Q Had Harold pre­vailed in 1066, could the Nor­mans have in­vaded Eng­land again, with pa­pal back­ing?

BBC History Magazine - - Miscellany - John Hill, Bournemouth Marc Mor­ris is a his­to­rian and broad­caster. His lat­est book is King John: Treach­ery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta (Wind­mill Books, 2015)

No. In the first place, had Wil­liam A

been de­feated, he would al­most cer­tainly have been killed, like the other un­suc­cess­ful in­vaders of 1066, Tostig God­wine­son and Harold Hardrada. In pre-Con­quest Eng­land, there was no tra­di­tion of spar­ing de­feated en­e­mies.

But even as­sum­ing Wil­liam had es­caped and re­turned to Nor­mandy, there would have been lit­tle chance of a re­peat per­for­mance. The in­va­sion of 1066 had stretched Norman re­sources to the limit. Ships had been built from scratch, sup­plies stock­piled for months, and mer­ce­nar­ies re­cruited from all over France and be­yond. From a purely prac­ti­cal point of view, re­peat­ing all of this would have been hugely dif­fi­cult.

The greater dif­fi­culty, which would surely have nixed any thoughts of a re­peat at­tempt, would have been the lack of po­lit­i­cal sup­port. Many Nor­mans had ob­jected to Wil­liam’s plan to in­vade Eng­land in 1066, point­ing out that it was in­sanely risky and that they were not obliged to serve him over­seas. That would have been dou­bly true if a first at­tempt had failed.

Pope or no pope, by in­vad­ing Eng­land in 1066, Wil­liam had es­sen­tially sub­mit­ted the jus­tice of his claim to di­vine judg­ment. Had Harold pre­vailed at Hast­ings, con­tem­po­raries would have un­der­stood that God had de­cided against Wil­liam.


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