Aided by Bishops Oswald and Ethelwald

Book 2, Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair from 955 AD to 975 – Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy

The nobles, as well as the heads of both parties, attended. The king was kept away because of his youth, though he had been present at the former meetings. Beornelm, a Scotch bishop, pleaded the cause of the clergy with great ability, alleging Scripture and custom in their behalf, and arguing upon the morality and reason of the case, against the celibacy to which, by these new laws, they were to be compelled. His speech produced a great effect, and Dunstan did not attempt to answer it, he had laid aside, says his biographer, all means excepting prayer. “You endeavour,” said he, “to overcome me, who am now growing old, and disposed to silence more than contention. I confess that I am unwilling to be overcome, and I commit the cause of His Church to Christ himself as judge!” No sooner had these words been spoken than the beams and rafters gave way that part of the floor upon which the clergy and their friends were arranged fell with them, many being killed in the fall, and others grievously hurt, but that on which Dunstan and his party had taken their seats remained firm. Either the archbishop was guilty of the daring presumption of interpreting an accident as a Divine judgment, or, as is more than probable, his early knowledge of the mechanical arts served him in this pretended miracle.

 In the enforcement of the Benedictine rule in England, Dunstan, Oswald, and Ethelwald, the three great champions of the monks and the enemies of the married clergy, began the execution of their design, by endeavouring to persuade the secular canons in their cathedrals and other monasteries, to put away their wives, and take the monastic vows and habits. But finding that these persuasions produced little or no effect, they proceeded to acts of fraud and violence.

Oswald (as we are told by a monkish historian) turned all the married canons out of his cathedral church of Worcester, not by direct force, but by a most holy and pious stratagem, which he has not thought fit to mention. He expelled the married clergy out of seven other monasteries within his diocese, and filled them with monks, allowing those who were expelled a small pension for life, barely sufficient to keep them from starving. Ethelwald acted with still greater violence, if possible, towards the canons of his cathedral. For having secretly provided a sufficient number of monkish habits, he entered the church one day, followed by a number of servants carrying them, and, with a stern countenance, told the canons that were performing divine service, that they must instantly put on these habits, and take the vows, or be turned out.

Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair


Origin of Anglo Saxon Surnames

Conflicting Testimony Concerning Edwy

Incident on His Coronation Day

Treatment of Elgiva

Edgar the Pacific

Chapter 8, Origin of Monasteries in England

Introduction of Celibacy

Their Rules and Practice

The Benedictines

Chapter 8, Dunstan

Sketch of Dunstan

His Alleged Visions and Miracles

Becomes Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop

Chapter 8, Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy

His Character and Policy

Aided by Bishops Oswald and Ethelwald

The Secular Clergy Supplanted by the Monks

King Edgar’s Private Life

The Worth of the Eulogies Pronounced on Him by the Monks

The Canons of Edgar

His Position Among the Anglo-Saxon Kings

Policy Towards the Danes of Northumbria


Categories: Book 2

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