Book 2, Chapter 9, Edward 975 AD to 1016 AD – Edmund Ironside
Canute followed him, and at Scearstan in Gloucestershire, a fiercely contested battle took place. Edmund selected the bravest soldiers for his first line of attack, and placed the rest as auxiliary bodies, then noticing many of them individually, he appealed to their patriotism and their courage, with that fire of eloquence which rouses men to energetic deeds. He conjured them to remember their country, their beloved families, and paternal habitations: for all these they were to fight, for all these they would conquer. To rescue or to surrender these dear objects of their attachments, would be the alternative of that day’s struggle. His representations warmed his soldiers, and in the height of their enthusiasm, he bade the trumpets to sound, and the charge of battle to begin.
Eagerly his brave countrymen rushed against their invaders, and were nobly led by their heroic king. He quitted his royal station to mingle in the first ranks of the fight, and yet while he used his sword with deadly activity, his vigorous mind watched every movement of the field. He struggled to blend the duty of commander and the gallant bearing of a soldier. Edric and two other generals, with the men of Wilts and Somerset, aided Canute. On Monday, the first day of the conflict, both armies fought with unprevailing courage, and mutual fatigue compelled them to separate. In the morning the awful struggle was renewed.
In the midst of the conflict, Edmund forced his way to Canute, and struck at him vehemently with his sword. The shield of the Dane saved him from the blow, but it was given with such strength, that it divided the shield, and cut the neck of his horse. A crowd of Danes then rushed upon Edmund, and after he had slain many, he was obliged to retire. Canute was slightly wounded. While the king was thus engaged, Edric, the traitor, who had allied himself with the Danes, struck off the head of one Osmear, who had been slain, and whose countenance resembled the king’s, and raising it on high, exclaimed to the Anglo-Saxons that they fought to no purpose. “Fly ye men of Dorset and Devon! Fly, and save yourselves. Here is your Edmund’s head.”
The astonished English gazed in terror. The king was not then visible, for he was piercing the Danish centre. Edric was believed, and panic began to spread through every rank. At this juncture Edmund appeared receding before the pressure of the Danes, who had rescued Canute. He saw the malice, and sent his spear at his avenger: Edric shunned the point, and it pierced two men near him. But his presence was now unavailing. In vain he threw off his helmet, and, gaining an eminence, exposed his disarmed head to undeceive his warriors. The fatal spirit had gone forth, and all the bravery and skill of Edmund could only sustain the combat till night interposed. The difficulty and heavy losses of the battle disinclined Canute from renewing it. He left the contested field at midnight, and marched afterwards to London to his shipping. The morn revealed his retreat to Edmund.
Chapter 9, Edward the Martyr
Chapter 9, Ethelred
Chapter 9, Sweyn’s Revenge
Chapter 9, Thurkill Ravages England
Chapter 9, Edmund Ironside
Successive Battles with Canute
Categories: Book 2