King William departed for Normandy in March 1067.
“... the king went over sea, and had with him hostages and moneys ...”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript E
William delegated the government of England to, his friend since boyhood, William fitz Osbern, and to, his half-brother, Odo, bishop of Bayeux. Fitz Osbern had been given the Isle of Wight and the earldom of Herefordshire. The king had a castle built in Winchester, says William of Poitiers, and fitz Osbern was based there to govern the kingdom “towards the north”.* Odo had been made earl of Kent, and was based in the castle at Dover.* Manuscript D of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’:
“And Bishop Odo and Earl William remained here behind, and wrought castles widely through the nation, and oppressed the poor folk; and ever after that it greatly grew in evil. May the end be good when God will.”*
But William of Poitiers says:
A key element of Norman tactics was castle building. Indeed, according to Master Wace (‘Roman de Rou’), they even brought prefabricated components with the invasion fleet – shaped wooden sections, already drilled to take the precut pegs which they transported in large barrels – that enabled them to erect a castle by nightfall on the day of landing. Norman castles fall into two categories. The simplest is the ‘ringwork’ – an enclosure, generally circular, defined by an outer ditch and inner bank. (A sub-division of this category is the ‘partial ringwork’, where advantage is taken of existing fortifications, such as at Pevensey, Dover and Winchester, so that a complete circuit of new earthwork is not required.) As indicated by Wace, the earthwork defences would be enhanced by timber palisades and towers, and, importantly, these castles could be thrown-up very quickly. At the great majority of known sites, though, the castles are of ‘motte-and-bailey’ design, where, attached to an enclosed area (the ‘bailey’), is a high earth mound (the ‘motte’), topped by a tower which forms the strong-point of the castle. Excavation has shown that sometimes, as at Winchester, the original ringwork castle was subsequently converted to motte-and-bailey.* At some sites the timber fortifications were later rebuilt in stone – castles that were not rebuilt survive only as dilapidated earthworks.
“Meanwhile Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and William fitz Osbern were administering their prefectures in the kingdom, each praiseworthy in his own, working sometimes together, sometimes separately; if ever necessity demanded it, one gave speedy help to the other. Their wise vigilance was made all the more effective by the friendly willingness with which they genuinely agreed. They loved each other and the king equally; they burned with a common desire to keep the Christian people in peace, and deferred readily to each other's advice. They paid the greatest respect to justice, as the king had admonished, so that fierce men and enemies might be corrected and brought into friendship. The lesser officials were equally zealous in the castles where each had been placed. But neither benefits nor fear could sufficiently force the English to prefer peace and quiet to changes and revolts.”
Orderic Vitalis borrows extensively from William of Poitiers, but his mother was English, and he had spent the first decade of his life in England. He contradicts Poitiers' rose-tinted assessment of the government of Odo and fitz Osbern, and agrees with Manuscript D's author:
“... the English were groaning under the Norman yoke, and suffering oppressions from the proud lords who ignored the king's injunctions. The petty lords who were guarding the castles oppressed all the native inhabitants of high and low degree, and heaped shameful burdens on them. For Bishop Odo and William fitz Osbern, the king's viceregents, were so swollen with pride that they would not deign to hear the reasonable plea of the English or give them impartial judgement. When their men-at-arms were guilty of plunder and rape they protected them by force, and wreaked their wrath all the more violently upon those who complained of the cruel wrongs they suffered. And so the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable and unaccustomed.”
The English, says William of Poitiers:
“... repeatedly sent envoys to the Danes or some other people from whom they might hope for help. In addition, some fled abroad where, as exiles, they might either be free from the power of the Normans, or, having gained foreign help, might return to fight against them.”(II, 46)
One of the people whose help was sought was Eustace, count of Boulogne. The Englishmen of Kent, “goaded to rebellion by Norman oppression”, says Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 173), sent word to Eustace, urging him to make sail for England and capture Dover – Bishop Odo, with most of the castle garrison, being otherwise occupied beyond the Thames. The situation must, indeed, have been desperate to consider overthrowing King William in favour of Count Eustace. Back in 1051 Eustace had travelled to England to visit his brother-in-law, King Edward. On his return journey, he had attacked the people of Dover – starting a chain of events that brought England to the brink of civil war.* He had fought on the Norman side at the battle of Hastings – he is said to have been directly involved in the killing of King Harold.* Since then, however, he had, for unknown reasons, fallen-out with King William, and returned to Boulogne. “It was because they hated the Normans that they reached an agreement with Eustace, formerly their bitter enemy”, says William of Poitiers (II, 47): “They thought that if they were not to serve one of their own countrymen, they would rather serve a neighbour whom they knew.” At any rate, Eustace accepted the Kentishmen's invitation, and, with their assistance, assailed Dover. The defenders, despite their depleted numbers, resisted fiercely. Orderic says (‘HE’ IV: ii, 174) that Eustace “feared a shameful defeat”, and signalled his men to withdraw to the ships.* A vigorous sally from the castle caught Eustace's retreating men on-the-hop, and, thinking that Odo had arrived with reinforcements, they took to panicked flight. Though Eustace himself managed to escape, many of his men died in the chaos, and his nephew (nepos) was taken prisoner. The Norman garrison was too small to pursue the Englishmen, who fled in all directions. Not surprisingly, Eustace forfeited the English property he had been granted by King William after the victory at Hastings. More surprisingly, perhaps, Eustace and the king were later (by the time William of Poitiers was writing) reconciled – the count's extensive English landholdings are recorded in the Domesday Book.
It was the ‘zealous’ administration of one Richard fitz Scrob (who had actually settled in England during Edward's reign), that caused the rebellion of Eadric the Wild. Eadric was a thegn in the Welsh Marches, holding land in Herefordshire and Shropshire. Florence of Worcester s.a. 1067:
“At that time lived a very powerful thegn, Eadric, surnamed Silvaticus ... whose land, because he refused to surrender himself up to the king, the garrison of Hereford and Richard fitz Scrob frequently devastated; but as often as they sallied out against him they lost many of their knights and squires. Wherefore Eadric, having summoned to his assistance the kings of the [north] Welsh, Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, about the Assumption of St Mary [15th August], laid waste the province of Hereford, up to the bridge over the river Lugg, and brought back great spoil.”
“... Eadric the Wild, that is the man of the woods [Edricus Wilde quod est silvestris], so called from the agility of his body and the charm of his words and works, a man of great worth and lord of the manor of Lydbury North.”Clearly, Walter believed Eadric's surname was on account of his personal attributes, however, Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 184), referring to English rebels, states:
“Many men lived in tents, disdaining to sleep in houses lest they should become soft; so that the Normans called them ‘wild men’ [silvatici].”Florence of Worcester maintains that Eadric had “refused to surrender himself up to the king”, but Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 166) places him amongst those Englishmen who submitted to William, at Barking, early in the year. Orderic says that this Eadric (the Wild), was nepos of, the notorious ealdorman, Eadric Streona. Nepos can have the specific meanings ‘grandson’ or ‘nephew’, but can also simply indicate ‘a descendant’. In this case it would appear to mean ‘nephew’, since Florence specifies that this Eadric's father was Ælfric, a brother of Eadric Streona. In Walter Map's fantastical yarn (II, 12), Eadric the Wild marries a fairy. News of this amazing marriage reaches “William the Bastard, recently crowned king of England”, and he summons the pair to London, to discover if it could possibly be true. It clearly is, and they return home. The marriage has a tragic, magical, ending, but they have had a son, Ælfnoth, who inherits his father's land. In his old age, Ælfnoth is miraculously cured of a palsy, and gifts the manor of Lydbury North to the church of Hereford, “an estate which is even now under the rule of the bishop of Hereford”. Unfortunately, although the Domesday Book does record Edric salvage as the previous holder of manors in Shropshire and Herefordshire, it states that Lydbury North (Shropshire) had actually been held by the bishop of Hereford since King Edward's reign. Incidentally, in Manuscript D of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, Eadric is called Eadric cild. It is widely believed that this is a scribal error – se wilda (the Wild) being intended.*
Of course, many Englishmen had accepted Norman rule. Orderic Vitalis:
“At that time Ealdred, archbishop of York, and some of the other bishops were acting in the king's interests * ... At that time too some of the most able citizens of the towns, some native knights of wealth and good name, and many of the common people rose unequivocally on the Norman side against their fellow countrymen.”(‘HE’ IV: ii, 176–7)
King William, alarmed by rumours which had reached him from across the Channel – that the English, with the assistance of the Danes “and other barbarous peoples”, were planning a massacre of the Normans he had left behind in England – set-off from Dieppe on 6th December, sailing through the night, to arrive at Winchelsea the next morning.*
Orderic, in passages presumably derived from William of Poitiers, reports:
“He celebrated Christmas at London, and made himself very gracious to the English bishops and lay lords. He was at great pains to appease everyone, invited them to receive the kiss of peace, and smiled on them all; he willingly granted any favours they sought, and gave ear readily to their statements and proposals. Such skilful conduct often brings back to the fold persons whose loyalty is doubtful....
.... As for the Normans, sometimes he would school them to behave with the same artful attention, sometimes he would warn them, behind the backs of the English, never to relax for a moment. Every city and district which he had visited in person or occupied with his garrisons obeyed his will. But in the marches of his kingdom, to the west and north, the inhabitants were still barbarous, and had only obeyed the English king in the time of King Edward and his predecessors when it suited their ends. Exeter was the first town to fight for liberty ... It is a wealthy and ancient city built in a plain, strongly fortified ... A great force of citizens held it, young and old seething with anger against every inhabitant of Gaul. Further, they had repeatedly sent for allies from the neighbouring districts, had detained foreign merchants with any aptitude for war, and had built or restored their towers and battlements as they judged necessary. They sent envoys urging other cities to combine with them in similar measures, and prepared to fight with all their strength against the foreign king, with whom they had had no dealings before that time.”(‘HE’ IV: ii, 178–9)
Later (‘HE’ IV: ii, 181), Orderic reveals that the people of Exeter had “insulted and ill-treated” some knights whom William had despatched across the Channel whilst he was in Normandy, and who had, allegedly, fetched-up in Exeter as a result of stormy weather. What Orderic doesn't mention is that King Harold's mother, Gytha, was a resident of Exeter. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suppose that she had designs on restoring her family to power. Anyway, William demanded that the “leading citizens” of Exeter swear fealty to him. They replied that they would neither swear fealty, nor allow him within their walls, but they would continue to pay their customary tribute to the Crown. The king was not amused.
“... he marched on them in force, and for the first time called out Englishmen in his army.”(‘HE’ IV: ii, 180)
It seems that there were two factions in Exeter – the hardline rebels who wanted William overthrown (presumably Gytha's faction), and those who simply wanted fairer taxation and considerate treatment from the new foreign king. When they learned that William was on his way with an army, says Orderic, a group of Exeter's leading citizens went-out to meet him. They begged for peace, offered to let him enter the city, promised to obey him, and gave him hostages. It would appear, though, that, when they returned to Exeter, this group were outvoted by the hardline rebels, since the citizens continued to prepare for a fight. When the king, who was now only four miles away, found out, he was furious. He rode ahead with a detachment of five hundred knights, to find the city's gates closed and the walls manned. The main force of his army arrived. He had one of the hostages blinded in front of the gates, but the citizens would not surrender. William lay siege to the city.
“... for many days he fought relentlessly to drive the citizens from the ramparts and undermine the walls.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 180)
“... he went to Devonshire, and besieged the town of Exeter for 18 days, and there many of his army perished.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D*
“Finally the citizens were compelled by the unremitting attacks of the enemy to take wiser counsel and humbly plead for pardon.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 180)
“... he besieged and speedily reduced the city of Exeter, which the citizens and some English thegns held against him.”Florence of Worcester*
“And they gave the town up to him, because the thegns had betrayed them.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“Favoured by God's assistance, he easily reduced the city of Exeter, when in a state of rebellion; for part of the wall fell down accidentally, and made an opening for him. Indeed he had attacked it with the more ferocity, asserting that those irreverent men would be deserted by God's favour, because one of them, standing upon the wall, had bared his posteriors, and had broken wind, in contempt of the Normans.”
“But Countess Gytha, the mother of Harold, king of the English, and sister [incorrect – actually aunt] of Swein, king of the Danes, escaped with many others from the city, and sought refuge in Flanders ...”Florence of Worcester
According to Orderic (‘HE’ IV: ii, 181), the citizens of Exeter “humbly threw themselves” on William's mercy, and he: “graciously granted them pardon and forgave their guilt”. The citizens were were overjoyed at the king's leniency – he didn't seize their goods, and posted guards on the gates to prevent his troops looting the city. On the other hand, ‘Chronicle’ Manuscript D complains that William: “promised them well, and performed ill” – though the Domesday Book indicates that Exeter's financial obligations to the Crown remained the same as they had been during Edward's reign. At any rate, having left a force at Exeter, to build and garrison a castle within the city,* William proceeded into Cornwall. After “putting down every disturbance that came to his notice”, he disbanded his army, and was in Winchester at Easter (23rd March 1068).
“And soon after that came the Lady Matilda hither to this land; and Archbishop Ealdred [of York] hallowed her queen at Westminster, on Whit-Sunday [11th May 1068].”*‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“In the same year the noble youths Edwin and Morcar, sons of Earl Ælfgar [of Mercia d.c.1062], rebelled, and many others with them; so that the realm of Albion was violently disturbed by their fierce insurrection. For when King William had made his peace with Earl Edwin, granting him authority over his brother and almost a third of England, he had promised to give him his daughter in marriage; but later, listening to the dishonest counsels of his envious and greedy Norman followers, he withheld the maiden from the noble youth, who greatly desired her and had long waited for her. At last his patience wore out, and he and his brother were roused to rebellion, supported by a great many of the English and Welsh... Bleddyn king of the Welsh came to the help of his uncles, bringing a great army of Welshmen with him....
.... After large numbers of the leading men of England and Wales had met together, a general outcry arose against the injustice and tyranny which the Normans and their comrades-in-arms had inflicted on the English. They sent envoys into every corner of Albion to incite men openly and secretly against the enemy. All were ready to conspire together to recover their former liberty, and bind themselves by weighty oaths against the Normans. In the regions north of the Humber violent disturbances broke out. The rebels prepared to defend themselves in woods, marshes, and creeks, and in some cities. The city of York was seething with discontent, and showed no respect for the holy office of its archbishop when he tried to appease it... To meet the danger the king rode to all the remote parts of his kingdom and fortified strategic sites against enemy attacks. For the fortifications called castles by the Normans were scarcely known in the English provinces, and so the English – in spite of their courage and love of fighting – could put up only a weak resistance to their enemies. The king built a castle at Warwick ... After this Edwin, Morcar, and their men, unwilling to face the doubtful issue of a battle, and wisely preferring peace to war, sought the king's pardon and obtained it at least to outward appearance. Next the king built Nottingham Castle ...”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 182–4)
“And in this summer  Edgar Cild [i.e. Edgar Ætheling] went out, with his mother Agatha, and his two sisters, Margaret and Christina, and Mærleswein and many good men with them, and came to Scotland under the protection of King Malcolm, and he received them all.* ... It was then announced to the king that the folk in the north had gathered themselves together, and would stand against him if he came. He then went to Nottingham, and wrought there a castle ...”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
According to Orderic Vitalis, when they heard of William's arrival at Nottingham, the “terrified” citizens of York hurried to surrender to him – sending him hostages and “the keys of the city”.
“As he was very doubtful of their loyalty he fortified a castle in the city, and left trustworthy knights to guard it.”*(‘HE’ IV: ii, 185)
To York then he went.
In a castle he shut up
The thegns taken in the country.
He gave their lands to the French.Geffrei Gaimar (5399–5402)
“And Earl Gospatric and the best men went to Scotland.”*‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
The bishop of Durham (Æthelwine) had evidently supported the rebellion. Orderic Vitalis reports that he made his peace with William, and, being “returned to the king's favour”, was sent, as William's emissary, to King Malcolm:
“Malcolm, although he had already been wooed by the English rebels and had prepared a strong force to send to their aid, was ready to listen to the envoys and lay down arms; he gladly sent back with the bishop of Durham ambassadors to swear fealty and obedience to King William on his behalf... When this was done the king [i.e. William] retired, building castles at Lincoln, Huntingdon and Cambridge on his way, and garrisoning them strongly.”(‘HE’ IV: ii, 185)
Then he went south, harrying;
Many a town he left burning.Geffrei Gaimar (5403–5404)
“And in the same time came Harold's sons from Ireland,* with a naval force, into the mouth of the Avon unawares, and immediately harried over all that part; they then went to Bristol, and would storm the town; but the townsmen fought stoutly against them....
.... And when they could gain nothing from the town, they went to the ships with the plunder they had taken; and so they went to Somersetshire, and there landed. And Eadnoth the Staller, fought against them and was there slain, and many good men on each side; and those who were left departed thence.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“... and they [Harold's sons], having gained the victory, and carried away a considerable spoil from Devon and Cornwall, returned to Ireland.”*Florence of Worcester
Presumably Harold's sons had intended to establish a foothold in England, but far from being greeted with open arms, they were opposed by Englishmen defending King William's authority. At any rate, as 1068 was drawing to a close William must have been quietly confidant that the situation in England was under control – he paid off his mercenary soldiers (says Orderic), and, though it is not recorded in our sources, he and Matilda (who had probably given birth to the future Henry I since her arrival in England) apparently (indicated by Continental charters) travelled to Normandy, where they remained over the Christmas period.
One Robert Cumin had been appointed to Gospatric's erstwhile, earldom – i.e. Northumbria beyond the Tees. What happened when Earl Robert, and his considerable forces, arrived in the North is described most graphically by Symeon of Durham, in his tract on the Church of Durham:
“When the Northumbrians heard of this man's arrival, they abandoned their houses, and made immediate preparation for flight; but a sudden snow-storm and a frost of extreme severity supervening, effectually prevented them from putting their intentions into practice. They all, therefore, came to the resolution of either murdering the earl or of themselves dying together. When the bishop [of Durham, Æthelwine] met the earl he told him of this plot, and advised him to return. But the other was not permitted to hearken to these words of counsel, for he was one of those persons who paid the wages of their followers by licensing their ravagings and murders; and he had already killed many of the rustics of the church. So the earl entered Durham with seven hundred men, and they treated the householders as if they had been enemies. Very early in the morning, the Northumbrians having collected themselves together, broke in through all the gates, and running through the city, hither and thither, they slew the earl's associates. So great, at the last, was the multitude of the slain, that every street was covered with blood, and filled with dead bodies. But there still survived a considerable number, who defended the door of the house in which the earl was, and securely held it against the inroads of the assailants....
.... They [the Northumbrian assailants], on their part, endeavoured to throw fire into the house, so as to burn it and its inmates; and the flaming sparks flying upwards caught the western tower, which was in immediate proximity, and it appeared to be on the very verge of destruction. The people knelt down on their knees and besought St Cuthbert to preserve his church from burning; and immediately a wind arose from the east which drove the flames backwards from the church, and entirely freed it from all danger. The house, however, which had caught fire, continued to blaze; and of those persons who were within it some were burnt, some were slaughtered as soon as they crossed its doors; and thus the earl was put to death along with all his followers, save one, who escaped wounded. This occurred on the 2nd [ll] of the Kalends of February [i.e. 31st January, 1069].”*(‘LDE’ III, 15)
“Not long afterwards Robert fitz Richard, guardian of the castle at York, was slaughtered with many of his men.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 187)
“... Edgar Ætheling came with all the Northumbrians to York ....
.... and the townsmen made peace with him.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscripts D and E
“William called Malet, who was castellan there, sent word to the king that he would be compelled to surrender unless his beleaguered forces were speedily relieved. Swift was the king's coming ...”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 188)
“And King William came unawares on them from the south, with an overwhelming army, and put them to flight, and slew those who could not flee, which were many hundred men, and plundered the town, and defiled St Peter's minster, and also plundered and oppressed all the others.”*‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“The king remained a further eight days in the city, built a second castle, and left Earl William fitz Osbern as castellan there.* He himself returned to Winchester with a thankful heart, and celebrated Easter [12th April] there. The English made one further attack on both castles after the king's departure; but they could not prevail against Earl William and his men who engaged them hotly in one of the baileys, killing and capturing many whilst the remainder prolonged their lives for a while through flight.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 188)
“And the ætheling went back [“again” adds Manuscript D] to Scotland.”*‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscripts D and E
“Whilst he was quelling the storms of war that rose on every side, King William sent his beloved wife Matilda back to Normandy so that she might give up her time to religious devotions in peace, away from the English tumults, and together with the boy Robert [their eldest son] could keep the duchy secure.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 188)
“After this came Harold's sons from Ireland, at Midsummer, with 64 ships into the mouth of the Taw [on Devon's north coast], and there heedlessly landed; and Earl Brian [a Breton count] came against them unawares with no small band, and fought against them, and there slew all the best men that were in the fleet; and the others, in a small band, fled to the ship. And Harold's sons went back again to Ireland.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
There are no further recorded visitations from Ireland by Harold's sons. According to Saxo Grammaticus (XI, 6), “his two sons” ended up in Denmark, where King Swein II (Swein Estrithsson): “received them with the kind of affection that befits relatives” (their grandmother, Gytha, being Swein's aunt).*
Swein Estrithsson had his own pretensions to the English throne.* Encouraged by “many messengers from the English begging for help and sending subsidies”, notes Orderic Vitalis, Swein despatched “a great fleet”, say both Orderic and Geffrei Gaimar – “240 ships”, ‘Chronicle’ Manuscript D and Florence of Worcester; “300 ships”, Manuscript E – to England. Swein didn't go himself. Amongst the leaders of the expedition were three of his sons,* and his brother, Earl Osbeorn, who appears to have been commander-in-chief.
“... betwixt the two St Mary masses [i.e. between 15th August and 8th September, 1069], [they] came from the east, from Denmark ...”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript E
“Landing at Dover they were attacked by royal forces and driven off to Sandwich, where they were again repulsed by the Normans. They seized an opportunity of landing and plundering around Ipswich, but the inhabitants rallied against them, killed 30, and drove the rest away. When they landed at Norwich on a similar foray Ralph de Gael fell upon them, killed many, drove others to their death by drowning, and forced the rest to take shameful flight to their ships and put to sea. King William at the time was enjoying one of his regular hunting expeditions in the Forest of Dean. The moment he heard of the coming of the Danes he sent a messenger to York to tell his men to prepare for an attack and send for him if they were hard pressed. The custodians of the castles there replied that they could hold out without help for a year.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 191–2)
Swein's fleet sailed onwards up the coast, and entered the Humber:
“... and there came to meet them Edgar Cild [i.e. Edgar Ætheling],* and Earl Waltheof, and Mærleswein, and Earl Gospatric with the Northumbrians, and all the people of the land, riding and walking with a countless army, greatly rejoicing; and so all unanimously went to York ...”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“Ealdred, archbishop of York, being much affected by grief at their arrival, fell into a dangerous sickness, and in the 10th year of his archiepiscopate, on Friday, the 3rd of the Ides of September [11th September], as he had prayed of God, he departed this life, and was buried in the church of St Peter.* On the eighth day after this, namely on Saturday, the 13th of the Kalends of October [19th September], the Normans who kept the castles set fire to the houses adjacent to them, fearing that they might be of use to the Danes in filling up the castle ditches; and the flames spreading, attacked the whole of the city, and entirely consumed it, together with the monastery of St Peter. But this was most speedily followed by a heavy infliction of the divine vengeance. For on Monday, before the whole of the city was entirely burnt, the Danes arrived with their fleet ...”Florence of Worcester
“The Danes reached York, and a general rising of the inhabitants swelled their ranks. Waltheof, Gospatric, Mærleswein * ... were in the advance guard and led the Danish and Norse forces. The garrison made a rash sally to attack them and engaged them ill-advisedly within the city walls. Unable to resist such numbers they were all slain or taken prisoner.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 192)
“... the Danes assailing the castles on one side, the Northumbrians on the other, they took them by storm the same day [i.e. on Monday 21st September]. And more than three thousand of the Normans being slaughtered, and William Malet, who then held the office of sheriff, with his wife and two children, and Gilbert de Gant and a very few others, being preserved alive, the Danes returned to their ships with untold spoils, and the Northumbrians to their abodes.”Symeon of Durham (‘Historia Regum’)
“The king was filled with sorrow and anger, and mustering his army made all speed to join battle. But the enemy, fearing the conqueror, had fled across the Humber and landed on the Lindsey side. The king hastened to the spot with his knights, hunted out some of the ill-doers who had taken refuge in the almost inaccessible marshes, put them to the sword, and wiped out their hiding places. The Danes escaped back to the other shore, waiting for a suitable opportunity to avenge themselves and their comrades.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 192–3)
Apparently encouraged by events in the North, there was a spate of rebellions in other parts of the country. Orderic (‘HE’ IV: ii, 193–5) says that the men of Dorset and Somerset (“with their neighbours”) attacked Montacute Castle. They failed to capture the castle when Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, with a force, drawn from Winchester, London and Salisbury, “marched against them, killed some, captured and mutilated others, and put the rest to flight”. An alliance of “the Welshmen” (this would have been Bleddyn's forces), the men of Chester and “the native citizens, the powerful and warlike Eadric the Wild, and other untameable Englishmen” besieged Shrewsbury Castle. Meanwhile, the men of Devon “allied with hordes from Cornwall” besieged Exeter (mindful of their previous experience, the citizens of Exeter had sided with the king). To deal with these two sieges, the king sent reinforcements, commanded by William fitz Osbern and Brian, the Breton count. Before they could get to Shrewsbury, the attackers had burned the town and dispersed. In Exeter, though, a sudden sally by the garrison drove-off the besieging Englishmen. They were intercepted by William and Brian, who “punished their audacity with great slaughter”. The king himself, having left his half-brother, Robert, count of Mortain, and Robert, count of Eu, in Lindsey, had “no difficulty in crushing large forces of rebels at Stafford”. The two Roberts, meanwhile, surprised a number of Danes who, thinking the coast was clear, had joined in the feasts of the local people. They were driven back, with great slaughter, to their ships. At Nottingham, King William, presumably on his return journey to Lindsey, heard that the Danes had gone to York. He hurried north, but was brought to an unexpected halt, near Pontefract, when he found he was unable to cross the river Aire – it would seem that the bridge had been broken.* There was a delay of three weeks before a suitable fording place was found and the crossing accomplished. The Normans then made a difficult cross-country trek to York – only to find that the Danes had already left.
“And the fleet lay all the winter in the Humber, where the king could not come at them.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript D
“The king assigned officers and castellans with armed retainers to repair the castles in the city, and left others on the bank of the Humber to ward off the Danes. He himself continued to comb forests and remote mountainous places, stopping at nothing to hunt out the enemy hidden there. His camps were spread out over an area of a hundred miles. He cut down many in his vengeance; destroyed the lairs of others; harried the land, and burned homes to ashes”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 195)
“And King William went into the shire and ruined it all.”‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ Manuscript E
King William's ruthlessly brutal campaign of the winter of 1069/70 is known as the 'Harrying of the North'.
“Nowhere else had William shown such cruelty. Shamefully he succumbed to this vice, for he made no effort to restrain his fury and punished the innocent with the guilty. In his anger he commanded that all crops and herds, chattels and food of every kind should be brought together and burned to ashes with consuming fire, so that the whole region north of the Humber might be stripped of all means of sustenance. In consequence so serious a scarcity was felt in England, and so terrible a famine fell upon the humble and defenceless populace, that more than one hundred thousand [100,000] Christian folk of both sexes, young and old alike, perished of hunger. My narrative has frequently had occasion to praise William, but for this act which condemned the innocent and the guilty alike to die by slow starvation I cannot commend him.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 195–6). (Clearly, Orderic is speaking with his own voice here. Such criticism could not have come from William of Poitiers.)
“In the midst of the fighting William sent to the city of Winchester for his crown and other royal insignia and plate, left his army in camp, and came to York to celebrate Christmas there.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 196)
“Meanwhile he sent messages to the Danish earl, Osbeorn, and engaged to present him secretly with a large sum of money, and to grant permission to his army to forage freely along the sea-coast, on condition that he would depart, without giving battle, at the end of the winter. The Dane, who was very greedy for gold and silver, to his great dishonour, agreed to the terms proposed to him.”Florence of Worcester
Orderic tells how William discovered a place on the coast where “another enemy band” was hiding-out.* He set out to capture them, but, when they found out he was on his way, they “fled away by night”. The king gave chase, “forcing his way through trackless wastes”, until he arrived at the Tees:
“He spent fifteen days encamped on the bank of the Tees. There Waltheof ....
.... and Gospatric submitted to him and took oaths of fealty, Waltheof in person and Gospatric by proxies.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 197)
“... the king's army, which had spread over all the places between the Tees and the Tyne, found only one continued solitude; the dwellings being everywhere deserted, and the inhabitants seeking safety in flight, or lying hid in the woods or the fastness of the mountains. Then, too, the church of St Paul at Jarrow was destroyed by fire; the church of Durham, deprived of all care and ecclesiastical service [Bishop Æthelwine had retreated to the island of Lindisfarne, taking St Cuthbert's remains with him], became a den for the poor, the infirm and the sick, who no longer being able to fly, there lay perishing of hunger and disease.”Symeon of Durham (‘Historia Regum’)
William himself apparently travelled as far north as Hexham. Orderic (‘HE’ IV: ii, 197) describes his hazardous return to York, “following a route no army had hitherto attempted”, across “towering peaks” and “precipitous valleys”, in “the depths of a bitter winter”.* Having restored order in the North to his satisfaction, William set out across the Pennines, in “rain and hail”, to deal with “the Welsh and the men of Chester”, who had lately avoided the clutches of William fitz Osbern and Count Brian. For some of his troops, having already campaigned through bad weather in difficult terrain, this new mission was the final straw:
“The men of Anjou, Brittany, and Maine loudly complained that they were grievously burdened with intolerable duties, and repeatedly asked the king to discharge them from his service. The king, however, maintained a calmness worthy of Julius Caesar in this crisis ... He continued on the venture he had so boldly undertaken, commanded his faithful troops to follow him, and counted any who chose to desert him as idle cowards and weaklings... he pushed on with determination along a road no horseman had attempted before, over steep mountains and precipitous valleys, through rivers and rushing streams and deep abysses... Sometimes all were obliged to feed on horses which had perished in the bogs. The king himself, remarkably sure-footed, led the foot-soldiers, readily helping them with his own hands when they were in difficulties. So at last he brought his army safely to Chester and suppressed all risings throughout Mercia with royal power. He built a castle at Chester and another at Stafford ... Then going on to Salisbury he distributed lavish rewards to the soldiers for all they had endured, praised those who had shown prowess, and discharged them with warm thanks. But in his anger he kept back those who had wished to desert him for forty days after the departure of their comrades, and in this way punished a crime that had deserved far more.”Orderic Vitalis (‘HE’ IV: ii, 198–9)
“By the advice of William [fitz Osbern], earl of Hereford, and some others, during the time of Lent , King William commanded the monasteries of the whole of England to be searched, and the money which the richer English, by reason of his harshness and ravaging, had deposited in them, to be seized and carried to his treasury.”Florence of Worcester