England: Anglo-Saxon Times

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Fragmentary knowledge of England in the 5th and 6th centuries comes from the British writer Gildas (6th century), the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the absence of Roman administrators, British warlords, nominally Christian, ruled small, unstable kingdoms and continued some Roman traditions of governance. In the mid-5th century, they revived the Roman policy of hiring Germanic mercenaries to help defend them against warlike peoples of the north (Picts and Scots). The Saxon mercenaries revolted against their British chiefs and began the process of invasion and settlement that destroyed the native ruling class and established Germanic kingdoms throughout the island by the 7th century. Later legends about a hero named Arthur were placed in this period of violence. The invaders were variously Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and Franks in origin, but were similar in culture and eventually identified themselves indifferently as Angles or Saxons. Any man of noble birth and success in war could organize an army of warriors loyal to him personally and attempt to conquer and establish a kingdom. By the 7th century the Germanic kingdoms included Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex, and Kent. They were turbulent states, but all Anglo-Saxon societies were characterized by strong kinship groups, feuds, customary law, and a system of money compensations (wergeld) for death, personal injury, and theft. They practiced their traditional polytheistic religions, lacked written language, and depended on mixed economies of agriculture, hunting, and animal husbandry.

The dominant themes of the next two centuries were the success of Christianity and the political unification of England. Christianity came from two directions, Rome and Ireland. In 596 Pope Gregory I sent a group of missionaries under a monk named Augustine to Kent, where King Ethelbert had married Bertha (d. 612?), a Christian Frankish princess. Soon after, Ethelbert was baptized, Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury, and the southern kingdoms became Christian. In Northumbria the Christianity from Rome met Celtic Christianity, which had been brought from Ireland to Scotland by St. Columba and then to Northumbria by St. Aidan (d. 651), who founded the monastery of Lindisfarne in 635. Although not heretical, the Celtic church differed from Rome in the way the monks tonsured their heads, in its reckoning of the date of Easter, and, most important, in its organization, which reflected the clans of Ireland rather than the highly centralized Roman Empire. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, Northumbria’s King Oswy (c. 612- 71) chose to go with Rome, giving England a common religion and a vivid example of unification. Theodore of Tarsus (602-90), who became arch-bishop of Canterbury in 668, created dioceses and gave the English church its basic structure.

The meeting in Northumbria of Celtic and Mediterranean scholarship produced a flowering of letters unequaled in western Europe. The Venerable Bede, a Northumbrian monk, was the outstanding European scholar of his age. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People made popular the use of BC and AD to date historical events. It also treated England as a unit, even while it was still divided among several kingdoms. Charlemagne chose Alcuin of York, another Northumbrian, to head his palace school.

The Germanic kingdoms tended to coalesce by means of warfare. As early as the time of Ethelbert of Kent, one king could be recognized as Bretwalda, or ruler of Britain. Generally speaking, the title fell in the 7th century to the kings of Northumbria, in the 8th to those of Mercia, and finally, in the 9th, to Egbert of Wessex, who in 825 defeated the Mercians at Ellendun. In the next century his family came to rule all England.

Egbert’s grandson, Alfred, became king of Wessex in one of England’s darkest hours. The Danes, part of the Viking forces that had begun to raid the English coasts in the late 8th century, had given up their primary goal of plunder and were now set on conquering England. Wessex and Alfred were all that stood in their way. Alfred at first had to buy a respite, but after his victory at Edington in 878 he forced the Danish king Guthrum (fl. 865-90) to accept baptism and a division of England into two parts, Wessex and what historians later called the Danelaw (Essex, East Anglia, and Northumbria). By creating an English navy, by reorganizing the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, or militia, allowing his warriors to alternate between farming and fighting, and by building strategic forts, Alfred captured London and began to roll back the Danish tide.

Alfred also gave his attention to good government, issuing a set of dooms, or laws, and to scholarship, which had declined in the years since Bede and Alcuin. He promoted, and assisted in, the translation of Latin works into Old English and encouraged the compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. For his many accomplishments, Alfred was called The Great, the only English king so acclaimed. The conquest of the Danelaw was completed by Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder, and by his grandson Athelstan, who won a great victory at Brunanburh in 937. Most of the remainder of the century was peaceful. In this atmosphere, St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 988, was able to restore the English church to health and prosperity.

The conquest of the Danelaw meant the creation of a unified government for all England and the evolution of the territorial state, which was replacing the kinship structure of earlier times. The king ruled with the assistance of the witenagemot, a council of wise men, which participated in the issuing of dooms and oversaw the selection of kings. About 40 shires (counties) were created out of former kingdoms or from significant military or administrative units. Each had a shiremoot, or court, consisting of all free males and meeting twice a year, at first presided over by a royal official called an alderman (later an earl) and then by a shire reeve, or sheriff. Smaller administrative, tax, and military units, called hundreds, had courts roughly parallel to the older folk moots, which met every four weeks, handling most of the ordinary judicial business. England had the most advanced government in western Europe, especially at the local level and in the office of sheriff, the key link between the king and local administration. After 991 this government proved capable of collecting the Danegeld, a tax on land, initially used as tribute to the Danes but later as an ordinary source of royal revenue. No other country in western Europe had the ability to assess and collect such a tax.

A new round of Danish invasions came in the reign of Ethelred II (the Redeless), often called The Unready, but better understood as being “without counsel,” or unwise. The Danegeld was his idea, as was the attempt to kill all the Danes from previous invasions, who were by this time becoming assimilated. In 1014 he was driven from the throne by King Sweyn I of Denmark, only to return a few months later when Sweyn died. When Ethelred died in 1016, Sweyn’s son Canute II won out over Edmund II, called Ironside, the son of Ethelred. Under Canute, England was part of an empire that also included Denmark and Norway. Following the short and unpopular reigns of Canute’s sons, Harold I Harefoot and Hardecanute, Edward the Confessor, another son of Ethelred, was recalled from Normandy, where he had lived in exile. Edward’s reign is noted for its dominance by the powerful earls of Wessex-Godwin (990?-1053) and then his son Harold (subsequently Harold II) and for the first influx of Norman-French influence. Edward was most interested in the building of Westminster Abbey, which was completed just in time for his burialin January 1066.

Edward’s death without an heir left the succession in doubt. The witenagemot chose Harold, earl of Wessex, although his only claim to the throne was his availability. Other aspirants were King Harold III (the Hard Ruler) of Norway and Duke William of Normandy. Harold II defeated the former at Stamford Bridge on Sept. 25, 1066, but lost to William at Hastings on Octo ber 14. William, who had more right to the throne than Harold, was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.

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Medieval Queen: Emma of Normandy

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Emma of Normandy was an intriguing medieval woman born around 990 AD to parents; Richard I of Normandy and Gunnor a Dane.  Emma was both Viking and Norman, and her great grandfather, a Viking named Rollo, was founder of the lands known as Normandy.

In 1002, aged just twelve she left France for England, she was destined to marry Aethelred II (Ethelred) of England.  This marriage would create an alliance between France and England.  Emma being a descendant of both Viking and Norman would marry an English King and bear a Norman child.

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King Aethelred II

King Aethelred’s intentions of this marriage, was to prevent the Normans from joining forces with Vikings and take on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

Aethelred escorted his young bride to Canterbury, where they were married and she was crowned Queen in 1002, and duly given an English name; Aelfgifu, after the Kings grandmother.

For hundreds of years, Vikings had raided Britain’s coastlines, and many had chosen to settle here, taking an Anglo-Saxon wife.  So it was fair to say, a large proportion of the population were Danes or descendants thereof.

On the 13th November 1002, St.Brices Day, marked Aethelred’s response to these Viking raids upon his lands, with large scale massacre’s of the Danes living in Britain.

The Viking response to such actions, led by Swein Forkbeard, inflicted a brutal attack upon Britain.  Exeter, the Queens property was destroyed, showing she was not exempt from these attacks.  However, she being of Viking and Norman blood, her reputation amongst her subjects lay in tatters, their trust in her, all but gone.

The Vikings made concerted attacks upon Britain, and by 1009 all able bodied men were called upon to defend these shores against the Viking onslaught.  Their efforts, against savage warriors failed, as by 1011, large parts of southern Britain were now under Viking control.

Swein Forkbeard and his son Cnut landed in the northern parts of the country, and were met with little opposition, as they submitted to these Vikings.

Emma, the wife of a failed King, demanded protection of her brother, Richard in Normandy, whilst Aethelred fled to the Isle of Wight.

Swein and his sons, Harold and Cnut, pushed away the Anglo-Saxon dynasty and became the first Viking rulers of Britain.  Swein became King on the 25th December 1013, and made Gainsborough in Lincolnshire his capital.

Just five weeks later, Swein died and Aethelred returned to his kingdom to salvage what he could from a ravaged country.  In 1016 King Aethelred died.

Emma may have had no love for her husband Aethelred, but his death left her not knowing what future lay ahead for her.

The people of London, chose Edmund as their new King.  Edmund sensed Cnut the Dane poised to fight for the crown, but offered a compromise, they split the land in two… Edmund died before the deal had been completed.

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King Canute (Cnut)

Cnut became King in 1016, and took Emma as his wife, his trophy between old and new.

Cnut showed his commitment, by bringing Anglo-Saxon and Danes together.  Emma provided good judgement, as they formed a close working relationship.  One of her most trusted advisors in matters concerning the church was Stigand, who would become Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saying that, she had to be careful and watchful of Earl Godwine a close and trusted advisor to Cnut.

Emma bore Cnut a son; Harthacanute and a daughter, Gunnhild, future contenders to the English crown.

Cnut ruled Britain as well as Denmark, which meant Emma watched over his kingdom during his long absences.

Many precious gifts were bestowed upon the church, but most remembered has to be the “Golden Cross” at Winchester.

In 1035, Cnut died without naming his successor, and Emma found herself in a precarious situation once again.

Emma moved into the royal quarters at Winchester, surrounding herself with Cnut’s belongings…  Who would be the next King, would determine her safety.

Cnut’s first wife; also named Aelfgifu proposed her son Harold Harefoot, whilst Harthacanute remained in Denmark, fighting to protect his Danish kingdom.  The decision was made by Noble Lords who allocated the north to Harold and the south to Harthacanute.

Emma’s sons by Aethelred; Edward and Alfred sailed to England with their armies.  The Earl of Godwine intercepted Alfred who had landed in Kent, to accompany him to Winchester, to meet with his mother and brother.

It was a ploy orchestrated by Earl of Godwine, who had Alfred taken prisoner and accused of acts against Anglo-Saxons at London, then taken to Ely where his eyes were gouged out… he died later of his wounds.

Edward headed back to the safety of Normandy, upon hearing of Alfred’s death.

In 1040 Harold died and Harthacanute dug up his body, beheaded it, and tossed it into the River Thames.

Upon the death of Harthacanute in 1042, the Earl of Godwine fought off claims by descendants of Swein Forkbeard.  Edward “Edward the Confessor” was crowned King with Earl Godwine running much of the country on his behalf.

On the 3rd April 1043, Emma takes up her position, by taking command of Edward’s treasury at Winchester.  Edward did not take kindly to his mother assuming this position, and took the treasury keys from her, and suggests she moves out, for she is not welcome at Winchester Castle.

In 1052 Emma died, and was buried alongside her second husband; Cnut in Winchester.

In 1066 Emma’s son, Edward the Confessor died childless leaving no successor, and Harold Godwine, son of Earl Godwine elected by Nobles and Church leaders became King.

On the 14th October 1066, one of the most significant dates in English history, witnessed Emma’s great nephew William, the Duke of Normandy “William the Conqueror” successfully take on Harold II at the “Battle of Hastings” and claim the English crown.

(Image) Emma of Normandy: Polyvore
(Image) King Aethelred II: Wikipedia
(Image) King Canute (Cnut)

Viking Timeline in Britain

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Viking Raiders – LongShips

In 793, Viking raiders from Scandinavia arrived off the coast of Northumbria in their longships.  Britain came face to face with these barbaric pirates, as they invaded our shores in search of booty and slaves.  What they will be remembered for: their attack upon the men of God, at the Lindisfarne Monastery.  By 794, they had taken their attack against the lands of the north; Scotland.  In 795 attacked the island of Rothlin off Ireland’s north-east coast.

The coasts of mainland Britain, with its monasteries would attract these Viking marauders, expecting to find riches.

In 838, Dublin was captured, becoming the Norse Kingdom of Ireland.

In 865 Danes settle in the eastern parts of England.  York is captured in 866 and becomes known as Yorvik, the Danish capital in England.  Nottingham falls to these invaders in 867, followed by Thetford in 869 and Reading in 870.

In 871, opposition by King Ethelred, the West Saxon King and his brother Alfred, take on and defeat the Viking army at the “Battle of Ashdown” in Berkshire.

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King Alfred the Great

In 871, Alfred’s elder brother dies in battle at Merton and Alfred becomes King of Wessex, on the 23rd April.  One of his first acts, was to oversee the construction of an English fleet, to take on these Viking invaders on land and sea.  In 875 Alfred claimed a sea victory, holding his own against seasoned Viking mariners, and even managed to capture a Viking ship.

In 878, Danish forces push Alfred to the west and into the Somerset marshes.  From Athelney Fort, he gathered local assistance, to come out fighting and defeat the Danes at Edington in Wiltshire.  King Guthrum, the Danish Viking, captured by Alfred, goes on to secure his freedom by promising to leave Wessex.

As the Danes invade Kent in 885, Alfred goes on the offensive, driving back invaders and occupying London in 886.

Alfred proposes a treaty with Guthrum of co-existence: Anglo-Saxons in the south and west, with Danes in the north and east, which both parties agreed to.

The last Viking King of Northumbria was Eric Bloodaxe, who had previously been King of Norway in the 930’s.  He was expelled for extreme cruelty, having murdered his seven brothers’.

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Eric Bloodaxe

In 947 Eric received the position as King until being expelled in 949 by Eadred, King of England, returned in 952 and killed by Eadred’s army in 954 at Stainmore.

In 950, Wales comes under attack from Viking’s in their longships, from Ireland, Isle of Man and the Hebrides.  They showed much interest in coastal monasteries, looking for riches.

Aethelred II came to the throne in 978; his long reign in a battle scarred England took its toll on his health and his country.  No longer fit to command his army in battle, he bribed attacking armies.  In 994 Sven Forkbeard led a Danish army against London.  The attack was a failure; it was doomed from the start, for Forkbeard had been bought off.  Yet, his army went forward and ravaged the south-east.

In 1013, the Saxon King Aethelred, flees to Normandy as King Sven of Denmark and his son Cnut sail up the Humber and Trent, to become King of England.  In 1014 Sven dies and is succeeded by his son Cnut, who becomes King of the Danes and England.

In 1016, Aethelred dies, and his son Edmund Ironside, takes on Cnut, believing he should be King of England.

At the “Battle of Ashingdon” in Essex, the two armies do battle, and Edmund is defeated.  Even though Edmund was defeated, the control of England was split in two.  Canute controlled the lands in the north, whilst Edmund controlled those in the south.

Later that year Edmund dies and Canute is chosen to rule England as its new King.

In 1035, Canute dies and Harold Harefoot, snatches the throne from his half-brother Harthacanute, the rightful heir.  In 1040 Harthacanute ascends to the English throne upon the death of Harold Harefoot.  In 1042 Edward the Confessor, son of Aethelred II becomes King of England upon the death of Harthacanute.

In 1051, William, Duke of Normandy, met with Edmund at his court, where it was agreed William would succeed Edward the Confessor as the next King of England.

In 1064, Harold Godwineson, Earl of Wessex and close adviser to the King, swore an oath of support to William in his claim to the English throne.

In 1066, Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwineson becomes the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  William, the Duke of Normandy had been promised the English throne, yet Harold became King, backed by his nobles… William had been betrayed.

King Harald of Norway invaded northern England, laying siege and capturing York.  King Harold is forced to march north and meet Harald at Stamford Bridge, whereupon the King of Norway is killed in battle.

As the news reached King Harold of William’s landing in the south, his tired army had to march south… no time for rest and take on William’s forces.

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Battle of Hastings

On the 14th October 1066, William the Duke of Normandy and King Harold of England met on the battle field, the prize on offer to the victor; King of England.

The “Battle of Hastings” was won by William, the Duke of Normandy, and from that day forth, life in England changed.

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Creation of Britain

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Ancient Britain

For some 400 years, England and its territories of Scotland and Wales came under Roman control in the land referred to as Britannium.

Britain suffered repeatedly from raids by Scots and Picts from the north, Angles and Saxons from Denmark and Germany.  The Roman’s built shore forts, but it wasn’t enough, especially as Hadrian’s Wall was breached in AD367.

In the year 409, Honorius the Roman Emperor in Britain was recalled home, to Rome.  His home, his lands were under constant attack from Germanic tribes.

In the year 433, Attila the Hun, arrives with horse mounted archers in Europe, and before long dominates the territories north of the old Roman Empire, from Moscow in the west to the North Sea.  The Angles, Saxons and Jutes were forced westwards, seeking out new lands.

Formation of the Kingdom of Kent:

Some forty year (AD449) after the Roman forces had left Britain, Vortigen the ruler of Kent, offered territory in the south eastern parts of the land.  The only request he made upon these warriors, that they stop the invading Picts and Scots…

This mercenary force, arrived in three longships, landing at Ebbesfleet.  They drove the Picts and Scots back to their northern lands, and victory was their’s.

More forces arrived, in the shape of three Germanic tribes: Old Saxons, Angles and Jutes.

Their leaders were two brothers; Hengest and Horsa who in 455, fought against Vortigen at Aegelesthrop.  Horsa was killed and Hengest and his son Aesc claimed the kingdom of Kent.  Britons from the south-west of Britain fled to France in 450, and colonized the area, now known as Brittany.

In 456 Hengest and Aesc fought Britons at Crecganford, and were victorious, as defeated Britons fled Kent, and headed to London for safety.

Formation of the Kingdom of Sussex:

In the year 477, Ella a Southern Saxon, lands his forces in Pevensey Bay.  Fierce battles lasting many months, as most of its inhabitants, are killed, led to the creation of Sussex.

In the year 493, Clovis King of the Franks marries a Christian in France.  Under Clovis, the Franks become Christians, and go on to rule the western half of France and Germany.

Formation of the Kingdom of Wessex:

In 495 Saxon warriors land at Cerdicesora, led by Cerdic and his son Cynric, and in 508 kill a British King; Natanlaod and his force of five-thousand men.

In 516 King Arthur is believed to have stopped a West Saxon expansion westwards for a few years, at the “Battle of Badon Hill.”

Formation of the Kingdom of Essex:

In 527, the last Saxon tribe, landed east of London, on the waters of the River Thames and settled in the territories of Essex.

Formation of the Kingdom of Northumberland:

In the year 547, the Angles settle to the north of the River Humber.

Formation of the Kingdom of East Anglia:

In the year 575, Angles settle in the land of East Anglia, and went on to create the lands of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Formation of the Kingdom of Mercia:

In 586 Angles colonised Romanised parts of Britain, now called the East Midlands.

By now some 200,000 Angles, Saxons and Jutes, ruled by seven Germanic Kings lived in Britain.  British males had been slaughtered, or fled to the safety of Scotland and Wales.

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Anglo-Saxon Saint: King Edmund

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Viking Warrior

In 865, a large force of Vikings landed in East Anglia, not to carry out raids and depart with their booty, but their intention was one of occupation.

On the 1st November 866, they captured York, and went forward burning churches, villages and crops in the area.  In 867, their next city was Nottingham, for nothing stood in their way but victory.  In 870, they returned to East Anglia, where Edmund refused to bow down to the leader of the Vikings.

Edmund the Blessed, King of East Anglia, was wise and worthy, and exalted among the noble servants of the almighty God. He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices, nor would he bend his morality in any way, but was ever-mindful of the true teaching: “If you are installed as a ruler, don’t puff yourself up, but be among men just like one of them.” He was charitable to poor folks and widows, just like a father, and with benevolence he guided his people always towards righteousness, and restrained the cruel, and lived happily in the true faith.

Eventually it happened that the Danes came with a ship-army, harrying and slaying widely throughout the land, as is their custom. In the fleet were the foremost chieftains Ivar and Ubbi, united through the devil. They landed warships in Northumbria, and wasted that country and slew the people. Then Ivar went south-east with his ships and Halfdan remained in Northumbria gaining victory with slaughter. Ivar came to East Anglia in the year in which prince Alfred would became the famous West Saxon king aged 21. The aforementioned Ivar suddenly invaded the country, just like a wolf, and slew the people, men and women and innocent children, and ignominiously harassed innocent Christians. Soon afterward he sent to king Edmund a threatening message, that Edmund should submit to his allegiance, if he cared for his life. The messenger came to king Edmund and boldly announced Ivar’s message: “Ivar, our king, bold and victorious on sea and on land, has dominion over many peoples, and has now come to this country with his army to take up winter-quarters with his men. He commands that you share your hidden gold-hordes and your ancestral possessions with him straightaway, and that you become his vassal-king, if you want to stay alive, since you now don’t have the forces that you can resist him.”

Then king Edmund summoned a his bishop with whom he was most intimate, and deliberated with him how he should answer the fierce Ivar. The bishop was afraid because of this emergency, and he feared for the king’s life, and counselled him that he thought that Edmund should submit to what Ivar asked of him. Then the king became silent, and looked at the ground, and then said to him at last : “Alas bishop, the poor people of this country are already shamefully afflicted. I would rather die fighting so that my people might continue to possess their native land.” The bishop said: “Alas beloved king, thy people lie slain. You do not have the troops that you may fight, and the pirates come and kidnap the living. Save your life by flight, or save yourself by submitting to him.” Then said king Edmund, since he was completely brave: “This I heartily wish and desire, that I not be the only survivor after my beloved people are slain in their beds with their children and wives by these pirates. It was never my way to flee. I would rather die for my country if I need to. Almighty God knows that I will not ever turn from worship of Him, nor from love of His truth. If I die, I live.”

After these words he turned to the messenger who Ivar had sent him, and, undaunted, said to him: “In truth you deserve to be slain now, but I will not defile my clean hands with your vile blood, because I follow Christ who so instructed us by his example; and I happily will be slain by you if God so ordain it. Go now quickly and tell your fierce lord: ‘Never in this life will Edmund submit to Ivar the heathen war-leader, unless he submit first to the belief in the Saviour Christ which exists in this country.'” Then the messenger went quickly on his way, and met along the road the cruel Ivar with all his army hastening toward Edmund, and told the impious one how he had been answered. Ivar then arrogantly ordered that the pirates should all look at once for the king who scorned his command, and sieze him immediately.

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Edmund: Martyred

King Edmund, against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St. Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ. There was a man near at hand, kept hidden by God, who heard all this, and told of it afterward, just as we have told it here.

Then the pirates returned to their ships and hid the head of the holy Edmund in the thick brambles so that it could not be buried with the rest of his body. After a time, after the pirates had departed, the local people, those who were left, came there where the remains of their lord’s body without a head was. They were very sad in heart because of his killing, and especially because they didn’t have the head for his body. Then the witness who saw the earlier events said that the pirates had the head with them, and that it seemed to him, as it was in truth, that they hid the head in the woods somewhere.

They all went together then to the woods, looking everywhere through the bushes and brambles to see if they could find that head anywhere. It was also a great miracle that a wolf was sent, through the guidance of God, to protect that head both day and night from the other animals. The people went searching and also calling out, just as the custom is among those who often go into the wood: “Where are you now, friend?” And the head answered them: “Here, here, here,” and called out the answer to them as often as any of them called out, until they came to it as a result of the calling. There lay the grey wolf who watched over that head, and had the head clasped between his two paws. The wolf was greedy and hungry, but because of God he dared not eat the head, but protected it against animals. The people were astonished at the wolf’s guardianship and carried home with them the holy head, thanking almighty God for all His miracles. The wolf followed along with the head as if he was tame, until they came to the settlement, and then the wolf turned back to the woods.

The local people then laid the head with the holy body and buried it as best they could in such a hurry, and soon erected a marker over him. After many years, when the harrying ceased and peace was granted to the afflicted people, they joined together and erected a church worthy of the saint at the marker where he was buried, because miracles happened frequently at his grave. They planned to carry the holy body with public honor and lay it in the church. Then there was a great miracle: Edmund was as sound as when he was alive, with a clean body, and his neck, which previously was severed, was healed. It was as if a red silken thread around his neck showed men how he was slain. Also the wounds which the cruel heathens made with frequent spear-shots to his body were healed by the heavenly God. And Edmund lies thus uncorrupted down to the present day, awaiting resurrection and the eternal glory. His body, which lies undecayed, tells us that he lived without fornication in this world, and with a clean life journeyed to Christ.

A certain widow named Oswyn lived near the holy tomb, and prayed and fasted there many years. She would cut the hair of the saint each year and trim his nails, chastely, with love, and place those holy relics in the shrine on the altar. Then the local people honored the saint by believing in him, and Bishop Theodred very greatly honored him with gifts of gold and silver.

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Saint Edmund

One night eight accursed thieves came to the venerable saint. They wanted to steal the treasures which men brought thither, and craftily figured out how they might enter. One struck the hasps with a hammer; one of them filed round about with a file; one also dug under the door with a spade; one of them with a ladder wanted to unlock the window; but they labored without result and fared poorly in that the saint miraculously bound them stiffly, each as he stood with his tools, so that none of them might succeed in the crime nor stir from there. They stood thusly until morning. Men were amazed at that, how the men hung, one on a ladder, one stooped to dig, and each firmly bound in his task. The thieves were then all brought to the bishop and he commanded that they hang them all on high gallows. But he was not mindful of how the merciful God commanded through his prophets the words which stand here: Eos qui ducuntur ad mortem eruere ne cesses, ‘Always redeem those who man condems to death.’ And the holy canons also forbid to the ordained, both bishops and priests, to judge concerning thieves, because it isn’t fitting for those who are chosen to the service of God to consent to any man’s death, especially if the criminals are Christians. After Bishop Theodred examined his book he repented grieviously that he had so cruelly passed judgement on those unhappy thieves, and lamented it always until the end of his life. He asked the people eagerly that they fast with him for three entire days, asking almighty God that He should have mercy upon him.

In that country was a man named Leofstan, rich in worldly things but ignorant of God. He rode to the saint with exceeding arrogance and insolently ordered that the holy saint be shown to him so that he might see whether Edmund was whole. But as soon as he saw the saint’s body he went mad, and raged cruelly, and ended wretchedly in an evil death. This is similar to that which the pious Pope Gregory related in his narrative about the holy Laurentius, who lies in Rome, i.e., that men both good and evil wanted to examine how he lay, but God restrained them in such manner that seven men died all at one time at the examination. Then others with human shortcomings stopped examining the saint.

Many miracles concerning holy Edmund we heard about in popular parlance which we will not put into writing here, but everyone knows about them. Concerning this saint it is evident, and concerning others likewise, that God almighty, who preserves saint Edmund’s body until the great day, can resurrect that man again on Judgement Day uncorrupted by the earth, even though he comes from the earth. It is appropriate that man honor the holy places of the worthy saints, those servants of God in Christ’s service, and furnish them properly, because the saint is greater than any man can conceive of. The English are not deprived of the Lord’s saints, because in England lie such holy saints as this holy king, and Cuthbert the Blessed, and St. Aethelthryth at Ely, and also her sister, all sound in body, confirming the faith. There are also many other English saints who work many miracles, as is widely known, in praise of the Almighty who they believed in. Christ announces to men through his greater saints that he who makes such miracles is almighty God, even though the poor Jews all forsook him even though they wished for him, because they are accursed. There are no miracles wrought in any of their tombs because they do not believe in the living Christ. But Christ announces to men where the true faith exists when he works such miracles widely throughout the earth. Thus to him be ever glory with his heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, ever without end. Amen

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Saxons and Vikings: Their Gods

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Anglo-Saxon Cross

Saxons and Vikings worshipped the Norse Gods, in their homelands, but in Britain they became Christians.  They never forgot the religious beliefs of their Gods, these warrior Gods, and their ancestor’s stories of heroic deeds, all in the name of their Gods!

Saxons = Woden                   Viking = Odin

The Saxon goddess; Eostre, became the Christian Festival of Easter.  The Saxon Gods, Tiw – Woden – Thunor – Frigg transposed into days of the week = Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Saxon used spells and charms to ward off evil spirits and sickness.

The Vikings believed that their lives were ruled by fate, and the Goddess of Norns looked after the past, present and future.  Viking Gods lived at Asgard, joined to Earth by a rainbow bridge.  Around the Earth monsters inhabited the ocean, for these were the enemies of their God.

Death to a Viking meant everlasting glory, going to Odin’s hall of Valhalla.  Some Vikings were buried in a ship, whilst others were sent off on a burning ship heading out to sea to the after-life, along with their weapons and coins to do battle within the after-life.

Christianity was introduced to Britain during the Roman occupation (306-337) and during the reign of Emperor Theodosius of Rome (378-395) and became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

In 431 Pope Celestine attempted to evangelise the Irish, and Columba was sent forth to Iona, off the coast of Scotland.  Then in 596 Pope Gregory I sent missionaries to Kent under the leadership of the Monk Augustine.

King Ethelbert of England married Bertha a Christian Frankish princess in 612.  Ethelbert was baptised and Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and the southern Kingdoms turned to the Christian faith.

The Kingdom of Northumbria; met the Christianity of Rome and celtic Christianity, which came from Ireland by St.Columba to Scotland and in 651 by St.Aidan.

Celtic church differed from that of Rome.  Northumbria’s King Oswy (612-671) opted to follow the Christianity of Rome, giving England a common religion.  Theodore of Tarsus (602-690), the then Archbishop of Canterbury in 668, gave English church its basic structure.

The Venerable Bede, Northumbrian Monk was responsible for using BC and AD for the dating of historical events.

With Christianity accepted by the Anglo-Saxons Kingdoms, there was still friction between the two options; Roman Rites and Irish Rites.  In 664 Saint Wilfrid an advocate of Roman Rites won against his Irish Rites opponent Bishop Colman.

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Viking Invaders Seize English Crown

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English Saxon Crown

King Alfred the Great (871-899) had turned England into one Kingdom.  This Saxon family and his descendants, had freed these lands from the barbaric Vikings, set on plunder, murder and slavery.

In the year 924, Athelstan; Alfred’s grandson became King of England, and in 937 defeated Irish and Scot Vikings at Brunanburh.  He became the first Saxon King, who would have the loyalty from all its people.

In his time as King, he created a single coinage which would be used throughout the land, and peace reigned till the end of his reign in 940.

Edmund became King in 940, and was faced by new Viking raiders, which continued throughout his life until he died in 946 only to be replaced by Edred (946-955).

England did not see peace again until 959, under King Edgar.  For he was a powerful leader, winning support of the Scottish and Welsh Kings.

In the year 975, Edgar aged only 32 died, and his death threw the Kingdom into strife.

His son Edward became King in 975, he only reigned for three years, during which time famine struck the land.

In 978 Edward was murdered at Corfe, by whom we do not know, but history leads us to believe, it could have been supporters loyal to Ethelred II his step-brother, assisted by his step-mother, believing he would make a far better King.

In 978 Ethelred was crowned King.  Shortly into his reign, the second Viking Age started, with large scale raids upon our lands in 980.

In 991, the Danes demanded payment, in return they would leave… Ethelred raised taxes and paid out 4,500 kg of gold and silver.

In 1012, the Danes demanded more; 22,000 kg of “Danegold.”  The Vikings new England was wealthy compared with other European countries which was why they kept coming back for more.

Ethelred offered Danish soldiers land, in return they would fight against their Danish comrades, they were never satisfied and continued to demand more and more land.

Ethelred ordered the massacre of all soldiers and farmers living in England, this was a bold and stupid action at the time, and so angered the Danish King; Sweyn Forkbeard.  In 1013, Sweyn conquered England, forcing Ethelred from his land and into exile; Normany in France.

The English nobles offered the Danish King; Sweyn Forkbeard, the crown of England; King of England, but died in 1014 before the ceremony could take place.

Ethelred returned to England after his short exile, but died in 1016.

Cnut son of Sweyn Forkbeard, now led the Danish army in England, yet Edmund Ironside Ethelred’s son gave as good as he got in battle with the Danes.

So it was a treaty was agreed between Cnut and Edmund that they shared the Kingdom.  Within months Edmund died and Cnut became King of England.  England under Cnut saw a period of peace, and was recognized as King by the Kingdoms of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Cnut took Ethelred’s wife Emma as his Queen, she being the daughter of the Duke of Normandy, this marriage served him well, and gained his friendship with the Duke himself.

Cnut died in 1035, and his empire; Denmark, Norway and England fell apart.  He left three sons; Harthacnut, Sweyn and Harold.  Emma had two sons by Ethelred; Edward and Alfred.  Alfred made an expedition to England in 1036 and was murdered.

With Cnut dead, any new King would need the support of Leofric of Mercia, Siward of Northumbria and Godwine of Wessex, the English Earls.

Cnut’s son Harold I was crowned King of England in 1016 and reigned until 1040.  He was replaced by Cnut other son Harthacnut from 1040-1042 until he died.

Edward son of Ethelred came home from Normandy claiming the crown; King of England as its rightful heir.  He was crowned in 1042 and carried the title “Edward the Confessor.”

Edward, England’s new King may have been born Saxon, but was more Norman.  He took Earl Godwine’s daughter for his Queen, in return for his support.  Earl Godwine died in 1053, his son Harold took an instant dislike to Edward.

Edward died in 1066, leaving no heirs to the English throne.

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