Page 1270

1270 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

offer to Hardrada, king of Norway, who

accepted the invitation and swooped down

on the English coast with two hundred

ships of war. Under the conduct of the

rebel Saxon the Norwegians effected a landing at Riccall and marched directly on York.

This city fell into the hands of the enemy,

and here the king of Norway established his

headquarters.

Thus while the threatening note was borne

across the channel from Normandy the

clamor of present war sounded in the ears of

the distracted Harold. Nevertheless he girt

himself bravely for the contest. He marched

boldly forth and confronted the Norwegians

at Stamford Bridge. Here a bloody battle

was fought, in which King Hardrada and

nearly every one of his chiefs were slain.

The victory of the Saxons was complete and

overwhelming.

No sooner, however, was one of the great

foes of Harold destroyed than the other

appeared in sight. Only three days after

the overthrow of the Norwegians the squadron of Duke William anchored on the coast.

A landing was effected on the shore of Sussex, at a place called Bulverhithe. Archers,

horsemen, and spearmen came on shore

without opposition. William was the last

man to leave his ship. Tradition has recorded that when his foot touched the sand

he slipped and fell; but with unfailing presence of mind he sprang up as though the

accident had been by design and showed

his two hands filled with the soil of England. "Here," cried he aloud to his men,

"I have taken possession of this land with my

hands and by the splendor of God, as far

as it extends, it is mine-it is yours!"

In the mean time King Harold was advancing to his station on the field of Hastings, near the Fair Light Downs. On his way thither he stopped at London and sent

out a fleet of seven hundred vessels to blockade the fleet of William and prevent his

escape from the island. The Norman duke

had now reached Hastings, and the time

was at hand when the question between

him and the Saxon king must be decided.

The prudent William before hazarding

a battle sent another message to Harold.

"Go and tell Harold," said he, "that if he

will keep his old bargain with me I will

leave him all the country beyond the river Humber, and will give his brother Gurth

all the lands of his father, Earl Godwin;

but if he obstinately refuse what I offer

him thou wilt tell him before all his people

that he is perjured and a liar; that he and

all those who shall support him are excommunicated by the Pope, and that I carry a

bull to that effect."

Notwithstanding this terrible threat the

English chiefs stood firmly to the cause

of their king. William had in the mean

time fortified his camp and stood ready

for the shock. Harold came on with great

intrepidity; nor could he be prevented by

the expostulations of his friends from taking the personal responsibility and peril

of battle. On the night of the 13th of October the two armies lay face to face in

their respective camps at Hastings. The

English were uproarious and confident of

victory. They had recently overwhelmed

the Norwegians and now in like manner

they would beat down the adventurers of

Normandy. They danced and sang and

drained their horn-cups brimming with ale

until late at night, and then in the heavy

English fashion flung themselves to rest.

On the other side the Normans were looking carefully to their armor, examining

the harness of their horses, and joining in

the litanies which were chanted by the

priests.

With the coming of morning, both armies

were marshaled forth for battle. Duke William, having arranged his forces in three columns, made a brief and spirited address, in

which he recited the cruelties and treachery

of the foe and promised the rewards of victory. A Norman giant, named Taillefer,

rode in front of the ranks, brandishing his

sword and singing the old heroic ballads of

Normandy. The army took up the chorus,

and the enthusiasm of battle spread like a

flame among the knightly ranks. The opposing English had fortified with trenches and

palisades the high ground on which they were

encamped. The two kings, equally courageous, commanded their respective armies in

person, and each sought to be foremost in the

fight. At the first, the assaults of the Norman

bowmen and crossbowmen produced little

effect on the English lines; and even the