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The Life of King Edward
 Recording the events of September 1066
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Naming the battle
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Orderic Vitalis
The Life of King Edward
Sagas compared
Origin of sagas
Song of Maldon
Finding Fulford
Harald's army
Third Battle of 1066

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The Life of King Edward (Vita Eadwardi Regis)

This work is attributed to a monk of the Saint Bertin house in St Omar with Queen Edith Godwinson as the sponsor

Sadly this potential source provides us no relevant, factual information about either northern battle.

The work is thought to have been written between 1065 and 1067 as a work of homage to the late King and the Godwinson family. It reads more like a diary than a work of history and says nothing directly about Fulford. One poetic section muses about the ‘River Ouse with corpses choked’ and a later passage implies knowledge of the battle we know as Stamford Bridge.

“And who will write that Humber, vast and swollen

With raging seas, where namesake kings had fought,

Has dyed the ocean waves for miles around

With Viking gore, while Heaven mourns the crime?”

 Relevant passages are set in a context where sympathy is being expressed for Edith whose brothers, Harold and Tostig, were on opposite sides. With two of her brothers fighting each other, Queen Edith’s scribe decided to say nothing partisan. 

However their sister does provide us with her assessment of the contrasting characters of Harold and Tostig. Since they are two of our key players, it is worth reporting here.

“And since the occasion offers, we wish, to the best of our small powers, to inform posterity about the life, character, and deeds of these two brothers. And we do not think our wish to do this unreasonable, both on account of the plan of the work, and also so that their posterity shall have models for imitation. Both had the advantage of distinctly handsome and graceful persons, similar in strength, as we gather; and both were equally brave.

“But the elder, Harold, was the taller, well practised in endless fatigues and doing without sleep and food, and endowed with mildness of temper and a more ready understanding. He could bear contradiction well, not readily revealing or retaliating ever, I think, on a fellow citizen or compatriot. With anyone he thought loyal he would sometimes share the plan of his project, sometimes defer this so long, some would judge - if one ought to say this - as to be hardly to his advantage. Indeed, the fault of rashness or levity is not one that anybody could charge against him, or Tostig, or any son born of Godwin, or anyone brought up under his rule or instruction.

“And Earl Tostig himself was endowed with very great and prudent restraint - although occasionally he was a little over-zealous in attacking evil - and with bold and inflexible constancy of mind. He would first ponder much and by himself the plans in his mind, and when he had ascertained by an appreciation of the matter the final issue, he would set them in order; and these he would not readily share with anyone. Also, sometimes he was so cautiously active that his action seemed to come before his planning; and this often enough was advantageous to him in the theatre of the world. When he gave, he was lavish with liberal bounty, and, urged by his religious wife, it was done more frequently in honour of Christ than for any fickle favour of men. In his word, deed, or promise he was distinguished by adamantine steadfastness. He renounced desire for all women except his wife of royal stock, and chastely, with restraint, and wisely he governed the use of his body and tongue. Both persevered with what they had begun; but Tostig vigorously, Harold prudently; the one in action aimed at success, the other also at happiness. Both at times so cleverly disguised their intentions that one who did not know them was in doubt what to think. And to sum up their characters for our readers, no age and no province has reared two mortals of such worth at the same time. The king appreciated this, and with them thus stationed in his kingdom, he lived all his life free from care on either flank, for the one drove back the foe from the south and the other scared them off from the north.”[i]

[i] The Life of King Edward (Vita Edwardi Regis) , attributed to a monk of Saint Bertin, Tr Frank Balow, 0198202032 1992


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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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