The English 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.
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
“‘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 Bec-en-Caux. To him he delivered the standard; 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 this account, and their heirs are entitled so to hold their inheritance forever.
“William sat on his war-horse, 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 Osbern 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 Fergert and Ameri 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 men-at-arms were all now armed; the foot-soldiers 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.
“Harold had summoned his men, earls, barons, and vavasors, from the castles and the cities, from the ports, the villages and boroughs. The peasants 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 place 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 Hertfort, and of Essesse; those of Surace and Susesse, of St. Edmund and Sufoc; of Norwis and Norfoc; of Cantorbierre and Stanfort, Bedefort and Hundetone. 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 learned 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 had 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 the people, and counseled 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.’
“The English 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 dishonor, either by hatchet or bill, by club or other weapon.
“They wore short and close hauberks, and helmets that hung over 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 anyone, be he Norman or other, should do, each should do his best to defend his own place.
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