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.
The Norman 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.
But Harold's 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.