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Here­ward the Wake is renowned for his re­bel­lion against the 11th century Nor­man Con­quest, which he led from his base in the Fens. Ev­i­dence for his his­tory is sketchy, with the two main con­tem­po­rary chron­i­cles con­tra­dict­ing each other over many is­sues, in­clud­ing his an­ces­try and date of birth. He is be­lieved to have been born in Bourne, Lin­colnshire, prob­a­bly be­tween 1035-1045. Ex­iled by his fa­ther at the age of 18 be­cause of dis­obe­di­ence, he spent time in Corn­wall, Flan­ders and Ire­land. He re­turned to Eng­land af­ter the Con­quest to find his hered­i­tary lands had been taken over by the Nor­mans, who had killed his brother. He al­most cer­tainly joined a re­bel­lion based in Ely in 1070, led by a Dan­ish king, be­fore join­ing the army of the for­mer Saxon Earl of Northum­bria in 1071. At­tacked by a Nor­man army, the rebels re­treated to the Isle of Ely. It is said that the Nor­mans bribed the monks of the isle to re­veal a safe route across the marshes, re­sult­ing in Ely’s cap­ture. Here­ward es­caped and con­tin­ued his re­sis­tance from the wild marshes of the Fens. Sto­ries dif­fer as to whether he was even­tu­ally par­doned, went into exile again or was killed by the Nor­mans.

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