CONQUEST - The Series Issues Forth
A score-and-ten reasons why William's mastery of England was no walkover
Trouble brews for Harold
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 at 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
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
The Norman Conquest
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
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'.
30. WILLIAM'S KINDRED, Alan 'Rufus', Breton Lord of Richmond
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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