Readers Letters
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Letter 11

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1) How much did Harold know about Williams build up? Since he
presumed that W. wouldn't attack until after the winter he can't have
known that W. was merly waiting with a complete army for the right

2) I havn't been able to find much information about the promiss
between Edward and William and about Harold oath to William. Do
you happend to have more info? (I have read a few lines about it on
your page under the heading "Don't forget my claim" regarding
William but I need more fact. F.i. if anny of these really did occur or
if they are merly missunderstanings of word spoken when they met.

3) Since I don't know much and don't have so very much time to
learn about the fyrd I would just like you to maybe make an
estimate of how much soldiers, peasants, etc that didn't reach
Hastings in time for the battle.


1: Harold could not have known about the imminent danger from
William. If he had, he would not have disbanded his fleet for the
winter. Harold, as you know, had spent time with William and would
of known that the oaths of allegiance to their lord, i.e William, was
only valid to internal struggles and was not legitimate when
requested by him for overses exploits. This may have been one of
the reasons Harold assumed no attack would take place that winter.
The only way such an expedition could take place was by turning it
into a crusade. By nepotism ( see comments page ), where there is
now an explanation, and by promises of wealth, William managed to
gather his invasion force. I am sure if Harold had known of William's
plans and timescales, he would not have marched north to meet
Hardrada because his beloved Wessex meant more to him than any
northern territory. He was the king of the whole of England however,
and hence had to act.

2: I could rattle on for hours about this topic. Briefly. The oath made
by Harold was made under duress to effect the release of Harkon
and Wulfnot. Made over holy relics, it was the only way that Harold
could make sure he would ever be allowed to return to England alive
with William's hostages. As it turned out, he only returned with one (
see text ). See the sections on the Bayeux Tapestry where it is
vividly portrayed from a Norman point of view. Harold must have gone
through a lot of soul searching before agreeing to the oath. He was
pious and hence, must have felt quite relieved when he was
absolved on his return on the premise that it was made under
extreme pressure and had no meaning. These men were intelectual
equals. there was no misunderstandings. It was a battle of wills that
lasted some months. It would have been interesting to be a fly on
the wall during their conversations. The irony of all of this is that
they seemed to quite like and respect each other. As you know,
power corupts and absolute power corupts absolutely. It also helps
to play at home. William always had the advantage. And so it came
to pass that William extracated the oath. Be in no doubt that this
did happen, as it is chronicled both sides of the English Channel.

3: The fyrd was a force originally set up by Alfred the Great to
ensure that there would always be sufficient fighting men available to
protect the country. ( I am intending to write more on this subject
later ) 365 days of the year. The problem always existed of
gathering enough men to fight battles, especially during harvest
time. Alfred devised a rota system where you were duty bound for a
percentage of the year, when requested, to be available to fight for
the country. ( this is a gross oversimplification of the fyrd system
and how it worked ). The system however, survived into Harold's
time and was used to maintain a fighting force and navy. Even in
those days, It was expensive to feed and pay soldiers and sailors,
which is another reason Harold may have disbanded his navy early
in the autumn ( question 1 ). To estimate how many of Harold's
forces who fought at Stamford Bridge, actually made it to Hastings,
is almost impossible to answer. The figure of 7000 to 7500 who have
been estimated to have been involved in the final battle is only an
intelligent guess. It is pretty certain that all or most of the
housecarls that survived Stamford Bridge would have been duty
bound to travel south. There would have been a good proportion of
the fyrd who would have returned to their farms on the march south,
as this was a busy agricultural time of year. Others would have just
deserted for one reason or another. It is said that moral was high, so
things could have been worse. Many men were recruited on the
march south. In fact there were more soldiers available than took
part in the battle, for reasons that are stated in the main text. If you
insist on a figure. 7-8000 men were involved in the Battle of Hastings
of which I estimate 3-5000 of them would have fought at Stamford



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