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The name of Hereward has gathered round it such a mass of fiction, old and new, that it is hard to disentangle the few details of his real history. His descent and birth-place are uncertain; but he was assuredly a man of Lincolnshire, and assuredly not the son of Earl Leofric. For some unknown cause, he had been banished in the days of Edward or of Harold. He now came back to lead his countrymen against William. He was the soul of the movement of which the abbey of Ely became the centre. The isle, then easily defensible, was the last English ground on which the Conqueror was defied by Englishmen fighting for England. The men of the Fenland were zealous; the monks of Ely were zealous; helpers came in from other parts of England. English leaders left their shelter in Scotland to share the dangers of their countrymen; even Edwin and Morkere at last plucked up heart to leave William's court and join the patriotic movement. Edwin was pursued; he was betrayed by traitors; he was overtaken and slain, to William's deep grief, we are told. His brother reached the isle, and helped in its defence. William now felt that the revolt called for his own presence and his full energies. The isle was stoutly attacked and stoutly defended, till, according to one version, the monks betrayed the stronghold to the King. According to another, Morkere was induced to surrender by promises of mercy which William failed to fulfil. In any case, before the year 1071 was ended, the isle of Ely was in William's hands. Hereward alone with a few companions made their way out by sea. William was less merciful than usual; still no man was put to death. Some were mutilated, some imprisoned; Morkere and other chief men spent the rest of their days in bonds. The temper of the Conqueror had now fearfully hardened. Still he could honour a valiant enemy; those who resisted to the last fared best. All the legends of Hereward's later days speak of him as admitted to William's peace and favour. One makes him die quietly, another kills him at the hands of Norman enemies, but not at William's bidding or with William's knowledge. Evidence a little better suggests that he bore arms for his new sovereign beyond the sea; and an entry in Domesday also suggests that he held lands under Count Robert of Mortain in Warwickshire. It would suit William's policy, when he received Hereward to his favour, to make him exchange lands near to the scene of his exploits for lands in a distant shire held under the lordship of the King's brother.
Meanwhile, most likely in the summer months of 1070, Malcolm ravaged Cleveland, Durham, and other districts where there must have been little left to ravage. Meanwhile the AEtheling Edgar and his sisters, with other English exiles, sought shelter in Scotland, and were hospitably received. At the same time Gospatric, now William's earl in Northumberland, retaliated by a harrying of Scottish Cumberland, which provoked Malcolm to greater cruelties. It was said that there was no house in Scotland so poor that it had not an English bondman. Presently some of Malcolm's English guests joined the defenders of Ely; those of highest birth stayed in Scotland, and Malcolm, after much striving, persuaded Margaret the sister of Edgar to become his wife. Her praises are written in Scottish history, and the marriage had no small share in the process which made the Scottish kings and the lands which formed their real kingdom practically English. The sons and grandsons of Margaret, sprung of the Old-English kingly house, were far more English within their own realm than the Norman and Angevin kings of Southern England. But within the English border men looked at things with other eyes. Thrice again did Malcolm ravage England; two and twenty years later he was slain in his last visit of havoc. William meanwhile and his earls at least drew to themselves some measure of loyalty from the men of Northern England as the guardians of the land against the Scot.
For the present however Malcolm's invasion was only avenged by Gospatric's harrying in Cumberland. The year 1071 called William to Ely; in the early part of 1072 his presence was still needed on the mainland; in August he found leisure for a march against Scotland. He went as an English king, to assert the rights of the English crown, to avenge wrongs done to the English land; and on such an errand Englishmen followed him gladly. Eadric, the defender of Herefordshire, had made his peace with the King, and he now held a place of high honour in his army. But if William met with any armed resistance on his Scottish expedition, it did not amount to a pitched battle. He passed through Lothian into Scotland; he crossed Forth and drew near to Tay, and there, by the round tower of Abernethy, the King of Scots swore oaths and gave hostages and became the man of the King of the English. William might now call himself, like his West-Saxon predecessors, BRETWALDA and BASILEUS of the isle of Britain. This was the highest point of his fortune. Duke of the Normans, King of the English, he was undisputed lord from the march of Anjou to the narrow sea between Caithness and Orkney.
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William the Conqueror -by- E.A. Freeman