1062 King Edward, Earl Harold and Duke William

Perjury or trickery?
In 1053 to avert a civil war between King Edward and Earl Godwine, Bishop Stigand hwd negotiated the return of Godwine’s land, but Godwine had to give hostages in return. The hostages were Harold’s brother Wulfnoth and his cousin. Edward influenced by his Norman councilors and Norman wife, sent the hostages to Duke William of Normandy for safekeeping.

After his fathers death, Harold sought to release his brother and his cousin from Duke William clutches. King Edward entreated Harold not to go, as he might easily be tricked by the wily Duke William, but Harold was determined to help his family if he could and set out from Bosham on the fateful voyage.

While making the sea crossing to Flanders from where he hoped to initiate negotiations, Harold's ship was driven ashore at Ponthieu in Normandy. Harold was captured and handed over to William. While a “guest” of William, Harold was encouraged to accept Williams daughter as his wife and to accept William as his lord. Harold was tricked into swearing a binding oath on a concealed tub religious relics to seal the "agreement".

In his Roman de Rou, the Norman historian Wace, does present the standard Norman assertion that King Edward had sent Harold to Normandy to ensure that England would be passed to Duke William on Edward’s death. However, and to Wace’s credit, he does include the hostage freeing scenario and adds that he has see written evidence to support both scenarios and is unable to determine which is true. 

This is all the more impressive due to the fact that Wace’s sponsor, Henry II, had commissioned the Roman de Rou to help justify the Norman right to rule England.


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