Page 1090

1090 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

wars between the invaders and the invaded.

Of the previous history of the British Celts

very little is known. Nor can the traditions

which have been preserved of the famous

Prince Arthur and his chivalrous knights of

the Round Table be accepted as historical

truth. Old British patriotism has woven the

fiction of a mythical, national hero, whose

actual exploits were attended doubtless with

the disasters and misfortunes of the Saxon

conquest.

It has been matter of dispute among those

who have most critically examined the history

of the Saxon Heptarchy whether the kings of

the different states were of equal and independent rank, or whether one was recognized

as superior, to the rest. According to Bede,

the Anglo-Saxon chronicler, one of the princes

of the kingdoms held the title and rank of

Britwalda, or Wielder of the Britains, being

sovereign of the rest. If, however, any such tie

of sovereignty bound together the several kingdoms of the Heptarchy, it was a very feeble

and ineffectual bond.

The first Britwalda, or ruler of Britain, is

said to have been Ella, the conqueror of Sussex, who held that rank until 510. After this

for a considerable period no prince was preeminent. Then arose Ceawlin, king of Wessex,

who became Britwalda in 568, but his right

of sovereignty was disputed by Ethelbert,

fourth king of Kent, and a descendant of

Hengist. Hostilities broke out between the

two princes; but Ceawlin held the primacy

until his death in 593. The office then fell to

Ethelbert. This prince, took for his queen the

beautiful Bertha, daughter of Charibert, one

of the Rois Faineants of Paris. It was the

fortune of Ethelbert to be in authority at the

time when the forty Christian monks sent out

by Gregory the Great came into Britain and

set up the standard of the cross. Now it was

that the Anglo-Saxons were induced to abandon the superstitions and practices of paganism and accept the doctrines of Christianity.

The first three Britwaldas-Ella, Ceawlin,

and Ethelbert-were Saxons, or Jutes. The

fourth was Redwald, king of East Anglia, who

is said to have obtained the supreme rank in

the year 617. His reign was occupied with wars, first with the Scots, and afterwards with

Edilfrid, king of the North Umbrians, whom

he defeated in a great battle in Nottinghamshire. Nevertheless a few years later the office

of Britwalda passed to Edwin, king of North

Umbria, whose assumption of authority marked

the transfer of political power from the south

to the north of the island. The old historian

Fabyan has this to say of the peaceful reign

of Edwin: "In this time was so great peace

in the kingdom of Edwin that a woman might

have gone from one town to another without

grief or annoyance; and for the refreshing of

way-goers this Edwin ordained at dear wells

cups or dishes of brass or iron to be fastened

to posts standing by the said wells sides; and

no man was so hardy as to take away those

cups, he kept so good justice." Such are the

simple annals of a simple age.

It was during the reign of Edwin that the

Isles of Man and Anglesea were added to

North Umbria. So powerful became the king

that all the Saxon chiefs of South Britain

acknowledged his authority. In the year 633,

however, Penda, the Saxon king of Mercia,

rebelled against Edwin, and formed an alliance

with Cadwallader, king of, Wales. In the

next year a great battle was fought at Hatfield, near the river Trent, in which Edwin

was defeated and killed. Penda next invaded

the country of the East Angles. In these

movements he stood as the representative of

the old paganism of the Angles. It was impossible, however, that the principles which

he represented should make much headway

against the converted nations along the coast.

In 634 Oswald, a nephew of Edwin, gathered

an army, fell unexpectedly upon Cadwallader

and his Welsh in their camp near Hexham,

and routed them with great slaughter. Cadwallader himself was among the slain. The

temporary ascendancy of Wales was destroyed.

Oswald retook the territories which Edwin

had lost, and he was soon afterwards recognized

as Britwalda of the Heptarchy.

In this epoch in the history of the Anglo-Saxon fathers, churches and monasteries began

to be built in various parts of the kingdoms.

Oswald gave his daughter in marriage to Cynegils, king of Lindesfame, for the conversion