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166 [165]

K. Ethelbald. Kyng Edmund. Kyng Etheldred. Danes.

called S. Edmundes bury. Where this blessed man beyng MarginaliaThe persecution and death of S. Edmund king of the Eastangleson euery side compassed of his cruell enemies, yelded himself to their persecution. And for that he would not reny or deny Christ and his lawes, they therfore most cruelly bounde him vnto a tree, and caused him to be shot to death: and lastly caused his head to be smitten from the body, and cast into the thicke of the bushes. Marginaliakyng Edmund Martyr.Whiche head and body at the same tyme was by his frendes taken vp, and solemnly buryed at the sayd Halesdon, otherwise now named S. Edmunds bury. Whose brother named Edwoldus, notwithstanding of right, the kyngdome fell next vnto him: settyng a part the likyng and pleasure of the world, became an Hermite at the Abbey of Cerum in the countrey of Dorset.

[Back to Top] MarginaliaRedyng taken of the Danes.

After the Martyrdome of this blessed Edmund, when the cruell Danes had sufficiently robbed and spoyled that countrey: they tooke agayne their shyppes, and landed in Southrey, and continued their iourney till they came to the town of Redyng: & there wanne the towne with the castle. MarginaliaInguar & Hubba slayne.Where (as Cambrensis sayth) within three dayes of their thether commyng, the foresayd Inguar and Hubba Captaines of the Danes, as they went in purchasing of their prayes or booties: were slayne at a place called Englefelde. Which Princes of the Danes thus slayne, the rest of them kept whole together, in such wise that the Westsaxōs might take of them none aduauntage. But yet within fewe dayes after the Danes were holden so short, that they were forced to issue out of the castle, and to defēd them in playne battaile. In the which, by the industry of kyng Etheldred and of Alured his brother, the Danes were discomfited, & many of them slayne: which discomfort made them flye againe into the castle, and there kept them for a certaine tyme. The kyng then committyng the charge of them to Ethelwolde Duke of Baroke or Barkshyre, so departed. But whē the Danes knew of the Kynges departure, they brake sodenly out of their hold, MarginaliaDuke Ethelwold slayne.and tooke the Duke vnprouided, and slew him, and much of his people. And so adioynyng them selues with other that were scattered in the countrey, enbattelled them in such wise, that of them was gathered a strong host.

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MarginaliaOsrike kyng of Denmarke landeth in Englād.As the tydinges hereof was brought to Kyng Etheldred, (whiche put him in great heauynes) word also was brought the same tyme of the landyng of Osrike, Kyng of Denmarke: who with assistence of the other Danes had gathered a great host & were enbattelled vpon Ashdowne. To this battaile kyng Etheldred with his brother Alured forced by great neede, spedde them selues to withstand the Danes. At which tyme, the kyng a litle staying behynd beyng yet at hys seruice, MarginaliaEx Guliel Malmesberiensi.
Ex historia Iornalensi
Ex Fabiano & alijs
Alured which was comen before, had entred already into the whole fight with the Danes: who strake together with huge violence. The king being required to make speede (he being then at seruice, & meditations) such was his deuotion: that he would not styrre out one foote, before the seruice was fully complet. MarginaliaInuocation and prayer profitable in tyme of battaile.In this meane while, the Danes so fearsely inuaded Alured and his men, that they wanne the hill: and the Christen men were in the valley, and in great daunger to lose the whole field. Neuerthelesse through the grace of God, and their godly māhode, the kyng commyng from his seruice, with his fresh souldiours recouered the hill of the infidels: and so discomfited the Danes that day, that in fleyng away not onely they lost the victory, but most part also of them their lyues. MarginaliaThe Danes ouer throwen at Ashdone.In so much that their Duke or Kyng Osride 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 battaile fought with the Danes.After this, the Danes yet resembled their people, and gathered a new host, so that within xv. dayes, they mete at Basingstoke, and there gaue battaile vnto the kyng, & had the better. Then the Kyng agayne gathered his mē, which at that field were disparkled, and with fresh souldiours to them accompanyed, mete the Danes within two monethes after at the town of Merton, MarginaliaAn other battaile fought with the Danes at Merton.where he gaue to thē a sharpe battaile: so that much people were slayne as well of the Christen, as of the Danes, but in the ende, the Danes had the honour of the field, & Kyng Etheldred there was woūded, and therfore fayne to saue him selfe.

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After these ij. fields thus won by the Danes, they obtained great circuite of ground, and destroyed man and child, that would not yeld to them. And Churches & tēples they turned to the vse of stables, and other vyle occupation.

Thus the kyng beset with enemyes on euery side, seyng the land so miserably oppressed of the Danes: his knightes and souldiours consumed: his owne land of Westsaxons in such desolation: he being also wounded him selfe: But especially for that he sendyng his commissions into Northumberland, into Mercia, and Eastanglia, could haue of them but small or litle comfort (because they through wicked rebellion, were more willyng to take the part of the Danes, then of their Kyng) was sore perplexed therwithall, as the other Kynges were both before him and after him, at that tyme. MarginaliaWhat discord and rebellion doth in a realm.So that, as Malmesbery witnesseth, magis optarent honestum exitium, quam tam acerbum imperium. That is, They rather wished honestly to dye, then with such trouble & sorow to reigne. MarginaliaThe death of Etheldred.And thus this Kyng not long after deceased, when he had reigned, as Fabian sayth. viij. yeares, as Malmesbury writeth, but. v. yeares. Duryng whiche tyme of his reigne, notwithstandyng his so great troubles & vexations in martiall affaires, (as is in some stories mentioned) MarginaliaThe Abbey of Exeter founded.he founded the house or college of Chanons at Exeter, and was buryed at the Abbey of Winborne or Woborne. After whose decease, for lacke of issue of his body, the rule of the land fell vnto his 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 Alured otherwise called Alfrede.

Marginalia872.AMong the Saxon Kynges hitherto in this history afore mentioned: I finde few or none to be preferred (or almost to be cōpared) to this MarginaliaAlurede kyng of England.Alured, or Alfrede for the great and singulare qualities in this Kyng worthy of high renowne and commendation. Whether we behold in him the valiaunt actes, and manifold trauailes whiche he continually from tyme to tyme sustained agaynst his enemyes in warres duryng almost all the tyme of his reigne, for the publike preseruation of his people: Or whether we consider in him, his godly and excellēt vertues, ioyned with a publike and tender care, and zelous study, for the common peace and tranquilitie of the weale publike: appearyng as well in his prudent lawes by him both carefully set forth, & with the like care executed, as also by his owne priuate exercises touchyng the vertuous institution of his lyfe. Or whether we respect that in him, which with equall prayse matcheth with both the other before: That is, his notable knowledge of good letters, with a feruent loue and Princely desire to set forth the same through all his Realme (before his time beyng both rude and barbarous) All whiche his heroicall properties, ioyned together in one Prince, as it is a thyng most rare, and seldome seene in Princes now adayes: so I thought the same the more to be noted and exāplefide in this good kyng. Thereby either to moue other rulers and Princes in these our dayes, to his imitation: or els to shew them what hath bene in tymes past, in their aunceters, which ought to be, & yet is not found in them. Wherfore of these three partes to discourse (either part in order) first we will enter to entreate of his actes and paynfull trauayles sustayned in defence of the Realme publicke: against the ragyng tyranny of the Danes, as they be described in the Latin histories of Rog. Houeden, and Huntington: whō Fabian also seemeth in this part somewhat to follow. MarginaliaEx Rog. Houedeno.
H. Huntingt.
Kyng Alfred therfore, first of all the English Kyngs, takyng his crowne and vnction at Rome of Pope Leo (as Malmesberiensis and Polycronicon do record) in the begynnyng of his raigne, perceauyng his Lordes and people much wasted & decayed, by the reason of the great warres of Ethelred, had agaynst the Danes: yet as well as he could, gathered a strength of men vnto him, and in the second moneth that he was made King, he met with the Danes beside Wylton, where he gaue to them battaile. But beyng farre ouermatched, through the multitude of the contrary part was put there to the worsse: although not without a great slaughter of the Pagane army. Which army then of the Danes, after that victory by compaction made with Kyng Alfrede, to depart out of his dominion of Westsaxe: remoued from Readyng to London, where they abode all that winter. Where Halden their Kyng, taking truse with MarginaliaBurhered beyng expulsed his kingdome went to Rome & there dyed in the Englysh house.Burhered, Kyng of Mercians, the next yeare followyng voyded those partes, and drew to Lyndesey: in robbyng and spoylyng the townes and villages as they went, and holdyng the cōmon people vnder their seruage. From thence after to Repyngdon: where they ioynyng with the three other Kynges of the Danes (called Surdrim, Osketel, and Hamond) grewe thereby in mighty force & strength. Who then diuidyng their army in two partes, the one halfe remained with Halden in the countrey of Northumberland: the residue were with the other three Kynges, winteryng and soiournyng al the next yeare at Grantbrige, which was the iiij. yeare of kyng Alfred. In the which yeare King Alfred his men had a cōflict on the Sea, with vi. of the Danes shyps, of which one they tooke, the other fled away. In this yeare went MarginaliaRollo a Dane first Duke of Normandy.Rollo the Dane into Normandy, where he was Duke. 30. yeare, and afterward was Baptised in the fayth of Christ, & named Robert. The foresayde army of the three Dane Kyngs aboue mentioned from Grantebryge, returned agayne to Westsaxonie, & entred the Castle of Warrham: where Kyng Alfrede with a sufficiēt power of men, was ready to assault

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