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William the Conqueror & Cornard

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Page updated - 22 August 2008

 

This article was written for Cornard News, where it was first published, by Joan Herbert who researched it from a variety of local sources.

 

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR AND CORNARD

In the Potted History of Great Cornard (Cornard News Issue 14) it was mentioned that, in the late Anglo Saxon period, the parish of Cornard formed part of the land holdings of the mother of Earl Morcar.  It may be of some interest to our readers to know who Earl Morcar was and what was his involvement with William the Conqueror. Morcar was the grandson of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia (whose wife was Lady Godiva of Coventry fame). Morcar and his brother Edwin were involved at an early age in the battles for control of land and power that were raging in England at that time. In 1066 it was Morcar and Edwin who, suffering a surprise defeat against a Norwegian attack at York, caused King Harold to race north to finally defeat the invaders at Stamford Bridge. In his absence he left the southern coast of England open to the invasion of William and the outcome of that particular battle is well known. William returned to Normandy when he considered that England had been subdued sufficiently taking Morcar and Edwin with him as hostages.

 

There was a brief time when the brothers joined the court of William and Edwin was promised marriage to the Conqueror’s daughter but, on the advice of his courtiers, he changed his mind. When William returned to England Morcar and Edwin fled and Morcar joined the rebellion at Ely (led by Hereward the Wake) to try to stop William taking over Peterborough. The Danes promised to help them and Hereward led them through the Fens to Peterborough but, instead of fighting the Conqueror the Danes, stripped the Abbey of its treasures and persuaded William’s appointed Abbott to leave them with their plunder. Hereward fled, taking refuge in a fortified camp on the Isle of Ely. Morcar joined him but William arrived and after several bloody assaults took the camp.  Hereward managed to escape and was never heard of again. Morcar was captured and his brother Edwin was killed, by his own supporters, when he tried to release him. Morcar remained a closely guarded prisoner until he was finally freed, by William on his deathbed, in1087. All the lands that were owned by the mother of Earl Morcar were forfeited to William and the Norman rule of England changed forever the history of our country.

 

Compiled by Joan Herbert – Cornard News – 10 Feb 2005