Harold al Angliei
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Regele Harold al II-lea al Angliei (ca. 1022 - 14 octombrie, 1066) a fost ultimul anglo-saxon încoronat ca rege al Angliei. El a fost fiul lui Earl Godwin de Wessex, succedându-i Sfântului Edward Duhovnicul l-a tronul Angliei, dar fiind rege mai puţin de un an, deoarece a murit pe câmpul de luptă în bătălia de la Hastings, în sudul Angliei în 1066, când Anglia a fost invadată de William Bastardul, ("Cuceritorul"), Duce de Normandia. El a condus din 5 ianuarie 1066 până în 14 octombrie, ziua morţii sale. El este privit de mulţi creştini ortodocşi ca un învingător de patimi sau chiar ca martir şi ca ultimul rege ortodox al Angliei.
Godwin a fost tatăl lui Harold, puternicul Earl de Wessex. Godwin însuşi era fiul lui Wulfnoth Cild, Thane (rang nobiliar) de Sussex, şi a fost căsătorit de două ori. Prima dată s-a căsătorit cu Thyra Sveinsdóttir (994 - 1018), o fiică a lui Sweyn Întâi care a fost regele Danemarcei, Norvegiei şi Angliei. Cea de a doua soţie a fost Gytha Thorkelsdóttir care a fost nepoata legendarului viking suedez Styrbjörn Starke şi stră-strănepoată a lui Harold Dinte Albastru, Rege al Danemarcei şi Suediei, tatăl lui Sweyn Întâiul. Din această a doua căsnicie au rezultat doi băieţi, Harold şi Tostig Godwinson, şi o fată Edith de Wessex (1020 - 1075) care a fost Regina Consoartă a Sfântului Edward Duhovnicul.
După ce a fost ridicat la rangul de Conte de Anglia de Est în 1045, Harold l-a însoţit pe Godwin în exil în 1051 şi l-a ajutat să-şi recâştige poziţia un an mai târziu. Când Godwin a murit în 1053, Harold a preluat rangul de Conte de Wessex (la vremea aceea o provincie treimea cea mai sudică a Angliei). Acest lucru l-a făcut al doilea dintre cei mai puternici oameni din Anglia, imediat după rege.
Înplus, în 1058, Harold devine Conte de Hereford, şi îl înlocuieşte pe răposatul său tată în centrul opoziţiei la influenţa normandă în creştere în Anglia sub monarhia saxonă restaurată (1042 - 1066) a lui Edward Duhovnicul, care petrecuse mai mult de un sfert de secol în exil în Normandia.
El s-a acoperit de glorie într-o serie de campanii (1062-1063) împotriva guvernatorului din Gwynedd ap Llywelyn, care cucerise toată Ţara Galilor; acest conflict s-a încheiat prin înfrângerea lui Gwynedd (şi moartea acestuia de mâna propriilor soldaţi) în 1063. După 1064, Harold s-a căsătorit cu Edith, fiica Contelui de Mercia şi fostă soţie a lui Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. Lui Harold, Edith i-a născut doi fii – posibil gemeni – numiţi Harold şi Ulf care au ajuns amândoi la maturitate şi care, probabil, au murit în exil. De asemenea, Harold a avut câţiva copii nelegitimi de la manta sa faimoasă (sau soţie după legea daneză), Ealdgyth Swan-neck (sau "Edith Swan-neck" sau "Edith Swanneck")(Gât de lebădă).
În 1065, Harold i-a sprijinit pe rebelii din Northumbria împotriva fratelui său Tostig care-l înlocuise cu Morcar. Acest lucru i-a întărit pretenţia de succesor al lui Edward, dar din păcate i-a divizat propria familie, făcându-l pe Tostig să se alieze cu Regele Harald Hardrada ("Regat puternic") al Norvegiei.
După moartea lui Edward Duhovnicul, în 5 ianuarie 1066 Harold a pretins că Edward i-a promis coroana pe patul de moarte, iar Witenagemot (adunarea celor mai importanţi nobili ai regatului) i-a acordat încoronarea ca rege, care a şi avut loc în ziua următoare, 6 ianuarie.
Cu toate acestea, ţara a fost invadată atât de Harald al Norvegiei cât şi de William Bastardul, Duce de Normandia, care a susţinut că i se promisese coroana Angliei atât de către Edward (probabil în 1052) cât şi de Harold care naufragiase în Ponthieu, Normandia în 1064 sau 1065. S-a pretins că, cu ocazia naufragiului, William l-a obligat pe Harold să jure că îi sprijină pretenţiile la tronul Angliei, după care i-a arătat că a jurat cu mâna pe o cutie cu sfinte moaşte. După moartea lui Harold, normanzii s-au grăbit să scoată în evidenţă faptul că acceptând coroana Angliei, Harold a comis un sperjur.
Invadând actualul Yorkshire în September, 1066, Harald Hardrada şi Tostig i-au învins pe conţii englezi Edwin de Mercia şi Morcar de Northumbria în bătălia de la Fulford de lângă York (20 septembrie), dar la rândul lor au fost învinşi şi omorâţi de către armata lui Harold cinci zile mai târziu în bătălia de la Stamford Bridge (25 septembrie).
Apoi,Harold şi-a forţat armata să mărşăluiască 240 de mile pentru a-l intercepta pe William, care debarcase aproape 7000 de oameni în Sussex, în sudul Angliei, trei zile mai târziu în 28 septembrie. Harold şi-a instalat tabăra în fortificaţii din pământ construite în grabă lângă Hastings. Cele două armate s-au încleştat lângă Hastings în 14 octombrie, unde după o luptă aprigă, Harold a fost ucis şi armata lui a intrat în derută. După tradiţie, şi cum este descris în Tapiseria Bayeux, Harold a fot omorât de o săgeată în ochi. Dacă că el a murit, într-adevăr, în acest mod (moarte asociată în evul mediu cu sperjurul), sau dacă a fost ucis de sabie nu vom ştii niciodată. Soţia lui Harold, Edith Swanneck, a fost chemată să identifice cadavrul, ceea ce a şi făcut bazându-se pe anumite semne intime (faţa fiind distrusă) cunoscute doar de ea. Cu toate că o descriere normandă că pretinde trupul lui Harold a fost înmormântat într-un mormânt cu vedere spre ţărmul saxon, este mult mai probabil că el a fost îngropat în biserica sa din Waltham Holy Cross din Essex.
După cucerire, o parte din familia lui Harold a fugit în Rusia Kieveană, unde fica lui nelegitimă Gytha de Wessex s-a căsătorit cu Vladimir Monomakh, Mare Duce al Rusiei Kievene, şi este o strămoaşă a dinastiilor din Galicia, Smolensk şi Yaroslavl, ai căror urmaşi sunt Modest Mussorgsky şi Peter Kropotkin. Chipurile, urmare a acestei situaţii, Biserica Ortodoxă Rusă l-a considerat recent pe Harold ca martir cu prăznuire în 14 octombrie.
A cult of hero worship rose around Harold and by the 12th century legend says that Harold had indeed survived the battle, had spent two years in Winchester after the battle recovering from his wounds, and then traveled to Germany where he spent years wandering as a pilgrim. As an old man he returned to England and lived as a hermit in a cave near Dover. As he lay dying, he confessed that although he went by the name of Christian, he had been born Harold Godwineson. Various versions of this story persisted throughout the Middle Ages, and have little claim to fact.
Literary interest in Harold revived in the 19th century with the play Harold by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1876) and the novel Last of the Saxon Kings by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1848). Rudyard Kipling wrote a story, The tree of justice (1910), describing how an old man who turns out to be Harold is brought before Henry I of England. E. A. Freeman wrote a serious history in History of the Norman Conquest of England (1870-1879) in which Harold is seen as a great English hero. By the 21st century Harold's reputation remains tied, as it has always been, with subjective views of the rightness or wrongness of the Norman conquest.
The Basis for Sainthood
The question of Harold's sanctity is a bit complex. History records that he led a moral life and was an honest and dutiful ruler for the English people. There probably is not, however, enough evidence of his personal sanctity based on the general conduct of his life in order for him to be numbered publicly among the saints.
Another question with regard to many western saints is the period in which they lived. That is, do they count as Orthodox saints of the old western Church based on living before the Great Schism? Regarding the British Isles, what is known about the state of the Church there at that time is that subsequent to the Norman Invasion in 1066, church life was radically altered. Native clergy were replaced, liturgical reform enacted, and a strong emphasis on papal church control was propagated. As such, it is probably safe to say that, prior to 1066, the church of the British Isles was Orthodox, and the Normans brought the effects of the Great Schism to British soil. As such, it is probably proper to regard Harold as having been an Orthodox Christian.
The principle question regarding Harold's sanctity is whether he died as a passion-bearer (one who faces his death in a Christ-like manner) or even a martyr at Hastings. The defense of England was certainly being undertaken for political and nationalistic reasons—Englishmen had no desire to be ruled over by a foreign king (having experienced it before), so they gladly followed their native monarch in defense of their homeland. Yet did they also die for their faith?
Papist Invaders versus Orthodox Christian Natives
Before he set out from Normandy, William had had a difficult time in getting his own Norman barons to follow him in his quest to gain the English crown. Most considered it suicide, if only because of the difficulty in making the crossing over the English Channel in the relatively primitive boats that they used. Thus, William had a problem in terms of gaining military assistance in his campaign. The solution to that problem was presented by one of his advisers, Lanfranc, a Lombard abbot and monastic teacher who had previously helped gain papal approval of William's uncanonical marriage to his wife, Matilda.
Lanfranc's solution (for which he was eventually awarded the position of Archbishop of Canterbury after the Conquest) came in the form of casting the invasion as a crusade to bring the English church into submission to the papacy. David Howarth, in his 1066 The Year of the Conquest, explains:
- The invasion should not be seen as a merely secular conquest; its highest aim should be, or appear to be, the reformation of the English church. It should become a crusade, a holy war to bring back an errant church to Rome. Lanfranc himself, or the Norman church as a body, was willing to bring accusations against the church of England (p. 100).
Whether the English church was indeed errant can be debated. As with much of the Church at the time, corruption was certainly present, but that was by no means unique to England or therefore deserving of military invasion. Indeed, even considering how remote England's church was from Rome, it had for nearly 200 years collected and sent to Rome the offering known as Peter's Pence, and it had always encouraged pilgrimage to Rome by English Christians. As such, the church in England had been remarkably loyal to Rome. Howarth continues:
- Perhaps its principal sin was merely to be different: much of its scholarship and all of its pastoral work were in English instead of Latin, and it was easy for other churchmen to suspect that schisms and heresies were hidden by such a barbarous language. But finally, whatever was said against it, the fact remained that the English then were a devoutly religious people and were satisfied on the whole that their church provided for their spiritual needs (ibid.).
Norman Conspiracy with the Pope
Despite the rather shaky grounds on which accusations of English ecclesiastical disloyalty were founded, this was the reason for the invasion which was submitted to the Pope. It was probably something of an afterthought for William's plan, and certainly neither William nor Lanfranc were in a position to judge the English church. Yet the excuse was precisely what the invaders—and the Pope—needed to further their cause, as Howarth says:
- To William, it gave a chance of solving the problem of raising an army: he could promise land and booty to men who took part, but in a holy war the church could promise something more—salvation. To Lanfranc, it gave a chance to offer the Holy See an expansion of power it had been seeking in vain... Lanfranc could therefore ask for papal blessing of William's invasion and offer something in return: William's claim could be submitted to the judgement of the Pope. This would be the first time a pope had been asked to adjudicate a disputed royal succession, and would create a precedent of enormous importance to [Cardinal] Hildebrand... And the present Pope, as it happened, had once been [Lanfranc's] student at [the monastic college of] Bec (p. 101).
Hildebrand had previously been at the head of efforts to disentangle the election of popes from secular politics, thus bolstering the power and solidity of the papacy. (He was eventually elected pope himself, styled Pope Gregory VII, and is a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.) Such an opportunity as Lanfranc's proposal presented to increase the papacy's influence over secular politics could not be missed. Being the most skilful politician at the Vatican, he saw to it that a papal court was held in Rome ("without the slightest reference to the facts," says Howarth on p. 102) at which Harold was entirely unrepresented. As Howarth says:
- It is not recorded whether he was invited to send an advocate, but it is very unlikely. To ride from Rome to Bosham [where Harold was in England] and back again to Rome suggests a month on the road, and nobody was prepared to waste as much time as that. If he had been invited, he and the witan would certainly have answered, quite correctly, that the choice of a King of England had nothing to do with the Pope (p. 102).
The court ruled against Harold, and the Pope
- accepted that William's purpose was to reform the church, he sent his blessing on this holy endeavour, a papal banner to carry into battle, and a ring for William to wear on the expedition which contained a relic of St Peter himself. There was one condition: it was understood that William would hold England as a vassal of the Pope. William had not the least intention in the world of doing anything of the sort; but he accepted the ring and the banner and said nothing. And those, as things turned out, were the most powerful weapons he took to England (ibid.).
Harold Rex Interfectus Est: Harold's Defeat at Hastings
After Harold had returned from his brilliant defeat of Harald of Norway in the north of England, he learned quickly of the Norman invasion. He'd been suspecting it for some time, but it fell hard on the heels of victory at Stamford Bridge that he would have to defend his country in the south, as well.
Upon his return to southern England, he soon received word from William's forces that he had been excommunicated by the Pope and that the Normans carried papal blessing to invade England. All evidence suggests that this news utterly demoralized King Harold. While he had been a powerful commander against the Norsemen, upon hearing news of the alleged excommunication, he declared, "May the Lord now decide between William and me" (Howarth, p. 164), and before going to battle, "the terrible rumour was starting to spread that the King was excommunicated and the same fate hung over any man who fought for him" (ibid., 165).
Records of how the battle actually went suggest that instead of the dynamic fighting force Harold had inspired just days before, the English mainly stood in one place and were slaughtered. Harold had been transformed by his betrayal by the Pope, and his defeat by William (which from a purely military standpoint was by no means assured) marked the end of the ecclesial distinctiveness of the English church and its subsequent capitulation to Rome under Norman rule. Lanfranc himself, as Archbishop of Canterbury, led the Latinization and Normanization of the English church, while William brutalized the English people.
Although history's record of Harold's defeat can be interpreted to suggest that King Harold and his men died in defense of the Orthodox Christian faith, aside from the undocumented allegation that the Church of Russia has glorified him, there is no record of a cultus developing around Harold. This fact is not necessarily evidence against his place among the saints, especially since the Norman domination of the English church would have utterly squelched the liturgical veneration of the fallen Saxon king.
In our own day, however, some Orthodox Christians—especially those who venerate the saints of the British Isles—have begun to regard Harold as being truly a saint, that he and his men died defending their land from invasion by a foreign faith. Perhaps we may someday see a service written to him and popular veneration grow in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians.
- 1066 The Year of the Conquest (1977) by David Howarth (ISBN 0880290145)
- Wikipedia:Harold II of England
- Wikipedia:Norman Conquest
- Wikipedia:William I of England