Topics: Harold Godwinson, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror Pages: 12 (4378 words) Published: March 8, 2009
Research paper

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Ms HOLIN Sophie

British Civilization

Université Catholique de Lille
November 29th 2007

This text is an extract from the Peterborough version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is a collection of annals narrating the Anglo-Saxon history. The first edition of these annals was written during Alfred the Great’s reign; that is to say during the ninth century. But there are different versions according to the regions. That is why each manuscript shows its author’s subjectivity. These chronicles are a primary source of the time, as well as the Bayeux Tapestry. They were written by monks, that is why we can feel the religious dimension and morality throughout the work. They collected the pieces of information and gathered them in the annals. Nevertheless, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle omits some key elements of the English history, is written very simply and avoids long explanations. These elements enhance the biased dimension of the texts. Moreover, the manuscripts were copied, sent to monasteries where they were updated; that is why some elements are more or less developed according to the regions. In this extract, it is obvious that the year 1066 is turning point in English history, with the coronation of a Norman Duke, William of Normandy. And this turning point raises one main question:

What led to the Norman victory of 1066, and their sudden domination of England?

Thus, the most important thing before dealing with the year 1066 is to be recalled of the historical background of the two main battles of 1066, such as Edward’s several pretenders and the reasons why the rebelled. Then, we must focus on the external elements which led to this turning point, such as the battle of Stamford Bridge and the divine elements like the comet-star which appeared soon after Kind Harold’s coronation. Finally, we must have a look at William the Conqueror’s accession to the English throne.

On January 5th 1066, Edward the Confessor, King of England from 1042 to 1066, died ("when the king [Edward] died" l.2). During his reign, King Edward had the cathedral of Westminster, located in London, built. It was one of his greatest achievements. Westminster Abbey was to be the place where Edward's successor would be crowned, and where all the kings of England would be crowned from that moment on. Nevertheless, the succession matter was to raise a problem: King Edward was heirless. It had been said that his marriage with Queen Edith was a spiritual one, and that is why they did not produce an heir, what kings and queens are expected to do. However, even if Edward was heirless, several men were interested in the English throne. The most likely to be king was Harold Godwinson. Harold had become Earl of East Anglia in 1044 and Earl of Wessex in 1053, upon his father's death. He ruled these two regions perfectly well, was a feared soldier and a valorous defender. Moreover, he was the Queen's brother and had been the King's right hand for more than twelve years. Harold was definitely the most coherent choice to succeed the King. That is perhaps why, on his deathbed, a few minutes before dying, the king said to Harold Godwinson 'I commend [Queen Edith] and the entire kingdom to your protection'[1]. There were several witnesses to the king's last words; thus, it was reported to the Witan that the dying king had chosen his successor. The Witan, which was an Anglo-Saxon council, approved Edward's choice. Indeed, with the threat of an invasion from overseas, it was risky to have such a young king as Edgar, Edward the Exile's son. The Witan proclaimed Harold new King of England. His coronation took place on January 6th 1066, the very same day and in the very same place as Edward's burial at Westminster Abbey.

Harold was the new King of England. He had been chosen by Edward and by the Witan. Yet, this succession raises a major...

Bibliography: Books
BRIDGEFORD, Andrew, 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, Harper Perennial - 2004
[1] Andrew BRIDGEFORD, 1066, The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, page 108 (ll.11,12)
[2] Appendix I
[3] Matthew 2:1-12, NIV, (Bible)
[4] Andrew BRIDGEFORD, 1066, The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, page 131 (ll.19,20)
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