They are Bribed to Depart

Book 2, Chapter 9, Edward 975 AD to 1016 AD – Ethelred


Ethelred, instead of revenging this affront, followed the cowardly and imprudent advice of Sericeus archbishop of Canterbury, and gave the victorious Danes a bribe of ten thousand pounds of silver to depart. This measure was productive of consequences which might easily have been foreseen. Another fleet of Danes appeared upon the English coasts the very next year, and put into different ports, in hopes of being bought off in the same manner.

Ethelred, on this occasion, called an assembly of all the great men, both of the clergy and laity, in which it was resolved to collect as great a fleet as possible at London, in order to block up the Danish fleet in some harbour. But the success of these wise and vigorous counsels was prevented by the treachery of Aelfric, duke of Mercia, one of the commanders of the English fleet, who warned the Danes of their danger, which gave them an opportunity to escape, with the loss of only one ship.  Aelfric carried his treachery still further, and deserted to the Danes, when the English fleet pursued and engaged them, and nearly captured the traitor. In revenge for his escape, Ethelred had the eyes of his youthful son put out, and yet, ere two years had passed, by some strange fatality, he reinstated the intriguing Aelfric in his dominion, only to be again deceived by him.

Hitherto the Danish depredations had been conducted only by adventurous chieftains, but in the year 993 England was invaded by a royal fleet and army, commanded by two kings in person, Sweyn, king of Denmark, and Olave, king of Norway. These princes sailed up the Humber, landed their men, and plundered Lindsay, after which they marched into Northumberland, where the people and nobility, being for the most part of Danish blood, made very little resistance.

Having wintered in that country, they embarked in the spring, entered the river Thames, and invested London, in hopes of hastening the conquest of the kingdom, by the reduction of the capital. But being repulsed in all their assaults by the undaunted citizens, they were obliged to raise the siege, and in revenge wasted the open country with fire and sword. Ethelred could think of no better method of putting a stop to their depredations, than by offering them the sum of sixteen thousand pounds of silver to desist, and depart the kingdom: which these ravagers thought proper to accept, and having spent the winter quietly at Southampton, returned to their respective dominions in the spring A.D. 995.

The calm occasioned by the departure of the two kings was of very short duration, for in the years 997 and 998, armies of Danes landed, and made dreadful devastations in the southwest of England, defeating all the detached parties of the English, which attempted to oppose them. In the year 999 they changed the scene of action, and sailing up the Thames and Medway, defeated an army of Kentishmen near Rochester, and desolated the adjacent country. Ethelred’ collected a fleet and raised an army this year, but they were both so ill conducted, that they served to exhaust his treasures and oppress his subjects, which obliged him to have recourse again to the wretched expedient of bribing his enemies, who would accept of no less than twenty four thousand pounds of silver. Besides this, a number of mercenary troops were hired for the defence of the kingdom, and this added greatly to the expense of resisting these dangerous enemies.

Chapter 9, Edward the Martyr

Edward, Commonly Styled “the Martyr”

Elfrida’s Intrigues

Chapter 9, Ethelred

Reign of Ethelred

Dunstan’s Prophecy

Condition of the Country

Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Danes

Fresh Attacks by the Northmen

They are Bribed to Depart

Origin of the Danegeld

Ethelred’s Marriage with Emma of Normandy

Massacre of the Danes

Chapter 9, Sweyn’s Revenge

Sweyn’s Vengeance

Murder of Archbishop Alphege

Levy for a Fleet

Chapter 9, Thurkill Ravages England

Its Failure

A Contemporary Picture

Sweyn prepares for the Conquest of England

Sweyn Dies and’ is Followed by Canute

Ethelred’s Flight and Return

Chapter 9, Edmund Ironside

Death of Ethelred

Divisions and Treachery among the English

Edmund Ironside Proclaimed King

Successive Battles with Canute

Partition of the Country

Brief Reign of Edmund


Categories: Book 2

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