Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 16.djvu/409

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


broke out, and the northern people made Olaf (Anlaf), a northman from Ireland, their king. The revolt appears to have spread to the confederate towns called the Five Boroughs. In 942 Olaf died, and was succeeded by another Olaf, the son of Sihtric, and Ragnar, the son of Guthfrith. Up to this time Wulfstan, the archbishop of York, appears to have remained faithful to the West-Saxon king (Kemble, Codex Dipl. 393). He now openly joined Olaf, and marched with him to war. In 943 Olaf and Wulfstan took Tamworth and ravaged the country round about. Eadmund came up with them at Leicester and besieged them there. The suddenness of his attack evidently surprised them. A peace was arranged by the two archbishops, Oda and Wulfstan, and the war was brought to an end on nearly the same terms as those that had been made between Ælfred and Guthorm. The kingdom was divided, and Eadmund was left the immediate kingship only of the country south of Watling Street; his supremacy over the north was, however, acknowledged, for Olaf was baptised, probably at Leicester, the English king standing godfather to him, as Alfred had stood to Guthorm, and later in the same year Ragnar also submitted to baptism. This revival of the Danelaw did not last long, for in 944 Eadmund drove out both the Norse kings, and brought the country into subjection. His conquest of Mercia, and especially of the Five Boroughs, is celebrated in a song preserved in the Winchester version of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.’ This song is inserted under 941, the year in which the towns appear to have revolted; but the chronology of the war is uncertain, and the sequence of events given here only represents one opinion. Dr. Freeman believes that Mercia and the Five Boroughs were conquered in 941 (Norman Conquest, i. 64; Old English History, p. 163). Eadmund's brilliant success won him the name of the ‘deed-doer,’ or, to use the modern form of the word, written in Latin by Florence of Worcester, the ‘magnificent.’ In the struggles of the English kings with the Danish people of the north, Cumbria, the remaining fragment of the Celtic kingdom of Strathclyde, and the Scots had been active on the Danish side. Eadmund endeavoured to secure his kingdom from attack through Cumbrian territory by a stroke of policy, for in 945 he conquered the land and delivered it over to Malcolm of Scotland on condition that he should be ‘his fellow-worker by sea and land.’ The Scots were thus set to keep the Welsh in subjection, ‘while the fidelity of the Scot king seemed to be secured by the impossibility of holding Cumbria against revolt without the support of his fellow-worker in the south’ (Green). Abroad, Eadmund demanded the release of his nephew, King Lewis, who was kept in prison by Hugh, duke of the French. His ambassadors were answered haughtily by the duke, who declared that he would do nothing for the threats of the English. The dispute was brought to an end by Eadmund's death. In ecclesiastical matters he seems to have been on the side of those who were anxious to effect a reformation of morals. He made Dunstan abbot of Glastonbury [see under Dunstan], and was a benefactor of Glastonbury, Abingdon, and Shaftesbury. At a synod held at London by the king and both the archbishops, laws were made commanding that spiritual persons should live in chastity, and that bishops should take care that the churches of their dioceses were kept in repair. Another set of laws ascribed to him are on the subject of betrothal, dower, and marriage. His civil administration appears to have been marked by efforts to enforce order, and his secular laws refer to his efforts to prevent robberies, and contain provisions rendering the man-slayer responsible for his own act, and checking the feud that was anciently maintained between the kindreds of the slayer and the slain. Eadmund met his death in 946. He was keeping the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (26 May) at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire, when a certain robber named Liofa, whom he had banished six years before, entered the hall and sat down by one of the ealdormen, near the king himself. Eadmund bade his cup-bearer to take the man away, but Liofa struggled with the officer and tried to kill him. Eadmund came to the help of his cup-bearer, and threw the robber to the ground; but Liofa had a dagger with him, and with it he stabbed the king and slew him. He was himself slain by the king's men. Eadmund married first Ælfgifu, who bore him Eadwig and Eadgar, and died in 944. After her death she was hallowed as a saint, and miracles were worked at her tomb at Shaftesbury (Æthelweard). His second wife was Æthelflæd, called, probably from her marriage portion, ‘at-Domerham,’ the daughter of Ælfgar, one of his thegns, who was made an ealdorman.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron.; Florence of Worcester (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Æthelweard's Chronicle, Mon. Hist. Brit. p. 520; Symeon of Durham (Rolls Ser.); William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Historia de Abingdon, i. 88–120; Kemble's Codex Dipl. ii. 205–66; Thorpe's Ancient Laws, p. 104; Laing's Sea-kings, i. 317; Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale, ii. 489; Freeman's Norman