Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia

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Copyright 2007, Will Johnson, wjhonson@aol.com, Professional Genealogist, All Rights Reserved. This page is locked, if you'd like to add or correct anything, please email me.

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Son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia (see ASC 1057) and alleged son of Lady Godiva.

He allegedly had a daughter Aldgyth who married her father's ally Gruffydd, King of Wales, and, after the deaths of Aelfgar and Gruffydd, married as her second husband Harold, her father's old enemy.

Primary sources seem lacking on these "facts".

Contents

Primary sources

Florence of Worcester

  • The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, with the Two Continuations, Thomas Forester (tr). (1854) H. G. Bohn 512 pages.
    • This index page proves that Aelfgar is mentioned only on pages 155-160, I will extract every reference below.
    • Page 155 : "[A.D. 1053] ...earl Godwine came to his end....His son Harold succeeded to his earldom, and Harold's earldom was given to Algar, son of earl Leofric."
    • Page 156 : "[A.D. 1055] ...king Edward, in a council held at London, banished earl Algar, earl Leofric's son, without any just cause of offence. Algar presently went to Ireland, and having collected eighteen pirate ships, returned with them to Wales, where he implored Griffyth the king to lend him his aid against king Edward."
    • Page 157 (continues to page 158) : "[A.D. 1055] (cont.) ...earl Algar entered Hereford and having slain seven of the canons....brave earl Harold...unwearied in his pursuit of Griffyth and Algar....Meanwhile...Griffyth, Algar, and Harold...met...and peace being proposed and accepted....earl Algar...went to court and was restored by the king to his earldom."
    • Page 159 : "[A.D. 1057] ...The renowned Leofric, son of the ealdorman Leofwine, of blessed memory, died in a good old age, at his own vill of Bromley, on the second of the calends of September [31st August], and was buried with great pomp at Coventry; which monastery, among the other good deeds of his life, he and his wife, the noble countess Godiva, a worshipper of God, and devoted friend of St. Mary, Ever-a-Virgin, had founded, and amply endowing it with lands on their own patrimony, had so enriched with all kinds of ornament, that no monastery could be found in England possessed of such abundance of gold....His son Algar was appointed to his earldom.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, G.N. Garmonsway (tr,ed). J.M.Dent Ltd, London 1972 (reprint 1992)
    • pg 177 : "The Laud Chronicle (E) — 1048 [1051] "And then Odda was appointed earl over Devon, and over Somerset, and over Dorset, and over Cornwall; and Aelfgar, earl Leofric's son, was given the earldom which Harold had had."
    • pg 184 : "The Abingdon Chronicle (C) — 1055 "A short time after this there was a council in London, and earl Aelfgar, son of earl Leofric, was outlawed without having done anything to deserve his fate. Thereupon he went to Ireland, and added a force of eighteen ships to his own household troops, and sailed to king Gruffydd with that host; and he took him under his protection."
    • pg 188 : "The Laud Chronicle (E) — 1057 "Earl Leofric passed away, and Aelfgar, his son, succeeded to the earldom which his father had had."

Anglo-Saxon Charters

  • Terry Booth posting to Gen-Med 23 Aug 2007 states : "Aelfgar the Earl's son ('Alfger ├że Erles sune') appears as a witness in Charter S1531 (Will of Thurstan, son of Wine) dated (1043 x 1045) - noted as probably authentic. Unless it can be shown this is not earl Leofric's son, it would be the earliest record for him. He is also a witness as 'Aelfgar nobilis' in the 'probably authentic' Charter S1019 (dated to 1049) which his father 'Leofric dux' as well as 'Godwine dux' and 'Harold dux' also witnessed. The 1049 date suggests that assigning him an earldom before then is probably incorrect, and that Florence is probably right in dating the start of Aelfgar's 'temporary' earlship to Sep 1051 (after Godwine had fled to Flanders).

Secondary sources

  • Dictionary of National Biography, "Aelfgar, Earl (d. 1062?)" and continued here
    was the son of Leofric of Mercia and his wife Godgifu, the 'Lady Godiva' of legend. Bitter jealousy existed between the ancient Mercian house and the new and successful family of Godwine. When, in 1051, Godwine and his sons gathered their forces against the king and his foreign favourites, Aelfgar and Leofric were among the party which stood by Eadward at Gloucester, and on the outlawry of Harold his earldom of East Anglia was given to Aelfgar. The new earl ruled well, and the next year, on the restoration of Godwine's house, cheerfully surrendered the government to Harold. On the death of Godwine in 1053, the West Saxon earldom was given to Harold, and East Anglia was again committed to Aelfgar. In 1055, at the Witenagemot held in London, Aelgfar was accused of treason, and was outlawed 'for little or no fault at all,' according to all the Chronicle writers, save one. The Canterbury writer, however, who was a strong partisan of Harold, says that Aelfgar owned his guilt, though he did so unawares. He fled to Ireland and engaged eighteen ships of the Northmen. He crossed to Wales and made alliance with Gruffydd of North Wales. With Gruffydd and a large host of Welshmen, Aelfgar and his Norse mercenaries invaded Herefordshire. Ralph, the king's nephew, the earl of the shire, met the invaders with an army composed both of Frenchmen and English. He foolishly compelled his English force to go to battle on horseback, contrary to their custom. He and his Frenchmen fled first, and the battle was lost. Aelfgar and his allies entered Hereford. They sacked and burnt the minster and the city, slaying some and taking many captive. To check this invasion the whole force of the kingdom was gathered under Earl Harold, and Aelfgar and his allies were chased into South Wales. In 1055 Aelfgar made peace with Harold, was reconciled to the king and restored to his earldom. On the death of Leofric, in 1057, Aelfgar received his father's earldom of Mercia. The position of his new earldom as regards Wales and Ireland encouraged his restlessness, and the weakness and instability of King Eadward the Confessor made rebellion no serious matter. It was probably while the only force capable of maintaining order in the kingdom was removed by the pilgrimage of Harold, that Aelfgar was, in 1058, outlawed for the second time. His old allies were ready to help him. Gruffydd and a fleet of the Northmen, which seems to have been cruising about on the look-out for employment, enabled him to set his outlawry at defiance and to retain his earldom with the strong hand. In one good deed Aelfgar and Harold acted together. On the surrender of the see of Worcester by Archbishop Aldred in 1062, both the earls joined in recommending Wulfstan for the bishopric (Will. Malm., 'Vita S. Wulstani', lib.i.c.11; ap. Wharton's 'Anglia Sacra', ii.251). Soon afterwards, probably in the same year, Aelfgar died. His wife's name was Aelfgifu. He left two sons, Eadwind and Morkere, who played a conspicuous part in English history. A character of the abbey of St. Remigius at Rheims records that Aelfgar gave Lapley to that house for the good of the soul of a son of his named Burchard, who was buried there (Dugdale, 'Monasticon,' vi.1042; Alien Priory of Lappele.) His daughter, Aldgyth, married her father's ally Gruffydd, and, after the deaths of Aelfgar and Gruffydd, married as her second husband Harold, her father's old enemy (see Aldgyth].
This article cites as it's authorities : "Anglo-Saxon Chron.; Florence of Worcester; Vitae Edwardi Regis, ed. Luard, in Rolls Series; 'Freeman, Norman Conquest,'ii. passim]
  • Vitae Edwardi Regis, ed Luard can be viewed in snippet form here where we see that a search on "Godiva" yields only one single page, and no reference to any children.
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