A Collection of Eighteen Rare and Curious Historical Tracts and Pamphlets, privately printed (E. and G. Goldsmid). Edinburgh 1884-1866.; pp. 1-12.
This edition is limited to 200 small-paper copies,
and 50 large-paper copies.
TWELVE hundred years before the birth of our Lord, Brutus, the son of Silvius, with his wife Ynogen and with his three sons, after the Trojan war came to England, which at that time was like a desert. He built the city of London and called it Trinovant. It was called afterwards New Troy; afterwards Karlud; afterwards Lundin, and now Lundene. At this time Eli was judge of the children of Israel. This Brutus on his death made his eldest son, who was Locrinus, king of England, and called the land Great Britain, after his name.4
Locrinus when he was king after his father, caused the land to be called Leogria, after his own name. To his second son, whose name was Camber, he gave the land of Wales, and he caused it to be called Cambria, after his name. To his third son, who was called Alabanactus, he gave Scotland, and he caused it to be called Albania, after his name. And at this time king David reigned at Jerusalem.
Eboracus the sixth king after Brutus built York and Dumbarton and Maidens’ Castle, and the castle of Montrose. Rudhudibras the son of Eboracus built Canterbury and Winchester and Shaftesbury. There an eagle used to speak.
After that Bladud built Bath. He also made the Hot Baths. Afterwards he made himself wings and flew as far as to London, then called Trinovant, and there he fell so that he broke his neck. After him Lear built Leicester. He had three beautiful daughters. He questioned the eldest daughter and asked her how much she loved him. And she answered, “My lord, my lord, I dare affirm I love you like the God of heaven.” Then he questioned the second in like manner, and she said, “As much as a daughter can love a father.” Then he questioned the third daughter and asked her, “Fair daughter, how much do you love me?” she answered, “Fair sire, I love thee as I ought to love my father, and assure thyself of 5 this, as much as thou hast so much thou art worth, and so much I love thee.”*
Then the king Lear was enraged against this daughter, and swore his oath† that he never more would take thought for her. And he gave his two elder daughters in marriage, the one with one half of his kingdom, the other with the other half. And the youngest, for her beauty and her nobleness, was married to a noble king of France. After this the king Lear could not maintain the Court which he held before, and became quite poor; so that he came to his first daughter, making his complaint, but she hid herself from him and made her husband her excuse, that she dared not, and could not do anything for him. Then he came to the second in like manner, and she said, “One ought not to do anything for a man that will not keep anything for his own behoof.” Then was he dismayed exceedingly, and thought of going over to tell his youngest daughter how his two children had answered him. And he crossed the sea, quite poor, and told his state by letter to his daughter, who was queen of France. She immediately 6 caused gold and silver sufficient to be got ready secretly, and sent word to her father that he should keep strict silence concerning what she wrote to him; and he did so. And soon after the queen informed her lord, the king of France, that her father, the king of England, was arrived in his kingdom to speak with him. And the king of France rejoyced greatly at this, and commanded that all his baronage should come with him to welcome the queen’s father, and so they did. Soon after the king Lear, by the advice of the queen, told the king of all, how his two daughters had answered him in England. And the king of France was sorely grieved at it, and by the advice of the queen, his wife, sent a great army forth from France to aid king Lear to conquer his kingdom; and he conquered it, and he banished his two daughters with their husbands for ever, and reigned himself three years afterwards. Upon his death Cordelia, his youngest daughter, obtained the kingdom; and her two nephews, the sons of her sisters, came and made war upon her, and took and kept her in prison. She killed herself for grief.
After this the king Belin, the son of Donewal, from whom Billingsgate is named, made four royal roads through the midst of England. The first he made from Totness to Caithness. The second he made from St. David’s across to Southampton, 7 and the two other roads all round the kingdom. This Belin seized France and Lombardy and Rome.
After him Cassibelaunus was king, who twice expelled Julius Cesar from England; but the third time Cassibelaunus was conquered, and paid tribute to Rome two thousand pounds a year. This was forty-two years before the birth of our Lord.
About this time was our Lord born.
Eighty-two years after our Lord’s passion, Telesphorus, the pope, ordained the chanting of Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
After this Lucius, the king of the Britons, received Christianity in England from the Pope Eleutherius, and all England became Christian. This Lucius also created two archbishoprics, and twenty-three bishoprics: and this was four hundred and forty-six years before Saint Austine. After this Diocletian caused great persecution of Christianity. About this time St. Alban suffered martyrdom.
At this time, King Votigern invited Horsa and Hengist to England. After this, Gormund, the king of Africa, arrived in England, and destroyed nearly the whole of Christianity and all the churches. And then the Britons lost the sovereignty 8 of England. After this was England for many years under an interdict.
England was divided among five kings in five parts. One had Kent, another Wessex, the third Mercia, the fourth Northumberland, the fifth had East Anglia.
The king of Kent reigned only in Kent. He had in his territory the Archbishopric of Canterbury and the bishopric of Rochester.
The king of Wessex had Wiltshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Sussex, Southamptonshire, Surrey, Somerset, Devonshire, and Cornwall. He had in his kingdom five sees: the bishopric of Salisbury, which was then at Shirborne; and that of Selsey, which now is at Chichester; and that of Winchester; and that of Bath, which was then at Wells; and that of Exeter, which was then divided into two parts; the one part was at Crediton, the other at Saint Germans in Cornwall.
The king of Mecia had Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Huntingdonshire, half of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire. He had four bishoprics in his dominions, viz., that of Lincoln, of Chester, of Hereford, and of Worcester.
The king of East Anglia had Cambridgeshire, 9 Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and half of Bedfordshire. He had two bishoprics, that of Ely and that of Norwich.
The king of Northumberland had the whole land beyond the Humber, as far as to Scotland. He had in his territory the archbishopric of York and the bishopric of Durham. And thus was England divided for a long while.
After the arrival of the Angles, the kings very often made war together; very often some robbed others, the stronger robbed the weaker, until the time of Egbert, the son of Ealmund, a very worthy man both towards God and the world, born and bred in Wessex and afterwards in France with king Charles. He was the first king who possessed the whole of England at once. This Egbert began to show himself a good man and a valiant, so that Bryhtric king of Wessex conceived great envy of him. He had a prophetic fear that Egbert would take away his kingdom, and was about to kill him. But Egbert found it out and fled to France. There he acquired courage and courtesy and accomplishment. At that time Charlemagne the Great was king: he reigned forty-six years. There Egbert remained till the death of Bryhtric.
And then the barons of Wessex sent for Egbert, whereupon Egbert came and conquered the whole of England. He dwelt in the country twenty-eight years before he had conquered all, and 10 reigned afterwards nine years; and died and lies at Winchester.
After Egbert Ethelwolf his son received the kingdom, who was a good man before God and not very mighty in regard to the world. He therefore retained only Wessex. There was a noble man king of Mercia; to whom he gave his daughter; a valiant man; he was named Burgred. Ethelred gave the whole of the rest of his realm to his son Ethelstan. Moreover he gave every tenth hyde of land to God and the Holy Church, free and quit of every kind of secular service, to clothe and feed the poor. Also he gave to God and Saint Peter a penny on every house in England, which they call St. Peter’s penny. It was he who first gave this. He gave also three hundred besants to Rome; one hundred was to endow lights for St. Peter, the second hundred for St. Paul, the third hundred was for the Pope. This Ethelwolf dwelt one year at Rome, then he came homewards by France: and took to wife the lady Judith the daughter of Charles the Bald. He lived two years after, and then died and lies at Winchester. This Ethelwolf had four sons. The fifth called Ethelstan was dead. The eldest of the others was named Ethelbald, the second was called Ethelbert, the third was Ethelred, the fourth was Alfred. The fifth, as we have said, was dead.11
Ethelbald and Ethelbert shared he kingdom between them, but Ethelbald only lived five years. So Ethelbert obtained the whole of his kingdom. But he only lived another five years afterward.
After him reigned Ethelred, a very noble man before God, and of great power in the world. But the Danes so harassed him that nine times in one year they gave him pitched battle. Seldom was he conquered, and often was conqueror, so killed of them five earls, one king, and people without number. But never should we forget the battle of Ashdown, which he fought at another time against Osith king of Denmark, who came with five earls and with one king and with an astonishing army. Ethelred went to meet him,‡ and Alfred 12 his brother with him, so they fought fiercely till night. On the morrow king Ethelred heard his mass very early, and he would not move from the place, until he had heard his service, for any man. For his brother Alfred and his men had commenced the battle in the morning rashly, and were almost defeated, so they sent often to Ethelred who was at mass. After he had heard the whole with good faith he came to the battle. And there God gave him so great glory that he conquered his enemies, and killed king Osith, and five earls, and much people. After this battle he lived five years and died and was buried at Wimborne.
* “Also muche so thou haves; thou art
worth y wis,
And also moche ich lovyg the; the
endinge lo is this.’2
Robert of Gloucester.
† “An thou schalt, for thine onkuinde, hede[;?] beon al out of mi muinde,’ — Id.
‡ Ox. MS. reads: And on the opposite side king Ethelred and his brother Alfred came, with their followers. And the Danes divided their army into two hosts: the two kings with a large force in the one wing, and the earls and barons in the other wing. King Ethelred divided his troops thus: one wing with himself opposite the two kings, and the other wing under his brother, opposite the earls. The evening drew on, so the battle was delayed until the morrow. King Ethelred heard mass and his brother and their army hurried him greatly. So they commenced the battle, and the Danes attacked them fiercely, and the English were grievously troubled because the king made such delay, so they hastened him instantly. But the king was determined never to leave mass before it was said through, and it wanted little but that the English commenced their flight, when the king arrived. And he signed himself with the cross, and struck at the middle of the press and broke through their rank, and threw himself into the fight and killed there their king Osith and the other king and the five earls, and people without umber. But he continued in his reign only five years, so he died and is buried at Wimborne.
Elf. Editor Notes
* This is actually the first part of “Le Livere de Reis de Brittaine,” edited and translated by John Glover, published in the Rerum Britannicum Medi Ævi Scriptores, or The Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland During the Middle Ages, (“Rolls Series,” Volume 42), 1865. Glover edited and translated the French manuscript of Peter of Ickham, or that was best guess as to the author of it at the time of its publication.
2 In these lines of verse, a semi-colon has been substituted for the inverted semi-colon shown in the text, twice. This inverted semi-colon was common in monkish manuscripts to indicate a pause, and is called a ‘tick-and-point’ or a punctus elevatus, according to The Paleography of Gothic Manuscript Books from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, by Albert Derolez, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1003; p. 185.