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200 [200]

King Etheldred. Danes. K. Alurede or Alfrede. Danes.

so adioyning them selues with other that were scattered in the coūtrey, enbattelled them in such wise, that of thē was gathered a strong host.

MarginaliaOsrike K. of Dēmark landeth in England.
Ex Guliel Mamesberiensi.
Ex historia Iornalēsi
Ex Fabiano & alijs
As the tydinges hereof was brought to kyng Etheldred, (which put hym in great heuynes) worde also was brought the same time of the landing of Osrike, kyng of Denmarke: who with assistence of the other Danes had gathered a great hoste and were enbattelled vpon Ashdown. To this battaile kyng Etheldred with his brother Alured forced by great nede, spedde them selues to withstand the Danes. At which tyme, the kyng a little stayng behind beyng yet at his seruice, Alured which was comn before, had entred already into the whole fight with the Danes: who strake together wt huge violence. MarginaliaInuocatiō & prayer, profitable in tyme of battayle.The king beyng required to make spede (he beyng then at seruice, and meditations) such was his deuocion: that he would not styre out one foote, before the seruice was fully complet. In this meane whyle, the Danes so fearsely inuaded Alured and his men, that they wan the hill: and the chisten men were in the valley, and in great daunger to lose the whole fielde. Neuertheles through the grace of God, and their godly manhode, the king comming from his seruice, with his fresh souldiers recouered the hill of the infidels: and so discomfited the Danes that day, that in fleyng away not onely they lost the victorie, but most part also of them their lyues. MarginaliaThe Danes ouerthrown at Ashdone.In so much that their duke or kyng Osrike or Osege, and fiue of their dukes, with much of their people were slayne, and the rest chased vnto Redyng towne.

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MarginaliaAn other battayle fought wyth the Danes.After thys, the Danes yet reassembled their people, and gathered a new host, so that within xv. dayes, they mete at Basingstoke, and there gaue battaile vnto the kyng, and had the better. Then the kyng agayne gathered his men, which at that field wer disparkled, and with fresh souldiers to them accompanied, mete the Danes wtin ii. monethes after at the towne of Merton, MarginaliaAn other battaile fought wyth the Danes at Merton.where he gaue to them a sharpe battaile: so that muche people were slayne as well of the Christen, as of the Danes, but in the end, the Danes: had the honour of the field, and kyng Etheldred there was wounded, and therfore fayne to saue hym selfe.

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After these two fields thus woon by the Danes, they obtayned great circuite of ground, and destroyed man and childe, that would not yeld to them. And churches and temples they turned to the vse of stables, and other vlye occupation.

Thus the king beset with enemyes on euery syde, seing the land so miserablye oppressed of the Danes: hys knightes and souldiours consumed: hys owne land of Westsaxons in such desolation: he being also wounded himselfe: But especially for that, he sending his cōmissions into Northūberland, into Mercia, & Eastanglia, could haue of them but small or litle comfort (because they through wicked rebelliō, wer more willing to take þe part of the Danes, thē of their king) was sore perplexed therwithall, as the other kings were both before him and after him, at that tyme. MarginaliaThat discord & rebelliō doth in a realm.So that, as Malmesbery witnesseth, magis optarent honestum exitium, quam tam acerbum imperium. that is, They rather wished honestly to die, then with such trouble & sorow to reigne. MarginaliaThe death of Etheldred.And thus this king not long after deceased, whē he had reigned, as Fabian sayth. viij. yeares, as Malmesbury wryteth, but. v. yeres. During which time of his reigne, notwithstanding hys so greate troubles and vexations in martiall affayres, (as is in some stories mentioned) MarginaliaThe Abbey of Exeter founded.he founded the house or college of Chanons at Exeter, & was buryed at þe abbey of Winborne or Woborne. After whose decease, for lacke of issue of hys body, the rule of the land fell vnto hys brother Alured.

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Commentary  *  Close
Alfred the Great

Foxe's expansion of the 'third age of the church' in the 1563 edition into book three of the 1570 edition had provided a summary regnal list of Saxon kings. But he could hardly let King Alfred be consigned just to a table. His decision to provide a lengthy account of the heroic royal virtues of King Alfred stands in the contemporary tradition of the literature of the 'mirror for princes'. His 'notable knowledge of good letters' joined to his 'feruent loue & princely desire to set forth the same through all his realme', joined with his 'heroical properties' offered a moral example that was, says Foxe somewhat tartly, 'seldome seene in Princes now adaies'. Behind the good example, however, Foxe also wanted to emphasise how it was the secular power of the Saxon rulers which had most stood out against the barbarities of the Danes on the one hand, and the increasingly pervasive and corrupting influence of the Roman church on the other.

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He constructed his appreciation of Alfred the Great without, however, making anything but a solitary, passing reference to Asser's 'Life'. The earliest manuscript of this source (BL Cotton MS Otho A xii) was unfortunately destroyed in the Cotton fire of 1731 and now only survives in the form of a few partial copies, and a transcript, made by someone in Matthew Parker's service, probably John Joscelyn, (Corpus Christ College, Cambridge MS 100), which was probably the basis for the publication of the text under his aegis in 1574 (Aelfredi Regis res Gestæ). The text had only recently been discovered when Foxe was writing in 1570, and he may have been uncertain of its worth. There has certainly been a debate among modern Anglo-Saxon historians as to its authenticity (see Alfred Smyth, The Medieval life of King Alfred the Great […] [Basingstoke, 2002]). The only element in Foxe's narrative which comes unambiguously from Asser is an oration, but which may have been abstracted for him by someone in Parker's service. Asser's 'Life' certainly does not impinge on his narrative in a significant fashion.

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If he did not make much use of Asser's 'Life', Foxe certainly seems to have attempted to cast his net widely and critically for sources. In these first paragraphs, he followed his familiar practice of taking one source and working outwards from it. In this instance, it was Fabian's Chronicle (R. Fabyan, The Chronicle of Fabian [London, 1559], book 6, chs 171-3). Fabian had already mentioned that he had used Geoffrey of Monmouth, William of Malmesbury's 'Gesta Regum' and Ranulph Higden's 'Polychronicon'. Foxe perhaps checked up on that. But he apparently went further, too, adding: 'the lattyne histories of Reger Hoveden and Huntingdon: whom Fabian also semeth in this part somwat to folow'. Certainly in the case of the story of the taking of Alfred's crown to Pope Leo, Foxe must have taken the lead from Fabian and followed his source back to the 'Polychronicon', from which he would have found the specific mention of Pope Leo and a reference to Henry Huntingdon (T. Arnold, ed. Henry of Huntingdon. Henrici Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum, the History of the English, by Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, from B. C. 55 to A. D. 1154 [London: Rolls Series, 1879], from which Foxe picked up other material as well at this point. We would also have been sent on to William of Malmesbury's 'Gesta Regum' at this point, from which Foxe fillets in some other details (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 (London: Rolls Series, 1869-1880), book 2, ch. 121). There was also a brief, but significant addition directly from Roger Howden's 'Chronicle' on the slaying of Iguar and Hubba (independent of any of his other sources for this passage). In sum, this passage is one upon which Foxe expended a good deal of careful attention.

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Matthew Phillpott and Mark Greengrass
University of Sheffield

¶ King Alurede otherwyse called Alfrede.

Marginalia872AMong the Saxon kinges hitherto in thys historye afore mentioned: I finde fewe or none to be preferred(or almost to be compared) to this MarginaliaAlurede kyng of EnglandAlured, or Alfrede for the great and singulare qualities in this king worthy of high renowne and commendation. Whether we behold in him the valiaunt actes, and manifold trauailes which he continuallye from time to time sustayned against his enemyes in warres during almost all the tyme of hys reigne, for the publike preseruation of his people: Or whether we consider in him, his godly and excellent vertues, ioyned with a publike and tender care, and zelous studie, for the common peace & tranquilitie of the weale publike: appearing as wel in his prudent lawes by him both carefully set forth, & with the like care executed, as also by his owne priuate exercises touching þe vertuous institution of hys lyfe. Or whether we respect þt in hym, which wt equall prayse matcheth wt both þe other before: That is, hys notable knowledge of good letters, with a feruent loue & princely desire to set forth þe same through all his realme (before his time being both rude & barbarous) Al which his heroyical properties, ioyned together in one prince, as it is a thing most rare, & seldome seene in Princes now adaies: so I thought the same the more to be noted and exemplefide in this good king. Thereby eyther to moue other rulers and Princes in these our dayes, to hys imitation: or els to shew them what hath bene in times past, in their aunceters, which ought to be, and yet is not found in thē. Wherefore of these three partes to discourse (either part in order) first we wyl enter to entreate of hys actes and paynfull trauayles sustayned in defence of the realme publicke: agaynst the raging tirāny of the Danes, as they be described in the lattyne histories of Rog. Houeden, and Huntington: whom Fabian also semeth in this part somwhat to folow. MarginaliaEx Rog. Houedeno.
H. Huntingt.
Kyng Alfred therfore, first of all þe English kyngs, taking his crowne and vnction at Rome of pope Leo (as Malmesberiensis and Polycronicon do record) in the beginning of his raynge, perceauing his lords and people much wasted and decayed, by the reason of the great warres of Ethelred, had agaynst the Danes: yet as wel as he could, gathered a strength of men vnto hym, and in the second moneth that he was made king, he met wt the Danes beside Wylton, where he gaue to them battayle. But being farre ouermatched, through the multitude of the contrary part, was put there to the woorsse: although not without a great slaughter of the Pagans armye. Which armye then of the Danes, after that victory by compaction made with king Alfrede, to departe out of hys dominion of Westsaxe: remoued from Reading to Londō, where thei abode al that winter. Where Halden their kyng, taking truse with MarginaliaBurhered beyng expulsed his kyngdome went to Rome and there dyed in the Englysh house.Burhered, kyng of Mercians, the next yeare following voyded those partes, and drew to Lyndesey: in robbing and spoyling the townes and villages as they went, and holdyng the common people vnder their seruage. From thence after to Repingdon: where they ioyning with the thre other kinges of the Danes (called Surdrini, Osketel, and Hamond) grew therby in mighty force and strength. Who then diuiding their armye in two partes, the one halfe remayned with Halden in the country of Northumberland: the residue were with the other three kynges, wintering and sogourning al the next yere at Grantbrige, which was the fourth yere of king Alfred. In the which yeare king Alfred his mē had a conflict on the sea, with sixe of the Danes shyps, of which one they tooke, the other fled away. In this yere went MarginaliaRollo a Dane fyrst Duke of Normandy.Rollo the Dane into Normandy, where he was Duke. xxx. yeare, and afterwarde was baptised in the fayth of Christ, and named Robert. The foresayde armye of the three Dane kinges aboue mentioned, from Grantebryge, returned againe to Westsaxonie, and entred the Castle of Warrham: where king Alfrede with a sufficiēt power of men, was ready to assault them. But the Danes seing his strēgth durst not attempt with him, but sought delayes, whyle

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