-
ffawydd was a Welsh town, if town it could be
called, not an English one.
These Bishops were governed by an Arch-
bishop, who is spoken of sometimes as living at
Carleon-on-Usk, sometimes at Llandaff, and some-
times at Hereford.
8 ENGLISH MINSTERS
Now, of course you have all heard about King
Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table ; and
you may have read about them in Tennyson's
' Idylls of the King ' ; about their bravery, and
chivalry, and purity, and how they took an oath
* To break the heathen and uphold the Christ ;
To ride abroad, redressing human wrongs ;
To speak no slander no, nor listen to it ;'
and about Bishop Dubric, who crowned the King
at Cirencester, and married him to Guinevere his
Part of those wonderful stories is purely legend-
ary, but part is true, for it is believed that King
Arthur was a real person, and so were many of his
Bishop Dubric, or Dubricus, certainly was a real
person, for we know that he was Bishop of Cser-
ffawydd, and it is said that it was Sir Geraint, the
Knight who married Enid, and rode with her, in
her old faded dress, to Court, who built the first
little church here, where the Bishop had his chair
or * stool.'
Be this as it may, it is certain that there was a
tiny little Cathedral here, long before the other
English Cathedrals were thought of, for you know
THE QUEEN HANDS THE DRUGGED CUP
TO ETHELBERT. Page '20.
that a church is a Cathedral, no matter how small
it is, if it has a Bishop's official chair inside it.
And it is probable that this little Cathedral was
built of wood, and roofed with reeds or wattles.
It must have been rebuilt, or at least repaired,
once or twice during the centuries that followed,
but we know very little about its history until we
come to the year A.D. 794, when a terrible event
happened which led to a larger and more stately
church being erected, this time of stone.
If you have read the story of St. Albans
Cathedral, * you will know what this event was ;
but I will try to tell you more fully about it here,
for although it is very sad, it gives us a true picture
of what even the life of Kings was, in these dark
and troublous ages.
The name of the King who reigned over East
Anglia that is, the land of the ' North folk ' and
the ' South folk,' or, as we call it, Norfolk and
Suffolk in these days was Ethelbert, and he had
an only son, Ethelbert the ^Etheling.
This Ethelbert was such a goodly youth, so tall
and straight and handsome, so skilled in all
manner of knightly exercises, and so kind to the
* ' Tales of English Minsters : St. Albans." 1
10 ENGLISH MINSTERS
poor and needy, that all his father's subjects
He loved God with all his heart, and would fain
have given up his princely state and retired into
some religious house, so that he might have more
time to study His Word, and to learn about Him.
But he had plenty of what we call * common
sense,' so when his father died, and he was left
King in his stead, he said to himself, ' Now must I
bestir myself and put away the dreams of my youth.
I had visions of forsaking the world like Cuthbert or
Bede, or the holy Paulinus, who won King Edwin
to the Faith.* But if it had been the will of God
that I should serve Him in this manner, I would
not have been born an ^Etheling,t and inheritor of
the throne of East Anglia ; and, seeing He hath,
thus dealt with me, I must serve Him according to
His will, and not according to mine own. There-
fore will I seek to be a just and true King.'
Then, knowing that a King has need of a wife,
he sent for all the aldermen and wise men of his
Kingdom, as soon as the days of mourning for his
father were over, and told them that he wished to
* Tales of English Minsters : York.'
f Heir Apparent.
wed the Princess Elfreda, daughter of Offa, King
of Mercia, and that he willed that a deputation
should go from among them to the Court of that
Monarch, to ask, in his name, for her hand.
Now, this Offa was a very great and mighty King,
who cared for nothing so much as to extend the
boundaries of his Kingdom, and he had succeeded
in doing this in an extraordinary way. He had
conquered the parts of the country which are now
known as Kent, Sussex, Essex, and Surrey, and on
the West he had driven back the Welsh beyond
Shrewsbury, and had built a huge earthwork, which
was known as ' Offa's Dyke,' to mark the boundary
of their domains. In this way it came about that
in his days Cserffawydd, or 'Fernlege,' as it had
come to be called, was in Mercia instead of Wales.
He had built for himself a great Castle at Sutton,
near the banks of the Wye, and here he was
holding his Court when King Ethelbert's Am-
bassadors arrived, and laid their request before him.
He granted it at once, for he had but two
daughters, the elder of whom, Eadburh, was
married to Beorhtric, King of the West Saxons,
who owed allegiance to him, and he thought that
he would also have a certain power over the young
12 ENGLISH MINSTERS
Monarch of the East Angles if Elfreda became his
So the grave bearded aldermen returned to their
own land, and told their Royal Master how they
King Ethelbert was overjoyed at the success of
his suit, and appointed a day on which he would
set out, accompanied by all his retinue, to travel
to the pleasant West Country in order to fetch home
Now, in those days people believed a great deal
in dreams, and omens, and signs, and the old
chroniclers tell us that, just before the young man
set out, his mother, Queen Laonorine, came to
him, and begged him not to go, because it was a
very dark and cloudy morning, and she had had a
bad dream the night before.
* Look at the clouds,' she said ; ' they be so black,
methinks they portend evil.'
* Nay, but clouds break,' answered her son
' Yea ! Verily ! But 'tis from clouds a thunder-
bolt may come,' replied the anxious mother.
' Let us not trust in omens, but in the living
God, who " ordereth a good man's goings," ' replied
the King, and, kissing her, he joined his nobles,
who were already on horseback waiting for him
outside, and rode gaily away.
It was the month of May, and for four days they
rode through the fresh green lanes, till they drew
near to where the powerful Monarch dwelt.
They crossed the Severn at Worcester, and rode
over the great hill of Malvern, and when they were
within a day's journey of the Royal Palace of
Sutton, they pitched their tents at Fernlege, on
the banks of the Wye, and there Ethelbert and
most of his nobles waited, while one or two knights
rode forward to inform King Offa of his arrival.
In the evening, so the quaint old story goes, the
young King left his tent, and, ascending a little
hillock, from whence he could obtain a wide view
of the surrounding country, sat down at the root
of a giant oak-tree.
Everything was so fair and peaceful that he
smiled as he remembered his mother's fears, and
he thought to himself how delighted she would be
when he arrived at home once more, accompanied
by his beautiful young bride. Musing thus he fell
asleep, and dreamed a dream.
He dreamt that he was standing beside the little
H ENGLISH MINSTERS
church which stood down by the riverside, which
had been founded by Sir Geraint, and that all of a
sudden an angel appeared, who carried a basin in
his hand, and, to the King's horror, the basin was
full of blood.
But the angel's calm face was quite untroubled
as he picked a little bunch of herbs and dipped
them in the blood, and began to sprinkle the rude
little building with the scarlet drops.
And lo ! to Ethelbert's amazement, the building
began slowly to change ; it grew bigger and higher,
and the reeds and wattles turned to blocks of
stone, and presently a magnificent Minster stood
in its place.
Apparently it was some great Festival, for a
sweet-toned organ was pealing inside, while from
all directions multitudes of people came thronging
to the church, singing hymns of praise as they did
so. And as they drew near the King, he heard
that there was one name which mingled with the
name of God and of the Saints upon their lips, and
that name was his own, ' Ethelbert.'
Wondering greatly, he awoke, and the vision
passed quickly from his mind, for at that moment
his Ambassadors returned, bearing courteous greet-
ings from the Mercian Monarch, who hoped that
on the morrow he would come with all speed to
Meanwhile, at Sutton, a scene was going on
which is almost the story of Ahab and Jezebel
and Naboth's vineyard over again.
For King Offa and his wife, Queen Quendreda,
were sitting in the King's private chamber, talking
about their coming guest and his fertile dominions,
just as Ahab and Jezebel had talked about Naboth.
And Quendreda was putting an awful thought
into Offa's mind. ' It were a good thing,' so she
whispered, ' to have the King of East Anglia for a
son-in-law, but it were a better to murder him
quietly, and add his Kingdom to that of Mercia.
Then would Offa be a mighty Monarch indeed.'
I think there is no sadder picture in the whole
of English history than this, which shows us this
great and wise King, for remember he was a great
and wise King, who had done an immense amount
of good to his country, whose name might have
been handed down to us, like that of Alfred the
Great, or Victoria the Good, or Edward the Peace-
maker, sitting listening to the advice of his wife,
who was a thoroughly wicked woman, seeing
16 ENGLISH MINSTERS
clearly how bad, and cruel, and treacherous that
advice was aye, and saying so, too and yet
feeling tempted in his heart of hearts to follow it,
because of the one weak spot in his otherwise
strong character, his ungovernable lust for land and
If only he could have looked into the future,
and seen how that one dark deed would leave a
stain on his memory, which would last when his
good deeds would be forgotten, and how a blight
would descend on his house almost as though it
were a direct judgment from God, I think he
would have ordered his wife to be silent, and never
to speak such words to him again.
But to see into the future is impossible. So,
as if to shake the responsibility from his own
shoulders, he did not actually forbid the scheme,
but he pretended to be very angry, and strode out
into the hall, and called to his knights and to his
son, Prince Ecgfrith, to mount and ride with him
to meet the stranger King.
When he was gone, the unscrupulous Queen,
who felt that she was now at liberty to work her
wicked will, sent for the King's most trusty hench-
man, Cymbert, the Warden of the Castle, who was
tall, and strong, and a mighty fighter, but who had
a heart as hard as stone.
When he had answered the summons, and come
and bowed low before her, the Queen said to him :
' Cymbert, it is not fitting that thou, the Warden of
this mighty Castle, shouldst be but a slave and a
thrall, wouldst thou not like to be a freeman ?'
' That would I, O Queen,' replied the henchman.
' And more than that, wouldst thou earn land of
thine own, where thou couldst build a house ?'
' Yea, verily !' was the answer.
' All these things shall be thine,' said Quendreda,
'if thou wilt but carry out my orders. Thou
knowest that this very day the King of the East
Angles cometh, that he may wed my daughter.
'Tis my wish to have him put to death, so that his
Kingdom may be joined to that of Mercia.
' To this end I will lodge him in the Royal
chamber, beneath which, as thou knowest, runs a
secret passage, which leads to the little postern in
' Thou must arrange a trap-door in the flooring,
which will sink or rise at will, and over it I will
cause a couch to be placed.
'Then, to-night, at supper, I will make the
18 ENGLISH MINSTERS
Monarch pledge me in a cup of wine, into which
I will empty a potion. When he feeleth sleep
come creeping upon him, he will retire to his
chamber, and throw himself on the couch, and, to
a man like thee, all the rest will be easy.
* When he is dead, thou canst take his body out
of the postern by stealth, and bury it, and no man
will know what hath become of him.'
At the very moment that this wicked scheme
was being arranged, the two Kings and their trains
had met, and after greeting one another courteously
they all came riding, with great joy, home to the
The black-hearted Queen went out to meet them,
but her fair young daughter, Princess Elfrida, was
not with her. She was too shy and modest to greet
her lover in public, so she had crept up alone to the
top of the Castle, and stood there, peering over the
battlements, to see what manner of man he had
become. For it was not the first time that they
had met. They had been playmates in their youth
when Ethelbert as ^EtheHng had visited Sutton
with his father, and they had thought much of each
other ever since.
And it chanced that Ethelbert glanced up at the
battlements, and when he saw the maiden, with her
flaxen locks and blue eyes, looking down at him,
his heart leaped for joy, and as soon as he had
greeted the Queen, and quaffed a cup of mead, he
made his way up to where she was, and there they
sat together, so the old books tell us, all the sunny
afternoon, while the rest of the gallant company,
King Offa, and Prince Ecgfrith, and all the knights
and nobles, went a-hunting the wild wolves in the
forest near by.
And as they sat they talked together, and Ethel-
bert told the Princess how all the people of East
Anglia were looking forward to welcome their
young Queen; and, both of them being true
Christians, they made a solemn vow that they would
rule their land in ' righteousness and the fear of God,
even as King Ethelbert of Kent and Bertha his wife
had ruled their kingdom.'*
That night a great feast was held in the Palace
of Sutton, a feast more magnificent and gorgeous
than had ever been held there before. King Offa
sat at the head of the table, wearing his royal robes
and the golden crown of Mercia on his head. Beside
him sat his wife, and close by were the youthful
* * Tales of English Minsters : Canterbury.'
20 ENGLISH MINSTERS
bride and bridegroom, and ' that noble youth
Ecgfrith ' as the old chroniclers call him.
Nobles and thanes and aldermen crowded round
the board, and gleemen who sang fierce war-songs
of Hengist and of Cerdic, and of Arthur and his
Knights, and the red wine was poured out, and
they drank long and heartily ; more heartily, per-
haps, than they ought to have done.
For the Queen made Cymbert, who stood behind
the King's chair, fill his cup again and again with
strong, fierce wine, which had been a present from
the Prankish King, and when his brain was heated,
and he was not master of himself, she leant against
him, and whispered in his ear ; and the poor half-
drunken Monarch muttered that she could do as
she would, little recking that from that time the
glory would depart from his house.
Then she spoke lightly and gaily to her guest,
handing him a golden cup filled with wine as she
* Now must thou drink to us, fair sir, and to thy
bride, even as we have drunk success and long life
And the young King took it gladly, and drank
the blood-red draught, little dreaming that it had
been drugged by the cruel hand that gave it to
But so it was, and soon, feeling drowsy, he retired
to his chamber, and dismissing his attendants, threw
himself, all undressed, on the couch, and fell into
a heavy slumber.
You know the rest of the sad story : how the
trap-door fell, and the couch fell with it, and how
Cymbert the Warden either smothered him with
the silken cushions among which he was lying, or,
what is more likely, cut off his head with his own
sword, for the tale is told either way.
When the cruel deed was done, the Warden and
the servants who were with him, took the lifeless
body, and carried it out secretly by the postern,
and at first thought of throwing it into the river.
But remembering that the Queen had ordered it
to be buried, Cymbert made the others dig a great
hole, into which they flung it, and, such was the
wildness and lawlessness of the time, when they
had covered it up, and stamped down the earth
upon it, they thought that the whole matter was
That was a very great mistake, however, for,
although the deed was done, there were many,
22 ENGLISH MINSTERS
many consequences to follow. It was as when
a stone is thrown into the midst of a pond. The
stone may sink, but in sinking it makes ripples
which go on widening and widening until they
cover the whole surface of the water.
Of course the murder could not be hidden, for on
the very next morning the East Anglian thanes
and noblemen demanded to know what had become
of their Master, and when they discovered the fate
that had befallen him, they made haste to flee, in
case they too should be murdered.
Then the next thing that happened was that
Princess Elfrida, the poor broken-hearted young
bride, felt so shocked and terrified at the thought
that her own father had allowed the man she was
about to marry to be put to death in such a treach-
erous manner, that she was afraid to live at home
any longer, so she slipped out of the Palace, accom-
panied by one or two trusty attendants, and fled to
a monastery at Crowland in the Fen country,
where she became a nun.
Perhaps that was the first thing that made King
Offa's conscience begin to prick, but, like King
Ahab, he tried to brazen the matter out ; saying to
himself, " The deed is done and I cannot undo it,
so I may as well have the Kingdom." So he sent
an army to East Anglia, and took possession of it.
But I think that all the time he must have been
feeling more and more unhappy, for, remember, at
heart he was a good man, and had lived, up to this
time, a noble and honourable life ; and a certain
terror must have fallen upon him when, two
months later, his wife Quendreda died, and, sitting
by his desolate hearth, he remembered the old story
of the King of Israel who had done as he had done,
and on whom the wrath of God had so speedily
It must have been almost a relief when one day
Eadwulf, Bishop of Lichfield, came to him and
said : ' What is this that thou hast done ? Killed
a defenceless man in thine own Palace, and taken
possession of his Kingdom. Hadst thou killed him
in open battle, no one could have blamed thee, but
to murder him in secret when he came as a friend
was not worthy of thee, O King.'
' I know it, I know it,' replied Offa, who was
now thoroughly sorry for his deed ; ' but it was the
wine which I drank, which my wife gave to me.
It inflamed my brain so that I knew not what I
24 ENGLISH MINSTERS
Now, at that time people had the idea that they
could atone for any wicked act that they had done
by giving money or lands to the Church, or going
on some pilgrimage ; so Eadwulf told King Offa
that he thought that first of all he had better see
that King Ethelbert's body had Christian burial
you remember it had just been thrown into a
hole and that after that he must go a pilgrim-
age to Rome, and tell the Pope the whole story,
and do whatever he told him to do as a punish-
Then he added some words which were very
solemn, but which turned out only too true. This
was what he said : ' Because thou hast repented of
thy evil deed thy sin will be forgiven ; nevertheless,
the sword shall not depart from thine house. It
was in thine heart that Mercia should be the
greatest of English Kingdoms, and so it might
have been. But now the glory shall depart from
thee, and another King, even the King of Wessex,
shall be greater in power and shall become the first
King of the whole of England.'
Offa did as he was bid. He had the body of the
young King taken from its rude grave, and buried
in the little church of reeds and wattles at Fernlege,
5. B. Bolas & Co.
HEREFORD CATHEDRAL : THE NAVE
near which Ethelbert had sat and mused on the
night before his death.
Then he went to Rome and told the whole
story to the Pope, and said how penitent he was,
and how gladly he would do anything in his power
to atone for his sin ; and the Pope, who wanted to
have more churches built in England, told him to