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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 37

since the right your ancestors had to it is now devolved upon you? Prepare then your fleet, and go with me. Behold! I deliver the kingdom of Britain into your hands.” To this Aldroen made answer: “There was a time formerly when I would not have refused to accept of the island of Britain, if it had been offered me; for I do not think there was anywhere a more fruitful country while it enjoyed peace and tranquillity. But now, since the calamities that have befallen it, it is become of less value, and odious both to me and all other princes. But above all things the power of the Romans was so destructive to it, that nobody could enjoy any settled state or authority in it without loss of liberty, and bearing the yoke of slavery under them. And who would not prefer the possession of a lesser country with liberty, to all the riches of that island in servitude? The kingdom that is now under my subjection I enjoy with honour, and without paying homage to any superior; so that I prefer it to all other countries, since I can govern it without being controlled. Nevertheless, out of respect to the right that my ancestors for many generations have had to your islands I deliver to you my brother Constantine with two thousand men, that with the good providence of God, he may free your country from the inroads of barbarians, and obtain the crown for himself. For I have a brother called by that name, who is an expert soldier, and in all other respects an accomplished man. If you please to accept of him, I will not refuse to send him with you, together with the said number of men; for indeed a larger number I do not mention to you, because I am daily threatened with disturbance from the Gauls.” He had scarcely done speaking before the archbishop returned him thanks, and when Constantine was called in, broke out into these expressions of joy: “Christ conquers; Christ commands; Christ reigns: behold the king of desolate Britain! Be Christ only present, and behold our defence, our hope and joy.” In short, the ships being got ready, the men who were chosen out from all parts of the kingdom, were delivered to Guethelin.

Chapter 5. Constantine, being made king of Britain, leaves three sons.

When they had made all necessary preparations, they embarked, and arrived at the port of Totness; and then without delay assembled together the youth that was left in the island, and encountered the enemy; over whom, by the merit of the holy prelate, they obtained the victory. After this the Britons, before dispersed, flocked together from all parts, and in a council held at Silchester, promoted Constantine to the throne, and there performed the ceremony of his coronation. They also married him to a lady, descended from a noble Roman family, whom archbishop Guethelin had educated and by whom the king had afterwards three sons, Constans, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon. Constans, who was the eldest he delivered to the church of Amphibalus in Winchester, that he might there take upon him the monastic order. But the other two, viz. Aurelius and Uther, he committed to the care of Guethelin for their education. At last, after ten years were expired, there came a certain Pict, who had entered in his service, and under pretence of holding some private discourse with him, in a nursery of young trees where nobody was present, stabbed him with a dagger.

Chapter 6. Constans is by Vortigern crowned king of Britain.

Upon the death of Constantine, a dissension arose among the nobility, about a successor to the throne. Some were for setting up Aurelius Ambrosius; others Uther Pendragon; others again some other persons of the royal family. At last, when they could come to no conclusion, Vortigern, consul of the Gewisseans, who was himself very ambitious of the crown, went to Constans the monk, and thus addressed himself to him: “You see your father is dead, and your brothers on account of their age are incapable of the government; neither do I see any of your family besides yourself, whom the people ought to promote to the kingdom. If you will therefore follow my advice, I will, on condition of your increasing my private estate, dispose the people to favour your advancement, and free you from that habit, notwithstanding that it is against the rule of your order.” Constans, overjoyed at the proposal, promised, with an oath, that upon these terms he would grant him whatever he would desire. Then Vortigern took him, and investing him in his regal habiliments, conducted him to London, and made him king, though not with the free consent of the people. Archbishop Guethelin was then dead, nor was there any other that durst perform the ceremony of his unction, on account of his having quitted the monastic order. However, this proved no hindrance to his coronation, for Vortigern himself performed the ceremony instead of a bishop.

Chapter 7. Vortigern treacherously contrives to get king Constans assassinated.

Constans, being thus advanced, committed the whole government of the kingdom to Vortigern, and surrendered himself up so entirely to his counsels, that he did nothing without his order. His

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