Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Morcar

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MORCAR or MORKERE (fl. 1066), earl of the Northumbrians, son of Ælfgar [q.v.], earl of the Mercians, was probably, along with his elder brother, Edwin or Eadwine, earl of the Mercians, concerned in stirring up the Northumbrians in 1065 to revolt against their earl, Tostig, the son of Earl Godwin [q. v.], and was chosen earl by the rebels at York in October. He at once satisfied the people of the Bernician district by making over the government of the country beyond the Tyne to Oswulf, the eldest son of Eadwulf. the Bernician earl, who had been slain by Siward in 1041 (Symeon, Historia Regum ap. Opera, ii. 198). Marching southwards with the rebels he was joined by the men of Nottingham, Derby, and Lincoln, members of the old Danish confederacy of towns, and met Edwin, who was at the head of a force of Mercians and Welshmen, at Northampton. There the brothers and their rebel army considered proposals for peace offered to them by Earl Harold [see under Harold, 1022 ?-1066]. Negotiations were continued at Oxford, where, the Northumbrians insisting on the recognition of Morcar, Harold yielded on the 28th, and Morcar's election was legalised. On the death of Edward the Confessor Morcar professedly supported Harold (ORDERIC, p. 492, and cp. Florence of Worcester, an. 1066), but the people of his earldom were dissatisfied, and Harold visited York, the seat of Morcar's government, in the spring of 1066, and overcame their disaffection by peaceful means. In the summer Morcar joined his brother Edwin in repulsing Tostig, who was ravaging the Mercian coast. When, however, Tostig and his ally Harold Hardrada invaded Northumbria in September, Morcar evidently was not ready to meet them ; and it was not until York was threatened that, having then been joined by Edwin, he went out against them with a large army. The two earls were defeated at Fulford Gate, near York, in a fierce battle, in which, according to a Norse authority, Morcar seems to have been prominent (Heimskringla, ap. Laing, iii. 84). York was surrendered, and Harold had to march in haste to save the north by the battle of Stamford Bridge. Ungrateful for this deliverance, Morcar and his brother held back the forces of the north from joining Harold in the defence of the kingdom against the Normans. After the battle of Hastings Morcar and his brother arrived at London, sent their sister Aldgyth [q. v.], Harold's widow, to Chester, and urged the citizens to raise one or other of them to the throne (William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, iii. 247). They concurred in the election of Edgar or Eadgar the Ætheling [q. v.] (Orderic, p. 502), but disappointed of their hope left the city with their forces and returned to the north, believing that the Conqueror would not advance so far. Before long, however, they met William either at Berkhamstead (A.-S. Chronicle, an. 1066, Worcester ; at 'Beorcham,' Florence, an. 1066 ; Symeon, Historia Regum, c. 150), or more probably at Barking, after his coronation (William of Poitiers, pp. 147, 148, see {sc|Freeman}}, Norman Conquest, iii. 794 ; Parker, Early History of Oxford, pp. 186- 190). William accepted their submission, received from them gifts and hostages, and they were reinstated. The Conqueror carried Morcar and his brother with him into Normandy in 1067, and after his return kept them at his court. In 1068 they withdrew from the court, reached their earldoms, and rebelled against William. They were supported by a large number both of English and Welsh; the clergy, the monks, and the poor were strongly on their side, and messages were sent to every part of the kingdom to stir up resistance. Morcar's activity may perhaps be inferred from the prominent part taken in the movement by York (Orderic, p. 511). It seems probable, however, that Eadgar was nominally the head of the rebellion, and that he was specially upheld by the Bernician district under Gospatric [q. v.] Morcar and his brother were not inclined to risk too much ; they advanced with their men to Warwick, and there made submission to the Conqueror, were pardoned, and again kept at court, the king treating them with an appearance of favour. On their defection the rebellion came to nothing. In 1071 some mischief was made between them and the king, and William, it is said, was about to send them to prison, but they escaped secretly from the court. After wandering about for a while, keeping to wild country, they separated, and Morcar joined the insurgents in the isle of Ely, and remained with them until the surrender of the island. Morcar, it is said, surrendered himself on the assurance that the king would pardon him and receive him as a loyal friend (ib. p. 521 ; nothing is said about this by the chronicle-writers or Florence). William, however, committed him to the custody of Roger de Beaumont [see under Beaumont, Robert de, d. 1118], who kept him closely imprisoned in Normandy. When the king was on his deathbed in 1087 he ordered that Morcar should be released, in common with others whom he had kept in prison in England and Normandy, on condition that they took an oath not to disturb the peace in either land. He was not long out of prison, for William Rufus took him to England with him, and on arriving at Winchester put him in prison there. Nothing further is known about him, and it is therefore probable that he died in prison. Little can be gathered about Morcar's character, for until the death of Edwin, who was slain by his own men, shortly after the brothers parted in 1071, he almost invariably appears as acting in conjunction with his elder brother, and apparently playing a secondary part. The actions of the brothers show that they were ambitious, selfish, and untrustworthy. Edwin was personally attractive and lovable; his death was universally mourned both in England and Normandy, and the Conqueror wept when he heard of it. The terms in which the brothers are spoken of (Orderic, p. 521; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, iii. 252; Liber Eliensis, pp. 230, 243, 245) indicate that Morcar had some share in his brother's more pleasing qualities.

[Freeman's Norman Conquest, vols. ii. iii. iv., and William Kufus, i. 13, 14, contain a full account of Morcar, whose name is there given as Morkere, according to the old English spelling. See also Parker's Early Hist. of Oxford, pp. 180, 184, 186, 187, 199 (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Lappenberg's England tinder Anglo-Norman Kings, pp. 102, 105, 108, 124, 159, ed. Thorpe ; Green's Conquest of England, pp. 567, 584 ; A.-S. Chron. ann. 1065, 1066, 1071, 1072 (Rolls Ser.) ; Flor. Wig. ann. 1065, 1066, 1067, 1087 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Vita Edw. ap. Lives of Edward the Confessor, p. 421 (Rolls Ser.); Symeon of Durham's Hist. Regum ap. Opp. ii. 198 (Rolls Ser.); Henry of Huntingdon's Hist. Angl. vi. 33 (Rolls Ser. p. 205); Will, of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, ii. 200, 228, iii. 247, 248, 252 (Rolls Ser. pp. 246, 281, 307, 310, 311) ; Snorri's Heimskringla, iii. 84, ed. Laing; Orderic, pp. 511, 521 (Duchesne); Will, of Poitiers, pp. 148, 150 (Giles's SS. Rerum Gest. Will. Conq.). The notices in the stories about the defence of the isle of Ely in Gesta Herewardi (Chron. Anglo-Norm, ii. 56), Liber Eliensis, pp. 230, 243, 245 (Anglia Chr. Soc.), and the so-called Ingulf, pp. 900-2 (Savile), are untrustworthy, except so far as they may be confirmed by sufficient authority.]

W. H.