Sharing a lifelong passion for history, writing and teaching

How did Harold die?

We all know about Harold, the eye and the arrow!

In the very first history lesson I remember having, I was told all about the Battle of Hastings. I retained two things about it, besides of course the fact that the Normans won.

One was the dirty trick played by the Normans: they pretended to run away, and when the English chased after them, naturally in some disarray, they turned round and counter-attacked – the rotters. This story bristles with questions that need asking, but I was only seven at the time; what Miss said was Gospel.

The other was the fact that King Harold was struck by a Norman arrow in the eye. Well – pretty unusual. But I accepted that too. Miss again, you see. Besides, it must be true; it shows it in the Bayeux Tapestry. Not only did I accept it; most of the world has accepted it ever since. But this ‘fact’ too has been increasingly questioned by those who claim to know better.

Well, perhaps they do. Perhaps a lot of questions do need to be asked. We are certainly not short of possible answers, based on much poring over the Tapestry, and much impressive scholarship.


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Berwick Coates