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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice