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Eadred was sickly, and the government seems to have been wholly in the hands of the queen-mother Eadgifu and Dunstan.They were evidently supported by the East Anglian party, headed by the chief ealdorman, Æthelstan, and later events show that the West-Saxon nobles, who had been in power during the reigns of Æthelstan and Eadmund, must to some extent have been opposed to their government.
After his expulsion from the court he stayed for a time with his kinsman Bishop Ælfheah at Winchester.
Ælfheah tried to persuade him to become a monk, but he was unwilling to pledge himself to celibacy, though there is no reason to believe that he was in love with any young lady in particular (Vita B. A severe illness led him to change his mind, and he made his profession to Ælfheah.
Æthelstan showed him favour, and his companions, and especially his young relations, at the court were jealous of him.
He seems to have been a delicate lad, with highly strung nerves and of morbid constitution; he was much given to dreams, and in some of them he believed that he saw supernatural visions; he had suffered from a severe fever at Glastonbury, and had walked on the roof of the church in his sleep; he was fond of reading and other sedentary occupations that were distasteful to the young nobles, and was evidently unpopular among them.
Jealous of the favour he enjoyed, some of the king's thegns brought accusations against him while the court was at Cheddar, not far from Glastonbury. One day when the king was hunting a stag on the Mendip hills, and had outstripped all his followers, the hunted beast fell over Cheddar cliffs, and the dogs fell over with it.
The king believed them, and in great wrath deprived him of his offices and bade him leave his court and seek a new lord. The king's horse was going at full speed and was beyond control.
From them and from their Irish books Dunstan had his earliest education (Vita B. While quite a child he received the tonsure and served in the church of St. His childhood, however, was not wholly passed at Glastonbury.
As a member of a noble house, the nephew probably of Athelm [q.
They accused him before the king of studying incantations and other heathen arts, and procured his banishment from the court.
As he left they set upon him, bound his hands and feet, threw him into a marshy place, and pushed him well into the mud with their feet.