Wace: Roman de Rou


Now in that country of England there was a seneschal, Heraut by name, a noble vassal, who on account of his worth and merits, had great influence, and was in truth the most powerful man in all the land. He was strong in his own men, and strong in his friends, and managed all England as a man does land of which he has the seneschalsy. On his father's side he was English, and on his mother's Danish; Gite his mother being a Danish woman, born and brought up in great wealth, a very gentle lady, the sister of King Kenut. She was wife to Godwin, mother to Harold, and her daughter Edif was queen. Harold himself was the favourite of his lord, who had his sister to wife. When his father had died (being choked at the feast), Harold, pitying the hostages, was desirous to cross over into Normandy, to bring them home. So he went to take leave of the king. But Edward strictly forbade him, and charged and conjured him not to go to Normandy, nor to speak with duke William; for he might soon be drawn into some snare, as the duke was very shrewd; and he told him, that if he wished to have the hostages home, he would choose some messenger for the purpose. So at least I have found the story written. But another book tells me that the king ordered him to go, for the purpose of assuring duke William, his cousin, that he should have the realm after his death. How the matter really was I never knew, and I find it written both the one way and the other.

Whatever was the business he went upon, or whatever it was that he meant to do, Harold set out on his way, taking the risk of what might fall out. What is fated to happen no man can prevent, let him be who he will. What must be will come to pass, and no one can make it nought.

He made ready two ships, and took the sea at Bodeham. I know not how the mischief was occasioned; whether the steersman erred, or whether it was that a storm arose; but this I know, that he missed the right course, and touched the coast of Pontif, where he could neither get away, nor conceal himself. A fisherman of that country, who had been in England and had often seen Harold, watched him; and knew him, both by his face; and his speech; and went privily to Guy, the count of Pontif, and would speak to no other; and he told the count how he could put a great prize in his way, if he would go with him; and that if he would give him only twenty livres, he should gain a hundred by it, for he would deliver him such a prisoner, as would pay a hundred livres or more for ranson. The count agreed to his terms, and then the fisherman showed him Harold. They seized and took him to Abbeville; but Harold contrived to send off a message privily to duke William in Normandy, and told him of his journey; how he had set out from England to visit him, but had missed the right port; and how the count of Pontif had seized him, and without any cause of offence had put him in prison: and he promised that if the duke would deliver him from his captivity, he would do whatever he wished in return.

Guy guarded Harold mean time with great care; fearing some mischance, he sent him to Belrem, that he might be further from the duke. But William thought that if he could get Harold into his keeping, he might turn it to good account; so he made so many fair promises and offers to the earl, and so coaxed and flattered him, that he at last gave up his prisoner; and the duke thus got possession of him, and gave in return to the count Guy a fair manor lying along the river Alne.

William entertained Harold many days in great honour, as was his due. He took him to many rich tournaments, arrayed him nobly, gave him horses and arms, and led him with him into Britanny I am not certain whether three or four times when he had to fight with the Bretons. And in the meantime he bespoke Harold so fairly, that he agreed to deliver up England to him, as soon as king Edward should die; and he was to have Ele, one of William's daughters, for his wife if he would; and to swear to all this if required, William also binding himself to those terms.

To receive the oath, he caused a parliament to be called. It is commonly said that it was at Bayeux that he had his great council assembled. He sent for all the holy bodies thither, and put so many of them together as to fill a whole chest, and then covered them with a pall; but Harold neither saw them, nor knew of their being there; for nought was shewn or told to him about it; and over all was a philactery, the best that he could select; 'oh de boef', I have heard it called. When Harold placed his hand upon it, the hand trembled, and the flesh quivered; but he swore, and promised upon his oath, to take Ele to wife, and to deliver up England to the duke: and thereunto to do all in his power, according to his might and wit, after the death of Edward, if he should live, so help him God and the holy relics there! Many cried "God grant it!" and when Harold had kissed the saints, and had risen upon his feet, the duke led him up to the chest, and made him stand near it; and took off the chest the pall that had covered it, and shewed Harold upon what holy relics he had sworn; and he was sorely alarmed at the sight.

Then when all was ready for his journey homeward; he took his leave; and William exhorted him to be true to his word, and kissed him in the name of good faith and friendship. And Harold passed freely homeward, and arrived safely in England.


The day came that no man can escape, and king Edward drew near to die. He had it much at heart, that William should have his kingdom, if possible; but he was too far off, and it was too long to tarry for him, and Edward could not defer his hour. He lay in heavy sickness, in the illness whereof he was to die; and he was very weak, for death pressed hard upon him.

Then Harold assembled his kindred, and sent for his friends and other people, and entered into the king's chamber, taking with him whomsoever he pleased. An Englishman began to speak first, as Harold had directed him, and said; "Sire, we sorrow greatly that we are about to lose thee; and we are much alarmed, and fear that great trouble may come upon us: yet we cannot lengthen thy life, nor alter thy fate. Each one must die for himself, and none for another; neither can we cure thee; so that thou canst not escape death; but dust must return to dust. No heir of thine remains who may comfort us after thy death. Thou hast lived long, and art now old, but thou hast had no child, son or daughter; nor hast thou other heir, who may remain instead of thee to protect and guard us, and to become king by lineage. On this account the people weep and cry aloud, and say they are ruined, and that they shall never have peace again if thou failest them. And in this, I trow, they say truly; for without a king they will have no peace, and a king they cannot have, save through thee. Give then thy kingdom in thy lifetime to some one who is strong enough to maintain us in peace. God grant that none other than such may be our king! Wretched is a realm, and little worth, when justice and peace fail; and he who doth not or cannot maintain them, has little right to the kingdom he hath. Well hast thou lived, well hast thou done, and well wilt thou do; thou hast ever served God, and wilt be rewarded of him. Behold the best of thy people, the noblest of thy friends; all are come to beseech thee, and thou must grant their prayer before thou goest hence, or thou wilt not see God. All come to implore thee that Harold may be king of this land. We can give thee no better advice, and no better canst thou do."

As soon as he had named Harold, all the English in the chamber cried out that he said well, and that the king ought to give heed to him. "Sire," they said, "if thou dost it not, we shall never in our lives have peace."

Then the king sat up in his bed, and turned his face to the English there, and said, "Seignors, you well know, and have ofttimes heard, that I have given my realm at my death to the duke of Normandy; and as I have given it, so have some among you sworn that it shall go."

But Harold, who stood by, said, "Whatever thou hast heretofore done, sire, consent now that I shall be king, and that your land be mine; I wish for no other title, and want no one to do any thing more for me." "Harold," said the king, "thou shalt have it, but I know full well that it will cost thee thy life. If I know any thing of the duke, and the barons that are with him, and the multitude of people that he can command, none but God can avail to save thee."

Then Harold said that he would stand the hazard, and that if the king would do what he asked, he feared no one, be he Norman or other. So the king turned round and said, whether of his ownfree will I know not, "Let the English make either the duke or Harold king as they please, I consent." Thus he made Harold heir to his kingdom, as William could not have it. A kingdom must have a king; without one, in fact, it would be no kingdom; so he let his barons have their own will.

And now he could abide no longer. He died, and the English lamented much over him. His body was greatly honoured, and was buried at Westminster; and the tomb which was made for him was rich, and endureth still. As soon as king Edward was dead, Harold, who was rich and powerful, had himself anointed and crowned, and said nought of it to the duke, but took the homage and fealty of the richest, and best born of the land.

The duke was in his park at Rouen. He held in his hand a bow, which he had strung and bent, making it ready for the arrow; and he had given it into the hands of a page, for he was going forth, I believe, to the chace, and had with him many knights and pages and esquires, when behold! at the gate appeared a serjeant, who came journeying from England, and went straight to the duke and saluted him, and drew him on one side, and told him privily that king Edward was dead, and that Harold was raised to be king.

When the duke had listened to him, and learnt all the truth, how that Edward was dead, and Harold was made king, he became as a man enraged, and left the craft of the woods. Oft he tied his mantle, and oft he untied it again; and spoke to no man, neither dared any man speak to him. Then he crossed the Seine in his boat, and came to his hall, and entered therein; and sat down at the end of a bench, shifting his place from time to time, covering his face with his mantle, and resting his head against a pillar. Thus he remained long, in deep thought, for no one dared speak to him; but many asked aside, "What ails the duke, why makes he such bad cheer?" Then behold in came his seneschal, who rode from the park on horseback; and he passed close by the duke, humming a tune as he went along the hall; and many came round him, asking how it came to pass that the duke was in such plight. And he said to them, "Ye will hear news, but press not for it out of season; news will always spread some time or another, and he who gets it not fresh, has it old."

Then the duke raised himself up, and the seneschal said to him, "Sire, sire, why do you conceal the news you have heard? If men hear it not at one time, they will at another; concealment will do you no good, nor will the telling of it do harm. What you keep so close, is by this time known all over the city; for men go through the streets telling, and all know, both great and small, that king Edward is dead, and that Harold is become king in his stead, and possesses the realm."

"That indeed is the cause of my sorrow," said the duke, "but I know no help for it. I sorrow for Edward, and for his death, and for the wrong that Harold has done me. He has wronged me in taking the kingdom that was granted and promised to me, as he himself had sworn." To these words Fitz Osber, the bold of heart, replied, "Sire, do not vex yourself, but bestir yourself for your redress; that you may be revenged on Harold, who hath been so disloyal to you. If your courage fail not, the land shall not abide with him. Call together all that you can call; cross the sea, and take the kingdom from him. A bold man should begin nothing unless he pursue it to the end; what he begins he should carry through, or abandon it without more ado."

Thus the fame of king Harold's act went through the country. William sent to him often, and reminded him of his oath; and Harold replied injuriously, that he would do nought for him, neither take his daughter, nor yield up the land. Then William sent him his defiance, but Harold always answered that he feared him nought. The Normans who dwelt in England, who had wives and children there, men whom Edward had invited and endowed with castles and fiefs, Harold chased out of the country, nor would he leave one there; he drove out fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

Harold received the crown at Easter; but it would have been better for him if he had done otherwise, for he brought nought but evil on his heirs, and on all the land. He perjured himself for a kingdom, and that kingdom endured but little space; to him it was a great loss, and it brought all his lineage to sorrow. He refused to take the duke's daughter to wife, he would neither give nor take according to his covenant, and heavily will he suffer for it; he, and all he loves most.

When William found that Harold would do nothing towards performing his covenant, he considered and took counsel, how to cross the sea, and fight him, and by our Lord's leave, take vengeance for his perjury. He pondered much on the wrongs Harold had done him, and on his not deigning even to speak with him before he got himself crowned, and thus robbed him of what Edward had given him, and Harold himself had sworn to observe. If, he said, he could attack and punish him without crossing the sea, he would willingly have done so; but he would rather cross the sea than not revenge himself, and pursue his right. So he determined to go over sea, and take his revenge.


To consult on this matter before he opened his mind to any other, he sent for Robert, the count d'Ou, who dwelt by the men of Vimou, and Rogier de Montgomeri, whom he accounted a great friend, and Fitz Osber of Bretuil, William by name, the proud of spirit; and for Gautier Giffart, a man of great worth; and for his brother Odun, the bishop, and Robert of Moretoin, who was his brother also, and loved him much. Both these were his brothers, but only on the mother's side. He sent moreover for Rogier de Vilers, who was much honoured and esteemed for his wisdom, and was now of considerable age, having sons who were already noble and brave knights. He was lord of Belmont-le-Rogier, and possessed much land. And he sent also for Iwun al Chapel, who had Muriel to wife, sister of the duke on the mother's side, Herluin being her father. I know not if children were born to them; I never heard speak of any.

To these barons he told his design, before he made any great preparation. He told them how he had lost his right, which Harold had seized; and that if they approved, he would cross the sea to avenge himself. If they were willing, he could easily recover his right by the aid of the people he could summon, and by God's permission. And they said they were all ready to go with him, if need were; and to pledge their lands, and even sell them, if necessary; that he need lose nothing of his right, but might rely on his men and his clerks. "You have," said they, "a great baronage, many valiant and wise men, who have very great power, and are as able as we to whom you speak: shew these things to them; all should be taken into counsel who have to share the labour."

So the barons were all summoned, and being assembled at a set day, the duke shewed to them that Harold had cheated him, and had stolen the realm whereof Edward had made him heir; that he wished to avenge himself if he could, but that great aid was wanted; and that he could not, without their help, have many men and many ships, as he needed; let each say what he would do, how many men and ships he would bring. And they said they would speak together about it, and that after holding counsel, they would answer him; and he consented thereto.

They remained long in council; and the debate lasted a great while; for they hesitated long among themselves what they should say, what answer they should give, and what aid they would afford. They complained much to each other, saying that they had often been aggrieved; and they murmured much, conferring together in small parties; here five, there fifteen, here forty, there thirty, sixty, a hundred. Some said they were willing to bring ships and cross the sea with the duke; others said they would not go, for they owed much and were poor. Some would, others would not, and there was great contention amongst them.

Then Fitz Osber came forward and said, "Why do you go on wrangling with your natural lord, who seeks to gain honour? You ought never to be wanting. You owe him service for your fiefs, and what you owe him you ought to render with all your might. Wait not for him to beseech you; ask him for no respite; but go forward at once, and offer him even more than you can perform. Let him not have cause to complain, nor miss his undertaking on your account. If he fail, he will perchance soon say (for he is of a jealous temper) that you are the cause of his loss. Take care that he has not to say, that his expedition failed through you."

"Sire," said they, "we fear the sea, and we are not bound to serve beyond it; speak for us, we pray you, we put the speech upon you. You shall say what you will, and we will do accordingly." "Do you put it upon me?" said he. "Yes," said each, "I agree, let us go to the duke; speak for us, for you know our minds."

Then Fitz Osber went at their head, and spoke for them. "Sire, sire, look, around; there is no people under Heaven that so love their lord, or that will do so much for his honour, as the people you have; and much should you love and protect them."

"They say that to advance you, they would swim through the sea, or throw themselves into the raging fire; you may trust them much, for they have served you long, and followed you at great cost, and they will willingly continue to serve you. If they have hitherto done well, they will hereafter do yet better. They will pass with you over sea, and double their service. He who should bring twenty knights, will cheerfully bring forty; he who should serve with thirty, will now serve you with sixty; and he who owes a hundred will willingly bring two hundred. For myself, I will in good love bring to my lord, in his need, sixty ships, well furnished and charged with fighting men."

At these words the barons marvelled and murmured much, grumbling loudly at the great promises he made, for which he had no warranty. Many began to disavow him, and the court became much troubled; great noise arose, and the barons stormed. They feared that doubling their service would be turned into a charge on their fiefs, that it would grow to a custom, and would thenceforth become permanently due. The assembly was greatly troubled, the noise was great, and the clamour loud. No one could hear another speak; no one could either listen to reason, or render it for himself.

Then the duke, being greatly disturbed by the noise, drew on one side, and sent for the barons one by one; and spoke with and entreated each, telling them what need he had; how much they stood in his love and grace; and that if they doubled their service, and did of their own accord more than they were bound in this undertaking, they would do well; but he pledged himself that they should not be called on in future for service beyond what was the custom of the land, and such as their ancestors were wont to do for their lord. Each said what he would do, and how many ships he could bring; and the duke had it all recorded at once, numbering the ships and knights which the barons agreed to find; thus each named how many knights he would provide, and how many ships he could bring. Of his brother Odo, the bishop, he received forty ships as a gift. The bishop of Mans furnished thirty ships with their crews; for he desired much to advance the duke. Each of the barons in like manner promised ships, but how many each one said he would bring I do not know.

Then the duke called on his good neighbours, the Bretons, Mansels, and Angevins, and those of Pontif and Boloigne, to come with him in his need. To those who wished he promised lands, if he should conquer England. To many he promised other rewards, good pay, and rich gifts. From all sides he summoned soldiers who would serve for hire.

He shewed to the king of France his lord, how for good cause and for his honour's sake he was about to cross the sea against Harold, who had broken faith and defrauded him. The duke went to speak with the king at St. Girmer in Belveisen. He sought and found him there, and told him his situation, and that if he would aid him, and if by his help he should have his right, he would hold England of him, and would willingly serve him for it.

But the king of France said he would not do it, and that with his consent William should not go. For the French had besought their king, and counselled him not to advance the duke, or suffer him to strengthen himself. They said he was too strong already, and that it would be foolish to let him become still stronger; for if he were allowed to add the great power beyond sea, the wealth and great force of England, to the good chivalry and pride of Normandy, the king would never have peace in his life; he therefore ought rather to think of disturbing William, and preventing his rising higher, or passing into England. "You cannot aid the duke if you would," they said, "without means and money; all France would thereby be injured and impoverished, and therefore no Frenchman will follow you; no one will pass the sea, and if mischance befall you, you will be brought to great shame. The duke seeks your aid only for his own interest, for no good can come of it to you. When he shall have conquered England, you will have no more service from him; he serves you but little now, and he will then serve you still less. The more he has, the less he will do for you."

After what the Frenchmen said, still more and more opposing it, the king would not assist the duke, but rather hindered him all he could. I know not exactly what the king answered, but I know well that he failed him altogether. When the duke took leave of him, he said like a man who is wroth at heart, "Sire, I will go, and will do the best I can. If God please, I will seek my right. If I win it (which God grant) you shall do me no harm; and if the English are able to defend themselves, so that I fail, I shall not lose heart or head on that account. All things shall be set in order; my children shall have my land, and you shall not take any advantage of them; whether I die or live, whatever befall me, I fear the threats of no man." Then William tried no more to persuade the king, but went his way. He besought the count of Flanders to go with him as his brother-in-law and friend; but the count answered, that if he would make sure of aid from him, he must first let him know what share of England he was to have, and what division he would make of the spoil.

The duke said that he would go and talk with his barons about the matter, and take their counsel, and afterwards state by letter what they advised him to do. So he went away without more ado, and did such a thing as no one ever did before; for he took a small piece of parchment which had neither letter nor writing upon it, sealed it up with wax, all blank as it was, and wrote upon the label that the count should have such part of England as the letter within stated.

Then he sent the letter to the count by a cunning varlet, who had long been with him; and the varlet delivered it to the count, who broke the seal, and opened the parchment, and looked within, but saw nothing. So he shewed it to the messenger, and the shrewd varlet said to him off hand, "Nought is there, and nought shalt thou have! therefore look for nothing! The honour that the duke seeks will be for your sister and nephews as much as for himself; and if he and they should win England, no one would have more advantage from their success than yourself. All theirs would in truth be yours. If God please, he will conquer it by himself, and seek none of your help." What the count answered I know not, but the varlet thereupon went his way.

The duke determined to make his preparations prudently. He sent to the apostle, by clerks who could tell truly how Harold had used him; how he had broken his oath and lied; and how he would neither take his daughter, nor render him up the kingdom which Edward bad given him, and Harold had guaranteed on oath. He said that perjury ought to be punished according to the rules of holy church; and that if by God's will he should conquer England, he would receive it of St. Peter, and do service for it to none but God. The apostle granted his request, and sent him a gonfanon, and a very precious, rich and fair ring, which, he said, had under the stone one of Saint Peters hairs. With these tokens he commanded, and in God's name granted to him, that he should conquer England, and hold it of Saint Peter.

Now while these things were doing, a great star appeared, shining for fourteen days, with three long rays streaming towards the south; such a star as is wont to be seen when a kingdom is about to change its king. I have seen many men who saw it, men of full age at the time, and who lived many years after. Those who discourse of the stars would call it a comet.


The duke rejoiced greatly at receiving the gonfanon, and the license which the apostle gave him. He got together carpenters smiths and other workmen, so that great stir was seen at all the ports of Normandy, in the collecting of wood and materials, cutting of planks, framing of ships and boats, stretching sails, and rearing masts, with great pains and at great cost. They spent all one summer and autumn in fitting up the fleet and collecting the forces; and there was no knight in the land, no good serjeant, archer, nor peasant of stout heart, and of age for battle, that the duke did not summon to go with him to England: promising rents to the vavassors, and honors to the barons.

When the ships were ready, they were moored in the Somme at St. Valeri, and there delivered to the barons. Many were the ships and boats in the river there, which is called the Somme, and separates Ponthieu and Vimou. Vimou extends as far as Ou, which separates Normandy from Vimou, a country under different government. Ou is a river, and Ou is also a fair castle situate upon that river.

The duke had men from many and various parts. Haimon, the viscount of Toarz, came thither, a man of very great power, who could bring much people. Alain Felgan also came to the crossing, and brought with him great baronage from among the Bretons; and Fitz Bertran de Peleit, and the Sire de Dinan came also; and Raol de Gael, and many Bretons from many castles, and from about Brecheliant, concerning which the Bretons tell many fables. It is a forest long and broad, much famed throughout Brittany. The fountain of Berenton rises from beneath a stone there. Thither the hunters are used to repair in sultry weather; and drawing up water with their horns, they sprinkle the stone for the purpose of having rain, which is then wont to fall, they say, throughout the whole forest around; but why I know not. There, too, fairies are to be seen (if the Bretons tell truth) and many other wonders happen. The ground is broken and precipitous, and deer in plenty roam there, but the husbandmen have deserted it. I went thither on purpose to see these marvels. I saw the forest and the land, and I sought for the marvels, but I found none. I went like a fool, and so I came back; I sought after folly, and hold myself a fool for my pains.

The fame of the Norman duke soon went forth through many lands; how he meant to cross the sea against Harold, who had taken England from him. Then soldiers came flocking to him, one by one, two by two, and four by four; by fives and sixes, sevens and eights, nines and tens; and he retained them all, giving them much and promising more. Many came by agreement made with them beforehand; many bargained for lands, if they should win England; some required pay, allowances and gifts; and the duke was often obliged to give at once to those who could not wait the result.

I shall never put in writing, and would not undertake to set down, what barons, and how many knights, how many vavassors, and how many soldiers the duke had in his company, when he had collected all his navy; but I heard my father say I remember it well, although I was but a lad that there were sevenhundred ships, less four, when they sailed from St. Valeri; and that there were besides these ships, boats and skiffs for the purpose of carrying the arms and harness. I have found it written (but I know not whether it be true) that there were in all three thousand vessels bearing sails and masts. Any one will know that there must have been a great many men to have furnished out so many vessels.

They waited long at St. Valeri for a fair wind, and the barons were greatly wearied. Then they prayed the convent to bring out the shrine of St. Valeri, and set it on a carpet in the plain; and all came praying the holy reliques, that they might be allowed to pass over sea. They offered so much money, that the reliques were buried beneath it; and from that day forth, they had good weather and a fair wind. The duke placed a lantern on the mast of his ship, that the other ships might see it, and hold their course after it. At the summit was a vane of brass, gilt. On the head of the ship, in the front, which mariners call the prow, there was the figure of a child in brass, bearing an arrow with a bended bow. His face was turned towards England, and thither he looked, as though he was about to shoot; so that whichever way the ship went, he seemed to aim onwards.

Of so large a fleet with so many people, only two ships were in any peril, and those perhaps from being overloaded. The duke had a great chivalry in his ships; and besides these, he had many archers and serjeants, many brave men and warriors, carpenters and engineers, good smiths and other handicraftsmen.


The ships steered to one port; all arrived and reached the shore together; together cast anchor, and ran on dry land; and together they discharged themselves. They arrived near Hastings, and there each ship ranged by the other's side. There you might see the good sailors, the serjeants and squires sally forth and unload the ships; cast the anchors, haul the ropes, bear out shields and saddles, and land the warhorses and palfreys. The archers came forth, and touched land the foremost; each with his bow bent, and his quiver full of arrows slung at his side. All were shaven and shorn, and all clad in short garments, ready to attack, to shoot, to wheel about and skirmish. All stood well equipped, and of good courage for the fight; and they scoured the whole shore, but found not an armed man there. After the archers had thus gone forth, the knights landed next, all armed; with theirhauberks on, their shields slung at their necks, and their helmets laced. They formed together on the shore, each armed up on his warhorse. All had their swords girded on, and passed into the plain with their lances raised. The barons had gonfanons, and the knights pennons. They occupied the advanced ground, next to where the archers had fixed themselves. The carpenters, who came after, had great axes in their hands, and planes and adzes hung at their sides. When they had reached the spot where the archers stood, and the knights were assembled, they consulted together, and sought for a good spot to place a strong fort upon. Then they cast out of the ships the materials, and drew them to land, all shaped framed and pierced to receive the pins which they had brought, cut and ready in large barrels; so that before evening had well set in, they had finished a fort. Then you might see them make their kitchens, light their fires, and cook their meat. The duke sat down to eat, and the barons and knights had food in plenty; for he had brought ample store. All ate and drank enough, and were right glad that they were ashore.

Before the duke left the Somme, a clerk had come to him, who knew, he said, astronomy and necromancy, and held himself a good diviner, and predicted many things. So he divined for the duke, and predicted that he should pass the sea safely, and succeed in his expedition, without fighting at all; for that Harold would make such promises, and come to such terms, that he would hold the land of the duke, and become his liegeman, and so William would return in safety.

As to the good passage, he predicted right enough; but as to not fighting, he lied. When the duke had crossed, and arrived safely, he remembered the prediction, and inquired for the diviner. But one of the sailors said he had miscarried and was drowned at sea, being in one of the lost ships. "Little matters it," said the duke; "no great deal could he have known. A poor diviner indeed must he be about me, who could predict nought about himself. If the things to come were known to him, he might well have foreseen his own death; foolish is he who trusts in a diviner, who takes heed for others but forgets himself; who knows the end of other men's work, and can not discern the term of his own life." Such was the end of the diviner.

As the ships were drawn to shore, and the duke first landed, he fell by chance upon his two hands. Forthwith all raised a loud cry of distress, "An evil sign," said they, "is here." But he cried out lustily, "See, seignors, by the splendour of God! I have seized England with my two hands; without challenge no prize can be made; all is our own that is here; and now we shall see who will be the bolder man." Then one of his men ran forward and put his hand on a hut, and took a handful of the thatch, and turned to the duke, saying heartily, "Sire, come forward and receive seizin; of this land I give you seizin; without doubt the country is yours." And the duke said, "I accept it; may God be with us." Then he ordered proclamation to be made, and commanded the sailors that the ships should be dismantled, and drawn ashore and pierced, that the cowards might not have the ships to flee to.

All cannot be told or written at once; but, passing backward and forward to each matter in its turn, I have now to tell that the duke, after his arrival, made all his host arm themselves: The first day they held their course along the seashore; and on the morrow came to a castle called Penevese. The squires and foragers, and those who looked out for booty, seized all the clothing and provisions they could find, lest what had been brought by the ships should fail them; and the English were to be seen fleeing before them, driving off their cattle, and quitting their houses. All took shelter in the cemeteries, and even there they were in grievous alarm.


A knight of that country heard the noise and cry made by the peasants and villains when they saw the great fleet arrive. He well knew that the Normans were come, and that their object was to seize the land. He posted himself behind a hill, so that they should not see him, and tarried there, watching the arrival of the great fleet. He saw the archers come forth from the ships, and the knights follow. He saw the carpenters with their axes, and the host of people and troops. He saw the men throw the materials for the fort out of the ships. He saw them build up and enclose the fort, and dig the fosse around it. He saw them land the shields and armour. And as he beheld all this, his spirit was troubled; and he girt his sword and took his lance, saying he would go straightway to king Harold, and tell the news. Forthwith he set out on his way, resting late and rising early; and thus he journey ed on by night and by day to seek Harold his lord.

He found him beyond the Humber, in a town where he had just dined. Harold carried himself very loftily, for he had been beyond Humber, and had had great success in overcoming Tosti. Tosti was Harold's brother; but unfortunately they had become enemies, and Tosti had sent his friends to Harold, calling upon him to give him his father's fief, now that it had fallen out, that, right or wrong, he had become king; and requiring him to let him have the lands their father held by inheritance; and he promised on this being done to ask no more; but to become his man, and acknowledge him for lord, and serve him as well as he did King Edward. But Harold would not agree to this; he would neither give nor exchange ought with him; so Tosti became very wroth, and crossed over to Denmark, and brought with him Danes and Norwegians, and landed over against Euroick. When Harold learnt the news, he made himself ready, and set out against Tosti, and fought with and conquered him and his troops. Tosti was killed near Pontfrait, and his army besides suffered great loss. Then Harold set out on his return from Pontfrait, and glorified himself exceedingly. But foolish is he who glorifies himself, for good fortune soon passeth away; bad news swiftly comes; soon may he die himself who has slain others; and the heart of man often rejoiceth when his ruin is nigh.

Harold returned rejoicing and triumphing, bearing himself right proudly, when news met him that put other thoughts in his mind; for lo! the knight is come who set out from Hastings. "The Normans," he cried, "are come! they have landed at Hastings! thy land will they wrest from thee, if thou canst not defend thyself well; they have enclosed a fort, and strengthened it round about with palisades and a fosse." "Sorry am I," said Harold, "that I was not there at their arrival. It is a sad mischance; I had better have given what Tosti asked, so that I had been at the port when William reached the coast, and had disputed his landing; we might then have driven so many into the sea that they would never have made good their landing, nor have touched ought of ours: neither would they have missed death on land, if they had escaped the dangers of the sea. But thus it hath pleased the heavenly king; and I could not be every where at once."

There was a baron of the land I do not know his name who had loved the duke well, and was in secret council with him, and desired, so far as he was able, that no harm should befall him. This baron sent word to him privily, that he was too weak; that he had come with too little force, as it seemed to him, to do what he had undertaken; for that there were so many men in England, that it would be very hard to conquer. So he counselled him in good faith, and in true love, to leave the country and go home to his own land before Harold should arrive; for he feared lest he should miscarry, and he should grieve much, he said, if any misfortune should befall him. The duke answered briefly, that he saw no reason for doubt; that he might rely upon it, if he had but ten thousand of as noble knights as those of whom he had sixty thousand or more, he would still fight it out. Yea, he said, he would never go back till he had taken vengeance on Harold.

Harold came full speed to London, ordering that from every part of England all should come forthwith, fully equipped, by a time appointed them, without allowing any excuse except sickness. He would have challenged the duke, and at once fixed a day for the battle, but he waited till his great baronage should come together: and they came in haste on receiving the summons.

The duke soon heard that Harold was assembling a great host, and that he was come to London from the north, where he had killed his brother Tosti. Then he sent for Huon Margot, a tonsured monk of Fescam; and as he was a learned man, well known, and much valued, the duke despatched him to Harold. And Margot set out on his way, and finding Harold at London, spoke to him thus "Harold! hearken to me! I am a messenger, hear ye from whom! The duke tells thee, by my mouth, that thou hast too soon forgotten the oath, which thou didst but lately take to him in Normandy, and that thou hast forsworn thyself. Repair the wrong, and restore him the crown and lordship, which are not thine by ancestry; for thou art neither king by heritage, nor through any man of thy lineage. King Edward of his free will and power, gave his land and realm to his best kinsman William. He gave this gift as he had a right to do, to the best man he had. He gave it in full health before his death, and if he did wrong, thou didst not forbid it; nay, thou didst assent, and warrant and swear to maintain it. Deliver him his land; do justice, lest greater damage befall thee. No such hosts can assemble as thou and he must combat with, without great cost and heavy loss; and thus there will be mischief to both sides. Restore the kingdom that thou hast seized! woe betide thee if thou shalt endeavour to hold it!"

Harold was exceedingly proud, and it is said that he had sometimes fits of madness. He was enraged at the words with which Margot had menaced him; and it is thought he would have ill used him, had not Gurth his brother sprung forth and stood between them, and sent Huon Margot away; and he went forth without taking leave, not choosing to stay longer, and neither said nor did any thing more concerning the matter he came about, but returned to duke William, and told him how Harold had insulted him.

Then Harold chose a messenger who knew the language of France, and sent him to duke William, charging him with these words; "Say to the duke that I desire he will not remind me of my covenant nor of my oath; if I ever foolishly made it and promised him anything, I did it for my liberty. I swore in order to get my freedom; whatever he asked I agreed to; and I ought not to be reproached, for I did nothing of my own free will. The strength was all on his side, and I feared that unless I did his pleasure, I should never return, but should have remained there for ever. If I have done him any wrong, I will make him recompense. If he want any of my wealth, I will give it according to my ability. I will refit all his ships, and give them safe conduct; but if he refuse this offer, tell him for a truth, that if he wait for me so long, I will on Saturday seek him out, and on that day will do battle with him."

The messenger hastened to the duke, and on the part of king Harold, told him that if he would return to his own land, and free England of his presence, he should have safe conduct for the purpose; and if money was his object, he should have as much gold and silver as should supply the wants of all his host.

Duke William replied, "Thanks for his fair words! I am not come into this country with so many escus, to change them for his esterlins; but I am come that I may have all his land, according to his oath, and the gift of king Edward, who delivered me two youths of gentle lineage as hostages; the one the son, the other the nephew of Godwin. I have them still in my keeping, and keep them I will, if I can, till I have right done unto me." Then the messenger replied, "Sire, you ask too much of us, far too much of my lord; you would rob him of his honour and fair name, requiring him to deliver up his kingdom, as if he dared not defend it. All is still safe, and in good order with us; there is no weakness or decay in his force. He is not so pressed by the war, as that he should give up his land to you; neither is it very agreeable that, because you wish for his kingdom, he should at once abandon it to you. Harold will not give you what you cannot take from him; but in good will, and as a matter of favour, and without fear of your threats, he will give you as much as you desire of gold and silver, money and fine garments: and thus you may return to your country before any affray happen between you. If you will not accept this offer, know this, that if you abide his coming, he will be ready in the field on Saturday next, and on that day he will fight with you."

The duke accepted this appointment, and the messenger took his leave; but when he proposed to go, the duke gave him a horse and garments: and when he came back to Harold thus arrayed, he shewed all that the duke had given him, and told how he had been honoured, and all that had passed; and Harold repented much that he had done otherwise by Huon Margot.


Whilst Harold and William communicated in this way by messengers, clerks and knights, the English assembled at London. When they were about to set out thence, I have heard tell that Gurth, one of Harold's brothers, reasoned thus with him.

"Fair brother, remain here, but give me your troops; I will take the adventure upon me, and will fight William. I have no covenant with him, by oath or pledge; I am in no fealty to him, nor do I owe him my faith. It may chance that there will be no need to come to blows; but I fear that if you fight, you will pay the penalty of perjury, seeing you must forswear yourself; and he who has the right will win. But if I am conquered and taken prisoner, you, if God please, being alive, may still assemble your troops, and fight or come to such an arrangement with the duke, that you may hold your kingdom in peace. Whilst I go and fight the Normans, do you scour the country, burn the houses, destroy the villages, and carry off all stores and provisions, swine and goats and cattle; that they may find no food, nor any thing whatever to subsist upon. Thus you may alarm and drive them back, for the duke must return to his own country if provisions for his army shall fail him."

But Harold refused, and said that Gurth should not go against the duke and fight without him; and that he would not burn houses and villages, neither would he plunder his people. "How," said he, "can I injure the people I should govern? I cannot destroy or harass those who ought to prosper under me."

However all agreed that Gurth's advice was good, and wished him to follow it; but Harold, to skew his great courage, swore that they should not go to the field or fight without him. Men, he said, would hold him a coward, and many would blame him for sending his best friends where he dared not go himself. So he would not be detained, but set out from London, leading his men forward armed for the fight, till he erected his standard and fixed his gonfanon right where 'The Abbey of the Battle' is now built. There he said he would defend himself against whoever should seek him; and he had the place well examined, and surrounded it by a good fosse, leaving an entrance on each of three sides, which were ordered to be all well guarded. The Normans kept watch and remained throughout the night in arms, and on their guard; for they were told that the English meant to advance and attack them that night. The English also feared that the Normans might attack them in the dark; so each kept guard the whole night, the one watching the other.

At break of day in the morning, Harold rose and Gurth with him. Noble chiefs were they both. Two warhorses were brought for them, and they issued forth from their entrenchment. They took with them no knight, varlet on foot, nor squire; and neither of them bore other arms than shield, lance and sword; their object being to reconnoitre the Normans, and to know where and how they were posted. They rode on, viewing and examining the ground, till from a hill where they stood they could see those of the Norman host, who were near. They saw a great many huts made of branches of trees, tents well equipped, pavilions and gonfanons; and they heard horses neighing, and beheld the glittering of armour. They stood a long while without speaking; nor do I know what they did, or what they said, or what counsel they held together there; but on their return to their tent Harold spoke first. "Brother," said he, "yonder are many people, and the Normans are very good knights, and well used to bear arms. What say you? what do you advise? With so great a host against us, I dare not do otherwise than fall back upon London: I will return thither and assemble a larger army."

"Harold!" said Gurth, "thou base coward! This counsel has come too late; it is of no use now to flinch, we must move onward. Base coward! when I advised you, and got the barons also to beseech you, to remain at London and let me fight, you would not listen to us, and now you must take the consequence. You would take no heed of any thing we could say; you believed not me or any one else; now you are willing, but I will not. You have lost your pride too soon; quickly indeed has what you have seen abated your courage. If you should turn back, every one would say that you ran away. If men see you flee, who is to keep your people together? and if they once disperse, they will never be brought to assemble together again."

Harold and Gurth disputed, till their words grew angry, and Gurth would have struck his brother, had he not spurred his horse on, so that the blow missed, and struck the horse behind the saddle, glancing along Harold's shield. Had it gone aright, it would have felled him to the ground. Gurth thus vented his humour, charging his brother with cowardice; but they galloped on to the tents, and shewed no sign of their dispute, neither let any ill-will appear between them, when they saw their people coming.

Lewine, Harold's next brother after Gurth, had also arisen early, and gone to Harold's tent; and when he found not his two brothers where he left them over night, he thought he should see them no more. "By Heaven," cried he, "they have been taken and delivered to their enemies;" for he thought they must either have been killed, or betrayed to the Normans; and he ran forth like a madman, shouting and crying out as if he had lost his senses. But when he learned where they were, and that they had gone out to reconnoitre the Normans, he and his companions, and the earls and barons, mounted quickly upon their horses, and set out from the tents; when behold! they met the brothers. The barons took it ill that they went so imprudently, and without any guard; but all turned back to the tents, and prepared for battle.

When they came in front of the enemy, the sight alarmed them grievously; and Harold sent forth two spies to reconnoitre the opposite troops, and see what barons and armed men the duke had brought with him. As they drew near to his army, they were observed, and being taken before William, were sore afraid. But when he learnt what was their errand, and that they wanted to estimate his strength, he had them taken through all the tents, and shewed the whole host to them. Then he used them exceeding well, gave them abundantly to eat and drink, and let them go without injury or molestation. When they returned to their lord, they spoke very honourably of the duke; and one of them, who had seen that the Normans were so close shaven and cropt, that they had not even moustaches, supposed he had seen priests and mass-sayers; and he told Harold that the duke had more priests with him than knights or other people. But Harold replied, "Those are valiant knights, bold and brave warriors, though they bear not beards or moustaches as we do."


Then the duke chose a messenger, a monk learned and wise, well instructed and experienced, and sent him to king Harold. He gave him his choice, to take which he would of three things. He should either resign England and take his daughter to wife; or submit to the good judgment of the apostle and his people; or meet him singly and fight body to body, on the terms that he who killed the other, or could conquer and take him prisoner, should have England in peace, nobody else suffering. Harold said he would do neither; he would neither perform his covenant, nor put the matter in judgment, nor would he meet him and fight body to body.

Before the day of the battle, which was now become certain, the duke of his great courage told his barons, that he would himself speak with Harold; and summon him with his own mouth to render up what he had defrauded him of, and see what he would answer; that he would appeal him of perjury, and summon him on his pledged faith; and if he would not submit, and make reparation forthwith, he would straightway defy, and fight him on the morrow; but that if he yielded, he would, with the consent of his council, give up to him all beyond the Humber towards Scotland.

The barons approved this, and some said to him, "Fair sir, one thing we wish to say to you; if we must fight, let us fight promptly, and let there be no delay. Delay may be to our injury, for we have nothing to wait for, but Harold's people increase daily; they come strengthening his army constantly with fresh forces." The duke said this was true, and he promised them that there should be no more delay.

Then he made a score of knights mount upon their war-horses. All had their swords girt, and their other arms were borne by the squires who went with them. A hundred other knights mounted next, and went riding after them, but at a little distance; and then a thousand knights also mounted and followed the hundred, but only so near as to see what the hundred and the twenty did.

The duke then sent to Harold, whether by monk or abbot I know not, and desired him to come into the field, and speak with him, and to fear nothing, but bring with him whom he would, that they might talk of an arrangement. But Gurth did not wait for Harold's answer, and neither let him speak, nor go to talk with the duke; for he instantly sprang up on his feet, and said to the messenger, "Harold will not go! tell your lord to send his message to us hither, and let us know what he will take, and what he will leave, or what other arrangement he is willing to make." Whilst the messenger returned to carry this answer, Harold called together his friends and his earls, all by their names, to hear what message the duke would send back. And he sent word to Harold, that if he would abide by his covenant, he would give him all Northumberland, and whatever belonged to the kingdom beyond Humber; and would also give to his brother Gurth the lands of Godwin their father: And if he refused this, he challenged him for perjury in not delivering up the kingdom, and not taking his daughter to wife, as he ought: in all this he had lied and broken faith; and unless he made reparation he defied him. And he desired the English should know and take notice, that all who came with Harold, or supported him in this affair, were excommunicated by the apostle and the clergy. At this excommunication the English were much troubled; they feared it greatly, and the battle still more. And much murmuring was to be heard on all hands, and consulting one with the other; none was so brave, but that he wished the battle might be prevented.

"Seignors," said Gurth, "I know and see that you are in great alarm; that you fear the event of the battle, and desire an arrangement: and so do I as much, and in truth more, I believe; but I have also great fear of duke William, who is very full of treachery. You have heard what he says, and how low he rates us, and how he will only give us what he likes of a land which is not yet his. If we take what he offers, and go beyond the Humber, he will not long leave us even that, but will push us yet further. He will always keep his eye upon us, and bring us to ruin in the end. When he has got the uppermost, and has the best of the land, he will leave little for us, and will soon try to take it all. He wants to cheat us into taking instead of a rich country, a poor portion of one, and presently he will have even that. I have another fear, which is more on your than on my account, for I think I could easily secure myself. He has given away all your lands to knights of other countries. There is neither earl nor baron to whom he has not made some rich present: there is no earldom, barony, nor chatelainie, which he has not given away: and I tell you for a truth, that he has already taken homage from many, for your inheritances which he has given them. They will chase you from your lands, and still worse, will kill you. They will pillage your vassals, and ruin your sons and daughters: they do not come merely for your goods, but utterly to ruin you and your heirs. Defend yourselves then and your children, and all that belong to you, while you may. My brother hath never given away, nor agreed to give away the great fiefs, the honors, or lands of your ancestors; but earls have remained earls, and barons enjoyed their rights; the sons have had their lands and fiefs after their fathers deaths: and you know this to be true which I tell you, that peace was never disturbed. We may let things remain thus if we will, and it is best for us so to determine. But if you lose your houses, your manors, demesnes, and other possessions, where you have been nourished all your lives, what will you become, and what will you do? Into what country will you flee, and what will become of your kindred, your wives and children? In what land will they go begging, and where shall they seek an abode? When they thus lose their own honour, how shall they seek it of others ?"

By these words of Gurth, and by others which were said at his instance, and by pledges from Harold to add to the fiefs of the barons, and by his promises of things which were then out of his power to give, the English were aroused, and swore by God, and cried out, that the Normans had come on an evil day, and had embarked on a foolish matter. Those who had lately desired peace, and feared the battle, carried themselves boldly, and were eager to fight; and Gurth had so excited the council, that no man who had talked of peace would have been listened to, but would have been reproved by the most powerful there.


The duke and his men tried no further negotiation, but returned to their tents, sure of fighting on the morrow. Then men were to be seen on every side straightening lances, fitting hauberks and helmets; making ready the saddles and stirrups; filling the quivers, stringing the bows, and making all ready for the battle. I have heard tell that the night before the day of battle, the English were very merry, laughing much and enjoying themselves. All night they ate and drank, and never lay down on their beds. They might be seen carousing, gambolling and dancing, and singing; bublie they cried, and weissel, and laticome and drincheheil, drinc-hindre-wart and drintome, drinc-helf, and drinc-tome. Thus they bemeaned themselves; but the Normans and French betook themselves all night to their orisons, and were in very serious mood. They made confession of their sins, and accused themselves to the priests; and whoso had no priest near him, confessed himself to his neighbour.

The day on which the battle was to take place being Saturday, the Normans, by the advice of the priests, vowed that they would never more while they lived, eat flesh on that day. Giffrei, bishop of Coutanes, received confessions, and gave benedictions, and imposed penances on many; and so did the bishop of Bayeux, who carried himself very nobly. He was bishop of the Bessin, Odes by name, the son of Herluins, and brother of the duke on the mother's side. He brought to his brother a great body of knights and other men, being very rich in gold and silver.

On the fourteenth day of October was fought the battle whereof I am about to tell you. The priests had watched all night, and besought and called on God, and prayed to him in their chapels which were fitted up throughout the host. They offered and vowed fasts, penances, and orisons; they said psalms and misereres, litanies and kyriels; they cried on God, and for his mercy, and said paternosters and masses; some the spiritus domini, others salus populi, and many salve sancte parens, being suited to the season, as belonging to that day, which was Saturday. And when the masses were sung, which were finished betimes in the morning, all the barons assembled and came to the duke, and it was arranged they should form three divisions, so as to make the attack in three places. The duke stood on a hill, where he could best see his men; the barons surrounded him, and he spoke to them proudly.

"Much ought I," said he, "to love you all, and much should I confide in you; much ought and will I thank you who have crossed the sea for me, and have come with me into this land. It grieves me that I cannot now render such thanks as are due to you, but when I can I will, and what I have shall be yours. If I conquer, you will conquer. If I win lands, you shall have lands; for I say most truly that I am not come merely to take for myself what I claim, but to punish the felonies, treasons, and falsehoods which the men of this country have always done and said to our people. They have done much ill to our kindred, as well as to other people, for they do all the treason and mischief they can. On the night of the feast of St. Brigun, they committed horrible treachery; they slew all the Danes in one day; they had eaten with them, and then slew them in their sleep; no fouler crime was ever heard of than in this manner to kill the people who trusted in them. You have all heard of Alwered, and how Godwin betrayed him; he saluted and kissed him, ate and drank with him; then betrayed, seized and bound him, and delivered him to the felon king, who confined him in the Isle of Eli, tore out his eyes, and afterwards killed him. He had the men of Normandy also brought to Gedefort, and decimated them; and when the tenth was set apart, hear what felony they committed! they decimated that tenth once more, because it appeared too many to save. These felonies, and many other which they have done to our ancestors, and to our friends who demeaned themselves honourably, we will revenge on them, if God so please. When we have conquered them, we will take their gold and silver, and the wealth of which they have plenty, and their manors, which are rich. We shall certainly easily conquer them, for in all the world there is not so brave an army, neither such proved men and vassals, as are here assembled." Then they began to cry out, "You will not see one coward; none here will fear to die for love of you, if need be." And he answered them, "I thank you well. For God's sake spare not; strike hard at the beginning; stay not to take spoil; all the booty shall be in common, and there will be plenty for every one. There will be no safety in peace or flight; the English will never love or spare Normans. Felons they were and are; false they were and false they will be. Shew no weakness towards them, for they will have no pity on you; neither the coward for his flight, nor the bold man for his strokes, will be the better liked by the English, nor will any be the more spared on that account. You may fly to the sea, but you can fly no further; you will find neither ship nor bridge there; there will be no sailors to receive you; and the English will overtake you and kill you in your shame. More of you will die in flight than in battle; flight, therefore, will not secure you; but fight, and you will conquer. I have no doubt of the victory; we are come for glory, the victory is in our hands, and we may make sure of obtaining it if we so please."

As the duke said this, and would have said yet more, William Fitz Osber rode up, his horse being all coated with iron; "Sire," said he to his lord, we tarry here too long, let us all arm ourselves. "Allons! allons!" Then all went to their tents and armed themselves as they best might; and the duke was very busy, giving every one his orders; and he was courteous to all the vassals, giving away many arms and horses to them.

When he prepared to arm himself, he called first for his good hauberk, and a man brought it on his arm, and placed before him; but in putting his head in, to get it on, he inadvertently turned it the wrong way, with the back part in front. He quickly changed it, but, when he saw that those who stood by were sorely alarmed, he said, "I have seen many a man who, if such a thing had happened to him, would not have borne arms, or entered the field the same day; but I never believed in omens, and I never will. I trust in God; for he does in all things his pleasure, and ordains what is to come to pass, according to his will. I have never liked fortune-tellers, nor believed in diviners; but I commend myself to our Lady. Let not this mischance give you trouble. The hauberk which was turned wrong, and then set right by me, signifies that a change will arise out of the matter we are now moving. You shall see the name of duke changed into king. Yea, a king shall I be, who hitherto have been but dukes."

Then he crossed himself, and straightway took his hauberk, stooped his head, and put it on aright; and laced his helmet and girt his sword, which a varlet brought him.


Then the duke called for his good horse; a better could not be found. It had been sent him by a king of Spain as a token of friendship. Neither arms nor throng did it fear, when its lord spurred on. Galtier Giffart, who had been to St. Jago, brought it. The duke stretched out his hand, took the reins, put foot in stirrup and mounted; and the good horse pawed, pranced, reared himself up, and curvetted. The viscount of Toarz saw how the duke bore himself in arms, and said to his people that were around him, "Never have I seen a man so fairly armed, nor one who rode so gallantly, or bore his arms, or became his hauberk so well; neither any one who bore his lance so gracefully, or sat his horse and manceuvred him so nobly. There is no other such knight underheaven! a fair count is he, and fair king he will be. Let him fight and he shall overcome; shame be to him who shall fail him!"

The duke called for horses, and had several led out to him; each had a good sword hanging at the saddlebow, and those who led the horses bore lances. Then the barons armed themselves, the knights and the lancemen; and the whole were divided into three companies; each company having many lords and captains appointed to them, that there might be no cowardice, or fear of loss of member or life.

The duke called a serving man, and ordered him to bring forth the gonfanon which the pope had sent him; and he who bore it having unfolded it, the duke took it, reared it, and called to Raol de Conches; "Bear my gonfanon," said he, "for I would not but do you right; by right and by ancestry your line are standard bearers of Normandy, and very good knights have they all been." "Many thanks to you," said Raol, "for acknowledging our right; but by my faith, the gonfanon shall not this day be borne by me. To-day I claim quittance of the service, for I would serve you in other guise. I will go with you into the battle, and will fight the English as long as life shall last, and know that my hand will be worth any twenty of such men." Then the duke turned another way, and called to him Galtier Giffart. "Do thou take this gonfanon," said he, "and bear it in the battle." But Galtier Giffart answered, "Sire, for God's mercy look at my white and bald head; my strength has fallen away, and my breath become shorter. The standard should be borne by one who can endure long labour; I shall be in the battle, and you have not any man who will serve you more truly; I will strike with my sword till it shall be died in your, enemies blood." Then the duke said fiercely, "By the splendour of God, my lords, I think you mean to betray and fail me in this great need." "Sire," said Giffart, "not so! we have done no treason, nor do I refuse from any felony towards you; but I have to lead a great chivalry, both soldiers and the men of my fief. Never had I such good means of serving you as I now have; and if God please, I will serve you: if need be, I will die for you, and will give my own heart for yours." "By my faith," quoth the duke, "I always loved thee, and now I love thee more; if I survive this day, thou shalt be the better for it all thy days." Then he called out a knight, whom he had heard much praised, Tosteins Fitz Rou le blanc, by name, whose abode was at Bee-en-Cauxr. To him he delivered the gonfanon; and Tosteins took it right cheerfully, and bowed low to him in thanks, and bore it gallantly, and with good heart. His kindred still have quittance of all service for their inheritance on that account, and their heirs are entitled so to hold their inheritance for ever.

William sat on his warhorse, and called out Rogier, whom they call de Montgomeri. "I rely much on you," said he; "lead your men thitherward, and attack them from that side. William, the son of Osber, the seneschal, a right good vassal, shall go with you and help in the attack, and you shall have the men of Boilogne and Poix, and all my soldiers. Alain Fergant and Aimeri shall attack on the other side; they shall lead the Poitevins and the Bretons, and all the barons of Maine; and I with my own great men, my friends and kindred, will fight in the middle throng, where the battle shall be the hottest."

The barons and knights and lancemen were all now armed; the men on foot were well equipped, each bearing bow and sword: on their heads were caps, and to their feet were bound buskins. Some had good hides which they had bound round their bodies; and many were clad in frocks, and had quivers and bows hung to their girdles. The knights had hauberks and swords, boots of steel and shining helmets; shields at their necks, and in their hands lances. And all had their cognizances, so that each might know his fellow, and Norman might not strike Norman, nor Frenchman kill his countryman by mistake. Those on foot led the way, with serried ranks, bearing their bows. The knights rode next, supporting the archers from behind. Thus both horse and foot kept their course and order of march as they began; in close ranks at a gentle pace, that the one might not pass or separate from the other. All went firmly and compactly, bearing themselves gallantly; and in each host stood archers ready to exchange shots.


Harold had summoned his men, earls, barons, and vavassors, from the castles and the cities; from the ports, the villages, and boroughs. The villains were also called together from the villages, bearing such arms as they found; clubs and great picks, iron forks and stakes. The English had enclosed the field where Harold was with his friends, and the barons of the country whom he had summoned and called together. Those of London had come at once, and those of Kent, of Herfort, and of Essesse; those of Suree and Sussesse, of St. Edmund and Sufoc; of Norwis and Norfoc; of Cantorbierre and Stanfort; Bedefort and Hundetoae. The men of Northanton also came; and those of Eurowic and Bokinkeham, of Bed and Notinkeham, Lindesie and Nichole. There came also from the west all who heard the summons; and very many were to be seen coming from Salebiere and Dorset, from Bat and from Sumerset. Many came too from about Glocestre, and many from Wirecestre, from Wincestre, Hontesire, and Brichesire; and many more from other counties that we have not named, and cannot indeed recount. All who could bear arms, and had learnt the news of the duke's arrival, came to defend the land. But none came from beyond Humbre, for they had other business upon their hands; the Danes and Tosti having much damaged and weakened them.

Harold knew that the Normans would come and attack him hand to hand: so he had early enclosed the field in which he placed his men. He made them arm early, and range themselves for the battle; he himself having put on arms and equipments that became such a lord. The duke, he said, ought to seek him, as he wanted to conquer England; and it became him to abide the attack, who had to defend the land. He commanded his people, and counselled his barons to keep themselves all together, and defend themselves in a body; for if they once separated, they would with difficulty recover themselves. "The Normans," said he, "are good vassals, valiant on foot and on horseback; good knights are they on horseback, and well used to battle; all is lost if they once penetrate our ranks. They have brought long lances and swords, but you have pointed lances and keen edged bills; and I do not expect that their arms can stand against yours. Cleave whenever you can; it will be ill done if you spare aught." Harold had many and brave men that came from all quarters in great numbers; but a multitude of men is of little worth, if the favour of Heaven is wanting.

Many and many have since said, that Harold had but a small force, and that he fell on that account. But many others say, and so do I, that he and the duke had man for man. The men of the duke were not more numerous; but he had certainly more barons, and the men were better. He had plenty of good knights, and great plenty of good archers. The English peasants carried hatchets, and keen edged bills. They had built up a fence before them with their shields, and with ash and other wood; and had well joined and wattled in the whole work, so as not to leave even a crevice; and thus they had a barricade in their front, through which any Norman who would attack them must first pass. Being covered in this way by their shields and barricades, their aim was to defend themselves; and if they had remained steady for that purpose, they would not have been conquered that day; for every Norman who made his way in, lost his life in dishonour, either by hatchet or bill, by club or other weapon. They wore short and close hauberks, and helmets that over hung their garments.

King Harold issued orders and made proclamation round, that all should be ranged with their faces toward the enemy; and that no one should move from where he was; so that whoever came might find them ready; and that whatever any one, be he Norman or other, should do, each should do his best to defend his own place. Then he ordered the men of Kent to go where the Normans were likely to make the attack; for they say that the men of Kent are entitled to strike first; and that whenever the king goes to battle, the first blow belongs to them. The right of the men of London is to guard the king's body, to place themselves around him, and to guard his standard; and they were accordingly placed by the standard, to watch and defend it. When Harold had made all ready, and given his orders, he came into the midst of the English, and dismounted by the side of the standard. Leofwin and Gurth, his brothers, were with him; and around him he had barons enough, as he stood by his gonfanon, which was in truth a noble one, sparkling with gold and precious stones. After the victory William sent it to the apostle, to prove and commemorate his great conquest and glory. The English stood in close ranks, ready and eager for the fight; and they had moreover made a fosse, which went across the field, guarding one side of their army.


Meanwhile the Normans appeared, advancing over the ridge of a rising ground; and the first division of their troops moved onwards along the hill and across a valley. As they advanced king Harold saw them afar off, and calling to Gurth, said,

"Brother, which way are you looking? See you the duke coming yonder? Our people will have no mischief from the force I see yonder. There are not men enough there to conquer the great force we have in this land. I have four times a hundred thousand armed men, knights and peasants."

"By my faith," answered Gurth, "you have many men; but a great gathering of vilanaille is worth little in battle. You have plenty of men in every day clothes, but I fear the Normans much; for all who have come from over sea are men to be feared. They are all well armed, and come on horseback, and will trample our people under foot; they have many lances and shields, hauberks and helmets; glaives and swords, bows and barbed arrows that are swift, and fly fleeter than the swallow."

"Gurth," said Harold, "be not dismayed, God can give us sufficient aid, if he so pleases; and there certainly is no need to be alarmed at yonder army." But while they yet spoke of the Normans they were looking at another division, still larger, came in sight, close following upon the first; and they wheeled towards another side of the field, forming together as the first body had done. Harold saw and examined them, and pointing them out to Gurth, said to him,

"Gurth, our enemies grow; knights come up thickening their ranks; they gather together from all around; I am dismayed, and was never before so troubled: I much fear the result of the battle, and my heart is in great tribulation."

"Harold," said Gurth, "you did ill when you fixed a day for the battle. I lament that you came, and that you did not remain at London, or at Winchester: but it is now too late; it must be as it is." "Sire brother," replied Harold, "bygone counsel is little worth; let us defend ourselves as we can; I know no other remedy."

"If," said Gurth, "you had stayed in London, you might have gone thence from town to town, and the duke would never have followed you. He would have feared you and the English, and would have returned or made peace; and thus you would have saved your kingdom. You would not believe me, nor value the advice I gave; you fixed the day of battle, and sought it of your own free will."

"Gurth," said Harold, "I did it for good; I named Saturday because I was born on a Saturday; and my mother used to tell me that good luck would attend me on that day."

"He is a fool," said Gurth, "who believes in luck, which no brave man ought to do. No brave man should trust to luck. Every one has his day of death; you say you were born on a Saturday, and on that day also you may be killed."

Meanwhile, a fresh company came in sight, covering all the plain; and in the midst of them was raised the gonfanon that came from Rome. Near it was the duke, and the best men and greatest strength of the army were there. The good knights, the good vassals and brave warriors were there; and there were gathered together the gentle barons, the good archers, and the lancemen, whose duty it was to guard the duke, and range themselves around him. The youths and common herd of the camp, whose business was not to join in the battle, but to take care of the harness and stores, moved off towards a rising ground. The priests and the clerks also ascended a hill, there to offer up prayers to God, and watch the event of the battle. Harold saw William come, and beheld the field covered with arms, and how the Normans divided into three companies, in order to attack at three places. I know not of which he was most afraid; but his trouble was so great that he could scarcely say,

"We are fallen on an evil lot, and I fear much lest we come to shame. The count of Flanders bath betrayed me: I trusted to him, and was a fool for so doing; when he sent me word by letter, and assured me by messages that William could never collect so great a chivalry. On the faith of his report I delayed my preparations, and now I rue the delay."

Then his brother Gurth drew near, and they placed themselves by the standard; each praying God to protect them. Around them were their kinsmen, and those barons who were their nearest friends; and they besought all to do their best, seeing that none could now avoid the conflict. Each man had his hauberk on, with his sword girt and his shield at his neck. Great hatchets were also slung at their necks, with which they expected to strike heavy blows. They were on foot in close ranks, and carried themselves right boldly; yet if they had foretold the issue, well might they have bewailed the evil fate, cruel and hard of a truth, that was approaching. 'Olicrosse' they often cried, and many times repeated 'God Emite'.

'Olicrosse' is in English what 'Sainte Croix' is in French, and 'Godemite' the same as 'Dex tot poissant' in French.

The Normans brought on the three divisions of their army to attack at different places. They set out in three companies, and in three companies did they fight. The first and second had come up, and then advanced the third, which was the greatest; with that came the duke with his own men, and all moved boldly forward. As soon as the two armies were in full view of each other, great noise and tumult arose. You might hear the sound of many trumpets, of bugles and of horns; and then you might see men ranging themselves in line, lifting their shields, raising their lances, bending their bows, handling their arrows, ready for assault and for defence. The English stood steady to their post, the Normans still moving on; and when they drew near, the English were to be seen stirring to and fro; men going and coming; troops ranging themselves in order; some with their colour rising, others turning pale; some making ready their arms, others raising their shields; the brave man rousing himself to the fight, the coward trembling at the approaching danger.


Then Taillefer who sang right well, rode mounted on a swift horse before the duke, singing of Karle maine, and of Rollant, of Oliver and the vassals who died in Renchevals. And when they drew nigh to the English,

"A boon, sire!" cried Taillefer; "I have long served you, and you owe me for all such service. To-day, so please you, you shall repay it. I ask as my guerdon, and beseech you for it earnestly, that you will allow me to strike the first blow in the battle!"

And the duke answered, "I grant it."

Then Taillefer put his horse to a gallop, charging before all the rest, and struck an Englishman dead, driving his lance below the breast into his body, and stretching him upon the ground. Then he drew his sword, and struck another, crying out "Come on! come on! What do ye, sirs? lay on! lay on!"

At the second blow he struck, the English pushed forward and surrounded him. Forthwith arose the noise and cry of war, and on either side the people put themselves in motion. The Normans moved on to the assault, and the English defended themselves well. Some were striking, others urging onwards; all were bold, and cast aside fear.

And now, behold! That battle was gathered whereof the fame is yet mighty. Loud and far resounded the bray of the horns; and the shocks of the lances; the mighty strokes of clubs, and the quick clashing of swords. One while the Englishmen rushed on, another while they fell back; one while the men from over sea charged onwards, and again at other times retreated. The Normans shouted DEX AIE, the English people UT. Then came the cunning manoeuvres, the rude shocks and strokes of the lance and blows of the sword, among the serjeants and soldiers, both English and Norman. When the English fall, the Normans shout. Each side taunts and defies the other, yet neither knoweth what the other saith; and the Normans say the English bark, because they understand not their speech. Some wax strong, others weak; the brave exult, but the cowards tremble, as men who are sore dismayed. The Normans press on the assault, and the English defend their post well; they pierce the hauberks, and cleave the shields; receive and return mighty blows. Again, some press forwards; others yield, and thus in various ways the struggle proceeds.

In the plain was a fosses, which the Normans had now behind them, having passed it in the fight without regarding it. But the English charged and drove the Normans before them, till they made them fall back upon this fosse, overthrowing into it horses and men. Many were to be seen falling therein, rolling one over the other, with their faces to the earth, and unable to rise. Many of the English also, whom the Normans drew down along with them, died there. At no time during the day's battle did so many Normans die, as perished in that fosse. So those said who saw the dead. The varlets who were set to guard the harness began to abandon it, as they saw the loss of the Frenchmen, when thrown back upon the fosse without power to recover themselves. Being greatly alarmed at seeing the difficulty in restoring order, they began to quit the harness, and sought around, not knowing where to find shelter. Then Odo, the good priest, the bishop of Bayeux, galloped up, and said to them,

"Stand fast! stand fast! be quiet and move not! fear nothing, for if God please, we shall conquer yet." So they took courage, and rested where they were; and Odo returned galloping back to where the battle was most fierce, and was of great service on that day. He had put a hauberk on, over a white aube; wide in the body, with the sleeve tight; and sat on a white horse, so that all might recognise him. In his hand he held a mace, and wherever he saw most need, he led up and stationed the knights, and often urged them on to assault and strike the enemy.


From nine o'clock in the morning, when the combat began, till three o'clock came, the battle was up and down, this way and that, and no one knew who would conquer and win the lands. Both sides stood so firm and fought so well, that no one could guess which would prevail. The Norman archers with their bows shot thickly upon the English; but they covered themselves with their shields, so that the arrows could not reach their bodies, nor do any mischief, how true soever was their aim, or however well they shot. Then the Normans determined to shoot their arrows upwards into the air, so that they might fall on their enemies' heads, and strike their faces. The archers adopted this scheme, and shot up into the air towards the English; and the arrows in falling struck their heads and faces, and put out the eyes of many; and all feared to open their eyes, or leave their faces unguarded.

The arrows now flew thicker than rain before the wind; fast sped the shafts that the English call wibetes. Then it was that an arrow, that had been thus shot upwards, struck Harold above his right eye, and put it out. In his agony he drew the arrow and threw it away, breaking it with his hands and the pain to his head was so great, that he leaned upon his shield. So the English were wont to say, and still say to the French, that the arrow was well shot which was so sent up against their king; and that the archer won them great glory, who thus put out Harold's eye. The Normans saw that the English defended themselves well, and were so strong in their position that they could do little against them. So they consulted together privily, and arranged to draw off, and pretend to flee, till the English should pursue and scatter themselves over the field; for they saw that if they could once get their enemies to break their ranks, they might be attacked and discomfited much more easily. As they had said, so they did.

The Normans by little and little fled, the English following them. As the one fell back, the other pressed after; and when the Frenchmen retreated, the English thought and cried out, that the men of France fled, and would never return. Thus they were deceived by the pretended flight, and great mischief thereby befell them; for if they had not moved from their position, it is not likely that they would have been conquered at all; but like fools they broke their lines and pursued. The Normans were to be seen following up their stratagem, retreating slowly so as to draw the English further on. As they still flee, the English pursue; they push out their lances and stretch forth their hatchets: following the Normans, as they go rejoicing in the success of their scheme, and scattering themselves over the plain. And the English meantime jeered and insulted their foes with words. "Cowards," they cried, "you came hither in an evil hour, wanting our lands, and seeking to seize our property, fools that ye were to come! Normandy is too far off, and you will not easily reach it. It is of little use to run back; unless you can cross the sea at a leap, or can drink it dry, your sons and daughters are lost to you."

The Normans bore it all, but in fact they knew not what the English said; their language seemed like the baying of dogs, which they could not understand. At length they stopped and turned round, determined to recover their ranks; and the barons might be heard crying DEX AIE! for a halt. Then the Normans resumed their former position, turning their faces towards the enemy; and their men were to be seen facing round and rushing onwards to a fresh melee; the one party assaulting the other; this man striking, another pressing onwards. One hits, another misses; one flies, another pursues: one is aiming a stroke, while another discharges his blow. Norman strives with Englishman again, and aims his blows afresh. One flies, another pursues swiftly: the combatants are many, the plain wide, the battle and the melee fierce. On every hand they fight hard, the blows are heavy, and the struggle becomes fierce. The Normans were playing their part well, when an English knight came rushing up, having in his company a hundred men, furnished with various arms. He wielded a northern hatchet, with the blade a full foot long; and was well armed after his manner, being tall, bold, and of noble carriage. In the front of the battle where the Normans thronged most, he came bounding on swifter than the stag, many Normans falling before him and his company. He rushed straight upon a Norman who was armed and riding on a warhorse, and tried with his hatchet of steel to cleave his helmet; but the blow miscarried, and the sharp blade glanced down before the saddle bow, driving through the horse's neck down to the ground, so that both horse and master fell together to the earth. I know not whether the Englishman struck another blow; but the Normans who saw the stroke were astonished, and about to abandon the assault, when Rogier de Montgomeri came galloping up, with his lance set, and heeding not the long handled axe, which the Englishman wielded aloft, struck him down, and left him stretched upon the ground. Then Rogier cried out,

"Frenchmen strike! the day is ours!" And again a fierce melee was to be seen, with many a blow of lance and sword; the English still defending themselves, killing the horses and cleaving the shields. There was a French soldier of noble mien, who sat his horse gallantly. He spied two Englishmen who were also carrying themselves boldly. They were both men of great worth, and had become companions in arms and fought together, the one protecting the other. They bore two long and broad bills, and did great mischief to the Normans, killing both horses and men. The French soldier looked at them and their bills, and was sore alarmed, for he was afraid of losing his good horse, the best that he had; and would willingly have turned to some other quarter, if it would not have looked like cowardice. He soon, however, recovered his courage, and spurring his horse gave him the bridle, and galloped swiftly forward. Fearing the two bills, he raised his shield by the enarmes, and struck one of the Englishmen with his lance on the breast, so that the iron passed out at his back. At the moment that he fell, the lance broke, and the Frenchman seized the mace that hung at his right side, and struck the other Englishman a blow that completely fractured his skull.


Old Rogier de Belmont attacked the English in the front rank; and was of high service, as is plain by the wealth his heirs enjoy: any one may know that they had good ancestors, standing well with their lords who gave them such honors. From this Rogier descended the lineage of Mellant. Guillame, whom they call Mallets, also threw himself boldly into the fray, and with his glittering sword created great alarm among the English. But they pierced his shield and killed his horse under him, and he would have been slain himself, had not the Sire de Montfort, and Dam Williame de Vez-pont, come up with their strong force and bravely rescued him, though with the loss of many of their people, and mounted him on a fresh horse.

The men of the Beessin also fought well, and the barons of the Costentin; and Neel de St. Salveor exerted himself much to earn the love and good will of his lord, and assaulted the English with great vigour. He overthrew many that day with the poitrail of his horse, and came with his sword to the rescue of many a baron. The lord of Felgieresa also won great renown, with many very brave men that he brought with him from Brittany. Henri the Sire de Ferrieres, and he who then held Tillieres, both these barons brought large companies, and charged the English together. Dead or captive were all who did not flee before them, and the field quaked and trembled.

On the other side was an Englishman who much annoyed the French, continually assaulting them with a keen edged hatchet. He had a helmet made of wood, which he had fastened down to his coat, and laced round his neck, so that no blows could reach his head. The ravage he was making was seen by a gallant Norman knight, who rode a horse that neither fire nor water could stop in its career, when its lord urged it on. The knight spurred, and his horse carried him on well till he charged the Englishman, striking him over the helmet, so that it fell down over his eyes; and as he stretched out his hand to raise it and uncover his face, the Norman cut off his right hand, so that his hatchet fell to the ground. Another Norman sprung forward and eagerly seized the prize with both his hands, but he kept it little space, and paid dearly for it; for as he stooped to pick up the hatchet, an Englishman with his long handled axe struck him over the back, breaking all his bones, so that his entrails and lungs gushed forth. The knight of the good horse meantime returned without injury; but on his way he met another Englishman, and bore him down under his horse, wounding him grievously, and trampling him altogether underfoot.

The good citizens of Rouen, and the young men of Caen, Faleise and Argentoen, of Anisie and Matoen, and he who was then sire d'Aubemare and dam Willame de Romare, and the sires de Litehare, Touke, and La Mare, and the sire de Neauhou, and a knight of Pirou, Robert the sire de Belfou, and he who was then sire de Alnou, the chamberlain of Tancharvile, and the sire d'Estotevile, and Wiestace d'Abevile, and the sire de Magnevile, William whom they call Crespin, and the sire de St. Martin, and dam William des Molins, and he who was sire des Pins; all these were in the battle, and there was not one of them that did not render great aid.

A vassal from Grente-mesnil was that day in great peril; his horse ran away with him, so that he was near falling, for in leaping over a bush the bridle rein broke, and the horse plunged forward. The English seeing him ran to meet him with their hatchets raised, but the horse took fright, and turning quickly round brought him safe back again. Old Gifrei de Meaine, and old Onfrei de Bohun, Onfrei de Cartrai, and Maugier a newly made knight, were there also. William de Gareness came too, his helmet setting gracefully on his head; and old Hue de Gornai, and together with him his men of Brai. With the numerous forces they brought, they killed great numbers. And Engerran de l'Aigle came also, with shield slung at his neck; and gallantly handling his spear, struck down many English. He strove hard to serve the duke well, for the sake of the lands he had promised him. And the viscount of Toarz was no coward that day. And Richard d'Avrencin was there, and with him were the sire de Biarz, and the sire de Solignie, and the butler d'Aubignie, and the lords de Vitrie, de Lacie, de Val de Saire, and de Tracie; and these forming one troop, fell on the English off hand, fearing neither fence nor fosse; many a man did they overthrow that day; many did they maim, and many a good horse did they kill.

Hugh the sire de Montfort, and those of Espine, Port, Courcie, and Jort also, that day slew many English. He who was then sire de Reviers, brought with him many knights who were foremost in the assault, bearing the enemy down with their warhorses. Old Willame de Moion had with him many companions; and Raol Teisson de Cingueleiz, and old Rogier Marmion, carried themselves as barons ought, and afterwards received a rich guerdon for their service.


Next the company of Neel rode Raol de Gael; he was himself a Breton, and led Bretons; he served for the land which he had, but he held it short time enough; for he forfeited it, as they say.

Avenals des Biarz was there, and Paienals des Mostiers-Hubert; and Robert Bertram, who was Tort (crooked), but was very strong when on horseback, had with him a great force, and many men fell before him. The archers of Val de Roil, and those of Bretoi, put out the eyes of many an Englishman with their arrows. The men of Solea and Oireval, and of St. Johan and Brehallo, of Briuslt and of Homez, were to be seen on that day, striking at close quarters, and holding their shields over their heads, so as to receive the blows of the hatchets. All would rather have died than have failed their lawful lord.

And there were also present the lords of Saint-Sever and Cailliel, and the sire de Sernilhe, and Martels de Basquevile; and near him the lords of Praels, of Goviz and Sainteals, of Viez Molei, and Monceals; and he who was sire de Pacie, and the seneschal de Corcie, and a chevalier de Lacie, with the lords de Gascie, d'Oillie, and de Sacie, and the sires de Vaacie, del Torneor, and de Praere, and Willame de Columbieres, and old Gilbert d'Asnieres, de Chaignes, and de Tornieresa, and old Hue de Bolebec, and Dam Richart, who held Orbec, and the sire de Bonnesboz, and the sires de Sap, and de Gloz, and he who then held Tregoza; he killed two Englishmen; smiting the one through with his lance, and braining the other with his sword; and then galloped his horse back, so that no Englishman touched him. And the sire de Monfichet was there, leading a gallant party; and the ancestor of Hue li Bigot, who had lands at Maletot, and at Loges and Chanon, and served the duke in his house as one of his seneschals, which office he held in fee. He had with him a large troop, and was a noble vassal. He was small of body, but very brave and bold, and assaulted the English with his men gallantly.

And now might be heard the loud clang and cry of battle, and the clashing of lances. The English stood firm in their barricades, and shivered the lances, beating them into pieces with their bills and maces. The Normans drew their swords and hewed down the barricades, and the English in great trouble fell back upon their standard, where were collected the maimed and wounded. Then the sire de la Haie charged on, and neither spared nor pitied any; striking none whom he did not kill, and inflicting wounds such as none could cure. The lords de Vitrie and Urinie, de Moubrai and Saie, and the sire de la Ferte, smote down many of the English, most of whom suffered grievously, and many of them were killed. Botevilain and Trossebot feared neither blow nor thrust, but heartily gave and took many on that day. William Patric de la Lande called aloud for king Harold, saying that if he could see him, he would appeal him of perjury. He had seen him at la Lande, and Harold had rested there on his way through, when he was taken to the duke, then at Avranches, on his road to Brittany. The duke made him a knight there, and gave him and his companions arms and garments, and sent him against the Bretons. Patric stood armed by the duke's side, and was much esteemed by him.

There were many knights of Chauzt who jousted and made attacks. The English knew not how to joust, nor bear arms on horseback, but fought with hatchets and bills. A man when he wanted to strike with one of their hatchets, was obliged to hold it with both his hands, and could not at the same time, as it seems to me, both cover himself and strike with any freedom.

The English fell back upon a rising ground, and the Normans followed them across the valley, attacking them on foot and horseback. Then Hue de Mortemer, with the sires d'Auviler, d'Onebac, and Saint-Cler, rode up and charged, overthrowing many. Robert Fitz Erneis fixed his lance, took his shield, and galloping towards the standard with his keen-edged sword, struck an Englishman who was in front, killed him, and then drawing back his sword, attacked many others, and pushed straight for the standard, trying to beat it down; but the English surrounded it, and killed him with their bills. He was found on the spot, when they afterwards sought for him, dead, and lying at the standard's foot. Robert count of Moretoin never went far from the duke. He was his brother on the mother's side, and brought him great aid. The sire de Herecort was also there, riding a very swift horse, and gave all the help he could. The sires de Crievecoer, Driencort, and Briencort, also followed the duke wherever he moved. The sires de Combrai, and Alnei; de Fontenei, Rebercil, and Molei, challenged Harold the king to come forth, and said to the English,

"Stay! stay! where is your king? he that perjured himself to William? He is a dead man, if we find him."

Many other barons there were, whom I have not even named; for I cannot give an account of them all, nor can I tell of all the feats they did, for I would not be tedious. Neither can I give the names of all the barons, nor the surnames of all whom the duke brought from Normandy and Brittany in his company. He had also many from Mans and Thouars; and Angevins and Poitevins; and men of Ponthieu and Bologne. He had also soldiers from many lands, who came some for land and some for money. Great was the host, and great the enterprize.

Duke William fought gallantly, throwing himself wherever the greatest press was, beating down many who found no rescue; so that it might easily be seen that the business in hand was his own. He who bore his gonfanon that day Tostein Fitz-Rou le Blanc by name, born at Bec near Fescamp was a brave and renowned knight. He bore the gonfanon boldly, high aloft in the breeze, and rode by the duke, going wherever he went. Wherever the duke turned, he turned also, and wheresoever he stayed his course, there he rested also. And the duke fought where the greatest throng was, where he saw the most English, and wherever the Normans were attacking and slaughtering them. He also had around him a great company, vavassors of Normandy, who to save their lord would have put their own bodies between him and the enemies' blows.

Alain Fergant, count of Brittany, lead a great company of Bretons, a bold and fierce people, who willingly go wherever booty is to be won. They wounded and killed many; and few that they struck stood their ground. Alain Fergant himself fought like a noble and valiant knight, and led his Bretons on, doing great damage to the English. The sire de St. Galeri, and the count d'Ou, and Roger de Montgomeri and dam Ameri de Toarz also demeaned themselves like brave men, and those whom their blows reached were ill handled.


Duke William pressed close upon the English with his lance; striving hard to reach the standard with the great troop he led; and seeking earnestly for Harold, on whose account the whole war was. The Normans follow their lord, and press around him; they ply their blows upon the English; and these defend themselves stoutly, striving hard with their enemies, returning blow for blow. One of them was a man of great strength, a wrestler, who did great mischief to the Normans with his hatchet; all feared him, for he struck down a great many Normans. The duke spurred on his horse, and aimed a blow at him, but he stooped, and so escaped the stroke; then jumping on one side, he lifted his hatchet aloft, and as the duke bent to avoid the blow, the Englishman boldly struck him on the head, and beat in his helmet, though without doing much injury. He was very near falling however, but bearing on his stirrups he recovered himself immediately; and when he thought to have revenged himself on the vagabond by killing him, the rogue had escaped, dreading the duke's blow. He ran back in among the English, but he was not safe even there, for the Normans seeing him, pursued and caught him; and having pierced him through and through with their lances, left him dead on the ground.

Where the throng of the battle was greatest, the men of Kent and of Essex fought wondrously well, and made the Normans again retreat, but without doing them much injury. And when the duke saw his men fall back, and the English triumphing over them, his spirit rose high, and he, seized his shield by the enarmes, and his lance, which a vassal handed to him, and took his post by his gonfanon. Then those who kept close guard by him, and rode where he rode, being about a thousand armed men, came and rushed with closed ranks upon the English; and with the weight of their good horses, and the blows the knights gave, broke the press of the enemy, and scattered the crowd before them, the good duke leading them on in front. Many pursued and many fled; many were the Englishmen who fell around, and were trampled under the horses, crawling upon the earth, and not able to rise. Many of the richest and noblest men fell in that rout, but still the English rallied in places; smote down those whom they reached, and maintained the combat the best they could; beating down the men and killing the horses. One Englishman watched the duke, and plotted to kill him; he would have struck him with his lance, but he could not, for the duke struck him first, and felled him to the earth.

Loud was now the clamour, and great the slaughter; many a soul then quitted the body it inhabited. The living marched over the heaps of dead, and each side was weary of striking. He charged on who could, and he who could no longer strike still pushed forward. The strong struggled with the strong; some failed, others triumphed; the cowards fell back, the brave pressed on; and sad was his fate who fell in the midst, for he had little chance of rising again; and many in truth fell who never rose at all, being crushed under the throng. And now the Normans had pressed on so far, that at last they reached the standard. There, Harold had remained, defending himself to the utmost; but he was sorely wounded in his eye by the arrow, and suffered grievous pain from the blow. An armed man came in the throng of the battle, and struck him on the ventaille of his helmet, and beat him to the ground; and as he sought to recover himself, a knight beat him down again, striking him on the thick of his thigh, down to the bone. Gurth saw the English falling around, and that there was no remedy. He saw his race hastening to ruin, and despaired of any aid; he would have fled, but could not, for the throng continually increased. And the duke pushed on till he reached him, and struck him with great force. Whether he died of that blow I know not, but it was said that he fell under it, and rose no more. The standard was beaten down, the golden gonfanon was taken, and Harold and the best of his friends were slain; but there was so much eagerness, and throng of so many around, seeking to kill him, that I know not who it was that slew him. The English were in great trouble at having lost their king, and at the duke's having conquered and beat down the standard; but they still fought on, and defended themselves long, and in fact till the day drew to a close. Then it clearly appeared to all that the standard was lost, and the news had spread throughout the army that Harold, for certain, was dead; and all saw that there was no longer any hope, so they left the field, and those fled who could.

I do not tell, and I do not indeed know, for I was not there to see, and have not heard say, who it was that smote down king Harold, nor by what weapon he was wounded; but this I know, that he was found among the dead. His great force availed him nothing; amidst the slain he was found slain also. The English who escaped from the field did not stop till they reached London, for they were in great fear, and cried out that the Normans followed close after them. The press was great to cross the bridge, and the river beneath it was deep; so that the bridge broke under the throng, and many fell into the water.

William fought well; many an assault did he lead, many a blow did he give, and many receive, and many fell dead under his hand. Two horses were killed under him, and he took a third when necessary, so that he fell not to the ground, and lost not a drop of blood. But whatever any one did, and whoever lived or died, this is certain, that William conquered, and that many of the English fled from the field, and many died on the spot. Then he returned thanks to God, and in his pride ordered his gonfanon to be brought and set up on high, where the English standard had stood; and that was the signal of his having conquered, and beaten down the standard. And he ordered his tent to be raised on the spot among the dead, and had his meat brought thither, and his supper prepared there.

But behold, up galloped Galtier Giffart; "Sire," said he, "what are you about? you are surely not fitly placed here among the dead. Many an Englishman lies bloody and mingled with the dead, but yet sound, or only wounded and besmeared with gore; tarrying of his own accord, and meaning to rise at night, and escape in the darkness". They would delight to take their revenge, and would sell their lives dearly; no one of them caring who killed him afterwards, if he but slew a Norman first; for they say we have done them much wrong. You should lodge elsewhere, and let yourself be guarded by one or two thousand armed men, whom you can best trust. Let a careful watch be set this night, for we know not what snares may be laid for us. You have made a noble day of it, but I like to see the end of the work."

"Giffart," said the duke, "I thank God, we have done well hitherto; and, if such be God's will, we will go on, and do well hence forward. Let us trust God for all!" Then he turned from Giffart, and took off his armour; and the barons and knights, pages and squires came, when he had unstrung his shield; and they took the helmet from his head, and the hauberk from his back, and saw the heavy blows upon his shield, and how his helmet was dinted in. And all greatly wondered, and said, "Such a baron (ber) never bestrode warhorse, nor dealt such blows, nor did such feats of arms; neither has there been on earth such a knight since Rollant and Oliver." Thus they lauded and extolled him greatly, and rejoiced in what they saw; but grieving also for their friends who were slain in the battle. And the duke stood meanwhile among them, of noble stature and mien; and rendered thanks to the king of glory, through whom he had the victory; and thanked the knights around him, mourning also frequently for the dead. And he ate and drank among the dead, and made his bed that night upon the field.

The morrow was Sunday; and those who had slept upon the field of battle, keeping watch around, and suffering great fatigue, bestirred themselves at break of day, and sought out and buried such of the bodies of their dead friends as they might find. The noble ladies of the land also came, some to seek their husbands, and others their fathers, sons, or brothers. They bore the bodies to their villages, and interred them at the churches; and the clerks and priests of the country were ready, and, at the request of their friends, took the bodies that were found, and prepared graves and lay them therein. King Harold was carried and buried at Varham; but I know not who it was that bore him thither, neither do I know who buried him. Many remained on the field, and many had fled in the night.

Translated By EDGAR TAYLOR 1837