The Rebellion of 1075

By Dr Lucy Marten.

Dr Marten is the Acting Director at the Centre for East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia

An excellent talk by Dr Lucy Marten from the Centre of East Anglian Studies (UEA) on the rebellion of 1075. This is a period of British history that is often overlooked by historians falling, as it does, shortly after the Hereward the Wake rebellion which was based in Ely. The 1075 rebellion against William, sometimes called the Rebellion of the Three Earls, was more broadly based and seemed, at least initially, to have more chance of success. The Earls in question held lands in middle England with Roger of Hereford in the West, Waltheof and Ralph, the main protagonist, in East Anglia. Dr Marten drew on contemporary accounts of the events to paint a picture of the country and events at the time and to raise some very interesting questions.

Quoting extensively from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the letters of Archbishop Lanfranc she described the wedding of Ralph to Roger's sister Emma in Exning (then in Cambridgeshire) where the plot was hatched. It would appear that Waltheof had reservations about the plan from the start and reported the details to Archbishop Lanfranc, who was able to mobilise opposition at an early stage. Dr Marten also quoted from Orderic Vitalis's history, but warned that some of the text may have been written to support the position of Waltheof who, although executed by William, was later venerated as Saint Waltheof.

The plotters were thwarted and Roger held at the River Severn by forces of the Bishop of Worcester, the Abbot of Evesham and the Sheriff of Worcester. In the West Ralph was brought to battle at Fagaduna, near Cambridge by William of Warenne and Richard of Bienfait and was defeated. He retreated back through his lands to Norwich and thence to France, leaving his bride to hold the castle in Norwich. His wife, Emma, managed to hold out for three months against the siege and was able to negotiate safe passage for herself and her retainers and then rejoined her husband in France. As a result of the rebellion there were large changes in land ownership as the rebels lands were forfeited and Norman nobles moved into the area to ensure that rebellions did not recur. It was possible, she said, that nobles moved into the area and granted lands were encouraged to build fortifications so that East Anglia would no longer be rebelious in the future.

Dr Marten drew attention to entries in the Doomesday book that showed that memories of these events and that change in land ownership (which was larger than that occurring in the conquest of 1066) left traces in Doomesday records. Normally the lands details of sheep, pigs etc were noted from King Edward's day and then again for King William, but the East Anglian records also often included an 'afterwards' accounting that probably referred to the holding at the time of Ralph. She also warned us, that although the letters from Lanfranc were contemporary they might not provide a complete history of his correspondence as, there were none to the Bishop of Thetford or the Abbot of Bury in the record, which would have been expected if he was mobilising resistance in East Anglia.

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