My ancestor aided and abetted William the Conqueror’s hostile takeover

by Andrea Elizabeth

Robert Comine (also Robert de Comines, Robert de Comyn) was very briefly earl of Northumbria.

His name suggests that he originally came from Comines, then in the County of Flanders, and entered the following of William the Conqueror. He was sent to the north as earl from 1068 to 1069 after the deposition of Gospatric. He got as far as Durham with his 700 men, where the bishop, Ethelwin, warned him that an army was mobilised against him. He ignored the advice and, on 28 January 1069, the rebels converged on Durham and killed many of his men in the streets, eventually setting fire to the bishop’s house where Robert was staying. He was consumed in the blaze. [1]

After this attack, Ethelwin turned against the Normans and gathered an army in Durham before marching on York, leading to the Harrying of the North in retaliation by King William’s army. [wikipedia]

there’s more to the story:

“from Comines in Flanders. Rodbert or Robert de Comines was named Earl of Northumberland, or, according to Ordericus, Earl of Durham in January, 1069, and at once set forth, with a following of less than one thousand men, to take possession of his new domain:—a perilous errand, for Durham had not as yet submitted to the Conqueror. He marched as through an enemy’s country, slaying some of the tenants or bondmen of St. Cuthbert’s church on the way; and though the city, by the good offices of its friendly Bishop, AEthelwine, opened its gates to him without resistance, “he allowed his men to deal with the town as with a place taken by storm. The spirit of the people was now aroused. The news spread during the night, and towards morning the gates of Durham were burst open by the assembled forces of Northumberland. A general massacre followed. In the houses, in the streets, the Normans were everywhere slaughtered. No serious resistance seems to have been offered except in defence of the Bishop’s house, where the Earl and his immediate companions withstood their assailants so manfully that they were driven to have recourse to fire. The palace was burned; the Earl and his comrades all died, either by the flames or by the sword. One man alone contrived to escape with his life, and he was wounded.”—Freeman.

http://www.1066.co.nz/library/battle_abbey_roll1/subchap128.htm

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