18 October 2018

1066 - Wasn't There Going To Be A Movie?

last in the series of  all things 1066 

by Robin Jacob: producer

In 2000 I was in my apartment in Manila watching Lion in Winter with the late greats Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn and thought to myself they just don't make movies like that anymore. This thought holds true today even more so than in 2000.

I then began to look at what historical period in British history had not really been covered, and after much research I decided to write a script for 1066.

Now usually if I write   a contemporary script I have the first draft in two weeks but of course that was not to be the case for 1066. Much research was needed for a start.

After six drafts and a few years I arrived at a script I thought was OK. Well it wasn't. Whilst it had the events it did not have the flavour, mood, characters, back story and 'oomph' that I was looking for.
So, I decided to do some more research and came across Harold the King by Helen Hollick. I ordered it online and read it from cover to cover in three days.

Helen had what I needed, the characters and their relationship with others, which was lacking in my draft.
I contacted Helen and asked if I could steal some of her book. 

[Helen: I received an email out of the blue, explaining about a script for a prospective movie and 'could I use some of the information'... I had two thoughts: 1) this is a wind up 2) oh so he wants my research and I get nothing out of it? Don't think so... I followed up, though, to find out of this guy was for real. Turned out he was...]

She thankfully said yes. After a rewrite Helen read through the script and made some very important alterations, additions and rewrites [Helen: adding more of the women's parts etc] which put the script into shape. [Helen: *grin*]

We now had a script of substance, one that was pretty historically accurate given the availability of source material. We tried very hard not to go into the realms of fantasy as is so often done in Hollywood but to stick to the facts as best we could - and the facts are pretty amazing anyway.

Helen's husband, Helen and Robin
The first hurdle that we  walked straight into was the financial crisis that hit almost everyone...  when the UK economy is good, raising funds for movies is a difficult task -  when the economy is in the toilet the task is near impossible.

But a good idea is a good idea, and I have learnt in life never to give up. Having won awards for my documentaries and produced music Multi-platinum and Gold Discs I know how hard it is to bring projects to fruition. 

Helen talking to Mark Lester
Within a few weeks of putting 1066 up on imdb.com I found myself being contacted by many actors and technical crew members wanting to be involved on the project, including Oscar winners.
Those who read the script thought it was good and attached themselves to the project. Many other 'A-listers' approached me either direct or via agents, but without the financing in place I decided not attach anyone else.

I canned four co-producers who were using the high profile of the project to enhance their personal careers rather than working on getting the project done. But this is par for the course in the film industry. We have  great music, good production sketches and a host of experts in various fields from re-enactment, swordsmanship, stunts, Saxon language,etc. We are serious about this movie - I am as passionate about getting it made as Helen is as passionate about getting her novel read.

I started to produce 54mm pewter models as part of the awareness of the project and have sold quite a few. (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/302881510282)

And at this moment we have the project with a major film production company...We continue to push for the project. It is a great story and a most important one to get out there.

 meanwhile ... you could always read the book...


That's all folks - the end of the 1066 series 
(until next year!)

17 October 2018

1066 Where is Harold Buried?

A series of  all things 1066

One of the great mysteries of 1066. Where is King Harold II buried? 

"William called to one of his lesser commanders, who was making his way obliquely across the sloping, scarred hillside. “Malet! William Malet!”
The man raised his head at the shout, trotted to meet his Duke, listened gravely to his orders. Already he had been charged with the burial of all these dead – the Norman dead, the English could look to their own. Mass graves, he had decided, would be best, pits dug away to the east where the ground appeared softer. Now he had this other grave to dig. By the shore, the Duke said. That would mean a journey back to the coast – as if he had not enough to do this day! But so be it. The Duke had commanded it."

According to Norman records, Duke William commanded that what remained of Harold (his body had been dismembered and his head removed) was to be buried in secret by the coast, overlooking the sea. That is somewhat ambiguous... presumably the Duke of Normandy did not want his rival to become a martyr, or worse still (in his view) a saint - for which part of the ritual required the remains of a body. I reckon William's thinking was 'bury him somewhere obscure without a marker and he will soon be forgot,' then walked off rubbing his hands together in the delight at gaining a royal crown. (I think we have established in previous posts that I have no liking for William!)

Hah, but Bill my boy, the English have long memories!

Edyth Swanneck, Harold's common-law wife of many years (they had at least six children), had to identify his mutilated torso after the great battle, for she was the only one who knew the scars and marks on his body. His mother, Countess Gytha, pleaded with William to exchange her son's remains for their weight in gold. It is unlikely that Edyth would have agreed to such a heartbreaking task unless she believed that the body of her beloved was to have a Christian burial in a suitable place of honour.

The Duke, however, apparently refused Gytha's request... or at least, the whereabouts of King Harold II’s resting place remains, to this day, open to conjecture and personal opinion. 

Option 1) 
He was buried somewhere near the coast at Hastings. 
Frankly, unlikely. These were devout people, and for all his faults, Duke William would have been an honourable man where burying the body of a nobleman was concerned. Burial in consecrated ground would have been essential. The burying in secret is not disputed, it is only the where that has remained secret. I think we can discount anywhere near the Hastings coast though.

Option 2) 
Waltham Abbey, Essex

Waltham Abbey lays stout claim to his body, but, even though I used to live not far from this lovely town - and abbey - I don't think that Harold was buried there. 

The Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross and St Lawrence has been a place of worship since the 7th century, although the present building, with its Norman architecture dates from the early 12th century. To the east of the existing church are traces of an enlargement of the building, begun following the re-foundation of the abbey in 1177. In the Late Middle Ages, Waltham was one of the largest church buildings in England and a major site of pilgrimage. The monastic buildings and the parts of the church east of the crossing were demolished at the dissolution, and the Norman crossing tower and transepts collapsed in 1553. The present-day church consists of the nave of the Norman abbey church, the 14th-century lady chapel and west wall, and a 16th-century west tower, added after the dissolution.

For the theory:
King Edward the Confessor gave the land and previous church building to his earl, Harold Godwinson, who rebuilt, refounded and richly endowed the church, dedicating it to God in 1060; a legend has it that as a young man Harold had been cured of paralysis by Waltham's relic of the Holy Cross. The abbey was, therefore, extremely important to Harold.

There is no reason not to believe that Harold, as King, stopped to pray at Waltham in September/October 1066 on his way south from his victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire to meet and fight William of Normandy who had landed on the south coast. Naturally this report centres on Harold going to Waltham to pray - which he undoubtedly did, but holy records are unlikely to also mention that his main reason would have been to visit Edith Swanneck, his (divorced to marry a church-law wife instead) common-law 'mistress'. Edyth lived a short distance away from the abbey at Nazeing. (I'm personally convinced that her home was where the present-day Harold's Park Farm is situated.) 
Incidentally, the battle-cry of the English at Hastings was "Holy Cross". 

William of Malmesbury wrote in the Gesta regum Anglorum in 1125, that William's refusal to accept Gytha's gold meant that Harold's body was handed over without payment, and that it was taken from the battlefield to Waltham for burial. The non-payment is very probable.
This version is supported by the Roman de Rou, written by Wace in the 1160s. 

The final detailed medieval account comes from the Waltham Chronicle, where the author describes how two canons from Waltham, Osgod Cnoppe and Aethelric Childemaister, accompanied Harold to Hastings. After the battle they recovered Harold's body and brought it to Waltham for burial under the nave of the church. This story was related to the author of the Chronicle when he was a boy, by the elderly Sacristan Turketil, who claimed to have himself been a boy at Waltham when Harold arrived en route from Stamford Bridge, and later witnessed the interment of the king. The author himself claims to have seen Harold's body being disinterred and moved twice during the rebuilding work which started in 1090.

In 1177, Waltham became an Augustinian foundation, and the new incumbents published Vita Haroldi ("The Life of Harold") soon afterwards. This records that Harold survived the battle and retired as a hermit to either Chester or Canterbury. (I think we can discount that particular bit of nonsense.) 

In the 18th century, the historian David Hume wrote that Harold had been buried by the high altar in the Norman church and moved to the choir of the later Augustinian abbey. Visitors were shown a stone slab bearing the inscription Hic iacet Haroldus infelix ("Here lies Harold the unfortunate"), although it had been destroyed when that part of the abbey was demolished at the Dissolution.

the marker stone today at Waltham Abbey
An 18th century reference comes from Daniel Defoe’s A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain. In his description of Essex, Defoe mentions Waltham Abbey where “the ruins of the abbey remain; and tho’ antiquity is not my proper business, I cou’d not but observe, that King Harold, slain in the great battle in Sussex against William the Conqueror, lies buried here; his body being begg’d by his mother, the Conqueror allow’d it to be carried hither; but no monument was, as I can find, built for him, only a flat grave-stone, on which was engraven, Harold Infoelix.”  *

All of which has no proof about it whatsoever (apart from the existence of the present stone slab!)
I am always very sceptical of monastic claims of burial, especially when they (conveniently) get written at a time when the abbey in question is struggling to survive financially. (Glastonbury and the 'unexpected' finding of King Arthur's tomb is another example.)

No remains of a skeleton has ever been found under the nave, or near where the alter was or... well, anywhere outside of ordinary graves in the graveyard. On the other hand, it does seem odd that Harold was not taken to Waltham... but then Essex is a long way from Sussex, and could such a burial have been kept secret? And anyway there is a far better contender...
Statue of Harold incorporated
into the abbey's walls near
the main entrance door.
Waltham Abbey images
© Cathy Helms
Sorry, I do not believe that Harold was laid to rest at Waltham Abbey.

Option 3) 
Bosham, Sussex

Holy Trinity Church, Bosham
Bede wrote that Bishop Wilfrid, visiting Bosham in 681, found a small monastery with five or six brethren led by Dicul, an Irish monk. The building may have been on or near the site of the present church. Before the Norman Conquest, Bosham Church and its estate were given by King Edward the Confessor to his Norman chaplain Osbern FitzOsbern who retained his position after 1066: he became Bishop of Exeter in 1072 and attached these holdings to the bishopric. Succeeding Bishops of Exeter continued to hold the church and estate of Bosham until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.*

Interesting that Exeter was regarded as The Queen's town - and the surviving member of the Godwine family was the 'Dowager Queen' Edith, Harold's sister, widow to Edward. Much of the land around Exeter and North Devon also belonged to their mother, Gytha.

Roman remains have been found in Bosham, and it is thought the church may be on the site of a Roman basilica. The church is built of rubble with ashlar dressing; it has a tiled roof and a shingled spire. The lower part of the tower of the church, the chancel arch, and the tower arch, are Saxon, and is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry where Harold and his brother, Leofwine can be seen entering the church. Former Bosham resident (alas now passed away) John Pollock proved, beyond doubt, that the depiction on the tapestry was accurate for the time, although the tower has, since 1066, been extensively altered. (John, a wonderful interesting man, personally showed me his proof - I will have to write an article one day!)

The top storey of the tower was added in the 1400s, but in the 10th and 11th centuries the (lower) tower  doubled as a look-out tower during the period of Viking raiding - Bosham was a busy port in the days before the channels to the sea silted up. Cnut had extensive grounds on the opposite shore of the harbour, and gave the land at Bosham to his right-hand man, Earl Godwine, Harold's father. Bosham was, in fact, the Godwine's main place of residence. It is very possible that Harold was born there.

There is a tradition that a daughter of King Cnut (Canute) drowned in the nearby millstream and was buried in the church. A small stone coffin was found near the chancel arch in 1865, but it is not known if there is any definite connection.*

Incidentally, the story of King Cnut turning back the tide. It is probable that this is based on an actual event - Cnut attempting to show that he was not God and that he could not control the tide... the tide comes in very fast at Bosham and it is entirely plausible that this event did actually take place there. John Pollock, after reading my novel, A Hollow Crown/The Forever Queen did in fact prove that the scene I wrote was 100% possible. He did get slightly wet while doing so though.

So: Bosham was the family home. It isn't that far from Hastings. It was (is) on the coast. Holy Trinity church was the family church. Gytha, Harold's mother returned to Bosham after the battle (we know she fled abroad from there soon after.) She would also have had three other bodies to bury: her sons Leofwine and Gyrth and her grandson Hakon, all of whom were killed at Hastings. It is unlikely that she would have buried these anywhere else except at Bosham. Therefore, is it not probable that she also buried her son Harold there?

More evidence:
In 1954, workmen replacing stones under the chancel arch rediscovered the coffin thought to be of King Cnut's daughter, but also found a coffin containing a headless and legless skeleton; the coffin was resealed after examination of the remains by a coroner. 

Waltham Abbey supporters claim that this was Earl Godwine... but this doesn't hold up. Records of the time (1050s) support that Earl Godwine was buried with full honour at Winchester (where Queen Emma and King Cnut were also buried - Godwine served Emma and she resided at Winchester for the last years of her life.) Why would Godwine's grave, if it was at Bosham, be secret? There would be marker stones, a tomb... 

Only important people were buried beneath the sacred place of beneath the chancel arch - daughters of kings and kings. It is very likely that the grave-space was intended for Cnut himself, but his widow, Emma, would have laid him to rest in the more important  Winchester.  Gytha would, of course, have known of this ready-made grave.

Add to that: why on earth would earl Godwine - who died of a seizure - have been buried with his head and one leg missing? Whereas we KNOW that Harold was decapitated and had his leg hacked off... here it is, recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry, very plain to see:

And... there are three anomalies regarding the nave of Holy Trinity - three hollows or holes beneath the nave. What they are, no one knows. To my mind, it is obvious. They are the graves of Leofwine, Gyrth and Hakon.

In 2003, amateur historians sought permission from the consistory court of the Diocese of Chichester to exhume the remains of the torso, in order to confirm if they were those of King Harold. DNA was to be compared with DNA of three people claiming to be his descendants. Permission was refused. It was stated that exhumation should only be carried out on "special and exceptional grounds" or for a "good reason"; the court heard that the three supposed descendants each had different DNA. I was involved with that request. A disappointing result, but perhaps we are not meant to know where Harold rests.

I do, however, think there is a reason for the claim made by Waltham Abbey. It is a little gruesome for our minds today, but I firmly believe that Harold’s heart, and maybe his head, were taken to Waltham for burial, a common practice in those days. His Life and Love at Waltham, his soul resting at peace, at Bosham. 

R.I.P. Harold II
rightful King of England

my apologies: some information taken direct from Wikipedia

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