Page 1221

1221 THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE-ALFRED AND HIS SUCCESSORS.

of Ethelred's government fell away until he

was left without supporters. As for himself,

he still pursued the policy of quieting the enemy with bribes. It is said that he paid to

Thurkill the sum of forty-eight thousand

pounds. By this means the Danish leader

was induced to consent to a peace, and

even to ally himself with Ethelred. It appears, however, that his motives were treacherous, and that he was really acting in concert

with Sweyn, who now contemplated the

complete subjugation of England. Presently

Thurkill quarreled with Ethelred, and undertook a new expedition; but the Danish king

now appeared on the scene, and avowed

his purpose of reducing both Thurkill and

the Saxon monarch to submission. With

the appearance of Sweyn on the Humber

the people of Danelagh rose and joined his

banners. Most of the army of Thurkill

did the same. The central counties of England quietly submitted. Oxford and Winchester opened their gates to receive him.

Ethelred meanwhile took refuge in London,

and here the valor of the citizens kept the

Danes at bay for a season. All the West

soon submitted to the Danish king.

Seeing that the rest of the kingdom had

fallen away, the Londoners at length gave up

the contest, and Ethelred fled with his family

and sought protection at the court of his

brother-in-law, the Duke of Normandy. In

the beginning of the year 1013 Sweyn was

acknowledged as the king of England; but

a few weeks afterwards he died at the town

of Gainsborough. Thereupon the Saxon

Thanes reasserted themselves, and invited

Ethelred, after his six weeks' banishment,

to return to the throne. The Danish party

meanwhile proclaimed the Prince Canute,

son of King Sweyn, as monarch of the country. Civil war again broke out, and for a

season there was a reign of bloodshed and

burning.

At length, completely despairing of relief

at the hands of their unready sovereign, the

Saxon nobles set aside the claims of Ethelred

and his legitimate children, and selected for

their king his natural son, the warlike Edmund, surnamed Ironside. It was the misfortune of this valorous prince to receive at

the hands of his supporters an already exhausted country. Nevertheless he did as

much as courage might to retrieve the fortunes of Saxon England. Twice he attempted

to relieve the beleaguered city of London.

He fought with the enemy five pitched

battles, but the Danes were generally victorious. As a last desperate measure of defense

he challenged Canute to mortal combat.

The latter, however, durst not meet his

stalwart antagonist in personal battle, but

proposed instead the division of the kingdom between them. The proposition was

accepted; Edmund Ironside ruled over the

South, and Canute received the rest of the island.

This settlement, however, was of only two

months' duration. Within that time after

the treaty the Saxon monarch died, and in

1017 the whole kingdom passed under the

dominion of Canute. This distinguished ruler

began his reign with measures of conciliation,

but his course in this respect was more politic

than sincere. The House of Ethelred was

bitterly persecuted, and many of that family

and its Saxon adherents were hunted down

and slain. Edward and Edmund, the infant sons of Edmund Ironside, were seized

and sent to Sweden. The king of that country, having compassion upon their misfortunes, sent them to distant Hungary,

where Edmund died. The Prince Edward,

however, married the daughter of the Emperor

of Germany, of which union were born Edgar

Atheling, Christina, and Margaret. The

last named was married to Malcolm, king

of Scotland, and thus through a Scottish

House the blood of King Alfred was transmitted to aftertimes.

Meanwhile the warrior King Canute was

menaced by a specter out of Normandy. In

that country the two princes, Edward and

Alfred, sons of Ethelred and Emma, were

supported by Duke Richard, their uncle.

The latter demanded of the Danish king that

the rights of his nephews should be respected;

and when this demand was treated with contempt, the Norman duke offered his sister, the

widowed Emma, to the Dane in marriage. It

appears that Duke Richard, the widow herself, and Canute were equally anxious to con-

summate this unnatural union. Nor was it

with a view to securing the rights of her sons

so much as again becoming queen of England

that the Flower of Normandy went up gladly

to the bed of the royal Danish ruffian by

whom her former husband had been destroyed.