Picture of William Camden

William Camden

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Saxons, Danes and Normans

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WHENAS now the Romane Empire under Valentinian the younger did more than decline, and Britain, being exhaust through so many levies of all able men, and abandoned of the Romane garisons, could no longer withstand the force of Scots and Picts, Vortigern, whom the Britans had made their Soveraigne and chiefe Governour, or who (as other think) had usurped the Monarchie to the end that he might establish his imperiall rule and recover the State falling to ruine (much awed hee was, saith Ninnius, by the Picts and Scots, he stood in feare of the Roman forces, and was afraid of Aurelius Ambrosius), sent for the Saxons out of Germanie to aid him: who forthwith under the conduct of Hengist and Horsa, with their ciules (for so they called their Flat-boats or Pinnaces) arrive in Britaine, and after they had in one or two battels gotten the victorie against the Picts and Scots, became verie much renowned: and seeing the Britans stil relying upon their manhood and courage, they send for greater forces out of Germany, which should keep watch and ward upon the borders and annoy the enemies by land and sea. Guortigern (saith Ninnius) by the advice of Hengist, sent for Octha and Ebissa to come and aid him: who being embarked in 40 cyules or Pinnaces, and sailing about the Picts coasts, wasted the isles called Oracades, yea and got many Isles and Countreys beyond the Frith, as farre as to the confines of the Picts. But at length, after they had begun to fall in love with the Lands, the civill fashions, and riches of Britaine, presuming; upon the weaknes of the Inhabitants, and making the default of pay and want of victuals their quarrell, they entred into league with the Picts, and raised a most bloodie and mortall warre against the Britans who had given them entertainment: they kill and slay them in every place, being put in affright and amazednesse, their fields they harrie, their cities they race, and after many doubtfull events of battell, fought against those two bulwarks of warre, Aurelius Ambrosius, who here tooke upon him to weare the purple robe, wherein his parents were killed, and the warlike Arthure, they disseize [dispossess] the Britans of the more fruitfull part of the Isle, and drive them out of their ancient possessions. At which time, to speake all in a word, the most miserable Inhabitants suffred whatsoever either conqueror might dare, or the conquered feare. For fresh supplies of aide flocked together daily out of Germanie, which still should renew warre upon warre against the wearied Britans; to wit, Saxons, Jutes (for so we must read, and not Vites) and Angles, who by these proper names were knowen one from another, although generally they were called English and Saxons. But let us treat of these in severall and summarily, that if it be possible we may have a sight of our originall and first cradles.

2. Howbeit, first will I adde hereto that which Witichindus, being himselfe both a Saxon borne, and also a writer of good antiquitie, hath related, as touching the comming in of the Saxons. Britaine (saith hee) being by Vespasian the Emperour long since reduced among Provinces, and under the vassalage of the Romanes, standing them in stead, and serving to good use a long time, became assaulted by their neighbour-nations, for that it seemed destitute and abandoned of the Romans helpe. For the people of Rome, after that the Emperour Martial was by his souldiers killed, being sore tires out with forraine warres, was not able to assist their friends with supply of accustomed aides. Yet neverthelesse, the Romanes, having built a mightie peice of worke for the defence of the Country, reaching between the confines from sea to sea, where it was thought that the enemies would assaile the Inhabitants, left the Land. But no difficultie it was for the enemie, fiercely bent and alwaies ready to wage warre (especially where they deale with a nation feeble and unable to make warlike resistance) to destroy the sayd worke. Therefore hearing by report of the worthy and fortunate exploits atchieved by the Saxons, they send an humble Embassage to require their helping hand: and so the Embassadours, having audience given them, came forth and spake as followeth. "Most noble Saxons, the poore and distressed Brets, out-toiled and over-tired by the many incursions of their enemies, hearing the fame of those victories which yee have valorously atchieved, have sent us suppliants unto you, craving that yee would not denie us your helpe and succour. A large and spatious Land, plentifull and abundant all things, they yeeld wholly to be at your devotion and command. Hitherto have we lived liberally under the patronage and protection of the Romanes: after the Romans, we know none of more prowesse than your selves: and therefore wee seeke for refuge under the wings of your valour. So that wee may by your puissant vertue and arms be found onely superiour to our enemies, what service soever ye impose upon us, willing we are to abide the same." To this petition the Peeres and Nobles of the Saxons briefly made answere in this wise: "Know yee that the Saxons will be fast friends unto the Brets, and prest [ready] at all times both to assist them in their necessitie, and also to procure their wealth and commoditie." With joy returne these Embassadours home, and with this wished-for tidings make their countrey-men more joyfull. Hereupon according to promise, an armie sent into Britaine, and joyfully received, in short time freeth the Land from the spoiling enemies, and recovered the countrey unto the behoofe of the Inhabitants. For the performance here required no great labour: the enemies, who had long since heard of the Saxons, were terrified with the verie fame that was bruted of them, so that their very presence drave them farre off. For these were the nations that troubled the Brets, namely, Scots and Pehits, against whom the Saxons, whiles they maintaine warres, received of the Brets all things necessarie. They abode therefore in that country a good while, making use in civill sort of the Brets friendship reciprocally. But so soone as the Chieftaines of the armie saw the countrey to be large and fertile, and withall the hands of the Inhabitants slow to practise feats of armes, and considered therewith that themselves and the greatest part of the Saxons had no certaine place to seat themselves in, they send over to call unto them a greater power and more forces. Thus having concluded peace with the Scots and Pehits, they rise all together in common against the Brets, drive them out of the country, and divide the Land at their pleasure, as if it were their owne. Thus much Witichindus.

3. The originall and Etymologie of the Saxons, like as of other nations, not onely Monkes ignorant, as they were, in learned antiquitie, but also latter Writers, being men of some exact and exquisite judgment, have enwrapped with forged and fained fables. Some derive them and their name from Saxo, the sonne of Negnon and brother of Vandalus, others of their stonie nature, some from the remaines of the Macedonian armie, others of certain knives, whereupon was made that ryme in Engelhusius:

For sax with them and Short-sword is the same,
From whence it's though the Saxon tooke his name.

But Crantzius deriveth them from the Catti in Germanie, and that learned Capnio from the Phrygians. Of these, let everie man follow which hee liketh best. For such conjecturall opinions as these I will not labor to disprove. Howbeit, that conceit of the best learned Germans may seeme worthy of acceptance and to be preferred before the rest, who suppose that the Saxons descended from the Sacae, a most noble Nation and of much worth in Asia, and so called, as one would say, Sacosones, that is, the sonnes of the Sacae: and that out of Scythia, or Sarmatia Asiatica, they came in companies little by little, together with the Getae, Suevi, Daci and others in Europe. Neither is this opinion of theirs improbable, which fetcheth the Saxons out of Asia, wherein mankind was first created and multiplied: for besides that Strabo writeth how those Sacae (as before them the Cimerii) made invasions into countreys which lay farre off, and termed a part of Armenia after their owne name Sacacena, Ptolomee also placeth the Sassones, Suevians, Massagetes and Dahi in that part of Scythia, and Cisner observeth that those Nations retained the same vicinitie or neighborhood in a maner in Europe, which was among them in former times when they were in Asia.

4. Neither is it lesse probable that our Saxons descended from these Sacae or Sassones in Asia (call them whether you will) than the Germanes from those Germanes in Persia of whom Herodotus maketh mention: which they themselves after a sort doe affirme, by reason of the affinitie of their Language. For that singular Scholar Joseph Scaliger sheweth that these words Fader, Moder, Brader, Tutcher, Band , and such like, are at this day found in the Persian tongue in the same sense that we use Father, Mother, Brother, Daughter, and Bond. But when the Saxons began first to bee of any name in the world, they had their abode in Cimbrica Chersonesus, which wee now call Denmarke, wherein Ptolomee placeth them, who was the first author (as far as I find) that made mention of them. For we should not indeed read Saxones (as it is in some bookes) but more truly Axones in that verse of Lucan,

And Axons in side armour light and nimble.

Out of this Cimbrica Chersonesus in the time of Dioclesian, they (with the Frankes their neighbours) troubled our coasts and the seas with Piracie, in so much as for the defence of the countrey, and to repell them, the Romanes made Carausius their Generall. Afterward, they having passed over the river Albis, part of them by little and little gat footing within the seat and territorie of the Suevians, where now is the Dukedome of Saxonie, and part of them bestowed themselves in Frisland and Holland, which now the Frankes had quite forsaken. For those Frankes who before time had inhabited those inmost Fennes of Frisland (whereof some, by overflowes and flouds, are growen to be that sea which at this day they call Zuider-sea) and possessed themselves of Holland, then called Batavia, under Constantius Chlorus, Constantine the Great, and his sonnes, being received as Liege-men and translated from thence to inhabit the waste and desert counties of Gaule, either by the swords point making way into more plentifull regions, or else (as Zosimus writeth) driven out by the Saxons, departed out of Holland. From which time, all the people bordering upon that sea coast in Germanie which were men of warre and professed Piracie, as before they grew to be Franci, so now they became clepid [named] Saxons: those Nations, I meane, which inhabite Jutland, Sleswicke, Holst, Ditmarse, the Bishopricke of Breme, the countie of Oldenburgh, both East and West Frisland, and Holland. For the nation of the Saxons (as Fabius Quaestor Ethelward, himselfe descended of the Saxons roiall bloud, writeth), was wholly all that upon the sea coast, from the river Rhene unto the citie Donia , and which now is commonly called Dane-Marc. Which author (that I may acknowledge by whom I have profited) Master Thomas Allen of Oxford, an excellent man and one endued with many singular Arts, first found out, and of his courtesie imparted the same unto me, with many others.

5. Out of this Maritime tract the Saxons, fleshed now with the slaughter of many Romanes, brake many times into the Romans provinces, and for a great while annoied this Island, until Hengist himselfe came: who out of Batavia or Holland sailed into Britaine, and built the Castle of Leiden in Holland, as not onely the Hollanders Annals doe testifie, but also that noble Janus Dousa, a man of excellent wit and learning, who of that Castle versifieth thus:

Which Hengist, by report, when he
Return' d from Britaine with victorie,
Built new with walles in compasse round,
And on vaults arched under ground.

The Jutes, who had that name (as many think) from the Gutes, Getes, or Gothes (for in a manuscript booke we read Geatun ) did for certaine inhabite the upper part of Cimbrica Chersonesus, which still the Danes call Juitland, descended haply of those Guttae whom Ptolomee hath placed in Scandia, whose habitation this day is called Gothland. But take heede you thinke not with Jornandes that this was the native country of those Gothes who with victorious conquests over-ran all Europe: for the most ancient and best approoved writers have recorded unto us that they dwelt beyond the river Ister fast by Pontus Euxinus, as were before time called Getae.

6. But in what place the Angles were seated is a question, neither are all men of one opinion. Most authors place them in Westphalia, where Engern standeth, and where the Suevians, whom Tacitus and Ptolomee make mention of, had their abode; whom I am willing to beleeve, if wee speake of the age of Tacitus, but I suppose that from thence they came downe to the tract by the sea side. Others seeke for them in Pomerania, where the town Angloen flourisheth. But seeing these reach into the more inland parts of Germanie far from our seas, surely we must seek for some other seat of our Angles or Englishmen, which Beda willed me to looke for between the Saxons and Jutes. The Angles (quoth he) came out of that countrey which is called Angulus, and is reported from that time to lie waste betweene the Provinces of the Saxons and Jutes. Now seeing that between Juitland and Hosaltia. the ancient countrey of the Saxons, there is a little Province in the Kingdome of Dania named at this day Angel, beneath the citie Flemsburg, which Lindebergius in his epistles calleth Little Anglia, I dare affirme that now at length I have found the place of our Ancestors habitation, and that from thence the Angles came into this Iland. And to averre this the more confidently, I have good warrant from the authoritie of that ancient writer Ethelwardus, whose words be these: Old Anglia is sited between the Saxons and the Giots: they have a capitall towne, which (in the Saxon tongue) is named Sleswic, but the Danes call it Haithby. In which verie place Ptolomee seemth to set the Saxons. So that a Poet of the middle time sung not untunably in this manner:

That Englishmen from Saxons draw descent,
Their colour faire and tongue make evident.

Of these Angles, some part having passed forward into the more inmore quarters of Germanie, being blended with the Longobards and the Suevians, went as farre as Italie, and are thought to have left their footings in Engelheim, the native countrey of Charles the Great, Ingolstad, Engleburg, Englerute in Germanie, and Angleria in Italie. But what the reason or Etymologie is of the name, I dare not definitively pronounce. Away with that Angulus the son of Humblus, and with Queene Angela, whom foolish folke babble to have been the founders of our Nation. Neither thinke we that their name was imposed of angulus , that is, an angle or corner, as if it were a corner of the world, as some building upon that stale verse seeme to hold:

England a fruitful angle is, without the world so wide,
An Inland rich, that hath small need of all the world beside.

7. Neither does Goropius his conjecture deserve credit, but rather a smile, which deriveth Antlos , that is, Englishman, from angle, that is, a fishing rod or a Fish-hooke, because (saith he) they hooked all to them, and were, as we say, Good Anglers. But he that seeth the Etymologie of Engelbert, Englehard, and such like Dutch names, may see perhaps the originall of Angli also. Moreover, it may seeme out of Procopius that the Frisones likewise came with others into Britaine. The text whole as it lieth (for that booke is not commonly extant in print) I will not thinke much here to set downe, even as Franciscus Pithaeus a singualr good man, and in all sorts of Antiquitie most skilfull, hath exemplified it unto me out of the Kings Librarie in Paris: Βριττίαν δὲ τὴν νῆσον ἔθνη τρία πολυανθρωπότατα ἔχουσι, βασιλεύς τε εἷς αὐτῶν ἑκάστῳ ἐφέστηκε. καὶ ὀνόματα κεῖται τοῖς ἔθνεσι τούτοις ᾿Αγγίλοι τε καὶ Φρίσσονες καὶ οἱ τῇ νήσῳ ὁμώνυμοι Βρίττωνες. τοσαύτη δὲ ἡ τῶνδε τῶν ἐθνῶν πολυανθρωπία φαίνεται οὖσα, ὥστε ἀνὰ πᾶν ἔτος κατὰ πολλοὺς ἐνθένδε μετανιστάμενοι ξὺν γυναιξὶ καὶ παiσὶν ἐς Φράγγους χωροῦσιν. οἱ δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐνοικίζουσιν ἐς γῆς τῆς σφετέρας τὴν ἐρημοτέραν δοκοῦσαν εἶναι, καὶ ἀπ' αὐτοῦ τὴν νῆσον προσποιεῖσθαί φασιν. ὥστε ἀμέλει οὐ πολλῷ πρότερον ὁ Φράγγων βασιλεὺς ἐπὶ πρεσβείᾳ τῶν οἱ ἐπιτηδείων τινὰς παρὰ βασιλέα ᾿Ιουστινιανὸν ἐς Βυζάντιον στείλας ἄνδρας αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῶν ᾿Αγγίλων ξυνέπεμψε, φιλοτιμούμενος ὡς καὶ ἡ νῆσος ἥδε πρὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρχεται. That is, according to my grosse translation, thus much: The Iland Britaine three most populous nations doe inhabite, which have everie one their severall King to rule them: and these Nations be called Angili, Frisones, and after the name of the very Iland, Britones. Now they seeme to be so great a multitude of people, that every yeere a mightie number of them, with their wives and children, flit from thence unto the Franks, and they give them entertainment in that part of their Land which seemeth most desert above the rest: and hereupon, men say, they challenge unto themselves the verie Iland. And verily, not long since, when the King of the Franks sent certaine of his people in Embassage to Constantinople unto the Emperour Justinian, he sent withall some English, pretending ambitiously that this Iland was under his dominion.

These are the people of Germanie that planted themselves in Britaine, who, that they became one nation, and were called by one generall name, one while Saxons, another while Englishmen and English-Saxons, for difference of those that are in Germanie, may be gathered most truly out of Gildas, Beda, Saint Boniface, Paulus Diaconus, and others, but most commonly in Latine Angli, Gens Anglica , and in their owne tongue to the same sense, Engla-theod.

8. About the time when they were admitted into Britaine by Vortigern, writes doe not agree: but to omit others, Bede and those that follow him make this computation of those most confused times.

In the one and thirtieth yeere of Theodosius the Younger, and of Christ 430, the Britans piteously crave aid, but in vaine, of Aetius the third time Consul, for that they were sore oppressed by the Picts and Scots.

Under Valentinian the Third, Saint German once or twice came into Britaine against the Pelagians, and after he had powred out his praiers unto God, led an arme of Britans against the Picts and Saxons, and gained the victorie.

In the first yeere of Martianus, and the yeere of our Lord 449, the nation of the English-Saxons arrive in Britaine.

But seeing it appeareth for certaine by the Kalender of the Consuls that the third Consulship of Aetius fell out to be in the 39. yeere of the said Theodosius, and after the birth of Christ 446, as also by the best and most approoved authors, that Saint German died in the yeere of Grace 435, justly wee may suspect that those numbers in Beda were corrupted, and that the Saxons had footing given them here before the yeer of our Lord 449. For otherwise, how could it be that S. German, who departed this life anno Domini 435, should conduct the Britans against the Saxons, when as they were not yet come? Ninnius also writeth that Saint German returned out of Britaine into his owne country after the death of Vortigern , who received the Saxons into Britaine, so that of necessitie their comming in was before the yeere of our Lord 435, which was the yeere wherein Saint German ended his life. In like maner, in the second yeere after that Leo Magnus was created Bishop of Rome, which was in the yeere of Christ 443, Prosper Tyro, who then lived, writeth that Britain after sundry overthrowes was brought in subjection to the Saxons, so that they doubtlesse must need come in before that time, namely, the yeere of Christ 449. But to take way all scruples, and cleere all doubts in this point, this one note of computation adjoyned unto some copies of Ninnius, which is unto me in stead of all, may suffice:

9. From the Consulship of the two Gemini, Rufus and Rubellius, unto Stilico the Consul are reckoned 373 yeeres.

Item, from Stilico unto Valentinian the son of Placidia, and to the raigne of Vortigern be 28 yeeres.

From the raigne of Vortigern unto the discord of Guitolin and Ambrose are 12 yeeres. Which battell is Guoloppum, that is, Cathguoloph.

Now Vortigern held the Kingdom of Britaine when Theodosius and Valentinian were Consuls; and in the fourth yeere of his raigne the Saxons came into Britaine and were entertained by Vortigern, when Foelix and Taurus were Consuls.

From the yeere wherein the Saxons came into Britaine, and were received by Vortigern, unto Decius Valerianus are 69 yeeres.

By casting therefore this account thus, the comming in of the English-Saxons into Britaine was in the 21. yeere of Theodosius the younger: and this commeth neerest to the computation of Beda, in the yeere of our salvation 428. For then Foelix and Taurus bare their Consulship, and so all circumstances of persons and times doe well cohere. This moreover I thinke good to tell you of, although I will not take upon me to be a Criticke, that in most copies of Gildas, whence Bede had that note of Aetius, we read Agitio III consuli , in others without adjection of number, Aegitio , and in one, Aequitio cos. But to this day never could I see in the register and Kalendar of Consuls any Consul of that name, unlesse we might thinke that hee was some Consul extraordinarie.

10. Well, what time soever it was that they came in, they made good proofe of their singular valour and wisedome withall. For in a short space their State, for number, for good customes and ordinances, for lands and territories grew to that height that it became most wealthy and puissant, yea, and their conquest in some sort full and absolute. For all the conquered, except some few, whom in the Westerne tract the roughnesse of the countrey defended and kept safe, became one nation, used the same lawes, tooke their name, and spake one and the selfsame language with the conquerours. For besides England it selfe, a great part of Scotland, being possessed by the English Saxons (and still to this day the wilde and naturall Scots indeed terme them Sasssones) useth the same tongue that we do, varying a little in the Dialect onely. Which tongue we and they together for the space now of 1150 yeeres have kept after a sort uncorrupt, and with it the possession also of the Land. So that now it is proved vaine and false (as other prophesies of that kind) which the Saxon Prophets foretold when as they spred their sailes for this Iland, that they should inhabit here 300 yeeres and no more, and for one hundred and fiftie of them often times waste and spoile the countrey. Now the matter it selfe and the place seeme to require that somewhat should bee added as touching the ancient maners and demeanour of our Forefathers the Saxons, and surely, annex I will what I have observed in this behalfe.

11. This nation of the Saxons was generall most warlike and martiall, For courage of minde, strength of body, enduring of labour and travell, reputed of all the Germans most valiant , as saith Zosimus. Most feared of the Romans, because their invasions were sudden , as Marcellinus reporteth. Terrible for hardinesse and agilitie , as saith Orosius. Saxony is a region (by reason of Marishes) inaccessible, and environed with combersome countreys, and unpassable. Which things although they may make them more secure for war, and although it selfe also was led captive oftentimes to set out the Roman triumphs, yet have they the name to bee a most valorous kind of men, excelling all other in piracie: howbeit, trusting in their swift pinnaces and flybotes (not in fine force) provided rather for flight than fight , as Aegysippus recordeth of them. In imitation of whom, Isidorus writeth thus: The Nation of the Saxons seated upon the coasts of the Ocean sea, and among unpassable Marishes, is for valour and nimblenesse meet for service: and thereupon they tooke their name, as being a kinde of people stout, hardy, and most valiant, yea and redouted above all other for piracie. Men they are for their tall stature, the good feature of their limbs, and framing of their lineaments conspicuous and notable. Whereupon Witichindus the Monke writeth thus about them: The Franks had these men in admiration for their excellencie as well in body as mind: they wondred at them for their new and strange habite, for their armour also, and shoulders overspred with the haire of their head; but above all for their constant resolution and valiant courage. Clad they were in souldiers cassocks, and weaponed with long speares: they trusted upon their little bucklers, and wore great knives or skeins at their backes. Howbeit, beforetime they used to shave their haire off, hard by the head to the very skinne, unlesse it were round about the crowne, and to weare a plate about their head, as Sidonius Apollinaris teacheth us in these verses:

The Saxons there in watched clad we see
On land afraid, who earst at sea were bold;
Whose bush of haires about the crowne that be
Plates not content to keepe their wonted hold
Raise up in tufts, when all the rest is pold:
The Scalpe beneath thus shaven to the skin,
Their face seemes full, their heads but small and thin.

As for their apparell, you may understand what it was out of these words of Paulus Diaconus, as touching the Langobards: Their garments were large and loose, and most of all linnen, such as the English Saxons are wont to weare, trimmed and set out with verie broad gards or welts purflet [bordered], and embrodered with sundry colours.

12. Most skillful seamen they were, as who a long time lived as Pirats, so that being accustomed to the sea they were afraid, as he saith, of the land, and wrought so much mischiefe upon the sea-coasts of Britaine and France, as farre as to Spaine, that there were both Captaines and souldiers appointed all along the shores of both Countries to restrain their rovings and depredations, who thereupon were called Countes or Earles of the Saxon shore along Britaine and,

The tract also that lies the Sea so neare,
Hight Armoricke, did Saxon pirate feare:
Whose sport it is with leather-stitched boat
Of British Sea to cut the waves afloat.

Yea and that which more is, within Gaule neere unto Armorica they seased into their hands and held a long time the Country about the Baiocasses, as is to be seene in Gregorius Turonensis, who termed them Saxones Baiocassinos , like as the common sort, Sesnes Bessins.

13. But with how great cruelty they committed outraies [raids] along these shoares, heare if it please you Sidonius himselfe. The Messenger (saith he) with whom we spent some time in talke, whiles for your sake we held him with us, constantly affirmed that you of late sounded alarums at Sea, and performing the part in our own person sometime of a souldier and sometime of a mariner, bestirred your selfe up and downe the winding shores of the Ocean, to affront the flat bottom barkes of the Saxons. Of whom as many rowers as you see, so many Archpirats you may thinke you behold. The all of them together so command, obey, teach, and learne to rob and steale, that even now also you have greatest cause to be warned, and to be most heedfull and wary of them. There is no enemie so cruell as this. He setteth upon others at unawares, himselfe slips away as warily. He setteth at nought such as encounter him, he bringeth to nought those that take no heed to him: whom he courseth, he surely overtaketh, when he flieth he is sure to escape. To this service, shipwracks inure him, they terrifie him not. Not only skilfull they are in the dangers of sea, but also familiarly acquainted in some sort therewith. Be there a tempest up? The same on one side serveth to secure them were they in jeapordie to be taken; on the other side, if they be to assaile others, it keepeth them from being descried and seene farre off. In the mids of waves and craggy rocks they hazard their lives in hope of good successe. Besides this, before they take shipping into their owne Country and weigh their fluwked anchors from the enemies shore, upon the point of returne thier maner is to kill every tenth captive with equall and dolorous torment a (custome the more lamentable because it is superstitious), and among the number of such as are gathered together to die, for to disperse the equity of lot, together with the iniquitie of death. With such vowes they bind themselves, with such sacrifices they pay their vowes, and not so much purified by such sacrifices as polluted with sacrileges, the bloudie and abominable murderers thinke it a religious thing rather to torment a prisoner to death than to set him free for a ransome. Hitherto also may be referred that which we collect of the fragment of an ancient Historie in Isidorus. The Saxons trust to their fly-boats and not to their strength, better appointed for flight than for fight. As also this testimonie of Salvianus, who then lived, writing thus of Barbarous nations: The Alani are a people vicious and unclean, but not so perfidious. The Franks be given to lying, howbeit full of hospitalitie and kind to strangers. The Saxons in cruelty outragious, yet for chastitie to be honoured. But so firme and resolute they were (if I may be allowed to give it so good a terme) that they would chuse rather to kill themselves and cast away their lives wilfully than be mocked and laughed to skorne. And hereupon it was that when Symmachus had provided a band of them against the publicke shewes which were to be exhibited the very day on which they should have been brought forth into the Theater for sword play to kill one another, they by strangling themselves prevented all hope of shewing bloudy sport and pastime unto the people. Of whom Symmachus himselfe writeth thus: The band or company of Saxons is lessened by death. For when as the private guard restrained not the liberty of the impious hands of those desperate people, the first day of the sword fight-shew saw nine and twenty of their necks broken without any halter.

14. Moreover, this nation of the Saxons was very much addicted to superstition, and for that cause when they were to consult of weighty and important matters, besides Soothsaying by inspection of beasts entrails, they observed especially the neighing of horses as presaging things to come. And thence perhaps it is that the Dukes of Saxonie in ancient time gave the horse in their Armes. But why our first Progenitours Hengistus and Horsa tooke their names of an horse (for both their names in the Saxon tongue doe signifie an horse) surely I know not, unlesse it be for a lucky osse [omen] and fore-token of their warlicke prowesse, according to that verse of Virgil:

For warre our horses armed are,
These beasts also doe threaten warre.

They used also casting and drawing of lots very much; for they did cut downe a branch from some tree that bare fruit, and slived [sliced] or cleft the same into slips and twigs, and when they had distinguished them with certaine marks they skattered them at haphazard upon a white garment. Straightwaies, if the consultation were publike, the Priest; if private, the goodman of the house, after praiers first unto the Gods, looking up to heaven, tooke ech of them up three times and, having lifted them up, interpreted them according to the marke sette before upon them. To trie out the event and issue of warres, they were wont to set a prisoner of that nation against which they had denounced warre, and a man chosen of their owne countrimen, to fight together a combat, each of them with the weapon used in their countrie, and so to ghesse by him that was victour which nation should goe away with victorie. Above all other Gods they worshipped Mercurie, whom they called Wooden, whose favour they procured by sacrificing unto him men alive; and to him they consecrated the fourth day of the weeke, whereupon we call it at this day Wednesday, like as the sixth to Venus, whom they named Frea or Frico, whence we name this day Friday, even as we do Tuesday of Tuisco, the stocke-father of the German or Duch nation. They had a Goddesse also named Eoster, unto whom they sacrificed in the moneth of Aprill, and hence it commeth, said Beda, that they called Aprill Eoster monath , and we still name the feast of the Resurrection Eoster, but rather, as I think, of the rising of Christ, which our progenitors called East, as we do now that part whence the Sunne riseth. In general (as saith Tacitus), the English and other neighbour-nations worshipped Herthus, that is, Dame Earth, for a Goddesse, and they had an opinion that she intermediated in humane affaires, and relieved the people. And even with us in these daies that word earth is in use, but growen out of use with the Germans, who in stead of earth say arden. Of these superstitions that foresaid Ethelward writeth thus, respectively unto the time wherein he lived: So grievously seduced are the unbeleevers of the North that unto this very day the Danes, Normanes and Suevians worship Woodan as their Lord ; and in another place, The Barbarous people honoured Woodan as their god, and the Painims offred sacrifice unto him, that they might be victorious and valorous.

15. But more fully Adam Bremensis setteth these things downe. In a temple , saith he, (called in their vulgar and native speech Ubsola) which is made altogether of gold, the people worship the statues of three Gods in such manner as that Thor, the mightiest of them , hath only a throne or bed; on either hand of him Woodan and Fricco hold their places. And thus much they signifie. Thor, say they, beareth rule in the aire, as who governeth thunder and lightning, winds, showres, faire wether, corne and fruits of the earth. The second, which is Woodan, that is, stronger, maketh wars and ministreth manly valour against enemies. The third is Frico, bestowing largely upon mortall men peace and pleasure, whose image they devise and pourtray with a great viril member. Woodan they engrave armed, like as with us they use to cut and expresse Mars. And they seeme to represent Thor with the scepter of Jupiter. But these errors the Truth of Christian religion hath at length chased quite away.

16. After that these nations above said had now gotten sure footing in the possession of Britain, they divided it into seven kingdomes, and established an Heptarchie. In which notwithstanding, the prince that had the greatest power was called, as we read in Beda, King of the English nation, so that in this very Heptarchie it may seeme there was alwaies a Monarchie. After this, Augustine, whom commonly they call the Apostle of the Englishmen, being sent hither by Gregorie the Great, having abolished these monstrous abominations of heathenish impietie, with most happy successe planting Christ in their hearts, converted them to the Christian faith. But for what cause and upon what occasion this Gregorie was so diligent and carefull for the salvation of this English nation, Venerable Beda hath by tradition of his forefathers recounted unto us in these words: The report goeth that on a certaine day, when upon the comming of merchants lately arrived, great store of wares was brought together into the market place at Rome for to be sold, and many chapmen flocked together for to buy, Gregory also himselfe among others came thither and saw, with other things, boies set to sale, for bodies faire and white, of countenance sweet and amiable, having the haire also of their head as lovely and beautifull. Whom when he has wistly beheld, he demanded (as they say) from what countrey or land they were brought. answere was made that they came out of the Isle of Britaine, the people whereof were as welfavoured to see unto. Then he asked againe whether those Ilanders were Christians or ensnared still with the errours of Paganisme. To which it was said they were Painims. But he, fetching a long deepe sigh from his very hart root, "Alas for pitie," quoth he, "that the foule fiend and father of darknes should be Lord of so bright and lightsome faces, and that they who caried such grace in their countenances should be void of the inward grace in their harts and soules." Once again he desired to understand what name their nation was knowne. They made answer that the were called Angli. "And well they may be so named,"quoth he, "for Angel like faces they have, and meet it is that such should be fellow-heires with Angels in heaven. But what is the name of the Province from whence these were brought?" Answere was returned that the inhabitants of the said province were cleped Deiri. "Deiri," quoth he, "they are indeed de ira eruti, that is, delivered from ire and wrath, and called to the mercie of Christ. How call you the King of that province?" said he. Answere was given that his name was Aelle. Then he, alluding to the name, said that Allelu-jah should be sung in those parts to the praise of God the Creator. Comming therefore to the Bishop of the Romane and Apostolicall Sea (for himselfe as yet was not made Bishop), he entreated that some ministers of the word should be sent unto the English nation, by whose meanes it might be converted to Christ: and even himselfe was ready to undertake the performance of this worke, with the helpe of God, in case it would please the Apostolicall Pope that it should be so.

17. Concerning this conversion, the same Gregorie the Great writeth thus: Behold, He hath now entred already into the hearts of all nations in maner that are. Behold, in one faith He hath conjoined the limits of East and west. Behold, I say, the very British toong, which could nought else but rudely bay Barbarous words, long since began in the laud of God to resound the Hebrew Allelu-jah. And in his Epistle to Augustine himselfe: Who is able heere to shew sufficiently what great joy is risen up in the hearts of all the faithfull, for that the nation of Englishmen by the operation of God almighty His grace, and the labour of your brotherhood, after the darknes of errour were chased and driven away, is illuminated with the light of holy faith, for that with most sincere devotion they now spurne and tread idols under their feete, who beforetime in superstitious feare lay prostrate before them? In an old fragment also written in that age thus we read: Augustine upon one day of Christs Nativitie, which with the universall glorie of the Englishmen is for ever celebrated, did regenerate by lively Baptisme above ten thousand men, besides an innumerable multitude of women and yoong children. But what a number of Priests and other holy orders besides could be sufficient to was such a sort of people. Having hallowed and blessed therefore the river called in English Swale, the Archbishop commanded by the voice of Criers and Maisters that the people should enter the river confidently two by two, and in the name of the Trinitie baptize one another by turnes. Thus were they all borne againe with no lesse miracle than in times past the people of Israel passed over the red Sea divided, and likewise Jordan when it turned back: for even so they were transported to the banke on the other side: and notwithstanding so deepe a current and chanel, so great and so divers differences of sex and age, not one person (who will ever thinke it?) tooke harme. A great miracle no doubt, but this miracle as great as it was a greater preeminence doth surmount, in that all feeblenes and infirmitie was laid of in that river: whosoever was sick and deformed returned out of it whole and reformed. O festivall spectacle for angels and men to behold, when so many thousands of a nation, suing for grace, came forth of one rivers chanel, as out of one mothers wombe, and out of one poole so great a progenie sprung up for the celestiall and heavenly City! Hereupon the most gracious Pope Gregorie, with all the companies of Saints above, breaking forth into joy, could not conceale this, but wrote unto Saint Eulogius the Patriarch of Alexandria that he would most thankfully congratulate with him for so great an host baptized upon one Christmas day.

18. No sooner was the name of Christ preached but the English presently with such fervent zeale and devotion consecrated themselves unto Christ that they tooke incredible paines in propagating Christianitie, in celebrating divine service, performing all functions and duties of pietie, building Churches and endowing them with rich livings, so that there was not another region in all Christendome that could make reckening of more monasteries richly endowed. Yea and divers kings there were that preferred a religious and monasticall life before their crowne and kingdome. So many holy men also this land brought forth, which for their most firme profession of Christian religion, constant perseverance therein, and sincere pietie were canonized Saints, that it gave place to no other Christian province in this behalfe. And like as Britaine was called of that Porphyrie a plenteous province of Tyrants, so England might truly be named a most fruitfull Iland of Saints.

19. Furthermore, they applied their minds to the bringing in againe of the better kind of arts and sciences, and sowed the seeds of Divinitie and good literature thorowout all Germanie, by the means of Winiridus, Willebrodus, and others, which a German Poet sheweth in these verses:

Yet this immortall praise is due to Britain, Northern Ile,
That when the world was overrun and wasted all the while
By Pannonik invasions, it did reduce in ure
Those troubled countries with good arts, also with knowledge pure
Of Greeke tongue, and observing still the stars in spacious skie,
And planets with their wandring waies, taught them Astronomie.
For true religion eke preserv' d and sowne in many a land,
The world much bound to Britain is, and to her helpfull hand.
Thy name and gifts, o Winifride, who knowes not? Since by thee
The way was made in Germanie, where faith and pietie
First setting foote began to chase all rites profane away.
"What ow I not to Alcuine now?" may eloquent Paris say,
Who happily went there in hand alone to plant anew
Good Arts, and thence all barbarisme to banish far from view.
And unto thee
[for] worthy Bede, we are beholden much,
The only man for sundry arts his learned skil was such.

Peter Ramus saith moreover that Britaine was twice Schole-mistres to France, meaning by the Druidae and Alcuinus, whose industrie Charles the Great used especially in erecting the University of Paris.

20. They brought also into Germanie militarie knowledge of Armes as well as learning and religion: yea, and which you will marvell at, if we may beleeve these words of Eginhardus, they gave unto those Saxons their first Originall, who now inhabite the Dukedome of Saxonie. The nation of the Saxons , saith he, as Antiquities doe record, being departed from the English inhabiting Britaine, sailing thorow the Ocean, partly upon a desire they had, and partly driven of necessitie to seeke where they might seat themselves, arrived upon the Coasts of Germanie, and landed at a place called Hadutoha, what time as Theodericus King of the Franks, warring upon Hirminfridus Duke of the Thuringers his daughters husband, cruelly with fire and sword wasted their land. Now when as they had in two pight [pitched] fields already tried the doubtfull fortune of battaile, with lamentable slaughter of their people and uncertaine victorie, Theoderich, disappointed of his hope to be Master of the field, dispatched Embassadors unto the Saxons, whose Duke was Haduloha: who having heard the cause of their comming, and taken their promise that upon obtaining victorie they should cohabite together, led forth an armie with them to aide Theodoricus. By meanes of which forces valiantly fighting now with him, as it were, for their liberty and native country, he overcame his enemies, and when he had spoiled the naturall inhabitants, killed them up and in maner left not one alive. Their land, according to his promise, he set out and appointed for the Conquerours to possesse, who dividing the same by casting lots, seeing many of them were slaine in the warres, and that by reason of their fewnesse the whole country could not be occupied and peopled by them, part of it, that especially which lieth Eastward, they made over to coloners and new inhabitants, to every one according as by lot it fell out, to be holden and tilled for a certaine rent and tribute. All the rest they themselves possessed. On the Southside verily, these Saxons have the Franks and a remnant of the Thuringers whom the precedent whirlewind of hostility had not touched, and are divided from then by the chanel of the river Unstrote. Northward dwell the Normans, a most fierce Nation. East from them the Obotrite inhabite, and Westward the Frisians, from whom continually without intermission they defended their territories and marches thereof, either by covenants of league or necessary skirmishing. But now returne we to our English-Saxons.

21. For a long time the State and Empire of the Saxons flourished exceeding well under the foresaid Heptarchie, untill those kingdomes, bruised and impared one of another with civill warres, came all in the end to be subject unto the West-Saxons. For Egbert King of these West-Saxons, having conquered already foure of these kingdomes and swallowed up (as it were) in hope the other twaine also, to the end that they which were subdued and reduced to the rule of one Prince might be conjoined likewise in one name, commanded by an Edict and Proclamation that the Heptarchie which the Saxons held should be called Englelondh , that is England: whereupon in Latine it was named Anglia, taking denomination of the Angles, as being of those three nations most in number and of greatest prowesse. For they kept in their possession the kingdome of Northumberland and Mercia, very great and large countries, together with East England, whereas the offspring of the Jutes held Kent only and the Isle of Wight, the Saxons East-sex, South-sex, and West-sex, a small parcel verily if it be compared with those spatious territories and lands of the English. Of whom, long before this, they were generally thorowout called English, and in their owne language Engealtheod, Anglcynne, Engl-cynn, and Englisc-mon , albeit every kingdome therein had a speciall name in the owne by it selfe. And this appeareth for certaine as well out of other writers, as Beda, who intituled his Storie The Historie of the English-Nation. Yea and in that Heptarchie those Princes that over-ruled the rest were stiled gentis Anglorum reges , that is, Kings of the English nation. At this time the name of Britaine lay forgotten and growen quite out of use among the inhabitants of this Iland, remaining only in Books and not taken up in common speech. And hereupon it is that Boniface the bishop of Mentz, descended from hence, called this one country Saxony beyond the Sea. Howbeit king Eadred, about the yere of our Lord 948 used in some Charters and Patents the name and title of King of Great Britaine, like as Edgar in the yeere 970 bare this stile also, The Monarch of all whole Albion green.

22. Being now called Anglia or England, the state and puissance of these Angles was come to the full height, and therefore (such is the revolution of all mortall things) hastened apace to their period and end. For the Danes, continually infesting our coasts many yeeres together, at the length began to enter, ransacking and mangling this countrie most pitifully.


MY purpose was even here to have set downe the orderly succesion of the English-Saxon Kings, both in the Heptarchie and also in their Monarchie: but seeing that they seeme not properly to belong unto this place, neither is the bare heaping up of names only delightfull to the reader, perhaps it will bee more acceptable if I briefly annex hereto what I have observed by much reading, and especially in Alfricus our ancient Grammarian, as touching the force, reason, and signification of the antient English names. Not that my meaning is to interpret every name severally (for that were a peece of worke verie laborious), neither can such barbarous names, in which there lieth couched great significancie, succinct brevitie, and some ambiguitie, be easily delivered in another tongue. But considering that most of them bee compounded, and that of few simples, I will explane the said simples, that the significations of the compound, implying all the osse and presage of good lucke, wished-for and happie fortune, may evidently appeare, and that we may thorowly perceive there is among all nations that one orthotetes [correctness] of names, which Plato speaketh of.

24. Ael, Eal, and Al in names compounded, like as παν in Greeke compositions, signifieth Al or Wholly. Hereupon Aelwin is as much as Wholly or Fully Victor; Albert, All bright and dred, wholly dread or reverend; Alfred, Altogether Pacificall or peacefull. Whereunto in some sort are correspondent in Greek Pammachius, Pancratius, Pamphilius &.

Aelf , which with varietie of Dialect is pronounced Ulph, Wolph, Hulph, Hilp, Helfe , and in these daies Helpe , carieth in it a signification of Helpe or Aid: as for example Aelwin, that is, a victorious aid; Aelfwold, a helpfull Governour; Aelfgiva, she that giveth helpe: according to which are these Greeke names Boethius, Symmachus, Epicurus.

Ard betokeneth naturall disposition or towardnesse: as Godard is as much as Divine towardnesse or inclination, Reinard, Sincere disposition; Giffard, a franke and liberall nature; Bernard, a filiall and sonne-like affection.

Athel, Adel and Edel import Noble. Thus Aethelred, that is, Noble in counsell; Aethelard, a noble nature or disposition; Aethelbert, famously Noble; Ethelward, a noble Tutor or Protectour.

Bert , the same that with us at this day bright, and in Latin illustris and clarus , that is, Splendent and cleere: so Ecbert, that is, Bright and shining for ever; Sigbert, a spendent conquerour; as also she whom the Germans named Bertha, the Greeke called Eudoxia, as Luitprandius witnesseth. And of this sort were Phaedrus, Epiphanius, Photius, Lampridius among the Greekes, Fulgentius and Illustrius, &. among the Latins.

Bald with the people of the North parts is the same that audax in Latine, that is, Bold, as Jornandes sheweth: a word that yet is not growen out of use. So Baldwin, and by inversion Winbald, is the same, Bold Victour; Ethelbald, Nobly bold; Eadbald, Happily bold. Unto which are consonant Thraseas, Thrasimachus and Thrasibulus in Greek, &.

Ken and Kin import Kinsfolke, as Kinulph, an helpe to Kinsfolke; Kinhelm, a Defender of his kin; Kinburg, a Defense to kinred; Kunric, powerfull in or to kinsfolke.

Cuth beareth with it a signification of skil and cunning: so Cuthwin, that is a skilfull or politicke Conquerour; Cuthred, a learned counsellor; Cuthbert, Notable for his skill: neere to these sound the Greeke names Sophocles, Sophanius, &.

Ead in the compounds and eaedig in simple words sheweth as much as Happinesse and Blessednesse. Thus Eadward is all one with Happie Saviour or preserver; Eadulph, Blessed helpe; Eadgar, Happie power; Eadwin, Fortunate Conquerour. Of which there is some resemblance in the Greeke names Macarius and Eupolemus, in these Latine also, Faustus, Fortunatus, Foelicianus, &.

25. Fred soundeth all at one with peace, for so our ancestours called Sanctuaries Fredstole , that is, the seats of peace. Thus Frederic is as much as powerable or wealthy in peace; Winfred, Victorious peace, Reinfred, sincere peace.

Gisle among the English Saxons betokeneth a pledge or hostage, as Fredgisle, an hostage of peace, Gislebert, a notable of famous pledge: like as in Greeke, Homerus.

Hold , in the old Glossaries, like as wold also, is interpreted Governour or chiefe Lieutenant, although in other places it signifieth Love, as Holdic, Lovely or Amiable.

Helm is as much as defence. Thus Eadhelm, Happie defence; Sighelm, Victorious defence; Berthelm, Noble or famous defence: even as these Greek names Amyntas, Boetius, &.

Hare and here , as they are diversly pronounced, betokened both an Armie and also a Lord: so Harhold, that is, the Ruler of an Armie; Hareman, A Principall or Chiefe man in an Armie; Herebart, Excellent in an armie; Herwin, a Victorious armie or conquerour of an Host: not unlike those Greeke names Stratocles, Polemarchus, Hegestratus, &.

Hild in Alfricks Grammar is expounded Lord and Lady: thus Hildebert betokeneth a famous or brave Lord; Mathild a Virgin Ladie; and in the same sense is Wiga found.

Leod , that is to say, People: thus Leodgar is one mightie with the people.

Leof signifieth Love: thus Leofwin, He that winneth love; Leofstan, Most deare or best beloved: like as in Greeke Agapetus, Erasmus, Erastus, Philo, and in Latine Amatus and Amandus.

Mund betokeneth Peace, whereof our Lawyers terme mundbreach commeth, that is to say Breach of peace: so Edmund is Happie peace; Aethelmund, Noble peace; Aelmund, Wholly peaceable or Make-peace: whereunto are well neere aequivalent these names, Irenaeus and Hesychius in Greeke, Lenis, Pacatus, Sedatus, Tranquillus in Latine.

Rad, red and rod , differing in Dialect, imply Counsell: as Conrade, Powerfull or skilfull in counsell; Etheldred, a noble Counsellor; Rodbert, notable for counsell: and in sense not unlike to Eubulus, Thrasibulus in Greeke.

Ric signifieth Potent, Rich, and Valiant, as Fortunatus in these verses has taught us:

O Hilpericke so mightie thou (stood here th' expounder by
Of bar' brous words), an helper strong eke doth this name imply.

Like as Aelfric, Al or wholly poerfull; Athelric, Nobly valiant or mighty. Unto which names these in Greeke allude: Polycrates, Crato, and Plutarchus, Opimius also in Latine.

Sig usually among them was put for Victorie, whereupon Sigbert, Renowmed or glorious for victorie; Sigward, a victorious Protectour; Sigard, Victorious towardnesse. And to the same sense in maner, Nicocles, Nicomachus, and Nicander with the Greekes, Victor, Victorinus, Vincentius, &. among the Latines.

Stan was among those old Forefathers of ours a termination of the Superlative degree, as Athelstan, that is, Most noble; Betstan, best; Leefstan, most liefe or deare; Wistan, most wise; Dunstan, most high.

Wi , the same that Holy, as Wimund, holy or sacred peace; Wibert, Famous or renowmed for holiness; Alwi, All holy: like as in Greeke Hierocles, Hieronymus, Hosius, &.

Willi and vili amongst English Saxons, as billi at this day, among the Germans carried a signification of Many: as Willielm, a defender to many; Wildred, Honoured or reverend of many; Wilfred, Peace to verie many. To which in sense and signification accord Polymachus, Polycrates, Polyphilus, &.

Wold and wald betokened with them a Ruler or Governour: Hence commeth Bellelwold, an excellent Governour; Ethelwold, a noble Ruler; Herwald, and by inversion Waldher, the Governour or Ruler of an Armie.

But lay a straw here, for in a trifling matter others, as well as my selfe, may thinke these notes sufficient, if not superfluous.

27. But of greater moment peradventure it will be if I here commit to writing (if so be these papers be marked to long life) what we have seene, namely, that as Egbert commanded this hither part of Britaine, and which was his owne possession, to bee named England, so now after 800 yeeres or thereabout come and gone, even whiles we are perusing this worke, King James, invested in the Monarchie of the whole Isle by the propitious favour and grace of God, in right of his owne inheritance, and with the generall applause of all good men, to the end that this said Isle, which is one entire thing in it selfe, encricled within one compasse of the Ocean, in his own person, under one imperiall crown and diademe, in one communitie of Language, Religion, Lawes and Judiciall processes, to the increase of perpetual felicitie, and oblivion of old enmitie, should beare also one name, hath in the second yeere of this raigne by an Edict published and proclaimed thorow his Realmes, assumed the name, title, and stile of King of Great Britaine, in all matters generally, save only in Writs and formalities of Law Instruments.


WHAT was the beginning of the Danes, the Danes themselves verily know not for certain. For the veritie it selfe hath hissed out of the Schoole of Antiquitie not onely that Giant Danus the sonne of Humblus, but also Goropius (who derived it from an Henne). Andrew Velleius, a Dane and a very great scholar, fetcheth their originall from the Dahae, a people of Scythia, and from marc , a word which should signifie not a limit but a Region. Our countrey-man Ethelward was fully perswaded that the name arose from the Citie Donia. For mine owne part, I alwaies thought that they sprung from the Danciones (whom Ptolomee placeth in Scandia, and who by change of one letter in some copies be named Dauciones), and from thence voided themselves into the desert and forsaken seat of the English, to wit, into Cimbrica Chersonesus, until that Jonas Jacobus Venusinus, a most learned man, right judicious, and passing well seene in the studie of Antiquitie, found out by diligent search and inquirie the very exprese tracts, as it were, and marks of the Danish name within Sinus Codanus or Codanonia , that is, the Baltish sea, or Oost sea, whereof Pomponius Mela made mention in this very tract. Which names pronounced somewhat grosely by the Northerne people Cdan and Cdanonum , Mela forged and fashioned upon the Latine anvill into Codanum and Codanonia , like as the posteritie after him Gdanum have coined ouit with a more gentle sound Dansk , of Clodonaeus, Lodovic , of Cnutus, Canutus. And yet before the daies of Justinian the Emperour, about the yeere of our redemption 570, the world tooke no knowledge of their name. For then begun they to rove upon the coasts of France and England, and were by the writers that penned in Latine the histories of England named Wiccingi for that they practised Piracie: for wiccinga in the Saxon tongue, as Alfricus witnesseth, doeth signifie a Pirat that runneth from creek to creeke, also Pagani , that is, Painims, because as yet they were not become Christians. But the Angles themselves in their language termed them Deniscan and often times Heathen-mon , as one would say, Ethnicks. Of these Danes listen to Dudo of Saint Quintins, an author of good antiquitie, out of the Librarie of John Stow (that most studious Antiquarie of the citie of London), which was never shut from me. The Danes swarmed from out of Scanza , that is, Scandia, like bees out of an hive, in manifold diversitie and barbarous maner, after they had in heat, lascivious lust, and wantonnesse ingendered an innumerable of-spring. Who after they were growne to ripenesse of yeeres falling to hote contention for goods and lands with their fathers and grand-fathers, yea and often times among themselves, when they once overflowed and grew so populous that they could have no roome sufficient to inhabite in the place wherein they presently dwelt, having gathered together by a lot a multitude of youth and springals, after a most antient custome, were thrust out into forraine Realmes, to conquer unto themselves land by dint of sword, wherein they might live. But in the full performance of discharging those that should thus be sent out, and in mustering up their armies, they sacrificed unto Thur, whom they worshipped in old time as their Lord; for whom they killed not any sheepe, oxen or other cattell, but offred mens bloud, thinking that to be the most pretious holocaust and sacrifice of all others, because when the priest by casting lots had predestined who should die, they were all at once deadly smitten upon the head with ox yokes, and when every one that was chosen by lot had his braines dashed out at one severall stroke, laid along he was on the ground, and sought out there was with narrow prying the fibre, that is to say, the veine of the heart on the left side, and having after their maner drawn out the bloud thereof, and striken it upon the heads of their friends, speedily they hoise up sailes, and thinking that they please their God with such an act, they immediately put to Sea, and fall to their ores. Moreover, there is another maner, or rather a most foule and detestable superstition, which the Danes used in pacifying their Gods, and this doth Ditmarus the Bishop, who was of greater antiquitie somewhat than Dudo, in these words describe. But because I have heard strange and wonderfull things of the ancient Sacrifices that the Danes and Normans used, I will not over passe the same. There is in these parts a place, and the chiefest is of this kingdome, called Lederum, in a province named Selon, where every ninth yeere in the moneth of Januarie, after the time in which we celebrate the Nativitie of our Lord, they all assemble together, and there they kill and sacrifice unto their Gods ninety and nine men, and as many horses, with dogs and cocks for the hauks which the Gods sent them, certainly perswading themselves, as I said before, that by the same they should please them.

2. About the time of Egbert, in the yeere of Christ 800, they first landed on our sea-coasts; afterwards with such tumults and hurliburlies as never the like was heard of, having for many yeeres made foule havock over all England, racing cities, firing Churches, and wasting countries, they let out the raines loose to all barbarous cruelty, driving, harrying, spoiling, and turning all upside down where ever they went. Thus after they had killed the Kings of the Mercians and East-Angles, they seazed upon their Kingdomes, with a great part of the Kingdome Northumberland. Then was there a tribute called Dangelt imposed upon the poore people for the repressing of their robberies and outrages: and that you may know what maner of imposition this was, I would have you to read these few lines copied out of our ancient Lawes: The paiment of Dangelt was at the first ordained for Pirats. For by sore annoying the countrey, they went on and did what they could to waste it utterly. And verily to keepe downe their insolencie, it was enacted that Dangelt should yeerely be paid, that is, twelve pence out of every hide of land thorowout the whole country: for to hire and wage those that might resist and withstand their invasion. Also, of this Dangelt was every Church freed and quit, as also all lands that were in the proper Demeses [domains] of the Churches, wheresoever they lay, paying nothing at all in such a contribution as this, because they trusted more in the prayers of the Church than in their defence by force of armes.

3. But when as now they assaile and set upon Aelfred king of the West-Saxons, he one while by retiring and giving them ground, otherwhiles by preassing hard upon them with his victorious forces, not only did put them back from his owne country, but also having slain a Danish pety-king of the Mercians, expelled them in maner quite out of all Mercia, and his sonne Edward the Elder following in traine of his fathers victories, when he had put the Danes to flight, brought East England to his subjection: like as Adelstane his base sonne, speedily marching to atchieve victories, with great slaughter of the Danes subdued Northumberland, and so terribly pursued the Danes that they were forced either to depart the realme or to submit themselves unto him. By the valorous prowesse of these Princes, England recovered out of the whirlepit of calamities, and rested from that bloudie warre by the space of 50 yeares. But whiles Etheldred, a man of a dull and soft spirit, reigned, the Danes, taking advantage of his cowardise, strooke up alarme and sounded the battaile againe, and having wasted the country, constrained the Englishmen to redeeme their peace yearely with a great sum of monie, and so insolently they bare themselves that the Englishmen conspired generally together, and in one night murdered all the Danes every mothers sonne of them thorowout all England, thinking by this effusion of bloud to quench the fire of Danish warre, which brake out neverthelesse into a more pernicious flame. For Sueno king of the Danes, provoked with this slaughter of his people, invaded England with a puissant armie and, having in furious and enraged moode made much spoile, he put Etheldred to flight, subdued the whole kingdome, and left the same unto his sonne Canutus: who having encountred many cruell and sharp battailes, and those with variable fortune fought, with Etheldred now returned and his sonne Edmund surnamed Iron-side, had two of his sonnes succeeding after him, to with, Harald, a bastard, and Canutus the Hardie. After they were dead and the Danish yoke shaken off, the kingdome fell againe unto the English. For Edward, who in regard of his holinesse was surnamed the Confessor, the sonne of Etheldred by his second wife, recovered the crown and roiall Dignity. Now began England to take breath againe, but soone after, as saith the Poet,

Prosperity perverted maners.

The Priests were idle, drowsie and unlearned, the people given to riot and loose life: they grew also through rest to be lither [more soft, gentle], discipline lay, as it were, dead, the commonwealth sick, as one would say of an infinite sort of vices, lay in consumption and pined away. But pride above all, whose waiting maid is destruction, was come to a mightie head. And as Gervasius Dorobornensis, of that time, speaketh, They fell so fast to commit wickednese, that to be ignorant of sinfull crimes was held to be a crime. All which most evidently foreshewed destruction. The Englishmen of those times, as William of Malmesburie writeth, went lightly appointed with their garments reaching to the mid knee, their heads shorne, their beards shaven, but the upper lip uncut where the mustaches grew continually, wearing massie bracelets of gold about their armes, carying marks upon the skin pounced [pricked] in, of sundry colours. The clergy, contenting themselves with triviall literature, could scarcely hack and hew out the words of the Sacrament.


LIKE as in ancient times of that East coast of Germanie (in respect of us) which tendeth Northward, the Franks first, and then the Saxons grievously annoied both France, Gaule, and Britaine with their depredations, so that in the end the one became Lords of Britaine, the other of France: even so in these later daies ensuing the Danes first, and afterward the Normans succeeding in their place, from out of the same coast did the like as if it were fatally given unto that tract by the dispose and providence of almightie God to conceive still, and often times to send out of her wombe nations to afflict France and Britaine, yea and to establish new kingdoms therein.

2. These Normans were so called of the Northern quarter or climate from whence they came. For Nordmans be nothing else but Men of the north, in which sense also they are named Nordleudi , that is, a Northern people (for a mixt nation they were of the most valiant Norwegians, Suedens and Danes). In the time of Charles the Great they practised roving and piracie in such cruel maner about Frisia, Belgica, England, Ireland, and France, that when the said Charles the Great saw their roving ships in the Mediterranean sea, he shed tears abundantly, and with a grievous deepe sigh said, Heavy I am at the heart that in my life time they durst once come upon this coast, and I foresee what mischiefe they will worke hereafter to my posterity. Yea, and in the publicke Processions and Litanies of Churches, this afterwards was added to the rest, From the rage of Normans, good Lord, deliver us. They drave the French to that exteremitie that King Charles the Bald was forced to give unto Hasting, a Norman Archpirate, the Earledome of Charters for to asswage the mans furie. King Charles the Grosse granted unto Godfrey the Norman part of Neustria with his daughter also in marriage. But afterwards by force and armes they seated themselves neere unto the mouth of the river Sein, in a country which before time was corruptly called Neustria, because it had been parcell of Westrasia. For the so the writers of the middle time named that which the Germans used to call Westen-riich , that is, the West-kingdome, and doth comprise all that lieth between the rivers of Loyre and Seine. Which tooke the name of Normandie afterwards of them, as it were the region of Northern men, when King Charles the Simple had confirmed it unto their Prince Rollo, whose Godfather he was at his Baptisme, to be held in Fee by homage, and withall bestowed upon him his daughter in mariage. At which time, as we read in an old Manuscript belonging to the Monasterie of Angiers, Charles surnamed Stultus gave Normandie to Rollo, and his daughter Gista with it. This Rollo deigned not to kisse the foote of Charles, and when his friends about him admonished him to kisse the Kings foote as his homager, for the receit of so great a benefit, he answered in the English tongue, ne se by God, which they interpret thus, No by God. The King then and his Courtiers, deriding him and corruptly repeating his speech, called him Bigod, whereupon the Normans be at this day called Bigodi. Hence also peradventure it is that the Frenchmen even still use to call hypocrites and superstitious folke bigod [bigot].

3. This Rollo, who being baptised received the name of Robert, some writers report to have become a Christian but in shew and colour only; others, upon good deliberation and earnest. And they adde moreover that he was warned so to doe by God in a dreame: which I pray you give me leave (being a man, for all this, that doateth not upon dreames) to relate with suspition of vanity, from the credit of writers in those daies. The report goeth that as he sailed, he dreamed he saw himselfe foully infected with the leprosie, but when he was washed once in a most cleere spring at the foote of an high hill, he recovered and was clensed thereof, and anon climbed up to the top of the said hill. This Dreame when he reported, a Christian that was a captive in the same ship with him interpreted it in this wise: the Leprosie was the impious worship of Idol-gods, wherewith he was tainted; that the spring betokned the holy Laver of Regeneration, whereon with being once cleansed, he should ascend up the hill, that is, attaine unto high honor and heaven it selfe.

4. This Rollo begat William surnamed Long-espee, of the long sword which he used to weare, and William begat Richard, the first of that name. Whose sonne and nephew by his sonne, carying both his name, succeeded after him in the duchie of Normandie, but when Richard the third was dead without issue, his brother Robert was Duke in his stead, who of his concubine begat that William whom we commonly name The Conquerour and The Bastard. All three were every one for the noble acts, atchieved both at home and abroad, most renowned Princes. Now whiles this William, being of ripe yeeres, ruled Normandie, Edward the holy, surnamed Confessor, king of England and the last of the Saxons line, departed out of this world unto his heavenly country, to the great misse and losse of his people, who being the sonne of Ladie Emma cosen to William and daughter to Richard, the first of that name, Duke of Normandie, whiles he remained in Normandie banished, had promised unto him that he should succeed after him in the Crowne of England. But Harold, the sonne of Godwin and Great Master or Steward of King Edwards house, usurped the Kingdome: whom to dispossesse, his brother Tosto of one side, and the Normans of the other, did what they could, and left no stone unturned. But when he in a pitched field had, neere unto Stamford brig in Yorkshire, slaine his brother Tosto and Harald king of Norway, whom Tosto had drawen to take part with him in this warre, and so obtained bloudy victory, behold within nine daies after the said William surnamed The Bastard, Duke of Normandie, taking hold of the promises of king Edward late deceased, and presuming of his adoption and neere alliance, having levied a great armie, arrived in England among the South-Saxons. Against whom Harald forthwith advanced, albeit his souldiours were sore wearied, and his power by the former battaile much empaired. And not far from Hastings they encounter and joine battaile: where Harald, engaging himselfe into the mids of the medley and fighting manfully, lost his life with a great number of Englishmen left slaine in the place. But how many they were just, hard it is exactly to conceive and faithfully to put downe. William, thus a Conquerour, presently with banner displaid marched about in order of battaile by Wallingford to London, where being received, he was solemnly inaugurated King, as unto whom, by his own saying, The Kingdome was by Gods providence appointed, and by vertue of a gift from his Lord and Cosen King Edward the Glorious, granted , and after some few lines, the story runneth on and saith that the most bounteous King Edward had by an adoption ordained him his heire in the kingdome of England. And yet if we list to beleeve the Historie of Saint Stephens in Caen of Normandie, at his last breath he uttered these words, The Regall Diadem which none of all my predecessors ever wore, I got and gained by the grace of God onely, and no right of inheritance. And a little after, I ordaine no man heire of the Kingdome of England, but I commend the same to the eternall Creator, whose I am, and in whose hands are all things. For I became not possessed of so great honour by any hereditarie right, but by a terrible conflict, and with much effusion of bloud I tooke it from that perjured King Harald, and after I had either slaine or put to flight his favourers and adherents, I subdued it under my Dominion.

5. But why doe I so briefly run over this so great alteration of the English state? Have therefore, if you not think much to read it, what my selfe with no curious pen (haply with as little studie and premeditation, howbeit according to the truth of the Historie) wrote, when being but young, not well advised nor of sufficiencie to undergoe so great a burden, I purposed to set forth our Historie in the Latine tongue.

When Edward the Confessour was now without issue departed this life, the Nobles and people of the land were in doubtfull care distracted about the setting up of a new King in his place. Edgar, surnamed Aethling, grand child unto King Edmund Iron-side, onely of all the issue male of the Saxons line remained alive, unto whom by right of inheritance the kingdome was due. But considering he was thought by reason of his tender yeeres not meete to manage the State, and had beside intermingled his naturall disposition with forrain maners, as being borne in Pannonia, and the sonne of Agathra daughter to the Emperor Henrie the Third, who was in so remote a countrie father off than that he could conveniently assist the young Gentleman either with aid or counsell, in these regards he was lesse affected of the Englishmen, who desired nothing more than to have a King (as it were) out of their owne body. And therefore all of them for the most part had their eies fixed with much respect upon Harald Goodwins sonne, a man for his good parts as well in warre as peace very glorious. For albeit he was of noble parentage but by one side, and his father for his treacherie and treason, as also for pillaging and polling had incurred everlasting infamie and shame, yet with his courteous affability, gentill deportment, liberality, and warlike prowesse he wound himselfe into exceeding great especiall favour with the people. For there could not another be set by him in whom there was more resolute hardines to adventure upon danger, or more advised policie in the mids of dangers. His valour also and fortune shined out so apparently in the Welch wars, which heretofore most happily he had brought to an end, that he was reputed verily a man passing well furnished with all vertues required in a soveraigne Commander, and evermore to repaire the decaied state of England. Moreover, good hope there was that the Danes (who onely terrified this country) would be the better contented and pleased with him because he was the sonne of Githa, daughter to Sueno King of Denmarke. And in case there should arise any other power against him, either forrain or domesticall, he was thought sufficiently enabled to make his part good with the affectionate hearts of the common people, with the alliance also and affinitie that he had among the Nobility. For he had to wife the sister of Morcar and Edwin two brethren, men of exceeding great puissance, and Edric surnamed the Wild, a man of high spirit and in chiefe authority was linked to him in the neerest bond of Affinitie. Besides, it fell out very well for him that at one and the self same time Sueno king of the Danes had his hands full of warre with Sweden, and between William Duke of Normandie and Philip the French king there fell some dislikes and emulation, for that Edward the Confessour during his exile in Normandie had in exprese termes promised unto William of Normandie the Kingdome if he died without issue. For the performance of which promise Harold became, as it were, surety, and bound himselfe with an oath (what time as he was detained prisoner in Normandie), but with this condition annexed, that he might espouse the daughter of the said William of Normandie. Whereupon most men thought it the wisest policie to set the crowne upon William his head, to the end that by performing oath and promise,the warre that they foresaw now threatned and destruction (which alwaies waiteth as a due punishment upon perjurie) might be averted, and withall by laying Normandie to England, the Kingdome under so mightie a Prince might be surely established, and the Common-wealth very much advanced.

6. But Harold, quickly preventing all consultations whatsoever, thinking it not good for him to linger and delay any whit, that very day on which King Edward was enterred, contrary to the expectation of most men, entred upon the soveraigne government, and with the applause onely of such as were then present about him, who with acclamations saluted him King, without the due complements and solemnitie of Coronation, set the Imperiall Diadem upon his owne head. By which act of his, as being a breach of ancient ordinance, he exceeding provoked and stirred up against him the whole clergie and Ecclesiasticall state. But he, knowing well enough how hard it was for a new Prince and an usurper to maintaine his roiall place and dignity without an opinion of pietie and vertue, for to blot out that his offence given and to establish his Scepter, did all he possibly could for the promoting of religion and preferment of Churchmen, and to beautifie and adorne Monasteries and religious houses. Edgar Aetheling Earle of Oxford and all the nobles he entertained with all love and favour: the people he eased of their tributes: he gave bountifully a great largesse of monie to poore people: and in one word, with faire speech and affable language, with mild hearing of causes and equitie in deciding the same, he woon to himselfe singular love, and no lesse authority and reputation. So soone as William Duke of Normandie was truly advertised of these newes, he seemed to take the death of King Edward very heavily, whiles in the meane time he was vexed at the heart that England, which he had in conceit and hope already swallowed and devoured, was thus caught away out of his very chawes. Forthwith therefore, by advice of his counsell and friends, he dispatcheth Embassadors to Harold, with instructions to put him in mind of the promises and stipulation past, but withall in his name to make claime to the crowne. Harold, after some pause and deliberation upon the point, returneth this answer: As touching the promises of King Edward, William was to understand that the Realme of England could not be given by promise, neither ought he to be tied unto the said promise, seeing the kingdome was fallen unto him by election and not by right of inheritance. And as for his owne stipulation, extorted and wrung it was from [him] then a prisoner, by force and by guile, in feare of perpetuall imprisonment, to the hindrance of the English common-wealth and prejudice of the State, and therefore void: which neither ought he if he could, nor might if he would, make good, since it was done without the Kings privitie and consent of the people. And a very hard and unreasonable demand it was of his that he should renounce and surrender unto a Norman Prince, a meere stranger and of forrein linage, that kingdome wherein he was invested with so great assent of all sorts. With this answere Wiliam was not well pleased, and he thought that Harold thereby sought starting holes for to hide his perjurie. Others therefore he sent out of hand in Embassage about the same matter, who should admonish him how religiously he had bound himselfe by oath, and that forsworne persons should be sure of finall perdition at Gods hands, and reprochfull shame among men. But when as now the daughter of William affianced unto Harold in the covenant (the very strength and knot of the foresaid stipulation) was by Gods appointment taken away by death, the Embassadours were with lesse courtesie entertained, and received none other answere than before.

7. So that now by this time there was nothing like to follow but open warre. Harold riggeth and prepareth his navie, mustereth and presseth souldiers and places strong garisons along the sea coasts in convenient places, and provideth all things in readiness which were thought needfull and meet for to beat backe the Norman forces. Howbeit the first tempest of warre, beside the expectation of all men, arose from Tosto the brother in whole bloud of Harold. He, being a man of a proud, hautie and fell heart, ruled in great authority a good while over Northumberland, but growing outragious in cruelty to his inferiors, in pride toward his Soveraigne, and in hatred to his brethren, was outlawed by Edward the Confessor, and so withdrew himselfe into France, and now, by the advice of Baldwine Earle of Flanders, and perswasion of William Duke of Normandie, as it seemeth probable (for Tosto and William maried two daughters of Baldwine Earle of Flanders), beginneth to trouble his brother with open warre, whom a long time he deadly hated. From Flanders he tooke sea with a fleet of 60 rovers-ships, wasteth the Isle of Wight and annoyeth the sea-coast of Kent; but terrified at the comming of the kings navie, he set up saile and, directing his course toward the more remote parts of England, landeth at Lincolneshire, and there harrieth the Countrey, where Edwin and Morcar gave him battle. But, being discomfited and put to flight, into Scotland he goes, from thence to renew his forces and so to warre afresh. Now were all mens minds held in suspense with the expectation of a twofold warre, of the one side out of Scotland, of the other out of Normandie: and so much the more, because at the feast of Easter there was seene about a . together a blasing starre of an hideous and fearfulle forme, which turned mens minds already troubled and perplexed (as it falleth out in a turbulent time) to the foreseeing of some unluckie events. But Harold carried an heedfull eie to all parts of his kingdome, and the south coast he fortified with garisons. Lesse feare he had from Scotland and Tosto, because Malcolm king of the Scots was sore disquieted with civil dissensions.

8. Meanwhile, William, much busied in his mind about England, casting about what course to take, ever and anon communicated with this Captaines about the point; whom he saw cheerefull and full of forward hopes. But all the difficulty was how to make money for defraying the charges of so great a warre. For when in a publike assembly of all the states of Normandie it was propounded as touching a subsidie, answere was made that in the former warre against the French their wealth was so much empaired that if a new warre should come upon them they were hardly able to hold and defend their owne: that they were to looke rather unto the defence of their proper possessions than to invade the territories of others: and this war intended, just though it were, yet seemed it not so necessary, but exceeding dangerous: beside, the Normans were not by their allegeance bound to military service in forrain parts. Neither could they by any maner be brought to grant a levie of money, although William Fitzosbern, a man in high favour with the Duke and as gracious among the people, endevoured what he could to effect it: yea, and to drawe others by his owne example, promised to set out fortie tall ships of his owne proper charges toward this warre. Duke William then, seeing he could not bring this about in a publike meeting, goeth another way to worke. The wealthiest men that were he sendeth for severally one by one to repaire unto him: he speaks them faire, and requireth them to contribute somewhat toward this warre. They then, as if they had strived avie who should helpe their Prince most, promise largely; and when that which they promised was presently registered in a booke, there was a huge masse of money quickly raised, and more than men would ever have thought. These matters thus dispatched, he craveth aid and helpe of the Princes his neighbours, to wit, the Earles of Anjou, Poictou, Maine and Bulloigne, and unto them he promiseth faire Lands and possessions in England. Philip also the French King he goeth unto, and solliciteth, voluntarily promising in case he aided him to become his vassall and leege man, and for England to take the oath of fealtie unto him. But it being thought nothing good for the state of France that the Duke of Normandie, who already was not so pliable and obedient to the French king as he ought, should be bettered in his state by the addition of England (for the power of neighbour potentates is alwaies suspected of Princes), so far was the king from yeelding any helpe, that he disswaded him rather from invading England. But by no meanes could the Duke be reclamed from his enterprise, nay much more encouraged he was now and set on, being once backed with warrant from Alexander the Bishop of Rome (for even now began the Pope to usurpe authority over Princes), who, allowing of his cause and quarrell, had sent unto him a sacred and hallowed banner as a luckie fore-token of gaining both the victory and Kingdome: yea, and withall cursed whosoever should oppose themselves against him.

9. Hee assembled therefor all the forces he could possible raise, and gathered together a mightie navie before the Towne of Saint Valeries, which standeth upon the mouth of the river Some, where he lay a long time windbound. For the procurement whereof with many a vow he importuned Saint Valerie the patron-Saint of the towne, and heaped upon him a number of gifts and oblations. Harold, who with his forces had waited very long in vaine for his comming, determined to dissolve his armie, to withdraw his navie, and to leave the Sea-coast, both for that he was compelled thereto for want of provision, as also because the Earle of Flanders had written unto him that William would not stirre that yeere: whom he soone believed, as thinking that the time of the yere was such as had locked up the seas and barred all navigation, forasmuch as the autumnall Aequinox was neere. Whiles he thus deviseth with himselfe, driven he was (upon an unexpected necessity of new warre) to call back his armie. For Harold surnamed the Hard and Harfager, king of Norway, who had practised piracie in the North parts of Britaine, and already subdued the Isles of Orknes, being by Tosto sollicited and called forth in hope of the Kingdome of England, arrived within the mouth of the river Tine with a fleet of 500 flibotes thereabout, where Tosto also came and joined his owne fleet. When they had a good while forraied and spoiled the countrey heere, they weighed anchor and, sailing along the coast of Yorkshire, put into Humbre, and there began to commit outrages with all maner of hostility. For the repressing of whom, the two Earles Edwin and Morcar led forth a power of souldiers, whom they had raised suddainly and in tumultuary haste: but they, not able to abide the violent charge of the Norwegians, fled for the most part as fast as they could, and together with the Earles made shift to escape, howbeit many of them, passing over the river Ouse, were swallowed up with the waves thereof. The Norwegians then goe in hand to lay siege unto the Citie of Yorke, which straightwaies they get by surrender, hostages being given on both sides. But after some few dayes, King Harold having gathered his whole power from all parts together, speedeth him to Yorke, and from thence marcheth against the Norwegians, who lay encamped strongly in a most safe place: for backed they were with the Ocean, flanked on the left hand with Humber, wherein their fleet rid at anchor, and had for their defence on the right side and afront the river Derwent.

10. Howbeit King Harold couragiously setteth upon them: where first there was a cruell conflict at the Bridge standing over the river Derwent, which one Norwegian souldier, by report, made good for a time against the whole armie of the Englishmen, and held out so long until he was shot thorow with a dart and died; after this continued the battell a good while within the verie campe, fought with equall valour and indifferent fortune on both side. But in the end the Norwegians were disarraied and scattered, and in the mids of the battell Harold himselfe King of the Norwegians and Tosto, with the greater part of the Armie lost their lives. Upon this Victorie there fell unto King Harold an exceeding rich bootie, a great masse both of gold and silver, and that huge Armada, except twentie small Barkes onely which hee granted unto Paul Earle of Orkney and Olave the Sonne of Harold who was slaine, for to carie away those that were hurt, taking their oath first that from thenceforward they should not attempt any hostilitie against England. This happy Victorie encouraged Harold and set him aloft: now he thought that he should be a terrour, yea, to the Normans, howsoever he grew odious unto his owne people because he had not divided the spoile among his souldiers. Howbeit, wholly hee employed himselfe to reforme the disordered state of the countrey, which in this part was pitifully out of frame and lay neglected. Meane while William Duke of Normandie, finding a fit season for his purpose, about the end of September weighed anker and launched forth: then with a gentle gale of winde he sailed with all his shipping, and arrived at Pevensey in Sussex, where being landed upon the naked shore, for to cut off all hope of return from his men, he did set fire on his ships: and having erected a fortresse there for his men to retire thither in safetie, forward he marcheth to Hastings, where also he raised another strong hold, and placed therein a garison. Now by this time he maketh proclamation, declaring the causes of this warre: namely, to revenge the death of Alfred his Cousin, whom together with many Normans Godwin the Father of Harold had murdered; item, to bee avenged of the wrongs that Harold had done, who when he had banished Robert Archbishop of Canterburie, even then by intrusion entred upon the Kingdome of England now pertaining to him (treading underfoot the religious respect of his oath). Howbeit, by an Edict he straightly charged his souldiers not in hostile maner to spoile the English men.

11. Newes hereof in all haste was brought to King Harold, who by all meanes thinking it good to use prevention, and as speedily as might be to encounter the Duke, sendeth out his messengers everie way, calling earnestly upon his subjects to continue in their faithfull allegeance, assembleth all his forces in everie place, and with great journeys hasteneth to London: where there presented himselfe unto him an Embassadour from Duke William; but as he made many words in claiming the Kingdom, Harold in a furious fit of anger and indignation went within a little of laying violent hands upon the verie person of the Embassadour. For a hard matter it was to bereave a fresh Victour of his pride and confident hope. Forthwith he dispatcheth his Embassadours also unto William by way of insolent terms to menace him, unlesse with all speed he retired back into Normandie. Yet William gave them a gentle answere, and dismissed them with great courtesie. Mean time, Harold mustereth up souldiers in London, and findeth that by the former battell against the Norwegians his forces were very much diminished: yet a mightie armie he levied of Nobles, Gentlemen, and others whom the love of their native countrey had raised and brought into the field, for to put backe and repell the common danger. Presentely he leadeth forth into Suthsex, notwithstanding his mother (though in vaine) did what she could to stay him: and with an undaunted heart, encamping upon a faire plaine scarse seven miles from Duke William, sat him downe. And thither also immediatly the Norman approached with his Armie. First there were secretly sent out on both sides Espies, and they of the English part, either not knowing the truth or disposed to lie, made incredible report of the Normans number, their furniture and provision, of their good order also and discipline, insomuch as Gyth, a yonger brother of King Harold, a man renowmed for martiall exploits, thinking it no good policy to hazard all in the triall of one battell, advertised the King that the events of war were doubtful, that victories oftener depended of fortune than of valour, and that holding off and deliberat delay was the chiefest point of military discipline. Also, he advised him that, in case hee had made promise unto William of the Kingdom, he should for his own person withdraw himselfe, for surely he could not with al his forces be fenced against his conscience, and God, no doubt, would require punishment for breach of faith and promise: neither, saith he , will any thing strike greater terrour into the Normans than if he should be levying and enrolling a new Armie, whereby they might be received eftsoones with fresh battels. Furthermore, hee assureth him in his owne behalf that if hee would commit the fortune of that battell into his hands, he would not faile to performe the part of a good brother and a valiant captaine: as who, trusting upon the cleernesse of his heart and a good conscience, might more easily defeat his enemies, or else more happily spend his life for his countrey. The King was not well content to heare these admonitions and counsels, which seemed to tend unto his dishonour: for as hee could willingly abide the event and issue of warre, so in no wise could he endure the reproach of fearefull cowardise. and therefore the praises of the Normans with bad words he depraved, neither thought hee that it would stand with his owne dignitie, or the reputation of his former prowesse, being now come, as it were, to the utmost point of perill and hazard, like a milk-soppe and dastard, to draw foot backe and incurre the perpetuall staine and blot of shame. Thus whom it pleaseth almightie God to overthrow, He first maketh them uncapable of good counsell.

12. Whiles these matters thus passed between them, Duke William, upon a pious affection to preserve and maintaine the state of Christendome and to spare the effusion of Christian bloud, sendeth a Monke as a mediatour between both, who proposed this offer and condition unto Harold, either wholly to resigne up his Kingdome, or to acknowledge from thenceforth that he holdeth it of the Norman Duke as his superiour Lord, or else to decide the quarrell with William by combate, or at leastwise to stand to the judgement of the Pope of Rome touching the Kingdom of England. But he, as one having no rule of himselfe, and accepting of no condition whatsoever, referred the whole triall of the matter to the tribunall seat of God, and made answere that the verie next day following, which was the second before the Ides of October, he would bid him battell: and this day, upon a credulous errour, he had assured himselfe would be fortunate unto him, because it was his birth day. All the night ensuing the English men spent in licentious revels, in riotous excesse of banquetting, and in clamorous noises. But the Normans bestowed the same in praiers and vowes for the safetie of the armie, and for victorie. The next morning by day light they embattell [station] themselves on both sides: Harold placed in the vantgard, the Kentish men with their billes and halberts (for by an old custome the front of the battell was due to them), and in the reregard himselfe tooke place with his brother, and those of middle England with the Londoners. Of the Normans vaward [vanguard] Roger of Montgomerie and William Fitz-osberne had the leading: the same consisted of horsemen out of Anjou, Perch, and little Britaine, the most part of whom served under Fergentus the Briton. The maine battell, which stood of Poictovins and Germans, Geffrey Martell and a German Pensioner commanded. In the reregard was the Duke himselfe with the whole manhood of Normans and the flower of his Nobilitie and Gentrie. But in every place were intermingled with the rest certaine companies of Archers. The Normans, having with no confused nor untunable shout sounded the battle and advanced forward with their Battailions, [and] at the first did encounter did let flie lustily on every side a volley of arrowes like haile, a kind of sight, which as it was strange to the Englishmen, so it terrified them exceedingly: for they flew so thick that they thought they had their enemies even in the mids of themselves. Then with a violent charge they assaile the vaward of the English, and they for their part, who resolutely had determined to cover the place which they had taken up with their bodies rather than to give one foot of ground, bending all their forces and keeping themselves close together, right valiantly put the enemies backe and slew a number of them. The Normans reenforced themselves againe upon them, and with an horrible noise the battels of both sides gave the stroke. And now by this time were they come to the medley, wherein as if foot to foot and man to man they had coped together, there was for a good while a fierce and cruell fight.

13. The English men standing thick and close, as if they had stucke one to another, abid the brunt and charge of the enemies with constant resolution, insomuch as after many a bloudie wound received they were now at the point to have reculed [retreated], had not William, performing the part of a leader as well as of a souldier, with his authoritie restrained them. Thus the fight continuing still, the Norman horsemen brake in upon them, and withall from above the arrowes flew so thicke about the English mens eares that they were in maner overwhelmed with them: yet for all that, they kept their array unbroken. For Harold, neglecting no dutie of a valorous Captaine, was readie in person everie where, and William againe for his part bare himselfe as worthily, who having one or two horses stabbed and slaine under him, seeing that hee could not by fine force and true valour indeed get the upper hand, betooke himselfe to stratagems: commanding his men to sound the retreat, and, keeping them still in good order and array, to give ground and retire. The English men, supposing now that they had turned backe and fled, and that themselves had the victorie in their hands, display their ranks and, being thus disposed, presse hard upon ther enemies, as making full account that the day was now sure enough theirs. Whereas the Normans, casting suddenly againe into array and winding about, charge the English afresh, and thus setting upon them, being scattered and out of order, enclosed them round about and made an exceeding great slaughter of them. Many of them whiles they stood doubtfull whether to fight or to flie, were borne downe and slaine, but more of hem, having recovered an higher ground, casting themselves round into a ring, and comforted with the exhortation one of another, with good resolution turned head and resisted a long time, as if they had made choice of that place for an honourable death: until that Harold, being shot thorow the head with an arrow, together with his two brethren Gythn and Leofwin, lost his life. Then Edwin and Morcar, with some few others that remained alive and escaped by flight, yeelded to the hand of God and give place unto the time, considering that the battell had continued without intermission from seven of the clock in the morning unto the evening twilight. There were in this battell missed of the Normans much about 6000, but of English many more by farre. William, now Conquerour, rejoyced exceedingly, and by way of a solemn supplication or procession which he appointed, gave al honor to the almightie and most gratious God: and when hee had erected his pavilion in the midst of the bodies lying slaine by heapes, there he passed that night. The morow after, when he had buried his owne men and granted leave unto the English men to doe the like, himselfe returned to Hastings, partly to consult about following the traine of his victorie, and in part to refresh a while his wearied souldiers. No sooner was the newes of this grievous overthrow by fearfull Messengers brought to London and to other cities of England, but the whole land generally was stricken into dumpes and, as it were, astonied. Githa the Kings mother, like a woman, gave her selfe to plaints and lamentations so as that shee would admit no consolation, but with most humble praiers intreated the Conquerour for the dead bodies of her sonnes. And those she enterreth in the Abbey of Waltham. Edwin sendeth Queene Algitha his sister into the farther parts of the Kingdome. But the Lords and Peeres of the Realme will the people not to cast down their hearts, but lay their heads together about the State and Common-wealth. The Archbishop of Yorke, the Citizens of London, and the sea souldiers, whom they called botes carles, gave their advice to consecrate Eadgar king and to begin warre againe with William. Edwin and Morcar plotted secretly to usurpe the imperiall rule and dignitie for themselves: but the Bishops, Prelates, and others, who were terrified with the flashing thunderbolts of the Popes curse, thought best to yeeld, and not by doubtful battell to provoke the Conquerours heavie indignation against them, nor to strive against God, Who now for the sinnes of the people calling for vengeance had delivered England, as it were, into the hands of the Norman. William, all this whiles fortifying the towne of Hastings, purposed to march directly with his armie in warlike maner to London: but because he would raise the greater terrour abroad, and make all sure behinde, having divided his forces, he rangeth over part of Kent, over Suthsex, Suthrey, Suthamptonshire and Berkshire, fireth villages and upland houses, driveth booties, at Wallingford he passeth over the Thames and terrifieth all the country as he goeth. Yet for all this, the Nobles and Peeres wist not what counsell or course to take, neither could they be brought to lay downe privat grudges and enmities, and with one heart to consult in common for the good of the State. The Prelates, to be absolved from curses of the Church and censures of the Bishop of Rome (whereby now he exercised his authoritie, not onely over mens soules, but also over Kingdomes), seeing that the state of the realme was now not decayed, but quite ruinate and past recoverie, persisted in this mind to submit, in so much as many, seeking to save themselves, secretly departed out of the Citie. But Alfred Archbishop of York, Wolfstan Bishop of Worcester, and other Prelates, together with Eadgar Aetheling, Edwin and Morcar, at Berkhamsted doe meet the Norman Conquerour (who made them many and large promises), and, having given hostages, committed themselves to his protection and submitted. Then forthwith speedeth he to London, where being received with great and joyful acclamations, he was saluted King: for the solemnizing of his Coronation, which he appointed should be on Christmas day, he made all the preparation that might bee, and meane while bent his whole mind and all his thoughts to the setling of the State.

14. Now was the period and revolution of the English-Saxons Empire in Britaine come about, which was determined within the compasse of 607 yeeres, and a notable alteration and change made in the Kingdome of England, which some lay upon the base avarice of the Magistrates and the superstitious lazinesse of the Prelates: others impute to that Comet or blazing starre, and the powerable influence of celestiall bodies: some againe made God the Author thereof, Who in his His secret judgements, and those never unjust, disposeth of Kingdomes. Others also there were who looked into neerer secondarie causes, and they found a great want and lacke of wisedome in King Edward, in that whiles under a goodly shew and pretext of religion and vowed virginitie, he, casting off all care of having issue, exposed the Kingdom for a prey to ambitious humours.

15. What an insolent and bloudie victory this was, the Monks that write of it have declamed with full mouth: neither is it to be doubted but in this Victorie (as it hapneth in other), wickednes tooke head and bare the full sway. William the Conquerer, in token as it were of a Trophee for this conquest, abrogated some part of the ancient positive lawes of England, brought in some Customes of Normandie, and by vertue of a decree commanded that all causes should be pleaded in the French tongue. The English he thrust out of their ancient Inheritances, assigned their lands and Lordships to his souldiers, yet with this reservation to himselfe, that he should still remaine chiefe Lord and bind them to doe due service and homage unto him and his successors, that is to say, that all of them should hold their lands in Fee or fealty. He cause also a Seale for himselfe to be made of purpose, with this inscription upon the one side:

The Normans Patron William know by this stamp that you [see].

And on the other

By this, a king to Englishmen acknowledge him to be.

Moreover, as William of Malmesburie doth report, In imitation of Caesars policy, who expelled the Germans (lying hidden within that huge forrest Ardenna, and by many a sallie from thence annoying his armie) not by the helpe of his owne Romans, but by the Gaules his confederates, to this end, that whiles strangers and aliens killed one another, himselfe might triumph with their bloudshed, the very same course, I say, did William take with the English men. For against certaine of them, who upon the first battell of that infortunate man Harold were fled into Denmarke and Ireland, and returned with a puissant armie in the third yeere after, he opposed meere English forces and an English Generall, permitting the Normans to sit still and keepe holiday, forseeing heereby and providing for his owne great easement, whether of them soever should have the better. Neither was he in this point frustrate of his purpose. For the English, having this a prettie while skuffeled and skirmished one with another, in the end rendred up the entire Victorie to the King, with out his paines taking. And in another place, Having undermined and quite overthrowne the power of the Laimen, he provided by a sure and irrevocable edict to suffer no Monke or Clerke of the English Nation to endevour for to get any dignitie, much disagreeing herein from the clemencie and gentlenesse of King Cnute in times past, who gave unto those that he conquered all their honours entire. And hence it came to passe that when hee was once dead, the naturall inhabitants of the countrey upon light occasions fell to driving out of strangers, and recovered unto themselves their ancient right and freedome.

16. When he had brought this to passe, above all things hee laboured to turne away the storme of Danish warres that hung over his head, and to purchase peace, though it were with rounds sums of mony. Wherein he used Adelbert Archbishop of Hamburgh as his Instrument. For Adam Bremensis writeth thus: Between Sven and the Bastard there was continuall strife about England, although our Bishop, being greased in the hand with Williams bribes, would have concluded a firme peace betwixt the Kings Which may seeme also to have been established: for since that time England was never any whit afraid of the Danes. And William verily betooke himselfe wholly to the defence and maintenance of his imperiall dignitie, and to governe the state by excellent lawes. For, as Gervase of Tilburie writeth, When the renowmed Conqueror of England King William had subdued the farthest coasts of this Iland under his dominion, and thorowly tamed the stomacks and hearts of rebels by terrible examples, lest that from thenceforth they should licentiously run into errour and commit trespasse, he determined to reduce his subjects under the obedience of positive and written Lawes. Having therefore all the Lawes of England laid before him, according to the Tripartite Division whereby they were distinguished, that is to say, Merchenlage, Denelage, and Westsexenlage when he had rejected some of them and allowed of others, he adjoined thereunto those Lawes of Neustria beyond the seas which seemed most effectuall to preserve the peace of his Kingdome. Afterwards, as mine author Ingulphus saith, who flourished in those daies, Hee commanded every Inhabitant of England to doe him homage, and to sweare fealtie to him against all men. Hee took the survey and description of the whole Land, neither was there an Hide of England thorow but he knew both the value and the owner thereof; there was neither plash nor place but set downe it was in the Kings Roll, and the rent, revenue, and profit thereof, the verie tenure of possession and possesseur himselfe, was made knowen to the King according to the credit and true relation of certaine Taxers, who being chosen out of every countrey, did put downe in writing the territorie properly belonging thereto. And this Roll was called the Roll of Winchester, and by the Englishmen (for the generalitie thereof, because it contained full and exactly all the tenements of the whole Land) named Domesday. I have been more willing to make mention of this book because it is to be cited and alleaged often times hereafter: which booke also it pleaseth me to name Gulielmi librum censualem , that is, The Tax-booke of William ; Angliae Notitiam , that is, The Notice of England ; Angliae commentarios censuales , that is, The Taxe Register or Sessing Booke of England ; and Angliae Lustrum , that is, The Survey of England .

17. But whereas Polydore Virgil writeth how William the Conquerour first brought in the Triall or Judgment of twelve men, there is nothing more untrue. For most certaine it is, and apparent by the Lawes of Etheldred, that it was in use many yeeres before. Neither hath he any cause to terme it a terrible Judgement. For these 12 free-borne and lawful man are duly by order empannelled and called forth of the Neighborhood. They are bound by oath to pronounce and deliver up their Verdict de facto ; they heare the counsell pleading in courts on both sides before the Bench or Tribunall, and the depositions of witnesses; then taking with them the evidences of both parties, they are shut up together and kept from meat, drinke and fire (unlesse haply some one of them be in danger of death thereby) so long untill they bee all agreed of the fact, which when they have pronounced before the Judge, hee according to right and and law giveth his definitive sentence. For this manner of triall our most sage and wise Ancestours have thought the best to find out the truth, to avoid corruption, and cut off all partialitie and affections.

18. Now as touching martiall prowesse, how much the Normans excelled therein let other tell: this may suffice for me to have said thus much, that being planted among most warlike nations, they alwaies saved themselves, not by obsequious baseness, but by force of armes, and founded most Noble Kingdomes in England and Sicilie. For Tancrede, nephew unto Richard the second of that name, Duke of Normandie, and his posteritie atchieved brave exploits in Italie, and having compelled the Saracens to flie out of Sicilie, erected a Kingdome there. Whereupon the Sicilian historiographer doth freely acknowledge that the Sicilians are beholden unto the Normans for that they themselves remaine still in their native soile, live in freedom, and continue Christians. Likewise in the Holy Land their martiall prowesse hath been seen with singular commendation. Hence it is also that Roger Hoveden writeth in these termes: Bold France, having made triall once of the Normans warfare, durst not peepe out. Fierce England, being conquered, yeelded as captive unto them. Rich Apulia, falling to the lot of their possession, flourished a fresh. Famous Jerusalem and renowned Antioch were both subdued by them. And ever since their comming, England as well for martiall honour as civill behaviour hath among the most flourishing Kingdoms of Christendome flourished with the best, in so much as Englishmen were picked forth to guard the person of the Emperours of Constantinople. For John the sonne of Alexis Comenus (as our writer Malmesburie reporteth), having their fidelitie in great esteeme, applied himselfe especially to their familiaritie, commending their love unto his sonne after him: and a long time since they were the Yeomen of the said Emperours guard, called by Nicetes Chonata Inglini bipenniferi, that is English Halbardiers or Bill men , and by Curopalata Barangi. These attended upon the Emperour in every place, carrying Poleaxes or Halberds upon their shoulders, which they tooke up and held upright whensoever the Emperour shewed himselfe from out of his Closet, and, knocking then their Halberds one against another to make a clattering noise, they in their English tongue praied for his long life. As for that blot wherewith Chalcondilas hath besmitted our nation, for having wives in common, the truth it selfe washeth it clean away, and represseth the overlashing vanity of that Grecian. For, as saith the most learned man and my singular good friend Ortelius in this verie matter, those things be not alwaies true which by everie one are given out of all whatsoever. Well, these are the nations that seated themselves in Britaine, whereof remaine the Britans, Saxons or English men, and Normans intermingled with them: the Scots also in the North, whereupon came the two Kingdomes of this Iland, to wit, England and Scotland, long time divided, but most happily now in the most mightie Prince King James under one imperiall Diademe conjoined and united.

19. Touching the Flemmings, which flocked hither foure hundred yeeres since, and by permission of the Kings received a place in Wales to inhabit, it is not requisit to speake of them now, elsewhere I will treat of that matter. But let us conclude this argument with Seneca. By these, it is manifest that nothing hath continued in the same place wherein it had the first beginning. There is a daily stirring and mooving to and fro of mankind: some change or other there is every day in so great a revolution of this world. New foundations of Cities are laid. New names of nations spring up, whereas the old are either growne out of use, or altered by the comming in of a mightier. And considering that all these nations which have broken into Britaine were Northerne, as all the rest which about the same time over-ranne all Europe, and afterwards Asia, most truly from the authority of holy Scripture wrote Nicephorus, Like as terrors often times are sent from heaven by God upon men, as lightning, fire, and tempestuous showers, often times from the earth, as open gapings in the ground and Earthquakes, often from the aire, as whirlewinds and extraordinarie stormes, so these terrours of the Northerne and Hyperborean parts, God keepeth them in store to send them forth for some punishment when and among whom it pleaseth Him in His divine providence.

William Camden, Britain, or, a Chorographicall Description of the most flourishing Kingdomes, England, Scotland, and Ireland (London: George Bishop and John Norton, 1610) Copyright 2004 by Dana F. Sutton. This text was transcribed by Professor Sutton, of the University of California, Irvine, from Philemon Holland's 1610 translation [British Library Short Title Catalogue 4509, Early English Books reel 911:1]. For a full critical edition presenting Camden's original Latin text in parallel with Holland's translation, visit Professor Sutton's site at:


Placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall.

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