History of the Kings of Britain: Historia Regum Britanniae By Geoffrey of Monmouth Book XI

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Hereof, verily, most noble Earl, will Geoffrey of Monmouth say nought. Natheless, according as he hath found it in the British discourse aforementioned, and hath heard from Walter of Oxford, a man of passing deep lore in many histories, in his own mean style will he briefly treat of the battles which that renowned King upon his return to Britain after this victory did fight with his nephew. So soon therefore as the infamy of the aforesaid crime did reach his ears, he forthwith deferred the expedition he had emprised against Leo, the King of the Romans, and sending Hoel, Duke of the Armoricans, with the Gaulish army to restore peace in those parts, he straightway hastened back to Britain with none save the island Kings and their armies. Now, that most detestable traitor Mordred had despatched Cheldric, the Duke of the Saxons, into Germany, there to enlist any soever that would join him, and hurry back again with them, such as they might be, the quickest sail he could make. He pledged himself, moreover, by covenant to give him that part of the island which stretcheth from the river Humber as far as Scotland, and whatsoever Horsus and Hengist had possessed in Kent in the time of Vortigern. Cheldric, accordingly, obeying his injunctions, had landed with eight hundred ships full of armed Paynims, and doing homage unto this traitor did acknowledge him as his liege lord and king. He had likewise gathered into his company the Scots, Picts and Irish, and whomsoever else he knew bare hatred unto his uncle. All told, they numbered some eight hundred thousand Paynims and Christians, and in their company and relying on their assistance he came to meet Arthur on his arrival at Richborough haven, and in the battle that ensued did inflict sore slaughter on his men when they were landed. For upon that day fell Angusel, King of Albany, and Gawain, the King’s nephew, along with numberless other. Eventus, son of Urian his brother, succeeded Angusel in the kingdom, and did afterward win great renown for his prowesses in those wars. At last, when with sore travail they had gained possession of the coast, they revenged them on Mordred for this slaughter, and drove him fleeing before them. For inured to arms as they had been in so many battles, they disposed their companies right skilfully, distributing horse and foot in parties, in such wise that in the fight itself, when the infantry were engaged in the attack or defence, the horse charging slantwise at full speed would strain every endeavour to break the enemies’ ranks and compel them to take to flight. Howbeit, the Perjurer again collected his men together from all parts, and on the night following marched into Winchester. When this was reported unto Queen Guenevere, she was forthwith smitten with despair and fled from York unto Caerleon, where she purposed thenceforth to lead a chaste life amongst the nuns, and did take the veil of their order in the church of Julius the Martyr.




But Arthur, burning with yet hotter wrath for the loss of so many hundred comrades-in-arms, after first giving Christian burial to the slain, upon the third day marched upon that city and beleaguered the miscreant that had ensconced him therein. Natheless, he was not minded to renounce his design, but encouraging his adherents by all the devices he could, marched forth with his troops -and arrayed them to meet his uncle. At the first onset was exceeding great slaughter on either side, the which at last waxed heavier upon his side and compelled him to quit the field with shame. Then, little caring what burial were given unto his slain, ‘borne by the swift-oared ferryman of flight,’ he started in all haste on his march toward Cornwall. Arthur, torn by inward anxiety for that he had so often escaped him, pursued him into that country as far as the river Camel, where Mordred was awaiting his arrival. For Mordred, being, as he was, of all men the boldest and ever the swiftest to begin the attack, straightway marshalled his men in companies, preferring rather to conquer or to die than to be any longer continually on the flight in this wise. There still remained unto him out of the number of allies I have mentioned sixty thousand men, and these he divided into three battalions, in each of which were six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men-at-arms. Besides these, he made out of the rest that were over a single battalion, and appointing captains to each of the others, took command of this himself. When these were all posted in position, he spake words of encouragement unto each in turn, promising them the lands and goods of their adversaries in case they fought out the battle to a victory. Arthur also marshalled his army over against them, which he divided into nine battalions of infantry formed in square with a right and left wing, and having appointed captains to each, exhorted them to make an end utterly of these perjurers and thieves, who, brought from foreign lands into the island at the bidding of a traitor, were minded to reave them of their holdings and their honours. He told them, moreover, that these motley barbarians from divers kingdoms were a pack of raw recruits that knew nought of the usages of war, and were in no wise able to make stand against valiant men like themselves, seasoned in so many battles, if they fell upon them hardily and fought like men. And whilst the twain were still exhorting their men on the one side and the other, the battalions made a sudden rush each at other and began the battle, struggling as if to try which should deal their blows the quicker. Straight, such havoc is wrought upon both sides, such groaning is there of the dying, such fury in the onset, as it would be grievous and burdensome to describe. Everywhere are wounders and wounded, slayers and slain. And after much of the day had been spent on this wise, Arthur at last, with one battalion wherein were six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, made a charge upon the company wherein he knew Mordred to be, and hewing a path with their swords, cut clean through it and inflicted a most grievous slaughter. For therein fell that accursed traitor and many thousands along with him. Natheless not for the loss of him did his troops take to flight, but rallying together from all parts of the field, struggle to stand their ground with the best hardihood they might. Right passing deadly is the strife betwixt the foes, for well-nigh all the captains that were in command on both sides rushed into the press with their companies and fell. On Mordred’s side fell Cheldric, Elaf, Egbricht, Bunignus, that were Saxons, Gillapatric, Gillamor, Gislafel, Gillar, Irish. The Scots and Picts, with well-nigh all that they commanded, were cut off to a man. On Arthur’s side, Olbricht, King of Norway, Aschil, King of Denmark, Cador, Limenic, Cassibelaunus, with many thousands of his lieges as well Britons as others that he had brought with him. Even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine, son of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord five hundred and forty-two.




When Constantine was crowned King, the Saxons and the two sons of Mordred raised an insurrection against him; but could nought prevail, and after fighting many battles, the one fled to London and the other to Winchester, and did enter and take possession of those cities. At that time died the holy Daniel, that most devout prelate of the church of Bangor, and Thomas, Bishop of Gloucester, was elected unto the archbishopric of London. At that time also died David, that most holy Archbishop of Caerleon, in the city of Menevia, within his own abbey, which he loved above all the other monasteries of his diocese, for that it was founded by the blessed Patrick who had foretold his nativity. For whilst he was there sojourning for a while with his fellow-brethren he was smitten of a sudden lethargy and died there, being buried in the same church by command of Malgo, King of Venedotia. In his place, Kinoc, priest of the church of Lambadarn, was appointed to the Metropolitan See, and was thus promoted unto the higher dignity.




But Constantine pursued the Saxons and subdued them unto his allegiance; and took the two sons of Mordred. The one youth, who had fled into the church of St. Amphibalus at Winchester, he slew before the altar; but the other, who was in hiding in the monastery of certain brethren in London, he did there find beside the altar and slew by a cruel death. In the third year thereafter he was himself slain by Conan, smitten by God’s judgment, and was buried by the side of Uther Pendragon within the structure of stones set together with marvellous art not far from Salisbury which in the English tongue is called Stonehenge.




Unto him succeeded Aurelius Conan, a youth of wondrous prowess, his nephew, who, as he held the monarchy of the whole island, so might he have been worthy the crown thereof had he not been a lover of civil war. For he raised disturbance against his uncle, who of right ought to have reigned after Constantine, and thrust him into prison, and after slaying both his sons, did himself obtain the kingdom, and died in the second year of his reign.




Unto Conan succeeded Vortipore, against whom the Saxons raised an insurrection, bringing over their fellow-countrymen from Germany in a passing mighty fleet. But he did battle with them and overcame them, and after that he had obtained the monarchy of the whole kingdom did govern the people thereof for four years in diligence and in peace.




Unto him succeeded Malgo, one of the comeliest men in the whole of Britain, the driver-out of many tyrants, redoubted in arms, more bountiful than others and renowned for prowess beyond compare, yet hateful in the sight of God for his secret vices. He obtained the sovereignty of the whole island, and after many exceeding deadly battles did add unto his dominions the six neighbour islands of the Ocean, to wit, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark.




Unto Malgo succeeded Careticus, a lover of civil wars, hateful unto God and unto the Britons. The Saxons, having had experience of his shiftiness, went unto Gormund, King of the Africans, in Ireland, wherein, adventuring thither with a, vast fleet, he had conquered the folk of the country. Thereupon, by the treachery of the Saxons, he sailed across with a hundred and sixty-six thousand Africans into Britain, which in one province the Saxons by perjuring their oath of fealty, and in another the Britons by continually carrying on civil wars amongst themselves, were utterly laying waste. Entering into covenant, therefore, with the Saxons, Gormund made war upon Careticus, and after many battles betwixt them, drove him fleeing from city unto city until he forced him into Cirencester and did there beleaguer him. Here Isembard, nephew of Lewis, King of the Franks, came unto him and entered into a league of friendship with him and forsook his Christianity for his sake upon condition that he would grant him his assistance in seizing the kingdom of Gaul away from his uncle, by whom, as he said, he had been driven forth by violence and wrong. When Gormund at last had taken and burnt the said city, he did battle with Careticus and drove him fleeing beyond the Severn into Wales. Then he desolated the fields, set fire to all the neighbouring cities, nor did he stint his fury until he had burnt up well-nigh the whole face of the country from sea to sea; in such sort that all the colonies were battered to the ground by rams, and all they that dwelt therein along with the priests of the churches delivered up to the flashing of their swords or the crackling of the flames. The residue of them that were slaughtered in these dreadful visitations had no choice but to flee unto whatsoever shelter might seem to promise safety.




Wherefore, O thou neglectful nation, borne down by the weight of thine outrageous iniquities, wherefore, ever thirsting after civil wars, hast thou thus enfeebled thee by these discords within thine own household? Thou that of old didst subdue the kingdoms that lie afar off unto thy might, thou that wast planted a noble vine, wholly a right seed, how art thou now turned into the degenerate plant of a bitter vine, that thus thou canst no longer protect thine own country, thine own wives and children from thine enemies. Yea, onward! On with thine inward discords, little understanding that word of the Gospel, every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate and the house shall fall upon the house! For that thy kingdom hath been divided against itself, for that the rage of civil war and the smoke of envy have darkened thy mind, for that thy pride hath forbidden thee to pay thine allegiance unto one only King, therefore now dost thou behold thy country made desolate by these most sacrilegious heathen and the houses thereof falling upon the houses, that thy children yet unborn shall mourn. For they shall see the whelps of the barbarian lioness lords over their strong places and their cities and over all else that is now their own. Forth of all these shall they be driven, and scarce again if ever shall they recover the glories of their ancient estate!




Howbeit, after that the tyrant of evil omen had laid waste, as hath been said, well-nigh the whole island with his countless thousands of Africans, the more part thereof which was called Loegria did he make over unto the Saxons through whose treachery he had come into the land. The remnant of the Britons did therefore withdraw them into the western parts of the kingdom, Cornwall, to wit, and Wales, from whence they ceased not to harry their enemies with frequent and deadly forays. The three archbishops, to wit, he of Caerleon, Theon of London, and Thadioceus of York, when they beheld all the churches within their obedience destroyed even to the ground, fled away with all the clergy that had survived so dreadful a calamity unto the shelter of the forests of Wales, bearing with them the relics of the saints, fearing lest so many holy bones of such pious men of old might be scattered and lost in the invasion of the barbarians were they to stay and offer themselves to instant martyrdom, thus leaving the relics in such imminent peril. Many of them betook them in a mighty fleet unto Armorican Britain, so that the whole church of the two provinces, Loegria, to wit, and Northumbria, was left desolate of all the convents of religious therein. But of this will I tell the story elsewhere, when I come to translate the Book of their Exile.




Thereafter for many ages did the Britons lose the crown of the kingdom and the sovereignty of the island, nor made they any endeavour to recover their former dignity. On the contrary, they did many a time and oft lay waste that part of the country which did still remain unto them, subject now not unto one king only, but unto three tyrants. But neither did the Saxons as yet obtain the crown of the island, for they also were subject unto three kings, and did at one time send forth their forays against themselves, and at another against the Britons.




In the meantime was Augustine sent by the blessed Pope Gregory into Britain to preach the Word of God unto the English, who, blinded by heathen superstition, had wholly done away with Christianity in that part of the island which they held. Howbeit, in the part belonging to the Britons the Christianity still flourished which had been held there from the days of Pope Eleutherius and had never failed amongst them. But after Augustine came, he found in their province seven bishoprics and an archbishopric provided with most godly prelates besides a number of abbacies wherein the Lord’s flock held right order. Amongst others there was in the city of Bangor a certain most noble church wherein was said to be such a number of monks that when the monastery was divided into seven portions with a prior set over each, not one of them had less than three hundred monks, who did all live by the labour of their own hands. Their abbot was called Dinoot, and was in marvellous wise learned in the liberal arts. He, when Augustine did demand subjection from the British bishops, in order that they might undertake in common the task of preaching the Gospel unto the English people, made answer with divers arguings, that they owed no subjection unto him as of right, nor were they minded to bestow their preaching upon their enemies, seeing that they had an archbishop of their own, and that the nations of the Saxons did persist in withholding their own country from them; whence they did ever hold them in the deepest abhorrence, and reeked nought of their faith and religion, and in nought had more in common with the Saxons than with dogs.




Ethelbert, therefore, King of the men of Kent, when he saw that the Britons did disdain to make subjection unto Augustine, and did despise his preaching, took the same in grievous dudgeon and stirred up Ethelfrid, King of the Northumbrians, and the other Saxon knights to collect a mighty army and go unto the city of Bangor to make away utterly with the Abbot Dinoot and the rest of the clerics that did hold them in scorn. Agreeably therefore unto his counsel, they mustered a marvellous great army, and upon their way unto the province of the Britons came unto Leicester, where Brocmail, Earl of that city, was expecting their arrival. There had come also unto the same city out of the divers provinces of Britain a numberless company of monks and hermits, and more especially from the city of Bangor, to pray for the safety of their people. Thereupon, assembling all his armies from every quarter, Ethelfrid, King of the Northumbrians, gave battle unto Brocmail, who, making such stand as he could against him with a lesser number of soldiers, quitted the city and fled, but not before he had inflicted exceeding great slaughter upon the enemy. But Ethelfrid, after he had taken the city, understanding the reason wherefore the said monks had come unto the city, bade his men first turn their arms against them, and thus upon that very day one thousand two hundred of then, adorned with the palm of martyrdom, did obtain a seat in the kingdom of Heaven. These, when the said tyrant of the Saxons went forward on his march towards the city of Bangor, hearing of his mad outrage, the Dukes of the Britons, to wit, Blederic, Duke of Cornwall, Margadud, King of the South Welsh, and Cadran, King of the North, came from all parts to meet him, and joining battle with him, drove him fleeing wounded before them, but so passing great was the number of his army slain, that it was reckoned not less than about ten thousand and sixty-six had fallen. On the side of the Britons likewise fell Blederic, Duke of Cornwall, who was their commander in those battles.

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