Images of flood on
the day of the battle
panoramas of the battle site
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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.
this potential source provides us no relevant, factual information about either
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?”
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
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.
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.
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.”
The Life of King Edward (Vita
Edwardi Regis) , attributed to a monk of Saint Bertin, Tr Frank Balow,