Benton Rain Patterson
Harold and William: the Battle for England, A.D. 1064-1066
New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001. xxiii+209 pp. $28.95. 0815411650.
Patterson opens his book, Harold and William, with an unashamed statement
of bias against William, Duke of Normandy. He has composed a narrative history
of the events beginning in 1064, when
Harold Godwinson is serving William in Normandy, and ending in the midst of the
Battle of Hastings. The book is arranged along chronological lines with each
chapter covering, roughly, a month of time, until the final chapters which cover
the days surrounding the Battle of Hastings. All of the chapters are fairly brief
and touch on the highlights of the historical narrative.
- Chapter one discusses Harold’s departure from England to Normandy with
an offer from King Edward (the Confessor) to William to become his heir. The
chapter additionally discusses Harold’s capture by the Count of Ponthieu
and subsequent ransom by William.
- Chapter two covers the time Harold spent in Normandy. Here Harold swore
an oath to William to defend William’s interests in England and accompanied
him on a punitive expedition into Brittany.
- Chapter three centers on the knighting of Harold by William and the thoughts
Harold may have had at the time. Patterson reinforces the binding oath
Harold made to William, with William’s continued insistence on pressing
his claim for the English throne.
- Chapter four revolves around the assignment of Harold by King Edward to
confront Tostig, Earl of Northumbria. Patterson plays up Harold’s reluctance
due to Tostig being his brother and Edward’s previously failed attempts
at confronting Tostig.
- Chapter five discusses the situation in Northumbria in
1064. Tostig is deposed
by a council of thanes who appoint a new Earl of Northumberland, who marches
to Mercia and presents Harold with the demand that Edward recognize their
decision. Harold agrees and convinces King Edward, who capitulates and exiles
six covers the maneuvering of Harold for the throne of England and his
reasons for it. Harold was forced to bargain with the Earls of Mercia and
to gain their support. This agreement conflicted with the oath sworn to
and sets the stage for the inevitable conflict.
- Chapter seven surveys the response
to Harold’s coronation by William of
Normandy and his subsequent preparations to invade England.
- Chapter eight sets
the scene for William’s invasion by examining the role
the English Channel has played in the various migrations to and invasions
of the British Isles.
- Chapter nine addresses the moral underpinning of William’s
undertaking. Patterson plays out a conversation between William and his
advisor Lanfranc where
they create rationales to conduct war against Harold that would satisfy
- Chapter ten describes the material and political preparations made by
both sides. Harold traveled to Northumbria to wed Alditha, and to muster
support from the
northern thanes. William was gathering intelligence and formulating landing
- Chapter eleven deals with William’s representative to Rome, Gilbert
of Lisieux, and the interaction between him and the Papal authorities, culminating
in the Pope’s blessing of William’s invasion of England.
twelve discusses Tostig’s attempts to attack England with a small
fleet of loyal men augmented by mercenaries. The invasion failed and turned
into an extended raid up the eastern coast of England. After the desertion
mercenaries Tostig sailed to King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland for aid.
It was here that Tostig made the first contacts with Harald Hardrada.
- Chapter thirteen
introduces the third major player in this drama, Harald Hardrada. Patterson
portrays Harald as a brutal, despotic ruler with a tenuous claim
to the English throne who is given the impetus to invade by meeting Tostig
- Chapter fourteen addresses Harold’s strategic planning to respond
to the impending invasions from both William and Harald. In the south Harold
a mobile force on the Isle of Wight to meet William, and in the north he
allowed the earls of Mercia and Northumbria to coordinate the defenses against
- Chapter fifteen recounts the initial invasion by Harald Hardrada and
Tostig of Northumbria. After a recruiting drive that went from Norway to
to the Orkneys and finally Scotland the Norse fleet struck Northumbria
the English army at the Battle of Gate Fulford leaving Harald in control
of northern England.
- Chapter sixteen details the grim battle at Stamford Bridge.
Here Harold retook York and defeated the Norse invasion fleet but suffered
heavy losses and an
- Chapter seventeen covers William’s journey from the shipyards
on the River Dives to St. Valery and eventually across the Channel. The
entire operation would
not have taken place had it not been for unseasonably favorable weather.
Additionally the chapter recounts the service held by William to ask for
eighteen describes William’s landing at Pevensey and subsequent
march to Hastings. Hastings provided the ideal entry point to England but was
difficult to find from the Channel which required William to find an alternate
landing zone. Patterson emphasizes William’s ruthless and rapacious
policies in dealing with the English citizens.
- Chapter nineteen covers Harold’s
return to London and his preparations to meet William in the field. His
brother, Gyrth, tries to sway Harold into holding
until the local fyrds can be mustered in order to meet William with three
times the men Harold currently had; Harold ignores all of these efforts and
on to confront William.
- Chapter twenty discusses the disposition of both armies
at the Battle of Hastings. Patterson describes in detail where and why
Harold deploys his forces on Telham
Hill and William’s straight forward response.
- Chapter twenty one recounts
the events of October 14, 1066. The long grueling day of battle where twice
William’s flank broke, and twice the English
pursued, but each time William was able to rally his forces and prevent
a break through. The second time the English pursue proves to be the fatal
one as William
brings his cavalry around the English line and rides down Harold, ending
- Chapter twenty two is a brief narrative of the aftermath of the battle.
William punishes the knight who mutilated Harold’s body and searches
for someone who can identify him. Patterson postulates it could have been Edith
In the closing pages of the book Patterson defends the writing style of the
book. He has striven to make this narrative as readable as possible to as
as possible. The one criticism of this style is that without documentation
the division between researched fact and conjecture is very blurry. The use
would have detracted little and leant more scholarly weight to the text.
In the end Patterson has succeeded admirably as this book provides an excellent
narrative survey of the relationship between Harold Godwinson and William,
Duke of Normandy.
Page Added: December 2007