Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
The Story of 1066 - A brief Outline
The Events of 1066
Eadmer's Historia Novorum in Anglia c1090
Godwine, Earl of Wessex, was the most powerful man in England after King Edward. A serious disagreement between Godwine and the King occurred resulting in Godwine along with all his family being exiled. Godwine's son Harold went to Ireland and Godwin went to Count Baldwin in Flanders. After the death of the Kings mother Emma, both Godwine and Harold returned to England with a large fighting force. The nobles of the land attempted to make peace with Godwine in order to avoid war, however King Edward required Godwine to give hostages as security in order to make peace. Godwine gave his son Wulfnoth and his grandson Hakon, son of Swain. The hostages were held in custody by Duke William of Normandy, the grandson of Emma's brother. Shortly after these events Godwin died and Harold succeeded his father in the Earldom of Kent.
Shortly after his succession Harold requested of the King that he be allowed to go to Normandy to free his brother and nephew. The King replied, "I will have no part in this; but, not to give the impression of wishing to hinder you, I give you leave to go where you will and to see what you can do. But I have a presentiment that you will only succeed in bringing misfortune upon the whole Kingdom and discredit upon yourself. For I know that the Duke is not so simple as to be at all inclined to give them up to you unless he foresees that in doing so he will secure some great advantage to himself." Harold, despite the warning, set sail for Normandy taking with him much treasure along with the wealthiest and most trusted men in England.
Harold and his men were driven by a violent storm onto the coast of Ponthieu at Maye. Here they were placed under arrest in accordance with the 'laws of langan' (shipwreck) by Count Wido (Guy). Harold managed to get word of his capture to Duke William of Normandy who arranged for his release. After some negotiation Guy surrendered Harold, but not before taking all of what treasures they had brought with them. Harold was received with great honour by William. Upon learning of Harold's mission he was assured by William that he would certainly meet with success. William took the opportunity during Harold's short stay to inform him of his own plans. William claimed that Edward had promised to him, in the event of Edward becoming king of England that he would ensure his right to succession as heir to the throne. William continued, saying,
"If you on your side undertake to support me in this project and further promise that you will make a stronghold at Dover with a well of water for my use and that you will at a time agreed between us send your sister to me that I may give her in marriage to one of my nobles and that you will take my daughter to be your wife, then I will let you have your nephew now at once, and your brother safe and sound when I come to England to be King. And, if ever I am with your support established there as King, I promise that everything you ask of me which can reasonably be granted, you shall have."
Harold, realizing there was no alternative, had to agree to William's wishes. In order to cement their agreement William had Harold swear an oath of allegiance to him. Harold swore over holy relics that he would uphold this agreement for as long as he should live. Harold then returned to England with his nephew Hakon. When King Edward learned of what Harold had done he exclaimed,
"Did not I tell you that I knew William and that your going might bring untold calamity upon this kingdom?"
Shortly after this meeting King Edward died, but not before arranging that Harold succeed him to the throne. After the succession, a messenger was sent by Duke William to secure the hand of Harold's sister and to rebuke him for having broken his oath. Harold's reply to this was,
"My sister, whom according to our pact you ask for, is dead. If the Duke wishes to have her body, such as it now is, I will send it, that I may not be held to have violated my oath. As for the stronghold at Dover and the well of water in it, I have completed that according to our agreement although for whose use I cannot say. As for the Kingdom, which then was not yet mine, by what right could I give or promise it? If it is about his daughter that he is concerned, whom I ought, as he asserts, to take to be my wife, he must know I have no right to set any foreign woman upon the throne of England without having first consulted the princes. Indeed I could not do so without committing a great wrong."
On hearing the reply William sent a second messenger urging Harold to at least uphold his promise to marry his daughter. With this request came a threat of arms should he not comply. Harold, not fearing William's threat, refused to marry his daughter. Outraged, William made preparations for the invasion of England. Both William and Harold engaged in a furious battle and by the end of the day, on the 14th October 1066, William emerged the victor.
William the Conqueror was consecrated by Eldred, Archbishop of York, on Christmas Day 1066.