Immediately after his coronation, the reckless and ill-advised Edwy had
married Elgiva, [xxiii] in defiance of the ban of the Church, and then
had abandoned himself to the riotous society and foolish counsels of
young nobles vainer than those who cost Rehoboam so large a portion of
his kingdom. Amongst these Elfric was soon conspicuous and soon a
leader. His spirit and physical courage far beyond his years excited
their admiration, and in return they taught him all the mysteries of
evil which were yet unknown to him.
Under such influences both the king and his favourite threw off all
outward semblance even of religion, and only sought the means of
enjoyment. Redwald ministered without reserve or restraint to all their
pleasures, and under his evil influence Edwy even found occasion to rob
and plunder his own grandmother, a venerable Saxon princess, in order
that he might waste the ill-gotten substance in riotous living.
Yet there was a refinement in his vice: he did not care for coarse
sensual indulgence to any great extent; his wickedness was that of a
sensitive cultivated intellect, of a highly-wrought nervous temperament.
Unscrupulous--careless of truth--contemptuous of religion--yet he
had all that attraction in his person which first endeared him to
Elfric, whom he really loved. Alas! his love was deadly as the breath of
the upas tree to his friend and victim. When the first measures of
vengeance were taken against Dunstan, with the concurrence of wicked but
able ministers of state, Redwald was selected as the agent who should
bribe the thanes, and begin the course of conduct which should
eventually lead to the destruction of the enemy of the king.