Why 1066: is it just about Hastings?

by max ashley
Jan 22, 2016

Anglo-Saxon king with his witan. Biblical scene in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (11th century), portraying Pharaoh in court session, after passing judgment on his chief baker and chief cupbearer. ED: please note the term “Pharaoh”

Ask any native English speaker what 1066 is and you’ll get a correct answer. It’s in game show questions, board game questions and pub night trivia questions. You may not get much in the way of depth in the answer but as to date there has been only one person who didn’t know the answer and this happened only recently and in an English speaking country by a native speaker.

While living abroad in a non English speaking country I started to wonder why so much significance is put on the date and for quite awhile I considered it was just part of the curriculum of all English educational systems and after all, it is a major event in the course of English history. It seemed that this date was a common denominator of all English speakers regardless of which colony or continent they came from, or which level of education the English speaker had or had not achieved.

This “common limited knowledge” played on my critical mind and drove me to question the 1066 common denominator question, which the more I looked at it and the more people I questioned it began to appear to me more as marketing or branding than history. Maybe it is but I’ll get to that later.

So, naturally we all know the answer to the question is The Battle of Hastings, which resulted due to the death of Edward the Confessor and the subsequent crowning of Harold Godwinson and with the blessing of the Witenaġemot, also known as The Witan, thus setting in motion a three way dual for the throne that was contested by William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, both claiming title to the throne due to previously made promises, pledges and sacred oaths. (Click for a pronunciation of Witenaġemot.)

This three way dual resulted in attacks from both of the other parties; Hardrada attacked on September 25th at Stamford Bridge and William attacked at Hastings on October 14th. The result; apart from more blood shed in a country that was already drenched in blood and the decimation of English nobility, was the crowning of William now know as William The Conqueror on December 25th 1066.

All wrapped up very simply and with far more names of players and locations than one would normally get in an answer from an native English speaker and relatively clean-cut for a rather confusing and murky part of our history that includes sacred oaths and promises, which are hard to substantiate when the main player, Edward the Confessor, is dead.

What initially caught my attention though was the council that had placed Harold Godwinson on the throne after the death of Edward, the Witenaġemot or Council of Witan or simply the Witan? A council that placed kings on the throne? I had never heard of this council before or of its functions. The more I looked the more I was puzzled to the limited and conflicting information of a council that supposedly had so much clout. Their roles and functions and status differ considerably depending on the expert being asked.

Witangemot
Witenaġemot, or Witan as it became more commonly known when Christianity reached England in circa 600. It means “meeting of wise men” and its origins can be traced to ancient Germanic principles, which means the origins of this societal body is directly connected to Odinistic Law and the Nine Pillars of Virtue. Comparisons are often made to the ancient Germanic general assembles or Folkmoots although this comparison debases the power and status of Witenaġemot although it is a valid description when comparing the Witenaġemot after the crowning of William in 1066.
After Christianity slaughtered the majority of wise men and wise women of the United Kingdom and forced the population into renouncing their faith and their laws the Witan then consisted of the main players of society; noblemen, clergy and merchants, which interestingly didn’t necessarily represent the political will of the time and seems to still have strong connections to their origins. The function of the Witan varies dramatically depending on your source from simply advising the Crown on decisions that were to be made for the people to being able to crown and de-throne Kings depending on the political and Geo-political climate at the time. This is quite a variance in description of roles and functions and status.
It is sad to write that our present day Parliament is often said to have evolved from Witenaġemot. I can not find any comparison between Parliament, past or present, and the original Witenaġemot as Parliament complies with only 2 of the 9 Noble Virtues; self reliance and industriousness (for themselves and corporations) and in its present modern form can in no way be considered to operate for the people.

Before and After
As our history is taught in a “cherry picking” style of giving dates and events and more often than not omitting the events leading up to the date or the short and long term results it pays to take a look a both ends of the date of 1066.

read more…

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