Saturday, February 6, 2010

Earl Leofric's family #2

Eadwine and Morcar, the two surviving sons of Aelfgar, (lady G's grandsons (she was still alive) had their army destroyed at Fulford Gate and then disappear from the evidence until their submission to William after Hastings. If they fought at either Stamford bridge or Hastings there is no evidence, but if they fought at Hastings then they must have “slipped away”.

Their careers after the conquest are depressing: held as virtual hostages, they seem to have tried to operate within the new regime the way their Grandfather and Great grandfather had adapted but failed. There is even a story that William promised Eadwine his daughter.

They rebel, apologise, are pardoned, rebel again. Eadwine is killed by his own men and Morcar, having submitted yet again, plays out his life as a prisoner. Though pardoned by William on his death bed, he was re-imprisoned by William 2 and probably died in the same prison as Harold’s last surviving brother. He’s last heard of as a prisoner around 1086.

As Baxter writes is an ironic end to what is often seen as the great family feud of the 11th century.

Baxter shows how the sorry post conquest career of the boys may not have been simply the result of their character. As he explains, the conditions that allowed the earls of pre-conquest England to be powerful were gradually disappearing. The Earls were no longer able to protect their people; their powerbase was being eroded as their influence at the local level was being steadily diminished. A lord who could neither punish nor protect, reward nor promote, (to put it in terms Baxter doesn’t use) wasn’t worth fighting for.

One other major factor had changed: The King. The great magnates of pre-conquest England seemed to simultaneously muster armies and try to avoid civil war. When Godwine and Aelfgar returned after exile they did so with an army behind them, but in all three cases they were able to negotiate their return with limited bloodshed. When the Northumbrians threw Tostig out, they marched south in force with Eadwine's Mercians and some Welsh supporters, but Harold negotiated rather than raise the army and fight. There was no suggestion that Edward’s status as King was under treat. Perhaps his authority and his ability to force his subjects to do his will was under pressure but there was no attempt by any of these to actually topple the King. Heroic poetry might obscure the fact that most of the time men didn't like fighting unless they had to.

(There may have been some very underhand goings on In the immediate aftermath of Tostig's expulsion...but even so it would have exploited a general reluctance to fight a civil war... see next post).

However, William knew his position was tenuous. Any challenge to his authority implied a threat to his position. The evidence also suggests he and his men were more than happy to fight.
Next post, Revealed, scandalous political dealings in the 11th Century!

1 comment:

Anne Gilbert said...

I'm following these posts with some interest. Edwin and Morcar don't play much of a part in my story, though they do appear at one point. I'm glad you've posted this, and I will refer this blog to other interested parties.
Anne G