Harold attended mass at Bosham in 1064 prior to
leaving Bosham and meeting William of Normandy. It was perhaps at this meeting
that Harold told
Duke of Normandy (the Conqueror) that he would be claiming the throne of England.
In fact he was probably supposed to be there proclaiming Edwards
loyalty. This act
combined with other factors led inevitably to the battle of Hastings in 1066.
is claimed by Norman sources that Edward sent Harold to Normandy to
offer William the succession, but this is uncertain. Harold set off from
Bosham and was driven by a storm onto the land of the Count of Ponthieu
where he was captured. He was ransomed by William and then joined his
campaign against the Bretons. Sources, including the Bayeux Tapestry,
claim that Harold swore an oath to support William's claim to the throne
of England. Edward died on 5th January 1066. Some claimed that on his
death bed he promised the throne to Harold who had himself crowned at
Westminster on January 6th with the consent of the English aristocracy.)
Harold was thus destined to become the last of the
Saxon Kings of England. It is said that both his own and
his Fathers body was brought back to Bosham after the Battle in 1066. On the 4th
August 1865 the chancel arch at the
church was excavated and two coffins
were discovered. One contained the bones of an eight year old girl and the
coffin itself was typical of those used during the reign of Canute.
The larger coffin contained the bones of an older man who suffered from
arthritis in one leg. It is known that Godwin had a limp.
No-one is certain where the body of King Harold lays. It may the one
next to Canute's daughter, or yet another. Hastings and Waltham Abbey have
too! When heating was being
installed in the church in the 1950s, another tomb was discovered next
to the one containing Cnut's daughter. Those who opened it had a shock:
the head, right leg and two-thirds of the left hand were missing.
According to the
Bayeux Tapestry and an account by the bishop of Amiens,
which he made a year after the Battle of Hastings, Harold suffered these
terrible injuries before and after his death. As a result, some believe
that the remains in this tomb are Harold's. This makes sense. William of Poitiers stated that Harold had been buried
"by the seashore", and the sea
is only a short distance from the church. In addition, Bosham and many
William the Conqueror's personal
properties following the battle. Where
better to bury his opponent to ensure that the grave did not become the
focus of political discontent and of a martyr cult?
To another era; in 1664 the Great Plague was sweeping through the
country. When it reached nearby
citizens shut the City gates and sealed themselves in, in an attempt to
stop the plague from spreading to people outside the City. The fishermen
of Bosham took it upon themselves to help as best they could and left
food outside the city gates until the plague had passed. In recognition
of this, the people of Bosham were allowed to sell their fish in the
market without having to pay a fee. Sadly there is no longer much
commercial fishing from the
Harbour today, with only one trading
fisherman remaining. Even he keeps his boat elsewhere (Emsworth) and
lands his catch at the deeper water of
Bosham is located between Portsmouth and Chichester. From
the north, take the A3(M) to exit 5, then go east on the A27(M).
From the east or west, follow the A27(M) or M27 respectively.
Then take the A259 coast road and follow the signposts. Map
reference: SU 803039.