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The Hermit of Handbridge : King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Or did he?
The Hermit of Handbridge

From ‘Cameos from English History’, by Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), slightly abridged.

Harold Godwinson was killed at the Battle of Hastings on England’s south coast in 1066, pierced through the eye by an arrow. But that wasn’t the tale they told up north in the city of Chester...

THERE was much talk of a hermit, who dwelt in a cell not far from the town.

He was seldom seen, his face was deeply scarred, and he had lost his left eye, and nothing was known of his name or history.

But he was deeply revered for his sanctity, and when Henry Beauclerc* once visited Chester, he sought a private interview with the mysterious penitent.

It is said, that when the hermit lay on his death-bed, he owned himself to be Harold, son of Godwin, once King of England for seven months.

He had been borne from the bloody hill, between life and death, in the darkness of the evening, by two faithful monks, Osgood and Ailric, and tended in secret till he recovered from his wounds.

Since that time he had been living in penitence and contrition, unknown to and apart from the world, and died at length, trusting that his forty years’ repentance might be accepted.

* Henry Beauclerc was the name of William the Conqueror’s fourth son, who later became King Henry I of England.

From ‘Cameos from English History’, by Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), slightly abridged.

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Picture: © Jeff Buck, Geograph. Licence CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
The 14th-century Anchorite’s Cell near St John the Baptist’s Church in Handbridge, Cheshire. It is built on the site of Harold’s supposed retreat..
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