Local Difficulties
Manuscript D of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' notes that, in 1077:
"... King Malcolm [Malcolm Canmore, king of Scotland] captured the mother of Mælslæhtan ...
Mælslæhtan = Mælsnechtan (son of, Macbeth's stepson, Lulach).
At this point in Manuscript D, one line is left blank.
.... and all his best men, and all his treasures, and his cattle; and he himself not easily escaped....
In the 'Annals of Ulster', which calls him "king of Moray" (more correctly of mormaer of Moray), Mælsnechtan is said to have ended his life "happily" in 1085.
There are six blank lines in the manuscript at this point.
.... This year also was the dry summer; and wild fire came upon many shires, and burned many towns; and also many cities were ruined thereby."
Manuscript E of the 'Chronicle' (which makes no mention of the Scottish business) says that:
"And this year [1077] was London burned, one night before the Assumption of St.Mary [i.e. on 14th August], so terribly as it never was before, since it was built."
Manuscript E had begun its entry for 1077 by noting, rather ominously, that the peace agreed between William 'the Conqueror', king of England, and King Philip I of France:
"... continued only a little while."
Florence of Worcester provides the reason:
"Robert, the eldest son of the king, (because he was not permitted to possess Normandy, which had been assigned to him, in the presence of Philip, king of the French, before the arrival of William in England), went to France, and, with the assistance of Philip, committed great and frequent ravages in Normandy; he burned the towns, put to death the people, and gave his father no little annoyance and anxiety."
Robert, known as 'Curthose', was present, with his father, at the dedication of St.Stephen's, Caen, on 13th September 1077 - so his departure from Normandy occurred after this. According to Orderic Vitalis, he went to Flanders first (Note), but, his uncle, Count Robert I, does not seem to have wanted to provide him with any military backing, since he then embarked on a vague walkabout, telling his grievances to any nobleman who would listen. Eventually, he persuaded King Philip to assist him. Philip provided him with the castle of Gerberoi, near Beauvais, from which to mount his raids. Obviously, King William was not going to let this situation continue, so he laid siege to the castle:
"... King William fought against his son Robert, outside Normandy, by a castle called Gerberoi, and the king, William, was wounded there ..."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript E
"... in the hand; and his horse, that he sat upon, was killed under him ....
Florence of Worcester says the wound was in the arm, and continues: "... but the son recognising his father's voice, hastily dismounted, and bidding him mount his own charger, permitted him to depart."
.... and the man that brought him another [horse] was there immediately shot with a cross-bow. That was Toki, son of Wigod. Many were there slain, and also taken. His [King William's] son William [William 'Rufus'] too was there wounded ....
Florence of Worcester maintains that: "... many of the king's men having been slain, and some taken prisoners, and his son William and many others wounded, he commenced a retreat."
.... and Robert returned to Flanders. We will not here, however, record any more injury that he did his father."  Note
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript D
Manuscript D, Manuscript E and Florence of Worcester commit the siege of Gerberoi to 1079. Orderic says it began just after Christmas (that would be of 1078) and lasted for three weeks. He also points out that King William's army included Englishmen. A charter, issued during the siege, shows that King William and King Philip had come to terms.
A reconciliation between the king and his son was negotiated, and Robert, temporarily as it was to turn out, returned to his father's court. Later in 1079, as recorded by Manuscript E of the 'Chronicle':
"This year came King Malcolm from Scotland into England, betwixt the two festivals of St.Mary [15th August and 8th September], with a large army, which plundered Northumberland till it came to the Tyne, and slew many hundreds of men, and carried home much coin, and treasure, and men in captivity."  Note
Since Earl Waltheof's spectacular fall from grace (he was executed in 1076), Walcher, bishop of Durham, had been in charge of Waltheof's north-Northumbrian (beyond the Tees) earldom. In the 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' (History of the Church of Durham), Symeon of Durham writes:
"Of truth, he [Walcher] was a man worthily beloved by all for the honesty of his life and the sobriety and gentleness of his disposition; but yet he displeased the natives by permitting his followers unrestrainedly to do whatever they pleased, nor did he curb them when they even acted wrongfully. And further, his archdeacon [whose name, it will become apparent, was Leobwine] swept away from the church many of its ornaments, and much of its money, and distributed them amongst his own friends and relations. And again, his soldiers carried themselves with excessive insolence towards the people, frequently plundered them by force, and they even killed some of the more influential of them. These ill-deeds of theirs the bishop neglected to punish; nor did he restrain them by the authority of his episcopal office ..."
At any rate, the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' (Note) entry for 1080 states:
"This year was Bishop Walcher slain in Durham, at a council; and a hundred men with him, French and Flemish. He himself was born in Lotharingia [Liège to be precise]. This did the Northumbrians in the month of May."
Florence of Worcester says that Walcher's killing was carried out:
"... in revenge for the murder of Liulf [Ligulf], a thegn of noble birth. This man held many possessions by hereditary right throughout England; but because in all parts of the land the Normans were at that time continually giving vent to their ferocity, he withdrew himself with all his people to Durham, by reason of the sincere affection which he bore to the holy Cuthbert ... under whose protection he had lived for a long time, sometimes in the town, sometimes on the possessions which he held in those districts....
Symeon of Durham, in the 'Historia Regum', adds that Ligulf had married Ealdgyth, a daughter of, the late, Earl Ealdred. Since Earl Waltheof's mother, Ælflæd, was a sister of Ealdgyth, Ligulf was, of course, Waltheof's uncle.
.... The arrival of this person was not unpleasing to bishop Walcher, who was greatly devoted to the same saint in all things. For this reason he became so much beloved by the bishop, that he [Walcher] would not transact or arrange the weightier matters of his secular business without his [Ligulf's] advice. Wherefore his [Walcher's] chaplain, Leobwine, whom he had so much exalted that scarcely anything was moved in the bishopric or in the county without his consent, goaded on by envy, and puffed up with excess of pride by reason of his own power, arrogantly opposed himself to the aforesaid Liulf, treating as if they were worthless his judgements and counsels, and by every means striving to bring them to nothing. Frequently, also, arguing with him in the presence of the bishop, not without threats ..."
Walcher had delegated the administration of the earldom to his relative, Gilbert. After a particularly fierce argument with Ligulf, Leobwine sought out Gilbert, who perhaps was also jealous of Ligulf, since he readily agreed to Leobwine's request that Ligulf be put to death:
"Gilbert ... having collected the soldiers of the bishop and of Leobwine himself, set out one night for the town where Liulf then lived, and wickedly slew him in his own house with nearly all his household."
When he heard of the killings, Bishop Walcher realised that there could be terrible consequences. He took to his castle, and sent messengers throughout his earldom, saying that:
"... far from being privy to the death of Ligulf, he had outlawed from Northumbria his murderer, Gilbert, and all his companions, and was prepared to purge himself according to the pope's judgement. Then the bishop and the relatives of the deceased (after having sent messengers to and fro, and a truce being mutually given and accepted) appointed a place and day on which to meet and conclude a firm peace with each other."
On May 14th, at Gateshead, the meeting took place. Rather than hold discussions in the open air, surrounded by a crowd (who had "banded together for an evil purpose" maintains Symeon, in the 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis'), Walcher and his advisors ("his clergy and the more honourable of his knights" says Florence) ensconced themselves inside a church.
The version of the story told by Florence (and followed by Symeon in the 'Historia Regum') focuses on the murder of Ligulf, but, in the 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis', neither he nor Leobwine nor Gilbert are named. The meeting at Gateshead is presented in more general terms: "A day had been appointed upon which peace and concord should be established between the two parties - I mean, the bishop's soldiers, who had inflicted the injuries, and those persons who had sustained them."
According to Florence, Walcher conducted his negotiations at arms length - communicating with the people outside via chosen followers. The 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' version of events has it that Walcher "summoned the chief men from among the people" to meet with him in the church. At any rate, Florence says Walcher failed to convince the mob outdoors that he had not ordered Ligulf's death:
"Wherefore they at first put to death all those of the bishop's party who were found out of doors, a few saving themselves by flight. Seeing this, in order to satisfy the fury of his enemies, the bishop ordered the aforesaid Gilbert, his kinsman, for whose life they were seeking, to go out of the church, the guard following close upon him as he went out; but forthwith they were attacked upon all sides by the enemy with sword and spear, and in a moment destroyed, only two Englishmen being spared by reason of consanguinity. Leofwine, the dean of Durham, because he had often given much assistance to the bishop against them, and the other clergy, they slew as soon as they came forth. But the bishop, when he saw that their fury could not be mitigated by any means short of the death of the chief author of all the calamity, Leobwine, requested him to go forth; being entirely unable to prevail upon him, he proceeded himself to the gates of the church, and begged that his own life might be spared. This being refused, he covered his head with the border of his robe, went forth, and soon perished by the swords of his enemies. Then they commanded Leobwine to come forth, and when he refused, they set fire to the walls and roof of the church. But he, choosing rather to end his life by fire than sword, bore the flames for some time. At length, half burnt, he leaped from the building, and having been dashed to pieces he died a wretched death, paying the penalty of his wickedness."
Now, in the 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' account, the implication is that the "people" never had any intention of a negotiated settlement with the bishop - in effect, the Gateshead meeting was a trap. The "chief men" left the bishop, "and a very few of his followers", in the church:
"... as if for the purpose of deliberation. Shortly after this, the riotous crowd raised a shout, and then all on the sudden the work of death was begun, without the least regard being paid to humanity."
The bishop's men outside were killed, and the church was torched. The bishop's followers (none being named) were killed as they fled from the flames. Finally, the bishop was left alone in the burning building:
"Unable any longer to endure the cruel intensity of the raging flames, he recommended his soul in prayer to God, and going towards the door, he made the sign of the cross with his fingers; and having covered his eyes and head with the pall in which he was at that time robed, he was pierced through, upon the very threshold, alas! alas! with lances; and even his dead body was stricken with numerous wounds, for such was their brutal ferocity, that not even his death could satisfy them."
Walcher's body was so badly mutilated that the monks of Jarrow had difficulty recognising it, when they collected it, and transported it, via Jarrow, to Durham for burial:
".. it was interred with a funeral less honourable than became a bishop; for, immediately after this abominable slaughter, his murderers had come thither [to Durham], and were raging up and down the city, intending to storm the castle, and put to death such of the bishop's retainers as still survived. But they [the bishop's retainers] defended themselves manfully, and the assailants, worn out with their ineffectual efforts, and having lost some of their number, raised the siege upon the fourth day, and departed in various directions ..."
Symeon of Durham 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis'  Note
"In retaliation for this horrible murder, king William the same year [1080] ravaged Northumbria [i.e. north of the Tees]; sending thither Odo, bishop of Bayeux, with a large military force....
'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis': "... Odo, bishop of Bayeux, who was second only to the king, and many of the chief nobles of the kingdom, came to Durham, with a large body of troops, and, in revenging the bishop's death, they reduced nearly the whole land into a wilderness. The miserable inhabitants who, trusting in their innocence, had remained in their homes, were either beheaded as criminals, or mutilated by the loss of some of their members. False accusations were brought against some of them, in order that they might purchase their safety and their life by money."
.... In the autumn of this year, the same king William sent his son Robert to Scotland against Malcolm; but having gone as far as Egglesbreth [Falkirk] he returned without accomplishing anything, and built a new castle on the river Tyne [i.e. Newcastle]."
Symeon of Durham 'Historia Regum'  Note
Walcher was replaced, as bishop, by William of St.Calais (a Norman monk). Walcher's earldom, however:
"The king then gave that honour to Albric [Aubrey de Coucy], who being of very little use in difficult affairs, returned to his country; and the king gave the earldom of Northumberland to Robert de Mowbray, but he being taken prisoner, king William the second held Northumbria in his own hand, as at this time does King Henry."
Symeon of Durham 'Historia Regum'
The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' has but one brief notice for 1081:
"This year the king led an army into Wales, and there freed many hundreds of men."  See: The Bellicose Welsh
The entry for the following year, 1082, is similarly short - but rather surprising:
"This year the king seized Bishop Odo; and this year also was a great famine."
It would seem that Bishop Odo - King William's half-brother, and also earl of Kent - not content with the considerable power he already wielded, had set his sights on the papacy:
"He [Odo] had wonderful skill in accumulating treasure, possessed extreme craft in dissembling, so that, though absent, yet, stuffing the scrips of the pilgrims with letters and money, he had nearly purchased the Roman papacy from the citizens."
According to Orderic Vitalis (Note), Odo had heard a prediction, by "certain sorcerers at Rome", that a prelate of his name would become pope. Odo bought a palace in Rome and bribed senators. He prepared to go there, in the company of "a goodly company of distinguished knights" and Earl Hugh of Chester. King William heard of the plan and, sailing from Normandy, intercepted Odo in the Isle of Wight:
"... the king ... threw him into confinement, saying that he did not seize the bishop of Bayeux, but the earl of Kent."
William of Malmesbury
Orderic puts words into the king's mouth:
"... my brother, to whom I entrusted the care of my entire kingdom, has laid violent hands on her substance, has cruelly oppressed the poor, has seduced my knights on frivolous pretences, and has spread disorder through the whole of England by his unjust exactions."
Odo was taken to Normandy, and imprisoned in Rouen Castle. It appears, however, that he did not forfeit his estates, since he is the largest single landowner (after the king, of course) appearing in the 'Domesday Book'.
In 1083:
"A dire dispute arose between the monks of Glastonbury and their unworthy abbot Thurstan, whom, despite his want of discretion, king William had elevated from being a monk of Caen, to the dignity of abbot of Glastonbury....
Florence of Worcester
"It proceeded first from the abbot's want of wisdom, that he misgoverned his monks in many things."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'
.... Among his other foolish exploits, he despised the Gregorian chant, and attempted to compel the monks to relinquish it, and to learn to sing that of one William of Fécamp. When they, who had grown old in the practice of the Roman church, in this, as in other ecclesiastical ceremonies, received his proposal with hesitation, on a sudden, at the head of a military force, without their knowledge, he one day broke into the chapter-house and pursued the terrified monks, who fled into the church, as far as the altar....
Florence of Worcester
"The Frenchmen broke into the choir, and hurled their weapons toward the altar, where the monks were; and some of the knights went upon the upper floor, and shot their arrows downward toward the sanctuary; so that on the crucifix that stood above the altar they stuck many arrows. And the wretched monks lay about the altar, and some crept under, and earnestly called upon God, imploring his mercy, since they could not obtain any at the hands of men. What can we say, but that they continued to shoot their arrows; whilst the others broke down the doors, and came in, and slew some of the monks to death, and wounded many therein; so that the blood came from the altar upon the steps, and from the steps on the floor."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'
.... The roods, and images, and shrines of the saints, were pierced by the spears and arrows of his band; he himself speared and killed one of the monks who was embracing the holy altar, and put to death a second, who lay pierced with arrows at it's foot; the rest, compelled by necessity, bravely defended themselves with the benches and candlesticks of the church, and though severely wounded, they succeeded in driving back all the soldiers out of the choir. The result of this was, that of the monks there were two killed, and fourteen wounded, and even of the soldiers a few injured....
William of Malmesbury agrees with Florence's numbers, but the 'Chronicle' says there were three monks killed and eighteen wounded.
.... The matter was brought to a judicial investigation, and when it was clear that the greater share of the blame belonged to the abbot, the king removed him, and placed him in his own monastery in Normandy. Most of the monks were dispersed through bishoprics and abbacies, and placed in custody by command of the king. After his death, the abbot purchased back his abbacy from his son, king William [Rufus], for five hundred pounds, and wandering about for some years over the possessions of his church, at length finished his days in misery, far from the monastery itself, as well he deserved."
Florence of Worcester
Orderic Vitalis refers to the Glastonbury incident, and concludes:
"I could relate many such instances, if they would edify the readers mind; but such subjects are by no means agreeable, and, therefore, without dwelling on them, I gladly employ my pen on other matters."
The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' ends its entry for 1083:
"And in this same year passed-away Matilda, queen of King William, on the day after All-Hallow-mass [i.e. on 2nd November]....
Queen Matilda died in Normandy. She was buried in the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, which she had founded, at Caen.
.... And in the same year also, after mid-winter ....
The 'Chronicle' is using Lady Day (Feast of the Annunciation) reckoning - the following applies to early 1084 by modern reckoning.
.... the king ordained a large and heavy tax over all England; that was, upon each hide of land, two and seventy pence."
Orderic Vitalis 'Historia Ecclesiastica' by Thomas Forester
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' by Rev. James Ingram/Dr. J.A. Giles
Symeon of Durham 'Historia Regum' & 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' by J. Stevenson
William of Malmesbury 'Gesta Regum Anglorum' by Rev. J. Sharpe, revised by Rev. J. Stevenson
Florence of Worcester 'Chronicon ex Chronicis' edited and in part translated by Joseph Stevenson