CONQUEST - The Series Issues Forth

A score-and-nine reasons why William's mastery of England was no walkover

Eadward and Eadgytha - A marriage without issue saw three heads of state vie for the crown late in the year One-thousand-three-score-and-six - beginning nine hundred and fifty years ago this month in the North near York
Eadward and Eadgytha - A marriage without issue saw three heads of state vie for the crown late in the year One-thousand-three-score-and-six - beginning nine hundred and fifty years ago this month in the North near York

Trouble brews for Harold

In common with his wife Eadgytha who was Tostig's older sister, the old king had a soft spot for the earl. Eadgytha held a grudge against Harold for not backing his brother against the Northumbrian lords who wanted Morkere to be their earl
In common with his wife Eadgytha who was Tostig's older sister, the old king had a soft spot for the earl. Eadgytha held a grudge against Harold for not backing his brother against the Northumbrian lords who wanted Morkere to be their earl | Source
Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi' was reminded by Tostig of the agreement between his nephew Magnus and Harthaknut Knutsson on the succession to the throne of England
Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi' was reminded by Tostig of the agreement between his nephew Magnus and Harthaknut Knutsson on the succession to the throne of England | Source
Harold leads onto the crest of Caldbec Hill with his stallari Ansgar, shire reeve of Middlesex carrying his personal banner
Harold leads onto the crest of Caldbec Hill with his stallari Ansgar, shire reeve of Middlesex carrying his personal banner | Source
When rumour of his death spread amongst his panicking men, William raised his helm and Bishop Odo drew the men's eyes to their duke. It had been a near-disaster for the duke
When rumour of his death spread amongst his panicking men, William raised his helm and Bishop Odo drew the men's eyes to their duke. It had been a near-disaster for the duke | Source
The two armies clash on Caldbec Hill. With a truce around midday to clear away the dead and take refreshment, fighting went on all day until near dark when Harold was set on at the crest of the hill by three of William's knights - including Eustace
The two armies clash on Caldbec Hill. With a truce around midday to clear away the dead and take refreshment, fighting went on all day until near dark when Harold was set on at the crest of the hill by three of William's knights - including Eustace

You may know Aethelred's son by Emma was Eadward, you may also know he had a brother, Aelfred and a sister named Goda. Aelfred came to England from Normandy where they had grown to maturity on his brother's behalf, to see their mother Emma at Winchester. At Guildford Aelfred was betrayed and handed over to Harold 'Harefoot', Knut's son by Aelfgifu of Northampton. Harold ruled over Mercia and Northumbria after his father's death in AD 1035, and was regent over Wessex for his half brother Harthaknut - also by Emma - and had ambitions to rule Wessex as well. He seized the throne over all England in AD 1037 in the absence of his half-brother, although Archbishop Aethelnoth refused to crown him. His reign did not last long and in March AD 1040 he died. He was interred at the West Minster but was disinterred by allies of Harthaknut and his corpse was thrown into the Thames. A fisherman pulled his corpse from the river and had him reburied at the old church of St Clement (destroyed in the Great Fire, 1666, rebuilt by Wren).

In 1040 Harthaknut was finally able to come to England after coming to an agreement with King Magnus Olafsson of Norway over the succession and arrived in England shortly after Harold's death. Harthaknut bade Eadward cross from Normandy to offer a half-share in the kingdom. The sharing ended when Harthaknut choked at a wedding given by friend Osgod Clapa and died days later. Eadward succeeded in June, AD 1042 as king in his own right, and was crowned nine months later in January, AD 1043.

Earl Godwin of Wessex was blamed for Aelfred's death, although he sidestepped the new king's wrath by giving him a richly ornamented ship complete with crew. His next step was to offer Eadward his daughter Eadgytha's hand in wedlock. This move possibly cost the kingdom dearly, Harold being generally given the blame for losing the kingdom to Eadward's kinsman - also through Emma - Duke William, known alternately to his many enemies as 'the Bastard' and 'the Tanner's Grandson' (his mother Herleva was the daughter of Fulbert the Tanner).


Here, then are the episodes that mark a change of regime, from Eadward by way of Harold's brief rule from the turn of the year AD 1065 when the old king died to mid-October, 1066. Harold as Earl of Wessex had long been 'sub-regulus', a regent for an old king who relied more and more heavily on his premier earl. As king Harold had tried to be fair, although some would see him as a usurper. He wedded Aeldgifu, the sister of Aelfgar's sons Eadwin and Morkere in a bid to hold the kingdom together after his younger brother Tostig was ousted as Earl of Northumbria, to be replaced at the bidding of the northern landowners by the callow young Morkere. Aeldgifu bore Harold a son after Harold's death on Caldbec Hill on October 14th, AD 1066. Mother and son were spirited away from Chester to Ireland and never heard of or from again. It is possible young Harold came back, the years of Norman and Angevin rule were responsible for many legends and myths about resistance. It is also possible he was taken to Denmark when Harold's mother Gytha took her grand-daughter of the same name to the safety of kinsman Svein Estrithsson's court in Roskilde. Now read on:-

01. COUNTDOWN, On A Hiding To Nothing - From Caldbec Hill...;

02. FAREWELL TO LEGEND, Harold's Entombment at Waltham (Fact or Myth?);

03. AFTERMATH, English Struggle Against William Ends At Ely;

04. 1066 A YEAR OF STRUGGLE, Four Battles Were Fought For The Kingdom;

05. IN-FIGHTING FORGOTTEN, Northumbrian Nobility Joins Forces To Rebut William;

06. THE ROT SETS IN, Norman High-handedness Leads To Northern Risings;

07. EUSTACE'S ATTACK ON DOVER And Other Tales. English Rebellions...;

08 THE DANES ARE COMING! (Beware What You Wish For);

09. AFTER RE-TAKING YORK, Mutinying Mercenaries Anger William...;

10. EADRIC 'CILD', Welsh Princes And Danish Landings - Storm In The Kingdom

11. UPRISING IN NORTHUMBRIA, Struggle For Unity Against William;

12. THE TANNER'S GRANDSON, Duke William, Did He Need A Sense Of Humour?;

13. DUKE WILLIAM'S KINDRED, The Trouble Maker Odo, Bishop Of Bayeux;

14. HEREWARD'S FENLAND RISING, William's Siege Of Ely;

15. CONSOLIDATION, What Did The Normans Let Themselves In For?;

16. AN ENGLISHMAN'S HOME, In The Shadow Of A Norman Lord's Castle;

17. RAKING OLD EMBERS, Misunderstandings Among The Select;

18. MARRIAGE EN OUTREMER, Outlanders Mix With English...;

19. NAMING HEIRS, Tracing Thorkell's Bloodline, And A Shift In Understanding;

20. SETTLERS ON A FOREIGN SHORE, Whilst Other Incomers Try To Blend In...

Harold Godwinson, Earl, sub-Regulus and KIng R.I.P

Close to the church door at Waltham. Having recovered from a near-fatal illness, Harold contributed a small fortune to have the church improved and a college was founded
Close to the church door at Waltham. Having recovered from a near-fatal illness, Harold contributed a small fortune to have the church improved and a college was founded | Source
The church was foreshortened in the reign of Henry VIII when his men destroyed the Norman abbey and local folk had to stop complete demolition, telling Henry's men they'd otherwise have no church in the town
The church was foreshortened in the reign of Henry VIII when his men destroyed the Norman abbey and local folk had to stop complete demolition, telling Henry's men they'd otherwise have no church in the town | Source
Viewing over Harold's burial site to the 'cut-off' church end, you can see the point where the original church ended, marked on the ground by kerb stones that follow the line of the wall.
Viewing over Harold's burial site to the 'cut-off' church end, you can see the point where the original church ended, marked on the ground by kerb stones that follow the line of the wall. | Source
Harold's burial site seen shortly after the weekend, 15th-16th October commemoration at Battle Abbey to mark 950 years since Harold's shield wall was finally broken in the evening on Caldbec Hill near Hastings
Harold's burial site seen shortly after the weekend, 15th-16th October commemoration at Battle Abbey to mark 950 years since Harold's shield wall was finally broken in the evening on Caldbec Hill near Hastings | Source

Wherever you live, here or overseas, you might like to know what became of where your family/families lived long ago. My own interest is near the River Tees, down to the Humber and west to Cumbria and Lancashire. Yorkshire was divided into three, as was Lincolnshire, both divided into Wapentakes. Other shires were smaller, divided into Hundreds. Have a look at your area, some were made waste between the midlands and the north in 1069, never rebuilt. Only Durham and Northumberland were never surveyed (surveyors were either sent packing or vanished), and Cumbria was not in England at the time.

Not yet masters of all they surveyed

Map of England in 1066 shows the earls as being  Harold (king and earl of Wessex), Gyrth, Leofwin, Waltheof, Eadwin and Morkere. This would change drastically after Harold fell
Map of England in 1066 shows the earls as being Harold (king and earl of Wessex), Gyrth, Leofwin, Waltheof, Eadwin and Morkere. This would change drastically after Harold fell
The South Coast around Hastings and Pevensey, showing the difference in coastline - the present coast is demonstrated by the pale blue area
The South Coast around Hastings and Pevensey, showing the difference in coastline - the present coast is demonstrated by the pale blue area
Fancy taking him on? This is the view many Englishmen had of the mounted Norman force. Few, the foolhardy, took them on over level ground. In time guerilla tactics would be adopted to even the odds
Fancy taking him on? This is the view many Englishmen had of the mounted Norman force. Few, the foolhardy, took them on over level ground. In time guerilla tactics would be adopted to even the odds | Source
When Hereward of Bourne came back to England after Harold's death he found a brother hanging from the lintel of his doorway. From then on all Normans were fair game
When Hereward of Bourne came back to England after Harold's death he found a brother hanging from the lintel of his doorway. From then on all Normans were fair game | Source

Was Norman England that different to its predecessor? Feudalism existed long before William came with his army. A king - Harthaknut - had issued orders to waste a region for the death of one of his men. Outlaws were severely dealt with; The dispossessed were treated as slaves.

The difference was in the way William blazed his way across the kingdom before launching into his immediate neighbours, the difference was in the new class of serfs - villeins - who were treated as possessions and were severely dealt with for trying to escape their life of misery. A Norman lord could - and often would - have a man's bride on the evening after her wedding. The king owned his kingdom and its crown jewels. Not until the English-born Henry 'Beauclerc' was the vice-like Norman grip eased. He tried to right his father's and older brother's wrongs but the next Henry would tighten the grip again.


Early strongholds were no guarantee of safety for the Normans

Early Norman strongholds were timber-built. Some, like Hereford and both of York's amongst others, were burnt down in risings. They would be rebuilt in stone - a daunting prospect  for those not used to siege warfare.
Early Norman strongholds were timber-built. Some, like Hereford and both of York's amongst others, were burnt down in risings. They would be rebuilt in stone - a daunting prospect for those not used to siege warfare. | Source
With the Welsh princes Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, Eadric 'Cild', also known as 'the Wild' attacked and burnt down William fitzOsbern's timber stronghold at Hereford
With the Welsh princes Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, Eadric 'Cild', also known as 'the Wild' attacked and burnt down William fitzOsbern's timber stronghold at Hereford | Source

21. NEW ORDER, The Warrior Earls de Montgomerie and de Avranches;

22. DRAWING EDGAR OUT OF HIDING, William Lures The 'Aetheling' South;

23 INCOMERS AND CONTINUITY, What's Behind A Name?;

24. DOMESDAY AD 1086, Power Broking Or William's Way Of Weaselling Cash?;

25. A NORMAN DUKE THOUGHT HE SHOULD BE KING OF ENGLAND, Why was That?;

26. WILLIAM'S KINDRED, Half-brother Robert, Count Of Mortain;

27. RESISTANCE AND COMPLIANCE, Did It Pay To Bow To Fate?;

28. WILLIAM'S KINDRED, William fitzOsbern, Earl Of Hereford;

29. NORMAN OFFSPRING, Richard fitzGilbert de Clare, 'Strongbow'.

There, that should keep you happy, informed at least for a short time. By the time you've read this, you should be able to write a thesis - or a book. Seriously, you be able to understand the era from these episodes. The succession both before and after Eadward is complex and Byzantine compared to William I and beyond - at least until the late Plantagenet era when it begins to unravel again.

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The first of three books that centre on a young Norman nobleman, Tancred a Dinant, who finds himself at a loose end after his lord, the Flemish Robert de Commines is killed along with his men at Durham, AD 1068 in one of several risings against Norman rule. 'Sworn Sword' meets him shortly after de Commines' fate. James Aitcheson's character Tancred is well-rounded, based on research although he doesn't put too much of it in his stories. The follow-ups are 'The Splintered Kingdom' and 'The Knights Of The Hawk'. Worth reading.

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8 comments

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 2 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Such an interesting read of times past. You must have spent some time on the research. Love the images, too.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Blossom, were you under starter's orders, on the blocks and ready to run?

This is a sort of precis of the series, so there was no extra research needed, just a passable memory. Enjoy the series...


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 7 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Alan

Local legend around my home town was it was founded in 1065 (or not long before) in a field by a man named 'Macca' but around 1069 they were massacred by Norman Knights only to be started again a few years later.

Challenging times!

Lawrence


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 7 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Lawrence, what town was that? In 1069 a lot of places in the north were rendered 'waste'according to Domesday. between the Tees and eastern Lincolnshire on the east coast and across to between the Ribble and Severn Valley - Shropshire - in the west. This was down to William being angered at the aetheling Eadgar escaping over the Tees, out of his clutches after Norman York fell to a force of English and Danes. The Church had previously supported William's kingship but was critical of his actions in the 1069 'Harrying of the North'


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 7 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Alan

We call the town 'Macclesfield' in Cheshire, it's literally on the border between Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

Legend has it the town started on the brow of the hill where the parish church now stands (parts of the church date back to the twelfth century) but the original inhabitants didn't take to well to their new Norman overlords, hence the massacre!

It's a local legend and I'm not sure of any historical evidence.

Lawrence


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 7 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Lawrence it figures, as Cheshire comes within the area of Earl Eadwin's earldom of Mercia, Macclesfield being more or less at the heart of territory razed on William's orders in AD 1069 after the York rising. Eadwin had been taken to Normandy early in AD 1067 as hostage with his brother Morkere, Waltheof and Eadgar after the Witan yielded late AD 1066. William promised him one of his daughters in marriage and went back on the offer. He also gave chunks of Mercia to his followers, William fitzOsbern, Richard de Montgomerie amongst others. So Eadwin, Morkere and Waltheof joined in the rebellion. Eadwin was later betrayed by his servants and killed on his way to Scotland to seek help from Malcolm III 'Canmore'.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 7 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Alan

So there is some truth in the legend then?

Lawrence


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 7 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

More than a legend, Lawrence, as good as fact. According to my copy of 'Domesday': "[Earl Hugh* holds] Maclesfeld, Earl Eadwin held it. 2 hides paying tax. Land for 10 ploughs. In lordship 1 plough; 4 serfs. A mill which serves the hall; woodland 6 leagues long and 4 wide; 7 enclosures; meadow for the oxen. The Third Penny of the Hundred belongs to this manor. Value before 1066, £8; now 20s (shillings); it was waste".

So there you have it, the last sentence confirms what you thought/were told, but not when/whether it was founded by Earl Eadwin.

*Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester

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