At the Battle of Hastings, on October 14, 1066, King Harold II (Godwinsson) of England and William II, Duke of Normandy led opposing armies in the bloody conflict which irretrievably changed the course of European history and put an end to Anglo Saxon rule in England forever.
Now King Harold was a total dick. His army was already exhausted from just having engaged and killed Harold’s own brother Tostig Godwinsson, Duke of Northumbria a few weeks earlier on September 25, 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Then they had to make a forced march to get to the Hastings battlefields, which was actually at Senlac. (Busy, busy, busy.)
The Normans, led by the furious Duke William, won, after Harold’s army (all infantry) broke their shield wall formation and chased the Normans, when they appeared to be retreating. Once the English were scattered the Normans’ mounted knights picked them off, one by one. Had they simply stuck to their commander’s plan, the outcome might have been different, but, they lacked discipline.
Now, the battle flags/standards were important accoutrements. William’s battle standard had been personally consecrated by the pope.
Harold’s battle standard was reportedly a magnificent one, woven–possibly by his own mother, Gytha–with silver and gold thread and encrusted with precious gems. It was captured during the battle.
After Duke William won the battle, he immediately sent the captured standard of King Harold to the Pope, because it was to God that William attributed his victory. Or, at least, he gave lip service to that notion.
So I was wondering if that battle standard is stuck away somewhere in the papal archives. Even though the popes didn’t start living in the Vatican per se until the 14th century, there must have been a continuous repository for all the snazzy stuff the popes had collected over the centuries and which eventually came to rest in the Vatican archives.
The Vatican Secret Archives weren’t actually built until the 17th century if I remember correctly. But once created surely everything must have been catalogued and an inventory must surely exist.
So what I would really love to see is a photo of that battle standard, if it still exists. If I could see only one thing from all the vast treasure of the Vatican, it would surely be that battle standard.
Enquiring mind wants to know.