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The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

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E-text prepared by David J. Cole

Transcriber's Note:

Like much 18th and 19th century publishing, the edition of
David Hume's "History of England" from which this text was
prepared makes extensive use of both footnotes and marginal
notes. Since this e-text format does not allow use of the
original superscripts to denote the lettered footnotes, they
are indicated by the relevant letter within brackets, thus
"[a]", and the footnotes themselves are reproduced within
brackets and preceded by "FN" at the end of the PARAGRAPH to
which they relate; since some of Hume's paragraphs are
considerably longer than is normal in 21st century American or
British writing, you may have to scroll some distance to find
the text of the footnote. All footnotes are reproduced
exactly as in the printed text.

More discretion has been exercised regarding marginal notes.
Those which simply repeat chapter numbers and dates already
given in the text are omitted as non-essential clutter. The
remainder are reproduced within brackets and preceded by "MN".
Those marginal notes which appear to correspond to sub-chapter
headings are reproduced as the first line of the paragraph to
which they relate. Other marginal notes are reproduced within
the text of the paragraph. Some apparently incomplete
marginal notes ending or beginning with ellipses are due to
cases where what is logically a single marginal note has been
broken into two or more pieces separated by a considerable
vertical distance.


From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688



With the Author's Last Corrections and Improvements, to which is
prefixed a Short Account of His Life Written by Himself



It is difficult for a man to speak long of himself without vanity;
therefore I shall be short. It may be thought an instance of vanity
that I pretend at all to write my life; but this narrative shall
contain little more than the history of my writings; as, indeed,
almost all my life has been spent in literary pursuits and
occupations. The first success of most of my writings was not such as
to be an object of vanity.

I was born the 26th of April, 1711, old style, at Edinburgh. I was of
a good family, both by father and mother: my father's family is a
branch of the Earl of Home's, or Hume's; and my ancestors had been
proprietors of the estate which my brother possesses, for several
generations. My mother was daughter of Sir David Falconer, President
of the College of Justice: the title of Lord Halkerton came by
succession to her brother.

My family, however, was not rich; and being myself a younger brother,
my patrimony, according to the mode of my country, was of course very
slender. My father, who passed for a man of parts, died when I was an
infant, leaving me, with an elder brother and a sister, under the care
of our mother, a woman of singular merit, who, though young and
handsome, devoted herself entirely to the rearing and educating of her
children. I passed through the ordinary course of education with
success, and was seized very early with a passion for literature,
which has been the ruling passion of my life, and the great source of
my enjoyments. My studious disposition, my sobriety, and my industry,
gave my family a notion that the law was a proper profession for me;
but I found an unsurmountable aversion to every thing but the pursuits
of philosophy and general learning; and while they fancied I was
poring upon Voet and Vinnius, Cicero and Virgil were the authors which
I was secretly devouring.

My very slender fortune, however, being unsuitable to this plan of
life, and my health being a little broken by my ardent application, I
was tempted, or rather forced, to make a very feeble trial for
entering into a more active scene of life. In 1734 I went to Bristol,
with some recommendations to several merchants; but in a few months
found that scene totally unsuitable to me. I went over to France with
a view of prosecuting my studies in a country retreat; and I there
laid that plan of life which I have steadily and successfully pursued.
I resolved to make a very rigid frugality supply my deficiency of
fortune, to maintain unimpaired my independency, and to regard every
object as contemptible, except the improvement of my talents in

During my retreat in France, first at Rheims but chiefly at La Fleche,
in Anjou, I composed my Treatise of Human Nature. After passing three
years very agreeably in that country, I came over to London in 1737.
In the end of 1738 I published my Treatise, and immediately went down
to my mother and my brother, who lived at his country-house, and
employed himself very judiciously and successfully in the improvement
of his fortune.

Never literary attempt was more unfortunate than my Treatise of Human
Nature. It fell DEAD-BORN FROM THE PRESS, without reaching such
distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots. But being
naturally of a cheerful and sanguine temper, I very soon recovered the
blow, and prosecuted with great ardour my studies in the country. In
1742 I printed at Edinburgh the first part of my Essays: the work was
favourably received, and soon made me entirely forget my former
disappointment. I continued with my mother and brother in the
country, and in that time recovered the knowledge of the Greek
language, which I had too much neglected in my early youth.

In 1745 I received a letter from the Marquis of Annandale, inviting me
to come and live with him in England; I found, also, that the friends
and family of that young nobleman were desirous of putting him under
my care and direction, for the state of his mind and health required
it.--I lived with him a twelve-month. My appointments during that
time made a considerable accession to my small fortune. I then
received an invitation from General St. Clair to attend him as a
secretary to his expedition, which was at first meant against Canada,
but ended in an incursion on the coast of France. Next year, to wit,
1747, I received an invitation from the general to attend him in the
same station in his military embassy to the courts of Vienna and
Turin. I then wore the uniform of an officer, and was introduced at
these courts as aide-de-camp to the general, along with Sir Harry
Erskine and Captain Grant, now General Grant. These two years were
almost the only interruptions which my studies have received during
the course of my life: I passed them agreeably and in good company;
and my appointments, with my frugality, had made me reach a fortune
which I called independent, though most of my friends were inclined to
smile when I said so: in short, I was now master of near a thousand

I had always entertained a notion, that my want of success in
publishing the Treatise of Human Nature, had proceeded more from the
manner than the matter, and that I had been guilty of a very usual
indiscretion, in going to the press too early. I therefore cast the
first part of that work anew in the Enquiry concerning Human
Understanding, which was published while I was at Turin. But this
piece was at first little more successful than the Treatise of Human
Nature. On my return from Italy, I had the mortification to find all
England in a ferment, on account of Dr. Middleton's Free Enquiry,
while my performance was entirely over-looked and neglected. A new
edition which had been published in London, of my Essays, moral and
political, met not with a much better reception.

Such is the force of natural temper, that these disappointments made
little or no impression on me. I went down in 1749, and lived two
years with my brother at his country-house, for my mother was now
dead. I there composed the second part of my Essay, which I called
Political Discourses, and also my Enquiry concerning the Principles of
Morals, which is another part of my treatise that I cast anew.
Meanwhile my bookseller, A. Miller, informed me that my former
publications (all but the unfortunate Treatise) were beginning to be
the subject of conversation; that the sale of them was gradually
increasing; and that new editions were demanded. Answers by Reverends
and Right Reverends came out two or three in a year; and I found, by
Dr. Warburton's railing, that the books were beginning to be esteemed
in good company. However, I had a fixed resolution, which I
inflexibly maintained, never to reply to any body; and not being very
irascible in my temper, I have easily kept myself clear of all
literary squabbles. These symptoms of a rising reputation gave me
encouragement, as I was ever more disposed to see the favourable than
the unfavourable side of things; a turn of mind which it is more happy
to possess, than to be born to an estate of ten thousand a year.

In 1751 I removed from the country to the town, the true scene for a
man of letters. In 1752 were published at Edinburgh, where I then
lived, my Political Discourses, the only work of mine that was
successful on the first publication. It was well received at home and
abroad. In the same year was published, in London, my Enquiry
concerning the Principles of Morals; which, in my own opinion, (who
ought not to judge on that subject,) is of all my writings,
historical, philosophical, or literary, incomparably the best. It
came unnoticed and unobserved into the world.

In 1752 the Faculty of Advocates chose me their librarian; an office
from which I received little or no emolument, but which gave me the
command of a large library. I then formed the plan of writing the
History of England; but being frightened with the notion of continuing
a narrative through a period of one thousand seven hundred years, I
commenced with the accession of the house of Stuart, an epoch when, I
thought, the misrepresentations of faction began chiefly to take
place. I was, I own, sanguine in my expectations of the success of
this work. I thought that I was the only historian that had at once
neglected present power, interest, and authority, and the cry of
popular prejudices; and as the subject was suited to every capacity,
I expected proportional applause. But miserable was my
disappointment: I was assailed by one cry of reproach, disapprobation,
and even detestation; English, Scotch, and Irish, whig and tory,
churchman and sectary, freethinker and religionist, patriot and
courtier, united in their rage against the man who had presumed to
shed a generous tear for the fate of Charles I. and the Earl of
Strafford; and after the first ebullitions of their fury were over,
what was still more mortifying, the book seemed to sink into oblivion.
Mr. Miller told me, that in a twelvemonth he sold only forty-five
copies of it. I scarcely, indeed, heard of one man in the three
kingdoms, considerable for rank or letters, that could endure the
book. I must only except the primate of England, Dr. Herring, and the
primate of Ireland, Dr. Stone, which seem two odd exceptions. These
dignified prelates separately sent me a message not to be discouraged.

I was, however, I confess, discouraged; and had not the war at that
time been breaking out between France and England, I had certainly
retired to some provincial town of the former kingdom, have changed my
name, and never more have returned to my native country. But as this
scheme was not now practicable, and the subsequent volume was
considerably advanced, I resolved to pick up courage and to persevere.

In this interval I published at London my Natural History of Religion,
along with some other small pieces: its public entry was rather
obscure, except only that Dr. Hurd wrote a pamphlet against it, with
all the illiberal petulance, arrogance, and scurrility, which
distinguish the Warburtonian school. This pamphlet gave me some
consolation for the otherwise indifferent reception of my performance.

In 1756, two years after the fall of the first volume, was published
the second volume of my History, containing the period from the death
of Charles I. till the Revolution. This performance happened to give
less displeasure to the whigs, and was better received. It not only
rose itself, but helped to buoy up its unfortunate brother.

But though I had been taught by experience, that the whig party were
in possession of bestowing all places, both in the state and in
literature, I was so little inclined to yield to their senseless
clamour, that in above a hundred alterations, which farther study,
reading, or reflection, engaged me to make in the reigns of the two
first Stuarts, I have made all of them invariably to the tory side.
It is ridiculous to consider the English constitution before that
period as a regular plan of liberty.

In 1759 I published my History of the House of Tudor. The clamour
against this performance was almost equal to that against the History
of the two first Stuarts. The reign of Elizabeth was particularly
obnoxious. But I was now callous against the impressions of public
folly, and continued very peaceably and contentedly in my retreat in
Edinburgh, to finish, in two volumes, the more early part of the
English History, which I gave to the public in 1761, with tolerable,
and but tolerable, success.

But notwithstanding this variety of winds and seasons to which my
writings have been exposed, they had still been making such advances,
that the copy-money given me by the booksellers much exceeded any
thing formerly known in England: I retired to my native country of
Scotland, determined never more to set my foot out of it; and
retaining the satisfaction of never having preferred a request to one
great man, or even making advances of friendship to any of them. As I
was now turned of fifty, I thought of passing all the rest of my life
in this philosophical manner, when I received, in 1763, an invitation
from the Earl of Hertford, with whom I was not in the least
acquainted, to attend him on his embassy to Paris, with a near
prospect of being appointed secretary to the embassy; and, in the
meanwhile, of performing the functions of that office. This offer,
however inviting, I at first declined, both because I was reluctant to
begin connexions with the great, and because I was afraid that the
civilities and gay company of Paris would prove disagreeable to a
person of my age and humour: but on his lordship's repeating the
invitation, I accepted of it. I have every reason, both of pleasure
and interest, to think myself happy in my connexions with that
nobleman, as well as afterwards with his brother General Conway.

Those who have not seen the strange effects of modes will never
imagine the reception I met with at Paris, from men and women of all
ranks and stations. The more I resiled from their excessive
civilities, the more I was loaded with them. There is, however, a
real satisfaction in living at Paris, from the great number of
sensible, knowing, and polite company with which that city abounds
above all places in the universe. I thought once of settling there
for life.

I was appointed secretary to the embassy; and in summer, 1765, Lord
Hertford left me, being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. I was
charge d'affaires till the arrival of the Duke of Richmond, towards
the end of the year. In the beginning of 1766 I left Paris, and next
summer went to Edinburgh, with the same view as formerly of burying
myself in a philosophical retreat. I returned to that place, not
richer, but with much more money, and a much larger income, by means
of Lord Hertford's friendship, than I left it; and I was desirous of
trying what superfluity could produce, as I had formerly made an
experiment of a competency. But in 1767 I received from Mr. Conway an
invitation to be under-secretary; and this invitation, both the
character of the person, and my connexions with Lord Hertford,
prevented me from declining. I returned to Edinburgh in 1769, very
opulent, (for I possessed a revenue of 1000L. a year,) healthy, and,
though somewhat stricken in years, with the prospect of enjoying long
my ease, and of seeing the increase of my reputation.

In spring, 1775, I was struck with a disorder in my bowels, which at
first gave me no alarm, but has since, as I apprehend it, become
mortal and incurable. I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have
suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange
have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a
moment's abatement of my spirits, inasmuch that were I to name a
period of my life which I should most choose to pass over again, I
might be tempted to point to this later period. I possess the same
ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. I consider,
besides, that a man of sixty-five, by dying, cuts off only a few years
of infirmities; and though I see many symptoms of my literary
reputation's breaking out at last with additional lustre, I know that
I could have but few years to enjoy it. It is difficult to be more
detached from life than I am at present.

To conclude historically with my own character. I am, or rather was,
(for that is the style I must now use in speaking of myself, which
emboldens me the more to speak my sentiments)--I was, I say, a man of
mild disposition, of command of temper, of an open, social, and
cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of
enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions. Even my love of
literary fame, my ruling passion, never soured my temper,
notwithstanding my frequent disappointments. My company was not
unacceptable to the young and careless, as well as to the studious and
literary; and as I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest
women, I had no reason to be displeased with the reception I met with
from them. In a word, though most men, anywise eminent, have found
reason to complain of calumny, I never was touched, or even attacked
by her baleful tooth; and though I wantonly exposed myself to the rage
of both civil and religious factions, they seemed to be disarmed in my
behalf of their wonted fury. My friends never had occasion to
vindicate any one circumstance of my character and conduct: not but
that the zealots, we may well suppose, would have been glad to invent
and propagate any story to my disadvantage, but they could never find
any which they thought would wear the face of probability. I cannot
say there is no vanity in making this funeral oration of myself; but I
hope it is not a misplaced one; and this is a matter of fact which is
easily cleared and ascertained.

April 18, 1776.






Kirkaldy, Fifeshire, Nov. 9, 1776


It is with a real, though a very melancholy pleasure, that I sit down
to give you some account of the behaviour of our late excellent
friend, Mr. Hume, during his last illness.

Though in his own judgment his disease was mortal and incurable, yet
he allowed himself to be prevailed upon, by the entreaty of his
friends, to try what might be the effects of a long journey. A few
days before he set out, he wrote that account of his own life, which,
together with his other papers, he has left to your care. My account,
therefore, shall begin where his ends.

He set out for London towards the end of April, and at Morpeth met
with Mr. John Home, and myself, who had both come down from London on
purpose to see him, expecting to have found him at Edinburgh. Mr.
Home returned with him, and attended him, during the whole of his stay
in England, with that care and attention which might be expected from
a temper so perfectly friendly and affectionate. As I had written to
my mother that she might expect me in Scotland, I was under the
necessity of continuing my journey. His disease seemed to yield to
exercise and change of air, and when he arrived in London, he was
apparently in much better health than when he left Edinburgh. He was
advised to go to Bath to drink the waters, which appeared for some
time to have so good an effect upon him, that even he himself began to
entertain, what he was not apt to do, a better opinion of his own
health. His symptoms, however, soon returned with their usual
violence, and from that moment he gave up all thoughts of recovery,
but submitted with the utmost cheerfulness, and the most perfect
complacency and resignation. Upon his return to Edinburgh, though he
found himself much weaker, yet his cheerfulness never abated, and he
continued to divert himself, as usual, with correcting his own works
for a new edition, with reading books of amusement, with the
conversation of his friends, and sometimes in the evening with a party
at his favourite game of whist. His cheerfulness was so great, and
his conversation and amusements ran so much in their usual strain,
that, notwithstanding all bad symptoms, many people could not believe
he was dying. "I shall tell your friend, Colonel Edmonstone," said
Doctor Dundas to him one day, "that I left you much better, and in a
fair way of recovery." "Doctor," said he, "as I believe you would not
choose to tell any thing but the truth, you had better tell him, that
I am dying as fast as my enemies, if I have any, could wish, and as
easily and cheerfully as my best friends could desire." Colonel
Edmonstone soon afterwards came to see him, and take leave of him; and
on his way home he could not forbear writing him a letter, bidding him
once more an eternal adieu, and applying to him, as to a dying man,
the beautiful French verses in which the Abbe Chaulieu, in expectation
of his own death, laments his approaching separation from his friend
the Marquis de la Fare. Mr. Hume's magnanimity and firmness were
such, that his most affectionate friends knew that they hazarded
nothing in talking or writing to him as to a dying man, and that, so
far from being hurt by this frankness, he was rather pleased and
flattered by it. I happened to come into his room while he was
reading this letter, which he had just received, and which he
immediately showed me. I told him, that though I was sensible how
very much he was weakened, and that appearances were in many respects
very bad, yet his cheerfulness was still so great, the spirit of life
seemed still to be so very strong in him, that I could not help
entertaining some faint hopes. He answered, "Your hopes are
groundless. An habitual diarrhoea of more than a year's standing
would be a very bad disease at any age: at my age it is a mortal one.
When I lie down in the evening I feel myself weaker than when I rose
in the morning, and when I rise in the morning weaker than when I lay
down in the evening. I am sensible, besides, that some of my vital
parts are affected, so that I must soon die." "Well," said I, "if it
must be so, you have at least the satisfaction of leaving all your
friends, your brother's family in particular, in great prosperity."
He said that he felt that satisfaction so sensibly, that when he was
reading, a few days before, Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead, among all
the excuses which are alleged to Charon for not entering readily into
his boat, he could not find one that fitted him; he had no house to
finish, he had no daughter to provide for, he had no enemies upon whom
he wished to revenge himself. "I could not well imagine," said he,
"what excuse I could make to Charon in order to obtain a little
delay. I have done every thing of consequence which I ever meant to
do, and I could at no time expect to leave my relations and friends in
a better situation than that in which I am now likely to leave them: I
therefore have all reason to die contented." He then diverted himself
with inventing several jocular excuses, which he supposed he might
make to Charon, and with imagining the very surly answers which it
might suit the character of Charon to return to them. "Upon further
consideration," said he, "I thought I might say to him, 'Good Charon,
I have been correcting my works for a new edition. Allow me a little
time, that I may see how the public receives the alterations.' But
Charon would answer, 'When you have seen the effect of these, you will
be for making other alterations. There will be no end of such
excuses; so, honest friend, please step into the boat.' But I might
still urge, 'Have a little patience, good Charon, I have been
endeavouring to open the eyes of the public. If I live a few years
longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of
the prevailing systems of superstition.' But Charon would then lose
all temper and decency--'You loitering rogue, that will not happen
these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for
so long a term? Get into the boat this instant, you lazy, loitering

But though Mr. Hume always talked of his approaching dissolution with
great cheerfulness, he never affected to make any parade of his
magnanimity. He never mentioned the subject, but when the
conversation naturally led to it, and never dwelt longer upon it than
the course of the conversation happened to require. It was a subject,
indeed, which occurred pretty frequently, in consequence of the
inquiries which his friends, who came to see him, naturally made
concerning the state of his health. The conversation which I
mentioned above, and which passed on Thursday the 8th of August, was
the last, except one, that I ever had with him. He had now become so
very weak, that the company of his most intimate friends fatigued him;
for his cheerfulness was still so great, his complaisance and social
disposition were still so entire, that when any friend was with him,
he could not help talking more, and with greater exertion, than suited
the weakness of his body. At his own desire, therefore, I agreed to
leave Edinburgh, where I was staying partly upon his account, and
returned to my mother's house here, at Kirkaldy, upon condition that
he would send for me whenever he wished to see me; the physician who
saw him most frequently, Dr. Black, undertaking in the mean time to
write me occasionally an account of the state of his health.

On the 22d of August, the doctor wrote me the following letter:

"Since my last, Mr. Hume has passed his time pretty easily, but is
much weaker. He sits up, goes down stairs once a day, and amuses
himself with reading, but seldom sees any body. He finds, that the
conversation of his most intimate friends fatigues and oppresses him;
and it is happy that he does not need it, for he is quite free from
anxiety, impatience, or low spirits, and passes his time very well
with the assistance of amusing books."

I received the day after a letter from Mr. Hume himself, of which the
following is an extract:

"Edinburgh, Aug. 23, 1776


"I am obliged to make use of my nephew's hand in writing to you, as I
do not rise to-day. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I go very fast to decline, and last night had a small fever, which I
hoped might put a quicker period to this tedious illness; but,
unluckily, it has in a great measure gone off. I cannot submit to
your coming over here on my account, as it is possible for me to see
you so small a part of the day; but Dr. Black can better inform you
concerning the degree of strength which may from time to time remain
with me.

"Adieu, &c."

Three days after, I received the following letter from Dr. Black:

"Edinburgh, Monday, Aug. 26, 1776.


"Yesterday, about four o'clock, afternoon, Mr. Hume expired. The near
approach of his death became evident in the night between Thursday and
Friday, when his disease became excessive, and soon weakened him so
much, that he could no longer rise out of his bed. He continued to
the last perfectly sensible, and free from much pain or feelings of
distress. He never dropped the smallest expression of impatience; but
when he had occasion to speak to the people about him, always did it
with affection and tenderness. I thought it improper to write to
bring you over, especially as I heard that he had dictated a letter to
you, desiring you not to come. When he became very weak, it cost him
an effort to speak, and he died in such a happy composure of mind that
nothing could exceed it."

Thus died our most excellent and never to be forgotten friend;
concerning whose philosophical opinions men will no doubt judge
variously, every one approving or condemning them, according as they
happen to coincide or disagree with his own; but concerning whose
character and conduct there can scarce be a difference of opinion.
His temper, indeed, seemed to be more happily balanced, if I may be
allowed such an expression, than that perhaps of any other man I have
ever known. Even in the lowest state of his fortune, his great and
necessary frugality never hindered him from exercising, upon proper
occasions, acts both of charity and generosity. It was a frugality
founded not upon avarice, but upon the love of independency. The
extreme gentleness of his nature never weakened either the firmness of
his mind, or the steadiness of his resolutions. His constant
pleasantry was the genuine effusion of good-nature and good-humour,
tempered with delicacy and modesty, and without even the slightest
tincture of malignity, so frequently the disagreeable source of what
is called wit in other men. It never was the meaning of his raillery
to mortify; and therefore, far from offending, it seldom failed to
please and delight even those who were the objects of it. To his
friends, who were frequently the objects of it, there was not perhaps
one of all his great and amiable qualities which contributed more to
endear his conversation. And that gaiety of temper, so agreeable in
society, but which is so often accompanied with frivolous and
superficial qualities, was in him certainly attended with the most
severe application, the most extensive learning, the greatest depth of
thought, and a capacity in every respect the most comprehensive. Upon
the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and
since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly
wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will

I ever am, dear Sir,

Most affectionately yours,




The Britons.--Romans.--Saxons.--The Heptarchy.--The Kingdom of Kent--
of Northumberland--of East Anglia--of Mercia--of Essex--of Sussex--of


Egbert.--Ethelwolf.--Ethelbald and Ethelbert.--Ethered.--Alfred the
Great.--Edward the Elder.--Athelstan.--Edmund.-Edred.--Edwy.--Edgar.--
Edward the Martyr


Ethelred.--Settlement of the Normans.--Edmund Ironside.--Canute.--
Harold Harefoot.--Hardicanute.--Edward the Confessor.--Harold



First Saxon Government.--Succession of the Kings.--The Wittenagemot.--
The Aristocracy.--The several Orders of Men.--Courts of Justice.--
Criminal Law.--Rules of Proof.-Military Force.--Public Revenue.--Value
of Money.--Manners



Consequences of the Battle of Hastings.--Submission of the English.--
Settlement of the Government.--King's Return to Normandy.--Discontents
of the English.--Their Insurrections.--Rigours of the Norman
Government.--New Insurrections.-New Rigours of the Government.--
Introduction of the Feudal Law.--Innovation in Ecclesiastical
Government.--Insurrection of the Norman Barons.--Dispute about
Investitures.--Revolt of Prince Robert.--Domesday-Book.--The New
Forest.--War with France.--Death and Character of William the



Accession of William Rufus.--Conspiracy against the King.--Invasion of
Normandy.--The Crusades.--Acquisition of Normandy.--Quarrel with
Anselm, the Primate.--Death and Character of William Rufus



The Crusades.--Accession of Henry.--Marriage of the King.--Invasion by
Duke Robert.--Accommodation with Robert.--Attack of Normandy.--
Conquest of Normandy.--Continuation of the Quarrel with Anselm, the
Primate.--Compromise with him.--Wars abroad.--Death of Prince
William.--King's second Marriage.--Death and Character of Henry



Accession of Stephen.--War with Scotland.--Insurrection in favour of
Matilda.--Stephen taken Prisoner.--Matilda crowned.--Stephen
released.--Restored to the Crown.--Continuation of the Civil Wars.--
Compromise between the King and Prince Henry.--Death of the King



State of Europe--of France.--First Acts of Henry's Government.--
Disputes between the Civil and Ecclesiastical Powers.-Thomas a Becket,
Archbishop of Canterbury.--Quarrel between the King and Becket.--
Constitutions of Clarendon.--Banishment of Becket.--Compromise with
him.--His return from Banishment.-His Murder.--Grief and Submission of
the King


State of Ireland.--Conquest of that Island.--The King's Accommodation
with the Court of Rome.--Revolt of young Henry and his brothers.--
Wars and Insurrections.--War with Scotland.--Penance of Henry for
Becket's Murder.--William, King of Scotland, defeated and taken
Prisoner.--The King's Accommodation with his Sons.--The King's
equitable Administration.--Crusades.--Revolt of Prince Richard.--Death
and Character of Henry.--Miscellaneous Transactions of his Reign



The King's Preparations for the Crusade.--Sets out on the Crusade.--
Transactions in Sicily.--King's Arrival in Palestine.--State of
Palestine.--Disorders in England.--The King's Heroic Actions in
Palestine.--His Return from Palestine.--Captivity in Germany.--War
with France.--The King's Delivery.--Return to England.--War with
France.--Death and Character of the King.--Miscellaneous Transactions
of this Reign



Accession of the King.--His Marriage.--War with France.--Murder of
Arthur, Duke of Britany.--The King expelled the French Provinces.--The
King's Quarrel with the Court of Rome.--Cardinal Langton appointed
Archbishop of Canterbury.--Interdict of the Kingdom.--Excommunication
of the King.-The King's Submission to the Pope.--Discontents of the
Barons.--Insurrection of the Barons.--Magna Carta.--Renewal of the
Civil Wars.--Prince Lewis called over.--Death and Character of the



Origin of the Feudal Law.--Its Progress.--Feudal Government of
England.--The Feudal Parliament.--The Commons.-Judicial Power.--
Revenue of the Crown.--Commerce.--The Church.--Civil Laws.--Manners



Settlement of the Government.--General Pacification.--Death of the
Protector.--Some Commotions.--Hubert de Burgh displaced.--The Bishop
of Winchester Minister.--King's Partiality to Foreigners.--
Grievances.--Ecclesiastical Grievances.--Earl of Cornwall elected King
of the Romans.--Discontent of the Barons--Simon de Mountfort, Earl of
Leicester.--Provisions of Oxford.--Usurpation of the Barons.--Prince
Edward.--Civil Wars of the Barons.--Reference to the King of France.--
Renewal of the Civil Wars.--Battle of Lewes.--House of Commons.--
Battle of Evesham and death of Leicester.--Settlement of the
Government.--Death and Character of the King.--Miscellaneous
Transactions of this Reign



[MN The Britons.]
The curiosity, entertained by all civilized nations, of inquiring into
the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a
regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much
involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction. Ingenious men,
possessed of leisure, are apt to push their researches beyond the
period in which literary monuments are framed or preserved; without
reflecting that the history of past events is immediately lost or
disfigured when intrusted to memory or oral tradition; and that the
adventures of barbarous nations, even if they were recorded, could
afford little or no entertainment to men born in a more cultivated
age. The convulsions of a civilized state usually compose the most
instructive and most interesting part of its history; but the sudden,
violent, and unprepared revolutions incident to barbarians are so much
guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty, that they
disgust us by the uniformity of their appearance; and it is rather
fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion.
The only certain means by which nations can indulge their curiosity in
researches concerning their remote origin, is to consider the
language, manners, and customs of their ancestors, and to compare them
with those of the neighbouring nations. The fables which are commonly
employed to supply the place of true history ought entirely to be
disregarded; or if any exception be admitted to this general rule, it
can only be in favour of the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so
celebrated and so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the
attention of mankind. Neglecting, therefore, all traditions, or
rather tales, concerning the more early history of Britain, we shall
only consider the state of the inhabitants as it appeared to the
Romans on their invasion of this country: we shall briefly run over
the events which attended the conquest made by that empire, as
belonging more to Roman than British story: we shall hasten through
the obscure and uninteresting period of Saxon annals: and shall
reserve a more full narration for those times when the truth is both
so well ascertained and so complete as to promise entertainment and
instruction to the reader.

All ancient writers agree in representing the first inhabitants of
Britain as a tribe of the Gauls or Celtae, who peopled that island
from the neighbouring continent. Their language was the same; their
manners, their government, their superstition, varied only by those
small differences which time or communication with the bordering
nations must necessarily introduce. The inhabitants of Gaul,
especially in those parts which lie contiguous to Italy, had acquired,
from a commerce with their southern neighbours, some refinement in the
arts, which gradually diffused themselves northwards, and spread but a
very faint light over this island. The Greek and Roman navigators or
merchants (for there were scarcely any other travellers in those ages)
brought back the most shocking accounts of the ferocity of the people,
which they magnified, as usual, in order to excite the admiration of
their countrymen. The south-east parts, however, of Britain had
already, before the age of Caesar, made the first, and most requisite
step towards a civil settlement; and the Britons, by tillage and
agriculture, had there increased to a great multitude [a]. The other
inhabitants of the island still maintained themselves by pasture:
they were clothed with skins of beasts. They dwelt in huts, which they
reared in the forests and marshes, with which the country was covered:
they shifted easily their habitation, when actuated either by the
hopes of plunder, or the fear of an enemy: the convenience of feeding
their cattle was even a sufficient motive for removing their seats:
and as they were ignorant of all the refinements of life, their wants
and their possessions were equally scanty and limited.
[FN [a] Caesar. lib. 4.]

The Britons were divided into many small nations or tribes; and being
a military people, whose sole property was their arms and their
cattle, it was impossible, after they had acquired a relish for
liberty, for their princes or chieftains to establish any despotic
authority over them. Their governments, though monarchical [b], were
free, as well as those of all the Celtic nations; and the common
people seem even to have enjoyed more liberty among them [c] than
among the nations of Gaul [d], from which they were descended. Each
state was divided into factions within itself [e]: it was agitated
with jealousy or animosity against the neighbouring states: and while
the arts of peace were yet unknown, wars were the chief occupation,
and formed the chief object of ambition among the people.
[FN [b] Diod. Sic. lib. 4. Mela, lib. 3. cap. 6. Strabo, lib. 4.
[c] Dion. Cassius, lib. 75 [d] Caesar. lib. 6. [e] Tacit. Agr.]

The religion of the Britons was one of the most considerable parts of
their government; and the Druids, who were their priests, possessed
great authority among them. Besides ministering at the altar, and
directing all religious duties, they presided over the education of
youth; they enjoyed an immunity from wars and taxes; they possessed
both the civil and criminal jurisdiction; they decided all
controversies among states as well as among private persons, and
whoever refused to submit to their decree was exposed to the most
severe penalties. The sentence of excommunication was pronounced
against him: he was forbidden access to the sacrifices or public
worship: he was debarred all intercourse with his fellow-citizens,
even in the common affairs of life: his company was universally
shunned, as profane and dangerous. He was refused the protection of
law [f]; and death itself became an acceptable relief from the misery
and infamy to which he was exposed. Thus, the bands of government,
which were naturally loose among that rude and turbulent people, were
happily corroborated by the terrors of their superstition.
[FN [f] Caesar, lib. 6. Strabo, lib. 4.]

No species of superstition was ever more terrible than that of the
Druids. Besides the severe penalties, which it was in the power of
the ecclesiastics to inflict in this world, they inculcated the
eternal transmigration of souls; and thereby extended their authority
as far as the fears of their timorous votaries. They practised their
rites in dark groves or other secret recesses [g]; and in order to
throw a greater mystery over their religion, they communicated their
doctrines only to the initiated, and strictly forbad the committing of
them to writing, lest they should at any time be exposed to the
examination of the profane vulgar. Human sacrifices were practised
among them: the spoils of war were often devoted to their divinities;
and they punished with the severest tortures whoever dared to secrete
any part of the consecrated offering; these treasures they kept in
woods and forests, secured by no other guard than the terrors of their
religion [h]; and this steady conquest over human avidity may be
regarded as more signal than their prompting men to the most
extraordinary and most violent efforts. No idolatrous worship ever
attained such an ascendant over mankind as that of the ancient Gauls
and Britons; and the Romans, after their conquest, finding it
impossible to reconcile those nations to the law and institutions of
their masters, while it maintained its authority, were at last obliged
to abolish it by penal statutes; a violence which had never, in any
other instance, been practised by those tolerating conquerors [i].
[FN [g] Plin. lib. 12. cap. 1. [h] Caesar, lib. 6. [i] Sueton. in
vita Claudii.]

[MN The Romans.]
The Britons had long remained in this rude but independent state, when
Caesar, having overrun all Gaul by his victories, first cast his eye
on their island. He was not allured either by its riches or its
renown; but being ambitious of carrying the Roman arms into a new
world, then mostly unknown, he took advantage of a short interval in
his Gaulic wars, and made an invasion on Britain. The natives,
informed of his intention, were sensible of the unequal contest, and
endeavoured to appease him by submissions, which, however, retarded
not the execution of his design. After some resistance, he landed, as
is supposed, at Deal; [MN Anno Ante C. 55.] and having obtained
several advantages over the Britons, and obliged them to promise
hostages for their future obedience, he was constrained, by the
necessity of his affairs, and the approach of winter, to withdraw his
forces into Gaul. The Britons, relieved from the terror of his arms,
neglected the performance of their stipulations; and that haughty
conqueror resolved next summer to chastise them for this breach of
treaty. He landed with a greater force; and though he found a more
regular resistance from the Britons, who had united under
Cassivelaunus, one of their petty princes, he discomfited them in
every action. He advanced into the country; passed the Thames in the
face of the enemy; took and burned the capital of Cassivelaunus;
established his ally, Mandubratius, in the sovereignty of the
Trinobantes; and having obliged the inhabitants to make him new
submissions, he again returned with his army into Gaul, and left the
authority of the Romans more nominal than real in this island.

The civil wars which ensued, and which prepared the way for the
establishment of monarchy in Rome, saved the Britons from that yoke
which was ready to be imposed upon them. Augustus, the successor of
Caesar, content with the victory obtained over the liberties of his
own country, was little ambitious of acquiring fame by foreign wars;
and being apprehensive lest the same unlimited extent of dominion,
which had subverted the republic, might also overwhelm the empire, he
recommended it to his successors never to enlarge the territories of
the Romans. Tiberius, jealous of the fame which might be acquired by
his generals, made this advice of Augustus a pretence for his
inactivity [k]. The mad sallies of Caligula, in which he menaced
Britain with an invasion, served only to expose himself and the empire
to ridicule: and the Britons had now, during almost a century, enjoyed
their liberty unmolested; when the Romans, in the reign of Claudius
began to think seriously of reducing them under their dominion.
Without seeking any more justifiable reasons of hostility than were
employed by the late Europeans in subjugating the Africans and
Americans, [MN A.D. 43.] they sent over an army under the command of
Plautius, an able general, who gained some victories, and made a
considerable progress in subduing the inhabitants. Claudius himself,
finding matters sufficiently prepared for his reception, made a
journey into Britain, and received the submission of several British
states, the Cantii, Atrebates, Regni, and Trinobantes, who inhabited
the south-east part of the island, and whom their possessions and more
cultivated manner of life rendered willing to purchase peace at the
expense of their liberty. The other Britons, under the command of
Caractacus, still maintained an obstinate resistance, and the Romans
made little progress against them, till Ostorius Scapula was sent over
to command their armies. This general advanced the Roman conquests
over the Britons; [MN A.D. 50.] pierced into the country of the
Silures, a warlike nation who inhabited the banks of the Severn;
defeated Caractacus in a great battle; took him prisoner, and sent him
to Rome, where his magnanimous behaviour procured him better treatment
than those conquerors usually bestowed on captive princes [l].
[FN [k] Tacit. Agr. [l] Tacit. Ann. lib. 12.]

Notwithstanding these misfortunes, the Britons were not subdued; and
this island was regarded by the ambitious Romans as a field in which
military honour might still be acquired. [MN A.D. 59.] Under the
reign of Nero, Suetonius Paulinus was invested with the command, and
prepared to signalize his name by victories over those barbarians.
Finding that the island of Mona, now Anglesey, was the chief seat of
the Druids, he resolved to attack it, and to subject a place which was
the centre of their superstition, and which afforded protection to all
their baffled forces. The Britons endeavoured to obstruct his landing
on this sacred island, both by the force of their arms and the terrors
of their religion. The women and priests were intermingled with the
soldiers upon the shore; and running about with flaming torches in
their hands, and tossing their dishevelled hair, they struck greater
terror into the astonished Romans by their howlings, cries, and
execrations, than the real danger from the armed forces was able to
inspire. But Suetonius, exhorting his troops to despise the menaces
of a superstition which they despised, impelled them to the attack,
drove the Britons off the field, burned the Druids in the same fires
which those priests had prepared for their captive enemies, destroyed
all the consecrated groves and altars; and, having thus triumphed over
the religion of the Britons, he thought his future progress would be
easy in reducing the people to subjection. But he was disappointed in
his expectations. The Britons, taking advantage of his absence, were
all in arms; and headed by Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, who had been
treated in the most ignominious manner by the Roman tribunes, had
already attacked with success several settlements of their insulting
conquerors. Suetonius hastened to the protection of London, which was
already a flourishing Roman colony; but he found, on his arrival, that
it would be requisite for the general safety to abandon that place to
the merciless fury of the enemy. London was reduced to ashes; such of
the inhabitants as remained in it were cruelly massacred; the Romans
and all strangers, to the number of 70,000, were every where put to
the sword without distinction; and the Britons, by rendering the war
thus bloody, seemed determined to cut off all hopes of peace or com-
position with the enemy. But this cruelty was revenged by Suetonius
in a great and decisive battle, where 80,000 of the Britons are said
to have .perished; and Boadicea herself; rather than fall into the
hands of the enraged victor, put an end to her own life by poison [m].
Nero soon after recalled Suetonius from a government, where, by
suffering and inflicting so many severities, he was judged improper
for composing the angry and alarmed minds of the inhabitants. After
some interval, Cerealis received the command from Vespasian, and by
his bravery propagated the terror of the Roman arms. Julius Frontinus
succeeded Cerealis both in authority and in reputation: but the
general who finally established the dominion of the Romans in this
island was Julius Agricola, who governed it in the reigns of
Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, and distinguished himself in that
scene of action.
[FN [m] Tacit. Ann. lib. 14]

This great commander formed a regular plan for subduing Britain, and
rendering the acquisition useful to the conquerors. He carried his
victorious arms northwards, defeated the Britons in every encounter,
pierced into the inaccessible forests and mountains of Caledonia,
reduced every state to subjection in the southern part of the island,
and chased before him all the men of fiercer and more intractable
spirits, who deemed war and death itself less intolerable than
servitude under the victors. He even defeated them in a decisive
action, which they fought under Galgacus, their leader; and having
fixed a chain of garrisons between the firths of Clyde and Forth, he
thereby cut off the ruder and more barren parts of the island, and
secured the Roman province from the incursions of the barbarous
inhabitants [n].
[FN [n] Tacit Agr.]

During these military enterprises, he neglected not the arts of peace.
He introduced laws and civility among the Britons, taught them to
desire and raise all the conveniences of life, reconciled them to the
Roman language and manners, instructed them in letters and science,
and employed every expedient to render those chains which he had
forged both easy and agreeable to them [o]. The inhabitants, having
experienced how unequal their own force was to resist that of the
Romans, acquiesced in the dominion of their masters, and were
gradually incorporated as a part of that mighty empire.
[FN [o] Ibid.]

This was the last durable conquest made by the Romans; and Britain,
once subdued, gave no farther inquietude to the victor. Caledonia
alone, defended by its barren mountains, and by the contempt which the
Romans entertained for it, sometimes infested the more cultivated
parts of the island by the incursions of its inhabitants. The better
to secure the frontiers of the empire, Adrian, who visited this
island, built a rampart between the river Tyne and the firth of
Solway: Lollius Urbicus, under Antoninus Pius, erected one in the
place where Agricola had formerly established his garrisons: Severus,
who made an expedition into Britain, and carried his arms to the more
northern extremity of it, added new fortifications to the walls of
Adrian; and, during the reigns of all the Roman emperors, such a
profound tranquillity prevailed in Britain, that little mention is
made of the affairs of that island by any historian. The only
incidents which occur are some seditions or rebellions of the Roman
legions quartered there, and some usurpations of the Imperial dignity
by the Roman governors. The natives, disarmed, dispirited, and
submissive, had lost all desire, and even idea of their former liberty
and independence.

But the period was now come when that enormous fabric of the Roman
empire, which had diffused slavery and oppression, together with peace
and civility, over so considerable a part of the globe, was
approaching towards it final dissolution. Italy and the centre of the
empire, removed, during so many ages, from all concern in the wars,
had entirely lost the military spirit, and were peopled by an
enervated race, equally disposed to submit to a foreign yoke, or to
the tyranny of their own rulers. The emperors found themselves
obliged to recruit their legions from the frontier provinces, where
the genius of war, though languishing, was not totally extinct; and
these mercenary forces, careless of laws, and civil institutions,
established a military government, no less dangerous to the sovereign
than to the people. The further progress of the same disorders
introduced the bordering barbarians into the service of the Romans;
and those fierce nations, having now added discipline to their native
bravery, could no longer be restrained by the impotent policy of the
emperors, who were accustomed to employ one in the destruction of the
others. Sensible of their own force, and allured by the prospect of
so rich a prize, the northern barbarians, in the reign of Arcadius and
Honorius, assailed at once all the frontiers of the Roman empire; and
having first satiated their avidity by plunder, began to think of
fixing a settlement in the wasted provinces. The more distant
barbarians, who occupied the deserted habitations of the former,
advanced in their acquisitions, and pressed with their incumbent
weight the Roman state, already unequal to the load which it
sustained. Instead of arming the people in their own defence, the
emperors recalled all the distant legions, in whom alone they could
repose confidence; and collected the whole military force for the
defence of the capital and centre of the empire. The necessity of
self-preservation had superseded the ambition of power; and the
ancient point of honour never to contract the limits of the empire
could no longer be attended to in this desperate extremity.

Britain by its situation was removed from the fury of these barbarous
incursions; and being also a remote province, not much valued by the
Romans, the legions which defended it were carried over to the
protection of Italy and Gaul. But that province, though secured by
the sea against the inroads of the greater tribes of barbarians, found
enemies on its frontiers, who took advantage of its present
defenceless situation. The Picts and Scots, who dwelt in the northern
parts, beyond the wall of Antoninus, made incursions upon their
peaceable and effeminate neighbours; and besides the temporary
depredations which they committed, these combined nations threatened
the whole province with subjection, or what the inhabitants more
dreaded, with plunder and devastation. The Picts seem to have been a
tribe of the native British race, who, having been chased into the
northern parts by the conquest of Agricola, had there intermingled
with the ancient inhabitants: the Scots were derived from the same
Celtic origin, had first been established in Ireland, had migrated to
the north-west coasts of this island, and had long been accustomed, as
well from their old as their new seats, to infest the Roman province
by piracy and rapine [p]. These tribes, finding their more opulent
neighbours exposed to invasion, soon broke over the Roman wall, no
longer defended by the Roman arms; and, though a contemptible enemy in
themselves, met with no resistance from the unwarlike inhabitants.
The Britons, accustomed to have recourse to the emperors for defence
as well as government, made supplications to Rome; and one legion was
sent over for their protection. This force was an overmatch for the
barbarians, repelled their invasion, routed them in every engagement,
and having chased them into their ancient limits, returned in triumph
to the defence of the southern provinces of the empire [q]. Their
retreat brought on a new invasion of the enemy. The Britons made
again an application to Rome, and again obtained the assistance of a
legion, which proved effectual for their relief: but the Romans,
reduced to extremities at home, and fatigued with those distant
expeditions, informed the Britons that they must no longer look to
them for succour, exhorted them to arm in their own defence, and urged
that, as they were now their own masters, it became them to protect by
their valour that independence which their ancient lords had conferred
upon them [r]. That they might leave the island with the better
grace, the Romans assisted them in erecting anew the wall of Severus,
which was built entirely of stone, and which the Britons had not at
that time artificers skilful enough to repair [s]. And having done
this last good office to the inhabitants, they bid a final adieu to
Britain, about the year 448; after being masters of the more
considerable part of it during the course of near four centuries.
[FN [p] See note [A] at the end of the volume. [q] Gildas. Bede,
lib. 1. cap. 12. Paul. Diacon. [r] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 12 [s] Ibid.]

[MN The Britons.]
The abject Britons. regarded this present of liberty as fatal to
them; and were in no condition to put in practice the prudent counsel
given them by the Romans to arm in their own defence. Unaccustomed
both to the perils of war and to the cares of civil government, they
found themselves incapable of forming or executing any measures for
resisting the incursions of the barbarians. Gratian also and
Constantine, two Romans who had a little before assumed the purple in
Britain, had carried over to the continent the flower of the British
youth; and having perished in their unsuccessful attempts on the
imperial throne, had despoiled the island of those who, in this
desperate extremity, were best able to defend it. The Picts and
Scots, finding that the Romans had finally relinquished Britain, now
regarded the whole as their prey, and attacked the northern wall with
redoubled forces. The Britons already subdued by their own fears,
found the ramparts but a weak defence for them; and deserting their
station, left the country entirely open to the inroads of the
barbarous enemy. The invaders carried devastation and ruin along with
them; and exerted to the utmost their native ferocity, which was not
mitigated by the helpless condition and submissive behaviour of the
inhabitants [t]. The unhappy Britons had a third time recourse to
Rome, which had declared its resolution for ever to abandon them.
Aetius, the patrician, sustained at that time, by his valour and
magnanimity, the tottering ruins of the empire, and revived for a
moment, among the degenerate Romans, the spirit as well as discipline
of their ancestors. The British ambassador carried to him the letter
of their countrymen, which was inscribed, THE GROANS OF THE BRITONS.
The tenor of the epistle was suitable to its superscription. THE
But Aetius, pressed by the arms of Attila, the most terrible enemy
that ever assailed the empire, had no leisure to attend to the
complaints of allies, whom generosity alone could induce him to assist
[v]. The Britons thus rejected were reduced to despair, deserted
their habitations, abandoned tillage, and flying for protection to the
forests and mountains, suffered equally from hunger and from the
enemy. The barbarians themselves began to feel the pressure of famine
in a country which they had ravaged; and being harassed by the
dispersed Britons, who had not dared to resist them in a body, they
retreated with their spoils into their own country [w].
[FN [t] Gildas. Bede, lib. 1. Ann. Beverl. p. 45. [u] Gildas.
Bede, lib. 1. cap. 13. Malmesbury, lib. 1. cap. 1. Ann. Beverl. p.
45. [v] Chron. Sax. p. 11 edit. 1692. [w] Ann. Beverl. p. 45.]

The Britons, taking advantage of this interval, returned to their
usual occupations; and the favourable seasons which succeeded seconded
their industry, made them soon forget their past miseries, and
restored to them great plenty of all the necessaries of life. No more
can be imagined to have been possessed by a people so rude, who had
not, without the assistance of the Romans, art of masonry sufficient
to raise a stone rampart for their own defence; yet the Monkish
historians [x], who treat of those events, complain of the luxury of
the Britons during this period, and ascribe to that vice, not to their
cowardice or improvident counsels, all their subsequent calamities.
[FN [x] Gildas. Bede, lib. 1. cap. 14.]

The Britons, entirely occupied in the enjoyment of the present
interval of peace, made no provision for resisting the enemy, who,
invited by their former timid behaviour, soon threatened them with a
new invasion. We are not exactly informed what species of civil
government the Romans on their departure had left among the Britons;
but it appears probable, that the great men in, the different
districts assumed a kind of regal though precarious authority; and
lived in a great measure independent of each other [y]. To this
disunion of counsels were also added the disputes of theology; and the
disciples of Pelagius, who was himself a native of Britain, having
increased to a great multitude, gave alarm to the clergy, who seem to
have been more intent on suppressing them, than on opposing the public
enemy [z]. Labouring under these domestic evils, and menaced with a
foreign invasion, the Britons attended only to the suggestions of
their present fears; and following the counsels of Vortigern, Prince
of Dumnonium, who, though stained with every vice, possessed the chief
authority among them [a], they sent into Germany a deputation to
invite over the Saxons for their protection and assistance.
[FN [y] Gildas. Usher, Ant. Brit. p. 248, 347. [z] Gildas. Bede,
lib. 1. cap. 17. Constant. in vita Germ. [a] Gildas. Gul. Malm. p

[MN The Saxons.]
Of all the barbarous nations, known either in ancient or modern times,
the Germans seem to have been the most distinguished both by their
manners and political institutions, and to have carried to the highest
pitch the virtues of valour and love of liberty; the only virtues
which can have place among an uncivilized people, where justice and
humanity are commonly neglected. Kingly government, even when
established among the Germans, (for it was not universal,) possessed a
very limited authority; and though the sovereign was usually chosen
from among the royal family, he was directed in every measure by the
common consent of the nation over whom he presided. When any
important affairs were transacted, all the warriors met in arms; the
men of greatest authority employed persuasion to engage their consent;
the people expressed their approbation by rattling their armour, or
their dissent by murmurs; there was no necessity for a nice scrutiny
of votes among a multitude, who were usually carried with a strong
current to one side or the other; and the measure thus suddenly chosen
by general agreement, was executed with alacrity and prosecuted with
vigour. Even in war, the princes governed more by example than by
authority; but in peace the civil union was in a great measure
dissolved, and the inferior leaders administered justice after an
independent manner, each in his particular district. These were
elected by the votes of the people in their great councils; and though
regard was paid to nobility in the choice, their personal qualities,
chiefly their valour, procured them, from the suffrages of their
fellow-citizens, that honourable but dangerous distinction. The
warriors of each tribe attached themselves to their leader with the
most devoted affection and most unshaken constancy. They attended him
as his ornament in peace, as his defence in war, as his council in the
administration of justice. Their constant emulation in military
renown dissolved not that inviolable friendship which they professed
to their chieftain and to each other: to die for the honour of their
band was their chief ambition: to survive its disgrace, or the death
of their leader, was infamous. They even carried into the field their
women and children, who adopted all the martial sentiments of the men:
and being thus impelled by every human motive, they were invincible;
where they were not opposed either by the similar manners and
institutions of the neighbouring Germans, or by the superior
discipline, arms, and numbers of the Romans [b].
[FN [b] Caesar, lib. 6. Tacit. de Mor. Germ.]

The leaders and their military companions were maintained by the
labour of their slaves, or by that of the weaker and less warlike part
of the community, whom they defended. The contributions which they
levied went not beyond a bare subsistence; and the honours, acquired
by a superior rank, were the only reward of their superior dangers and
fatigues. All the refined arts of life were unknown among the
Germans: tillage itself was almost wholly neglected: they even seem to
have been anxious to prevent any improvements of that nature; and the
leaders, by annually distributing anew all the land among the
inhabitants of each village, kept them from attaching themselves to
particular possessions, or making such progress in agriculture as
might divert their attention from military expeditions, the chief
occupation of the community [c].
[FN [c] Caesar, lib. 6. Tacit. de Mor. Germ.]

The Saxons had been for some time regarded as one of the most warlike
tribes of this fierce people, and had become the terror of the
neighbouring nations [d]. They had diffused themselves from the
northern parts of Germany and the Cimbrian Chersonesus, and had taken
possession of all the sea-coast from the mouth of the Rhine to
Jutland; whence they had long infested by their piracies all the
eastern and southern parts of Britain, and the northern of Gaul [e].
In order to oppose their inroads, the Romans had established an
officer, whom they called COUNT OF THE SAXON SHORE; and as the naval
arts can flourish among a civilized people alone, they seem to have
been more successful in repelling the Saxons, than any of the other
barbarians by whom they were invaded. The dissolution of the Roman
power invited them to renew their inroads; and it was an acceptable
circumstance, that the deputies of the Britons appeared among them,
and prompted them to undertake an enterprise, to which they were of
themselves sufficiently inclined [f].
[FN d Amm. Marcell. lib. 28. Orosius. [e] Marcell. lib. 27. cap. 7.
lib. 28. cap. 7. [f] Will. Malm. p. 8.]

Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, possessed great credit among the
Saxons, and were much celebrated both for their valour and nobility.
They were reputed, as most of the Saxon princes, to be sprung from
Woden, who was worshipped as a god among those nations, and they are
said to be his great grandsons [g]; a circumstance which added much to
their authority. We shall not attempt to trace any higher the origin
of those princes and nations. It is evident what fruitless labour it
must be to search, in those barbarous and illiterate ages, for the
annals of a people, when their first leaders, known in any true
history, were believed by them to be the fourth in descent from a
fabulous deity, or from a man exalted by ignorance into that
character. The dark industry of antiquaries, led by imaginary
analogies of names, or by uncertain traditions, would in vain attempt
to pierce into that deep obscurity which covers the remote history of
those nations.
[FN [g] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 15. Saxon Chron. p. 13. Nennius, cap.

These two brothers, observing the other provinces of Germany to be
occupied by a warlike and necessitous people, and the rich provinces
of Gaul already conquered or overrun by other German tribes, found it
easy to persuade their countrymen to embrace the sole enterprise which
promised a favourable opportunity of displaying their valour and
gratifying their avidity. They embarked their troops in three
vessels, and about the year 449 or 450 [h], carried over 1600 men, who
landed in the Isle of Thanet, and immediately marched to the defence
of the Britons against the northern invaders. The Scots and Picts
were unable to resist the valour of these auxiliaries; and the
Britons, applauding their own wisdom in calling over the Saxons, hoped
thenceforth to enjoy peace and security under the powerful protection
of that warlike people.
[FN [h] Saxon Chronicle, p. 12. Gul. Malm. p. 11. Huntington, lib.
2. p. 309. Ethelwerd. Brompton, p. 728.]

But Hengist and Horsa perceiving, from their easy victory over the
Scots and Picts, with what facility they might subdue the Britons
themselves, who had not been able to resist those feeble invaders,
were determined to conquer and fight for their own grandeur, not for
the defence of their degenerate allies. They sent intelligence to
Saxony of the fertility and riches of Britain; and represented as
certain the subjection of a people so long disused to arms, who, being
now cut off from the Roman empire, of which they had been a province
during so many ages, had not yet acquired any union among themselves,
and were destitute of all affection to their new liberties and of all
national attachments and regards [i]. The vices and pusillanimity of
Vortigern, the British leader, were a new ground of hope; and the
Saxons in Germany, following such agreeable prospects, soon reinforced
Hengist and Horsa with 5000 men, who came over in seventeen vessels.
The Britons now began to entertain apprehensions of their allies,
whose numbers they found continually augmenting; but thought of no
remedy, except a passive submission and connivance. This weak
expedient soon failed them. The Saxons sought a quarrel, by
complaining that their subsidies were ill paid, and their provisions
withdrawn [k]; and immediately taking off the mask, they formed an
alliance with the Picts and Scots, and proceeded to open hostility
against the Britons.
[FN [i] Chron. Sax. p. 12. Ann. Beverl. p. 42. [k] Bede, lib. 1.
cap. 15. Nennius, cap. 35. Gildas, Sec. 23.]

The Britons, impelled by these violent extremities, and roused to
indignation against their treacherous auxiliaries, were necessitated
to take arms; and having deposed Vortigern, who had become odious from
his vices, and from the bad event of his rash counsels, they put
themselves under the command of his son, Vortimer. They fought many
battles with their enemies; and though the victories in these actions
be disputed between the British and Saxon annalists, the progress
still made by the Saxons proves that the advantage was commonly on
their side. In one battle, however, fought at Eaglesford, now
Ailsford, Horsa, the Saxon general, was slain, and left the sole
command over his countrymen in the hands of Hengist. This active
general, continually reinforced by fresh numbers from Germany, carried
devastation into the most remote corners of Britain; and being chiefly
anxious to spread the terror of his arms, he spared neither age, nor
sex, nor condition, wherever he marched with his victorious forces.
The private and public edifices of the Britons were reduced to ashes:
the priests were slaughtered on the altars by those idolatrous
ravagers: the bishops and nobility shared the fate of the vulgar: the
people, flying to the mountains and deserts, were intercepted and
butchered in heaps: some were glad to accept of life and servitude
under their victors: others, deserting their native country, took
shelter in the province of Armorica; where, being charitably received
by a people of the same language and manners, they settled in great
numbers, and gave the country the name of Britany [l].
[FN [l] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 15. Usher, p.226. Gildas, Sec. 24.]

The British writers assign one cause which facilitated the entrance of
the Saxons into this island; the love with which Vortigern was at
first seized for Rovena, the daughter of Hengist, and which that
artful warrior made use of to blind the eyes of the imprudent monarch
[m]. The same historians add, that Vortimer died; and that Vortigern,
being restored to the throne, accepted of a banquet from Hengist, at
Stonehenge, where 300 of his nobility were treacherously slaughtered,
and himself detained captive [n]. But these stories seem to have been
invented by the Welsh authors, in order to palliate the weak
resistance made at first by their countrymen, anal to account for the
rapid progress and licentious devastations of the Saxons [o].
[FN [m] Nennius, Galfr. lib. 6. cap. 12. [n] Nennius, cap. 47.
Galfr. [o] Stillingfleet's Orig. Brit. p. 324, 325.]

After the death of Vortimer, Ambrosius, a Briton, though of Roman
descent, invested with the command over his countrymen, and
endeavoured, not without success, to unite them in their resistance
against the Saxons. Those contests increased the animosity between the
two nations, and roused the military spirit of the ancient
inhabitants, which had before been sunk into a fatal lethargy.
Hengist, however, notwithstanding their opposition, still maintained
his ground in Britain; and in order to divide the forces and attention
of the natives, he called over a new tribe of Saxons, under the
command of his brother Octa, and of Ebissa, the son of Octa; and he
settled them in Northumberland. He himself remained in the southern
parts of the island, and laid the foundation of the kingdom of Kent,
comprehending the county of that name, Middlesex, Essex, and part of
Surrey. He fixed his royal seat at Canterbury; where he governed
about forty years, and he died in or near the year 488; leaving his
new-acquired dominions to his posterity.

The success of Hengist excited the avidity of the other northern
Germans; and at different times, and under different leaders, they
flocked over in multitudes to the invasion of this island. These
conquerors were chiefly composed of three tribes, the Saxons, Angles,
and Jutes [p], who all passed under the common appellation, sometimes
of Saxons, sometimes of Angles; and speaking the same language, and
being governed by the same institutions, they were naturally led, from
these causes, as well as from their common interest, to unite
themselves against the ancient inhabitants. The resistance, however,
though unequal, was still maintained by the Britons; but became every
day more feeble; and their calamities admitted of few intervals, till
they were driven into Cornwall and Wales, and received protection from
the remote situation or inaccessible mountains of those countries.
[FN [p] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 15. Ethelwerd, p. 833. edit. Camdeni.
Chron. Sax. p. 12. Ann. Beverl. p. 78. The inhabitants of Kent, and
the Isle of Wight were Jutes. Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, and
all the southern counties to Cornwall, were peopled by Saxons: Mercia,
and other parts of the kingdom, were inhabited by Angles.]

The first Saxon state, after that of Kent, which was established in
Britain, was the kingdom of South Saxony. In the year 477 [q], Aella,
a Saxon chief, brought over an army from Germany; and landing on the
southern coast, proceeded to take possession of the neighbouring
territory. The Britons, now armed, did not tamely abandon their
possessions; nor were they expelled, till defeated in many battles by
their warlike invaders. The most memorable action, mentioned by
historians, is that of Meacredes Burn [r]; where, though the Saxons
seem to have obtained the victory, they suffered so considerable a
loss, as somewhat retarded the progress of their conquests. But
Aella, reinforced by fresh numbers of his countrymen, again took the
field against the Britons, and laid siege to Andred-Ceaster, which was
defended by the garrison and inhabitants with desperate valour [s].
The Saxons, enraged by this resistance, and by the fatigues and
dangers which they had sustained, redoubled their efforts against the
place, and when masters of it, put all their enemies to the sword
without distinction. This decisive advantage secured the conquests of
Aella, who assumed the name of king, and extended his dominion over
Sussex and a great part of Surrey. He was stopped in his progress to
the east by the kingdom of Kent: in that to the west by another tribe
of Saxons, who had taken possession of that territory.
[FN [q] Chron. Sax. p.14. Ann. Beverl. p. 81. [r] Saxon Chron. A.D.
485. Flor. Wigorn. [s] Hen. Hunting. lib. 2.]

These Saxons, from the situation of the country in which they settled,
were called the West Saxons, and landed in the year 495, under the
command of Cerdic, and of his son Kenric [t]. The Britons were, by
past experience, so much on their guard, and so well prepared to
receive the enemy, that they gave battle to Cerdic the very day of his
landing; and though vanquished, still defended, for some time, their
liberties against the invaders. None of the other tribes of Saxons
met with such vigorous resistance, or exerted such valour and
perseverance in pushing their conquests. Cerdic was even obliged to
call for the assistance of his countrymen from the kingdoms of Kent
and Sussex, as well as from Germany, and he was thence joined by a
fresh army under the command of Porte, and of his sons Bleda, and
Megla [u]. Strengthened by these succours, he fought in the year 508,
a desperate battle with the Britons, commanded by Nazan-Leod, who was
victorious in the beginning of the action, and routed the wing in
which Cerdic himself commanded; but Kenric, who had prevailed in the
other wing, brought timely assistance to his father, and restored the
battle, which ended in a complete victory gained by the Saxons [w].
Nazan-Leod perished with 5000 of his army; but left the Britons more
weakened than discouraged by his death. The war still continued,
though the success was commonly on the side of the Saxons, whose short
swords, and close manner of fighting, gave them great advantage over
the missile weapons of the Britons. Cerdic was not wanting to his
good fortune; and in order to extend his conquests, he laid siege to
Mount Badon or Banesdowne, near Bath, whither the most obstinate of
the discomfited Britons had retired. The southern Britons, in this
extremity, applied for assistance to Arthur, Prince of the Silures,
whose heroic valour now sustained the declining fate of his country
[x]. This is that Arthur so much celebrated in the songs of
Thaliessin, and the other British bards, and whose military
achievements have been blended with so many fables, as even to give
occasion for entertaining a doubt of his real existence. But poets,
though they disfigure the most certain history by their fictions, and
use strange liberties with truth where they are the sole historians,
as among the Britons, have commonly some foundation for their wildest
exaggerations. Certain it is, that the siege of Badon was raised by
the Britons in the year 520; and the Saxons were there discomfited in
a great battle [y]. This misfortune stopped the progress of Cerdic;
but was not sufficient to wrest from him the conquests which he had
already made. He and his son Kenric, who succeeded him, established
the kingdom of the West Saxons, or of Wessex, over the counties of
Hants, Dorset, Wilts, Berks, and the Isle of Wight, and left their
new-acquired dominions to their posterity. Cerdic died in 534, Kenric
in 560.
[FN [t] Will. Malm. lib. 1. cap. 1. p.12. Chron. Sax. p. 15. [u]
Chron. Sax. p. 17. [w] H. Hunting. lib. 2. Ethelwerd, lib. 1. Chron.
Sax. p. 17. [x] Hunting. lib. 2. [y] Gildas, Saxon Chron. H.
Hunting. lib. 2]

While the Saxons made this progress in the south, their countrymen
were not less active in other quarters. In the year 527, a great
tribe of adventurers, under several leaders, landed on the east coast
of Britain; and after fighting many battles, of which history has
preserved no particular account, they established three new kingdoms
in this island. Uffa assumed the title of King of the East Angles in
575; Crida that of Mercia in 585 [z] and Erkenwin that of East Saxony,
or Essex, nearly about the same time, but the year is uncertain. This
latter kingdom was dismembered from that of Kent, and comprehended
Essex, Middlesex, and part of Hertfordshire. That of the East Angles,
the counties of Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk; Mercia was extended
over all the middle counties, from the banks of the Severn to the
frontiers of these two kingdoms.
[FN [z] Math. West. Huntington, lib. 2.]

The Saxons, soon after the landing of Hengist, had been planted in
Northumberland; but, as they met with an obstinate resistance, and
made but small progress in subduing the inhabitants, their affairs
were in so unsettled a condition, that none of their princes for a
long time assumed the appellation of king. At last, in 547 [a], Ida,
a Saxon prince of great valour [b], who claimed a descent, as did the
other princes of that nation, from Woden, brought over a reinforcement
from Germany, and enabled the Northumbrians to carry on their
conquests over the Britons. He entirely subdued the county now called
Northumberland, the bishopric of Durham, as well as some of the south-
east counties of Scotland; and he assumed the crown under the title of
King of Bernicia. Nearly about the same time, Aella, another Saxon
prince, having conquered Lancashire, and the greater part of
Yorkshire, received the appellation of King of Deiri [c]. These two
kingdoms were united in the person of Ethilfrid, grandson of Ida, who
married Acca, the daughter of Aella; and expelling her brother Edwin,
established one of the most powerful of the Saxon kingdoms, by the
title of Northumberland. How far his dominions extended into the
country now called Scotland, is uncertain; but it cannot be doubted,
that all the lowlands, especially the east coast of that country, were
peopled in a great measure from Germany; though the expeditions made
by the several Saxon adventurers have escaped the records of history.
The language spoken in those countries, which is purely Saxon, is a
stronger proof of this event than can be opposed by the imperfect, or
rather fabulous, annals which are obtruded on us by the Scottish
[FN [a] Chron. Sax. p 19. [b] Will. Malmes. p. 19. [c] Ann. Beverl.
p. 78.]

[MN The Heptarcy.]
Thus was established, after a violent contest of near a hundred and
fifty years, the Heptarchy, or seven Saxon kingdoms in Britain; and
the whole southern part of the island, except Wales and Cornwall, had
totally changed its inhabitants, language, customs, and political
institutions. The Britons, under the Roman dominion, had made such
advances towards arts and civil manners, that they had built twenty-
eight considerable cities within their province, besides a great
number of villages and country seats [d]. But the fierce conquerors,
by whom they were now subdued, threw every thing back into ancient
barbarity, and those few natives who were not either massacred or
expelled their habitations, were reduced to the most abject slavery.
None of the other northern conquerors, the Franks, Goths, Vandals, or
Burgundians, though they overran the southern provinces of the empire
like a mighty torrent, made such devastations in the conquered
territories, or were inflamed into so violent an animosity against the
ancient inhabitants. As the Saxons came over at intervals in separate
bodies, the Britons, however at first unwarlike, were tempted to make
resistance; and hostilities being thereby prolonged, proved more
destructive to both parties, especially to the vanquished. The first
invaders from Germany, instead of excluding other adventurers who
must share with them the spoils of the ancient inhabitants, were
obliged to solicit fresh supplies from their own country; and a total
extermination of the Britons became the sole expedient for providing a
settlement and subsistence to the new planters. Hence there have been
found in history few conquests more ruinous than that of the Saxons;
and few revolutions more violent than that which they introduced.
[FN [d] Gildas. Bede. lib. 1.]

So long as the contest was maintained with the natives, the several
Saxon princes preserved a union of counsels and interests; but after
the Britons were shut up in the barren counties of Cornwall and Wales,
and gave no farther disturbance to the conquerors, the band of
alliance was in a great measure dissolved among the princes of the
Heptarchy. Though one prince seems still to have been allowed, or to
have assumed, an ascendant over the whole, his authority, if it ought
ever to be deemed regular or legal, was extremely limited; and each
state acted as if it had been independent, and wholly separate from
the rest. Wars therefore, and revolutions and dissensions, were
unavoidable among a turbulent and military people; and these events,
however intricate or confused, ought now to become the objects of our
attention. But, added to the difficulty of carrying on at once the
history of seven independent kingdoms, there is great discouragement
to a writer, arising from the uncertainty, at least barrenness, of the
accounts transmitted to us. The monks, who were the only annalists
during those ages, lived remote from public affairs, considered the
civil transactions as entirely subordinate to the ecclesiastical, and,
besides partaking of the ignorance and barbarity which were then
universal, were strongly infected with credulity, with the love of
wonder, and with a propensity to imposture; vices almost inseparable
from their profession and manner of life. The history of that period
abounds in names, but is extremely barren of events; or the events are
related so much without circumstances and causes, that the most
profound or most eloquent writer must despair of rendering them either
instructive or entertaining to the reader. Even the great learning
and vigorous imagination of Milton sunk under the weight; and this
author scruples not to declare, that the skirmishes of kites or crows
as much merited a particular narrative, as the confused transactions
and battles of the Saxon Heptarchy [e]. In order, however, to connect
the events in some tolerable measure, we shall give a succinct account
of the succession of kings, and of the more remarkable revolutions in
each particular kingdom; beginning with that of Kent, which was the
first established.
[FN [e] Milton in Kennet, p. 50.]

[MN The Kingdom of Kent.]
Escus succeeded his father Hengist in the kingdom of Kent; but seems
not to have possessed the military genius of that conqueror, who first
made way for the entrance of the Saxon arms into Britain. All the
Saxons who sought either the fame of valour, or new establishments by
arms, flocked to the standard of Aella, King of Sussex, who was
carrying on successful war against the Britons, and laying the
foundations of a new kingdom. Escus was content to possess in
tranquillity the kingdom of Kent, which he left in 512 to his son
Octa, in whose time the East Saxons established their monarchy, and
dismembered the provinces of Essex and Middlesex from that of Kent.
His death, after a reign of twenty-two years, made room for his son
Hermenric in 534, who performed nothing memorable during a reign of
thirty-two years, except associating with him his son Ethelbert in the
government, that he might secure the succession in his family, and
prevent such revolutions as are incident to a turbulent and barbarous

Ethelbert revived the reputation of his family, which had languished
for some generations. The inactivity of his predecessors, and the
situation of his country, secured from all hostility with the Britons,
seem to have much enfeebled the warlike genius of the Kentish Saxons;
and Ethelbert, in his first attempt to aggrandize his country, and
distinguish his own name, was unsuccessful [f]. He was twice
discomfited in battle by Ceaulin, King of Wessex; and obliged to yield
the superiority in the Heptarchy to that ambitious monarch, who
preserved no moderation in his victory, and by reducing the kingdom of
Sussex to subjection, excited jealousy in all the other princes. An
association was formed against him; and Ethelbert, intrusted with the
command of the allies gave him battle, and obtained a decisive
victory [g ]. Ceaulin died soon after; and Ethelbert succeeded as
well to his ascendant among the Saxon states, as to his other
ambitious projects. He reduced all the princes, except the King of
Northumberland, to a strict dependence upon him; and even established
himself by force on the throne of Mercia, the most extensive of the
Saxon kingdoms. Apprehensive, however, of a dangerous league against
him, like that by which he himself had been enabled to overthrow
Ceaulin, he had the prudence to resign the kingdom of Mercia to Webba,
the rightful heir, the son of Crida, who had first founded that
monarchy. But governed still by ambition more than by justice, he
gave Webba possession of the crown on such conditions as rendered him
little better than a tributary prince under his artful benefactor.
[FN [f] Chron. Sax. p. 21. [g] H. Hunting. lib. 2.]

But the most memorable event which distinguished the reign of this
great prince, was the introduction of the Christian religion among the
English Saxons. The superstition of the Germans, particularly that of
the Saxons, was of the grossest and most barbarous kind; and being
founded on traditional tales received from their ancestors, not
reduced to any system, nor supported by political institutions, like
that of the Druids, it seems to have made little impression on its
votaries, and to have easily resigned its place to the new doctrine
promulgated to them. Woden, whom they deemed the ancestor of all
their princes, was regarded as the god of war, and, by a natural
consequence, became their supreme deity, and the chief object of their
religious worship. They believed that, if they obtained the favour of
this divinity by their valour, (for they made less account of the
other virtues,) they should be admitted after their death into his
hall; and, reposing on couches, should satiate themselves with ale
from the skulls of their enemies whom they had slain in battle.
Incited by this idea of paradise, which gratified at once the passion
of revenge and that of intemperance, the ruling inclinations of
barbarians, they despised the dangers of war, and increased their
native ferocity against the vanquished by their religious prejudices.
We know little of the other theological tenets of the Saxons: we only
learn that they were polytheists; that they worshipped the sun and
moon; that they adored the god of thunder under the name of Thor; that
they had images in their temples; that they practised sacrifices;
believed firmly in spells and enchantments; and admitted in general a
system of doctrines which they held as sacred, but which, like all
other superstitions, must carry the air of the wildest extravagance,
if propounded to those who are not familiarized to it from their
earliest infancy.

The constant hostilities which the Saxons maintained against the
Britons, would naturally indispose them for receiving the Christian
faith, when preached to them by such inveterate enemies; and perhaps
the Britons, as is objected to them by Gildas and Bede, were not over
fond of communicating to their cruel invaders the doctrine of eternal
life and salvation. But as a civilized people, however subdued by
arms, still maintain a sensible superiority over barbarous and
ignorant nations, all the other northern conquerors of Europe had been
already induced to embrace the Christian faith, which they found
established in the empire; and it was impossible but the Saxons,
informed of this event, must have regarded with some degree of
veneration a doctrine which had acquired the ascendant over all their
brethren. However limited in their views, they could not but have
perceived a degree of cultivation in the southern countries beyond
what they themselves possessed; and it was natural for them to yield
to that superior knowledge as well as zeal, by which the inhabitants
of the Christian kingdoms were even at that time distinguished.

But these causes might long have failed of producing any considerable
effect, had not a favourable incident prepared the means of
introducing Christianity into Kent. Ethelbert, in his father's
lifetime, had married Bertha, the only daughter of Caribert, King of
Paris [h], one of the descendants of Clovis, the conqueror of Gaul;
but before he was admitted to this alliance, he was obliged to
stipulate, that the princess should enjoy the free exercise of her
religion; a concession not difficult to be obtained from the
idolatrous Saxons [i]. Bertha brought over a French bishop to the
court of Canterbury; and being zealous for the propagation of her
religion, she had been very assiduous in her devotional exercises, had
supported the credit of her faith by an irreproachable conduct, and
had employed every art of insinuation and address to reconcile her
husband to her religious principles. Her popularity in the court, and
her influence over Ethelbert, had so well paved the way for the
reception of the Christian doctrine, that Gregory, surnamed the Great,
then Roman pontiff, began to entertain hopes of effecting a project,
which he himself, before he mounted the papal throne, had once
embraced, of converting the British Saxons.
[FN [h] Greg. of Tours, lib. 9. cap. 26. H. Hunting. lib. 2. [i]
Bede, lib. 1. cap. 25. Brompton, p. 729.]

It happened that this prelate, at that time in a private station, had
observed in the market-place of Rome some Saxon youth exposed to sale,
whom the Roman merchants, in their trading voyages to Britain, had
bought of their mercenary parents. Struck with the beauty of their
fair complexions and blooming countenances, Gregory asked to what
country they belonged; and being told they were ANGLES, he replied
that they ought more properly to be denominated ANGELS: it were a pity
that the prince of darkness should enjoy so fair a prey, and that so
beautiful a frontispiece should cover a mind destitute of internal
grace and righteousness. Inquiring farther concerning the name of
their province, he was informed that it was Deiri, a district of
Northumberland: DEIRI, replied he, THAT IS GOOD! THEY ARE CALLED TO
KING OF THAT PROVINCE? He was told it was Aella or Alla: ALLELUIAH,
COUNTRY. Moved by these allusions, which appeared to him so happy, he
determined to undertake himself a mission into Britain; and having
obtained the pope's approbation, he prepared for that perilous
journey: but his popularity at home was so great, that the Romans,
unwilling to expose him to such dangers, opposed his design; and he
was obliged, for the present, to lay aside all farther thoughts of
executing that pious purpose [k].
[FN [k] Bede, lib. 2. cap. 1. Spell. Conc. p. 91.]

The controversy between the Pagans and the Christians was not entirely
cooled in that age; and no pontiff before Gregory, had ever carried to
greater excess an intemperate zeal against the former religion. He
had waged war with all the precious monuments of the ancients, and
even with their writings, which, as appears from the strain of his own
wit, as well as from the style of his compositions, he had not taste
or genius sufficient to comprehend. Ambitious to distinguish his
pontificate by the conversion of the British Saxons, he pitched on
Augustine, a Roman monk, and sent him with forty associates to preach
the gospel in this island. These missionaries, terrified with the
dangers which might attend their proposing a new doctrine to so fierce
a people, of whose language they were ignorant, stopped some time in
France, and sent back Augustine to lay the hazards and difficulties
before the pope, and crave his permission to desist from the
undertaking. But Gregory exhorted them to persevere in their purpose,
advised them to choose some interpreters from among the Franks, who
still spoke the same language with the Saxons [l]; and recommended
them to the good offices of Queen Brunehaut, who had at this time
usurped the sovereign power in France. This princess, though stained
with every vice of treachery and cruelty, either possessed or
pretended great zeal for the cause; and Gregory acknowledged that to
her friendly assistance was, in a great measure, owing the success of
that undertaking [m].
[FN [1] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 23. [m] Greg. Epist. lib. 9. epist. 56.
Spell. Conc. p. 82]

Augustine, on his arrival in Kent, in the year 597 [n] found the
danger much less than he had apprehended. Ethelbert, already well
disposed towards the Christian faith, assigned him a habitation in the
Isle of Thanet, and soon after admitted him to a conference.
Apprehensive, however, lest spells or enchantments might be employed
against him by priests, who brought an unknown worship from a distant
country, he had the precaution to receive them in the open air, where
he believed the force of their magic would be more easily dissipated
[o]. Here Augustine, by means of his interpreters, delivered to him
the tenets of the Christian faith, and promised him eternal joys
above, and a kingdom in heaven, without end, if he would be persuaded
to receive that salutary doctrine [p]. "Your words and promises,"
replied Ethelbert, "are fair; but because they are new and uncertain,
I cannot entirely yield to them, and relinquish the principles which I
and my ancestors have so long maintained. You are welcome, however,
to remain here in peace; and as you have undertaken so long a journey,
solely, as it appears, for what you believe to be for our advantage, I
will supply you with all necessaries, and permit you to deliver your
doctrine to my subjects [q]"
[FN [n] Higden. Polychron. lib. 5. Chron. Sax. p. 23. [o] Bede, lib.
I. cap. 2 Hunting. lib. 3. Brompton, p. 729 Parker Antiq. Brit.
Eccl. p. 61. [p] Bede, lib. 1. cap 25. Chron. W. Thorn. p. 1759. [q]
Bede, lib. 1. cap 25. H. Hunting. lib. 3. Brompton, p. 729]

Augustine, encouraged by this favourable reception, and seeing now a
prospect of success, proceeded with redoubled zeal to preach the
gospel to the Kentish Saxons. He attracted their attention by the
austerity of his manners, by the severe penances to which he subjected
himself, by the abstinence and self-denial which he practised: and
having excited their wonder by a course of life which appeared so
contrary to nature, he procured more easily their belief of miracles,
which, it was pretended, he wrought for their conversion [r].
Influenced by these motives, and by the declared favour of the court,
numbers of the Kentish men were baptized; and the king himself was
persuaded to submit to that rite of Christianity. His example had
great influence with his subjects; but he employed no force to bring
them over to the new doctrine. Augustine thought proper, in the
commencement of his mission, to assume the appearance of the greatest
lenity. He told Ethelbert that the service of Christ must be entirely
voluntary, and that no violence ought ever to be used in propagating
so salutary a doctrine [s].
[FN [r] Bede, lib. 1. cap 26. [s] Ibid. lib. 1. cap 26. H. Hunting.
lib. 3.]

The intelligence received of these spiritual conquests afforded great
joy to the Romans; who now exulted as much in those peaceful trophies,
as their ancestors had ever done in their most sanguinary triumphs,
and most splendid victories. Gregory wrote a letter to Ethelbert, in
which, after informing him that the end of the world was approaching,
he exhorted him to display his zeal in the conversion of his subjects,
to exert rigour against the worship of idols, and to build up the good
work of holiness by every expedient of exhortation, terror,
blandishment, or correction [t]: a doctrine more suitable to that age,
and to the usual papal maxims, than the tolerating principles which
Augustine had thought it prudent to inculcate. The pontiff also
answered some questions which the missionary had put concerning the
government of the new church of Kent. Besides other queries which it
is not material here to relate, Augustine asked, WHETHER COUSIN-
GERMANS MIGHT BE ALLOWED TO MARRY? Gregory answered, that that liberty
had indeed been formerly granted by the Roman law; but that experience
had shown, that no issue could ever come from such marriages; and he
therefore prohibited them. Augustine, WHETHER A WOMAN PREGNANT MIGHT
BE BAPTIZED? Gregory answered that he saw no objection. HOW SOON
WITH HIS WIFE AFTER HER DELIVERY? Not till she had given suck to her
child: a practice to which Gregory exhorts all women. HOW SOON A MAN
COMMERCE WITH HIS WIFE? It was replied, that unless he had approached
her without desire, merely for the sake of propagating his species, he
was not without sin: but in all cases it was requisite for him, before
he entered the church, or communicated, to purge himself by prayer and
ablution; and he ought not, even after using these precautions, to
participate immediately of the sacred duties [u]. There are some
other questions and replies still more indecent and more ridiculous
[w]. And on the whole, it appears that Gregory and his missionary, if
sympathy of manners have any influence, were better calculated than
men of more refined understanding for making a progress with the
ignorant and barbarous Saxons.
[FN [t] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 32. Brompton, p. 732. Spell. Conc. p. 86.
[u] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 27. Spell. Conc. p. 97, 98, 99, &c. [w]
Augustine asks, Si mulier menstrua consuetudine tenetur, an ecclesiam
intrare ei licet, aut sacrae communionis sacramenta percipere?
Gregory answers, Sanctae communionis mysterium in eisdem diebus
percipere non debit prohiberi. Si autem ex veneratione magna
precipere non praesumitur, laudanda est. Augustine asks, Si post
illusionem, quae per somnum solet accidere, vel corpus Domine quilibet
accipere valeat; vel, si sacerdos sit, sacra mysteria celebrare.
Gregory answers this learned question by many learned distinctions.]

The more to facilitate the reception of Christianity Gregory enjoined
Augustine to remove the idols from the heathen altars, but not to
destroy the altars themselves; because the people, he said, would be
allured to frequent the Christian worship, when they found it
celebrated in a place which they were accustomed to revere. And as
the Pagans practised sacrifices, and feasted with the priests on their
offerings, he also exhorted the missionary to persuade them, on
Christian festivals, to kill their cattle in the neighbourhood of the
church, and to indulge themselves in those cheerful entertainments, to
which they had been habituated [x]. These political compliances show,
that notwithstanding his ignorance and prejudices, he was not
unacquainted with the arts of governing mankind. Augustine was
consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, was endowed by Gregory with
authority over all the British churches, and received the pall, a
badge of ecclesiastical honour, from Rome [y]. Gregory also advised
him not to be too much elated with his gift of working miracles [z];
and as Augustine, proud of the success of his mission, seemed to think
himself entitled to extend his authority over the bishops of Gaul, the
pope informed him, that they lay entirely without the bounds of his
jurisdiction [a].
[FN [x] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 30. Spell. Conc. p.89. Greg. Epist. lib.
9. Epist. 71. [y] Chron. Sax. p. 23, 24. [z] H. Hunting. lib. 3.
Spell. Conc. p. 83. Bede, lib. 1. Greg. Epist. lib. 9. Epist. 60.
[a] Bede, lib. 1. cap. 27.]

The marriage of Ethelbert with Bertha, and much more his embracing
Christianity, begat a connexion of his subjects with the French,
Italians, and other nations on the continent, and tended to reclaim
them from that gross ignorance and barbarity in which all the Saxon
tribes had been hitherto involved [b]. Ethelbert also enacted [c],
with the consent of the states of his kingdom, a body of laws, the
first written laws promulgated by any of the northern conquerors; and
his reign was in every respect glorious to himself, and beneficial to
his people. He governed the kingdom of Kent fifty years, and dying in
616, left the succession to his son, Eadbald. This prince, seduced by
a passion for his mother-in-law, deserted for some time the Christian
faith, which permitted not these incestuous marriages: his whole
people immediately returned with him to idolatry. Laurentius, the
successor of Augustine, found the Christian worship wholly abandoned,
and was prepared to return to France, in order to escape the
mortification of preaching the gospel without fruit to the infidels.
Melitus and Justus, who had been consecrated Bishops of London and
Rochester, had already departed the kingdom [d], when, Laurentius,
before he should entirely abandon his dignity, made one effort to
reclaim the king. He appeared before that prince, and, throwing off
his vestments, showed his body all torn with bruises and stripes,
which he had received. Eadbald, wondering that any man should have
dared to treat in that manner a person of his rank, was told by
Laurentius, that he had received this chastisement from St. Peter, the
prince of the Apostles, who had appeared to him in a vision, and,
severely reproving him for his intention to desert his charge, had
inflicted on him these visible marks of his displeasure [e]. Whether
Eadbald was struck with the miracle, or influenced by some other
motive, he divorced himself from his mother-in-law, and returned to
the profession of Christianity [f]: his whole people returned with
him. Eadbald reached not the fame or authority of his father, and
died in 640, after a reign of twenty-five years, leaving two sons,
Erminfred and Ercombert.
[FN [b] Will. Malm. p.10. [c] Wilkins Leges Sax. p. 13. [d] Bede,
lib. 2. cap. 5. [e] Ibid. lib. 2. cap. 6. Chron. Sax. p. 26.
Higden, lib. 5. [f] Brompton, p. 739.]

Ercombert, though the younger son, by Emma, a French princess, found
means to mount the throne. He is celebrated by Bede for two exploits;
for establishing the fast of Lent in his kingdom, and for utterly
extirpating idolatry, which, notwithstanding the prevalence of
Christianity, had hitherto been tolerated by the two preceding
monarchs. He reigned twenty-four years, and left the crown to Egbert,
his son, who reigned nine years. This prince is renowned for his
encouragement of learning, but infamous for putting to death his two
cousin germans, sons of Erminfred, his uncle. The ecclesiastical
writers praise him for bestowing on his sister, Domnona, some lands in
the Isle of Thanet, where she founded a monastery.

The bloody precaution of Egbert could not fix the crown on the head of
his son, Edric. Lothaire, brother of the deceased prince, took
possession of the kingdom, and, in order to secure the power in his
family, he associated with him Richard, his son, in the administration
of the government. Edric, the dispossessed prince, had recourse to
Edilwach, King of Sussex, for assistance, and being supported by that
prince, fought a battle with his uncle, who was defeated and slain.
Richard fled into Germany, and afterwards died in Lucca, a city of
Tuscany. William of Malmesbury ascribes Lothaire's bad fortune to two
crimes; his concurrence in the murder of his cousins, and his contempt
for relics [g].
[FN [g] Will. Malm. p. 11.]

Lothaire reigned eleven years; Edric, his successor, only two. Upon
the death of the latter, which happened in 686, Widred, his brother,
obtained possession of the crown. But as the succession had been of
late so much disjointed by revolutions and usurpations, faction began
to prevail among the nobility, which invited Ceodwalla, King of
Wessex, with his brother, Mollo, to attack the kingdom. These
invaders committed great devastations in Kent; but the death of Mollo,
who was slain in a skirmish [h], gave a short breathing-time to that
kingdom. Widred restored the affairs of Kent, and, after a reign of
thirty-two years [i], left the crown to his posterity. Eadbert,
Ethelbert, and Alric, his descendants, successively mounted the
throne. After the death of the last, which happened in 794, the royal
family of Kent was extinguished, and every factious leader who could
entertain hopes of ascending the throne, threw the state into
confusion [k]. Egbert, who first succeeded, reigned but two years;
Cuthred, brother to the King of Mercia, six years; Baldred, an
illegitimate branch of the royal family, eighteen; and, after a
troublesome and precarious reign, he was, in the year 827, expelled by
Egbert, King of Wessex, who dissolved the Saxon Heptarchy, and united
the several kingdoms under his dominion.
[FN [h] Higden, lib. 5. [i] Chron. Sax. p. 52 [k] Will. Malmes. lib.
1. cap. 1. p. 11.]

[MN The kingdom of Northumberland.]
Adelfrid, King of Bernicia, having married Acca, the daughter of
Aella, King of Deiri, and expelled her infant brother, Edwin, had
united all the countries north of Humber into one monarchy, and
acquired a great ascendant in the Heptarchy. He also spread the
terror of the Saxon arms to the neighbouring people, and by his
victories over the Scots and Picts, as well as Welsh, extended on all
sides the bounds of his dominions. Having laid siege to Chester, the
Britons marched out with all their forces to engage him, and they were
attended by a body of 1250 monks from the monastery of Bangor, who
stood at a small distance from the field of battle, in order to
encourage the combatants by their presence and exhortations.
Adelfrid, inquiring the purpose of this unusual appearance, was told,
that these priests had come to pray against him: THEN ARE THEY AS MUCH
he immediately sent a detachment, who fell upon them, and did such
execution, that only fifty escaped with their lives [m]. The Britons,
astonished at this event, received a total defeat; Chester was obliged
to surrender; and Adelfrid, pursuing his victory, made himself master
of Bangor, and entirely demolished the monastery, a building so
extensive that there was a mile's distance from one gate of it to
another, and it contained two thousand one hundred monks, who are said
to have been there maintained by their own labour [n].
[FN [l] Brompton, p. 779. [m] Trivet, apud Spell. Conc. p. 111. [n]
Bede, lib. 2. cap. 2. W. Malmes. lib. 1. cap. 3.]

Notwithstanding Adelfrid's success in war, he lived in inquietude on
account of young Edwin, whom he had unjustly dispossessed of the crown
of Deiri. This prince, now grown to man's estate, wandered from place
to place in continual danger from the attempts of Adelfrid, and
received at last protection in the court of Redwald, King of the East
Angles, where his engaging and gallant deportment procured him general
esteem and affection. Redwald, however, was strongly solicited by the
King of Northumberland to kill or deliver up his guest; rich presents
were promised him if he would comply, and war denounced against him in
case of his refusal. After rejecting several messages of this kind,
his generosity began to yield to the motives of interest; and he
retained the last ambassador till he should come to a resolution in a
case of such importance. Edwin, informed of his friend's perplexity,
was yet determined at all hazards to remain in East Anglia, and
thought that if the protection of that court failed him, it were
better to die, than prolong a life so much exposed to the persecutions
of his powerful rival. This confidence in Redwald's honour and
friendship, with his other accomplishments, engaged the queen on his
side, and she effectually represented to her husband the infamy of
delivering up to certain destruction their royal guest, who had fled
to them for protection against his cruel and jealous enemies [o].
Redwald, embracing more generous resolutions, thought it safest to
prevent Adelfrid, before that prince was aware of his intention, and
to attack him while he was yet unprepared for defence. He marched
suddenly with an army into the kingdom of Northumberland, and fought a
battle with Adelfrid, in which that monarch was defeated and killed,
after avenging himself by the death of Regner, son of Redwald [p]: his
own sons, Eanfrid, Oswald, and Oswy, yet infants, were carried into
Scotland, and Edwin obtained possession of the crown of
[FN [o] W.. Malmes. lib. 1. cap. 3. H. Hunting. lib. 3 Bede [p]
Bede, lib. 2. cap. 12. Brompton, p. 781.]

Edwin was the greatest prince of the Heptarchy in that age, and
distinguished himself, both by his influence over the other kingdoms
[q], and by the strict execution of justice in his own dominions. He
reclaimed his subjects from the licentious life to which they had been
accustomed; and it was a common saying, that during his reign a woman
or child might openly carry every where a purse of gold, without any
danger of violence or robbery. There is a remarkable instance,
transmitted to us, of the affection borne him by his servants.
Cuichelme, King of Wessex, was his enemy, but finding himself unable
to maintain open war against so gallant and powerful a prince, he
determined to use treachery against him, and he employed one Eumer for
that criminal purpose. The assassin, having obtained admittance by

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