Aldred (d.1069) (DNB00)

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ALDRED (d. 1069), archbishop of York, first appears as a monk of Winchester. He succeeded Lyfing as abbot of Tavistock, and was therefore probably appointed in 1027. In 1044 he was made bishop of Worcester. He was an active, politic, self-seeking man, more given to secular than to ecclesiastical life, a traveller, an ambassador, even a soldier. He did not escape the frequent accusations of simony and lack of learning, and was certainly greedy of gain. At the same time he was magnificent and courageous. King Eadward was much under his influence, for he valued the bishop's power of pacifying quarrels and winning over enemies. In 1046 Aldred probably arranged a peace with Gruffydd of North Wales. The same year Gruffydd of South Wales and pirates from Ireland invaded Gloucestershire. Aldred led a force against them. He was betrayed by some Welsh in his army, was defeated, and forced to flee. In 1050 he went over to Flanders, and brought back with him Sweyn, the son of Godwine, who had taken refuge there after the murder of Beorn, and procured the restoration of his earldom. About this time he was sent to Rome ‘on the king's errand,’ which is said to have been to gain the papal absolution for the non-fulfilment of a vow of pilgrimage. When, in 1051, Godwine and his sons were outlawed by the witan, Aldred was sent to intercept Harold and Leofwine as they fled to Bristol, which was then in his diocese of Worcester, to take ship there; but he did not overtake them, and probably did not care to do so. In 1053 he had a chance which he did not neglect. The abbot of Winchcombe died, and Aldred took the abbey into his own hands. He was not able to hold it long, for the next year the king sent him on an embassy to the Emperor Henry III, and, as he could not leave the abbotship vacant, he gave up his profitable guardianship before he left. The object of his mission was to prevail on the emperor to persuade the king of Hungary to send Eadgar, the son of Eadmund Ironside, to England, for Eadward wished that he should succeed him. Aldred was received with great honour by the emperor, and stayed for a year with Archbishop Hermann at Cöln. There he saw the discipline and the splendour which that magnificent prelate had introduced into the German church, and did not fail to learn some lessons in these matters. His embassy was successful. In 1056 the vacant see of Hereford was committed to him, and he held it for four years, along with his own bishopric, and for about two years during the retirement of Hermann, he also took charge of the diocese of Ramsbury. He did not become bishop of these dioceses, but had charge of them, and received their revenues. In 1058 he finished rebuilding the monastic church of St. Peter at Gloucester and consecrated it. Then having brought this work to an end, he gave over the bishopric of Ramsbury to its former bishop, and went on pilgrimage. In doing this he was following a fashion which then obtained on the Continent. No English bishop, however, had as yet journeyed to Jerusalem. Thither Aldred went, ‘with such worship as none other ever did before,’ and offered at the Lord's tomb a gold chalice of wonderful work (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, sub an. 1058).

On Christmas day, 1060, Aldred was elected archbishop of York. On his election he gave up the vacant bishopric of Hereford which he held, and another bishop was appointed. The bishopric of Worcester, however, he did not give up, but held it along with the see of York, as some of his predecessors had done before him. The next year Aldred set out for Rome for the second time, for the purpose of receiving the pall. With him travelled Tostig and his wife, and Gyrth and a gallant company. At Rome they found Gisa of Wells and Walter of Hereford, who had come to seek consecration, and who were charged, in conjunction with Aldred, with some business for the king. The two bishops obtained their wish. Aldred was not so fortunate. In a synod which was then sitting he was accused of ignorance, of simony, of having accepted translation without papal license, and of holding the see of Worcester along with the archbishopric. For these offences Pope Nicolas, with the consent of the synod, not only refused him the pall, but degraded him from the episcopate (Vita Edwardi, p. 411, ed. Luard, in Rolls Series). Aldred and his party left the city. They were robbed by brigands, and returned to Rome unhurt but penniless. Tostig turned this mishap to the advantage of Aldred. He rated the pope well for the disorders of his land, and threatened to tell all that had happened when he reached home, and then, he said, the king will no longer pay St. Peter's tribute. Nicolas yielded. The pope gave Aldred the pall on the sole condition of his giving up Worcester. Aldred fulfilled the condition, but managed to keep back twelve manors from Wulfstan, the new bishop. As archbishop, Aldred did not forget the lessons he had learnt at Cöln. He found his church still suffering from the effects of the ravages of the Northmen, and its poverty is made the excuse for his unfair dealing with the see of Worcester. This poverty caused the canons of his church to become careless in ecclesiastical matters; they lived apart in their own houses, dressed like laymen, and neglected their duty. Aldred introduced the Lotharingian discipline, which Leofric and Gisa adopted at Exeter and Wells. Greedy as he was, he did not grudge spending money for the cause of the church. At York and Southwell he built a refectory, so that the canons might eat together, and no longer frequent the market in unseemly dress. He bade them wear clerical garments, be attentive to almsgiving, and keep the festivals of the departed. At Beverley he finished both a dormitory and a refectory, which had been begun by his predecessors, Ælfric and Kinsy; for the Lotharingian rule required canons to live wholly in common. At York a dormitory certainly existed in his time, for it was repaired by his successor Thomas. He is said to have added prebends to Southwell; it is more probable that he gave estates to the church which were afterwards made into separate prebends. At Beverley he rebuilt a large part of the church, and covered it with a ceiling gorgeous in gold and colours, and set up a pulpit enriched with the work of German goldsmiths. At his bidding Folcard, a monk of Canterbury, afterwards abbot of Thorney, wrote his ‘Life of St. John of Beverley’ (Hist. of the Church of York, ed. Raine, in Rolls Series; Acta SS., May, vol. ii.)

It is maintained, on the authority of Florence of Worcester, that Aldred crowned Harold. As it was held that Stigand was uncanonically appointed, the question as to whether he or Aldred performed the ceremony became of great importance, as bearing on Harold's kingly position. In the face of the assertion that the coronation was performed by Stigand—made by the writer of the ‘De Inventione Crucis’ (c. 30), by William of Poitiers (Scriptores rerum gest. W. I., Giles, p. 121), and by Orderic (Hist. Norman. Scriptores, Duchesne, p. 492), and of the indirect witness of the Bayeux tapestry—it seems impossible to accept the statement of Florence, who, independently of his patriotic sympathy, had special reasons for magnifying Aldred; for the archbishop was the patron as well as the spoiler of the church of Worcester. (For the question argued at length in favour of Aldred as the officiating archbishop, see Freeman's Norman Conquest, iii. 42, 616.)

After the battle of Hastings, Aldred joined with the Earls Eadwine and Morkere at London in upholding the rights of Eadgar. The cause was hopeless, and he and the rest of Eadgar's party submitted to the Conqueror at Berkhampstead. In consequence of the defect in Stigand's appointment, Aldred was chosen to crown William. He dictated to him the triple oath, that he would defend the church, rule his people justly, and set up good law. He also crowned Matilda in 1068. Aldred was a loyal subject to the Conqueror; he was often at his court, and helped to maintain the peace of the kingdom. He was no tool of Norman oppression, and his courageous spirit is shown by the story of his resentment of an encroachment of the Sheriff Urse on the church at Worcester, expressed in the words preserved by William of Malmesbury—

Hightest thou Urse,
Have thou God's curse.

The story of his appearing before the king, reminding him of his coronation oath, and changing his blessing into a curse, on the occasion of an act of injustice, told differently by William of Malmesbury and by T. Stubbs, and of the king's fear and penitence, can scarcely be literally true. It must, however, have some foundation of fact, and at least serves to show the impression which Aldred made on men's minds. In 1069 he heard of the entrance of the Danish fleet into the Humber, and of the rising of the North. He prayed that he might not see the evils which were coming on his church and land. His prayer was heard. He died 11 Sept., and was buried in his cathedral church of St. Peter's.

[Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Florence of Worcester; Simeon of Durham; Roger of Hoveden; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontif.; T. Stubbs, Actus Pontif. Ebor.; Freeman, Norman Conquest, vols. ii. iii. iv. passim; Fasti Eboracenses, Dixon ed. Raine; Stubbs, Reg. Sac. Anglic.]

W. H.