Friday, 4 October 2013

Published! Carmen de Triumpho Normannico - The Song of the Norman Conquest

Well, it's finally done.  After months of painstaking effort I'm now happy enough to hit the PUBLISH button again.  The book is called Carmen de Triumpho Normannico - The Song of the Norman Conquest.  It is the first transcription and translation to benefit from high resolution images of the 12th century manuscript.  It also has end notes on all the changes from earlier transcriptions, as well as footnotes putting the narrative of the Carmen in historical context.

I'm also publishing an English-only version titled The Song of the Norman Conquest for those who don't want the distraction of Medieval Latin with their history. 

I've been much more rigorous in what is included this time around.  I've taken out most of the speculative content, though some of that was very compelling and would benefit from more research.  I still think there's more to the backstory of the conquest than we currently understand, but the evidence is likely to lie in archives in Paris and Rome.

The geographic clues in the Carmen are perhaps the most exciting contribution to a fuller understanding of 1066.  Based on the description in the Carmen I suggest the Norman fleet landed in the estuarine Brede Valley and camped below Iham.  The 'fort lately destroyed' that gets rebuilt was likely St Leonard's church on Iham, an alien cell of Fecamp Abbey for administration of the port.  The battle was probably somewhere along the ridgeway roads leading from the valley.  The hill might be quite modest as William (mounted) can see Harold (on foot) fighting on the summit from the ridge below, implying it was smaller than the usual candidates of Battle hill, Telham hill and Caldbec hill.  A battle on the Great Ridge above Hastings or the Udimore ridge makes sense of the forces seeing each other on the march and is consistent with Harold was rushing down for a surprise attack on the Norman camp.  The Roman road crossed the Rother at the limit of its tidal reach, running down to Sedlescombe at the limit of the Brede's tidal reach.  But if Harold was in a hurry, which the Carmen says he was, and as he knew the area well, he might have had his forces cross the Rother below Bodiam or Northiam at low tide using makeshift pontoon bridges.

I was down in Winchelsea last weekend to speak to the Winchelsea Archeological Society about the geography of the Carmen.  We got pretty excited thinking that the Normans had landed in the valley and that Harold might be buried somewhere on Iham.  It was great fun talking to a roomful of people who are open to questioning the traditional assumptions about the Battle of Hastings and maybe even doing a few test trenches to see if there's something to find today.

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