Fact Versus Fiction
Rolfe de Warenne and Ceirdre are fictional characters.
Edwin and Morcar were powerful Saxon lords prior to William of Normandy’s invasion and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They were the sons of the eaorl of Aelfgar, who was good, kindly, nobly connected, and powerful. Morcar was the younger son, renowned for his handsome looks. They did have a sister, but she was married to a Welsh lord.
Prior to 1066, Edwin and Morcar were weakened by an attack from the of Norway, and they did not fight at Hastings, which was apparently fortunate for William. After that battle, both Ed and Morcar swore fealty to William. William in turn promised Ed his daughter, whom I took the liberty of naming Isolda and gave him control of all of the north, making him eaorl of Mercia. His own Norman lords, who had followed him from Normandy, as Rolfe did, to gain lands and power, were justifiably upset that so much power was being given to Ed. William finally reneged on his promise to give Ed his daughter, and Ed and Morcar, who had gone to Normandy with William after Hastings, returned home furious.
In 1066, while there was a threat of Danish invasion, Ed and Morcar staged their first rebellion in the north. William had secured the south of England by granting feudal fiefs to his followers at strategic locations, as I have described in this novel. He took his army north and crushed the rebels, buildings, castles and leaving royal garrisons everywhere in Mercia, including at York. Both brothers swore fealty to him again and were forgiven. However, there were now royal garrisons and Norman castles in their territories to keep them in check.
The brother stages a second rebellion in 1069, killing the earl of Durham (a Norman) and attacking York. York was besieged and demolished. Apparently at the same time, the Danes invaded and were repulsed at Norwich. It is not clear if this was a coincidence, William and his troops crushed the Danes, relieved York, and sent the rebels fleeing. Construction of a second castle at York was begun, with William remaining there to oversee it personally. Meanwhile, his policy to destroy the rebels began in all earnestness—an iron fist. He would burn and destroy every rebel lair and village, even if he burned down most of the north. Historians have referred to this phase as “the harrying of the north.” In my opinion this is too light a term for such ruthless policy. This is where the story of Rolfe and Ceidre begins. Rolfe is William’s most trusted commander in charge of securing the north, crushing the Saxons, and carrying out this policy of burning out every inch of every rebel nest.
It worked. One year later, 1070, there was a last uprising in the fens, led by Edwin, Morcar, and Hereward the Wake. Because of treachery from within, the rebellion failed. Morcar was killed, Edwin captured and imprisoned for life. Hereward’s fate is unknown.
Because of the fast pacing of this novel, I took the liberty of moving up the last rebellion so that it occurred September 30, 1069. I also gave Edwin a fictional happy ending with his true-love marriage finally to Isolda. His final fate is unknown.
Websites of Interest
Explore the history section of this website it is full of archives with a timeline dating back to the year 897 with King Alfred fighting the Danes.