Edith/Matilda of Scotland

Edith or Matilda of Scotland was the wife of Henry I.  The couple had four children but only two survived to adulthood – Matilda and William. It was the death of William that ultimately plunged England into a lengthy and rather bloody civil war.

Edith was born circa 1080 in Dunfermline to Malcolm III and Margaret , grand-daughter of King Edmund Ironside and great niece of Edward the Confessor .  Somewhat confusingly since Margaret fled England along with her family at the time of the Norman Conquest it turns out that Edith’s godfather was Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror.  William’s queen, Matilda of Flanders was also present at Edith’s baptism  as godmother. It’s recorded that little Edith pulled at the royal headdress – this was later seen as a sign that Edith would herself be queen one day. Tyler identifies the fact that Edith’s name identifies her Saxon royal heritage whilst the choice of godparents reflects the political capital of the infant.

When she was about six Edith was sent to England to be educated by the nuns of Romsey Abbey in Wiltshire.  The Royal House of Wessex had a tradition of association with the abbey and Edith’s aunt Christina was the abbess there. She had left Scotland in 1086 to become a nun. Edith’s older sister Mary went with her. As well as spending time in Romsey the girls also spent time at Wilton Abbey – again there was a royal connection to the House of Wessex – Edward the Confessor’s wife Edith Godwinson was associated with the nunnery and had retired there after the Conquest. Wilton was regarded as a centre for female learning as well as a centre of spirituality.  The nunnery had a nail from the True Cross, bits of the Venerable Bede and St Edith.

The choice of these nunneries perhaps reflects the political heritage of Edith of Dunfermline.  The Normans weren’t necessarily secure on the throne and by maintaining their royal behaviours Malcolm III and his wife were leaving a path open to reclaiming the crown as well as arranging good marriages for their daughters.

Unsurprisingly Edith had lots of prospective suitors including the 2ndearl of Surrey (de Warenne) and Alan Rufus the Lord of Richmond.  It is also suggested that William Rufus might have been a candidate for Edith’s hand – it is perhaps one reason why Edith was required to wear a religious habit during her childhood.

Edith’s settled life came to an end on November 13 1093 when her father and one of her brothers was killed at the Battle of Alnwick.  Her mother died on the 16thNovember at Dunfermline where she is buried. Aside from a controversy about whether she was a nun or not History does not know where Edith was between 1093 and 1100.

At some point in 1093 Edith left Wilton and was ordered back there by Anselm the Bishop of Canterbury. He believed that she had taken holy orders – that she was in fact a nun. In 1100 Edith was called upon to testify before a council of bishops that although she had been educated at Romsey and Wilton that she had not taken any vows.  She stated that Christina had required her to wear a habit to protect her from unwanted attention from Norman lords.  Edith does not appear to have had a good relationship with Christina – she stated that her aunt would often give her a sound slapping and “horrible scolding.” She further added that when she was out of her aunt’s sight she tore off the monastic veil that her aunt made her wear and trampled it in the dust.

In addition to Edith’s testimony there was also the fact that Archbishop Lanfranc had ruled that Saxon women who went into hiding in nunneries in the aftermath of the Conquest could not be deemed as having taken monastic vows when they emerged from their hiding places.  Although Edith clearly hadn’t gone into hiding due to ravaging Normans, Christina’s dressing of the girl in a monastic habit was seen as having stemmed from the same root. William of Malmsebury notes that Christina grew old and died at Romsey so perhaps the move to Wilton was partially to get away from an unloved relation – but that is entirely speculation.  

On one hand its evident that Edith/Matilda’s bloodline was ample reason for Henry I to marry her but William of Malmsebury states that Henry loved his new bride.  Henry I and Edith married on November 11thin Westminster Abbey. Anselm performed the marriage but before doing so told the entire congregation about Edith potentially being a nun and asked for any objections.  The congregation- possibly knowing what was good for it- cried out in Edith’s favour.  Afterwards she took the name Matilda – not that it stopped Henry I’s lords mocking him by calling him Godrick and his queen Godiva because of the return to Saxon customs that Henry instituted.  

And for anyone doubting whether Edith/Matilda was legally able to marry, the fact that a healthy baby daughter, the future Empress Matilda, was born in February 1102 followed by a boy called William in September 1103 put an end to those niggling concerns that Henry might have married a nun – would God have blessed a marriage if it was invalid?

Honeycutt, Lois L. (2005) Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship

“Edith Becomes Matilda.” England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Patronage, C.1000–C.1150, by ELIZABETH M. TYLER, University of Toronto Press, Toronto; Buffalo; London, 2017, pp. 302–353. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1whm96v.14. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

Early sources on the death of William Rufus

William Rufus pictured in the Stowe Manuscript

I’ve stated before that we all like a good conspiracy theory – and why not- sometimes though the theory grows with the retelling.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle  which is one of the earliest accounts of William’s untimely demise is terse. “In the morning after Lammas King William when hunting was shot by an arrow by one of his own men.” Similarly Eadmer, who is St Anselm’s first biographer, states that when the news that William had been killed arrived at the monastery where Anselm was staying that Anselm sobbed for the soul of the king and wished that he had died – the inference being that Anselm had a better chance of Heaven than the “Red King” who was definitely not on the list of the Church’s ten most saintly people. There was however, no suggestion, that he had been murdered.

If anything the accounts that followed wished to create a moral story. Peter of Blois’s account saw the Devil make an appearance whilst William of Malmesbury mentions dreams amongst other portents. In both cases there is no suggestion that William’s death is anything other than a hunting accident. Orderic Vitalis discusses other royal hunting accidents.

Matthew Paris has the arrow that killed William ricocheting off a tree where as earlier accounts have Walter Tirel taking a shot at a second deer but having the sun in his eyes. A later account, 1889, includes the sound of argument and broken bow strings. The broken bow string belonged to Prince Henry and that can be found in Wace’s account of William’s death. Wace was born about 1110 and he wrote his La Roman de Rou in about 1160.

It should probably be noted that William’s likely killer, Walter Tirel, was a patron of the Benedictines. He had links with Bec and let’s face it there’s the additional problem of Henry I’s undignified rush for the treasury in Winchester and the Crown of England. It is very easy to see henry making a bid for the crown, especially as his and William’s elder brother Robert Curthose was on his way back from the First Crusade with a wealthy bride – were she to have children then Henry’s claim would dwindle. Alternatively if you were a Norman prince you probably had to cease opportunities when they came up in order to gain the power you craved.

I have posted elsewhere about the possibility of the Clare family being involved in a conspiracy to finish William and as always there’s more than one argument to be made as well as rather a lot of circumstantial evidence to unpick. It’s certainly provided rather a lot of novelists with material.

The Prince’s Crusade

The image shows the Siege of Antioch: (Image: Jean Colombe – Adam Bishop/Public domain) from https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/modern-europe/wars-battles/crusades/first-crusade

Urban II convinced many people to take the cross because he offered a papal indulgence – essentially they would be pardoned for their sins. It was also an opportunity for impoverished knights to achieve some wealth.

The Princes’ Crusade set off between August and October 1096. In total eight “princes” were involved with the official First Crusade -not the Peasants’ Crusade. They were Count Hugh of Vermandois, Count Robert II of Flanders, Duke Godfrey of Bouillion, Prince Bohemund of Taranto, Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, Count Raymond of Toulouse, Count Stephen of Blois and Duke Robert of Normandy. Each of them gathered their nobility together and raised funds for the journey and to pay for their armies.

It is believed that there were 6000 mounted knights and 44,000 foot soldiers though only half of them were fully equipped and trained. Robert Curthose did not lead an army he joined with his nearest relations having taken a leisurely journey, overwintering in Puglia with Count Roger Borsa. On arrival in Constantinople each prince was presented with lavish gifts by Emperor Alexios and in return swore to hand over any land they acquired if it had once been part of the Byzantine Empire.

On 19th June 1097 Nicea fell to the crusaders – in part because the Seljuk Turks underestimated the new armies that had arrived on their doorstep believing them to be as badly trained and armed as the Peasants’ Crusade.

In March 1098 Baldwin of Boulogne and Godfrey of Bouillion took their men in the direction of Edessa which they seized and held.

Meanwhile Antioch was under siege. It was a protracted affair. In January 1098 Bishop Adhemar proclaimed that Antioch had not fallen to the crusaders due to their sinfulness. The army was required to pray and fast, all women had to leave the camp, and riches were donated into a central fund to help the poor.

Stephen of Blois decided to go home and told Alexios not to bother bringing an army to support the remaining crusaders. This meant that when Antioch did eventually fall that Bohemund was able to convince the remaining princes that their oath to the emperor no longer held because he had not fulfilled his side of the bargain.

By the 4th June 1098 the Crusaders, due to a bribe, had taken the city but not the fortified citadel of Antioch and now found themselves facing a relief force that had arrived from Mosul. The Crusaders now found themselves besieged in Antioch whilst the citadel worked with the Moslem general Kerbogha to attack them. Some crusaders deserted the cause, including Bohemond’s brother. The city was already in a poor state so it wasn’t long before the remaining crusaders began to face starvation and death from assorted diseases. There were rumours of cannibalism.

But on the 28th June 1098 the crusader army faced Kerbogha in open battle – some sources suggested that they were outnumbered 4 to 1. The crusaders won the battle and took full possession of both the town and the citadel. The reason behind the victory is usually given that on the 14th June the crusaders discovered the Holy Lance which had pierced Christ’s side. Their faith was reinvigorated because God had shown himself to be on the side of the crusaders- at least that’s what most of the received wisdom on the subject states because that’s what the primary sources indicate. The siege had lasted seven months.

Essentially on the 10th June Peter Bartholomew had a private meeting with Raymond of Toulouse – unusual given that Bartholomew was a peasant. He claimed that he had received a series of dreams featuring St Andrew the Apostle telling him where to find the Holy Lance in the Basilica of St Peter in Antioch. Apparently God had set the spear aside specifically for Raymond. The account of the visions and discovery was written in about 1101 by Raymond of Toulouse’s confessor. Bishop Ademar who was at the initial meeting had his doubts about the whole thing and these are also recorded in the primary source – the cleric wasn’t convinced that St Andrew would have anything to do with a peasant from Provence plus Emperor Alexios had the Holy Lance in his collection of religious artefacts because it had been discovered in the fourth century by St Helena. Either way the Crusaders had a thing about religious artefacts -for instance, Robert of Flanders stole St George’s arm from a monastery en route to the Holy Land. And it wasn’t just relics – angels had started turning up in support of the Crusaders. At the Battle of Dorylaeum Raymond of Aguiliers recorded a shining presence in the crusaders’ midst.

By June 1099 the crusaders were besieging Jerusalem. The siege lasted from the June 7th until July 15th. It began with a barefooted march around Jerusalem’s wall reminiscent of the Biblical Siege of Jericho. Fortunately for the crusaders who were hungry and thirsty supplies were delivered by the Genoese fleet which made harbour in Jaffa. When Jerusalem fell there was a terrible massacre of Moslems and Jews. Whilst post-siege atrocities were the done thing in medieval times the deaths that followed Jerusalem’s fall were seen as excessive even by the standards of the time – first hand accounts describe crusaders up to their ankles in blood.

Following the fall of Jerusalem and later of Acre many crusaders believed that their pilgrimage was over and went home. Those who remained founded the Crusader states or Outremer: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the county of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa. This was clearly contrary to the oath that the princes had taken to the Emperor Alexios (Though Raymond I think had promised only not to harm Alexios rather than giving any oaths pertaining to land). The new Christian kingdoms were vulnerable to attacks by Muslims who aimed to recapture the territory taken in the first crusade. Inevitably it led to more conflict.

And that’s all I plan on posting about the First Crusade for the time being – though I am beginning to think it would make a manageable topic for a day school in Halifax in 2020/21. As always apologies for any spelling mistakes – I have discovered an app that should help but cannot download it onto my computer at present (bah humbug.)

The Peasants’ Crusade

Map showing the People’s Crusade – not sure about language. The People’s Crusade went through the Rhineland, by-passed Bohemia, received permission to travel through Hungary and from there into the Byzantine Empire – (Serbia and Bulgaria – ish!)

As with the previous post this is not an exhaustive piece on the Peasant’s Crusade or the People’s Crusade as it is also known – it’s an introduction.

Pope Urban II preached crusade at the Council of Clermont in November 1095. The idea was that the crusaders would set off the following summer. However, before the various military leaders could get themselves organised an army of about 50,000 peasants marched in the direction of Constantinople.

The peasants were led by Peter the Hermit. He had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but was prevented from entering the city by the Seljuk Turks. It is possible that he was one of the inspirations for Urban II’s sermon but more factually we know that he preached crusade in France and then began gathering his army under the authority of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. His licence to preach included England.

For the people who joined Peter the Hermit there was the religious element of the crusade to consider but also the fact that it enabled peasants to leave the land which many of them were tied to by the feudal structure. However, as the vast majority of them were not wealthy there came the problems of having to take entire families and living off the land.

By spring 1096 Peter was in the Rhineland where preaching crusade led to a massacre of Jews. This killing spread with the crusade. At Mainz the Bishop hid numbers of Jews in his palace but they were still murdered. In part it was religious intolerance – torah scrolls were destroyed. The Jewish population was targeted and murdered. Another element was the opportunity to acquire money and goods.

At Cologne, Peter had to stop to resupply but here, initially at least, the Jewish community was largely saved by their gentile neighbours who hid them in their own homes. Unfortunately the crusaders sought them out when they moved into hiding in nearby villages -and killed them anyway. None of it makes happy reading.

At this time, whilst Peter halted, a party of impatient crusaders led by Walter the Penniless contained on their journey. As this army led journeyed south stealing and living off the land there were confrontations between the crusaders and the local Christian populations.. At Semlin about 4,000 Hungarians were killed and a number of crusaders took refuge in a chapel where they were burned to death. The rest of the crusaders continued on their way setting Belgrade on fire. They were attacked on the way to Sofia resulting in the loss of many of their untrained soldiers. Peter travelling after Walter’s group came to Semlin to find the town wall hung with things taken from Walter’s crusaders.

Peter and his army eventually arrived in Constantinople in July 1096. They were not what the Emperor Alexios wanted not least because he was now expected to care for an untrained army that included impoverished men, women and children – think rabble rather than army. There are questions as to whether Alexios sent Peter and his People’s Crusade off across the Bosphorus without guides in order to get rid of them or whether they continued into Turkish territory despite having been told to wait but that is a matter for debate.

At Dracon, in Turkish held territory Peter and his army were attacked and fought the Battle of Civetot. It was a disaster for the People’s Crusade. Most of them were killed or enslaved.

Duncalf notes that the chroniclers of the period did not write much about the People’s Crusade not least because they did not assist the main or Princes’ Crusade although Peter the Hermit turns up on other occasions in the story of the First Crusade because he joined with the army of Godfrey of Bouillon. There other narrative accounts which are contemporary including that of Anna Komnina the daughter of Emperor Alexios.

I am sorry if there are any really terrible spelling mistakes – this version of WordPress changes spellings to what it thinks they should be, based on the pattern the misspelling makes and I cannot always see where changes have happened even reading the post through before hitting the publish button.

For a more extended account of the People’s Crusade follow this link: https://www.historynet.com/first-crusade-peoples-crusade.htm

Duncalf, Frederic (1921) The American Historical Review, Volume 26, Issue 3, April 1921, Pages 440–453, https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/26.3.440

Kostick, Conor (2008), The Social Structure of the First Crusade. Brill

The First Crusade 1095-1099

Urban preaches

Pope Urban II preached at Clermont-Ferrand in November 1095. As a result of his words somewhere in the region of 100,000 men from all ranks of society took up his call to arms in order to recapture Jerusalem from the Saracens (Seljuk Turks) who since their capture of the city had forbidden Christians from making pilgrimages. In addition to suddenly wanting to make the Holy Land Christian there was also a wave of anti-Semitism across Western Europe.

Usually three political reasons are given for the Crusade:

  1. The Byzantine emperor, Alexios Comnenos, wanted the Franks to help get rid of the Turks who were invading from Asia Minor.
  2. Pope Urban II was not the only pope – there was an alternative in the form of Pope Clement III who was based in Rome whilst Urban held northern Italy and France. By calling for a holy war he was seeking to unite a faction ridden Christian world and take the spot as top Pope. It would become deeply un-Christian for Christian rulers to go to war against one another when they should be killing the infidel.
  3. Faith, land and religious violence go hand in hand at this time. Urban preached Crusade in Spain against the Muslims as well as preaching for the capture of Jerusalem from the Saracens.

But why did so many men take up the call to arms:

i) Urban promised that they would be forgiven their sins.

ii) There was the lure of land and loot.

iii) Adventure.

iv) Deus Vult “God Wills It” – a snappy piece of recruitment either used during the Clermont sermon by a very enthusiastic crowd or by a sharp thinking eleventh century spin doctor shortly after.

In Normandy a period of unrest came to an end – more or less as Urban must have hoped would happen across the Western Christian World. Robert Curthose took the cross having mortgaged his duchy to his brother William Rufus in order to pay for the adventure and set off in the direction of the Holy Land. William waved his brother goodbye and settled down to being regent in Normandy in his brother’s absence.

It had been pretty good timing on Robert’s part given that it would have been deeply unmannerly of William to conquer the duchy whilst Robert was on Crusade. Yet in 1094 William and set his sights on Normandy, come to terms with his brother Henry and taken castle after castle. By the time Robert decided to take the Cross, William already held 20 castle in Normandy. By going when he did Robert deferred defeat.

John of Worcester – writing up the Conquest on the orders of Bishop Wulfstan

A Benedictine scribe – probably Bede illustrated in the Life and Miracles of St Cuthbert.

John of Worcester was a monk, unsurprisingly, from Worcester Abbey. He is usually regarded as the author of Chronicon ex chronicis. This is a world wide history which begins with the Creation and ends 1140 (the reign of King Stephen.)

The Orderic Vitalis – an Anglo-Norman Chronicle of the period contains some notes about John. It states that a native of Worcestershire he entered the abbey as a boy and recorded the reigns of the Conqueror and his sons upto and including Henry I. The monk initially worked on the orders of Bishop Wulfstan who wanted John to continue the chronicles of Marianus Scotus, an Irish monk living in Mainz who died there in 1082. The Orderic describes him as a holy man.

Experts believe that three hands are evident in the chronicles and just to add a degree of complexity there are seven versions of the Chronicle located in different places whose contents are not exactly the same – there is some sense of history being reworked according to circumstance. There are also assorted illustrations. It is John of Worcester’s Chronicle that contains an illustration of the nightmares of Henry I who dreamt that various social orders came to him in his sleep across three nights demanding legal reforms and justice. The third dream contained monks and bishops who weren’t best pleased with Henry’s laissez-faire attitude to Church property.

Bishop Wulfstan on the effigy of King John in Worcester Cathedral

The works of John have been conflated with Florence of Worcester. For many centuries, until very recently, Florence was given credit for John’s Chronicle. Part of the reason for this confusion is that John did not blow his own trumpet unlike some other chroniclers. We have only what the Orderic Vitalis says about him.

Bishop Wulfstan was the last Anglo-Saxon Bishop in post-Conquest England. He died in 1095. Wulfstan was responsible for knocking down the Saxon Cathedral of Worcester and rebuilding in a fashionable Romanesque (Norman) style. Only the crypt remains of his building works.

The monks at Worcester had an interesting relationship with the Godwin family – and are the only chroniclers not to relate Swein Godwin’s misdeeds with relish. By 1055 Wulfstan was acting as prior at Worcester whilst the bishop was on the king’s business. He went on to become Harold Godwinson’s confessor. In 1061 Wulfstan became the abbot of Worcester when his predecessor was promoted to the Bishopric of York.

In 1066 Wulfstan was with Harold when he became king. Harold’s claim to the throne was helped by the fact that Wulfstan had a reputation for holiness. Wulfstan helped to stem the rebellions that sprung up in the north against Harold in the spring of 1066 by stating that it was a sin to rebel against an anointed king.

The Worcester Chronicle recounts Wulfstan being required to surrender his staff of office to William the Conqueror and that he refused saying that he would only surrender it to the king who had made him a bishop. He laid the staff on Edward the Confessor’s tomb in Westminster – where it miraculously became stuck. Only Wulfstan could remove it and so William was forced to recognise Wulfstan as the Bishop of Worcester whether he wanted him or not.

I’ve posted about Wulfstan before when I posted about King John who revered the bishop and used him as an argument for why English kings had the right to appoint bishops and not the pope. The sharp eyed amongst the History Jar readers may also remember that Wild Edric who rebelled against William the Conqueror was Wulfstan’s Steersman – or commander of the warship that the bishop provided for the defence of the realm.

History does not record exactly how Wulfstan felt about his former steersman rebelling against the anointed King William who had disposed of King Harold but we do know from the accounts that there were many refugees from the various rebellions in Worcester; that Wulfstan provided funds for soldiers to defend Worcester and that he campaigned against the practice of selling the landless/dispossed English into slavery. He specifically campaigned against slavery in Bristol which was part of his diocese at the time.

It is from John of Worcester’s chronicle that we know what happened to some of Harold Godwinson’s family in the aftermath of the Conquest. Harold’s son “Ulf” was held hostage by King William and released only when the king died in 1087. History does not tell us what happened to Ulf. He probably went on crusade with William’s eldest son, Robert Curthose. There are records of a visit by Wulfstan to Gunhild, one of Harold’s daughters, in Wilton nunnery. Gunhild ended up married to Alan the Red of Richmond – there is some question as to whether she was a nun or had simply been educated in Wilton and then stayed there to avoid the consequences of the Conquest.

Happily the chronicles have been translated from Latin into English and can be found online here: http://www.bsswebsite.me.uk/History/JohnofWorcester/Chronicle_John2.html

The North 1069- how not to win friends and influence people

Hic-domus-incenditur-Bayeux-Tapestry.jpgNorthumbria was not a peaceful location in 1069.  For a start Edgar the Athling and Gospatric were over the border in Scotland awaiting an opportunity to make William the Conqueror’s life difficult.  Gospatric was descended from Aethelred the Unready and was made Earl of Northumbria by William the Conqueror after a string of earls beginning with Copsi in 1067 were killed.  A large sum of money changed hands for the title but Gospatric rebelled against William in 1068 and was forced into exile.

William the Conqueror decided that it was better to appoint someone who was not homegrown to the job and to this end Robert Cumin or de Comines was now made Earl of Northumbria.  He is thought to have come to England at the time of the Conquest with a party of Flemings but beyond that not much is known about Cumin.  The new earl set off to claim his territory with between 500 and 900 men according to Morris.

Simeon of Durham chronicles the resulting mayhem.  Cumin and his men seem to have been intent on rape, pillage and destruction.  They had under estimated the northerners.

The inhabitants beyond the Tyne prepared to flee  when they heard news of  Cumin’s activities but were prevented by severe snow falls.  At which point they decided that since they couldn’t flee they would kill Cumin.  The Bishop of Durham who hadn’t been above a spot of plotting himself now hurried off and warned Cumin of his intended fate.  It is said that Cumin was warned not to go to Durham but ignored the advice.  Cumin took himself to Durham where his men continued their campaign to win hearts and minds with a spot of looting and murder.

Inevitably the Northumbrians got into the city and  killed Cumin’s men presumably assisted by the disgruntled locals.  Cumin who was staying in the bishop’s house was trapped but well defended by his men.  The Northumbrians dealt with this conundrum by setting the house on fire.  And so ended 31st January 1069 with the death yet another Earl of Northumbria.  The Orderic Vitallis now wrote  that the English “gained confidence in resisting the Normans, whom they saw as oppressors of their friends and allies.”

Once the north had risen in rebellion it wasn’t long before it spread south in the general direction of Yorkshire.  The governor of York castle and his men were put to the sword – presumably they were away from home -and the exiles in the Scottish court now took their opportunity to return.  The sheriff in York managed to get a message to William telling him of the rebellion and stating that unless he received reinforcements he would have to surrender.  The Orderic Vitallis and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle agree that William virtually destroyed York amidst the ensuing slaughter and after that sent men into Northumbria to exact vengeance for the death of Robert Cumin.

Meanwhile many of the magnates who had taken shelter in Scotland had managed to evade capture or death. These earls and powerful men sent envoys to Denmark and King Swein – who saw an opportunity.  The summer of 1069 was not pleasant. A Danish fleet that may have numbered up to 300 vessels arrived in the Humber. William packed his wife off to Normandy and decided what to do next. He ultimately bought off the Danes and set upon the harrying of the North.  Simeon of Durham described people eating cats and dogs.  The Orderic Vitallis  was “moved to pity” the people.

 

Morris, Marc. (2013) The Norman Conquest. London: Windmill Books

Richard Fitz Scrob

1-The-coronation-of-William-the-Conqueror-Westminster-Abbey-as-depicted-by-Matthew-Paris.jpg

William the Conqueror

Scrob is pronounced “Scroob” and this particular Scrob is thought to be an ancestor of the Scrope family who I usually blog about in the context of border wardenry.

Richard was granted lands on the Welsh marches by Edward the Confessor – so he is part of that group of Normans who were established prior to the Conquest.  Historians think that Richard had become part of the Confessor’s friendship network in Normandy and that when he became king in 1042 that Fitz Scrob benefited from lands in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  Study of Richard’s Castle near Ludlow reveals that Fitz Scrob built a simple motte and bailey fortification as early as 1050 making it one of the first castles in the country.  Ultimately a settlement grew around the castle even though the local population were initially recorded as being very alarmed by the new structure in their midst.

Inevitably in the aftermath the Conquest a land hungry border baron with adult sons might have looked to his Anglo-Saxon neighbour with a view to acquiring some of his land.  This appears to be what happened in the case of Fitz Scrob whose land lay alongside that of Eadric (Wild Edric), the nephew of Eadric Streona.  Up until the Conquest Eadric had been one of the wealthiest landowners in Shropshire.  His land was not forfeit after the Conquest because he had not taken part in the Battle of Hastings.  However his lands were gradually confiscated and split up between Norman lords including Richard Fitz Scrob based in Hereford.

Somewhat ironically William the Conqueror had left Earl Edwin of Mercia in charge of the county recognising that the borders were an important area of his new kingdom.  He did not want to antagonise the Saxons who lived there in case they made an alliance with the unconquered Welsh princes. This did not stop Fitz Scrob.

Some books suggest that Fitz Scrob expected reward from the Conqueror for having provided him with information prior to the invasion and that Eadric’s lands were what he had in mind. By 1067 Eadric, refusing to hand over his lands, was in revolt against the Normans.  A raid towards Hereford is recorded that year.  It accords with the period when William returned to Normandy and his regents took the opportunity to enrich themselves in his absence. As the Saxons began to rebel elsewhere in the kingdom the path of Eadric’s campaign has largely been lost.  Edwin, Earl of Mercia also rebelled against William but swiftly made his peace when William returned to England.

In 1069 Eadric made an alliance with the Welsh, besieged Shrewsbury and burned the town. Ultimately William the Conqueror  handed approximately 7/8th of Shropshire over to Norman land holders – after all Eadric had made an oath to him when William became king and even though he had been provoked he had rebelled – William was the tenant-in-chief and following Eadric’s rebellion he simply took the land leaving Eadric with only three manors to support himself and his family. Amongst the men to benefit was  Osbern FitzRichard the son of Richard Fitz Scrob.  History is not entirely certain when Richard Fitz Scrob died but he is last mentioned in the records in 1067.

Fitz Scrob’s descendants eventually married into the Mortimer family who played an important part in later medieval history. Another of them married Rosamund Clifford’s sister.  Rosamund was, of course, the mistress of Henry II.

 

 Augustin, Thierry. (2011) The story of the Conquest of England by the Normans: Its Causes, and Its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

http://www.castlestudiesgroup.org.uk/CSGJournal2016-17X8-Richards%20Castle.pdf

Where is King Harold buried?

king haroldWilliam the Conqueror  did not want Harold’s burial spot to become a shrine for discontented Saxons.  According to some histories Harold’s lover, or hand-fast wife,  Edith Swan neck went onto the battle field and discovered Harold’s horribly mutilated body by markings known only to her.  Meanwhile Harold’s mother Gytha offered William her son’s weight in gold in order to recover the body and give it a Christian burial.  According to William of Jumieges the Conqueror had the body buried under a cairn on the shore.

However, it is usually agreed that the body was either transported in secrecy, that the Conqueror relented or that there was a heart only burial at Waltham Abbey in Essex.   The Abbey was founded by Harold who owned large estates in Waltham.  One of the reasons why he founded the abbey was because he was allegedly cured of paralysis as a child. The Waltham Chronicle goes a step further and has two monks accompany the king to Hastings and take part in the search for the body and the request to William.

In 2014 there was a survey carried out to try and find the body which had been moved to the high altar in the medieval period but during the course of the Reformation the final resting place of the supposed bones of King Harold were lost.

kingharoldsgrave

A more recent supposition is that the body was moved to Bosham Church.  This idea developed in 1954 when during work a Saxon grave was uncovered near the chancel steps close to a grave containing the remains of King Cnut’s daughter – an eight year old who drowned in the nearby river.  These remains had been rediscovered during the Victorian period.  To be buried near the chancel suggests a high rank – there is the small problem that analysis of the bones at the time suggested someone older than Harold but it does remain a possibility.  Bosham fell into the hands of William the Conqueror after 1066.

And just because I can – there’s also the theory that Harold survived Hastings and spent his life on various pilgrimages before going back to Waltham to die.  If that theory takes your fancy then you can read more at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-29612656

The image of the marker comes from http://blueborage.blogspot.com/2016/10/is-king-harold-buried-here-ruins-at.html

The divided North

tostig1-2.jpgNorthumbria, still a large county, has shrunk from it’s earlier dimensions.  It stretched from the Humber into the North covering areas that we would now recognise as Yorkshire and Country Durham as well as modern Northumbria.  The kingdom was divided when the Danes settled in York whilst the rulers of Northumbria governed Northumbria from Bamburgh down to the Tees.

So far so good but in 1016 when Cnut invaded there was a change in rulers and this led to conflict between the Danish earls and the Northumbrians.  In 1041 Siward, a Dane, murdered the Northumbrian Ædulf and being already married to the previous earl of Northumbria’s daughter  settled down to rule the area for himself.  He remained in power by supported Harthacnut and then Edward the Confessor.  In 1055 died having extended his power base into Cumbria.

Unfortunately for Northumbria earldoms were not strictly hereditary so Edward the Confessor felt able to appoint Tostig Godwinson as earl -in 1055.  It didn’t go down well with the locals.  Tostig was not from the north.  The Anglo Saxon Chronicle stated that he “robbed God first” then presumably worked his way around everyone else – calling it taxation.  Nor was Northumbria known for its peace and harmony.  One of the reasons that Tostig may have been appointed was to curb the region’s lawlessness.  It would appear that Tostig became a little over zealous in his endeavours.  He certainly gained a reputation for killing Northumbria’s leading men.

And then there were the Scots.  In the first instance Tostig confounded his nay-sayers by sending them back across the border. Part of the reason that he needed to raise taxes was that the local militia didn’t always respond to his orders so he needed to pay Danish mercenaries to fight the Scots.  In 1061 he and his wife went on a pilgrimage and the Scots took the opportunity to have a rampage.  It was at this time that Cumbria effectively became part of Scotland.  Tostig seems to have taken the news equably.  Unfortunately Gospatric a descendent of the former earls was not amused – by rights he should have been the Earl of Northumbria.  Instead he had been given land in Cumbria and had expected to retain it – Tostig by acquiescing to the new layout had denied Gospatric a power base.  In 1064 Gospatric went and complained to Edward the Confessor – where he was murdered at Christmas…possibly on the orders of Queen Edith.

In March 1065 the bones of St Oswald were dug up and put on display in Durham.  Oswald had been killed by his own treacherous relatives – a mute testimony to the fact that the people of Durham were not pleased.  On Monday 3rd October men loyal to Gospatric marched into York.  It was the start of an anti-Tostig rebellion.  The northerners wanted Morcar to be their earl and made their feelings clear by murdering Tostig’s household whenever they were captured.

Morcar and his brother Edwin the Earl of Mercia had form. The whole family was fiercely anti-Godwinson.  The conflict spread as the rebels marched south to present their case to the king.  The Mercians joined them and they headed for Northampton.  Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, was sent to negotiate.  Tostig complained that Harold was in league with the rebels and that he was conspiring to get rid of him.  It was impossible to raise an army – it was the wrong time of year and besides which the conflict was taking on the overtone of a civil war.  By the 27th October Morcar was recognised as the Earl of Northumbria and the people of Northumbria were once again free from the tax burdens that lay on the shoulders of England’s more southernly inhabitants.

Tostig refused to accept that he was no longer the earl of Northumbria.  In fact he took the news so badly that he was outlawed.  On 1st November Tostig, his wife Judith of Flanders and Tostig’s thegns took themselves off to Flanders where they were welcomed by Count Baldwin.  Tostig blamed Harold for the loss of his earldom and Edward the Confessor grieved that his people would not obey him.

At the beginning of 1066, after Edward’s death, Tostig went to Normandy and offered to help William oust Harold as king but on learning that William’s preparations were not yet at a point where invasion was imminent he persuaded his father-in-law to provide him with a fleet of vessels so that he could raid England – as far as Sandwich in the first instance.  Before turning his attention to Norfolk and Lincoln.

Morcar and Edwin defeated him and he spent the summer of 1066 sulking in Scotland – and no doubt planning his next move in his bid to be revenged upon his brother Harold.

 

Morris, Marc. (2013) The Norman Conquest. London: Windmill Books