Morcar of Northumbria

Pickering Castle
Pickering Castle was held by Earl
Morcar shortly before the Conquest
photo © Alison Stamp, May 2005

Morcar (or Morkere) (d.1071) was the son of Ælfgar, earl of Mercia, brother of Edwin, earl of Mercia. He was earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by William the Conqueror with Robert Comine.

In 1065, the Northumbrians revolted against Earl Tostig, who was replaced by Morcar and declared an outlaw. Tostig invaded Northumbria (for the third time) from Norway with King Harald III Hardrada in 1066. Morcar and Edwin resisted and inflicted heavy losses on the invaders; however, they were defeated at the Battle of Fulford.

In September, when Morcar became aware that Duke William II of Normandy intended to invade England to claim the throne from King Harold II, Morcar swore fealty to William. Hardrada and Tostig invaded York, two miles north of Fulford Gate. To suppress the Norwegian invasion of England, Harold forced marched an army (around 240 miles by foot) north from London to York. He arrived on September 25.

Surprised, unarmoured, and unprepared, Hardrada's forces were overpowered by the English army. In the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the exiled earl of Northumbria and the Viking king were killed. On September 28, William landed his army at Pevensey in Sussex. Harold immediately responded and marched weary and weakened soldiers another 240 miles south from York to meet William's invasion on October 14. With a technologically superior and a well-rested force, William routed the English army at the Battle of Hastings in which Harold was killed.

After trying to secure the crown for a member of their own house, the heir nominated by Edward the Confessor, they submitted to William, but lost their earldoms. They attempted to raise the North in 1068, and failed ignominiously.

Though they were pardoned, Edwin perished in attempting to raise a Welsh rebellion and, in 1071, Morcar joined the desperate rebellion led by Hereward the Wake against William the Conqueror at the Isle of Ely. The rebellion failed. While Hereward escaped with followers into the wild fenland, Morcar was captured and taken to Normandy where he was imprisoned until the death of William in September, 1087. Morcar returned to England but was immediately imprisoned by William Rufus. Nothing further is known about him and it is assumed he died in prison.

Preceded by:
Earl of Northumbria
Succeeded by:
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