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Would it have been better if Harold had lost at Stamford Bridge?

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Norman Yoke:
My dad and I went to Sutton Hoo earlier this year and we discussed the above question. It’s an interesting one and reading about the next Stamford Bridge meeting in the latest Withowinde (my first print copy and what a delight it is to read - huge thanks to the contributors and those who put it together) got me thinking about it again.

If you’re of the “the Norman Conquest is not something to be celebrated” persuasion, would it have been better for the English people at the time if Harold had lost to Harald Hardrada? Would the rule of a Norwegian king have been more tolerable due to the recent history of Cnut’s reign and the large cultural mixing between the Norse and English over the preceding centuries? Would it have prevented William’s attempt to cross over?


I’m not sure it would have made any difference. Had Hardrada won at Stamford Bridge he wouldn’t have had the support of the English to fight at Hastings nor would he have had the “intelligence network “ to keep him informed. Unless you believe he was in cahoots with William of Normandy. But even then, William had gone to so much trouble getting the pope on his side, I doubt he would have given way to  Hardrada.

Interesting thought however, Norman Yoke.  Certainly a new one on me.  Now that I come to think of it, I'm tempted to agree with Eanflaed.  Could a victorious Hardrada have consolidated his rule quickly and robustly enough to stop the Norman invasion, or would he have lost at Hastings ( or the Siege of London?)?

I'd be interested to hear any ideas you may have, as to how a Viking victory at Stamford Bridge would have played out.


Most likely the northern earls would have been quite happy to join with Harald Sigurdsson against the land-grabbing Harold and his family, who between them owned most of England anyway (could be why the earls didn't try too hard at Fulford). And dear old Tostig would certainly have loved to dethrone his brother, although Tostig's bunch of Flemish mercenaries may have caused a bit of chaos before Harald could bring them under his thumb. I think Tostig put in a lot of mileage travelling between Sigurdsson's Royal new-town of Oslo and the towns of Bruges, Caen and Falaise to 'arrange' things with brother-in-law Baldwin V and Duke William of Normandy (Baldwin helped finance both Tostig and son-in-law William). William the crafty Norman Duke may have delayed his channel crossing on purpose, fooling both the English and the Norwegian armies. (When you read this Jenny you'll probably understand why I didn't send you my take on the Battle (just north) of Hastings for Withowinde). I live on the edge of the Pevensey Levels, close to the Pevensey end of the 1066 Trail, and I think historians often fail to investigate the reasons why William landed at Pevensey and did not launch a direct seaborne attack on Hastings... but that's another story.

Sounds intriguing Peter! I think you should send your ideas to me!! (Btw my grandad lived on the edge of the Pevensey Levels too -Pevensey Castle was my playground!).


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