Britricus K. of the Westsaxons, his inclination, Egbert being of the bloud roiall is banished the land, & why; crosses of bloudie colour and drops of bloud fell from heauen, what they did prognosticate, the first Danes that arriued on the English coasts,, and the cause of their comming; firie dragons flieng in the aire foretohens of famine and warre; Britricus is poisoned of his wife Ethelburga, hir ill qualities; why the kings of the Westsaxons decreed that their wiues should not be called queenes, the miserable end of Ethelburga, Kenulfe king of Mercia, his vertues, he restoreth the archbishops see to Canturburie which was translated to Lichfield, he inuadeth Kent, taketh the king prisoner in the field, and bountifullie setteth him at libertie, the great ioy of the people therevpon; his rare liberalitie to churchmen, his death and buriall.
The Seuenth Chapter.
BRITRICUS. Res. H u. Mau. West. saith 787. Simon Dun. saith 786.
AFTER Kenwulfe, one Britricus or Brightrike was ordeined king of Westsaxons, and began his reigne in the yéere of our Lord 787, which was about the 8 yéere of the gouernment of the empresse Eirene with hir son Constantinus, and about the second yeere of the reigne of Achaius K. of Scots. This Brightrike was descended of the line of Cerdicus the first king of Westsaxons, the 16 in number from him. He was a man of nature quiet & temperate, more desirous of peace than of warre, and therefore he stood in doubt of the noble valiancie of one Egbert, which after succéeded him in the kingdome. The linage of Cerdicus was in that season so confounded and mingled, that euerie one as he grew in greatest power, stroue to be king and supreame gouernour. But speciallie Egbertus was knowne to be one that coueted that place, as he that was of the bloud roiall, and a man of great power and lustie courage. King Brightrike therefore to liue in more safetie, banished him the land,
and appointed him to go into France. Egbert vnderstanding certeinlie that this his departure into a forreine countrie should aduance him in time, obeied the kings pleasure,.
About the third yéere of Brightrikes reigne, there fell vpon mens garments, as they
A strange woonder.
walked abroad, crosses of bloudie colour, and bloud fell from heauen as drops of raine. Some tooke this woonder for a signification of the persecution that followed by the Danes:
Mau. West. Wil. Malm. Hen. Hunt. Danes.
for shorthe after,, in the yeere insuing, there arriued thrée Danish ships vpon the English coasts, against whome the lieutenant of the parties adioining made foorth, to apprehend those that were come on land, howbeit aduenturing himselfe ouer rashlie amongst them, he was slaine: but afterwards when the Danes perceiued that the people of the countries about began to assemble, and were comming against them, they fled to their ships, and left their prey and spoile behind them for that time. These were the first Danes that arriued here in this land, being onelie sent (as was perceiued after) to view the countrie and coasts of the same to vnderstand how with a greater power they might, be able to inuade it, as shortlie after they did, and warned so with the Englishmen, that they got a great part of the land, and held in their owne possession. In the tenth yéere of king Brightrikes reigne, there were séene in the aire firie dragons flieng, which betokened (as was thought) two grieuous plagues that followed. First a great dearth and famine: and secondlie a cruell war of the Danes,
Famin & war signified.
which shortlie followed, as ye shall heare.
Finallie, after that Brightrike had reigned the space of 16 yéeres, he departed this life, and was buried at Warham. Some write that he was poisoned by his wife Ethelburga
Ran. Cest. lin. 5. cap. 25. Brightrike departed this life.
daughter vnto Offa king of Mercia (as before ye haue heard) and he maried hir in the fourth yere of his reigne. She is noted by writers to haue bin a verie euill woman, proud. and high-minded as Lucifer, and therewith disdainfull. She bare hir the more statelie, by reason of hir fathers great fame and magnificence: whome she hated she would accuse to
Ethelburga hir conditions and wicked nature.
hir husband, and so put them in danger of their liues. And if she might not so wreake hir rancour, she would not sticke to poison them.
It happened one day, as she meant to haue poisoned a yoong gentleman, against whome she had a quarell, the king chanced to tast of that cup, and died thereof (as before ye haue heard.) Hir purpose indeed was not to haue poisoned the king, but onelie the yoong gentleman, the which drinking after the king, died also,, the poison was so strong and vehement. For hir heinous crime it is said that the kings of the Westsaxons would not suffer
A decrée of the kings of the Westsaxons against their wiues.
their wiues to be called quéenes, nor permit them to sit with them in open places (where their maiesties should bée shewed) manie yéeres after. Ethelburga fearing punishment, fled into France with great riches and treasure, & was well cherished in the court of king Charles at the first, but after she was thrust into an abbeie, and demeaned hirselfe so
The end of Ethelburga. Simon Dun.
lewdlie there, in keeping companie with one of hir owne countriemen, that she was banished the house, and after died in great miserie.
Egbert king of Mercia departing this life, after he had reigned foure moneths, ordeined
Wil. Malm. Kenulfe.
his coosine Kenulfe to succeed in his place. which Kenulfe was come of the line of Penda king of Mercia, as rightlie descended from his brother Kenwalke. This Kenulfe for his noble courage, wisdome, and vpright dealing, was woorthie to be compared with the best princes that haue reigned. His vertues passed his fame: nothing he did that enuie could with iust cause reprooue. At home he shewed himselfe godlie and religious, in warre he became victorious, he restored the archbishops sée againe to Canturburie, wherein his humblenes
The archbishops sée restored to Canturburie.
was to be praised, that made no account of worldlie honour in his prouince, so that the order of the ancient canons might be obserued. He had wars left him as it were by succession from his predecessour Offa against them of Kent, and thervpon entring that countrie with a mightie armie, wasted and spoiled the same, and encountering in battell, with king Edbert or Ethelbert, otherwise called Prenne, ouerthrew his armie, and tooke him prisoner
The king of Keat taken prisoner.
in the field, but afterwards he released him to his great praise and commendation. For whereas he builded a church at Winchcombe, vpon the day of the dedication thereof, he led the Kentish king as then his prisoner, vp to the high altar, and there set him at libertie, declaring thereby a great proofe of his good nature.
There were present at that sight, Cuthred whom he had made king of Kent in place of Ethelbert, or Edbert, with 18 bishops, and 10 dukes. The noise that was made of the people in reioising at the kings bountious liberalitie was maruellous. For not onelie he thus
Kenulfs liberalitie towards churchmen which was not forgotten by them in their histories.
restored the Kentish king to libertie, but also bestowed great rewards vpon all the prelates and noble men that were come to the feast, euerie priest had a peece of gold, and euerie moonke a shilling. Also he dealt and gaue away great gifts amongst the people, and founded in that place an abbeie, indowing the same with great possessions. Finallie, after he had reigned 24 yéeres, he departed this life, and appointed his buriall to be in the same abbeie of Winchcombe, leauing behind him a sonne named Kenelme, who succeeded his father in the kingdome, but was soone murthered by his vnnaturall sister Quendred, the 17 of Iulie, as hereafter shall be shewed.