Eadric Streona

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Eadric
Ealdorman of Mercia
Reign 1007 – 25 December 1017
Predecessor Ælfric Cild
Successor Leofric
Spouse(s) Eadgyth
Father Æthelric
Died 25 December 1017
London, England

Eadric Streona (fl. 1002 – 25 December 1017) was the Ealdorman of Mercia from 1007 to 1017. During his tenure as earl he became a foremost adviser to his father-in-law king Ethelred the Unready and seems to have at times acted as a go-between for Æthelred and the Vikings this was the case in 1012 when he oversaw the payment of £48,000 and attempted to negotiate the release of the Archbishop of Cantebury Ælfheah which was unsuccessful. Eadric was renowned for the killing of many prominent noblemen which seems to have been approved and supported by Æthelred and though being married to his daughter Eadric betrayed him and with forty ships from the royal fleet switched sides joining Cnut in a campaign of plundering, and in the summer of 1016 a series of major battles were fought with the decisive being fought at a place called Assandun which is believed to be present day Ashingdon, in south-east, or Ashdon, in north-west Essex, it ended in victory for the Danes after Eadric left the field of battle for uncertain reasons though it is believed he did so as it would benefit the Danes, Eadric had before the battle switched sides back to the English. Peace was brought but Eadric only survived for one year longer as he was executed at Christmas 1017.

Name[edit]

A page from Hemming's Cartulary, an 11th-century manuscript.

Eadric's nickname "Streona" is loosely translated as the "Acquisitive" or the "Grasper" and first appears in Hemming's Cartulary.[1]

Early life[edit]

Family[edit]

Eadric's family appear to have had interests in Shropshire and Herefordshire. John of Worcester names Eadric's father as Æthelric a thegn who attended court from the late 980s onwards and his siblings as Brihtric, Ælfric, Goda, Æthelwine, Æthelweard, and Æthelmær, of whom the last is said (probably mistakenly) to have been the father of Wulfnoth Cild, the father of Earl Godwin, the chronicler also left a blank space between Ælfric and Goda, as if for the name of another brother. Thegns bearing these names occur among the witnesses to the charters issued in the name of King Æthelred II in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. The thegns in question occur quite often in groups of two or three, which might be interpreted as evidence that they were members of the same family. Æthelric seems to have been accompanied from the mid-990s onwards by one or more of his sons (not including Ælfric); and if only to judge from the witness lists, it may be that the name of the other brother was Æthelnoth.

Early career[edit]

Eadric himself is perhaps first identifiable in the witness lists of charters, with his father and brother Brihtric, in 1002.[2]Other members of Eadric's family seem to have been present at court in some strength in 1004–5; there are no lists which Eadric appears on in 1006, but Eadric was reported in that year for being involved in the killing of ealdorman Ælfhelm:

Eadric does appear among the thegns in 1007 at St Albans Abbey,[4] in which year he was appointed ealdorman of Mercia. It may have been in 1007, or thereabouts, that Eadric married Eadgyth, daughter of King Æthelred, reflecting or accounting for his sudden rise to prominence, for John of Worcester implies that the marriage had taken place by 1009.

Ealdorman of Mercia[edit]

Tribute[edit]

Eadric was appointed the Ealdorman of Mercia in 1007, the position had been vacant since 985 when his predecessor Ælfric Cild was driven into exile after being accused of treachery, however Eadric must have been on better terms with king Ethelred as he was soon married to his daughter Eadgyth, Ethelred ordered a new fleet of warships, organised on a national scale to be built, but this was weakened when Wulfgeat, who was accused by Eadric's brother Brihtric of treason, turned to piracy.[5]

With England vulnerable to seaborne invasion, an army led by Thorkell the Tall arrived in 1009 and wreaked havoc in much of the country, when Æthelred was willing to deal with him militarily Eadric dissuaded him. This indecisiveness led to another two years of conflict and only ended when Eadric while in London oversaw the payment of £48,000 at Easter (13 April) in 1012. Also negotiated at this time was the freedom of Ælfheah of Canterbury, but the Archbishop refused to be ransomed and was killed by his captors in frustration.[6] In the same year Eadric ravaged St David's in Wales.

Invasion[edit]

In 1013 Sweyn Forkbeard arrived in England with the intention to crown himself king of England. By the end of 1013 English resistance had collapsed and Sweyn had conquered the country, Eadric's position at this time is not clear but according to Roger of Wendover Eadric "crossed over" the channel to Normandy with queen Emma "and a hundred an forty soldiers", Æthelred followed them in January 1014.

However the situation suddenly changed when Sweyn died on 3 February 1014. The crews of the Danish ships in the Trent that had previously supported Sweyn immediately swore their allegiance to his son Cnut, but leading English noblemen sent a proposal to Æthelred to negotiate his restoration to the throne. He was required to declare his loyalty to them, to bring in reforms regarding everything that they disliked and to forgive all that had been said and done against him in his previous reign. Æthelred soon regained his throne with assistance from Olaf Haraldsson and Cnut went back to Denmark while his allies were punished for their co-operation with him.

In 1015 there was a council held in Oxford, during the event Eadric invited the brothers Sigeferth and Morcar two thegn's from the Seven Burh's in the East Midland's, unfortunately for them Eadric had them killed possibly because of their collabaration with the Danes, it enabled prince Edmund to take their land.[7]

Return of the Danes[edit]

Cnut arrived in August from Denmark with an invasion force of about 200 ships at Sandwich in Kent but immediately went off plundering in Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset, Eadric collected an army at Cosham where king Æthelred lay sick and Edmund in the North where his new territories lay, Eadric apparently had the intention of betraying Edmund but when their armies came together he could not, their armies separated without incedent and Eadric soon took forty ships from the royal fleet with him to Cnut and entered into his service.[8]

In around new year Eadric accompanied Cnut into Warwickshire where they plundered, burned and slew all they met, prince Edmund assembled an army to face them but the Mercians with him refused to fight the Danes so it disbanded, Edmund did assemble another and with the assistance of Earl Uhtred of Northumbria they plundered Eadric's land in Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire.[9] Uhtred returned to his occupied Northumbria to submit to Cnut but he was killed, manuscript C of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' asserts that Uhtred was killed "by the advice of Ealdorman Eadric". This claim is, however, rendered unlikely by the testimony of John of Worcester and Symeon of Durham, who name the agent of Uhtred's death as one Thurbrand a rival of his, he was replaced with Eric Haakonsson.[10]

Æthelred died on 23 April in London, his son Edmund was elected king of what was left of his father's kingdom, but he was left little time as the Danish army went south to London, Edmund left for Wessex, Eadric and Cnut followed him and two inconclusive battle's were fought at Penselwood in Somerset and Sherston in Wiltshire which lasted two day's, the first day was bloody but inconclusive, on the second Edmund had the upper hand but Eadric:[11]

Edmund's forces did flee but they realised he was still alive and fought with him till dusk, Eadric and Cnut under the cover of darkness returned to London, leaving the battle, Edmund soon relieved London, driving Eadric an Cnut away and defeated them after crossing the Thames at Brentford, but Suffering heavy losses, he withdrew to Wessex to gather fresh troops, and the Danes again brought London under siege, but after another unsuccessful assault they withdrew into Kent under attack by the loyalist's, after another defeat at Otford, Eadric met Edmund at Aylesford and he was accepted back, Cnut set sail northwards across the sea to Essex, and went up the River Orwell to ravage Mercia.

Battle of Assandun[edit]

Ashingdon hill, one of the possible locations of the battle

On 18 October 1016, the Danes were engaged by Edmund's army as they retired towards their ships, leading to the Battle of Assandun - fought at either Ashingdon, in south-east, or Ashdon, in north-west Essex. In the ensuing struggle, Eadric, whose return to the English side was perhaps a ruse, withdrew his forces from the field of battle and as the Anglo-Saxon chronicle puts it he "betrayed his natural lord and all the people of England." Bringing about a decisive English defeat.[12]

Edmund and Cnut made peace on the advice of Eadric on Ola's island near Deerhurst, is what decided that England would be split in half at the Thames, Cnut in the North and Edmund in the south, however Edmund did not live much longer and Cnut became sole ruler of England, Eadric held his position [13]

Death[edit]

While at the royal palace in London, Edric was killed at the command of King Cnut, along with three other prominent English nobles, Northman, son of Leofwine, Æthelweard, son of Æthelmær the Stout, and Brihtric, son of Ælfhheah, ealdorman of Devon.[14] According to the Encomium Emmae It was done under claim that those executed had not fought "faithfully" for their liege Edmund and "whom he (Cnut) knew to have been deceitful, and to have hesitated between the two sides with fraudulent tergiversion."[a] The Encomium also says that Cnut ordered Earl Eric to "pay this man what we owe him" and he chopped off his head with his axe.[b][15]

The Exact date of Edric's death is not given by any source, but John of Worcester states that Cnut gave the order on Christmas day, therefore it is likely he died on 25 December 1017. Cnut ordered his body to be thrown over the city wall, and left unburied.[16] Henry of Huntingdon says that Edric's head was "placed upon a pole on the highest battlement of the tower of London". Edric's is not known to have had any children. His position was at some point filled by Leofric, Northman's brother, his family held Mercia until after the Norman conquest.

Character[edit]

In culture[edit]

In 2005, Streona was selected by the BBC History Magazine as the 11th century's worst Briton.[17] He features as the central villain in the anonymous play Edmund Ironside, now part of the Shakespeare Apocrypha. In this play, Edricus (as his name has been Latinized) is the bastard son of peasants who raises himself to the level of earl through lies and flattery. Proud of his talent for dishonesty, he would be happy to see either the Danes or the Saxons rule England, but supports the Danes for reasons of personal expediency. Eadric is also a character in a tragedy by the Danish romantic playwright Adam Oehlenschlæger "Canute the Great" (1838).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ John of Worcester states that Cnut feared that Eadric would prove to be as treacherous to him as he had been to Æthelred and Edmund.
  2. ^ William of Malmesbury says Edric was strangled in the chamber where they sat, and thrown out of the window into the river Thames. This is one of many conflicting stories relating to Edric's death.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Williams 2003, p. 70.
  2. ^ Sawyer 901, esawyer.org.uk, retrieved 2015-02-16 
  3. ^ Darlington and McGurk, Chronicle of John of Worcester, vol. ii, pp. 456–9
  4. ^ Sawyer 916, esawyer.org.uk, retrieved 2014-11-25 
  5. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1007: "In this year also was Edric appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians.".
  6. ^ Swanton 1996, p. 142.
  7. ^ Williams 2003, p. 120.
  8. ^ Jones 1984, p. 370.
  9. ^ Lawson 2004, p. 28.
  10. ^ Trow 2005, p. 59.
  11. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp. 148–50
  12. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp. 151–3
  13. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1017: "This year King Knute took to the whole government of England, and divided it into four parts: Wessex for himself, East-Anglia for Thurkyll, Mercia for Edric, Northumbria for Eric."
  14. ^ Baxter, Earls of Mercia, p. 29, and n. 44 for reference
  15. ^ Campbell 1998, p. 33.
  16. ^ Darlington et al (eds.), Chronicle, vol. ii, pp. 504, 505
  17. ^ "UK | 'Worst' historical Britons list". BBC News. 2005-12-27. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 

Sources[edit]

  • Williams, Ann (2003), Aethelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King, London: Hambledon & London, ISBN 1-85285-382-4 
  • Lawson, M. K. (2004), Cnut – England's Viking King (2nd ed.), Stroud: Tempus, ISBN 0-7524-2964-7 
  • Trow, M. J. (2005), Cnut – Emperor of the North, Stroud: Sutton, ISBN 0-7509-3387-9 
  • Swanton, Michael, ed. (1996), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-92129-5 
  • Campbell, Alistair, ed. (1998), Encomium Emmae Reginae, London: Cambridge University 
  • Jones, Gwyn (1984), A History of the Vikings (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-285139-X