20 November 2009

Earl Harold's "oath" of 1064

No witnesses were ever named for this 'oath'- was it a public oath- and in the open air? (as in the Bayeux Tapestry)?

English custom was that they were always sworn on a gospel book, (Normans say Harold swore manibus junctis- feudal fashion) so was it 'under duress' or procured by deceit, which would render it worthless anyway, certainly outside of Normandy?

William of Jumieges never went as far as stating that Harold had sworn what later they said he did.

Normans had a voracious reputation for chicanery and inventing outrageous claims- Dudo of St.Quentin- historian of the early dukes- had the gaul to state that William Longsword and Richard the Fearless reigned over "half the world".

Was William's daughter -Adeliza- 'promised' betrothal to Harold? A way of binding him to the duke, whatever, this fell through (did Harold refuse?) or was one of Harold's sisters proposed to a Norman noble?

The Normans state that Harold coveted the crown himself – even if true, why would Harold willingly and freely swear this oath, thereby ruling HIMSELF out of the succession as the most qualified candidate?

But instead a storm blew his embassy off-course and unluckily into William hands (eventually) and, knowing all too well his gaoler's track record of assassinations, grim gaols that meant a death sentence and penchant for brutality- especially poisonings,(a nephew of King Edward, earl Ralf's younger brother, Walter, Count of Mantes, and his wife, died prisoners this year in William gaols- poisoning rumours. But the two nobles were never seriously considered by Edward as successors)

And William powers were such that he could simply 'take over' a noble's castle when he wanted, and take hostages from them- usually sons, brothers or nephews.

William’s father Robert ‘the Devil’ had been suspected of poisoning his own brother Richard, after all?

Harold went along with the deed whilst as a Norman "guest" for his own 'safety' and that also of the hostages Wulfnoth & Hakon etc, knowing how worthless the "sworn oath" meant in English eyes and how he could easily shrug it off when back home?

Only the King & Witan could decide the succession- not some half-baked Norman oath- esp under duress, thus invalid in English eyes!

Maybe also Harold, having seen his Norman rivals in action in Brittany, decided how strong they were and realised that the 'true heir' Edgar Aetheling(a boy of 14 -whose father had died in 1057[murdered?]he had backed for the throne only recently?) was too weak & inexperienced to resist such formidable and organised foes, so he must seize the throne himself? (Until Edgar reached maturity, or forever?)

All major powers near Normandy had either been coaxed into an alliance or crushed -

  • Count Eustace of Bologne (who had supported William's own rebel uncle, William of Arques) was now an ally to the east, and also near him the buccaneering warrior Count of Amiens & Valois had ended his alliance with French Kings, becoming William's friend.
  • Anjou was still ripped apart by civil war and so unable to pose danger.
  • Count Guy of Ponthieu was now a vassal.

Harold returned to England with Hakon, but without his brother, Wulfnoth. Shortly after that King Edward had a prophetic dream of the tree of England being 'split asunder, not to be rejoined' (retrospective post-1066 Normanism?)