Edgar Aethling and rebellions in the north

  • Created by: TessBlyth
  • Created on: 27-05-19 16:10

The death of Robert Cumin

In the spring of 1069, a series of rebellions in the north that were extremely dangerous for William, took place. Rebels from Northumbria joined forced with Edgar, who had the backing of Malcolm III. King Sweyn of Denmark sent a fleet of ships and warriors, this enormous force teamed with Edgar and the other rebels.

After being betrayed by Gospatric in the revolt of Edwin and Morcar, William chose a new Earl of Northumbria: Robert Cumin. In January 1069, Cumin took a large force north, launching attacks on towns and villages on his way. When he got to Durham, the bishop there warned him that his attacks had caused great resentment, but he continues regardless. They were taken by surprise by a band of Northumbrians, who slaughtered them in the streets of Druham. Cumin took refuge in the bishop's house, but the rebels set fire to it and killed him when he was forced out by the flames.

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The Uprising in York

Soon after Cumin's murder, a similar uprising occurred in York, which killed the governor and many Norman troops. Edgar the Aethling and his supporters came down from Scotland and joined the rebels, launching an attack on the Norman sheriff and his garrison. William learned of the revolt abd arrived quickly with a large army. William routed the rebels, with the whole city of York being laid to waste. Edgar escaped back to Scotland. A new castle was rapidly built, with FitzOsbern as its castellan. The king decided that he would be able to keep the north under control while he returned to Winchester to celebrate Easter.

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The Anglo-Danish attack on York

Through the summer of 1069, King Sweyn of Denmark assembled a fleet, which arrived on the English coast at the start of September. Large invasion fleets were only put together if the chances of success seemed good enough to unite all the different Viking warlords involved. 

Raiding up the east coast, the Danes met up with Edgar's troops in mid-September. This co-ordinated attack was a significant threat to William. Not only did the Danes have allies in the Danelaw, but now Anglo-Saxons across England could join Edgar against the Normans. The combined army marched on York, reaching it on 21 September. The Norman defenders accidentally set fire to the city. Perhaps becuase their defences were damaged in the fire, they went out to meet the Anglo-Danish army and were cut to pieces. An estimated 3000 Normans were killed, both castles destroyed and all the plunder was carried back to the Danish fleet. William's control of England was under enormous pressure. 

The Normans continued however. After victory in york, the Danes sailed across the Humber up to the coast of Lincolnshire. The Anglo-Saxon rebels scattered. As William's army set out about hunting them down, news came in of other rebellions in Devon and the earldoms of Shrewsbury and Chester. As soon as William's troops arrived, the rebels disappeared but flared up again when he left. 

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William's solution

it was the Danes who represented the major threat to William, he had routed the English rebels several times, but the north was half-Danish and there was very serious danger of a Danish invasion being welcomed in Northumbria. William did the following:

  • He paid the Danes a large amount of money to leave. 
  • He embarked on a campaign of total destruction, known as the Harrying of the North in the winter of 1069-70. 

The features of the harrying involved burning crops in fields, destroying seed crops and killing livestock to make life impossinle in the region. thousands died of starvation as a result.

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The Return of the Danes

In 1070, a Danish fleet returned to England, this time with King Sweyn himself as its leader. Instead of heading to Northumbria, Sweyn set up on the Isle of Ely, in the middle of the Fens in East Anglia.

East Anglia was part of the Danelaw and Sweyn made alliances with the local people, including a rebel leader called Hereward the Wake. Hereward was a local thegn who had been exiled under Edward the Confessor, had fought as a mecenary for Flanders who came back around 1069 to find his lands had been seized by a norman. At the same time, the Archbishop of Peterborough, near to Ely, who may have been Hereward's lord, was replaced by a norman called Turold. Using the Fenland terrain to his advantage, Hereward had been fighting a guerrilla war against the normans with other East Anglia rebels.

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Attack on Peterborough and fall of Ely

The Danes and Hereward raided Peterborough Abbey together. Hereward wanted to stop its riches falling into the hands of other Normans. Unforunately, the danes promptly sailed off with the treasure back to Denmark. Hereward was joined by Morcar and his men. As the Normans advanced, led by William, Hereward and Morcar prepared to defend the Isle of Ely. The Normans managed to capture Ely possibly by bribing local monks to show them a safe way through the marshes. However it was done, Ely was captured, along with morcar. Hereward escaped and was not heard of again.

The defeat at Ely marked the end of the large-scale Anglo-Saxon rebellions. 

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