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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 38



own incapacity for government obliged him to do this, for he had learned any thing else rather than state affairs within his cloister. Vortigern became sensible of this, and therefore began to deliberate, with himself what course to take to obtain the crown, of which he had been before extremely ambitious. He saw that now was his proper time to gain his end easily, when the kingdom was wholly intrusted to his management; and Constans, who bore the title of king, was no more than the shadow of one; for he was of a soft temper, a bad judge in matters of right, and not in the least feared, either by his own people, or by the neighbouring states. And as for his two brothers, Uther Pendragon and Aurelius Ambrosius, they were only children in their cradles, and therefore incapable of the government. There was likewise this farther misfortune, that all the older persons of the nobility were dead, so that Vortigern seemed to be the only man surviving, that had craft, policy, and experience in matters of state; and all the rest in a manner children, or raw youths, who only inherited the honours of their parents and relations that had been killed in the former wars. Vortigern, finding a concurrence of so many favourable circumstances, contrived how he might easily and cunningly depose Constans the monk, and immediately establish himself in his place. But in order to do this, he waited until he had first well established his power and interest in several countries. He therefore petitioned to have the king’s treasures, and his fortified cities, in his own custody; pretending there was a rumour, that the neighbouring islanders designed an invasion of the kingdom. This being granted him, he placed his own creatures in those cities, to secure them for himself. Then having formed a scheme how to execute his treasonable designs, he went to the king and represented to him the necessity of augmenting the number of his domestics, that he might more safely oppose the invasion of the enemy. “Have not I left all things to your disposal?” said Constans. “Do what you will as to that, so that they be but faithful to me.” Vortigern replied, “I am informed that the Picts are going to bring the, Dacians and Norwegians in upon us, with a design to give us very great annoyance. I would therefore advise you, and in my opinion it is the best course you can take, that you maintain some Picts in your court, who may do you good service among those of that nation. For if it is true that they are preparing to begin a rebellion, you may employ them as spies upon their countrymen in their plots and stratagems, so as easily to escape them.” This was the dark treason of a secret enemy; for he did not recommend this out of regard to the safety of Constans, but because he knew the Picts to be a giddy people, and, ready for all manner of wickedness; so that, in a fit of drunkenness or passion, they might easily be incensed against the king, and make no scruple to assassinate him. And such an accident, when it should happen, would make an open way for his accession to the throne, which he so often had in view. Hereupon he despatched messengers into Scotland, with an invitation to a hundred Pictish soldiers, whom accordingly he received into the king’s household; and when admitted, he showed them more respect than all the rest of the domestics, by making them several presents, and allowing them a luxurious table, insomuch that they looked upon him as. the king. So great was the regard they had for him, that they made songs of him about the streets, the subject of which was, that Vortigern deserved the government, deserved the sceptre of Britain; but that Constans was unworthy of it. This encouraged Vortigern to show them still more favour, in order the more firmly to engage them in his interest; and when by these practices he had made them entirely his creatures, he took an opportunity, when they were drunk, to tell them, that he was going to retire out of Britain, to see if he could get a better estate; for the small revenue he had then, he said, would not so much as enable him to maintain a retinue of fifty men. Then putting on a look of sadness, he withdrew to his own apartment, and left them drinking in the hall. The Picts at this sight were in inexpressible sorrow, as thinking what he had said was true, and murmuring said one to another, “Why do we suffer this monk to live? Why do not we kill him, that Vortigern may enjoy his crown? Who is so fit to succeed as he? A man so generous to us is worthy to rule, and deserves all the honour and dignity that we can bestow upon him.”

Chapter 8. Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon flee from Vortigern, and go to Lesser Britain.

After this, breaking into Constans’ bed-chamber they fell upon him and killed him, and carried his head to Vortigern. At the sight of it, he put on a mournful countenance, and burst forth into tears, though at the same time he was almost transported with joy. However, he summoned together the citizens of London, (for there the fact was committed) and commanded all the assassins to be bound, and their heads to be cut off for this abominable parricide. In the meantime there were some who had a suspicion, that this piece of villainy was wholly the


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