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Old December 7th, 2017, 10:58 AM   #1

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Is the story of the Norman Conquest confusing since the facts were doctored?


Parts of the "facts" of 1066 don't make sense. We can never know, but my hunch tells me somebody at the time (or in later centuries) doctored the information at hand. History is sometimes written by the victors, after all.

King Edward the Confessor couldn't have promised the throne to William. He had no power to do so, and as a descendant both indirect and direct of kings like Edgar, Edmund Ironside, Edmund the Magnificent, Eadred, Athelstan, Edward the Elder, Alfred the Great, etc. he surely knew the tradition that the Witan chose the king in all cases. A sitting king couldn't choose his successor.

William had no other proof that Harold swore to him on holy relics.

Hardrada's claim that his father was promised the throne by Harthacnut (Edward the Confessor's successor) is again tenuous, for the same reason as William's.

Harold Godwinson probably had the biggest claim, since whilst he was not directly related to Edward the Confessor (he was an in-law) he was a respected warrior, a senior earl/noble, and best prepared and able to be king from all the alternatives. The Witan knew that Edgar Atheling was too young to ward off the challenges of both Hardrada and William.

It's just speculation, but then these points conflict, and the truth is in their somewhere.

I suspect it was possibly just smash and grab, and the winner took all, and made it look like Harold was guilty. The Bayeux Tapestry is just the Normans' say so, and it's no surprise that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles say different.
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Old December 7th, 2017, 11:34 AM   #2

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Can't say I disagree with you. The Bayeux Tapestry is basically a Norman propaganda piece.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 03:43 AM   #3

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I'm sure it was a smash and grab. But there's been a few threads about who was rightful and somebody wrote huge threads about righful heirs to this, that and the other.

But in those days it didn't matter. Kingdoms were often settled by force - this applies to both Christian and Muslim countries.

If the exiled people were a threat, you either sent them to a monastery or cut their head off, as the case may be!
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Old December 8th, 2017, 04:58 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by notgivenaway View Post
Parts of the "facts" of 1066 don't make sense. We can never know, but my hunch tells me somebody at the time (or in later centuries) doctored the information at hand. History is sometimes written by the victors, after all.

King Edward the Confessor couldn't have promised the throne to William. He had no power to do so, and as a descendant both indirect and direct of kings like Edgar, Edmund Ironside, Edmund the Magnificent, Eadred, Athelstan, Edward the Elder, Alfred the Great, etc. he surely knew the tradition that the Witan chose the king in all cases. A sitting king couldn't choose his successor.

William had no other proof that Harold swore to him on holy relics.

Hardrada's claim that his father was promised the throne by Harthacnut (Edward the Confessor's successor) is again tenuous, for the same reason as William's.

Harold Godwinson probably had the biggest claim, since whilst he was not directly related to Edward the Confessor (he was an in-law) he was a respected warrior, a senior earl/noble, and best prepared and able to be king from all the alternatives. The Witan knew that Edgar Atheling was too young to ward off the challenges of both Hardrada and William.

It's just speculation, but then these points conflict, and the truth is in their somewhere.

I suspect it was possibly just smash and grab, and the winner took all, and made it look like Harold was guilty. The Bayeux Tapestry is just the Normans' say so, and it's no surprise that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles say different.
So, what's new about any of this? Or even unusual, really? LOTS of historical events have fuzzy or ambiguous details, or contradictory claims or accounts. And it was standard procedure to shore up a claim to a throne, especially, with cleverly adjusted genealogies, or dismissing rivals as bastards, or making up stories of oaths, etc. Doesn't change the fact that the guy who won actually won.

If you feel like you can't trust any account about the Norman Conquest, well, welcome to the study of history!

Don't we have a more-or-less recent thread about this already?

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Old December 8th, 2017, 10:24 AM   #5
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I tend to believe that Harold promised the throne to William, mainly because he had no real reason to lie. He didn't expect or bother that the English wouldn't side with him, and the mercenaries he paid and the men and relatives that followed him couldn't care less if he was the rightful heir or not.

As has been said this was a time when might was right and winning a crown through force of arms was just as valid as being the current king's first born son. In fact in some ways even moreso as winning the throne by the sword showed you were a competent warrior, one of the key criteria for being a ruler at this time.
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Old December 12th, 2017, 07:55 PM   #6
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Here is a link to a thread that started to list the heirs of the various possible claimants to the English throne in 1066.

Note that there doesn't seem to be much confusion about genealogy, merely differing claims about who, if anyone, Edward the Confessor promised to make his heir - without, so afar as we can tell, doing anything to keep any such promise he might have made.

Heirs of Anglo-Saxon Kings of England

Was William the Conqueror right?

The Normans "doctored" historical sources?

Last edited by MAGolding; December 12th, 2017 at 08:08 PM.
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Old December 13th, 2017, 02:28 AM   #7

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I don't think there is any doubt that Edward wanted anyone but a Godwin to succeed him.
The Godwin hostages held by William point to Edward offering the crown to William, either in 1051 when William paid a visit during the Godwin exile, or in 1052 when Robert of Jumièges was forced to flee the Godwins.

The Bayeux Tapestry "Where a Cleric and Aelfgyva" is probably depicting Robert and great aunt Emma.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Ro...fI11NZYNIUT-M:
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Old December 14th, 2017, 03:52 PM   #8

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The early life of Edward the Confessor is complicated by family ties, upheaval and associations. And on his accession to the throne he had a whole set of potential contingencies that endangered his over-lordship.

On the restoration of Godwine the 'C' version of the Chronicle states that 'They outlawed all the Frenchmen who earlier promoted illegality and passed unjust judgements and counselled bad counsel in this country, except for as many as they decided that the king liked to have about him, who were faithful to him and all his people.'

This is clearly the Chronicle pleased with partisan opinions, but surely not much more so than Norman versions of later events, post-1066. But it also attempts to juggle things between competing groups. Perhaps that is what the conquest was about after all. An apparent dispute between competing groups; between promisors, and promisees, perhaps, and indignations of who started it? Invasions have occurred over less.

Last edited by dreuxeng; December 14th, 2017 at 03:57 PM.
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