Hereward the Wake was born in the town of Bourne in Lincolnshire. The year of his birth has been approximated by working backwards from known dates in his life. Historians cite the following as possible parents of Hereward:
1. Leofric of Bourne and his wife Edith
2. Leofric of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva
3. Asketil, a Dane and thegn of King Canute
Hereward was exiled from England at the age of 14 or 18 years by Edward the Confessor
. Some sources suggest that his own father requested the exile because Hereward was a troublemaker. After this he was known as Hereward the outlaw.
There are stories that Hereward spent the early part of his exile in Cornwall and Ireland during which time he fought and killed a bear and also rescued a Cornish Princess from an unwanted marriage.
At some point while he was exiled in Flanders, Hereward married Turfrida daughter of a family from St Omer.
1066 (5th January)
King Edward the Confessor died. Hereward chose to remain in Flanders rather than seek to return.
1066 (14th October)
1066 (after 14th October)
The Witan refused to submit to William of Normandy and proclaimed Edgar Aetheling
King of England.
Edgar Aetheling, the Witan and other nobility realised they could not defeat the Normans and had no choice but to submit to William Duke of Normandy. William took Edgar into his custody.
1066 (25th December)
William Duke of Normandy was crowned King William I of England
The Northern Earls, Edwin
who had not taken part in the Battle of Hastings, rebelled against William but later surrendered to the Conqueror
King Sweyn Estridsson
of Denmark decided to attack England and sent a force to the Isle of Ely. Hereward almost certainly joined him and may have returned with him or returned to England slightly earlier. However, the Danes were defeated and returned to Denmark.
Harrying of the North
William sent a force to the North of England with orders to put down any resistance against the Normans. Men, women and children were killed, villages were burnt and crops and fields destroyed in this act of destruction.
1069 or 1070 (around)
Hereward returned to his family home where he discovered that the Normans had murdered his brother and set his head above the door. Hereward sought revenge and murdered a number of Normans and set their heads in place of his brother’s. Hereward then fled to the Fens of East Anglia where he was sheltered by Abbot Thurstan.
Hereward the Wake and King Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark took the Isle of Ely. Hereward made the Isle the base for his rebellion against the Normans.
Hereward raided Peterborough Abbey as an act of defiance against the Normans. He stated that he would take the Abbey’s treasures into safekeeping away from the Normans. Some sources state that his uncle was the Abbot of the abbey and Hereward persuaded his uncle to knight him.
Edgar Aetheling’s sister Margaret married King Malcolm of Scotland.
King Sweyn of Denmark made peace with William and withdrew his support from Hereward.
Earl Edwin of Mercia launched a revolt against the Normans but was betrayed by his own men and killed.
King William I constructed a causeway between mainland England and the Isle of Ely in order to defeat Hereward and Earl Morcar. Although the causeway sank beneath the weight of the Norman soldiers William was able to defeat the rebels after the monks of Ely, tired of battle, showed William the secret path into Ely. In the final battle Morcar was captured and imprisoned but Hereward managed to escape.
Hereward and those who had escaped with him attempted to mount a new rebellion against William but were unsuccessful. Some sources state that Hereward made peace with William but this seems unlikely given his strength of feeling against the Normans. Rather it is more likely that he was exiled again and disappeared from all records.
First published 2015; Updated and re-published May 13 2021 @ 10:41 am – Updated –