Why did the English not have archers of their own?
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
“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 war-horse, 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 Roger 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 on the ground. Then Roger 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, 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.
“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 master 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 sprang 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 under foot.
“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.
“There were many knights of Chauz who jousted and made attacks. The English knew not how to joust, or 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 toward the standard, which was 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 St. Cler, rode up and charged, overthrowing many.
“Robert Fitz Erneis fixed his lance, took his shield, and, galloping toward 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 afterward sought for him, dead and lying at the standard’s foot.
“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.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history