"I commend my wife and all my kingdom to your care."
When Edward the Confessor lay dying his wife Edith and Harold Godwinson were at his bedside. According to Harold, King Edward's dying words were:
"I commend my wife and all my kingdom to your care."
It was on this day 6th January 1066 that Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England was crowned, his reign lasted until the 14th of October when he was killed in battle at Hastings.
6th of January 1017 the coronation of King Cnut.
Edmund Ironside fought a number of battles against the Danish army, but they ended in his defeat on the 18th October 1016 at the Battle of Assandun in Essex. The signing of a peace treaty gave Edmund control of lands south of the River Thames and Cnut ruled north of the Thames. On Edmund's death, despite leaving two sons, Cnut gained control of all of England.
Taking the English throne was the very beginning of a conquest that saw King Cnut rule most of Northern Europe, by the time of his death he controlled England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden, yet the one event he is only ever remembered for is his attempt at controlling an incoming tide, Cnut probably didn’t paddle in the sea but what he is thought to have said was:
“Let all inhabiting the world know the power of kings to be empty and worthless and that there is no other king worthy
of the name but He at whose will heaven earth, sea obey by the eternal laws.”
Not the words of arrogant and powerful foreign invader, just man suggesting that a kings were human.
Cnut controlled much of Scandinavia, under his rule Viking raids on England’s coastline lessened, the economy improved, and by marrying Emma, Ethelred the Unready’s Norman widow, he consolidated his power.
Robert Count of Mortain was one man among many who fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, for this he was rewarded with the whole of Cornwall, what little he was not granted was divided between between minor nobles and the church.
Mortain controlled his West Country holdings from his mighty castle at Launceston. He also built Trematon Castle, but most of his time was spent in Normandy or fighting the Danes in Lincolnshire.
In his absence Cornwall came under the control of men like Reginald de Valletort, who held Trematon and Richard, Fitz Turold, Mortain's steward, who held Cardinham.
Here we can see Mortain himself sitting on the right of his half brother William the Conqueror, his castle of Launceston and what remains of the Fitz Turold's Cardinham manor of Penhallam.
Most of us will know that Mont Saint Michel is a medieval village that becomes an island at high tide. Meandering through its streets, reaching its summit and strolling around the Abbey is a delight and worth the walk. We did just this in 2007 as you can see from my photograph.
At the time, as I gazed out over the abbey's walls and down onto the lands that surround it, I did not realise what I was looking at was, in fact, salt meadows.
These salt marshes are grassy pastures that are used as grazing areas for sheep. The lush green grasses are halophyte grasses that have a high salinity and iodine content.
Sheep have been reared in the bay of Mont Saint Michel since the 11th century, and during that time the abbey monks had the right to pick the best ewe from every farm. The meat from the sheep, or Agneau de pre-sale (Salt Meadow Lamb) have a distinct taste that is considered a delicacy, that is mainly served at Easter time.
In the market town of Oakham in the County of Rutand, every visiting noble must present the town with a horseshoe. This tradition was followed by Edward IV in 1470 and by Charles, Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2003. This tradition states that
"Every baron of the realm when he comes through this town, shall give a horse shoe to nail upon the castle gate; which if he refuses the bailiff of that manor has the power to stop his coach and take one off his horses foot. But commonly they give five, ten and twenty shillings more or less as the please and in proportion to that gift the shoe is made larger or smaller with the name and title of the donor cut upon it, and so it is nailed upon the gate."
It was after his victory at the Battle of Losecoat on the 12th March 1470 that Edward ordered his horseshoe to be made, and you can see by the size of it his monetary gift was a large one.
When the kings horseshoe was complete it would have been highly decorative, painted in red and gilded with gold. The plaque at the very top would have held the royal coat of arms and the flat band in the centre is thought to have been a line of white roses of the House of York, painted onto a red background, as you can see below in the second photograph.
The origins of this tradition lie with the family of Ferrers, whose heraldic insignia was six black horseshoes on a white or silver
back ground. The family were of Norman stock from the town of Ferrieres Saint Halaire. Henry Ferrers is thought to have overseen the work of farriers during the preparations in the run up to the invasion of England, his brother William was killed at Hastings. Henry was rewarded with Oakham and other manors in England, however their major holdings were in Derbyshire. The last of the Ferrers to hold Oakham was Isabel de Ferrers, wife of Roger Mortimer, it passed out the family on her death in 1257 and was held by the crown and a number of families in the intervening years. At the time of the Battle of Losecoat Oakham was held by the Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and it was following the execution of his son Edward in 1521, that the first written reference to this tradition can be found.
You may be wondering why the horseshoes on the Ferrers coat of arms and Edward's horseshoe are presented upside down, this, I was told, was to stop the devil building a nest in them!
This unusual and unique collection over two hundred and fifty horseshoes is housed at Oakham Castle, a great hall built at the end of the 12th century by the progenitor of the Ferrers family.
Its time for another virtual adventure into the lives of my Devon family, the Meavy's. For the past couple of weeks they have been eagerly awaiting news of the coronation of King Harold - not that they know who he is of course! Little do they know that William of Normandy has landed on Pevensey Beach in Sussex with every intention of snatching Harold's golden crown.
As the Meavy's happily skin yet another rabbit for tea, Harold and his battle weary men are trudging their way though the mire and mud of middle England to sort out the invader, but William it seems, is having trouble with England - quite literally.
As he places his shiny new Norman boots on the beach he stumbles and falls, a collective gasp is heard, but the Conqueror, knowing that his men believe this is a bad omen shouts -
“See I already have England in my hands.”
How clever he is!
If my Meavy ancestors could hear him they would know that they are in real deep trouble, for this new king would have their county totally under his control by 1068.
My previous chapters on the Meavy family can be read here.
On this day in 1066, the death of Edward the Confessor, the last king of Wessex. Edward left no heir and what followed was a squabble over who was the rightful king.
Those with their eye on the throne of England were a William, a Harold, a Tostig, an Edgar and a Harald.
Eventually, Harold Godwinson was chosen, but he was dead ten months later.