2015 will see the walk between Battle Abbey and Bosham completed ready to write up and present to the world.
It will be King Harold’s Final Journey, a walk of 85 miles across the breadth of Sussex following a route between Saxon villages and along Roman roads, by rivers that meander gently or have enough power as they fall from the High Weald to power the furnaces and forges. It is a journey that mostly skirts the South Downs, along less frequently used paths that will help preserve the rural network of both Public Footpaths and public transport.
But why Bosham?
Well, I’m following one of the legends of what happened to Harold’s body after the Battle of Hastings, in 1066 and I’m sticking close to Lady Gwytha, King Harold’s mum.
She was a ‘Peace Weaver’, as many high ranking noble women were during the medieval age, and she would weave her peace with Duke William.
Perhaps it went something like this:
“My noble Duke, I know that you are a little bit angry with Harold and want to bury him by the sea and I know that you said ‘Harold mounted guard on the coast while he was alive; he may continue his guard now he is dead’, well I have an idea.
If you bury him in Hastings, all the world will know and Saxons will come here from far and wide, do you really want Hastings to be seen as a place of pilgrimage? If you give him to those monks at Waltham, they will erect a shrine and the same thing happens.
I could take Harold’s body and bury him by the sea at Bosham. You get rid of a disturbing little problem and I get to take my son home away from prying eyes and away from the world.
Go on what do you think, you can even call it your plan and I could have Harold away by nightfall, the cart is all ready to, go on, let me, let me, let me”
Well, the article taken from the Hastings Independent Press, Issue 17, Friday 24th October 2014, and repeated here gives a little insight into the stuff of legends that surround King Harold’s body, believe what you will.
By Steve Colwell
Last week, on the 948th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, a scan was carried out at Waltham Abbey in Essex looking for evidence to rewrite the history books and help prove that Harold Godwinson (Harold II) had survived the battle. Novelist and amateur historian Peter Burke believes that Harold recovered and lived for another 40 years. His theory is based on an early 12th Century document.
Vita Harold, stored in the British Library, which states that an old pilgrim called Christian declared on his death bed that he was ‘Harold Godwinson’.
The Vita Harold was written by a novice priest who took the last rites of the older man. Mr Burke, whose trilogy, The Promise, is based on this premiss (sic), said Harold had been “hidden in Winchester and brought back to health by a Moorish nurse. He tried to raise an army in Germany but they weren’t interested and he spent his life travelling as a pilgrim.”
The scan was carried out by the same team that helped to locate the remains of Richard III under a car park in Leicester 2 years ago, and the results should be available within the next week.
Even if they do find the remains of a headless figure there, this would still be inconclusive, as they could be the remains of a fellow knight identified by his common-law wife, Edith Swannesha, to hide the fact he had been taken away to another location, or even of one of Harold’s 2 brothers, also said to have been buried at Waltham Abbey.
A previous attempt to prove that Harold was buried secretly by the sea, as William the Bastard decreed (the contemporary name of William the Conqueror), was turned down in 2003, when the Chichester Diocese Consistory Court refused permission to re-open a tomb that had been mistakenly opened in 1954 at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham, West Sussex.
A coroner had examined the bones in 1954, which were said to be missing the head, the right leg and part of the left leg, the same injuries suggested by alternative legends to his being shot in the eye.
The Chancellor of the Diocese of Chichester, the Worshipful Mark Hill, said that he was far from satisfied with the proposal, it was a “matter of conjecture whether any human remains will be found in the coffin; such remains as may be found are highly unlikely to be those of Harold since the vast preponderance of academic opinion points to him having been buried at Waltham Abbey.”
The research continues, though, and we eagerly await the latest results. Maybe the head and legs are at Waltham Abbey, and the rest of the body at Bosham, there’s a thought!