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had, however, no choice but to submit, and she did so with the best grace she could.

Dunstan was still the real king, and it was he who placed the crown upon young Edward's head. The dark stepmother, standing by, vowed a vengeance which was not long delayed. While King Edward was hunting one day, in Dorsetshire, he spurred ahead of his attendants and reached Corfe Castle, where his stepmother lived. The young king blew his hunting-horn, and Elfrida hurried out beaming with smiles: "Dear King, you are welcome," she said, "pray dismount and come in!" I am afraid, my dear madam,” he replied, "that my company will miss me and think I have come to some harm. I will be glad to drink a cup of wine here in the saddle to you and my little brother."

Elfrida hurried into the castle to get the wine, and reappeared in a few minutes bearing it in her hand. The King reached down, smilingly took the cup, and lifting it to his lips, said, "Health to you both," including in the wish little Æthelred, whose hand was clasped in that of his mother. At that moment, an armed attendant of the Queen, who had stolen around unnoticed to the rear of the King, leaped forward and buried a dagger in his back. The King dropped the cup, and his startled horse dashed off. Weakened from the loss of blood, the dying King soon toppled from the saddle, but his foot caught in the stirrup, and he was cruelly dragged over the stones, until his friends came up with the exhausted animal and released the body. The man who had slain the King had been ordered to do so by Elfrida, when she re-entered the castle to bring out the cup of wine. Because of the manner of his death, Edward is called the Martyr. His great adviser Dunstan retired to Canterbury and devoted himself solely to religious duties until his death in 988.

Æthelred succeeded his murdered brother on the throne. He was surnamed The Unready, and was a worthless creature who gave himself up to all manner of vicious pleasures. When the Danes began again their invasions of the country, the cowardly Ethelred and his friends resorted to the disgraceful practice of buying them off. This pleased the robbers, who took the money and then came again, sure of receiving each time a big bribe from the terrified and cringing English. The heavy taxes which it was necessary to impose were called Danegeld, or Dane-money. Of course this could not go on forever, and when the end of his resources was reached, the worthless Æthelred took refuge with Duke Richard the Good, of Normandy, whose sister he had married.

Finally in 1013, Sweyn, the Dane, conquered all England. He died the following year, and then Ethelred was recalled, but he too soon died, and the war went on between his son Edmund, surnamed Ironsides, and Canute, son of Sweyn. Thus there were two kings in the country. Edmund put up a brave

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England-The Danish Kings


fight, but in the end agreed to accept Wessex, East Anglia, Essex, and London for his share, while the Dane took all the rest. Edmund, however, had reigned only seven months (April 23-November 30, 1016), when he died, and Canute or Cnut became the first fully acknowledged Danish king of England, his rule lasting from 1017 to 1035.

Canute began his reign with great harshness, banishing or putting to death the leading Englishmen who had fought against him; but this severity did not last. He soon sought the good-will of the people. Perhaps you have read how he rebuked the courtiers who, in flattering his greatness, declared that even the sea would obey him. He had them place his chair on the edge of the waves and commanded the rising tide to come no nearer. When it steadily rose despite his order, he said some sensible things to the silly flatterers.

Canute's plan was to form a mighty empire which included Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and England. He divided England into four districts or earldoms,-Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria, each ruled by an earl, with absolute authority. The plan began well, but mutual jealousy brought friction, until the safety of the country was imperilled.

Canute visited his different possessions, but dwelt most in England, of which he became very fond. He seems to have been a worthy Christian, for he showed a reverence for all that was good, and one day wrote to his subjects: "I have vowed to God to live a right life in all things, to rule justly and piously over my realm, and to administer just judgment to all."

When Canute died England was divided between his two sons Harold and Hardicanute. By this time, however, the people had become tired of their Danish rulers. The Great Council of the Witan sent for Edward, the son of Æthelred, whom they wished to have as their king. He had been taken to the French or Norman court when only nine years old, and had spent nearly thirty years there, so that in feeling and sentiment he was a Norman. He took with him to England a number of French favorites, filled the churches with French priests, and in short ruled like the Frenchman he really was. He even went so far as to give his pledge to Duke William of Normandy, that on his death he would leave the English crown to the Norman duke. The latter, as you will presently learn, never forgot this promise, though Edward chose to disregard it.

Edward married the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, who was the real ruler of the country until his death in 1053, when he was succeeded by his son Harold as earl. The nominal King gave his thoughts to church affairs, and spent a long time in building an abbey at the west end of London, which was called Westminster. A part of the building may still be seen in the basement of the present magnificent abbey. His life was so blameless that he gained the name of Edward the Confessor, or the Christian. Hardly had

Edward completed and dedicated his Abbey, when he died and was buried there. On his death-bed, Edward, despite his solemn promise to the Duke of Normandy, and in view of the fact that he had no children, recommended Harold, Earl of Wessex, as his successor. His advice was followed. The Witan, or National Council, selected Harold as king, and he was crowned January 16, 1066.

Before taking up the important events that now quickly followed, it will be instructive to study the social conditions of England during that period, and the years that preceded it. The government rested in an elective sovereign, who was aided by the council of the Witan, or Wise Men. All freemen had the right to attend this council, but the power really rested in a few of the nobles and clergy. The body could elect the king, but were required to limit their choice to the royal family. If he proved unfit, the Witan had the power to depose him. That body confirmed grants of public lands, and was a supreme court of justice in civil and criminal cases. In conjunction with the king, the Witan enacted laws, levied taxes, and appointed the chief officers and bishops of the realm.

The freemen were compelled to help in the maintenance of roads, bridges, and forts, and were obliged to serve in case of war. Besides the earls, who were nobles by birth, there was a class called thanes, or servants, or companions of the king, who after a time outranked the hereditary nobility. Both classes were rewarded by the king for faithful services, or for valorous deeds, and this reward was generally in the form of land, since the king owned no end of that. The condition attached to such a gift was the obligation of the receiver to provide a certain number of equipped soldiers to fight for the donor. The nobles and large landholders, imitating the king, gave certain parts of their estates in the same way to tenants, and they in turn, if they chose, could do the same to those below them. This constituted the Feudal System, by which every freeman below the rank of a noble was obliged to attach himself to some superior whom he was bound to serve, and who in return became his legal protector. It grew to be the common practice of the small landholders, particularly during the Danish invasion, to claim the protection of some neighboring lord, who was thus placed at the head of a strong force of armed followers. The freeman gave up his land, but got it back on favorable conditions. It must be remembered, however, that the feudal system was incomplete in England until after the Norman conquest, when it was firmly fixed.

A system of guilds grew up with the cities and towns. They were associations for mutual benefit such as are common in these times. The peaceguilds furnished a voluntary police force for preserving order and punishing criminals. A contribution from each member served as a partial insurance for

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