The next History Society talk is on ‘East Sussex Early Archaeology’ by Caspar Johnson at 7.30 pm on Thursday 17 March in the Wynne Room, Battle Memorial Hall. All welcome; non-members £4 on the door.
Battle Museum of Local History is opening for the new season on Good Friday, 25 March – do come and see the new exhibition (open Monday-Saturday 10.00-4.30 pm). The Museum owes many thanks to The Crafty Norman who presented a handsome donation to Robert Emeleus, Museum Chairman, at the recent opening of the new craft shop. Preparations for the Battle Community Tapestry are also well underway: keep a look out for the first date so you can come and add a stitch!
This month in 1066
After a meeting with his closest advisers, William called a meeting of the rest of the Norman magnates, at Lillebonne. According to one chronicler, this took place after William had received the papal banner which would mean around March. What information we have suggests that not a little persuasion was needed. The Normans were concerned at the wealth and strength of England compared with Normandy – they feared that Harold was in a much stronger position. They were also worried about the logistics of crossing the Channel, particularly taking into account that Harold had battle-hardened, expert sailors and many ships at this disposal. The Normans success to date was in land-based war. Some also made it clear that they did not consider that they owed William service beyond the sea.
It appears that there were individual negotiations between William and his vassals, with him entreating them to double their usual level of service and promising that this would not create a precedent. The detail of how he won them over is not known for certain. The papal banner would have had influence; the material rewards also – William of course could offer his men a share of the spoils, an option not open to Harold; and much would have been made of the justice of William’s cause. The agreements were recorded in what is called the ‘Ship List’, a surviving summary of a larger document, listing 14 names and the number of ships they agreed to provide. These numbers must have been the minimum necessary but even so, they would have been very difficult to provide: two of his closest counsellors promised 60 ships each. The Bayeux Tapestry implies that all the fleet was built from scratch, which seems impossible. However, even if some vessels were bought or requisitioned, there was no doubt a massive building programme, with frenetic activity in the forests and shipyards of Normandy in order to meet the requirements in such a short space of time.
In the meantime, Harold was sending spies to Normandy to find out what William was doing!