Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ælfweard

ÆLFWEARD (d. 1044), bishop of London, was a monk of Ramsey. He was made abbot of Evesham by King Æthelred in 1014. He found his monastery in a distressed state. Twice the monks had been turned out of their house, their last expulsion being the work of Ælfhere, the ealdorman of the Mercians. The powerful Godwine of Lindesey unlawfully seized and kept many of its estates. By the king's help Ælfweard managed to oust Godwine and recover the property of his house. He was also successful in resisting the claim of the bishop of Worcester over the abbey, and asserted its liberty by appointing the prior Avitius dean of the vale of Evesham. He added a guest-house to the buildings of the abbey. Cnut, who is said to have been a kinsman of Ælfweard, enriched Evesham with many gifts for his sake. Ælfweard also was liberal in his benefactions; some of these were books, and others relics of saints, of which he was a great collector. He was made bishop of London in 1035, but retained his position as abbot. On the death of Harold in 1040 Ælfweard was sent on an embassy to Harthacnut, who was then at Bruges, to invite him to take possession of the throne. Short as the voyage was, it was long enough to admit the interruption of a storm, which was stilled by a miracle. At the close of his life Ælfweard fell sick of leprosy, a judgment, it is said, inflicted on him by the vengeance of a departed saint and virgin, whose resting-place the bishop disturbed and plundered in his eager desire for the acquisition of relics. In his misery he gave up, it appears, his office of abbot, and applied as a favour for admission into the house over which he had long and liberally presided. The monks, however, refused to take him in. As a punishment for their ingratitude he took away all the books and sacred vessels with which he had enriched the abbey, together with some, it is said, which had been given by other benefactors. Taking these treasures with him, he had himself carried to Ramsey, where he found a welcome. There he died, 27 July 1044, and there he was buried.

[Hist. Rames., Gale, XV Scriptores, 447–452; Chron. Abb. de Evesham, R.S., 81–85; Simeon of Durham, Twysden, Dec. Script. 182; Dugdale, Monasticon, ed. 1817, seq. ii. 2; Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. 568, ii. 69.]

W. H.