Edric the Wild

Just who is Edric the Wild? Well he is an historic figure, a land owner who owned or leased land in the counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire in the Welsh Marcherland. As far as we know Edric was not at Hastings, else his lands would have been taken from him by William the Bastard. There is some evidence that he was the Bishop of Worcester's 'shipman', and thus would have been at sea at the time, blockading the Norman beachhead. Whatever the reason he was not at Hastings, the chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, says that he submitted to King William soon after William's coronation.

In 1067 two Norman Earls in the Welsh Marcherlands, used the confusion caused by William's seizing of the throne, to extend their land holdings at the expense of the local English thanes, especially those lands held by Edric, soon to become known as 'the Wild'. There was already bad blood between Edric and his Norman neighbours and now it exploded into open warfare. In revenge for raids on his land Edric, in alliance with two Welsh princes, Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, devastated Herefordshire and eventually sacked the city of Hereford itself, before retreating back into the hills ahead of the new king's revengeful army. As far as is know, William did not make any attempt to gain Edric's submission.

Then, in 1069, the late King Harold's sons, who were based in Ireland, raided the west country for a second time. Unfortunately for them they met defeat at the hands of Earl Brian of Penthievre, and fled back to Ireland. At the same time Edric the Wild and his Welsh allies had broken out from their Marcher hills and took Shrewsbury before moving on to Chester. William had to leave them to their own devices as he had his hand's full dealing with an uprising in Northumberland lead by the English Earl of Northumberland Morkar and his brother Earl Edwin of Mercia, supported by the Danish king, Swein Esthrithson, who also had a claim to the English throne. Fighting alongside them were the Earls Waltheof and Gospatrick, together with Edgar Ætheling. The Normans in York were slaughtered, with Earl Waltheof's exploit of slaying a hundred Frenchmen with his long-axe as they tried to escape through a gate, ending up in heroic verse. William moved north again laying waste as he went. The Danes took to their ships and commenced raiding the east coast, seeking assistance from their relations in the Danelaw part of England, which included the marshy wetlands of the Fens, where other trouble was brewing. William left part of his army to watch them whilst he crossed the Pennine hills to face the threat posed by Edric and the Welsh princes, who now had a formidable army bolstered by the men of Cheshire and Staffordshire. William rode with his men and joined Earl Brian, who had marched up from the west country after beating Harold's sons. Edric became wary and withdrew to the hills with his Herefordshire and Shropshire men. The Welsh, with the remaining English, marched on and were defeated at the battle of Stafford. William then devastated the land about and laid it waste. A further revolt in the west country, that seemed to be aimed at individual Normans, fizzled out in the face of forces drawn from London and the south east and through internal dissent amongst the insurgents.

Edric is said to have reached an accommodation with King William in 1070, and in 1072 he accompanied William on his punitive expedition to Scotland.

In 1075 there was another revolt against William, this one involved Roger, Earl of Hereford. Some historians believe that Edric was also involved, and thus lost his lands. But no-one really knows as Edric by then has vanished from recorded history. He certainly wasn't a land-holder by the time of the Domesday survey.

That is the historical Edric the Wild, but there is also a legendary Edric the Wild. According to one legend he married a fairy or elvan maid. Another has him leading the Wild Hunt or Fairy Raed. In this version of the legend, the Wild Hunt only rides when England is threaten with invasion. Edric, and his wife, either called Gondul or Goda, leads the Wild Hunt towards the foe. Edric and the Hunt have been publicly reported as having ridden in the months prior to the Crimean War, the First World War and the Second World War.

Following are two articles on Edric by other authors.

Eadric Silvaticus and the English Resistance


Susan Reynolds

EADRIC SiIvaticus, Salvagius, or the wild is one of the better-known leaders of English resistance to the Norman Conquest. In the D version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle he is said to have joined the Welsh in attacking the garrison of Hereford in 1067 and to have inflicted great losses. Here he is described as Eadric cild' but Plummer and Earle suggest that 'cild' is, given the context, probably a slip for 'Se wilda'.' The Worcester chronicle, written fairly early in the twelfth century but based on a lost version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, has a little more information, which seems to reflect local knowledge: Eadric cognomento silvaticus', a 'praepotens minister', was the son of Aelfric brother of Eadric Streona. Because he refused to surrender, the Norman garrison of Hereford, with Richard fitz Scrob, frequently laid waste his lands while he as often attacked them. His Welsh allies are named and his ravages of Herefordshire in August 1067 are said to have reached the river Lugg. In 1070 he made peace with the king and in 1072 went with him on the invasion of Scotland. Orderic Vitalis, writing at about the same time as John of Worcester, introduces Eadric as cognomento guilda id est silvaticus' and mentions his relationship to Eadric Streona, but says that he surrendered to William immediately after the coronation. Eadric's subsequent rebellion, when he attacked Shrewsbury along with other fierce Englishmen and with the Welsh and men of Chester, then appears as part of a wider resistance. Orderic does not mention Eadric's later submission but the association of the rebellion with Shrewsbury suggests that he may have derived that bit of his account from stories he had heard in his own Shropshire childhood.

Domesday Book mentions 'Edric salvage' as the former tenant of six manors in Shropshire and one in Herefordshire. Some of the many estates held 'empoTe regtl Edwardi by other, unidentified Edrics in these counties, if not elsewhere, may also have belonged to him. Eyton identified him with the Eadric who was described in Domesday merely as a free man ('liber homo') who had held some of Ralph Mortimer's lands, but whom the fourteenth-century Wigmore abbey chronicle calls earl of Shropshire and lord of Wigmore and Maelienydd. According to the chronicle, which is clearly very garbled, this Eadric was captured by Ralph after long struggles and handed over to the king for life imprisonment, some of his lands afterwards descending to the abbey. He may not have lost all his estates. Eyton commented that 'a genealogical enthusiast would have little hesitation in assuming as a conclusion the possibility that William le Savage, who held Eudon Savage, Neen Savage and Walton Savage of the Mortimer fee in the twelfth century, was a descendant of Eadric'.

One last reference to Eadric which seems to have independent value comes from Walter Map. Writing about the eleven-eighties Walter told a story about him which, underneath its supernatural plot, seems to have a basis of historical reality. 'Edricus wilde quod est silvestris', so called from his physical agility and the mirthfulness of his words and deeds ('jocunditate verborum et operum'), was a man of great probity and lord of Lydbury North (Salop) during William I's reign. He married a fairy but left a wise and holy son Aelfnoth (Alnodus), who became paralysed in old age, was cured at the shrine of St. Ethelbert, and therefore gave his estate to the church of Hereford. Walter added that Lydbury was said to be worth £30 a year to the bishop at the time of writing. The only reason for doubting his story - apart from what concerns Eadric's wife, which was of course its chief point - is that according to Domesday the manor of Lydbury had belonged to the see since the time of Edward the Confessor, though a part of it was held from the bishop in 1086 by a free man ('quidam franco')and William the clerk. Possibly Aelfnoth, who was evidently piously remembered at Hereford, was at some time a life-tenant of the bishop, and the story about Eadric became connected with Lydbury by the clergy because Aelfnoth was his son.

Historians have generally treated Eadric's surname as a nickname, describing his personal qualities, and in this they thus have the authority of Walter Map. Walter may, however, have been rationalising a description of forgotten origin. A more likely explanation of it is that Eadric was one of a group of people well known in their own day as tilvatid. Orderic Vitalis says in his description of the English risings of c. 1068-69 that many of the rebels lived in tents, disdaining to sleep in houses lest they should become soft, so that certain of them were called silvatici by the Normans. Although this comes just after a reference to the northern rebellion Orderic does not seem to mean that the silvatici were restricted to the north. He has also said that the English leaders sent messages all over the country to raise support and he is not the only chronicler to make it clear that the English resistance was very widespread or to describe the rebels as taking to the woods and marshes. The Abingdon chronicle says that many plots were hatched by the English and that some hid in woods and some in islands, plundering and attacking those who came their way, while others called in the Danes, and that men of different ranks took part in these attempts, Some of the abbey's own men were captured on their way to join in. The Evesham chronicle tells how William, early in his reign, wasted Yorkshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire because of the outlaws ('exules') and robbers who hid in the woods and did much damage to many people, so that great crowds came to Abbot Aethelwig for succour. William of Malmesbury makes Edwin and Morcar themselves disturb the woods with secret robberies, rather than meet William in open combat. According to the twelfth-century versions of his legend Hereward, after he left Ely, retreated to the woods and lived as an outlaw with a large following.

Not all these remarks are of independent or equal authority, but there is no reason to doubt the substantial truth of the picture they draw, For some years the Conquest must have looked very insecure. When William left for Normandy in 1067 his military conquest had hardly gone much beyond the Thames, and a good many of the English nobles who - like Eadric in Orderic's account had already submitted were later to revolt. National solidarity had developed at a political level before the Norman invasion, but, given the lack of leadership, guerrilla warfare was the best the English resistance could manage by now. That they should have made their bases in 'wild country' and, like the twentieth-century maquis, have been named for it, is perfectly credible. How many silvatici later surrendered and were restored to some sort of legal if inferior position, as Eadric seems to have been, cannot be known. His nickname may imply that he was unusual at least in the publicity of his submission. In any case the movement had presumably lost its effective political character by 1075, when the rebellion of the earls met with little English support. If it is true, however, that the siIvatici were for some years a widespread and well-known phenomenon, that might help to explain aspects of later outlaw stories that have puzzled historians. Few outlaws in other countries have apparently left so powerful a legend as Robin Hood. The nearest parallels are said to be figures on the epic scale who could be transformed into politically conscious national heroes of a type very unlike him. Even if the stories about Robin Hood himself originated in real events of the thirteen-thirties, as has recently been suggested, they could have gained some of their unusual force from association with older stories of heroes who had once resisted foreign invaders. The anomalous social position of the later, legendary Robin might also owe something, as Dr. M. H. Keen suggested, to these older stories. The most famous outlaws of the greenwood before were probably the Old English nobility on their way down and out.

Bulletin of the Institue of Historical Research Vol LIV No 129 1981 (Edric the Wild- S.Reynolds pp102-105) - University of London

Edric the Wild and his Fairy wife

Edric the Wild held land at Weston-under-Redcastle and in the south of the shire. He used to go hunting wild boar and deer in the forests of Clun. One day he and his young page lost their way in the forest. They rode until nightfall, trying to find the path. At last, through the dark trees, they saw lights shining. Their horses were tired but they rode eagerly in the hope of a warm stable and shelter for the night. Soon they came to a large manor house. Edric had never noticed it in the forest before and he warned his page to be careful, for it might be the work of witchcraft. They were both so tired and hungry, they did not want to turn back.

"We'll go nearer and see just what kind of people live here," he said.

As they crept towards the windows, they could hear music playing. Peering in, they saw a room hung with rich tapestries and handsomely furnished. Edric stared in amazement. In the middle of the room a group of ladies in fine gowns danced gracefully in a circle. As they danced, they sang sweetly, but their language was none that Edric knew.

Edric watched for a while, uncertain whether to go in. He was more afraid than ever that this was the work of witchcraft. If he went inside, he feared he would come under some deadly spell. But as he watched, he noticed one of the young women, tall and slender but more beautiful than the rest, and at once he fell in love. His fear of witchcraft vanished.

"Come on!" he told the page. "We must find a way in!" And he began to search around the walls of the house. At last he came to a door and forced his shoulder against it.

"Wait! It may be a trick!" the page warned him, but it was too late. Edric strode on down the hallway, searching for the dancers. The sound of the music drew him. He burst into the room where the women were dancing, and caught hold of the one he loved.

At first the women were so startled by Edric's sudden arrival that they went on dancing.

"I want you for my wife," Edric told the young woman and tried to pull her from the circle.

The dancing stopped. In fury, the women crowded round him, biting and scratching him. They pulled and tugged and tried to rescue their sister. Edric could feel her being dragged away from him.

"Help me!" he cried as his page rushed into the room after him. Between them, they managed to carry the young woman out of the house and rode off with her through the forest.

Edric found the way back to his castle at last, and ordered that the very best food and wine be brought for his bride. He told her he had fallen in love with her as he watched her dancing, and he begged her to forgive him for capturing her. The young woman said nothing.

Again Edric begged her to forgive him. He told her he would alwayslove her and be kind to her. He told her she could have anything she wanted. Still she said nothing. For three long days he told her of his love for her, and for three long days, she said nothing.

Then at last she spoke: "I will be your wife, Edric and I will bring you happiness and good luck," she promised, "but you must never say one word against my sisters or my home, for on the day you do, you will lose both me and your good fortune. Then you will pine away and die."

Edric was overjoyed. He was determined never to speak of her sisters again. He set about arranging a magnificent wedding feast. Noblemen came from all over the land for the wedding and to admire Edric's beautiful bride. Even King William heard about Edric's marriage and asked to see her for himself. He didn't believe she could really be so beautiful, nor that she was of elvish blood. Edric travelled to William's court in London. He took his page with him to tell the King how they had first seen the woman dancing with her sisters. But the moment the King set eyes on the lady he had no need of any witness. He knew that all he had heard about her was true.

For some time Edric lived happily with his new wife. He was as kind to her as he had promised, and in return she gave him good health and good fortune as she had promised. Then, one evening, Edric came home from a hunting trip and could not find his lady anywhere in the castle. He was tired and ill-tempered after a long day's riding, and began to shout her name. At last she returned to him. Edric scowled at her.

"I suppose you've been seeing those sisters of yours!" he said angrily. Before he could say another word, she vanished.

Too late Edric remembered her warning before their wedding:

"Never say one word against my sisters..."

Long weeks he searched for her in the forests. He tried to find the house where he had first seen her, but he never saw her again. The years passed, and Edric pined away and died.

(Reproduced from: Witches & Warriors - Legends from Shropshire Marches retold by Karen Lowe, Shrophire Books 1995, ISBN 0-903802-46-5)

The story of Edric Wild and his fairy wife is a notable example of how traditional tales can become attached to historical persons very shortly after their lifetime. Walter Map was writing around 1180, and we first hear of Edric in 1067, when, according to the version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle kept at Worcester, 'Edric the Wild and the Welsh rose in revolt and attacked the garrison at Hereford and inflicted heavy losses on them.'

The story of the fairy wife lost by the breaking of a condition she had imposed is widespread and ancient - one form of it is the classical legend of Cupid and Psyche, although here the supernatural partner is the husband. The proof of Edric's wife's fairy nature was her beauty, and it has been suggested that outstandingly beautiful women were once nicknamed 'fairy' or 'fay', and later explained as actual fairies, At all events, fairies were in the Middle Ages reckoned among the ancestors of several noble families, notably the Counts of Poitou, descended from the fairy Melusine, who after her husband broke the vital condition - that he should never see her naked - continued to haunt the ramparts of the Castle of Lusignan as a family death-warning. Several other great families actually altered their pedigrees to include her as an ancestress -the ruling house of Luxembourg, for example - and indeed Map may have retold this story of Edric and his fairy wife as a compliment to his patron, Henry II, who himself numbered Melusine among his forebears.

Map knew another story of a fairy wife, caught by Gwestin Gwestiniog when she came out of Llangorse Lake to dance in the moonlight. In later Welsh folklore, too, the fairy wife usually has her home in a lake, as at Llyn-y-Fan-Fach in Dyfed. Melusine herself was a water spirit, and the reason why she and other fairy wives acquiesced in their marriages by capture is given by Paracelsus in his 'Book of nymphs, sylphs, pygmies and salamanders and of other spirits' (1566), where he says that of the elementals it is the nymphs or undines of the water element who most resemble men, whom they wish to marry in order to gain immortal souls (a theme that reappears in Hans Andersen's 'Little Mermaid').

(Reproduced from: Albion - A guide to legendary Britain, Jennifer Westwood, Granada Publishing, London 1985)

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