Harolds Departure

Harold, departing on a visit to William of Normandy, takes leave of Edward the Confessor.

There are three chief statements as to the causes which took Harold into Normandy. According to one version, Eadward, perhaps after the death of the AEtheling, determined to make William his heir. He therefore sent Harold over to announce his intention to the Norman Duke. This account I believe to be absolutely fabulous. According to another account, Godwine, on his reconciliation with Eadward, gave hostages to the King for his good behaviour, in the persons of his youngest son Wulfnoth and his grandson Hakon the son of Swegen. This tale I do not believe any more than the other, but it apparently differs from it as not being pure invention, but as being grounded on a certain basis of fact. Both stories, it will be observed, assume the loyalty of Harold and the confidence placed in him by Eadward. The former story indeed, by representing Harold as sent to announce and confirm Eadward's choice, implies that Harold had himself no designs on the Crown, or, at all events, that Eadward had no suspicion that he had any. But the second story distinctly implies that, at the time of the journey, Eadward had no intentions in favour of William, perhaps that he had intentions in favour of Harold. This version therefore comes nearer to the true state of the case than the other. With regard to the hostages, I do not believe the tale, but I still suspect that some small amount of truth lurks under it. No English account of the restoration of Godwine mentions that he gave hostages to the King, still less that any such hostages were entrusted to the keeping of Duke William. Such a story is most improbable in itself, and it distinctly contradicts the real facts of the case. I therefore altogether disbelieve in the story of the hostages. I accept then the third version, according to which Harold's presence in Normandy was purely accidental. According to this account, he was not going to William's court, either on the King's errand or on his own. He was sailing elsewhere, to Wales or to Flanders, or simply taking his pleasure in the Channel. I am inclined to think that this last was really the case, and I further suspect that he was accompanied on his pleasure-trip by some of the younger members of his family, by his brother Wulfnoth, his nephew Hakon, and possibly his sister AEfgifu. At all events, the Earl set forth at the head of a considerable company, enough to fill three of the vessels of the time, and he went accompanied by dogs and hawks, ready to enjoy the sports of the field at any points at which they might land. --Freeman

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