Ælfric Puttoc

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Ælfric Puttoc
Archbishop of York
Appointed 1023
Term ended 1041 and 1051
Predecessor Wulfstan
Successor Cynesige
Consecration 1023
restored 1042
by Æthelnoth
Personal details
Birth name Ælfric
Died 22 January 1051
Southwell, Nottinghamshire
Buried Peterborough Cathedral

Ælfric Puttoc (/ˈælfrɪk ˈpʌtək/; Old English: Ælfrīc Puttoc; died 22 January 1051), sometimes modernised Alfric Puttock, was a medieval Archbishop of York and Bishop of Worcester.


Ælfric first appears in the historical record as the provost of New Minster, Winchester.[1] He was probably a native of Wessex.[2] He became Archbishop of York in 1023,[3] but did not hold the see of Worcester at the same time, which had been traditional for a number of years. He was consecrated by Æthelnoth, the Archbishop of Canterbury.[1] He was replaced as Bishopric of Worcester by Lyfing, Abbot of Tavistock.[3]

Ælfric travelled to Rome in 1026 to receive his pallium from Pope John XIX.[1] He was the first archbishop of York to travel to Rome for their pallium, all other palliums held by the archbishops previous to this having been sent to York.[4] During King Cnut of England's reign, Ælfric received the manor of Patrington in Holderness from the king and his wife Emma of Normandy.[5] In 1036 he may have been the bishop who crowned Harold Harefoot king of England, since the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time was Æthelnoth, who supported Harold's rival Harthacnut.[citation needed]

Under Harthacnut

However, when Harthacnut became king, Ælfric became a supporter of Harthacnut.[6] During Harthacnut's reign, Ælfric was sent with others to disinter Harold's body and throw it away.[1] In 1040, Lyfing was accused of taking part in the murder of Alfred and Ælfric used the temporary disgrace of Lyfing to acquire Worcester. In fact, the chronicler John of Worcester relates the story that it was Ælfric himself who accused Lyfing of being involved in Alfred's murder, although whether to curry favor with the new king Harthacnut or in order to acquire Worcester is unclear.[7] Ælfric was deprived of both his sees in 1041.[3]

Ælfric's main political activities took place during Harthacnut's reign, although he attested charters of Cnut, Harold Harefoot and Edward the Confessor also.[4]

Ælfric translated the relics of John of Beverley into a new shrine at Beverley in 1037, and worked to foster the cult of that saint, by providing new buildings and giving endowments to the church.[6] An oddity of his time as archbishop was that instead of the normal descriptor archiepiscopus on charters, Ælfric used archipraesul instead.[8] He continued the work of his predecessor in founding houses of canons in his archdiocese.[4] A late medieval source recorded by the early modern antiquarian John Leland claims that Ælfric created the offices of sacristan, chancellor, and precentor at Beverley.[9]

Under Edward the Confessor

In 1042, Æthelric, who had succeeded to the see of York, was deprived of York and Ælfric was returned to York.[3] Ælfric officiated with Archbishop Edsige of Canterbury at the coronation of Edward the Confessor at Winchester on 3 April 1043.[10] Ælfric died at Southwell on 22 January 1051[11] and is buried in Peterborough Cathedral.[12] While the later medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury felt that Ælfric deserved rebuke, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called him "very venerable and wise".[6][13] Ælfric left his vestments and altar to Peterborough Abbey.[6]

Ælfric's nickname, or byname, "Puttoc" probably means "kite" (the type of bird; confer Old English pyttel, "kite; little hawk"), and may have been an invention by the monks of Worcester to belittle Ælfric.[1] It may have meant "buzzard" also.[14] It never occurs without the Ælfric, so it is unlikely to have been a true second name.[15] The Northumbrian Priests' Law which is usually attributed to Ælfric's predecessor Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, might have been authored instead by Ælfric, or possibly Ælfric's successor Cynesige.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hunt "Ælfric (d. 1051)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. Cooper Last Four Anglo-Saxon Archbishops p. 14
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 224
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Cooper Last Four Anglo-Saxon Archbishops p. 16
  5. Fletcher Bloodfeud p. 104
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Barlow English Church 1000–1066 pp. 72–74
  7. Walker Harold p. 16
  8. Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 234
  9. Cooper Last Four Anglo-Saxon Archbishops p. 17
  10. Barlow, Frank, Edward the Confessor p. 61
  11. Barlow Edward the Confessor p. 104
  12. Knowles The Monastic Order in England p. 73
  13. Quoted in Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 73
  14. Fletcher Bloodfeud p. 113-114
  15. Cooper Last Four Anglo-Saxon Archbishops pp. 17–18
  16. Fletcher Bloodfeud p. 128


  • Barlow, Frank (1970). Edward the Confessor. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01671-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church (Second ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49049-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Cooper, Janet M. (1970). The Last Four Anglo-Saxon Archbishops of York. Borthwick Papers Number 38. York, UK: St Anthony's Press. OCLC 656290.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fletcher, R. A. (2003). Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516136-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hunt, William (2004). "Ælfric (d. 1051)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. revised by Marios Costambeys. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/191. Retrieved 10 November 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Knowles, David (1976). The Monastic Order in England: A History of its Development from the Times of St. Dunstan to the Fourth Lateran Council, 940–1216 (Second reprint ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-05479-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Walker, Ian (2000). Harold the Last Anglo-Saxon King. Gloucestershire, UK: Wrens Park. ISBN 0-905778-46-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by