The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle — £ 3.99
The single most important surviving source for the history of Britain; from the arrival of the Romans up to 1154, and the first one written in the native language (Old English). Without it, J.R.R.Tolkien and the whole 'Sword and Sorcery' industry would have struggled for inspiration – see some of the names in the Index.
Started in the 9th century, at the request of King Alfred the Great, the original was a collaborative project, and so is this edition. Taking all the known copies and several translations, J. A. Giles edited them into an accessible book of interest to the general reader and the scholar.
This eBook contains the entire text of a 'new' version (from 1914) of the book originally published in 1847. Please see the extract below for the Preface, Introduction and a random selection of entries.
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The final sentence of the entry for 1065 may well be the world's greatest ever understatement:-
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The work which is commonly known as the Saxon or Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a chronological record of important events, chiefly relating to the English race, from the earliest period of the Christian era to the XII. century. It is of a composite character, and has been preserved to the present day in the form of six more or less complete ancient MSS., some of which appear to be independent of each other though traceable to some common original, whilst others are apparently more nearly related by obvious similarities. Four of these are in the British Museum, one in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and another in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In addition to these, there is, in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, a copy made in 1563-4, by William Lambard, of a MS. which now exists only in the shape of three disfigured leaves. It is one of the Cottonian MSS. in the British Museum, some of which were damaged or destroyed by a fire in Little Dean’s Yard, Westminster, in the year 1731. Before its destruction this MS. was printed by Abraham Wheloc in 1633-4; and it is evident that, as far as it goes, it is a copy of the Cambridge MS. These seven MSS., including the one which is represented by the Dublin copy and Wheloc’s printed edition, have been distinguished as follows:-
[† In Mr. Charles Plummer’s edition of “Two Saxon Chronicles parallel” the text of G is indicated by the letter A as being a copy of the Cambridge MS., which he distinguishes by the symbol Ã. To his introduction to those parallel texts Ã and E (Clarendon Press, 1899) every student who requires an exhaustive description, analysis and comparison of all the existing texts in referred.]
MS. A (CCCC 173) is part of the bequest of Archbishop Parker (died 1575) to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and is now generally known as the Parker MS. It is written in many different hands, but as the entries down to 891 are all in one script, consistent with that date, it is not unreasonable to assume that this copy dates from the days of Alfred the Great, to whom the initiation of this national chronicle is without doubt to be ascribed. It is also obvious from the entries that it was written at his royal city of Winchester, though it was at a later date supplemented by contemporary scribes at Canterbury. There are, moreover, many interpolations by later hands, and notes by Joscelin, Archbishop Parker’s secretary. It is generally regarded as the standard text.
[† This date, in the MS., is 1080. Mr. Plummer has pointed out that MLXXX. has been erroneously written for MCXXX.]
MS. E, in the Bodleian Library (Laud Misc. 636), was formerly in the possession of Archbishop Laud. It extends to the year 1154, though the last leaf is missing. The greater part of it, to 1121, is apparently in one hand, but the latest entries are probably contemporary with the events described. Owing to the numerous entries relating to Peterborough, it evidently came into the possession of that monastery. Its pedigree, as traceable from the original chronicle, diverges more than any other from that of MS. A, with which it has therefore a considerable complementary importance, for which reason Messrs. Earle and Plummer made these two texts the groundwork of their editions.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is apparently the work of many successive hands, and extends in different copies from the time of Cæsar's invasion to the middle of the twelfth century. As it has been repeatedly printed, it may suffice here to repeat, that, with the exception of the insertions placed within brackets, the text to the year 975 is mostly taken from the MS. designated by the letter A.; from that period to 1079 from MSS. A. C. D. E. F. and G., and from thence to the conclusion from MS. E.: and that such portions of the different MSS. as are concurrent with the text, but will not conveniently admit of collation, are given separately in a smaller type. These variations will sometimes convey the same information two or three times over: but it has been deemed advisable to retain all of them that the reader may have a more ample means of judging of the authority of this invaluable national record.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
(The island of Britain† is eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles broad: and here in this island are five tongues; English, British, Scottish, Pictish, and Latin. The first inhabitants of this land were Brittons; they came from Armenia, [Armorica] and first settled in the south of Britain. Then befell it that Picts came from the south from Scythia, with long ships, not many, and first landed in North Hibernia, and there entreated the Scots that they might there abide. But they would not permit them, for they said that they could not all abide there together. And then the Scots said, ‘We may nevertheless give you counsel. We know another island eastward of this, where ye may dwell if ye will, and if any one withstand you, we will assist you, so that you may subdue it.’ Then went the Picts and subdued this land northwards; the southern part the Britons had, as we before have said. And the Picts obtained wives for themselves of the Scots, on this condition, that they should always choose their royal lineage on the woman’s side; which they have held ever since. And then befell it in the course of years that some part of the Scots departed from Hibernia into Britain, and conquered some portion of the land. And their leader was called Reoda; from whom they are named Dalreodi.‡)
[† This description of Britain is taken from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. – l. i. c. 1.]
Sixty years before Christ was born, Gaius Julius, emperor of the Romans, with eighty ships, sought Britain. There he was at first distressed by a fierce battle, and a large portion of his army was dispersed. And then he left his army to abide among the Scots,† and went south into Gaul, and there collected six hundred ships, with which he came again into Britain. And as they first rushed together, the emperor’s ‘gerrefa’‡ was slain: he was called Labienus. Then the Welsh took large and sharp stakes and drove them into the fording place of a certain river under water; this river was called Thames. When the Romans discovered this, then would they not go over the ford. Then fled the Britons to the wood-wastes, and the emperor conquered very many of their chief cities after a great struggle, and departed again into Gaul.
[† “This is an error, arising from the inaccurately written MSS. of Orosius and Bede; where in Hibernia and in Hiberniam occur for in hiberna. The error is retained in Wheloc’s Bede.” – Ingram]
Before the incarnation of Christ sixty years, Gaius Julius the emperor, first of the Romans, sought the land of Britain; and he crushed the Britons in battle, and overcame them: and nevertheless he was unable to gain any empire there.
Octavianus reigned fifty-six years; and in the forty-second year of his reign Christ was born.
The three astrologers came from the eastern parts in order that they might worship Christ. And the children were slain at Bethlehem, in persecution of Christ by Herod.
This year died Herod, having stabbed himself, and Archelaus his son succeeded to the government. And the child Christ was brought back again from Egypt.
This year Patrick was sent by pope Celestine to preach baptism to the Scots.
This year the Britons sent over sea to Rome, and begged for help against the Picts; but they had none, because they were themselves warring against Attila, king of the Huns. And then they sent to the Angles, and entreated the like of the ethelings of the Angles.
This year St. Martin died.
This year John the Baptist revealed his head to two monks, who came from the east to offer up their prayers at Jerusalem, on the spot which was formerly Herod’s residence.
This year Martianus and Valentinus succeeded to the empire, and reigned seven years. And in their days Hengist and Horsa, invited by Vortigern king of the Britons, landed in Britain on the shore which is called Wippidsfleet; at first in aid of the Britons, but afterwards they fought against them. King Vortigern gave them land in the south-east of this country, on condition that they should fight against the Picts. Then they fought against the Picts, and had the victory wheresoever they came. They then sent to the Angles; desired a larger force to be sent, and caused them to be told the worthlessness of the Britons, and the excellencies of the land. Then they soon sent thither a larger force in aid of the others. At that time there came men from three tribes in Germany; from the Old-Saxons, from the Angles, from the Jutes. From the Jutes came the Kentish-men and the Wightwarians, that is, the tribe which now dwells in Wight, and that race among the West-Saxons which is still called the race of Jutes. From the Old-Saxons came the men of Essex and Sussex and Wessex. From Anglia, which has ever since remained waste betwixt the Jutes and Saxons, came the men of East Anglia, Middle Anglia, Mercia, and all North-humbria. Their leaders were two brothers, Hengist and Horsa: they were the sons of Wihtgils; Wihtgils son of Witta, Witta of Wecta, Wecta of Woden: from this Woden sprang all our royal families, and those of the South-humbrians also. And in their days Vortigern invited the Angles thither, and they came to Britain in three ceols, at the place called Wippidsfleet:
This year Hengist and Horsa fought against king Vortigern at the place which is called Ægels-threp, [Aylesford] and his brother Horsa was there slain, and after that Hengist obtained the kingdom and Æsc his son.
This year Hengist and Æsc slew four troops of Britons with the edge of the sword, in the place which is named Creccanford, [Crayford†].
[† The positions usually assigned to various places mentioned in the earlier portion of the Chronicle, are often very uncertain, depending chiefly on a supposed or real similarity of names. Where these, however, appear sufficiently probable, they are placed between brackets, if otherwise a quære is added.]
This year Hengist and Æsc his son fought against the Britons at the place which is called Crecganford, [Crayford,] and there slew four thousand men; and the Britons then forsook Kent, and in great terror fled to London.
This year Kenwalk fought against the Welsh at Peonna [Pen]; and he drove them as far as Pedrida, [Petherton?] this was fought after he came from East-Anglia; he was there three years in exile. Thither had Penda driven him and deprived him of his kingdom, because he had forsaken his sister.
This year Bishop Agilbert departed from Kenwalk, and Wini held the bishopric [of Wessex, at Winchester] three years, and Agilbert obtained the bishopric of Paris in France by the Seine.
This year, during Easter, Kenwalk fought at Pontesbury, and Wulfhere, the son of Penda, laid the country waste as far as Ashdown. And Cuthred the son of Cuichelm and king Cenbert† died in one year. And Wulfhere the son of Penda laid waste Wight, and gave the people of Wight to Ethelwald king of the South-Saxons, because Wulfhere had been his sponsor at baptism. And Eappa the mass-priest, by the command of Wilfrid and King Wulfhere, was the first of men who brought baptism to the people of the Isle of Wight.
[† “Father of Cædwalla, king of Wessex. See A. 685.” – Petrie]
A. 662. 663.
This year the sun was eclipsed on the 5th before the Nones of May; and Earconbert king of the Kentish-men died, and Egbert his son succeeded to the kingdom; and Colman, [Bishop of Lindisfarne] with his companions, went to his country. The same year there was a great pestilence in the island of Britain, and bishop [of Lindisfarne] Tuda died of the pestilence, and was buried at Wagele. And Chad and Wilfrid were ordained; and the same year archbishop Deus-dedit died.
This year Burhred, king of the Mercians, and his council, begged of king Ethelwulf that he would assist him so that he might make the North-Welsh obedient to him. He then did so; and went with an army across Mercia among the North-Welsh, and made them all obedient to him. And the same year king Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred to Rome. Leo [IV.] was then pope of Rome; and he consecrated him king, and took him for his son at confirmation. Then, in the same year, Ealhere, with the men of Kent, and Huda, with the men of Surry, fought in Thanet, against the heathen army; and at first they were victorious; and many there were slain, and drowned on either hand, and both the ealdormen were killed. And upon this after Easter Ethelwulf, king of the West-Saxons, gave his daughter to Burhred king of the Mercians.
This year the heathen men, for the first time, remained over winter in Sheppey: and the same year king Ethelwulf gave by charter the tenth part of his land throughout his realm for the glory of God and his own eternal salvation. And the same year he went to Rome in great state, and dwelt there twelve months, and then returned homewards. And then Charles, king of the Franks gave him his daughter to wife; and after that he came to his people, and they were glad of it. And about two years after he came from France he died, and his body lies at Winchester. And he reigned eighteen years and a half. And Ethelwulf was the son of Egbert, Egbert of Elmund, Elmund of Eafa, Eafa of Eoppa, Eoppa of Ingild; Ingild was Ina’s brother, king of the West-Saxons, he who held the kingdom thirty-seven years, and afterwards went to St. Peter, and there resigned his life; and they were the sons of Kenred, Kenred of Ceolwald, Ceolwald of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, Cuthwin of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Cerdic, Cerdic of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, Gewis of Wig, Wig of Freawin, Freawin of Frithogar, Frithogar of Brond, Brond of Beldeg, Beldeg of Woden, Woden of Frithowald, Frithowald of Frealaf, Frealaf of Frithuwulf. Frithuwulf of Finn, Finn of Godwulf, Godwulf of Geat, Geat of Tætwa, Tætwa of Beaw, Beaw of Sceldi, Sceldi of Heremod, Heremod of Itermon, Itermon of Hathra, Hathra of Guala, Guala of Bedwig, Bedwig of Sceaf, that is, the son of Noah, he was born in Noah’s ark; Lamech, Methusalem, Enoh, Jared, Malalahel, Cainion, Enos, Seth, Adam the first man, – and our Father, that is, Christ. Amen. Then Ethelwulf’s two sons succeeded to the kingdom; Ethelbald succeeded to the kingdom of the West-Saxons; and Ethelbert to the kingdom of the Kentish-men, and to the kingdom of the East-Saxons, and to Surry, and to the kingdom of the South-Saxons; and then Ethelbald reigned five years. Alfred his third son he had sent to Rome: and when Pope Leo [IV.] heard say that Ethelwulf was dead, he consecrated Alfred king, and held him as his spiritual son at confirmation, even as his father Ethelwulf had requested on sending him thither.
This year died king Ethelbald, and his body lies at Sherborne; and Ethelbert succeeded to all the realm of his brother, and he held it in goodly concord and in great tranquillity. And in his days a large fleet came to land, and the crews stormed Winchester. And Osric the ealdorman, with the men of Hampshire, Ethelwulf the ealdorman, with the men of Berkshire, fought against the army, and put them to flight, and had possession of the place of carnage. And Ethelbert reigned five years, and his body lies at Sherborne.
This year died St. Swithun the bishop. [of Winchester]
This year the heathen army sat down in Thanet, and made peace with the men of Kent, and the men of Kent promised them money for the peace; and during the peace and the promise of money the army stole away by night, and ravaged all Kent to the eastward.
This year Ethelred, Ethelbert’s brother, succeeded to the kingdom of the West-Saxons: and the same year a great heathen army came to the land of the English nation, and took up their winter quarters among the East-Angles, and there they were horsed; and the East-Angles made peace with them.
This year the army went from East-Anglia over the mouth of the Humber to York in North-humbria. And there was much dissension among that people, and they had cast out their king Osbert, and had taken to themselves a king, Ælla, not of royal blood; but late in the year they resolved that they would fight against the army; and therefore they gathered a large force, and sought the army at the town of York, and stormed the town, and some of them got within, and there was an excessive slaughter made of the North-humbrians, some within, some without, and the kings were both slain: and the remainder made peace with the army. And the same year bishop Ealstan died; and he had the bishopric of Sherborne fifty years, and his body lies in the town.
This year the same army went into Mercia to Nottingham, and there took up their winter quarters. And Burhred king of the Mercians, and his ‘witan,’ begged of Ethelred king of the West-Saxons, and of Alfred his brother, that they would help them, that they might fight against the army. And then they went with the West-Saxon power into Mercia as far as Nottingham, and there met with the army within the fortress; and besieged them therein: but there was no great battle; and the Mercians made peace with the army.
In this year was a great earthquake wide throughout England. In the same year Sandwich and the Isle of Wight were ravaged, and the chief men that were there slain. And after that king Edward and the earls went out with their ships. And in the same year bishop Siward resigned the bishopric on account of his infirmity, and went to Abingdon, and archbishop Eadsine again received the bishopric: [of Canterbury] and he [Siward] died within eight weeks after, on the 10th before the Kalends of November.
In this year king Harold came from York to Westminster, at that Easter which was after the mid-winter in which the king died; and Easter was then on the day 16th before the Kalends of May. Then was, over all England, such a token seen in the heavens, as no man ever before saw. Some men said that it was cometa the star, which some men call the haired star; and it appeared first on the eve Litania Major, the 8th before the Kalends of May and so shone all the seven nights. And soon after came In Tosty the earl from beyond sea into the Isle of Wight, with 80 great a fleet as he might procure; and there they yielded him as well money as food. And king Harold, his brother, gathered so great a ship-force, and also a land-force, as no king here in the land had before done; because it was made known to him that William the bastard would come hither and win this land; all as it afterwards happened. And the while, came Tosty the earl into Humber with sixty ships; and Edwin the earl came with a land-force and drove him out. And the boatmen forsook him; and he went to Scotland with twelve vessels. And there met him Harold king of Norway with three hundred ships; and Tosty submitted to him and became his man. And they then went both into Humber, until they came to York; and there fought against them Edwin the earl, and Morkar the earl, his brother: but the Northmen had the victory. Then was it made known to Harold king of the Angles that this had thus happened: and this battle was on the vigil of St. Matthew. Then came Harold our king unawares on the Northmen, and met with them beyond York, at Stanford-bridge, with a great army of English people; and there during the day was a very severe fight on both sides. There was slain Harold the Fair-haired, and Tosty the earl; and the Northmen who were there remaining were put to flight; and the English from behind hotly smote them, until they came, some, to their ships, some were drowned, and some also burned; and thus in divers ways they perished, so that there were few left: and the English had possession of the place of carnage. The king then gave his protection to Olave, son of the king of the Norwegians, and to their bishop, and to the earl of Orkney, and to all those who were left in the ships: and they then went up to our king, and swore oaths that they ever would observe peace and friendship towards this land; and the king let them go home with twenty-four ships. These two general battles were fought within five days. Then came William earl of Normandy into Pevensey, on the eve of St. Michael’s-mass: and soon after they were on their way, they constructed a castle at Hasting’s-port. This was then made known to king Harold, and he then gathered a great force, and came to meet him at the estuary of Appledore; and William came against him unawares, before his people were set in order. But the king nevertheless strenuously fought against him with those men who would follow him; and there was great slaughter made on either hand. There was slain king Harold, and Leofwin the earl, his brother, and Girth the earl, his brother, and many good men; and the Frenchmen had possession of the place of carnage, all as God granted them for the people’s sins. Archbishop Aldred and the townsmen of London would then have child Edgar for king, all as was his true natural right: and Edwin and Morcar vowed to him that they would fight together with him. But in that degree that it ought ever to have been forwarder, so was it from day to day later and worse; so that at the end all passed away. This fight was done on the day of Calixtus the pope. And William the earl went afterwards again to Hastings, and there awaited to see whether the people would submit to him. But when he understood that they would not come to him, he went upwards with all his army which was left to him, and that which afterwards had come from over sea to him; and he plundered all that part which he over-ran, until he came to Berkhampstead. And there came to meet him archbishop Aldred, [of York] and child Edgar, and Edwin the earl, and Morcar the earl, and all the chief men of London; and then submitted, for need, when the most harm had been done: and it was very unwise that they had not done so before; since God would not better it, for our sins: and they delivered hostages, and swore oaths to him; and he vowed to them that he would be a loving lord to them: and nevertheless, during this, they plundered all that they over-ran. Then, on mid-winter’s day, archbishop Aldred consecrated him king at Westminster; and he gave him a pledge upon Christ’s book, and also swore, before he would set the crown upon his head, that he would govern this nation as well as any king before him had at the best done, if they would be faithful to him. Nevertheless, he laid a tribute on the people, very heavy; and then went, during Lent, over sea to Normandy, and took with him archbishop Stigand, and Aylnoth, abbat of Glastonbury, and child Edgar, and Edwin the earl, and Morcar the earl, 4nd Waltheof the earl, and many other good men of England. And bishop Odo† and William the earl remained here behind, and they built castles wide throughout the nation, and poor people distressed; and ever after it greatly grew in evil. May the end be good when God will!
[† Odo, bishop of Bayeux, half brother of king William, and William Fitz Osbert, created earl of Hereford.]
This year king William gave the earldom of Northumberland to earl Robert, and the men of that country came against him, and slew him and 900 others with him. And then Edgar etheling marched with all the Northumbrians to York, and the townsmen treated with him; on which king William came from the south with all his troops, and sacked the town, and slew many hundred persons. He also profaned St. Peter’s minster, and all other places, and the etheling went back to Scotland.
This year died Aldred archbishop of York, and he lies buried in his cathedral church. He died on the festival of Protus and Hyacinthus, having held the see with much honour ten years, all but fifteen weeks.
This year a peace was made between the king of France and William king of England, but it lasted only a little while. And this year, one night before the assumption of St. Mary, there was a more dreadful fire in London than had ever happened since the town was built. And the moon was eclipsed, three nights before candlemas: the same year died Egelwig abbat of Evesham, on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of March, which was the mass-day of St. Juliana; and Walter became bishop in his stead. Bishop Herman also died on the tenth day before the Kalends of March. He was bishop in Berkshire, Wiltshire, and Dorsetshire. Also in this year king Malcolm won the mother of Malslaythe and all his best men and all his treasure and his oxen and himself hardly escaped…. There was also this year a dry summer, and wild-fire burned many towns, and many cities were ruined by it.
This year men said and reported as certain, that Canute king of Denmark, the son of king Sweyn, was coming hither, and that he designed to conquer this land, with the assistance of Robert earl of Flanders, whose daughter he had married. When king William, who was then in Normandy, heard this, for England and Normandy were both his, he hastened hither with a larger army of horse and foot, from France and Brittany, than had ever arrived in this land, so that men wondered how the country could feed them all. But the king billeted the soldiers upon his subjects throughout the nation, and they provided for them, every man according to the land that he possessed. And the people suffered much distress this year: and the king caused the country near the sea to be laid waste, that if his enemies landed they might the less readily find any plunder. Afterwards when he had received certain information that they had been stopped, and that they would not be able to proceed in this enterprise, he let part of his forces return to their own homes, and he kept part in this laud through the winter.
This year king Henry was at Westminster at Christmas. And soon afterwards the bishop William Giffard departed from this land, because he would not against right receive consecration from Gerard archbishop of York. And at Easter the king held his court at Winchester; and afterwards, Anselm archbishop of Canterbury journeyed to Rome, as he and the king had agreed. This year also earl Robert of Normandy came to this land, to speak with the king, and before he departed hence he gave up the 3000 marks which king Henry should have paid him yearly according to the treaty. This year blood was seen gushing out of the earth at Hampstead, [Finchampstead] in Berkshire. This was a year of much distress from the manifold taxes, and also from a mortality among the cattle, and from the failure of the crops, both of the corn and all fruits of trees. In the morning also of St. Lawrence’s day, the wind did so much damage to all the fruit of this land, that no man remembered the like to have ever happened before. The same year died Matthias abbat of Peterborough, who had not lived more than one year after he was made abbat. After Michaelmas, on the 12th before the Kalends of November, he was received in procession as abbat, and the same day the year following he died at Gloucester, and there he was buried.
This year David king of Scotland entered this Land with an immense army resolving to conquer it, and William earl of Albemarle, to whose charge the king had committed York, and other trusty men, came against him with few troops, and fought with him, and they put the king to flight at the Standard, and slew a great part of his followers.
Abon, ealdorman 22