CONTAINING THE REIGNS OF THE KINGS OF ENGLAND, FROM ETHELRED II TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST, A PERIOD OF ABOUT EIGHTY-EIGHT YEARS.
AFTER the murder of Edward, there was not the least pretence to refuse the crown to his brother Ethelred, who was the only prince of the royal family, and too young to be accused of partaking in his mother’s crime. Accordingly, Dunstan could not help crowning him, being then but twelve years of age, though he plainly foresaw it would prove fatal to his whole party.
It is affirmed, that Dunstan at his coronation foretold, by the spirit of prophecy, the calamities which England would be exposed to in his reign. But predictions of this nature are always to be suspected, when attributed to saints, such as Dunstan, by authors who wrote after the event. The people, however, flattered themselves, they were about to enjoy a state of tranquillity, under a prince who had already given an instance of his good nature, in bitterly lamenting the death of the king his brother, though it procured him the crown. His tears, we are told, appeared so unseasonable to his mother, that catching up a wax taper in a passion, she beat him so unmercifully with it, that he could not endure the sight of a wax light ever after.
The first thing Ethelred did after his coronation, was to remove the body of the late king to Shaftsbury church. Hardly had he performed this office, but he found himself attacked by the Danes, who suffered him to enjoy no repose during the residue of his life. If this prince had followed the steps of his predecessors, perhaps he would have caused these old invaders to lay aside all thoughts of any new attempts upon England. But his natural cowardice, joined to an extreme sluggishness, an insatiable avarice, and many other failings, soon let them see, he was not likely to prove a very formidable enemy.