Tostig Godwinson

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Tostig Godwinson (died 25 September 1066) was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon King of England.


Early life

Tostig was the third son of Godwin (d. 1053), Earl of Wessex and Kent, and Gytha, daughter of Thorgils Sprakaleg. In 1051, he married Judith, the daughter of Count Baldwin IV, half-sister of Baldwin V of Flanders, and aunt of Matilda who married William the Conqueror. The Domesday Book recorded twenty-six vills or townships as being held by Earl Tostig forming the Manor of Hougun.[1]

Earl of Northumbria

In 1051, Tostig and his father were banished from England to which they forcefully returned in 1052. Three years later in 1055, Tostig became the Earl of Northumbria upon the death of Earl Siward.

Tostig appears to have governed in Northumbria with some difficulty. He was never popular with the Northumbrian ruling class, a mix of Danish invaders and Anglo Saxon survivors of the last Norse invasion. Tostig was said to have been heavy handed with those who resisted his rule, including the murder of several members of leading Northumbrian families. In late 1063 or early 1064, Tostig had Gamal, son of Orm and Ulf, son of Dolfin, assassinated when they visited him under safe conduct.[2] Also, the Vita Edwardi, otherwise sympathetic to Tostig, states that he had 'repressed [the Northumbrians] with the heavy yoke of his rule'.

He was also frequently absent at the court of King Edward in the south, and possibly showed a lack of leadership against the raiding Scots. Their king was a personal friend of Tostig, and Tostig's unpopularity made it difficult to raise local levies to combat them. He resorted to using a strong force of Danish mercenaries (housecarles) as his main force, an expensive and resented policy (the housecarles' leaders were later slaughtered by rebels). Local biases probably also played a part. Tostig was from the south of England, a distinctly different culture from the north, which had not had a southern earl in several lifetimes. In 1063, still immersed in the confused local politics of Northumbria, his popularity apparently plummeted. Many of the inhabitants of Northumbria were Danes, who had enjoyed lesser taxation than in other parts of England. Yet the wars in Wales, of which Tostig's constituents were principal beneficiaries, needed to be paid for. Tostig had been a major commander in these wars attacking in the north while his brother Harold marched up from the south.

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