Vespasian's camp was hard by, and it is possible that certain Roman remains that have been found here were once part of his palace. Bosham claims to be the scene of Canute's encounter with the encroaching tide; which may be the case, although one has always thought of the king rebuking his flatterers rather by the margin of the ocean itself than inland at an estuary's edge. But beyond question Canute had a palace here, and his daughter was buried in the church.
Earl Godwin, father of Harold, last of the Saxons, dwelt here also. "Da mihi basium"—give me a kiss—he is fabled to have said to Archbishop Aethelnoth, and on receiving it to have taken the salute as acquiescence in the request—"Da mihi Bosham": probably the earliest and also the most expensive recorded example in England of this particular form of humour.
It was from Bosham that Harold sailed on that visit to the Duke of Normandy which resulted in the battle of Hastings. In the Bayeux tapestry he may be seen riding to Bosham with his company, and also putting up prayers for the success of his mission. Of this success we shall see more when we come to Battle. Bosham furthermore claims Hubert of Bosham, the author of the Book of Becket's Martyrdom, who was with Saint Thomas of Canterbury when the assassins stabbed him to the death.
The church is of great age; it is even claimed that the tower is the original Saxon. The circumstance that in the representation of the edifice in the Bayeux tapestry there is no tower has been urged against this theory, although architectural realism in embroidery has never been very noticeable. The bells (it is told) were once carried off in a Danish raid; but they brought their captors no luck—rather the reverse, since they so weighed upon the ship that she sank. When the present bells ring, the ancient submerged peal is said to ring also in sympathy at the bottom of the Channel—a pretty habit, which would suggest that bell metal is happily and wisely