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England-The Saxon Conquest


ness; they sent word to other Jutes to join them and soon accumulated a formidable force; then they picked a quarrel with those they had come to aid.


Legend represents King Vortigern as cowardly, weak, and evil, and tells that he was fascinated by the wiles of Rowena, a daughter of Hengist. At any rate he made little resistance to the bold robbers, and the real defence of the Britons fell to his son Vortimer. There were many fierce combats, in one of which Horsa was slain. The valiant Vortimer also perished, and gradually the Jutes crushed out all resistance.

Finally, King Vortigern proposed a friendly meeting. Hengist, now sole leader of the Jutes, consented. In the midst of a great love-feast held at Stonehenge, the treacherous Hengist cried out suddenly to his men, "Use your swords!"

At the signal every Jute stabbed his British neighbor to the heart. Vortigern alone was spared; for he had wedded Rowena, and probably the murderers thought him more useful alive than dead.

These are only dark and doubtful stories. They may or may not be the literal facts connected with the first entrance of the great Teutonic race into England. Hengist, Horsa, and Vortigern, however, really existed, and Eric, a son of Hengist, was, in 457, formally crowned King of Kent, that is, of England's southeastern coast. He was the first of her Teutonic kings.

Other Teutonic tribes were naturally drawn to Britain by the Jutes' success. The Saxons, under a chieftain named Ella, founded a kingdom of Sussex (the South-Saxons) in 477. Two Saxon chiefs, coming over in 495, conquered the portion of the country now known as Hampshire, and named it Wessex, or the Kingdom of the West Saxons. Then, again, from Jutland came a swarm of Angles, who occupied all that remained of Eastern Britain. Increasing in strength and numbers, they became masters of most of the country, and gave their own name of Angles or English to all the invaders.

According to tradition, the famous King Arthur administered the first real repulse to the Saxons in 520, at Badbury, in Dorsetshire. Arthur has often been looked upon as a mythical hero, but careful researches leave no doubt that he was a valiant patriot, who struck many stout blows at the invaders of his country. By and by, however, the Saxons pushed inland and their power grew. The Kingdom of the Northumbrians was founded in 547, and consisted of the land from the Humber to the Firth of Forth; the Kingdom of the Mercians embraced the midland country, while Kent was the Kingdom of the Jutes, and Sussex that of the South Saxons. Essex the Kingdom of the East Saxons and that of the East Angles, divided into Norfolk and Suffolk (Northfolk and South-folk), were less important. These seven leading kingdoms are often referred to as the Heptarchy, though they were forever at strife with one

another. Their warring indeed was so incessant that it is not worth further reference.

The determination of Pope Gregory the Great, in 597, to reconvert this Teutonic Britain recalls a pretty story of that remarkable man. One day, in the streets of Rome, his attention was attracted to a number of blue-eyed and fair-haired children, brought as slaves from their distant home in Angle-land. Impressed by their beauty and intelligence, he stopped and made inquiries regarding them. When he had learned the whole truth, he remarked: "They should not be called Angles, but rather Angels." His soul was so stirred that he made plans to go among the Britons as a missionary; but his pressing duties in Rome would not permit him to leave, and he sent Saint Augustine to Britain, accompanied by forty monks. A way had been opened for these evangelists by the marriage of Ethelbert, King of Kent, to a French princess, who had become a convert in her own country to Christianity. She persuaded her husband to receive Augustine, and he not only won over the King himself but thousands of his subjects, who were strongly influenced by the example of their ruler.

The religion of the early English was like that of other Teutonic tribes, being a form of heathenism, in which Woden, who was the Odin of the Danes, was worshipped as the leading god, who gave victory. Next to him was Thor, or Thunder, who ruled the sky. There were other less important gods. Our Wednesday is Woden's Day and Thursday is Thor's Day, the names having been preserved to the present time.

Augustine was so successful that he established the first cathedral of Canterbury, of which he became archbishop and which is still the mother church of England. He founded also the first monastery where missionaries were trained to carry forward the great work that had been begun.

The Irish monks, however, had done proselyting in the north of England at an earlier date than that of Augustine. From the Irish monasteries in Ireland and Scotland tramped the zealous though impoverished laborers in their Master's vineyard, to reap the harvest that was awaiting them. One of their colonies was planted in Lindisfarne in Durham, and from it Cuthbert traversed Northumbria in the seventh century, and brought the kingdom into the fold of Christianity, while his co-laborers were successful in other sections. The monasteries grew in number and were educational as well as industrial in their


The Church, as might have been expected, arrayed itself on the side of the feeble and downtrodden, who to their grateful relief were given one day out of every seven on which they could rest from their grinding labor. Naturally, perhaps, the Church gained not only great social influence, but was a

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England-Egbert Establishes his Dominion

969 force in politics. A synod held at Whitby in 664 was attended by delegates from all parts of the country, with the Archbishop of Canterbury at their head. This council decided that the Roman custom should be followed in the observance of Easter and thus all the churches were brought into unity. It is a curious fact that the delegates came from tribes, who at that very time were fiercely fighting one another. The concord of the council was a sign to the world of the real spiritual unity that underlay these quarrels, and yet what a grim commentary the whole business was upon the mockery of the professions of these men!

The kingdom of Wessex now enjoyed a century and a half of prosperity. Egbert, a descendant of Cerdic the first king, claimed the throne in 787, but was overthrown by a rival, and saved his life by fleeing the country. He found refuge in the court of Charlemagne, who was dreaming of riviving the old Roman Empire. Shortly after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West, the King of Wessex died, and Egbert was called home to succeed him. He showed the influence of Charlemagne upon his character, by resolutely setting out to bring all the neighboring petty tribes into subjection to his sovereignty. His army, "lean, pale, and long-bearded," was a resistless engine, which steadily crushed all opposition, so that in 828 the great task was accomplished and Egbert had fairly won the right to assume the title of "King of the English." Cæsar, as you will remember, had called the land Britain; the Celts had termed it Albion, and it now took the name of Angle-land, or England.

During those tempestuous times, the annals make frequent mention of the Scandinavians or Northmen, whose name was afterward softened in France to Norman. They were of the Teutonic race, and built up the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They were massive, fearless navigators, neither more nor less than freebooters and pirates, who terrorized all of Europe that could be reached by their swift galleys. Some of the latter, as you know, ploughed across the Atlantic and saw the American continent, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus was born.

England was made to feel the whip of scorpions wielded by these merciless Northmen or Danes. The invaders were still heathen and they revelled in the destruction of the Christian churches and monasteries and in the slaying of the priests. Creeping along the coast, hiding in woods and caves, or sailing unexpectedly up the rivers in their galleys and then stealing horses, the Danes galloped through the country on their ferocious forays, sparing nothing they

could reach.

The Scots of Ireland had been converted to Christianity in the fifth century mainly through the labors of the great missionary St. Patrick, and his work

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