Siward~Earl of Northumbria

The Progenitor of the Balfours was Siward the Danish Viking, the Ruler of Northumbria which at the time spanned a huge vast area. His sister Suthen married Duncan the First of Scotland although he had a daughter by the same name and a nephew by the name of Siward as it was a common name

He emerged as a powerful regional strongman in England during the reign of Cnut (“Canute the Great”, 1016–1035). Cnut was a Scandinavian ruler who conquered England in the 1010s, and Siward was one of the many Scandinavians who came to England in the aftermath of that conquest. Siward subsequently rose to become sub-ruler of most of northern England. From 1033 at the latest Siward was in control of southern Northumbria, that is, present-day Yorkshire, governing as earl on Cnut’s behalf.

He entrenched his position in northern England by marrying Ælfflæd, the daughter of EaldredEarl of Bamburgh. After killing Ealdred’s successor Eadulf in 1041, Siward gained control of all Northumbria. He exerted his power in support of Cnut’s successors, kings Harthacnut and Edward, assisting them with vital military aid and counsel. He probably gained control of the middle shires of Northampton and Huntingdon by the 1050s, and there is some evidence that he spread Northumbrian control into Cumberland. In the early 1050s Earl Siward turned against the Scottish king Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (“Macbeth”). Despite the death of his son Osbjorn, Siward defeated Mac Bethad in battle in 1054. More than half a millennium later the adventure in Scotland earned him a place in William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth. Siward died in 1055, his son, Waltheof, would eventually succeed to Northumbria. St Olave’s church in York and nearby Heslington Hill are associated with Siward.

Siward’s career in northern England spanned the reigns of four different monarchs. It began during the reign of Cnut, and lasted through those of Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut into the early years of Edward the Confessor. Most important was the reign of Cnut, in which so many new political figures rose to power that some historians think it comparable to the Norman conquest five decades later. These “new men” were military figures, usually with weak hereditary links to the West Saxon royal house that Cnut had deposed.] As Cnut ruled several Scandinavian kingdoms in addition to England, power at the highest level was delegated to such strongmen.[In England, it fell to a handful of newly promoted “ealdormen” or “earls”, who ruled a shire or group of shires on behalf of the king.[ Siward was, in the words of historian Robin Fleming, “the third man in Cnut’s new triumvirate of earls”,[the other two being GodwineEarl of Wessex and LeofwineEarl of Mercia.[14]

Northern England in the 11th-century was a region quite distinct from the rest of the country. The former kingdom of Northumbria stretched from the Humber and Mersey estuaries, northward to the Firth of Forth, where, passing the western Kingdom of Strathclyde, it met the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland).[15] Northumbria had been united with the West Saxon English kingdom only in the 950s, by King Eadred, and subsequent control was exerted through the agency of at least two ealdormen, one to the north and one to the south of the River Tees.[16] The former is associated with the stronghold of Bamburgh, while the latter is associated with the great Roman city of York. It was a politically fragmented region. The western part, from Lancashire to Cumberland, was heavily settled by Norse-Gaels, while in the rest of Northumbria English and Anglo-Scandinavian regional magnates—thegnsholds and high-reeves—exercised a considerable degree of independence from the ealdormen. One such example was the magnate Thurbrand, a hold in Yorkshire, probably based in Holderness, whose family were frequently at odds with the ruling earls at Bamburgh himself. Ruling England from 1035, Harold died in 1040 just as Harthacnut was preparing an invasion.  Arriving soon after Harold’s death, Harthacnut reigned in England only two years before his own death in 1042, a death that led to the peaceful succession of Edward.[Frank Barlow speculated on Siward’s political stance, guessing that during these upheavals Siward assumed “a position of benevolent or prudent neutrality”.

Siward is found in 1038, as Sywardus Comes (“Earl Siward”), witnessing a charter of King Harthacnut to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds.He witnessed a confirmation granted by Harthacnut to Fécamp Abbey, between 1040 and 1042, of an earlier grant made by Cnut.[41] In 1042, he witnessed grants by Harthacnut to Abingdon Abbey and to ÆlfwineBishop of Winchester.[

Siward was, at some stage, married to Ælfflæd, daughter of Ealdred II of Bamburgh, and granddaughter of Uhtred the Bold.The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that, in 1041 Eadulf, Earl of Bamburgh, was “betrayed” by King Harthacnut.[44] The “betrayal” seems to have been carried out by Siward; since when the Libellus de Exordio and other sources write about the same event, they say that Siward attacked and killed Eadulf. It was thus that Siward became earl of all Northumbria, perhaps the first person to do so since Uhtred the Bold. It is possible that Siward used Ælfflæd’s lineage to claim the earldom of Bamburgh for himself, although it is unclear whether the marriage took place before or after Siward killed Eadulf.[ Kapelle has pointed out that no ruler of Bamburgh after Uhtred is attested at the English royal court, which he argued “must mean they were in revolt” against the monarchy, and that Siward’s attack may therefore have been encouraged by a monarch wishing to crush a rebellious or disloyal vassal.[4 Siward however probably had his own interests too. Killing Eadulf eliminated his main rival in the north, and the marriage associated him with the family of Uhtred the Bold, and with Uhtred’s surviving son Gospatric.[

There may nonetheless be a connection between the murder of Eadulf and events further south. For the same year the Chronicle of John of Worcester related that, because of an attack on two of Harthacnut’s tax-collectors there, Siward took part in a reprisal on the city and monastery of Worcester.[Harthacnut reigned only another year, dying on 8 June 1042.[He was succeeded by the exiled English ætheling Edward. As an ætheling, a royal prince with a present or likely future claim on the throne, Edward appears to have been invited back by Harthacnut in 1041, fortuitously smoothing over the coming change in ruler. Edward was crowned king on Easter Day, 3 April 1043

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