After Stamford Bridge...what would you have done?

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
Housecarl
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:03 pm
Location: S.Yorkshire

After Stamford Bridge...what would you have done?

Post by Housecarl »

Ignoring today's benefit of hindsight, what you would have done in the following situation that our Harold found himself in, during September 1066?
Here's the question;-

Knowing the grievous losses of vitally-needed housecarls & thegns at Fulford and Stamford, including brother earls Edwin/Morcar's northern army, should you send messengers to those loyal Welsh princes- brothers Bleððyn and Rhiwallon, who were kinsmen of those Earls and also previously allowed to rule in North Wales after acknowledging King Edward (via Harold)as their overlord and agreeing to pay tribute and supply troops when asked- who could have speeded a substantial armed retinue of men by horse to aid you?

Maybe also at least have sent 'feeler's out to Malcolm Canmore of Scotland(officially neutral?) who had previously had a rocky friendship with Tostig, despite having been raised in the English court under Edward, whilst an exile?
Or the Cornish- giving them even false promises of land/border and independence agreements, in order to win support for now?


The situation-

Around 21st Sept 1066, you send messengers to raise a southern army again(recently disbanded) and rapidly force-march a huge army northwards 190m- most of it being mounted housecarls and thegns for speed- to meet a massive veteran invasion army of Norsemen/Frisians led by a fearsome Viking warlord(Hardraada) and your own traitorous younger brother(Tostig).

Immediately after this gruelling but stunning victory in which your army had slaughtered about 90% of the Norse veteran warriors, you hear of William's landing in the south(29th Sept). You leave 'your man' (Merleswein) in the north to act as sheriff in that region(as Edwin and Morcar's forces had been shattered at the battle of Fulford, and maybe your faith in their abilities and loyalty also?), before another exhausting fast 190m ride south to London.

As you dash southwards down the 'great north road' to London with your surviving mounted thegns and housecarls to rest, regroup and make arrangements for the impending battle somewhere to the south, you send messengers into the southern and western shires (and E.Anglia?)to again quickly raise another general fyrd.

Controversially(and going against your experienced and militarily capable character as a proven general and loyal statesman during King Edward's and your own short reign) you impulsively ignore your brother Gyrth's prudent advice to use Fabian tactics(and maybe also Leofwine's, Edith's and your mother Gytha's, as well as many senior commanders?). This might be because;

1. You are proud of your military heritage and also feel morally bound as Wessex earl & King, to save your kinfolk from the brutal and deliberate ravages of the newly-invaded Normans(hangings, rapes, mutilations and slaying of children etc), designed to taunt you into premature battle- as William well knew it would.

2. You couldn't know if William was getting reinforcements by sea & thus getting stronger each day- the Saxon Navy was still in London at this time, but refitting to soon sail again to cut him off.

3. You are supremely confident of crushing William by surprise, having done the same to the fearsome Norse warlord Harald Hardrada's professional army only 3wks before with stunning success. Three years before that, you had crushed the Welsh menace, King gruffydd ap Llewelyn too with equal success.

4. Quickly "bottling William up" within the [then] narrow, marshy confines of the Hastings peninsula, with the natural aid of the flanking dense woods, was crucial to annul his cavalry that you saw in action in 1064- If William 'broke out' with his cavalry then he could go anywhere! Or maybe you could allow him to do so whilst also then 'scorching the earth' between Hastings and London/Winchester whilst hitting the starving, marching Norman army hard with huge, fierce and co-ordinated Guerilla-style ambushes/pitched battles- ala Hereward and the 'Silvatici'- then melting into the local lands which they would know inside-out? Norman warhorses, dying from malnutrition, would have left William's v.weakened army dangerously exposed & almost certainly slaughtered. Containing and starving William's men - and crucially their horses- was the crux, you could sap the Norman strength by war of attrition whilst they lay idle in their bottleneck & cut off by sea behind them. William would have to surrender- time was on your side...

5. You note William's lack of an advance inland for three weeks and must have thought either;- William wasn't strong enough to attack London or engage your army in pitched battle? Maybe William wanted you to attack him on Hastings peninsula, protected by the terrain etc, maybe with strong communications with Normandy?

So you arrange a meeting point for your seperate armies which is well known to all the local men, and maybe previously considered by you as a useful defensive hill in case of having to withdraw from any possible reversals of fortune further south if any plans didn't succeed?

Having left orders for the weary fyrdsmen still trickling in from the north(including archers- and the many men from the shires) to follow on and meet you at the 'hoare apple tree', you order your navy to sail behind the invader's wooden stockade base above Hastings bay (to sever communications and prevent reinforcements) and whilst you soon afterwards speed a further 50-odd miles southwards with a largely mounted army to link up with the fyrdsmen near the edge of the dense Andredsweald.

You aim to speedily deliver a shocking knock-out blow to the Normans, just as you did against the mighty and worldly-wise Harald Hardrada only 3wks ago.

However, you may have made this meeting point too near to the Norman camp seven miles away, and their scouts alert William(unlike the Norse three weeks before) who pre-empts your attack by himself marching north to meet you. You do indeed have to fight a defensive battle now, but all isn't lost- you have the formidable Santlache hill to defend, until nightfall will do- William has to win before then.

Your adversary is a brutally tough, feared, experienced and great general whom you saw in battle two years before, and whom you also know needs to bring you to battle very soon if his conquest is to succeed- and before his men- many mercenaries- revolt(as many did in 1069/70 during the 'Harrying'). You also know he is capable of the most merciless barbarity- even for the age- against "all those who oppose him".
All you have to do is issue strict orders to your fyrdsmen then present to defend well, and wait for reinforcements to come in from England throughout the day(who did not hear those strict orders to hold the shieldwall?)

Another few thousand fresh fyrdsmen-then on their way(?)- and maybe earls Waltheof, Morcar & Edwin with their surviving thegns/housecarls would win the day...

User avatar
Malvoisin
Posts: 275
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:02 am
Location: Bulewelle

Post by Malvoisin »

If I was Harold, I would have toddled of to Pevensey, kissed Williams butt and said: "Sorry old boy, I have this crown I think it's yours by right. Here take it. Sorry once again for any missunderstanding. Friends again?"

Sensible answer when I have more time.
It's beer time right now.
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses... In peacetime

User avatar
WorkMonkey
Posts: 396
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Buuuuurmingum

Post by WorkMonkey »

Harold had to get south ASAP to get to London first and block william in, he knew that, that's why he did it, if he faffed around trying to raise extra troops from over the country then william would have just marched on London, took it, and won by default. It's not that Harold didn't have a big enough army, even with a depleted, exhausted force he still held out all day which was a very long time for battles of the period, so numbers weren't the problem, it was the fact he died! he could have had another 4000 men, but they'd still have legged it as soon as he was dead. It wouldn't have made a difference imo. By all rights Harold should have won that battle, but he died, and didn't.
WORKMONKEY: The Wilderness Years.
Image
Look at the monkey, funny monkey
Little red monkey, acting so fidgety

User avatar
Malvoisin
Posts: 275
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:02 am
Location: Bulewelle

Post by Malvoisin »

Yep. What Monkey boy said.
Harold had to get south quick. He had to act decisively, organise his fleet in London as well as more troops.

William could have moved on London or Winchester within a couple of days. Remember it was autumn and the barns between Hastings and the Thames would be full of harvest enough to feed an army.

Harold knew how the Normans fought with their cavalry and archers and had to choose the battle ground, defend it and bring William to him.
He chose well with senlac ridge, but poor discipline let him down and the Normans took full advantage.

Morcar & Edwin where as good as deserters and had completely disappered.
I doubt very much if the Welsh would have been very willing to get involved. Would there be anything to gain by doing so? William had no designs on their lands at that point after all.
Also the supporters of Edgar Ætheling would take advantage of any dithering that Harold showed, and may even have tried to cut a deal with William.
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses... In peacetime

Housecarl
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:03 pm
Location: S.Yorkshire

Post by Housecarl »

Malvoisin wrote: I doubt very much if the Welsh would have been very willing to get involved. Would there be anything to gain by doing so?
Well, they were under direct royal obligation to aid the English Kings as part of their fealty since 1063 when earl Harold subdued Wales in Edward's name- and intermittently since the age of Edward the Elder and more so his mighty son and successor Athelstan.

Also, I doubt that any supporters of the atheling would have done anything to deceive Harold, even as William advanced they held out to the last in many places before submitting, which was only to save their towns.

From what we know, the king(Edward), the witan and other leaders not only bypassed Edgar by popularly electing Harold king, but even after Hastings continued to defend London against the Normans at Southwark and after at the north gate, knowing of Harold & his two brother's fates?

User avatar
WorkMonkey
Posts: 396
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Buuuuurmingum

Post by WorkMonkey »

The welsh may have been under obligation to fight, but don't mean they were going to, the english didn't really have time to force the Welsh to come out to play while the rich southern coast was being plundered, speed was of the essence

Supporters of the Aethling didn't like Harold much, and tbh, they'd probably have done whatever it would have taken to get their man on the throne, Harold had effectively bypassed the Wessex family line and elbowed Edgar out of what should have been his. Harold was who Edward and the Witan were counting on to defend England, he was picked over Edgar because he was older and had the experiance as a war commander, and they knew war was coming because they refused to give William the position so they needed the best man for the job. Besides, Edward probably knew that if Edgar had been elected then Harold would have probably attempted a military coup anyway so it was better to put him charge first to ward off William, and if he failed, then Edgar was there for back up. As it turned out, Harold died and Edgar had to make do, his supporters, or indeed the rest of England were never going to simply let William in, so they rallied around the only leading figure they had left and did what they could, but it wasn't enough.
WORKMONKEY: The Wilderness Years.
Image
Look at the monkey, funny monkey
Little red monkey, acting so fidgety

User avatar
Tuppence
Post Knight
Posts: 1397
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:20 pm
Location: chaos-world, west yorks
Contact:

Post by Tuppence »

precisely what the others have said.

the whole battle (hastings that is) was incredibly close thing. sides were pretty evenly matched. might well have gone the other way if the other leader had died instead (i.e. william instead of harold).

that said, things turned out right in the end.... (have to say that - got tp be loyal to the glorious leader - guess which side I'm on :lol: ).


just one question though - how do you propse that anyubody ignores hindsight - almost impossible to do cos you can't unlearn stuff...
"What a lovely hat! But may I make one teensy suggestion? If it blows off, don't chase it."
Miss Piggy
RIP Edward the avatar cat.

Housecarl
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:03 pm
Location: S.Yorkshire

Post by Housecarl »

Things turned out wrong in the end (guess which side I'm on) :lol:

The proof of why Harold was popularly elected as king "unanimously" over Edgar(according to one source), was proved when Edwin & Morcar were reputed to have deserted Edgar as William advanced on London(if they were there at all).
There's no record that anyone in the 1060's, (only in 1051/2), had a faction against the Godwinsons in court in support of the aethelings Edward 'the exile' and later his son Edgar. Certainly the leofwinsons did(earl Aelfgar and his sons Edwin & Morcar), but that was unrelated to the aethelings.

As for ignoring hindsight, one can at least try?

Nigel
Post Knight
Posts: 1677
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 7:45 am
Location: Pontefract
Contact:

Post by Nigel »

You are forgeting a fundamental poit about medieval lordship

The land William was ravaging was Harolds own the people he was killing therefore Harolds

By failing to defend them Harold was in effect a bad lord and he had to get back south quick to sort that out
There’s a country in Europe where they treat their ex soldiers with pride no waits for medical treatment after injuries received during service, no amensia from the government. Cant for the life of me recall where it is but I know exactly where it is not.

Aelfric
Posts: 61
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:32 am
Location: Cheshire
Contact:

Post by Aelfric »

Harold had to lead the army - as well as the duty of lordship there is the fact that one of the reasons Harold got the crown in preference to Edgar is that Harold was a proven warrior when that is what the kingdom needed, how could he now hide behind his brother?

Harold’s actions at Hastings were sensible – William was camped on a peninsular that Harold could trap him on, and a peninsular with plenty of broken, hilly ground more suited to Harolds heavy infantry than Williams cavalry, if Harold had had to fight William on say, the flatter land of the downs if would have been much more difficult, and as mentioned William wasn’t that far from either London or Winchester so blocking him off also made sense for that reason. The field itself (assuming Senlac was the place) seems well chosen, the hill would have blunted the shock effect of Williams cavalry as well as securing Harolds flanks, effectively it left William with no alternative but to launch a series of frontal attacks, uphill against well ordered, disciplined infantry; and it very, very nearly worked.

There were three possibilities for Harold at Hastings, 1) fight and win - problem solved 2) fight to a stalemate – very acceptable, Harold had reinforcements coming and coming quickly while William did not, a stalemate on Senlac suited Harold much more than William. 3) fight and lose – even this wouldn’t have been a total disaster as long as the king himself survived and his army was not utterly destroyed as Harold had greater reserves and could afford to fight one (or maybe even more) attritional battles to wear William down. The only thing Harold couldn’t afford to do was die, and even then if one or both of his brothers had lived the situation might still have been saveable! As it was the only men left were the inexperienced Edgar and the uninspiring Edwin and Morcar – non of whom were anywhere near a match for William. Hastings was a clash of two excellent leaders and two excellent armies, it could (and very nearly did) have gone the other way.

User avatar
Malvoisin
Posts: 275
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:02 am
Location: Bulewelle

Post by Malvoisin »

Housecarl, I love your avatar.
It's very good but sooo wrong. :lol:
(geuss which side I'm on.) :wink:
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses... In peacetime

Hobbitstomper
Posts: 327
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:04 pm

Post by Hobbitstomper »

It doesn't make a difference. Harold was going to lose anyway.

Deus Volt.

User avatar
Tuppence
Post Knight
Posts: 1397
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:20 pm
Location: chaos-world, west yorks
Contact:

Post by Tuppence »

Malvoisin wrote:Housecarl, I love your avatar.
It's very good but sooo wrong. :lol:
(geuss which side I'm on.) :wink:
'course it's not wrong - saxon has that great big axe over his head and is about to get stabbed in the b*****ks by a nice norman.

how can that be wrong... :lol:

deus vult
"What a lovely hat! But may I make one teensy suggestion? If it blows off, don't chase it."
Miss Piggy
RIP Edward the avatar cat.

Housecarl
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:03 pm
Location: S.Yorkshire

Post by Housecarl »

Tuppence wrote:
Malvoisin wrote:Housecarl, I love your avatar.
It's very good but sooo wrong. :lol:
(geuss which side I'm on.) :wink:
'course it's not wrong - saxon has that great big axe over his head and is about to get stabbed in the b*****ks by a nice norman.

how can that be wrong... :lol:

deus vult
Oh it can be verrrry wrong, Frenchman, and is (even with incorrect perspective aside). :lol:

And Mal- "geuss"- is that Poitier's spelling? :shock:

Oot, oot...

nix
Posts: 188
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2005 2:06 pm
Location: were the army puts me

Post by nix »

the request for supporting troops could pf and in my opinu back fired, your just asking for an invasion off the welsh who could then claim a right to the throne, personell i would have marched south at best spead gathering every man i could muster on root(harvest now over) but stopped shy of kent, use my army as a blocking force while avoiding direct conflict, as winter sets proper, williams army is stranded while i have the rest of the countrys resouces at my disposal wait for start of campaigne season and hope that half there army has died of desease from living in inadquate or over cramped conditions, also giving my side a brake from such a long march and training replacements. that and offer some searious cash to any remaining danes to come and fight, may be even a bribe to raid shipping ( like later day privateers)
yes william could have forced a fight but at what cost, i`d chose the land and the time.

but then again ive probly mist millons of things that will could have done to kill me.
im like a bad case of genital warts.
im an irritable c?@t ,
that keeps on coming back,
but i grow on you

User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

Post by Alan E »

Nix, and missed (as Nigel pointed out) the fact that a Lord's first duty is to defend his people; especially before primogenitor took its iron grip, that was what the people would follow (and why the Witan voted Harold as King in the first place - their confidence that he'd do just that). Ignore that and your support melts away (not to cuba the thread, but this is exampled again with the chevauches which worked so well in the early years of HYW, and why the Angevin Kings couldn't defend the territories gained later).
'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

the real lord duvet

Post by the real lord duvet »

2 responses

first well after a diffcult draw i'd revert to a 3-5-2 formation to get 3 points at the next game.....


second and proper answer.

Harold had to go south but did he really have to confront william. by right all he had to do at Senlac was avoid dieing. he picked the battlefield, he stood his ground eating up the norman attacks. he had a plan.

but his plan was to just avoid losing rather than win. williams plan as he had to defeat harolds army whereever they chose to stand.

my plan would have been to annoy william as he advanced on london (which he had to do) - draw off his flanking troops. attack his baggage train and supplies.

offer him a way to return to normandy without losing face all the time.

then make a stand at a good defensive point when the normans have been harried and therefore demoralised.

unfortauntely Senlac is a good defensive position. where else could you make a stand before london?

User avatar
WorkMonkey
Posts: 396
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Buuuuurmingum

Post by WorkMonkey »

the real lord duvet wrote:

then make a stand at a good defensive point when the normans have been harried and therefore demoralised.

unfortauntely Senlac is a good defensive position. where else could you make a stand before london?
I agree, though with his set up he should have one that battle, the only advantage the normans had, ie their cavalry was pretty much negligable because they didn't have the terrain to operate effectively, I spose you can blame Gyrth and Leofric for not keeping control of their flanks and dying, there were three members of the royal family there that day, atleast one of them should have survived to take charge, it's just rotten luck that they all ended up dying.
WORKMONKEY: The Wilderness Years.
Image
Look at the monkey, funny monkey
Little red monkey, acting so fidgety

Marcus Woodhouse
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 3337
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 8:35 pm

Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

They should have sorted it out over a nice pint of beer. All that nasty fighting and killing is bad for your health.
OSTENDE MIHI PECUNIAM!

User avatar
The_Kyle
Posts: 178
Joined: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:42 pm

Post by The_Kyle »

Invest in a visor.

Post Reply