One of the first things I decided to do after our great victory was to go on a tour of all my estates, now that I have been made Earl of Kent. This a misleading title because in fact the land granted to me by William covers 23 counties, some as far North as Lincoln. This week I am touring Hertfordshire which has some nice towns and villages that will provide lots of income for a long time to come. As I enter Puttenham, I remember being here seventeen years ago when William called me back because he wanted to return home. This was after King Edward had agreed for him to be his successor to the English throne.
As I told William at the time, that promise wasn’t worth the paper it wasn’t written on. And I was proved right. William still thinks kindly of his late cousin and blames Harold Godwinson, William’s brother-in-law for the treachery which occurred after Edward’s death early in 1066. Harold was certainly very much responsible and fooled us all with his false friendship after we had rescued him from a shipwreck on the Normandy coast two years earlier. William even allowed Harold to fight alongside him when we defeated the Duke of Brittany and the treacherous swine swore homage to the Norman cause before he left, agreeing to give full support when we invaded. Well at least he got what he deserved at Hastings, a spear in the eye.
Puttenham still looks tidy and well looked after, though not as much as it was on my previous visit. The value now quoted by the county administrators is only 2 pounds compared to 4 pounds when I visited before, But this reduction has been the case with most of the villages I have visited. When I stopped at our base in Berkhampsted to look at the plans for the new castle, I was told that there have been shortages of labour and supplies due to the sloppiness of the previous regime and the impact of the war. I briefed the administrators there about our plans for improved recording of every person, village and town in the country so that eventually we will have a complete book that we can use to charge tax and allocate resources.
My problem at the moment is how to allocate my time. I still have my responsibilities as Bishop of Bayeux but have not been back there for some time. Who knows what will be going on while William and I are spending so much time over here. We thought originally that our younger brother Robert might stay in Normandy but now he’s over here as well, after William handed him lots of land to the west of England, as a reward for his bravery at the battle of Hastings.
Of course I could not be seen to have taken part in that battle, being a bishop and all. But William knows that I did take part at times – but with a club not a sword – when we were sure that we could trust those around not to tell the tale. And I did help with much of the planning of the invasion and organised a private army to support our soldiers. After all, my official seal shows a sword as well as my bishop’s staff. I was also able to help in other more legitimate ways, providing prayers and spiritual guidance for our men and celebrating our victories with sumptuous feasts.
I plan to go back to Normandy for a while but need to stop at my headquarters in Canterbury on the way. I need to check on the progress of the new project that William agreed for me to lead – an embroidery which records on canvass our triumph at Hastings with pictures of our bravery during battle, including lots of examples of William and Robert’s heroism and my spiritual contributions. This will help to legitimise William as the rightful King of England and make sure everyone knows the prominent part I played in our victory. I have commissioned a team of the best women at the embroidery school who are working night and day on this; it will be like nothing ever seen before. I am not sure where it will end up, probably in Westminster Abbey or the Cathedral at Bayeux.
As I ride into Puttenham with my entourage, I see that the tenant we have appointed under our new feudal system – Anschitil, one of my most loyal followers – is standing in the road to greet me. Behind and on each side are a small group of men, women and children, waving enthusiastic greetings to their Earl. This has been the picture so far in most of the villages I have visited. These English people know that we are the masters now, the Norman conquest is complete.
Did you miss? Episode 1; Odo in Puttenham, 1051
This style of presentation is intended to bring the history of the period to life by combining known historical facts with assumptions and imagination about the thinking behind the actions of this controversial historic figure.
Where there are different versions of the history of the time, we have taken the version that fits most closely to this style of presentation.