PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


[Image: Excerpt from the Domesday Book]
[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]

Burgheard 6 Burgheard, son of Earl Ælfgar, d. 1061

Author: SDB
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

Discussion of the name  


This profile, which reworks an earlier article (Baxter 2008), assembles all of the material relating Burgheard, son of Earl Ælfgar (Ælfgar 46). It prints and defends the essential authenticity of a charter issued by Ælfgar in favour of Saint-Rémi, Reims. It also argues that most of the estates attributed men named Burgheard in Domesday Book were held by the same individual; that this individual was identical with the son of Earl Ælfgar; that he was one of several Englishmen who went to Rome on various missions in the spring of 1061; that his family had made previously arrangements for the endowment of St Mary’s Stow Lincolnshire, partly in order to secure a politically valuable foothold in that part of the east Midlands; that this foothold was undermined by changing political circumstances (above all, the growing power of the sons of Godwine) in the late 1050s and early 1060s; and that Burgheard’s purpose in going to Rome was partly to help Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester obtain papal protection for Stow’s endowment, and thus for his family’s interests in Lincolnshire. 

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB


List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB



Family, career and death

In the spring of 1061, Burgheard son of Earl Ælfgar of Mercia (Ælfgar 46) died returning from a journey to Rome, and his body was taken for burial in the basilica of the abbey of Saint-Rémi, Reims. Shortly afterwards, his grieving parents gave the abbey an estate in Staffordshire, together with a beautifully illustrated gospel book, for the sake of their son’s soul. This is the only known grant by an English nobleman to a French monastery before the Norman Conquest. The evidence for this, like the event itself, is unusual, and unusually arresting. It comprises a thirteenth-century cartulary copy of the charter recording Ælfgar’s grant of land to Saint-Rémi; a transcription of a Latin epitaph carved on Burgheard’s tombstone; a description of the gospel book’s sumptuously decorated cover, and a transcription of five lines of Latin verse inscribed upon it. The most recent study of this material established that, although its cover has been lost, the gospel book is almost certainly an extant manuscript, now Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale Carnegie, MS 9 (Hinkle 1970).

Burgheard’s family played a prominent role in English politics between the early 990s and early 1070s (This family is the principal focus of Baxter 2007). His great-grandfather, Leofwine, was an ealdorman in the south-west Midlands under Æthelred ‘the Unready’ and Cnut between 994 and about 1023 (Leofwine 49); his grandfather, Leofric, was earl of Mercia, between the late 1020s and 1057 (Leofric 49); his father, Ælfgar, was earl of East Anglia in 1051–2 and 1053–7, and earl of Mercia between 1057 and his death in about 1062 (Ælfgar 46); his brothers Edwin (Edwin 33) and Morcar (Morcar 3) were earls of Mercia and Northumbria respectively in 1066, remaining in office in the immediate aftermath of the Conquest before falling from power in 1071. In addition, Burgheard’s sister, Ealdgyth (Ealdgyth 2), was married to Gruffudd ap Llewelyn (Gruffudd 1), king of Wales, who was killed in 1063, and then to Harold Godwineson (Harold 3), king of England until his death at Hastings on 14 October 1066. Given the political importance of this family, it is disappointing that Burgheard fails to make any impact on the charter evidence prior to his death; however, by comparison with most of his peers, his death is unusually well documented.

The key text is Earl Ælfgar’s charter, S 1237. Two copies of this are known. One is preserved in a thirteenth-century cartulary of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Rémi: Reims, Archives Départementales de la Marne, Annexe de Reims, Cartulaire B de Saint Rémi (56 H 1029 (formerly H 1411)), fol. 143r–143v, printed by Varin 1839–48, i, 207–8. I shall refer to this as ‘C’. The other is printed by Sir William Dugdale in his Monasticon Anglicanum (Dugdale 1655–73: i, 1022; Dugdale 1817–30: vi. 1042 (no. 1); the text is translated by text was translated Bridgeman 1916: 126–9). I shall refer to this as ‘D’). The text of the latter is said to have been taken ‘ex ipso autographo apud Sanctum Remigium Rhemis’, but this cannot be taken at face-value; Dugdale is not known to have visited Reims, his intermediate source is unknown, and the text he provides is seriously flawed. Numerous bad readings point not so much to a faulty exemplar as to inaccurate reproduction of its readings, more likely to be uncorrected errors by the typesetter than textual blunders in any manuscript (e.g. quemdam Anglorum comitem ingenuum C ] quondam Anglorum comitem ingenium D; nomine Burchardi C ] nomine Burobardi D; puerili corpori C ] putrili corpori D; poliandro C ] polianeso D; et hoc ergo C ] de hoc ergo D; sustinens C ] sustineat D; in coelis C ] ecclesiis D; Haroldus dux C ] Harotens dux D; aliam uero latine C ] aliam uoce latine).

The edition printed below is therefore based on ‘C’:

In nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi, summe et indiuidue Trinitatis. Notum sit cunctis cultoribus Christi, Algarum quemdam Anglorum comitem ingenuum, consentiente Edwardo Dei gratia rege Anglorum, Sancto Remigio Remensis ecclesie quandam uillam pro anima sui filii scilicet nomine Burchardi, dedisse, que Lappeleia cum suis appenditiis anglico uocitatur sermone, cujus etiam puerili corpori Roma quidem redeunti in prescripte poliandro ecclesie diuina predestinatio sepulturam ordinauit, quatenus pro eo ibi sancte seruientes ecclesie deum semper remuneratorem omnium bonorum fideliter precarentur precibus assiduis. Et hoc ergo tali pacto publice affirmari decreuit ut siforte quis sancte uiolator ecclesie, mortifera diabolo instigante cupiditate imbutus, ab eo unquam illam auferre uoluerit, cum Dathan et Abiron quos terra uiuentes deglutiuit, detestabilem sustinens condempnationem perpetualiter anathema sit. Quicumque uero ad augendum predictum stipendium custodiendumque studuerit, simul cum sancto Remigio, ubi cum Christo gloriatur, hilarem benedictionem consequatur in coelis; quod largiatur misericordia Saluatoris qui uiuit. Et hoc quidem, ut certius crederetur, idoneis stabiliuit sub testibus, quorum nempe nomina ordinatim conscribuntur. Inprimis enim Edwardus Dei gratia rex Anglorum testis fuit ueridicus, nec non Edgith regina, ex cujus prosapia originem duxerat; et Stigandus archipresul, simul et Aldredus, et Heremanus episcopus, et Leuricus episcopus, et Alwoldus episcopus, et Leuuinus episcopus et Willelmus episcopus, et Walterus episcopus, et Gyso presul. Preterea Haroldus dux, Tostinus, Gyrd et Lewinus, Waltef similiter cum multis prepotentibus principibus. Hoc scriptum in duabus cartis habetur diuisum; quarum unam anglica lingua scriptam idem comes Algarus secum retinuit, aliam uero latine dictatam sancto Remigio deuotus transmisit. 

[In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [and] of the highest and indivisible Trinity. Let it be known to all worshippers of Christ that Ælfgar, a certain noble earl of the English, has given, with the consent of Edward by grace of God king of the English, to the church of Saint Remigius, Reims, a certain vill which is called in the English language Lapley, together with its appurtenances, for the sake of the soul of his son Burgheard, for whose youthful body, when returning from Rome, divine predestination ordained a place of burial in the cemetery of the aforesaid church, in order that the servants of the holy church there would faithfully intercede for him to God, always the rewarder of all good men, with unremitting prayer. And therefore he decided that this be affirmed publicly in such a way that if perchance some violator of the holy church, imbued with deadly greed at the instigation of the devil, should ever wish to steal this from Him, he will be forever excommunicated, enduring detestable condemnation with Dathan and Abiram, whom the earth swallowed up alive. However, whoever might devote himself to augmenting or protecting the aforesaid gift, let him obtain glad blessing in heaven together with St Remigius where he is exalted with Christ: may the mercy of the Saviour, who lives, grant this. And this indeed, in order that it be more surely believed, he [Ælfgar] has established before qualified witnesses whose names are clearly written in order. Namely, in the first place, Edward, by grace of God king of the English, was a truthful witness; and also Queen Edith, from whose family he [Ælfgar?] originated, Archbishop Stigand, and also Ealdred, and Bishop Hereman, and Bishop Leofric, and Bishop Ælfwold, Bishop Leofwine and Bishop William, and Bishop Walter, and Bishop Giso. In addition, Earl Harold, Tostig, Gyrth and Leofwine and Waltheof, together with many other very powerful nobles. This text is divided into two charters, of which the one written in the English language the same Earl Ælfgar retained for himself, the other written in Latin, the devoted man transmitted to Saint Remigius].

Although it is anomalous in certain respects, there is no reason to doubt the essential veracity of this charter. It probably represents an attempt by a continental scribe who was unfamiliar with Anglo-Saxon diplomatic to translate or paraphrase a document originally drawn up in Old English. Some of the formulae suggest that its draftsman was not English. For example, an English scribe would not have styled Ælfgar ‘comes Anglorum ingenuus’. Old English ‘eorl’ was invariably translated ‘dux’, not ‘comes’, in Latin texts in England before the Norman Conquest (Lewis 1991: 215). An English scribe would have been more likely to style Ælfgar ‘dux Merciorum’, as Earl Leofric was sometimes styled, not ‘comes Anglorum’ (cf. S 1392, 1395, 1396; and The Bayeux Tapestry (Wilson 1985: plate 2) where Harold is styled ‘dux Anglorum’ − an exception which proves the rule). Others are rare in Anglo-Saxon charters. For example, the notum sit ... didisse construction is almost never used in the dispositive section of authentic pre-Conquest charters (this may have been an attempt to render a formula beginning her swutelað in the Old English). Dr Susan Kelly (pers. comm.) informs me that the structure of anathema and blessing are both unusual in an English context. The formula testis fuit veridicus does not occur in any pre-Conquest royal diploma. It is also problematic that Edith’s subscription is followed by the phrase ‘ex cujus prosapia originem duxerat’, for she and Ælfgar are not otherwise known to have been related; though it may just be relevant that Edith’s brother, Harold, married Burgheard’s sister, Ealdgyth, within about five years of Burgheard’s death (Baxter 2007: 299-300).

However, such anomalies need not necessarily arouse suspicion, for they are readily explicable as a function of the way the charter was produced. The last sentence of the charter is certainly plausible: non-royal charters were often drawn up in duplicate or triplicate in late Anglo-Saxon England, usually in the form of a chirograph, so that the beneficiary, grantor, and (if deemed necessary) a third party could each retain a copy; and since the beneficiary was in this case a French religious house, it is not impossible that the charter was originally drawn up in English and Latin, just as the charter states. An alternative possibility is that Ælfgar’s charter was issued in the form of a chirograph comprising two (or three) versions of the Old English text, and that one of these was subsequently translated into Latin. Mabillion (1681−1704: i, 6−7) first drew out the interest of the manner in which S 1237 describes the form in which is was issued. Two charters issued in the name of Ælfgar’s father, Earl Leofric, are relevant in this connection. S 1478, an agreement between Leofric and Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester concerning the endowment of St Mary’s Stow, datable 1053 x 1055, is said to have been written in three versions: ‘one is in the king’s sanctuary, the second is in Earl Leofric’s possession, and the third is in the possession of the bishop at the holy foundation’ (Robertson 1939: 217). It is also worth noting that S 1232, a grant (or restoration) by Leofric and Godiva of property in Worcestershire and Warwickshire to the bishop and community of Worcester, datable 1052 x 1057, was entered into Hemming’s cartulary (in the late eleventh or early twelfth century) in two versions, one in Old English, the other in Latin. However, in this latter case, the Latin text was probably composed when the cartulary was compiled in about 1100, not when the charter was first issued. Either way, it is possible that a representative of the community at Reims visited England in order to take possession of the charter and the property it conveyed, and was involved in the drafting of the Latin text. This hypothesis would explain some of its idiosyncrasies. 

However this may be, there remain good reasons for regarding this as an essentially authentic document, albeit one produced in unusual circumstances. There are not many extant charters issued in the names of late Anglo-Saxon earls, but a handful of those that are were issued in the names of Ælfgar and his father Leofric. Of these, S 1232 and 1478 are the most reliable, but there are others which, though dubious or spurious in their extant form, may partly have been based on authentic charters or memoranda (S 1226, 1223, 1238, 1398 and 1479). Our witness list contains plausible Latin renderings of Old English names, and its subscriptions are consistent with a date range of 1060 x 1063. The formal dating limits are c. 1060, when Archbishop Ealdred of York, Bishop Walter of Hereford and Bishop Giso of Wells were elected to these positions, and c. 1062/3 when Ælfgar died, but there are strong grounds for thinking it was issued in 1061, probably in or after June (see below). Hinkle observed that the subscription of Bishop Ælfwold of Sherborne is problematic since William of Malmesbury implies that he died in 1058 (Hinkle 1970: 30), but it is demonstrable that Ælfwold was alive in the early 1060s (see Keynes 1997: 208 n. 34). That Ælfgar granted the estate in question is certain, for Domesday Book demonstrates that St Remigius held three hides at Lapley in 1066, and that this grant was subsequently augmented (GDB 222d (Northamptonshire 16:1)); the next entry establishes that St Remigius Reims held one hide at Lapley Marston in Staffordshire in 1086, which had been held by a certain Godwine ‘with sake and soke’ TRE; and elsewhere we learn that Earl Ælfgar granted two further estates in Staffordshire to St Remigius, and that St Remigius held one hide at Silvington in Overs Hundred in Shropshire TRE (GDB 247c (Staffordshire 5:1−2), 252b (Shropshire 3a:1, with note)).

Two further texts, which were composed at about the same time, confirm that Burgheard died during the course of a journey to Rome and was buried in the cathedral there. One of these is a Latin epitaph known to have been carved on Burgheard’s tombstone. The tombstone itself is thought to have been lost in the Revolution (Hinkle 1970:  31 n. 3). However, both the location of Burgheard’s burial and the text of his epitaph are known. Dom Guillaume Marlot OSB (1596–1667), a monk of Saint-Rémi, observed that Burgheard’s tomb could be seen in the south choir of the church (Marlot 1666–1679: I, 340: ‘in choro ecclesiæ ad dextrum’). In addition, the eighteenth-century ‘Ordinaire du sacristain de l’abbaye de Saint-Remy de Reims’ records that it lay in front of a great gilded candelabra on the epistle side of the choir (Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale Carnegie, MS 339 (N. fonds), fol. 64r–64v: ‘devant le pied du candelabre ... entrant au choeur ... est le comte Burchard, anglais’; and Chastelain: 49 (‘On vois encore dans le choeur la tombe de Burchard jeune comte anglais, qui mourut en france, l’an mil soixante, en faisant le voyage de Rome et dont le corps fut apportè a Saint Remi, comme il paroit par son epîtaphe. Il est dans un petit caveau sous les stales du choeur du cote de l’épître’); see also Tarbé 1842: 45, and Lacatte-Joltrois 1843: 165).

Marlot also transcribed and printed the epitaph (Marlot 1666–1679: i. 340; the text is also printed by Poussin 1857: 268; for the church in which Burgheard was buried, see Ravaux 1972):

Anglica quem genuit, hunc tellus Gallica condit; / Clara stirpe cluit, Anglica quem genuit. / Proh dolor exul obit, dum Romam pusio tendit, / Dum te Petre petit, proh dolor exul obit. / Se petiit revehi Remis sub limine laeti /Aulae Remigii, se petiit reuehi. / Dulcis ephebe tuis, heu primi gratia floris, Heu lugende nimis dulcis ephebe tuis. /Altera lux aderat, qua taurus sole flagrabat; / Dum pubeda meat, altera lux aderat. / Quem tegit hoc taphium Burchardi nomen adeptum, / Grande decus procerum, quem tegit hoc taphium. / Lector habes titulum, pete Petrum pandere regnum, / Anglus adibat eum, lector habes titulum. [Whom English (soil) gave birth to, French soil hides; / he is famous for his distinguished lineage, whom English (soil) gave birth to. /Alas, he dies an exile, while still a youth he makes his way towards Rome; / while he seeks you Peter, alas, he dies an exile. / He begged to have himself brought to Reims on the threshold of death; / to the church of Remigius he begged to have himself brought. / Young man, dear to your family, alas in the grace of youthful prime, / Alas, too much to be mourned, young man, dear to your family. / The other light arrived, when Taurus was bright with the sun / While the young man is on the road, the other light arrived. / He whom this tombstone covers was given the name of Burgheard, / A great glory of noblemen, he whom this tombstone covers. / O reader, you see this inscription, entreat Peter to open the kingdom / An Englishman visited him, O reader, you see this inscription.]

Marlot also recorded that Earl Ælfgar gave to Saint-Rémi a gospel book with richly decorated covers, sheathed in gold, and that one of the covers bore an inscriptio in its borders. Marlot transcribed the text of this in his unpublished history of St-Rémi (Dom G. Marlot, Mémoires pour l’histoire de l’abbaie de St-Remy de Reims (1658), Bibliothèque Nationale, Collection de Champagne, no. 27, fol. 293v; printed by Hinkle 1970: 31 n. 4); and the following decade Marlot published a slightly revised text in the first volume of his Historia (Marlot 1666–1679: i, 340; reprinted by Poussin 1857:  268 n.1, and with French translation by Lacatte-Joltrois 1843: 165). These texts are collated below (with two suggested emendations given in italics):

Hic codex veniae lapsis, legatio vitae, / Te pii Burchardi memorare magne Remigi, / Postulat, ut coelis, tecum ceu commanet aruis / Algar dux anglus simul, et consors lateralis, /Algiua Pontificum summo dant munus amicum. [This book of forgiveness for the fallen, an embassy of life, / begs you, great Remigius, to be mindful of pious Burgheard / so that he may remain with you, in heaven just as on earth. / An English earl, Ælfgar, with his wife at his side, / Ælfgifu, gives a friendly gift to the foremost of bishops.]

This gospel book and its covers were evidently magnificent objects. Marlot described the book as being ‘couvert de lames d’or’ (Marlot, Mémoires, fol. 293v); and in the eighteenth century, Dom Pierre Chastelain (1709–1782) described it as being ‘couvert d’or et de pierreries’ (Chastelain: 49). In addition, an inventory of the abbey’s treasure drawn up in 1549 begins with a description of a gospel book, which is almost certainly identical to that given to the abbey by Earl Ælfgar (Reims, Archives Départementales de la Marne, Annexe de Reims, 56 H 907 (formerly H 1289), ‘Inventaire des reliques’, fol. 154v):

Premier ung livre d’evangille servant aux gros doubles ayans deux fermeaux d’argent dore l’un des coste couvert d’une platyne d’or, et aux bordures d’argent dore. A l’autre ung cruxifiement notre dame et saint Jehan et ung dieu le pere. Et quatre petitz anges d’argent dore sur icellui avec quelques piereries. Excepte huit places que les pierres sont perdues. Et l’aultre coste couvert de velour rouge ayant cinq gros cloux d’argent dore. [First, a Gospel book for the greater festivals, with two gold clasps, one of the sides covered with a gold plate, and edged with silver-gilt. On the one side a crucifixion scene with Our Lady and Saint John, and a God the Father. And four little silver-gilt angels on it with settings of precious stones. Except that in eight places the stones are lost. And the other side covered with red velvet, and with five large silver-gilt studs.]

Hinkle (1970: 24−6), prints this section of the inventory and shows that it almost certainly describes Ælfgar’s gospel book, observing that nine parchment folios were added to the beginning of the gospel book in the seventeenth century which contained readings for the principal feast days celebrated at Saint-Rémi − presumably the ‘gros doubles’ referred to in this text.

Unfortunately, the cover of the gospel book has been lost. Its rich decoration is presumed to have been lost in the Revolution, but the original oak boards survived until the twentieth century, for they were described by H. Loriquet: ‘De la reliure couverte de velours rouge ornée sur le plat initial d’une plaque de métal précieux ou d’une planche d’émail, et sur le plat final d’un encadrement et de clous d’orfèvrerie, il ne reste que les deux ais de chêne disloqués’ (Loriquet 1904: 15). These boards appear not to have been kept after the manuscript was rebound in 1950 (Hinkle 1970: 26 n. 2). However, to gain an impression of what it may have looked like, one can contemplate the magnificent front cover of New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 708, which is one of the gospel books known to have been owned by a contemporary of Earl Ælfgar: Countess Judith of Flanders, wife of Earl Tostig (for illustrations and discussion of Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 708, and its cover, see Needham 1979: plate 8 (p. xxi), and pp. 33–5; Swarzenski 1974: plate 64; Nixon and Foot 1992: plate 3 and pp. 19–20; Ohlgren 1992: plates 12.1–12.9; McGurk and Rosenthal 1991 passim).

Figure 1. The cover of Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 708

As Hinkle observed, this book cover and that described in the Reims inventory appear to have been very similar: the former consists of a wooden board sheathed in gold and an engraved gilt silver frame, gems mounted in gold filigree, and separately mounted silver figures representing Christ in majesty in one register and the Crucifixion in another. To judge from the Reims inventory, the only significant difference between this and the cover of Ælfgar’s gospel book is that the former has two angels whereas the latter had four (Hinkle 1970: 32−5 and plate 9). Happily, whoever took the treasure in which Ælfgar’s gospel book was bound apparently decided to leave the gospel book itself behind, and it remains in Reims to this day (Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale Carnegie, MS 9; the manuscript is now fully digitized on the Gallica website, currently at 

Figure 2. Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale Carnegie, MS 9, fo. 23r

The date and context of Burgheard’s journey to Rome

It has been suggested that Burgheard was one of several Englishmen who went to Rome on various missions in the spring of 1061 (Freeman 1870–79: ii, 462, 466, 679−80; Hinkle 1970: 27–31). This suggestion can be strengthened. The question as to why Burgheard may have gone has never been addressed, but a plausible case can be made for thinking that Burgheard was sent to escort and support Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester, for his business in Rome was of special interest to Burgheard’s family and their political calculations.

Several sources reveal the presence of English churchmen and noblemen in Rome in 1061. The ‘D’ text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Archbishop Cynesige of York died on 22 December, 1066, and that his successor, Ealdred, went to Rome to receive his pallium from Pope Nicholas II the following year (ASC MS D s.a. 1060, 1061 (p. 135)). John of Worcester adds that Ealdred was accompanied by Tostig, earl of Northumbria; and that two newly-appointed bishops, Giso of Wells and Walter of Hereford, were consecrated by the pope (Darlington and McGurk, ii, 586−8). The Vita Edwardi supplies more detail. It records that Tostig was accompanied by his wife, Judith, and his younger brother Gyrth; that they travelled to Rome through Saxony and the upper reaches of the Rhine; and that they were received honourably by Pope Nicholas, and invited to attend a synod of Rome. Giso and Walter were duly ordained by the pope, but Ealdred fared less well: he was rebuked for holding two bishoprics, contrary to canon law, and was both denied the pallium and deposed from episcopal rank. Realising that this would make his stay in Rome more protracted than he had anticipated, Tostig sent Judith back to England, escorted by many of his own men. The pope remained implacable in the negotiations that followed, and Ealdred was eventually compelled to leave Rome together with Giso, Walter, Tostig, and what remained of the latter’s entourage. However, on the first day of their journey, the party was attacked by bandits and was forced to return to Rome (Tostig was spared capture by a kinsman of King Edward named Gospatric, who confused the bandits by posing as the earl). Hearing of these misfortunes, and perhaps fearing Tostig’s wrath, the pope eventually decided to reinstate Ealdred as bishop and to give him the pallium. The party then returned to England, apparently without further incident (Barlow 1992: i.5 (pp. 52−6)).

Further details relating to these events can be gleaned from other sources. A text which purports to be the ‘autobiography’ of Bishop Giso records that he was consecrated by Pope Nicholas on Easter day (15 April) 1061, and that he was back in England between 17 and 23 June that year (Keynes 1997: 267). Wells Cathedral Library preserves, in its original form, a privilege of Pope Nicholas to Bishop Giso, dated 25 April 1061, confirming him in the rights of his see (Whitelock et al. 1981: no. 77 (pp. 548−50), trans. Douglas and Greenway 1981: no. 76 (pp. 643−4); for discussion, see Keynes 1997: 228, 255). A second privilege was issued by Pope Nicholas on 3 May 1061 in favour of Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester, confirming him in possession of all things pertaining to his see (Whitelock et al. 1981: no. 78 (pp. 550−2; Douglas and Greenway 1981: no. 75 (pp. 641−2)). Peter Damian’s Desceptatio Synodalis records that a Tuscan nobleman, Gerard, count of Galeria, was excommunicated for leading the attack on the English party outside Rome, and for stealing about £1,000 worth of silver from them (Heinemann 1891: 91). William of Malmesbury records that Ealdred received the pallium only after agreeing to leave Worcester, and that papal legates were then despatched to England, inter alia to ordain a suitable candidate for that see (Winterbottom and Thompson 2002: c. 10 (pp. 40−2); Winterbottom 2007: iii.115 (pp. 380−2). The anonymous author of a twelfth-century chronicle of the archbishops of York remarked that Ealdred was given a letter of privilege from Pope Nicholas; but unfortunately, the author only transcribed the first sentence of this privilege (Raine 1879–1894: ii, 346−7. Finally, one might add that one of the forgeries produced at Westminster in the early twelfth century claims that Ealdred obtained a bull from Pope Nicholas for Edward the Confessor in connection with the refoundation of Westminster Abbey (S 1041, with Harmer 1952: 286−92).

Since he is not mentioned in any of these sources, Freeman’s suggestion that Burgheard formed part of this English contingent has been called into question (Freeman 1870–79: ii. 462, 466, 679−80; Barlow 1992: 52 n. 128). There are, however, excellent reasons for thinking that he did. Ælfgar’s charter is datable by its witness list to the period between Ealdred’s appointment to the archbishopric in 1061 and c. 1062 when Ælfgar died; and, as Hinkle observed, the charter is also subscribed by five of the men who are known to have been in Rome in 1061: bishops Ealdred, Giso and Walter, and earls Tostig and Gyrth (Hinkle 1970: 29−30). To this can be added one further, clinching, piece of evidence. Burgheard’s epitaph contains the line: ‘Altera lux aderat, qua taurus sole flagrabat’ (‘the other light arrived, when Taurus was bright with the sun’). The ‘other light’ is surely the celestial light of the afterlife; and if so, the clear implication is that Burgheard died during the month of Taurus − that is, between mid April and mid May (according early medieval calculations, the Sun entered Taurus on 17 April every year: see, for example Borst 1998: 267; and for discussion Juste 2004: 182−7). This corresponds very neatly with the dates when the English contingent is known to have been in Rome. Ælfgar’s charter says that Burgheard died ‘Roma redeunti’ − on his way back from Rome. This presumably happened a few days after 3 May, when Wulfwig’s privilege was issued. Precisely where Burgheard died remains unclear: Varin (1839–48: 207 n) asserts that Burgheard died at Aosta in Piedmont, but I have been unable to find corroborating evidence for this.

What was Burgheard doing in Rome? One possibility is that he was sent there by the king. It would have been logical for the king to send the son of the earl of Mercia to escort a party which included the bishops of three Midland sees (Dorchester, Worcester, and Hereford). In this connection, it may be significant that Burgheard of Shenley is styled ‘huscarle regis Edwardi’ in Domesday Book, for the king’s housecarls were often employed as messengers and bodyguards (GDB 146d (Buckinghamshire 13:2); Hooper 1985). Here it may also be relevant that the inscription on cover of Ælfgar’s gospel book contains a play on the words ‘legatio vitae’: perhaps the author intended to convey the idea that the gospel book would serve as an embassy for Burgheard’s life, just as he had been an ambassador by profession when he died?

However this may be, there are also strong grounds for thinking that Burgheard was sent by Earl Ælfgar to escort Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester to Rome, for Wulfwig’s privilege demonstrates that the business he conducted there had an important bearing upon the interests of the earl and his family. Before turning to the text of this document, it is necessary to sketch some elements of the political background which help place it in context.

Four points must be registered here. In the first place, it is demonstrable that the archbishops of York and bishops of Dorchester competed with one another for control of the former see of Lyndsey throughout much of the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods (Sawyer 1998: 149–54). Second, the earls of Mercia and the earls of Northumbria also vied with one another for control of Lincolnshire and other shires in the east Midlands in the late Anglo-Saxon period (Whitelock 1959: 81−8). Third, and partly for these reasons, Earl Leofric of Mercia and Bishop Wulfwig reached an agreement concerning the endowment of St Mary’s Stow in Lincolnshire, at some stage between October 1053 and March 1055. The text of this agreement is complex, and contains hints of tension between the bishop and the community at Stow, who were to be the principal beneficiaries of the proposed grant; but it remains clear that it served to cement an alliance between a bishop and an earl who were both determined to exercise jurisdiction in Lincolnshire, and to resist the southward-looking ambitions of the earl of Northumbria and the archbishop of York (S 1478: I am grateful to Susan Kelly for sending me a copy of her edition, translation and discussion of this document in advance of publication). 

Fourth, however, the political circumstances which had made this alliance desirable and possible in the early 1050s began to look very different by the late 1050s. When the Stow agreement was made, Leofric and his son Ælfgar were earls of Mercia and East Anglia respectively, and so between them controlled a nearly contiguous block of territory between Cheshire in the northwest and Essex in the southeast. Lincolnshire lay between their two commands. It therefore made sense for Leofric to augment Stow’s endowment, for this would serve as a tangible expression of his family’s power and influence in that shire. However, the balance of power between King Edward’s earls changed dramatically shortly after the Stow agreement was made. Four earls died between 1055 and 1057, and the sons of Earl Godwine were the principal beneficiaries of the redistribution of power that followed: Tostig succeeded to the earldom of Northumbria when Siward died in 1055; Harold succeeded to Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, which appear to have been controlled by Odda and Ralph until they died in 1056 and 1057 respectively; Leofwine succeeded to Ralph’s command in the east Midlands after 1057; and although Ælfgar succeeded to the earldom of Mercia when Leofric died in 1057, he was compelled to cede control of East Anglia to Gyrth. These appointments had a profound impact on the balance of power within the kingdom as a whole. They also shattered Ælfgar’s family’s plans to build up a power base in Lincolnshire. Ælfgar perhaps protested too vigorously, for he was exiled and compelled to force his way back into power in 1055 and again in 1058 (ASC MS CDE s.a. 1055−1058; Baxter 2007: 45-7, 64-71). Either way, he was powerless to prevent Tostig and his brothers from building up a power base in the east Midlands, and in Lincolnshire in particular. Domesday Book reveals that Tostig held more land than any other earl in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Nottinghamshire. Before he was forced into exile in October 1065, Tostig probably also held the extensive estates in Lincolnshire attributed to earls Eadwine and Morcar in Domesday Book. Tostig is also addressed in writs pertaining to Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire (S 1110, 1160); he had the third penny in Nottingham (GDB 280a (Nottinghamshire B:2)); and the Vita Edwardi (Barlow 1992: 76) implies that Lincoln lay within his earldom in 1065.

It thus emerges that Earl Ælfgar and Bishop Wulfwig had grounds for feeling insecure about their interests in Lincolnshire in the late 1050s and early 1060s. Their concerns were doubtless compounded by the appointment of Bishop Ealdred of Worcester to the archbishopric of York , for Ealdred was an ambitious prelate who was determined to retain power and influence south of the Humber, as was clearly signalled by his refusal to renounce the see of Worcester (see Ealdred 37). All this is sufficient to explain why Wulfwig went to Rome in the spring of 1061: his objective was to seek papal support for his jurisdictional rights in Lincolnshire. The text of the privilege he received on 3 May 1061 demonstrates this, and proves that he was successful. The relevant passage of the document reads as follows (Whitelock et al. (1981): 551; Douglas 1981: no. 75 (pp. 641−2)):

Igitur quia petisti a nobis, karissime fili, cum Edwardi regis legatis atque litteris nostri videlicet amici, ut per nostri privilegii paginam tue ecclesie tibique necnon successoribus tuis omnia perpetualiter confirmaremus, que prefate ecclesie iuste et legaliter competunt, suggestioni tue gratanter annuentes per huius nostre constitucionis decretum et apostolice sedis liberale edictum concedimus et confirmamus tibi sicut supra legitur, tuisque successoribus ibidem canonice promovendis inperpetuum, queque prefate ecclesie pertinent, tam que in presentiarum possidet vel possedit, et maxime parrochiam Lindisi ecclesiamque Stou cum Newerca et appendiciis quas iniuste Aluricus archiepiscopus Eboracensis invasit, uti per legatorum nostrorum dicta et per antecessorum testimonia et scripta agnovimus, quamque in futuro quocumque modo divinis et humanis legibus adquirere poterit, scilicet prenominata ecclesia cum omnibus rebus et possessionibus suis ac pertinenciis mobilibus et inmobilibus, seseque moventibus, castris scilicet, cassis, uillis, territoriis, ecclesiis cum primitiis et decimationibus, cum omnibus quoque que pia devotio fidelium sacris contulit sibi uel contulerit oblationibus pro salute vivorum quamque etiam mortuorum. [Since therefore you, dearest son, have asked us to confirm by the writing of our official document of privilege, with the messengers of King Edward and with our own friendly letters, we on our part, gladly consenting, do now grant this charter of our own free will and as a grant freely made by the apostolic see. And we confirm that there should pertain to you and your successors to be subsequently canonically appointed in your place, all those things which the aforesaid church of Dorchester has possessed and now possesses: and especially the diocese of Lindsey and the churches of Stow with Newark and its appurtenances which, as we have heard from our legates and have learnt from the written testimony of our predecessors, Ælfric, archbishop of York, wrongfully seized. And we confirm to the aforesaid church [of Dorchester] whatever it may in future by divine and human law be able to acquire; and all its property and possessions both moveable and unmoveable; and all its buildings, vills and lands; and its churches with their revenues and tithes; and all holy things which the pious devotion of the faithful has conferred or will confer in gifts for the salvation of the living or the dead.]

This proves that Wulfwig was determined that the diocese of Lindsey should remain within his jurisdiction, and demonstrates that he was anxious to protect the terms of his agreement with Leofric and Godiva with respect to the endowment of Stow. It also helps to explain why: Ælfric ‘Puttoc’ had been archbishop of York between 1023 and 1051, so it would appear that Stow had been the source of some tension between Dorchester and York shortly before Wulfwig was appointed to his bishopric in 1053. Newark was a large and valuable estate in east Nottinghamshire, close to the Lincolnshire boundary. Domesday Book reveals that it was held by Ælfgar’s mother, Lady Godiva, in 1066; and three charters preserved in the Eynsham archive reveal that it was the most valuable of the estates assigned by her for the endowment of Stow (GDB 283d (Nottinghamshire 6:1); S 1233; Bates 1998: nos. 276−7). It thus emerges that Wulfwig’s purpose in going to Rome was closely related to the interests of Burgheard’s family. So if, as seems likely, Burgheard was indeed among the ‘legati Edwardi regis’ who went to Rome in the spring of 1061, it would seem likely that he also went with his father’s blessing.

Property and lordships

Attention may now be turned to the question as to whether or not Burgheard can be identified in Domesday Book. Several factors combine to suggest that almost all of the property and lordships attributed to people named Burgheard in Domesday relate to a single individual.

1. Burgheard was not a common name. According to the PASE database, it occurs in just twelve documents which relate to at most five individuals, all of whom lived before the year 900 (Burgheard 1−5). This makes it unlikely that the Domesday entries relate to several different individuals.

2. The size of Burgheard’s estates. The largest estate attributed to Burgheard was Mendlesham in Suffolk: this was assessed at seven carucates and forty-two acres and was attributed a value of £25. This was a substantial estate by any standards in eleventh-century England. Estates of this size were generally held only by individuals who were sufficiently wealthy to hold land in several locations. None of the other estates attributed to Burgheard were anything like as large as Mendlesham, but the two estates in Buckinghamshire were of sufficient size to qualify a man for the rank of thegn, and all of the remaining estates were fairly substantial: they were all worth more than any of the holdings held by people commended to Burgheard.

3. The geographic proximity of the estates. With the exception of two outliers in Buckinghamshire, all of the estates attributed to Burgheard lay in three adjacent shires, and seven of them lay in Suffolk.

4. Burgheard’s successors. The majority of Burgheard’s estates were held by one individual in 1086. This is significant. One of the ways in which King William distributed land after 1066 was to assign all or most of the estates which had been held by a particular Englishman in 1066 to just one of his followers: according to the legitimating propaganda of the Conqueror’s regime, the Englishman in question was defined as the tenant-in-chief’s antecessor. It follows that if several of the estates attributed to a given English name in 1066 passed to the same tenant-in-chief in 1086, it is likely that those estates were held by the same individual before the Conquest. This logic establishes a strong connection between Burgheard of Shenley in Buckinghamshire, Burgheard of Fundenhall in Norfolk, and Burgheard of north-east Suffolk, for all of these estates were held by Hugh d’Avranches, earl of Chester, in 1086.

5. Lordship patterns. It is known that modest pre-Conquest landholders tended to commend themselves either to men of national stature, or to men who held substantial estates in their own shire or locality (for patterns in commendatory lord-seeking, see Abels 1991a and 1991b; Clarke 1994: 105; Williams 2001; Baxter 2007: chapter 6). Burgheard of Mendlesham was clearly a substantial local landholder, and it is therefore probable that he was identical with the man of that name who attracted numerous commended men with modest holdings near Mendelsham and elsewhere in Suffolk. This establishes a connection between Burgheard of Mendlesham and the antecessor of Earl Hugh.

Each of these points is in itself suggestive; taken together, they tip the balance of probability strongly in favour of the proposition that all but the last two of the entries in the table above relate to the same individual.

But was Burgheard of Mendlesham and of Shenley identical with the son of Earl Ælfgar? A potentially serious objection to this hypothesis is that Burgheard son of Ælfgar died in 1061, five years before Domesday’s notional cut-off date. However, this does not preclude the possibility that Burgheard of Mendlesham was the earl’s son, for Domesday Book attributes estates to several members of the English nobility who died long before 1066: men such as earls Godwine (Godwine 51), Siward (Siward 5), Ralph (Ralph 1), Leofric (Leofric 49) and Ælfgar (Ælfgar 46). Indeed, the fact that Domesday attributes numerous estates to Earl Ælfgar strengthens the case for thinking that it also lists those of his son Burgheard. Further considerations point in the same direction. Ælfgar held the earldom of East Anglia between 1051 and 1057, and was therefore in a position to acquire property in the eastern counties. Ælfgar also held land in all of the shires where Burgheard held land; and his wife, Ælfgifu, was a substantial landholder in Suffolk. It is also relevant that a large proportion of the estates held by Burgheard’s brothers, earls Edwin (Edwin 33) and Morcar (Morcar 3), were held by King William and Earl Hugh (Hugh 8) in 1086 (for the estates of the house of Leofwine, and their holders in 1086, see Baxter 2007, chapters 4 and 7 respectively). Taken together, these points amount to a powerful case for thinking that Burgheard of Mendlesham was indeed Ælfgar’s son. If so, he held a total of eleven estates assessed at eleven hides, eighteen carucates and 102 acres which were assigned an aggregate value of £50 TRE; and therefore belonged to an elite group of secular landholders in England whose estates were worth more than £40.


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