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168 [167]

Kyng Alfrede. Danes. Kyng Alfrede. Danes.

gayne the Danes tooke shyppyng, and sayled into Northwales, and there robbed and spoyled the Britones, MarginaliaThe Danes returne agayne to Norfolke.& from thence returned by the Sea into Eastanglia, with an hundreth shippes, and there rested them, for so much the kyng then was gone Westward.

The fourth host of the Danes, the same yeare came to Chester, which at length they won: but then, the countrey adioynyng pressed so sore vpon them, and besieged them so long, keepyng them selues within the Citie, MarginaliaThe Danes driuen out of Chester.that at the last the Danes weryed with the long siege, were compelled to eate their owne horses for hunger. But by appointment, at last they gaue ouer the towne, and went about by Nothwales to Northumberland, which was about the xxiij. yeare of kyng Alfrede: Whiche Alfrede in the meane while with his host, sped him thetherward. Thē the Danes, leauyng their strong holdes and Castles garnished with men and vitaile: tooke agayne shippyng, and set their course in such wise that they landed in Sussex, & so came to the porte of Lewes: and from thence toward London, and builded a Tower or Castle neare vnto the Riuer of Ley. xx. mile frō London. But the Londiners hearyng therof, manned out a certaine number of men of armes, who with the assistēce of them of that countrey, MarginaliaThe Danes driuen frō Lewes.put the Danes from that Tower: and after beate it downe to the ground. Soone after the king came downe thither. And to preuent the daungers that might ensue, MarginaliaThe ryuer of Luy deuided in three.commaunded the riuer of Luye to be diuided in iij. streames: so that where a shyp might sayle in times before, then a litle boate might scantly row. Frō thence the Danes, leauyng their shippes & wiues: were forced to flye that countrey, and tooke their way agayne toward Wales, and came to Quadruge neare to the Riuer of Seuerne. Wherevpon the borders therof, they builded then a Castle, their restyng themselues for a tyme: whom the kyng eftsoones with his armey pursued. In the meane tyme, the Londiners at Luye takyng the Danes shyppes: some of them they brought to London, the rest they fired. Duryng all these three yeares, from the first commyng of the Danes to Luye, England was afflicted with three maner of sorowes: MarginaliaThree plagues in England.with the Danes: with pestilence of men, and moreine of beastes. The which troubles notwithstandyng, yet the kyng manfully resisted the malice of his enemyes, and thanked God alway, what trouble so euer fell to him, or vnto his Realme: and sustened it with great paciēce and humilitie. These three yeares ouerpast, the next yeare folowing, which was the xxviij. of the reigne of Alfrede: MarginaliaAn. 897.
The Danes ships taken.
the Danes diuided their hoste: of whom part went to Northumberland, some to Northfolke, part sayled ouer to Fraunce, some other came to Weastsaxe. Where they had diuers conflictes with the Englishmen, both by land and especially vpon the Sea: of whom some were slayne: many by shypwracke perished: diuers were taken and hanged, and xxx. of their shyppes were taken.

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MarginaliaAn. 899.Not long after this, kyng Alfred, when he had reigned xxix. yeares, and vi. monethes: chaunged this mortall lyfe. And thus much (and more peraduēture, then will seeme to this our Ecclesiasticall story apperteinyng) touchyng the paynfull labours and trauailes of this good kyng: which he no lesse valiauntly achiued, then paciently susteined: for the necessary defence of his Realme and subiectes.

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MarginaliaThe vertues and godly life of king Alfrede described. 

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When it came to enumerating the 'vertues & godly lyfe' of King Alfred in this passage, Foxe expanded on his sources to include Fabian's Chronicle (R. Fabyan, The Chronicle of Fabian [London, 1559], book 6, ch. 171) and Ranulph Higden's 'Polychronicon' (J. R. Lumby, ed. Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden monachi Cestrensis: together with the English translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century [London: Rolls Series, 1879], book 6, ch. 1).

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Now if there be any Prince, who listeth to see and folow the vertuous and godly disposition of this kyng: both touchyng the institutiō of his owne life and also concernyng his carefull gouernement of the commō weale: thus the histories of him do recorde. That what tyme he beyng young, perceaued hymselfe somewhat disposed to the vice of the flesh, and therby letted from many vertuous purposes: MarginaliaThe inclinatiō of nature corrected in king Alfrede.did not as many young Princes, and Kynges sonnes in the world be now wont to do: that is to resolue themselues into all kinde of carnall licence, and dissolute sensualitie, running and folowyng without bridle, whether soeuer their licence geuen doth leade them (as therefore not without cause the common prouerbe reporteth of them) that kynges sonnes learne nothyng well els, but onely to ryde. Meanyng therby, that Princes and Kynges sonnes hauyng about them flatterers, whiche bolster them in their faultes: onely their horses geue to them no more, then to any other: but if they sit not fast, they will cast them. But thys young kyng seyng in him selfe the inclination of his fleshly nature, mindyng not to geue to him selfe so much as he might take, but rather by resistence to auoyde the tentation therof: besought God, MarginaliaThe godly petition of king Alfrede.that he would send to him some continuall sickenes, in quēching of that vice; whereby he might be more profitable to the publike busines of the common wealth, and more apt to serue God in his callyng. Cestrens. Lib. 5. cap. 1. Fab. cap. 17.

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For this passage, relating Alfred's struggle with, and eventual cure of the 'ficus' (hemorrhoids), Foxe relied on the account in Ranulph Higden's 'Polychronicon' (J. R. Lumby, ed. Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden monachi Cestrensis: together with the English translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century [London: Rolls Series, 1879], book 6, ch. 1, p. 357). In Asser's 'Life of Alfred', the affliction was presented as a divine reward to the king to help him to resist carnal desire

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Then at Gods ordinaunce, he had the euill called Ficus, till he came to the age of xx. yeares, wherof at lēgth he was MarginaliaModwennacured (as is sayd in some stories) by the virgin called Modwen, an Irishwoman. After this sicknes beyng taken away, to him fell an other: whiche continued with him from the xx. yeares of hys age, to xlv (accordyng to his owne petition & request made vnto God) whereby, he was the more reclaimed and attempered from other more great incōueniences, & lesse disposed to that which he did most abhorre.

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MarginaliaKing Alured how he deuided his goodes in. ii. partes. 

Commentary  *  Close

Foxe's account of King Alfred's generous, but carefully distributed patronage, his use of his time, and his role as a legislator relied mainly on the Ranulph Higden's 'Polychronicon' (J. R. Lumby, ed. Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden monachi Cestrensis: together with the English translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century [London: Rolls Series, 1879], book 6, ch. 1, pp. 361-3), supplemented by William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum (J. S. Brewer, and C. T. Martin, 'William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum.' In Reigistrum Malmesburiense. The Registor of Malmesbury Abbey, ed. by J.S. Brewer and C.T. Martin 2 vols. (London: Rolls Series, 1869-1880), 1, book 2, ch. 123, pp. 194-5), with some addition from John of Brompton's Chronicle ('Chronicon Johannis Brompton Abbatis Jornalensis.' In Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores X. [....], ed. by Roger Twysden (London, 1652), pp. 814.

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Moreouer to behold the bountiful goodnes ioyned with like prudence in this man: in the orderyng and disposing his riches and rentes, it is not vnworthy to be recited. How he deuided his goodes in two equall partes: the one apperteyning to vses secular, the other to vses spirituall or Ecclesiasticall. Of the which two principall partes, the first he deuided into three portions: the first to the behofe of his house and familie, MarginaliaPolychron. lib 5. cap. 1.
Guliel. lib. de regibus.
the second vpon his workemen and builders of his new workes, whereof he had great delight and cūnyng: the third vpon straungers. Likewise the other second halfe, vpon spiritual vses, he did thus diuide in foure portions: One to the releuyng of the poore: An other to monasteries: The iij. portion to the schooles of Oxford, for the mainteyning of good letters: MarginaliaThe liberall hart of king Alfrede. The iiij. he sent to foreine Churches without the Realme. This also is left in stories written to his commendation, for his great tolerance and sufferaunce: that when he had builded the new Monastery at Winchester, and afterward his sonne Edward had purchased of the Byshop and the Chapter a sufficient pcece of grounde for certaine offices to be adioyned vnto the same, and had geuen for euery foote of ground, mancā auri pleni ponderis (which was as I thinke a marke of golde) or more: yet Alfrede therewithall was not greatly discontented to see his coffers so wasted.

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MarginaliaHow well & godly thys king spent hys tyme.Ouer and besides, how sparyng and frugall he was of tyme (as of a thyng in this earth most pretious) and how farre from all vayne pastimes and idlenes he was: this doth well declare, whiche in the story of William de Reg. and other writers is told of him. That he so deuided the day and night in three partes, if he were not let by warres, or other great busines: that eight houres he spent in study and learnyng: and other eight houres he spent in prayer and almes deedes: and other eight houres he spent in his naturall rest, sustenaunce of his body, and the needes of the Realme. The which order he kept duely by the burnyng of waxen tapers kept in his closet by certaine persons for the same purpose. Guliel.

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MarginaliaThe godly lawes of king Alfrede.How studious he was & carefull of the commō wealth and maintenaunce of publike tranquilitie: his lawes most godly set forth and deuised by him may declare. Where a especially by him was prouided, for the extirpyng and abolishing all theft and theeues out of the Realme. Whereby, the Realme through his vigilant care, was brought into such tranquilitie or rather perfection, MarginaliaA notable example of theuery and felony banished thys Realme.that in euery crosse or turnyng way, he made be set vp a golden brouch at least of siluer gilded, through his dominiōs: and none so hardy neither by day nor night to take it downe: for the more credit wherof, the wordes of the Latin story be these? Armillas aureas iuberet suspendi, quæ viantium auiditatē irritarent, dum nō essent, qui eas abriperent. &c. Guliel. Lib. de Regibus Angl. And no great maruell theren, if the Realme in those dayes was brought in such an order, and that iustice then was so well ministred, when the kyng him selfe was so vigilant in ouerseyng the doynges of his iudges and officers. Wherof thus also we read in þe sayd author testified: Iudiciorū a suis hominibus factorum, inquisitor, perperam actorum asperrimus corrector. i. he was, (sayth mine author speaking of the kyng) a vigilant inquisitor of the doyngs of his iudges, and a strict punisher of their misdoynges. Iornalensis also writyng vpon the same, thus sayth: MarginaliaEx historia Iornalens.Facta ministrorum suorum, et potissime iudicum diligenter inuestigauit, adeo vt quos ex auaritia aut imperitia errare cognosceret, ab officio remouebat, that is, he did diligently searche out the doynges of his officers, and especially of his iudges: so that if he knew any of them to erre either through couetousnes, or vnskefulnes: them he remoued from their office.

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And thus much concernyng the valiaunt actes, and noble vertues of this worthy Prince: wherunto although there were no other ornamentes adioyning besides: yet sufficient were they alone to set forth a Prince worthy excellent commendation. MarginaliaKing Alfrede commended for learning. 

Commentary  *  Close

Foxe's lengthiest passage on King Alfred was, not surprisingly, devoted to his patronage of letters. It reflected his own commitment to the humanist project to associate political virtue with an educational and literary renaissance. This is the context in which one must read the passage: 'But this we may see, what it is to haue a prince learned him selfe, who feling and tasting the price & value of science and knowledge: is theby not only the more apte to rule, but also to enstructe and frame his subiectes, from a rude barbaritie, to a more ciuile congruencie of life, and to a better vnderstanding of thinges'. Foxe's sources here expanded appropriately to include his base-text, which was William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum ((J. S. Brewer, and C. T. Martin, 'William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum.' In Reigistrum Malmesburiense. The Registor of Malmesbury Abbey, ed. by J.S. Brewer and C.T. Martin 2 vols. (London: Rolls Series, 1869-1880), 1, book 2, chs. 122-3 (esp. p. 194), elaborated with reference to John of Brompton's Chronicle ('Chronicon Johannis Brompton Abbatis Jornalensis.' In Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores X. [....], ed. by Roger Twysden (London, 1652), p. 814). The latter had mentioned Bede as his source, and Foxe confirms that account with a full and accurate reference (Bede, book 3, ch. 18). In addition, there were additions from Ranulph Higden's 'Polychronicon' (J. R. Lumby, ed. Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden monachi Cestrensis: together with the English translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century [London: Rolls Series, 1879], book 6, ch. 1, p. 358) and a longer passage from Roger of Howden (W. Stubbs, ed. Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houdene 4 vols, Rolls Series [London, 1868], 1, p. 41; 50). Fabian's Chronicle is used to provide the reference to Alfred's foundation of the school at Oxford (book 6, ch. 171). The brief material on Johannes Scotus comes largely from Howden (1, pp. 46-7) but with Scotus' character and epitaph taken from Malmesbury's 'Gesta Regum' (book 2, ch. 122).

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Now besides these other qualities and giftes of Gods grace in him, aboue mētioned: remaineth an other part of his no litle prayse and commendation, whiche is his learnyng and knowledge of good letters: wherof he not onely was excellently expert him selfe, MarginaliaWhen learning first began to be set vp in England.but also a worthy mainteiner of the same through all his dominiōs: where before, no vse of Grammer or other sciences was practised in this Realme, especially about the Westpartes of the lād: there through the industrie of this kyng, schooles began to

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