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England The Battle of Hastings

with the sacred banner fluttering at the masthead. numbered more than 50,000.


His archers and cavalry

Now another Harold, who was a Goliath of a warrior and King of the Norwegians, had landed in the north of England, and was joined by the brother of the English King, who had been exiled because of his brutal government of Northumberland. It was rather curious that the Norwegian and the English kings should bear the same name. The opposing armies crashed togther at Stamford Bridge, on September 25, with the result that the Norwegians were routed, and their leaders, including the brother of the English King, slain.

The English Harold was in high feather over his victory, and held a great feast at York to celebrate it, but in the midst of the merrymaking a messenger galloped up with the astounding word that Duke William had landed at Pevensey. Harold did not waste any more time in celebrating, but, gathering his forces, hurried southward, and camped on the heights of Senlac. Meanwhile, William had landed and built a fort, from which he advanced to Hastings a few miles farther east. No enemy appearing, he began plundering the surrounding country, and was thus employed when Harold arrived with his army on the evening of October 13. Full of confidence, the Saxons spent the night in feasting and song, while the Normans engaged in prayer and confession.

The great battle of Hastings opened on the following morning and raged furiously. A huge Norman knight rode forward in advance of his comrades, singing and tossing his great sword high in the air, catching it as it fell. A Saxon rushed forward to meet him and was slain. Then the two armies joined in battle, the Normans attacking, the Saxons defending. Twice the invaders were beaten back. A rumor spread that Duke William was slain, and his men began to flee. Throwing aside his helmet that all might see his face, he galloped among the fugitives and checked them with his voice and lance, threatening death if they did not turn again to battle. Then he bade his archers shoot into the air, so that their descending arrows fell like rain upon the unprotected heads of the Englishmen. King Harold fell, pierced through the brain by an arrow and bleeding from countless wounds. Still the sturdy Saxons held their ground, and William resorted to another stratagem. He made his most trusted troops feign flight. The foe broke ranks in a furious pursuit; and the better trained Normans, turning unexpectedly upon the charging mob, scattered the English in confusion. Still, however, they struggled on, each little detached . group fighting for itself, until night enabled the remnant to escape from the field of death. England had been conquered in one of the most desperate and bloody battles which history can recall.

The next day, Harold's old and tottering mother, with tears streaming down her withered cheeks, begged the body of her son, but the stern Duke

William would not permit it to have so much as a Christian burial.

For a long time it was impossible to find the mangled corpse, and it was only with the help of Edith "of the swan's neck," a former favorite of the King, that it was picked out from the heaps of the slain. On the field of his great victory the Norman conqueror erected the Abbey of Battle, and tradition says he buried the body of his fallen foe under a pile of stones near the sea, whence it was removed by friends, and finally laid at rest at Waltham, near London, in the church (afterward Waltham Abbey) which Harold had built there.

With little delay William marched against London and burned the suburbs. The panic-stricken inhabitants, seeing no hope, threw open the gates without any defence. William repaid them by giving the city a charter which secured to it the same privileges that had been granted by Edward the Confessor. This interesting paper is still preserved among other documents in Guildhall, London. A striking fact connected with it is that William, unable to write his name, signed with his "mark." He was crowned on Christmas Day, 1066, in Westminster Abbey.

England having been so effectively conquered, William went back to Nor mandy, where by his appointment his Queen, Matilda, was at the head of affairs. Before leaving England, he placed it in charge of his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, aided by a trusted friend William Fitz-Osborn, who had been made Earl of Hereford.

These two men were unfitted for the trust, and ruled so harshly that the people revolted and William found it necessary to return to England to quell the insurrection. It took several years and much desperate fighting to accomplish this, and the rebels, after being subdued, would not remain quiet. In 1069, the foreign barbarians swarmed into Northern England again and were aided by the English. William was never the most patient of men, and he was now so enraged that he swore to end the continual revolt by laying the country waste, and he kept the fearful oath. Villages, towns, dwellings, crops, cattle, everything beyond York and Durham, was destroyed, and the whole region so desolated that for nine years no one attempted to cultivate a foot of ground. More than a hundred thousand people perished of cold and starvation, during the winter that followed. It was an act of dreadful ferocity, and yet there seemed to be a grim necessity for it, since only thus could the country be saved from anarchy and barbarism.

William claimed that he had been the rightful King of England from the time of the death of his cousin, Edward the Confessor, and consequently all who had supported Harold were traitors whose lands he confiscated, thereby increasing his wealth beyond estimate, and making himself virtually the owner of the whole kingdom. His iron will brooked no restraint in any direction.

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England-The Doomsday Book

989 He built numerous strong castles in the different towns-the Tower of London being one of them. These were garrisoned with armed men to hold the surrounding people in subjection. The lands were divided mainly among his followers, so that at the close of his reign England had really only two classes of society-the Norman tenants or chief landholders, known as barons, and the English, who were so impoverished that nearly all of them held their lands under the barons. They were no longer free, and were known as villeins, who were bound to the soil and could be sold with it, but, unlike slaves, could not be sold apart from the land.

Within less than twenty years of his coronation, William ordered a survey and valuation to be made of all the land outside of London, with the exception. of a few border counties on the north. These returns, which were complete to the minutest particular, were set down in an immense volume called the Domesday, or Doomsday, Book.

In the summer following the preparation of this book (1086), William summoned all the nobles and chief landholders, with their vassals, to meet on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. There some 600,000 men solemnly swore to support him as king against even their own lords, -a sweeping and momentous proceeding, which made William supreme. Thus this great man completed his all-important work of blending and fusing together two peoples and civilizations. Still, as has been said, the English were not conquered by another race, but by a more vigorous branch of their own race.

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At times there was not a drop of human pity in the breast of this remarkable King. When the people at Alençon hung hides on the city walls as an insult to his mother, who was the daughter of a tanner, he cut off the hands and tore out the eyes of the offenders, and had their bodies flung over the walls. He turned a beautiful tract of land thirty miles in extent into a hunting park, by driving out the people and burning their huts and churches, and he ordered that any man who hunted the royal game without permission should be blinded. Thus he showed the sea-wolf in his nature, though it was mingled at times with a strange gentleness which proved he was not wholly lacking in better qualities, and well earned for him the title of the "Lion of Justice." He did great good to England by infusing the vigor of his Norse nature into the decaying system, and by treating the poor and rich with the same rigid impartiality.

The Great Council, of which mention has been often made, seldom met, but there was need of a court to settle the disputes between the barons. So he organized the "King's Court," which was a smaller and more easily handled body. He sent judges through all parts of his kingdom to see that justice was done, to hear all complaints of the people, and make sure too that his wishes

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