Monday, 14 July 2014

Going to Battle for a Better History of 1066

We make choices in life, and I've made a big one.  I've revised the Carmen to include an Introduction with several theories I've been developing for the past year that will challenge commonly received English history, and I'm going to take these theories to the Battle Conference and put them out there for academic historians to kick sand at in ten days' time.  The Carmen has turned into a Rosetta Stone of medieval history and geography.

After the Battle Conference I'm going to come back and finish writing my next book: The Great Lost Port of England's Conquest.

The four sections of the Introduction in the updated Latin & English Carmen paperback (not yet available in Kindle versions or English only) are:

(1)  The backstory to 1066 is that the outlaws Godwin and Harold raided and seized the vast Holy See jurisdiction of Rammesleah held by Fecamp Abbey after they were exiled from England in 1051 and during their rebellion against King Edward the Confessor in 1052; Godwin and Harold bribed the boatmen of Hastingas into joining the rebellion, leading to defections of other boatmen and bondsmen on the coast contrary to their oath of loyalty to the king; Earl Harold refused to give the possessions back when Abbot John of Fecamp Abbey travelled to England to seek restoration of Holy See possessions in 1054, despite the support of King Edward the Confessor for the abbey; and Pope Alexander II feared losing all Catholic Church possessions, revenues and authority in England when Earl Harold had himself 'crowned' king in 1066. 

(2)  Four mis-identifications in earlier translations of the Carmen are corrected:  Felix Hellocis at line 503 is a Trojan, a 'son of Hellas', in poetic compliment to the unknown Englishman who brings down Duke William's second horse with a javelin strike, an allusion to the legend of Brutus of Troy, the eponymous first king of Britain.  Ansgardus at lines 689 and 725 is the Germanic birth name of Edgar the Aethling; Ansgar was the name given the baby in Hungary in 1051 and by which he would be known in Frankish abbeys and courts where the Carmen would be sung.  The magistrate of London secretly offered a 'better separation' by King William at line 685 is Godfrey de Magnaville, the veteran portreeve of London since 1051.  And the 'other of equal rank' to Archbishop Ealdred of York at line 802 holding King William's left hand is Bishop William of London, consistent with the canonical equality of London and York as laid down by Saint Gregory in the 6th century.

(3)  The Norman fleet landed at portus Hastingas & Pevenisel - the Frankish name for the  great estuarine port braced by peninsulas named Hastingas and Pevenisel, between the manors of Hastingas and Bretda in Sussex.  The Normans camped on the strand to the west of the harbour below Iham, and the camp once established became the settlement of Old Winchelsea, the novus burgus of the Domesday Book for the manor of Hastingas.  The 40,000 Normans who emigrated to England in the first year after the conquest would have swelled the town, cementing its importance for trade and communication with Normandy.  The town was washed away from the strand in the violent storms of the 13th century and rebuilt above the harbour on Iham in 1280 as Winchelsea.  Pevenesel was resettled elsewhere too in 1207 when the higher reaches of the estuarine Brede River silted up;  King John gave the barons of Pevenesel the spur below saltmarsh where the Roman shore fort of Anderitum stood, a place called Penevesse ('fort in the saltmarsh or wash') by the Anglo-Saxons and Penevesel in Domesday Book; he allowed the burgesses to keep their Cinque Ports liberties in their new town, now Pevensey.

(4)  The Holy See, the episcopal see of the pope in Rome, had legal jurisdiction over Rammesleah from early medieval times, and perhaps going back to the Roman Empire.  This made the region legally a separate domain outside the king's realm under early medieval legal principles - Rameslege means 'Rome's lowey' or 'Rome's law' in Anglo-Saxon.  The pope and clerics bitterly resented a Holy See jurisdiction being violently taken and occupied by Godwin and Harold in 1052 and retained by Harold to 1066.  Holy See territories were extraterratorial and inviolable under canonical law, and anyone violating Holy See possessions could expect excommunication in this life and divine retribution thereafter.   It was because he was excommunicate at his death that Duke William denied a burial in consecrated ground to King Harold, consistent with canonical law;  instead Harold was buried on a cliff above the port where the camp was sited 'under a heap of stones' at line 584 in the Carmen.

These theories are big changes to the Norman Conquest story, but I'm now ready to go to Battle with them!

In addition to airing the new Carmen theories at the Battle Conference this summer, I will be presenting to the Battle and District Historical Society in October.  So I guess I get to go to Battle twice with the new theories.  Let's hope my fate at Battle will be kinder than Harold's was.


  1. I look forward to reading your entire work, Ms. Tyson. This is the first time in my research and reading that I've learned Harold was an excommunicant at the time of his death. It's understanding that the battle was seven miles from Hastings in Sussex at Senlac. Is that correct?

    1. I can't be entirely sure where the battle was. The Norman camp was on the shore of the harbour below Icklesham, a site since known as Old Place, and probably Old Winchelsea.