Between 1035 and 1045
Details of Hereward’s date of birth and parentage are conflicting. 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
The place of his birth is almost certainly Bourne in Lincolnshire.
Working backwards from events in his life the most likely date of birth is during the late 1030s or early 1040s.
1060 (exact date unknown)
Hereward was exiled from England at the age of 14 or 18 years by Edward the Confessor
. Some sources point his own father as requesting the exile because Hereward was a troublemaker.
1061 (exact date unknown)
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.
1063 (exact date unknown)
Hereward spent time as a mercenary for Count Baldwin of Flanders
1064 (exact date unknown)
At some point during his time 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)
Edgar the Aetheling, the Witan and other nobility were forced 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
Earls Edwin and Morcar rebelled against William but later surrendered to the Conqueror
Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark decided to attack England and sent a force to the Isle of Ely. Hereward almost certainly joined the Dane and may have returned with him or returned to England slightly earlier. However, the Danes were defeated and returned to Denmark.
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 which is known as The Harrying of the North.
1069 or 1070 (thought to be)
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 where he was sheltered by Abbot Thurstan.
Hereward the Wake and King Sweyn 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 pursuaded his uncle to knight him.
1070 (date unknown)
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.
William 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.