The harrying of the north

Published February 3, 2014 by Kat

I’ve been spending time poking about for a good historical fiction setting. The Scottish border around the time of the Norman conquest has been promising. Malcolm III killed Macbeth and his named heir, Lulach, in the 1050s. Malcolm then spent his time running slave raids in the north of England and generally being a stinker until the Norman invasion in 1066… or rather, for some time afterwards, as the citizens of Northumbria got tired of being bothered by him and started to revolt against William the Conqueror who wasn’t protecting them. In 1069 tensions boiled over a lot of William’s men and castles were slaughtered and burned. William got angry.

Then in the winter of 1069-1070 William marche to York and set his army to harry the north. They slaughtered people and livestock, poisoned wells, salted the earth, and burned the crofts. It was an act of genocide and basically depopulated the north of England for years to come. One sources estimates that 100,000 people died.

In 1086 William ordered that information about all the lands, people, and production of England be gathered into the Domesday Book. I’ve just received a copy of it. Here are two pictures: the first of a page from a southern Shire, the second from Yorkshire. Don’t bother to read it, just look at the shape of the text:


In the south there were land, serfs, mills, and breweries. In Yorkshire there was… land. Nothing else. Total desolation.

Anyway, here is a little timeline of events I’ve compiled for myself:

900 Donald II dies, Kingdom of Alba forms, Constantine II succeeds
942-54 Malcolm I reigns. Slays Ceallach of Moray, unites northern Scotland
945+ King Edmund hands Cumbria over to Malcolm I
954-62 Scots capture oppidum Eden = Edinburgh in Lothian, farthest south they’d controlled. Indulf rules. Succeeded by Cuilen
962 Edgar the Peaceful grants autonomy to Northumberia, Tees to Tweed
971-95 Kenneth II invades Strathclyde
978 Aethelred the Unready becomes king of England
1016 Aethelred the Unready dies
1018 Malcolm II defeats Northumbrians at Carham. King Owain dies, leaves kingdom to Malcolm.
1028 William the Conqueror born
1031 Canute of Denmark and England confirms Malcolm’s conquests
1034 Duncan I accedes
1040 Duncan defeated by English at Durham, is toppled, Macbeth kills him and succeeds
1042 Edward the Confessor becomes King of England
1045 Duncan/Malcolm’s family attempts to overthrow Macbeth
1050 Odo appointed Bishop of Bayeux
1053 Earl Godwin, the main opposition to William’s succession to English throne, dies. His son Tostig becomes Earl of Northumbria.
1054 English invasion led by Northumbria
1057 Malcolm kills Macbeth, Lulach succeeds
1058 Malcolm III, son of Duncan, kills Lulach and succeeds.
1059 Malcolm attempts to arrange marriage with Edward’s kinswoman margaret, it fails. Instead he sometime married Viking widow Ingibiorg, they have sons Duncan, Domnall/Donald, Malcolm
1061 Scots invade Northumbria, plunder Lindisfarne
1065 Northumbria revolts against Tostig, sends reps to Edward’s court where they confer with Tostig’s brother Harold. It is clear Tostig can’t retain his power in Northumbria. Harold tells Edward this. Tostig is removed from power then outlawed when he won’t leave. Bitter divide between brothers.
1066 Edward the Confessor dies in January, succeeded by Harold Godwinson (son of Earl Godwin)
Tostig pokes at English shore in May, no success, retreats to Scotland for the summer
Tostig and Harald Hardrada invade Northumbria in September. King Harold marches north and kills them
Battle of Hastings in October, King Harold killed by arrow to the eye. His mother offers William his weight in gold for the body, but William refuses and throws it into the sea
Edgar AEtheling is nominated king, but submits to Normans in December
1068 William marches to York in the summer, fomenting rebellion melts away, some including Edgar going to Malcolm III’s court
1069 Edgar Aetheling returns to England to join revolt
In January William’s appointed earl Robert de Comines and party are slaughtered in Durham. Rebels kill York’s castle guardian and his men. William returns to York and slaughters rebels. Others rebellions break out over the country. Edgar AEtheling seeks assistance from Sweyn II of Denmark (Canute’s nephew). Fleet raids east coast of England, Danes+Angles retake York. William marches army to York, where he buys off the Danes. Then he Harries the North.
1069-70 Harrying of the North. Scottish raids contribute to disorder. Hoards of coins buried.
1070 Sweyn returns to England, raides along Humber and East Anglia
1071 William replaces Anglo-Saxon leaders with Normans in the North
Malcolm marries Aetheling’s sister Margaret. Claims his raids into England are redressing the wrongs against his wife’s people. Have six sons, Edward, Edmund, Ethelred, Edgar, Alexander, David, and two daughters Edith and Mary
1072 William marches to Scotland in a counter-invasion against Malcolm. Treaty of Abernethy. Malcolm becomes William’s vassal. Edgar Aetheling expulsed from Scottish court.
1074 Edgar submits to William
1075 Oderic Vitalis, chronicler, born
Cnut raids English coast with 200 ships
1078 Malcolm seizes Lulach’s wife, all his son’s treasures and cattle, to put down revolt
1079 Malcolm raids between Tees and Tweed in August/September, Normans don’t respond, Northumbrians get restive
1080 William sends son to invade Scotland, he gets to Falkirk between Scotland-proper and Lothian, Malcolm submits to authority and gives his son Duncan as hostage
Bishop of Durham murdered by locals in Northumbria. William sends brother Odo to harry Northumbria, drives nobility into exile
1082-3 Marianus Scotus, chronicler, dies
1083 William’s wife Matilda dies
William’s son Robert rebels with support from French
1085 Malcolm and Ingibiorg’s son Domnall dies
Lulach’s son Mael Snechtai dies
1086 Domesday Book returns come in
Cnut dies in July
1087 William the Conqueror dies on September 9. Son Robert gets Normandy, son William gets England. Family doesn’t arrange funeral–monks finally do. Service interrupted by petty quarrel. Body too large for tomb, bursts as it is lowered in
1088 Odo rebels
1091 Malcolm seiges Newcastle, trying to gain land, withdraws when English march
1093 Malcolm III invades England, claiming Cumbria. Meeting with new English King William Rufus to discuss Cumbria doesn’t happen. Malcolm goes back to Scotland angry, returns with army and wastes Northumberland. On way back to Scotland he is attacked by Earl of Northumbria. Dies at Battle of Alnwick. Margaret dies of sorrow nine days later.
1094 Malcolm’s brother Donalbane and son Duncan (sent by Normans) fight for the crown. Donalbane wins. England sends Malcolm’s next son Edgar to be king, Donalbane cedes throne to him. Succession after this follows primogeniture.
Alexander becomes king
1096 First Crusade begins
1100 William’s son William dies, Henry becomes king of England
1124 Alexander I dies
1250 Margaret, Malcolm’s wife, is canonized
1286 Alexander III dies, Scottish Wars of Independence foment


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