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Regarding Harold's oath to William

>From the book THE GREAT BATTLES OF ALL NATIONS    vol.1   publ. 1899

  chapter XI
The Battle of Hastings

Conquest of England by Duke William of Normandy,
Afterward styled William The Conquerer
           A.D. 1066
The Battle of Hastings is recognized as the first step by which
England reached her present strength.  Previously the importance of
the country had been meager.  Afterward it emerged from insignificance
into power.
   The interest of this eventful struggle, by which William of
Normandy became King of England, is materially enhanced by the
character of the competitors for the crown.  They were three in
number.  One was a foreign prince from the north; one was a foreign
prince from the south; and one was a native hero of the land.  Harald
Hardrada, the strongest and the most chivalric of the kings of Norway,
was the first; Duke William of Normandy was the second; and the Saxon
Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, was the third. Never was a nobler
prize sought by nobler champions, or striven for more gallantly.  The
Saxon triumphed over the Norwegian, and the Norman triumphed over the
Saxon; but Norse valor was never more conspicuous than when Harald
Hardrata and his host fought and fell at Stamford Bridge; nor did
Saxons ever face their foes more bravely than Harold and his men on
the fatal day of Hastings.
     During the reign of King Edward the Confessor over the land, the
claims of the Norwegian king to the crown were little thought of; and
though Hardrada's predecessor, King Magnus of Norway, had on one
occassion asserted that, by virtue of a compact with the former king,
Hardicanute, he was entitled to the English throne, no serious attempt
had been made to enforce his pretensions.  But the rivalry of the
Saxon Harold and the Norman William was foreseen and bewailed by the
Confessor, who was believed to have predicted on his deathbed the
calamities that were impending over England.  Duke William was King
Edward's kinsman. Harold was the head of the most powerful noble
house, next to the royal blood, in England; and, personally, he was
the bravest and most popular chieftain in the land.  King Edward was
childless, and the nearest collateral heir was a puny unpromising
boy.  England had suffered too severely, during royal minorities, to
make the accession of Edgar Atheling desirable; and long before King
Edward's death, Earl Harold was the destined king of the nation's
choice, though the favor of the Confessor was believed to lead toward
the Norman duke.
     A little time before the death of King Edward, Harold was in
Normandy. The causes of the voyage of the Saxon earl to the Continent
are doubtful; but the fact of his having been, in 1065, at the ducal
court, and in the power of his rival, is indisputable.  William made
skillful and unscrupulous use of the oppurtunity.  Though Harold was
treated  with outward courtesy and friendship, he was made fully aware
that his liberty and life depended on his compliance with the duke's
requests.  William said to him, in apparent confidence and cordiality,
"When King Edward and I once lived like brothers under the same roof,
he promised that if ever he became king of England he would make me
heir to his throne.  Harold, I wish that thou wouldst assist me to
realize this promise." Harold replied with expressions of assent; and
further agreed, at Williams request, to marry William's daughter,
Adela, and to send over his own sister to be married to one of
William's barons.  The crafty Norman was not content with this
extorted promise; he determined to bind Harold by a more solemn
pledge, the breach of which would be a weight on the spirit of the
gallant Saxon, and a discouragement to others from adopting his
cause.  Befor a full assembly of the Norman barons, Harold was
required to do homage to Duke William, as the heir apparent of the
English crown.  Kneeling down, Harold placed his hands between those
of the duke, and repeated the solemn form by which he acknowledged the
duke as his lord, and promised to him fealty and true service.  But
William exacted more.  He had caused all the bones and relics of
saints that were preserved in the Norman monasteries and churches to
be collected into a chest, which was placed in the council-room,
covered over with a cloth of gold.  On the chest of relics, which were
thus concealed, was laid a missal. The duke then solemnly addressed
his titular guest and real captive, and said to him, "Harold, I
require thee, before this noble assembly, to confirm by oath the
promises which thou hast made me, to assist me in obtaining the crown
of England after King Edward's death, to marry my daughter Adela, and
to send me thy sister, that I may give her in marriage to one of my
barons."  Harold, once more taken by surprise, and not able to deny
his former words, approached the missal, and laid his hand on it, not
knowing that the chest of relics was beneath.  The old Norman
chronicler, who describes the scene most minutely, says, when Harold
placed his hand on it, the hand trembled, and his flesh quivered; but
he swore, and promised upon his oath to take Ele (Adela) to wife, and
to deliver up England to the duke, and thereunto to do all in his
power, according to his might and wit, after the death of Edward, if
he himself should live; so help him God.  Many cried, "God grant it!"
and when Harold rose from his knees, the duke made him stand close to
the chest, and took off the pall that had covered it, and showed
Harold upon what holy relics he had sworn; and Harold was sorely
alarmed at the sight.

Remembered having read this recently. Hope it helps. The story goes on
to cover the Battle of Hastings.

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