Richard III’s lost chapel near York

From The Press, article by Emily Flanagan

ARCHAEOLOGISTS near York believe they have found a chapel built by Richard III to commemorate the Yorkist victory in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil.As the row continues over whether the Plantagenet king should be buried in York or Leicester, a discovery in a peaceful field on the outskirts of York has unearthed more of his legacy, ending a 16-year search for the building’s remains.

The land was where the Battle of Towton was fought; the bloody clash between the Lancastrians and Yorkists in the War of the Roses. According to accounts at the time, it left 28,000 soldiers dead, causing rivers to have run red with blood and survivors fleeing across “bridges of bodies”

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Battle of Towton

From The Economist:

Towton is a nondescript village in northern England, between the cities of York and Leeds. Many Britons have never heard of it: school history tends to skip the 400-or-so years between 1066 and the start of the Tudor era. Visitors have to look hard to spot the small roadside cross that marks the site of perhaps the bloodiest battle ever fought in England. Yet the clash was a turning point in the Wars of the Roses. And, almost 550 years later, the site is changing our understanding of medieval battle.

Read the full article.

Additional reading:

English Logistics and military administration

English Logistics and military administration, 871-1066: The Impact of the Viking Wars
By Richard Abels
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King Harold Godwineson is remembered as one of the great `losers’ in history, the man who provided William the Bastard with the opportunity to earn a more flattering sobriquet. Harold’s defeat at Hastings has obscured not only the very real military talents that earned him victories over formidable Welsh and Viking opponents but, more importantly, the sophistication of the military organization he and other late Anglo-Saxon kings possessed. Scholars have not sufficiently appreciated Harold’s logistical accomplishments in the summer and autumn of 1066. Learning of William’s invasion plans. Harold summoned in May a massive naval and land force, characterized in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as “larger than any king had assembled before in this country.” He billeted his troops along the southern coast of England and harbored his fleet throughout the summer and early autumn on the Isle of Wight, awaiting William’s move. Finally, on 8 September, at least two months after the army and fleet had been assembled, provisions finally ran out and the troops returned home. Almost immediately thereafter Harold learned of the invasion of Harald Hardrada, hurriedly assembled a new army and forced marched it some 200 miles along the Great North Road to Stamford Bridge, then, after a hard fought and bloody victory, he forced marched the survivors south to confront William at Hastings.

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The Battle of Clontarf


The battle of Clontarf, fought on Good Friday (23 April) 1014, is one of the most famous events in Irish history. In this conflict the forces of the Munster over-king Brian Boru and his allies were pitched against the armies of north Leinster, Dublin, and viking mercenaries and allies from across the sea. The event has been popularly portrayed as a struggle between the forces of good and evil. Brian has been regarded as a national hero, a ruler who rose from relative obscurity to unite Ireland briefly under his rule. He has been seen as a paragon of Christian leadership, who struggled against all odds to rid Ireland from the perils of conquest by pagan vikings. He won the battle, but made the ultimate sacrifice in losing his life while praying for victory.

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Further Reading:

Today in Medieval History: The Battle of Hastings

William of Malmesbury recounts the battle:

The courageous leaders mutually prepared for battle, each according to his national custom. The English, as we have heard, passed the night without sleep, in drinking and singing, and in the morning proceeded without delay against the enemy. All on foot, armed with battle-axes, and covering themselves in front by the juncture of their shields, they formed an impenetrable body which would assuredly have secured their safety that day had not the Normans, by a feigned flight, induced them to open their ranks, which till that time, according to their custom, had been closely compacted. King Harold himself, on foot, stood with his brothers near the standard in order that, so long as all shared equal danger, none could think of retreating. This same standard William sent, after his victory, to the pope; it was sumptuously embroidered with gold and precious stones, and represented the figure of a man fighting.

On the other hand, the Normans passed the whole night in confessing their sins, and received the communion of the Lord=s body in the morning. Their infantry, with bows and arrows, formed the vanguard, while their cavalry, divided into wings, was placed in the rear. The duke, with serene countenance, declaring aloud that God would favor his as being the righteous side, called for his arms; and when, through the haste of his attendants, he had put on his hauberk the hind part before, he corrected the mistake with a laugh, saying “The power of my dukedom shall be turned into a kingdom.” Then starting the Song of Roland, in order that the warlike example of that hero might stimulate the soldiers, and calling on God for assistance, the battle commenced on both sides, and was fought with great ardor, neither side giving ground during the greater part of the day.

Read more of William’s account

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the battle only briefly, no elaborate details or examinations like Malmesbury’s account. It basically says it happened and then moves on:

Meantime Earl William came up from Normandy into Pevensey on the eve of St. Michael’s mass; and soon after his landing was effected, they constructed a castle at the port of Hastings. This was then told to King Harold; and he gathered a large force, and came to meet him at the estuary of Appledore. William, however, came against him unawares, ere his army was collected; but the king, nevertheless, very hardly encountered him with the men that would support him: and there was a great slaughter made on either side. There was slain King Harold, and Leofwin his brother, and Earl Girth his brother, with many good men: and the Frenchmen gained the field of battle, as God granted them for the sins of the nation. Archbishop Aldred and the corporation of London were then desirous of having child Edgar to king, as he was quite natural to them; and Edwin and Morkar promised them that they would fight with them. But the more prompt the business should ever be, so was it from day to day the later and worse; as in the end it all fared. This battle was fought on the day of Pope Calixtus: and Earl William returned to Hastings, and waited there to know whether the people would submit to him.

Secrets of the Norman Invasion

Secrets of the Norman Invasion is the work of an independent scholar, Nick Austin, to detail the events associated with the Norman invasion, especially the actual landing site of the Normans upon crossing the channel to England. According to the author:

Over the last six years I have tried to read everything important associated with Norman landings and the battle and have spent many months carrying out detailed searches of the documents contemporary with the battle. I have become increasingly alarmed at the discrepancies between the texts and the lie of the land where the landings were supposed to have taken place. In this work I attempt to explain how all these discrepancies can be reconciled only if the contextual references are applied to a landing site different from Pevensey.

The text that follows is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the clues to the landing site contained in the contemporary source documents, whilst the second part looks at the physical evidence thrown up by surveys, aerial photographs, field walking and archaeological work.

There is lots of information here, and the author does a nice job with referencing actual contemporary accounts of the event. I’ve only read bits and pieces so far. It will take me a while to get through it all. Just thought I would share with others that might be interested in the Norman invasion of England.

The Battle of Val-ès-Dunes

In the summer of 1047, Duke William II (“The Conqueror”) was still in the youth of his reign as lord over Normandy. He had succeeded to the position of duke in 1035 after the death of his father, Duke Robert I. This period in Normandy’s history was an unstable time, with rebellion always a possibility by rivals of William who felt they had equal rights to the title of the duchy. While Robert, Archbishop of Rouen, was alive, the duchy remained in relative peace, but after his death, the rebels began to push more toward all out rebellion.

One of the persons who believed he had a more legitimate claim to the title of Duke was William’s cousin, Gui of Burgundy. In 1046, Gui along with other rebel nobles (Nigel of the Contentin, Rannulf of the Bessin, Ralph Tesson of Thury, Haimo of Creully) set an ambush for William near Valognes. William managed to escape, and he sought the protection of his overlord, King Henry I of France.

In effect, Normandy was under the king’s rule, and William was his vassal, and since the rebels had threatened a vassal of the king, they had indirectly threatened the king himself. And so in 1047, King Henry gathered his forces, joined with William’s army in Normandy near Caen, and marched south to the plain of Val-ès-Dunes, near the present day town of Conteville.

The battle consisted mostly of cavalry charging one another. The Normans had yet to employ fully the tactics William would later use at the Battle of Hastings: a mixture of archers, infantry, and horsemen. While the rebel armies supposedly outnumbered the other side, they did not have the same leadership, and King Henry and William drove their enemies into the Orne River. One contemporary account observed how the bodies floating in the river blocked the mill of Barbillon downstream.

With the duchy secure for the time being, the Church forced the rebel barons to declare a “Truce of God,” meaning they agreed not to wage private wars on certain days of the week (Wednesday evening to Monday morning) and during certain religious observances (e.g., – Easter, Lent, etc.). William and the king, however, were not forced to follow these same rules. Even with the “Truce of God,” the test of William’s resolve and strength as a leader was not ending. It was only the beginning for William, a young ambitious duke who would later rise to prominence as one of the most legendary figures in the pages of history.

Main source:

Douglas, David C. William the Conqueror : The Norman Impact upon England. Berkeley, Calif. : University of California, 1964.

William the Conqueror vs. King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland

After securing his hold over majority of England, William the Conqueror invaded Scotland in 1072. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

This year King William led a naval force and a land force to Scotland, and beset that land on the sea-side with ships, whilst he led his land-force in at the Tweed; but he found nothing there of any value. King Malcolm, however, came, and made peace with King William, and gave hostages, and became his man; whereupon the king returned home with all his force.

One possible reason for William’s invasion of Scotland had to do with a marriage alliance between Malcolm and Margaret, the sister of an English noble Edgar Atheling. The marriage alliance threatened greater Scottish influence in Northumbria, an area disputed by England and Scotland, and so William went north to deal with the threat.

Malcolm submitted and became William’s vassal and gave him hostages, one of them being his eldest son Duncan, but in 1079, Malcolm once again invaded Northumbria. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says:

This year came King Malcolm from Scotland into England, betwixt the two festivals of St. Mary, with a large army, which plundered Northumberland till it came to the Tine, and slew many hundreds of men, and carried home much coin, and treasure, and men in captivity.

William was forced to deal with Malcolm, and he made the Scottish king submit yet again. Then in 1091, four years after the death of William, Malcolm marched on England while William Rufus was in Normandy reconciling with his brother, Robert Curthose.

The King Malcolm of Scotland came hither into England, and overran a great deal of it, until the good men that governed this land sent an army against him and repulsed him. When the King William in Normandy heard this, then prepared he his departure, and came to England, and his brother, the Earl Robert, with him … when the King Malcolm heard that they were resolved to seek him with an army, he went with his force out of Scotland into Lothaine in England, and there abode. When the King William came near with his army, then interceded between them Earl Robert, and Edgar Etheling, and so made the peace of the kings, that the King Malcolm came to our king, and did homage.

Still, King Malcolm was not satisfied, and in 1093, he gathered an army and invaded Northumbria, but the forces of Earl Robert of Northumbria killed him in battle near the river Aln. After the Scottish king’s death, Malcolm’s brother Donald was elected king by the Scots.


Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Green, Cynthia Whidden. “Saint Kentigern, Apostle to Strathclyde: A Critical Analysis of a Northern Saint.” Medieval Sourcebook. 1998.