The Burial Of King Harold
Whilst the Normans were mourning
and burying their dead the Saxons had to face the same
terrible tasks, but added to this , was the weight of defeat
and the death of their King...
"King Harold was
carried and buried at Varham; but I know not who it was that
bore him thither, neither do I know who buried him. Many
remained on the field, and many had fled in the night."
Such is a Norman account of the battle of Hastings, which does
full justice to the valor of the Saxons as well as to the
skill and bravery of the victors.
Many a pathetic
legend was told in after years respecting the discovery and
the burial of the corpse of our last Saxon King. The main
circumstances, though they seem to vary, are perhaps
reconcilable. Two of the monks of Waltham Abbey, which Harold
had founded a little time before his election to the throne,
had accompanied him to the battle. On the morning after the
slaughter they begged and gained permission of the Conqueror
to search for the body of their benefactor.
soldiery and camp followers had stripped and gashed the slain,
and the two monks vainly strove to recognize from among the
mutilated and gory heaps around them the features of their
former King. They sent for Harold's mistress, Edith, surnamed
"the Fair," and "the Swan-necked," to aid them. The eye of
love proved keener than the eye of gratitude, and the Saxon
lady even in that Aceldama (A place with dreadful
associations) knew her Harold.
The King's mother now sought the victorious Norman, and begged
the dead body of her son. But William at first answered, in
his wrath and the hardness of his heart, that a man who had
been false to his word and his religion should have no other
sepulchre than the sand of the shore. He added, with a sneer:
"Harold mounted guard on the coast while he was alive; he may
continue his guard now he is dead." The taunt was an
unintentional eulogy; and a grave washed by the spray of the
Sussex waves would have been the noblest burial-place for the
martyr of Saxon freedom.
mother was urgent in her lamentations and her prayers; the
Conqueror relented: like Achilles, he gave up the dead body of
his fallen foe to a parent's supplications, and the remains of
King Harold were deposited with regal honors in Waltham Abbey.