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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Beda settled that the Saxons arrived in 449


Alfred's

grandson had regained Northumbria by a somewhat doubtful title, and had then maintained his right in a great battle, renowned in song; his great-grandson, Edgar, in one of his charters thanks the grace of God which had permitted him to extend his rule further than his predecessors, over the islands and seas as far as Norway, and over a great part of Ireland. We are not to look on it as a mere piece of vanity, when he seeks after new titles for his power, when he calls himself Basileus and Imperator; the former is the title of the Eastern, the latter of the Western emperors; he will not yield the precedence to either the one or the other, though the latter are so closely related to him by blood. We cannot express the feeling of a supreme power, independent of men, derived from the grace of God, the King of kings, more strongly than it was expressed by Edgar under Dunstan's influence; the ruling motives of life in Church and State make it conceivable that a monkish hierarch, such as Dunstan, shared, as it were, the King's power, and shaped the course of the authority of the state.

It was still the ancestral Anglo-Saxon crown which glittered on Edgar's head, but, if we may so say, its splendour had at the same time received a monkish and hierarchic colouring.

NOTES:

[2] The words of some MSS. in Caesar's Commentaries, iv. 25, 'deserite, milites, si vultis, aquilam, atque hostibus

prodite,' might well be taken for the genuine words, originally noted down in his Ephemerides (journal).

[3] Brettanian mentoi hoi Romaioi anasosasthai ouketi eschon, all' ousa hupo tyrannois ap' autou emene. Procop. de bello Vand. I. No. 2. p. 318 ed. Bonn. Compare Zosimus, vi. 4. on, we may assume, the better authority of Olympiodorus.

[4] The simplest form of the Saga occurs in Gildas, with very few historical ingredients. Nennius enlarges it with Anglo-Saxon traditions. Beda has combined both with some notices from the real history. Since the departure of the Romans was rightly fixed about 409, and Gildas said the Britons had rest for forty years, Beda settled that the Saxons arrived in 449.

[5] Beda, Hist. Eccl. ii. 2. Some have wished to consider the remark, that Augustine had been then long dead, as a later interpretation, 'ad tollendam labem caedis Bangorensis;' this, however, is against the spirit of that age.

[6] 'Omnem orbem, quocunque ecclesia Christi diffusa est per diversas nationes et linguas uno temporis ordine.' Beda, Hist. Eccl. iii. 14.

CHAPTER II.

TRANSFER OF THE ANGLO-SAXON CROWN TO THE NORMANS AND PLANTAGENETS.

In the families of German national kings we not unfrequently find among the women a hideous mixture of ambition, revenge, and bloodthirstiness, which brings kings and kingdoms to ruin. In England it appears, despite of Christianity and monastic discipline, in its most atrocious form after the death of Edgar. His eldest son, for some years his successor, was treacherously murdered by his stepmother (who wished to advance her own son to the throne), at a visit which he paid her as he returned from hunting. It was that Edward whose innocence and leaning towards the Church have gained him the name of Martyr. The son of the murderess did ascend the throne, but the guilt of blood seemed to cleave to the crown; he met with the obedience of his father's times no more. The Anglo-Saxon magnates seized the occasion which this crime, or the subsequent vacillation of the government between violence and weakness, offered them, to aim at an independent position, and to indulge in a personal policy, each man for himself.


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