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Archive for March, 2009

The Plot of the Bayeux Tapestry, Part III – Halley’s Comet & the Battle of Hastings



Now we return to the Bayeux Tapestry. Harold Godwinson had just been crowned King of England (such as it was in the eleventh century) by Aldred, the Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York. Edward the Confessor before his death was admittedly upset that Harold had sworn fealty to William.


However, that didn’t stop Harold from becoming king. Several months later a special vision appeared in the sky. Around the 24th of April 1066, a huge ‘star’ flew across the sky. This caused many to believe that it was related to Harold’s coronation. To the folks of the medieval era, this was an omen of impending doom.


Modern scholars have admitted that this ‘omen’ was in fact an early appearance of Halley’s Comet, which has been around since 240 BC but wasn’t recognized as a comet until Edmond Halley made the formal discovery in the 18th century.

Now, William, when he heard the Harold accepted the crown, began preparing his troops and a fleet of ships in Normandy. They enter England unopposed. However, soon afterwards, William receives news that his men have suffered a major loss at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, which the tapisserie does not showcase I must add.


On October 14, 1066 William and Harold meet at the Battle of Hastings. Harold’s brothers Leofwine and Gyrth are killed as is Harold. The tapestry devotes several panels to his death scene; however, traditionally it is believe that the arrow in the eye is what finished Godwinson off.



The Higginbotham-Smythe Road to Heraldry: Great Grandma Many Times Removed Boudica



My students often ask me, “Professor Higginbotham-Smythe, how did you get involved in heraldry?” I usually guffaw but only gently and tell them, that heraldry is in my blood. My grandfather, for whom I’m named, was a genealogist. Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestry, goes hand in hand with heraldry as you can well imagine.


I remember being a boy and sitting on grandpapa’s knee. He’d tell me stories of our family. He told me that my great grandmother multiple times removed was Boudica. Yes, that Boudica, the Iceni Queen. Boudica lived in the earliest decades of the modern era. Her death date is around 60 AD.


She fought against Roman occupation. When her husband Prasutagus died, he left his kingdom to his daughters and to Rome. Boudica fought that and tried to keep the land of Londonium and the surrounding environs for her people. She was almost victorious and gave the Roman legions under Suetonius quite a run for their money.


The Emperor Nero nearly withdrew his troops from the area as a result. That is until Suetonius beat her forces at the Battle of Watling Street. She is still remembered for her flaming red hair, her unwillingness to surrender and her unwavering patriotism.

I am proud to have her in my bloodline.

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