What Happened to Harold?

Via my friend Chris Berard, a new theory (in the Daily Mail) about what happened to Harold Godwinson, king of England in 1066 (emphasis added):

Shot through the eye by an arrow, he died at the hands of four Norman knights brutally dismembering his body – or so almost 950 years of history dictates.

But archaeologists are now claiming King Harold may have survived the Battle of Hastings, and lived out his years before quietly dying of old age.

The alternative version of events, put forward in a 12th century document housed in the British Museum, discounts the Normans’ portrayal of his death in the Bayeux Tapestry.

The artwork, long considered an accurate depiction of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, shows King Harold clutching at an arrow in his eye as four Norman knights hack at his body.

But now a team of historians, who discovered the remains of Richard III in a municipal car park in Leicester in 2012, are eager to dispel the long-accepted story. 

Oval Film and Stratascan, whose efforts were applauded around the world for the discovery, will carry out an underground scan of Abbey Gardens at Waltham Abbey Church in Essex, the supposed site of King Harold’s tomb, to look for his remains.

King Harold is thought to have been killed in the 1066 battle

Thank goodness for twelfth-century documents in the British Museum! (By which I assume the author means the British Library?) Strangely missing, of course, is a shelfmark or any description of what the document is called, or anything else it might contain. And, at the risk of being labeled an academic snob, “Oval Films and Stratascan” is hardly “a team of historians.” It is a commercial operation trying to raise money for its next big project – note that there’s no mention of Philippa Langley, the real historian behind the discovery of King Richard’s bones.

Anything’s possible of course, but my hunch that “Harold survived and died of old age” is about as true as Ian Mortimer’s theory that Edward II was not murdered in 1327 and buried in Gloucester Abbey, but ended his days in retirement in Italy. I assure you that this theory has no support among everyone I know who studies fourteenth-century England.