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

St. Dunstan

When Edgar died, the Witenagemot chose Edward, his eldest son, to succeed him. This choice greatly displeased Edward's stepmother, Elfrida, who wanted her own son to reign. One day soon after his coronation, the young king, who had been out hunting, stopped at Corfe Castle to greet his little brother, whom he dearly loved. As he was about to ride away, Elfrida came out on the doorstep to give him a cup of wine. Edward gladly accepted it; but while he was drinking, Elfrida made a sign to one of her servants, who suddenly drew his dagger and thrust it into the king's back.

Although mortally wounded, Edward drove his spurs into his steed, which galloped wildly away. The king soon grew too faint to sit upon his horse, and as he fell from the saddle, his foot caught in the stirrup, and he was dragged over the rough roads by the frightened animal. When his followers found him, Edward was dead, and by Dunstan's orders he was buried in the chapel of Westminster, which had just been finished.

On account of his death, this monarch is known in history as Edward the Martyr. He was succeeded by his little brother Ethelred, the child who was standing beside Elfrida when the murder was committed.

When Ethelred came to the throne, at the age of ten, Elfrida deprived Dunstan of much of the power which he had exercised during so many years and under four previous kings. The priest was so angry at being set aside that he withdrew to his seat at Canterbury, where, we are told, he died of chagrin. The monks, whom he had befriended all his life, were naturally very grateful to him, and either because he was better than some stories would make us believe, or because they did not know all the wrong he had done, they always regarded him as a very good man, and at their request he was placed among the saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

Elfrida had, as we have seen, not only made her son King of England, but reigned in his name. She was not a happy woman, however, for she was haunted by the recollection of the crimes she had committed. She therefore left the court to withdraw into a nunnery, where she spent the rest of her life in penance and prayer.

You have seen how some Danes had settled in England. A little before Dunstan's time, some other Northmen went with their leader Rollo to France. This Rollo was so tall and heavy that none of the Northmen's little horses could carry him, and as he was thus forced to walk, he was known among his people as Rolf Ganger, or Rollo the Walker. He forced the French king to give him a province in northern France, which, as it became the home of the Northmen, or Normans, has ever since been known as Normandy. In exchange for the land, and the title of Duke, Rollo promised to consider the French king his overlord, and to do homage to him.

To do homage, a nobleman knelt before his monarch, placed both hands between the royal palms, and in that position took his oath of fealty, or faithfulness. Then, the oath taken, he stooped and kissed the king's foot.

When Rollo was told what he was to do, he angrily refused to comply. But after the French courtiers had argued with him some time, he called one of his men, and bade him go through the ceremony for him. The huge Northman obeyed with ill grace, and took the necessary oath. But when he was told to kiss the king's foot, instead of stooping down to do so, he violently jerked it up to his lips, thus making the king lose his balance and fall over backward.