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.

William Rufus – the red

King William II – a name that we don’t tend to use – it’s usually Rufus. Bynames which described a person’s appearance crop up a lot in medieval history. It was a habit that gradually disappeared from the naming of English monarchs but in continental Europe there were a whole series of Charleses who rejoiced in bynames such as “fat,” “bald,” “simple,” not to mention a number of King Louis who were pious or who stammered.

Eadmer of Canterbury never uses his byname whilst a slightly later writer, William of Malmesbury does call him King William Rufus and spends some time describing him whereas Geoffrey de Gaimar who wrote before 1140 explains that he was called Rufus on account of his hair colouring.

It’s Orderic Vitalis who calls him William Rufus throughout his account and its probably from him that the name has stuck.

William was a third child after Robert and Richard and as as such may well have been intended, initially at least, for the church. If this was indeed the case he may have been more literate than historians give him credit for. Usually Henry II is identified as the first post-Conquest literate King of England. Essentially if you were going to be a knight and land owner you did not need to be able to read and write – someone else could do it for you.

As a third son his birth was not particularly auspicious – so history down not know the date.

We know that part of his education was overseen by Lanfranc of Bec who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He could have been placed in monastic care from the age of five which might go some way towards explaining his antipathy towards the Church.

Richard died and William’s role in life may have been amended to reflect this. As Robert grew to adulthood he rebelled against his father. Again, William’s standing in society would have been affected by this but it is important to note that a boy’s military training began at the age of twelve and young William was noted for his aptitude in warfare in a family and court that trained hard in combat so if he had been destined for the church William changed his plan early on.

Popular quiz knowledge jumps William from his name to his death in the New Forest. For those with a greater knowledge base is the idea that he was a tad on the villainous side – which is impressive given that his father purportedly laid waste to the north and died being haunted due to the atrocities he committed. The idea of the villainous red king comes from the writings of Eadmer of Canterbury who tells the story of St Anselm. If Anselm is the hero of the tale, William Rufus is the villain.

Later writers took up Eadmer’s position, added the views of Henry I’s chroniclers who often denigrated William to “big up” Henry and his legal reforms – turning Henry into Beauclerk or the Lion of Justice whilst William resides in the role of avaricious thwarter of the church with a questionmark about his sexuality. The Anglo -Saxon Chronicle stated that William was “abhorrent to God.”

All of which seems a bit unfair given that William put down his uncle’s rebellion in short order (admittedly he reneged on the promises that he had made to the militia); secured his country’s northern borders and exerted control over his treasury (by failing to appoint bishops and abbots so he could draw the income from the vacant bishoprics and monasteries.) It was Rufus who cemented his father’s conquest of England using techniques familiar to any medieval king worth his salt.

Revisionist historians have argued that actually Henry benefited from his brother’s policies and that William has suffered on account of negative press. It cannot have helped that he alienated the Church and that they were the chroniclers of the period. It’s probably not good press when a saint attacks you for your licentious behaviour!

The Conqueror and the Scots

Most people think that in the aftermath of 1066, having won the Battle of Hastings, that William the Conqueror was able to sit back on his newly acquired throne and twiddle his fingers – after all the story is the Conquest of England and that is usually where the topic stops if you are a school child.

However, William spent the rest of his life dealing with rebellions both in England and in Normandy. His neighbours in Normandy also assumed that if William was in England that the Norman border would make an easy target.

As a result of the various rebellions in England many of the Saxon nobility sought shelter at the Scottish court of Malcolm III. He ended up married to Edgar the Atheling’s sister Margaret in 1071 – who renowned for her piety became St Margaret. Edgar with his family arrived in Scotland in 1068 having previously submitted to William only to join with Gospatrick of Northumbria to rebel against William. According to legend the family was on board a vessel destined for the Continent, remember they were originally from Hungary before being invited by Edward the Confessor to return to England.

So far as Malcolm was concerned his marriage to Margaret gave him a claim to the English throne – stories tend to linger more on the romance of the fleeing princess rather than the potential for a land grab. It was an opportunity for Malcolm to expand his borders southwards during times when William had his hands full elsewhere. He celebrated his marriage by invading various bits of Northumberland and Cumberland. It is probable that he was looking to establish a secure border and annex Cumberland which the Normans had not yet got around to quelling aside from the easily accessible coastal areas.

In 1072 William, having dealt with the revolting Northerners, turned his attention to the Scots. He sent an army across the border as well as a fleet of ships. The Scots and the Normans met at Abernethy in Perthshire. Malcom lost the ensuing battle and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Abernethy. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that Malcolm agreed to become William’s man and his son Duncan was handed over as surety for future good behaviour. Edgar was asked politely to leave Scotland and William gave Malcom lands in Cumberland – but which in reality did not receive the Norman stamp until the reign of William Rufus – and even then in times of trouble the Scots were quick to shift the border south. Just as an aside the Norman habit of giving Scottish nobility land in the north of England as a way of turning them into liege men did ultimately change the Scottish language and the politics of the region.

This all sounds very clear cut but the Normans did not successfully invade Scotland – Scotland remained firmly in the hands of the Scots – albeit a Scottish court which many felt was becoming anglicised by the presence of Margaret, her children by Malcolm and the assorted ragtag of Saxons who had sought shelter across the border.

Throughout this period there were skirmishes and battles across the borders between England and Scotland. In 1079 the treaty had to be re-imposed after a Norman army skirmished across the border in retaliation for Malcolm’s incursions into Northumberland.

The treaty broke down completely in 1093. Malcom was killed at the Battle of Alnwick on the 13th November and Margaret, apparently from grief, died on the 16th November. Malcolm was succeeded by his brother Donald.

Orderic Vitalis

The Venerable Bede – whose work Orderic copied.

Orderic was born in 1075 in Atcham, Shropshire. His father came to England during the Conquest with Roger of Montgomery, the first Earl of Shrewsbury. As a reward Odelerius was given a church – remember there were different degrees of holy orders. Odelerius appears to have been a clerk in holy orders – part of the secular clergy before becoming a priest and then a monk. But in any event he had a family as well as being a priest. Priestly marriages were banned in 1123 by the First Lateran Council- so Orderic was born at a time when there was greater flexibility in the arrangement but wrote at a time when such liaisons were prohibited. Orderic’s mother appears to have been English.

At the age of ten he became an oblate at Saint-Evroul. He tells his readers this in his writings – so not only does he provide us with history but we also have a biography.

As an oblate Orderic was not a professed monk but his life was dedicated to God at this point and his parents paid for the privilege. Not only that but they had given the Church their most precious treasure. (Van Hout suggests that Orderic’s mother may have died soon after the birth of her third child which would explain why Orderic was sent to be educated with monks at the age of five.) It should also be remembered that the Earl of Shrewsbury was the patron of Orderic’s father and at this point he was seeking the favour of Saint-Evroul with many gifts. Orderic did not speak French when his father handed him over to a monk named Reginald. Orderic writes his his father weeping as he delivered him to Reginald and Orderic himself also crying. Odelerius never saw his son again.

In part Odelerius gave his sons to the Church as a penance. He had come to regard himself as deeply sinful. He gave money for the building of St Peter’s Abbey around the church that the Earl of Shrewsbury had given him. He became a monk and his sons Orderic and Benedict were given to the Church only his youngest son remained to the wider world. Van Houts (Rozier: p24) suggests two possible reasons for giving two sons to the Church: i) penance for being a married priest and therefore living in sin (and Orderic’s writing reflects the shame of being the son of such a union.) ii) penance for his part in the Norman Conquest.

By 1107 Orderic was an ordained priest and had been given the name Vitalis by the Benedictine monks who struggled with the Anglo-Saxon name Orderic. Orderic knew the scriptorium well and seems to have been an excellent copyist as more than twenty works have been assigned to his hand including Bede’s.

Orderic’s  career as a chronicler began with a copy of the Gesta Normannorum ducum by Guillaume de Jumièges which he extended.

Orderic travelled but returned to his monastery which was thriving. It was also increasingly wealthy. Not only were men like the Earl of Shrewsbury giving it gifts but men who had spent their lives at war were returning to Normandy to find sanctuary in monastic houses in their later years. No doubt they shared stories as well as paying their way. The house was also a hub for the monastic houses that were being set up in England.

The abbot of Saint Evroul wanted a history of the abbey and so Orderic began to write – what turned out to be a general history. The Historia Ecclesiastica grew out of the information that Orderic heard and unlike other chroniclers of the period Orderic allows the voices of the contributors to be heard – and not always sorted into the right order. William wrote about the Norman Conquest and William the Conqueror as his history progressed from the creation of the world into what were then current affairs. This period is covered in books three to five of his history. Not only does he write about the Norman Conquest of England but the foundation of the Norman kingdom of Sicily. He wasn’t shy about criticising everybody – the Normand for being over greedy and the English for being below par when it came to resisting the Normans.

Orderic finished this history which ran to thirteen books because he said that he was getting old – book six covered the abbey which was the original purpose of his writing. He probably died in 1142 having written a chronicle that covered political history, descriptions of people, customs, traditions and fashion as well as his own story amongst other things.

https://archive.org/details/ecclesiasticalhi03orde/page/n8

(eds) Charles C. Rozier, Daniel Roach, Giles Edward Murray Gasper, Elizabeth van Hout (2016) Orderic Vitalis: Life, Works and Interpretations. Martlesham : The Boydell Press

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

Who was Guy of Ponthieu

Guy_of_PonthieuGuy of Ponthieu captured Harold of Wessex he arrived from England in 1054  and his boat was wrecked off modern day Picardy– whether it was a fishing trip gone wrong or a diplomatic mission to have his brother and nephew released from the custody of Duke William or even on the orders of King Edward.  Guy based the capture on the laws of  Wreck.  Essentially any ship wrecked mariner could find himself sold into slavery, kept imprisoned or ransomed back to his family.  Guy liked, it would seem, to entertain his captives in the interval between capture and release by torturing them.  The Bayeux tapestry suggests that on receiving the news of Harold’s arrival Guy rode in person to view the sailors who had the misfortune to make land fall upon his coast.

BayeuxTapestryScene07

 

William upon hearing the news at Rouen from a messenger ordered Guy to hand the earl over into his custody.  Guy does this because he is a vassal of Normandy – which makes it all sound very straight forward and Guy’s part in the tale very small but as is the way of these things there is a back story.

 

Guy succeeded to the County of Ponthieu after the death of his brother Enguarrand (the second count of that name) who was William, Duke of Normandy’s brother-in-law.  The marriage with Adeliza or Adelaide, Daughter of Duke Richard, was annulled in 1049/50 on the grounds of consanguinity.  There was a daughter also called Adeliza from the marriage.

Just to make life that little bit more entertaining Enguerrand and Guy’s sister was married to William of Normandy’s uncle.  The uncle, William of Arques, had contested his nephew’s claim to the duchy of Normandy based on the fact that William of Normandy was illegitimate. By 1053 the two Williams had come to blows and the French had waded in on William of Arques’ side.  Enguarrand’s family ties with William of Arques not to mention the fact that his ex-wife had retained her dower despite their annulment goes some way to explaining why the Count of Porthieu fought against William of Normandy rather than with him.  He was killed in 1053 at the siege of Argues by William’s men.

 

Guy, the count on the Bayeaux tapestry, sought to be revenged for his brother’s death by joining forces against William.    Unfortunately he was captured following the Battle of Mortemer (6thFeb 1054) and spent the next two years in custody at Bayeux until he was released having sworn fealty to Duke William.  Consequentially when William of Normandy demanded the release of Harold Earl of Wessex Guy didn’t have a great deal of choice.

count guyGuy is shown on the Bayeux tapestry on four occasions. Harold is shown being captured by Guy mounted on a horse as he comes ashore; then on his throne – replete with a Norman looking hair cut and stipey socks (I know they’re not called socks but just roll with it.)  He’s shown for a third time when William’s men turn up demanding Harold’s release into their custody.  William’s men are all taller than Guy who appears to be wearing a rather colourful tunic along with a set of yellow and green hose. The final occasion for Guy to appear on the tapestry is when he takes Harold to hand him over to William.

county guy and duke william

Is it my imagination or is Guy riding a mule whilst William is riding a horse – either way Guy’s mount has a very small head?  The camels in the side panels above are interesting.  They are symbolic of something!  Endurance, lust or even humility …take your pick.