his is a brief explanation in as few a words as possible on why the battle ever happened at all. I have included this for people who only require the minimum of background information.
t must be remembered that in the 10th and 11th centuries, most of Europe was much different to the way it is now. In those days most countries were operating on a feudal system. European countries were not always run as the king and his loyal subjects .
lmost without exception, countries were divided up into regions or compartments that had their own ruling bodies and run by Dukes, Earls or Lords. To make matters worse they were usually at one another’s throats in the pursuit of power. The King of the country had little power over these areas or rulers. Normandy for instance, the home of William the Conqueror was one such place. This came about when the then King of France, Charles the Simple by way of the treaty of Clair sur Epte in 911, gave away part of his land to the north west, now known as Normandy, to the Viking Rollo. This was on the understanding that he would no longer keep invading them. Normandy, or land of the Northmen, became a duchy. Normandy was situated in a fertile and prosperous part of France and thanks to succeeding strong leadership, the area flourished. The normal course of events in those times was to think about expansion. By the time of the Battle of Hastings, the Norman’s had a foothold in many countries such as Spain and Italy, probably due to their Viking ancestry.
he Normans became French in language, culture and religion but was still operating on the feudal system, which was totally alien to the people of England. England on the other hand, was much more established as a country. Although it was still divided into larger versions of the counties which exist today, it had a much more sophisticated level of central government that had been developed over the previous six or seven hundred years. England was renown for being a centre of culture and learning. The King of England was the king, and all were his subjects. As usually happens, religion takes a back seat when people become prosperous or learned, Piety was not considered to be of the utmost importance.
o understand why the Battle of Hastings took place it is necessary to look at the family history of Harold and William. To see how they were inextricably linked. Only then can the prelude to the battle be seen In any real context. ( see genealogical trees ).
escribed below is a brief explanation of the main causes. A further explanation of the characters involved can be found in the glossary and elsewhere.
he die was cast in the reign of English King
Ethelred the Unready ( 978 1016). In 1007, Ethelred married Emma, who was the sister of King Richard of Normandy. Emma was the epitome of the powerful woman. No sooner had she arrived in England, than she got to work introducing her Norman will on the people of England. Her first task was to bring many Norman servants, friends and introduced many to officialdom. Emma had three children with the King. Alfred, Edward and
Goodwife. The country was still not at peace at this time. In 1013 England was invaded yet again by the Danes. To secure the future of her children, they were sent to Normandy for safe keeping. When
Ethelred died in 1016, Emma married the Danish as well as English King Canute (1016-1035).
he marriage of Emma to King Canute if nothing else provided a level of good relations between England and Normandy due to the Viking extraction of the Normans. The turning point was the murder Alfred in 1036 ( see other sections).
fter the death of King Canute, his son Hardecante was crowned. Wishing to show some remorse for the untimely death of Alfred. He summoned Edward to England. On his arrival he was declared the heir to the throne. The time Edward had spent in Normandy had completely converted him to the Norman way of life. It is uncertain if he could even speak English with any fluency. After the death of Hardecanute in 1042, Edward became King of England. Popularly known as Edward the Confessor.
ike his mother Emma, Edward continued to introduce many Normans to high office and their customs to the English (Saxon) way of life. Whether this was intentional or just natural is open to debate. As you can imagine , this was not very popular with the English people, especially the Godwins, who held most of the power in the country at the time. Godwin, father of the future King Harold II, was probably the most powerful man in the country at the time.
odwin had many sons, but seems only one daughter, Edith married Edward in 1045. Great resentment mounted between Godwin and Edward as to who held the power base in England. Edward because he was king and Godwin because he saw the erosion of his status and the Saxon way of life. It is considered that the breaking point came when Edward’s brother in law, Eustace of Boulogne in 1051, was involved in a fracas at Dover where a number of
Eustace's men were killed. This angered Edward and he ordered Godwin to burn the town down. This he refused to do. For his refusal Harold Godwin chose to exile himself and his family.
ow that he was the unopposed ruler he invited William the Duke of Normandy to England and nominated him to be the next heir to the throne. About a year later Godwin returned. He used his status and resources to oust many of the Normans who had taken over high office positions. Probably the most important person to be removed was the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumieges. He was replaced by Stigand and promptly excommunicated by the Pope , as you could not remove an Archbishop from office whilst still alive.
espite the resentment of Godwin. The vow made by Edward the Confessor to make William his heir on his death changed dramatically on the kings actual death bed on the 5th January 1066. He was alleged to have said to Harold Godwinson, son of Godwin. “ I commend my wife to your care and with her my whole kingdom “.
ing Edward was buried in Westminster Cathedral, followed soon after by the crowning of Harold Godwinson as King Harold II.
uke William of Normandy who was expected to be the next King of England and King Harold II . Saxon versus Norman. The scene was set.
© copyright Glen Ray Crack -
Battle - East Sussex - United Kingdom
Submitted 10th January 1998
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