Book 2, Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair from 955 AD to 975 – Edwy the Fair
The most noteworthy circumstance connected with Edwy is that which occurred on the day of his coronation, and which has been made to bear a different construction according to the bias of the narrators. Told dispassionately, and with historical fidelity, it is as follows. The king withdrew from the riotous festivities which formed a part of the ceremonial of the coronation, in order to pass some time with his wife Elgiva and her mother, and his absence being remarked by some of the half inebriated nobles, was resented by them as an insult. Whether or not it was a breach of the etiquette of the time for the king thus to withdraw, is a matter of minor consequence, and even if it were, it certainly forms no excuse for what followed.
Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, a Dane by birth, and a fierce, harsh man, who may be more than suspected of treason on several occasions, fomented the spirit of discord, and at his instigation, Dunstan, the Abbot of Glastonbury, accompanied by another priest, rushed into the young king’s private chamber, and with threats and force compelled him to return to the noisy banquet, addressing at the same time reproaches and shameful epithets to Elgiva and her mother. The latter need not occasion surprise, nor the terms in which the monkish writers invariably refer to the king’s connexion with Elgiva, for according to canonical law she was only his mistress, being related to him within the prohibited ecclesiastical degrees, and therefore no phrases would be thought too opprobrious or harsh wherewith to stigmatize her. Whether common sense, or physiology, forbad such a union or not, was a matter of indifference to the rigid exponents of an artificial and arbitrary table of consanguinity, and herein is to be found the secret reason why Edwy’s character and conduct have been painted in the blackest colours.
The matter was not suffered to rest. The king was too indignant not to punish the actors in this impudent scene, and Dunstan was banished the country. It is even said that messengers were sent after him to deprive him of eyesight, but that fortunately for himself he escaped. His coadjutor, Odo, the archbishop, then instigated a rising of the people of Northumbria, who, like himself, were of Danish lineage, and Edgar, the king’s brother, who promised to be a pliant tool in the hands of the church party, was placed at the head of this insurrectionary movement.
Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair
Incident on His Coronation Day
Chapter 8, Origin of Monasteries in England
Chapter 8, Dunstan
Chapter 8, Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy
Categories: Book 2