It is, however, very possible that the Hereward of the midlands is another Hereward. Nothing more is heard of Hereward in real history after his flight from England until he reappears to fight against the Normans. The false Ingulf in Gale , i. This story makes him first go to Northumberland, where Gilbert of Ghent, said to be his godfather, had summoned him.
Kervyn de Lettenhove had mentioned so great a hero, consecrated a long article to Hereward's Flemish exploits. Of course the whole story has no historical basis. In the spring of the Danish fleet of Osbeorn and Christian, allowed by William under a treaty to winter in England, appeared in the Humber and Ouse, and roused the country to revolt. About the same time the stern rule of the new Norman abbot Turold drove into revolt the tenants of Peterborough Abbey, hitherto under the milder government of Abbot Brand, who was, according to the legend, Hereward's uncle.
Hereward put himself at their head, and joined with the Danes, whom he incited to plunder Peterborough Hugo Candidus , p. On 2 June Hereward and his gang of outlaws sailed up to Peterborough with many ships. They soon put down the weak opposition of the monks, and burnt all the monks' houses and all the town save one house. But the approach of Turold drove them all back to their ships, and they went to Ely, whence the Danes soon departed with the spoil, leaving the outlaws to resist the Normans as best they could.
The fame of their resistance gradually gathered the few who still dared to remain open foes of King William. The brothers Eadwine and Morkere now finally broke from the king.
After Eadwine's death in an attempted flight to Scotland, Morkere found a refuge with Hereward. At last William himself led an expedition against the valiant outlaws, and from his camp at Cambridge assailed the island by land and water. The undoubted history of Hereward here ends, but the legend goes on to speak of his later exploits against the Normans. Their value was still the same as in King Edward's days.
If, therefore, we could be sure that this Hereward was the same as the defender of Ely, we should know that he was alive in The French rhyming chronicler, Geoffrey Gaimar [q. One day his chaplain, who was on the watch, went to sleep.
Some Normans at once fell on Hereward, who after he had slain sixteen of his foes was himself slain. One of his murderers, Asselin, swore that had there been three other such men in England, the French would have all been killed or driven out. Up to the thirteenth century a wooden castle in the fenland was known as Hereward's Castle Flores Hist. Many chroniclers, including Ordericus Vitalis, who yet gives a full though confused account of the defence of Ely, Hist.
The legendary authorities are: 1. Geoffrey Gaimar's Estorie des Engles, published partly in M. Francisque Michel's Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, vol. These include a fight with an enormous bear, and the rescue of a Cornish princess from an unwanted marriage. Many historians consider these tales to be largely fictions. Historian Elizabeth van Houts considers this aspect of the story to be consistent with evidence concerning expeditions led by Robert the Frisian on behalf of his father Baldwin V, Count of Flanders in the early s. At the time of the Norman conquest of England, he was still in exile in Europe, working as a successful mercenary for Baldwin V.
According to the Gesta he took part in tournaments in Cambrai. Hereward took revenge on the Normans who killed his brother while they were ridiculing the English at a drunken feast.
He allegedly killed fifteen of them with the assistance of one helper. He then gathered followers and went to Peterborough Abbey to be knighted by his uncle Abbot Brand. He returned briefly to Flanders to allow the situation to cool down before returning to England. The Gesta claims that William de Warenne 's brother-in-law Frederick swore to kill Hereward, but Hereward outwitted him and killed him.
Since Hereward's killing of Frederick is also attested in the independent Hyde Chronicle, this event is regarded as "almost certainly" true. In Hereward certainly participated in the anti-Norman insurrection centred on the Isle of Ely.
In or the Danish king Sweyn Estrithson sent a small army to try to establish a camp on the Isle of Ely. Hereward appears to have joined them.
Hereward stormed and sacked Peterborough Abbey in company with local men and Sweyn's Danes. While the Gesta says this was after the main battle at Ely, the Peterborough Chronicle says it was before. The historical consensus is that the Chronicle's account is most accurate. According to the Gesta he returned the treasures looted from the abbey after having a vision of Saint Peter.
Hereward was then joined by a small army led by Morcar , the Saxon former Earl of Northumbria who had been ousted by William. William sent an army to deal with the rebels. In , Hereward and Morcar were forced to retreat to their stronghold and made a desperate stand on the Isle of Ely against the Conqueror's rule. Both the Gesta Herewardi and the Liber Eliensis claim that the Normans made a frontal assault, aided by a huge, mile-long timber causeway, but that this sank under the weight of armour and horses. The Normans then tried to intimidate the English with a witch, who cursed them from a wooden tower, but Hereward managed to set a fire that toppled the tower with the witch in it.
The Gesta includes other fantastical tales about Hereward's prowess, including disguising himself as a potter to spy on the king and escaping from captivity. It is said that the Normans, probably led by one of William's knights named Belasius Belsar , then bribed the monks of the island to reveal a safe route across the marshes, resulting in Ely's capture. An earlier hillfort now known as Belsar's Hill is still extant and sits astride the much older route known as Aldreth's Causeway, which would have been a direct route from the Isle of Ely to Cambridge.
Morcar was taken and imprisoned, but Hereward is said to have escaped with some of his followers into the wild fenland and to have continued his resistance. This escape is noted in all the earliest surviving sources. An ancient earthwork about 1. This circular feature, known as Belsar's Hill ,  is a potential site for a fort, built by William, from which to attack Ely and Hereward. There were perhaps as few as four causeways onto the isle itself, with this being the southerly route from London and the likely route of William's army.
There are conflicting accounts about Hereward's life after the fall of Ely. The Gesta Herewardi says Hereward attempted to negotiate with William but was provoked into a fight with a man named Ogger. The fight led to his capture and imprisonment. His followers, however, liberated him when he was being transferred from one castle to another.
Hereward's former gaoler persuaded the king to negotiate once more, and he was eventually pardoned by William and lived the rest of his life in relative peace. It also says that he married a second wife after Turfida entered a convent. Geoffrey Gaimar , in his Estoire des Engleis , says instead that Hereward lived for some time as an outlaw in the Fens, but that as he was on the verge of making peace with William, he was set upon and killed by a group of Norman knights.
The usual interpretation is that it means "the watchful". The family claimed descent from Hereward's daughter by his second wife, Alftruda. The existence of Hereward is not generally disputed, though the story of his life, especially as recounted in the Gesta , almost certainly contains exaggerations of his deeds and some outright fictions. Hugh M.
Thomas argues that the Gesta is intended to be an entertaining story about an English hero, creating a fantasy of successful resistance to the Normans. His supreme manly prowess is constantly emphasised. Potentially discreditable episodes such as the looting of Peterborough are excused, and even wiped out by stories such as the vision of St. Peter leading him to return the loot.
Hereward the Wake c. – c. was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and a leader of local resistance to the Norman Conquest of England. His base, when leading the rebellion against the Norman rulers, was the Isle of Ely in East Anglia. According to legend he roamed the Fens, covering North Cambridgeshire. The Legend of Hereward book. Read reviews from world's largest community for readers. When truth and legend conflict, which becomes history? - England, A.
The fact of Hereward's participation in the events at Ely is attested in early documents such as the annal for in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Another text of the Chronicle also tells of his involvement in the looting.