Anglo-Saxon England

Research Article

The Icelandic saga of Edward the Confessor: its version of the Anglo-Saxon emigration to Byzantium

Christine Fella1

a1 The University of Nottingham

The fourteenth-century compiler of the saga of Edward the Confessor, Saga Játvarðar konungs hins helga, supplemented his material on the king with history, anecdote and legend on various topics. His final chapter contains an account of the Anglo-Saxon emigration to Byzantium after the Norman Conquest. No historian doubts that this event took place. There is fairly full documentation from Byzantium itself and the accounts of the Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic and the hagiographer Goscelin are not unknown. But in general the medieval chroniclers in England make no reference to it and the scholars who have worked on Játvarðar saga, perhaps insufficiently aware of supporting Byzantine evidence, have tended to dismiss the account as a fabrication. Gudbrand Vigfusson calls it ‘an extraordinary story’. Professor Jón Helgason writes, with a characteristic touch of fine disdain, that ‘the saga concludes with the episode of Earl Sigurðr of Gloucester, who after the Conquest left England, together with other English malcontents, and with the Greek emperor's consent settled in a country six days' journey north-east of Constantinople. Here they gave the towns such English names as London and York. The source of this far-fetched story is unknown.’ H. L. Rogers says no more than ‘evidently a similar tradition was known to the Anglo-Norman Ordericus Vitalis’.