The Contentious Throne of England

HaroldKing

Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon King of England

When Edward the confessor died in 1066 without an heir, four people held a legitimate bid for the crown; but why?  Why so many people from so many backgrounds: one Saxon, one Norse, one Norman, and a boy?  How did it get so messy so fast?  And why was there so much bloodshed to sort it out?

There were renewed Norse attacks on England in the final decade of the 10th century, coinciding with the start of the reign of Æthelred “the Unready”. Æthelred ruled a long reign (in all, 38 years), but ultimately lost his kingdom to the Viking Sweyn of Denmark, though he recovered it following the latter’s death. However, Æthelred’s eldest son Edmund II Ironside died shortly after him, allowing Canute, Sweyn’s son, to become king of England, which then became part of a Viking empire stretching from Denmark to Ireland. It was possibly in this period that the Viking influence on English culture became ingrained, although Vikings had been settled in the Danelaw (England north of Watling Street) for at least a century earlier.
Rule over England fluctuated between the descendants of Æthelred and Canute for the first half of the 11th century. Ultimately this resulted, by 1066, in several people having a claim to the English throne. The most powerful Earl in England, Harold Godwinson, claimed the crown on 5th January, within a day of the death of Edward the Confessor, and was confirmed by the English Witan. However William of Normandy, who was a descendant of Æthelred and his second wife Emma, and also Harald Hardrada of Norway (who invaded Northumbria in 1066, two weeks before the Battle of Hastings, aided by Harold Godwinson’s estranged brother Tostig) laid claim to the crown. Another claimant, Edgar the Ætheling, was prevented by his youth from playing a large part in the struggles of 1066.
Invasion was the result. Harold Godwinson defeated Harald of Norway and Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in October 1066 (the death of Harald Hardrada and the massacre of the Viking army was such a devastating defeat that England was never again menaced by the Vikings)

There had been Viking attacks on the British Isles throughout history, but there were renewed Norse attacks on England in the final decade of the 10th century, coinciding with the start of the reign of the Saxon king Æthelred “the Unready”. Æthelred ruled 38 years in all, but ultimately lost his kingdom to the Viking Sweyn of Denmark, though he recovered it following the latter’s death. However, Æthelred’s eldest son Edmund II Ironside died shortly after him, allowing Canute, Sweyn’s son, to become king of England, which then became part of a Viking empire stretching from Denmark to Ireland.

Rule over England then fluctuated between the descendants of Æthelred and Canute for the first half of the 11th century. Ultimately this resulted, by 1066, in several people having a claim to the English throne. The most powerful Earl in England, Harold Godwinson, claimed the crown on 5th January, within a day of the death of Edward the Confessor, and was confirmed by the English Witan. However William of Normandy, who was a descendant of Æthelred, and also Harald Hardrada of Norway (who invaded Northumbria in 1066, two weeks before the Battle of Hastings, aided by Harold Godwinson’s estranged brother Tostig) laid claim to the crown. Another claimant, Edgar the Ætheling, was prevented by his youth from playing a large part in the struggles of 1066.

Invasion was the result. Harold Godwinson defeated Harald of Norway and Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in October 1066.  The death of Harald Hardrada and the massacre of the Viking army was such a devastating defeat that England was never again menaced by the Vikings).  But while Harold’s forces fought off the Viking claim, the Normans under William were landing in Pevesney.  By the time Harold marched south to face William, the Normans were ready for them at Hastings.

This year’s fair recreates that watershed battle at Hastings, where the future of England would be decided.  Come meet Harold, William, and the other characters and see how the battle plays itself out.

For discount tickets: http://www.sarasotamedievalfair.com (Early Bird Special ends July 31!)

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Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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