Monday, September 20, 2010

Midieval England and Scotland - Siward

Siward Earl of Northumberland is our 31st Great Grandfather 3 times through George Ensign SMITH family line, and through Laura Elizabeth PARKER family line he is 2 times our 31st and 1 time our 32nd great grandfather.

Anachronistic early 19th-century depiction by John Martin
of Mac Bethad (centre-right) watching Siward's Northumbrian army approaching (right)
Siward defeated Mac Bethad in battle in 1054. More than half a millennium later the Scotland adventure earned him a place in both William Shakespeare's Macbeth (1603-07) and its modern sequel Dunsinane (2010).

or Sigurd (Old English: Sigeweard)
[The English name Siward or Sigeweard was cognate to the single Old Norse name written variously as Sigvarðr and Sigurðr; see Holman, Northern Conquest, p. 103; Munch (ed.), Chronica regum Manniae et Insularum, vol. i, p. 140; Stevenson, Simeon of Durham, p. 119] was a great earl of 11th-century northern England. The Old Norse nickname Digri and its Latin translation Grossus ("the stout") are given to him by near-contemporary texts.[ Barlow (ed.), Life of King Edward, p. 35 (= Vita Ædwardi, i. 3); Aird, "Siward"; see also reference in on the Vita Waldevi ]

"The Stories of the ancients tell us that Ursus (a certain nobleman whom the Lord, contrary to what normally happens in human procreation, allowed to be created from a white bear as a father and a noblewoman as a mother), begot Spratlingus; Spratlingus begot Ulfius; and Ulfius begot Beorn, who was nicknamed Beresune, that is, "Bear's Son". This Beorn was Danish by race, a distinguished earl and famous soldier. As a sign, however, that due to part of his ancestry he was of a different species, nature had given him the ears of his father's line, namely those of a bear. In all other features he was of his mother's appearance. And after many manly deeds and military adventures, he begot a son, a tried imitator of his father's strength and military skill. His name was Siward, nicknamed Diere, that is, the Stout (grossus)". — A description of Siward's ancestry and his father Beorn, taken from the Vita Waldevi, a saint's life dedicated to Siward's son Waltheof. [Michel, Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, vol. iii, p. 104; Rauer, Beowulf and the Dragon, pp. 162–63]

"Around this time Siward, the mighty earl of Northumbria, almost a giant in stature, very strong mentally and physically, sent his son to conquer Scotland. When they came back and reported to his father that he had been killed in battle, he asked 'Did he receive his fatal wound in the front or the back of his body?' The messengers said 'In the front'. Then he said, 'That makes me very happy, for I consider no other death worthy for me or my son'. Then Siward set out for Scotland, and defeated the king in battle, destroyed the whole realm, and having destroyed it, subjected it to himself".[Greenway, Henry of Huntingdon, p. 21] — A description of Osbjorn's death and Siward's reaction, taken from the Historia Anglorum of Henry of Huntingdo [Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, vol. iii, p. 104; Rauer, Beowulf and the Dragon, pp. 162–63 Michel, ]

"[A]fter a short conversation the king [Edward the Confessor] took him [Siward] into his service, and promised him the first position of dignity which became vacant in his realm. After that Siward said farewell, and he and his men took the way back to London. On the bridge not far from the monastery [Westminster] he met the Earl of Huntingdon, Tosti, a Dane by birth; the king hated him because he had married Earl Godwine's daughter, sister to the queen. The earl crossed the foot-bridge so near Siward that he soiled his mantle with his dirty feet; for at that time it was fashionable to wear a mantle without any cord by which to hold it up. Then blood rushed to his heart; yet he checked himself from taking revenge on the spot, because the shame was inflicted upon him by one who was on his way to the king's hall. But he remained standing with his men by the same bridge until Tosti came from the king; then he drew his sword and hacked off Tosti's head, and went with it under his mantle back to the king's hall. Here he asked, according to his promise, to give him the earldom of Huntingdon. But as the earl had just left him, the king thought he was only joking. Then Siward related his deed, and, as sure proof, cast the head down before the king's feet. The king then kept his promise, and proclaimed him at once earl of Huntingdon ... A few days later, the Northmen began to attack the realm. The king then was in a state of uncertainty, and deliberated with the great men of his realm as to what means should be adopted; and they made over with one voice Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland to Earl Siward, and the king invested him with earldom over them". — A saga-like description of Siward's accession to power in England, taken from the Vita Waldevi [Translation Olrik, "Siward Digri", pp. 215–16]

The Death of Earl Siward
(1861) by
James Smetham, a 19th-century representation of Earl Siward readying for death

"Siward, the stalwart earl, being stricken by dysentery, felt that death was near, and said, "How shameful it is that I, who could not die in so many battles, should have been saved for the ignominious death of a cow! At least clothe me in my impenetrable breastplate, gird me with my sword, place my helmet on my head, my shield in my left hand, my gilded battle-axe in my right, that I, the bravest of soldiers, may die like a soldier." He spoke, and armed as he had requested, he gave up his spirit with honour". — A description of Siward's death, taken from the Historia Anglorum of Henry of Huntingdon. [Greenway, Henry of Huntingdon, p. 22]

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