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HISTORY OF ENGLAND,
FROM THE INVASION OF IT BY JULIUS CÆSAR TO
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR,
The most ancient account we have of Britain is, that the island was full of inhabitants, divided into several petty kingdoms, as most nations of the world appear to have been at first. The bodies of the Britons were painted with a sky-coloured blue, either as an ornament, or else for terror to their enemies. In their religion they were heathens, as all the world was before Christ, except the Jews.
Their priests were called druids : these lived in hollow trees, and committed not their mysteries to writing, but delivered them down by tradition, whereby they were in time wholly lost.
The Britons had wives in common, so many to a particular tribe or society; and the children were in common to that society.
About fifty years before Christ, Julius Cæsar, first Roman emperor, having conquered Gaul or France, invaded Britain, rather to increase his
glory than conquests ; for, having overcome them in one or two battles, he returned.
The next invasion of Britain by the Romans (then masters of most of the known world) was in the reign of the emperor Claudius; but it was not wholly subdued till that of Nero. It was governed by lieutenants, or deputies, sent from Rome, as Ireland is now by deputies from England; and continued thus under the Romans for about 460 years; till, that empire being invaded by the Goths and Vandals, the Romans were forced not only to recall their own armies, but also to draw from hence the bravest of the Britons, for their assistance against those barbarians.
The Roman conquests in this island reached no farther northward than to that part of Scotland where Stirling and Glasgow are seated. The region beyond was held not worth the conquering : it was inhabited by a barbarous people, called Caledonians and Picts; who, being a rough fierce nation, daily infested the British borders. Therefore the emperor Severus built a wall, from Stirling to Glasgow, to prevent the invasions of the Picts : it is commonly called the Picts Wall.
These Picts and Caledonians, or Sçots, encouraged by the departure of the Romans, do now cruelly infest and invade the Britons by sea and land : the Britons choose Vortigern for their king, A. D. 455.
who was forced to invite the Saxons
(a fierce Northern people) to assist him against those barbarians. The Saxons came over, and beat the Picts in several battles; but, at last, pick quarrels with the Britons themselves; and, after a long war, drive them into the mountains of Wales and Cornwall, and establish themselves in seven kingdoms in Britain now called England. The seven kingdoms are usually styled the Saxon Heptarchy: A. D. 460.
About this time lived king Arthur
(if the whole story be not a fable) who was so famous for beating the Saxons in several battles.
The Britons received Christianity very early, and, as is reported, from some of the disciples themselves; so that, when the Romans left Britain, the Britons were generally Christians. But the Saxons were heathens, till pope Gregory the Great sent over hither Austin the monk, by whom A. D. 600.
Ethelbert king of the South Saxons
and his subjects were converted to Christianity; and the whole island soon followed the example.
After many various revolutions in this island among the kingdoms of the Saxons, Egbert deA. D. 800.
scended from the West-Saxon kings
became sole monarch of England. The language in Britain was British (now called Welsh) or Latin : but with the Saxons, English came in, although extremely different from what it is now The present names of towns, shires, &c. were given by them; and the whole kingdom was called England from the Angles, who were a branch of the Saxons.
As soon as the Saxons were settled, the Danes began to trouble and invade them, as they (the Saxons) had before done the Britons.
These Danes came out of Germany, Denmark, and Norway; a rough warlike people, little different from the Saxons, to whom they were nigh neighbours.
After many invasions from the Danes, Edgar king of England sets forth the first navy. He was entitled “ King of all Albion” (an old name
of this island) and was the first absolute monarch. He made peace with the Danes, and allowed them to live in his dominions mixt with the English.
In this prince's time there were five kings in Wales, who all did him homage for their country.
These Danes began first to make their invasions here aboạt the year 800; which they after renewed at several times, and under several leaders, and were as often repulsed. They used to come with vast numbers of ships, burn and ravage before them, as the cities of London, Winchester, &c. Encouraged by success and prey, they often wintered in England, fortifying themselves in the northern parts, from whence they cruelly infested the Saxon kings. In process of time they mixed with the English (as was said before) and lived
under the Saxon government: but, A. D. 978.
Ethelred then king of England, growing weary of the Danish insolence, a conspiracy is formed, and the Danes massacred in one day ail over England.
Four years after, Sweyn king of Denmark, to revenge the death of his subjects, invades England; and after battles fought, and much cruelty exercised, he subdues the whole kingdom, forcing Ethelred to fly into Normandy.
Sweyn dying, his son Canutus succeeds in the kingdom; but Ethelred returning with an army, Canutus is forced to withdraw to Denmark for succour.
Ethelred dies, and his son Edmund Ironside succeeds; but, Canutus returning with fresh forces from Denmark, after several battles, the kingdom is parted between them both. Edmund dying, his sons are sent beyond sea by Canutus, who now is sole king of England.
Hardicanute, the last Danish king, dying without issue, Edward, son of Ethelred, is chosen king. For his great holiness, he was surnamed the Confessor, and sainted after his death. He was the first of our princes that attempted to cure the king's evil by touching. He first introduced what is now called the Common Law. In his time began the mode and humour among the English gentry, of using the French tongue and fashions in compliance with the king, who had been bred
in Normandy. The Danish government in England lasted but twenty-six years, under the three kings.
Edward the Confessor married the daughter of earl Godwin, an English nobleman of great power but of Danish extraction ; but, wanting issue, he appointed Edgar Atheling, grandson to his brother, to succeed him, and Harold, son of earl Godwin, to be governor of the young prince. But, upon Edward's death, Harold neglected Edgar Atheling, and usurped the crown for himself.
Edward, while he was in Normandy, met so good reception, that it was said he made a promise to that duke, that, in case he recovered his kingdom, and died without issue, he would leave it to him. Edward dying, William duke of Normandy sends to Harold to claim the crown; but Harold, now in possession, resolves to keep it. Upon which duke William, having prepared a mighty fleet and army, invades England, lands at Hastings, and sets fire to his fleet, to cut off all hope from his men of returning. To Harold he sent his messenger, demanding the kingdom and his subjection : but Harold returned him this answer, " That, unless he departed his land, he would make him sensible of his just displeasure.” So Harold advanced his forces into Sussex, within