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Norman Conquest: Carmen de Hastingae

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JPickett View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Feb 2012 at 12:47
Hi there,

I'm currently doing research for a book on William the Conqueror and I'm struggling to find a copy of Bishop Guy of Amiens' Carmen de Hastingae Proelio in London, England (of all places!).

The British Libary and London Library both have copies, but charge exhorbitant fees for access to them. Any ideas?

Also, if anyone wants to chat about William I, I'd be more than happy to, as Ive got loads of questions that keep cropping up.

Cheers,
Joe
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Paradigm of Humanity View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Feb 2012 at 12:53
I had a little research about William recently, nothing academic though. What do you want to talk about William? I'm curious... 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Feb 2012 at 15:10
What do you mean by access? Over the web or in person?  I work about a mile and a bit from the BL.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JPickett Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2012 at 10:48
Thanks for your answers.

I've actually just been told by the London Library that it is free to consult the copies available at the British Library, although special permission is required (Reader Pass). I misunderstood that, although it would be useful to find a history library which can be used without having to make an appointment or pay large sums...

2 particular points are puzzling me regarding the Norman Conquest:

1. The implications Stamford Bridge had on Hastings:
I've heard people claim that Stamford Bridge greatly depleted Wiiliam's army (through casualties or deserters on the march back South), or at the very least tired his men out, contributing strongly to the ultimate defeat on Senlac Hill. This is a claim which puzzles me. Did Stamford Bridge really have much impact on Hastings? My understanding of the Saxon English way of assembling an army is that whenever an area comes under threat, the affected shires' & earldoms' fyrds would be levied around an elite of each lord's Huscarls.

This would explain why Edwin & Morcar had an army available to defend the North against Tostig and Hardrada. Their army was sizeable enough to take on the Norwegians, but lost owing to the tactical error made by Morcar in leaving the bank of the beck whilst Edwin held his ground (thus exposing his flank).

Apart from Harold Godwinson's own household troops, who, judging by the speed at which they were able to get up to York and various authors' comments (Rex's 1066 & Barlow's The Godwins), appear to have been on horseback for the journey, and possibly a few other lords' house carls, few of the troops originally assembled opposite the mouth of the Dives river would have accompagnied Harold north. Could we talk of a Godwinian army defending the south and a Leofrician army defending the north? As a consequence, they would not have been worn down by Stamford Bridge and the march.

One could say that, if they had been disbanded owing to the supposed end of the campaigning season, they would take time to reassemble. If that were the case, a counter argument would be that the news of William's landing and ravaging would have reached the southern shires and hundreds sooner than it reached Harold, thus given some time to put troops on standy.

In any case, the ridge chosen by Harold would have made any extra troops more difficult to use and it was necessary to have an elevated position to counter the threat of cavalry, wasn't it?

2. Harold supposed visit to Normandy in c.1058:

E.A. Freeman (William the Conqueror) claims that the version which he went over to negociate the release of hostages such as his nephew is unlikely, as they are not named elsewhere. But Freeman himself starts his book by deploring the "paucity of information". He then goes on to state that the likeliest version to be true is the one in which Harold is just out on a boat along the English coast and gets blown across the Channel by accident.

Any thoughts on that? Does anyone know what seafaring was like in the Channel in the XIth Century and how likely that version is?

Cheers,
Joe


Edited by JPickett - 22 Feb 2012 at 10:49
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2012 at 14:38
Any vessel Harold was in in the Channel in 1066 would very likely have been double-ended and steerable and propellable with oars, especially with the sail (if any) down. It doesn't take long to bring down a single sail, even if a squall cmes up and it would be the obvious emergency action to take.
 
There also wouldn't be much freeboard for a wind to get a hold on. It onle seems to me to be somewhat viable if the boat was delberately sailing near the French coast some way down channel, and in emergancy steered for the French coast rather than the English.
 
The 11th century hadn't seen much change in ship design since Alfred's time. wikipedia places cogs in English waters in the late 10th century, but I doubt it. Anyhow, what I wrote above would apply to early cogs and hulks too, except for the freeboard.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JPickett Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Feb 2012 at 12:27
Thanks for that answer, GCLE2003. Do you know of any academic sources I could referto in order to support that? i.e. a published specialist in historical ships or such like?

UPDATE: Managed to reserve the Gesta Normannorum Ducum of Orderic Vitalis and William of Jumieges, along with the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens at the British Library. Yay! Should be able to see them on Staurday. No doubt I'll have loads more questions afterwards.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Tyson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Apr 2013 at 09:09
Hi Joe,

This is probably a little late, but . . .

I had the same problem finding the Carmen earlier this year, finally managing to secure a copy of the M&M 1972 OMT edition from a public library.  Unhappy with that translation for many reasons, and unwilling to pay the price of the Barlow, I started to play around with translating the Latin myself.  To cut to the chase, I've just published a new translation on Kindle - completely retranslating all 835 lines without any prior preconceptions as to the author's intent.   It is published as The Carmen and The Conquest.

The translation differs substantially from the two earlier published OMT translations, and I'd welcome some feedback on it.  For one, I've determined that Ansgardus is simply Edgar the Aethling badly spelled.  The name of the child-king went from Saxon to Norman to Latin by word of mouth, so misspelling isn't surprising.  Edward is spelled three different ways in the Carmen, evidencing a carelessness with Saxon names.  The lines that mention Ansgardus make perfect sense if the person is Edgar. 

I also identify the agent of the City's negotiation as a bishop - probably William, Bishop of London as the Carmen says he was "sorrowful for his country" (meaning London).  The maimed foot thing is a tortured mistranslation.  Pedum also means bishop's staff ab signia officio - as a sign of office.  Those two corrections themselves make a huge difference, especially as what follows is the revelation of the City of London's status as a French livery borough of the Church of Saint-Denis.  On learning of its livery status, William immediately offers to permit self-administration by the aldermen, consistent with church livery status in France under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings.  Restoring the French and Norman livery ports in England was one of the causus belli (Pevensey was a livery port of Saint-Denis and Hastings was a livery port of Fecamp Abbey) so William had no hesitation in recognising Saint-Denis jurisidiction over London.

On your two main points of enquiry, here is my view of the Carmen's import:

Stamford Bridge:
  The Carmen only gives the barest account of Harold's defeat of his brother Tostig and never mentions Harald Hardrata at all.  However, the Carmen does state very clearly that Harold preferred surprise attacks.  The defeat at Stamford Bridge was accomplished by speed and surprise, with Harold attacking the sleeping camp of the invaders to secure a quick victory.  He had used the same ploy in Wales in 1062.  The Carmen says that Harold hoped to surprise William's forces in their Sussex camp and defeat them before they were aware he was in the region, having sent his navy to trap them by sea as well.  Harold travelled quickly to do this and his fyrd on foot could not have kept up the pace of the men on horse.  Local barons, hauscarls and fyrd would have been struggling to join up.

As soon as William learns from Harold's envoy that he is approaching, he sends his own envoy to seek out Harold's forces and taunt him into battle immediately.  The speech given by the envoy - chosen for his booming voice according to the Carmen - insists Harold is a usurper and aldulterer and calls him out so insultingly that hot-tempered Harold insists on immediate battle.  He knows his surprise attack has been foiled by the envoy's discovery, so has no choice but to battle on the ridge the next day.

What I suggest is that the battle did not occur at Battle Hill but at Chown's Hill above Hastings where the London Road meets the Icklesham ridgeway.  I think William spent his 15 days in the Brede Valley, attacking the region with looting forays by boat.  The Manor of Rameslie had been held by Fecamp Abbey since 1014, but was seized by Godwin in 1052 in defiance of the church and the Pope.  William and the monks from Fecamp Abbey who accompanied him considered it legally their land, justifying them in repossessing it, killing any settlers put there by Godwin and Harold.  They just wait there - on what they consider Norman lands - for over two weeks with an army of 5 thousand for Harold to come to them. 

Harold's visit to Normandy:  First of all, the visit to Normandy by Harold was in 1064, not 1058.  The Carmen makes clear through the envoy's speech that Harold was sent as an envoy with gifts from Edward - "a ring and a sword" - confirming William as Edward's heir and successor.  The Carmen suggests Harold was knighted by William, becoming his vassel, and states he swore a sacred oath on holy relics that he would serve William as suzerain and king.  Harold being called an "adulterer" in the Carmen also suggests that Harold was either betrothed or married to William's daughter Agatha while in Normandy.  The Normans often married their daughters young, although the girls would not join their husbands until reaching puberty.  When Harold subsequently marries Edith in 1066 he compromises Agatha, providing another spur to William's wrath against him.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melisende Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Oct 2015 at 02:43
I have a copy of Kathleen Tyson's "Carmen" and find it very user-friendly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Oct 2015 at 12:13
Quote I've heard people claim that Stamford Bridge greatly depleted Wiiliam's army (through casualties or deserters on the march back South), or at the very least tired his men out, contributing strongly to the ultimate defeat on Senlac Hill. This is a claim which puzzles me. Did Stamford Bridge really have much impact on Hastings? My understanding of the Saxon English way of assembling an army is that whenever an area comes under threat, the affected shires' & earldoms' fyrds would be levied around an elite of each lord's Huscarls.

You mean Harold might have had a depleted army after Stamford Bridge surely :D

But in all seriousness, dark age armies in Britain were remarkably mobile and always had been. I think the issue for HArold, given how close to success he came at hastings, was that his troops were tired by their exertions prior to meeting William on the field rather than any disadvantage in numbers. Whilst Harold must have suffered casualties, remember that a fair number of men had already been dismissed from service when it seemed the Normans weren't going to arrive, so those troops were within marching distance and recall to service when news reached Harold that William had landed.
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