… King William celebrated Easter [of 1070] in Winchester, where he was solemnly crowned by cardinals of the Roman Church. For in reply to his petition Pope Alexander [Alexander II, r.1061–73] had sent three suitable legates to this cherished son of his …
In the octave of Easter,[*] a great council was holden at Winchester, in the presence and by the command of King William, and by consent of Pope Alexander, whose authority was represented by his legates … In this council Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, was deposed [^]… His brother, Æthelmær, bishop of the East Angles, was also deposed. A few abbots were also there deposed, the king promoting the deprivation of the English, and filling up their places by persons of his own nation, in order to confirm his power in a kingdom which he had but newly acquired. He also deprived of their honours certain persons, both bishops and abbots, whom neither the ecclesiastical councils nor the civil laws could convict of any open crime, and to the end of their lives held them in confinement, induced solely by mistrust, as we have said, of losing his newly acquired kingdom.
King William wanted Lanfranc, the eminent abbot of Caen, to replace Stigand as archbishop of Canterbury. Lanfranc, however, was reluctant (it appears he doubted his own abilities – he had already turned down the archbishopric of Rouen), and asked for time to consider William’s offer. Ealdred, archbishop of York, had died in September 1069. On Whit-Sunday 1070 (23rd May), at Windsor, Thomas, a canon of Bayeux, was appointed to the position, but his consecration was deferred pending the installation of Stigand’s replacement at Canterbury.
At the same time that Thomas was appointed archbishop of York, the bishopric of Winchester (which had been held, simultaneously with his archbishopric, by Stigand) was given to Walchelin, a chaplain of King William. Indeed, Orderic Vitalis (HE IV: ii, 200) says both Thomas and Walchelin were: “Normans, chaplains of the king”. Incidentally, Florence of Worcester is very clear that Stigand was deposed during “the octave of Easter”, at Winchester; that, at Windsor, Thomas and Walchelin were appointed “on the day of Pentecost”, i.e. on Whit-Sunday, and on the following day the papal legate Ermenfrid, bishop of Sion, at the king’s command, held a synod. Orderic, however, fuses these three separate events into one synod at Windsor, which, beyond saying it was in 1070, he does not date.
Florence reports that, at the Windsor synod: “Æthelric, bishop of the South Saxons, was uncanonically deposed, and soon after placed in confinement at Marlborough by the king, though he was innocent of any crime; many abbots were also deposed.” King William appointed another two of his chaplains to the bishoprics of the East Angles and the South Saxons: “the king also gave abbeys to some Norman monks.”
Not mentioned by chroniclers, but revealed in a letter written by Lanfranc to Pope Alexander the following year, is that the bishop of Lichfield, Leofwine, was also obliged to resign his position, on the grounds of: “carnal incontinence (the proof being his wife, whom he openly recognized, and the children he had fathered) and of other misdemeanours”. At the time Lanfranc was writing the vacancy had not yet been filled.[*]
Then in the same year  came King Swein from Denmark into the Humber [where his invasion fleet of 1069, commanded by his brother, Earl Osbeorn, was still at anchor[*]]; and the local folk came to meet him, and made peace with him, supposing that he would conquer the land. Then came to Ely, Christian, the Danish bishop [of Aarhus], and Earl Osbeorn, and the Danish housecarls with them; and the English folk from all the fen-lands came to them, supposing that they would win all the land. —
— Then the monks of Peterborough heard say that their own men wanted to plunder the monastery – that was Hereward and his gang.[*] That was because they [Hereward and his ‘gang’, i.e. ‘outlaw band’] had heard say that the king had given the abbacy to a French abbot named Turold, and that he was a very stern man, and was then come to Stamford with all his Frenchmen. —
— There was then a sacristan there, named Yware, who took by night all that he could; that was gospels, mass-mantles, cantor-copes, and robes, and such little things – whatever he could – and went forthwith, before day, to the abbot Turold, and told him that he sought his protection, and informed him how the outlaws were to come to Peterborough. He did that wholly on the advice of the monks. Then soon on the morrow came all the outlaws with many ships, and wanted to enter the monastery; and the monks withstood so that they could not come in. They then set it on fire and burned all the monks’ houses, and all the town save one house. They then came in through fire, in at Bolhithe gate; and the monks came to meet them, praying for peace. But they cared for nothing, went into the monastery, climbed up to the holy rood, took the crown from our Lord’s head – all of pure gold – then took the footrest that was underneath his feet – which was all of red gold – climbed up to the steeple, brought down the altar-frontal that was there hidden – it was of gold and of silver. They took there two golden shrines, and 9 of silver; and they took fifteen great roods, both of gold and of silver. They took there so much gold and silver, and so many treasures in money and in raiment and in books, as no man may tell to another, saying that they did it from loyalty to the monastery. They then betook themselves to the ships, proceeded to Ely, and there deposited all the treasures [with their Danish allies]. The Danish men believed that they would overcome the Frenchmen.—
— They then drove away all the monks; none remaining there save one monk named Leofwine the Long – he lay sick in the infirmary. Then came Abbot Turold, and eight-times-twenty Frenchmen with him, and all fully armed. When he came thither, he found within and without all burnt, save only the church. —
— The outlaws were then all afloat, knowing that he would come thither. This was done on the 4th of the Nones of June [2nd June]. —
— The two kings, William and Swein, became reconciled, whereupon the Danish men went out from Ely with all the aforesaid treasure, and conveyed it with them. When they came in the middle of the sea, a great storm came and scattered all the ships in which the treasures were: some went to Norway, some to Ireland, some to Denmark; and all that came there [i.e. to Denmark] was the altar-frontal, and some shrines, and some roods, and many of the other treasures; and they brought them to a king’s town, called --- [there is a space in the manuscript], and placed them all in the church. —
— Then afterwards, through their [the Danes’] heedlessness, and through their drunkenness, on one night the church was burnt, and all that was therein. [“So by the finger of God they justly lost what they had unjustly gained.” adds Hugh Candidus] Thus was the monastery of Peterborough burnt and plundered. May Almighty God have pity on it through his great mercy. And thus the abbot Turold came to Peterborough; and the monks came back and performed Christ’s service in the church, which had a full week before stood without any kind of rite.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Manuscript E
The feast of St John the Baptist [24th June] being near, Earl Osbeorn went to Denmark with the fleet which had wintered in the Humber, —
— and his brother Swein outlawed him because he had taken a bribe from King William against the wishes of the Danes. That valiant man Eadric, surnamed Silvaticus [i.e. Eadric the Wild], of whom we made mention above, was reconciled with King William.
Florence of Worcester
A group of prominent rebels, including Edgar Ætheling, had apparently been hiding-out in northern England waiting to see if the Danes would mount an effective campaign against the Normans. Now that it was clear the Danes were a damp squib, the rebels retired to Scotland.[*] Perhaps it was the same realization that persuaded Eadric the Wild to come to terms with the king.
Lanfranc, reluctantly, and only after a direct order from Pope Alexander, agreed to accept the post of archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed on 15th August 1070, and was consecrated on 29th August. Thomas, archbishop-elect of York, was subsequently, but not without argument, consecrated by Lanfranc.[*]
William of Jumièges, writing in c.1070-71: “[King William] governed by that prudence which he always followed in all things, carefully surveyed the lack of fortification of his kingdom and caused strong castles to be raised in suitable places, manned by a picked force of knights and large numbers of stipendiaries. At length the storm of wars and rebellions dying out, he now both clemently rules and even more prosperously and powerfully reigns in glory over the whole English kingdom.” (VII, 21).
Berkhamsted Castle is a good example of motte-and-bailey construction – the picture below being taken from within the bailey looking towards the motte. It was originally built, with timber fortification, in the immediate post-invasion period. The earliest masonry probably dates from the mid-12th century.
At this time by the grace of God peace reigned over England; and a degree of security returned to it’s inhabitants now that the brigands had been driven off. English and Normans were living peacefully together in boroughs, towns and cities, and were intermarrying with each other. You could see many villages or town markets filled with displays of French wares and merchandise, and observe the English, who had previously seemed contemptible to the French in their native dress, completely transformed by foreign fashions. No one dared to pillage, but everyone cultivated his own fields in safety and lived contentedly with his neighbour. Unhappily this was not to last. Churches were built and restored; and in them pious men devoted their lives to rendering to God the prayers and praises due to him. The king’s passion for justice dominated the kingdom, encouraging others to follow his example. He struggled to learn some of the English language, so that he could understand the pleas of the conquered people without an interpreter, and benevolently pronounce fair judgements for each one as required. But advancing age prevented him from acquiring such learning, and the distraction of his many duties forced him to give his attention to other things.
But in truth, since the enemy of mankind walketh about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour with his cruel teeth, another great and lasting disturbance arose among the English and Normans …
(HE IV: ii, 214–5)
The next year, 1071, as recorded by Florence of Worcester:
Earls Edwin and Morcar, because King William sought to put them in confinement, escaped secretly from his court, and for some time continued in rebellion against him; —
— but when they saw that their enterprise had not turned out successfully, Edwin determined to go to Malcolm, king of the Scots, but was killed on the journey, in an ambush laid by his own people. But Morcar, and Æthelwine, bishop of Durham, Siward, surnamed Barn, and Hereward, a most valiant man, with many others, took ship, and went to the Isle of Ely, desiring to winter there. —
Æthelwine’s brother, Æthelric, had resigned as bishop of Durham in 1056, and Æthelwine had replaced him. They had both been monks at Peterborough, and Æthelric returned there after leaving Durham.
Evidently at the same time that Æthelwine was outlawed, Æthelric “was accused” (agree Manuscripts D and E of the Chronicle, but ‘of what’ neither mentions), and arrested (he was taken, as a prisoner, to Westminster). This seems to have happened at the Winchester council ‘in the octave of Easter’ 1070 – Florence of Worcester notes that King William: “deprived of their honours certain persons, both bishops and abbots, whom neither the ecclesiastical councils nor the civil laws could convict of any open crime, and to the end of their lives held them in confinement, induced solely by mistrust, as we have said, of losing his newly acquired kingdom.” According to the story told by Symeon of Durham in his tract on the Church of Durham, however, Æthelric and Æthelwine were thieves.
Symeon alleges (LDE III, 9) that Bishop Æthelric had stolen treasures from Durham and sent them to Peterborough. He subsequently resigned the bishopric and returned to Peterborough, employing the stolen funds: “in constructing through the fenny regions roads of stone and wood, and churches, and many other things.” It was of this thievery that he was, “during the reign of William”, accused and imprisoned. As for his brother, well according to Symeon (LDE III, 11): “When he had taken possession of the bishopric, Æthelwine contributed nothing to the stores of the church; nay his study rather was to abstract from it more of its ornaments and possessions than even his brother had done.” Symeon makes no mention that Æthelwine was outlawed, simply saying (LDE III, 17) he: “carried off a portion of the treasures of the church, and went on board ship, intending to leave England.” In the Historia Regum (s.a. 1070), though, it is said that: “observing that the affairs of the English were everywhere in confusion, and dreading the heavy rule of a foreign nation, whose language and customs he [Æthelwine] knew not, he determined to resign his bishopric, and provide for himself wherever a stranger might.” There is no suggestion that he absconded with the church’s treasures.
At any rate, when the captive Æthelric heard that Peterborough had been plundered, he, says Manuscript E: “excommunicated all the men who had done the evil.” Æthelric died at Westminster on the 15th of October 1072.
— When the king heard of this, he blocked up every outlet on the eastern side of the island by his sailors, and commanded a bridge of two miles in length to be constructed on the western side. —
— And when they saw that they were thus shut in, they gave up resistance, and all except the valiant Hereward, who made his escape through the fens with a few others, surrendered to the king[*]; who at once sent Bishop Æthelwine to Abingdon, where he was placed in confinement, and died the same winter. —
— As for the earl and the rest, who were scattered throughout England, he placed some in confinement, and permitted some to go free, having cut-off their hands or put-out their eyes.[*]
Florence of Worcester
Siward Barn and Morcar were taken prisoner. It is not known where Siward was held captive, but Morcar was evidently taken to Normandy – Orderic Vitalis mentions that he was placed in the charge of Roger de Beaumont.[*] Orderic also mentions that this Ely episode brought to a close the Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers. Orderic’s colourful account (HE IV: ii, 215–7), though, would appear to owe more to later legend than to William of Poitiers. Morcar is said to have been “in the Isle of Ely” – no explanation is given for his being there, and no companions are mentioned. King William, on the advice of “evil counsellors” (and bringing “great harm to his reputation”) besieged “the noble Earl Morcar … a man who had made peace with him and was neither doing nor expecting any harm”. Orderic claims that Morcar could have easily held-out or made his escape by boat, but instead he chose to believe false messages, in which, in return for his surrender, the king offered to “receive him in peace as a loyal friend”. Morcar “led his men out of the island”, and the king “flung him in fetters without any open charge”:
When the fair youth Earl Edwin learned of this he determined to prefer death to life unless he could free his brother Morcar from unjust captivity, or avenge him fully in Norman blood. So for six months he sought support amongst the Scots, Welsh, and English. But during this period three brothers who were his most intimate servants betrayed him to the Normans; and they slew him with 20 knights, all fighting desperately to the last. The Normans owed their success in part to a high tide, which penned up Edwin beside a tidal stream and prevented his escape. When the news of Edwin’s death spread through England, Normans and French alike joined the English in mourning and lamenting him as though he had been a close friend or kinsman.… King William, when he heard of the treachery that had brought this Mercian earl to his death, was moved to righteous tears, and when the traitors brought the head of their master to him, hoping for a reward, he angrily commanded them to leave the country.
(HE IV: ii, 216–7)
As presented by the, late-12th century, Liber Eliensis (Book of Ely), the story of Hereward and the siege of Ely is a garbled fusion of material plucked from assorted sources.[*] However, according to this account, when King William took Ely:
… having allocated a site for a fortress within the monks’ precincts, he both made arrangements for people from the shires of Cambridge, Huntingdon and Bedford to carry out the building-work, and committed it to the charge of knights of his choosing whom he had brought across from Gaul. Having similarly garrisoned the fortress of Aldreth [seemingly his place of entry into the Isle, about 7 miles southwest of Ely] with men from Gaul who were loyal to him, he returned by the route by which he had come in. Such was the upheaval that day that there was no celebration of the mass in the place. The day in question was the sixth of the Kalends of November [27th October].
The next year, 1072, as reported by Chronicle Manuscript D:
… King William led a ship-force and a land-force to Scotland, —
— and beset that land with ships on the sea-side; and himself with his land-force went in over the Forth, and he found there naught for which they were the better. And King Malcolm came and made peace with King William, and was his man and gave him hostages; —
— and afterwards he [King William] turned home with all his force.[*]
The ‘octave of Easter’ is the eight-day period that starts with Easter Sunday and ends with the following Sunday. In 1070: 4th–11th April.
Florence here gives the reasons for Stigand being removed from office: “on three grounds; because he was unlawfully holding the bishopric of Winchester together with his own archbishopric; and because, during the life of Archbishop Robert, he had not not only taken possession of the archbishopric, but for some time during the celebration of the mass had worn his [i.e. Robert’s] pallium, which had been left at Canterbury after his [Robert’s] violent and unjust banishment from England [in 1052]; and because he had afterwards [in 1058] received the pallium from Benedict [the antipope Benedict X], who had been excommunicated by the Holy Roman Church for having simoniacally obtained possession of the apostolic see.”
A white, scarf-like, vestment worn by the pope, and bestowed by him on archbishops as a symbol of delegated papal authority.
Letter 2, written between Easter (24th April) and October 1071, in The Letters of Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, edited and translated by Helen Clover and Margaret Gibson (1979).
In fact, Osbeorn had done a deal with King William, and the Danish fleet should have left the Humber at the end of winter. Clearly, it hadn’t.
See Rebellion and Retribution.
Housecarls (Old English huscarl, from Old Norse húskarl, literally ‘house-man’) were the household troops of the king or an earl.
The Domesday Book, Lincolnshire section, shows Hereward to have been, pre-Conquest, a tenant of both Peterborough Abbey and Crowland Abbey. He had held an estate at Rippingale from Crowland. The terms of the agreement with the abbey were negotiated on an annual basis, but Domesday notes that: “the abbot took possession of it again before Hereward fled the country, because he had not kept the agreement.” Hereward had held land in Barholm Hundred from Peterborough, which he: “did not have … on the day on which he fled.” According to a notoriously dubious, 14th century, source (known as ‘Pseudo-Ingulf’, a product of Crowland), Hereward was outlawed in 1062.
These would have been small vessels which could navigate the fens between Ely and Peterborough.
Bede writes: “the district of Ely is on every side encompassed with water and marshes … of the nature of an island … it has its name from the great plenty of eels taken in those marshes”. (Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum IV, 19)
“and the king took their ships and weapons and much money”, note Manuscripts D and E of the Chronicle.[*]
The word ‘their’ (heora) omitted in Manuscript E.
The anonymous author explains: “we are excerpting these facts from a number of Histories and at the same time combining them, albeit in summary fashion – recording brief and tiny extracts taken from numerous, large-scale sources. Our objective in this is that excessive prolixity should not be the outcome, and that things which are beyond belief should not be related, even if they are true. They are to be found, however, more fully recounted in a book about the deeds of Hereward himself, written some time ago by Richard of blessed memory, a venerable man and a most learned brother of ours.” (Liber Eliensis II, 107).
(See What Happened to Hereward?).
The Liber Eliensis begins its Hereward story (II, 102) with a paraphrase of Florence of Worcester’s report of Earl Edwin’s death. Subsequently, however, Edwin reappears, alive and well. When Ely falls to King William, it is Edwin who is taken captive, whilst Morcar escapes.
That Siward Barn was taken prisoner at Ely is only apparent because Florence of Worcester names him as one of those that King William “had delivered into custody in England or Normandy”, and whom he ordered to be released, on his deathbed, in 1087.
It seems likely, from later events, that Duncan, son of King Malcolm by his first wife, Ingibjorg, was one of the hostages handed-over to King William at this time.
Manuscript D is one year in advance of the true date – the events of 1072 appearing s.a. 1073. (Manuscript E correctly places King William’s invasion of Scotland s.a. 1072. Its entry is almost the same as Manuscript D’s – there are small differences in the phraseology.)
Volume and page of Augustus Le Prevost’s five volume edition of the Historia Ecclesiastica (1838–1855).
Gesta Pontificum Anglorum (Deeds of the Bishops of England).
William, a monk of Jumièges Abbey, completed the Gesta Normannorum Ducum (Deeds of the Dukes of the Normans) c.1070–1. He dedicated it to William the Conqueror, the 7th duke.
Libellus de Exordio atque Procursu istius hoc est Dunhelmensis Ecclesie (Tract on the Origins and Progress of this the Church of Durham).
Anglo-Norman chronicler Geffrei Gaimar wrote his Estoire des Engleis (History of the English), for a Lincolnshire patroness, round-about 1140. It is the earliest known historical work to have been written in the French language, and is in verse (actually, octosyllabic rhymed couplets). In fact, the Estoire des Engleis is the latter part of a longer work, but the earlier part has not survived. The existing work covers the period from the arrival in Britain of Cerdic (495) to the death of William Rufus (1100). Up to 959, it is based on a lost version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.