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king Ethelstan and earl Elchere, conquered a great army of the pagans at Sandwich, and after slaying nearly all of them, took nine of their ships.
In the year 853, Burrhed, king of the Mercians, supported by the assistance of king Ethelwulph, attacked the Mid-Britons,57 and having conquered them, reduced them to subjection. In the same year, king Ethelwulph sent his son Alfred, who was then five years old, to Rome with a great escort of nobles ; on which, Saint Leo, the pope, at the request of his father, ordained and anointed him for king, and, receiving him as his own adopted son, confirmed him, and sent him back with his blessing to his father.
In the year 854, Wulfred, having received the pall, was confirmed in the see of York, Osbert being king of Northumbria; Eardulph also received the bishopric of Lindisfarne. At this period, earl Alchere with the men of Kent, and duke Wada, with the men of Surrey, fought a severe battle in the isle of Tened58 against the pagans, and after routing them at the first onset, at length, after very many had fallen on either side, both the noblemen were slain. This year, Ethelwulph, king of the West Saxons, gave his daughter in marriage to Burrhed, king of the Mercians, at the royal town which is called Cyppanhame,69 with a great profusion of all kinds of riches.
In the year 855, a great army of the pagans passed the whole of the winter in the isle of Sceapeye,60 that is to say, "the island of sheep." In the same year, king Ethelwulph released the tenth part of the whole of his kingdom from all royal service and tribute, and with an everlasting pen61 at the cross of Christ, offered it up to the One and Triune God, for the redemption of his soul and those of his predecessors. He also proceeded with great pomp to Rome, and taking with him his son Alfred, whom he loved more than his other sons, and whom he had before sent to Rome, now for the second time, remained there a whole year, on the completion of which, he returned to his own country, bringing with him Juthina,62 the daughter of Charles, king of the Franks. After his return from Rome he lived two years.
Among the other good works that he did, he ordered every
57 The Welsh, on the borders of England. 58 Thanet.
59 Chippenham, in Wiltshire. 80 Sheppey.
81 Graphio. " Graphium," was properly the " stylus," or iron pen of the ancient Romans. 63 Her name was really Judith.
year to 'be taken to Rome three hundred mancuses of money; a hundred in honor of Saint Peter, for the purchase of oil, with which all the lamps of that church might be filled at the vigils of Easter, and likewise at cock-crow; a hundred also, in honor of Saint Paul, for the same purpose; and a hundred mancuses for the Catholic Pontiff, the successor of the Apostles.
He being dead, and buried at Winchester, his son Ethelbald, during two years and a half after the reign of his father, governed the West Saxons, and with disgraceful wickedness took to wife, Judith, the daughter of king Charles, whom his father had married. At the same period, the most holy Edmund, who sprang from the race of the ancient Saxons, ascended the throne of East Anglia.
In the year 860, king Ethelbald departed this life, and was buried at Sherburne, and his brother Ethelbert succeeding him, held Kent, Surrey,63 and Sussex as his kingdom; in his days a great army of the pagans came up from the sea, and having hostilely attacked the city of Winchester, destroyed it. As they were returning towards the sea, laden with great booty, Osric, earl of Hampshire, with his men, and earl Ethelwulph, with the men of Berkshire, stoutly confronted them, and, an engagement taking place, the pagans fell on every side, the rest being dispersed in flight.
Ethelbert, also, having governed his kingdom peacefully, and with the love of all, for five years, died amid the great regrets of his people, and was buried at Sherburne, near his brother, in the year 863. In this year also, Saint Swithin, bishop of Winchester, departed unto the Lord.
In the year 864, the pagans wintered in the isle of Tened, and made a firm treaty with the men of Kent, who agreed to give them money for observing their compact. In the meantime, however, just like foxes, the pagans secretly sallied forth from their camp by night, and, breaking their covenant, in hopes of greater gain, ravaged all the eastern coast of Kent.
In the year 866, Ethelred, brother of king Ethelbert, undertook the government of the kingdom of the West Saxons. In the same year, a great fleet of the pagans came from Danubia to Britain, and wintered in East Anglia, where that force in a great measure provided itself with horses.
63 The reading clearly ought to be " Suthrigiam," but the text has it "supreniam."
In the year 867, -the above-mentioned army of the pagans removed from East Anglia to the city of York, and laid waste the whole country as far as Tynemouth. At this period a sedition arising among the people of Northumhria, they expelled Osbert'their lawful king from the kingdom, and raised a certain tyrant, Ella by name, who was not of royal birth, to the supreme power; but, on the approach of the pagans, this discord was for the common good in some measure allayed, on which Osbert and Ella united their forces, and having collected an army, marched to York. On their approach, the pagans at once took refuge in the city, and endeavoured to defend themselves within the walls. The Christians, perceiving their flight and dismay, began to pursue them even within the walls of the city, and to destroy the ramparts; but when the ramparts were now levelled, and many of the Christians had entered the city together with the pagans, the latter, urged by despair and necessity, making a fierce onset upon them, slaughtered and cut them down, and routed them both within and without the city; here the greater part of the Northumbrians fell, the two kings being among the slain; on which, the remainder who escaped made peace with the Danes. Over them the pagans appointed Egbert king, in subjection to themselves; and he reigned over the Northumbrians beyond the Tyne six years. This took place at York on the eleventh day before the calends of April, being the sixth day of the week, just before Palm Sunday. In the same year Elflstan, bishop of Sherburne departed this life, and was buried at that place.
In the year 868, a comet was distinctly seen. Alfred, the venerated brother of king Ethelred, asked and obtained in marriage a noble Mercian lady, daughter of Ethelred, earl of the Gaini,64 who was surnamed "Mucil," which means "the great." Her mother's name, who was of the royal family of Mercia, was Eadburga; she was a venerable woman, and for very many years after the death of her husband, lived a life of extreme chastity, as a widow, even to the day of her death.
In the same year, the above-mentioned army of the pagans, leaving Northumbria, advanced to Nottingham, and wintered
64 This is "Gamorum," in the text, but it ought to be "Gainorum, of the Gaini;" who were the inhabitants of Gainsborough, in Yorkshire.
in that place; oil which Burrhed king of Mercia made a treaty with them.
In the year 869, the above-mentioned army of the Danes again advanced to Northumbria, and remained there one year, ravaging and laying waste, slaughtering and destroying a very great number of men and women.
In the year 870, many thousands of Danes collected together under the command of Inguar and Hubba, and coming to East Anglia, wintered at Teoford.65 At this time king Edmund was ruler over all the realms of East Anglia, a man holy and just in all things, and in the same year, he, with his people, fought valiantly and manfully against the above-mentioned army, but inasmuch as God had predetermined to crown him with martyrdom, he there met with a glorious death. In the same year Ceolnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, departed this life, and was succeeded by Ethelred.
In the year 871, the above-mentioned army of the pagans entered the kingdom of the West Saxons, and came to Reading, on the southern banks of the Thames, which is situate in the district called Bearocscira.66 There, on the third day after their arrival, two of their earls, with a great multitude, rode forth to plunder, while the others, in the meantime, were throwing up a rampart between the two rivers Thames and Kennet, on the right hand side of that royal town." Ethelwulph earl of Berkshire with his men, encountered them at a place which in English is called Englefield,68 that is to say, "the field of the Angles," where both sides fought bravely, until, one of the pagan earls being slain, and the greater part of their army destroyed, the rest took to flight, and the Christians gained the victory.
Four days after this, king Ethelred and his brother Alfred, having collected an army, came to Reading, killing and slaying even to the very gates of the castle as many of the pagans as they could find beyond. At length, the pagans sallying forth from all the gates, engaged them with all their might, and there both sides fought long and fiercely, till at last the Christians turned their backs, and the pagans gained the day; there too, the above-named earl Ethelwulph was slain.
Four days after this, king Ethelred with his brother Alfred,
65 Thetford in Norfolk. M Berkshire. W Reading.
68 Englefield about four miles from Windsor.
again uniting all the strength of their forces, went out to fight against the above-mentioned army, with all their might and a hearty good-will, at a place called Eschedun,69 which means "the hill of the ash." But the pagans divided themselves into two bodies, with equal close columns, and prepared for battle. For on that occasion they had two kings and many earls; the centre of the army they gave to the two kings, and the other part to all the earls. On seeing this, the Christians also, dividing their army Into two bodies, with no less alacrity, ranged them front to front; after which Alfred more speedily and promptly moved onward to give them battle; whereas, just then, his brother Ethelred was in his tent at prayer, hearing mass, and resolutely declared that he would not move from there before the priest had finished the mass, and that he would not forsake the service of God for that of men. This faith on the part of the Christian king greatly prevailed with God, as we shall show in the sequel.
Now the Christians had determined that king Ethelred, with his troops, should engage with the two pagan kings; and that his brother Alfred, with his men, should take the chance of war against all the nobles of the pagan army. Matters being thus arranged, while the king, still at his prayers, was prolonging the delay, the pagans, fully prepared, advanced rapidly towards the place of combat; on which, Alfred, who then held but a subordinate authority, being unable any longer to cope with the forces of the enemy, unless he either retreated, or made the charge before his brother came up, at length, with the courage of a wild boar, manfully led on the Christian troops against the army of the enemy, and, relying on the divine aid, his ranks being drawn up in close order, immediately moved on his standards against the foe. At last, king Ethelred having finished his prayers, on which he had been engaged, came up, and having invoked the great Ruler of the world, immediately commenced the battle.
But at this point, I must inform those who are not aware of the fact, that the field of battle was not equally advantageous to those engaged. For the pagans had previously taken possession of the higher ground, while the Christians drew up their forces on the lower. There was also on that spot a thorn
69 Now Aston, in Berkshire; some, however, think that Ashendon in Buckinghamshire is meant.