Hereward the Wake (novel)
|Hereward the Wake: Last of the English|
First edition title page
Hereward the Wake: Last of the English (also published as Hereward, the Last of the English) is an 1866 novel by Charles Kingsley. It tells the story of Hereward, the last Anglo-Saxon holdout against the Normans. It was Kingsley's last historical novel, and was instrumental in elevating Hereward into an English folk-hero.
Hereward is, in Kingsley's novel, the son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and Lady Godiva. He is introduced as an eighteen year old "bully and the ruffian of the fens" who is outlawed by Edward the Confessor at the request of his father. He sets off to see the world in the company of his boyhood friend Martin Lightfoot. In one adventure he defeats a polar bear in single combat in the north of England. He brawls his way through Cornwall and eventually turns up at the court of Baldwin of Flanders. Once there, he demonstrates his prowess against Baldwin's knights, and wins the love of Torfrida whom he marries. Three years after the Norman Conquest, Hereward and Martin return to England and discover the brutality of the Norman regime. Hereward musters a rebel army and takes up camp in the Fens. Gradually his resistance is worn down by the Norman invaders and the intrigues of the Countess Alftruda who separates the hero from his wife. Finally his enemy, Ivo Taillebois, surprises him in his ancestral home, where he is killed after a valiant struggle.
The novel concerns the Anglo-Saxon (or as Kingsley preferred "Anglo-Danish") resistance to the Norman Conquest, and this reflects Kingsley's own admiration of Germanic (or "Teutonic") vigour. Kingsley admired Norman discipline and chivalry, but makes it clear that primitive energies and virtues must never be entirely forsaken.
The novel had the effect of elevating Hereward into one of the most romantic figures of English medieval history.
The BBC made a 16-episode TV series in 1965 entitled Hereward the Wake, based on Kingsley's novel. Hereward was portrayed by actor Alfred Lynch. However, not one episode of this BBC series has survived, according to the archive records.
- Paul Dalton, John C. Appleby, (2009), Outlaws in Medieval and Early Modern England, page 7. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0754658937
- John Sutherland, (1990), The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction, page 293. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804718423
- Brian Hamnett, (2011), The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe, page 129. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199695040
- "Hereward the Wake" at the Internet Movie Database
- Hereward the Wake (BBC, 1965), missingepisodes.com, retrieved 11 February 2013