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Geoffrey Gaimar
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Geoffrey Gaimar 

Gaimer is the second near-contemporary source to name Fuleford as the place of the battle.[i] Three of the surviving four manuscripts of Gaimar’s history were lodged in Durham, Lincoln and Peterborough. These locations might be significant because the texts add local information to some parts of our story and these details are not related elsewhere.

Gaimar adds that the Norse fleet consisted of 460 or 470 vessels (depending upon the copy consulted) and mentions a landing at St Wilfrid’s as a stopping place for the Norse invasion fleet as it made its way up the river Humber to the base at Riccall. 

The place name of Fuleford matches the name used in the Domesday survey although spelling consistency was not an issue until recent centuries. Gaimar refers to the English as Engeleis, Engelis and Engeles in his Norman-French history.

Pending a good translation of Gaimar, this is a crude attempt which makes no effort to follow the original metrical format, but only to capture the historical content of his ‘History of the English’. (lines 5199 to 5222 from L'Estoire des Engles)

“Earl Edwin with a great army came quickly into Lindsay and afterwards defended this place from them but they had already done much damage in it. Earl Morcar on the other side [of the Humber] defended his land. Tostig was upon the Humber near the sea on which Morcar had forbidden the arrival of the Flemish.

“When they saw him [Morcar] they stole away and failed to fight. They returned to their own country laden with the plunder of the unfortunate English. Tostig turned from those who went away. Afterwards he went to Scotland to Malcolm who received him. Malcolm presented him with fine gifts.

“The King of Norway arrived with a great fleet and Tostig allied himself with Harald 'Halflage' [Fairhair] which was the name of the Dane and joined him. They had spoken so much together that each pledged to the other that whatever they conquered they would divide all equally. They wished by their attack to divide all England between them. The two had a great fleet of 400 ships and sailed forward.

“They steered and sailed a great way until they entered the river Humber. From the Humber they went to the Ouse and disembarked at St Wilfrid's. On the morrow they set sail for York and arrived there in the evening. But the two earls met with all the people of six ‘counties’ at Fulford. The Norwegians were masters of the field but on both sides there were many killed.

“Afterwards the Norwegians took the land. They desolated all the territory and seized many spoils. Whoever does not know, let him remember that it was 12 days within September [?].”

His history was written in rhyming couplets about 1140. Gaimar’s origins are a matter of speculation. His name is Germanic but scholars say the style of his language suggests a Provencal connection. Gaimar was a writer and translator, rather than a historian, but his willingness to include older oral sources should not lead us to dismiss the detailed story that he tells us about Fulford.

Some of the stories he includes are of Norse origin. His familiarity with these stories has led scholars to speculate about his background and might explain why he was a linguist. He was employed to translate the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the benefit of Normans, which accounts for his access to these documents that we believe were held inside monastic buildings.[ii] His translations were probably done after all of the sources studies for the research so his work could have influenced them. 

[i] Gaimar History of the English line 5204  5209

[ii] A Bell, Introduction to L’Estoire Des Engleis p x


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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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