Page 1215


returned from his retreat in Ireland, and

again incited his countrymen to rise against

the English. In the struggle that ensued

the fortune of war turned in favor of the

Danes, who gained several victories over

Edmund's forces. The king was obliged at

last to consent to a peace on the basis of

resigning to the Danes the whole country

north of Watlingstreet.

Scarcely, however, had this brief settlement been effected when the Danish leader

died, and King Edmund succeeded in regaining the countries of the North. The kingdom

of the Scots by this time began to show signs

of vitality and progress. With Malcolm, king

of that realm, Edmund deemed it expedient

to cultivate friendly relations, and the two

sovereigns made an alliance against the

Danes. The English ruler soon showed his

faith by his works. He made an invasion of

Cumbria, whose people were in rebellion, and

having reduced them to submission, made a

present of the province to Malcolm. In the

course of his war with the Cumbrians, Edmund made prisoners of the two sons of the

king, Dummail, and them, in a manner

wholly at variance with the usual clemency of

the Anglo-Saxons in victory, he barbarously

deprived of their eyes. Nemesis, however,

soon brought her retribution for the deed.

At the festival of St. Augustine in that year,

while the king caroused with his nobles and

Thanes, he recognized in the company a

noted outlaw named Leof, who had been

banished. Edmund ordered his expulsion

from the festival, but the bandit stood his

ground. The king, already heated with

wine, sprang from his seat, seized Leof by

his long hair, and attempted to lay him low,

but the robber could not be handled. He

drew a dagger and stabbed Edmund to the

vitals. Thus, in the year 946, the crown of

the kingdom was transferred by the sudden

death of the king to Eldred, another son of

Edward the Elder.

This prince was already by the ravages of disease a physical wreck, and on

account of his debility was nicknamed Debilis Pedibus, or Weak Feet. Fortunate

it was for the new administration that the

resolute Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury,

was one of the king's counselors, as was

also the able Torkatui, chancellor of the


On the accession of Eldred, the people

of Danelagh, in common with the other inhabitants of the North, took the oath of

allegiance to the new king. But it was not

long until, incited by Eric, prince of Denmark, they took up arms against the Saxons.

By this time the English army had become

a veteran soldiery, and the discipline of

Eldred's forces triumphed over the audacity

of the Danes. Several bloody battles were

fought, in which the English were victorious.

Northumbria was more completely subjugated than ever before. The title of king

was abolished, and the province was incorporated with the other realms of Eldred.

It was not long, however, after these marked

successes until the king died, without offspring, and left the crown (A. D. 955) to

his brother Edwy, a youth but fifteen years

of age.

The incapacity of the new sovereign was

manifested in one of the first acts of his

reign. He appointed his brother Edgar subregulus, or under king, of the old realm of

Mercia, thus laying again the foundation for

a possible dismemberment of the kingdom.

The recent chastisement of the Danes and the

generally quiet condition of affairs in the

North gave promise of a peaceful reign. It

happened, however, that a domestic embroglio arose, almost as ominous as a foreign

war. The youthful king became enamored

of his cousin Elgiva, whom he might not

marry without violation to one of the most

deeply seated prejudices of the Church. The

prince, however, took the law into his own

hands and married the maiden of his choice.

Dunstan, already referred to as wielding a

powerful influence in the state, set his face

against the union. At the nuptial festival,

when the monks and bishops, in common

with the Thanes, had imbibed wine until

they were uproariously drunken, the young

king, less intemperate than his courtiers,

slipped from the banquet hall and sought

the chamber of his queen. His absence was

at once remarked by the banqueters, who

were deeply offended at their monarch's withdrawal. Dunstan was at once dispatched to

bring him back. The monk accordingly

broke into the bridal chamber, seized upon

Edwy, dragged him from the side of Elgiva,

and hurried him back to the banquet. The

queen, also, and her mother were obliged to