Tag Archives: Harold Hardrada

Edwin of Mercia

Edwin became Earl of Mercia in 1062 after his father and grandfather. He and his younger brother Morcar who was the Earl of Northumbria played a key role in Harold Hardrada’s failed campaign to take England in 1066. They opposed him at the Battle of Fulford Gate on the 20th September (which they lost) and the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later that gave King Harold (their brother-in-law) victory over King Harold Hardrada of Norway.

 

Sadly for King Harold (of arrow in the eye fame) the two brothers also played a key role in the Battle of Hastings by taking a very slow journey south and not turning up until it was all over. Florence of Worcester commented that they ‘withdrew’. On one hand they did have to march rather a long way having just fought two battles in a very short space of time but on the other hand rather than share the loot after Stamford Bridge as was the custom of the time King Harold had it all collected together in York and appeared to have every intention of keeping it for himself which may have left the two earls feeling somewhat peeved.

 

Evidence of Edwin’s failure to take part in the Battle of Hastings is reflected in the fact that he still owned property at the time of the Domesday Book.

Having said that, it is an indicator of William the Conqueror’s desire for peace within his new kingdom that Edwin not only retained his land but also his title. Following Hastings, Edwin and Morcar supported Edgar the Atheling in his claim to the throne. William had to chase them around the southeast for two months before they finally submitted at Berkhamstead. In 1067 Edwin was one of the hostages who accompanied William back to Normandy.

 

Obviously things didn’t pan out to Edwin and Morcar’s liking because they rebelled against William in 1068 and again in 1071. The Orderic Vitalis claims that one of Edwin’s gripes was that William had promised Edwin one of his own daughter’s in marriage but appears to have had second thoughts about having Edwin for a son-in-law.

 

The 1068 rebellion saw William building castles and stamping his authority on the land.  The earls submitted once again to William and he graciously welcomed them back into the fold but then in 1069 William appointed Robert de Comines to the job of Earl of Northumberland. Understandably Edwin’s brother Morcar was a little disgruntled by this turn of events. The North rose up against William. In fact all kinds of rebellions against Norman rule sprang up like forest fires in the first years of William’s reign.  It’s perhaps not surprising that William’s avowed intent to be a good lord to his new Saxon subjects eroded.

It was during Hereward the Wake’s rebellion in East Anglia in 1071 that Edwin was betrayed to the Normans by his own retinue and killed.

Edwin’s lands extended north from Gloucester up into modern West Yorkshire and beyond.  His territory also included Craven.  Following Edwin’s death the lands were broken up. Robert de Romilly was given the lands in Craven.  He built a motte and bailey castle that would eventually become home to the Cliffords – Skipton Castle.

Sadly I can’t find a good image to use for this post but I shall keep looking.  You never know what might turn up.

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The Heimskringla Saga

reading linkEngland became a prize for the taking when Edward the Confessor died on 5th January 1066 England.  The man on the scene, Harold Godwinson lost no time staking his claim but his brother Tostig, furious not to be reinstated to the Earldom of Northumbria attempted to take the throne for himself.  First he crossed the channel with a fleet of sixty  ships from Flanders.  He initiated his attempted invasion by attacking Harold’s lands on the south coast.

Harold proved equal to the occasion when Tostig finally fled he had only twelve vessels remaining.  Harold 1: Tostig 0.

Tostig fled via Scotland to Denmark and then on to Norway where he and King Harold Hardrada – the Hard Rider- prepared another invasion.  In September 1066, when the wind stood against William of Normandy’s invasion fleet, a Scandinavian armada  of some three hundred and thirty ships sailed first for Scotland and then down the east coast towards the Humber Estuary pausing only to do nasty things to Scarborough.

On the 20th September 1066 having sailed up the Humber  and making anchor at Riccall, Hardrada advanced on York.

The Earls of Northumbria and Mercia (Morcar and Edwin) met the Scandinavians in battle just outside York.  The Battle of Fulford Bridge saw an English defeat.  The earls were lucky to escape with their lives.  The best primary account of the battle can be found in the Heimskringla Saga.

It also offers the best account of the Battle of Stamford Bridge which is sometimes described as Harold’s Saga.  Harold hearing of the invasion made a forced march north and caught Hardrada and his brother by surprise and proceeded to beat them – having first of all overcome a beserker who occupied the bridge at Stamford Bridge until one of Harold’s men crept under the bridge and speared him from below (nasty but typical of sagas). Harold 2: Tostig 0.

Having said all that the words of the saga weren’t committed to paper – or parchment- until 1225 by Snori Sturlson, a story teller and historian in the the Scandinavian skaldic tradition, who wrote a chronicle of the Kings of Norway.  As A L Binns  comments:

The earliest survIving Norse account of the events of 1066 is
probably the brief passage from Grkneyinga saga. The four long
Old Norse accounts of Stemford Bridge here compared for the first
time in English are by no means independent either of each other,
or of English sources. So one should not think of a single account
(usually Heimskringla, of which many translations already exist) as
‘the saga account’; and one should not regard them as contemporary
sources, but rather the work of historians who had very definite
views on the characters and motives ofthe participants and selected
their material in order to express them.

Binns, A.L. (1966). East Yorkshire in the Sagas. Hull: East Yorkshire Local History Society p.5

The full text including the sagas can be accessed by clicking on the image at the start of this post.  I’ll be using this image in future to sign post links to a range of texts – and indeed any other images of folks reading that I come across.

 

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