The Foundations of England or, Twelve Centuries of British History (B.C. 55-A.D. 1154)

By James H. Ramsay | Go to book overview

found his brother Harold too firmly established to be dispossessed,1 and that in consequence he had only ventured to suggest a partition both of England and of Denmark. Harold declined to surrender any part of the kingdom assigned to him, as he said, by their father with Cnut's own consent, but he urged Cnut to prosecute his work in England. Cnut's action was finally determined by the arrival of Thurkill, who doubtless came to report the latest phase of English affairs, and the promising opportunity opened up.

Return of Cnut.

Of Cnut's fleet, its glittering shields and gilded figure-heads, we have as glowing an account as we had of Swein's fleet in 1013. But we are expressly told that in all the force there was not one servile man nor even one freed man; all were of noble birth (nobiles), i.e. free odallers, all in the flower of their age, and all trained in martial exercises.2

Free Warriors.

From Sandwich Cnut shortly sailed to Poole Harbour, his intention being this time to make his first attack on Wessex, Æthelred's stronghold. From Poole he was able to overrun all Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and Somerset, Æthelred lying ill at 'Cosham'3 presumably Corsham Regis, near Chippenham. Two fyrds, however, were raised, one under Eadric, probably acting as the King's Lieutenant, and the other 'up in the North' under the Ætheling Eadmund.4 When the forces effected a junction, Eadric's manœuvres were directed against the life of his enemy, the Ætheling. Cooperation having thus been rendered impossible, the fyrds parted and broke up, and then Eadric went over bodily to Cnut's camp. The submission of all Wessex followed as a matter of necessity.5

Submission of Wessex.

England was now divided in a very strange manner. The Dragon of Wessex followed the Scandinavian Raven, while Mercia and Northumbria supported the national cause under Eadmund.6 Æthelred, ousted from his proper capital, again found a refuge in London.

In the first days of 1016, Cnut and his new ally, Eadric, started on a bold raid northwards, into the Western Midlands. Crossing the Thames at Cricklade, they advanced into Warwickshire, harrying, burning, and slaying. The district must have belonged to the ealdordom of Leofwine, who was still living.7 The Ætheling Eadmund then called out a fyrd; but when the men came together complaints were

Struggle in the North.

____________________
1
According to Bishop Thietmar Harold was the elder brother, contra the Economiast of Emma, p. 10.
2
Encomium Emmæ, 12, 13, 15. The number of the fleet is given as 200 vessels.
3
So the Chronicles: there is a Cosham 4 ½ miles N. of Portsmouth, but that would be too near the coast.
4
"Be northan."
5
Chron. C, D, E, still one account, copied by Florence, Malmesbury, and Huntingdon. According to this account, Eadric took over with him forty ships -- evidently Thurkill's fleet.
6
Freeman, N. C., I. 374.
7
The ealdormen attesting charters at this time were Uhtred of Northumbria, Eadric

-375-

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