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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 84

with Eafa and Eadbert, two leaders of the Mercians, rebelled against Oswy; but at last, by Cadwalla’s command, made peace with him. At length, after forty-eight years were expired, that most noble and potent king of the Britons, Cadwalla, being grown infirm with age and sickness, departed this life upon the fifteenth before the kalends of December. The Britons embalmed his body, and placed it with wonderful art in a brazen statue, which was cast according to the measure of his stature. This statue they set up with complete armour, on an admirable and beautiful brazen horse, over the western gate of London, for a monument of the above-mentioned victory, and for a terror to the Saxons. They also built under it a church in honour of St. Martin, in which divine ceremonies are celebrated for him and the others who departed in the faith.

Chapter 14. Cadwallader succeeds Cadwalla.

He was succeeded in the kingdom by Cadwallader, his son, whom Bede calls the youth Elidwalda. At first he maintained the government with peace and honour; but after twelve years’ enjoyment of the crown, he fell into a fit of sickness, and a civil war broke out among the Britons. His mother was Penda’s sister, by the same father but a different mother, descended from the noble race of the Gewisseans. For Cadwalla, after his reconciliation with her brother, made her the partner of his bed, and had Cadwallader by her.

Chapter 15. The Britons are compelled, by pestilence and famine, to leave Britain. Cadwallader’s lamentation.

During his sickness, the Britons, (as we said before,) quarrelling among themselves, made a wicked destruction of a rich country; and this again was attended with another misfortune. For this besotted people was punished with a grievous and memorable famine; so that every province was destitute of all sustenance, except what could be taken in hunting. After the famine followed a terrible pestilence, which in a short time destroyed such multitudes of people, that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead. Those of them that remained, flying their country in whole troops together, went to the countries beyond the sea, and while they were under sail, they with a mournful howling voice sang, “Thou hast given us, O God, like sheep appointed for meat, and hast scattered us among the heathen.” Also Cadwallader himself, in his voyage, with his miserable fleet to Armorica, made this addition to the lamentation, “Woe to us sinners, for our grievous impieties, wherewith we have not ceased to provoke God, while we had space for repentance. Therefore the revenge of his power lies heavy upon us, and drives us out of our native soil, which neither the Romans of old, nor the Scots or Picts afterwards, nor yet the treacherous Saxons with all their craft, were able to do. But in vain have we recovered our country so often from them; since it was not the will of God that we should perpetually hold the government of it. He who is the true Judge, when he saw we were by no means to be reclaimed from our wickedness, and that no human power could expel our race, was willing to chastise our folly himself; and has turned his anger against us, by which we are driven out in crowds from our native country. Return, therefore, ye Romans; return, Scots and Picts; return, Ambrons and Saxons: behold, Britain lies open to you, being by the wrath of God made desolate, which you were never able to do. It is not your valour that expels us; but the power of the supreme King, whom we have never ceased to provoke.”

Chapter 16. Cadwallader with his people goes to Alan. The Saxons seize all Britain.

With these dolorous complaints he arrived at the Armorican coast, and went with his whole company to king Alan, the nephew of Salomon by whom he was honourably received. So that Britain, being now destitute of its ancient inhabitants, excepting a few in Wales that escaped the general mortality, became a frightful place even to the Britons themselves for eleven years after. Neither was it at the same time more favourable to the Saxons, who died in it without intermission. Notwithstanding the remainder of them, after this raging plague was ceased, according to their old custom sent word over to their countrymen, that the island of Britain was now freed of its native inhabitants, and lay open to them, if they would come over and inhabit it. As soon as they had received this information, that odious people, gathering together an innumerable multitude of men and women, arrived in Northumberland, and inhabited the provinces that lay desolate from Albania to Cornwall. For there was now nobody to hinder them, excepting the poor remains of the Britons, who continued together. in the thickets of the woods in Wales. From that time the power of the Britons ceased in the island, and the Angles began their reign.

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