Morcar was born the son of Elfgar of Mercia. He was the couple’s second son, his brother Edwin
had been born earlier. His grandmother was Lady Godiva.
Morcar’s father was given the earldom of East Anglia after Earl Godwin
and his family were exiled for raising arms against King Edward the Confessor.
Morcar’s father was relieved of the earldom of East Anglia after Earl Godwin and his family were pardoned and returned to England. A move that sparked huge resentment between the two families.
1053 (15th April)
Earl Godwin of Wessex, died. His son, Harold
became Earl of Wessex and the most powerful nobleman in England. Morcar’s father was given back the earldom of East Anglia.
Morcar’s father was exiled by the King. He raised a force in Ireland then joined forces with Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Wales.
1055 (24th October)
Morcar’s father Elfgar had returned to England with his army and fought a battle with Ralph the Timid, Earl of Herefordshire. Elfgar won the battle.
1055 (late October)
King Edward the Confessor
sent a force led by Harold Godwinson to deal with Morcar’s father. A battle was avoided when they successfully negotiated a settlement. Earl Elfgar was reinstated as earl of East Anglia.
1057 (August or September)
Morcar’s grandfather, Leofric Earl of Mercia, died. Morcar’s father, Elfgar, became Earl of Mercia.
Morcar’s younger brother Burgheard died while returning home from Rome.
Morcar’s brother, Edwin, became Earl of Mercia after his father died.
The Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson
, was a very unpopular ruler. The thegns Gamel and Ulf had complained about the high level of taxation and had been arrested and murdered.
1065 (3rd October)
The thegns of Yorkshire decided to overthrow Tostig and marched on York and occupied the city. They elected Morcar as their new leader. After killing Tostig’s men they outlawed him and his family.
1065 (late October)
The thegns of Northumbria marched south to petition King Edward the Confessor to exile Tostig and replace him with Morcar. Morcar’s brother, Edwin, joined them at Northampton.
1065 (28th October)
Harold Godwinson was sent by Edward the Confessor to hear the case of the rebels and take action. After listening to the grievances of the Northumbrians he made the decision to exile his brother Tostig and appoint Morcar Earl of Northumbria.
1066 (5th January)
Edward the Confessor died. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Harold Godwinson as King Harold II. Morcar supported the Witan’s choice of Harold as King.
Morcar’s sister Edith, married Harold II. This political marriage ensured that Morcar and Edwin remained loyal to the crown. Harold’s two sons by Edith, Harold and Ulf, were born after his death.
1066 (late May)
Tostig Godwinson made raids on Norfolk and Lincolnshire but was defeated by Morcar and Edwin.
1066 (8th September)
and Tostig Godwinson invaded the north of England and marched towards York. Morcar’s brother, Edwin raised an army immediately but Morcar was reluctant to commit to battle. He joined his brother after realising that York would fall.
1066 (20th September)
Battle of Fulford
Morcar and Edwin fought the forces of Harald Hardrada and Tostig Godwinson but they were no match for the Vikings. Realising the battle was lost, the two earls fled the battlefield.
1066 (25th September)
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Harold Godwinson’s English army had marched north and surprised Harald Hardrada and Tostig who had not expected the Anglo-Saxon army to reach the north so quickly. They were completely unprepared for battle and many of their soldiers had not put on their chain mail due to the heat of the day. The English had to cross a small bridge which legend states was defended by a very large Viking. The English had to get under the bridge and kill him by thrusting a sword upwards. Once the bridge was cleared the English army defeated the Norwegians, many of whom had not put on their protective chain mail or armour. Harald Hardrada was killed around midday. After Harald’s death Tostig Godwinson was offered a pardon by his brother, Harold, but he refused and the fighting continued. Tostig was killed late in the afternoon and Hardrada’s son, Olaf sued for peace. Although he was victorious, Harold Godwinson had lost a large number of men. Neither Morcar nor his brother Edwin took part in the battle.
1066 (1st October)
King Harold learned of the Norman invasion
of William Duke of Normandy
. He immediately made plans to return South. He left instructions for the northern troops to follow and meet him in London. Morcar and Edwin were in no rush to fight another battle and took their time journeying south.
1066 (11th October)
Morcar, Edwin and the northern army had not reached London. Harold decided not to wait and left London at the head of the Saxon army. He ordered that his men should muster at Caldbec Hill just north of Hastings.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
The forces of Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy met on Senlac Hill. The battle lasted all day and ended when Harold was killed by the Normans. Morcar and Edwin did not take part in the battle.
1066 (late October)
When Morcar learned of the Saxon defeat at Hastings, he hastened to London. After sending his sister, Edith, Harold’s widow, to Chester he joined a meeting of the Witan. Morcar believed that either he or his brother should be made King but the Witan chose Edgar Aetheling.
Morcar and Edwin returned to the north. They believed that William would be content to rule the south and that they would be secure in the north.
William had not been content to rule the south of England and, realising they could not defeat the Conqueror, Edwin and Morcar submitted to William I at Barking. They were pardoned but were relieved of their earldoms.
Edwin and possibly Morcar were taken to Normandy with William I. William was concerned that they would organise a revolt against his rule while he was in Normandy.
Edwin and Morcar returned to England with William.
Edwin rebelled against William because William had failed to keep a promise that Edwin should marry his daughter. Morcar joined Edwin but they were unable to gain any advantage and submitted to the King. They were both pardoned.
Morcar and Edwin kept a low profile believing they were likely to be murdered by William. Morcar went to Ely and joined Hereward the Wake’s
rebellion against the Normans. He surrendered to William when the rebellion was quoshed.
William accepted Morcar’s surrender and placed him in the custody of Roger de Beaumont. He was taken to Normandy where he lived under close house arrest.
1087 (9th September)
As was the custom when a King died, Morcar was released from captivity when William I died.
Morcar was captured by William II
and placed in Winchester prison. He then disappeared from all records so likely died in captivity.