Friday, November 16, 2012

Eadwig 955-959

In 955 Eadred died, having completed the work which Ælfred had begun, and which had been carried on by his son and his three grandsons. England, from the Forth to the Channel, was under one ruler. Even the contrast between Englishmen and Danes was soon, for the most part, wiped out. They were both of the same Teutonic stock, and therefore their languages were akin to one another and their institutions very similar. The Danes of the north were for some time fiercer and less easily controlled than the English of the south, but there was little national distinction between them, and what little there was gradually passed away.
Eadred was succeeded by Eadwig, the eldest son of his brother Eadmund. Eadwig was hardly more than fifteen years old, and it would be difficult for a boy to keep order amongst the great ealdormen and earls. At his coronation feast he gave deep offence by leaving his place to amuse himself with a young kinswoman, Ælfgifu, in her mother's room, whence he was followed and dragged back by two ecclesiastics, one of whom was Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eadmund (940-946) and Eadred (946-955)

Æthelstan died in 940. He was succeeded by his young brother, Eadmund, who had fought bravely at Brunanburh.

Eadmund had to meet a general rising of the Danes of Mercia as well as of those of the north. After he had suppressed the rising he showed himself to be a great statesman as well as a great warrior. The relations between the king of the English and the king of the Scots had for some time been very uncertain. Little is definitely known about them but it looks as if they joined the English whenever they were afraid of the Danes, and joined the Danes whenever they were afraid of the English. Eadmund took an opportunity of making it to be the interest of the Scottish king permanently to join the English.

The southern part of the kingdom of Strathclyde had for some time been under the English kings. In 945 Eadmund overran the remainder, but gave it to Malcolm on condition that he should be his fellow-worker by sea and land. The king of Scots thus entered into a position of dependent alliance towards Eadmund. A great step was thus taken in the direction in which the inhabitants of Britain afterwards walked. The dominant powers in the island were to be English and Scots, not English and Danes. Eadmund thought it worth while to conciliate the Scottish Celts rather than to endeavour to conquer them.

The result of Eadmund's statesmanship was soon made manifest. He himself did not live to gather its fruits. In 946 an outlaw who had taken his seat at a feast in his hall slew him as he was attempting to drag him out by the hair. The next king, Eadred, the last of Eadward's sons, though sickly, had all the spirit of his race. He had another sharp struggle with the Danes, but in 954 he made himself their master. North-humberland was now thoroughly amalgamated with the English kingdom, and was to be governed by an Englishman, Oswulf, with the title of Earl, an old Danish title equivalent to the English Ealdorman, having nothing to do, except philologically, with the old English word Eorl.