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of the Strong Arm part 2
Posted by: Lowell Armstrong (ID *****4771) Date: November 21, 2009 at 07:22:24
  of 8566

It is for almost a thousand years, thirty some generations, that we Armstrong's have claimed to be the descendants of Siward the fair Bjornsson of the Strong Arm. In my search for our families beginnings it became apparent that with the Norman conquest in 1066 much of our family history was forgotten or conveniently removed from historical records. I can see why Granpa Johnnie never had a lot of respect for the sons of William, the bastard. What I have found is that our grandfathers and grandmothers have an amazing story that needs to be told rather than those of our causing bother by our "thieving ways" during the Reiver period.
We are of three families of royal lineage that in 1030 were to be Cerdics sons,Siwards sons, and Duncans sons. What I present is hypothetical and cannot be considered true fact but like an ancient jigsaw puzzle, many pieces are missing in the carpet of time and though they are missing, you can still see what should be there.

Siward's father, "Hringo" Bjorn Styrbjornsson was in service to the crown in some capacity during Ethelred the Unreadys reign. His service likely started in the 980's to Ethelreds mother but was no doubt used in the first payment that from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles says "should be given to the Danish-men" in 991. It is in Magnusson and Morris' interpretation of the Icelandic saga Grettir the Strong, he is called "a braggart ring-bearer" and in all probability, as sturaesman, Bjorn would have overseen the Northumbrian region. With its Scandinavian population, there was a commonality with the people, they would know well of his families legends and he would no doubt recite at the longhouses his version of his familys Beowulf saga. It is quite easy to see that with Bjorn's boastful fervor and a ring to prove he represented the English crown, he could have easily become "h' ring o' Bjorn". He does qualify to be one of the many ill advisers that gave Ethelred the title Unready, but there was no great loyalty to the English crown, for at the time Bjorn's brothers and cousins had been launching raiding incursions and were now planning a complete overthrow. It seems having a man on the inside was very beneficial for Sweyn I, that is until Bjorn was slain on the Isle of Garter in 1013. Strangely it is also at this time that Bjorns brother Thorkil the Tall would choose to defect because of his men's cruelty to Archbishop Alphege only to later return to the service of Sweyn's son Canute as one of his earls.

Many accounts claim Siward's mother was of Nordic descent, this is obviously incorrect for if she had been, he would have been more like his fathers. If one reflects on the behavior of Bjorn and his father Strybjorn and then the behavior of Siward you can see that a godly mothers influence helped build Siwards character. It is also important to note that with service to the crown, there usually came not only a ring but a marriage into the house you serve, and in all probability she was a lady of the court and could have been one of Ethelreds many daughters Aelfgifu. Later history gives the likelihood of her being the daughter given, a year after Bjorns death, to then sixty to seventy year old Uchtred.

Siward was born around 995 and he and his sister, who I will call Margaret, would grow up in Ethelreds court. At around the age of 10 they would witness Ethelreds marriage to twenty year old Emma of Normandy and with Sweyns conquest in 1013 would accompany Ethelred, Emma and their sons and daughter to the sanctuary of Normandy. Siward would be 18 years old at this time and was no doubt considered the family protector to 7 year old Alfred, 5 year old Edward, and 3 year old Godiva. His coming of age in Normandy is verified by the historical records of his daughter, Sybil fitzSiward. The french adopted the use of surnames around 1000 and the first official reference to the practice was in Scotland during Malcolm's reign. Sybil is often mistaken for Siwards sister but it is also during this time that geneological data bases make mention of one Margaret Beron (likely the french adaptation of the family Beorn} who would later marry Duncan, King of Scotland. Sybil was Siward's daughter and her importance in our families past is far reaching. The french interpretation of "fitz" means illegitimate, so it seems apparent that if the Franco-Normans, who dwelt on regality, could warrant question as to Sybils legitimacy, then Siward was evidently one of the hierarchy. It has been thrown into question by many whether the surname Siward became Robert , {likely meaning rapier rather than sword}. I think its safe to say that the french speaking invaders adapted the name to minimalize his legend, even to the point I would venture a guess that there are far more Fitzroberts on the list of names than Fitzsiwards.

Sweyn would die within a year of his conquest of England and Ethelred would be asked to return to endure Sweyn's son Canute, who is the same age as Siward, in his attempts at conquest. Ethelred dies in 1017 and his eldest son Edmund would take the thrown. There was an eventual truce drawn up with joint rule by Canute and Edmund, who mysteriously dies six months later leaving Canute to rule all of England. One of his first decrees was to summon "Ethelreds relic", Emma, to be his queen,
a move to subdue the Normans from thoughts of invasion. This raises the question,
if Emma went to England and had son Harthecanute and by historical records cared little for her children by Ethelred, who looked after them? Siwards appearance in England is not chronicaled or mentioned in any detail until the the early 1030's. He could have returned when his mother married Uchtred in 1014 as this is the region he aquires with his marriage to Uchtreds granddaugther, but he was more likely than not, the one who stayed in Normandy and protected the children he considered his responsibility, and it will happen again in his raising the sons of Duncan, Siward was indeed a very caring man and has much to do with his becoming a legend. This appears to be the reason there was such closeness in his relationship with Godiva and her husband Leofric of Mercia, and his service to Edward with Edward making him leader to the english army.
Siward would remain in the background until his marriage to Aelflaed II, daughter to Earl Aldred of Bernicia and grandaughter to Uchtred, Siwards mothers deceased

It is because of Siwards maternal link to the house of Wessex that I can confidently say that our family name was not bestowed to Siwards grandson by Malcolm the III, his nephew, for an act of valor. The title Siward "the fair Bjornsson" of the Strong Arm was given him by Edward the Confessor to identify his family connection.

Edward and his nephew Edgar the Etheling were the last male heirs of the Cerdic dynasty and to rule in England at this time it was mandatory to be descended from Cerdic Vreich Vras {Strong Arm) who is the founder the house of Wessex.
Cerdic is said to be Anglo-Saxon, but according to Welsh genealogies, he is of
Celtic descent dating back to Bran and his sons known as the Grail Kings, , and by the highly controversial yet quite believable theory put forth by John and Joseph Rudim, , he is the true King Arthur.

The following is taken from "Hereward, The last of the English" by 19th century author and historian Charles Kingsley

For a while they had been lords of all England. The Anglo-Saxon race was
wearing out. The men of Wessex, priest-ridden, and enslaved by their own
aristocracy, quailed before the free Norsemen, among whom was not a single
serf. The God-descended line of Cerdic and Alfred was worn out. Vain,
incapable, profligate kings, the tools of such prelates as Odo and
Dunstan, were no match for such wild heroes as Thorkill the tall, or Olaf
Trygvasson, or Swend Forkbeard.
A mighty host of Vikings poured from thence into England the very next year,
under Swend Forkbeard and the great Canute; and after thirteen fearful
campaigns came the great battle of Assingdown in Essex, where "Canute had
the victory; and all the English nation fought against him, and all the
nobility of the English race was there destroyed."

Of Edward the Confessor;

These were the normal phenomena of a reign which seemed, to the eyes of monks, a holy and a happy one; because the king refused, whether from spite or superstition, to have an heir to the house of Cerdic, and spent his time between prayer, hunting, the seeing of fancied visions, the uttering of fancied prophecies, and the performance of fancied miracles.
But there were excuses for him. An Englishman only in name,--a Norman, not only of his mother's descent (she was aunt of William the Conqueror), but by his early education on the Continent,--he loved the Norman better than the Englishman; Norman knights and clerks filled his court, and often the high dignities of his provinces, and returned as often as expelled; the Norman-French language became fashionable; Norman customs and manners the signs of civilization; and thus all was preparing steadily for the great catastrophe, by which, within a year of Edward's death, the Norman became master of the land.

Our families history has been kept in the dark for far to long, we are not just a border clan , we ruled in Britain for easily 1,400 years and are the true descendants of several lines of ancient kings. We are by blood, name, or title Cerdicssons and Cerdicsdottirs and are of the Strong Arm.
{to be continued}

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