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his is a discussion of the mopping up operations undertaken by William the Conqueror immediately following his victory at the Battle of Hastings. His progression inland and the English grudging acceptance of a new king.
Worth His Weight In Gold

arkness heralded the end of the battle. This would of been around 17:45. further attempts by William to pursue the fleeing English forces that were left was abandoned. There was no moon in the early evening so all attempts to bury the dead would have been delayed until the morning. Only the cries of the dying and injured would be heard and have been attended to that day. Harold and his brothers Gyrth and Leofwin lay dead. Most of the housecarls who had protected Harold lay dead around him. Their proud tradition honoured to the end. William surveyed the site and was moved by the emotion of it all. The body of Harold could not be identified because of the mutilation the Norman's had inflicted upon him. The following morning He called for his long term mistress, Edith Swan Neck. She would have been the only person able to identify him from body marks, as facially he was unrecognisable. On recognising his body, it was removed and carried to William's encampment. It was put into the custody of William Malet, who was entrusted to give the king a fitting burial suitable for his status. Before he could arrange the funeral, his mother, Gytha offered his weight in gold for the return of her son. William refused on the grounds that he should not be given any special treatment above what he was prepared to concede when there were so many other bodies who would be deprived of a proper Christian burial. He possibly saw this offer as an insult. His mission was not one of avarice but to rectify the insult and pride that he felt had been damaged by Harold accession to the throne. A second version was that he refused the payment of gold but allowed his mother to take the body. Gytha allegedly laid his body to rest at the church in Waltham Abbey in Essex, which he founded. A third version was that he was not killed at all but lived the rest of his life incognito. The latter story holds no water and is a natural comment that would have been made to swell unrest among the English.

Cenotapth to Harold II

Here Is the memorial situated within the Battle Abbey grounds where Harold reputedly fell on the 14th October 1066.

A Christian Burial ?

he 15th October 1066 was a day of reflection. Many of the English dead had nobody to bury them and were left to rot where they lay. Bones were still visible on the site many tens of years afterwards. William after burying his Norman dead must have pondered his next move. He was very close to losing the battle and possibly had little idea that this would be the end of it. He could not have known at this early stage after the battle that more Saxon forces were behind Harold awaiting to attack. Even if there were, they would have been so demoralised at the death of Harold that it would only have been a token effort.

Mountjoy Then Revenge

illiam had a mountjoy constructed to commemorate his victory on the highest point on Caldbec Hill. He decided to return to Hastings, about 10km south to consolidate and give his injured men time to recover. He waited for about a week expecting a deputation to offer England's submission. Nobody came. Casualties on both sides would have been between 1500 to 2000 on the Norman side and possibly slightly higher on the English. Returning to Hastings gave William time to receive fresh supplies from his ships which we assume returned home for this very purpose. Recuperated and re-supplied, William and his men marched towards Dover. This would give him access to the Dover to London Roman road which would speed up his progress to the capital. On his way he settled a score with the inhabitants of Old Romney. William was informed that the two missing boats from his flotilla landed there and the occupants were slaughtered. He took terrible revenge on them by inflicting the same and destroying the village. On top of the White Cliffs of Dover, he built a castle. He met no resistance there. After a short time, he moved his troops along the Roman road to Canterbury where again the inhabitants submitted to him. He knew that the key to England was London. London had always been a law unto itself and could pose a serious problem.


illiam's progression west and north into the English heartland is a conglomeration of various chroniclers and is thought to represent the facts as they happened. William marched out of Canterbury and over the River Medway towards London. He must have been very wary as he sent a mounted detachment to test the water. In a mad panic the Londoners elected Edgar Aetheling as king, which would eventually be a token gesture. It is thought also that Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury was in London or escaped there in advance of the Normans and was responsible for the enthroning of Edgar. William ordered a detachment of about 300 to 500 mounted Knights to advance towards London. They reached the south side of the River Thames at a place known as Southwark where they met some resistance. They sacked the area and headed south out of town. William's main force by this time had continued west and south of London by about 50km. It seems therefore that this was some form of diversionary tactic. The cavalry met up again before passing through Guildford where soon afterwards, another detachment sacked Winchester. By the end of October 1066, reinforcements were arriving by sea at Portsmouth where they rendezvoused with the main force. Stronger now, they headed north. Split into two columns and heading towards Wantage about 60km west of London to join up at Wallingford on Thames. Crossing the Thames here they set up camp. Stigand travelled to William and surrendered himself which was a coup for him as the papacy had given him their approval. It also left William in the enviable position of being able to install his own Archbishop without the trouble of removing the incumbent.

England Is Mine

aving captured a great part of Harold's Wessex, The main group continued in a north easterly direction until they arrived at Aylesbury. The group split again and made a general move through Luton and then to Hertford. Whilst this was going on, splinter groups were raiding as far north as Bedford and Cambridge and along the River Ouse. Eventually they arrived at Berkhamstead where a delegation of English officially surrendered to him. The delegation is not known but William would not have accepted their surrender unless it consisted of eminent Saxons. It is thought that Edgar, Ealdred and possibly Edwin and Morcar, who had let Harold down so badly were in the group. This left the door open to London which was greatly accepted. William was coronated in Edward the Confessor's Church at Westminster on Christmas day 1066. Three months later, William returned to Normandy but received information on the treatment his deputies Bishop Odo and William fitzOsbern had been inflicting on the population. Eustace of Boulogne attempted an attack on the Norman garrison which was fought off by them. Despite the problems, the Normans expanded outwards until they could say by 1070 that England was theirs. William's wife Matilda sailed to England to become queen. Edgar departed to Scotland where he became a problem to William and Edwin and Morcar the Earls from the north were a thorn in his side. William's action in the north was nothing less than severe. He destroyed large areas of Yorkshire and surrounding counties. He defeated the Scots and the Welsh by 1070. He had total power.

Dare You Challenge Me ?

hings did not run as smoothly as he would have liked. Many dissidents were to challenge his position verbally and physically. William the man will be continued in the section entitled " Norman Rule After 1066".



copyright Glen Ray Crack - Battle - East Sussex - United Kingdom
Submitted 10th January 1998
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