Bayeux Tapestry

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Cynric the cynical
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby Cynric the cynical » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:25 pm

[quoteEnglish Heritage quote historical sources to say the following:

"The Benedictine ... Despite the unsuitable location on top of a narrow, waterless ridge and objections from the first monks, William insisted that the high altar of the abbey church be placed to mark where Harold had been killed."][/quote]

Extract from "The Chronicle of Battle Abbey" by Walter de Luci from "1066: The Uncomfortable Truth"
“… They studied the battlefield and decided that it seemed hardly suitable for so outstanding a building . They therefore chose a fit place for settling, a site not far off, but somewhat lower down, towards the western slope of the ridge [The Ridge]. There lest they be seen to be doing nothing, they built themselves some little huts. This place, still called Herste has a low wall as a mark of this."

You can hardly get any lower down than Battle Abbey towards The Ridge. BTW, The Ridge starts at the turning for Battle Railway Station.

Cynric the cynical
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby Cynric the cynical » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:35 pm

[quoteEnglish Heritage quote historical sources to say the following:

"The Benedictine ... Despite the unsuitable location on top of a narrow, waterless ridge and objections from the first monks, William insisted that the high altar of the abbey church be placed to mark where Harold had been killed."][/quote]

Extract from "The Chronicle of Battle Abbey" by Walter de Luci from "1066: The Uncomfortable Truth"
“… Accordingly, when the King enquired meanwhile about the progress of the building, it was intimated to him by these brethren that the place where he had decided to have the church built was on a hill, and so dry of soil and quite without springs and that for so great a construction a more likely place nearby should be substituted, if it pleased him."

Battle Abbey isn't on a hill but a ridge and what about all the fish ponds an Abbey needs for Friday's fish? Certainly enough water for that at Battle Abbey!

The Chronicle is actually considered a forgery and earnt Walter De Luci a temporary ex-communication from the Bishop of Chichester. English Heritage has some cheek quoting from a historical forgery!

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seahermit
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby seahermit » Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:17 am

At first sight, all too complex! Hard to get a clear idea of where the supposed hill was, how far from the actual battle site etc. If de Luci's accounts are untrustworthy, are there many other literary sources about the battle location or the founding of the Abbey? Unlikely to be Saxon ones. Then as now, the victors tend to write the history.

Other arguments e.g. from archaeology may eventually prove to be the most potent. No relics whatsoever have been unearthed near Battle Abbey, but weapon fragments have been found elsewhere.

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Richard
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby Richard » Mon Oct 15, 2018 7:48 pm

A couple of minor points:

1. The Norman soldiers were religious / superstitious and in all probability made fervent prayers for a successful outcome, Papal banners were carried by the Normans after all.
2. Fishponds were available locally by the close proximity of the river Asten.

As far as I can see the battle was in the general area of its namesake 'Battle'.
Why else would it be so-named?
It stands to reason from a military (topographical = lie of the land) point of view that the summit of a ridge is a great military advantage and this has to be defended.
The ridge in that area lay along the main road from Battle Abbey to the roundabout.
Harold's men occupied the higher ground and William's Archers attacked from lower ground, as pointed out by William of Poitiers, who went on to state that the English bravely defended their position with a typical close-formation of shields, maintaining an impregnable front.
Despite Norman Archers firing arrows uphill, William of Poitiers describes how the attackers soon retreated under fire from the English.
Unable to break the shield wall William made use of a 'ruse de guerre' common in Byzantine and Oriental warfare, he determined to lure his enemy down from the hoary apple tree hill by means of a feint retreat.
Harold was blamed for his soldiers falling into this trap which was repeated several times and so utterly decimating his troops. We don't really know if this is a truth or a fiction.
We believe that the Normans used horses and archers whereas the English had ground troops bearing axes and spears and of course it is one of the oldest rules of war (beside defending the high ground) that weapons dictate tactics.
Surely if the English were gleefully running downhill, attacking the Norman Archers then the same could hardly round on them with hand-to-hand fighting and finish them of so devastatingly?

I think the tactics are as interesting as the general botheration over the exact site but history doesn't relate and as for the lack of any trace of weaponry or even arrow heads in the area in contention there is not a lot of evidence to be had from any other site.
Perhaps scavengers combed the grounds for souvenirs and the bodies were buried in great pits and burned thoroughly - grisly stuff!

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seahermit
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby seahermit » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:50 pm

No, these arguments don't hang together. To just accept that the settlement of Battle was so-named because the battle took place nearby is naive, ignores all the circumstantial evidence that the monks may well have pushed for a different location for the abbey because the battle-site was soft, unsuitable ground - and merely swallows the official legend (promoted still by English Heritage) which the original monks wanted people to believe!

Without reading again about the alternative battle-sites promoted by other parties, my knowledge is a bit hazy but the fact remains that there are several points of high ground on the route from the coast to the ridge on which the abbey now stands. The geography of some of them fits the battle-location rather better than the area around modern Battle and indeed in some of those places traces of weaponry have been unearthed. The idea that this is because there may have been skirmishes taking place all over that part of Sussex is not really realistic - the Normans were a highly organised and formidable enemy. For the Saxons, the only hope of defeating them would have been by making a stand in a very strong, defensible location rather than a pitched battle on an open plain - and this is precisely the kind of battle which took place.

Since horses and archers figure in the Bayeux Tapestry, is there any doubt that "the Normans used horses and archers"?! It is not at all true that "weapons dictate tactics". As in many battles throughout history, the Normans found themselves in a situation where they had no choice but to attack the Saxons uphill (or leave them commanding the strongpoint) and, DESPITE the fact that they were armed with cavalry and a large body of archers which on a normal, flat battlefield would indeed have given them a heavy advantage, in this particular engagement the Saxons were able to dictate the battleground and therefore the initial course of the fighting.

A lot of this is obvious and can be deduced from a straight reading of the various accounts of the battle.

Cynric the cynical
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby Cynric the cynical » Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:19 pm

Why doesn't everyone go back to first principles and go back to the pictorial representation of the engagements. Yes, I said "engagements".

IMHO ( how often have we seen that acronym and just wanted to strangle the person who wrote it?), there were, according to the Tapestry, two engagements on that fateful day.

The first engagement is depicted as an all Huscarl affair that started at 9 and finished just after 12. According to Orderic ( who's the only person to mention it) this happened at Senlac. Not Senlac Hill or Senlac Ridge just Senlac.

The second engagement started at 3 and carried on until 6 or 6:30 ish when Harold was killed.
The evidence I used to come to this conclusion lies on the ground the combatants are fighting on.
During the Huscarl encounter the ground is flat while the ground the plebs are fighting on is depicted as a ridge. So according to the BT, Harold was killed towards the end of the second encounter.

What is not clear to me is whether or not the Malfosse is being depicted right at the very end of the Tapestry.
Okay , lets argue......

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ColinL
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby ColinL » Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:57 pm

Boulogne is too far east from Normandy itself and was in another Dukedom.. According to the chronicler William of Poitiers they originally set off further west but due to bad weather conditions were forced into St Valery (just over the border into the next Dukedom) to shelter in the bay and to do some repair before a break in the weather allowed them to continue.

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Richard
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby Richard » Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:06 pm

We all learned that the English defended the high ground, wherever that was exactly history doesn't relate with certainty, they formed an impregnable wall of infantry-men with shields and were extremely competent at hand-to-hand fighting, the Normans struggled hard to break through despite their best efforts until later in the day when, after different tactics were used to lure the English out of their tight formation, the Norman Archers were instructed to fire at a higher angle which was more difficult to guard against and one lucky shot ended the day-long battle.

Without the archers it is unlikely the Normans would have stood a chance and their cavalry added to their superiority.
However the Normans actually broke the ranks of the English is uncertain, whether by honest fighting or by feints and trickery is another matter and whether that really tipped the balance or the loss of Harold made such a huge difference is a matter of some debate.
The English defenders had no Archers to speak of and few horses, they were broken by an attacker with different weapons and more imaginative tactics...

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seahermit
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby seahermit » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:40 pm

The doubt about the exact location of the battle remains and, until some further research is undertaken or hard evidence comes out of the earth, I think the arguments will continue.

The Normans actually stood quite a good chance of winning - so far as I remember, they greatly outnumbered the Saxon troops and of course the archers and cavalry gave them an advantage. But the superior weaponry was initially of no help given the lay of the land, it was only the Normans' alternative tactics and feinted withdrawal which eventually tipped the balance. And nobody has mentioned sheer tiredness - the Saxons had just fought a previous battle at Stamford Bridge, then marched southwards and (I think) engaged the Normans without much of a rest. And yes, one lucky shot ended it - even Napoleon said that luck was always a factor.

northants1066
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Re: Bayeux Tapestry

Postby northants1066 » Sat Oct 20, 2018 8:57 pm

I am shocked that in 2018 we are still celebrating the victory of those evil Normans who subjugated the indigenous population, stole their land and took many as slaves. It is about time that those awful street names were erased. No more William Road, Norman Road, Conqueror Road, Falaise Hall or Bayeux Way. And to name the hospital The Conquest is just rubbing salt into the wounds.
It now seems that cultural appropriation is taking place when men and women dress in Saxon fancy dress attire every year around October 14th and are then slaughtered once again just to satisfy tourists and promote supposed Norman superiority


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