Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 16.djvu/374

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

crown, and laid it aside as he knelt before the altar; that Dunstan then began the ‘Te Deum;’ that at the conclusion of the hymn the bishops raised the king from his knees; and that at Dunstan's dictation he then took a threefold oath that the church of God and all christian people should enjoy true peace for ever, that he would forbid all wrong and robbery to all degrees, and that he would command justice and mercy in all judgments. Then the consecration prayers were said, the archbishops anointed him, the antiphon ‘Zadok the priest’ was sung, and all joined in the shout ‘Let the king live for ever.’ Dunstan next invested him with the ring and sword, placed the crown on his head and the sceptre and rod in his hands, and both the archbishops enthroned him. Although this ceremony is sometimes spoken of as a second coronation, there is no good reason for supposing that the king had ever been crowned before. No contemporary chronicler assigns any reason for this delay of the rite, or for the special time chosen for its performance; the story that connects it with a penance will be noted further on. It may, therefore, be held to have been, to quote the words of Dr. Stubbs: ‘a solemn typical enunciation of the consummation of English unity, an inauguration of the king of all the nations of England, celebrated by the two archbishops, possibly with special instructions or recognition from Rome, possibly in imitation of the imperial consecration of Eadgar's kinsmen, the first and second Otto, possibly as a declaration of the imperial character of the English crown itself’ (Memorials of St. Dunstan, introd. ci.; this view was first propounded by Robertson, Essays, 203–15; comp.Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. 639, 3rd edition). It evidently took strong hold on the imagination of the people, and was made the subject of one of the national ballads preserved in the ‘Chronicle’ (Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub ann.; Æthelweard, 520). After this ceremony the king with all his fleet sailed round to Chester, and there six (A.-S. Chron.), or rather eight (Flor. Wig.), kings met him and swore to be faithful to him, and to be ‘his fellow-workers by sea and by land.’ They were the kings of the Scots, of Cumberland, and of the Isles, and five Welsh princes, and it is said that they further declared their vassalage by rowing Eadgar in a boat which he himself steered at the head of a great procession from his palace to the minster of St. John Baptist, where they prayed, and then returned in the same manner (ib.) While this may be a later embellishment, the ‘commendation’ of the kings is beyond doubt. (On the nature of such commendations see Freeman's Historical Essays, i. 56; Norman Conquest, i. 142; Robertson, Scotland under her Early Kings, ii. 386 sq.) The Danes of Ireland were friendly, and acknowledged the power if not the supremacy of the English king, for coins of Eadgar were minted at Dublin (Robertson). The relations between Eadgar and the other kings and princes then reigning in these islands are probably signified by his use of grandiloquent titles borrowed from the imperial court. Following the example of his predecessors since the reign of Æthelstan, he describes himself in his charters as ‘Albionis Imperator Augustus,’ and the like (Norman Conquest, i. 623; Stubbs, Constitutional History, i. 177). As a near kinsman of Otto I and II, he may well have been influenced by the imperial ideas of western Europe. He made alliance with Otto the Great, and received splendid gifts from him (Flor. Wig. sub ann. 959). This alliance was probably renewed at the accession of Otto II, when other kings are said to have marvelled at the profusion of Eadgar's gifts. His fame was spread abroad, and Saxons, and men of Flanders, and Danes are said to have sailed hither constantly; all were welcomed, but their coming was evidently disliked by the more conservative part of the English (Gesta Regum, 148, where William of Malmesbury expands the notice of the Peterborough chronicler, which as it stands seems to apply chiefly to the Danes, the men of ‘heathen manners’).

At the date of his coronation at Bath, Eadgar was in his thirtieth year. He is said to have been short and slenderly made, but of great strength (ib. 156), ‘beauteous and winsome’ (A.-S. Chron.) His personal character, the events of his life, and the glories of his reign made a deep impression on the English people. Not only are four ballads, or fragments of ballads, relating to his reign preserved in the different versions of the national chronicle, but a large mass of legends about him, originally no doubt contained in gleemen's songs, is given by William of Malmesbury. He is represented in somewhat different lights. All contemporary writers save one speak of him in terms of unmixed praise; the one exception, the Peterborough chronicler, while dwelling on his piety, his glory, and his might, laments, as we have seen, his love of foreigners and of foreign fashions and evil ways. As a zealous patron of the monks, he is naturally depicted by the monastic writers of his time in glowing colours, and the excellence of his government, which rests on better evidence than vague phrases, justifies all that they say of