Bourne Archive: FNQ: Hereward II

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De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis.


De quibus parentibus Herwardus natus ; et quomodo a pueritia in magnanimitatibus operum crevit, et quare a patre et patria expulsus est, unde Exul cognominatus est.

Ex Anglorum gente1 multi robustissimi memorantur viri, et Herwardus Exul2 præclarissimus inter præclaros et insignis miles cum insignioribus habetur. Hujus igitur pater fuit quidem Lefricus de Brunne3, nepos comitis Radulfi cognominati Scabre4 et mater Aediva5 trinepta Oslaci ducis, utroque parente nobilissime progenitus. Puer enim erat spectabilis forma et vultu decorus, valde decoratus ex flavente cæsarie et prolixa facie, oculisque magnis, dextro ab alio variante modicum glaucus ; verum severus aspectu fuit, et ex nimia densitate membrorum admodum rotundus, sed nimis pro statura mediocri agilis, et in omnibus membris tota comperta efficacia. Inerat etiam illi a pueritia multa gratia et fortitudo corporis, et perfectum virum hujus rei ex facultate statim in adolescentia forma virtutis ejus eum demonstrabat, et erat gratia fortitudinis et virtute animi in cunctis excellenter præditus. Nam quantum ad liberalitatem attinet, ex paternis rebus et propriis dapsilis erat, et liberalissimus, solatium ferens omnibus indigentibus, scilicet crudelis in opere, et in ludo severus, libenter inter coætaneos commovens bella, et inter majores ætate in urbibus et in villis sæpe suscitans certamina, nullum sibi in ausibus et fortitudinum executionibus parem nec majores etiam ætate relinquens. Hic ergo dum in talibus adhuc juvenculis et multis majoribus animositatum progressibus de die in diem proficeret, et juvenis supra modum in viriles actus transcenderet, interdum nemini parcebat quem vel in fortitudine aliquantum rebellem suæ virtuti cognoscebat seu in certamine. Propterea quidem et his etiam de causis sæpissime seditionem faciebat in populo et tumultum in plebe. Unde patrem sibi inutilem et parentes valde ingratos reddebat, ob magnanimatatum6 ejus opera et fortitudinum cum amicis quotidie et vicinis decertantes, et inter provinciales velut hostes et tyranni se pro illo agentes, strictis gladiis et armis pæne semper filium a ludo vel a certamine revertentem muniendo. Quod tandem pater ejus ferre non valens, ipsum a facie sua depulit. Nec sic quidem adquievit, sed assumptis secum collectaneis, patrem ad sua prædia tendentem interim præcedebat, distribuens bona illius amicis et sibi faventibus, constitutis insuper sibimet in quibusdam paternis rebus ministris et servientibus, ut suis annonam ministrarent. Qua de re pater ejus a rege Eduardo impetravit, ut exul a patria fieret, patefactis omnibus quæcunque in patrem et contra parentes vel quæ contra provinciales egerat. Et factum est. Unde statim agnomen Exulis adeptus est, in decimo octavo ætatis anno a patre et patria expulsus.

The Exploits of Hereward the Saxon.


Of what parents Hereward was born, and how from his boyhood he increased in the splendour of his deeds, and why he was driven forth by his father and country ; whence he was surnamed “The Outlaw.”

Of the nations1 of the English many very mighty men are recorded, and Hereward the Outlaw2 is esteemed most distinguished amongst the distinguished, and a famous knight with the more famous. His father was Leofric, of Bourne3, grandson of Earl Radulf, surnamed Scabre4 ; and his mother was Aediva5 great-great-granddaughter of Duke Oslac ; most nobly descended by both parents. For he was a boy remarkable for his figure, and comely in aspect, very beautiful from his yellow hair, and with large grey eyes, the right eye slightly different in colour to the left ; but he was stern of feature, and somewhat stout, from the great sturdiness of his limbs, but very active for his moderate stature, and in all his limbs was found a complete vigour. There was in him also from his youth much grace and strength of body ; and from practice of this when a young man the character of his valour showed him a perfect man, and he was excellently endowed in all things with the grace of courage and valour of mind. For as regards liberality, he was, from his father’s possessions and his own, bountiful and most liberal, giving relief to all in need ; although cruel in act, and severe in play, readily stirring up quarrels among those of his own age, and often exciting contests among his elders in cities and villages ; leaving none equal to himself in deeds of daring and pursuit of brave actions, not even among his elders. While therefore he in such youthful and more mature progress in courage advanced from day to day, and as a youth greatly excelled in manly deeds ; at times he spared no one whom he knew to be at all a rival in courage or in fighting. For which reasons also he very often stirred up sedition among the populace and tumult among the common people. Whereby he made his father opposed to him and his parents very ungracious ; for because of his deeds of courage and boldness they were daily contending with their friends and neighbours and amongst the country folk who behaved like enemies and tyrants because of him, almost always protecting their son when returning from sport or fighting with drawn swords and arms. At length his father, not able to endure this, drove him from his presence. Nor then indeed did he keep quiet, but taking with him those of his own age, when his father was going to his estates, he sometimes went before him, and distributed his goods among his own friends and supporters, even appointing in some of his father’s possessions stewards and servants of his own, to supply corn to his men. Wherefore his father begged King Edward that he might be banished, making known everything he had done against his father and parents, and against the country people. And this was done. Whence forthwith he acquired the surname of the Outlaw, being driven from his father and country in the 18th year of his age.


Here we have the basics laid out quite clearly and a frame of reference provided. Consistency or not, between these data and what is said later will provide some check on the truth of each.

1.     Strictly, this translates as ‘nation’. (FWP)  As in Chapter I, note 2, Hugh may have been thinking of the nation of the English or of the Angles.

2.     He was exiled, which meant that in England, he became an outlaw. If he ventured into that country, the law gave him neither rights nor protection.

3.     Here we learn that Hereward’s father was Leofric who was associated with Bourne. He was of eminent descent, being the grandson of Earl Radulf. This might be seen as a problem. The rank of earl was created during Canute’s reign in England (1016 to 1035). It bridged the differences between the Danish jarl and the English ealdorman, tending to unify the English and Danish parts of the country. There were no earls in Radulf’s time. Use of the Latin comes will have been an attempt to render the Danish rank of jarl or of the English rank, ‘ealdorman’, though dux (leader) was often used, hence the use of ‘duke’ in connection with Oslac. When the Latin is translated back into English, we tend to find ourselves using the anachronistic ‘duke’ and earl’. Since Leofric, himself was among the early English earls (not later than 1030) (This source says 1017); Radulf will not have known that title.

Figure 1 A modern version of Leofric's emblem, used by the Mercian Regiment. (Thanks to Wikimedia Commons)


Though it is fashionable to doubt the identity, the description leaves little room for thinking Hereward’s father anyone but Leofric, Earl of Mercia, particularly when it is combined with later references to circumstantial detail. For example, the father was of a standing such that he was able to ask the king to exile Hereward and having asked, he had his request granted.

The Chronicle of Abbot John of Peterborough, followed by the Pseudo-Ingulph, says that Abbot Brand was Hereward’s paternal uncle (patruus). This causes trouble since the name does not fit at all into Leofric’s family. The research of Peter Rex has shown Brand’s likely family connections, from which he concludes that Hereward’s father was Brand’s brother, Asketil. This does not fit well with what we are told in the present chapter, namely that Hereward’s father was called Leofric. If on the other hand, John was mistaken and Brand was not patruus (father’s brother) but avunculus (mother’s brother), then all makes sense again. Rex’s research has not been wasted. The Lincolnshire holdings of Brand’s brothers tie in with those of Edith who, I suggest was their sister. The family wealth found by Rex would tie in with the statement here, that she was ‘most nobly descended by both parents’, being descended from a Jarl of York.

There is the possibility that in Medieval Latin, patruus came to be used for all uncles, paternal and maternal. The difficulty with this is that the modified Latin words we use today: uncle, avuncular and in French, oncle or German, Onkel appear to derive from avunculus rather than patruus, so implying that the converse happened (FWP).

4.     It is sometimes suggested that Scabre is a form of the word ‘staller’. The latter was a title which went with an office which had originated as that of bodyguard but by the mid eleventh century had come to include something like ‘Guardian of National Security’. Scaber is Latin for ‘rough, scruffy, untidy, scabby, mangy’ (Hanford & Herberg). Here, in keeping with ‘Radulfi cognominati’, it would be in its genitive form, which Classical Latin would write as ‘scabri’ but Mediaeval Latin often writes ‘e’ for ‘i’ and vice versa (Sidwell 0.11), so here scabri has become scabre.

Sweeting translates nepos as ‘grandson’ which is what the word means but it is sometimes used to mean ‘descendant’. This is one possible explanation of the discrepancy. However, the fact that Leofric had two grandfathers is perhaps a more promising route towards reconciling the information about Radulf with the fact that Leofric of Mercia’s paternal grandfather was called Ælfwine (DNB Leofric, earl of Mercia). There was an Earl Radulf who for example, held the jurisdiction of Drayton in the time of Edward the Confessor but as grandfather of Leofric, the relevant Earl Radulf would have been an adult by the mid-tenth century so would not have recognized the title, earl. He would have been a jarl or an ealdorman. Leofwine, Leofric of Mercia’s father, was created ealdorman in 994. (DNB Leofric, earl of Mercia)

According to Polly Brill, Leofwine’s father was Edulph and his mother, Elfwina. How reliable this may be is hard to say. Elfwina’s parents are there given as Ethelred of Mercia and Ethelfleda, lady of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred the Great. They were the ones who, in 918, established the English Borough at Stamford (St. Martin’s).

5.     Names of this period, particularly those of women, come in various forms. Since Godiva is known to have been the wife of Leofric, we may begin with the assumption that like Godgifu, Aediva is a variant of that name. She appears to have died in 1067 (DNB 2007 Godiva). The Domesday Book records the property (in 1065) of Countess Godiva (Comitissa Godeua) around Newark (MorrisJ28 2,1-4) but her property was concentrated west of there, in north-west Mercia (DNB 2007 Godiva).

Finding a relationship between her and an Oslac is a little difficult. If this report refers to Oslac of Sussex, the generations would be well over 50 years apart. If Oslac is an Anglicisation of Áslákr, Jarl of southern Northumbria (later called Yorkshire), Godiva’s birth in about 990 and a generation length of 18 years would put the birth of his child in 936. As far as the historical record goes, his first appearance in public life was in 963. (DNB 2007 Oslac). Possibly, this first historical notice relates to a period some appreciable time after he became a father; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that in 975, Oslac was a grey-haired man, so it does just hang together. Nonetheless, we must suspect that something may be amiss in our information if Godiva was Hereward’s mother. Eighteen years may be long enough for one generation but as a mean of several it is stretching credibility. The text refers to Oslac as dux (ducis in its genitive form). This is far too early to have meant the rank of duke. Here, it means ‘leader’, or it is an attempt to render jarl into Latin.

Hereward was, as we are told at the close of this chapter, ‘in the 18th year of his age’ when he was exiled. He was thus between seventeen and eighteen years old when he arrived at Gilbert of Ghent’s house at Christmas (Chapter III). This left time for his visits beyond Northumberland and to Cornwall before hearing on his arrival in Ireland, that his father had died (Chapter V). The death was an event of September, 1057. On this estimation, he will have been born in around 1037. It is possible that the writer interpreted his phrase as meaning that Hereward had passed his eighteenth but not his nineteenth birthday; so he might have been born in 1036. If events were more slow-moving and another year was occupied then the same birth date will be true or at the very earliest, one in 1035.

Godiva would have needed to have been born in the period 1015 to 1020, not much before because the need to fit in the relevant generations since Oslac and not much after since she was of marriageable age before Hereward was born, if she was to be the mother of Hereward’s elder brother, Ælfgar. However, Ælfgar is reported as having sons useful as soldiers, in 1070/1 (Chapter XIX). This would have required her birth not long after 1000. The DNB 2007 (Godiva) makes her the mother of Ælfgar and estimates her birth year as about 990 but gives no grounds for these assumptions. It also suggests that her marriage to Leofric dated from about 1010. This would have comfortably enabled his grandsons to be of soldierly age by 1070, when they are reported as part of the gathering of men heading for Ely (Chapter XIX). If Turbertinus was Edwin’s great-grandson, as stated, (Chapter XIX) even this is barely long enough a span. If we assume a mistake has been made at some stage, we may read him not as the great-grandson of Edwine, Earl of Mercia but of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. This would mean that placing Godiva’s birth in 990 would be amply early. Her death in 1067 would then make her life 77 years long which is not impossible but probably exceptional. There are two catches. The first is that the DNB (Eadwine) asserts that Edwine, Leofric’s grandson had no descendents. The second is that Godiva would have been too old in the 1050s to have borne the young son killed at the time of Hereward’s return.

The first may be explained by the DNB’s not having taken account of Turbertinus: the production of a great-grandson of Leofric need not have involved Edwin. The second can be explained quite simply, if Godiva was Leofric’s first wife and Aediva was another woman, who became his second and was young enough in the 1050s to have borne the young son, killed at the time of Hereward’s return in Chapter XIV. This leaves the births of Hereward and the younger son occurring before Godiva died in 1067. Though, despite her apparent piety (DNB 2007 Godiva), there is no sign that she had retired to a nunnery. The modern mind-set would see this as a very unlikely state of affairs but Leofric was not a modern man.

We are left with looking at the differences between Danish law and that of Rome. One difference significant here, is that while in the latter, monogamy was a requirement, in Danish custom, it was not. It is quite possible that, in the 1030s, when Leofric may have been marrying Hereward’s mother, Mercia may have been influenced, if not completely governed, by the law of the Danelaw. If so, having two wives at the same time would have been respectable, though not so in the eyes of the Church. Possibly, this was what led to the expressions of piety recorded in the endowments made in the later lives of Leofric and Godiva. (DNB 2007 Godiva & Leofric, Earl of Mercia).

Canute, the Danish king of England, died in 1035 so possibly precipitating a change towards Roman legal attitudes in this respect. The greater likelihood is that this change came about from 1042, when Canute’s son died and Edward the Confessor came to the throne. By 1054, Leofric and Godiva were endowing Stow Saint Mary with manorial income (reference).

It seems in any case, that Aediva (Eadgifu, pronounced Eadyiva) is a form not of Godiva, or Godgifu  (pronounced Godyiva) but of the modern name Edith. This tends to confirm the duality of the mothers of Ælfgar and Hereward, though they were simultaneously, wives (more danico) of Leofric.

The word more, the ablative singular of mos, appears again in Chapter XXII.

Hereward had been formally exiled: in England, he was an outlaw. A decision to return to England was a dangerous one for him. Though this, knightly etiquette and other circumstances slowed Hereward’s return after his father’s death, he was anxious to return to help his mother (Chapter V). His putative nephews, Edwin and Morcar might have been relied upon to do that: unless she were not their grandmother.

Hereward’s Behaviour

The tensions arising from a marriage more danico, followed by a time when the new ‘Christian’ attitudes began to take hold in the former Danelaw, could well explain Hereward’s behaviour. A boy growing up feeling that he is regarded as an embarrassment is likely to respond either with destructive behaviour or by excelling. It seems that the subject of the present text did both. If the youth was an embarrassment in any case, Leofric’s efforts to expel him from the country would be the more explicable. On expulsion, the first place Hereward went to was ‘beyond Northumberland’, where he seems to have found an expression of the old Scandinavian culture, if the story of Bjørn, in Chapter III is indicative. The culture he sought in Cornwall and Ireland may too have had Norwegian roots, though there are hints that the culture of the court in Cornwall was West Welsh, as one would at first impulse, expect. This was the company he sought until he accidentally fetched up in Flanders. This county too, had felt Scandinavian influence: places such as Dunkirk, on the outer coast having been founded by Northmen.

It has to be remembered that all the time he was exiled he had to be somewhere outside England; until he had a motive strong enough to make him defy English law. For this reason, in the story of his voyage from Ireland in Chapter VII, he did not wish to be landed in England without his careful control of the circumstances. If his needs carried any weight in the ship, once he had been blown past Scotland, he would have avoided a forced beaching in England. The next stop available was Flanders. This explains how, despite the storm, he landed in Flanders in a somewhat orderly manner, rather than in a welter of broken spars. The storm had abated but in an eleventh-century ship, he was unable to beat back to windward to make a landfall in Scotland.

Gilbert of Ghent

The name of Gilbert of Gant, in Chapter III, appears not to fit the hypothesis of an inclination toward a Scandinavian culture. A Gilbert of Ghent was a major post-Conquest land-holder in Lincolnshire. He would seem therefore, to have been a major supporter of William’s invasion. However, it is suggested by the Gant one name study website (which now appears to be defunct), that he received his Yorkshire lands at least, as a result of the Harrowing of the North; after the initial Conquest. There was a strong Scandinavian element in Northumbrian society but there had also been some Scandinavian settlement in Flanders. The Flemish town of Ghent and York were each a trading centre, so it is possible that this was a Gilbert from Ghent, who kept a trading station in Northumbria but Hereward went ‘beyond Northumberland’ so we should look to Scotland, say Berwick, for the scene of Chapter III.

Very unusually, the text says explicitly, that he was wealthy, (dives) which may imply that his notability may have arisen from this rather than his wealth’s being a consequence of militarily backed power: in other words, that he was a merchant. Right through to the nineteenth century, such men tended to act in some respect as bankers. It may be that the Gilbert of Ghent of the text and the one of the Domesday Book are identical and that he earned his Anglo-Norman lands by supporting the invasion financially: in view of the timing of his receipt of the Yorkshire lands, perhaps by lending money for the unexpectedly prolonged need to pay soldiers to pacify England. If so, his financial activity and Hereward’s military activity at Ely will have impinged on each other. The placing of Gilbert’s house is discussed in the commentary on Chapter III.


It may be possible to find Aediva (Edith) mentioned in the Domesday Book but she would have to be distinguished from the other Ediths mentioned there. In Lincolnshire, the only lady listed with a name translated by Morris as ‘Edith’ was Queen Edith (Edded regina, Edid regina, Eddid regina DB). She was probably Earl Godwin’s daughter and the wife of Edward the Confessor (DNB 2007: Edith [Eadgyth]). DB also refers to her as ‘the Queen’.

In Cambridgeshire, Edeua pulcra (Edeva the Fair) was a quite extensive property holder (DB). She seems to have been the same Edith who was the sister of Edwin and Morcar, therefore the granddaughter of Hereward’s father, Leofric. She was married to Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, of Gwynedd then to Harold II, of England (DNB 2007: Ealdgyth). According to William of Jumièges, Ealdgyth was very beautiful, so she may be identifiable by the epithet, ‘Fair’. As Queen of England in 1066, she is likely to have been a property owner, though the Domesday Book is supposed to deal with matters as they were when Edward the Confessor died. Her status as queen arose after his death.

Edith, Hereward’s mother seems to appear in some Domesday Book entries under the names Eddiue, Eddiua and Eddeua, translated by Morris as Eadgifu (which would be pronounced Eadyiva); mainly in Lindsey, Lincolnshire (Morris 18,25. 26,26. 34,1;3;8-9;27. 36,1-2;5). In one of these (36,5) at Stow, Leofric and Godiva gave an endowment to the church. See Chapter XXIII. She does not appear in Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or Rutland. Other volumes have not been studied with this subject in mind.

The Domesday Record of Hereward’s Property

The matter of the Domesday Book’s record seems to give people trouble in reconciling the elevated social standing of Hereward’s family (given that he was Leofric, Earl of Mercia’s son) and the meagreness of Hereward’s property.

The Domesday record refers in principal, to two periods; what it calls T. R. E. (in tempore regis Edwardi - in King Edward’s time) and modo – ‘now’, the time when the survey was completed (1086). In Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex entries there are also references to intermediate states of ownership. What follows here, relates to T. R. E.

The reality is that the only difficulty lies in explaining why property is listed under Hereward’s name at all. He had been formally exiled by the king, before Leofric died in 1057. The earlier period recorded in Domesday is that at King Edward’s death, early in 1066 by the modern calendar. As an exile from England, in that country, Hereward was necessarily an outlaw at the critical time. An official list of property ownership would seek to list properties legally owned but since he was an outlaw, the law did not recognize Hereward’s existence. By 1066, Hereward’s property will have been in other hands; presumably they will have been principally, those of members of his family or perhaps, of the king.

The four items in Lincolnshire (MorrisJ), which are listed as involving his name are one clear statement (CK 4) that he did not own the relevant property when he left: one statement (CK 48) that the property had been repossessed before he left: one property (42,9) which he had held jointly with a man called Toli and which the latter presumably took over before losing it to Odger the Breton: and one (8,34) which is harder to explain. Between 1065 and 1086, Hereward’s 12 bovates had come into the hands of Peterborough Abbey. It could simply be that there were complications which caused the lawyers to be a bit slow on that one. It was still, so to speak, subject to contract when King Edward died.

Why Hereward’s property is not listed under modo, is a more interesting question, thrown up by Chapter XXXVI.

6.     The spelling and number of magnanimatatum are those of the text. Magnanimitatum will be what is meant.

Contents         Chapter III