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actions of his pupil, then King of Norway, sent him, among other presents (mentioned in that Chronicle), a very fine and rich Chess table." Here again we find everything consistent with the ordinary course of events. We have, therefore, no reason to doubt the simple fact, that Chess was known in Scandinavia a century after it appeared in France.
Chess in England.
Passing onwards to the tenth century, we find the earliest allusion to Chess in England. The Saxons most likely received the game from their neighbours the Danes; though there is nothing improbable in their having gained their knowledge of it from France, between the middle of the eighth and tenth centuries. Sir Frederic Madden says:-" Nothing indeed is more probable than the introduction of the game of Chess into England by the Danes, and we cannot refer it to a more suitable period than the reign of Canute himself. The tradition of this game having been brought from the North certainly existed, and is mentioned by Gaimar, who wrote about the year 1150, when speaking of the mission of Edelworth from King Edgar1 to the castle of Earl Orgar, in Devonshire, to verify the reports of his daughter Elstrueth's beauty. When he arrived at the
"Orgar juout à un esches,
Un giu k'il aprist des Daneis ;
Od lui juout Elstruet la bele,
MS. Reg. 13 A. xxi. f. 133, c. 1.
sets, but none of them complete. Now it is most probable that the ruin alluded to was once the castle of a Norwegian chief, in whose festive halls these very Chess-men were moved by brave men, and fair women, nine centuries ago. See Sir Frederic Madden's dissertation-and the Chess-men themselves, now in the British Museum.
1 King Edgar Atheling reigned from A.D. 958, to A.D. 975.
"Orgar was playing at the Chess,
A game he had learnt of the Danes;
A fairer maiden was not under heaven."
Whether we may receive on Gaimar's authority the inference, that Chess was introduced among the Saxons so early as the middle of the tenth century, seems dubious. Strutt,' indeed, Henry, and a few other writers, who thought it easier to make assertions than researches, state in round terms that the Saxons were well acquainted with the game. But the only pas
sage they refer to is the one in the Ramsey Chronicle, hereafter quoted, which does not sufficiently bear them out. Lye may, however, have contributed to their error, in translating" Taft, Ludus latrunculorum," "Tafel stan, Latrunculus," and "Tafl-mon, Latro, sc. ad ludum latrunculorum, a chess-man."
I see no reason to doubt the assertions of Strutt and Henry; on the contrary, I think it very likely that the Saxons were acquainted with Chess more than half a century before the time of King Canute, in consequence of their intercourse both with the Danes and the Franks. To be sure a vast deal of confusion and uncertainty results from the vague manner in which the old chroniclers employ the terms, "Ludus Latrunculorum,' "Tabula," "Tæfl," "Tafl," &c., in all its forms of orthography. We have seen in the versified extract, p. 203, that "Tabula," in that instance, certainly means "Chess," as is easily proved by the lucky occurrence of the word "Rocho" a few lines afterwards. In the above quartain by Gaimar there is no doubt about the game's being Chess; the only question is about the truth of the statement; which can be answered merely by the counter
1 Sports and Pastimes, Pref. p. iv. He speaks more correctly at p. 232.
question, Is it consistent with time, place, and circumstances? If so, we have no more reason to disbelieve it, than we have to withhold our assent regarding any other plain fact mentioned in history.
I consider it therefore as extremely probable that Chess was introduced into England during the reign of Athelstane, between A.D. 925 and A.D. 940. We read in Saxon history that Athelstane "visited Norway in his youth; and that an intercourse of friendship and courtesy is said to have been established between himself and Harald Hårfagra,' at that early period, in virtue of which the latter afterwards sent his son Hakon to be educated at the Anglo Saxon Court, with a present of a magnificent ship. Athelstane gave his pupil in return a sword with a golden hilt and a blade of wonderful temper, which the latter carefully preserved till the day of his death. Hakon afterwards, by the aid of England, succeeded to the Norwegian throne, on which he distinguished himself both as sovereign and legislator.2
We are further told that, "Under Athelstane, the English court was polished to a considerable degree, and became the chosen residence or asylum of several foreign princes. 3 Louis d'Outremer, the French king, took refuge in London before he secured the throne; and even the Celtic princess of Armorica or Brittany, when expelled their states by the Northmen or Normans, fled to the court of Athelstane in preference to all others.
The compiler of the 1st vol. of the "History of England" in "Murray's Family Library," makes Harfagra figure at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, when his age must have been at least 200 years! He, along with many other writers, seems to have confounded Harfagra with Hardrada. proves the accuracy of Sir Frederic Madden's remark-that " have thought it easier to make assertions than researches."
2 In Norwegian history he is styled "Hakon (not Haco,) the Good," and "Athelstein's Fostra," i.e. "Athelstane's charge," or "Alumnus."
3 “Edinburgh Cabinet Library-Scandinavia,” vol. 1, p. 136 ; and “ Knight's Pictorial History of England," vol. 1, p. 169.
He bestowed his sisters in marriage' on the first [continental] sovereigns of those times, and altogether, he enjoyed a degree of respect, and exercised an influence on the general politics of Europe, that were not surpassed by any living sovereign."
Now, when we consider that Chess was known in Scandinavia more than half a century before the time of Athelstane, a period during which the Danes and Saxons were almost intermingled in England, when we take into account Athelstane's residence in Norway before he ascended the Anglo Saxon throne; above all, when we consider the presence of Prince Hakon, and that of the French Louis, at the English Court-and finally the intimate relations of that Court with the various continental powers-when, I say, we consider all these circumstances, it is absolutely impossible for us not to infer that the game of Chess was then introduced into this island.
Sir Frederic Madden states, in p. 280:-"Snorre Sturleson relates an anecdote of King Canute which would prove that monarch to have been a great lover of the game. About the year 1028, whilst engaged in his warfare against the kings of Norway and Sweden, Canute rode over to Roskild, to visit Earl Ulfr, the husband of his sister. An entertainment was prepared for their guest, but the king was out of spirits and did not enjoy it. They attempted to restore his cheerfulness by conversation, but without success. At length, the earl challenged the king to play at Chess, which was accepted, and, the Chess-table being brought, they sat down to their game. After they had played awhile, the king made a false move, in consequence of which Ulfr captured one of his opponent's knights. But the king
1 Otho, the son of Henry, Emperor of Germany, received the hand of one of these noble ladies, and another was married to Louis, Duke of Acquitaine.
would not allow it, and replacing his piece, bade the earl play differently. On this, the earl (who was of a hasty disposition) waxing angry, overturned the Chessboard and left the room. The king called after him, saying: 'Ulfr, thou coward, dost thou thus flee?' The earl returned to the door, and said, 'You would have taken a longer flight in the river Helga, had I not come to your assistance, when the Swedes beat you like a dog-you did not then call me a coward.' He then retired, and some days afterwards was murdered by the king's orders.' This anecdote is corroborated [so far as the Chess is concerned,] by a passage in the anonymous history of the monastery of Ramsey, composed, probably, about the time of Henry I., where we are told, that Bishop Etheric coming one night at a late hour on urgent business to King Canute, found the monarch and his courtiers amusing themselves at the games of dice and Chess."2
Chess in Italy.
I hold it quite probable that the Italians may have acquired their knowledge of Chess immediately before or during the ninth century, in two different ways. First, from the Saracens by way of Sicily and Naples-Second, from the same people by way of Marseilles. That they did receive the game from the Saracens, and not from the Greeks, is quite evident from the names of the Chess pieces. At the same time, we freely admit that there was established at an early period a close inter
Saga af Olafi hinom Helga, capp. 162, 163, tom. ii., p. 275, 276. The sister of this Ulfr was wife to Earl Godwin, and mother of Harold, King of England.
2 "Ipse [Ethericus] quoque mannum, curiam aditurus, ascendens, ipsum que calcaribus urgens, Regem adhuc tesserarum vel scacorum ludo longioris tædia noctis relevantem invenit." Hist. Rames. ap. Gale, vol. 1. p. 442.