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Edric the Wild - Another Wild Shropshire Man
Edric the Wild - Another Wild Shropshire Man
EDRIC THE WILD - ANOTHER WILD SHROPSHIRE MAN,
Does Shropshire breed Ďwildí men? Perhaps, and certainly history tells of another wild Salopian, this time way back in the days of William the Conqueror.
Edric the Wild was a Saxon thane who held huge tracts of land in Shropshire. Places like Lydham, Clun, Hodnet, and Dorrington were in his domain along with some forty others, including some in neighbouring Staffordshire. No doubt in those days he would have thought of these holdings as being in the kingdom of Mercia.
Now Edric liked nothing better than to hunt, indeed, another name by which he was known was Edric Sylvaticus, or Edric the Forester, and doubtless the income from all his manors afforded him ample time and opportunity to indulge in his passion for the chase.
All went well then until the year 1066 when, on October 14th William the Conqueror defeated King Haroldís Saxon Army at Senlac Hill near Hastings and ushered in the era of the Norman invaders.
Edric the Wild did not swear fealty to William the Conqueror, the proud Saxon found the idea of the Norman yoke too hard to bear. In 1067 he began to harry the invaders as they tried to impose their harsh will on the western borderlands. We have few details of his actions but it is clear that Edric became such a thorn in the side of the Normans that Richard FitzScrob and the garrison of the newly built castle at Hereford were ordered to invade his lands and wreak vengeance for the havoc he was causing.
Sadly for Richard and his Normans they proved no match for Edric, and each time they went into the western borderlands of Shropshire to apprehend their wily opponent the raiding parties suffered heavy losses including those of mailed knights and their squires.
Realising he had the upper hand Edric deepened his revolt. Allying with Blethyn ap Cynyon and Rhywallon, the Princes of North Wales and Powys,the three marched together into Herefordshire where their armies devastated the city with its castle, and continued as far as the bridge over the River Lugg at Leominster. Triumphant they returned home richly laden with the spoils of war.
In 1069 revolt flared again and the rebels made for Shrewsbury and laid siege to the castle there. This time they were not so successful but, having failed to take the castle, they burnt the town as they withdrew.
Incensed by this refusal of his authority William now felt it necessary to give up personal command of the brutal campaign he was leading in the north of England and come south to finally settle the uprisings in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire, including those of Edric and Bleddyn. At Chester the rebels submitted and it was here Edric finally swore fealty to King William.
Two years later Edric was accompanying the King into Scotland on the occasion when King Malcolm was forced to pay homage to Norman rule.
There is some dispute as to whether Edric rebelled yet again. One tradition maintains that he did and was finally captured, some say at Wigmore, by Ralph de Mortimer who certainly came into possession of many of the Saxon rebelís estates.
According to this version of the story Edric was thrown into prison where, presumably, he died. Another account hints that he escaped and lived out his days in Wales. Anyway, whichever version of the story we may choose, Wild Edric now passes from the pages of history
From the pages of history maybe, but long before he submitted, or was captured, or escaped into Wales if that is your choice, Edric Sylvaticus had already assumed another, altogether stranger, history. You see, for a long time weird and other-worldly tales had been told about him and, believe it or not, some of these stories echo and reverberate to this very day in those areas where Wild Edric once hunted.
It all began one day when Edric had been out hunting, alone. On his way home through the Clun Forest he found himself in an unfamiliar part of that great woodland tract and realised he was lost. Looking around for any signs of life he saw lights burning in a large and ancient dwelling deep in the forest and heard sounds of wild music and singing. Edric made his way towards the place and, dismounting, went to a window and peered inside.
What he saw there took his breath away. Inside the house six maidens were singing and dancing in a ring around the seventh of their number. The girls in the ring were the tallest and fairest that Edric had ever seen, but none of them could compare with she whom they danced around. The maiden who stood smiling in the centre of the circle was simply the most beautiful girl imaginable.
Edricís heart was immediately lost and he knew that this maiden must be his bride. Without further thought he rushed into the room, swept her into his arms and made to leave with her. But the love-struck thane had reckoned without her sisters. In an instant they turned from being gorgeous young ladies arrayed in graceful linen garments to seemingly become vengeful screaming harpies with angry blazing eyes and talons fit to tear human flesh. Edric clutched his chosen bride close to him and backed away across the room.
Tattered and bleeding he reached the door and staggered out into the forest, surprised to find that the terrible sisters had not followed him over the threshold. Throwing his beloved over his horseís crupper he leapt into the saddle and sped through the forest until he found some familiar landmarks and was thus able to make his way home.
During her abduction and the headlong ride through the forest the young lady, whom Edric now realised was from the faerie realm, had neither struggled nor uttered a single sound. When he took her into his mead hall she simply sat demure and silent and watchful of his every move. He brought her finest food and drink, but she would partake of neither. He spoke heartfelt endearments to her, but she answered not a word. And so it continued for a three whole days and three whole nights.
Then, suddenly, on the fourth day the faerie maiden broke her silence. In sweet and honeyed tones she spoke to Edric, calling him Ďher loveí and saying that he was a lucky man, that she would indeed become his faithful bride, and that his good health and good fortune would last for ever. Forever that is unless, unless he should break one rule which was that he must never, ever, on any account utter any criticism of her sisters or of the place from which he had stolen her away.
Of course the delighted thane swore to be ever faithful and promised that he would never, under any circumstances or for any reason, hazard his happiness health and fortune. The handsome pair were married with great pomp and solemnity in the presence of all the local nobility, and the fame of their nuptials spread even as far as London so that William the Conqueror heard the story and was desirous to see the happy couple for himself.
They were invited to his court, and thence they travelled with a great entourage of lords and ladies from the Welsh Borderlands. King William gazed upon Edricís bride and wondered greatly for he knew from her bearing and beauty that she was undoubtedly of supernatural origins.
After much feasting and jollifications the party returned home and thereafter Edric and his wife lived in great prosperity and happiness. Until one day he returned tired from the hunt to find that his wife was not at home. When she returned a little later he forgot his promise to her and blamed her sisters for enticing her away from home and delaying her return. Even as he spoke she turned to gaze at him sadly, and then just disappeared as she had said would happen.
Edric was grief stricken. He called to her, but there was no answer. He went back to where he had first seen her, but the ancient dwelling had disappeared as if it had never been. For weeks his tears watered the ground. Day after day his laments filled the air. But of his faerie bride there was no sign and, as she had foretold, Edric pined to a shadow of his former self and died, distraught.
And there, you well may think, the stories of Wild Edric come to a close, but you would be wrong for many folk who have lived, and even some living now, in his borderlands believe that Sylvaticus did not die, but lives on still in that half-world between history and fantasy, waking and sleeping, life and death.
For instance there are those who say Edric was banished to wander through a borderland underworld for eternity because he had eventually bowed the knee to the Normans. These people believe it was Edric whom the lead miners heard knocking in their underground galleries to show the way to rich lodes of ore.
And then there are those who tell how Edric was eventually reunited with Godda his faerie bride and how they now ride across the stormy skies leading the terrible Wild Hunt.
Back in the middle of the nineteenth century a girl from Rorrington told how she and her father hand seen this dread apparition streaming across the Shropshire skies. Upon hearing the blast of the ethereal huntsmanís horn the girlís father, a miner, told her to close her eyes and stand still until the spectral hunt had passed. But she disobeyed and was able to recount how she had seen Wild Edric and Godda riding overhead He had short dark hair in which he wore a green and white feather. Green also were his coat and cloak, and a horn and sword hung from his belt. Goddaís long golden tresses fell to her waist. Her dress was green and round her forehead she wore a band of white linen. There was a short dagger at her waist.
Despite the minerís warning his daughter suffered no ill effects from witnessing Edricís wild ride in the months before the Crimean War. Oh, hadnít I mentioned that Edricís Hunt is said to appear before a war, and to ride in the direction of the conflict? It is said that they were seen before the First World War, but not the Second. For some odd reason the Wild Hunt seems always to have been sighted not before the last conflict but just prior to the one before the last.
Well, whether as Saxon warrior hero, husband of a faerie queen, minerís helper, or Wild Huntsman, in one way or another Edric Sylvaticus has left his name indelibly etched upon the Welsh Borderlands.