I thought I'd repost this. Many of my friends on here will have already seen it but some haven't. I just wanted to round out my last two blogs about King Alfred and bring it to a conclusion.
I shall try my best now not to post anything historical for geological aons.
I shall try my best now not to post anything historical for geological aons.
Before I start this final part of these blogs I've got a bit of a confession to make. Some of you will know that I'm of danish descent. Remember that Great Army that devastated Europe for thirty years before setting off to invade England?..........My family were part of it.
I'm sure they were quite proud that they'd made their living with a sword instead of scratching furrows in the ground with a stick but, when the Great Army set off across that cold grey english channel my family stayed behind near Rouen. There they made their living as husbandsmen and traders although, of course, they still owed knight service for their land. You'd never find a norman (as we called ourselves by then) far from his sword and horse and we needed that to hold our land in fief. It wasn't until the 1060's that we made our way to England. But, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Over in England there were still danish raids but Alfred had made the kingdom secure and they weren't that much of a threat anymore, just something of a nuisance. This takes us up to the rule of King Edward The Confessor. One of Edwards problems was the welsh. Sometimes they'd raid into England but, Edward found himself unable to subdue and occupy Wales. There were about twenty little kingdoms in Wales and most of the Kings seemed to be called Davis. It was very confusing.
The King had a nephew of his come over from France who fought in the norman manner on horseback. Ralph or Robert his name was. Something like that anyway, I can't really remember. As I've said, this was a long time ago and my memory's not what it used to be.
Well, the mountains of south Wales aren't the best place to use an entirely mounted army. The little welshmen skipped from hilltop to hilltop and dropped rocks on Ralph/Roberts head until he went away.
It would take Earl Harold, son of Godwin and the most powerful Earl in England to subdue the north part of Wales. He set off from Deva, once the base for the Twentieth Legion (Valeria Victrix) later to become the County Palatine of Chester and caused much devastation in Wales. The welsh were slaughtered in their thousands.
But then he did the unthinkable, he seduced a nun. Or maybe he took her by force? Nobody was quite sure. Either way, when he came back to England he abandoned her and went back to his lemen, Edith Swan Neck. The poor nun could no longer be a bride of Christ and must spend the remainder of her days as a lay sister. The King was furious and his face was white with rage when he had the news. But, even with the support of Tostig (Harolds brother and Earl of Northumbria) there was nothing the King could do against Harold Godwinsson warleader and head of the host of England. Harold was a stark warrior and his moustache was so fierce you could see it from behind sticking out on either side of his head. All the magnates of England deferred to him.
Perhaps it was his power that gave him ideas and when the holy Edward went to heaven Harold tried to seize the crown even though it was only two years since he'd commended himself to Duke William and held the castle of Dover expressly to ensure Duke Williams smooth succession. The Duke had been named by Edward as his successor (as was right in English law) and by both blood and marriage he was of the right line of Cerdic. Harold was a usurper and if he'd succeeded all England, based on lies and treachery, would have been cursed. Harold had himself crowned by his tame Bishop of York and not by the Archbishop of Canterbury (who alone has the right to bestow the english crown) so, he remains Earl Harold and not King Harold.
The Duke gathered his forces and then arrived on the south coast of England with all his power (all his power also included two of my ancestors, something that would be very handy for my family over the next few years).
While this was happening Tostig was sailing along the east coast and, just off Yorkshire, he fell in with a large band of norwegians, landed and challenged Harold. There, on the field of Stamford Bridge Harold killed his brother and left his bones to bleach before turning south to meet the Duke.
They met near Hastings and the english made their shieldwall on the crest of a shallow hill. The Duke arrayed his forces with cavalry on both flanks and archers in the rear behind his small force of infantry.
The normans are not very good at long battles. The mailed knights on their destriers are virtually unstoppable but, you'll probably only get one good charge out of them and you must use it wisely. After that one charge you'll find that some of them drop out of the line of battle and go mooching among the bodies of the slain looking for gold or any other little trinkets they can find. Why not? They'd done their bit and nobody could expect them to hang around all day like common soldiers. The Duke did well to keep them in his line of battle.
You've probably heard all sorts of talk about fancy tactics, drawing the english out of the shieldwall and so forth. It didn't happen like that at all.
The Dukes's left flank of horse had charged twice already that day and felt that they'd done more than enough. They were bored, their horses were fretting and they wanted their supper. When the Duke called for a third charge they walked their horses up the hill and poked at the english shieldwall in a desultory sort of way before turning 'round and walking back. When the english saw all those horses rumps walking so slowly they couldn't resist it. They trotted along behind throwing stones and any old bits of metal they could find on the field.
That's bloody scary. Somebody coming up behind can hamstring your horse and then you will be on foot. You're wearing about thirty pounds weight of mail not counting your hauberk, helmet, shield and so on. You can't run and they'd soon knock you over and stab you through that gap in the armpits of your mail or under your mailed skirt. The knights went a bit faster and the english pelted after them.
It had been a frustrating day for the Duke and he'd had enough. He took his helmet off and threw it at one of the retreating knights.......Then he charged the english foot. When the head of the whole norman race charges the enemy then everybody must follow. Luckily, one of my ancestors was quite close and the Duke saw him get off to a good start with no hesitation. The whole force ploughed through the english and from there it wasn't so hard to ride down Harold and his huscarls. The normans left them trampled and bloodied on the field.
I'm told that the next day Harolds lemen, Edith Swan Neck found his body and had him buried under the walls of that little chapel he used to hear mass in most Sundays. The chapel's still standing so I suppose one day they'll dig him up and have a look to see if that's true.
In 1069 my family were enfeoffed of land in Northumbria and we all came over here from Rouen. Wether that was held in suzein of the Duke or not I have no idea. That'd be a bit of a mixed blessing. The Duke could be a courteous man but, he also had a temper on him.
There's two points to these blogs I've posted. The first being that it was only at two points in time where the future might have been changed irrevocably for the whole world, the first with Alfred and the second with the usurper Harold. After that there were always enough princelings running around to secure the line of the Cerdingas. A bloodline that our Queen is connected with today, Elizabeth II. (Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith).
Ja, I'm a monarchist.......:)