Rapin’s History of England – Book 4

Rapin’s History of England – Book 4
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ORIGIN OF THE DANES.—THEIR CONTINUAL IRRUPTIONS, FROM THE REIGN OF EGBERT TO EDWARD THE MARTYR. —ACCOUNT OF THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS INTRODUCED BY ALFRED THE GREAT, WHICH ARE THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT LAWS OF ENGLAND—STATE OF THE CHURCH AND RELIGION, FROM EGBERT TO EDWARD THE MARTYR INCLUSIVE.

Origin of The Danes

ENGLAND, now grown more powerful by the union of the seven kingdoms, seemed to be better secured than ever from foreign invasions. Yet, shortly after this union it was, that the Danes commenced their descents with fury, equal to that wherewith the English themselves had formerly attacked the Britons. For above two hundred years these new enemies were so obstinately bent upon the ruin of the island, that it can­not be conceived either how their country could supply them with troops sufficient for so long and bloody a war, or how the English could hold out against so many rei­terated attacks. Before we enter upon particulars, how­ever, it will be necessary to premise some account of these Danes, who in the IXth century became so formidable to all Europe, and especially to England.

Scandia, or Scandinavia[1] situated in the north of Eu­rope, contains a tract of land in length from north to south about four hundred leagues, and in breadth from east to west about one hundred and fifty. According to tradition, this country was peopled soon after the flood, by two nations, or rather two branches of the same nation, the Goths and Swedes, who founded two large kingdoms in this part of the world. From these two nations, who were sometimes united and sometimes divided, sprang, as they say, all those colonies, which after the decline of the Roman empire, over ran the rest of Europe.

In the reign of Eric the sixth king of the Goths[2], Gothland had become so exceedingly populous, that the country was unable to maintain its inhabitants. To remedy this inconvenience, which daily increased, Eric was compelled to send away part of his subjects to seek their fortune in the neighbouring isles. These colonies at length not only peopled the island, but also Jutland on the Continent, formerly known by the name of Cimbrica Chersonesus. The people thus spread over the isles and the Chersonese, acknowledged above seven hundred years the kings of Gothland for their sovereigns. Humel, the sixteenth king of the Goths, first made them independent, by letting them have for their king Dan[3] his son, from whom Denmark received its name. Norway also very probably was peopled by Gothic colonies, since it remained a long while under the dominion of the kings of Gothland. In process of time, and after many revolutions, Norway was governed by judges indepen­dent of Gothland, till about the end of the IXth century, when it became subject to a king.