Friday, October 14, 2016

Hastings 950 years on.

I will be celebrating today the fact that we pass the milestone of 950 years since the Battle of Hastings, but I certainly will not be celebrating the results of that battle.

As far as I'm concerned the wrong side won the Battle of Hastings, and those of his contemporaries who referred to the victor as William the Bastard were correct in more than just the strict legal sense. William was a perfect illustration of the remark supposedly made to Alexander of Macedon by a captured pirate that he who seizes property on the sea with one ship is called a robber while he who tries to steal the whole world with a great fleet is called Emperor.

The Harrying Of The North was a particularly indefensible crime and there are plenty of other reasons to regard William as a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

Of course, I am probably arguing against my own existence by saying that the wrong side won Hastings, since the vast majority of those of us of mostly British descent probably have genes from William himself and certainly from some of his troops.

Ironically in my own case I do know that I am related to a family which provided some of William's closest allies and supporters but the relationship is not through direct descent, but through the one part of my ancestry in the past 200 years which is non-British. One of my great-great-great grandfathers came from an old Norman family, and he emigrated from Normandy to Britain in a peaceful manner some seven hundred years after another branch of the same family did so in a rather more hostile way in 1066.

However, although I am not celebrating the result of Hastings, there IS something to celebrate today, because the Norman invasion was the last successful invasion we have suffered.

And we should celebrate today the 950 years during which Britain has never been successfully invaded by an outside power.

I should, perhaps, explain that I do not count the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 as an external invasion. Although William of Orange was ruler of the Netherlands, he was also married to a princess of Britain's ruling Stuart royal house - the sister of the tyrant he overthrew - and William and Mary had so much support in parliament and the country as they were moving on London the former King dropped the great seal into the Thames and fled abroad, enabling a transfer of power which involved no bloodshed.

And let's hope that during the next thousand years and thereafter Britain is equally successful at repelling any other hostile invasion.

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