Poleaxed on the wapentake upon hearing about Harold

Share
Related Topics
TODAY I am bringing you some extracts from a remarkable new book, 'The Day Harold Was Shot]', which is being rushed out for the Christmas market. It is a collection of genuine historical first-hand memories of how people were informed of the news that King Harold of England had been shot at the Battle of Hastings.

Ulf Wulfstayne, peasant: 'I'll never forget it. I was doing tillage in the fields when this churl rushed up to me and said, 'Have you heard the news? King Harold's been killed]' And I said, 'King Harold of where?' And he said, 'King Harold of England]' And I said, 'I thought King Ethelred was the king of England'. And he said, 'No, you idiot, he died years ago'. And I said, 'Oh. So the new bloke's dead already, is he?' And he said, 'Yes.' That's how fast news travelled in those days.'

Wolf Oilstayne, villein: 'I was dumbstruck. Absolutely dumbstruck. I was poleaxed. Our new leader, from whom we had expected so much. Dead. With an arrow through his eye. What a stupid way to die.

'I remember exactly where I was, to this day, when I heard that Harold had been shot. I was standing on the wapentake that belonged to old Edgar the Unsteady, who had a bit of a drink problem, and Ethanol, my neighbour, rushed up to me and said, 'Harold's been shot]' And I said, 'Oh my God, where's he been shot?' And he said, 'In the eye,' and I said, 'No, where was he shot?' And he said, 'In Hastings,' because we Saxons always liked a bit of a joke. So I said, 'Hastings? Where's that?' Because geography travelled very slowly in those days, you know. And he said, 'Well, you take the old coast road from London out along by Sheerness, and you keep going for about a fortnight right along the seashore, and you come to Hastings.' It seems rather a long way to go just to get an arrow in your eye.'

Dame Ethel Smythe of Mercia, Saxon do-gooder: 'I had always campaigned hard for bow-and-arrow control laws, you know. You wouldn't believe how many people were killed unnecessarily by arrows in the old days. Anyone could go out and buy an arrow] Well, actually, they could just go to the nearest yew tree and cut one out] So when I heard that King Harold had been shot through the eye with one, I thought, 'Ah ha] Surely now they will bring in anti-arrow legislation] Or at least make the wearing of safety helmets obligatory]' But, of course, they didn't, and not 30 years later William Rufus was shot dead by an arrow and serve him jolly well right, too. I can remember to this day where I was when I heard that William Rufus has been shot . . .'

King Macbeth of Scotland: 'I'm afraid I can't remember exactly where I was when I heard the news, but I can remember exactly what I thought when I heard that Harold had been shot. I thought, 'Hold on - England beaten at home by the Normans] That's England out of the European Cup, then, unless they can scrape an away victory by two clear battles against the Holy Roman Empire] No chance]' So I decided to declare a national holiday in Scotland.'

Wilf Sinkstayne, Saxon local government planning officer: 'I heard about Harold's death during working hours, so, of course, I didn't allow myself to read about it until we had finished work for the day and I was in my own free time and then I thought, 'Good] Now at last perhaps we'll have someone in charge who will approve my plan for a nationwide survey of England]'

'You see, it was absolutely hopeless in those days trying to get any forward planning done because nobody knew how big England was, or who owned what, or anything, and even the roads were old Roman highways running downhill very fast, so I had this big idea for what I called a Doomsday Survey, of course, the idea was stolen later on and I got none of the credit, but that's local government planning for you . . .'

Dirk Beaugarde, Norman artist: 'I was the official war artist for the Norman troops at the Battle of Hastings. Count William always liked to have a painting of his battles afterwards, and I had been covering his campaigns for 20 years. Later, he got into tapestry in a big way and had these gangs of women do the Bayeux thingy. Personally, I can't stand that modern stuff, but that's probably just me.

'Anyway, I was sketching away during the battle and afterwards King William, as he was by then, came up and said, 'Have you got any footage on how Harold died?' I was about to reply, 'Non, je regrette . . .' when I suddenly realised that without knowing it, I had actually drawn the moment when the arrow hit King Harold] Extraordinary, isn't it? Do you know, this grainy black-and- white drawing is the only actual visual recording of the death of Harold] Amazing . . .'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project