The Battle of Hastings - 1066

Duke William prepares for the Battle of Hastings

  • A bad omen for the Normans?
  • What events happened during the preparation for the Battle of Hastings?
  • Eye witness reports from Robert Wace, the Norman chronicler
  • Key Events!
  • Picture of William the Conqueror

Picture of William the Conqueror

Duke William prepares for the Battle of Hastings

The words 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 three places.

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 need be."
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, and curvetted.

The Viscount of Toarz saw how the Duke bore himself in arms and said to his people that were around him:

"Never 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!"

Duke William prepares for the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings

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The Battle of Hastings - 1066

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