Chapter XII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1
Reign of Edwy - His Quarrel with Dunstan - Exile of the latter – Edgar in Mercia - Death of Edwy - Slanders of the Monkish Writers.Pages: <1>
Edwy, surnamed Pancalus, or "the Fair," was only fourteen years of age when ho mounted the throne; but, although so young, he gave proofs of an understanding and independence of mind, very different from the slavish, superstitious subjection of his predecessor. One of the first acts of his purposes, and that he was not answerable to any earthly administration was to call Dunstan to account for the vast sums of money which the late king had entrusted to him.
The haughty churchman, instead of rendering an account, answered that they had been placed in his hands for religious purposes, and that he was not answerable to any earthly
tribunal. At the same time he condescended to add that Edred's liberality in rebuilding Glastonbury would explain the expenditure of the greater part of it. With this reply both the king and his council were compelled to appear content, and let the matter drop, for fear the people, incited by the monks, should take offence, and espouse the abbot's cause.
Edwy and his advisers, foiled in. their first attack, took another course, in which the canons of the Church, as well as the laws of the kingdom, were so clearly on their side, that it was impossible to gainsay their proceedings.
They expelled all the monks from the benefices, and restored the secular priests to their livings.
Dunstan was so incensed at these proceedings, that he went into exile; some say voluntarily, others that he was banished.
Edwy and his advisers soon discovered that their triumph was but a momentary one, and that of all enemies sacerdotal ones are the most dangerous to contend with. From the monastery in Flanders to which lie had retired, Dunstan so incited the monks that they opposed in every way the administration of the young king, persuading the credulous people that he was the most impious of men.
The consequence of these slanders was not long in showing itself. Edgar raised the inhabitants of Mercia against the king, his brother, and joining with the Danes in East Anglia and in Northumbria, soon reduced the unfortunate Edwy to the greatest extremity; so much so that he resigned all but the kingdom of Wessex, which still remained faithful to him.
Edgar was elected King of Mercia. It is related that whilst the nobles were deliberating on their choice, a voice from heaven was heard commanding them to choose Edgar as their sovereign.
Most probably the monkish writers who have recorded this pretended miracle could also have explained, had they thought fit, the means by which it was wrought.
Edwy did not long survive the change; falling into a deep melancholy, he died, after a reign of four years.
According to the history of this truly unfortunate prince, as monkish writers have written it, he must have been more than usually depraved; but their evidence ought to be received with considerable doubt, if not positive incredulity. They have recorded of him that on his death his soul was being carried away by a legion of devils to the place of eternal torment, when Dunstan, who saw what was going on - how, the priestly historians do not condescend to inform us - took compassion on him, and prayed so fervently, that God himself, moved by his entreaties, snatched the unfortunate soul from the hands of the fiends, and placed it in Paradise.
For ages such legends were looked upon as history.
The cause of the young king's enmity to Dunstan is more easily explained. He had espoused Elgiva - the monks assert she was his mistress; but had she been so, neither the abbot nor archbishop could have interfered.
On the day of his coronation the young king had retired with his beautiful wife to avoid the excesses of the feast. Dunstan rushed rudely into the apartment, and dragged him from her. If he proclaimed her a harlot, it was under pretence that they were related within the prohibited degree. The unhappy lady was branded on the forehead, and banished to Ireland; from which place of exile, having got cured of her wounds, she returned; was seized upon a second time by her priestly persecutors, and hamstrung, of which outrage she died at Gloucester.