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CHARACTER OF THE EXPEDITION.
on a claim very much like William's to the English crown, but fell ill so opportunely, that his death some months later was ascribed to poison; and count Eudes, who administered the duchy for him, sent his own sons to serve at the head of a body of troops in the expedition. Lastly, there were the English exiles, such as Raoul, Edward's greatnephew, who burned to reconquer their estates. William's own subjects showed the greatest reluctance to join in the enterprise they exaggerated its dangers; they knew that all its expenses would fall upon themselves; and they foresaw that a king of England would prove a harder taskmaster than a duke of Normandy dared to be. But the malcontents were out-manoeuvred by the seneschal, William Fitz-Osbern, who plied them separately with threats and promises till they gave a sullen assent. By the moneyed portion of the community, the war was regarded as a joint-stock speculation, with great risks, but also splendid chances; and the richer churchmen and church corporations contributed men and ships, with the hope of repayment in English benefices.1 Under all these mingled influences, an army of sixty thousand soldiers, horse and foot, was at last brought together; and a fleet of nearly eight hundred ships was provided for their transport. By the end of August, all was ready for the expedition. But contrary winds confined the adventurers for a whole month to the harbour of St. Valery-surSomme. The soldiers began to doubt whether William's cause were just and favoured by God.
Meanwhile Harold had been fully occupied by rumours of war, and war. Tostig, on the death of Edward, had repaired to Normandy, and offered William his services; the duke, whose plans were not fully formed, supplied his brotherin-law, the exiled earl, with a few ships; and Tostig ravaged the coasts of England, pressing men and boats into his service as he went. A repulse off Northumbria, and the de
1 Thierry, Conquête d'Angleterre, tom. i., pp. 237, 238.
Tostig and William had each married daughters of Baldwin of Flanders.
sertion of his men, forced him to seek alliance with some more powerful chief than himself; and he plighted homage to Harald Hardrada of Norway. Favoured by the dispersion of the English fleet, whose crews had gone home to victual, and which had been weakened by many wrecks in storms, the invaders sailed into the Tyne with three hundred ships. Their army, recruited by Tostig's following, stormed Scarborough, defeated the earls Edwin and Morcar, and exchanged hostages with the city of York, which waited the event of the war. Harold hastened northwards, and surprised the invaders at Stainford Bridge, on the Derwent. A short parley took place before the fight. Harold offered his brother the earldom of the north if he would renounce the war. "But what," said Tostig, "shall my ally, the noble Harald, receive ?" "Seven feet of English earth, or a little more, as he is taller than common men.” Tostig declined to purchase a principality at the price of a life of shame; and the armies joined battle. But the Norsemen, distressed by the heat, had left their breast-plates in the camp, where part of their forces remained. The result could not be doubtful against an enemy fully armed and headed by a competent general. The English advanced in the form of a wedge; the invaders were scattered over a thin semi-circular line. The Norwegian king fell in the first shock. Tostig again refused terms, and led on the troops, now aided by the reserve from the ships, to a fresh charge. But their lines were already disordered; Tostig and the chief captains fell; the army was driven over the Derwent, where a single Norseman for a time held the bridge against the whole might of England; and Edmund and Olaf, the princes of Norway, were glad to obtain the quarter they had refused, and sail with twenty-three ships, the miserable remains of three hundred, for Norway. The sun of the Saxon monarchy shone gloriously in a last victory over its hereditary foes before it set for ever in defeat.
Meanwhile the intercession of St. Valery, whose relics had been carried in procession, or a simple change of wind, enabled the Norman fleet to leave its moorings. William led the van
INVASION OF ENGLAND.
in a ship given him by his wife, Matilda of Flanders, its sails emblazoned with the lions of Normandy, and the consecrated banner flying from the mast. As the Saxon fleet had shortly before put into port to victual, the invaders landed without opposition at different points of the Sussex coast between Pevensey and Ashburnham,' and advanced, making fearful ravage as they went, in the form of a circle, of which Hastings was the centre. William secured his ships in the harbour, and evidently remained near the shore to guard them, but the Saxon fleet had again taken the sea, and watched the port, so that all thought of flight was idle. Meanwhile Harold was hurrying southward by forced marches, himself wounded, his army diminished by stragglers, the troops of the north not yet come up, and the Danish contingent, whom Sven had sent against the common Norwegian foe, refusing to serve in a new cause against men who claimed kindred with them. The Saxon king was probably unaware of his enemy's strength, and hoped to win another battle by surprise; but William's outposts were stationed for miles in front of his head-quarters, and fell back announcing the furious approach of the foe. Harold now halted and entrenched himself on the hill of Senlac, where Battle Abbey afterwards stood.3 There was no thought of fight for the day, on which night was just closing. Moreover
1 Ellis, Introduction to Domesday, p. xcviii., note 1.
2 The story that he burned his ships was probably borrowed from the history of Agathocles, as another that he stumbled on the shore and converted it into an omen of good luck, by professing to take seisin of the new territory, is an incident in the life of Cæsar. The classical renaissance of this century has left its mark on the popular histories. William of Poitiers, the duke's chaplain, knew nothing of either of these events.
The story that Harold sent out spies, who were taken through the Norman camp, and mistook the well-shaven soldiers for monks, is doubtful. earliest authority for it is Malmesbury. The legend seems based on the supposition that the Saxons wore beards. The Bayeux tapestry, which was probably made in England (Thierry, Sur la Tapisserie de Bayeux,) represents Harold and his followers as only wearing the moustache; and Malmesbury himself states this to have been their custom.-Lib. iii., p. 413. The beard was probably the distinction of the lower classes, as when William Fitz-Osbert adopted it under Richard I., and as is now the case in Russia.
NEGOTIATIONS FOR PEACE.
William, though confident of his strength, was willing to owe his kingdom to treaty rather than to war with his new subjects. Several embassies passed between the two hosts. Harold refused peremptorily to resign his crown, or to leave his claims to the arbitration of the pope, who had already prejudged him, or to settle them by single combat with the duke. William, on his part, met the statement that Edward had nominated Harold king with his dying breath, by a counterassertion that the succession was no longer Edward's to give, as he had already nominated the duke in the presence of archbishop Stigand, and of the earls Godwin, Leofric, and Siward. A more unlikely witness than Godwin could hardly be mentioned, but he and the two earls were dead, and Stigand was not in the camp; the story, therefore, could not be refuted on the spot, and a falsehood which cannot be disproved is as good as a truth in diplomacy. A last proposal from the Norman camp, that Harold should be king of Northumbria and his brother Gurth ealdorman of the counties which Godwin had administered, was sufficiently moderate to be entertained; the first flush of confidence had passed away since the Saxons saw the number of their foes, and a council of war had advised retreat upon London. But the English nobles on reflection dared not trust themselves to a prince who was said to have promised their lands and goods, their very wives and daughters, to the sixty thousand followers at his back. One and all resolved to make common cause with their king; only Harold's brother Gurth implored him to leave the battle to men who would not fight with a violated oath and God against them. Harold did not, and could not, comply. The Nemesis of his crimes had overtaken him; he could not in honour desert the men whom he ought in honour never to have commanded.
The night before the battle was spent by the Normans in prayer and confession of their sins. The Saxons left the duties
1 The story that William met Harold's envoy before the camp, and wormed his message out of him without making himself known, is scarcely one that belongs to credible history, although Dr. Lappenberg accepts it.— Gesch. Eng., band i., p. 548.
of religion to the monks in their camp, and took their last leave of the world in drunken riot. Next day, October 14th, the two armies were drawn up on two opposite hills, divided by a slight interval of low ground; the English, however, had the advantage of the higher slope. It was a battle of the old and new worlds: the Saxons were still armed with the axe, as when they had conquered Britain six hundred years before; they formed an impenetrable phalanx, which they could not break without disordering their ranks; they had no archers or cavalry, though they brought a few petronels into the field; a part of their force had no better arms than clubs and iron-pointed stakes. Thus appointed, they clustered around their standard, the image of an armed warrior, and welcomed the Norman onset with shouts of "Holy Rood" and "Mighty God." The strength of the Norman army lay in its panoplied horsemen and its archers; the mass of the forces, having swords and spears, was better armed than the English, but was certainly not superior in personal bravery; two barons, De Conches and Giffart, declined the perilous service of carrying the consecrated banner. The army, however, marched up gaily to the charge with Taillefer at their head, singing songs of Roland and Roncesvalles. For a time no impression could be made, the Saxon ranks stood firm, and the Norman knights were hurled headlong down the hill, or driven into a blind fosse by its side. At one moment a panic ran through the host: it was rumoured that the duke himself had been killed, and William only restored the battle by unbarring his vizor and staying the fugitives in person. But artillery and discipline produced their invariable results under competent generalship. The Saxon phalanx was weakened by a storm of arrows, so discharged as to fall perpendicularly on
1 Malmesbury, lib. iii., p. 414. Two canons were sent from Waltham abbey to witness the battle, and probably to pray for their founder.-Cotton. MS., Tul., D. 6, quoted by Lingard. The abbot of Hide and twelve monks are said to have been found lying dead in armour on the field of battle next day. Probably most of the Saxon monks remained spectators of the battle, like their brethren in the Norman camp. "Li proveire et li ordoné En som un tertre sunt monté Por Dex preier et por orer Et por la bataille esgarder."-Roman de Ron.