The Normans moved on to the assault, and the English defended themselves well.
Continuing Normans Conquer England,
our selection from Historical and Critical Account of the Several Invasions of England by Sir Edward Creasy published in 1852. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Normans Conquer England.
Time: October 14, 1066
“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; Leofwine and Gurth, his brothers, were with him; and around him he had barons enough, as he stood by his standard, which was, in truth, a noble one, sparkling with gold and precious stones. After the victory William sent it to the Pope, to prove and commemorate his great conquest and glory. The English stood in close ranks, ready and eager for the fight; and they, 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 onward along the hill and across a valley. And presently another division, still larger, came in sight, close following upon the first, and they were led toward another part of the field, forming together as the first body had done. And while Harold saw and examined them, and was pointing them out to Gurth, a fresh company came in sight, covering all the plain; and in the midst of them was raised the standard 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 men-at-arms, 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 toward 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.
“The English stood firm on foot in close ranks, and carried themselves right boldly. 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.
“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 defense.
“The English stood steady to their post, the Normans still moved on; and when they drew near, the English were to be seen stirring to and fro; were going and coming; troops ranging themselves in order; some with their color rising, others turning pale; some making ready their arms, others raising their shields; the brave man rousing himself to fight, the coward trembling at the approach of danger.
“Then Taillefer, who sang right well, rode, mounted on a swift horse, before the Duke, singing of Charlemagne and of Roland, of Oliver, and the peers who died in Roncesvalles. 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, and slew 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 onward; 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 maces 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 onward, and again at other times retreated. The Normans shouted, ‘Dex Aie,’ the English people, ‘Out.’ Then came the cunning maneuvers, the rude shocks and strokes of the lance and blows of the swords, among the sergeants 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.
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