Knowledge is Power!
The future of England hung
on the key factor during the 1060's- who would succeed the aging and childless English (half-Norman) King, Edward the
Confessor. By late 1065, it was clear Edward was dying, and so there were
several eager and vying claimants to the contested crown;-
* Duke William of Normandy: This dominant and ruthless (illegitimate) nobleman had proved himself a fearsome and
cunning opponent in Politics and warfare, at which his multi-skilled army
excelled, and was a distant kinsman of the aging king of England, who alledgedly
had promised him the succession back in 1051, when William is rumoured to have
Some scholars say that William was too busy fighting to protect his Dukedom and couldn't have afforded the time to visit Edward at that
turbulent time in Normandy.
The oath of 1064 (see Harold Godwinson), when a shipwrecked earl Harold swore an oath to back William's claim to the English crown after Edward died, is still a contentious issue amongst scholars.
* King Harald Hardraada ('Hard Ruler') Sigurdsson of Norway: This feared and famous
warrior-king was reputedly very tall and had always coveted the English crown by virtue of the crown having
been 'promised' by King Edward back in the mid-1040's, to his half-nephew and
He was a ferocious opponent and had been a commander in the notorious Varangian Guard for the Byzantine Emperor, before sailing back to
Norway a wealthy man, gaining the throne and resuming war with the below Danish
king until both exhausted sides entered a weary truce in the early 1060's. This
enabled both nations to look again at England....
* King Swein Estrithsson of Denmark: This kinsman of Earl Harold (below) had been also
claimed he had been 'promised' the crown by Edward in the mid-1040's, but like
his Norse enemies, with whom he was locked in two decades of bitter warfare
until the early 1060's, it was only bitter internecine fighting in Scandinavia
that prevented him from invading England to stake his claim until 1069, when he
finally did launch an invasion against (Norman) England at the invitation of the
rebel English nobles.
* Earl Harold Godwinson of Wessex: This provenly capable and popular Anglo-Danish nobleman warrior and royal ambassador,
son of King Edward's former right-hand man, the wealthy and influential English
Earl Godwin, had always loyally served King Edward through thick and thin from
the 1040's, and especially 1053 when his father Godwin died.
He was apparently affable, approachable and popular.
He had even opposed his own brother, Earl Tostig of Northumbria, and -representing the ailing Edward, who ironically was fond of Tostig and opposed to rebellion-
agreed a pact with a huge advancing revolt of a coalition of Northumbrian
noblemen in late 1065.
It is suggested by some that Harold was a realist, seeing that he would have to seize the coveted crown (actually in January 1066
he was elected by the witan, popularly) and thus sought to appease the
northerners, whom he knew he would need once England was threatened?
The Normans simply state that he 'usurped' the crown instead of their Duke (ie. in
1064 Harold had been shipwrecked in France and was a 'guest' of William's,
swearing an 'oath' in Normandy to back William's claim to English kingship)? But
was it a valid 'oath' when the Normans admit it was conducted "over hidden
* Aethling Edgar: Sometimes called the 'true' Cerdic heir, the English-born son of Edward 'the Exile' (spirited away from England to
Hungary as a youth to avoid execution under the new viking regime of Canute,
dying as he returned to his estranged land in 1057) grandson of King Edmund
'Ironside' (reigned and died 1016), he was overlooked by the all-saying
Witangemot (Councils of the rich and powerful etc) in the desperate times of the
succession debate of 1066 due to his mere youth (c.14yrs) and lack of military
experience. He seems not to have resisted or opposed Harold Godwinson, and later
rebelled against King William I (despite being granted modest lands in 1067) and
later went on the 1st Crusade.
Troublesome commanders to consider:-
* Tostig Godwinson, former Earl of Northumbria (above) and younger brother
of Earl/King Harold. He, a southerner and thus innately unpopular anyway, but
had ruled their region sternly with 'harsh laws', had supposedly profited by
corruption and had had local nobles slain in cold blood.
He had thus been ousted by the Englishmen who had risen whilst he was away in the south of
England (his own brother Harold negotiating a deal with the Northern noble rebel
leaders at Oxford on 'behalf' of the king).
Burning for revenge against his 'treacherous' brother Harold, and eager to regain his lost earldom, he and his
family had fled to the father of his wife Judith (the auntie of Duke William's
wife, Mathilda), Baldwin of Flander's court, where he resolutely tried to
persuade several contestants to raise a fleet to invade England- alledgedly Duke
William and his cousin, Swein of Denmark, but finally he became the subject of
Harald of Norway, who had his own claim to press. Tostig was slain along with
Hardraada at the battle of Stamford Bridge, Sept 25th 1066, fighting against his
* Malcolm III 'Canmore' ('Big Head') of Scotland. This former child exile, who had been raised in the English court after being
ousted by Macbeth's ascension to the throne, had been put on his Scottish throne
as a young adult with the military aid of King Edward of England (via earl
Siward of Northumbria) in the 1050's.
He soon decided to launch huge raids into Northumbria/Cumbria despite Tostig's apparently tough stance, but the
latter did nothing military, they even became 'sworn brothers' whilst at
Edward's court, yet Malcolm didn't support Tostig in 1065, nor Harold in 1066
(apparently offering an uneasy truce and harbour to Harald Hardraada's huge
veteran invasion fleet of September 1066), and went on to marry Margaret (later
Saint), the sister of the above aethling, Edgar. He was killed at Alnick in 1093
along with his eldest son, Queen Margaret died of grief days later.