London & other great cities & townes submit themselues to Cnute, he hasteth after Edmund with his power, both their armies being readie to incounter by occasion are staied, the oration of a capteine in the hearing of both hosts; the title and right of the realme of England is put to the triall of combat betweene Cnute and Edmund, Cnute is ouermatched, his woords to king Edmund, both kings are pacified and their armies accorded, the realme diuided betwixt Cnute and Edmund, king Edmund traitorouslie slaine, the dissonant report of writers touching the maners of his death, and both the kings dealing about the partition of the realme, Cnute causeth Edrike to be slaine for procuring king Edmunds death, wherein the reward of treason is noted; how long king Edmund reigned, and where he was buried, the eclipsed state of England after his death, and in whose time it recouered some part of its brightnesse.
The Tenth Chapter.IN the meane while that Edmund was busie to leauie a new armie in Glocester, and other parties of Mercia, Cnute hauing got so great a victorie (as before is mentioned) receiued into his obeisance, not onelie the citie of London, but also manie other cities and townes of great name, and shortlie after hasted forward to pursue his enimie king Edmund, who was readie with a mightie host to trie the vttermost chance of battell if they should eftsoones Polydor. ioine. Héerevpon, both the armies being readie to giue the onset, the one in sight of the other at a place called Dearehurst, neere to the riuer of Seuerne, by the drift of duke Edrike, Matth. West. Simon Dun. who then at length began to shew some token of good meaning, the two kings came to a communication, and in the end concluded an agreement, as some haue written, without anie more adoo. Others write, that when both the armies were at point to haue ioined, Matth. West. saith this was Edrike. one of the capteins (but whether he were a Dane or an Englishman, it is not certeinlie told) stood vp in such a place, as he might be heard of both the princes, & boldlie vttered his mind in forme following.
The two kings appoint to try the matter by a combat. Oldney. Thus made he an end, and the two princes allowed well of his last motion, and so order was taken, that they should fight togither in a singular combat within a litle Iland inclosed with the riuer of Seuerne called Oldney, with condition, that whether of them chanced to be victor, should be king, and the other to resigne his title for euer into his hands. The two princes entering into the place appointed, in faire armour, began the battell in sight of both their armies ranged in goodlie order ont either side the riuer, with doubtfull minds, and nothing ioifull, as they that wauered betwixt hope and feare. The two champions manfullie Matt. Westm. assailed either other, without sparing. First, they went to it on horssebacke, and after on foot. Cnute was a man of a meane stature, but yet strong and hardie, so that receiuing a Cnute of what stature he was. great blow by the hand of his aduersarie, which caused him somewhat to stagger; yet recouered himselfe, and boldly stept forward to be reuenged. But perceiuing he could not find aduantage, and that he was rather too weake, and shrewdlie ouermatched, he spake to Cnute ouermatched. Cnutes woords to Edmund. Edmund with a lowd voice on this wise: "What necessitie (saith he) ought thus to mooue vs, most valiant prince, that for the obteining of a kingdome, we should thus put our liues in danger? Better were it that laieng armour and malice aside, we should condescend to some reasonable agreement. Let vs become sworne brethren, and part the kingdome betwixt vs: and let vs deale so friendlie, that thou maist vse my things as thine owne, and H. Hunt. I thine as though they were mine." King Edmund with those woords of his aduersarie was so pacified, that immediatlie he cast awaie his swoord, and comming to Cnute, ioined hands with him. Both the armies by their example did the like, which looked for the They make vp the matter betwixt themselues. same fortune to fall on their countries, which should happen to their princes by the successe of that one battell. After this, there was an agreement deuised betwixt them, so that a partition of the realme was made, and that part that lieth fore against France, was assigned to Edmund, and the other fell to Cnute. There be that write, how the offer was Wit. Malm. made by king Edmund for the auoiding of more bloudshed, that the two princes should trie the matter thus togither in a singular combat. But Cnute refused the combat, bicause (as he alledged) the match was not equall. For although he was able to match Edmund in boldnesse of stomach, yet was he farre too weake to deale with a man of such strength as Edmund was knowne to be. But sith they did pretend title to the realme by due and good direct meanes, he thought it most conuenient that the kingdome should be diuided betwixt them. This motion was allowed of both the armies, so that king Edmund was of force constreined to be contented therewith. ¶ Thus our common writers haue recorded of this agreement, but if I should not be thought presumptuous, in taking vpon me to reprooue, or rather but to mistrust that which hath béene receiued for a true narration in this matter, I would rather giue credit vnto that which the author of the booke intituled "Encomium Emmaæ," dooth report in this behalfe. Encomium Emmæ. Which is that through persuasion of Edrike de Streona, king Edmund immediatelie after the battell fought at Ashdone, sent ambassadors vnto Cnute to offer vnto him peace, with halfe the realme of England, that is to say, the north parts, with condition that king Edmund might quietlie inioy the south parts, and therevpon haue pledges deliuered interchangeablie on either side. Cnute hauing heard the effect of this message, staied to make answer till he heard what his councell would aduise him to doo in this behalfe: and vpon good deliberation taken in the matter, considering that he had lost no small number of people in the former battell. and that being farre out of his countrie, he could not well haue anie new supplie, where the Englishmen although they had likewise lost verie manie of their men of warre, yet being in their owne countrie, it should be an easie matter for them to restore their decaid number, it was thought expedient by the whole consent of all the Danish capteins, that the offer of king Edmund should be accepted. Herevpon Cnute calling the ambassadors before him againe, declared vnto them, that he was contented to conclude a peace vpon such conditions as they had offered: but yet with this addition, that their king whatsoeuer he should be, should paie Cnutes souldiers their wages, with monie to be leuied of that part of the kingdome which the English king should possesse. "For (this saith he) I haue vndertaken to sée them paid, and otherwise I will not grant to anie peace." The league and agréement therefore being concluded in this sort, pledges were deliuered and receiued on both parties, and the armies discharged. But God (saith mine author) being mindfull of his old doctrine, that Euerie kingdome diuided This is alleged touching the partitiō of the kingdome. in it selfe cannot long stand, shortlie after tooke Edmund out of this life: and by such meanes séemed to take pitie of the English kingdome, lest if both the kings should haue continued in life togither, they should haue hiued in danger. And incontinentlie herevpon was Cnute chosen and receiued for absolute king of all the whole realme of England. Thus hath he written that liued in those daies, whose credit thereby is much aduanced. Howbeit the common report of writers touching the death of Edmund varieth from this, who doo affirme, that after Cnute and Edmund were made friends, the serpent of enuie and false conspiracie burnt so in the hearts of some traitorous persons, that within a while after K. Edmund traitorouslie slaine at Oxford. Fabian. Simon Dun. king Edmund was slaine at Oxford, as he sat on a priuie to doo the necessaries of nature. The common report hath gone, that earle Edrike was the procurer of this villanous act, and that (as some write) his sonne did it. But the author that wrote "Encomium Emmæ," writing of the death of Edmund, hath these words (immediatlie after he had first declared in what sort the two princes were agréed, and had made partition of the realme betwixt This is alleged againe for the proofe of Edmunds natural death. them:) But God (saith he) being mindfull of his old doctrine, that Euerie kingdome diuided in it selfe can not long stand, shortlie after tooke Edmund out of this life: and by such meanes séemed to take pitie vpon the English kingdome, least if both the kings should haue continued in life togither, they should both haue liued in great danger, and the realme in trouble. With this agreeth also Simon Dunel. who saith, that king Edmund died of naturall Fabian. sicknesse, by course of kind at London, about the feast of saint Andrew next insuing the late mentioned agreement. Ranul. Hig. And this should séeme true: for whereas these authors which report, that earle Edrike Hen. Hunt. was the procurer of his death, doo also write, that when he knew the act to be done, he hasted vnto Cnute, and declared vnto him what he had brought to passe for his aduancement to the gouernment of the whole realme. Wherevpon Cnute, abhorring such a detestable fact, said vnto him: "Bicause thou hast for my sake, made away the worthiest bodie of the world, I shall raise thy head aboue all the lords of England," and so caused him Some thinke that he was duke of Mercia before, and now had Essex adioined thereto. to be put to death. Thus haue some bookes. Howbeit this report agreeth not with other writers, which declare how Cnute aduanced Edrike in the beginning of his reigne vnto high honor, and made him gouernor of Mercia, and vsed his counsell in manie things after the death of king Edmund, as in banishing Edwin, the brother of king Edmund, with his sonnes also, Edmund and Edward. Diuerse and discordant reports of Edmunds death. Ran. Higd. Wil. Malm. But for that there is such discordance and variable report amongst writers touching the death of king Edmund, and some fables inuented thereof (as the manner is) we will let the residue of their reports passe; sith certeine it is, that to his end he came, after he had reigned about the space of one yéere, and so much more as is betwéene the moneth of Iune and the latter end of Nouember. His bodie was buried at Glastenburie, neere his vncle Edgar. With this Edmund, surnamed Ironside, fell the glorious maiestie of the English kingdome, the which afterward as it had beene an aged bodie being sore decaied and weakened by the Danes, that now got possession of the whole, yet somewhat recouered after the space of 26 yéers vnder king Edward, surnamed the Confessor: and shortlie therevpon as it had béene falne into a resiluation, came to extreame ruine by the inuasion and conquest of the Normans: as after by Gods good helpe and fauorable assistance it shall appeare. So that it would make a diligent and marking reader both muse and moorne, to see how variable the state of this kingdome hath béene, & thereby to fall into a consideration of the frailtie and vncerteintie of this mortall life, which is no more frée from securitie than a ship on the sea in tempestuous weather. For as the casualties wherewith our life is inclosed and beset with round about, are manifold; so also are they miserable, so also are they sudden, so also are they vnauoidable. And true it is, that the life of man is in the hands of God, and the state of kingdoms dooth also belong vnto him, either to continue or discontinue. But to the processe of the matter.