It was almost inevitable that the two country’s, Britain and Normandy, were going to cross each other in the near future therefore Harold could have seen his little escapade to retrieve his family as a chance to see his tactics and strength on the battlefield first hand. It was reported that during Harold’s comfortable stay with William they together went on a little conquest in which Harold saw the well-publicised horsepower of the Norman army. Whilst fighting on the battlefield it was also reported in the Bayeux Tapestry that Harold pulled two soldiers from their death in the quick sand.
This obviously impressed the battle shy duke. Whilst on his European tour it is claimed he was trying to gain support from anyone who had an army behind them which therefore led him to Normandy. If there is any truth behind the story it may seem a little foolish on Harold’s behalf but possibly he was not to know how strongly and desperately William felt towards his claim to the throne. Either way how or when he ended up as Duke William’s guest is irrelevant to how significant the event was. William’s main objective was to soften Harold up until eventually getting him to sign the all-important oath.
In the days of 1064 an oath was worth a lot more than what it is today. However an oath over religious relics would be an immortal sin and if done and then ignored William would have had the power to wage a holy war against Harold. Oblivious to the fact that he was making an oath over religious relics Harold was pressured into agreeing to the oath and in doing so gave William’s claim to the throne another giant leap to reality. The ideology behind the relics was that William now had witnesses to prove Harold’s probable blasphemy and in turn gaining the support of the pope.
This visit was extremely significant in that William now felt he had a moral ascendancy over Harold, which could later be used to undermine Harold’s position. Harold knew too well the consequences if he refused to sign the oath, imprisonment or even more likely death. If William wanted something he usually tended to get it. Another point of key significance from the outcome of these events was the personal experience of Harold after seeing the force and strength, which the Norman army possessed.
This would then become very resourceful when the inevitable conquest from William did come. Walker quotes “Although an apparently disastrous expedition, Harold may have gained something from it. He was finally fully aware of William’s ambitions and the determination that lay behind them. I feel the greatest importance however which had the greatest effect on the history of Britain was the first considerations from Harold that his country needed a true leader, both on the battle front and in the running of the country.
It was after this catastrophic journey that he first realised that the Aethling Edgar was still too young and inexperienced to defend his country against the now obvious might of the Norman’s’. This may have been the initial step to the eventual succession to the throne in 1066. The reasons as to why the visit to Normandy took place are still unknown however what we do know is that the effects had played a major role in British History.
The biased Norman sources lay strong suggestion to the assumption that Harold was carrying out an order from Edward however this does not seem to justify the reality behind the story. I think Harold’s oath and closeness to his family brought him to Normandy and his foolishness led him to believe he could learn more off William to help his on claim for greatness. However he underestimated William’s determination and you could say he ended up paying for it. What is known is that Harold soon realised there was only one man who could fill the boots of Edward and so he took it upon himself to do so.