Æthelwerd's Account of the Last Years of King Alfred's Reign

F. M. STENTON
1909 English Historical Review  
THE account which ^Ethelwerd gives of the last eight years of Alfred's reign is largely independent of any version of the Old-English Chronicle which has come down to us. It is not necessary here to enter into the question whether the additional information supplied by iEthelwerd is based upon a lost chronicle or upon tradition; the object of this paper is merely to examine these additions in their bearing upon the confused chronology of the last years of the ninth century, and as a supplement
more » ... nd as a supplement to the contemporary authorities for the history of this time. The one fixed point in the chronology of this period is supplied by the battle of the Dyle, which was fought on 1 November 891.' This event is recorded by iEthelwerd, who tells us that a year after the battle the enemy entered the river Limene and took winter quarters at Appledore, and that the occupation of Milton by Hsesten took place 'in the course of this year.' 3 We are thus brought to the close of 892, which agrees with the statement of ^Ethelwerd at this point that nine hundred years, less seven, had elapsed since the Nativity. 5 The complicated series of military operations which 1 Dummler, Oeschichie (Us ostfrtLnkischtn Beiclies, vol. ii. p. 348. 1 ' In huitis anni scilicet decursu.' Professor Wilbur C. Abbott, in his article on Hasting, ante, vol. xiii. p. 461 i., assigns the coming of the latter to 893, probably in reliance on the uncorrected date in MS. A. of the Chronicle. The event is placed correctly under 892 by MS. E. * The express statement that the reckoning here is made from the Nativity presents some difficulty. The events which have just been recorded belong, without doubt, to the winter of 892-898, but jEthelwerd's computation would naturally be taken to refer to the close of the latter year. It deserves note that in the Parker MS. of the Old-English Chronicle the fortification of Milton, and Appledore is assigned to 893 instead of 892 ; but this results from the insertion of a separate annal to record the comet of 892, thus throwing all subsequent events one year later than their real dates. It does not appear that this confusion existed in the version of the Chronicle followed byjEthelwerd. It seems, on the whole, more probable that the insertion in the above passage of a statement implying the close of 893 is due to jEthelwerd's dependence upon a chronicle which began the year with the Annunciation preceding Christmas. An original writer towards the close of the tenth century would naturally adopt the stylus Piianus in making his chronological indications; and there is some evidence to suggest at Stockholms Universitet on July 10, 2015 http://ehr.oxfordjournals.org/ Downloaded from
doi:10.1093/ehr/xxiv.xciii.79 fatcat:ekcwmptmrnhzjpvctoyivygjay