Duke William prepares for the Battle
according to Robert Wace the Norman chronicler:
"The Norman host
is pouring forth from its tents, and each troop and each
company is forming fast under the banner of its leader. The
masses have been sung, which were finished betimes in the
morning; the barons have all assembled round Duke William; and
the Duke has ordered that the army shall be formed in three
divisions, so as to make the attack upon the Saxon position in
The Duke stood on a hill where he could best see his men; the
barons surrounded him, and he spake to them proudly.
He told them how he trusted them, and how all that he gained
should be theirs, and how sure he felt of conquest, for in all
the world there was not so brave an army or such good men and
true as were then forming around him.
Then they cheered him in turn, and cried out: "You will not
see one coward; none here will fear to die for love of you, if
And he answered them:
"I thank you
well. For God's sake, spare not; strike hard at the
beginning; stay not to take spoil; all the booty shall be in
common, and there will be plenty for everyone. There will be
no safety in asking quarter or in flight; the English will
never love or spare a Norman. Felons they were, and felons
they are; false they were, and false they will be. Show no
weakness toward them, for they will have no pity on you;
neither the coward for running well, nor the bold man for
smiting well, will be the better liked by the English, nor
will any be the more spared on either account. You may fly
to the sea, but you can fly no farther; you will find
neither ships nor bridge there; there will be no sailors to
receive you, and the English will overtake you there and
slay you in your shame. More of you will die in flight than
in battle. Then, as flight will not secure you, fight and
you will conquer. I have no doubt of the victory; we are
come for glory; the victory is in our hands, and we may make
sure of obtaining it if we so please."
"As the Duke was
speaking thus and would yet have spoken more, William
Fitzosbern rode up with his horse all coated with iron.
'Sire,' said he, 'we tarry here too long; let us all arm
ourselves. _Allons! allons!.'
Then all went to their tents and armed themselves as they best
might; and the Duke was very busy, giving everyone his orders;
and he was courteous to all the vassals, giving away many arms
and horses to them. When he prepared to arm himself, he called
first for his hauberk, and a man brought it on his arm and
placed it before him, but in putting his head in, to get it
on, he unawares turned it the wrong way, with the back part in
front! He soon changed it; but when he saw that those who
stood by were sorely alarmed, he said:
'I have seen
many a man who if such a thing had happened to him would not
have borne arms or entered the field the same day; but I
never believed in omens, and I never will.I trust in God,
for he does in all things his pleasure, and ordains what is
to come to pass according to his will. I have never liked
fortune-tellers, nor believed in diviners, but I commend
myself to Our Lady.
Let not this mischance give you trouble. The hauberk which
was turned wrong, and then set right by me, signifies that a
change will arise out of the matter which we are now
stirring. You shall see the name of duke changed into king.
Yea, a king shall I be, who hitherto have been but duke.'
Then he crossed
himself, and straightway took his hauberk, stooped his head
and put it on aright, and laced his helmet, and girt on his
sword, which a varlet brought him. Then the Duke called for
his good horse, a better could not be found. It had been sent
him by a king of Spain, out of very great friendship. Neither
arms nor the press of fighting men did it fear if its lord
spurred it on. Walter Giffard brought it. The Duke stretched
out his hand, took the reins, put foot in stirrup, and
mounted, and the good horse pawed, pranced, reared himself up,
The Viscount of Toarz saw how the Duke bore himself in arms
and said to his people that were around him:
have I seen a man so fairly armed, nor one who rode so
gallantly, or bore his arms or became his hauberk so well;
neither any one who bore his lance so gracefully or sat his
horse and managed him so nobly. There is no such knight
under heaven! a fair count he is, and fair king he will be.
Let him fight and he shall overcome; shame be to the man who
shall fail him!"