A controversial debate however would not be a debate if there wasn’t any little less convincing stories which added to the confusion of the event. William of Malmesbury suggested that Harold in fact had absolutely no intention of visiting Normandy and was purely on a fishing trip off the coast of Britain, when horrible storms and high gales swept the fishing boat to the shore of Normandy. Exaggerated? Or just stupid? The evidence supporting this assumption relies heavily on the Bayeaux tapestry where in one of the scenes there is a picture of a fishing pole.
It is also a matter of uncertainty as to the events which led to Harold’s arrival in Normandy. According to William of Malmesbury he had been swept there by strong seas, however many early Norman sources reveal that Harold had been swept away in high winds and landed on the shore of Ponthieu where he was seized by Count Guy. Count Guy made his fortunes out of seizing rich people whom had got lost at sea and then selling them on as slaves.
Douglas quotes William demanded the person of Harold from Count Guy and he perhaps agreed to pay a ransom. All sources quote that Harold was treated as a guest of the highest honour in William’s quarters. Another reason, which could possibly counter the reason of Harold visiting Normandy on an order to deliver a message to William, is the suspicion that he was just doing some hunting on Norman grounds. A keen athletic strong man like himself would often participate in some hunting during his recreational time.
Possibly this could have been a reason for going to Normandy, as well as delivering the promise or going on a European tour, however for him to travel all that way in treacherous seas, where the probability of shipwrecking was at an incredibly higher percentage than nowadays, then just to entertain himself with some wild boar hunting seems somewhat unlikely. The fact of the matter is he could have hunted absolutely anywhere and any time in England. Why he would want to go to Normandy to do it at the “Height of his power” (Douglas) is unknown to many.
Like the fishing trip story the lack of evidence does not make it a huge contender for the real reason why Harold did depart to Normandy. Realistically it appears a little stupid and the only source for such a wild assumption can be found in the Bayeux Tapestry where there appears to be a hawk and dogs on the same boat as Harold. Walker Quotes “Whatever the reason for Harold’s journey across the channel, and the wish to rescue his relatives from Norman captivity, recorded by Eadmer using sources close to the family seems most likely.
” This is generally the British opinion and in comparison with the other stories probably the most realistic. This comes across as particularly realistic in that the Godwins’ were very altruistic towards their family. This was expressed when Godwin tried desperately and went to all lengths to get his eldest son Swein who had previously been exiled for the worst crime known to man at that time back into the country and by his side.
Godwin tried all his life to get his family as powerful and high up as possible. Therefore this family tradition run through into Harold and he felt it his personal duty to do what his father would have and retrieve his brother and nephew from the captivity of the Norman’s. No Norman source mentions this as the ultimate reason as to Harold’s voyage, however this assumption also could have been part and part with the other story in which Harold was also on a diplomatic European tour.