Object Details

Harold and Edith

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General Information
Classification
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Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright for Photograph:

Creative Commons

Location

Street:Grosvenor Crescent / Sea Road
Town:St. Leonards on Sea
Parish:Hastings
Council:Hastings Borough Council
County:East Sussex
Postcode:TN38
Location on Google Map
Object setting:Garden
Access is:Public
Location note:West Marina Gardens
In the AZ book:East Sussex
Page:126
Grid reference:F8
The A-Z books used are A-Z East Sussex and A-Z West Sussex (Editions 1A 2005). Geographers' A-Z Map Company Ltd. Sevenoaks.
Previous location:The Brassey Institute, Hastings, moved to current location in 1953.

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Makers

Name : Charles Augustus William Wilke
     Role:Sculptor

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General Information

Construction period:1875
Work is:Extant
Owner custodian:Hastings Borough Council
Object listing:Not listed
Description:The piece is a group statue of King Harold II and his common-law wife Edith (Ealdgyth Swan-neck, also known as Edith the Fair, and most commonly Edith Swan-Neck). Harold is lying on his back dying and the figure of Edith is hunched over him, holding up his head towards her face

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Classification

Categories:Sculptural, Free Standing
Object type1:Statue
Object type2:Sculpture
Subject type1:Figurative
     Subject subtype1:Reclining
Subject type2:Portrait
     Subject subtype1:Group

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Object Parts

Part 1:Base
     Material:Concrete
     Height (cm):10
     Width (cm):198
     Depth (cm):137
Part 2:Area of random slabs
     Material:Stone
     Width (cm):365
     Depth (cm):320
Part 3:Plinth
     Material:Brick core with concrete render
     Height (cm):76
     Width (cm):183
     Depth (cm):122
Part 4:Statue
     Material:Marble
     Height (cm):84
     Width (cm):135
     Depth (cm):87

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Object Condition

Overall condition:Poor
Risk assessment:Immediate risk
Condition 1 of type:Surface
     Condition 1: Biological growth
     Condition 2: Abrasions, cracks, splits
     Condition 3: Surface spalling, crumbling
     Condition 4: Bird Guano
     Condition 5: Accretions
     Condition 6: Corrosion, Deterioration
     More details:The sculpture is severely weathered and virtually none of the carved surface remains (originally Harold’s chain mail sleeves were present for example). Prominent areas of carving such as noses and fingers are now eroded. Soil and sand have become deposited in the crevices of the carving.
Condition 2 of type:Structural
     Condition 1: Broken or missing parts
     Condition 2: Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
     More details:The fingers of Harold’s left hand, the toes of his left foot and the end of his axe handle are lost. The corners on the eastern side of the plinth are gone.
Date of on-site inspection:23/05/2007

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History

History:Edith Swan-Neck (1025 – 1086?) is best known as the mistress or common law wife of Harold II (Harold Godwinson; c. 1022 – October 14, 1066) who died at The Battle of Hastings in 1066. Harold was legally married to Edith of Wessex, but this was a political marriage. It is said that the body of Harold was terribly mutilated by the Norman army and they refused to surrender his body to his mother even for his body weight in gold. Folklore has it that Edith Swan-Neck walked through the carnage of the battle and identified Harold by marks on his body known only to her. It was only because of this that Harold was able to have a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham Abbey.

Edith was Harold’s first wife, married ‘more Danico’ (in the Danish manner), also known as ‘hand-fasting’, which remained legal until the 1753 Marriage Act in England and some time in the 1970s or 80s in Scotland (changed because of illegal immigrant scams). Edith was very wealthy and her family would never have allowed an unofficial arrangement – Domesday refers to her as Edith Faera (the fair), Pulchra (beautiful) and Dives (rich) – she had lands to the value of c.£500 in 1066, in East Anglia. It was common for important men to have more than one wife, and for the first one to be ‘hand-fast’, so that you could later make a diplomatic match as well – but the church would only marry you once, unless the wife you had married in church had died. King Canute had two wives. It was just good luck that Harold and Edith liked each other. The Carmen tells us that William had Harold’s body parts gathered up in a purple linen cloth, taken back to his camp at Hastings, and interred under a cairn of stones on the coast, before standing atop said cairn to be recognised by his army as King in Harold’s place in a ceremony which, despite being pure Viking, the Christian Bishop Guy described – a sure sign that it is true. He also said that Countess Gytha offered William Harold’s weight in gold, or to forego the bodies of Gyrth and Leofwin if she could have Harold’s, and that he refused both offers. There is a romantic story, which may be true, that Edith Swan-Neck climbed the Watch Oak (now the name of a roundabout at the north end of Battle High Street, and locals will tell you the exact location of the original tree a little to the north) to watch the battle. Modern history writers vary in their interpretation of this – some think she went onto the battle field to recover his body, some that William’s soldiers caught her in the rout and he made her do so to make sure that Harold had been killed and not escaped etc. According to the Carmen, the shield wall remained solid until word that Harold was dead spread through the English army, but it is probable that word spread that he had been wounded in the face and the army crumbled, knowing that no-one could recover from such an injury, before the Normans could get at him to finish him off. Poitiers says Edith Swan-Neck accompanied the two monks from Waltham Abbey to help them find the body parts to take for burial, and does not mention the Viking ceremony, possibly due to censorship. The Carmen also informs us that William had crossbowmen, because the arrows are described as ‘quadratus’, ie square in cross-section, and so not capable of being used with a long-bow. This would make sense, as William was very into the latest military technology, including trebuchets, and successfully laid siege to the supposedly impregnable Dover (he set the hill-top town on fire and destroyed it before moving on – this no doubt explains the collapse of resistance in Kent – Dover Castle is on the site) and to London, whose 30ft high walls were no match either, and the citizens negotiated a favourable treaty, renewed by Henry II c.1155? – William stayed at Westminster Hall during the siege, and the surrender took place there.
Appendix 2 of 'A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons' by Geoffrey Hindley says that building work in 1954 at Bosham Church found ‘an important tomb with the bones of a tall man with the head, the right leg and part of the left leg missing. These correspond to the dreadful wounds Harold was reputed to have sustained. Bosham is certainly near ‘the seashore’ and it is tempting to see’ this as Harold, ‘hidden away by the victor safely under his control to avert the possibility of any popular cult.’ Perhaps Waltham had the head, and maybe the legs were missing, or at Waltham too.
(Heather Grief, Hastings Local History Group. 9 June 2009)
Hard archive file:Yes

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References

Source 1 :
     Title:‘Statues and Memorials in Hastings and St. Leonards: a report on condition and conservation option
     Type:Archive
     Author:Dinsmore, Jennifer.
     Location:Hastings Borough Council
     Date:00/00/1997
     Page:4


Further information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ealdgyth_Swan-neck

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Photographs





Date: 23/05/2007
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 23/05/2007
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 23/05/2007
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 23/05/2007
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons

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