Episode 1 1066: A Year to Conquer England


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Late afternoon.

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Saturday, the 14th of October.

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The year is 1066.

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And this is the Battle of Hastings.

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But 1066 was about far more than just one battle.

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This is the story of three kings, three battles and three invasions.

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Of 12 months that transformed Britain.

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As well as Harold of England...

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..and Duke William of Normandy...

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Do you recognise me?

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..there was also a Viking, King Harald Hardrada,

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all facing off in a series of bloodbaths...

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..that brought an end to the long terror of the Vikings.

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Before, finally, the epic Battle of Hastings itself.

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In a few bloody hours, the Anglo-Saxon world was swept aside.

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It was the greatest rupture in British history.

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What it led to is stamped on our landscape.

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The Normans forged a new Britain

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with language, laws and customs we still live with today.

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But just how a tiny region of France

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seized such power is much less clear.

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Now I'm going to travel Europe in search of answers...

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Come on!

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..experiment with weapons and tactics...

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That is terrifying.

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..and discover revelations hidden within a unique document

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written just months after those great battles...

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The Carmen tells us that Harald died in a very different way.

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..to reveal a bitter tale of family betrayals...

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My brother is a lying dog.

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..and tragic twists of fate...

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Soon we will be filling England's graveyards.

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..which would change the shape of Britain...

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-March to battle.

-..and Europe...

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..forever.

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Shall we do battle?

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MEN CHEER

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This is the real story of 1066.

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'They say that becoming king is a gift from God.'

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-How is he?

-He's not going to last.

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-How long?

-Not long now.

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'But sometimes, it's about being in the right place at the right time.

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'Edward the Confessor is King of England.

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EDWARD MUTTERS

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'But his long reign is coming to an end.'

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Close your eyes.

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Rest.

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We can never be absolutely sure what happened as Edward lay dying,

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but we do know that it led to war

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and made 1066 the most famous date in British history.

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To go back to 11th-century England is to enter a very different world

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which lived by different rules.

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It's a long time ago -

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you have to go back 500 years to the Tudors and then another 500 years

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before them. And the problem is, we don't know very much about it.

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Take the battlefield of Hastings.

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Today, there aren't many clues here that tell us how things went

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on that bloody day. And the sources we do have are fragmentary,

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ancient texts which are often conflicting,

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semi-fictional poems and sagas.

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There are huge gaps in our knowledge.

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This was a world still emerging from the Dark Ages,

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where reality mingled with epic tales...

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..myths and legends...

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to create stories we have been

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telling ourselves for almost 1,000 years.

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I want to try and get to the heart of what actually happened

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in that extraordinary year,

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a year that began with King Edward on his deathbed.

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EDWARD MUTTERS

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'The problem is that the old king is childless.

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'England has no successor.'

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It's just a fever. God is with you.

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'Across Europe, three powerful warlords are watching...

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'..and waiting.'

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Come on, bloody well mean it!

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'200 miles south of London,

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'a 38-year-old illegitimate duke rules with an iron fist.'

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It's not that hard!

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'William of Normandy has fought

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'his way to the top since the age of seven.'

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At least he can do it.

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'He expects to be the next King of England.

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'Because he claims that Edward himself has promised him the crown.

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'Nearly 1,000 miles north.

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'The Viking Harald III is King of Norway.'

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You really should know better. I mean, where's your gratitude?

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I keep you and your parents safe and you see fit

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to ignore your responsibilities.

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You need to pay your count.

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You simply leave me no choice.

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'He'll be known in time as Hardrada, the hard ruler.'

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Not that I don't enjoy hearing you squeal like a wretched hog,

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but that's enough.

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Now, crawl home and tell your neighbours

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what happens when you don't pay your dues.

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Out of my sight.

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'Hardrada is a Viking warrior, of the old school.'

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That's that sorted.

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'The Vikings ruled England just 30 years ago.'

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He did squeal, didn't he?

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'Perhaps their time will come again.'

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You've been a strong king.

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You defended the kingdom...

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..under the eyes of God Almighty.

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'Harold Godwinson is the third contender.

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'He's the King's brother-in-law...'

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Amen.

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'..and the power behind Edward's throne.'

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You created God's kingdom here on earth.

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And I will look after it for you.

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I owe it to you as my king.

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And as my friend.

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England is in safe hands.

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'Three warriors...

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'..all lusting for Edward's crown...

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'..and the English throne.'

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I've asked three historians to step into the world of 1066

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and enter the minds of our three competing warlords.

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This is lies, lies, lies.

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All you ever speak are lies.

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They'll explore the thinking behind their battle plans.

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And that's the moment for my secret weapon.

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And this is a glorious bloodbath.

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William of Normandy...

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..Harold Godwinson...

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..and Harold Hardrada.

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I'm here in Norway and the Vikings

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take a pretty keen interest in England.

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And by a keen interest, I mean, in the ninth century, the Danes,

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another group of Vikings, had conquered and colonised England,

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splitting it effectively in two.

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Between 1016 and 1042 the whole of England was under Viking rule,

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so when I looked from Norway at England

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I just see part of a Scandinavian empire,

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a place just waiting to be reconquered.

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The land I rule, Normandy, is indeed small compared with England

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and with Norway. But...

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I'm at the head of a terrifying war machine

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and I'm a man of indomitable ambition.

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HE SCREAMS

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And I know that beyond this tantalisingly narrow strip of water

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England is waiting, promising me land, plunder, and perhaps,

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above all, the chance to become an anointed king.

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I'm really not worried about foreign invasion.

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After all, we are an island, not easy to get into.

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Really, Norway, you have not been a threat for 50 years.

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Normandy, you're tiny and you're so busy fighting amongst yourselves

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and fighting with the rest of France

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that you're not a threat to me at all. I am sitting pretty.

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In 1066, England was a glittering jewel.

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It was prosperous, it was wealthy,

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it had the most sophisticated financial system in Europe.

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It was remarkably well organised, very centralised.

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The King sat right in the middle of it all.

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Taxes flowed in to the Royal Treasury,

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making the monarch the richest man in the kingdom.

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King Edward spent years using his

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vast wealth to build a new royal base

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right on the River Thames.

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Upstream, to the west of London.

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Nowadays, Westminster is the cradle of British power and Parliament.

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But 950 years ago it was a very different scene.

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Back then it was just a scrap of

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English countryside a mile upriver

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from the bustling City of London,

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home to nothing more than a small monastery.

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Until, that is,

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King Edward the Confessor decided to build a palace there

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and commission a mighty church.

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A great symbol of his power, piety and wealth,

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Westminster Abbey.

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This was a massive labour of religious devotion.

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And by 1066, his work was almost complete.

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But Edward wouldn't live to see it finished.

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Instead, the abbey would become his burial place.

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Edward's tomb still stands at its heart.

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The previous kings of Anglo-Saxon England, going back to the time

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when they're Kings of Wessex, their capital was Winchester,

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but Edward is creating a new seat of royal power at Westminster.

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We are told because it is a pretty spot, he liked the monks there,

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but also because it's conveniently close to London,

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and London is taking over as a commercial centre,

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so there's good political and economic reasons

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for wanting to create that new seat of power.

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Edward the Confessor was not in the mould of the traditional

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warrior king of the medieval period.

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He was much more devout and pious

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and was, of course, later made a saint.

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The story goes that Edward's extreme piety led him to live

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a life of marital chastity.

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Whether or not that's true,

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Edward's childlessness did leave England with a dangerous problem.

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'Three days pass.

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'And unexpectedly, the old king suddenly rallies.'

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So this is the only surviving copy of the Vita Edwardi Regis,

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the life of King Edward,

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and it gives us this incredible description of his deathbed,

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when Edward hadn't spoken for days, and then he regained consciousness

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and he described the people gathered around his bed,

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this dream he had had, in which two monks had appeared to him

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and given him a prophecy.

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And he says then that he's been told...

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SHE SPEAKS LATIN

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..within a year and a day after your death,

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God has delivered all his kingdom

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into the hands of the enemy.

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And devils shall come through all this land with fire and scorn...

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..and the havoc of war.

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'A day later,

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'King Edward is at last at peace.'

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PRIEST SPEAKS LATIN

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Amen.

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Edward's premonition of disaster was about to become all too true.

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His death was like a starting gun,

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triggering the race to seize the English throne.

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'Harold's rivals are at a disadvantage,

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'hundreds of miles away across the sea.

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'While Harold is on the spot.

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'And timing is on his side.

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'The leading nobles of England have been in London since Christmas.

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'And with no clear heir, it's they who must choose the next king.'

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I came to celebrate the birth of our saviour.

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And now I lament the death of a king.

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A very sad day for England.

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A very sad day for us all.

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'The Council of Nobles includes one of Harold's brothers, Gyrth,

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'Earl of East Anglia.'

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-He was a good man. A decent king.

-A great king.

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But his illness left him weak and reliant on his true friends.

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I think you will find that everybody here was a true friend to him.

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When kings die...

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..there is danger in the land.

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So we must act quickly and crown a new king.

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Harold was well placed and had support.

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There was just one problem.

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Harold still faced a significant obstacle to becoming king.

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Even though he was the most powerful man in the land,

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even though he was the king's brother-in-law,

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he had no direct blood link with the Crown.

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And Edward had left one blood relative.

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Just 14 years old, Edgar the Atheling was Edward's great-nephew.

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Of course, there is the boy.

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But he's a boy.

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A boy with royal blood.

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These times are dangerous.

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We don't need a boy.

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We need a man. Someone who knows how to rule, someone who has ruled.

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From 1056, Harold has been king in all but name.

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He is Edward's right-hand man, he is ambitious, he is a proven soldier -

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he's the perfect man to become king.

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His father Godwin had successfully built up a great dynasty and also

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amassed an enormous fortune of land and of lordship.

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You might think of Godwin as being the godfather

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of Edward the Confessor's regime

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and the organisation that he built up as being a Mafia.

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It was very hard to govern England

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without that, and so Harold had become the natural choice.

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I do have to acknowledge a lot of it is down to my father.

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Everything I ever learnt about power and politics

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I learned from him.

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When he died, King Edward rewarded

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me and my brothers with vast areas of land,

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so I got the great prize of Wessex.

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My younger brother Gyrth, he got East Anglia,

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another brother got Kent,

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another brother, Tostig,

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got that great northern earldom of Northumbria.

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So you can see we have pretty much got the whole country sewn up.

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Harold was certainly the consummate politician.

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He knew he had to clinch the deal and get the King's Council

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to make him king. So just a few minutes after Edward's death,

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Harold pulled an ace from his sleeve.

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An astonishing report of what he claimed

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had just happened in Edward's bedchamber.

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In these times of loss and uncertainty,

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a great burden falls upon us all.

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I fear the future for us all.

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There is nothing to fear if we have a strong king.

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You shouldn't be afraid, my friend.

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Edward, in his wisdom, had planned for this day,

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and I know there are those who are saying that in the end

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he was not of sound mind, but I was there.

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He knew what he was saying.

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What did he say?

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He told me, to my face, that it is an onerous and grave undertaking...

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..to be king.

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And I have given my word, friends.

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Now, there is much work to be done.

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Right, I don't think so.

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You really expect me to believe that Edward made you king?

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This is an absolutely shameless power grab.

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It doesn't matter to me if I convince you,

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I only need to convince the earls of England.

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I'm sorry, but you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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But this is the oldest story in the book.

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The deathbed bequest, how convenient!

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Well, neither of you were there, I was, so I know what happened.

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The disputed moment is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry,

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a 70 metre long work of embroidery that was sewn in England

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a decade after 1066.

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It's a vivid cartoon strip

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depicting the key events of that momentous year.

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Edward, on his deathbed, touches Harold's hand,

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perhaps naming him as his successor.

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Then, after Edward has died,

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English nobles hand Harold the crown and point back towards Edward.

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Do these images suggest that Edward did indeed choose Harold

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to succeed him?

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We'll never know.

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Either way, truth or lie,

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the story was one which the nobles on the King's Council

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were happy to go along with. They knew that they needed a strong,

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powerful warrior king, and Harold was the best candidate.

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So, on the 6th of January, 1066,

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England buried one king in the morning and crowned another

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in the afternoon.

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'Harold is anointed king.

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'Just feet away from Edward's freshly buried body.'

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This gets worse and worse!

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This is shocking behaviour!

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The holy convention is that a king is only crowned months after

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he has been elected, but Edward is still basically warm!

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All the nobles are gathered in Westminster,

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they've been there since Christmas waiting for the king to die.

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What am I going to do, send them all home and then get them back

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in a few months so they can see me getting crowned?

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No, the sensible thing is for me to be crowned right here, right now.

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Harold had beaten his rivals and won the great prize of the English crown

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but his glory would be short-lived.

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As the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle put it,

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"Earl Harold was consecrated king,

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"but he met with little quiet as long as he ruled the realm."

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'Across the sea, Harold's rivals

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'haven't yet heard news of Edward's death,

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'let alone reports of the English earl's rapid rise to the throne.

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'William is 200 miles away across the Channel in Rouen,

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'the largest city in Normandy.

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'The Viking Harold Hardrada is even further away,

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'in the uplands of Norway.'

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Let the flames cure our wayward peasants of their disloyalty.

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'But Harold knows that their state

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'of ignorance will very soon come to an end.

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'Just seven days into 1066

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'and Harold wakes for the first time as king.'

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Firstly, it would have made him

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three times richer, this is wonderful.

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He is suddenly a multi-multibillionaire.

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But he would have hoped that the process of being crowned

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would have made him special.

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He had a great devotion to God

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and it must have made a difference to him

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to be recognised by God as a different kind of man,

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because a king is a different kind of man from an earl.

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A king has a connection with God that an earl does not.

0:26:380:26:42

Does it feel good?

0:26:460:26:47

Not bad.

0:26:490:26:50

No, there is much to do.

0:26:520:26:53

We have enemies everywhere. Here and abroad.

0:26:530:26:57

Keep your friends close and your enemies fearful.

0:26:580:27:01

Brussels.

0:27:100:27:12

In the 11th century,

0:27:120:27:14

this was home to little more than a small religious shrine in Flanders.

0:27:140:27:19

Today, Brussels houses a secret...

0:27:210:27:24

..preserved for nearly 1,000 years.

0:27:250:27:28

Hidden in the bowels of the Belgian National Library

0:27:330:27:36

is an extraordinarily precious manuscript.

0:27:360:27:40

A fragile book containing an epic poem,

0:27:400:27:44

surviving only in this unique copy.

0:27:440:27:47

For decades, historians thought these words were written generations

0:27:490:27:53

after the Norman conquest.

0:27:530:27:55

But now it is widely accepted that this

0:27:570:27:59

is our very earliest account of 1066,

0:27:590:28:02

written just months after the Battle of Hastings.

0:28:020:28:05

It's packed with vivid details that challenge much

0:28:070:28:10

of what we thought we knew.

0:28:100:28:12

This document is the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio,

0:28:140:28:19

the song or poem of the Battle of Hastings.

0:28:190:28:22

And it does have some very vivid descriptions

0:28:220:28:25

and it talks about Harold, and it paints him in very black terms.

0:28:250:28:29

There's a line here that begins...

0:28:290:28:32

HE READS LATIN

0:28:320:28:34

"Meanwhile, that emboldened inheritor of the blackest deceit."

0:28:380:28:43

He is described at one point as a "fatuous rex", a stupid king.

0:28:430:28:49

Elsewhere in the manuscript, Harold is described

0:28:490:28:51

as "sceleratus," wicked.

0:28:510:28:53

This is what this manuscript is about,

0:28:530:28:55

it's not trying to give us an impartial history.

0:28:550:28:58

The author tells us in his prologue

0:28:580:29:00

that he is writing to praise William.

0:29:000:29:03

So it's incredibly partisan.

0:29:030:29:05

Partisan it might be,

0:29:080:29:10

but the Carmen gives us valuable clues

0:29:100:29:13

as to what Harold's rivals would think of him

0:29:130:29:15

as soon as they found out that he'd seized the crown.

0:29:150:29:18

And in early January, 1066, news was travelling fast.

0:29:230:29:27

So how long did it take for the news to reach William in Rouen?

0:29:320:29:36

There are basically two routes it might have travelled by.

0:29:360:29:38

One is down the Thames by boat,

0:29:380:29:41

around the coast of Kent through the Straits of Dover and down that way.

0:29:410:29:45

The other is by horseback from London to the south coast and then

0:29:450:29:49

on a longship straight across the Channel.

0:29:490:29:51

By horseback it took about a day and a half to go from London

0:29:510:29:55

to the south coast, then with a following wind,

0:29:550:29:58

a day to get across the Channel and a bit longer to get up the river

0:29:580:30:01

here to Rouen, so William could have

0:30:010:30:03

heard the news in as little as three days.

0:30:030:30:05

My lord.

0:30:120:30:14

William.

0:30:140:30:15

I bring news from England.

0:30:160:30:18

Good King Edward has died.

0:30:190:30:21

May his soul rest in peace.

0:30:240:30:25

The English have crowned a new king.

0:30:270:30:29

Harold Godwinson.

0:30:310:30:34

-How?

-Edward decreed it on his deathbed.

0:30:340:30:37

-Why?

-It makes no sense.

0:30:370:30:39

-When was he crowned?

-On the very same day

0:30:390:30:41

Edward was buried, and in the same place.

0:30:410:30:44

Godwinson!

0:30:460:30:47

William wasn't a man to take things lying down.

0:30:540:30:57

Within the pages of the Carmen,

0:31:020:31:04

William is described in marked contrast

0:31:040:31:07

to the fatuous, wicked Harold.

0:31:070:31:10

The Carmen describes William as the hero at every point.

0:31:110:31:16

So here, for example, there's a line that says...

0:31:160:31:19

HE READS LATIN

0:31:190:31:22

"He was full of virtue, a bold knight."

0:31:230:31:26

You'd expect that from the Carmen because it's written for

0:31:270:31:30

William's court, possibly even for William's own ears.

0:31:300:31:33

What's interesting, though, is,

0:31:330:31:34

whichever source you look at for this period,

0:31:340:31:36

whether it's French or Norman or even English,

0:31:360:31:41

William is described in similar terms.

0:31:410:31:43

In terms of his ability as a general, he is a bold knight,

0:31:430:31:46

he is a fearless warrior,

0:31:460:31:47

he is a great conqueror.

0:31:470:31:49

William was utterly ruthless, the most feared warrior in Europe.

0:31:510:31:56

He had been chiselled into this fearsome character

0:31:580:32:02

from his very early years.

0:32:020:32:04

He was also intensely pious and very frugal in his habits,

0:32:040:32:09

but above all else, he was utterly unforgiving.

0:32:090:32:12

Never let it be forgotten that I am ultimately of Viking stock.

0:32:130:32:19

I am the great-great-great-grandson

0:32:190:32:22

of a Viking warlord who 150 years ago

0:32:220:32:26

settled in Normandy and made it his own.

0:32:260:32:30

And over the succeeding 150 years,

0:32:310:32:33

he and his successors carved out what has become

0:32:330:32:38

the most militarily potent duchy in the whole of France.

0:32:380:32:43

We are Normans, a name that ultimately derives

0:32:440:32:48

from our origin, Northmen.

0:32:480:32:50

Listen, you can call yourself what you like, but you've changed.

0:32:500:32:54

You've come down here, you settled down,

0:32:540:32:57

you built yourself some nice castles,

0:32:570:32:59

you're even practising Christianity.

0:32:590:33:01

I mean, I'm really sorry to say this,

0:33:010:33:03

but you've basically gone French.

0:33:030:33:05

Yes. I am proud to be Christian.

0:33:050:33:08

Et oui. I speak French.

0:33:080:33:10

But in my appetite for war...

0:33:110:33:13

I will conquer!

0:33:130:33:15

..I'm true to my ancestors.

0:33:150:33:17

I'm still pretty Viking.

0:33:170:33:19

William's childhood had been deeply traumatic.

0:33:330:33:36

He had been born here in 1028,

0:33:370:33:40

at the castle that towers over the small town of Falaise.

0:33:400:33:44

William's pedigree wasn't entirely aristocratic.

0:33:470:33:51

Sure enough, his father was Robert, Duke of Normandy, but his mother was

0:33:510:33:55

the daughter of a tanner, a beautiful young woman

0:33:550:33:58

called Herleva with whom Robert had a brief affair.

0:33:580:34:01

So William was a bastard.

0:34:010:34:03

William's father had died when he was just seven.

0:34:080:34:11

Normandy had become a war zone,

0:34:140:34:16

as competing factions fought for power.

0:34:160:34:18

William had to grow up fast.

0:34:220:34:24

On one occasion, his steward had his throat slit

0:34:240:34:27

as he slept in the bed next to him.

0:34:270:34:29

Another time, William had to escape from assassination

0:34:290:34:34

by galloping cross-country on horseback.

0:34:340:34:36

William himself said in his older years,

0:34:360:34:39

"I was schooled in warfare since I was a child."

0:34:390:34:42

A brutal childhood had shaped William,

0:34:470:34:50

turning him into a duke who ruled through terror.

0:34:500:34:54

Trust and loyalty.

0:34:540:34:55

That's all.

0:34:570:34:59

Not too much to ask, eh?

0:35:000:35:01

Next time, perhaps your charming wife

0:35:040:35:07

and sweet children will join us.

0:35:070:35:09

In 1051, when William was in his early 20s,

0:35:220:35:25

the people of the town of Alencon

0:35:250:35:27

rebelled against him, beat on animal skins -

0:35:270:35:30

a cheap joke about him being the illegitimate son

0:35:300:35:34

of a tanner's daughter.

0:35:340:35:36

William didn't find it funny.

0:35:360:35:38

He stormed the town and seized 32 of the men

0:35:380:35:42

and had their hands and feet cut off.

0:35:420:35:44

William was a man you definitely didn't want to cross.

0:35:470:35:52

And Harold Godwinson had done just that.

0:35:530:35:57

What's more, William commanded the most feared soldiers in Europe...

0:36:080:36:12

..the Norman knights.

0:36:130:36:14

Their use of cavalry put them at the very cutting edge

0:36:190:36:22

of medieval warfare.

0:36:220:36:24

Horses can be terrifying.

0:36:320:36:35

So I want you to get a feel of what that might be like.

0:36:350:36:38

So, we've got our five horsemen there and I'm going to get them

0:36:380:36:40

to come screaming up at you. Stay still...

0:36:400:36:43

..let the horses make a choice,

0:36:440:36:46

and get an idea of what it might have been like

0:36:460:36:48

to face a horse at a full-out charge.

0:36:480:36:51

You all right?

0:36:510:36:53

-Perfect. Thanks very much.

-Think of England.

0:36:530:36:55

OK, when you're ready, guys.

0:36:570:36:58

Canter. March.

0:36:580:37:00

Five enormous horses coming straight towards me.

0:37:070:37:10

And the noise, their breathing, that's what really gets you.

0:37:100:37:13

I can feel the ground shaking.

0:37:150:37:16

They going to leave a gap?

0:37:160:37:18

Right, I could have touched those on both sides as they went past.

0:37:230:37:27

That was pretty terrifying.

0:37:280:37:30

That's just the horses themselves.

0:37:300:37:32

Just being that close to the beasts moving, that speed was terrifying,

0:37:320:37:35

but if the men on top had had their weapons and been trying to kill me,

0:37:350:37:38

that would have been...

0:37:380:37:41

unimaginable.

0:37:410:37:42

For the English, this was something completely new.

0:37:440:37:47

What is it with the Normans and cavalry?

0:37:510:37:53

I mean, why did they get it,

0:37:530:37:55

have horses and were such fantastic cavalrymen,

0:37:550:37:57

where other people weren't?

0:37:570:37:59

I think it comes down to the fact that they're in Europe,

0:37:590:38:03

and so you get the influences from the East and it comes across.

0:38:030:38:07

The Spanish horses are all sort of bred along,

0:38:070:38:10

whereas the Saxons, on their little island, have their native breeds,

0:38:100:38:14

so this is a new type of horse on the battlefield.

0:38:140:38:17

So, although the Saxons rode horses around and used them for farm work

0:38:170:38:21

and stuff, they weren't as high-quality?

0:38:210:38:23

No, exactly. The native breeds you sort of see today

0:38:230:38:26

are very similar to the ones they would have had - short, stout,

0:38:260:38:29

mile after mile at this lovely amble and they can get from A to B,

0:38:290:38:33

but this is a very different type of horse altogether.

0:38:330:38:35

Do you reckon you can show me how to do it?

0:38:350:38:37

I'll give it a go, absolutely.

0:38:370:38:39

-If you get up on the horse...

-OK.

-..get yourself ready,

0:38:390:38:41

and then we'll show you the various ways

0:38:410:38:44

of being able to use the lance at speed.

0:38:440:38:47

Their chief weapon was a sharpened spear,

0:38:480:38:51

the forerunner of the medieval lance.

0:38:510:38:54

So, pick it up. Heft it somewhere in the middle, get a feel for it.

0:38:540:38:58

And then bring the point down towards me.

0:38:580:39:01

Now you've got an overhand grip.

0:39:020:39:04

If you wanted to attack, you'd extend the arm a bit,

0:39:040:39:07

and you're using the stirrup and the back of the saddle

0:39:070:39:10

to use the whole energy of that horse to drive it forward.

0:39:100:39:14

The other option is to swap your knuckles over so your knuckles

0:39:160:39:18

are underneath, and now you'll find that you can come up

0:39:180:39:22

and you can stab on the off side, the nearside, stabbing down,

0:39:220:39:24

certainly if people are now trying to grab you from the saddle.

0:39:240:39:27

Come on, let's go. Come on.

0:39:300:39:32

Oh!

0:39:390:39:40

William knew he had a war machine to take on any king,

0:39:410:39:45

if he needed to.

0:39:450:39:47

THEY PRAY

0:39:480:39:50

But in the 11th century,

0:39:540:39:57

there was more to power than having an iron heart and a strong army.

0:39:570:40:00

All three warlords needed political connections.

0:40:020:40:05

And very often these came through choosing the right wife.

0:40:060:40:11

-Amen.

-Amen.

0:40:110:40:13

Oh, yeah, I really do adore my wife, Matilda.

0:40:150:40:19

She is tough and I trust her absolutely.

0:40:190:40:22

But I have to admit that she also has political appeals.

0:40:220:40:26

I need all the friends I can get

0:40:260:40:29

and the father of Matilda is the Duke of Flanders.

0:40:290:40:35

Flanders is key strategically.

0:40:350:40:39

It is rich.

0:40:390:40:40

And Matilda is gorgeous.

0:40:400:40:42

So, essentially, what is not to like?

0:40:420:40:45

Well, I'm not actually married in the eyes of the church like you are,

0:40:450:40:49

but I have been with Edith for 20 years.

0:40:490:40:53

We're married in the Danish tradition,

0:40:530:40:56

which means that the Church doesn't actually bless it and recognise it,

0:40:560:40:59

but the majority of England do recognise it. It's very common.

0:40:590:41:05

Here's the news - I've got two wives.

0:41:050:41:08

I found the first in Russia.

0:41:080:41:09

She's called Elisiv.

0:41:090:41:11

Very influential, very powerful Russian family.

0:41:110:41:14

My second wife is from home here in Norway.

0:41:140:41:17

She's called Tora.

0:41:170:41:18

She's from a very influential Norwegian family.

0:41:180:41:22

Now, both of these women bring me wealth, they bring me power,

0:41:220:41:25

they bring me influence.

0:41:250:41:27

Oh, I think that my wife brings more to the table

0:41:270:41:31

than either of yours put together.

0:41:310:41:33

Russia, Norway - what kind of significance do they have

0:41:330:41:37

down here in the cockpit of power?

0:41:370:41:39

Look at Flanders -

0:41:390:41:40

controlling the narrowest point across the Channel.

0:41:400:41:43

So, Flanders, Matilda, both of them are absolutely key to my plans.

0:41:430:41:49

By 1066, William was 38 years old.

0:41:530:41:56

He was in peak form.

0:41:560:41:58

He'd been Duke of Normandy for 30 years.

0:41:580:42:00

Now his duchy was strong and powerful,

0:42:000:42:04

his enemies and rivals defeated.

0:42:040:42:06

Now, he was looking for new lands to conquer.

0:42:060:42:10

Above all, he wanted England.

0:42:100:42:12

'William responds to news of Harold's coronation immediately.

0:42:230:42:27

'His envoy reaches London within days.'

0:42:280:42:31

I bring a message from my lord, the Duke of Normandy.

0:42:330:42:36

Oh.

0:42:360:42:38

How is my dear friend?

0:42:380:42:40

He is ill at ease.

0:42:400:42:42

My lord wishes you to know his displeasure at recent events.

0:42:430:42:48

You must understand the unforeseen position my lord finds himself in.

0:42:510:42:55

William says you are a usurper.

0:42:590:43:01

That he is the legitimate heir to Edward's throne.

0:43:020:43:06

He demands that you yield the kingdom to him.

0:43:060:43:09

What?

0:43:110:43:12

And be his servant?

0:43:140:43:16

My lord reminds you that you swore an oath to him

0:43:160:43:21

and that he has a God-given right to the throne.

0:43:210:43:24

My lord, Edward, God rest his soul, gave me his dying wish.

0:43:240:43:29

Get out of my sight.

0:43:330:43:34

Bastard.

0:43:440:43:46

Big mistake. William now made a momentous decision.

0:43:520:43:55

If Harold wasn't going to relinquish the throne,

0:43:550:43:58

William was going to go to war.

0:43:580:44:00

He was going to raise an army,

0:44:000:44:02

invade England and take the crown by force.

0:44:020:44:05

This wasn't just something that William thought he could do,

0:44:050:44:08

it was something he thought he had the right to do.

0:44:080:44:11

Because William claimed that he'd been promised the throne of England

0:44:110:44:14

not just once, but twice.

0:44:140:44:17

First by King Edward back in 1051,

0:44:170:44:20

and secondly by Harold himself just two years earlier in 1064.

0:44:200:44:25

When the Vikings had ruled England 30 years earlier, Edward,

0:44:290:44:34

then an Anglo-Saxon prince, had fled to Normandy,

0:44:340:44:38

where he'd lived for 20 years.

0:44:380:44:39

In 1051, as King, he'd considered William to be his successor.

0:44:410:44:46

Much later, Harold had also been to Normandy,

0:44:470:44:50

making the same pledge to William.

0:44:500:44:53

Or at least, that's what William claimed.

0:44:550:44:58

The Norman Chronicles tell us that

0:45:030:45:06

in 1051 Edward did indeed promise the throne to William.

0:45:060:45:09

Now in contrast, the English chronicles, unsurprisingly,

0:45:090:45:12

don't say anything about this.

0:45:120:45:14

But there is one interesting account about something that happened

0:45:140:45:18

in 1051, because we're told in one version

0:45:180:45:21

of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that in this year...

0:45:210:45:26

SHE READS OLD ENGLISH

0:45:260:45:29

"Then, immediately, Earl William came from across

0:45:290:45:32

"the sea with a great troop of Frenchmen

0:45:320:45:34

"and the King received him and as many of his men as pleased him.

0:45:340:45:38

"And then he let him go again."

0:45:380:45:40

So, we're told that there was a meeting between them,

0:45:400:45:43

but we're not told any details.

0:45:430:45:45

But it is, of course, a reasonable enough assumption

0:45:450:45:47

that Edward must have received him for a reason,

0:45:470:45:50

must have given him something.

0:45:500:45:52

You can take my word for it,

0:45:520:45:55

15 years ago Edward promised me the throne.

0:45:550:45:59

He was 46 years old.

0:45:590:46:00

He had no heir. I was the obvious choice.

0:46:000:46:03

And a promise is a promise.

0:46:030:46:07

You have got to be kidding me.

0:46:070:46:09

This is the 11th century.

0:46:090:46:11

15 years, that's practically a lifetime.

0:46:110:46:14

If he did promise it to you, which I very much doubt,

0:46:140:46:18

do you really think that a promise made all that time ago still stands?

0:46:180:46:22

You're forgetting that you came to Normandy and you swore to support

0:46:220:46:28

my claim to the throne of England on the relics of saints.

0:46:280:46:33

You swore it. And now you are going back on your oath which you swore

0:46:330:46:38

-in the face of God.

-Oh, utter rubbish.

0:46:380:46:41

I promised you nothing.

0:46:410:46:43

Harold had made an enemy of one of Europe's

0:46:470:46:49

most feared military leaders.

0:46:490:46:51

Amen.

0:46:510:46:53

An enemy already planning Harold's destruction.

0:46:530:46:56

But of course, William wasn't the only warlord

0:47:020:47:05

hungry for the crown of England.

0:47:050:47:07

Norway.

0:47:180:47:20

An ancient Viking heartland.

0:47:200:47:21

The kingdom of Harold Hardrada.

0:47:220:47:25

MEN SHOUT

0:47:250:47:27

News of Edward's death and Harold's coronation would have travelled

0:47:350:47:40

on ships like this.

0:47:400:47:41

In the 11th century there were well-established trade routes,

0:47:410:47:44

and one of them led up to Scandinavia.

0:47:440:47:46

It would have taken about a day for a ship to go down the Thames

0:47:460:47:49

and reach the open sea of the English Channel here.

0:47:490:47:52

Then perhaps four or five days up the east coast of Britain

0:47:520:47:55

to the Viking-held islands in Orkney and Shetland.

0:47:550:47:59

Across to Norway, two days with a following wind,

0:47:590:48:02

and a day in land to where we know Harold Hardrada was

0:48:020:48:04

in the uplands of Norway, round about here.

0:48:040:48:07

So we can assume that that news reached Harold on something like

0:48:070:48:12

the 20th of January, perhaps ten days after it reached Duke William.

0:48:120:48:16

We don't know how Harold took that news,

0:48:160:48:18

but we do know that the ageing warrior was now well aware

0:48:180:48:21

who he'd have to fight if he was going to restore

0:48:210:48:24

Viking control over England - he'd have to fight Harold.

0:48:240:48:27

'Hardrada's royal camp high in the Norwegian uplands.

0:48:310:48:35

'After years fighting overseas, Hardrada has to keep order at home

0:48:360:48:41

'before he can turn to thoughts of invasion.'

0:48:410:48:44

Einar...

0:48:500:48:51

..you of the flailing sword will drive me from this country

0:48:520:48:58

unless I can first persuade you...

0:48:580:49:00

..to kiss my thin-lipped axe.

0:49:030:49:08

Come on. Come on.

0:49:100:49:11

Kissy, kissy, kissy.

0:49:130:49:15

Hardrada had spent his youth fighting his way around the world,

0:49:230:49:27

a sword for hire in wars in Sicily, Russia,

0:49:270:49:30

Constantinople and the Holy Land.

0:49:300:49:32

He loved killing.

0:49:320:49:33

In fact, he wrote a poem about it.

0:49:330:49:35

He wrote...

0:49:350:49:37

I kill without compunction...

0:49:370:49:38

..and remember all my killings.

0:49:400:49:42

Treason must be scotched by fair means or foul

0:49:440:49:47

before it overwhelms me.

0:49:470:49:49

Hardrada writes poetry even on the battlefield.

0:49:510:49:54

He knows that this is a way of creating his own mythology,

0:49:540:49:58

of recording his great victories and triumphs for future generations.

0:49:580:50:02

And like all good Vikings, Hardrada knows that the most

0:50:020:50:06

important thing a man can leave behind after

0:50:060:50:08

he's died is his reputation.

0:50:080:50:11

Oak trees grow from acorns.

0:50:110:50:15

I have caused the death of 13 of my enemies.

0:50:150:50:18

Like Duke William, we're told by the sources that Hardrada

0:50:200:50:24

was greedy for power and possessions.

0:50:240:50:27

But there was something much deeper going on in his Viking soul.

0:50:270:50:31

He'd failed to conquer Denmark, and like an ageing boxer,

0:50:310:50:35

his time as a powerful, virile warrior was

0:50:350:50:38

running out and he knew it.

0:50:380:50:40

Unlike William, for Hardrada a conquest of England

0:50:420:50:46

wasn't just about power, wealth and prestige,

0:50:460:50:50

it was about creating an immortal Viking legend,

0:50:500:50:54

one that would live on forever.

0:50:540:50:55

I am 50 years old and by 11th-century standards

0:50:580:51:01

that's kicking on a bit,

0:51:010:51:02

so I've probably got one big conquest left in me.

0:51:020:51:05

And I think England is going to be that conquest.

0:51:080:51:11

Now, don't forget, historically, from a Viking point of view,

0:51:110:51:15

England's just as much ours as it is the Anglo-Saxons'.

0:51:150:51:19

Invading England is just what Vikings do, it's in our DNA.

0:51:190:51:24

And I tell you this, if we invade, we'll head straight for the North.

0:51:240:51:28

We'll come to a town like York, full of people with Viking ancestry,

0:51:280:51:32

and we'll get a hero's welcome.

0:51:320:51:34

'Harold's days of peace are numbered.

0:51:400:51:42

'William is beginning to build an invasion force.

0:51:430:51:46

'While Hardrada dreams of a great, immortal victory.

0:51:480:51:52

'But Harald also faces a third enemy,

0:51:540:51:58

'someone much closer to home.

0:51:580:52:00

'As well as Gyrth, Harald has another brother

0:52:020:52:06

'who's not quite so loyal.

0:52:060:52:08

'The Earl of Northumbria, recently exiled from England.

0:52:100:52:14

'His name is Tostig.

0:52:150:52:18

'Just three weeks into Harold's reign and family betrayal

0:52:320:52:36

'lands on the shores of Normandy.'

0:52:360:52:39

My brother, he's a lying dog.

0:52:410:52:44

You've come all this way to tell me what I already know?

0:52:460:52:48

He betrayed me too, and I'm family.

0:52:480:52:52

I've come here to bring him down.

0:52:540:52:56

And why should I trust you?

0:52:570:52:59

You share his blood.

0:53:000:53:01

I can't help that. But I can help you.

0:53:030:53:06

He's stolen my lands, he's stolen your crown.

0:53:070:53:10

Together, we can destroy him.

0:53:110:53:13

Tostig landing in Normandy was a stunning act of treason.

0:53:230:53:28

Here was an English earl plotting with a Norman duke

0:53:280:53:32

to destroy his own brother.

0:53:320:53:34

It's only reported in one chronicle, but if it's true,

0:53:340:53:37

it shows just how poisonous relations had become between Tostig

0:53:370:53:42

and his brother Harold.

0:53:420:53:43

It also shows just how fragile power could be in the 11th century.

0:53:430:53:48

Tostig is a fascinating character.

0:53:500:53:52

He was supposedly more handsome than Harold and braver than Harold

0:53:520:53:56

and he's become Earl of Northumbria.

0:53:560:53:59

But Tostig's rule in Northumbria was chaotic.

0:54:000:54:03

He overtaxed the land, he oppressed the nobles...

0:54:030:54:07

In fact, it's thought that he had three of the nobles of Northumbria

0:54:070:54:11

assassinated, and it became too much for them and they rebelled

0:54:110:54:15

and they marched south.

0:54:150:54:16

Six months earlier,

0:54:190:54:21

Tostig had forced Harold to make an unenviable decision.

0:54:210:54:24

Harold has two choices.

0:54:260:54:28

If he supports his brother, there is going to be a civil war.

0:54:290:54:33

Now, the English have learnt, if there's one thing the 11th century

0:54:330:54:36

has taught them, it is if they fight each other,

0:54:360:54:37

then the Vikings are going to invade and conquer them all.

0:54:370:54:40

So there is a stand-off and Harold, I think,

0:54:400:54:42

makes the wise choice that he has to, you know, sacrifice his brother,

0:54:420:54:46

his brother has to go into exile.

0:54:460:54:47

Tostig now hated his brother with every fibre of his being.

0:54:490:54:53

He wanted his land back and he wanted revenge.

0:54:530:54:56

Tostig's thirst for vengeance was so strong

0:54:580:55:02

that he didn't stop at William.

0:55:020:55:04

He wanted to gain the support of another great warlord.

0:55:040:55:07

According to the Norse sagas, after his trip to Normandy,

0:55:100:55:15

Harold's rebellious brother Tostig sailed 1,000 miles north to Norway

0:55:150:55:20

to petition the Norwegian King.

0:55:200:55:22

So, the black sheep has come to Norway.

0:55:260:55:31

How can you be of any use to me?

0:55:330:55:36

Most of the nobles in England hate my brother.

0:55:360:55:39

They support me...

0:55:410:55:43

and they will support you.

0:55:430:55:45

They could make you king.

0:55:470:55:48

Do I look like a fool?

0:55:490:55:51

There was never born in Scandinavia a warrior to compare with you.

0:55:520:55:57

But England is yours for the taking.

0:55:570:56:00

Invade now and your name will live forever.

0:56:000:56:03

In battle storm we seek no lee.

0:56:060:56:09

With skulking head and bending knee...

0:56:100:56:13

..I will out and carve my name in legend.

0:56:190:56:25

'Hardrada and Tostig agreed to work together

0:56:310:56:34

'to assemble an invasion force

0:56:340:56:36

'and attack Harold's England in late summer, from the north.

0:56:360:56:41

'Meanwhile, 1,000 miles to the south,

0:56:430:56:46

'William's own preparations are already well underway.'

0:56:460:56:49

By summer we'll be ready.

0:56:500:56:52

If it is God's will, then his will will be done.

0:56:530:56:57

'Right now, Harald knows nothing of either plot

0:56:590:57:02

'being hatched from opposite ends of his kingdom.'

0:57:020:57:05

Patience is half of happiness. King Edward used to say that.

0:57:070:57:10

Wise words.

0:57:110:57:12

The other half is a sharpened sword.

0:57:140:57:18

Harold wasn't stupid.

0:57:200:57:21

He was a canny warlord and he knew

0:57:210:57:23

all too well the rules of 11th-century realpolitik.

0:57:230:57:27

Now, just six weeks after his coronation,

0:57:270:57:30

the new king must have known an attempt would be made to kill him

0:57:300:57:35

and rip the crown from his bloody head.

0:57:350:57:37

The question was, when would that attack come, and from where?

0:57:370:57:42

Next time, family betrayal turns to war

0:57:490:57:52

as Tostig attacks England's southern shores.

0:57:520:57:55

While William raises a vast force of men and ships.

0:57:560:58:00

And Harald fights a marauding Viking army for his life...

0:58:010:58:05

..and his crown.

0:58:080:58:09

In this three-part drama documentary series, Dan Snow explores the political intrigues and family betrayals between Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Normans that led to war and the Battle of Hastings.

When King Edward the Confessor dies without an heir, it triggers a bitter race to succeed him as King of England. Earl Harold is on the spot and takes the crown. But in Normandy, Duke William believes the throne has been promised to him and decides to invade. Meanwhile, in Norway, the Viking king Harald Hardrada also fancies himself as King of England, and he too puts together an invasion force. Very soon, England will be under attack.


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