Addenda to Outlaws
Thomas and Lanfranc were immediately at loggerheads over the issue of whether the two archbishops were of equal standing, or whether Canterbury had primacy over York. The main source for the details of their dispute is a memorandum from Lanfranc’s collected letters:
On the fourth of the Kalends of September [i.e. on 29th August, 1070] he [Lanfranc] was consecrated in his metropolitan cathedral by the suffragans of that see … In the same year Thomas, archbishop-elect of the church of York, by ancient custom came to Canterbury to be consecrated by Lanfranc. —
— But when Lanfranc, following the practice of his predecessors, asked him for a written profession of obedience, fortified by an oath of loyalty, Thomas replied that he would never do that until he could read evidence of the claim and could see witnesses testifying to its antiquity; in short, until he should hear good reason why he should do it justly and reasonably, without prejudice to his own church. He acted in this way from ignorance rather than from a proud and obstinate spirit. For he was a newcomer, with no experience whatever of English usage, and he placed more confidence in the advice of flatterers than was right and proper. In the presence of a few bishops who had joined him for this consecration Lanfranc displayed the evidence that Thomas required. But he rejected everything …Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
Then Archbishop Lanfranc became wroth, and ordered the bishops who were come thither by Archbishop Lanfranc’s command to perform the service, and all the monks, to unrobe themselves; and by his command they so did.
… and Thomas went away without being consecrated. He went to the king and made his protest, but Lanfranc followed him almost immediately, and showed that he and the Church had good reason for making their demand.
According to the Memorandum, King William was initially displeased with Lanfranc, believing he “was trying to get more than his due”, but then, when he explained himself to the king, Lanfranc:
… completely persuaded the Normans who were there that right was on his side. As for the English, who already understood the matter, they testified very firmly in support of his claims in all respects. So it was decided by the king’s edict and the general decision of all those present that for the moment Thomas should return to the mother church of the whole kingdom [i.e. Canterbury], write a profession, read out what he had written and present to Lanfranc what he had read, while he was being examined in the presence of the bishops as is the custom of the Church. In this document he should promise to obey Lanfranc’s instructions absolutely and unconditionally in all matters relating to the practice of the Christian religion; but he should not render the same obedience to his successors until satisfactory evidence was given him, either in the king’s court or in an episcopal council, which would show beyond any doubt that his predecessors had made, and ought to have made, this profession to the primates of the church of Canterbury.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury
… Thomas, albeit with much reluctance, returned to Canterbury and there humbly performed what Lanfranc asked of him.Acta Lanfranci
… and went away consecrated.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
In October 1071 the two archbishops were in Rome, to receive their pallia from Pope Alexander. In the pope’s presence, Thomas voiced his objections to Lanfranc’s claim of Canterbury’s primacy, and alleged that the dioceses of Dorchester, Worcester and Lichfield fell under York’s jurisdiction:
… he [Thomas] said that the churches of Canterbury and York were equal to each other in status, and that according to the constitution of St Gregory [Pope Gregory ‘the Great’, r.590–604] neither should be subject to the other in any way, except that the earlier of the two to have been ordained shall take precedence over the archbishop who is known to have been ordained later. As for the three bishops, they had been subject to his own see and to his predecessors since ancient times. Although Lanfranc was angry when he heard this, he replied temperately enough that the man’s statement was completely false, maintaining that the Gregorian constitution had been promulgated in respect not of the churches of York and Canterbury but of the churches of York and London. After long argument over this and over the three bishops Pope Alexander ruled that this case should be heard in the land of England and settled there by the testimony and judgement of the bishops and abbots of the whole kingdom.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
… while the rest were trembling in anticipation of the loss of their own honours … the venerable Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, courageously demanded the restitution of many of the appurtenances of his see, which had been retained by Archbishop Ealdred in his own power when he was translated to York, and which, by his death [in 1069], had passed into the hands of the king …At that time, there was no archbishop to argue the case for York, so the matter was put on-hold. Following Thomas’ consecration, however:In William of Malmesbury’s Vita of St Wulfstan (I, 13), the “appurtenances” in question are revealed to be twelve manors.
… there now being a bishop who could plead for the church of York, the cause of the reverend Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, was again mooted, and finally, by the aid of God’s grace, concluded in a council holden in a place called Pedreda [probably North or South Petherton, on the river Parrett, Somerset, both of which were royal manors], in presence of the king, Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops, abbots, earls, and chiefs of all England. For all the stratagems by which Thomas and his supporters were busily attempting to lower the church of Worcester, and to render her the subject and slave of York, being crushed by the just judgement of God, and the clearest documentary evidence, and totally annihilated, not only did Wulfstan regain the possession which he had publicly demanded, but he resumed his church in the enjoyment of those liberties which its first founders … had conferred upon it.Florence of Worcester s.a. 1070
To the lord Pope Alexander, most lofty guardian of the whole Christian religion: Lanfranc, archbishop of the holy church of Canterbury, offers unstinted service and due obedience.… you issued a written directive that an assembly of the bishops, abbots and other persons of religious profession in the land of England should hear the case for both sides, consider it and reach a decision. This has been done: the bishops, abbots and others of the clergy and laity whom it was right to summon for their orthodoxy, their edifying life and their blameless character assembled at the royal court in the city of Winchester at the festival of Easter [8th April 1072].Letter from Lanfranc to Pope Alexander II (Letter 4)
… in the presence of the king himself and the bishops and abbots, there was a formal examination of the case for primacy, which Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury was advancing as a right of his own church over the church of York, and of the case for ordaining certain bishops, where it was not at all clear to whose jurisdiction they belonged. Finally it was established and demonstrated by written proofs of various kinds that the church of York should be subject to Canterbury and should obey the directions of its archbishop, as primate of the whole of Britain, in all matters relating to the Christian religion.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
… some of the Romans asked the Canterbury party whether the privileges had bulls [i.e. lead seals] attached. But they said that they had left the originals with their bulls in their church and brought copies with them. And because privileges and charters are not valid evidence unless they have bulls or seals attached, they were asked whether they would swear that they had originals in their possession with bulls. They retired, and consulting together said among themselves that they had no bulls. One tried to persuade another to swear for the sake of their church – sound and canonical advice indeed! But they were by no means willing, and were afraid to supply the missing bulls by perjury. They made up their minds to come back and say that the bulls had either perished or were lost. When they said this, some [Romans] smiled, others turned up their noses, and others laughed aloud, making fun of them and saying that it was a miracle that lead should perish or be lost and parchment survive. Some may think that this story is made up, and the writer trifling with him, but the thing is as true as it seems false.[*]In fact, Christ Church had been destroyed by a fire on 6th December 1067.[*] In his Vita of St Bregwine, Eadmer of Canterbury seems to answer the Roman criticism:
… a mighty and interminable grief oppressed this church because the privileges granted by the popes of Rome, and by the kings and princes of this kingdom, all carefully sealed and collected together, by which they and theirs were bound to defend and uphold the Church for ever, were now reduced to ashes. Copies of these documents were sought for, and collected from every place where such things were preserved; but their bulls and seals were irrecoverably destroyed with the church in which they had been deposited.[*]Modern scholarship, however, has shown that the ten documents are forgeries.[*] It is a subject of ongoing debate whether any of these fakes were available to Lanfranc in 1072,[*] and, indeed, whether he had a hand in their production.
… Archbishop Thomas countered these overwhelming and authoritative proofs with the most trivial objections … When the king rebuked him with paternal mildness for having presumed to come so poorly supplied with arguments against such a battery of proofs, he replied that he had not previously understood that the church of Canterbury was fortified with so many mighty proofs and such convincing arguments.Letter from Lanfranc to Pope Alexander II (Letter 4)
Jurisdiction over the bishop of Durham, that is Lindisfarne, and over all the territory from the borders of the see of Lichfield and the great river Humber to the furthest limits of Scotland, and whatever on the southern side of the same river lawfully falls within the diocese of York [i.e. not Dorchester, Worcester or Lichfield] the metropolitan of Canterbury has confirmed in perpetuity to the archbishop of York and his successors.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
So he [Thomas] became suppliant; he pleaded with the king to persuade me [Lanfranc] to put aside all the hostility towards him that this lawsuit had engendered, to choose peace and make a settlement with him, and to concede him out of charity some points which were mine by right. This request I granted freely and thankfully, for by God’s mercy it was not I but he who in breaking with ancient usage had initiated the dispute.Letter from Lanfranc to Pope Alexander II (Letter 4)
Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury demonstrated that according to the ancient right of his predecessors an archbishop of York should profess obedience to the archbishop of Canterbury with a public oath as well; but out of love for the king he waived the oath for Archbishop Thomas of York and accepted a written profession only, without prejudice to his own successors who might wish to exact from Thomas’ successors an oath as well as a profession.Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
So by common consent a written record was made of this agreement and copies sent to the major churches of England, which in future ages will always testify to how that lawsuit has been concluded.Letter from Lanfranc to Pope Alexander II (Letter 4)
This case was examined first in the city of Winchester at the festival of Easter, in the royal chapel which is in the castle, and then on the royal estate called Windsor, where it was settled in the presence of the king, the bishops, abbots, and the men of various ranks who had assembled there at court at the feast of Whitsun [27th May 1072].Memorandum on the primacy of Canterbury (Item 3)
With his escape from Ely in 1071, Hereward departs from history and enters the territory of legend.
Geffrei Gaimar, writing c.1136–7, picks up Hereward’s story from where the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle leaves off. After making his escape, Hereward gathers a gang around him, and “for several years” fights the Normans. He marries a wealthy English lady and agrees terms with the king. He is apparently (none of this story is very clear) about to campaign on the king’s behalf in Maine, when he is attacked and killed by a band of Normans who, it would seem, begrudge him his new found respectability and wealth (5501–5700).
But there is a biography of Hereward, the Gesta Herewardi (Deeds of Hereward), that appears to predate Gaimar. It survives in a single, mid-13th century, manuscript (known as the Register of Robert of Swaffham). In the Preface, the author, who writes in Latin, says he, “with difficulty”, deciphered “a few details” concerning Hereward’s early career from a damaged and rotting manuscript written, in English, by Hereward’s priest, Leofric: “For it was the endeavour of this well remembered priest to assemble all the doings of giants and warriors he could find in ancient fables as well as true reports, for the edification of his audience”. To this the author added material which he says he had heard from local people, and from some of Hereward’s former companions. The anonymous, late-12th century, Ely monk who compiled the Liber Eliensis (Book of Ely) made use of “a book about the deeds of Hereward”, which he notes (II, 107) had been: “written some time ago by Richard of blessed memory, a venerable man and a most learned brother of ours.” Textual similarities indicate that the book used by the compiler of the Liber Eliensis was none other than the Gesta Herewardi – by which token the author of the Gesta Herewardi was this Richard of Ely.[*] It seems likely that the, unnamed, dedicatee of his work, who also knew two of Hereward’s erstwhile associates, was Hervey, the first bishop of Ely (1109–31).[*]
The Gesta Herewardi, particularly the early part attributed to the priest Leofric, clearly belongs to the world of romance rather than history. Hereward, outlawed at the age of eighteen, establishes his heroic credentials in a series of fabulous adventures – slaying a monstrous bear, rescuing a princess, etc. On the other hand, in the later part, relating to the real events (though overlaid with romantic embellishment) at Ely, occasionally there is a feeling of authenticity – Richard of Ely (assuming it is he) states that King William:
… moved his whole army to Aldreth where the surrounding water and swamp was narrower, the breadth there extending only four furlongs. Having brought there tools and fitments of timber and stone, and heaps of all kinds of things, they built a causeway through the swamp, although it was narrow and quite useless to them. Moreover, close to the big river near this place, that is to say Aldreth, they assembled in the water large tree-trunks joined together with beams, and underneath tied whole sheep-skins, flayed and reversed and fully inflated so that the weight of those going over it might be better borne. When this was finished such a multitude rushed onto it all at once, greedy for the gold and silver and other things, not a little of which was thought to be hidden in the Isle, that those who went hurrying in front were drowned together with the road itself they had made. Those who were in the middle of the company were swallowed up in the watery and deep swamp as well. A few of those who were following at the rear got away with difficulty, flinging down their weapons, wallowing in the water and making their way through the mud. Thus in this way, with hardly anybody pursuing them, great numbers perished in the swamp and waters. And to this day many of them are dragged out of the depths of those waters in rotting armour. I’ve sometimes seen this myself.Gesta Herewardi §21
Isle of Ely
Isle of Ely
King William mounts a second assault on the Isle.
… when the war-engines were prepared as he had arranged … the king began the attack, leading his entire army to Aldreth. He had also brought heaps of wood and stone and all materials for building ramparts there. And he ordered all the fishermen in the district to come with their boats to Cottenham so that they could ferry across what had been brought there, and with it construct mounds and hillocks at Aldreth from the top of which they might fight. Among these came Hereward, like a fisherman with a boat along with the rest. They diligently ferried across everything that had been brought there. Finally on the same day – the sun not going down without some damage done – Hereward finished his work and before he left set fire to it. As a result it was entirely burnt, and several men killed and swallowed up in the swamp. He had shaved his beard and head so as not to be recognized, employing various disguises to encompass the death of enemies and the destruction of foes, preferring to look bald for a while and forego his finely-styled locks, rather than spare his opponents. When it was learned that Hereward had again escaped with impunity, the king declared that it was shameful to be so frequently ridiculed by him. However, the revered king, among other things, gave instructions commanding his men that above all Hereward should be brought to him alive, and that they should keep him unharmed. And taking warning from the damage done on this occasion, they set a day-and-night guard over all their property and operations.
Thus struggling for a week they just about completed one mound and set up four wooden bastions on which to site the war-engines. But those in the Isle resisted vigorously, building outworks and ramparts to oppose them. —
— And then on the eighth day they all advanced to attack the island with their entire force, placing the witch I mentioned earlier, in an elevated position in their midst, so that being sufficiently protected on all sides, she might have space in which to practice her art. Once mounted, she harangued the Isle and its inhabitants for a long time, denouncing saboteurs and suchlike, and casting spells for their overthrow; and at the end of her chattering and incantations she bared her arse at them. Well, when she had performed her disgusting act three times as she wished, those who had been concealed in the swamp all around to right and left among the sharp reeds and brambles of the marshland, set fire to part of it so that, driven by the wind, the smoke and flames surged up against the king’s camp. Spreading for as far as two furlongs, the fire ran hither and thither among them, making a horrible sight in the swamp, and the roar of the flames and crackling of twigs in the brushwood and willows making a terrible noise. As a result, stupefied and greatly alarmed, the king’s men fled, each man for himself. But they could not go far along those watery paths through the wastes of the swamp, and they could not keep to the track easily. In consequence very many of them were suddenly swallowed up, and others, overwhelmed with arrows, drowned in the same waters, for in the fire and in their flight they were unable to use their lances against the bands of those who came cautiously and secretly out from the Isle to repel them. Among them the aforesaid woman who practised her abominable art, fell down in the greatest terror head-first from her exalted position and broke her neck.Gesta Herewardi §25
At any rate, in this story, Ely eventually falls to the king due to the treachery of the monks: “they arranged for the king to come to the Isle rapidly and secretly at a certain time when Hereward was out foraging with his men” (§26). —
How, with the departure of Hereward from the Isle [he is said to have left Ely to fight in East Anglia], the king finally made his entry.
… Apart from marsh-lands, numerous standing waters and fast-flowing streams formed a barrier, and the king himself was not ashamed, in order to give courage to the fearful, to lead the way through some river by which he was submerged almost to the top of his helmet. He came eventually into the neighbourhood of the Isle, to a marsh of horrific appearance, of infinite depth, festering all around to the depths of its hollow bed. The enemy troops on the bank opposite, having assembled peat-blocks as a means of defending themselves, prepared to bar their crossing with stones and missiles. The Normans were greatly discountenanced by the double obstacle. The king, pressing his undertakings on to their conclusion, had little boats transported there through the fen, by an amazing feat of engineering, and simultaneously, at the cost of huge effort, he caused siege-engines to be erected, with which to bombard their opponents. The unstable ground shook, threatening everyone supported by it with drowning. The thousand French knights, in body-armour and helmets, who had gone across towards those men, joined battle; three thousand of the pirates [i.e. Danes] and greater numbers of English militia, collected from the midlands, apart from the common people of the Isle. Then, as the Normans kept up the assault with catapult-engines, using all sorts of projectiles, the wretched men gave way and were routed in flight. Hastening to pursue them, the king led the army very swiftly across a weak and shaky bridge, constructed on top of little boats with poles and wicker hurdles. However, when they had crossed, there still remained for them a difficult struggle out of pools of water: they scarcely made it, in the end, to solid ground through pit-falls and eddies of mud.
Then a resounding cry of victory drove the enemy with high speed from the Isle. The Normans, flaring up and surrounding some thousands, in a moment destroyed them, so that few escaped, and they with difficulty. Quite apart from the wounding blow, a considerable part of the enemy lost heart at the sight of this amazing and terrible warrior [i.e. King William]. For he went into action – something which should be immortalized in praise – with the legion whose commander he was, attacking and striking down with great boldness.
— Hereward and his men escape. After some time spent waging war on the Normans, Hereward, for the sake of a beautiful and wealthy widow, makes peace with King William. He survives an attempt, by “certain of his enemies, jealous of his success” (§35), to discredit him with the king.
And so Hereward, the famous knight, tried and known in many places, was received into favour by the king. And with his father’s land and possessions he lived on for many years faithfully serving King William and devotedly reconciled to his compatriots and friends. And thus in the end rested in peace, upon whose soul may God have mercy.Gesta Herewardi §36
A common feature of Geffrei Gaimar’s story and the Gesta Herewardi story is that Hereward was reconciled with King William – as was, the less-celebrated hero of the English Resistance, Eadric the Wild. It seems pretty certain that the Hereward who features in Domesday Book as a pre-Conquest tenant of Peterborough Abbey and Crowland Abbey is our Hereward. There is, though, a Hereward who had held certain lands in Warwickshire “freely TRE [i.e. ‘in the time of King Edward’]”, but, at the time the Domesday commissioners were making their survey, was holding the same lands as the tenant of a Norman lord.[*] Could this man also be our Hereward?
Liber Eliensis by Janet Fairweather
Gesta Herewardi by Michael Swanton
In the Gesta Herewardi, the monks of Ely are portrayed as active members of the English Resistance. The abbot, Thurstan, and his monks invite Hereward to help them defend the Isle of Ely:
… in particular because William intended to set a certain foreign monk over them – one of those monks for whom he had already sent from the French nation, to set as deans and priors in all the churches of the English.Gesta Herewardi §20
The monks are participants in the fighting – a Norman soldier reports:
Only yesterday I saw several men coming out of the Isle – not many – only seven, but dressed for battle and girt with proper war-equipment – all but two of whom were manifestly monks, and like the others well-versed in warfare.Gesta Herewardi §23
In the Liber Eliensis (whose author of course drew on the Gesta Herewardi), though, the monks take a passive role – its rendition of the above speech is:
For yesterday, I saw some men who had come out of the Isle in military garb, just seven of them, tall in stature, unrivalled in courage …Liber Eliensis II, 106
The decency of Thurstan is stressed – a Norman knight informs King William:
… [Thurstan] is a man worthy of the highest veneration.… he is not only teaching them [the monks] by sound precepts to attain to the beatitude of the life of heaven, but is inviting them to do so by his example of holy living. Moreover, he is descended from an excellent family of the English in the vill called Witchford [on the Isle of Ely, 2½ miles southwest of Ely] ... However there is a single respect with regard to which he departs inharmoniously from what is good: the fact that he has indignantly refused to accept it as right that anyone from our race should be put in charge of him. Being, as a consequence of this, very discountenanced and fearful with regard to the king and the kingdom, he is governing and controlling on his own initiative the men whom he has with him.Liber Eliensis II, 105
In the Gesta Herewardi (§26), the monks betray Hereward (“they arranged for the king to come to the Isle rapidly and secretly at a certain time when Hereward was out foraging with his men”), in exchange for the restoration of the monastery’s lands, beyond the Isle, which have been taken into Norman ownership. In the Liber Eliensis (II, 107–110), though (which abandons the Gesta story in favour of one jerkily cobbled from various sources), Hereward, “having committed the island to safe custody”, has left Ely to fight in East Anglia. The monks are concerned about the seizure of the monastery’s property, but, also, their food-supplies have run-out and they are starving. They submit to the king at Warwick. Thurstan, in exchange for the restoration of the monastery’s property, provides information to enable the king to capture the Isle. The monks return to Ely. King William, after the passage of some time spent “on an expedition around remote parts of the kingdom”, eventually takes the Isle by storm.
Anyway, after the Isle had fallen, the monks had to mollify the king.
And, after being admitted to the king’s presence at Witchford where he was staying at that time, they were with difficulty received back into favour … on their promising him a sum of money, namely seven hundred silver marks. The monks then, in fact, took whatever precious articles there were in the church: crosses, altars, reliquaries, gospel-books, chalices, patens, lavers, stoups, straws, bowls, and gold and silver dishes, in order to pay in full the specified sum of money.
And they had been required to pay out the money in question to the king’s servants at Cambridge on a stated day, but a drachm [one-eighth of an ounce] had been fraudulently abstracted by a trick on the part of the moneyers, so it was found, on being put in the balance, to be of an incorrect weight. When the king learnt of this, he became extremely angry, and denied them all hope of respite and peace in the future. For, in spite of the fact that he had gained entrance [to the Isle of Ely] and been relieved of distress, an extraordinarily bitter fury enflamed him: he was going to exact retribution for what belonged to him, as if it had been criminally supplied in short measure. There arose great misery all around. Upheavals, depredations and robberies raged, threatening devastation. There remained no place for peace or security.
Subsequently, the monks, utterly immobilized by the pain inflicted and now renewed, finally entered into a new agreement with him: they promised to add three hundred marks to the previous seven hundred, that is, to supply a thousand, in order to gain possession of his favour, along with the liberty of the place and the restoration of its estates. To this end, everything remaining in the church that was made of gold and silver, to cap it all, the image of St Mary with her child, seated on a throne of marvellous workmanship, which Abbot Ælfsige [d.1012 x 16 or 1019] had made of gold and silver, was broken up. Similarly, the images of the holy virgins were despoiled of much ornament of gold and silver, so that the sum of money could be paid. But, in spite of this, they had no confidence about the hoped-for settlement.Liber Eliensis II, 111
Thurstan died soon after.[*] According to the Liber Eliensis, King William promptly robbed the monastery of whatever objects of value that it still possessed. He appointed “Theodwine Gemesciens, someone sufficiently well known to the courts of Normandy” as the new abbot. Theodwine, however, refused to take up his position until the king returned the purloined valuables.
And so, with the stolen goods of the church restored, Theodwine took up the abbacy of Ely: he was to bring it great profit, but to live for all too short a time.… For after two-and-a-half years, in which he had lived honourably and beneficially, he died …‘Liber Eliensis’ II, 113
Liber Eliensis by Janet Fairweather
Gesta Herewardi by Michael Swanton