Tuesday, 2 February 2016

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR Hereward the Wake's rebellion


To imagine what life was like for the Saxons who refused to accept Norman rule following Norman conquest, this amateur video (17mins), The Last Saxon, recreates a sense of being hunted down by Norman forces.
Hereward was a Saxon rebel who eventually accepted the feudal system and Norman rule to reclaim the land he'd lost.


Hereward the Wake (also known as Hereward the Outlaw or Hereward the Exile, c. 1035 – c.1072) was an 11th-century leader of local resistance to the Norman conquest of England. Hereward's base, when leading the rebellion against the Norman rulers, was in the Isle of Ely, and according to legend he roamed The Fens, covering North Cambridgeshire, Southern Lincolnshire and West Norfolk, leading popular opposition to William the Conqueror. (Wiki)
Still revered nearly a 1,000 years later by some in England as a great symbol of Englishness - here's a song and video inspired by him! Here's a simple whiteboard video detailing his story.

A heroic figure who inspired the legend of Robin Hood
There's even a band named after him!
His story certainly influenced the legend of Robin Hood!
This video provides a lot of useful information, though the voiceover is done by computer voice translation!

Exiled as a young man (just 18) by Edward the Confessor, he became a mercenary, returning to England in 1069 to find his brother's head impaled where his land and property once was. Enraged to hear Normans boasting about this, he killed 14 of them at a feast ... their head's replaced his brother's above his old house!
The Domesday Book confirms that a man named Hereward held lands at Witham on the Hill and Barholm with Stow in the southwestern corner of Lincolnshire as a tenant of Peterborough Abbey. Before his exile, Hereward had lands as a tenant of Croyland Abbey at Crowland, eight miles to the east of Market Deeping in the neighbouring fenland. (source)
Note though that not all of the accounts agree on what Hereward did or was like....
There are many books on Hereward!
Along with the former Saxon earl of Northumbria, Morcai, he led a rebel force to Ely, which William struggled to defeat - many of his soldiers died when a wooden causeway across the treacherous marshes collapsed. Hereward and Morcai joined the Danish king there, and looted Peterborough Abbey for gold ... which the Danish king fled with ... and which also caused the Ely monks to betray him to the Saxons, showing them how to safely get across the marshes. Hereward escaped to the surrounding countryside, the Fens.
It is not known how long Hereward the Wake lived as outlaws in the forests of the Fens. But he apparently held out against the Normans until King William was persuaded to come to terms. Hereward the Wake was given his lands back and reference to his lands are made in the Doomsday Book. (Source)
Visit ely.org.uk to learn more!
The great rebel became part of the ruling class again, his sister marrying a prominent Norman and William returning his land. That's one version; there are conflicting accounts!
Several conflicting accounts exist as to Hereward's fate thereafter, the Gesta Herewardi states that while in attempt to negotiate with William he was provoked into a fight which led to his capture and imprisonment, however, he was later liberated by his friends while in the course of being transferred from one castle to another. Hereward's former gaoler persuaded the king to negotiate again, and he was eventually pardoned by William. The Estoire des Engleis, written by Geoffrey Gaimar claims Hereward lived for some time as an outlaw in the Fens, but that as he was on the verge of making peace with William, he was set upon and killed by a group of Norman knights. Even after his death, people still visited a wooden castle in the Fens that was known to the peasants as Hereward's Castle. (source)

William struggled to defeat the rebels at Ely, who had picked their defensive base well. He tried laying planks across the marsh, but this collapsed, killing many soldiers.

He brought in witches to curse the rebels ... shockingly, this failed!

Bribery won out ... monks who feared Hereward and the rebels would rob them as they had done the Peterborough monastery betrayed them, telling William's men how to safely cross the marshes.

William won the Battle of Hastings, but he faced a long fight to defeat his remaining opponents, determined to oppose and undermine Norman rule and the feudal system that transferred wealth and land from many of the previous, Saxon elites.

There are several books on Hereward - check with your parents
before accessing any of these, as some portray the brutal realities quite starkly.

James Wilde's novel is a recent example (Amazon UK), but there have also been comic books and kids books ... have a look for yourself online.

See also: sources above and:
BBC guide.
EnglishMonarchs guide.

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