History becomes myth..
Hereward's place in history comes from being recognised as the 'last man standing' in the aftermath of the events of 1066, when the English Crown had fallen to a foreign foe.
On the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, where the English King Harold fell to an arrow in the eye, we learn through the Hereward story that as far as many English were concerned that was not the end of the fight.
The length and breadth of the country, over the ensuing five years, witnessesd a mighty ongoing effort led by various disaffected English nobles to rid England of the new king, William the Conqueror.
Uprising, rebellion and revolt in Dover, Exeter, Hereford, Durham, York, Chester and many other places met with defeat and by 1071 there was only the Fenlands of Eastern England that was still standing and posing a threat to William. Led by Hereward, a stout resistance followed but ultimately Ely too fell to William while Hereward made his escape.
His name passed into legend soon after and during the nineteenth century the new trend of the historical novel moulded him into a folklore hero of great fame, rivaling Robin Hood and King Arthur in popularity.
Hereward came to symbolise not just the spirit of English resistance to the Norman Conquest, but the indomitable, steadfast spirit of the English as a people throughout time. This popular narrative of Hereward, so closely linked to patriotism and empire faded from common knowledge as the British Empire was laid to rest.
In recent times the work of a number of Historians has elucidated the career of Hereward as a mercenary soldier and identified several of his 'Band of Men' - pulling his story out of the misty world of legend and in to historical authenticity.
Exiled by his country at the age of 18 Hereward 'the Outlaw' returned some years later to become his country's last hope against the foreign foe that had taken the crown of England, William the Conqueror.
The 12th Century text known as the 'Gesta Herwardi' informs that Hereward became a famous knight and fought in the army of the Count of Flanders, to great acclaim.
The Gesta and the Crowland Chronicle say he married a beautiful woman, Torfrida of St. Omer, but during the course of the Fenland rebellion she retired to Crowland Abbey and took the
habit of a nun.
Domesday Book records that Hereward held parcels of land in south Lincolnshire from the abbeys of Peterborough and Crowland.
The Gesta states that Hereward was the son of Leofric, the Lord of Bourne, and the Crowland Chronicle claims he was buried at Crowland Abbey alongside his wife Torfrida.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records Hereward's raid on Peterborough Abbey with a Danish 'Viking' Army in 1070 where they took 'gold and silver of such great value that no one man could reckon it to the other'.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Liber Eliensis and the Gesta Herwardi report on Hereward's defence of Ely in 1071 where his actions came to symbolise the spirit of English resistance to the Norman Conquest.
In his L'Estoire des Engleis Geffrei Gaimar reports on Hereward's exploits after the fall of Ely, at Huntingdon and Stamford and in the ancient tract of forest known as the Brunneswald.
We think it will encourage noble deeds and induce liberality to know Hereward, who he was, and to hear of his achievements and deeds.
Especially those of you desiring to live the life of a soldier, wherefore we advise you, pay attention! And you who the more diligently strive to hear the deeds of brave men, apply your minds and hear diligently of the account of so great a man...'
(12th C. De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis - 'The Exploits of Hereward the Saxon')