Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

An Unlucky Couple

Dunstan was the real ruler of England during the reign of Edred. When that king died, and Edwy, the sixteen-year-old son of Edmund, succeeded him, the priest was still at the head of affairs. But Dunstan had been master so long now that he often forgot to show the king due respect.

Edwy had married Elgiva, a beautiful, gentle, and lovable girl. But as she was his cousin, and as they had forgotten to ask the pope's permission to marry, Dunstan made up his mind to separate the young couple. Now we are told that on the night of Edwy's coronation the young king slipped out of the noisy banquet hall, and went to join his bride and her mother in their quiet apartment. Dunstan was very angry when he perceived this, for he did not wish the king to see Elgiva any more, and he considered it very rude of the king to leave his guests.

The priest's temper so completely overcame his good judgment, that he rushed into the queen's rooms and dragged Edwy back into the banquet hall. Not content with this, Dunstan soon went further, and tried to separate Edwy and his wife. First he bade the king send her away; but, as Edwy did not obey, some stories tell us that Dunstan had the young queen's face branded with a red-hot iron, in hopes that the king would cease to love her when she was no longer pretty.

Young as he was, Edwy was too much of a man to desert the poor little queen; and, knowing that Dunstan had used some of the public money, the king promptly took advantage of this fact to banish him. But although Dunstan was gone, he had given his orders to a friend of his, who seized the young queen and had her carried off to Ireland a prisoner. Then, hoping to make more trouble for Edwy, this same wicked man stirred up the monks and the king's brothers to rebellion, awing the people by performing wonders which he called miracles, but which were probably clever tricks, such as are now done to amuse people.

Poor Edwy did not know what to do, and when he heard that his beloved Elgiva, after escaping from Ireland to rejoin him, had been overtaken by her enemies and cruelly murdered, he became so ill that we are told he died of a broken heart, after reigning only three years.

As soon as Edwy died, one of his young brothers was placed on the throne, and Dunstan, coming back to England, again took the power into his own hands. The new king, Edgar, never dared disobey Dunstan in anything; and when he died, many years later, the monks who wrote his history, by Dunstan's order, declared that he was the best monarch that ever lived.

During his reign, Edgar not only fought the Danes, but frequently sailed around the islands with a fleet of three hundred and sixty ships, to overawe the people and prevent them from daring to disobey his laws. Eight princes are said to have recognized Edgar as their master, and on one occasion to have rowed his barge across the river Dee to do him honour.

Although Edgar was none too good himself, he made severe laws for his people, and insisted upon their keeping the Sabbath day very strictly. We are told that Edgar accepted from the Welsh king the tribute of three hundred wolf-skins, instead of a money payment. The result was, it seems, that the Welshmen hunted the wolves in their mountains so persistently that soon not one of these wild beasts was left to frighten the people in England and Wales, and devour their sheep or their children.

One of the chroniclers tells a very romantic story. King Edgar, he says, wished to marry; and when he heard that Elfrida, a Saxon princess, was noted for her beauty, he sent one of his courtiers to see if she was really handsome. The courtier no sooner beheld this maiden than he fell in love with her himself, so, without telling her that the king wished to sue for her hand, he wooed and won her.

Upon returning to court, this man told the king that Elfrida's charms were not very great, and at first Edgar believed him. But after a while he began to suspect that his courtier had deceived him, and suddenly announced that he was going to visit the bride.

The courtier bade his wife wear her old clothes and make herself as unattractive as possible; but Elfrida, who was proud of her beauty, disobeyed him. She seemed so beautiful that the king wanted her for his wife, and with her aid he murdered the courtier who had deceived them both. Then Edgar married Elfrida, who, as you see, was not at all a good woman, although she was so handsome.