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From The Annals of Roger de Hoveden, Comprising the History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201, Translated from the Latin with Notes and Illustrations by Henry T. Riley, Esq., Volume I, London: H.G. Bohn, 1853; pp. 49-57.

Volume I.

[Part 7: 877-886 A.D.]


In the year 877, the above-mentioned army left Examcester, and marching to Cyppanham,1 a royal town, passed the winter there. King Alfred in these days endured great tribulations, and lived a life of disquietude. In the same year also, Inguar and Haldene came from the country of the Demetæ,2 in which they had wintered, like ravening wolves, after having slaughtered multitudes of Christians there and burned the monasteries, and sailing to Devonshire, were slain there by the
A. D.
50 most valiant thanes of king Alfred, together with twelve hundred men, at Cernwich,3 in which place the said king’s thanes had shut themselves up for safety.

King Alfred being encouraged in a vision by Saint Cuthbert, fought against the Danes, at the time and place where the saint had commanded him; and having gained the victory, from that time forward was always invincible and a terror to the foe. For the king, putting his trust in the Lord, came with an immense army to the place which is called Edderandun,4 near which he found the forces of the enemy prepared for battle. On this, a severe battle being fought, which lasted the greater part of the day, the pagans were conquered and put to flight; the rest being hemmed in by the king’s army, fearing the rigours of famine and cold, and dreading the severity of the king, with tears and entreaties, sued for peace, and offered hostages together with oaths. In addition to this, their king, whose name was Guthrum, declared that he wished to become a Christian; on which, king Alfred having granted all these requests, the above-named king of the pagans, together with thirty chosen men of his army, met him at a place which is called Aalr,5 and king Alfred, receiving him as his son by adoption, raised him from the holy font of baptism, and named him Ethelstan, and enriched him and all his companions who had been baptized with him, with many presents. He remained with the king twelve days, receiving during that time most honorable entertainment, and the king bestowed on him East Anglia, over which Saint Edmund had reigned.

In the year 878, the above-mentioned army of pagans left Scippanham6 as they had promised, and coming to Cirencester remained there one year. In the same year also, an immense army of the pagans came from the parts beyond the sea to the river Thames, and joined the forces before-mentioned. In the same year, an eclipse of the sun took place, between the ninth hour7 and vespers.

In the year 879, the army of the pagans, leaving Cirencester,
A. D.

51 proceeded to East Anglia, and parcelling out that country, began to take up their abode there. The pagans, who had passed the winter in the island of Hame,8 began to visit France,9 and for one year took their quarters at Ghent.

In the year 880, the above-mentioned army of the pagans, having provided themselves with horses, came into the territories of the Franks, on which the Franks engaged them in battle, and came off victorious. The pagans, having now obtained horses, made incursions on every side. In these days, numerous monasteries in that kingdom were demolished and destroyed. In consequence of this, the brethren of the monastery of the abbat Saint Benedict, disinterred his remains from the tomb where they had been deposited, and taking them with them, wandered to and fro.

In the year 881, the above-mentioned army, having towed their ships up the river Meuse, into the interior of France, wintered there one year. In the same year, king Alfred, engaging in a naval fight with the ships of the pagans, overcame them, and took two, after having slain all that were in them. After this, he inflicted numerous wounds upon the commanders of two ships, till at last, laying down their arms, with prayers and entreaties they surrendered to him.

In the year 882, the army of the pagans so often mentioned, took possession of Cundoth,10 and quartered there one year. The army, which, under the command of Alfdene, the king of the pagans, had invaded Northumbria, had for some time been without a leader, in consequence, as I have already mentioned, of the slaughter of Alfdene and Inguar by the thanes of king Alfred: but now, having subdued the inhabitants of the country, they took possession of it, and began to take up their abode there, and to inhabit the districts of Northumbria that they had before laid waste.

Upon this, Saint Cuthbert, appearing in a vision to abbat Edred, commanded him to tell the bishop and all the army of the English and the Danes, that, paying the price of his redemption, they must redeem Cuthred, the son of Hardicanute, whom
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52 the Danes had sold as a slave to a certain widow at Wintingham,11 and when redeemed must make him their king. This was accordingly done, in the thirteenth year of the reign of king Alfred. Cuthred being thus raised to the throne, the episcopal see, which was previously in the island of Lindisfarne, was established at Cestre,12 anciently called Cuneceastre, seven years after its removal from the island of Lindisfarne. At this time also, the law of peace which Saint Cuthbert had also enjoined by means of the above-named abbat, (namely, that whoever should flee to his body, should enjoy peace without molestation from any one, for thirty-seven days,13) both king Cuthred and king Alfred enjoined as a law of perpetual observance. In addition to this, the above-named two kings, with the consent of all, had previously given, in augmentation of the former episcopal see, the whole territory between the Tyne and the Tees to Saint Cuthbert, for a perpetual possession: for long before this period, the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad14 had ceased to exist. And whatever person, with what intent soever, should attempt to infringe these provisions, him with everlasting curses they condemned to the punishments of hell.

There belonged to the bishopric of Lindisfarne, from early times, Luguballia,15 or Luel, and Northam;16 all the churches also, that lay between the river Tweed and the south Tyne, and beyond the uninhabited land, as far as the western side, at this period belonged to the above-named church. These houses also belonged to the see, Carnhum and Culterham, and the two Gedewerdes,17 on the southern bank of the river Tyne, which bishop Egred built; Meilros18 also, and Tigbre, and Tinigham and Colingham, and Brigham, and Tillemuthe, and Northam, above-mentioned, which was anciently called Ubbanford. Mercwrede was also in the possession of this church, having been given with all its appurtenances by king Ceolwulph.

For this house the king, on renouncing the world, transferred
A. D.

53 together with himself to the church of Lindisfarne, of which, he became a monk, and fought for a heavenly kingdom. His body being afterwards brought into the church of the above-named town of Northam, became famous there, according to the report of the inhabitants of the place, for performing many miracles. It was through the agency of this king, after he had become a monk, that licence was granted to the monks of the church of Lindisfarne to drink wine or ale; for before that, they were accustomed to drink nothing but milk and water, according to the ancient tradition of Saint Aidan, the first bishop of that church, and of the monks, who, accompanying him from Scotland, had there, by the liberality of king Oswald, received a refuge, and with great severity of discipline, rejoiced to serve God.

Besides this, the above-named bishop Egred built a church at a place which is called Geinforde, and presented it to Saint Cuthbert; he also built Bellingham in Heorternesse, and two other towns, Becclif and Wigeclif, on the southern bank of the river Tees, which he gave to Saint Cuthbert, for the maintenance and support of his servants; and in like manner, Wodecester, and Whittingham, and Edulfingham, and Ecwlingham,19 being presented by king Ceolwulph, from an early period belonged to Saint Cuthbert.

In the year 883, pope Marinus, in his love for, and at the earnest entreaty of, king Alfred, obligingly made the school of the Saxons at Rome free from all tax and tribute; he also sent many gifts to that king, among which he gave him a large piece of the holy cross, upon which the Son of God was crucified for the salvation of mankind.

At this time the above-mentioned army of the pagans went up the river Sunne20 to Amiens, and quartered themselves there one year.

In the time of king Alfred, there came into England one John, a Scot by birth, a man of shrewd intellect and of great eloquence. Having a long time previously left his country, he came to France to the court of Charles the Bald, by whom he was entertained with great respect, and was honored by him with his particular intimacy. He shared with the king both his serious and his more merry moments, and was the sole companion both of his table and his retirement. He was also a man of great facetiousness and of ready wit, of which
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54 there are instances quoted even to this day; as the following, for instance. He was sitting at table opposite the king, who was on the other side of it, and the cups having gone round and the courses ended, Charles becoming more merry than usual, after some other things, on observing John do something offensive to the French notions of good breeding, he pleasantly rebuked him, and said, “What is there between a sot and a Scot?” On which he turned back this hard hit on its author, and made answer, “A table only.” What could be more facetious than this reply? The king had asked him with reference to the different notions of manners, whereas John made answer with reference to the distance of space. Nor indeed was the king offended; for, being captivated by this prodigy of science, he was unwilling to manifest displeasure by even a word against the master, for by that name he usually called him.

At another time, when the servant had presented a dish to the king at table, which contained two very large fishes, besides one somewhat smaller, he gave it to the master, that he might share it with two clerks who were sitting near him. They were persons of gigantic stature, while he himself was small in person. On this, ever devising something merry, in order to cause amusement to those at table, he kept the two large ones for himself, and divided the smaller one between the two clerks. On the king finding fault with the unfairness of the division, “Nay,” said he, “I have acted right and fairly. For here is a small one,” alluding to himself, “and here are two great ones,” touching the fishes; then, turning to the clerks, “here are two great ones,” said he, pointing at the clerks, “and here is a small one,” touching the fish.

At the request, also, of Charles, he translated the “Hierarchia,” of Dionysius the Areiopagite, from Greek into Latin, word for word; the consequence of which is, that the Latin version can be hardly understood from having been rendered rather according to the Greek order of the words than according to our own idiom. He also composed a treatise, which he entitled περὶ  φύςεων  μερισμοῦ,21 that is to say, “On the Divisions of Nature;” very useful for solving the perplexity as to some questions, making some allowance, however, for him on
A. D.

55certain points. In some respects he has certainly deviated from the track of the Latins by keeping his eyes intently fixed upon the Greeks; for which reason he has even been considered a heretic, and a certain Florus wrote against him. And, indeed, there are in his book, περὶ  φύςεων  very many things which, unless they are most carefully examined, seem opposed to the Catholic faith. Pope Nicholas is known to have been of this opinion; for he says, in an epistle to Charles, “It has been reported to our Apostleship, that a certain man, named John, by birth a Scot, has lately translated into Latin the work of Saint Dionysius the Areiopagite, which he eloquently wrote in Greek, touching the divine names and the celestial orders. Now, according to the usual custom, this ought to have been sent to us and submitted to the approval of our judgment; and the more especially as the said John, though he is stated to be a man of great knowledge, has been said for some time past by general report not to be quite sound on certain points.”

In consequence of this discredit he became tired of France, and came to king Alfred, by whose munificence he was appointed a teacher, and settled at Malmesbury, as appears from the king’s writings. Here, some years afterwards, he was stabbed with their writing instruments22 by the boys whom he was teaching, and quitted this life in great and cruel torments; at a period, when, his weakness waxing stronger and his hand shaking, he had often asked in vain that he might experience the bitterness of death. He lay for some time with an ignoble burial in the church of Saint Laurence, the scene of his shocking death; but, after the Divine favour for many nights had honored him by a ray of fire, the monks, being thus admonished, transferred him to the greater church, and placed him at the left side of the altar.

In the year 884, the above-mentioned army of the pagans divided themselves into two bodies; one of which entered East France, the other returned into Kent, and lay siege to the city of Rouecestre;23 but the citizens made a stout resistance, and king Alfred coming to their aid with his army, compelled the heathens to raise the siege and return to their ships, leaving the fortress which they had built there before the gates of the above named city, besides their spoil, and the men and horses
A. D.
56 which they had brought with them from France. In this year also a fleet was sent by king Alfred for the defence of the places around East Anglia. When they had come to the mouth of the river Stour,24 they found there sixteen ships of the pirates, which they took, slaying all on board of them. Those of the Danes, however, who were able to escape, collected their ships in various bodies in every quarter, and then engaging with the English in a naval battle, while, with inert supineness, they were asleep, a multitude of them unarmed were slain, and the Danes came off victorious.

At this period, Carloman, king of the Western Franks, that is to say, of the Alemanni, was killed in hunting, having been attacked by a wild boar when unattended, which mangled him with its tusk. His brother Louis had died the year before, who was also king of the Franks; for they were both sons of Louis, the king of the Franks, who had died in the year above-mentioned in which25 the eclipse of the sun took place. He also was the son of Charles, king of the Franks, whose daughter Jutthitta,26 Ethelwulph, king of the West-Saxons, had taken for his queen.

In this year a great army of the pagans came in ships from Germany into the country of the ancient Saxons. The Saxons and the Frisians having united their forces against them, fought with them twice in one year, and were victorious. In the same year also, Charles, king of the Alemanni, with the voluntary consent of all, received the kingdom of the West Franks and all the territories which lie between the Tyrrhenian sea and the inlet of the ocean which divides the ancient Saxons and the Gauls. This Charles was the son of king Louis, who was brother of Charles, king of the Franks, and father of the above-named Judith; these two brothers were sons of Louis, the son of Charles the Great, that ancient and most wise sovereign, who was the son of king Pepin.

In the year 885, the above-mentioned army, which had first entered the kingdom of the East Franks, again returned to the West Franks, and sailed up the river Seine to Paris; but after having besieged the city for a year, the inhabitants making a stout defence, they were unable to effect an entrance within the walls.

A. D.


King Alfred, after the burning of cities and the slaughter of the inhabitants, rebuilt London with great honor, and made it habitable, and gave it into the charge of Ethered, earl of Mercia. To this king all the Angles and Saxons, who before had been dispersed in all quarters, or were with the pagans27 but not in captivity, came, and voluntarily submitted to his sway. At his period, Plegmund was archbishop of Canterbury.

In the year 886, the above-mentioned army left Paris, being unable to gain their object, and steered their fleet thence along the Seine, as far as a place called Chezy. There having taken up their quarters for a year, in the year following they entered the mouth of the river Iona,28 and, making great ravages to the country, remained there a year.

In the same year, Charles, king of the Franks, departed this life, in the sixth week after his expulsion from his kingdom by Ernulph, his brother’s son. After his death the kingdom was divided into five parts, but the principal part devolved on Ernulph, to whom the other four, of their own accord, took the oath of fealty; inasmuch as not one of them could be legitimate heir on his father’s side, except Ernulph alone: with him, therefore, remained the supreme power.

This, then, was the division of the kingdom: Ernulph received the countries on the eastern side of the river Rhine; Rhodulph the inland parts of the kingdom; Odo the west; and Beorgar and Wido29 Lombardy and all the lands on that side of the mountains. But these kingdoms, thus divided, afflicted each other with mighty wars, and the kings expelled one another out from their dominions.

In this year Ethelhem,30 earl of Wiltshire, carried to Rome the alms of king Alfred.


1  Chippenham.

2  The original has “De Meticâ regione,” which is obviously an error for “de Demeticâ regione.” The Demetæ were the people of the coast of South Wales.

3  More properly Kynwith, near Bideford, in North Devon. Hubberstone, the spot where Hubba was buried, is still pointed out.

4  Probably Edington, in Wiltshire.

5  Called also “Alre,” or “Aller,” near the isle of Athelney, in Somersetshire.

6  Chippenham.

7  Three o’clock in the afternoon. This eclipse took place on the 14th of March, 880.

8  This is the place which the other chroniclers call Fulenham, now Fulham, near London.

9  Roger of Wendover says that the Danes, who wintered at Fulham, “arrived from the parts of Gaul.”

10  Or “Cundaht,” now Condé, in France

11  Whittingham, in Northumberland.

12  Chester-le-Street, in Durham.

13  Roger of Wendover says a month.

[For more on the Right of Sanctuary, see the Chapter by Andrews, here on Elfinspell. — Elf.Ed.]

14  Hexham.

15  Carlisle.

16  Or Norham, in Northumberland.

17  There is no doubt that the names of most of these places belonging to the bishopric of Lindisfarne, are shockingly misspelt in the text.

18  Melrose, in Roxburghshire.

pen and ink drawing of Melrose Abbey, drawn in the late 19th century

Melrose Abbey, Scotland.

(From, The Abbeys of Great Britain, by H. Claiborne Dixon, London: T. Werner Laurie, p. 185.)

19  Probably Eglingham, in Northumberland.

20  Somme.

21  Roger of Wendover says that the title was περὶ  φυςικῶν  μερίσματος ; meaning much the same thing.

[This man is John Scotus Erigena, not another John the Scot. who was known as Duns Scotus, who was born in the thirteenth century. For more on the later man, see John the Scot, by Paulus Jovius (Paolo Giovio), here on Elfinspell. — Elf.Ed.]

22  The “graphia,” or “styli,” the iron pens with which they wrote on wax tablets.

23  Rochester.

24  The river which divides Essex from Suffolk.

25  A.D. 880.

26  Judith.

27  Asser seems to say that those submitted “who were in captivity with the heathens.” This is clearly wrong, for they had not the opportunity of so doing. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Roger of Wendover agree with our author.

28  Yonne.

29  Witha, or Guido.

30  Roger of Wendover erroneously calls this person Athelm, bishop of Winchester.


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