Friday, 4 May 2012

1066: The Battle of Hastings

"In which some tourists are suprised and William's PR team change his name"

  As a first post on here, one feels that the natural thing to do is pick an absolute chestnut from the annals of history.  And what event could be more chestnuty than the Battle of Hastings?

  The battle of Hastings took place on 14th October 1066.  It starred William the Conqueror in the blue corner sitting on his horse sporting chain mail and a shocking hair-cut, and Harold Godwin (king of Saxon England) in the red corner with his mates the Huscarls brandishing axes and topped with long flowing curly locks.
  Ultimately the battle would catch Harold looking up at the wrong moment and receiving an arrow through the eyeball.
  The cause of the battle all started because the previous king, Edward the Confessor, forgot to mention who should succeed him as king when he died.  So when he did die, a great rumpus took place with everybody claiming, in an off-handish sort of way, that good old king Edward had definitely said that they could be king after he'd had his go. 
  Of course, most claimants were ignored as idiots, but three people seemed to have good claims to the English throne. Harold Godwin, Harold Hardrada (king of Norway) and William who was known most unfortunately as ‘the Bastard’ and whose aunt was the dead kings mother.

Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror stained glass windows at Worcester Cathedral
Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror in stained glass 

  Naturally everyone in England thought Harold Godwin's claim was best, so he popped the crown on his top and said "Ta very much" or words to that effect.  But here is where things get tricky and give us all a salutary warning of our behaviour when on holiday....

  Just before King Edward had popped his clogs, Harold G had took the ferry across to France for a weekend break.  His boat unfortunately sprung a leak and sank washing him up on the shores of Normandy where he was captured by William’s men (for William was duke in these parts).  Now, after apologising for squelching water all over the carpets, Harold got chatting to William over an espresso or two and, according to the Bayeux Tapestry (a sort of comic strip made in the 11th century explaining the run up to the battle of Hastings), Harold ended up making a pact with William saying that he would respect him as his Lord.
  Understandably, William took this to mean that when King Edward died Harold would back up William's claim to the English throne.  Harold on the other hand had his own interpretation.  He thought he had only agreed to recognise William as his Lord in Normandy (because Harold owned a few bed and breakfasts over there). It seems that someone had not read the small print of the agreement and a right old to-do would follow.
  When Harold put the crown on his bonce, William went ape and told his men to pack their suitcases for an adventure in England.  William got lots of boats together and everyone excitedly got on board only to find that the wind had stopped and they couldn't go anywhere. Thus, with a few thousand men hanging about, the hotels and pubs did a roaring trade.
  Meanwhile, the other side of the channel, Harold had got wind that William was getting ready to come over with his chums with the express purpose of using Harold's head as a football.  He didn't like the idea of this and got his own army together and scurried down to the south coast for a scrap.
  Obviously Harold had no idea that William’s boats had stalled due to an uncooperative wind, for there were no weather reports in those days.  So the lads got out their deck chairs and played volleyball for a while. 
  News then came to Harold G that the king of Norway, Harold H, had landed up north and was causing much complaint in the city of York.  So he raced up there with his army and taught Harold H a lesson. Actually the Norwegians thoroughly embarrassed themselves that day.  Not thinking the English could march so quickly, they were sought of hanging about the place sight-seeing and not wearing any armour.  You can imagine their surprise when the English turned up and began swinging their axes lustily in their general direction.  The Viking host was trounced and Harold H was killed.
  As luck would have it, while the two Harold’s were going at each other, the wind picked up in France and William started towards England.  Harold G swore under his breath and told his men he was awfully sorry but they were not finished just yet.
  Eventually the two armies met (not at Hastings but at a place called Battle, named afterwards because there had just been a battle there).  Harold gathered his team on top of a hill where they locked their shields together and waited for the Normans to attack.  Both sides were nervy.  The Normans rode on horses and the Saxons were not used to that.  The Saxons used axes and not swords, which the Normans were not used to. The Normans also had a flag from the Pope who had decided to sponsor William’s expedition because William was good at building churches.
  The two sides clashed with vigour.  After each set of archers had offered introductions with a sort of Morse code in arrows, everyone got into the spirit of the event and there was much shouting from both sets of supporters.  William’s cavalry though just couldn’t get through the Saxon shield wall.  The Saxons were stout men and they found they were quite adept at chopping a horse and its rider in two with a single stroke.  Harold looked set to win against the Normans and their abysmal haircuts, when tragedy struck.
Harold’s right flank, after biffing their Norman opponents hard, got too excited and chased the Normans down the hill as they fled only to discover extra Normans in the bushes.  At this point Harold tut-tutted and watched his pals get butchered.  William wheeled his cavalry to Harold’s right and got into the swing of things behind the Saxon shields.

  It is at this moment that Harold may have spotted an amusingly shaped cloud and, while looking at it spied an arrow coming right for him. Down went Harold and the rest is History. And William, shrewd as ever, saw an opportunity to change his name from Bastard to Conqueror.


  1. Hi a great read, so amusing and interesting to boot. More of the same please Tristan you're so funny!!

  2. Replies
    1. Glad you popped by to read it. And thank you, ddear Donald, for leaving your comment. Much appreciated.


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