General history: The Danes

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'General history: The Danes', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury, 1797) pp. 81-99. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]


SCARCE was the kingdom of Kent free from the miseries of civil war and intestine squabbles, and the consequence of them, before a new source of evil broke out, which ceased not till it had overwhelmed the whole nation. This was the invasion of the Danes, an antient and numerous people, whom the Saxon Chronicle makes the same with the NORTHMANNI, or Normans, and Crantzius says, from the earliest times, were mortal enemies to the Saxons. These seem to have come from the Scandia of Ptolemy, and thence to have flocked into the Cimbrica Chersonesus, where they overpowered the Angles that remained in it.

There is no mention made of the Danes before the time of the emperor Justinian, about the year 570, but then they began to invade France. The Latin writers of the history of England give them the name of Wiccingi, from the Saxon WICCINGI, a pirate; for piracy was their first and chief employment; they likewise termed them PAGANI, or Pagans, because at that time they were not converted to the christian religion. (fn. 1) Though the Danes had, for some years before the accession of Egbert to the English monarchy, harassed the coasts of Britain, their first landing being, according to Chron. Sax. and Flor. Worc. in 787, when they landed with three ships in the West of England, being the first that ever had been seen here of that nation, yet the county of Kent remained free from their piracies till the year 832, when they invaded it with a numerous fleet, landing in the isle of Shepey, where they met with no opposition, for Egbert having reigned more than seven years in the peaceable possession of his conquests, had disbanded his army. As the Danes had no design to make conquests, they contented themselves with plundering the island and neighbouring country, and then returned again to their ships. From this time they continually made descents in different parts of England, making havoc of every thing, plundering and destroying the cities, burning the churches, and wasting the lands, with a most barbarous cruelty. After which they murdered the kings of the Mercians and East Angles, and then took possession of their kingdoms, with great part of that of Northumberland.

Under Egbert's successors, Kent now become part of the kingdom of England, remained without any material alterations, especially after the several distributions of it were finally settled under king Alfred the Great. From its situation it was more particularly exposed to the piracies and depredations of the Danes, and came successively under the power and government of four of their kings, namely, Sweyn, Edmund Ironside, Canute, and Hardicanute. From the time of Egbert, even to the Norman conquest, this country was miserably harrassed by them; particularly, in the year 838 they landed in Lincolnshire, East Anglia, and Kent, with an army, killing abundance of people in each, and extending their ravages as far as Canterbury, Rochester, and even London itself, and having plundered those cities, and committed unheard-of cruelties in them, they returned to their ships. In 851 they landed in Essex, and being beaten, from thence, retired to the isle of Thanet, where they wintered. But king Ethelstan giving them battle at Sandwich, both by sea and land, defeated their army, and took nine of their ships. Notwithstanding which, the next spring they came into the mouth of the Thames with three hundred and fifty ships, and landing in Kent, took and pillaged Lundenburg and Canterbury. After which they marched into Mercia, (fn. 2) and overthrew the forces that were sent to oppose them, and, in all likelihood, they would have over-run all England, had not the news of king Ethelwulf and Athelstan's intention of intercepting them obliged them to return and repass the Thames, with a design to encounter the two kings, who were encamped at Okley in Surry. Here a bloody battle was fought, wherein the English made so terrible a slaughter of the Danes, that very few escaped. This ill success did not in the least discourage these indesatigable thieves, for in the next year, 853, they invaded the isle of Thanet, with a considerable force, and being attacked by earl Alcher, or Ealhere, with the Kentishmen, and earl Huda with those of Surry, an obstinate battle was fought, in which the English at first got some advantage. Great numbers were killed and drowned on both sides, and the two English generals at length lost their lives.

The next year the Danes wintered in the Isle of Shepey, and king Ethelwulf, in hopes of obtaining the divine assistance against these dreadful enemies, granted to the church the tythes, or tenth part of the land throughout his dominions, discharging it from all taxes and tribute. After this Kent remained unmolested by them for some years; but in the autumn of the year 865, in the reign of king Ethelbert, grandson of Egbert, they landed again in the isle of Thanet, where they wintered, in order to begin their incursions in the spring. The Kentishmen, who dreaded nothing more than their cruelty and oppression, thought to divert this storm by offering them a large sum of money to go off quietly, which as soon as these treacherous robbers had received, they rushed into Kent and destroyed all the eastern parts of it with fire and sword. King Ethelbert, though he was not then in a condition to be revenged of them, learned, however, by this treachery, that nothing but force could free the country from them. He therefore immediately made preparations for levying an army, to intercept them in their retreat, and prevent them from carrying off their booty. This alarm terrified them so much, that they embarked hastily with their plunder, before the king was in readiness to use any possible means to prevent them. During the reign of king Ethelred, the younger brother and successor of Ethelbert, the Danes carried on a continued war in this kingdom, and notwithstanding the great bravery of king Ethelred, who in one year fought nine pitched battles with them, yet by the numerous succours they received from their own country, and the dissentions among the English, they found means to extend their conquests more and more every year, and on the death of that monarch, in 871, they were become masters of Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumberland, with which, however, they were not contented, and could not forbear looking upon the remaining four kingdoms with a greedy eye.

Alfred, afterwards, for his noble and virtuous actions, surnamed the Great, succeeded his brother Ethelred in the throne of England, at a time when the Danes were pressing forward with all their forces to gain possession of the remaining parts of his kingdom, and they pursued the war with such success, that the king being abandoned by his troops, was forced to lie hid in a cottage in the isle of Athelney, in Somersetshire, till some lucky and unexpected turn in his affairs might put him in a condition to recover his dominions. His good fortune soon brought this to pass, and placed him at the head of an army sufficient to give the Danes battle, over whom he gained a complete victory, and by it arrived at the height of his wishes; his enemies were driven out and he recovered his kingdom; his subjects, whom fear had dispersed or constrained to submit to the Danes, continually flocking to him. The few Danes that escaped the carnage of this battle betook themselves to a castle, where they were immediately besieged. Alfred, taking advantage of their consternation, pursued it so briskly that they soon capitulated, and he generously granted them such terms as they had no hopes to expect; for he gave up the lands of East Anglia to such of them as were willing to turn Christians, and required the rest immediately to quit the island, and never more to set foot in it again; and at the same time, he invested the Danish general, Guthurm, with the title of king of East Anglia, in which Alfred did nothing more than confirm to them the possession of that kingdom, where they were already very powerful, by granting them a governor of their own nation, who was to be his vassal. (fn. 3)

There were in England at this time two sorts of Danes; those that were already settled, and those who were endeavouring to procure themselves habitations; with these last it was that Alfred principally treated.— As for the others, reflecting on what had happened to their brethren, they most of them, thought themselves happy in the enjoyment of their possessions, and chose rather to sit down contented and acknowledge Alfred for their sovereign, than to run the risk of losing their all by continuing the war. Accordingly the Danes, settled in the three kingdoms of the Angles, submitted, and swore allegiance to him. But as many of them were inwardly much dissatisfied with the terms of this treaty, and had accepted of them through necessity, and with the design of returning to their old course of life, the first favorable opportunity that offered, it was not long before the most considerable among them, headed by one Hastings, earnestly solicited Guthurm to renew the war, and on his refusal they put to sea, and went and ravaged the coasts of Flanders, and shortly after another no less numerous troop of them, induced by the report of their plunder, shipped themselves off to join them. These two bands, thus united, over-run that whole country, and committed unheard-of cruelties. After which they agreed to sail back to England, in hopes of plundering the country, where they imagined they should come unexpected. For this purpose, they separated their numerous fleet into two divisions, one of which went towards the east, and the other, at the same time, sailed up the River Medway to Rochester, in hopes of surprising that city; but failing in this design, they straitly besieged it, casting up a mount, in order to over-top the walls and destroy the works. But the citizens made a brave defence against them, till such time as king Alfred, who, contrary to their expectation, had his army in readiness, and on the first notice of the arrival of the Danes, was marching towards them, came to the relief of the city; on whose approach they instantly fled to their ships, leaving their plunder behind them; they then returned to France, and after some time rejoined their companions, and continued their devastations in that country. Alfred, sensible that a powerful fleet was the best security to protect the coasts from the continual invasions and plunder of the Danes, took the opportunity of the peace he then enjoyed to equip a considerable one, which putting to sea, had orders to cruise along the coasts, and to destroy these rovers wherever they could be met with. Having thus secured the sea-coasts, Alfred diligently fortified the rest of the kingdom with castles and walled towns, which he stood in great need of; these served equally to defend it against the foreign Danes, and to keep those in awe that were settled in the island, who seeing such wise precautions taken by the king, were the more disposed to continue in a quiet submission to him.

The happy calm of peace that succeeded these troubles lasted eight years, when it was again interrupted by fresh invasions; for the Danes, who in the mean time, under the conduct of Hastings, had been ravaging France and the Low Countries, and, according to the custom of pirates, had prodigally squandered away the fruits of their robberies, being distressed for subsistance turned their thoughts towards England, and resolved to return and plunder the island. For this purpose, in the year 893, they fitted out a great number of ships, which they divided into two fleets; with one of these, consisting of two hundred and fifty sail, they came into the mouth of the river Limene, or Rother, in this county, and going up about four miles from the mouth of the haven, they attacked and took a small fort, situated in the marshes, which had not been quite finished, and was but ill defended. From whence failing up as high as Appledore, they intrenched themselves there, and built a strong fort for their defence. The other division, which was under the command of Hastings, entered the Thames mouth, and landed at Middleton (Milton) near Sittingbourn, in this county. Here the Danes built a castle, the scite of which, now called the Castle-ruff, is still visible at Kemsley-downs, about a quarter of a mile north-east beyond the church there, and on the other side of the creek from Kemsley-downs are the remains of some stone-work and ditches, being part of the fortifications made by Alfred against the Danes; the place is now called Baford-castle, and is in the parish of Sittingbourn, but at what time they were made is uncertain; after which they ravaged and plundered the adjoining country in a merciless manner.— King Alfred, who was at this time in East Anglia, on receiving intelligence of these invasions, thought it prudent to take a new oath of fidelity from the East Anglian Danes, who, however, when they were no longer restrained by his presence, went and joined Hastings and their countrymen, in order to partake of the plunder. The king, having drawn together what forces he could, marched towards Kent; but being informed that another body of Danes had entered Wessex, he was obliged to alter his course, and advance towards them as the most dangerous enemy. (fn. 4) He soon found these pirates a many-headed monster, which it would be almost impossible for him to subdue; for there were several bands of them, ravaging England, and roving about in distant parts of it at the same time, and whenever any of them received intelligence of his being near them, that party hastily withdrew and vented their fury in some other place; therefore, after having harassed his army for some time in fruitless endeavours to come up with them, he was forced to content himself with encamping in a place where he could prevent their joining from all parts in one grand body. England was now reduced by these cruel enemies, who spread desolution over the whole face of it, to the most deplorable extremity, when it was at once freed from them, by what in this case may be called a fortunate event: this was the plague, which then began to rage, and swept off great numbers of Danes as well as English. This dreadful distemper drove them over again into France, in 894. though not till they had plundered the country in such a manner, that there was little left for them to pillage. To keep these enemies from the coasts for the future, king Alfred had invented a sort of galley, by which he afterwards destroyed great numbers as they attempted to land; soon after which the Danes that were settled here submitted to him, and acknowledged him for sovereign of all England.

King Alfred enjoyed this tranquility but a few years, for he died in the year 901, leaving behind him the character of a just, learned, and religious prince, a lover of his people, and an indefatigable promoter of their welfare and the good of his country. To him we owe at this time the principal part of our present excellent constitution of English government. The death of Alfred brought on fresh troubles to this country; for his son Edward, surnamed the Elder, having succeeded him, Ethelward, eldest son of Ethelbert, king Alfred's elder brother, resolved to dispute the crown with him. To accomplish this purpose, he took refuge with the Danes, who were already up in arms, and espousing his cause, proclaimed him king of England, pretending, as they were in possession of one half of the kingdom, they had as much right to make a king as the West Saxons. This brought on a civil war, in which Ethelward was assisted by the Danes in general, and by a large body of Normans which he had obtained from France. In the year 902, a battle was fought between the Kentishmen and the Danes, at a place called Holme, or Holmewood, in Sussex, in which the latter were worsted. But three years after this the Kentishmen, who composed part of king Edward's army, in their return from pursuing the Danes, happening to stay too far behind, were surrounded by their enemies, whereupon an obstinate and bloody engagement ensued, in which several were killed on both sides; on one side Ethelward himself was slain; and on the other, duke Sigulf, earl Sigelm, and many other noblemen; but in the end the Danes remained masters of the field of battle. Soon after this the Danes sued for peace; king Edward was acknowledged by them as their sovereigh, and the Danes returned home.

This peace could not hold long between the two nations, so exasperated against each other; accordingly, after three years the war was renewed between them. In the interim of which, king Edward had provided a hundred sail of ships on the Kentish coast, and was himself there to see them fitted out. In the subsequent wars with king Edward, the Danes were continually worsted; and the king so well improved every advantage he gained over them, that some time before his death, he had compelled them once more to submit and acknowledge him for their sovereign. Notwithstanding- which, those Danes settled in England gave the succeeding monarchs of it frequent troubles, making the kingdom for some time a dismal scene of war and bloodshed; yet each reign reduced them more and more to a state of subjection to the West Saxon monarchs; and when Ethelred the Second succeeded to the crown in 978, (fn. 5) England had enjoyed a domestic tranquility for some years; the precautions and good management of his predecessors had secured the country from foreign invasions, and had he followed their steps, he might, in all probability, have enjoyed a happy and peaceful reign; but his natural cowardice, joined to a sluggish disposition, an insatiable avarice, and other failings, soon convinced his enemies they had nothing to fear from him: accordingly, it was not long before he found himself attacked by the old inveterate enemies of his country, the foreign Danes. For sixty years past these pirates had, in appearance, laid aside all thoughts of England; and the English, on their side, had lost all remembrance of the calamities they had suffered from the hands of those cruel enemies. Though many of the English Danes, during this period, seemed to have contracted the same affection for this their adopted country as the natives themselves; yet, no sooner did their foreign countrymen appear; but, resuming their old behaviour, they joined them, in hopes of improving the present opportunity of freeing themselves from the dominion of the English. To describe at length every transaction which happened between the two nations after this, would be inconsistent with the design of this history: I shall, therefore, confine myself chiefly to the recital of those matters which more particularly relate to this county. In the year 980, the foreign Danes made their first attempt on Southampton, where they arrived with seven ships; and after plundering the town, and the adjacent country, they failed to the isle of Thanet, and wasted the whole island; whilst others of them landed in other parts of England, and committed the like outrages wherever they came. These frequent descents in different parts distressed the English exceedingly; they knew not where to assemble or expect the enemy; if at any time they could come up with them, and gained the advantage, they only recovered the plunder; but if they were worsted, the country was assuredly exposed to all imaginable cruelties, before another force could be drawn together. In 991, a time when almost all parts of this realm felt the fury of the Danes, the parish of Stone, in this county, was entirely spoiled and burnt by them; and the next year a band of them, having landed and plundered several parts of Kent, Essex, and Suffolk, penetrated still farther into the country, king Ethelred being without an army, and unable to stop their progress, when Siricius, archbishop of Canterbury, and other nobles, persuaded him to give them ten thousand pounds (a large sum of money at that time) to quit the kingdom. This advice proved afterwards fatal to England. The present given to these robbers served only to allure others, who, no less greedy of money, thought they had an equal right to make the same advantage of the weakness of the English. It even tempted Sweyn, king of Denmark, and Olaus, king of Norway, to fit out a numerous fleet, in hopes of sharing the same good success. These princes, in the year 993, came to Sandwich, with a fleet of ninety-three ships, and having plundered it, and the coast of Kent, returned with their booty. The next year they entered the Thames, and having in vain attempted to become masters of London, they ravaged the coasts of Kent, Hampshire, Essex, and Suffex, threatening to lay waste the whole kingdom, unless they had a large sum of money given them to desist. Ethelred, who had no more conduct than courage, not knowing how to put a stop to these plunderers, bound himself by treaty to pay them no less a sum than sixteen thousand pounds, within a limited time; whereupon the two foreign kings caused all hostilities to cease, and retired to Southampton, where they wintered. King Sweyn did not long remain quiet; for, under pretence of the stipulated sum not being paid within the time agreed on, he renewed the war again, and destroyed the western parts of England with great cruelty. At last, finding nothing more to plunder there, he put to sea again; and in the year 998, sailing up the river Medway, landed at Rochester; the inhabitants, by endeavouring to resist him, encreased his fury, and being overpowered, were treated with the utmost barbarity. After which the Danes again pillaged the western parts of the county.

King Ethelred, in the mean time, equipped a fleet, in hopes of meeting with them at sea; but this was rendered useless, through the dissensions and unskilfulness of the commanders, and the fleet did not appear till the Danes were departed home; whence, however, they soon returned with double fury, and spread such a scene of misery over the whole kingdom, as it had hardly ever felt before; their plunders, murders, fires, and devastations being universal over the whole face of it. The king himself was seized with such a terror, that he durst not venture in person against them; and the English Danes not only refused to fight against their countrymen, but joined with these pirates to destroy the country. (fn. 6) In this extremity, Ethelred, irresolute and timorous, and far from imitating the firmness of his ancestors, who were never daunted by misfortunes, with the advice of his council, yielded to pay the Danes a large sum of money, as the only means of preventing the continuance of these miseries in which the nation was involved. The sum stipulated was twenty-four thousand pounds (a very considerable one in those days) which was levied by a tax, called Danegeld, being twelve pence on every hide of land throughout England. A tax which was severely burthensome to the nation, even after the Danes had quitted England, and was so fatal a precedent to the succeeding monarchs, that it may be said to be felt by the English even at this time. The Danes, satisfied with this, ceased their ravages, and most of them returned home. Many, however, staid behind, and lived among the English; who, dispirited by their past calamities, were fearful of giving the least umbrage, which might cause a renewal of the war, which made them exceedingly insolent. They abounded in wealth and ease, whilst the miserable English were forced to labour and toil incessantly, to satisfy the avarice of their new masters. The burthen of this yoke was so insupportable to the whole kingdom, that it inspired the king with the fatal resolution of destroying the Danes by a general massacre. To execute this project, orders were sent so privately throughout the kingdom, that in one night, November 13, 1002, they were all slain. This expedient, instead of throwing off the yoke, served only to make it more heavy and insupportable. King Sweyn, having received the news of this massacre, swore solemnly he would never rest till he had taken revenge for so bloody an outrage. His next expedition was not undertaken, therefore, with an intent to plunder only, but to destroy the whole country and people in it. This he endeavoured to execute with great cruelty for some years, until a famine, which happened in 1005, obliged him to return to Denmark for want of subsistence. But the very next year, as soon as ever the famine had ceased, he again failed for England, and arrived at Sandwich, and immediately laid waste the neighbouring country. King Ethelred levied an army as soon as possible, in hopes of giving the Danes battle; but they retired to the isle of Thanet, where it was out of the power of his forces to attack them; and winter coming on, the English returned to their homes. Then the Danes, issuing from their retreat, renewed their ravages, well assured they should meet with no opposition; and the king, in order to stop their progress, which threatened the ruin of the whole kingdom, had recourse to that fatal palliative, so much wished for and expected by his enemies, the giving them a sum of money, thirty-six thousand pounds; on which they returned home again. Hardly had a year passed since the above treaty, when the Danes again demanded that sum, pretending it to be a yearly tribute due to them by contract with king Ethelred, and this demand was accompanied with threats of destroying the whole kingdom, if the money was not immediately paid. This the king was obliged to comply with. However, these new pretensions, convincing him, there was no possibility of ever contenting their unsatiable avarice, he determined to equip a fleet capable of defending the kingdom against them. Necessity caused the king's orders to be directly put in practice; and he quickly had ready for service the largest and best fleet England had ever seen, the rendezvous of which was at Sandwich. These measures obliged the Danes, who wished to avoid a sea engagement with the English, to retire, and wait for a more convenient oportunity, which soon after happened; for this great equipment, by the treachery and dissentions among the principal commanders of it, was rendered of no use; part of it was destroyed by pirates; another part of it was lost in a violent tempest; and the remainder, insufficient to cope with the enemy, failed up to London. In the mean time the Danes were preparing to take advantage of these disorders. The next spring (anno 1009) they set sail, in two fleets, for England; one of which arrived in East Anglia, under Turkill, and the other in the isle of Thanet, under Heming and Anlaff; from the former of whom several places in this county still retain the name of Heming's Dane. These leaders joining their forces in Kent, plundered the country, and then laid siege to Canterbury, which would certainly have fallen into their hands if the inhabitants had not purchased a peace with the sum of three thousand pounds. (fn. 7)

Whilst the Danes were pillaging different parts of the country, king Ethelred was drawing an army together, with which he designed to prevent their embarking again, and carrying off their booty; and, in all probability, this would have been attended with the wished-for success, had not the king listened to the treacherous advice of one of his nobles; in compliance of which, he suffered them to march by him with all their plunder unmolested. But instead of sailing for Denmark, as was expected, these robbers threw themselves into the isle of Thanet, where they wintered, and subsisted themselves by the incursions they continually made in the neighbouring country, and on each side of the Thames; they even made several attempts upon the city of London, but without success. In the following spring they refitted their ships in Kent; and after various expeditions into different parts of England, they crossed the Thames in 1010, and marching into the marshes of Kent, burnt and destroyed whatever they met with, according to their usual custom. Shortly after this they extended their conquests over a great part of England. They had subdued Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire, Surry, Suffex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Devonshire, whilst king Ethelred, who had scarce any thing left, kept himself shut up in London, without a possibility of stopping their progress. In all the above-mentioned counties, London and Canterbury were the only places of strength left in the king's power; to the latter the Danes quickly marched, and having besieged it vigorously for twenty days, took it by the treachery of one Elmar. Among the prisoners were Elphege the archbishop, Elfword the king's præfect, Godwine, bishop of Rochester, and Leofruna, abbess of saint Mildred's monastery, in Thanet; besides numbers of religious, both men and women. They then plundered and reduced the city to ashes; and as for the inhabitants they decimated them, destroying nine parts in ten of them, so that only four monks and about eight hundred laymen were left alive. After which they returned to their fleet, which lay in the Thames, at Greenwich; carrying with them the archbishop, whom they afterwards barbarously murdered there.

England being now reduced to this most deplorable state, the king and his nobles found, by experience, that the Danes would not be satisfied, except they had a large sum of money paid them to return home; to this expedient they were forced to submit, and as soon as the Danes had received it they departed with their booty. Though this retreat cost England dear, yet the people thought themselves happy in being once more freed from these dreadful enemies; but they had hardly enjoyed a year's peace, before they received the news of Sweyn's having arrived at Sandwich with a numerous fleet, and a resolution of making a conquest of England; from thence he sailed northwards towards the mouth of the Humber and Trent, threatening the whole kingdom with desolation and ruin. In short, the country being in a defenceless state, he soon made himself master of all the counties lying north of Watling-street; and advancing southwards, on a sudden laid siege to London, where king Ethelred remained shut up; but this unfortunate prince, dreading to fall into the hands of these barbarians, hastily fled with his family into Normandy; upon which the Londoners submitted to the king of Denmark, to whom all the rest of the kingdom was now subject. Presently after he was proclaimed king of England, no one daring to shew the least opposition to it. On king Sweyn's death, which happened within twelve months after this, his son Canute was proclaimed king of England by the Danes; but Ethelred was recalled by the English, who again swore fealty to him, and promised to support him against the Danes, whose government was already become insupportable to them. By their eagerness to flock to him he soon found himself at the head of a considerable army, with which he prepared to march and fight his enemies. But Canute having in the mean time received news from Denmark, that Harold, his younger brother, had seized on that kingdom for himself, was obliged to embark his troops, and set sail thither immediately; but before his departure he set the hostages, which had been given to king Sweyn his father, on shore at Sandwich, having, in a most barbarous and cruel manner, cut off their hands, noses, and ears. Canute, having settled his affairs in Denmark, returned the next year (anno 1015) to England, and arrived at Sandwich with a numerous fleet and army. However, he staid there but a short time; when, failing round Kent to the western parts of the kingdom, he quickly subdued them, and soon saw himself in a condition to complete the conquest of all England. (fn. 8)

In the midst of this scene of misery Ethelred died, in the year 1016, upon which the city of London, and all the lords there, proclaimed his son Edmund, surnamed- Ironside, who had already given signal proofs of his courage and conduct, king of England: but the Danes, and all the counties in their possession, declared for Canute, whereupon, the bishops and nobles of that party, went to Southampton, where they abjured the race of Ethelred, at the same time they chose Canute for their king, and swore feality to him. This occasioned many engagements, which were attended with various success, and served only to prolong the war. London being a great support of king Edmund, the Danish king thought the depriving him of it would, in a great measure, put a speedy end to the war; with this view he approached that city, and forming the siege of it, carried it on vigorously; but the brave resistance of the citizens giving Edmond time to throw in succours, Canute was not only obliged to raise the siege, but to sail down the Thames with his fleet, and thence up the Medway, in order to secure his navy. In the mean time, king Edmund, passing the Thames with his army, marched after Canute through Surry into Kent, and encountered the Danes at Otford, in this county, where he gained a victory over them, and, making a great slaughter, pursued them as far as Aylesford in their rout to the isle of Shepey; and had he not desisted from the pursuit there, by the treacherous advice of his son-in-law, Edric, he would, in all probability, within the compass of that day, have made the victory complete over their whole army. He afterwards passed the Thames into Essex after them, and various battles were fought between them in different parts of England, which in the end produced a treaty, by which they divided the kingdom between them. King Edmund did not long survive this peace; he died in the year 1017, and Canute remained sole monarch of England, and all the lords, both English and Danish, soon swore allegiance to him.

After the death of Canute, and of his son, king Harold, without issue, in the year 1039, his brother Hardicanute, who was then at Bruges, in Flanders, with queen Emma his mother, coming over to England, to claim the crown, arrived with a fleet of forty ships, about Midsummer, at Sandwich, where he landed; and was afterwards received with great demonstrations of joy, both by the English and Danes. He was succeeded by king Edward the Consessor, in whose reign some Danish pirates, in the year 1046, putting to sea with twenty-five ships, arrived unexpectedly at Sandwich, and having plundered the neighbouring country, carried off their booty, not without great slaughter of the inhabitants. Then failing for Essex, they carried away with them grdat numbers of both sexes, and of all conditions; and though the English were at first much terrified, yet the nobles took such vigorous measures, that the Danes hastily retired, and carried their ravages elsewhere. After which, to the time of the Norman conquest, which happened in the year 1066, no transactions of the Danes occur, which have any particular relation to the county of Kent. (fn. 9)


  • 1. Camden, p. ccv. Chorographica Daniæ Descriptio, by J. Isaac Pontanus, p. 639. See Mod. Univ. Hist. vol. xxxii. p. 2. Chron. Sax. an. 832. Camd. p. ccvi.
  • 2. Chron. Sax. Ethelwerd, lib. iii. cap. 2 Flor. Worcest. p. 580. Camd. p. ccvi.
  • 3. Chron. Sax. Ethelwerd. Flor. Worst. p. 582. Asser. an. et. de vit. Alf. Sim. Dunelm. Col. 139. Ingulph. p. 17. W. Malmsb. lib. ii. cap. 3. Rog. Hovenden, p. 417.
  • 4. Asser. et de vit. Alf. W. Malmsb. lib. ii. cap. iv. Sim. Dunelm, Col. 129, and Bromton, Col. 112. Chron. Sax. H. Hunt. lib. v.
  • 5. Chron. Sax. Asser. in vit. Alfo. Flor. Worcest. p. 595; S. Dunelm. Col. 151; Hen. Hunt. lib. v. cap. 4. Ethelwerd, lib. iv cap. 2. Bromton, Col. 831 et seq. M. Westm. R. Hoveden, p. 421 et seq.
  • 6. W. Malmsb. lib. ii. cap. 10; Flor. Worcest. p. 608; S. Dunelm. Col. 161; Bromton, Col. 877; R. Hoveden, p. 427; and M. Westm. an. 980; Chron. Sax. Hen. Hunt. lib. v. R. Hoveden, p. 428.
  • 7. Flor. Worcest. p. 611; S. Dunelm. Col. 164; Bromton, Col. 879; M. West, ad an. 1002; H. Hunt. lib. vi. T. Walsingham, p. 427; Alf. Ann. 1002 et seq. Spelm. Gloss. p. 161; R. Hoveden, p. 430.
  • 8. Flor. Worcest. p. 613; H. Hunt. lib. vi. S. Dunelm, Col. 167; Bromton, Ib. R. Hoveden, p. 431; Alf. Ann. W. Malm. lib. ii. cap. 10.
  • 9. Flor. Worcest. p. 616. W. Malmsb. and H. Hunt. S. Dunelm. Col. 171. Bromton, Col. 903. M. Westm. an. 1016.