LAST PAGE
RETURN TO INDEX

INCONSISTENCIES

Part Twenty-six
Having examined a number of translations of historical documents relating to the Norman Invasion it cannot have escaped the readerís notice that each account studied appears to contain material that is at best inconsistent with the others, or at worst contains elements that must be invention, intentional or otherwise. The Invasion fleet could not have landed at Pevensey and subsequently built a fort there (Jumieges and Poitiers) if Wace and the Carmen are correct in naming the fort and landing at Hastings. The evidence of six major documents point conclusively to Hastings yet history has dictated, in recent years, the acceptance of Jumieges and Poitiers account as the correct version. It would therefore be a good idea to ask the question why this has happened?

The answer, like all good mysteries, appears to be because each element of each manuscript is open to question at a number of different levels. Until the nineteenth century no-one appears to have taken much interest (78) in the matter . The monks at Battle Abbey had written their version nearly eight hundred years before. The Abbey had grown upon the false charters (79) , flourished and died. The town of Battle grew around the Abbey perpetuating the myth embodied in the Abbey chronicle. Meanwhile the Normans took over Pevensey after the Invasion and built a fine keep within the walls of the far more ancient castle. The castle at Hastings was commissioned by the Count of Eu and the new town of Hastings developed within itís protection. Over the following half millennium these objects of Norman power faded into virtual oblivion leaving a heritage that the Battle Abbey document supported long after the Normans had gone. During those eight centuries that passed, from the Duke landing until the Victorian age, little changed or indeed mattered. Only when the enquiring minds of the Victorians arrived on the scene did the issue of who did what and when arise.

In 1846 the railway came to Hastings and was connected to London. This was the age of enlightenment and like all good commercial enterprises of the day realised the exploitation value that Hastings provided. Suddenly Hastings became the province of railway marketing to a nation that had little in the way of education and no ability to question the claims made by the tourist industry. The railway was by the standards of the day big business and it was not long before a branch line was installed from Battle Abbey, through Crowhurst, to Bexhill as well as along the coast to Pevensey.

Such was the commercial success of the railway enterprise that when a whale beached itself near Pevensey in 1865 the publicity department of the London and Brighton and South Coast railway immediately advertised the fact in the local paper, accompanied by the legend that this was at a place known as Normanís Bay. This, according to British Rail, was the actual place where William the Conqueror landed. A station was hurriedly built at the site to accommodate the masses of visitors who initially came to see the whale and who now could experience history at first hand. Thus we owe British Rail the honour of fooling a gullible Victorian nation into parting with itís hard earned money, as a result of a marketing campaign built upon a total invention. This may be nothing new, by modern standards, but was never suspected in 1846. No-one ever considered that Normanís Bay was in the middle of an area that was under water in 1066 and to the visitors of the day this was not a matter for query. As the tourist industry grew in Pevensey, Hastings and Battle the marketing legend slowly became fact, not only in the minds of the public, but also the academics of the day.

In 1879 Freeman wrote what he believed was the first definitive history of the Norman Conquest (80) . This initiated a furious debate concerning which source documents that he had used were reliable by academics of the time.(81) In his enthusiasm for the subject Freeman appeared to expand texts from the manuscripts that he had studied to suit his particular view of history. In so doing Freeman single handedly did more to undermine what had previously been considered the most authentic source documents of the period than any other. One striking example of Freemanís audacity being to rename the Battle of Hastings as The Battle of Senlac. The authority for this act being placed in the hands of Orderic, a monk who lived in Normandy, who reported some time after the invasion. Whilst there appears to be no known reason why Orderic named the site as Senlac, Freeman used this unsubstantiated observation to make his own mark on history by changing the name in one stroke.

Like many such circumstances time has a way of levelling out the inconsistencies and putting the record straight. This happened some thirty years later when J.H.Round launched his blistering attacks in the pages of the Sussex Archaeological Collection between the years 1895 and 1899. Round appeared to win the day due to his methodical analysis of Freemanís texts, conducted in vitriolic fashion, tearing apart each small inconsistency without the slightest consideration as to those that appeared in the documents which he held to be valid (Poitiers in particular). In consequence Round drew the inconstancies in Freemanís writings to the attention of the Victorian academics who sought to know the historical truth. In so doing the fact that Freeman supported the Wace and Carmen texts resulted in Roundís criticism of Freeman destroying the credibility of Wace and the Carmen, purely as a by-product of what now looks like nothing more than personal envy. Round rested his case squarely upon the fact that Freeman had drawn extensively upon the Wace manuscript, which is in itself the most complete account of the events of the landing. Round took the view that there was one major error in Waceís work which could never be reconciled. This being that upon the night of the Battle each camp was in sight of the other. Everyone who had ever visited the site at Battle Abbey knew this could not be possible, since the geography could not allow each army to see the other from their respective camps, one at Hastings by the current castle and one at Battle ridge. If such an obvious error could be made it was clear to Round that the Wace manuscript could not be authentic, since the detail that surrounded the events of the night before the Battle are extended over many pages. This led Round to the conclusion that the whole of the Wace document was fiction and in consequence Freemanís writings were not worth the paper written on. This is a logical and powerful argument, but only provided the two camps were not within sight. I shall show in part two of this document that Round was mistaken in this matter and in consequence the whole basis of his criticism of Freeman was flawed. Now, with the benefit of modern archaeological methods it will be shown that Wace was correct. Wace will take his position as the pre-eminent authority on the Battle of Hastings and Round, like his arch enemy will find his works removed from the shelves in what will appear to be a re-enactment of perfect Karma.

I do not wish to cloud the issue at this stage by being side-tracked into validating any one manuscript as opposed to another. What makes the work in front of you so compulsive in itís argument, after you have seen all the evidence, is that there is not one inconsistency that cannot be explained given the identification of the correct camp site. I shall therefore address the matters relating to the landing until the time is right to reveal the answers to the above conundrum.

Given the evidence and arguments presented at the end of the nineteenth century historians had no alternative but to accept the Chronicle of Battle Abbey, Jumieges and Poitiers versions as the only reliable documents. These endorsed popular opinion and at the same time had a single consistency in that they name Pevensey. The fact that you needed to turn a blind eye to other glaring errors or inconsistencies between the different accounts was of no concern. J.H.Round had won his day and was hardly likely to draw attention to such matters. Pevensey could be supported by the use of the words ďdismantled fortsĒ by the Carmen, but at the same time the same document could be dismissed as unreliable when naming Hastings as the landing site.

As stated earlier much has happened since the beginning of the century in the world of academic research into the manuscripts involved. It is now held that the Carmen is indeed not the fake that it was thought to be. This in turn raises the question as to whether the same may be true of Wace. I believe this to be the case for the reasons stated above. If I am correct historians must be prepared for the worst since there is a logical conclusion that does not bear contemplation. This being that William the Conqueror did not engage Harold Godwinson on the ridge at Battle. The fact that not one single archaeological artefact has ever been found there might cause concern amongst the vested interests of that town and those who make money from selling books about that great event. None the less I shall put the evidence in front of you and leave it to you and others more qualified than I to adjudicate.

It may appear that the claims of this last paragraph may be too much to bear for those who only know the truth according to written history. At this stage it might be as well to remind them that until this very year Bosworth Field was commemorated in the wrong field and so those familiar with History will know that she has made a habit over the years of leading us astray, until such time as she seeks to reveal herself in all her glory. It is my view that the inconsistencies that we have looked at are Historyís way of telling us that all is not what it seems. Half the reports cannot be all correct and half all wrong. This is neither logical nor probable. History has drawn our attention to these matters in order that the error may be corrected. As stated earlier, time is an even leveller.

I shall now look at the correct position of the Port of Hastings at the time of the Norman Invasion in order to support the claim that this is where the Norman landing site and camp is situated.


NEXT CHAPTER
RETURN TO INDEX