Crown of the Confessor: the Chronicle of the Anglo-Saxon Kings

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by TheLordProtector, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    [​IMG]
    A coin bearing Harold II's portrait

    Excerpt from Chronicle of the Saxon Kings, written 1290

    Hīeraþ!(1)

    This has been told.

    In the Year of our Lord 1066, the king of England, Edward the Confessor, died. While he lay on his deathbed, his breath reaching its last counts, he named the great earl Harold Godwinson, lord of Wessex and of East Anglia and of Hereford, his successor. The mighty Harold, who was gloriously tall, strong, and handsome of face,(2) was taken to Westminster Abbey by the Lords of England, who were gathered in London for the feast of Epiphany, and there confirmed by the Witenagamot(3). The fair lord was crowned and set out to secure his rightful place as king of all England.

    However, the greedy king of Norway, Harald Hard-Ruler(4), claimed the throne for himself and attacked in the north, where the brave earls of Northumbria steadfastly defended(5) against him. The perfidious Duke William the Bastard of Normandy also claimed the throne, and beguiled the innocent Pope into believing that it was his right(6). And so with papal support for his cause did the Bastard set forth from Normandy with thirty thousand men, intent on usurping Harold Godwinson's rightful throne. In early September did the great king Harold defeat the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge, slaying both the Hard-Ruler and his treasonous brother Tostig(7) with his own sword.

    On the 28th of September did the fleet of the Bastard land at Sussex, burning and looting all they saw. The cruel Normans ravaged the land(8) until they reached Hastings, where the brave Harold waited with his army. A great battle was fought here, taking the greater part of a day. William was slain personally by the great king in a vicious hand-to-hand struggle(9). By October 1st, the other claimants to the throne of England were dead, Normandy was ensconced in a losing war with Brittany with most of her great lords dead at Hastings(10), and Harold II Godwinson’s rule was secure.

    And so began the saga of Harold the Stalwart, greatest king of England.


    Notes
    1. 'Listen' in Old English. I would've had the whole thing in Old English and then a translation below, but I couldn't find a good enough translator.
    2. This guy isn't biased at all, huh?
    3. The Witenagemot is somewhat hard to explain. It was a political institution among the Anglo-Saxons which developed out of the old Germanic folkmoots or general assemblies, and included the ealdormen, the thegn, and the most senior clergy. It was essentially the House of Lords with a tribal, authoritarian, and far more feudal and religious flavor.
    4. Harald Hardrada, in other words. Hardrada, interestingly enough, didn't have an actual family claim to England except through the King of Denmark, whose family had agreed with Hardrada's predecessor Magnus to grant him the throne of England, which the Danish Knytlings had taken several times.
    5. Actually, they were getting their rears handed to them until Harold came up north.
    6. Perfidious is the word. William was surprisingly sneaky for a guy named the Conqueror, and may have lied about papal support. For the sake of narrative, though, I'll assume the pope did in fact give him his support, and that he did in fact have Conan II of Brittany assassinated.
    7. Tostig rebelled against Edward the Confessor in his last years. Harold strengthened his claim to the throne by fighting against Tostig and forcing him into exile. Tostig went to the court of Harold Hardrada and would later die at Stamford Bridge.
    8. They never actually did, until after the conquest. Harrying of the North, anyone?
    9. Actually, William's horse was killed from under him, and he died in the fall. Still, propaganda must be propaganda.
    10. Conan II invaded Normandy in 1064, and was still fighting the Normans when he died during William's invasion of England.
     
  2. FleetMac Patriotic Scalawag

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    Interesting; as an AHC it's been done, but I rather like your format and method of narrative. If this keeps up, you may have yourself a subscriber :)
     
  3. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    A few notes: I know it's been done before, but Harold Godwinson is one of my favorite characters from history and I truly love the Anglo-Saxons. The method of narrative is based on Benjamin Bagby's recitation of Beowulf (do watch it on Youtube, it's pretty captivating). It helps if you imagine a dank medieval hall filled with woodsmoke, with a crippled bard holding a lyre and shouting the story in Old English verse. Expect a very excerpt-y style.

    @FleetMac: Thanks! I do try.
     
  4. abc123 Banned

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    Very intresting. Subscribed.
     
  5. eliphas8 Frankentrotsky

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    Subscribed.
     
  6. Malta Kirked

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    Go forth my son, go forth and kick it.
     
  7. Darth_Kiryan The Númenorean Sith

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    show me what you have, young man. I shall be watching.

    Interesting style.
     
  8. The Admiral Hook M*thaf*ckin' Radical...

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    Never enough Anglo-Saxon TLs. I'm watching.
     
  9. oshron Emperor of Rplegacy

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    i'm definitely gonna be following this, in no small part because my biggest TL project has exactly this going on ;)
     
  10. kasumigenx Well-Known Member

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    A Brittany annexing Normandy would mean that Brittany's celtic population would fare worse than OTL, they might be frenchified earlier due to the French being more many than the Bretons.
     
  11. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    Hey, guys, thanks for all the replies and such! I meant to have an update up today, but it looks like I won't be able to manage it (it's been rather a bizarre week). So I'll do my best to have an update here by Sunday. Just bear with me, please! :)
     
  12. Zireael Well-Known Member

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    Cweme ealdest!

    (I hope my Old English is not that rusty)

    Subscribed!
     
  13. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    Please satisfy and grow old? That's what I got from that. :p
     
  14. eliphas8 Frankentrotsky

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    Don't worry about time, its great, and even with the delay that is pretty damn fast updating.
     
  15. The Professor Pontif of the Guild

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    Think he was saying nice update (Cweme = nice, pleasant) though I'm pretty sure Ealdest =/= Update :D
     
  16. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    Oh, right, I guess you could interpret it that way. I've just always used cweme as a verb. :p
     
  17. AaronH What would you doooooo

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    I do like the style of your update, though I must confess that my middle english has atrophied horribly following graduation so my timeline probably will not use anything like the level of true words as yours :rolleyes:
     
  18. Zireael Well-Known Member

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    I meant "Please continue", at least, the translator I used gave continue as one of the meanings of ealdest.
     
  19. The Professor Pontif of the Guild

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    Ah you used the 2nd person of "ealdian" a verb which predominantly means to grow old. Ie what you said was "you grow old nicely" ;)
    "Please continue" would be more "Ic bidde þē þurhwune"

    Edit: here's a better translator http://www.oldenglishtranslator.co.uk/
     
  20. TheLordProtector Sometimes clever, always useless

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    I was going to describe the early days of Harold's reign in this update; however, I realized it was rather more important to cover the immediate developments in France, as William's death and the death of nobles from all over the country will have a huge effect. I promise to cover England and Norway next time, after a bit more on Breton exploits.

    * * *

    Excerpt from The Saga of Konan, Duke of Brittany, written 1122
    Translated from the original by Hreodbeorht E. Haward​

    [​IMG]
    Claimed to be the sword of Konan II, Duke of Brittany, now an important part of the royal archives in Naoned (Nantes in French)

    ...the count of Anjou.

    After the fall of William the Bastard at Hastings, the great lord Konan, who had captured the castle of Gontier(1) from its haggard defenders, was ecstatic. His mighty rival to the east was dead at the hands of the Saxons, and the many dissidents in his own duchy had been slaughtered(2). Even the three sons of Odo the Usurper(3) had died, as well as the great baron Ralph de Gael(4). Konan rejoiced at the death of his enemies and held a great feast at the chateau of Gontier, to which he mockingly invited the young Robert II, the new duke of Normandy. Robert de Beaumont(5), who had escaped the massacre at Hastings and led the remnants of the Norman levies back to France, and who had been named regent in Normandy, replied to Konan's invitation with a letter simply saying "The men of Normandy do not make a habit of dining with snakes". This so infuriated the Duke that he immediately roused his army to action and began to move north across the Breton march(6) in early October with the intent of ravaging western Normandy before the winter.

    However, before the duke could reach Normandy, his army was assaulted by a force of Anjou nobles, led by Fulk the Sullen(7), younger brother of the count at Craon. Though the Breton forces much outnumbered the men of Anjou, Fulk and his men were skilled warriors and were defeating the Bretons until the great knight was cut off from his men and captured by Konan. This caused the men of Anjou to break and rout, many of them run down and killed by Konan's horse. The count, Geoffrey, upon hearing of this, sued for peace with Bretons, as if Fulk were to die, Anjou would have no heir and his power would be further eroded(8). Konan demanded the parts of the Breton march held by Anjou, which Geoffrey weakly handed over with nary a complaint. Fulk was returned to Anjou, where he would later lead a rebellion against Geoffrey the Bearded.

    With his duchy reaching as far southeast as Angers, Konan was heady with victory, and spurred his army north in hopes of capturing Laval before December...​

    Excerpt from The Tragedy of Normandy, written 1263​

    Very few of the great men who had gone with Duke William to England returned to Normandy. The remains of the army filled only twenty of the more than one hundred ships William had brought(9). Robert de Beaumont, count of Meulan, led the ragged Normans back to Rouen, where he personally informed Duchess Matilda(10) of the tragic news. The sainted Matilda fell to weeping and cloistered herself in her rooms in the castle, where she would remain until the fall of the city in 1068(11). Aimery of Thouars, angered by death of so many of his men, broke his alliance with Normandy and rode to the Breton march to seek an alliance with Konan II of Brittany; a powerful blow to the duchy's strength in France. Roger de Montgomerie, who received the county of Mortain(12) from the young duke Robert in exchange for helping govern the duchy in his father's secretly offered his support to the Duke of Brittany in exchange for the county of Maine(13). In the face of this, and with no competent, surviving, or adult members of the House of Normandy to act as regent, Robert agreed to allow his namesake de Beaumont to become regent in early October. De Beaumont, in the face of grave danger from the west and possibly the south, attempted to secure an alliance with the aging Duke of Flanders to keep his young liege on the throne. However, it was refused, forcing him to turn to the king of France for aid...​

    Notes
    (1) The modern commune of Chateau-Gontier, where Konan was murdered OTL. There's very little information about it on the web, but from the name, I assume it has a castle.
    (2) Almost a third of William's army, both OTL and TTL, were made up of dissident Bretons. They were the first to break OTL, and only returned after William rallied his Normans in the center of the army. Here, most of them have been slain, effectively ending native opposition to Konan's rule.
    (3) Odo of Rennes was Konan's uncle, who served as regent for him until 1062. However, the regency should have ended in 1057, but Odo refused to allow Konan his inheritance. Konan was forced to fight a five-year war against his uncle and his relatives for control of the Duchy, and afterwards had to contend with significant opposition from his own family (which has now been eliminated TTL).
    (4) Ralph de Gael is quite an interesting figure. A Breton baron, he fought both with and against Konan and fought at Hastings as well, after which he received significant lands in England. There, he would play a leading role in the Revolt of the Earls. After the failure of the revolt, he fled to Brittany, where he led another failed revolt against the Breton duke. However, this time, he was able to reconcile with his liege and died wealthy and happy in his barony in eastern Brittany.
    (5) One of the very few proven companions of William at the Battle of Hastings and TTL one of the very few Norman survivors. Known as a highly competent and wealthy landowner, he was highly respected in Normandy and later in England, and is something of a natural regent for Robert (in my eyes).
    (6) The Breton march, or the Marches of Neustria, was a string of castles and fortified lands established by the Merovingian kings of West Francia against the Bretons and later expanded by Charles the Fat against the Norsemen of Normandy. The march was highly effective, and was the staging ground for many of the French invasions of Brittany.
    (7) Fulk, who OTL imprisoned his brother in 1068 and ruled for 23 years (I think), is known as le Réchin in French, which is variously translated as the Quarrelsome, the Rude, the Sullen, the Surly, or the Heroic (and many more!). I chose the name that I liked the most.
    (8) Geoffrey III (the Bearded), count of Anjou, had a reign marked by failure and the constant setbacks of an inept ruler. He was defeated several times by the Normans and the Bretons in an only 8-year rule, and ended up being excommunicated in 1066 before being imprisoned by his brother in 1068 for more than two decades.
    (9) This is a similar number to the one used to magnify Harald's failure at Stamford ("the Norse army filled only twenty of the many ships they had brought"). I like the parallels.
    (10) Matilda of Flanders was the daughter of Baldwin V, count of Flanders. I was toying with the idea of having Baldwin, who played a key role in Edward the Confessor's reign as well as Phillip Capet's, invade Normandy to install his daughter as duchess (he was an ambitious fellow). However, Baldwin was a very old man in 1066 and would die the following year in OTL. Furthermore, he wasn't so ambitious as to invade Normandy.
    (11) Blatant foreshadowing, woo!
    (12) A southwestern military county usually reserved for the heirs to Normandy: however, both Roberts need competent leaders right now, and none of the sons of William are even old enough to rule. Unfortunately for them, the OTL loyal Roger de Montgomerie is proving somewhat false here. I get the impression that he was loyal to William personally, and not to the Norman dynasty or Normandy itself. With the deaths of most of the Norman lords, including William, he can see which way the wind is blowing.
    (13)The county of Maine a nominal vassal of Anjou, the Normans had established their own de facto rule over it and installed Robert Not-Curthose as count.