Book 2, Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair from 955 AD to 975 – Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy
Long fasting of several years are prescribed as the proper penances for many offences, but these fasting were not so formidable as they appear at first sight, especially to the rich, as a year’s fasting might be redeemed for thirty shillings. A rich man, who had many friends, and dependents, might dispatch a seven years’ fast in three days, by procuring eight hundred and forty men to fast for him three days on bread and water and vegetables. From this it appears how much the discipline of the church was relaxed since the council of Cloveshoe, A.D. 747, in which this curious method of fasting by proxy was condemned. Not much stress can be laid upon the assertion that Edgar was rowed down the river Dee by eight tributary princes, nor can the statement be allowed to pass unchallenged that this was the most glorious reign of all the Anglo-Saxon kings.
That it was free from invasion and from civil war, was due in no measure to his personal character or to his administrative ability. Although in his charters the most pompous and high sounding titles were there assumed, so far was his power from being consolidated that his son had to purchase on five occasions immunity from attack from the Danish rovers, and his grandson was the last of his race who ruled the Anglo-Saxons. There may have been more of personal show and pageantry, but there was not so much of real power as had been enjoyed by Athelstan. Among the few good deeds recorded of Edgar are his restoration of the coinage, which had been depreciated by clipping, his annual progress through the kingdom for purposes of justice, his stationing of a fleet at different points around the coast, and his commuting of the annual money tribute on the part of the Welsh into a payment of three hundred wolves’ beads, until that fierce and dangerous animal was extirpated.
Probably the credit of these acts largely belongs to Dunstan, who, like all men, bad in him something that was good and admirable, and perhaps it was, on the whole, beneficial that so weak and selfish a monarch had such an energetic, determined counsellor, who knew how to make his counsels acceptable. Dunstan is not to be excused for his inordinate. Preclinical ambition, and for his persistent attempts to subjugate all things to the spiritual power, but History will not withhold from him the credit which is his due. Very likely it was owing to him that Edgar acted as he did towards his Danish subjects, for during his reign the population of Northumbria was composed in a great proportion of Danes, or the posterity of Danes. Animosity against their southern neighbours, and affection for their own kinsmen, induced them frequently to invite, always to assist, the invaders. By Edred, indeed, they had been completely subdued, but it is probable that their submission would only have been temporary, had not circumstances connected their interests with the prosperity of the new king.
Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair
Chapter 8, Origin of Monasteries in England
Chapter 8, Dunstan
Chapter 8, Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy
His Position Among the Anglo-Saxon Kings
Categories: Book 2