Bourne Archive: FNQ: Hereward XI

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De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis.


Pro qua re Herwardus cum quodam duce in Scaldemariland cum exercitu missus est, et præcursorem exercitum superavit.

Præterea quoque Flandrensis comes legatos in Scaldemariland pro tributo diu jam retento et censu terræ miserat : qui ferme his diebus illi in loco præfati nuncii dextro oculo privati ob illius injuriam nunciantur et sinistro pede abscisi. Ad opportunum principi et suis visum est Herwardum illuc una cum exercitu et duce ipsius usque in illam regionem mittere, pro quibus aut justitiam valde competentem acciperent, seu inimicum graviter vindicarent. Idque statim Herwardus gratanter licet rem difficilem exequitur. Classibus accensis secundaque admodum tempestate et prospero ventu ibi perveniunt. Sed non statim defuit eis hostilem multitudinem ut repatriarent, minitantes aut sævis jaculis perimerentur, vel captivi in servitutem redigerentur. Unde vehementer exacerbati et plurimi perterriti sunt, pedem referre volentes. Ad hæc Herwardus corda trepidantium confortat leviter et scientia in bello vacuos timore posse asserens, licet multam nimis et incompositam multitudinem et temerariam audaciam fuerint : quod est confidentia temeritatis et arrogantia annihilationis. Qua de causa quippe valde animis accensis, persecutionem eorum acrius contra præcursorem exercitum consurgunt, aciesque erigunt iv. ex xl. classibus et simul omnis exercitus a tergo erectus, si alii deficerent, ut procederent. Verum etiam et Herwardus, incurrentibus aliis, locum dimicandi contra fieri in medio postulavit ut effebi et pueri quasi suas vires probarent, aut sic ipsi inde exacerbati provocarentur ad pugnam, seu potius taliter virtutem eorum minorem experirentur in bello priusquam ad majora procederent ; hoc quippe adversariæ parti mandavit, quam gratanter suscipientes in fortitudine eorum confisi, unum in medio statuerunt, quem contra citius processit Herwardus ; siquidem illo prostrato, alium aliumque miserunt, quibus quidem omnibus una mortis fuit occasio, armati se defensare nescientes, nec cum armis incomposita corpora protegere scientes, verum irritatos se autumantes, aut potius illum magum æstimantes, omnes in illum irruere conati sunt. Ac ergo repente conversus ad socios, indiscrete post eum dissociati sunt ; verum sic illos inter manum miserat, pro quo tandem superati sunt.

The Exploits of Hereward the Saxon.


Wherefore Hereward with a certain leader was sent into Scaldemariland with an army, and how he overcame the army in front.

Moreover the Count of Flanders1 had sent ambassadors into Scaldemariland2 for tribute now for a long time withheld, and for the rating of the land : and about this time in that place these messengers aforesaid were reported to have been deprived of one eye, and to have had the left foot cut off, to his great dishonour. It seemed therefore opportune to the Prince and his men, to send Hereward to that region together with an army and his own general, in order to receive fitting justice for them, or else to punish the enemy severely. And that Hereward, although a difficult matter, gladly undertook. With a fleet3 in their train they arrived at the place with very favourable weather and a prosperous wind. But it was not long before they reached a great multitude of the enemy, who threatened to overwhelm them with their javelins, or to take them prisoners and reduce them to slavery. At this they were greatly exasperated, and very many were much alarmed and wanted to retreat. And so Hereward strengthened the hearts of the waverers, in a light-hearted fashion, declaring that from their experience in war they must be void of fear, although they met with an excessively great multitude, and ill arranged, and rash audacity ; for this was the confidence of rashness, and the arrogance of destruction. Whereby their courage was greatly inflamed, and they stand up the more eagerly to the pursuit of them against the army in front, four out of every forty ships and the whole army as well being in the rear, so that if some fell others might take their place. Then Hereward, while the others were rushing to the attack, demanded the centre as his position, for the fight, so that the youths and boys might test their strength, or that so they themselves exasperated at it, might be provoked to the battle, or rather in such a way they might try their inferior valour in war, before they proceeded to greater deeds : and as he directed this against the opposing party, they perceived it with joy, confiding in their strength, and they set one man in the middle, against whom Hereward very soon advanced ; and so when he was overthrown, they sent others, one after the other, but to them all it was the same occasion of death, for though armed they knew not how to defend themselves, nor how to protect with their arms their awkward bodies, but declaring that they were mocked, or rather thinking him a magician, all endeavoured to rush on him at once. But then suddenly he turned round to his companions, and they were incautiously separated behind him ; but so he got them within reach, whereby they were at length overcome.


     [Sweeting’s footnote] Participle seems omitted in the Latin.

1.     This Count of Flanders was Baldwin V. The feudal system had been introduced to Gaul on the arrival of the Franks but took its generally recognized form from the ninth century, as the centre lost its grip on the vassals. Under this system, the counts of Flanders were nominally vassals of the kings of France but since the edict of Quierzy-sur-Oise in 877, the tenure of the counties had become hereditary. In Hereward’s time, they were in the middle of a long struggle over the balance between independence and control as between the kings and vassals (Norma pp.140-1).

2.    There is little doubt that Scaldemariland is Zeeland. One possible route to this form of the name is by substitution of the Latin mare for the Germanic zee. There are three parts of the name. Land is straightforward. Both zee and mare mean sea in respectively Dutch and Latin. The monk who wrote it was working in Latin and professed to have difficulty in reading English so he called it Mariland. (Mari is in the dative case implying that the land was given to the sea.) But there were two Sealands, one in Denmark which we know as Zealand or Sjæland, the other in the estuary of the Schelde. This would be the Schelder Sea Land.

The second and more convincing possibility (found by FWP) is a construction which seems to have been used in the name of Westmorland. When the Angles had newly settled in what became North-East England, Westmorland was still in the hands of the earlier, British inhabitants, so the Anglian name for it was ‘Westmariangaland’. This translates as ‘the land of the western border’, the ‘maringa’ part of the name referring to the border. In Lincolnshire place names, it takes the form ‘mer’ or ‘mere’. See for example Meredyke, Mere Booth and Mer Lode (Wheeler Appx. I). In 1092, the Normans had brought Westmorland into their England but ‘Westmarieland’ was the name by which the sheriffdom they set up there was known (Rollinson). The change to ‘mor’ will have come from the normal ‘a’ to ‘o’ vowel shift. In Chapter I we are told that information was salvaged from Leofric’s Old English text up to the point of Hereward’s return to Bourne (in Chapter XIV) so here we may be reading his name for Zeeland. ‘Scaldemariland’ seems to be of the ‘Westmarieland’ pattern; relating to the same borderland concept. This would be very appropriate as, if the English writer were viewing it as from Flanders, it was beyond the Westerschelde, across the border between Flanders (nominally in the Kingdom of France) and the Kingdom of Germany, later to be formally, the Holy Roman Empire. It will have been Robert of Flanders’ extension of his interest across this border (Fr. Wikipedia) which had given rise to the war in which Hereward was involved.

The southern third of the modern province of Zeeland is historically, part of Flanders, though in Hereward’s day, much of this part (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen) will have been more like salt marsh and mud flats. It was the formation of this land which cut the direct sea access of Brugge and Ghent.

3.     This fits the geography. To go from Flanders to Walcheren or South Beveland in Zeeland, boats would have been needed. The modern administrative centre of Zeeland, Middelburg, is in Walcheren and until 2003, was reached by the direct route from Flanders via the Breskens to Flushing ferry. Flushing existed as a settlement well before Hereward’s time.

1658 map of Zeeland

The above is a detail from a map of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, drawn by Johannes Jansson and published in Amsterdam in 1658, as part of his collection, Belgii Foederati Nova Descriptio (thanks to Wikimedia Commons). It shows part of Flanders (Flandria) in the south and Zeeland in the centre. The dunes along the North Sea coasts are clearly shown. Walcheren is the westernmost of the Zeeland islands with the name of Flushing (Vlissingen) rather obscured by the cartographer’s coastal shading. Breskens lies on the Flanders coast, facing it. The areas of the Zeeland islands are somewhat inflated at the expense of the estuaries. While this is an early map, it dates from some 600 years after Hereward’s visit.

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