chapter 4

A brefe rehersall of the first foundacion of the mynstre of Chestre / and of the institucion of secular chanons in the tyme of kyng Edwarde senior.

stanza 89

618 Spirituall ministres were elect also:chosen
Secular chanons, of great humilite, 1
To synge and psalmodise oure sauiour vnto,sing / sing psalms to our saviour
Within the sayd mynstre hauynge a perpetuite;having a permanent (perpetually endowed) office
Prebendes were assigned to that fraternite,Stipends / fraternity
With townes / borowes / and fredomes manifest,boroughs / clear
Continually encreasyng vnto the conquest.increasing / until

stanza 90

625And the olde churche of Peter and of Paule
By a general counsell of the spiritualte clergy, church
With helpe of the duke moost principall 2 most important, chief
Was tranlate to the myddes of the sayd cite;translated, moved / middle
Where a paresshe-churche was edified, truele,parish church / truly
In honour of the aforesayd apostoles twayne ,
Whiche shall for euer by grace diuine remayne.

stanza 91

632Also we may note, holdyng none opinion,trusting no mere opinion, hearsay (i.e. as fact)
This lady Elflede of her charitethrough
Of the sayd mother-churche translate the patron,transferred
Caused the sayd oratorie reconciled to beoratory, place for praying / re-consecrated
In the honour of the most blessed trinite Trinity
And of saynt Oswalde, martyr and kyng,
For the loue she had to hym continuynge. 3

stanza 92

639 The yere of our lorde .ix. hundreth and .viii. 908 C.E.
This noble duchesse with mycle royalte great magnificence
Reedified Chestre / and fortified it full ryght,Rebuilt / very well
Churche / house / and wall, decayed piteousle.piteously
Thus brought vnto ruyne was Chestre cite
First, by Ethelfride, kyng of Northumberlande, 4
And by danes / norwaies, vexyng all Englande. 5 afflicting

stanza 93

646Also she enlarged this sayd old cite
With newe myghty walles stronge all-about,
Almost by proporcion double in quantitein proportion
To the forther byldynge brought without dout;earlier / doubt
She compassed in the castell enemies to hold outenclosed
Within the sayd Walles, to defende the towne
Agaynst danes and walshemen, to dryue them all downe.strike them all down

stanza 94

653After the deth of her husband Ethelrede 6
She ruled the realme of mercelande manfully, 7
Buylded churches / and townes repared in dede,
As Staforde / Warwike / Thomwort / and Shirisbury ;Such as / Warwick / Tamworth / Shrewsbury
Of newe she edified Runcorn and Edisbury.Newly
The body of saynt Oswalde also she translate translated
From Bardeney to Gloucetur , there to be tumulate: 8 Gloucester / entombed

stanza 95

660 Where she edified a noble monastery,
With licence of her brother 9 afore nominate,permission / previously named
In honour of saint Peter / ouer the blessed body
Of the sayd saynt Oswalde / kyng and martyr coronate.crowned
In wiche monastery this lady was tumulate,which / entombed
The yere of our lorde .ix. hundreth and nyntene;919 C.E.
Whom myn auctor prayseth in this wordes serene:these / fair

stanza 95a

666aO Elfleda potens / o terror virgo virorum:
Victrix nature, nomine digna viri.
Te quoque splendidior fecit natura puellam,
Te probitas fecit nomen habere viri.
Te mutare docet sed solum nomina sexus,
Tu regina potens / rexque trophea parans.
Iam nec cesarei tantum meruere triumphi,
Caesare splendidior virgo virago. Vale. 10


Secular canons lived in communities like monks, subject ro regulations, but were also ordained as priests. For a full discussion of the status of canons, see Loyn, 1991, 232-3. Back to context...
That is, Earl Æthelræd. Back to context...
Alan Thacker observes that 'the parish church of St. Oswald, king and martyr, originated in association with the minster church which eventually became the Benedictine Abbey of St. Werburgh. A late tradition [found in Bradshaw] that the cult of St. Oswald was introduced when the minster was re-founded by Æthelflæd of Mercia gains plausibility from the fact that she translated the same saint's remains to Gloucester in 909'. See A.T. Thacker, Medieval Parish Churches, Lewis and Thacker, 2005, 133-155, 149-50, also available via British History Online. Back to context...
See line 504, above. Back to context...
Lines 642-5 look back to the period of ruin and decay before Æthelflæd's intervention and restoration of Chester. See A.T. Thacker, Early Medieval Chester, Lewis and Thacker, 2003, 16-33, 17, also available via British History Online. Back to context...
Æthelræd died in 911. Back to context...
Due to her power and authority, together with her skills as diplomat and military tactician, medieval sources remember Æthelflæd as a woman capable of acting 'manfully'. The twelfth-century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon, for example, remarks that 'This lady is said to have been so powerful that in praise and exaltation of her wonderful gifts, some call her not only lady, or queen, but even king'. See Greenway, 1996, 309 and below, lines 666a-h. Back to context...
See line 637, and note, above. Back to context...
The brother of Æthelflæd was Edward the Elder, son of King Alfred (ruled 899-924). See PASE. Back to context...
Bradshaw derives this verse epitaph from Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum (Greenway, 1996, 308, 309). The epitaph is discussed in (Hessler, 1923, available via JSTOR (subscription only). Diana Greenway presents the verse and its translation as follows: O Eilfleda potens, O terror uirgo uirorum, Victrix nature, nomine digna uiri. Te, quo splendidior fieres, natura puellam, Te probitas fecit nomen habere uiri. Te mutare decet, sed solam, nomina sexus, Tu regina potens rexque trophea parans. Iam nec Cesarei tantum meruere triumphi, Cesare splendidior, uirgo uirago uale. O mighty Athelflaed! O virgin, the dread of men, conqueror of nature, worthy of a man's name! Nature made you a girl, so you would be more illustrious; your prowess made you acquire the name of man. For you alone it is right to change the name of your sex: you were a mighty queen and a king who won victories. Even Caesar's triumphs did not bring such great rewards. Virgin heroine, more illustrious than Caesar, farewell. Back to context...