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Ælfric [Ælfric Puttoc] (d. 1051), archbishop of York, first appears as provost of New Minster, Winchester. He was consecrated to the see of York in 1023 by Archbishop Æthelnoth of Canterbury. Ælfric was a benefactor to the secular canons of Beverley, and translated the body of St John of Beverley with great magnificence. In 1026 he went to Rome, and obtained his pallium from Pope John XIX, the first archbishop of York to do so.

A grant by King Cnut to Ælfric of land at Patrington, Yorkshire, suggests that he was a close adherent of Cnut. Similarly, the letter quoted by William of Malmesbury and the Worcester chronicle, which Cnut sent to his English subjects from Rome in 1027, was addressed to Ælfric as well as to Æthelnoth of Canterbury.

Ælfric may have been opposed to the accession of Harold I. Certainly, on the accession of Harthacnut, he was among those sent by the king to disinter the body of his brother Harold and throw it into a sewer. In 1040, Ælfric, with others, accused Earl Godwin and Bishop Lyfing of Worcester of the murder of the atheling Alfred, the king's half-brother. Harthacnut took away the bishopric of Worcester from Lyfing and gave it to Ælfric, but returned it the next year. William of Malmesbury took an unsympathetic view of these events, attributing them to Ælfric's initiative. However, since the Worcester chronicle is silent on the motives behind them, and the ‘D’ text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, whose section for these years was written in the west midlands, calls him ‘very venerable and wise’, Malmesbury's damning assessment might be put down to the prejudice of a monk against a patron of the secular clergy.

In 1043 Ælfric assisted at the coronation of Edward the Confessor. He died, probably at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, on 22 January 1051, and was buried at Peterborough. Ælfric's byname ‘Puttoc’ probably means ‘kite’. Since it is first recorded in the Worcester chronicle, but does not appear in the closely related chronicle attributed to Symeon of Durham, it has been suggested that ‘Puttoc’ was an opprobrious Worcester invention, denigrating the man who had attempted to unite Worcester with York in 1040.

William Hunt, rev. Marios Costambeys


ASC, s.a. 1040, 1041, 1051, 1052 [texts C, D] · AS chart., S 968 · John of Worcester, Chron., s.a. 1040, 1041, 1051 · Willelmi Malmesbiriensis monachi de gestis pontificum Anglorum libri quinque, ed. N. E. S. A. Hamilton, Rolls Series, 52 (1870) · J. Raine, ed., The historians of the church of York and its archbishops, 2, Rolls Series, 71 (1886) · J. M. Cooper, The last four Anglo-Saxon archbishops of York, Borthwick Papers, 38 (1970) · F. Barlow, The English church, 1000–1066: a history of the later Anglo-Saxon church, 2nd edn (1979)