Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Hastings, Less Saxons

(NB - blogger's photo function doesn't want to play ball, so I'll post this introduction and try and get the pictures up tomorrow!)

Quick! Quick! Must blog about the Battle of Hastings before memory blurs!!!

It's not uncommon to build a holiday around one idea, adding other activities and visits to the core to make a longer break. I suspect, though, that most people build a holiday around a trip to a great city, or a particularly pleasing beach.

We built a holiday around a battlefield walk.

You see, I'd given Husband some vouchers for guided battlefield walks last Christmas, and one of them (we've done Shrewsbury and Flodden) was at the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A little research revealed that the walk coincided with a huge (HUGE) re-enactment of the famous battle, lasting over two days. Before too long, we'd booked cheap rooms, and planned to be there for both days.

Now, the first thing you need to understand is that Hastings was Normans v. Saxons, and that Husband supports the Saxons and I support the Normans. The Saxons were germans, who were also norsemen (vikings) and had invaded what is now called England some time ago and settled. The Normans were from France, but were not frenchmen, except they were a bit, and they were also norsemen (vikings).

Confused yet? Good, good... Let's try a summary for you.


The Battle of Hastings 1066

As succinctly as possible, on one side you have William, Duke of Normandy, sometimes called William the Bastard (but not if you wanted to keep your hands and feet - he once lopped the appendages off the entire able-bodied male population of a town for that one). William said that he'd been promised the throne of England by Edward the Confessor, a man so pious he never consummated his marriage, and so left his country without an heir. Without William's claim, Edward's heir would have probably been a man called Harold Godwinson (who incidentally was also supposed to have promised to support William) and Harold grabbed the throne and had himself crowned the same day Edward died.

William was pissed.

But William was the least of Harold's immediate problems. His own disgraced brother, Tostig Godwinson, had tagged along with the latest Viking invasion (led by another Harald - Harald Hardrada), and was threatening to take the Kingdom from the North. Harold assembled his army, marched north, whopped (sp?) the Vikings arses, killed his brother Tostig and Harald, had Tostig nicely buried, because it doesn't do to kill your brother AND annoy your God, and probably sat down to a roast deer and a sigh of relief.

But William, as you remember, was pissed.

And William was a "Don't Get Mad, Get Even," kind of guy.

So while Harold was still counting his bruises, the news came that William had invaded, built a quick castle, and worse than that was busily raping, burning and pillaging his way around the Godwinson family estates.

There was more than one reason they called him a bastard, you know.

So Harold came south again, a colossal march of hundreds of miles in five days, and reached Senlac Hill, just north of Hastings, on 13th October 1066.

They fought the next day. I could tell you about the shield-wall, cavalry charges, changing archery tactics, heroics, dead horses and dead men, but mostly you need to know it was a damn close-run thing, but the Normans won, and when the Normans won, lots of Saxons died. Oh, and although Harold was probably hit near the eye with an arrow, he wasn't killed by it. He was killed by several knights who hacked him so badly only his mistress could identify the body, it is told...

William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066.

Fora more detailed summary of the situation and the battle, see here. But what you need to bear in mind is that, marital allegiances and Victorian romantic glamourisation aside, there really wasn't a lot of difference between the two sides. Especially not in terms of arms, numbers, and 'right'.



At 11:36 pm, Anonymous mary beth said...

How interesting!

At 7:11 am, Blogger Michelle Styles said...

LOL. A very nice summary!

Looking forward to the pictures.

At 9:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. Just wonderful. What a fabooooo gift you gave your dh.


At 6:43 am, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

Thanks Mary Beth, Michelle, Lori!

I do work hard on giving Husband gifts he can have fun with, Lori!


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