Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia: 1

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Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia: 1

Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia: 1

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Eadric has come down to us as Eadric Streona or acquisitor or grasper and he got that name from the Church. John of Worcester states that Cnut feared that Eadric would prove to be as treacherous to him as he had been to Æthelred and Edmund. Alphege at Greenwich by Thorkell the Tall's men, Thorkell defected to Ethelred, possibly through Eadric's agency. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature.

Manuscript C of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that Uhtred was killed "by the advice of Ealdorman Eadric". His appointment to the office of ealdorman in 1007 was probably an attempt by Ethelred to unite south-central England under one command. Cnut arrived from Denmark in August 1015 at Sandwich in Kent with an invasion force of about 200 ships, but immediately went off plundering in Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. Teenage swineherd Eadric has no aim in life other than wooing scullery maids, but he has a quick wit that somehow lands him an audience with King Ethelred the Unready, and a silver tongue that thoughtlessly precipitates a massacre of troublesome Danish Viking immigrants. Hildred fared better than them only because so many of her own family members had died in the last few years, leaving fewer mouths to feed.

The armies separated without incident, and Eadric soon took forty ships from the royal fleet, fled to Cnut, and entered into his service. The position had been vacant since 985, when his predecessor Ælfric Cild was driven into exile after being accused of treachery. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1017: "This year King Knute took to the whole government of England, and divided it into four parts: Wessex for himself, East-Anglia for Thurkyll, Mercia for Eadric, Northumbria for Eric. In a BBC list of the worst Britons in the last 1,000 years Eadric Streona was the choice for the 11th Century.

Legend has it that Eadric, once again at the side of King Edmund, suggested that both chieftains resolve their dispute by single combat. He was required to declare his loyalty to the noblemen, to bring in reforms regarding everything that they previously disliked, and to forgive all that had been said and done against him in his previous reign. Their love is strained by fresh Danish raiders, who make an almost yearly habit of slaughtering and pillaging their way through the English countryside.The following year Eadric was made Ealdorman of Mercia and it was around this time that he also married the king’s daughter, Eadgyth. Although loyal to Ethelred, he had a personal enmity towards Ethelred's son Edmund Ironside, who favoured a confrontational policy towards the Danes, while Eadric Streona was a major proponent of the payment of Danegeld (and no doubt the opportunities for corruption it offered).

At Christmas, 1017, fearing further treachery, Canute had Eadric slain, after a row in which Eadric claimed that he had assassinated Edmund Ironside for Canute's benefit - of which Canute had been unaware. He supported the payment of the Danegeld, persisted in preventing Ethelred from launching an attack on the Danes in 1009, and deserted Edmund II of England to defect to the side of Canute and the Danes. By the end of the year Aethelred, his wife Emma, their children, and Eadric had all fled to Emma’s home in Normandy. An Englishman looking back at the events of the 11th century might have wondered how a population of one million could have been so subjugated by a few thousand Normans, certainly the Witan’s idea that William would be another Cnut and let them run the country proved to be highly optimistic.

In 2005, Eadric Streona (Streona is not his real last name, rather a nickname assigned to him meaning ‘grasper’ or ‘acquisitor’), a little known man to most, was voted the worst Briton of the 11 th century in a poll conducted by BBC History Magazine. Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Georgette Heyer, Ken Follet ("Pillars of the Earth"), and Baroness Orczy ("The Scarlet Pimpernel") will especially enjoy the style of this swashbuckling historical fiction. It is believed that Eadric had the intention of betraying Edmund, but when their forces came together he could not. I agree that Eadric probably became a convenient scapegoat , though most historians seem to be in agreement about his involvement in the major events that turned the tables, so to speak, on Edmund Ironside.

But what most historians fail to consider is that Eadric Streona's primary goal was peace and stability for England. This is said to have been as a result of Eadric beating Canute at chess and refusing (evidently unwisely) to change the rules in Canute's favour. was a Mercian who rose in Anglo-Saxon society to marry a daughter of Ætheldred the Unready and as though that weren’t enough managed to get himself voted as one of the BBC History Magazone’s ‘Worst Britains.History suggests that Eadric was retained by Aethelred to perform the more distasteful tasks of rule, one of which was the murder in 1006 of a nobleman, Ealdorman Aelfhelm. Eadric then goes north to meet Edmund but after an inconclusive meeting decides to submit, along with the rest of Wessex, to Cnut. Henry of Huntingdon says that Eadric's head was "placed upon a pole on the highest battlement of the tower of London". Cnut rewarded Ædric with his old earldom of Mercia, but having met the man and been advised by him was under no illusion as to the man’s inability to demonstrate even a modicum of loyalty. Take the example of Earl Uhtred of Northumbria, Thurbrand murdered him, Uhtred’s son Ealdred killed Thurbrand, Thurband’s son Carl killed Ealdred and Ealdred’s grandson Waltheof then killed nearly all Carl’s sons and grandsons.

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