13th October 1066

On 14th October 1066 Harold Godwineson, Harold II, our last English King, died in battle attempting to protect his kingdom and his people from foreign invasion. Subsequent history, written by the conquering Normans, scratched his short - and legitimate - reign from official records or returned entries to his previous title of Earl of Wessex. Kings became numbered from William I, ignoring all previous Saxon names.
For me, Harold II is a hero. He died fighting for freedom, and I honoured him by writing, to the best of my ability, a novel that reflected the people and events that led to the Battle of Hastings.
In memory of Harold II's efforts, I will be posting some excerpts over the next few days.


§ The Hoar-Apple Tree, Sussex - 13th October 1066

Evening descended with one of those soft ripples that is barely noticed. The sky had darkened gradually, so that it was only when night actually fell that it was realised the day had ended. Evening ushered in the autumnal chill, the grass dew wet, the air nipping at fingers and face. Before many nights passed, frost would be sprinkling the bronzed leaves and dying bracken.
Duke William was aware of the English muster. Normandy had scouts who knew their job - had been observed by King Harold’s own scouts. Word would have travelled before the marching army as it left London, two days and sixty-odd miles away, over the northern Weald beyond the densely thicketed forest of Andredsweald. They had marched on foot, most of them - the housecarls, the fyrd - for there were no adequate sound horses, but it did not matter. The walk was not so long from London into Sussex, and surprise and speed were not essential for this coming battle.
By the late afternoon of the thirteenth day of October several thousand men were adding their rough-made encampments to those already gathered on the wind-riddled slope of Caldbec Hill. More were coming: in small groups, pairs, ones and twos. Esegar and Godric, both Shire Reeves, settled their men at campfires after dark; Leofric, Abbot of Peterborough, joined his freemen of the fyrd with those of Abbot Ælfurg of Winchester. The men of Thurkill of Kingston and Eadric the Deacon sank wearily into the huddle of their cloaks, hardly caring that the women were offering them food, such was their weariness. Through the night men came, expecting to have a wait of a day or two, perhaps more, before their weapons and skill would be wanted. Scattered over the hill, a hundred and a hundred campfires mirrored the sparkle of the stars wheeling across the heavens: Orion the Hunter, the Bull, the Bear.
The King’s own tent was pitched within yards of the old tree, which had proved its worth as an easily recognised rallying point. Outside, his two banners fluttered, toyed with by the restless southern wind: the Dragon of Wessex beside the Fighting Man. Nearby stood the command tent of Earls Gyrth and Leofwine with their own banners. Within Harold’s tent, the lamps lit, they were arguing.
“It is senseless for you to fight, brother. If you are killed, what will happen to England? Let me take your place.” Leofwine was vehement, his obstinate stance backed by many of those leaders also present - captains, bishops, thegns….
“And what will happen to England if I did that?” Harold roared back at them, slamming his fist on the table in front of him, making tankards and goblets, maps and the paraphernalia of war bounce. “I was elected king, as Harold the second of that name, elected as the man most worthy to lead our armies. Do I, then, abandon my responsibility at this first hint of danger?”
“But you fought at Stamford Bridge - you have adequately proved your worth.” That was a captain of his housecarls.
“And I shall fight here at Hastings!”
Leofwine swung away from the table, his hands raised. “Is there no reasoning with the man?”

“Happen you could try it more successfully with Duke William?” Gyrth said drily. “Our messenger got nowhere. You might be more persuasive.” 
(unedited excerpt)




Previous instalments:
4th October - Here
9th October - Here
10th October - Here

The competition winner was:
Leah Weller
congratulations Leah

Lovely to have met everyone at the annual re-enactment
at Battle, Sussex

Available on Amazon
(UK Title) Harold the King

(US Title) I Am The Chosen King

More on Helen's Website


Previously posted 1066 related articles that may be of interest




33 comments:

  1. Helen your books are always good. Please enter me.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

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  2. Helen reading the excerpt the other day has whetted my appetite for more, has given me a taster, it would be lovely to have an opportunity to win this, I know my Beloved would probably enjoy this too, it Iooks like I be buying A Hollow Crown as well :) do enjoy your're time at the Battle of Hastings

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  3. from what i have read in the past about Harold if he'd won at Hastings England would've been a more United Kingdom under him i think he could've been our greatest King and imagine how different the world may have become sadly if he had won i wouldn't be here now.All the best xx

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    1. That is one of the fascinating things about history - all the "what ifs". I think, had Harold won we probably would be more like the Scandinavian countries now, rather than the European ones.

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  4. I love your characterization of Harold as a hero. And even though the Normans re-started numbering with William, only the Edwards are misnumbered. There weren't any more Aethelreds, Edgars, or Harthacnuts after 1066.

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    1. Ah but a future King Harold would be Harold I whereas he should be Harold III.

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  5. Harold is such an intriguing character, and I love the excerpt! Thanks for the chance to win. katejoe73@gmail.com

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  6. Hi Helen,
    Nothing venture - would love Harold - please enter me. margaretskea@hotmail.co.uk

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  7. Have really enjoyed these posts, Helen. You know I love King Harold. :) jman1985@yahoo.com

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  8. Hey Helen, I just want to say that I agree with everything you said. Harold Godwinson was a great man, often overshadowed by the fall at Hastings. Nevertheless, I think that this country should celebrate King Harold II as a fine example of Old English Valour, and honour him on the 14 October as one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived. In doing so, the country would remember that against all the odds stood England as a unified and glorious power that would not just roll over and do as we're told. I think it's great that there are still people out there that do remember Harold, and celebrate his life. :)

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    1. The majority of people visiting the Battle of Hastings re-enactment were cheering for Harold - quite a few 'boos' for William! There were also several wreaths laid on the "grave" stone.

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  9. Thank you for the giveaway.King Harold deserves more recognition, than known as a losing king.I would love to see the Bayeux tapestry.

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    1. Thanks Denise - The Tapestry is magnificent, the colours still quite vibrant. I didn't realise that when it used to be stored (pre present display days) it was wound up like a giant toilet roll!

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    2. Wow! I didn't know that. That is possibly, why it is in good shape. Is it possible, that there were only some body parts in the grave, that you mentioned, because the other parts, were either taken for relics, or just simply they disintegrated?

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  10. Helen, you better wrap up your story line about Harold soon; I just read in the news that "they" are starting to dig up a different story - see: http://t.co/zwBUclwtPZ
    Funny, I never knew about Harold--and now you have me on alert about him. And,of course, I'd love to read your wonderful take on all things royal.
    inge.h.borg.author(at)gmail.com

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    1. Oh that’s an old story, Inge, and it surfaces every so often in the press. True Harold followers totally disregard it as utter nonsense. I’ll try to write a blog post about it ... will keep you posted.

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  11. One of these days I will make it over to the battlefield. I'd love for it to happen while the reenactment is happening. That would be something to see! This is the era I first fell in love with when I started reading Historical Fiction.
    leahweller(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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    1. The re-enactment is really good - but to experience the atmosphere of the site, and look round in detail it's best to go on a rainy weekday winter afternoon - you get the place to yourself!

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    2. I imagine of you sit on the field and listen with your soul that you can hear and feel the event. Way too much blood soaked into that ground not to be able to hear it.... for those that feel the connection to those times. I do believe I've lived many times. Too much of an inner pull, so deeply my soul hurts, for it not to have been. There are many places and battle fields that I want to visit....touch the stones, touch the grass...connect.

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    3. I thoroughly agree, Leah! :-)

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  12. I can't say that it is a 'Happy' Anniversary, but it is important to remember it and the man who so nearly saved us from centuries of Norman brutality. I have this on e-book, but would love a 'proper' copy that I can touch and smell and know the characters you so lovingly portray, Helen....

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    1. Thanks Richard - I enjoy my Kindle, but I agree, books have that edge don't they?

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  13. I just finished reading this it is the topic of interest for myself i am a historic read or fact and fiction reader the characters and storyline are very interesting and moving and i totally enjoyed the story of which i just read.

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the read

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  14. Good publicity! Reminds me of the program on one of the "education" channels here
    stating mega (whatever) the millions years old giant shark is still alive today. I usually ask "What are they selling?"
    Since it's already Oct 14 here, guess I missed the deadline but thought I'd stick my comment in. I always ask Who is going to profit?"
    Gordon

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    1. No you didn't miss the deadline, but sadly were not picked as a winner - result about to be announced!

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  15. Thank you, Helen. I'm anxious to start reading. :)

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