On this day - April 24th

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A Portent of doom

On April 24th 1066, Halley's comet appeared in the evening sky and English hearts trembled — the previous appearance of the phenomenon in 989 had been followed by a Danish invasion, and the connection between it and invasion of the homeland had been firmly established in the English mind.

The Bayeux tapestry shows a group of Englishmen gesticulating fearfully towards the "long-haired star" while a spy reports to Harold on William's preparations for invasion.

So while King Harold dreamt uneasily of ghostly ships, William of Normandy was able to interpret the phenomenon as a prediction of success, and the rallying cry of the Norman army waiting patiently for fair winds to carry them across the Channel became "Nova stella, novus rex" (a new star, a new king).

Halley's comet and its predictable reappearances were not recognised as such (in the West anyway) until the work of Edmond Halley in the early years of the eighteenth century.
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And of course, English fears in 1066 turned out to be quite justified, and the rest, as they say, is history....

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