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blood of a brother. [He was triumphing over Oct. 7.
Tostig and his ally, Harfager, of Norway, de-
feated in the great battle of Stamford Bridge.]

8. It was on the morrow of this battle that
the Thane of Sussex came to Harold, and ap-
prised him of the arrival of his most dreaded
enemy. Harold immediately marched south, and
halted at London, where he prepared to attack the
invader. The best part of his troops had fallen ;
few others joined him. either as volunteers, or by
virtue of their tenures or of their allegiance.
Edwin and Morcar stood aloof; they did not
support their brother-in-law ; Algitha, his wife,
also quitted him, and abandoned him to his fate.
Harold's army too plainly testified the danger of
his cause ; his ranks were imperfectly filled by
hired soldiers, who served him merely for their
pay ; and whatever force he had, was raised from



1066 the south of the Humber ; not a man came from
the north. Githa, his mother, sad and weeping
for the loss of her son Tostig, earnestly dis-
suaded Harold from attempting to give battle to
William ; his other friends and relations joined
her in such intreaties, none so earnestly as
Gurth, Earl of Suffolk, Harold's brother, praised


for his singular merit and virtue. Gurth pointed
out to him that his troops were wearied and ex-
hausted, the Normans fresh and confident ; and
furthermore, the Earl of Suffolk represented to
Harold that the violation of his oath would lie
heavy upon his soul in the field of battle. If
Harold would send his troops against William,
Gurth solicited that he, who was unfettered by
any such obligation, might take the command ;
for it appears that the oath was considered
as binding merely upon the individual Harold,
and that it did not restrain him from sanctioning
hostility in others. But Harold was influenced
by that obstinate, self-willed determination,
which leads the sinner on to his fate ; and
he persevered, and prepared to encounter his

Near London, at Waltham, there was a
monastery, founded for regular or conventual
canons of the order of St. Augustine, and con-
taining a crucifix, supposed to be endued with
miraculous power. The Abbey of the " Holy
Rood " had been richly endowed by Harold, and
before he set out against the enemy, he offered


up his orisons at the altar. Whilst Harold was
in prayer, in the darkness and gloom of the
choir, we are told that the crucifix bowed its
head. The portent may have been fancied, but
there was a presentiment of evil abroad. It
was one of those periods when men's minds are
oppressed by the lowering of impending danger,
and the Brethren of Waltham determined that
two members of the convent, Osgod and Ailric,
should accompany their benefactor on his march.
Harold having arrayed his forces to the best of
his power, directed his course to the shore of
Sussex. At Senlac, now better known as Battle,
he halted. His camp was surrounded by en-
trenchments, and on the spot where the high
altar of the Abbey was afterwards placed, he
planted his royal standard.

9. William had been most actively em-
ployed. As a preliminary to further proceedings,
he had caused all the vessels to be drawn on shore
and rendered unserviceable. He told his men that
they must prepare to conquer or to die flight
was impossible. He had occupied the Roman
castle of Pevensey, whose walls are yet existing,
flanked by Anglo-Norman towers, and he had
personally surveyed all the adjoining country,
for he never trusted this part of a general's
duty to any eyes but his own. One Robert, a
Norman Thane, who was settled in the neigh-
bourhood, advised him to cast up entrenchments
for the purpose of resisting Harold. William


. replied, that his best defence was in the valour
of his army and the goodness of his cause ; and
throughout the whole of this expedition, the
cool good sense by which he increased the
moral courage of his followers is singularly re-

oZt n er! ind In compliance with the opinions of the age,
William had an astrologer in his train. An
oriental monarch, at the present time, never
engages in battle without a previous horoscope,
and this superstition was universally adopted in
Europe during the middle ages. But William's
" Clerk " was not merely a star-gazer. He had
graduated in all the occult sciences he was
a necromancer ; or, as the word was often spelt,
in order to accommodate it to the supposed
etymology, a m^romancer a " Sortilegus "
and a soothsayer. These accomplishments in
the sixteenth century, would have assuredly
brought the " clerk " to the stake. But in the
eleventh, although they were highly illegal ac-
cording to the strict letter of the ecclesiastical
law, yet they were studied as eagerly as any
other branch of metaphysics, of which they were
supposed to form a part. The Sorcerer, or
" Sortilegus," by casting " sortes" or lots, had
ascertained that the Duke would succeed, and
that Harold would surrender without a battle,
upon which assurance the Normans entirely re-
lied. After the landing, William inquired for
his conjurer A pilot came forward, and told


him that the unlucky wight had been drowned in v 1066
the passage. William then immediately pointed
out the folly of trusting to the predictions of one
who was utterly unable to tell what would
happen unto himself. When William first set
foot on shore, he had shown the same spirit. He
stumbled, and fell forwards on the palm of his
hands. " Mai signe, est $i ! " exclaimed his
troops, affrighted at the omen. " No," answered
William, as he rose ; " I have taken seizin of
the country," showing the clod of earth which
he had grasped. One of his soldiers, with the
quickness of a modern Frenchman, instantly
followed up the idea he ran to a cottage, and
pulled out a bundle of reeds from the thatch,
telling him to receive that symbol also, as the
seizin of the realm with which he was invested.
These little anecdotes display the turn and
temper of the Normans, and the alacrity by
which the army was pervaded.

g 10. Some fruitless attempts are said to Negotiations.
have been made at negotiation. Harold de-
spatched a monk to the enemy's camp, who was
to exhort William to abandon his enterprise.
The Duke insisted on his right ; but, as some
historians relate, he offered to submit his claim
to a legal decision, to be pronounced by the
Pope, either according to the law of Normandy,
or according to the law of England ; or, if this
mode of adjustment did not please Harold, that
the question should be decided by single com-


1066 bat, the crown becoming the meed of the victor.
uncertain ^ ne propositions of William are stated, by other
propo8 a ai B e . sed authorities, to have contained a proposition for
a compromise, namely, that Harold should take
Northumbria, and William the rest of the An-
glo-Saxon dominions. All or any of these
proposals are such as may very probably have
been made. But they were not minuted down
in formal protocols, or couched in diplomatic
notes they were verbal messages, sent to and
fro on the eve of a bloody battle, whereof the
particulars were not related by historians until
many years had elapsed ; and therefore we have
no reason to be surprised at the diversity of
such narratives, nor is it at all necessary to at-
tempt to reconcile them. The general truth is
easily understood. It was evident to each of
the chieftains, that they had respectively ven-
tured their whole fortunes on the cast of the
die ; and before engaging in a conflict which
must prove fatal to one of them, they made an
attempt to avoid the danger.

The English Fear prevailed in both camps. The English,
in addition to the apprehensions which even the
most stout-hearted feel on the eve of a morrow
whose close they may never see, dreaded the
papal excommunication, the curse encountered
in support of the unlawful authority of a usurper.
When they were informed that battle had been
decided upon, they stormed and swore ; and now
the cowardice of conscience spurred them on to


riot and revelry. The whole night was passed
in debauch. " Wees-heal" and "Drink-heal" re-
sounded from the tents ; the wine cups passed
gaily round and round by the smoky blaze of
the red watch-fires, while the ballad of ribald
mirth was loudly sung by the carousers.

In the Norman Leaguer, far otherwise had
the dread of the approaching morn affected the
hearts of William's soldiery. No voice was
heard excepting the solemn response of the
Litany and the chaunt of the Psalm. The peni-
tents confessed their sins the masses were said
and the sense of the imminent peril of the mor-
row was tranquillized by penance and prayer.
Each of the nations, as we are told by one of
our most trustworthy English historians, acted
according to their " national custom;" and severe
is the censure which the English thus receive.

11. The English were strongly fortified in Disposition of

their position by lines of trenches and palisadoes ;
and within these defences they were marshalled
according to the Danish fashion, shield against
shield, presenting an impenetrable front to the
enemy. The men of Kent formed the van-guard,
for it was their privilege to be the first in the
strife. The burgesses of London, in like manner,
claimed and obtained the honour of being the
royal body-guard, and they were drawn up around
the Standard. At the foot of this banner stood
Harold, with his brothers, Leofwin and Gurth,
and a chosen body of the bravest Thanes, all


1066 ^ anxiously gazing on that quarter, from whence
they expected the advance of the enemy.

Before the Normans began their march, and

very early in the morning of the feast of St.

Oct. H. Calixtus, William had assembled his barons

around him, and exhorted them to maintain

his righteous cause. As the invaders drew

The Norman . , TT , n T i

advance. nigh, Harold saw a division advancing, com-
posed of the volunteers from the County of
Boulogne and from the Amiennois, under the
command of William Fitz Osbern and Roger
Montgomery. "It is the Duke" exclaimed
Harold " and little shall I fear him. By my
forces, will his be four times out-numbered ! "
Glurth shook his head, and expatiated on the
strength of the Norman cavalry, as opposed
to the foot soldiers of England ; but their
discourse was stopped by the appearance of
the combined cohorts, under Aimeric, Viscount
of Thouars, and Alan Fergant of Brittany.
Harold's heart sunk at the sight, and he broke
out into passionate exclamations of fear and
dismay. But now the third and last division
of the Norman army was drawing nigh. The
consecrated Gronfanon floats amidst the forest
of spears ; and Harold is now too well aware
that he beholds the ranks which are commanded
in person by the Duke of Normandy.

The Norman 3 12. As the Normans were marshalled in


three divisions, so they began the battle by
simultaneous attacks upon three points of the


English forces. Immediately before the Duke,
rode Taillcfer, the Minstrel, singing, with a loud
and clear voice, the lay of Charlemagne and
Roland, and the emprizes of the Paladins who
had fallen in the dolorous pass of Roncevaux.
Taillefer, as his guerdon, had craved permis-
sion to strike the first blow, for he was a
valiant warrior, emulating the deeds which he
sung : his appellation, " Taitte-fer" is probably
to be considered not as his real name, but as an
epithet derived from his strength and prowess ;
and he fully justified his demand, by transfixing
the first Englishman whom he attacked, and by
felling the second to the ground. The battle
now became general, and raged with the great-
est fury. The Normans advanced beyond the
English lines, but they were driven back, and Normans. 1
forced into a trench, where horses and riders
fell upon each other in fearful confusion. More
Normans were slain here, than in any other
part of the field. The alarm spread ; the light
troops left in charge of the baggage and the
stores thought that all was lost, and were about
to take flight, but the fierce Odo, Bishop of
Bayeux, the Duke's half-brother, and who was
better fitted for the shield than for the mitre,
succeeded in reassuring them, and then, return-
ing to the field, and rushing into that part
where the battle was hottest, he fought as the
stoutest of the warriors engaged in the conflict,
directing; their movements and inciting them to

1 Lll'll 1" l l ' V * Illv | iLO tl ill l I i i_ i i i i i _



1066 From nine in the morning till three in the

afternoon, the successes on either side were
nearly balanced. The charges of the Norman
cavalry gave them great advantage, but the
English phalanx repelled their enemies ; and
the soldiers were so well protected by their tar-
gets, that the artillery of the Normans was long
discharged in vain. The bowmen, seeing that
they had failed to make any impression, altered
the direction of their shafts, and, instead of
shooting point-blank, the flights of arrows were
directed upwards, so that the points came
down upon the heads of the men of England,
and the iron shower fell with murderous effect.
The English ranks were exceedingly distressed
by the vollies, yet they still stood firm ; and
the Normans now employed a stratagem to
decoy their opponents out of their entrench-
ments. A feigned retreat on their part, in-
duced the English to pursue them with great
heat. The Normans suddenly wheeled about,
and a new and fiercer battle was urged. The
field was covered with separate bands of foemen,
each engaged with one another. Here, the
English yielded there, they conquered. One
English Thane, armed with a battleaxe, spread
dismay amongst the Frenchmen. He was cut
down by Roger de Montgomery. The Normans
have preserved the name of the Norman baron,
but that of the Englishman is lost in oblivion.
Some other English Thanes are also praised, as


having singly, and by their personal prowess,
delayed the ruin of their countrymen and

At one period of the battle, the Normans ^ e a r r ans
were nearly routed. The cry was raised, that d
the Duke was slain, and they began to fly in
every direction. William threw off his helmet,
and galloping through the squadrons, rallied
his barons, though not without great difficulty.
Harold, on his part, used every possible ex-
ertion, and was distinguished as the most active
and bravest amongst the soldiers in the Host
which he led on to destruction. A Norman
arrow wounded him in the left eye ; he dropped
from his steed in agony, and was borne to the
foot of the standard. The English began to
give way, or, rather, to retreat to the standard
as their rallying point. The Normans encircled
them, and fought desperately to reach this goal.
Robert Fitz Ernest had .almost seized the ban-
ner, but he was killed in the attempt. William
led his troops on, with the intention, it is said,
of measuring his sword with Harold. He did
encounter an English horseman, from whom he
received such a stroke upon his helmet that he
was nearly brought to the ground. The Nor-
mans flew to the aid of their sovereign, and the
bold Englishman was pierced by their lances.
About the same time, the tide of battle took a
momentary turn. The Kentish men and East
Saxons rallied, and repelled the Norman barons ;




The last

The flight.

William as

, but Harold was not amongst them ; and Wil-
liam led on his troops with desperate intre-
pidity. In the thick crowd of the assailants
and the assailed, the hoofs of the horses were
plunged deep into the gore of the dead, and the
dying. Gurth was at the foot of the standard,
without hope, but without fear he fell by the
falchion of William. The English banner was
cast down, and the Gonfanon planted in its
place, announced that William of Normandy
was the Conqueror. .

13. It was now late in the evening. The
English troops were entirely broken, yet no
Englishman would surrender. The conflict con-
tinued in many parts of the bloody field, long
after dark. The fugitives spread themselves
over the adjoining country, then covered with
wood and forest. Wherever the English could
make a stand, they resisted ; and the Normans
confess that the great preponderance of their
force, alone enabled them to obtain the victory.

By William's orders, a spot close to the
Gonfanon was cleared, and he caused his pavilion
to be pitched among the corpses which were
heaped around. He there supped with his
barons ; and they feasted among the dead. But
when he contemplated the fearful slaughter, a
natural feeling of pity, perhaps allied to repent-
ance, arose in his stern mind ; and the Abbey
of Battle, in which the prayer was to be offered
up perpetually for the repose of the souls of all



who bad fallen in the conflict, was at once the 1066
monument of his triumph, and the token of his
piety. The abbey was most richly endowed :
and all the land, for one league round about,

t O 7

was annexed to the Battle franchise. The
Abbot was freed from the authority of the
Metropolitan of Canterbury, and invested with
archiepiscopal jurisdiction. The high altar was
erected on the very spot where Harold's stan-
dard had waved ; and the Eoll, deposited in the
archives of the Monastery, recorded the names
of those who had fought with the Conqueror,
and amongst whom the lands of broad England
were divided. But all this pomp and solemnity
has passed away like a dream. The " perpetual
prayer " has ceased for ever the roll of Battle
is rent. The shields of the Norman lineages are
trodden in the dust. The abbey is levelled with
the ground and a dank and reedy pool fills the
spot where the foundations of the quire have
been uncovered, merely for the gaze of the idle
visitor, or the instruction of the moping anti-

14. The victor is now installed ; but what
has become of the mortal spoils of his competi-
tor ? If we ask the monk of Malmesbury, we are
told that William surrendered the body to Harold's
mother, Githa, by whose directions the corpse of
the last surviving of her children was buried in
the Abbey of the Holy Cross. Those who lived
nearer the time, however, relate in explicit terms
VOL. in. T



1066 that William refused the rites of sepulture to

excommunicated enemy. Guillielmus Pic-
tavensis, the chaplain of the Conqueror, a most
trustworthy and competent witness, informs us
that a body of which the features were undis-
tinguishable, but supposed, from certain tokens,
to be that of Harold, was found between the
corpses of his brothers, Gurth and Leofwine,
and that William caused this corpse to be in-
terred in the sands of the sea-shore. " Let him
guard the coast," said William, " which he so
madly occupied ;" and though Githa had offered
to purchase the body by its weight in gold, yet
William was not to be tempted by the gift of the
sorrowing mother, or touched by her tears.

15. In the Abbey of Waltham, they knew
nothing of Githa. According to the annals of the
Convent, the two Brethren who had accompanied
Harold, hovered as nearly as possible to the
scene of war, watching the event of the battle :
and afterwards, when the strife was quiet in
death, they humbly approached William, and
solicited his permission to seek the corpse.

The Conqueror refused a purse, containing ten
marks of gold, which they offered as the tribute
of their gratitude ; and permitted them to proceed
to the field, and to bear away not only the re-
mains of Harold, but of all who, when living,
had chosen the Abbey of Waltham as their place
of sepulture.

Amongst the loathsome heaps of the unburied,


they sought for Harold, but sought in vain, 10 ^ 6 ,
Harold could not possibly be discovered no ThathewM
trace of Harold was to be found ; and as the last
hope of identifying his remains, they suggested
that possibly his beloved Editha might be able
to recognise the features so familiar to her affec-
tions. Algitha, the wife of Harold, was not to
be asked to perform this sorrowful duty. Osgood
went back to Waltham, and returned with Editha,
and the two canons and the weeping woman re-
sumed their miserable task in the charnel field.
A ghastly, decomposing, and mutilated corpse
was selected by Editha, and conveyed to
Waltham as the body of Harold ; and there
entombed at the east end of the choir, with
great honour and solemnity, many Norman no-
bles assisting in the requiem.

S 16. Years afterwards, when the Norman


yoke pressed heavily upon the English, and the
battle of Hastings had become a tale of sorrow,
which old men narrated by the light of the embers,
until warned to silence by the sullen tolling of
the curfew, there was a decrepit anchorite, who
inhabited a cell near the Abbey of St. John at
Chester, where Edgar celebrated his triumph.
This recluse, deeply scarred, and blinded in his
left eye, lived in strict penitence and seclusion.
Henry I. once visited the aged Hermit, and had
a long private discourse with him ; and, on his





10>6 _ . death-bed, he declared to the attendant monks,
that the recluse was Harold. As the story is
transmitted to us, he had been secretly conveyed
from the field to a castle, probably of Dover,
where he continued concealed until he had the
means of reaching the sanctuary where he

The monks of Waltham loudly exclaimed
against this rumour. They maintained most
resolutely, that Harold was buried in their
Abbey : they pointed to the tomb, sustaining
his effigies, and inscribed with the simple and
pathetic epitaph, " Hie jacet Harold infelix;"
and they appealed to the mouldering skeleton,
whose bones, as they declared, showed, when
disinterred, the impress of the wounds which he
had received. But may it not still be doubted
whether Osgood and Ailric, who followed their
benefactor to the fatal field, did not aid his
escape ? They may have discovered him at the
last gasp ; restored him to animation by their
care ; and the artifice of declaring to William,
that they had not been able to recover the
object of their search, would readily suggest
itself as the means of rescuing Harold from
the power of the Conqueror. The demand of
Editha's testimony would confirm their asser-
tion, and enable them to gain time to arrange
for Harold's security ; and whilst the litter,
which bore the corpse, was slowly advancing
to the Abbey of Waltham, the living Harold,


under the tender care of Editha, might be
safely proceeding to the distant fane, his haven
of refuge.

17. If we compare the different narratives
concerning the inhumation of Harold, we shall
find the most remarkable discrepancies. It is
evident that the circumstances were not accu-
rately known ; and since those ancient writers
who were best informed cannot be reconciled
to each other, the escape of Harold, if ad-
mitted, would solve the difficulty. I am not
prepared to maintain that the authenticity of
this story cannot be impugned ; but it may
be remarked that the tale, though romantic, is
not incredible, and that the circumstances may
be easily reconciled to probability. There were
no walls to be scaled, no fosse was to be
crossed, no warder to be eluded ; and the ex-
amples of those who have survived after en-
countering much greater perils, are so very
numerous and familiar, that the incidents which
I have narrated would hardly give rise to a
doubt, if they referred to any other personage
than a King.

In this case we cannot find any reason for
supposing that the belief in Harold's escape
was connected with any political artifice or feel-
ing. No hopes were fixed upon the usurping
son of Godwin. No recollection dwelt upon
his name, as the hero who would sally forth
from his seclusion, the restorer of the Anglo-

324 THE END.

Saxon power. That power had wholly fallen
and if the humbled Englishman, as he paced
the aisles of Waltham, looked around, and,
having assured himself that no Norman was
near, whispered to his son, that the tomb
which they saw before them was raised only
in mockery, and that Harold still breathed
the vital air he yet knew too well, that the
spot where Harold's standard had been cast
down, was the grave of the pride and glory
of England.



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