Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tostig

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TOSTIG, TOSTI, or TOSTINUS (d. 1066), earl of the Northumbrians, was son of Earl Godwin [q. v.], probably coming third in order of birth among his sons, next after Harold (Vita Ædwardi, p. 409; Freeman, Norman Conquest, ii. 554). In 1051 he married Judith, daughter of Baldwin IV, called the Bearded, count of Flanders, by his second wife, a daughter of Richard II, duke of Normandy, and sister of Baldwin V (Florence, an. 1051, and Orderic, pp. 492, 638, make her a daughter of Baldwin V, but comp. Vita, u.s. pp. 404, 428; Norman Conquest, iii. 663). Just at that time King Edward quarrelled with Earl Godwin. Tostig shared in his father's banishment, and with him took refuge in Flanders at the court of his brother-in-law. He returned to England with his father in 1052. Edward was much attached to him, and, on the death of Earl Siward [q. v.] in 1055, made him earl of Northumbria, Northamptonshire, and Huntingdonshire, passing over Siward's son Waltheof [q. v.], who was then young. At the time of his appointment Northumbria was in a wild state, and men were forced to travel in parties of twenty or thirty to guard their lives and goods from the attacks of robbers. Tostig ruled with vigour and severity, and by punishing all robbers, even those of the highest rank, with mutilation or death, brought the country into a state of complete order (Vita, u.s. pp. 421–2). He continued the alliance that Siward had formed with Malcolm III [q. v.] of Scotland, became his sworn brother, and gave him help against Macbeth (ib.; Sym. Dunelm, Historia Regum, c. 143). In common with his wife he paid much reverence to St. Cuthbert [q. v.], and was a liberal benefactor to the church of Durham. Judith, being grieved that as a woman she was not allowed to worship at the saint's shrine, sent one of her maids to the church by night to try whether the prohibition placed on her sex might be set at nought with impunity. As soon, however, as the girl set foot in the burying-ground, she was blown down by a sudden gust of wind and much hurt. On this Tostig and his wife appeased the saint by presenting to the church a crucifix with figures clad in gold and silver and other gifts (ib. Historia Dunelmensis Ecclesiæ, i. 94–5). In 1061 he and his wife went as pilgrims to Rome, in company with his younger brother Gyrth [q. v.], Aldred [q. v.], archbishop of York, and several nobles of the north. They passed along the Rhine, and were received at Rome by Nicholas II, who is said to have shown honour to Tostig, and to have placed him next to him at a synod. He sent his wife and most of his company back to England before him, and stayed for a while at Rome to urge the cause of Aldred, to whom the pope had refused the pall. Failing to persuade the pope, he set out with the archbishop on his homeward journey. On the way he was attacked by robbers, who sought to seize him, apparently for the sake of ransom. A young noble of his company named Gospatric declared himself to be the earl to save his lord, was carried off in his place, and afterwards freely released. The robbers despoiled the party of everything. Tostig and Aldred returned to Rome, and Nicholas granted Aldred the pall out of pity for their misfortune (Vita, pp. 411–12), though it is also said that he was moved to do so by the reproaches of Tostig, who is represented as complaining angrily of the treatment he had received, and threatening the pope that if he did not keep better order the English king would send him no more Peter's pence (Gesta Pontificum, p. 252). The pope made good his losses, and he returned to England. During his absence Malcolm, in spite of the alliance between them, made a fierce raid on the north. In the spring of 1063, in obedience to the king's order, he joined his brother Harold in invading Wales, being in command of the cavalry (Flor. Wig. sub an.)

His government was unpopular in the north; he was violent and tyrannical, and was constantly absent from his province, for Edward kept him at his court and employed him there (Vita, p. 421). In his absence the government was carried on by his deputy, Copsi or Copsige [q. v.] The discontent of the north seems to have been brought to a head by two special acts of lawless violence. In 1064 Tostig caused two thegns, named Gamel and Ulf, who had come to him with an assurance of peace, to be slain in his court at York, and he instigated the treacherous murder of a noble named Gospatric, who was slain on 28 Dec. of that year in the king's court by order of the earl's sister, Queen Edith or Eadgyth (d. 1075) [q. v.] (Flor. Wig.) On 3 Oct. 1065 three of the chief thegns of the province and two hundred others met at York, and, on the ground that the earl had robbed God, deprived those over whom he ruled of life and lands, especially in the cases of Gamel, Ulf, and Gospatric, and had unjustly levied a heavy tax on his province (ib.; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘Abingdon’), declared him an outlaw, and chose Morcar [q. v.] as earl in his stead. Their doings were generally approved in the north, and many joined them. They slew two of Tostig's Danish housecarls, and the next day plundered his treasury at York and slew more than two hundred of his followers. Morcar accepted the offer of the insurgents, and placed the country north of the Tyne under Osulf, the son of Eadulf of the line of the ancient earls [see under Siward]. Meanwhile Tostig was hunting with the king in a forest near Britford in Wiltshire. Morcar advanced southwards with a large force, and was joined by his brother Edwin, the rebels doing much mischief about Northampton, where perhaps the inhabitants were not hostile to the earl (Norman Conquest, ii. 490). When, after repeated messages from the king, the rebels refused to lay down their arms and insisted on the banishment of Tostig, Edward gathered an assembly of nobles at Britford, at which some blamed Tostig, declaring that his desire for wealth had made him unduly severe, while others maintained that the revolt against him had been caused by the machinations of his brother Harold, Tostig himself swearing that this was so (Vita, p. 422). Though the king was anxious to subdue the rebellion by force, he was overruled by Harold, who met the rebels at Oxford on the 28th, and yielded to their demands; the deposition and banishment of Tostig and the election of Morcar were therefore confirmed [see under Harold]. Later writers assert that there was an unfriendly feeling of old standing between the brothers. Ailred (col. 394) relates how as boys they fought together in the presence of the king and their father, and how the king prophesied of their future quarrel in manhood and of the deaths of both, and the story is repeated in the French versified life of the king founded on Ailred's work (Lives of Edward the Confessor, pp. 113–14). Henry of Huntingdon, evidently representing a popular tradition wholly opposed to facts, says under the year 1064 that Tostig, whom he describes as older than Harold, was jealous of the king's affection for his brother, that one day while Harold was acting as the king's cupbearer at Windsor Tostig kept pulling his brother's hair, and the king thereupon uttered his prophecy; that the quarrel went on, each brother committing acts of rapine and murder, until at last Tostig, hearing that Harold was about to entertain the king at Hereford, went thither, cut his brother's men to pieces, mixed all the viands prepared for the feast together, and threw into them the limbs of those whom he had slaughtered, and that this was the cause of his banishment (see Norman Conquest, ii. 623 sqq.).

To the great grief of the king, Tostig was forced to go into exile, and on 1 Nov. left England with his wife and children, took refuge with his brother-in-law in Flanders, and spent the winter at St. Omer (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, u.s.). In 1066, when Harold succeeded to the throne, Tostig went to Normandy to Duke William, his wife's kinsman, who had married Judith's niece Matilda (d. 1083) [q. v.], offered to help him against his brother, and with his consent sailed from the Cotentin in May (Orderic, pp. 492–3), landed in the Isle of Wight, compelled the inhabitants to give him money and provisions, sailed eastwards doing damage along the coast till he reached Sandwich, whence he sailed before Harold could catch him, taking with him some seamen of the place, some with and some without their goodwill. He sailed northwards with sixty ships, entered the Humber, ravaged in Lindesey until he was driven away by Edwin and Morcar, many of his followers deserting him, so that when he reached Scotland, where he took refuge, he had only twelve ships. Malcolm received him, and he abode with him during the summer (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘Abingdon and Peterborough;’ Flor. Wig.)

It is said that Tostig went to Denmark and asked his cousin, King Sweyn, to help him against his brother, that Sweyn offered him an earldom in Denmark, but said that he had enough to do to keep his own kingdom, and could not undertake a war with England (Saga of Harold Hardrada, cc. 81–2), and that he then went to Harold Hardrada, king of Norway, who promised to join him in an invasion of England (ib.) It is, however, doubtful whether Tostig went either to Denmark or Norway during the summer of 1066, though if the invasion that he had made in the spring may be supposed to have been undertaken with the consent of Harold Hardrada, he may have gone to Norway earlier in the year. In any case it is probable that the Norwegian invasion was planned independently of him, though his application to the king, which may well have been made by messengers during the summer while Tostig was in Scotland, no doubt encouraged the Northmen (Norman Conquest, iii. 720–5). Their vast fleet sailed to Orkney, and while Harold Hardrada was in Scotland, Tostig met him and did homage to him. He joined his fleet in the Tyne, bringing with him such forces as he had. The invaders sailed along the coast of Yorkshire, did some plundering, burnt Scarborough, entered the Humber, and disembarked near Riccall. They were met at Gate Fulford, close to York, by an army under Edwin and Morcar, which they routed on 20 Sept., and on the 24th were received into York, where the inhabitants promised to join them in their march to the south. They then encamped at or near Stamford Bridge, where on the 25th Harold of England met them. The saga of Harold Hardrada relates that when the English army first came in sight Tostig suggested to his ally that it might contain some of his party who would be willing to join them, that as the army advanced he advised Harold Hardrada to lead his men back to their ships, and that, when his advice was rejected, declared that he was not anxious for the fight (c. 91). It is said that he commanded his own men, who were drawn up together under his banner, and that before the battle began his brother Harold sent a messenger to him offering him peace and restitution to his earldom, but that he refused to desert his ally, with whom the English king would make no terms (cc. 92, 94). When Harold Hardrada fell and the battle stayed for a little while, Tostig, we are told, took his place under the dead king's banner, and received an offer of peace for himself and such of the invaders as were left, but the Northmen rejected the offer (c. 96). All this is legendary. The invading army was defeated, the larger part of it falling in the battle, and among the slain were Tostig and, it is said, some Flemings probably of his company. According to a doubtful authority his head was brought to Harold (Liber de Hyda, p. 292); his body was identified by a mark between the shoulders, and was buried at York (Will. Malm. Gesta Regum, iii. c. 252). Skuli and Ketil, his sons, had been left with the ships; they returned to Norway, were highly favoured by King Olaf, received lands from him and left children. Tostig's widow, Judith, married for her second husband Welf, duke of Bavaria ('Historia Welforum, ed. Pertz, c. 13; Recueil des Historiens, xi. 644).

[All that is known about Tostig will be found in Freeman's Norman Conquest, vols. ii. iii.; Vita Ædwardi ap. Lives of Edward the Confessor, Will. Malm., Gesta Regum and Gesta Pontiff., Sym. Dunelm., Hen. Hunt. (all Rolls Ser.); Anglo-Saxon Chron. ed. Plummer; Flor. Wig. (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Orderic, ed. Duchesne; Ailred, ed. Twisden; Saga of Harold Hardrada, ap. Heimskringla (Saga Library, vol. v.).]

W. H.