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Book III  



1. When Knútr was dead and honourably buried in the monastery built at Winchester in honour of St. Peter, the lady, Queen Emma, remained alone in the kingdom, sorrowing for the bitter death of her lord and alarmed at the absence of her sons. For one of them, namely Hörthaknútr, whom his father had made king of the Danes, was in his own kingdom, and two others were residing with their relative Robert, for they had been sent to the country of Normandy to be brought up. And so it came to pass that certain Englishmen, forgetting the piety of their lately deceased king, preferred to dishonour their country than to ornament it, and deserted the noble sons of the excellent Queen Emma, choosing as their king one Haraldr, who is declared, owing to a false estimation of the matter, to be a son of a certain concubine of the above-mentioned King Knútr; as a matter of fact, the assertion of very many people has it that the same Haraldr was secretly taken from a servant who was in childbed, and put in the chamber of the concubine, who was indisposed; and this can be believed as the more truthful account. Soon after being chosen, this man, fearing for the future, summoned Archbishop ?thelnoth, a man gifted with high courage and wisdom, and commanded and prayed to be consecrated king, and that the royal sceptre, which was committed to the archbishop's custody, should be given to him together with the crown, and that he should be led by the archbishop, since it was not legal that this should be done by another, to the lofty throne of the kingdom. The archbishop refused, declaring by oath that while the sons of Queen Emma lived he would approve or consecrate no other man as king: "Them Knútr entrusted to my good faith; to them I owe fidelity, and with them I shall maintain faith. I lay the sceptre and crown upon the holy altar, and to you I neither refuse nor give them; but by my apostolic authority, I forbid all bishops that any one of them should remove these things, or give them to you or consecrate you. As for you, if you dare, lay hands upon what I have committed to God and his table." He, wretched man, did not know what to do or whither to turn. He used threats and it did not avail him, he promised gifts and sorrowed to gain nothing, for that apostolic man could not be dislodged by threats or diverted by gifts. At length he departed in despair, and so despised the episcopal benediction, that he hated not only the benediction itself, but indeed even turned from the whole Christian religion. For when others entered church to hear mass, as is the Christian custom, he either surrounded the glades with dogs for the chase, or occupied himself with any other utterly paltry matters, wishing only to be able to avoid what he hated. When the English observed his behaviour they sorrowed, but since they had chosen him to be their king, they were ashamed to reject him, and accordingly decided that he should be their king to the end.

2. But Emma, the queen of the kingdom, silently awaited the end of the matter, and for some little time was in her anxiety daily gaining God's help by prayer. But the usurper was secretly laying traps for the queen, since as yet he dared not act openly, but he was allowed to hurt her by nobody. Accordingly, he devised an unrighteous scheme with his companions, and proposed to kill the children of his lady, that henceforth he might be able to reign in security and live in his sins. He would, however, have effected nothing whatever in this matter if, helped by the deceit of fraudulent men, he had not devised what we are about to narrate. For having hit upon a trick, he had a letter composed as if from the queen to her sons, who were resident in Normandy , and of this I do not hesitate to subjoin a copy :

3. 'Emma, queen in name only, imparts motherly salutation to her sons, Eadweard and ?lfred. Since we severally lament the death of our lord, the king, most dear sons, and since daily you are deprived more and more of the kingdom, your inheritance, I wonder what plan you are adopting, since you are aware that the delay arising from your proscrastination is becoming from day to day a support to the usurper of your rule. For he goes round hamlets and cities ceaselessly, and makes the chief men his friends by gifts, threats and prayers. But they would prefer that one of you should rule over them, than that they should be held in the power of him who now commands them. I entreat, therefore, that one of you come to me speedily and privately, to receive from me wholesome counsel, and to know in what manner this matter, which I desire, must be brought to pass. Send back word what you are going to do about these matters by the present messenger, whoever he may be. Farewell, beloved ones of my heart.'

4. This forgery, when it had been composed at the command of Haraldr the tyrant, was sent to the royal youths by means of deceitful couriers, presented to them as being from their unwitting mother, and received by them with honour, as a gift from their parent. They read its wiles in their innocence, and alas too trustful of the fabrication, they unwisely replied to their parent that one of them would come to her, and determined upon day and time and place for her. The messengers, accordingly, returned and told the foes of God what answer had been made to them by the most noble youths. And so they awaited the prince's arrival, and schemed what they should do to him to injure him. Now on the fixed day Alfred, the younger prince, selected companions with his brother's approval, and beginning his journey came into the country of Flanders . There he lingered a little with Marquis Baldwin, and when asked by him to lead some part of his forces with him as a precaution against the snares of the enemy, was unwilling to do so, but taking only a few men of Boulogne, boarded ship and crossed the sea. But when he carne near to the shore, he was soon recognised by the enemy, who came and intended to attack him, but he recognised them and ordered the ships to be pushed off from that shore. He landed, however, at another port, and attempted to go to his mother, deeming that he had entirely evaded the bane of the ambush. But when he was already near his goal, Earl Godwine met him and took him under his protection, and forthwith became his soldier by averment under oath. Diverting him from London, he led him into the town called Guildford, and lodged his soldiers there in separate billets by twenties, twelves and tens, leaving a few with the young man, whose duty was to be in attendance upon him. And he gave them food and drink in plenty, and withdrew personally to his own lodging, until he should return in the morning to wait upon his lord with due honour.

5. But after they had eaten and drunk, and being weary, had gladly ascended their couches, behold, men leagued with the most abominable tyrant Haraldr appeared, entered the various billets, secretly removed the arms of the innocent men, confined them with iron manacles and fetters, and kept them till the morrow to be tortured. But when it was morning, the innocent men were led out, and were iniquitously condemned without a hearing. For they were all disarmed and delivered with their hands bound behind their backs to most vicious executioners, who were ordered, furthermore, to spare no man unless the tenth lot should reprieve him. Then the torturers made the bound men sit in a row, and reviling them beyond measure, followed the example of that murderer of the Theban Legion, who first decimated guiltless men, though more mercifully than they did. For that utterly pagan ruler spared nine of the Christians and killed the tenth, but these most profane and false Christians killed nine of the good Christians and let the tenth go. That pagan, though he massacred Christians, nevertheless ordered that they should be beheaded on an open plain unfettered by bonds, like glorious soldiers. But these, though they were in name Christians, were nevertheless in their actions totally pagan, and butchered the innocent heroes with blows from their spears bound as they were, like swine. Hence all ages will justly call such torturers worse than dogs, since they brought to condemnation the worthy persons of so many soldiers not by soldierly force but by their treacherous snares. Some, as has been said, they slew, some they placed in slavery to themselves; others they sold, for they were in the grip of blind greed, but they kept a few loaded with bonds to be subjected to greater mockery. But the divine pity did not fail the innocent men who stood in such peril, for I myself have seen many whom it snatched from that derision, acting from heaven without the help, of man, so that the impediments of manacles and fetters were shattered.

6. Therefore, since I am dealing briefly with the sufferings of the soldiers, it remains that I should curtail the course of my narrative in telling of the martyrdom of their prince, that is to say the glorious ?lfred, lest perchance if I should choose to go over all that was done to him in detail, I should multiply the grief of many people and particularly of you, Lady Queen. In this matter I beg you, lady, not to ask more than this, which I, sparing your feelings, will briefly tell. For many things could be told if I were not sparing your sorrow. Indeed there is no greater sorrow for a mother than to see or hear of the death of a most dear son. The royal youth, then, was captured secretly in his lodging, and having been taken to the island called Ely, was first of all mocked by the most wicked soldiery. Then still more contemptible persons were selected, that the lamented youth might be condemned by them in their madness. When these men had been set up as judges, they decreed that first of all both his eyes should be put out as a sign of contempt. After they prepared to carry this out, two men were placed on his arms to hold them meanwhile, one on his breast, and one on his legs, in order that the punishment might be more easily inflicted on him. Why do I linger over this sorrow? As I write my pen trembles, and I am horror-stricken at what the most blessed youth suffered. Therefore I will the sooner turn away from the misery of so great a disaster, and touch upon the conclusion of this martyrdom as far as its consummation. For he was held fast, and after his eyes had been put out was most wickedly slain. When this murder had been performed, they left his lifeless body, which the servants of Christ, the monks, I mean, of the same Isle of Ely , took up and honourably interred. However, many miracles occur where his tomb is, as people report who even declare most repeatedly that they have seen them. And it is justly so: for he was martyred in his innocence, and therefore it is fitting that the might of the innocent should be exercised through him. So let Queen Emma rejoice in so great an intercessor, since him, who she formerly had as a son on earth, she now has as a patron in the heavens.

7. But the queen, smitten by so unheard-of a crime, considered in silent thought what it was needful that she should do. And so her mind was carried this way and that in uncertainty, and she was chary of trusting herself further to such perfidy, for she was dazed beyond consolation with sorrow for her murdered son, although she derived comfort in a much greater degree from his assured rest. And so she was, as we have said, distressed for a twofold reason, that is to say, because of misery and sadness at her son's death, and also because of uncertainty concerning what remained of her own life and her position. But perchance at this point some one, whom ill-will towards this lady has rendered spiteful and odious, will protest to me: "Why did she refuse to die the same death, since she in no way doubted that her son, who had been slain under these conditions of treachery, enjoyed eternal rest?" To rebut this I consider that one must use such a reply as: "If the persecutor of the Christian religion and faith had been present, she would not have shrunk from encountering mortal danger. On the other hand it would have appeared wrong and abominable to all the orthodox, if a matron of such reputation had lost her life through desire for worldly dominion, and indeed death would not have been considered a worthy end to the fortunes of so great a lady." Keeping these and similar arguments in mind, and considering advantageous to her fortunes that authentic injunction of the Lord's exhortation, in which, to wit, He says to the elect, " If they should persecute you in one city, flee into another," she acted upon a hope of saving what was left of her position, which was under the circumstances in which she was placed sufficiently sound, and at length followed a sagacious plan by the grace of the divine regard. She believed it expedient for her to seek foreign nations, and she brought this decision to consummation with shrewd judgment. However, she did not find that those nations which she sought were to be foreign to her, for while she sojourned among them she was honoured by them in a most proper manner, just as she was by her own followers. And so she assembled as many nobles who were faithful to herself as she could, in view of the circumstances and the time. When these were present, she told them her inmost thoughts. When they had proceeded to approve the plan put in train by their lady, their ships' supplies are prepared for exile. And so, having enjoyed favourable winds, they crossed the sea and touched at a certain port not far from the town of Bruges . The latter town is inhabited by Flemish settlers, and enjoys very great fame for the number of its merchants and for its affluence in all things upon which mankind places the greatest value. Here indeed she was, as she deserved, honourably received by Baldwin, the marquis of that same province, who was the son of a great and totally unconquered prince, and by his wife Athala (a name meaning ' most noble '), daughter of Robert, king of the French, and Queen Constance. By them, furthermore, a house in the above-named town, suitable for royal outlay, was allotted to the queen, and in addition a kind offer of entertainment was made. These kindnesses she partly accepted with the greatest thanksgiving, partly she shewed that up to a point she did not stand in need.

8. And so, being placed in such great security, she sent messengers to her son Eadweard to ask that he should come to her without delay. He obeyed them, mounted his horse and came to his mother. But when they had the opportunity for discussion, the son declared that he pitied his mother's misfortunes, but that he was able in no way to help, since the English nobles had sworn no oath to him, a circum stance indicating that help should be sought from his brother. Thereupon Eadweard returned to Normandy , and the queen still hesitated in her mind as to what she ought to do. After her son's departure, she dispatched messengers to her son Hörthaknútr, who then held sway over the Danes, and through them revealed to him her unheard-of sorrow, and begged him to hasten to come to her as soon as possible. The horror of so great a crime made his ears tremble, and first of all as he deliberated his spirits sank stunned by intolerable sorrow. For he burned-in his heart to go and avenge his brother's injuries, nay more, to obey his mother's message.

9. Accordingly, providing for either eventuality, he got ready the greatest forces he could of ships and soldiers, and assembled the greater number of them in a certain inlet of the sea, to come to his support if on his journey the opportunity to give battle or the need for defence should befall him. For the rest, he set out accompanied by not more than ten ships to go to his mother, who was labouring under the very great distress of sorrow. When, therefore, they were absorbed in their prosperous voyage, and were not only eagerly ploughing the salt foam with brazen prows, but also raising their topsails to the favourable winds, whereas the surface of the sea is never depend able, but is always found to be unreliable and faithless, suddenly a murky tempest of winds and clouds was rolled up from behind, and the surface of the sea forthwith was agitated by overtaking south winds. And so the anchors were dropped from the prows, and caught in the sands of the bottom, which is what is wont to be done in such desperate straits. This incident, although it was distressing to them at the time, is not believed to have taken place without the consent of God, who disposes all things, as the issue of the affair afterwards proved, when the limbs of all yielded to quiet rest and sleep. For on the next night, when Hörthaknútr was at rest in his bed, by divine providence a vision appeared, which comforted and consoled him and bade him be of good cheer. Furthermore, it exhorted him not to desist from his undertaking, for after a space of a few days the unjust usurper of his kingdom, Haraldr, would perish, and the kingdom conquered by his father's strength would return safely by most rightful succession to himself, the rightful heir.

10. The dreamer accordingly, when he awoke, was enlightened by the signs described above, and returned thanks to Almighty God for such great consolation, and had at the same time not the slightest doubt about the coming events which the vision above described had foretold. Thereupon, the wrath of the sea having sub sided, and the storm having dropped, he spread his bellying sails to the favourable winds; and thus, having enjoyed a successful voyage, he touched at Bruges . Here, having moored his ships with anchors and rods, and having commissioned sailors to look after them, he betook himself directly with chosen companions to the lodging of his mother. What grief and what joy sprang up at his arrival, no page shall ever unfold to you. There was no little pain when his mother beheld with some stretch of her imagination, the face of her lost one in his countenance; likewise she rejoiced with a great joy at seeing the survivor safe in her presence. And so she knew that the tender mercy of God had regard to her, since she was still undeprived of such a consolation. And soon afterwards, while the son was lingering with his mother expecting the events promised by the vision above described, messengers arrived bearing glad tidings, and announced, to wit, that Haraldr was dead, reporting furthermore that the English nobles did not wish to oppose him, but to rejoice together with him in jubilation of every kind; therefore they begged him not to scorn to return to the kingdom which was his by hereditary right, but to take counsel for both his own position and their safety with regard to the common good.

11. Encouraged by these things, Hörthaknútr and his mother decided to return to the shores of the ancestral realm. When word of this matter smote the ears of the people, soon you would have seen pain and grief to be universal. For the rich mourned her departure, with whom they had ever enjoyed pleasant converse; the poor mourned her departure, by whose continual generosity they were relieved from the burden of want; the widows mourned with the orphans, whom she had freely enriched when they were taken from the holy baptismal font. Therefore I do not know with what praises to exalt her, who never failed to be immediately present with those being re-born in Christ. Her faith clearly calls for praise and at the same time her kindness is in every way to be extolled. If I should propose to discuss this matter with regard to her individual good deeds, I believe that my time would be exhausted before my subject, so I hasten to return to the course of our narrative.

12. While preparations were being made for the return of the queen and her son, the whole shore was perturbed by lamentation and groaning, and all raised angry right hands to the sky. They wept, in short, that she, whom during her whole exile they had regarded as a fellow citizen, was leaving them. She had not been a burden some guest to any of the rich, nor had she been oppressive to the poor in any matter whatever. Therefore you would have thought that all were leaving their native soil, you would have said that all the women intended to seek foreign lands along with her. Such was the lamentation on the whole shore, such was the wailing of all the people standing by. Although they rejoiced with her to some extent at her recovery of her old position, nevertheless the matrons could not let her go with dry eyes. At last love of the homeland prevailed, and having kissed all severally and having said a tearful farewell to them, she sought the deep sea with her son and her followers after a great abundance of tears had been shed on both sides.

13. Under these circumstances the English nobles, lacking confidence in the legation previously sent, met them before they crossed the sea, deeming that the best course was for them to make amends to the king and queen, and to place 'themselves devotedly under their dominion. When Hörthaknútr and his mother had been apprised by these men, and when he had at length reached a port on the other side of the sea, he was most gloriously received by all the inhabitants of that country, and thus by the grace of the divine favour the realm which was properly his was restored. After the events described, he arranged all his affairs in the calm of peace, and being gripped by brotherly love, sent messengers to Eadweard and asked him to come and hold the kingdom together with himself.

14. Obeying his brother's command, he was conveyed to England , and the mother and both sons, having no disagreement between them, enjoy the ready amenities of the kingdom. Here there is loyalty among sharers of rule, here the bond of motherly and brotherly love is of strength indestructible. All these things were granted them by Him, who makes dwellers in a house be of one mind, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, who, abiding in the Trinity, holds a kingdom which flourishes unfading. Amen.