Tostig in Exile

Battle of Fulford from The Life of King Edward the Confessor by Matthew Paris Source: Wikimedia

After the 1065 rebellion that sent Tostig into exile, the Northumbrians apparently felt that the Tostig issue was resolved.  No such luck!  Tostig was busy running around Europe looking for support to re-establish his claim to the earldom.  His first stop was Flanders, where he  brought his family for refuge to the court of his wife’s brother, Count Baldwin V. He was treated honorably in Flanders and spent the winter at St.Omer.

As stated in my last post about Tostig, King Edward died shortly after he was forced to leave the country. This means that Harold was already on the throne when Tostig went to Normandy and paid a visit to William the Conqueror.  I can’t image what he could have offered the Duke aside from a small fleet supplied by his father-in-law, but it does seem like the most onerous insult he could have offered Harold.

In May of 1066, Tostig landed on the Isle of Wight with his little fleet, and I wonder if William encouraged him to cross as a kind of forward movement?  By May, William certainly had been well into his preparations to cross the channel.  Did the Norman Duke try to get rid of him?  Tostig gathered supplies on the Isle of Wight and is said to have forced many of the local seamen to join him with ships. He proceeded to plunder eastward around the coast as far as Sandwich.  This means he would have passed his hometown Bosham; I wonder if he paused to say hello to his mother?

Just after Tostig reached Sandwich, Harold approached with naval and land forces to protect the coast (from Tostig, or from William?).  Tostig withdrew, and moved north to ravage parts of East Anglia; some say he unsuccessfully attempted to draw his brother Gyrth (Earl of East Anglia) into his argument. By the time Tostig reached Lindesey in Northumbria with 60 ships, Earls Eadwine and Morcar – his old rivals – drove him away and Tostig was abandoned by most of his followers.

Reduced to 10 small vessels, Tostig took refuge with his good friend and sworn brother Malcolm Canmore of Scotland.  Always happy to cause trouble on his southern border, Malcolm offered Tostig his protection for the whole summer of 1066.

It’s uncertain whether Tostig went in person to consult with Harald Hardrada. The venerable Edward A. Freeman conjectured that this scenario did not give Tostig enough time to sail to Denmark and try to persuade his cousin Swegn to come and claim Canute’s crown (Swegn is said to have offered Tostig a Danish earldom instead). Nor would he have had the time to sail to Norway.  King Harald wouldn’t have had enough time to raise an army at that late date, so Dr. Freeman felt there was a very good likelihood that Hardrada had planned the invasion on his own many months before, and that he fell in with Tostig after he already made his move. Perhaps they had communicated by messenger while Tostig was in Scotland. I’ve read elsewhere that Tostig visited both Swegn and Hardrada during the winter, which I assume could have been possible if he had taken ship and hugged the coast. Snorri Sturluson gave us a lively account of Tostig persuading Harald to take what is his by right. Regardless, after Hardrada landed in the Orkneys and left his wife there he made his way south and joined Tostig at the mouth of the Tyne.  The stage was set for the battle of Stamfordbridge…almost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>