14. Oct, 2017

14.10.17...ONE IN THE EYE FOR HAROLD.

ONE IN THE EYE FOR HAROLD....

Okay, okay, I know it is an old schoolboy joke but today is the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. 1066 is the one date most English can remember of their past even if they know little more about it.

On this day, King Harold Godwinson and his Anglo-Saxon Army were defeated by the forces of William, Duke of Normandy and so we are told, thus making it a turning point in our national history.

This raises a number of questions. Firstly, there is no doubt that the battle took place, but how reliable is the evidence on which we base what we think we know both what happened and why? The main source is of course the Bayeaux Tapestry that in cartoon form relates the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself. Embroided by nuns how could it possibly be biased?

Very easily! The nuns were Norman/French working at Duke William’s behest with his regime’s imput of information. This would make it about as unbiased as Fox News reporting on the repeal of US Gun Laws or the Daily Mail on Jeremy Corbyn.

Secondly, there is and has been considerable debate on the actual location of the battle itself. It definitely did not take place at Hastings-the nearest place of recognisable importance. Did it take place in the present day town of Battle or on another site close by?

Thirdly, was King Harold killed by an arrow in his eye or was he actually cut down by charging Norman cavalry? The tapestry is ambiguous at this point.

Fourthly, King Harold is shown as an oath breaker. Captured off the Normandy coast and presented to Duke William some years before becoming King, he is shown as swearing on a bible that he would support the latter in his claim to the English throne. Moreover, it is alleged that beneath the bible there was concealed a holy relic that made the oath doubly binding. It could certainly be argued that for his part, Harold had a case for arguing that being so tricked, the oath he took to 

ONE IN THE EYE FOR HAROLD.

Okay, okay, I know it is an old schoolboy joke but today is the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. 1066 is the one date most English can remember of their past even if they know little more about it.

On this day, King Harold Godwinson and his Anglo-Saxon Army were defeated by the forces of William, Duke of Normandy and so we are told, thus making it a turning point in our national history.

This raises a number of questions. Firstly, there is no doubt that the battle took place, but how reliable is the evidence on which we base what we think we know both what happened and why? The main source is of course the Bayeaux Tapestry that in cartoon form relates the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself. Embroided by nuns how could it possibly be biased?

Very easily! The nuns were Norman/French working at Duke William’s behest with his regime’s imput of information. This would make it about as unbiased as Fox News reporting on the repeal of US Gun Laws or the Daily Mail on Jeremy Corbyn.

Secondly, there is and has been considerable debate on the actual location of the battle itself. It definitely did not take place at Hastings-the nearest place of recognisable importance. Did it take place in the present day town of Battle or on another site close by?

Thirdly, was King Harold killed by an arrow in his eye or was he actually cut down by charging Norman cavalry? The tapestry is ambiguous at this point.

Fourthly, King Harold is shown as an oath breaker. Captured off the Normandy coast and presented to Duke William some years before becoming King, he is shown as swearing on a bible that he would support the latter in his claim to the English throne. Moreover, it is alleged that beneath the bible there was concealed a holy relic that made the oath doubly binding. It could certainly be argued that for his part, Harold had a case for arguing that being so tricked, the oath he took to 

escape William was null and void.

There is no more mention of this get-out clause than of the brilliant campaign Harold had waged to defeat the invading Norwegian army at Stamford Bridge in the previous few weeks before being forced to rush south to defend against the Normans.

It is also possible to question just how much of a watershed this was in English history, bearing in mind that the overwhelming majority of the population had no alternative but to carry on working the land as ever. Their lives of unremitting toil, poverty and exploitation remained the same. The only difference was that Norman landlords replaced Anglo-Saxon Landlords.

There are those who argue that the small number of Norman overlords and their descendants have ruled us ever since. It is not easy to counter this argument when in British society today, just 1% of the wealthiest own more than the poorest 55% of the population put together.

Finally, had Harold defeated William at Hastings, would the present day outcome have  been any different?