Treachery and Betrayal

The bloody murder of Earl Beorne by his kinsman Earl Swein

In 1046 Earl Swein incurred the wrath of the King because, when returning from a raiding party in high spirits and “driven by the lusts of the flesh” he abducted and seduced Eadgifa, the Abbess of Leominster. The chronicler records, “He kept her as long as it suited him.”  King Edward convened the Court at the equinox and banished Earl Swein from the Realm.

In 1049 Earl Swein returned from exile and made his way to Pevensey where his cousin Earl Beorn was in command of a royal warship sheltering in Pevensey Haven. Using guile he called on their kinship and persuaded Earl Beorne to ride with him to the Court to petition the King’s pardon.  On the journey, as a result of a dispute about land, Earl Swein tricked his cousin into turning westwards towards Bosham where he was seized by soldiers. He was bound and dragged on board a long boat where  Earl Swein gave orders for him to be murdered and “buried deep.”   As a result of this atrocity Earl Swein was declared a “nithing” (a man without honour) and was again exiled.  The body of Earl Beorne was later disinterred and buried next to his uncle King Cnut. His bones now lie in a mortuary chest in Winchester Cathedral.

Some years later Earl Swein was overcome with remorse and embarked on a barefoot pilgrimage to the Holy Land from whence he never returned.


Anglo Saxon Chronicles  1046 – 1049

Anglo Saxon Chronicles  Manuscript  E

Anglo Saxon Chronicles Abingdon Manuscript