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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of the Kings of Britain
page 15

Book III.

Chapter 1. Brennius quarrels with Belinus his brother, and in order to make war against him, marries the daughter of the king of the Norwegians.

After this a violent quarrel happened between his two sons Belinus and Brennius, who were both ambitious of succeeding to the kingdom. The dispute was, which of them should have the honour of wearing the crown. After a great many sharp conflicts that passed between them, the friends of both interposed, and brought them to agree on the division of the kingdom on these terms: that Belinus should enjoy the crown of the island, with the dominions of Loegria, Kambria, and Cornwall, because, according to the Trojan constitution, the right of inheritance would come to him as the elder: and Brennius, as being the younger, should be subject to his brother, and have for his share Northumberland, which extended from the river Humber to Caithness. The covenant therefore being confirmed upon these conditions, they ruled the country for five years in peace and justice. But such a state of prosperity could not long stand against the endeavours of faction. For some lying incendiaries gained access to Brennius and addressed him in this manner: “What sluggish spirit has possessed you, that you can bear subjection to Belinus, to whom by parentage and blood you are equal; besides your experience in military affairs, which you have gained in several engagements, when you so often repulsed Cheulphus, general of the Morini, in his invasions of our country, and, drove him out of your kingdom? Be no longer bound by a treaty which is a reproach to you, but marry the daughter of Elsingius, king of the Norwegians, that with his assistance you may recover your lost dignity.” The young man, inflamed with these and the like specious suggestions, hearkened to them, and went to Norway, where he married the king’s daughter, as his flatterers had advised him.

Chapter 2. Brennius’s sea-fight with Guichthlac, king of the Dacians. Guichthlac and Brennius’s wife are driven ashore and taken by Belinus.

In the meantime his brother, informed of this, was violently incensed, that without his leave he had presumed to act thus against him. Whereupon he marched into Northumberland, and possessed himself of that country and the cities in it, which he garrisoned with his own men. Brennius, upon notice given him of what his brother had done, prepared a fleet to return to Britain with a great army of Norwegians. But while he was under sail with a fair wind, he was overtaken by Guichthlac, king of the Dacians, who had pursued him. This prince had been deeply in love with the young lady that Brennius had married, and out of mere grief and vexation for the loss of her, had prepared a fleet to pursue Brennius with all expedition. In the sea-fight that happened on this occasion, he had the fortune to take the very ship in which the lady was, and brought her in among his companions. But during the engagement, contrary winds arose on a sudden, which brought on a storm, and dispersed the ships upon different shores: so that the king of the Dacians being driven up and down, after a course of five days arrived with the lady at Northumberland, under dreadful apprehensions, as not knowing upon what country this unforeseen casualty had thrown him. When this came to be known to the country people, they took them and carried them to Belinus, who was upon the sea-coast, expecting the arrival of his brother. There were with Guichthlac’s ship three others, one of which had belonged to Brennius’s fleet. As soon as they had declared to the king who they were, he was overjoyed at this happy accident, while he was endeavouring to revenge himself on his brother.

Chapter 3. Belinus in a battle routs Brennius, who thereupon flees to Gaul.

A few days after appeared Brennius, with his fleet again got together, and arrived in Albania; and having received information of the capture of his wife and others, and that his brother had seized the kingdom of Northumberland in his absence, he sent his ambassadors to him, to demand the restitution of his wife and kingdom; and if he refused them, to declare that he would destroy the whole island from sea to sea, and kill his brother whenever he could come to an engagement with him. On the other hand, Belinus absolutely refused to comply with his demands, and assembling together the whole power of the island, went into Albania to give him battle. Brennius, upon advice that he had suffered a repulse, and that his brother was upon his march against him, advanced to meet him in a wood called Calaterium, in order to attack him. When they were arrived on the field of battle, each of them divided his men into several bodies, and approaching one another, began the fight. A great part of the day was spent in it, because on both sides the bravest men were engaged; and much blood was shed by reason of the fury with which they encountered each other. So great was the slaughter, that the wounded fell in heaps, like standing corn cut clown by reapers. At last the Britons prevailing, the Norwegians fled with their shattered troops to their ships, but were pursued by Belinus, and killed without mercy.

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