Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings where William of Normandy defeated Harold and changed England’s politics, culture and language forever. It also provides the background for The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which opens with the execution of a displaced Saxon thegn and all but one of his sons (I wonder if anyone can guess who the surviving son turns out to be). The remaining chapters deal with the reunion of the Saxon, Aelric, and Constance, the sister-in-law of the Norman who condemned his family. It takes place after the Harrying of the North which was William’s response to uprisings against his rule. It was an act that devastated the North of England and the aftermath is touched on when Aelric and Constance reunite after an absence of seven years.
1066 is one of the dates that most people in England can remember, probably having been taught it in school. I’ve been on both sides of the desk and remember lists of unpronounceable names and descriptions of the battle which did little to capture the significance of the event. I did what I considered a very good comic strip of the battle aged 12 and still have a textbook from the 1980s knocking about somewhere, though looking back my art was well below the level of the Bayeux Tapestry.
Even without the schooling, it’s an event that has been in my consciousness from an early age thanks to two sources (other than the Bayeux Tapestry which any fule kno is really an embroidery). The wonderful 1066 And All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (look it up, it has 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Things and 2 Genuine Dates) which kept me in stitches and was instrumental to developing a love of history, and Stanley Holloway’s monologue including the description of Harold ‘On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and’. Here it is for your amusement, read by Tom Baker, aka the fourth Doctor.