Part IV: 1075 – 1078 The Wrath of Kings
At the beginning of April 1075 Waltheof had a serious fallout with Hugh de Montfort. The Earl of Suffolk had approached him with new religious teachings not quite in line with the catholic faith, destroying their friendship utterly this way.
On April 16th, Waltheof even declared war against Suffolk, supported by his liege and the king.
But the forces of righteousness were not victorious at the start.
In May the army of Northampton suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Suffolk but came back in June with reinforcements from Powys and Durham.
In July a few days after the birth of Waltheof’s fourth son Saebert, King William finally granted Suffolk to him.
The Siwards still pondered the question where to send Aethelfrith as fosterling.
It was much too dangerous to let him stay in England, but to send him to the Scottish court – although Malcolm III. had always been favourable to the Saxon cause – seemed not to be an alternative due to the Scottish-Norman alliance. Waltheof finally asked Maldred, Duke of Galloway, if he would accept Aethelfrith at his court. Galloway – being a vassal of Scotland but near the main Siward holdings it seemed an ideal constellation. Maldred welcomed Aethelfrith with open arms.
Sending Aethelfrith to Scotland lead to strained the relations of King William and Duke Richard, when the king was informed that his son had refused to take the Saxon heir into his care last year. Ironically this friction with his father led Duke Richard on a reconciliation course with his vassal.
The Year 1076 saw few but major events happen.
On February 22nd, Waltheof refused an alliance proposal of the King of Castile, deciding that the realm was too far from England and had too many of problems of its own to be of use to him.
Just the following day, Pope Alexander II. turned to the Christian princes and lords and begged them to free the city of Alexandria (surprisingly not Jerusalem, which was at that time a much easier target) from the clutches of the Muslim hordes (modern historians call it the Caliphate of the Fatimids) .
The first Crusade had started.
In late December not feeling save anymore Earl Waltheof forged an alliance with the child king Donnchad V. of Leinster.
The first half of 1077 was still peaceful but on June 18th, disaster struck.
King William named Waltheof a traitor to the crown and declared war on him and all his possessions (on a side note: he also declared war on another Saxon noble – Wulfhere de Leyburne, Earl of Westmoreland – a few days later).
The Siward family was ill prepared for a war. Their treasury almost empty, spent on improvements of their counties.
To the surprise of the Earl of Northampton his liege Richard of Oxford decided to fight his father alongside his vassal as was Waltheofs new ally the King of Leinster.
Malcolm III. declared war on Waltheof claiming to be bound by his alliance vows (and certainly hoping to gain Northumberland for himself).
The war started well for the small Alliance (Leinster-Oxford-Northampton; a “modern” synonym – it was not used before the 17th Century). Waltheof defeated a royal division near Lincoln in July and again near York in August, before laying siege to the city.
Waltheof’s Northumberland levy marched north into Lothian where he was joined by an Irish army. Here near Edinburgh the allies defeated an Scottish force in October and while the men of Leinster started besieging the city Waltheof’s men marched south to assist in the siege of York.
In November the Earl’s Welsh men were repelled when they tried to lift the English siege of Northampton and Duke Richard was defeated by his father in Essex.
The situation changed slightly for the better when Malcolm III. decided to stop hostilities. He paid some indemnities to Leinster (the exact sum is lost to history) to leave Scotland. Waltheof and Richard signed “White Peaces”.
But in 1078 the war went from bad to worse for the allies.
There are no recorded victories in field battles for them in the later part of the war.
Waltheof’s Welsh army was defeated at Suffolk in January, Richard was defeated at Bedford and had to retreat to Oxford, to find himself besieged in the city just two months later.
After York had fallen into his hands Waltheof gathered all his remaining men and marched on Northampton in hope to break the siege and free his wife. But in June/July the Northamptonian army was defeated and had to retreat.
Seeing all her hopes crushed before her very eyes the pregnant Countess Margaret had a miscarriage and died - after two more months in suffering - on September 12th, 1078.
Movements of the allied Troops 1077-1078
Ten days later Earl Waltheof offered to surrender his forces to King William, to pay hommage to him and not to force his sons claims to the English throne as long as he or King William lived, if he would be allowed to keep his fiefs and the city of York.
Earl Waltheof meets with King William for Peace Negotiations
After two days of consideration and against the advice of his council, William the Conqueror agreed, but added the conditions that Waltheof had to marry Berthe de Blois, the sister of William’s friend Thibaut, Duke de Champagne and that Waltheof’s second son Eadric had to stay as hostage with the Duke of Somerset.
Berthe de Blois, Waltheof's second wife
In compensation for his loss of York the King stripped Duke Richard of Oxford and Earl Wulfhere of Westmoreland of their possessions (their peace proposals had not been fast enough) a month later. Richard even had to take the vows and was ordained Bishop of Carlisle (though he had to reside in Kendall - to where he was banished).
Waltheof had survived the onslaught of The Conqueror. He had even gained an additional county (which surely put his administration abilities to a strain). But his most valuable provinces had been plundered and he was drowned in debts (although Berthe’s dowry had lifted this weight a little).
- To be continued with Part V: Years of Recovery and the Treaty of Lincoln -