St. Oswald and the Church of Worcester/Appendix C

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The anonymous Life of St Oswald, which was hailed by historians some thirty years ago as throwing fresh light on the events of the second half of the tenth century, has never been subjected to a critical investigation.[1] Such an investigation must begin with the account of Archbishop Oda which forms its first section. Oda's story has been variously retold by the post-Conquest historians, and it is most desirable to consider the pre-Conquest evidence, in this as in other instances, without allowing it to be confused with the later accretions and interpretations. These Norman or Normanized historians have coloured the history of the tenth century according to their later conceptions; but they had little to guide them that we have not before us to-day, and we need to be constantly on the watch against their misinterpretations and amplifications. In the present note I have sought (1) to bring together the whole of the pre-Conquest evidence as to Archbishop Oda, and then (2) to show how his story has been treated by later writers.

1. Pre-Conquest Evidence.

The Life of Archbishop Oda published by Mabillon (Acta SS. O. S. B. vii. 286 ff.) is ascribed by the editor conjecturally to Osbern. This ascription is supposed to be supported by William of Malmesbury, who in his account of Oda says:

Quantulum autem est testimonium quod ei perhibet Osbernus, qui eum dicit pro sanctitate et industria sua ab omni Anglorum orbe semper deflendum, nisi Dunstanus successisset (Gesta Pont., p. 24 f.).

This, however, is a mistaken inference. There is nothing parallel to these words in the Life of Oda. William of Malmesbury is simply quoting from Osbern's Life of St Dunstan (p. 107): 'nisi Dunstanus succederet, ab omni Anglonmi orbe semper deflendus'.

Wharton, who at first ascribed the Life to Osbern, changed his mind and ascribed it to Eadmer, mainly on the ground of its appearance among other works of that writer. This latter view seems to have won general acceptance (Anglia Sacra, ii, p. x; Hardy, Catalogue of Materials, i. 566; W. Hunt, art. 'Oda' in Dict. Nat. Biogr.). It is confirmed by the results of the following inquiry.

This Life is mainly drawn from the account of Oda which forms the first section of the anonymous Life of Oswald his nephew, published by Raine (Historians of York, i. 399 ff.) from the Cotton MS., Nero E. 1, in which alone it appears to be preserved.[2]

What, then, do we learn of Archbishop Oda from the biographer of Oswald? First; in order to illustrate his high moral courage, he describes his dealings with the licentious young king Edwy. The king, unfaithful to his wife, had intercourse with another woman. The archbishop rode out with his attendants to the place where this woman was staying, carried her off, and sent her out of the kingdom. The king accepted his admonitions, and he and his whole court submitted humbly to his guidance.[3]

Our author next proceeds to relate three miracles wrought by Oda, one before and one after he became archbishop, the third after his death. 'Bright with the roses of spring, he cast forth sin's monstrous thorns after receiving the sacrament of baptism.' Such are our author's flowers of speech, worth noting at this point, because they reappear in later writers whom he has inspired: we may gather from them that Oda was baptized in boyhood, not in infancy. His frequent attendance at church could not be restrained even by his father's threats: 'Some say', the writer continues, 'his father was one of those Danes who came over in the army of the fleet with Huba and Hinwar.' The youth now forsook father and mother and his lawful inheritance, and attached himself to a pious knight named Æthelhelm, who showed him a father's affection. In his household Oda received instruction from a man of religion, and presently was ordained deacon: not many months afterwards he received the priesthood.[4]

After this the knight set out on a pilgrimage to Rome, taking the young priest with him. They had a favourable voyage, but at an inn on the other side Æthelhelm had a heart-attack and was like to die. Oda sent for a cup of wine, made the sign of the cross over it, and gave it to the knight, who presently recovered and continued his journey. After prayers and almsgiving in the sacred city, they returned safely home. They were welcomed by the king, who soon after this made Oda bishop of Wilts. Shortly afterwards the archbishop of Canterbury died, and the king made Oda his successor.[5]

After this he was celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and 'the ancient miracle was in our days renewed': he perceived a drop of blood flow from the true Body of Christ. Amazed, he called a faithful servant who stood near, and showed him secretly the miracle. He bade the archbishop rejoice that God had so highly honoured him, and pray that the sacrament might return to its first form. This done, the archbishop partook of it; and in honour of the miracle he fed that day the poor, the orphans and the widows.

A further honour granted to him was that, while he was engaged in repairing and heightening the ancient church at Canterbury, which had been consecrated by St Augustine, no heavy rain fell on the city's walls. The roof of Christ Church had been taken off; the walls were repaired and raised 'bis quinis et denis passibus pedum'. This is not told as one of the three miracles: but later writers greatly improved upon it.

The third miracle occurred after Oda's death. His successor was Ælfsin, 'who being puffed up by temporal prosperity rose against the servant of God after his decease, counting him to be dead'. One day, standing over his grave, he reproached him, saying: 'Bishop, now liest thou prostrate, and I enjoy the right of triumph. When thou wast living, I had no merit: now thou art gone, I have received my due.' The next night Oda appeared in a vision to a certain priest, and said: 'Go to the bishop, and ask why he contemned me yesterday and smote me with his staff.' The priest failed, both then and after a second vision, to discharge his task. The third night Oda appeared in more glorious form and warned him no longer to be disobedient. So he bore the message which was given him: 'I tell thee that thou shalt cross the sea, and climb the mountains; but never shalt thou sit in the apostolic seat.' Ælfsin dismissed the messenger with contempt; but soon afterwards that misfortune befell him which the Spirit had foretold.

This ends the first section of the biography of Oswald. When the writer passes to his proper subject, he refers to Oda again as superintending Oswald's education, supplying him with the means to purchase for himself a monastery at Winchester, and afterwards sending him with rich gifts to Fleury, where he was to enter on the monastic life. At this point we have the only sentence in which Oda is brought into any connexion with monasticism. Fleury, says our author, was the house from which Oda himself received the monastic habit ('ex quo idem pontifex suscepit monasticae religionis habitum').

It is plain that the writer had but scant knowledge of the history of Oda's times. The only king whom he mentions by name is Edwy, and his account of him differs from all others: he has nothing to say of the scandal of his coronation day, when Oda sent Dunstan and Kynsige to bring back the young king to the banquet of the nobles; nor of Oda's divorcing Ælfgifu, the king's wife, on the ground of a too close relationship. Although the author afterwards makes use of the earliest Life of St Dunstan, he has not employed it as a guide in this opening section.

As to dates and localities he gives us little help. He does not say where Oda was born, or where the good knight Æthelhelm lived. He had heard a report that Oda's father was one of the Danes who came over with Ingwar and Ubba.[6] It is a tempting suggestion that Oda was the Danish boy whom Asser saw in a monk's habit in Alfred's new monastery at Athelney.[7] But Asser wrote in 893,[8] and if Oda died at seventy—a supposition which would make him a bishop at thirty-eight and archbishop at fifty-three—he must have been born in 888. We might indeed date him a little earlier; in any case the suggestion is not easily reconcilable with what we have been told of his education under Æthelhelm's roof, and with the express statement that he received his habit from Fleury. Moreover, there is no evidence, apart from his tenure of the Wilts bishopric, to connect him specially with Wessex.

Fleury had been reformed about 930, that is twenty years after the foundation of Cluny, and by Odo the second abbot of Cluny: it had, however, retained its independence, and did not come under the Cluniac system of control. It is possible that, as later writers assert, Oda only received his habit thence when he was raised to the see of Canterbury, in 942. Dunstan's great work at Glastonbury was then only beginning; but, by the time that Oswald decided to become a monk, Glastonbury was well under way, and he might have joined Dunstan and Ethelwold there, in the home of the native movement of reform. Had he been of Wessex stock he would probably have done so: but the nephew of the Danish Oda was guided by his uncle's prepossession to Fleury; and hence is to be explained the influence exercised by that foreign house upon a part at least of the revived monasticism of England.

We may now gather together such other notices of Archbishop Oda as are to be found in pre-Conquest sources. It will be convenient to begin with the Lives of St Dunstan.

1. In the Life written by the Saxon priest B, about the year 1000, Oda is mentioned twice. First we have the well-known story that on Edwy's coronation day the boy-king left the royal banquet for the company of two women of high birth, a mother and a daughter, who were designing to entrap him into a marriage with one or other of them. The archbishop, observing the displeasure of the nobles, sent Abbot Dunstan and Bishop Kynesige, Dunstan's kinsman, to bring him back to the royal feast. They found him seated between the two women, the crown lying on the ground. Dunstan forced him away from them, placed the crown on his head, and brought him back to the nobles. The wrath of Æthelgifu, the elder of the women, drove Dunstan into exile.[9]

Oda is again mentioned when his death is recorded, and the tale is told of his successor Ælfsin, the bishop of Winchester, that he perished of cold in the Alps when on his way to Rome to fetch his pall. But nothing is said of Ælfsin's contemptuous reproach of Oda, nor indeed is he discredited in any way.[10]

2. Adelard, in his Life of St Dunstan (c. 1010), speaks of Oda only in connexion with Dunstan's consecration to the see of Worcester. The archbishop, he says, omitting mention of the title of the church to which Dunstan was appointed, to the amazement of all assigned him by title to the Metropolitan Church of Christ at Canterbury. To those who humbly remonstrated he replied: 'I know, beloved, what God speaketh in me;' and this was afterwards accounted an inspired prophecy.[11]

3. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in its pre-Conquest form mentions neither Oda's accession nor his death. But the Worcester Chronicle (D) has under 958 the entry: 'In this year Archbishop Oda separated King Edwy and Ælgifu, for that they were too near akin.'[12] Thus we have three early stories of the interference of Oda in the domestic life of the young king; and all of them are different, though not necessarily irreconcilable.

4. We will next take the evidence of charters. Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, 660, prints a charter dated 927, which is attested by 'Odo Scyrburnensis episcopus'.[13] This is one of a group of grants to Christ Church, Canterbury (cf. nos. 747, 766), in Cod. Lambeth. 1212, in all of which a like attestation is found. They cannot be regarded as authentic copies in their present form. The Canterbury scribe may have added the titles of the bishops' sees. The third of the group (dated 941) has 'Alfred episcopus' as another witness,, without naming his see: but in fact this Ælfred was the bishop of Sherborne from 933 to 943. Accordingly, we cannot regard no. 660 as strong evidence that Oda was already a bishop in 927, though it is quite possible that the date is correct.

A Winchester charter (B. C. S. 663), attested by 'Oda episcopus', is but slender evidence for the year 928; but after this he certainly attests as bishop until 941, and as archbishop from 942 onwards.

His last attestations are in the early part of 957, while Edgar the king's brother is still at court. The most important of these, and possibly the last (May 9, 957), is B. C. S. 999, the original of which is printed in Crawford Charters, no. V. This is a grant from King Edwy of land at Ely[14] to Oda himself, 'fidelissimo meo archiepiscopo meoque patrono, toto mentis affectu, cum consensu meorum obtimatum.' Perhaps the king protests his affection a little too much: the breach must have quickly followed. It is generally supposed that Edwy's marriage with Ælfgifu caused the archbishop's abstention from court. A Saxon charter (B. C. S. 972), attested by 'Ælfgifu the king's wife and Æthelgifu the king's wife's mother', has three episcopal witnesses; but Oda's name does not appear. If it be true that in 958 he succeeded in annulling this marriage, yet it cannot be shown by any trustworthy charter that he appeared again at court, and the probable date of his death is June 2, 958.

The real reason for his withdrawal may have been connected with the breach between Edwy and Edgar, even if he did not openly side with the latter. His consecration of Dunstan for Edgar can hardly have been pleasing to Edwy and his friends.

Before leaving the charters we may notice a Saxon bequest relating to Christ Church, Canterbury, which gives us the names of some of Oda's clergy and monks (B. C. S. 1010). 'This is the witness of Oda archbishop, Byrhtere, Cænƿig, pealdred mass-priests, Sigefreð, Ospeald, Freðegod, Sigered, Heared deacons,' &c. As we cannot date the document, we cannot say positively that Oswald the archbishop's nephew is here referred to, though it is not unlikely. Of Freðegod we have further knowledge.

We may here add that a mention of Oda and his brother Athelstan is found in connexion with Burwell in Hist. Ram., p. 49.

5. A poetical Life of Wilfrid is printed by Raine, Historians of York, i. 105 ff. William of Malmesbury informs us that it was written by one Fridegodus.[15] Prefixed to it is a prefatory epistle by Archbishop Oda, in which he declares that he carried the body of Wilfrid from Ripon to Canterbury, thus rescuing it from shameful neglect. The style of this epistle is exceptionally turgid and obscure. For the controversy as to this removal see Raine, ibid. xxxix, xliii.

6. A letter of Oda to his suffragans, after a synod held in King Edmund's time, is quoted at some length by William of Malmesbury :[16] and various synodical constitutions are printed by Wilkins (i. 212 ff.).

7. Oda is mentioned as having been his patron by Abbo of Fleury, in an acrostic poem addressed to Archbishop Dunstan (Mem. of Dunstan, p. 410):

Solus Odo plus cenSor qui iure sacerdoS
Te pater ante fuiT; sat nos amplexus amaviT.

8. The Episcopal Lists contained in Tib. B. 5 were drawn up, probably at Glastonbury, about the year 990 ; being a continuation to Archbishop Sigeric' s time of the series contained in C.C.C. Camb. 183.[17] Here Oda appears as the second bishop of the see of Wilts ('Wiltunensis'), between Æthelstan and Ælric. In the list for Canterbury there is no name between Oda and Dunstan. That list ends thus:

Oda se goda

This is the earliest mention of the title of honour—Oda the Good—which a later writer tells us was given to Oda by Dunstan himself. It is interesting to note that in the same manuscript Sigeric, who had been abbot of Glastonbury, is entered in the list for Wilts as 'Sigericus dei amicus'.

2. Notes on 'Vita Odonis Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis'.

This Life is printed by Mabillon, Acta SS. O. S. B. vii. 286 ff., ex MS. cod. Thuano-Colbertino. It is assigned to no author in the manuscript, but the editor conjectured that it was written by Osbern of Canterbury. Wharton, as we have said above, printed it again in Anglia Sacra, ii. 78 ff. 5 from a Lambeth MS., still ascribing it to Osbern; but in his preface (p. x) he recants this judgement, and assigns it to Eadmer, among whose works it is found in C.C.C. Cambridge 371. We keep open for the moment the question of authorship. The pages of Anglia Sacra are here quoted, as being the more accessible: the divergence of text is small, save that lines have been dropped in Wharton's edition at several points.

78. sicut rosa e spinis floruit. Cf. Vita Oswaldi, 403 'ut vernis floruit rosis, et enormes peccaminum spin as post baptismi sacramentum defudit'. But here the 'spinae ' are his pagan parents; as in the verses printed by Mabillon at the end of the Life (p. 295):

Ut rosa de spinis, sic prodiit Odo paganis.

79. Graeca et Latina lingua magistris edocendum tradidit; guarum linguarum plerisque tune temporis in gente Anglorum usus erat a discipulis beatae memoriae Theodori archiepiscopi profectus. Cf. Eadmer, Vita Bregwini (Angl. Sacr. ii. 185): c Florebat etiam adhuc quaque per Angliam exercitia ac studia literarum, quae ex beati Theodori pontificis Cantuariorum ciusque discipulorum traditione totam terram magnifice irrigabant.'

ita ut posset poemata fingere. Eadmer, in his Life of Wilfrid, ascribes to Oda himself the metrical Life of Wilfrid written by Frithegode, to which Oda wrote the preface: see Raine, Historians of York, I. xxxix.

Post haec Sacramento baptismatis renatus. This is the first serious discrepancy with the Vita Oswaldi, which puts Oda's baptism before the troubles which led him to leave home.

quantum ad instituta canonum spectat. Oda's premature ordination has no place in the earlier account, though it may possibly have been suggested by certain inexact phrases of it; as 'deinde excursis perpaucis anni mensibus', &c. (Osw., p. 405). In his Life of Dunstan Eadmer lays stress on the regularity of that saint's ordination (p. 173): 'Dunstanus ergo monachus sine dilatione factus est, et deinde legitimo tempore per canonicas sacrorum ordinum successiones etiam ad sacerdotii gradum … provectus.' This is a silent correction of Osbern's account (p. 83): 'celeriter ilium monachal! ac sacerdotali gratia promovit.'

antiquorum exemplorum auctoritate victus. Cf. infra 81: 'Canonum fatetur auctoritate prohiberi … iuxta veterum monumenta librorum … exemplum … victus in his,' &c.

secreta male actae vitae ei aperire. The statement that the courtiers made him their father-confessor has no counterpart in the earlier narrative.

Interea dux regi suggessit. The whole story of the visit to Rome is elaborated. The king, who is Alfred (see supra 78), furnishes gifts: both Athelm and Alfred die nearly at the same time. The writer had plainly identified Athelm with the alderman of Wilts who bore Alfred's gifts to Rome in 887, and died shortly before the king in 898: see A.S. Chron. sub annis. This identification sufficiently explains his statement as to Oda's premature ordination. If we suppose Oda to have lived to be 90, he must have been born in 868, and would have been only 19 when, being already in priest's orders, he accompanied Athelm to Rome.

per sex continuos dies. Athelm's sudden heart-attack is extended into an illness of six days, and he is made to send all his companions on before him with the exception of Oda. The king to whom Oda is introduced on his return is King Alfred, and not, as in the earlier account, the king who, on hearing of the miracle, made him bishop of Wilts (namely, King Athelstan).

80. Scireburnae, nunc autem Sarisburiae. Hermann, bishop of Ramsbury (or Wilts) 1045, and also of Sherborne (or Dorset), removed the see of the united dioceses to Old Sarum c. 1075. Hence the confusion between Wilts and Sherborne, which we have already noted in certain Canterbury copies of charters.

Anno, &c. The story of the restoration of King Athelstan's sword by Bishop Oda at the battle of Brunanburh does not appear in the early sources.

81. Ne pontifex ecclesia sua relicta ad aliam migret. This was an important element in the charges against Pope Formosus half a century earlier; but the controversy seems at that time to have found no echoes in England. In 1122 Eadmer, who had been elected and enthroned as bishop of St Andrews, though not yet consecrated, when urged to resign his claim, declared that this was not possible: the bishops whom he had consulted held 'eum ecclesiam quam canonice electus regendam susceperat nulla ratione iuxta scita canonum indemnatum dimittere posse' (Hist. Nov. iv, p. 299). Similarly, he tells how Hervey, bishop of Bangor, failed to get himself translated either to Lisieux or to Ely, so long as Anselm lived (ibid. iii. 139, Pope Paschal's letter: ( Gualensis episcopi causam sacris omnino canonibus obviare non nescis'; and ibid. iv, p. 211).

Oda's objection is represented as being overcome by the precedents of Mellitus of London and Justus of Rochester; but he could not have been unaware that his immediate predecessors, Athelm and Wulfhelm, had been translated from Wells; apart from these, indeed, the only other precedent was that of Cuthbert, bishop of Hereford in 736, translated to Canterbury in 740.

Omnes qui eis successerunt usque in praesens monachi, ut omnibus constaty extiterint. We have no satisfactory evidence that either Athelm or Wulfhelm was a monk. After Anselm's death an effort was made to obtain a secular as primate: e obiectum est nullum a beato Augustino nisi de monachico ordine unquam pontificatui Cantuariensi praesedisse, uno dumtaxat excepto' (who was deposed by the Pope): Eadmer, Hist. Nov. iv, p. 222. Accordingly, we see that here again the scruple of a later period has been introduced into the narrative, which thus becomes almost a controversial tract.

82. Nuncii ad abbatem coenobii sancti Benedicti Floriacensis. That Oda received the monastic habit from Fleury is stated by the biographer of Oswald, who happens to mention it, not in any connexion with his promotion to Canterbury, but as the reason why Oswald himself went to Fleury. But that the abbot of Fleury should have crossed to England to bring the habit to Oda is not very easy of credence.

In the Life of Oswald by Capgrave (or John of Tynemouth), which is largely drawn from Eadmer's Life of Oswald, Oda is made to become a monk at Fleury in his youth: 'idem vero sanctus Odo in iuventute constitutus mari transito habitum monasticum apud eundem Floriacum susceperat.'[18] This is probably a conscious correction_, but of course no historical weight can be given to it.

Quidam clerici maligno err ore seducti. The original narrative introduced the story of the bleeding of the Host without any controversial reference: it was the repetition 'in our days' of an ancient miracle, and was granted as the reward of Oda's sanctity. Here, however, it is represented as an answer to Oda's prayers, in order that the monstrous error of certain secular clergy might be publicly refuted. The former account lays stress on its secrecy, this on its publicity. Once more, therefore, we find that current controversy has led to the recasting of the narrative.

83. Nulla aut infusio imbrium aut vis ventorum … in tribus annis. The story that no heavy rain fell while the church at Canterbury was roofless is here elaborated. No rain at all arid no storm of wind—such was the answer to Oda's special prayers; and this immunity lasted for three years: moreover, heavy rains fell immediately outside the city walls. It may be that this was the gradual growth of a Canterbury tradition, and not the invention of a particular writer.

Verens ne si illum, &c. The statement that Edwy was restrained at first by the fear that Oda might defer his coronation is peculiar to this account. In the main the Life of Dunstan, in the form in which Osbern cast it, has been followed. The story of Edwy's mistress comes from Oswald's biographer; but her identification with the elder of the two women in the coronation story belongs to the present writer, as also does the mention of Ireland as the place of her banishment: the cruelty to which she was finally subjected appears first in Osbern. Oda's prophetic words at Dunstan's consecration are drawn from Adelard's Life of Dunstan, but our author has elaborated the scene. The sentence 'non enim lege stringitur sancti spiritus donum' (which is found in Mabillon's text, though not in Wharton's) has a close parallel in Eadmer's Life of Dunstan, p. 195: 'non constringitur lege donum et vocatio dei.'

85. Alfsinus … cognomento Lippe. This second name is an addition of our author. The charge against Ælfsin that he had bribed the nobles begins with Osbern's Life of Dunstan, as also the statement that he had sought promotion to Canterbury on the previous vacancy, when Oda was appointed. The story of his insult to Oda's tomb is considerably embroidered, and new details as to his death in the Alps are introduced.

86. Odo se gode. The story of the dove which appeared over Dunstan on Whitsun Day, and afterwards rested on Oda's tomb, is not found in the earlier Lives of Dunstan, nor in Osbern's; but it is the climax of a longer narrative in Eadmer's Life (pp. 202 ff.), where the sentences from 'genua flecteret' to 'a Cantuaritis appellatur' are almost word for word the same as here.

As the result of this investigation we may affirm with confidence that the Life of Oda which we have been examining comes to us from the pen of Eadmer, the precentor of Canterbury.

In his Life of Oswald,[19] Eadmer has followed Oswald's original biographer in introducing a preliminary description of his uncle Oda. It is interesting to compare this with his Life of Oda which we have just been considering.

He first tells the story of the restoration of the king's sword at the battle of Brunanburh: portions of the language used are identical with the story in his Life of Oda. Oswald's first biographer has no reference to this incident.

In the account of Edwy's mistress the original narrative is more closely followed (e.g. 'omissa coniuge sua '), and the woman is not identified with one of those who appear in the coronation story. Perpetual banishment to Ireland is spoken of; but no return to England, nor any brutality of treatment.

The story of the restoration of Christ Church, Canterbury, is improved by the statement that rain fell outside the city: but the period of three years is not given.

The bleeding of the Host is recorded, but no controversial use is made of the miracle.

These are the only incidents related. Nothing is said of the objections raised by Oda on his appointment to the see of Canterbury.

At a later point, when Oda is sending Oswald to Fleury, the original statement that this was the monastery whence the archbishop had himself received the monastic habit is worked up thus: 'Monachus loci illius sum. Habitum enim religionis,ad onus regiminis sub quo gemo vocatus, inde suscepi.' It is noteworthy that the words here italicized are absent from one of the early MSS.: it is possible that they are a later addition by Eadmer himself.

As Eadmer gives no hint that he has written a Life of Oda, it is probable that his Life of Oswald is the earlier work.

William of Malmesbury's account of Oda in the Gesta Pontificum (pp. 20-4) is almost entirely drawn from the Life of Oda by Eadmer. He does not fall into the mistake of making him bishop of Sherborne, but says expressly that he was bishop of Wilts with his seat at Ramsbury, 'permanente episcopo in Scireburna'; which looks like a conscious correction of the narrative before him. He plays on the 'rosa e spinis', saying: 'sicut ortu suo dumorum asperitatem eluctatur rosa, ita depressa feritate Danica, cuius gentis oriundus erat, in magnum specimen bonitatis evasit.' He states that Oda served for a time in warfare under King Edward the Elder: 'Eduardo aliquamdiu militans, nee multo post comam tonsus clericatum professus fuerat,' though nothing in the earlier accounts seems to suggest this. The story of King Athelstan's sword at the battle of Brunanburh is complicated by the fact that William had already told it (as he here says) in the Gesta Regum (i. 143 f.), but in a different form. There Anlaf, having made a night attack, surprises and slays a bishop, and then comes suddenly upon the king, who discovers that his sword has fallen out of its scabbard. After invoking God and Saint Aldhelm, he puts his hand to the scabbard again and finds the sword there: the sword, says William, is still preserved in the royal treasury in memory of the miracle. In the Gesta Pontificum this story is blended with the story of Oda's restoration of the sword as given by Eadmer.

Oda is made to cross the sea and fetch his habit from Fleury, when about to be made archbishop. His removal of Wilfrid's bones from Ripon to Canterbury is recorded, and the poem which he had written on that saint is said to be the work of a certain Fridegodus. Then a synodal letter is quoted as an example of Oda's own literary powers. The statement that Oda recovered many properties of the archiepiscopal see, lost by the incursions of the Danes, leads on to the quotation of Osbern's eulogy, that England would never have ceased to mourn for Oda had not Dunstan been his successor—words taken from Osbern's Life of Dunstan. In telling the story of Ælfsin's insult to Oda's tomb, he makes the appearance of Oda the next night occur to Ælfsin himself, and not to one of his clergy. At a later point, in speaking of Dunstan (p. 30), he mentions the dove which settled on Oda's tomb, and the title given by Dunstan—Odo se gode.

  1. I have recently endeavoured to show that the biographer's account of Edgar's coronation at Bath is largely derived verbatim from a copy of the Coronation Service akin to that which was probably used for King Ethelred. Journal of Theological Studies, October 1917, pp 56 f.
  2. See above, p. 11.
  3. Hist. of York, i. 403. It would seem as if something had fallen out of the text at this point. For after quotations from Isaiah and the Psalms the writer goes on: 'Explicita apostolica epistola, ad ordinem Christo iuvante redeamus propriae relationis. Quoniam superius beatissimi viri Odonis venerauda memoria facta est', &c.
  4. There is no suggestion here of premature ordination. The writer's notes of time are extremely vague and are oddly expressed: Oda lives with Æthelhelm 'perplurimis mensibus'. Then he was ordained deacon. Then, 'after he had passed the time of boyhood and adolescence, and when now the [gap in MS.] of his age was drawing near, he began to glow through the indwelling Holy Spirit shed abroad in him …' Then ‘excursis perpaucis anni mensibus’ he was ordained priest.
  5. The writer's vagueness as to dates is again apparent: 'Excurso perparvi spatii tempore defunctus est archiepiscopus.' But Oda became bisfrop of Ramsbury in 927, if not earlier; and Archbishop Wulfhelm died c. 941, in the second or third year of King Edmund.
  6. See above, p. 12.
  7. 'In quo etiam monasterio unum paganicae gentis edoctum in monachico habitu degentem, iuyenein admodum, vidimus, non ultimum scilicet eoruni,' Stevenson, Asser, p. 81
  8. Ibid., p. lxxiv.
  9. Memorials of St Dunstan, ed. Stubbs, p. 32.
  10. Ibid., p. 37.
  11. Ibid., p. 60.
  12. It cannot, however, be affirmed with certainty that this is pre-Conquest evidence. A.S. Chron. D alone has:
    958. Her on þissum geare Oda arcebiscop totwæmde Eadwi cyning ⁊ Ælgife . forþæm þe hi wæron to gesybbe.

    Is this a pre-Conquest statement? Plummer says (II. lxxix): ' We must, therefore, recognize the fact that D as we have it is a late compilation, some of which dates from after 1100, and none of it probably from much before 1100.' This is his judgement, in spite of the fact that Sir G. Warner had said that the earliest hands might be as early as 1050 (p. xxxix).

    Two other entries distinctive of D show an interest in the wives of the kings:

    946. The whole annal is in A, except for the insertion of the following words, after the statement that King Edmund died on St. Augustine's mass-day: 'Ꝥ was wide cuð. hu he his dagas geendode . Ꝥ Liofa Line ofstang set Puclan cyrcan. ⁊ Æþelflaed æt Domerhame, Ælfgares dohter ealdormannes, wæs þa his cwen.'

    965. Her on þissum geare Eadgar cyning genam Ælfyðe him to cwene, heo wæs Ordgares debtor ealdormannes.

    [Inserted also in the marg. of F, which reads: 'Ælfðryðe him to gebeodan.']

    The mention of Liofa as the robber who murdered King Edmund, and of Pucklechurch as the scene of the murder, are only found elsewhere in William of Malmesbury (G. R. 159) and Florence of Worcester. None of the biographers of Dunstan mention the name of the place, not even W. of M., though he says that the 'villa' was given to Glastonbury for his death-rites ('data in inferias villa').

    Florence of Worcester tells the story in a different way from W. of M., and introduces the word 'cleptor' from the biographer B (p. 29).

    The Chronicler D does not tell us that Edmund's first wife was Ælfgifu, the mother of Edwy and Edgar.

  13. Oda's see was Ramsbury ('Wiltuniensis', Hist. of York, i. 406).
  14. The editors of the Crawford Charters (p. 81) suppose that 'æt Helig ' cannot mean Ely as the whole of the Isle of Ely was then in the possession of St Æthelthryth's monastery. But was this so? Is there any reason to mistrust the statement that St Ethelwold bought, c. 970, twenty hides which the king had infra insulam (Lib. Eliens., p. 109)?
  15. Gesta Pont., p. 22.
  16. Ibid., p. 23.
  17. I have discussed these early episcopal lists in The Saxon Bishops of Wells (Oxf. Univ. Press, 1918), pp. 7 ff.
  18. Mabillon, Acta SS. 0. S. B., vii. 709; Raine, Hist. of York, ii. 503.
  19. Raine, Historians of York, ii. 2-5.