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.

Accord of Winchester

I watched the new programme about the year in the life of the York Minster last night and was fascinated to discover that King William the Conqueror was illiterate – not even able to sign his name.  The Accord of Winchester which was signed on the  27th of May 1072 making the Archbishop of Canterbury more important than the Archbishop of York has the king’s cross next to his name.  But why was there a need for an accord?

William the Conqueror might have thought that the Battle of Hastings was it so far as his hostile takeover bid for England was concerned.  However there were rebellions throughout his new realm from Exeter where King Harold’s mother encouraged the locals to express their resentment to the border between England and Wales where Wild Edric was …well…just wild.   In East Anglia, Hereward the Wake proved himself to be intransigent and in the north they were just plain stroppy.

In addition to the headache of governing a belligerent population there was also the small question of the church in England.  Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury who had been King Canute’s chaplain and who had become a key political player in the power struggles between Edward the Confessor and Earl Godwin was initially kept on but by 1070 William had decided enough was enough.  The archbishop was removed and imprisoned in Winchester (he was also Bishop of Winchester) and replaced by Lanfranc.

In York Archbishop Ealdred who’d been in place since 1060 having previously been Bishop of Worcester and who’d been one of the principal men sent to bring Edward the Exile home to England from Hungary on King Edward’s orders now backed the wrong men.  He crowned King Harold and supported Edgar the Atheling’s claim to the throne but ultimately made his submission to William and crowned him in Westminster on Christmas Day 1066.  Ealdred went to Normandy as a hostage along with Edgar the Atheling in 1067.  Perhaps conveniently for William the archbishop died a couple of years later enabling the Norman king to shoehorn Thomas of Bayeaux into post in 1070.

Presumably William thought that he’d got supportive clerics at hand.  What he hadn’t bargained for was that each man wanted to be the most important cleric in the kingdom and each argued that his diocese should take precedence over the other. Eventually William arrived at his conclusions and the Accord of Winchester was signed in 1072 – it was briefly reversed in 1127.