Thursday, 29 May 2014

Edgar the Atheling, Part 2: Enemy of William the Conqueror

With the death of Harold Godwinson following the Battle of Hastings, the Witan assembled in London and nominated Edgar king. Both Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury and Ealdred of York, as well as the two brother earls, Edwin and Morcar (of Mercia and Northumberland, respectively) were there in London  However, as William approached London, Edgar's support started to disappear, with Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury submitting at Wallingford. With the Conqueror getting ever closer to London, the members of the Witan still in London began negotiations with William, resulting in Edgar being handed over to William at Berkhamsted. Edgar and other English leaders went to William's court in Normandy in 1067. However, when they returned to England, he fled and his mother and sisters fled to the court of Malcolm Canmore III in Scotland. Margaret, a sister of Edgar, (who would become St Margaret) was married to the Scottish King. Malcolm promised to help Edgar gain the English throne. Edgar may have been involved in the failed rebellion of Edwin and Morcar in 1068, but with the Northern Rebellion in early 1069, William's reign over England was indeed threatened.

                                              Victorian depiction of Malcolm and Margaret

When rebellion broke out in Northumberland, Edgar along with other exile rebels, headed back to England from Scotland. Edgar was became the leader or at least the figurehead of the revolt. The rebellion was initially successful, but it was eventually defeated by William at York, causing Edgar once more to return to Scotland (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle suggests these events happened in 1068, others 1069). In late summer ( most likely, in 1069) a Danish fleet set by Sweyn Estridsson arrived and some more rebellions were sparked. Edgar and some other exiles sailed to the Humber, where they met up with some Northumbrian  rebels and the Danes. They defeated the Normans at York and for a short time took control of Northumbria. However, a small seaborne raid led by Edgar into Lindsey ended in a disaster and he only escaped to with a few followers to rejoin the main army. William then marched into Northumbria and seized York, he bought off the Danes and then devastated the surrounding countryside and also eventually as far as north as the Tees (the notorious Harrying of the North). William, in 1070, took action against and defeated Edgar and some of his followers in a marshy region (perhaps, Holderness) forcing the Atheling once more to flee to Scotland. Edgar remained in Scotland until 1072, however when William invaded Scotland, Edgar was forced to leave, perhaps as part of an agreement. Edgar then took up residence in Flanders, whose count Robert the Frisian was hostile to the Normans. By 1074, Edgar was able to return to Scotland, but he eventually received an offer from Philip I of France, who was at odds with William. He offered him lands and a castle near Normandy, so he could raid the Duchy. He left for France, by ship, but a storm caused his ship to be shipwrecked. Many of Edgar's followers were hunted down by the Normans, however Edgar once more escaped to Scotland with the remainder of his followers. As a result, Malcolm persuaded Edgar to make peace with William and to return to England as William's subject, therefore ending any hope of him gaining the throne. However, this is  certainly not the ending of the Atheling's story.


"The Ayling Story | Edgar Atheling." The Ayling Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2014

.Binns, Stewart. "Stewart Binns on Edgar the Atheling." Historical Novel Society RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2014.

"Britannia: The AngloSaxon Chronicle." Britannia: The AngloSaxon Chronicle. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2014.

Image credit goes to Wikipedia

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