had consolidated what he had already won. Yet on the 6 whole his achievements, though they undoubtedly occasioned great partial misery, must be regarded as beneficial to the human race; the families of which, if it were not for some such movements, would stagnate in solitary listlessness and poverty. By the conquests of Alexander the two continents were put into closer communication with one another; and both, but particularly Asia, were the gainers. The language, the arts, and the literature of Greece were introduced into the East; and after the death of Alexander Greek kingdoms were formed in the western parts of Asia, which continued to exist for many generations.




The battle of Hastings (fought October 14, 1066) was, like the battle of Salamis and the battle of Waterloo, one of the decisive battles of the world. The opposing forces were, the Anglo-Saxons, under command of Harold, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and the Normans, commanded by William, Duke of Normandy. William claimed the crown by virtue of a grant, which he alleged that Edward the Confessor, Harold's predecessor, had made to him. Upon the death of Edward, Harold became King of England, and refused to yield the crown upon the demand of William. It is said that Harold had acknowledged William's claim during the lifetime of Edward the Confessor; but the whole transaction is involved in uncertainty. The refusal of Harold to surrender the throne led to the invasion of England by William, and the memorable battle of Hastings. The results of this battle were most important, and can not be detailed here. England was brought into closer relations with the Continental powers-her language and her system of gove ernment underwent essential changes. The Normans were a North

ern or Scandinavian race, who settled in Northern France, called, after them, Normandy. Originally pirates and depredators, after their settlement in France they came into contact with Roman culture, adopted the Romance tongue, fornied out of the decaying Latin, and became a civilized people. The Normans were one of the most chivalrous and adventurous races of the middle ages, and many of the finer elements of English character may be traced to their influence. The Danes, who settled in England in Anglo-Saxon times, and the Normans, originally belonged to the same race. The student should consult Freeman's “ Norman Conquest,” Stubbs's “ Constitutional History of England," and Pearson's "England in the Early

and Middle Ages.” 1 WILLIAM had been most actively employed. As a preliminary to further proceedings, he had caused all the vessels to be drawn on shore and rendered unserviceable. He told his men that they must prepare to conquer or to die—flight was impossible. He had occupied the Roman castle of Pevensey, whose walls are yet existing, flanked by Anglo-Norman towers, and he had personally surveyed all the adjoining country, for he never trusted this part of a general's duty to any eyes but his own. One Robert, a Norman thane, who was settled in the neighborhood, advised him to cast up intrenchments for the purpose of resisting Harold. William replied that his best defense was in the valor of his army and the goodness of his cause. 2 In compliance with the opinions of the age, William

had an astrologer in his train. An Oriental monarch, at the present time, never engages in battle without a previous horoscope ; and this superstition was universally adopted in Europe during the middle ages. But William's “clerk” was not merely a star-gazer. He had graduated in all the occult sciences—he was a necromancer, or, as the word was often spelled, in order to accommodate it to the supposed etymology, a nigro

mancer, a “sortilegus," and a soothsayer. These accomplishments in the sixteenth century would have assuredly brought the clerk to the stake; but, in the eleventh, although they were highly illegal according to the strict letter of the ecclesiastical law, yet they were studied as eagerly as any other branch of metaphysics, of which they were supposed to form a part. The sorcerer, or sortilegus, by casting sortes, or lots, had ascertained that the Duke would succeed, and that Harold would surrender without a battle, upon which assurance the Normans entirely relied. After the landing, William inquired for 3 his conjurer. A pilot came forward and told him that the unlucky wight had been drowned in the passage. William then immediately pointed out the folly of trusting to the predictions of one who was utterly unable to tell what would happen unto himself. When William first set foot on shore he had shown the same spirit. He stumbled and fell forward on the palms of his hands. “ Mal signe est ci !” exclaimed his troops, affrighted at the omen. “No," answered William, as he rose, “I have taken seizin of the country,” showing the clod of earth which he had grasped. One of his soldiers, with the quickness of a modern Frenchman, instantly followed up the idea; he ran to a cottage and pulled out a bundle of reeds from the thatch, telling him to receive that symbol also as the seizin of the realm with which he was invested. These little anecdotes display the turn and temper of the Normans, and the alacrity by which the army was pervaded.

Some fruitless attempts are said to have been made 4 at negotiation. Harold dispatched a monk to the enemy's camp, who was to exhort William to abandon his enterprise. The Duke insisted on his right; but, as some historians relate, he offered to submit his claim to a legal

decision, to be pronounced by the Pope, either according to the law of Normandy or according to the law of England; or, if this mode of adjustment did not please Harold, that the question should be decided by single combat, the crown becoming the meed of the victor. The propositions of William are stated, by other authorities, to have contained a proposition for a compromise, namely, that Harold should take Northumbria, and William the rest of the Anglo-Saxon dominions. All or any of these proposals are such as may very probably have been made ; but they were not minuted down in formal protocols, or couched in diplomatic notes ; they were verbal messages, sent to and fro on the eve of a bloody battle. 5 Fear prevailed in both camps. The English, in addition to the apprehensions which even the most stouthearted feel on the eve of a morrow whose close they may never see, dreaded the papal excommunication, the curse encountered in support of the unlawful authority of a usurper. When they were informed that battle had been decided upon, they stormed and swore; and now the cowardice of conscience spurred them on to riot and revelry. The whole night was spent in debauch. Wesheal and drink-heal resounded from the tents; the winecups passed gayly round and round by the smoky blaze of the red watch-fires, while the ballad of ribald mirth was loudly sung by the carousers. 6 In the Norman leaguer, far otherwise had the dread of the approaching morn affected the hearts of William's soldiery. No voice was heard excepting the solemn response of the litany and the chant of the psalm. The penitents confessed their sins, the masses were said, and the sense of the imminent peril of the morrow was tranquillized by penance and prayer. Each of the nations, as we are told by one of our most trustworthy English his

torians, acted according to their “national custom”; and severe is the censure which the English thus receive. The English were strongly fortified in their position by 7 lines of trenches and palisades; and within these defenses they were marshaled according to the Danish fashionshield against shield, presenting an impenetrable front to the enemy. The men of Kent formed the vanguard, for it was their privilege to be the first in the strife. The burgesses of London, in like manner, claimed and obtained the honor of being the royal body-guard, and they were drawn up around the standard. At the foot of this banner stood Harold, with his brothers, Leofwin and Gurth, and a chosen body of the bravest thanes.

Before the Normans began their march, and very 8 early in the morning of the feast of St. Calixtus, William assembled his barons around him, and exhorted them to maintain his righteous cause. As the invaders drew nigh, Harold saw a division advancing, composed of the volunteers from the county of Boulogne and from the Amiennois, under the command of William Fitz-Osborn and Roger Montgomery. “It is the Duke,” exclaimed Harold," and little shall I fear him. By my forces will his be four times outnumbered !” Gurth shook his head, and expatiated on the strength of the Norman cavalry as opposed to the foot-soldiers of England ; but their discourse was stopped by the appearance of the combined cohorts under Aimeric, Viscount of Thouars, and Alan Fergant, of Brittany. Harold's heart sunk at the sight, and he broke out into passionate exclamations of fear and dismay. But now the third and last division of the Norman army was drawing nigh. The consecrated gonfalon floats amid the forest of spears, and Harold is now too well aware that he beholds the ranks which are commanded in person by the Duke of Normandy.

« ElőzőTovább »