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Aeldred, Archbishop of York
(Died 1069)

Aeldred was a person of extraordinary influence and energy. He had been brought up in the monastery of Winchester Catheral and was appointed Abbot of Tavistock, no doubt by the influence of Lyfing, Bishop of Crediton and Worcester. In 1046, Bishop Lyfing died and was buried at Tavistock. Leofric succeeded him in the See of Crediton and Aeldred the Abbot in that of Worcester.

Aeldred was in great favour with King Edward the Confessor and, in 1049, he went, with Herman, Bishop of Sherborne, to Rome, where they induced the Pope to absolve their master from the vow, he had made, of going on pilgrimage to that city. In 1054, Aeldred was sent on an embassy to the Emperor Henry III, at Cologne, where he remained a whole year and prevailed on the Emperor to allow his nephew, Edward Aetheling the son of King Edmund Ironside, to return to England. In 1058, Aeldred made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem - the first English bishop who had done so. More than once, he was the leader of expeditionary forces against the Princes of Wales. From 1055 to 1058, he had charge of the See of Sherborne, which Herman had resigned, but which he resumed in the latter year. In 1056, the Bishop of Hereford was killed during a Welsh foray. The see was committed in commendam to Aeldred who held it until his translation to York in 1060. He then resigned Hereford, but retained Worcester.

On his accession to Archiepiscopate of York, Aeldred went to Rome to receive the pall, accompanied by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, the brother of the future King Harold II. The Pope refused to confer it, being indignant at the proposed tenure of two sees by one person and that his license had not been sought for Aeldred's promotion. He deprived the bishop of all his honours and Aeldred quitted Rome in disgrace. But after he had gone a day's journey from the city, he and his company were attacked by thieves who stripped them of everything. He returned to Rome and made a last appeal to the mercy of the Pope. It was successful. Aeldred promised to resign the See of Worcester, which he did on his return, and consecrated WuIfstan as his successor.

As Archbishop, Aeldred built and endowed much throughout his Province, establishing stalls at Southwell and doing much for Beverley. In 1066, he crowned King Harold and, after Hastings, met the Conqueror at Berkhampstead (Herts) and took the oaths of allegiance. On midwinter's day in the same year, he crowned William in the Abbey Church of Westminster. Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury not being allowed to officiate. He also consecrated Matilda as Queen in 1068. Aeldred was a fearless champion of the rights of the church. The trouble which fell upon the north, after the Conquest, are said to have affected him so greatly that he died of a broken heart on 11th September 1069. He was buried in York Minster - not more than a few months before the church and its surrounding buildings were destroyed by fire, during the attack on the city by the sons of Sweyn and his Northmen.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Northern Division" (1903).

 

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