The Northern Way

Part 3: A.D. 920 - 1014

Page 5

A.D. 1006. This year Elfeah was consecrated Archbishop; Bishop Britwald succeeded to the see of Wiltshire; Wulfgeat was deprived of all his property; (51) Wulfeah and Ufgeat were deprived of sight; Alderman Elfelm was slain; and Bishop Kenulf (52) departed this life. Then, over midsummer, came the Danish fleet to Sandwich, and did as they were wont; they barrowed and burned and slew as they went. Then the king ordered out all the population from Wessex and from Mercia; and they lay out all the harvest under arms against the enemy; but it availed nothing more than it had often done before. For all this the enemy went wheresoever they would; and the expedition did the people more harm than either any internal or external force could do. When winter approached, then went the army home; and the enemy retired after Martinmas to their quarters in the Isle of Wight, and provided themselves everywhere there with what they wanted. Then, about midwinter, they went to their ready farm, throughout Hampshire into Berkshire, to Reading. And they did according to their custom, -- they lighted their camp-beacons as they advanced. Thence they marched to Wallingford, which they entirely destroyed, and passed one night at Cholsey. They then turned along Ashdown to Cuckamsley-hill, and there awaited better cheer; for it was often said, that if they sought Cuckamsley, they would never get to the sea. But they went another way homeward. Then was their army collected at Kennet; and they came to battle there, and soon put the English force to flight; and afterwards carried their spoil to the sea. There might the people of Winchester see the rank and iniquitous foe, as they passed by their gates to the sea, fetching their meat and plunder over an extent of fifty miles from sea. Then was the king gone over the Thames into Shropshire; and there he fixed his abode during midwinter. Meanwhile, so great was the fear of the enemy, that no man could think or devise how to drive them from the land, or hold this territory against them; for they had terribly marked each shire in Wessex with fire and devastation. Then the king began to consult seriously with his council, what they all thought most advisable for defending this land, ere it was utterly undone. Then advised the king and his council for the advantage of all the nation, though they were all loth to do it, that they needs must bribe the enemy with a tribute. The king then sent to the army, and ordered it to be made known to them, that his desire was, that there should be peace between them, and that tribute and provision should be given them. And they accepted the terms; and they were provisioned throughout England.

((A.D. 1006. This year Elphege was consecrated archbishop [of Canterbury].))

A.D. 1007. In this year was the tribute paid to the hostile army; that was, 30,000 pounds. In this year also was Edric appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians. This year went Bishop Elfeah to Rome after his pall.

A.D. 1008. This year bade the king that men should speedily build ships over all England; that is, a man possessed of three hundred and ten hides to provide on galley or skiff; and a man possessed of eight hides only, to find a helmet and breastplate (53).

A.D. 1009. This year were the ships ready, that we before spoke about; and there were so many of them as never were in England before, in any king's days, as books tell us. And they were all transported together to Sandwich; that they should lie there, and defend this land against any out-force. But we have not yet had the prosperity and the honour, that the naval armament should be useful to this land, any more than it often before was. It was at this same time, or a little earlier, that Brihtric, brother of Alderman Edric, bewrayed Wulnoth, the South-Saxon knight, father of Earl Godwin, to the king; and he went into exile, and enticed the navy, till he had with him twenty ships; with which he plundered everywhere by the south coast, and wrought every kind of mischief. When it was told the navy that they might easily seize him, if they would look about them, then took Brihtric with him eighty ships; and thought that he should acquire for himself much reputation, by getting Wulnoth into his hands alive or dead. But, whilst they were proceeding thitherward, there came such a wind against them, as no man remembered before; which beat and tossed the ships, and drove them aground; whereupon Wulnoth soon came, and burned them. When this was known to the remaining ships, where the king was, how the others fared, it was then as if all were lost. The king went home, with the aldermen and the nobility; and thus lightly did they forsake the ships; whilst the men that were in them rowed them back to London. Thus lightly did they suffer the labour of all the people to be in vain; nor was the terror lessened, as all England hoped. When this naval expedition was thus ended, then came, soon after Lammas, the formidable army of the enemy, called Thurkill's army, to Sandwich; and soon they bent their march to Canterbury; which city they would quickly have stormed, had they not rather desired peace; and all the men of East-Kent made peace with the army, and gave them 3,000 pounds for security. The army soon after that went about till they came to the Isle of Wight; and everywhere in Sussex, and in Hampshire, and also in Berkshire, they plundered and burned, as THEIR CUSTOM IS. (54) Then ordered the king to summon out all the population, that men might hold firm against them on every side; but nevertheless they marched as they pleased. On one occasion the king had begun his march before them, as they proceeded to their ships, and all the people were ready to fall upon them; but the plan was then frustrated through Alderman Edric, AS IT EVER IS STILL. Then after Martinmas they went back again to Kent, and chose their winter-quarters on the Thames; obtaining their provisions from Essex, and from the shires that were next, on both sides of the Thames. And oft they fought against the city of London; but glory be to God, that it yet standeth firm: and they ever there met with ill fare. Then after midwinter took they an excursion up through Chiltern, (55) and so to Oxford; which city they burned, and plundered on both sides of the Thames to their ships. Being fore-warned that there was an army gathered against them at London, they went over at Staines; and thus were they in motion all the winter, and in spring, appeared again in Kent, and repaired their ships.

A.D. 1010. This year came the aforesaid army, after Easter, into East Anglia; and went up at Ipswich, marching continually till they came where they understood Ulfcytel was with his army. This was on the day called the first of the Ascension of our Lord. The East-Angles soon fled. Cambridgeshire stood firm against them. There was slain Athelstan, the king's relative, and Oswy, and his son, and Wulfric, son of Leofwin, and Edwy, brother of Efy, and many other good thanes, and a multitude of the people. Thurkytel Myrehead first began the flight; and the Danes remained masters of the field of slaughter. There were they horsed; and afterwards took possession of East-Anglia, where they plundered and burned three months; and then proceeded further into the wild fens, slaying both men and cattle, and burning throughout the fens. Thetford also they burned, and Cambridge; and afterwards went back southward into the Thames; and the horsemen rode towards the ships. Then went they west-ward into Oxfordshire, and thence to Buckinghamshire, and so along the Ouse till they came to Bedford, and so forth to Temsford, always burning as they went. Then returned they to their ships with their spoil, which they apportioned to the ships. When the king's army should have gone out to meet them as they went up, then went they home; and when they were in the east, then was the army detained in the west; and when they were in the south, then was the army in the north. Then all the privy council were summoned before the king, to consult how they might defend this country. But, whatever was advised, it stood not a month; and at length there was not a chief that would collect an army, but each fled as he could: no shire, moreover, would stand by another. Before the feast-day of St. Andrew came the enemy to Northampton, and soon burned the town, and took as much spoil thereabout as they would; and then returned over the Thames into Wessex, and so by Cannings-marsh, burning all the way. When they had gone as far as they would, then came they by midwinter to their ships.

A.D. 1011. This year sent the king and his council to the army, and desired peace; promising them both tribute and provisions, on condition that they ceased from plunder. They had now overrun East-Anglia [1], and Essex [2], and Middlesex [3], and Oxfordshire [4], and Cambridgeshire [5], and Hertfordshire [6], and Buckinghamshire [7], and Bedfordshire [8], and half of Huntingdonshire [9], and much of Northamptonshire [10]; and, to the south of the Thames, all Kent, and Sussex, and Hastings, and Surrey, and Berkshire, and Hampshire, and much of Wiltshire. All these disasters befel us through bad counsels; that they would not offer tribute in time, or fight with them; but, when they had done most mischief, then entered they into peace and amity with them. And not the less for all this peace, and amity, and tribute, they went everywhere in troops; plundering, and spoiling, and slaying our miserable people. In this year, between the Nativity of St. Mary and Michaelmas, they beset Canterbury, and entered therein through treachery; for Elfmar delivered the city to them, whose life Archbishop Elfeah formerly saved. And there they seized Archbishop Elfeah, and Elfward the king's steward, and Abbess Leofruna, (56) and Bishop Godwin; and Abbot Elfmar they suffered to go away. And they took therein all the men, and husbands, and wives; and it was impossible for any man to say how many they were; and in the city they continued afterwards as long as they would. And, when they had surveyed all the city, they then returned to their ships, and led the archbishop with them.

          Then was a captive
          he who before was
          of England head
          and Christendom; --
          there might be seen

          great wretchedness,
          where oft before
          great bliss was seen,
          in the fated city,
          whence first to us
          came Christendom,
          and bliss 'fore God
          and 'fore the world.
And the archbishop they kept with them until the time when they martyred him.

A.D. 1012. This year came Alderman Edric, and all the oldest counsellors of England, clerk and laity, to London before Easter, which was then on the ides of April; and there they abode, over Easter, until all the tribute was paid, which was 48,000 pounds. Then on the Saturday was the army much stirred against the bishop; because he would not promise them any fee, and forbade that any man should give anything for him. They were also much drunken; for there was wine brought them from the south. Then took they the bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Sunday after Easter, which was the thirteenth before the calends of May; and there they then shamefully killed him. They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow; and his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God. The corpse in the morning was carried to London; and the bishops, Ednoth and Elfhun, and the citizens, received him with all honour, and buried him in St. Paul's minster; where God now showeth this holy martyr's miracles. When the tribute was paid, and the peace- oaths were sworn, then dispersed the army as widely as it was before collected. Then submitted to the king five and forty of the ships of the enemy; and promised him, that they would defend this land, and he should feed and clothe them.

A.D. 1013. The year after that Archbishop Elfeah was martyred, the king appointed Lifing to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. And in the same year, before the month August, came King Sweyne with his fleet to Sandwich; and very soon went about East-Anglia into the Humber-mouth, and so upward along the Trent, until he came to Gainsborough. Then soon submitted to him Earl Utred, and all the Northumbrians, and all the people of Lindsey, and afterwards the people of the Five Boroughs, and soon after all the army to the north of Watling-street; and hostages were given him from each shire. When he understood that all the people were subject to him, then ordered he that his army should have provision and horses; and he then went southward with his main army, committing his ships and the hostages to his son Knute. And after he came over Watling-street, they wrought the greatest mischief that any army could do. Then he went to Oxford; and the population soon submitted, and gave hostages; thence to Winchester, where they did the same. Thence went they eastward to London; and many of the party sunk in the Thames, because they kept not to any bridge. When he came to the city, the population would not submit; but held their ground in full fight against him, because therein was King Ethelred, and Thurkill with him. Then went King Sweyne thence to Wallingford; and so over Thames westward to Bath, where he abode with his army. Thither came Alderman Ethelmar, and all the western thanes with him, and all submitted to Sweyne, and gave hostages. When he had thus settled all, then went he northward to his ships; and all the population fully received him, and considered him full king. The population of London also after this submitted to him, and gave hostages; because they dreaded that he would undo them. Then bade Sweyne full tribute and forage for his army during the winter; and Thurkill bade the same for the army that lay at Greenwich: besides this, they plundered as oft as they would. And when this nation could neither resist in the south nor in the north, King Ethelred abode some while with the fleet that lay in the Thames; and the lady (57) went afterwards over sea to her brother Richard, accompanied by Elfsy, Abbot of Peterborough. The king sent Bishop Elfun with the ethelings, Edward and Alfred, over sea; that he might instruct them. Then went the king from the fleet, about midwinter, to the Isle of Wight; and there abode for the season; after which he went over sea to Richard, with whom he abode till the time when Sweyne died. Whilst the lady was with her brother beyond sea, Elfsy, Abbot of Peterborough, who was there with her, went to the abbey called Boneval, where St. Florentine's body lay; and there found a miserable place, a miserable abbot, and miserable monks: because they had been plundered. There he bought of the abbot, and of the monks, the body of St. Florentine, all but the head, for 500 pounds; which, on his return home, he offered to Christ and St. Peter.

A.D. 1014. This year King Sweyne ended his days at Candlemas, the third day before the nones of February; and the same year Elfwy, Bishop of York, was consecrated in London, on the festival of St. Juliana. The fleet all chose Knute for king; whereupon advised all the counsellors of England, clergy and laity, that they should send after King Ethelred; saying, that no sovereign was dearer to them than their natural lord, if he would govern them better than he did before. Then sent the king hither his son Edward, with his messengers; who had orders to greet all his people, saying that he would be their faithful lord -- would better each of those things that they disliked -- and that each of the things should be forgiven which had been either done or said against him; provided they all unanimously, without treachery, turned to him. Then was full friendship established, in word and in deed and in compact, on either side. And every Danish king they proclaimed an outlaw for ever from England. Then came King Ethelred home, in Lent, to his own people; and he was gladly received by them all. Meanwhile, after the death of Sweyne, sat Knute with his army in Gainsborough until Easter; and it was agreed between him and the people of Lindsey, that they should supply him with horses, and afterwards go out all together and plunder. But King Ethelred with his full force came to Lindsey before they were ready; and they plundered and burned, and slew all the men that they could reach. Knute, the son of Sweyne, went out with his fleet (so were the wretched people deluded by him), and proceeded southward until he came to Sandwich. There he landed the hostages that were given to his father, and cut off their hands and ears and their noses. Besides all these evils, the king ordered a tribute to the army that lay at Greenwich, of 21,000 pounds. This year, on the eve of St. Michael's day, came the great sea-flood, which spread wide over this land, and ran so far up as it never did before, overwhelming many towns, and an innumerable multitude of people.

ENDNOTES:

(51) See a more full and circumstantial account of these events, with some variation of names, in Florence of Worcester. Back

(52) The successor of Elfeah, or Alphege, in the see of Winchester, on the translation of the latter to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. Back

(53) This passage, though very important, is rather confused, from the Variations in the MSS.; so that it is difficult to ascertain the exact proportion of ships and armour which each person was to furnish. "Vid. Flor." an. 1008. Back

(54) These expressions in the present tense afford a strong proof that the original records of these transactions are nearly coeval with the transactions themselves. Later MSS. use the past tense. Back

(55) i.e. the Chiltern Hills; from which the south-eastern part of Oxfordshire is called the Chiltern district. Back

(56) "Leofruna abbatissa". -- Flor. The insertion of this quotation from Florence of Worcester is important, as it confirms the reading adopted in the text. The abbreviation "abbt", instead of "abb", seems to mark the abbess. She was the last abbess of St. Mildred's in the Isle of Thanet; not Canterbury, as Harpsfield and Lambard say. Back

(57) This was a title bestowed on the queen. Back

(58) The "seven" towns mentioned above are reduced here to "five"; probably because two had already submitted to the king on the death of the two thanes, Sigferth and Morcar. These five were, as originally, Leicester, Lincoln, Stamford, Nottingham, and Derby. Vid. an. 942, 1013.

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