King Harold Gathers an army in London
King Harold and his depleted army undertake yet another forced march from York to London , following the news of the Norman invasion. He arrived in London on 6th October 1066. He halted at the capital for six days, during that time giving orders for recruiting forces from the southern and midland counties, he also directed his fleet to reassemble off the Sussex coast. Harold was well thought of in London, and his call to arms was immediately obeyed by the people. He was a popular King and he had proved himself during his brief reign to be a just, wise and brave man.
Reports of his realm being ravaged by the invaders incensed him, and made him rash and over-eager to face the Norman invaders.
As soon as he had collected a small army in London he marched towards the coast, pressing forward as rapidly as his men could traverse Surrey and Sussex. His plan was to take the Normans by surprise. as he had recently, by a similar forced march, succeeded in surprising the Norwegians and the Viking invasion.
But he now faced a foe equally brave and as skilful as himself who were prepared for all eventualities and were waiting for the English army to meet them. When King Harold realised that his hopes of surprising his adversary were in vain, he changed his tactics, halting about seven miles from the Norman lines at Senlac (now called Battle).
He sent some spies, who spoke French, to examine the number and preparations of the enemy, who, on their return, related with astonishment that there were more priests in William's camp than there were fighting men in the English army! It was customary in England that only priests had short cropped hair and shaven faces. They had mistaken for priests all the Norman soldiers who had short hair and shaven chins! Harold, who had first hand knowledge of the Norman Customs, smiled at their words, and replied, "Those whom you have seen in such numbers are not priests, but stout soldiers, as they will soon make us feel."