As it was noted in the previous seminar Edward had confessed he’d quite forgotten about the business of ensuring there would be an heir. This was to be dramatically unfortunate as there seemed to be more than one person who thought they would be ideally suited to taking his place.
The Godwins (The proto soap-opera family)
The father of Harold (The II) had made a strategically astute move, by having a first name which was the same word as his title, thus no one could ignore how important he was. With this advantage, he had become much powerful than some felt he was entitled to. Now that was not something you said in public; the Godwins (or Godwinsons just to keep folk guessing) were not people you would wish to get on the wrong side of, they being quite adept at kidnap, murder, extortion and finding reasons to declare war (in a small earlish way). Earl in an attempt to prove God was on his side tried to swallow a rather large piece of bread, since this was a poor theological argument no one took him seriously. Not used to such treatment he became incensed; the bread went down the wrong way and he memorably expired.
While his brothers went about the usual family business Harold claimed that King Edward had pointed at him before dying and this proved he should be king. Several men who claimed they were wise thought this a reasonable argument and he was crowned in 1065. His brother Tostig celebrated by doubling taxation in the north. Although Harold probably thought his brother meant well, as King and a Godwin he had a reputation to keep and so exiled Tostig on the grounds of raising taxation and starting as war (with the taxpayers) without permission. Tostig then spent part of 1065 & 1066 going from Scotland to Normandy and offering his services as a troublemaker, he was not very successful and ended up in Norway.
At the time, had become the king of Norway, but being an old-fashioned sort of Viking thought he should also be king of Denmark and England. From the age of 15 (about 1030) he had been involved in various wars, rebellions and treacheries and so getting to be king of one place had simply gone to his head. His son Manus had helped the Welsh sort of invade part of England, and Harald simply wanted to show the lad that the Old Man still had it. When Tostig turned up offering his services as a Treacherous Brother Harald took the opportunity. As the people of England would be confused between a Harold and a Harald, this was a good a chance as any.
William of Normandy
His father Robert (of Normandy) had not married William’s mother Herleva. This allowed William an early education in hanging onto his inheritance by fighting back anyone who tried to seize it. While ruling Normandy, he gave sanctuary to Edward son of Ethelread. Edward was a cousin who had once removed himself; under the laws of those days this entitled William to say he could be king of England. Although Harold was king Williams said this didn’t count because Harold had said William could be king next time he was in England and resolved the have words with Harold about this; he took some friends along with him.
It would be interesting to speculate what might have happened if due to the quirks of weather and timing had the armies of Harold, Harald and William had all turned up at the same place at the same time. But we must deal with the facts.
Stamford Bridge (possibly 25th September 1066)
Sometime in late September Harald and Tostig and a lot of friends turned up in East Yorkshire, but were not too sure just where they were; Harold being used to terrorising parts of England knew exactly where they were and more importantly where they should be. Thus with the element of surprise Harold’s army fell upon Harald’s. Although a large Viking stood on a bridge (probably Stamford) and acted heroically he was cleverly attacked by a naval detachment (ie a man in a barrel); thus Harold’s army slaughtered Harald’s army. Being noble he gave Harald the land he, Harold, had promised him, Harald, this being six foot long and a few feet deep. What was left of Tostig was taken to France to be buried, while he sons wisely set up a line of famous Scandinavians and his wife Judith married a Bavarian who died on a crusade. Harold couldn’t have cared less because of….
Hastings (Possibly the 14th October 1066)
William cleverly or underhandly depending on who is writing the account not only brought along Normans, but Bretons and Frenchmen (these being all quite separate at the time). In addition, whereas the English preferred the most rustic approach of using big axes, limps of stone and pointed sticks William’s army included archers, spearmen and cavalry. Even so Harold’s army gallantly defended, counter-attacked, made a strategic withdrawal to prepared positions (ie the counter-attack had gone wrong) and solidly fought on. Whereas someone said William had been killed he rode about to prove he hadn’t been. Harold however adopted the tactic of when being killed not telling anyone, in the hope no one would notice. Someone did and under the results of the time William’s army massacred Harold’s army.
The English establishment quickly appointed King Edgar on the basis that he was the last of the Aethelings, as he was only 15 and spent most of his life in Hungary he personally felt he was not suited to the role, everyone was obliged to agree and say sorry to Williams but these things will happen. William thought that after a few obligatory executions, maimings, hostagings and exilings, everything would settle down. As we shall see in the next seminar this was not the case.