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

A King's Narrow Escape

King Alfred was buried in Winchester, and his son Edward, called the Elder to distinguish him from other kings of the same name who came after him, reigned in his place. The new king was busy, during the greater part of his reign of twenty-five years, in fighting the Danes, who wanted to invade his territory.

Edward the Elder was followed by his son Athelstan the Glorious, who also had to struggle with the invaders. The Danes then had a very clever young leader named Anlaf. He fancied that if he could get into the Anglo-Saxon camp, as Alfred had once made his way into the camp of the Danes, he would be able to find out just where Athelstan slept, and could come again with his army to murder the king in his sleep.

Disguised as a bard, so the story runs, Anlaf went into the English camp, where he was not recognized, and where he played so well that Athelstan gave him a piece of money. Now the young Dane hated Athelstan, and was so proud that he took the money only so that the king should not suspect who he really was. But as soon as he got out of the camp, he forgot all caution, and, digging a hole in the ground, buried the coin his enemy had given him.

One of the Anglo-Saxon soldiers, who had once served Anlaf, saw him bury the money, and recognized him. After watching him out of sight, this soldier told Athelstan all he had seen. But when the king angrily inquired why he had not spoken sooner, so that the Danish leader could have been captured, he answered: "I once served Anlaf as faithfully as I am now serving you. If I betrayed him, you could not trust me not to betray you. But now you know your danger, and I advise you to change the place of your tent, lest he should come and attack you when you do not expect him."

King Athelstan followed the soldier's advice, and it was well that he did so; for that very night Anlaf broke into the camp, and, rushing straight to what he took for the king's tent, he killed a bishop who happened to be sleeping there.

The Saxons fought all that night and the next day, so this encounter is often called the Long Battle, as well as the battle of Brunanburgh. As Athelstan won the victory, the Danes left him thenceforth in peace.

Like Alfred, Athelstan was anxious that his people should learn as much as possible, so he had the whole of the Scriptures translated for them into Anglo-Saxon. He also encouraged commerce, and said that every merchant who made three journeys to the Mediterranean should receive the title of thane, or nobleman. It was no easy matter to travel in the tenth century, but the hope of winning this title induced many merchants to make these long and dangerous trips; and every time they came home they brought new things and new ideas to benefit the Anglo-Saxon people.