London History Bulletin – January 6

January 6, 1066 – the funeral of Edward the Confessor and the coronation of King Harold. Both at Westminster Abbey. This London History Bulletin tells the tale.


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London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

January 6th. January 6th, 1066.

Busy day for Westminster Abbey. Funeral and burial of Edward the Confessor and then the coronation of Harold Godwinson – aka Harold II – the last crowned Anglo-Saxon English king. The poor blighter whose eye had an upcoming appointment with a Norman arrow just nine months in the future.

On October 14th, if you want to be precise about it. The battle at a place called Battle. Though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t called battle before October 14th, 1066. Creepy if it was. 

One thing that always dost tease me out of thought – thank you John Keats – about the battle at Battle is, was King Harold wearing a helmet? You know, one of those full protection jobs with a visor for him to peer through. If so, that was one lucky arrow shot. Well, lucky Norman, unlucky Harold. The rate at which they went at it – coronations, I t mean – a thousand years ago, they must have been tempted to make January 6th Coronation Day. 

Because sure enough, the coronation of Cnut the Great – King of England, Denmark and Norway also took place on January 6th. That was in the year 1017. Ok, it was half a century earlier but there must have been some people who thought, “hmmm, January 6th – another January 6th coronation – clearly we’ve got an unofficial tradition going, maybe we should enshrine it. Make it coronation day.

Mind you, they did things differently back then. Cnut was crowned in Old St. Paul’s, not Westminster Abbey. Not that he had much choice in the matter. Westminster Abbey didn’t exist in 1017. And in any case, he probably had other things on his mind – notably, “Ok, I’m going to give it my best shot – put my throne at the edge of the sea – and command the incoming tide to halt and not wet my feet and robes – but if the tide disobeys my order, well, will I have to kiss my credibility goodbye? Wonder if there’s some way of fitting that scene out with some plausible deniability?”

And finally, speaking of their doing things differently back then, Edward the Confessor’s Uncle – another Edward – was elected king on July 17, 975.

Less than three years later that Edward came to visit his much-loved brother Aethelred (Edward the Confessor’s father) and for his troubles was killed by Aethelred’s thegns. Not long after Edward’s untimely death a meeting was held at which Aethelred – Edward the Confessor’s father – was chosen to be king. Yes, they did things differently a thousand years ago.

No such thing as primogeniture and automatic succession. Imagine if things were still done that way. There would have had to be a meeting last September. “Who’s it going to be, Charles? What about Andrew – he’s knocked about a bit – got a wide experience of the world. Or Anne? Her father always said she was the most capable one of the lot of them. And she’s very good with horses, doesn’t suffer fools. And since it’s down to us, we could get some other hats in the ring. Boris Johnson, for example. He’s available. Or Mr. Bean, he’s always good value. Liz Truss or Nigel Farage – ah, I’m not so sure. I don’t think either of them has got the gravamen the 11th-century demands. Same goes for Boy George and Keith Richard. They’d both probably be the People’s Favourite but I’m not sure they’re what the doctor ordered.”

You’ve been listening to the London History Bulletin. Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative. 

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for. 

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya tomorrow.

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