Battle of Hastings, The

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Author: Harriet Harvey Harriet; Wood Harvey Wood
detail here. Why did Eustace come to talk to his brother-in-law at this particular time? Boulogne was a
long-standing ally of England, there might have been good diplomaticreasons for Eustace’s visit, but they are not explained in the sources. Why did Eustace, on his
journey home, stop to arm before entering Dover? There was no reason why the townspeople should have been assumed to be hostile until they were provoked. Whatever lay behind it, the consequences
were great. Godwin’s refusal to punish the town infuriated the king, who summoned the most important men in the country to Gloucester for a meeting of the Witan, the general council of the
kingdom. The coincidence with these events of a rising by the Welsh on the frontier in the earldom of Godwin’s eldest son Sweyn may have been chance or may not. Accusations against Godwin,
who had become too powerful too fast, were being made to the king. Robert of Jumièges, the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury (who had managed to insinuate himself into the appointment against
Godwin’s candidate, though the latter was supported by the monks of Canterbury), alleged that Godwin was plotting Edward’s death as he had plotted his brother’s. In the meantime,
Godwin with his sons Sweyn and Harold were assembling their men at Beverstone in order to go to the king in force to present their case. The northern earls Siward and Leofric, summoned to a meeting
of the Witan, arrived with a modest entourage but, finding the south in uproar, sent hastily for reinforcements to support the king. There was then a period of stand-off. The forces confronting
each other must have been fairly evenly balanced, but it is noticeable that no one was prepared to strike the first blow or be responsible for tipping the country into civil war. It was realized,
says the Chronicle, that this would be great unwisdom, since it would leave the kingdom open to attack by its enemies. This is worth marking as possibly the first recorded instance of all the great
men of the kingdom deliberately drawing back from war in the interests of the country at large. The matter wasadjourned to a hearing in London in September, to which Godwin
and his sons were summoned to defend themselves against accusations of treason.
    By the time of the hearing, Edward had, with considerable adroitness, strengthened his position to such an extent that he was able to order Godwin to present himself in court with no more than
twelve men to support him; he refused, through Stigand, Bishop of Winchester, to give Godwin hostages for his safety, adding the slightly sinister message that Godwin could have peace and pardon
only when he returned to Edward his brother Alfred, alive and well, with all his followers and possessions. Godwin, a pragmatic man if ever there was one, rode to the coast and took ship for
Flanders with all his family, except his sons Harold and Leofwine who fled to the Viking kingdom of Dublin. Edward sent Bishop Ealdred in pursuit of Harold and Leofwine, but he could not catch
them, ‘or [said the Chronicle] he would not’. All were outlawed. Queen Edith was stripped of her possessions and consigned to the custody of the king’s half-sister, who was Abbess
of Wherwell. There are indications that considerable pressure was put on Edward to divorce her, probably by Robert of Jumièges. If there was, he resisted it. It was a wonderful business,
says the Chronicle, because Godwin was so exalted that he ruled the king and all England, and his sons were earls and the king’s favourites.
    Flanders was a natural refuge for English political exiles. Together with Normandy, it had also proved, over the past century, a convenient jumping-off point for Viking marauders, and an equally
convenient place for them to sell the booty they obtained in England. Much of Edward’s foreign policy was designed to neutralize or contain the hostility of the Count of Flanders; the recent
marriage of Godwin’s third son,
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