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his privileges and his power. It is remarked by CHAP. Tacitus, as peculiar to the German nations, that the power of their kings was neither unlimited nor free 18; and that the chieftains governed rather by influence than command. They could neither punish, fetter, nor lash : priests only had these powers, and these severities were submitted to from them as the inflictions of their gods. 19 cient Saxons having no king but in war-time, his power could be but temporary; and when it became more permanent, must have been much restricted. As the supreme chief of many other chieftains, whose rights were as sacred as his dignity may have been popular, his authority must have been circumscribed by others. Much of his power at first depended on his personal character and talents. Thus Eadbald had less authority in Kent than his father 20; while Edwin in Northumbria, attained to such power, that he had the banner carried before him, not only in battle, but also in his excursions with his ministers through his kingdom, which seems to have been an assumption of dignity and state unknown before. 21 So, Oswin was so beloved for his amiable conduct, that the noblest men of his provinces came from every part to attend and serve him. 22

The growth of the kingly prerogatives was favoured not only by the energy and talents of the prosperous sovereigns, but also by the natural tendency of such a power to accumulate. The crown was a permanent establishment, which it was the

18 Nec regibus infinita ; nec libera potestas. Mor. Germ. 8. 7. 19 Mor. Germ. s. 7.

20 Bede, lib. ii. c. 6. 21 Ibid. c. 16.

22 Ibid. c. 14.


interest of every one but the superior nobles to maintain and to aggrandize, till its power became formidable enough to be felt in its oppressions. Its domains were increasing by every successful war, and its revenue, privileges, and munificence, were perpetually adding to its wealth and influence.

When the zeal of the popes had completed the conversion of the island, and an hierarchy was established, the kingly power received great support and augmentation from the religious veneration with which the clergy surrounded it. That the church, in its weakness, should support the crown, which was its best protector, was a circumstance as natural as that it should afterwards oppose it, when its aggressions became feared.

The laws of Ethelbert, the first Christian king of Kent, who was converted about 600, are the most ancient specimens of the Anglo-Saxon legislation which remain to us.

In these 23 the cyning appears already distinguished by a superior rank and privileges. While the mundbyrd of a ceorl was valued at six scillinga, the king's was appointed at fifty. The mulct on homicide in an eorle's residence was twelve scillinga; in a king's fifty. A double penalty was inflicted for injuries done where the cyning was drinking. An offence with his female was punished by a fine of fifty scillinga ; while the eorle's occasioned only twelve, and a ceorl's but six. So, though a freeman's theft from a freeman incurred a treble satisfaction, his purloining the king's property was to be nine times compensated.

23 Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 1–7.


ANOTHER impressive and profitable token of su- CHAP: periority was, that some of the mulcts on offences were paid to him. Thus, if any harm was done to the leode, or people, when the king called them together, the compensation was to be double, and fifty scillinga were to be paid to the king. If any one killed a freeman, the king had a similar sum as his lord. If a freeman stole from others of the same condition, the penalty was to be the king's. If a pregnant woman was forced away, the king had fifteen scillinga.

In the laws of Ina, we see the cyning mentioned in a style of authority very much resembling that of subsequent sovereigns. He says, “ 1, Ina, by the grace of God, king of the West Saxons.” He uses the phrase “my bishops.” He calls the nobles my ealdormen,” and

" the oldest sages of my people.” He adds, “I was consulting on the health of our soul and the establishment of our kingdom, that right laws, and right cyne domas (kingly judgments), through our people, might be settled and confirmed, and that no ealdorman, and none of our subjects should violate our laws.The laws then are introduced with “ We com

mand. ” 24

One of the provisions in these laws shows the king in the same authoritative and dignified features. “ If any one fight in the king's house, he shall forfeit all his property, and it shall remain for the king's decision whether he shall have his life or not.

The difference between this offence and quarrels elsewhere was very great; for a battle in the church, and in an ealdorman's house, was punished by a fine of 120 scillinga only. 24 Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 14.

25 Ibid. p. 16.



The epithets given by the pope to the first Christian king of the Anglo-Saxons were, “theglorious," and “the most glorious.” In several of their let- . ters, the phrase "your glory” is used as synonymous with our expression of “your majesty.” The same epithet of "most glorious” is applied by Aldhelm to the king of Cornwall, and, by an abbot, to the Frankish king. * But this epithet was rather the complimentary language of the day than a phrase appropriated to royalty; for Alphuald, king of East Anglia, writing to Boniface, styles the mitred missionary, “Domino gloriosissimo.” A pope, in 634, addresses the king of Northumbria as

your excellency." Boniface, to the king of Mercia, says,

“ We intreat the clemency of your highness.”

On another occasion, his superscription is more rhetorical : “ To Ethelbald, king, my dearest lord, and in the love of Christ to be preferred to other kings, governing the illustrious sceptre of the empire of the Angles.” 27 Another address of the same sort in Saxon occurs in a monk's dedication of a saint's life: “ To my most loved lord above the earthly kings of all other men, Alfwold, king of the East Angles, ruling his kingdom with right and with dignity." 28

The titles which the ancient Saxon kings assumed in their charters may be briefly noticed : “I Æthelbald, by the divine dispensation, king of the Mercians.” The powerful Offa simply writes, “ Offa, king of the Mercians.” Another : « Kenulph, by God's mercy, king of the Mercians.” Witlaf's, Burtulph's, and Beorred's, are as unassurning.

26 Bonif. Letters, 16 Mag. Bib. 65. 85.
27 Ibid. 16 Mag. Bib.
28 MS. Vita S. Guthlaci. Cott. Lib.


In the same spirit, Ethelwulph calls himself merely CHAP. Rex West Saxonum. The style in which Edgar chose to be mentioned is usually very pompous

and rhetorical.

ALFRED's exordium to his laws is as dignified as Ina's : “ I, Alfred, cyning, gathered together and have commanded to be written many of those things that our forefathers held which pleased me: and many of those things that liked me not I have thrown aside, with the advice of my witan, and other things have commanded to be holden.” 29

The subsequent kings in the same manner promulged the laws in their own name, with the advice of their witan.

The prerogatives and influence in society of the cyning were great. He was to be prayed for, and voluntarily honoured 30 ; his word was to be taken without an oath 31 ; he had the high prerogative of pardoning in certain cases 82 ; his mund-byrd and his were, were larger than those of any other class in society 33 ; his safety was protected by high penalties for offences committed in his presence or habitation, or against his family 34; he had the lordship of the free 35; he had the option to sell over sea, to kill, or to take the were of a freeman thief; also to sell a theow over sea, or take a penalty *; he could mitigate penalties 37; and could remit them 38

i he had a sele, or tribunal, before whom thieves were brought so, he had a tribunal in London 40; his tribunal was the last court of

30 Ibid. p. 10. 29 Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 34. 31 Ibid. p. 11.

32 Ibid. p. 20. 65. 33 Ibid. 71, 72. 34 Ibid. 22. 35 Ibid. 2.

86 Ibid. 12. 37 Ibid. 77. 38 Spelm. Conc. p. 485.

40 Ibid. p. 10. 39 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 8.

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