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Letter 19

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Andy

Death of Edward the Confessor

When Edward the Confessor died in 1066. Did he really say " I
commend my wife to you and with her my whole kingdom"? If he
did, was it meant to be that Harold was to take control of the
country as vassal prior to the arrival of Duke William? Was the
whole thing a Godwinson plot to seize power? Were Edward,s
utterances deliberately taken out of context?
I think this is relatively unimportant. Military potential is all the
justification required. Harold seesm a better bet than William.
Clearly Edward did not make the issue of succession very clear.

Claim to the Throne

Who had the best claim to the English throne? was it Earl Harold
Godwinson, Duke William of Normandy, Edgar the Aetheling or
Harald Hardrada? Each could claim a valid reason for being crowned
king.

presumably the Aethling.

Was Alfred that Great?

Was Alfred the Great deserving of the title " The Great "? Could he
have been accused of making a huge mistake by allowing the
Danes to settle in the north and east of the country ( Danelaw )? Did
he have the resources to expel them entirely from England after his
resounding victory at the battle of Edington in 878? The Viking
problem was not fully resolved until the Battle of Stamford Bridge in
1066. Did his piety overrule his logic?

A. i don't think you could stop them and it would have beeen silly to
try. Raiders became settlers very rapidly and were subsumed by the
local population. The Viking raiding ended when all areas develped
organised resistance.

Bayeux Tapestry

We know who commisioned the Bayeux Tapestry but where was it
made? Was it made in England as some historians suggest?

A. the theory of it being produced by Saxons who left behind many
messages which would be seen as anti-norman to Saxon eyes only
seem supported by the sheer weight of evidence for it.

Death of Godwin

Harold II father, Godwin died at a feast in 1053. Was he poisoned?
The previous year Edward the Confessor was forced to reinstate him
after his banishment. Godwin was a staunch opponent of the influx
of Norman advisors brought over by Edward and became a thorn in
the kings side.

His death was not that unusual, a number of English kings seem to
have died in similar circumstances.

Hasty Harold

Was Harold II too impetuous or hasty to do battle with Duke William
at Hastings in 1066? He had just won a hard fought battle against
Harald Hadrada only a few days before, 300 miles to the north, at
Stamford Bridge. Should he have stayed in London longer to allow
more time to recover and regroup before marching to Caldbec Hill?

I think he followed his only option and was neither impetuous nor
hasty. Papal support of William would have been a sudden shock to
his sense of confidence if he was unaware of it prior to Stamford. He
was hardly solidly confirmed in his role as King. He couldn't be seen
to hesitate by his own men, for which reason he also would not have
wanted Gyrth to lead an attack on William. He had only one
obstacle between himself and personal and dynastic success.
Possibly Normandy would not have been firmly defended by
15-year-old Robert given the death of William in England, a useful
first overseas possession. If he did declare an immediate assault, in
the direction of his own ancestral soil, he could rely on the firmest
possible support from all his men, whatever their level of allegiance.
He wished to finish the problem rapidly, one way or he other, which
is what any experienced soldier would do in his position. His men
had the advantage of a recent victory, another could be envisaged by
them.

Shortsighted Harold

Could you accuse Harold II of being shortsighted in ordering his fleet
home in the assumption that Duke William would not attack that
year?

I am sure he would have kept them at sea if he could.

Feigned Retreat

Was the feigned retreat a genuine and planned tactic? William had
supposedly ordered his men to retreat and thus enticing the English
forward giving the impression that they were retreating in disarray.
William regrouped and attacked them successfully.

It was used in other places previously. It seems to be something of
a desperation tactic in the manner it was used at Hastings. feigned
and genuine retreats could happen side-by-side, and the real skill
lies in the coordination of a rapid horse-borne counterattack rather
than the disengagement. And where was the vulnerable Norman
infantry during these feigned retreats? Being overrun one presumes.
Such a risky manouevre would more happily be used in easy
situations to rapidly reduce an inferior but dogged force that
presented little offensive threat.

Malfosse Incident

A continuation of the battle happened during the last stages which
is now known as the Malfosse Incident. A number of Norman cavalry
in pursuit of fleeing English came to grief in a ditch and into some
late English arrivals where a mini battle was alleged to have
occurred. Did this incident ever happen and where is the Malfosse
situated?

I like the idea of Malfosse occuring at the bottom of a slope to those
Normans caught by the saxon charge off the hill. It seems a
rearguard action could have happened but coordinated defensive
fighting in the dark after an excessively long battle and total collapse
seems unlikely.

William's Prisoner

Why did Duke William ever release Harold when you consider the
difficulty he had extracting any oath of allegiance out of him?
William must have known that Harold was the biggest obstacle to
him becoming king on the death of Edward the Confessor. William
knew that it was extracted under duress and was not worth the
paper it was written on.

he already had hostages. Holding harold might have made Gyrth
king, and William a clear national enemy.

Dover Incident

Why did Earl Godwin ignore Edward's request to punish the people
of Dover following a visit through the town by Eustace of Boulogne
and entourage? Eustace appealed to the king about his treatment.
Who was to blame for this incident? Eustace was married to the
kings sister. Godwin's refusal led to him being exiled.Did he have
the full facts of the case and was he acting in the best interests of
the people by defying the king?

In this matter he was more powerful than the king. He could afford to
wait until the king required his services.

Civil War

The Godwin's were virtually the power base in the country in all but
name. Would it have been in their interest to promote disharmony
and encourage civil war to thereby expel all the Norman advisors
and Edward at the same time? Was this in the back of his mind
during the Dover incident?

their hold on the future monarchy was strong enough to await
Edward's death without losing support by causing trouble in the
meantime.

Why the Danes?

Why did the Danes suddenly become such a warfaring, seafaring,
piratical nation? What suddenly occurred that made them one of the
most feared people on earth? Was it technology, agricultural
problems or a growing population that could not be maintained by
staying at home?

They weren't a military threat except to poorly defended areas. Their
miliatry record is more failure than success.Politically they could
settle areas like Normandy or the Danelaw and thereby give these
areas a strong Scandanavian influence.

True Brit

What is a true Briton? Celt, Roman , Saxon , Viking or a mixture of
all of them? Which race has had the biggest influence on England's
development?

I think definitely the Normans.

King Arthur

Do you think a King Arthur ever existed? Many historians do, if not
as the legendary character we know portrayed today. Who could
have been the possible candidates?

A competent Romano-british leader named Arturus, probably.

St Augustine

Was St Augustine's mission to England to convert the population to
the Roman form of Christianity as apposed to the priest based
monastic form a total failure? Did he achieve anything worthwhile at
all?

If the Romans Had Stayed What would Britain have been like if the
Romans had not left in 410 A.D? Would it still have continued to
prosper and grow richer? Would it have been immune from the
opportunistic races that followed? would it have been seen as fair
game by other races.

The romans didn't leave, Roman miliary force no longer continued to
arrive from abroad. i think only a very lavish navy could have
prevented mass emigration to Britain ie. Britain would then have got
a reputation as being a poor destination.

Hengist, Horsa and Vortigen

Why did Vortigen in 449 A.D invite Hengist and Horsa to Kent as
mercenary protection? Did he not realise the consequences of his
action?

They always did this, forgetting that political power grows from the
barrel of a gun.

Edwin and Morcar-

Were Edwin and Morcar from the north, correct in supporting the
king against the Godwins following their return from exile in 1052?

Yes, by their own lights. Their loyal efforts had been expended on
the king up to that time.

Canute and the Sea Did king Canute ever try to turn the rising tide?
if so, was it to demonstrate his total power over as the English king
or to show that he was merely mortal and was unable to alter the
course of nature? remember he was a committed Christian.

Maybe he was a clever man getting his own back on examples of
the Viking mental average who surely vexed him a lot.

Too Many Norman's in England

Was Edward the Confessor responsible for the Godwin revolt by
introducing too many Norman's to England and awarding them seats
of high office? Where did Edward's loyalties lay?

More to his foreign friends and wife than his domestic enemies?

Druid Massacre

Were the Druids such a threat to the Romans that it warranted a
massacre of them on their stronghold on the island of Anglesey in
61 A.D?

Tey had dangerous economic and political power across all the
celtic areas.

Hereward

What became of Hereward the Wake? Where did Hereward the
Wake disappear to? Was he ever killed or captured?

I imagine he continued the resistance. Tostig

Why did Harold not deal with his brother Tostig sooner? he was
unpopular in Northumbria where he was ousted and returned later as
a raiding pirate from exile. If he had done, he would not have made
an alliance with Harald Hardrada.

I do not think Tostig was particularly important, his troubles in
Northumbria were mainly important to him alone.

Danegeld

Was the use of danegeld to pay off the Danes, especially by
Aethelred the Unready a valid tactic? Aethelred knew that they
would be back for more. He was quite prepared to pay the equivalent
of 2 to 3 years national product to them for peace. Where do you
draw the line and fight? Was he unlucky in being king at the time of
increased Danish Activity?

A. you pay when it is worth doing so. Certanly he would have
preferred not to have had to continuously fight.

Some points about Hastings:- numbers on the Saxon side were not
so important. Harold would have had little way of commanding the
men he did have, let alone substantially more. The positon on the
hill was crowded, and we are told local support went home on
finding nowhere to stand.
Longarm axes could easily have been used from the relative safety
of the second rank, where violent strikes could be made without
impairing the integrity of the shieldwall, especially to exposed
targets, raised over the shieldwall due to being on horseback.
I agree with bradbury that the battle was probably fought at the point
of muster. It is a better posiootn and i see no reason for moving
south to Senlac. Men appear to have continued to muster past the
beginning of the battle.
I think William and Harold were probably quite friendly on a purely
personal level.
The battle was as unusual as the whole campaign. it was extremely
long, dawn to dusk, and fought to the very end. The carnage
shocked experienced Norman soldiers and the penances handed
out to absolve their prosecution of the battle were unprecedentedly
heavy.
Papal support was obtained by William as a result of the Normans
in Sicily linking their military force to the Pope's political force for
mutual benefit.
I think it is very probable that the rectangular shapes on Norman
chests on the Tapestry are plastrons de fer, which were in very
common use. if primitive crossbows were present they were not
significant in numbers nor efficacy.


Andy Daglish

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