The shadow of 14 October 1066 hangs over Edward the Confessor, last of the West Saxon dynasty, and his successor Harold II Godwineson, last of the Old English kings.1 Modern historians have tended to concentrate on the weaknesses in the kings and their kingdom which permitted the extinction of the West Saxon line, and the conquest of the country.2 Yet in these years the English regained southern Cumbria, established a client-kingdom in north Wales, and won one of their most decisive victories over a viking host at the battle of Stamford Bridge.3 These are scarcely the achievements of a kingdom in terminal decline.
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