Historical Novel Society: Oxford 2016 Part Seven
The morning after the Gala Dinner (and very nice it was too) and a few drinks (with no hangover) kicked off with a discussion about the events of 1066 to coincide with the 950th anniversary of the battles of Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Hastings.
The panel for this was Richard Lee, Helen Hollick, James Aicheson, Justin Hill and Sarah Bower. Each argued the case for each claimant to the English throne.
Harald Hardraada, although not having a strong blood claim, was one of the superstars of the eleventh century. After being forced to flee Norway at the age of fifteen he travelled East, learning to be a leader and warrior in Russia and Ukraine and became the leader of the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, travelling to places such as Greece, Sicily, Bulgaria and Jerusalem. He then retook the Norwegian throne and ruled for many years until Tostig Godwinsson turns up.
Tostig’s brother Harold was the most powerful Earl and warrior in England when Edward the Confessor dies in January 1066 and, at a time of uncertainty, was the best placed to lead the country. The king’s closet male blood relative was Edgar the Atheling (grandson of Edmund Ironside) who was only about fourteen at the time.
Duke William of Normandy was promised the throne by Edward the Confessor and made Harold swear an oath that he would support his claim. When he heard Harold had been crowned King of England William was incensed. William was well-known for his temper and harsh treatment of his enemies but he also had a difficult childhood. He became Duke at the age of seven and, due to his illegitimacy, faced many threats from other powerful lords.
What followed was a year of turmoil for England and, after the Norman Conquest, decades of strife and terror for the population.
So, who do you think was the rightful claimant to the English throne?