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Harold Godwinson (c. 1022 – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066  until his death at the Battle of Hastings, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.
Harold Godwinson was a member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to Cnut the Great, who became a powerful earl after the death of his father Godwin, Earl of Wessex. Upon the death of his brother-in-law King Edward the Confessor without an heir on 5 January 1066, the Witenagemot convened and chose Harold to succeed he was probably the first English monarch to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. In late September, he successfully repelled an invasion by rival claimant Harald Hardrada of Norway in York before marching his army back south to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings two weeks later.
Harold II Godwinson
In our timeline last King of Saxon England, claimed the throne on the death of Edward the Confessor, defeated his own brother, Tostig Godwinson and Harald Hardråde, King of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and then was killed in the Battle of Hastings, against William Duke of Normandy who became William I of England.
- Harold II goes for Duke William first, and the latter is killed or routed (with consequent impacts on Franco-Norman relationships, as William's heir is a child): he is then killed in the battle in the North.
If Tostig alone survived, he would probably succeed to the throne.
If Harald survived he would have united the two realms (and possibly divided them up again much as William I in OTL divided Normandy and England between his sons).
The battles would occur at different locations to OTL.
In both Harold II and Tostig on the throne timelines, Edgar the Ætheling, a more direct heir to the throne, but a youth in 1066, would probably have staged an attempt on the throne (much as he was involved in rebellion in OTL).
- All four of Harold, William, Tostig and Hardrada die variously: Edgar (the) Ætheling succeeds to the throne: but possibly faces incursions or interventions from Welsh, Scottish and Scandinavian rulers.
Alternatively William succeeds to the English throne, as in OTL but, during the coronation in Westminster Abbey, the nobles inside the building at one point gave such a shout of acclamation to their new monarch that the Norman soldiers outside thought he was being attacked, and set fire to the building. If this had got out of control much of the leading administration of England would have been killed, and both England and Normandy would have faced a succession crisis (William's sons being children at this time.)
Legal Succession: William I “the Conqueror.”
06 Thursday Dec 2012
As I have researched this topic it is rather complex so I will give the reader’s digest version.
At the time of the Norman Conquest (1066) it has been difficult for me to find any concrete rules regarding the succession to the throne. During the reign ogf the House of Wessex, who were just kings of only Wessex until they began to slowly unify England, the succession dopesn’t seem to have many hard and fast rules. Succession to the throne of Wessex/England was vested in the descendents of King Egbert. However, it was not by primogeniture. There were times when young children of the monarch were passed over in the succession for brothers or uncles of the previous monarch.
Another aspect of the monarchy at this point is the governing council, called the Witan or Witenagemot, which also served in electing the monarchy. Prior to hereditary kingship, which was a later development as families sought to consolidated power, the majority of monarchies were elective…even if that election was limited to one family. To this day historians debate the role of the Witain (even the name itself) but there is evidence that controlling the succession was one of their powers.
In 1066 King Edward the Confessor died without any issue (children) causing one of Enland’s first succession crisis. The legend goes that Edward promised the succession to William the Batsard, Duke of Normandy, a relative by marriage. There was also a co-claim that Harold Godwinson had received a similar promise. When Edward died early that January both men claimed that Edward had promised them the succession. Historians debate the legitimacy of both of those claims. Even in its time there were many conflicting accounts of these alleged promises. They possible were both manufactured by each party.
The truth it seems is that Edward had no power to name his successor and that the power to name the successor was vested in the Witan. They did choose Harold Godwinson, a member of a powerful noble family with connections to the rulers of Denmark. Therfore in the month of January Harold was crowned as Harold II, King of England. William, feeling that his inheritence was stolen from him, mounted an invasion of England. I won’t go into detail with the story as everyone is familiar with it. William invaded England from Normandy and defeated the forces of Harold II at Senlac outside of Hastings in October of that year.
After the defeat of Harold the Witan (including Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury & Archbishop Ealdred of York) tried to elect Edgar Atheling, the heir to the House of Wessex) as King of England but since military might was on the side of William this was an empty election. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day of 1066. However, it took a few years to consolidate his rule and bring all of England under his thumb. Although at his coronation William desired to stress his legal right to the throne, Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury refused to place the crown on William’s head saying “to crown one who was covered with the blood of men and the invader of others’ rights.” Archbishop Ealdred of York was the one who actually placed the crown on his head.
The Witan was the legal body that regulated the succession in 1066. They chose Harld as the legal successor to Edward the Confessor and despite his claims of being the legal heir to the throne William I “the Conqueror” was clearly a usurper in the legal sense. When William came to the throne he abolished the Witan and replaced it with the “king’s court” or Curia Regis. He also took the power to name his successor and this power gradually made England a more hereditary monarchy.
William was not the first King of England although some book make him out to be just that. He did profoundly change England though. The amalgamation of old English and Norman culture forged the modern English culture. Every monarch since the Conquest is a descendent of his. When chronicler’s began numbering the kings of England the reign of William the Conqueror was the starting point.
Dr. Harold C. Deutsch WWII History Roundtable
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King Harold II (Godwinson) of England 1022 – 1066
Born – 1022
Died – 14th October 1066
Father – Earl Godwin of Wessex (1001 – 1053)
Mother – Gytha Thorkelsdottir (c1000 – c1072)
Spouses – m. 1045 – Edith the Fair (Swanneck), m. 1066 – Edith of Mercia
Children – by Edith Swanneck – Godwin, Edmund, Magnus, Gunhilda, Gytha by Edith of Mercia – Harold, Ulf
King of England – 1066
Predecessor – King Edward the Confessor – 1042 – 1066
Successor – Edgar Aetheling – 1066
William arrived and set up his forces at the bottom of the hill. He had three groups – Normans, Flemings and Bretons, both cavalry and infantry. William opened the battle with a barrage of arrows which, because of the hill flew over the heads of the Saxons. Next William sent in his infantrymen but they were unable to break through the shield wall. A group of Breton infantrymen turned and ran down the hill. The Saxons that had been withstanding that group broke the shield wall and ran down after them. William ordered that they become the focus of the next attack and although some managed to return to their line most were cut down. It is thought that Harold’s two brothers lost their lives at this point.
Having seen how the Bretons fleeing down the hill broke the shield wall, William changed tactic and ordered his men to do the same thing. Although the shield wall did not break so spectacularly again it did begin to weaken. With the light beginning to fade William ordered his archers to fire again but to angle them higher so that they hit the men just behind the shield wall. It is thought that one of these arrows went through the eye slit of Harold’s helmet and struck him in the eye or near to the eye. It is thought that while reeling from this injury he was cut down by a sword, possibly to his thigh, or an axe and died of his injuries.
Harold’s body was so mutilated that it could only be recognised from marks on the body and may have been identified by his long term mistress, Edith Swanneck. Harold’s mother offered William her son’s weight in gold for the body but William refused. The exact burial place of Harold’s body remains a matter of dispute but a body found at Bosham in 2003 which was lacking a head and leg is a likely candidate.
First published 2015 updated and re-published Aug 09 2020 @ 1:04 pm – Updated – Sep 19, 2020 @ 5:45 pm
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2015 – 2020). King Harold II (Godwinson) of England 1020 – 1066. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/harold-godwinson-1020-1066 Last accessed June 14th, 2021
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harold II.
HAROLD II. (c. 1022–1066), king of the English, the second son of Earl Godwine, was born about 1022. While still very young (before 1045) he was appointed to the earldom of the East-Angles. He shared his father’s outlawry and banishment in 1051 but while Godwine went to Flanders, Harold with his brother Leofwine took refuge in Ireland. In 1052 Harold and Leofwine returned. Having plundered in the west of England, they joined their father, and were with him at the assembly which decreed the restoration of the whole family. Harold was now restored to his earldom of the East-Angles, and on his father’s death in 1053 he succeeded him in the greater earldom of the West-Saxons. He was now the chief man in the kingdom, and when the older earls Leofric and Siward died his power increased yet more, and the latter part of Edward’s reign was virtually the reign of Harold. In 1055 he drove back the Welsh, who had burned Hereford. In 1063 came the great Welsh war, in which Harold, with the help of his brother Tostig, crushed the power of Gruffyd, who was killed by his own people. But in spite of his power and his prowess, Harold was the minister of the king rather than his personal favourite. This latter position rather belonged to Tostig, who on the death of Siward in 1055 received the earldom of Northumberland. Here, however, his harshness soon provoked enmity, and in 1065 the Northumbrians revolted against him, choosing Morkere in his place. Harold acted as mediator between the king and the insurgents, and at length agreed to the choice of Morkere, and the banishment of his brother. At the beginning of 1066 Edward died, with his last breath recommending Harold as his successor. He was accordingly elected at once and crowned. The men of Northumberland at first refused to acknowledge him, but Harold won them over. The rest of his brief reign was taken up with preparations against the attacks which threatened him on both sides at once. William challenged the crown, alleging both a bequest of Edward in his favour and a personal engagement which Harold had contracted towards him—probably in 1064 and prepared for the invasion of England. Meanwhile Tostig was trying all means to bring about his own restoration. He first attacked the Isle of Wight, then Lindesey, but was compelled to take shelter in Scotland. From May to September the king kept the coast with a great force by sea and land, but at last provisions failed and the land army was dispersed. Harold then came to London, ready to meet whichever enemy came first. By this time Tostig had engaged Harold Hardrada of Norway to invade England. Together they sailed up the Humber, defeated Edwin and Morkere, and received the submission of York. Harold hurried northwards and on the 25th of September he came on the Northmen at Stamford Bridge and won a complete victory, in which Tostig and Harold Hardrada were slain. But two days later William landed at Pevensey. Harold marched southward as fast as possible. He gathered his army in London from all southern and eastern England, but Edwin and Morkere kept back the forces of the north. The king then marched into Sussex and engaged the Normans on the hill of Senlac near Battle (see Hastings ). After a fight which lasted from morning till evening, the Normans had the victory, and Harold and his two brothers lay dead on the field (14th of October 1066).
Warning: Default sort key "Harold 2" overrides earlier default sort key "Harold II.".
Harold II of England, King of England (c. 1022 - 1066)
HAROLD II., king of the English, was the second son of Earl Godwine and his Danish wife Gytha, the sister of Earl Ulf. The year of his birth is not accurately fixed, but it must have been about 1022. The choice of his name, like that of some others of his brothers and sisters (see GODWINE), witnesses to the influence of his Danish mother. Both he and his elder brother Swegen were appointed to earldoms while still very young, seemingly about 1045. Harold's earldom was that of the East-Angles. In 1046 Swegen, having carried off Eadgifu, abbess of Leominster, and not being allowed to marry her, threw up his earldom in disgust, and his possessions were divided between his brother Harold and his cousin Earl Beorn, the nephew of Gytha. In 1049 Swegen came back and sought the recovery of his lands, which was refused by Harold and Beorn. Harold now appears for the first time in command, holding a ship in the fleet commanded by his father. For some unknown cause his ship was transferred to Beorn, which most likely saved Harold's life for Swegen presently came and entrapped and slew Beorn, who was buried by Harold. We next hear of Harold in 1051 as accompanying Godwine when he appeared in arms in Gloucestershire. He shared his father's outlawry and banishment in that year, but he chose a different place of shelter, going with his brother Leofwine to Ireland, while Godwine went to Flanders. In 1052 Harold and Leofwine came back. They were opposed by the men of Somerset and Devonshire, whom they defeated at Porlock, and plundered the country. Then they joined their father, and were with him at the assembly which decreed the restoration of the whole family. Harold was now restored to his earldom of the East-Angles, and, on his father's death in 1053, he succeeded him in the greater earldom of the West-Saxons.
Harold was now the chief man in the kingdom, and when the older earls Leofric and Siward died, his power increased yet more, and the latter part of Ead ward's reign was virtually the reign of Harold. But he was the minister of the king rather than his personal favourite. This last place rather belonged to his younger brother Tostig, who on the death of Siward in 1055 received the earldom of the Northumbrians. Two other of Godwine's younger sons, Gyrth and Leofwine, also received earldoms in 1057. This last date would seem to have been about the time when the prospect of the crown began to open to Harold. The iEtheling Eadward, the son of Eadmund Ironside, who had been brought home from Hungary as the intended successor, died that year. So did Eadward's nephew Balph, who, though not really of the kingly house, might possibly have been looked to for lack of a nearer candidate. There was now no one of the old stock but Eadgar son of Eadward and his sisters. If then the king should die while Eadgar was still a child, there would be no qualified candidate in the royal house. It would seem as if, from this time, men began to look to Earl Harold as a possible successor to the crown. He is spoken of in a way, and his name is joined with that of the king in a way, which is unusual in the case of an ordinary earl.
The chief events in which Harold appears personally during this time are the wars with the Welsh under their king Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. In 1055, in alliance with the banished Earl iElfgar of Mercia, Gruffydd defeated Earl Ralph and burned Hereford. Harold now drove back the Welsh and restored Hereford, but allowed the restoration of ^Elfgar to his earldom. In 1058 he made the pilgrimage to Rome : in 1060 he completed the building of his church at Waltham, and completed the foundation of the college in 1062. In 1063 came the great Welsh war, in which Harold, with the help of his brother Tostig, crushed the power of Gruffydd, who was killed by his own people. Harold now gave Wales to two vassal kings, Bleddyn and Rhiwallon. Both of his wars were accompanied by an extension of the English frontier toward Wales. In 1065 the Northumbrians revolted against their earl Tostig, and chose in his place Morkere, the son of iElfgar. Harold now acted as mediator between the king and the insurgents, and at last, as the Northumbrians were fully prepared not to receive Tostig agaiu, he agreed to their choice of Morkere and to the banishment of his brother.
Besides these there is one very important event in Harold's life the date of which can only be guessed at. At some time or other between William's visit to England in 1051 and Eadward's death at the beginning of 1066, Harold was the guest of Duke William in Normandy, and took some kind of oath to him. This oath the Normans represented as an act of homage, with a further oath to procure William's succession to the English crown. The tale is told only by the Norman writers, and it is told by them with such contradictions of every kind that no reliance can be placed on any detail. But that there is some truth in the story is proved by the strongest negative evidence. While the contemporary English writers take care, directly or indirectly, to deny all those Norman charges against Harold which were sheer invention, they say not a word as to his alleged oath to William. It seems on the whole most likely that Harold was wrecked on the shore of Ponthieu, imprisoned by its Count Guy, and released by the interference of William. He then helped William in a war with the Bretons, and promised to marry one of his daughters. This was most likely accompanied by an act of homage, such as was often made to any superior or benefactor. Such an oath might, in the ideas of the times, be made to mean a great deal or very little, according to circumstances. The most likely date is 1064. But there is a remarkable statement that Harold took a journey in Gaul with a political object, seemingly that of making alliances with some of the princes of the country, most likely William's enemies in France, Anjou, and Aquitaine. This was in the year of his Roman pilgrimage. And, as there is no direct evidence for the date of the oath, it is open to any one to put the two things together.
At the beginning of 1066 Eadward died. His last act was to recommend Harold for election to the crown. He was accordingly chosen on the day of Eadward's death, January 5th, and crowned the next day by Ealdred, archbishop of York. But, though he was crowned by the Northumbrian primate, the men of Northumberland at first refused to acknowledge him. They were won over by the new king, who went to York, accompanied by Saint Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester. To secure Eadwine and Morkere, he married their sister Ealdgyth, the widow of the Welsh king Gruffydd. He thus put it out of his power to comply with that part of his engagement to William which is best attested, namely, to marry one of William's daughters. The rest of Harold's reign was taken up with preparations against the attacks of twro enemies at once. William challenged the crown, alleging both a bequest of Eadward in his favour and the personal engagement which Harold had contracted towards him. This was of course a mere matter of form, and William began to make ready for the invasion of England. Meanwhile the banished Tostig was trying all means to bring about his own restoration. He first, seemingly in concert with William, came in May, and attacked first the Isle of Wight and then Lindesey, but was driven to take shelter in Scotland. From May to September the king kept the coasts with a great force by sea and land but at last provisions failed, and the land army wras dispersed. Harold then went to London, ready to meet whichever enemy came first. By this time Tostig had engaged Harold Hardrada of Norway to invade England. He accordingly sailed up the Humber, defeated Eadwine and Morkere (September 20th), and received the submission of York (September 24th). Harold of England was now on his march northward on September 25th he came on the Northmen at Stamfordbridge beyond York, and won a complete victory, in which Tostig and Harold Hardrada were slain. But twro days later (September 27th) William of Normandy landed at Pevensey and (September 29 th) occupied Hastings, and laid waste the land. Harold had then to march southward as fast as possible. He gathered his army in London from all southern and eastern England, but Eadwine and Morkere kept back the forces of the north. The king then marched into Sussex, occupied the hill of Senlac, now Battle, and awaited the Norman attack. After a vain exchange of messages, the decisive battle was fought on October j 14th. As the English were wholly infantry, while the I Normans were strongest in cavalry and archers, Harold's object was simply to hold the hill against all attack. As long as he was obeyed, his tactics were completely successful. But a part of his troops, disobeying his orders, left the hill to pursue, and the English array was broken. The Normans could now get up the hill, and, after a fight which lasted from morning till evening, they had the victory. The king and his brothers Gyrthand Leofwinewere killed. As Harold was condemned by the pope, William at first refused him Christian burial, and caused him to be buried on the rocks at Hastings. But it seems most likely that he afterwards allowed the body to be removed to Harold's own church at Waltham. The tale which represents Harold as escaping from the battle, living a life of penitence, and at last dying at Chester, is a mere romance.
Harold left several children, but there is a good deal of uncertainty as to his marriage or marriages. He had two sons by Ealdgyth, Harold and Wulf but they must have j been twins born after their father's death. He had also three sons, Godwine, Eadmund, and Magnus, and two daughters, Gytha and Gunhild. It will be seen how strong the Scandinavian element is in these names. These five were not children of Ealdgyth, and the sons were grown up, or nearly so, when their father died. They may have been the children of an unrecorded first wife. But the local history of Waltham represented Harold's body as being found after the battle by a former mistress of his, Eadgyth Swanneshals (Swansneck). Some have thought that this Eadgyth is the " Eddeva pulcra" of Domesday, who appears as the former holder of great estates in the east of England. This, though not unlikely, is quite uncertain but there seems evidence enough to show that Eadgyth Swanneshals is a real person, and to connect her with j Harold's East-Anglian earldom. It seems most likely that she was the mother of Harold's earlier children, and that the connexion between them was that intermediate state between marriage and concubinage called the Danish marriage, of which we not uncommonly hear in those days.
The character of Harold is blackened with many, but mostly very vague, charges by the Norman writers. The English, on the other hand, paint him as the perfect model of a ruler. With regard to his accession to the crown, the common charge of usurpation springs from ignorance of the English law of the time. Harold was beyond all doubt regularly nominated by Eadwai'd, regularly chosen by the witan, and regularly crowned by Ealdred. This last point is of importance in those days, when the rite of coronation was deemed of such moment. The Normans try to represent the ceremony as invalid, by saying that Harold was crowned by Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, whose canonical position was doubtful. That Harold crowned himself, instead of receiving the ecclesiastical consecration, is a mere fable, arising from a misunderstanding of some of the rhetorical invectives of the Norman writers, ft should be noticed that those contemporary writers who speak of Harold as an usurper do so wholly on the ground of the alleged right of William, and of Harold's oath to William. That Harold's accession was. a wrong done to young Eadgar is an idea which we first hear of in the next century, when the doctrine of hereditary right had taken firmer root. In Domesday the reign of Harold is passed by he is regularly spoken of as earl the doctrine of the Norman lawyers was that William, though of course not full king till his coronation, had the sole right to the crown from the moment of Eadward's death.
The military skill of Harold is plain, both from the Welsh war, when he overcame the mountaineers by making his English soldiers adopt the Welsh tactics, and from his conduct both at Stamfordbridge and at Senlac. He clearly understood the difference between his two enemies, when it was wise to attack and when it was wise to await the attack. At Stamfordbridge his strategy was perfectly successful it failed at Senlac only because of the disobedience of part of his army. The best witness to his civil government is the general peace and good order of England during that part of the reign of Eadward which was virtually his reign. When the peace is broken, it is always by the act of others, and Harold is always called on to make the settlement. He appears throughout as singularly mild and conciliating, never pressing hard upon any enemy. The later Norman writers indeed have an elaborate tale which represents Harold and Tostig as enemies from their childhood. But this is mere romance, with no ground in any contemporary writer.
The relations of Harold to the church, always an important feature in the character of a prince of that age, suggest several questions. He is charged in Domesday with several encroachments on ecclesiastical property, chiefly in Herefordshire, and the like charge is brought against him in a deed of Leofric, bishop of Exeter. But it must be remembered that this kind of charge is brought against every leading man of the time, and that we very seldom hear more than one side. The most distinct and detailed charge, that which represents Harold as a wholesale spoiler of the church of Wells, can be refuted, not by hearing the other side, but by going back to the charge as brought by the original complainant, Bishop Gisa. We here find that Harold took nothing from the church, but simply hindered the bishopric from receiving a bequest to which there is some reason for thinking that he may have had a right as earl. On the other hand, Harold appears as the friend and protector of several ecclesiastical bodies, and above all as the founder of Waltham. Here we may remark that, when monks were all the fashion, he preferred the secular clergy. He was the firm friend of the best prelate of his time, Bishop Wulfstan, and he appeared on good terms with most of the leading churchmen.
The contemporary authorities are the English Chronicles, the Latin biographer of Eadward in Dr Luard's collection (he gives a splendid panegyric on Harold), and Florence of Worcester, on the English side. On the Norman side are the Bayeux Tapestry, William of Poitiers, William of Jumieges, Guy of Amiens (Carmen de Bella Hastingcnsi). In the next century the book Be Inventions Sanctce Crucis Walthamensis gives Harold's picture as drawn in his own foundation. The book called Vita Haroldi is a mere romance, but contains one or two scraps of authentic tradition Orderic, Eadmer, William of Malmesbury, and the writers of the 12th century generally, often prove particular facts, and especially show how the estimate of the events of the 11th century gradually changed. The French life of Eadward in the 13th is very bitter against Harold. Of the Scandinavian writers, Saxo Grammaticus is violent against him, while the biographer of Olaf Tryggvesson counts him for a saint. All the statements are brought together and examined in Freeman's History of the Norman Conquest, vols, ii. and iii. The opposite pictures of the earlier writers, Thierry and Palgrave, are also worth comparing. (E. A. F.)
Harold II of England, King of England (c. 1022 - 1066)
‘The clean and commodious village ale house’
The Leather Bottle (33)
Cobham will always suffer in that it is far too early in the walk to Rochester to stop for a drink or food. However, visiting the historic church and a look over the church wall at the New College took up enough time to enter The Leather Bottle when it opened at 11.30 and marvel at all the Dicken’s memorabilia on display that cover the walls of every room with Pickwick and Edwin Drood taking centre stage.
Dickens called the Leather Bottle ‘the clean and commodious village ale house’ in which stayed the love-lorn Mr Tracy Tupman of the Pickwick Papers after his rejection by Rachel Wardle.
The inn is said to have acquired its name when, about 1720, a leather-bound bottle containing gold sovereigns was found on the premises. At 11.30 in the morning, the Leather Bottle is largely empty of all the visitors and tourists that come to eat, for almost all the tables are set for food – it is after all, the archetypal English Country Inn of undoubted age, black beams, leaded windows and history. At that time in the morning, I had a coffee but Tim Taylor’s Landlord, Black Sheep and Leather Bottle Best were on offer for those in need of something a little stronger on the way to Rochester.
Distance from path: On 1066 Harold’s Way
Food: Yes Accommodation: Yes
54-56 The Street, Cobham, Gravesend. DA12 3BZ Tel: 01474 814 327
Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Leather Bottle will be No 33 in Beer Notes
A Cold but Glorious January Day
950 years ago, Westminster Abbey was at the centre of events that would change England forever. New Year’s Day, 1066, and Westminster Abbey was newly consecrated but within days there would be a royal funeral followed by the coronation of Harold.
Later in the year, the King would set off from the Palace first north to York and Stamford Bridge and then south towards Caldbec Hill and to face William’s Norman threat.
Imagine following in Harold’s footsteps to walk along the same Roman roads and ancient ridgeways, through the great forest of the Andreasweald, crossing rivers and valleys, to pause at the old hoar apple tree on Caldbec Hill and look out over the battle field at Senlac Hill, now the site of Battle Abbey.
The road from Westminster to London Bridge would have followed the high ground of The Strand. There was possibly a second crossing, a causeway or ferry at Thorney Island where the new Westminster Abbey had been built next to the Palace. This link to Watling Street would have been across the marshy south bank of the Thames and it seems likely that Harold would have taken the high ground if only to gather support from the City.
The River Thames was lined with safe havens for shipping of all sizes, the safest of which were the inlets of rivers that flowed into the Thames and we pass Billingsgate, Dowgate and Queenhithe remnants of London’s wharves.
In Saxon times, the wooden London Bridge was still firmly linked to the old Roman road network and especially with Watling Street, the road to Canterbury and Dover along which Harold and his army are most likely to have marched to Rochester.
Today, the Embankment and the Thames path provide an easier walk to Greenwich with a pint at The Mayflower at about the halfway mark or The Dog and Bell a little later on. What could be better on a glorious but cold January day.