The begining of the kingdome of Mercia, the bounds of the same, the heptarchie or seuen regiments of the Saxons, how they grew to that perfection, and by whom they were reduced and drawne into a monarchie; Careticus is created king of Britaine, the Saxons take occasion by the ciuill dissentions of the Britains to make a full conquest of the land, they procure forren power to further them in their enterprise, Gurmundus hing of the Africans arriueth in Britaine, the British king is driuen to his hard shifts, the politike practise of Gurmundus in taking Chichester & setting the towne on fire, he deliuereth the whole land in possession to the Saxons, the English and Saxon kings put Careticus to flight, the Britains haue onelie three prouinces left of all their countrie which before they inhabited, their religion, church, and commonwealth is in decaie, they are gouerned by three kings, Cheulings death is conspired of his owne subiects.
The Xviij Chapter.
ABOUT the same tine also, and 585 of Christ, the kingdome of Mercia began vnder
CRIDA. H. Hunt. This kingdome began in the yéere 585. as Matt. Westm. saith. Kan. Cest.
one Crida, who was descended from Woden, and the tenth from him by lineall extraction. The bounds of this kingdome were of great distance, hauing on the east the sea vnto Humber, and so on the north the said riuer of Humber, and atter the riuer of Mercia, which fall th into the west sea at the corner of Wirhall, and so comming about to the riuer of Dee that passeth by Chester, the same riuer bounded it on the west from Walés, and likewise Seuerne vp to Bristow: on the south it had the riuer of Thames, till it came almost to London. And in this sort it conteined Lincolneshire, Notingamshire, Derbishire, Chesshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Glocestershire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertefordshire, Bedfordshire, Huntingtonshire, Northamptonshire, Leicebtershire, and Warwikeshire.
¶ Thus haue ye heard how the Saxons in processe of time remoouing the Britains out of their seats, dailie wan ground of them, till at length they got possession of the beat part of this Ile, and erected within the same seuen kingdoms; which were gouerned by seuen seuerall kings, who continued vntill the kings of Westsaxon brought them all at length into one monarchie, as after shall appeere. Matth. Westmin. reckoneth eight kingdoms as thus; The kingdom of Kent, the kingdom of Sussex, the kingdom of Essex, the kingdom of Eastangle, the kingdom of Mercia, the kingdom of Westsex, and the kingdom of Northumberland, which was diuided into two kingdoms, that is to say, into Deira and into Bernicia: wherevnto W. Harison addeth the ninth in the first part of his chronologie, and calleth it Wales.
AFTER that Malgo or Maglocune was departed this life, one Careticus, or (as some write him) Caretius, was made king of the Britains, and began his reigne in the yéere of our
Lord 586, which was in the third yéere of the emperour Mauricius, and thirtéenth of Chilperike king of France. This Careticus was a nourisher of ciuill warre and dissention amongst his owne people the Britains, so that he was hated both of God and man, as writers testifie. The Saxons vnderstanding that the Britains were not of one mind, but diuided in partakings, so as one was readie to deuoure an other, thought it good time for them to aduance their conquests, and ceassed not to pursue the Britains by force and corntinuall warre, till
Gal. Mon. See more of this Gurmundus in Ireland. Ranulf. Cest.
they had constreined them for refuge to withdraw into Wales. And as some haue written, the Saxons.meaning to make a full conquest of the land, sent ouer into Ireland, requiring one Gurmundus a king of the Affricans to come ouer into Britaine to helpe them against the Britains.
This Gurmundus appointing his brother Turgesius to pursue the conquest of Ireland, came and arriued heere in Britaine, making such cruell warre in aid of the Saxons against the Britains, that Careticus was constreined to kéepe him within the citie of Chicester or Cirencester, and was there besieged, and at length by continuall assalts and skirmishes, when he had lost manie of his men, he was glad to forsake that citie, and fled into Wales. This Gurmundus tooke Cirencester or Chichester, and destroied it in most cruell maner. Some write, that he tooke this citie by a policie of warre, in binding to the féet of sparrowes which his people had caught, certeine: clewes of thred or matches, finelie wrought & tempered with matter readie to take fire, so that the sparrowes being suffered to go out of hand, flue into the towne to lodge themselues within their neasts which they had made in stacks of come; and eues of houses, so that the towne was thereby set on fire, and then the Britains issuing foorth, fought with their enimies, and were ouercome and discomfited.
But whilest the battell continued, Careticus stale away, and got him into Wales. After this, the foresaid Gurmundus destroied this land throughout in pitifull wise, and then deliuered it in possession to the Saxons, the which thankfullie receiued it: and because they were descended of those that first came ouer with Hengist, they changed the name of the land, and called it Hengistland, accordinglie as the same Hengist had in times past ordeined: the which name after for shortnesse of spéech was somewhat altered, and so lastlie called England, and the people Englishmen. But rather it may be thought, that sith a great part of those people which came ouer into this land out of Germanie with the said Hengist, and other capteins, were of those Englishmen which inhabited Germanice, about the parts of
Thoringhen, they called this land England, after their name, when they had first got habitation within it: and so both the land and people tooke name of them, being called Angli,
a long time before they entered into this Ile, (as before is shewed out of Cornelius Tacitus and others.) But now to returne where we left.
It should sécme that this historie of Gurmundus is but some fained tale except it may be that he was some Dane, Norwegian or Germane.
Of this Gurmundus the old English writers make no mention, nor also anie ancient authors of forren parties: and yet saith the British booke, that after he had conquered this land, and giuen it to the Saxons, he passed ouer into France, and there destroied much of that land, as an enimie to the faith of Christ. For which consideration. he was the more readie to come to the aid of the Saxons, who as yet had not receiued the christian faith, but warred against the Britains, as well to destroie the faith of Christ within this land, as to establish to themselues continuall habitations in the same. There be, that omitting to make mention of Gurmundus, write thus of the expelling of the Britains out of this land at that time, when with their king Careticus they got them into Wales.
In the yéere of Grace 586, Careticus a louer of ciuill warre succéeded Malgo an enimie
to God and to the Britains, whose inconstancie when the English and Saxon kings perceiued,
with one consent they rose against him, and after manie battels chased him from citie to citie, till at length incountering with him in a pight field, they droue him beyond Seuerne into Wales. Héerevpon clerks and priests were driuen out of their places with bright swoords brandishing in all parts, and fire cackling in churches, wherewith the same were consumed. The remnant of the Britains therefore withdrew into the west parts of the land, that is to say, into Cornwall, and into Vales, out of which countries they oftentimes brake out, and made insurrections vpon the Saxons, the which in maner aforsaid got possession of the chiefest parts of the land, leauing to the Britains onlie three prouinces, that is to say, Cornwall, Southwales, and Northwales, which countries were not easie to be woone, by reason of the thicke woods inuironed with déepe mareshes and waters, and full of high craggie rocks and mounteins.
The English and Saxon kings hauing thus remooued the Britains, inlarged the bounds of their dominions. There reigned in that season within this land, beside the Britaine kings, eight kings of the English and Saxon nations, as Ethelbert in Kent, Cissa in Sussex, Ceauline in Westsex, Creda or Crida in Mercia, Erkenwine in Essex, Titila in Estangle, Elle in Deira, and Alfrid in Bernicia. In this sort the Britains lost the possession of the more part of their ancient seats, and the faith of Christ thereby was greatlie decaied: for the churches were destroied; and the archbishops of Caerleon Arwiske, London and Yorke withdrew togither with their cleargie into the mounteins and woods within Wales, taking with them the reliks of saints, doubting the same should be destroied by the enimies, and themselues put to death if they should abide in their old habitations. Manie also fled into Britaine Armorike with a great fléete of ships, so that the whole church or congregation (as ye may call it) of the two prouinces, Loegria and Northumberland, was left desolate in that season, to the great hinderance and decaie of the christian religion. Careticus was driuen into Wales (as before is rehearsed) about the second or third yéere of his reigne, and there continued with his Britains, the which ceassed not to indamage the Saxons from time to time as occasion still serued.
But here is to be noted, that the Britains being thus remoued into Wales and Cornwall, were gouerned afterwards by thrée kings, or rather tyrants, the which ceased not with ciuill warre to seeke others destruction, till finallie (as saith the British booke) they became all
subiect vnto Cadwallo, whome Beda nameth Cedwallo. In the mean? time, Ceaulinus or Cheuling king of the Westsaxons, through his owne misgouernance and tyrannie, which towards his latter daies he practised, did procure not onelie the Britains, but also his owne subiects to conspire his death, so that ioining in battell with his aduersaries at Wodensdic, in the 33 yeare of his reigne, his armie was discomfited, and he himselfe constreined to depart into exile, and shortlie after ended his life before he could find meanes to be restored.
¶ So that we haue here a mirror or liuelie view of a tyrant and a king, wherein there is no lesse ods in the manner of their gouernement, than there is repugnance in their names, or difference in their states. For he seeth but little into the knowledge of toongs, that vnderstandeth not what the office of a king should be, by the composition of his name, the same sounding in Gréeke βάσιλευς,
which being resolued is in effect βάσις λάου,
that is, the foundation or stay of the people; from which qualitie when he resulteth, he maketh shipwracke of that goodlie title, and degenerateth into a tyrant, than the which violent and inforced gouernement as there is none more perillous, so is it of all other the least in continuance: this is procued by historicall obseruation through the course of this historie.