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Subject: 1066 and All that rss

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Philip Thomas
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England in January 1066 was only nominally a unified country. "King" Edward the Confessor, now lying on his deathbed, had scarcely ruled beyond the traditional lands of Wessex, and was rarely acknowledged by the various Danish, Norse, Dubliner and Angle potentates in the rest of the country. For many years even his power in Wessex had been wielded in reality by Duke Harold Godwineson. The dying king had no heir. Duke Harold was the obvious choice, and it was claimed afterwards that the old king had nominated him in his last moments. In any event he was quickly crowned the next day. Duke Harold however had a secret. On a voyage to the Continent two years before he had been shipwrecked in Normandy.There Duke William 'the Bastard' had made him swear an oath to support William as King of England when the old king died*. With him in the shipwreck had been the Angle Earls, twin brothers Edwin of Lindsey and Morcar of Dalriada. They too had sworn the oath. Now they stormed out of court to their strongholds in the North, swearing vengeance.

Many others saw an opportunity in Edward's death. Scots raiders plundered Angle lands in Lothian. Dubliners, originally Vikings who had settled in Ireland, but now well established in the West of England, captured Wessex. Danish villagers in Northumbria took to the hills, fearing disaster. And King Harald Hadrada of Norway, distant relative of Cnut who had once ruled England, landed in the old Norse colony at York. He slaughtered his fellow-countrymen, scoured a wide area to the South, and turned his attention to the Danes cowering in the Pennines.

Unfortunately the Danes proved more resilient than he anticipated. Many Norwegians died fighting uphill in bitter weather. Eventually Harald Hadrarada withdrew to York, cursing. The Danes sent pleas for help over the North Sea, to the King of Denmark, Svein Estrithson, also a relative of Cnut.

King Harold marched North and met Harald Hadrada at York, where he put the Norwegian to flight. While Hadrada dug in in Bernicia, Harold rested, celebrating. He had forgotten Earl Edwin. The men of Lindsey marched out and met the Saxons, and they had the victory. At the same time Earl Morcar cleansed the Scots from Lothian.

Duke William arrived in England to claim his throne a few weeks later. He easily vanquished the Dubliners and various Danish yokels in East Anglia. But he had still to face Hadrada.

He did not have to. King Svein had heard the cry of his distressed people, and he decided to claim the throne of England too. He landed in Bernicia and killed Harald, though a quarter of his army starved to death during the subsequent winter. In the Spring Norwegian reinforcements arrived belatedly and chased King Svein into the Pennines. There he was met, first by Earl Edwin's Lindseymen, who perished in the atttempt, and then by the Norman cavalry in the final battle of the sucession crisis. The Danish infantry proved no match for the Normans and King Svein was killed, not by an arrow in his eye as some have said, but by the axe of a Norman knight. The Normans had easily fought off a Saxon rebellion earlier and now controlled almost all England, faithful Edwin and Morcar supplying most of the rest. One side effect of the fighting was that the Scots secured Dalriada, which they retained for much longer than anyone at the time would have suspected...



*After this point, the account loses historical truth and becomes a thinly veiled recounting of the final turns of a 'game' of Britannia I played by myself one January evening when I was thick with cold (some excuse, huh?).

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Paul Bravey
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Presumably you meant to start with 'England in 1066....' since England and Scotland didn't start sharing a monarch until 1603 and Britain effectively didn't formally exist as a political entity until the Acts of Union in 1707.

Other than that, nice summary.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Good call. Have now fixed that particular mistake.

Scotland was about equally split between Scots, Picts, Caledonians and Norse at the end.
 
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Stephen Braund
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Historically Billy didn't stop until he'd hunted down the King of Scotland at the Tay and 'made him his man'.
 
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