count of Northampton and Huntingdon. The son of Siward, earl of Northumbria, Waldef fought with distinction against the Normans both in 1066 and at the siege of York a few years later; but was pardoned by William the Conqueror, restored to his lands and given William's niece Judith in marriage. In 1075 he was involved in the rebellion of the Earls which was frustrated by the loyalty of Wulfstan and Odo of Bayeux. Waldef revealed all to Lanfranc, on whose advice he went to Normandy and threw himself on the king's mercy. William, however, was not disposed to be merciful a second time: Waldef was imprisoned for a year and then beheaded for treason at Winchester. A fortnight later his body was buried in the chapter-house at Croyland (Lincs.), of which he was a notable benefactor.
There a cult grew up with strongly nationalist and political overtones: to Normans he was a traitor, to Anglo-Saxons a martyr. In 1092 his relics were translated to the church. The incorruption of his body was claimed, miraculous cures were reported on patients from the East Midlands, and a Norman monk who derided him was struck with sudden death. The Croyland tradition emphasized his regard for the Church, his repentance in prison, the faithlessness of his wife, the trickery which caused his involvement in the plot, and the story that he died reciting the Lord's Prayer, of which his severed head uttered the last petition. William of Malmesbury, though impressed by the miracles, was reserved about the cult: ‘Our own times have found someone to declare a martyr…I hope it is not contrary to the truth.’ The cult obtained local, but never national support: the feast of his beheading (Decollatio) was celebrated at Croyland on 31 August.
F. Michel (ed.), ‘Vita et Passio Waldevi Comitis’, Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, ii (1836), 111–23 with Miracles, ibid., 131–42; also in J. A. Giles, Vitae quorumdam Anglo-Saxonum (1854); Ordericus Vitalis, Hist. Eccles. (ed. Le Prévost), ii. 260–7, 287–9; G.P., p. 321; F. S. Scott, ‘Earl Waltheof of Northumbria’, Arch, Ael., xxx (1952), 149–213.