Edwin reigneth ouer the Northumbers, his great power and reputation, a marriage betweene him and Ethelburga the sister of king, Eadbald vpon religious couenants, the traitorous attempts of murtherous Eumerus against him, his wife Ethelburga is deliuered of a daughter, he assalteth the Westsaxons, and discomfiteth them, Boniface the fift writeth to him to desist from his idolatrie, and to his ladie to persist in true christianitie; the vision of Edwin when he was a banished man in the court of Redwald king of the Eastangles, whereby he was informed of his great exaltation and conuersion to christian religion.
The Xxv. Chapter.
YE haue heard how Edelfred the king of Northumberland was slaine in battell neere to the water of Idel by Redwald king of the Eastangles, in fauour of Edwin whom the said Edelfred had confined out of his dominion, 24 yéeres before. The foresaid Redwald therefore hauing obteined that victorie, found meanes to place Edwin in gouernement of that kingdome of the Northumbers, hauing a title thereto as sonne to Alla or Elle, sometime
EDWIN. Beda. lib. 2. ca. 5.
king of Northumberland. This Edwin prooued a right valiant prince, & grew to be of more power than anie other king in the daies of the English nation: not onelie ruling ouer a great part of the countries inhabited with English men, but also with Britains, who inhabited not onelie in Wales, but in part of Chesshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, and alongst by the west sea-coast in Galloway, and so foorth euen vnto Dunbritaine in Scotland: which I haue thought good to note, that it may appeare in what countries Cadwallo bare rule, of whome so often mention is made in this part of the historie. But as concerning Edwin, his reputation was such, as not onelie the English men, Britains and Scots, but also the Iles of
W. Malm. taketh Meuania to be Anglesey.
Orknie, and those of Man, and others the west Iles of ancient time called Meuaniæ, had him in reuerence, and feared his mightie power, so as they durst not attempt anie exploit to offend him.
It chanced that shortlie after, king Redwald had aduanced him to the kingdom of Northumberland, to wit, about 6 yeares, the same Redwald deceassed, which made greatlie for the more augmentation of Edwins power. For the people of the Eastangles, which (whilest Edwin remained amongst them as a banished man) had conceiued a good opinion of him for his approoued valiancie and noble courage, offered themselues to be wholie at his commandement.
But Edwin suffering Carpwald or Erpwald the sonne of Redwald to inioie the bare title and name of the king of that countrie, ruled all things at his owne will and pleasure. Neither was there anie prouince within Britaine that did not obeie him, or was not readie to doo him seruice (the kingdome of Kent onelie excepted) for he suffered the Kentishmen to liue in quiet, because he began to haue a liking to the sister of king Eadbald, namelie the ladie Ethelburga, otherwise called Tate or Tace.
Beda. lib. 2. cap. 9.
He made request therefore by sending ambassadours to hir brother, to haue the said ladie in marriage, and at length obteined hir, with condition that she being a christian woman, might not onelie vse the christian religion, but also that all those, whether men or women, priests or ministers, which came with hir, might haue licence to doo the same, without trouble or impeachment of anie maner of person. Herevpon she being sent vnto him, there was appointed
Matth. West. Beda. lib. 2. cap. 9.
to go with hir (besides manie other) one Pauline, which was consecrated bishop by the archbishop Iustus the 21 of Iulie, in the yeare of our Lord 625, who at his comming into
Northumberland thus in companie with Ethelburga, trauelled earnestlie in his office, both to preserue hir and such christians in the faith of Christ, as were appointed to giue their attendance on hir, least they should chance to fall: and also sought to win some of the Pagans (if it were possible) vnto the same faith, though at the first he little profited in that matter.
In the yeare following, there came a murtherer vnto the court of king Edwin, as then soiourning in a palace which stood vpon the side of the riuer of Dorwent, being sent from Quichelme king of the Westsaxons, to the intent to murther Edwin, because he had of late sore damnified the countries of the Westsaxons. This murtherer was called Eumerus, & caried vnder his coate a shost double edged woodknife inuenomed of purpose, that if the
Other say an axe, as Matth. West. Eumerus.
king being but a little hurt therewith, should not die of the wound, yet he should not escape the danger of the poison. This Eumerus on Easter mondaie came to the king, and making foorth to him as it had béene to haue declared some message from his maister, when he had espied his time, drew his weapon, and offered to strike the king. But one of the kings seruants named Lilla, perceiuing this, stept betwixt the king and the blow. Howbeit the murtherer set the stripe forward with such force, that the knife running through the bodie of Lilla wounded also the king a little: and before this murtherer could be beaten downe, he slue another of the kings seruants, a knight that attended vpon him, called Fordher.
The same night Ethelburga was deliuered of a daughter named Eaufled, for the which
when king Edwin gaue thanks vnto his gods, in the presence of bishop Pauline, the bishop did admonish him, rather to giue thanks vnto the true and onelie God, by whose goodnesse it came to passe that the queene was safelie and without danger deliuered. The king giuing good eare vnto the bishops wholesome admonition, promised at that present to become a christian, if he might reuenge his iniuries receiued at the hands of the Westsaxons. And to assure Pauline that his promise should take place, he gaue vnto him his new borne daughter to be made holie to the Lord, that is to say, baptised. The bishop receiuing hir, on Whitsundaie next following baptised hir, with twelue other of the kings houshold, she being the first of the English Northumbers that was so washed in the founteine of regeneration.
In the meane time K. Edwin being recouered of his hurt, assembled an armie, and went against the Westsaxons, with whome incountring in battell, he either slue or brought to his subiection all them that had conspired his death, and so returned as a conquerour into his countrie. But yet he delaied time in performance of his promise to become a christian: howbeit he had left his dooing of sacrifice to idols, euer since he made promise to be baptised. He was a sage prince, and before he would alter his religion, he politikelie thought good to heare matters touching both his old religion, and the christian religion throughlie examined.
Now whilest he thus hoong in doubt vnto whether part he should incline, there came letters to him from pope Boniface the fift of that name, exhorting him by sundrie kinds of
Beda. lib. 2. cap. 10.
gentle perswasions, to turne to the worshipping of the true and liuing God, and to renounce the worshipping of mawmets and idols. The pope wrote also to quéene Ethelburga, praieng hir to continue in hir good purpose, and by all meanes possible to doo what might be doone
Beda. lib. 2. cap. 11.
for the conuerting of hir husband vnto the faith of Christ. But the thing that most mooued the king, was a vision which sometime he had while he remained as a banished man in the
court of Redwald king of the Eastangles, as thus.
After that king Ethelfred was informed that the foresaid Redwald had receiued Edwin, he
Beda. cap. 12.
ceased not by his ambassadours to moue Redwald either to deliuer Edwin into his hands, or to make him awaie. At length by often sending, & promises made of large summes of monie, mixed with threatnings, he obteined a grant of his sute, so that it was determined that Edwin should either be murthered, or else deliuered into his enimies hands. One of Edwins friends hauing intelligence hereof, in the night season came to Edwins chamber, and leading him abroad, told him the whole practise, and what was purposed against him, offering to helpe him out of the countrie, if he would so aduenture to escape. Edwin being
The honorable consideration of Edwin.
woonderouslie amazed, thanked his friend, but refused to depart the countrie, sith he had no iust cause outwardlie giuen to play such a slipper part, choosing rather to ieopard his life with honour, than to giue men cause to thinke that he had first broken promise with such a prince as Redwald was, to whome he had giuen his faith.
Herevpon his friend departing from him, left him sitting without the doores: where after he had reuolued manie things in his mind, and thought long vpon this matter, at length he perceiued one to come towards him vnknowne, and in strange apparell, séeming to him in euerie point a stranger, at which sight (for that he could not imagine who it should be) Edwin was much afraid: but the man comming to him saluted him, and asked of him what he made there at that time of the night when other were at rest. Edwin on the other part asked what he had to doo therewith, and whether he vsed to lie abroad in the night, or within house? Who answering said; Thinke not Edwin that I am ignorant of thy heauinesse, of thy watchings, and this thy solitarie sitting here without doores. For I know who thou art, wherefore thou art thus pensiue, and what euils thou fearest to be towards thée at hand. But tell me, what wouldest thou giue him, that could deliuer thée out of this heauinesse, and perswade Redwald that he should neither doo thée hurt, nor deliuer thée to thine enimies? Here with when Edwin said that he would gladlie giue all that in him might lie to such a one in reward: The other said; What wouldst thou giue then, if he should promise in good sooth that (all thine enimies being destroied) thou shouldest be king, and that thou shouldest passe in power all the kings which haue reigned in the English nation before thy time? Edwin being better come to himselfe by such demandes, did not sticke to promise that he would requite his friendship with woorthie thanks.
Then replied he to his words and said; If he that shall prophesie to thée this good hap to come, shall also be able to informe thee in such counsell for thy health and life, as neuer anie of thy forefathers or kinsfolke yet haue heard, wouldest thou obey him, and also consent to receiue his wholesome aduertisement? Wherevnto without further deliberation Edwin promised, that he would in all points follow the instruction of him that should deliuer him out of so manie and great calamities, and bring him to the rule of a kingdome. Which answere being got, this person that thus talked with him, laid his hand vpon his head, saieng: When this therefore shall chance to thée, be not forgetfull of this time, nor of this communication, and those things that thou now dooest promise, sée thou performe. And there-with he vanished awaie. So that Edwin might well perceiue it was no man but a vision that thus had appeared vnto him.
[¶ This vnaccustomed course it pleased God to vse for the conuersion of the king (to whose example it was no doubt but the people and inferiour sort would generallie be conformed) who otherwise had continued in paganisme and blind ignorance both of Gods truth and true christianitie. And it maie be that there was in him, as in other kings his predecessors, a settled perswasion in gentilish error, so that neither by admonition nor preaching (though the same had procéeded from the mouth of one allotted to that ministerie) he was to be reuoked from the infidelitie and misbeléefe wherein he was nuzzeled and trained vp. For it is the nature of all men, to be addicted to the obseruation of such rites and customes as haue béene established and left in force by their progenitors, and sooner to stand vnto a desire and earnest purpose of adding somewhat to their elders corrupt constitutions, and irreligious course of conuersation, than to be inclinable to anie article or point tending to innouation: so inflexible is the posteritie to swarue from the traditions of antiquitie, stand the same vpon neuer so grosse and palpable absurdities.]
Edwin still reioising in the foresaid comfortable talke, but thoughtfull in mind what he should be, or from whence he came that had talked in this sort with him; behold his friend returned that first had brought him foorth of his chamber, and declared vnto him good newes, how the king by perswasion of the quéene had altered his determination, and minded to mainteine his quarell to the vttermost of his power: and so he did in déed. For with all diligence he raised an armie, and went against Ethelfrid, vanquished him in battell, and placed Edwin in the kingdome (as before ye haue heard.)