After peace offered & refused on each side, both armies meete in the field, the order of the Englishmens attire & araie, the maner how the Normans were placed to fight in battell; the dissolute and droonken behauior of the Englishmen the night before the incounter farre differing from the Normans deuout demenour; duke Williams speech vpon occasion of wrong putting, on his armour, the battell betwixt him and king Harold is valiantlie tried, the English by duke Williams politike stratagem are deceiued, king Harold slaine, his armie put to flight and manie of them slaine after a long and bloudie incounter, manie of the Normans pursuing the English ouerhastilie procure their owne death, they take the spoile of the English, the dead bodies of both armies are licenced to be buried; the differing reports of writers touching the maner of Harolds death, a description of his person, his ambition did him much hurt and hinderance, the number that were slaine on both sides, his bodie buried at Waltham, nothing dispraise-woorthie in him but his ambitious mind, a view of his valiantnesse in a conflict against the Welshmen, his rigorous or rather pitilesse handling of them, his seuere law or decree touching their bounds, they are vtterlie subdued, and (by the kings leaue) the Welshwomen marrie with the Englishmen, the Saxon line ceasseth, how long it lasted, and how long it was discontinued by the inuasion of the Danes.
The Eleuenth Chapter.
NOW it fortuned that both armies, as well the kings as the earles, being prepared to
battell, diuerse offers were made on each side (before they fell to the conflict) for an vnitie to haue béene had betwixt the two princes: but when no conditions of agreement could take place, they forthwith prepared themselues to trie the matter by dint of swoord. And so on the 14 day of October, being saturday, both hosts met in the field, at a place in Sussex not farre from Hastings, whereas the abbeie of Battell was afterward builded. The Englishmen
The order of the Englishmen.
were all brought into one entire maine batell on foot, with huge axes in their hands, and paled a front with paueises, in such wise that it was thought vnpossible for the enimie to breake
their arraie. On the other side, the Normans were diuided into seuerall battels, as first the footmen that were archers, and also those that bare gleiues and axes were placed in the forefront,
The arraie of the Normans.
front and the horssemen diuided into wings stood on the sides in verie good order.
All the night before the battell, the Englishmen made great noise and slept not, but sang
Hen. Hunt. Will. Malmes.
and fell to drinking and making of reuell & pastime, as though there had beene no account to be made of the next daies trauell. But the Normans behaued themselues warilie and soberlie, spending all that night in praier and confessing their sinnes vnto God; and in the morning earelie they receiued the communion before they went foorth to the battell. Some write, that when duke William should put on his armour to go to the field, the backe halfe of his curasses by chance was set on before by such as holpe to arme him: at which chance he tooke occasion of laughter, saieng merrilie to them that stood by; "No force, this is good lucke, for the estate of my dukedome shall be yer night changed into a kingdome." Beside this, he spake manie comfortable woords vnto his men, to incourage them to the battell. Neither was Harold foretfull in that point on his part. And so at conuenient time when both armies were readie, they made forward each to incounter with other, on the foresaid fouretéenth day of October, with great force and assurance.
Polydor. The battell betwixt king Harold and duke William is begun.
In the beginning of the battell, the arrowes flue abroad freshlie on both sides, till they came to ioine at hand strokes, and then preassed each side vpon his counter part with swoords, axes, and other hand weapons verie egerlie. Duke William commanded his horssemen to giue the charge on the breasts of his enimies battels: but the Englishmen kéeping themselues close togither without scattering, receiued their enimies vpon the points of their weapons with such fiercenesse and in such stiffe order, that manie of the Norman horssemen were ouerthrowne without recouerie, and slaine at the first brunt. When duke William perceiued this inconuenience (as he that well and throughlie vnderstood the skilfull points of warre as well as the best) he gaue a signe to his men (according to an order appointed before hand vpon anie
The policie of duke William to disorder his enimies. H. Hunt. Wil. Malm.
such occasion) that they should giue backe, and make a countenance as though they did flée, which was quicklie doone by the Normans, and withall they imbattelled their footmen in a new order, so that their horssemen shifted themselues on the wings, readie to rescue the footmen if their arraie should happen to be disturbed.
By this wilie stratagem and policie of warre, the Englishmen were deceiued: for they beholding the Normans somwhat shrinking backe to bring themselues into the aboue said order, thought verelie that they had fled, and therevpon meaning to pursue them before they should recouer their ground, they brake their arraie, and began to follow the chase: wherevpon the Normans (perceiuing now that all things came to passe as they desired) spéedilie returned, and casting themselues togither quicklie into arraie, began to charge them againe afresh, and so
A sore foughten battell. King Harold slaine.
hauing them at that aduantage, they slue them downe on euerie side. The Englishmen on the other part fought sore, and though their king was beaten downe among them and slaine, yet were they loth to flée or giue ouer; so sharpe was the battell, that duke William himselfe had thrée horsses slaine vnder him that day, and not without great danger of his person.
Wil. Malm. Matth. West.
Some of the Englishmen got them to the height of an hill, and beate backe the Normans that forced themselues to win the hill of them, so that it was long yer the Normans could preuaile, being oftentimes driuen downe into the botome of the vallie beneath. At length the
The Englishmen put to flight.
Englishmen, perceiuing themselues to be ouermatched and beaten downe on euerie side, and therevnto greatlie discouraged with slaughter of their king, began first to giun ground, and after to scatter and to run away, so that well was he that might then escape by fight. When
Chron. de bello. Wil. Geme. The Normans fall into a ditch.
they had fought the most part of all that saturday, the Normans followed the chase with such eger rashnesse, that a great number of them falling with their horsses and armour into a blind ditch (shadowed with reed and sedges which grew therein) were smouldered and pressed to death, yer they could be succoured or get anie reliefe. The next day the Normans fell to gathering in the spoile of the field, burieng also the dead bodies of their people that were slaine at the battell, giuing licence in semblable manner to the Englishmen to doo the like.
Of the death of Harold diuerse report diuerslie, in so much that Girald Cambrensis saith, that after king Harold had receiued manie wounds, and lost his left eie, he fled from the field vnto the citie of Westchester, and liued there long after, an holie life, as an anchoret in the cell of S. James, fast by S. Johns church, and there made a godlie end. But the saieng of
Wil. Malm. Hen. Hunt. Matth. West.
Giraid Cambren. in that point is not to be credited, bicause of the vnlikelihood of the thing it selfe, and also generall consent of other writers, who affirme vniuersallie that he was killed in the battell, first being striken thorough the left eie by the scull into the braine with an arrow, wherevpon falling from his horsse to the ground, he was slaine in that place, after he had reigned nine moneths and nine daies, as Floniacensis dooth report. He was a man of a comelie
Floriac. Simon Dun.
lie stature, and of a hawtie courage, & albeit that for his valiancie he was highlie renowmed and honored of all men, yet through his pride and ambition he lost the harts of manie. There
Henr. Hunt. Polydor. The chronicles of Normandie haue of English men slaine 67974, and of Normans 6013.
were slaine in this battell, besides king Harold and his two brethren, Girth and Leofrike, what on the one side and on the other, aboue twentie thousand men.
The bodie of king Harold being found among other slaine in the field, was buried at Waltham, within the moasterie of the holie crosse which he before had founded, and indowed to the behoofe of such canons as he had placed there, with faire possessions. Verelie (as some old writers haue reported) there was nothing in this man to be in anie wise dispraised, if his
Ex 6. libro Polycraticon, siue de nugis curiclium. Iohn Sarish.
ambitious mind could haue beene staied from coueting the kingdome, and that he could haue béene contented to haue liued as a subiect. Among other manifest proofes of his high valiancie, this is remembred of him, that being sent against the Welshmen (as before is partlie mentioned) knowing their readie nimblenesse in seruice, and how with their light armed men they were accustomed to annoie and distresse those that should assaile them, he likewise (to match them) prepared light armed men for the purpose, & so being furnished with such bands of nimble men and light souldiers, entered vpon the mounteins of Snowdon, and there remained amongst the enimies for the space of two yéeres. He sore afflicted the Welsh nation, tooke their kings, and sent their heads vnto the king that sent him about his businesse, and proceeding in such rigorous maner as might mooue the hearers to lament and pitie the case, he caused all the male kind that might be met with, to be miserablie slaine: and so with the edge of his swoord he brought the countrie to quiet, and withall made this lawe; that if anie Welshman from thencefoorth should presume to passe the limits ouer Offas ditch with anie weapon about him, he should lose his right hand. To conclude, by the valiant conduct of this chieftaine, the Welshmen were then so sore brought vnder, that in maner the whole nation might séeme to faile, and to be almost vtterlie destroied. And therefore by permission of the king of England, the women of Wales ioined themselues in marriage with Englishmen. Finallie, héereby the bloud of the Saxons ceassed to reigne in England after they had continued possession of the same, from the first comming of Hengist, which was about the yéere of our Sauiour 450, or 449, vntill that present yeere of king Harolds death, which chanced in the
yéere 1069, So that from the beginning of Hengist his reigne, vnto Harolds death, are reckoned 916 yéeres, or (after some) 617, as by the supputation of the time will easilie appeere. By all the which time there reigned kings of the Saxons bloud within this land, except that for the space of twentie yéeres and somewhat more, the Danes had the dominion of the realme in their possession: for there are reckoned from the beginning of K. Swaines reigne (which was the first Dane that gouerned England) vnto the last yéere of K. Hardicnute (the last Dane that ruled heere) 28 yéeres, in which meane space Egelred recouering the kingdome reigned 2 yéeres, then after him his sonne Edmund Ironside continued in the rule one yéere; so that the Danes had the whole possession of the land but 25 yéeres in all. Touching this alteration, and others incident to this Hand, read a short aduertisement annexed (by waie of conclusion) to this historie, comprising a short summarie of the most notable conquests of this countrie one after an other, by distances of times successiuelie.