Morcar of Northumbria

Morcar of Northumbria

Morcar (or Morkere) (d. 1087) was the son of Ælfgār (earl of Mercia) and brother of Ēadwine. He was himself the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by William the Conqueror with Copsi.

In 1065, the Northumbrians revolted against their Earl Tostig, who was replaced by Morcar and declared an outlaw. In 1066 Tostig invaded Mercia, after mounting raids further south, but was repulsed by Edwin and Morcar and fled to Scotland. Later in the year he returned to Northumbria with the army of King Harald III Hardrada of Norway. Morcar and Edwin resisted and inflicted heavy losses on the invaders, but suffered a severe defeat at the Battle of Fulford.

After the death of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, Edwin and Morcar threw their support behind the Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed king, but they failed to muster an effective military response to the invading forces of William of Normandy and soon submitted. In 1068 they raised a revolt in Mercia, but rapidly capitulated when William advanced against them.

Though they were pardoned, they again turned against William early in 1071. Edwin was soon betrayed and killed, while Morcar joined the rebellion, initiated by the Abbot of Ely and tactically organized by Hereward the Wake, against William the Conqueror at the Isle of Ely (FNQ chapter XX). When the island was opened to the Normans, Morcar was captured and imprisoned. He remained in captivity until William's death in 1087, when the dying king ordered the release of all his prisoners. After a brief period at liberty, Morcar was again imprisoned by William Rufus and died in captivity.

Morcar has been portrayed by Noel Johnson in the two-part BBC TV play "Conquest" (1966), part of the series "Theatre 625", and by Simon Rouse in the TV drama "Blood Royal: William the Conqueror" (1990).


*Freeman, E. A. "Norman Conquest and William Rufus" vol. i.
*Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Line 176A-3
*FNQ "Gesta Herwardi" from the Book of Robert of Swaffham, published as a supplement to Fenland Notes and Queries ed. W.D. Sweeting (1895-7)

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