Thursday, 19 July 2012

Published at last

Hello Everyone!

Sons of the Wolf is at last published and is now available to purchase through the publishers, SilverWoods books,  Amazon or Waterstones and the Book Depository.

I am so happy that at last the story of how the Norman Conquest of England affected the ordinary people of the land.



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The Battle of Hereford: Alfgar of Mercia

The Battle of Hereford: Alfgar of Mercia

Treasonable Earl, unruly son and vengeful protagonist? Or a wronged man fighting for his rights?

Earl Alfgar was the son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Leofric was the Earl who is mentioned in the mythical tale of Lady Godiva, the woman who rode naked on a horse to force her husband to lower taxes. As mythical as that tale may have been, there was nothing mythical about the couple and their son. In the past, Leofric has been thought to have been the father of Hereward the Wake, but research from Peter Rex has proved substantially in my view, to be wrong.
Hereward as documents show, had very similar characteristics to Alfgar and had also suffered exile for misconduct, so one can see where the confusion may have arisen. However, I am pleased to say quite clearly that there is no connection between Alfgar and Hereward.

We first see Alfgar in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the year 1051when he was invested with the earldom of East Anglia when its previous earl, Harold Godwinson, had fled into exile with his brother Leofwine after the Dover incident. Alfgar had been sidelined for sometime whilst the two eldest Godwinson brothers and their Danish cousin Beorn had been given earldoms in Hereford and East Anglia and other areas in England. If as his later actions imply, he was  hot-headed, easily roused man, this must have irritated him immensley and perhaps the other Northern earls who were somewhat concerned about the Godwins' 'take-over' from the South.
When the Godwinsons were reconciled with  King Edward, they were restored to their former wealth and positions, therefore Alfgar was compelled to relinquish his earldom and Harold Godwinson was returned to his earldom. One can imagine that Alfgar did not feel gracious about having his office taken away after waiting for so long to recieve an earldom. The chronicles of the time do not bestow upon us great insight into the minds and emotions of the people they report on, however it should not be hard to conjure up images of the crest-fallen Alfgar, informed of his demotion, forming bitter and resentful thoughts within his mind.
But it was not to be too long before Alfgar was handed the Earldom of East Anglia back to him. Harold's father, the mighty Earl Godwin of Wessex, who had seen service with 6 kings throughout his life, finally met his demise after suffering a seizure, possibly a stroke at Easter time in 1053. This meant that Harold was able to step into his shoes thus creating a vacancy for Alfgar to be back in the seat of East Anglia.This meant that with Swegn and his father Godwin dead, the balance was tipping back against the Godwinsons, with Siward still in charge in Northumbria, Leofric in Mercia, the king's nephew, Ralph de Mantes was Earl of Hereford and now Alfgar of Mercia was to become earl again in East Anglia, leaving Harold the only Godwinson with an Earldom, albeit a large one. But the scales were soon to change when when during the Easter Witanemegot in 1055, Alfgar managed to get himself outlawed. According to the Abingdon (C) version of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, he was said to have been innocent of the crime and  the northern (D) chronicle states that he'd hardly committed any crime. The (E) version states that Alfgar was a traitor to his king and his people. Whatever his innocence or guilt, we cannot be sure of the real reasons, he fled to Ireland, gathered up an army of Irish and probably Norse mercenaries, brought them in ships to Gruffydd in Wales, knowing that Gruffydd would have his own beef with the English along the Welsh borders, and together they formed an alliance. Alfgar most likely assisted Gruffydd in killing the King of the Deheubarth, another Gruffydd, and subjugated the people under his own yoke. Then in late Autumn 1055, the alliance invaded the English lands around Hereford, slaughtering Earl Ralph's mounted cavalry and burned and ravaged the burgh of Hereford. He was eventually restored to his Earldom after coming to terms with the King. Gruffydd too escaped punishment for the time being and it is thought that he was given lands around Archenfield.

Alfgar's career after that was very turbulent. He married his daughter to Gruffydd which could not have pleased his father. Gruffydd had been the cause of Leofric's brother some years earlier. This alliance would not have pleased the Godwinsons or the people of Hereford who ahd suffered greatly in the last raid on their burgh. He was in trouble again around 1058 when he and Gruffydd, along with a force of Norsemen, threatened another invasion.

Eventually, Alfgar seems to have disappeared from the chronicles after 1062 and it could be assumed that he died around this time. Without him, Gruffydd's power seems to have weakened as we shall see in the next part where we discuss the life and achievement of Gruffydd ap Llewellyn, Alfgar's partner in crime.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The House of Godwin: Origins, Wulfnoth the Pirate

The Godwins were the most prolificly famous family of the first half of the 11thc. But just who were they? We all know who Harold Godwinson was and to some extent who his father Godwin was. But just where did they spring from? The following is a short introduction to who the father of Godwin was, Wulfnoth, son of an  ealdorman Athlmaer whose lineage can be traced back through the old dynastic line of the Wessex Kings. Yes, Harold was a noble with royal blood. Far more throneworthy than William the Duke of Normandy, who did not have an ounce of Wessex blood in him.

In 1008, King Aethelred ordered that a large fleet of warships from all over the country should be built equating to one from three hundred and ten hides, so 310 ships. Wulfnoth Cild, father of Godwin, was Captain of a fleet that was brought to Sandwich with the rest of the ships from the other parts of England to lie in wait in the defence of this country against the Viking raiders. This time was a great period of intrigue and Eadric Streona was one of the most prominent men at court. He seems to have been a cunning and sly man who took it upon himself to rid the court of any rivals he thought might be in the way of his advancement. Well his brother Beortric might not have been any better for as the Anglo Saxon Chronicle says he accused Wulfnoth of some unknown charges which John of Worcester stated was unjust. These charges, whether unjust or not, may have had something to do with betrayal perhaps and could have been along the lines of Wulfnoth going over to the Danes, though there is no evidence of this, nor is there any evidence that it was Beortric's charge against him. Incensed, Wulfnoth was said to have 'turned away with 20 ships and raided everywhere along the south coast and wrought every kind of harm.'
Beortic chased after him with 80 ships, vowing to get him and bring him back to meet the King's justice but unfortunately for Beortric, his ships were met with a great storm and they were cast ashore only to be burnt by Wulfnoth who meted his own justice out to his enemy.
Hearing of his fleet's misfortune, the King fled back to London and appears to have left the rest of the fleet at Sandwich in confusion as to what they should do. The crews brought the ships back to London and thus the great deterrent against the Danes ended its purpose.
So with the ships gone from Sandwich, the Vikings were able to invade at Harvest time and made their way from Sandwich into Kent and to Canterbury. Wulfnoth was cast out as an outlaw and his property was confiscated.
Later Wulfnoth's father,  an Ealderman called Aethelmaer, defected to the Danish King Swein, most likely followed by his son Wulfnoth. Both of these men died around 1014.