Aldred, or Ealdred (died 11 September 1069), English ecclesiastic, was Abbot of Tavistock, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of Hereford, and Archbishop of York. He was related to a number of other ecclesiastics of the time period. After entering the monastery at Winchester, he became abbot of Tavistock Abbey around 1027. In 1046 he was named to the see of Worcester. Aldred, besides his episcopal duties, served the Edward the Confessor, the king of England, as a diplomat and as a military leader. He worked to bring one of the king's relatives, Edward the Exile, home from Hungary. He undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the first bishop from England to do so.

In 1060 he was elected to the see of York, but had a difficult time obtaining papal approval for the election. When King Edward died, some sources state that it was Aldred that crowned Harold Godwinson as King of England. Aldred supported Harold as king, but when Harold was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, Aldred first supported Edgar the Ætheling, but eventually supported King William the Conqueror. It was Aldred that crowned King William on Christmas Day in 1066. William never quite trusted Aldred or the other English leaders, and Aldred had to accompany William back to Normandy in 1067, but he was back in York by the time of his death in 1069. Aldred supported the churches and monasteries of his diocese with gifts and building projects.

Early life

Aldred probably was from the west of England, and possibly was related to Lyfing, his predecessor as bishop of Worcester. Aldred was also related to Wilstan or Wulfstan, who under Aldred's influence became Abbot of Gloucester. He was a monk at Winchester before becoming abbot of Tavistock Abbey about 1027, and held that office until about 1043. The Handbook of British Chronology Third Edition says he was named bishop of Hereford in 1056, holding the see until 1060, when he resigned the see, but other sources say that he merely administered the see while it was vacant. or that he was bishop of Hereford from 1055 to 1060. He was made bishop of Worcester in 1046, and held that office until 1062, when he resigned the see of Worcester. At Worcester, he may have acted as his predecessor Lyfing's suffragan before formally assuming the bishopric.

Political influence and travels

He was an advisor to King Edward the Confessor, and was often involved in government. Aldred in 1046 led an unsuccessful expedition against the Welsh. In 1050, Aldred went to Rome "on the king's errand." This errand was apparently to secure papal approval for the moving of the see of Crediton to Exeter, and may also have been to secure the release of the king from a vow to go on pilgrimage, if post-Conquest sources are to be believed. While in Rome, he attended a papal council, along with his fellow English bishop Herman. That same year, as Aldred was returning to England he met Sweyn, a son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and probably absolved Sweyn for having abducted the abbess of Leominster Abbey in 1046. It was through Aldred's intercession that Sweyn was restored to his earldom. Aldred probably helped Sweyn not only because Aldred was a supporter of Earl Godwin's family but because Sweyn's earldom was close to his bishopric. As recently as 1049 Irish raiders had allied with King Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent in raiding along the River Usk. Aldred unsuccessfully tried to drive off the raiders, but was routed. This failure underscored Aldred's need for a strong earl in the area to protect against raids. In 1051, when he was sent to intercept Harold Godwinson and his brothers as they fled England after their father's outlawing, Aldred "could not, or would not" capture the brothers. At some point, he was alleged to have accompanied Swein on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but this isn't proven.

King Edward sent Aldred in 1054 to the Emperor Henry III to obtain that monarch's help in returning Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside, to England. Edward the Exile was in Hungary with King Andrew I at the time. In this mission Aldred was somewhat successful and obtained some insight into the working of the German church during a stay of a year with Hermann II, archbishop of Cologne. The main objective of the mission, however, was a failure, as he failed to secure the return of Edward. The main reason for the failure was the fact that Henry III's relations with the Hungarians were strained, and the emperor was unable or unwilling to help Aldred. After Aldred's return to England he took charge of the sees of Hereford and Ramsbury, although not appointed to Ramsbury, and only possibly appointed to Hereford. He also administered Winchcombe Abbey and Gloucester Abbey. In 1058 made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and he was the first English bishop to make the journey.

Archbishop of York

Aldred was elected archbishop of York in 1060, and in 1061 he traveled to Rome to receive the pallium, the symbol of an archbishop's authority. Journeying with him was Tostig, another son of Earl Godwin, who was now earl of Northumbria. William of Malmesbury says of Aldred that by "amusing the simplicity of King Edward and alleging the custom of his predecessors, had acquired, more by bribery than by reason, the archbishopric of York while still holding his former see." On his arrival in Rome, however, charges of simony, or the buying of ecclesiastical office, and lack of learning were brought against him, and his elevation to York was refused by Pope Nicholas II, who also deposed him from Worcester. The sentence was eventually overturned, and Aldred received his pallium and was restored to York, although he was required to give up the see of Worcester in 1062, when papal legates arrived in England to hold a council and make sure that Aldred relinquished Worcester. While archbishop, he built at Beverley, expanding on the building projects begun by his predecessor Cynesige, as well as repairing and expanding other churches in his diocese. He also was the one bishop that published ecclesiastical legislation during Edward the Confessor's reign, attempting to discipline and reform the clergy.

John of Worcester stated that Aldred crowned King Harold II in 1066, although the Norman chroniclers mention Stigand as the officiating prelate. Given Aldred's known support of Godwin's family, John of Worcester is probably correct. In all events, Aldred and Harold were close, and Aldred supported Harold's bid to become king. After the battle of Hastings, Aldred joined the group who tried to elevate Edgar the Ætheling as king, but eventually he submitted to William the Conqueror at Berkhamsted.

It was Aldred who crowned William on Christmas Day 1066, and at Whitsun 1068 performed the coronation of Matilda, William's wife. An innovation in William's coronation was that before the actual crowning, Aldred asked the assembled crowd, in English, if it was their wish that William be crowned king. The bishop of Coutances then did the same, but in Norman French. In March of 1067, William took Aldred with him when William returned to Normandy, along with the other English leaders Earl Edwin, Earl Morcar, Edgar the Ætheling, and Archbishop Stigand. In 1069, when the northern thegns rebelled against William and attempted to install Edgar the Ætheling as king, Aldred continued to support William. Aldred was back at York before 1069, as he died at York on 11 September 1069 and was buried in his episcopal cathedral. He may have taken an active part in trying to calm the rebellions in the north in 1068 and 1069.


After Aldred's death, one of the restraints on William's treatment of the English was removed. In 1070, a church Council was held at Westminster and a number of bishops were deposed. By 1073 there were only two Englishmen in episcopal sees, and by the time of William's death in 1089, there was only one, Wulfstan II of Worcester. Aldred did to restore discipline in the monasteries and churches under his authority, and was liberal with gifts to the churches of his diocese. He built the monastic church of St Peter at Gloucester, and repaired a large part of the church of St John at Beverley. It was Aldred who encouraged Folcard, a monk of Canterbury, to write the Life of St John of Beverley. This was part of Aldred's promotion of the cult of St John.



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