Gospatrick mac Maldred, Earl of Northumbria

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Gospatrick mac Maldred, Earl of Northumbria

Also Known As: "Gospatric", "Gothpatrick", "of Dunbar", "Gospatric or Cospatric (from the Cumbrian "Servant of Saint Patrick")", "Gospatric I Earl of Northumbria", "Earl of Northumberland and Dunbar"
Birthplace: Northumbria, England
Death: Died in Ubbanford now Northam, Northumberlandshire, England
Place of Burial: Northam, Northumberland, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Maldred mac Crínán, Earl of Dunbar and Ealdgyth
Husband of Mary Countess of Boulague and Æthelreda Fitz Maldred, of Dunbar
Father of Orm de Workington; Isabel de Dunkeld; Doratha Sinclair; Edgitha or Aldgytha of Northumberland; Dolfin of Cambria and 9 others
Brother of Aeldgytha; Sigrid (Sigarith) of Allerdale; Dolfin Fitz Maldred; Margaret of Allerdale; Maldred Dunkeld and 6 others

Occupation: Earl of Northumbria, , Earl of Dunbar, Baron of Dunbar, Earl of Northumberland, Earl Gospatric I of Northumberland
Managed by: Bianca May Evelyn Brennan
Last Updated:

About Gospatrick mac Maldred, Earl of Northumbria

Gospatric mac Maldred, Earl of Dunbar


Gospatric or Cospatric (from the Cumbric "Servant of Saint Patrick"), was Earl of Northumbria, or of Bernicia, and later lord of sizable estates around Dunbar. While his ancestry is uncertain, his descendants held the Earldom of Dunbar, later known as the Earldom of March, in south-east Scotland until 1435.

He made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1061. A story from this pilgrimage is that he saved his traveling companion, Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumbria, from being kidnapped. Being well-dressed, he was mistaken for Tostig and played along until his companion had time to escape.

He paid William I, King of England a large fee so he could succeed as Earl of Northumberland in December 1067, although he did have a hereditary claim through his mother's family. In 1072 old charges (having taken part in a massacre at Durham) were brought against him and he was deprived of the earldom of Northumberland, fleeing to Scotland. Simeon of Durham records that he fled to Scotland and was granted "Dunbar with the lands adjacent in Lothian” and in the Mercia by King Malcolm Canmore. This ‘’earldom without a name’’ in the Scots-controlled northern part of Bernicia would later become the Earldom of Dunbar

Gospatric did not long survive in exile according to Roger of Hoveden's chronicle: Not long after this, being reduced to extreme infirmity, he sent for Aldwin and Turgot, the monks, who at this time were living at Meilros, in poverty and contrite in spirit for the sake of Christ, and ended his life with a full confession of his sins, and great lamentations and penitence, at Ubbanford, which is also called Northam.. Gospatric died circa 1075 and was buried in the porch of the church at Northam.


It is believed that Gospatric was born c.1040 in Northumberland, England. Simeon of Durham names "Cospatric son of Maldred son of Crinan" when recording that he was appointed Earl of Northumberland, a title he held from Dec 1067. This same parentage is given by Roger of Hoveden.

If this is correct, Maldred was apparently not the son of Crínán's known wife Bethóc, daughter of the Scots king Malcolm II, as Gospatric's descendants made no such claim when they submitted their pleadings in the Great Cause to determine the succession to the kingship of the Scots after the death of Alexander III in 1286.

Alternatively, rather than being descended from a half-brother of King Duncan I (Donnchad mac Crínáin), Gospatric may have been the youngest son of Earl Uchtred the Bold (died 1016). Another reconstruction would make Gospatric the grandson of Uchtred's discarded first wife, Ecgfritha, daughter of Aldhun, Bishop of Durham, through Sigrida, her daughter with Kilvert son of Ligulf. Whatever his parentage may have been, Gospatric was clearly an important figure in Northumbria and Cumbria, with ties to the family of Earl Uchtred.

Gospatric married Aethelreda, Princess of England about 1057. There were six children. Simeon of Durham and Roger of Hoveden name three sons and a daughter (Dolfin, Gospatric, Waltheof and Uchtreda) but other documents show additional children.

Children of Gospatric mac Maldred and wife Aethelreda, Princess of England:

  • Gospatric, who was killed at the battle of the Standard, Cowton Moor, August 22, 1138. Simeon names him as heir of Gospatric. Roger of Hoveden names him as the third son. No known heirs.
  • Dolfin, who may have received from Malcolm the government of Carlisle, but was expelled from that position in 1092. Dolfin has also been identified with Dolfin de Bradeley and is believed to be the progenitor of the Bradley, Staveley, De Hebden, and Thoresby families. Married (wife’s name not known) and left heirs, Uhtred, Simon and Ketel.
  • Waltheof, Lord of Allerdale, also known as Adam, witnessed the Inquisitio Davidis, by David of Cumberland in 1124, concerning land owned by the church of Glasgow. Made Abbot of Crowland in 1126 but was deposed in 1138. Donated land to the Gysburn Priory, the documentation for which names his wife Sigrid and sons Cospatric and Alan. Cospatric may have been illegitimate.
  • Uchtreda (or Æthelreda), who married (1)Donnchad (Duncan) II of Alba, the son of King Malcolm Canmore. Married (2) Waltheof, son of Gillemin.
  • Gunhilda, who married Orm, son of Ketil; one son Gospatric.
  • Matilda, who married Dolfin, son of Aylward

The Harrying of the North

The widespread destruction in Northumbria, known as the Harrying of the North, relates to the struggles between the old Saxon nobility and the Scots on one side and William the Conqueror and his Norman followers on the other. Gospatric was certainly a participant in these struggles.

After his victory over Harold Godwinson at Hastings, William of Normandy appointed a certain Copsi or Copsig, a supporter of the late Earl Tostig, who had been exiled with his master in 1065, as Earl of Bernicia in the spring of 1067. Copsi was dead within five weeks, killed by Oswulf, grandson of Uchtred, who installed himself as Earl. Oswulf was killed in the autumn by bandits after less than six months as Earl. At this point, Gospatric, who had a plausible claim to the Earldom given the likelihood that he was related to Oswulf and Uchtred, offered King William a large amount of money to be given the Earldom of Bernicia. The King, who was in the process of raising heavy taxes, accepted.

A series of uprisings in England, along with foreign invasion, faced King William with a dire threat. The Saxon nobility, being dissatisfied with the arbitrary government of William the Conqueror (who distributed his favours. liberally to the Normans, but sparingly to the Saxons), became the objects of William’s resentment, Gospatric is found among the leaders of the uprising, along with Edgar Ætheling and Edwin, Earl of Mercia and his brother Morcar. This uprising soon collapsed, and William proceeded to dispossess many of the northern landowners and grant the lands to Norman incomers. For Gospatric, this meant the loss of his earldom to Robert Comine and exile in Scotland.

Gospatric joined the invading army of Danes, Scots, and Englishmen under Edgar the Aetheling in the next year. In September, 1069, Gospatric and the invading Norwegians sailed up the river Humber and captured York by storm. William struck back and the invading force was defeated. Gospatric fled to his possession, Bamburgh castle, to make terms with the conqueror and was pardoned. William left him undisturbed till 1072.

In 1072 William the Conqueror charged Gospatric with having taken part in a massacre at Durham. He stripped Gospatric of his Earldom of Northumbria, and he replaced him with Siward's son Waltheof, 1st Earl of Northampton. Gospatric fled into exile in Scotland and not long afterwards went to Flanders. When he returned to Scotland, he was granted the castle at "Dunbar and lands adjacent to it" and in Mercia by King Malcolm Canmore. This earldom without a name in the Scots-controlled northern part of Bernicia would later become the Earldom of Dunbar.

Gospatric’s subsequent conduct showed that the King had not misplaced his favours. He served the Scottish king faithfully, and contributed to restoring peace and order in the kingdom. It was he who destroyed the nest of robbers that haunted Cockburn Forest, for which service he was made Thane (but not Earl) of Dunbar and Lothian, about 1080.

Gospatric's descendants, as Earls under various designations, kept the Marches between England and Scotland for about three hundred years, and did homage to the Kings of England for the lands they held in Northumberland. The Earls made grants of land to the Church at Durham, Coldingham, Melrose, Kelso and others. The charters conveying these lands were generally sealed with an ornate seal featuring the figure of a Knight on horseback, fully armed, having a drawn sword in the right hand, and a shield either on the left arm or suspended from the neck; each Earl Intending the mounted figure on his seal to be a representation of himself. Many of the charters with the impressions of the Earls' seals still attached to them are preserved to this day.

Links to additional material:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospatric,_Earl_of_Northumbria
  • http://www.thepeerage.com/p10664.htm
  • http://www.clandunbar.com/history.htm
  • http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/SCOTTISH%20NOBILITY.htm#GospatrickDunbardied1075B
  • Barrow, G.W.S., The Kingdom of the Scots. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2003. ISBN 0-7486-1803-1
  • Fletcher, Richard, Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England. London: Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0-14-028692-6
  • Stenton, Frank M., Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973. ISBN 0-19-280139-2
  • Forte, Angelo, Oram, Richard, & Pedersen, Frederik, Viking Empires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-82992-5
  • Higham, N.J., The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350-1100. Stroud: Sutton, 1993. ISBN 0-86299-730-5
  • Heath, George, Records of the Heath Family, 1913.
  • Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 178
  • Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, page 13.
  • The Scots Peerage, Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom, Edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon, King of Arms, Volume III, Edinburgh, 1906, p. 239-279

Who was the first Earl of Dunbar?

From: LCnobilus@wmconnect.com [mailto:LCnobilus@wmconnect.com] Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 1:51 PM To: jimweber@nwintl.com Subject: 1st Earl of Dunbar

Hi Jim, According to this Electric Scotland account, it was Gospatrick I who was the first earl of Dunbar. I copied this (a small part) "Traditions and Stories of Scottish Castles -- Dunbar Castle" from their site. You show Gospatrick II as the first earl (ref. #I00234). There are a number of other sites that concur with Electric Scotland. So what do you think? Lora

The first traces of this early structure are found in the records relating to William the Conqueror. In 1067, that monarch conferred the Earldom of Northumberland upon Robert Comyn, but he was so unpopular with his vassals that he and all his retainers were put to death in 1068 by the inhabitants of the district. Then Cospatrick (sometimes called "Gospatrick ") grandson of Malcolm II., King of Scotland, claimed the Earldom through his mother, who was a daughter of Uchtred, the Saxon Earl of Northumberland, but had ultimately to pay "a great sum of money" for it in 1067 to William the Conqueror. Soon afterwards Cospatrick quarreled with William, and fled into Scotland with other northern leaders, finding refuge in 1072 with Malcolm III. (Ceanmor), whose wife, St Margaret, was a Saxon princess. Malcolm conferred upon him "Dunbar with the adjacent lands in Lothian," and he thus became the first Earl of Dunbar. His death took place about 1089, and he was succeeded by his son, Cospatrick, second Earl of Dunbar, who was a benefactor to the Abbey of Kelso. Before his death in 1139, he had probably begun the erection of Dunbar Castle, as the oldest part of the ruins belong to about that period. This Earl was present at the foundation of Scone Abbey in 1115, and Holyrood Abbey in 1128, the former by Alexander I., and the latter by his brother and successor, David I., sons of Malcolm III. (Ceanmor).

My [Jim’s] reply to the above is: Gospatric was the first to settle in Dunbar, fleeing Northumbria after incurring the wrath of William the Conqueror. However both Burke's Peerage [BP] and the Complete Peerage [CP], which are well respected in terms of the peerage of Great Britain, state that his son was the first Earl of Dunbar. So, according to peerage law, I think that BP and CP are probably correct. To be absolutely sure, one might check the Scots Peerage as well.

I can see where informally Gospatric could be assumed to be the first Earl of Dunbar, because he was the first to hold the Castle of Dunbar (there was a castle or something there before, but it was abandoned and may not have been called Dunbar), which became associated with the Earldom of Dunbar. For example, in early England, titles were associated with holding certain castles/estates, such as Arundel or Shrewsbury, and whoever held them became known as the Earl of Arundel (Sussex) or the Earl of Shrewsbury (Salopshire/Shropshire). To my way of thinking these were the "real" earls and were immensely wealthy in a comparative sense (i.e. The Earl of Chester "held" the entire county of Chester and there were only 25 or 30 of these earls who held the entire country). With very few exceptions the Scottish Peerage has maintained this relationship of titles to the holding of certain lands, whereas the English have gotten far away from that. However, I suppose that CP and BP did not consider Dunbar Castle to be the honour of an Earldom until Gospatric's son was proven to be an Earl. The "proof" of the son's status as an Earl did not come until a charter which was confirmed 16 Aug 1139, after his death, mentioned him as "Comes" or Earl. I suppose that one could argue that his father may have been styled an earl as well, but there is no proof. Jim Weber


-------------------- BET. 1067 - 1072 Earl of Northumberland

1061 Visited Rome

1st Earl of Dunbar

Lord of Carlisle and Allerdale -------------------- Lord of Bamburgh. 1st Earl of Dunbar. Earl of Northumberland. Possibly died a monk.

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Gospatrick mac Maldred, Earl of Northumbria's Timeline

Northumbria, England
Age 12
Coupland, Glendale, Northumberland, England
Age 16
Age 17
Dunbar Castle, East Lothian, Scotland
Age 20
East Lothian, Scotland
Age 22
Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Age 24
Northumberland, England
Age 24
Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Age 26
Dean & Clifton, England
Age 28
Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland