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pounds of silver, two golden crosses, two pieces of CHAP. his cloak, set with gold and gems in valuable workmanship, and other things, that, if he fell in battle, his body might be buried with them. 17

A dux in Alfred's days directed one hundred swine to be given to a church in Canterbury, for him and for his soul; and the same to Chertsey abbey. The same dux directed two hundred peninga to be paid annually from some land to Chertsey abbey, for the soul of Alfred. 18

So Æthelstan the ætheling gave to St. Peter's church, at Westminster, land which he had bought of his father for two hundred mancusan of gold, five pounds of silver by weight, and some land, which he had purchased for two hundred and fifty gold mancus by weight; and the land which his father released to him, for both their souls: he makes other bequests to other religious places. 19

17 3 Gale Script. 494.
18 Test. Ælf. App. Sax. Dict.

19 App. Sax. Dict. If the body was buried out of the " riht scire,” or parish, the soul's sceat was to be paid to the minster to which he belonged. Wilk. Leg. 121. 108. It was to be always given at the pn grave. Ib. 108.


The Government and Constitution of the Anglo-Saxons.


The King's Election and Coronation.


BOOK In treating of the Anglo-Saxon government it will

be proper to begin with the cyning, or king, who, though he did not concentrate in himself the despotism of an eastern monarch, was yet elevated far above the rest of the nation in dignity, property,

and power.

The witena-gemot may then be considered, and afterwards the official dignities respected by the nation. Our subject will be closed by a review of the contributions levied from the people.

The first cynings of the Anglo-Saxons seem to have been their war-kings, continued for life ; and the crown was not hereditary, but elective. Many authors, both in the Anglo-Saxon times and afterwards, when speaking of their accessions, express them in terms which signify election. Thus, the contemporary author of Dunstan’s life says of Edwin, “ After him arose Eadwig, son of king Edmund, in age a youth, and with little of the prudence of reigning; elected, he filled up the number and names of the kings over both people." It proceeds afterwards to mention, that, aban. doning Eadwig, they chose (eligere) Eadgar to be


| MS. Cleop. B. 13. p. 76. 78.


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It was the witena-gemot who elected the cyning. CHAP. The council, in 785, directs, that “ lawful kings be chosen by the priests and elders of the people. The author of the life of Dunstan says, “ When at the time appointed he was by all the chiefs of the English, by general election, to be anointed and consecrated king." 3 Ethelred recites himself, in a charter, that all the optimates had unanimously chosen his brother Edward to rule the helm of the kingdom.“ Alfred is stated to have been chosen by the ducibus et presulibus of all the nation. 5 Edward and Athelstan are also described as “ a primatis electus.”

SOMETIMES the election is mentioned as if other persons besides the witan were concerned in it. Thus, the Saxon Chronicle says, that after Ethelred's death all the witan who were in London, and the citizens, chose Edmund to cinge.? It says afterwards, that when Canute died there was a gemot of all the witan at Oxford; and earl Leofric, and most of the 'thegns north of the Thames, and the lithsmen at London, chose Harold. The earl Godwin, and all the yldestan men in West Saxony, opposed it as long as they could. 8

But, from the comparison of all the passages on this subject, the result seems to be, that the king was elected at the witena-gemot held on the demise of the preceding sovereign ; and these citizens and lithsmen were probably the more popular part of the national council, the representatives of the

2 Spelm. Concil. p. 296.
4 MS. Claud. c. 9. p. 123.
6 Ethelwerd, 847. Malmsb. 48.
8 Sax. Chron. p. 154.

3 MS. Cleop. p. 76.
5 Simeon Dunel. 126, 127.
7 Sax. Chron. p. 148.


BOOK cities and burghs. The name of lithsmen would

suit those of the maritime burghs, afterwards, as now, called the cinque-ports.

That the accession of the Anglo-Saxon sovereigns was not governed by the rules of hereditary succession, is manifest from their history. The dynasties of Wessex were more steady and regular than any others in the octarchy. Yet the son of its third king, Cealwin, did not succeed, though he existed. The son of Ceolwulf was equally passed by. Ceadwalla left two sons, yet Ina acceded, to their prejudice; and, what is singular, Ina was elected king, though his father was alive. Some other irregularities of the same sort took place before Egbert, and continued after him.

ETHELBERT, the second son of Ethelwulph, left sons, and yet Ethelred succeeded in their stead. They were still excluded, when Alfred and his son received the crown. So Athelstan, though illegitimate, was chosen in preference to his legitimate brothers. On Edgar's death, both his eldest and youngest sons were made candidates for the crown, though Edward was preferred ; and although Ed. mund Ironside left a son, his brother, Edward the Confessor, after the Danish reigns, was preferred before him. To the exclusion of the same prince, Harold the Second obtained his election.

But though the Saxon witan continued the custom of election, and sometimes broke the regular line of descent, by crowning the collateral branches, yet in the greatest number of instances they fol. lowed the rule of hereditary succession. Their choice of the cyning in Wessex, even when the heir was disregarded, was always made from the family of its first founder, Cerdic, and usually from


the kinsmen of the preceding sovereign. The CHAP. Norman conquest diminished the power of the witena-gemot in this respect, or at least restricted its practical exertion. The form and name of election continued, but it was rather adoption than choice. The crown passed gradually from an elective to an hereditary succession ; – a change highly auspicious to the national prosperity, by precluding the most destructive of all human competitions.

The coronation of Ethelred the Second, and his coronation-oath, have been transmitted to us in Latin, in a MS. yet extant in the Cotton Library.' The ceremony was thus ordered: the translation is made literal : some part of it seems to be the composition or the arrangement of Dunstan :

“ Two bishops, with the witan, shall lead him to the church, and the clergy, with the bishops, shall sing the anthem, Firmetur, manus tua,' and the Gloria Patri.'

“ When the king arrives at the church, he shall prostrate himself before the altar, and the · Te Deum' shall be chaunted.

6 When this is finished, the king shall be raised from the ground, and having been chosen by the bishops and people, shall, with a clear voice, before God and all the people, promise that he will observe these three rules.

The Coronation Oath. • In the name of Christ, I promise three things to the Christian people, my subjects:• First, That the church of God, and all the Christian people, shall always preserve true peace under our auspices.

• Second, That I will forbid rapacity and all iniquities to ' every condition.

· Third, That I will command equity and mercy in all judg‘ments, that to me and to you the gracious and merciful God may extend his mercy.'

“ All shall say, Amen. These prayers shall follow, which the bishops are separately to repeat:

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9 MS. Caud. A. 3.

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