Eldred of Workington – an enigma.

norman frenchWho was Eldred of Workington?

Ivo de Taillebois was succeeded by Eldred or Aelfred of Workington. He’s one of those people in history who remain elusive. We’re not sure who he was – or even what his first name might have been- or who he married. We do know that he had a son called Ketel Fitzeldred who went on to inherit the estates in and around Kendal.

Eldred is not a Norman name – its Saxon. This raises some interesting questions as to how he assumed Ivo de Taillebois’s lands.

It is possible that he might have been Ivo de Tailbois’s son by his first marriage to Elgiva, daughter of Ethelred (of Unready fame). He certainly wasn’t a young man if this was the case because she fled to Normandy during the reign of Canute. Further more, there is some dispute as to who his mother was and even whether he was Ivo’s son.

It is plausible that Eldred took on the Taillebois name because he gained lands previously associated with Ivo.  This is the most straight forward of the suggestions but is, as these things tend to be, complicated by the consideration that his title was cemented through his marriage to one of Ivo’s daughters – possibly Beatrice according to some secondary sources. However, we know that Beatrice married Ribald who was the brother of Alan the Red of Richmond.  History also tells us that Ribald eventually took himself off to St Mary’s Abbey in York following the death of Beatrice – which rather puts a crimp in the plausibility of the argument that Eldred married Beatrice; so another daughter perhaps?


The fact is that studying Eldred is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without a picture and without all the pieces.  One piece of the jigsaw that we do have come from the records of Cockersand Abbey near Lancaster  which identifies Eldred as Ivo’s son. But which is it? Son or son-in-law? Is it even the same person?  Yes, definitely a case of ever decreasing circles…and potential fuel for the historical novelist.

Eldred (whoever he was) is  a reminder that the Normans, Saxons and Norse peoples intermarried both before the Norman Conquest and after. There is also the intriguing possibility – yes, there’s that word again- that he was neither son nor son-in-law but simply a Saxon who’d accepted the Norman invaders and had been given the lands around Kendal when Ivo popped his clogs in the hope that a local might be able to rule the troublesome northerners of the region on behalf of his Norman overlords….three intriguing options: all offering a degree of plausibility and none of them having sufficient evidence to answer the question.

One thought on “Eldred of Workington – an enigma.

  1. Alfred was one of the more popular names among Bretons. The Duke of Brittany in 1086, Alan IV “Fergant” (“Iron-Glove”) (then likely aged 23), was a descendant of Alfred the Great by a complicated sequence of male and female lines that passed (in ascent) through Blois, Burgundy, Germany and what-have-you.

    Fergant’s (closer than) first cousin Count Alan Rufus’s matrilineal descent is clear (thanks to 11th century Angevin genealogies) back to his great-grandmother Melisinde (Millicent) of Maine, who was probably a daughter of Hugh II, Count of Maine. (Incidentally, the wife of his son Hugh III of Maine was, according to Keats-Rohan, probably a sister of Alan’s grandfather Duke Geoffrey I of Brittany.)

    The two generations of mothers before Melisinde are debatable, but some modern guesstimate genealogies postulate that the female line before her derived from Wessex, specifically Eadgifu of Wessex, daughter of Edward the Elder (who was famous to the Bretons as the English King who aided them to recover Brittany from the Vikings in AD 936), son of King Alfred. Eadgifu of Wessex’s matriline ascends to a succession of Queens of Mercia.

    Bretons were known (William of Poitiers, whose writing reflected all sorts of unpleasant medieval Norman prejudices, would have said they were notorious) for the high regard in which their women were held. So, it’s plausible that some at least of the Breton notables were quite fond of English history for very deep-rooted personal reasons.

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