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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Spiritual vassals emulously armed ships and men


spiritual vassals emulously

armed ships and men; in the harbour of S. Valery, which belonged to one of those who had been last gained over, the Count of Ponthieu, the fleet and the troops gathered together.[15] The Count of Flanders, the duke's father-in-law, secretly favoured the enterprise; another of his nearest relations, Count Odo of Champagne, brought up his troops in person; Count Eustace of Boulogne armed, to avenge on Godwin's house an affront he had once suffered at Dover; a number of leading Breton counts and lords attached themselves to William in opposition to their duke, who cherished wholly different projects. To the lords and knights of North France were joined many of lower rank, whose names show that they came from Gascony, Burgundy, the duchy of France, or the neighbouring districts belonging to the German Empire. Of their own free will they ranged themselves round William, to vindicate the right which he claimed to the English crown, but each man naturally entertained brilliant hopes also for himself. William is depicted as a man of vast bodily strength, which none could surpass or weary out, with a strong hardy frame, a cool head, an expression in his features which exactly intimated the violence with which he followed up his enemies, destroyed their states, and burnt their houses. Yet all was not passionate desire in him. He honoured his mother, he was true to his wife. Never did he undertake a quarrel without giving fair notice, and certainly never without having well prepared for
it beforehand. He knew how to keep up a warlike spirit in his vassals: there were seen with him only splendid men and able leaders; he kept strict discipline. So also he had seized the moment for his enterprise, at which the political relations of Europe were favourable to him. The two great realms, which might otherwise have well interposed, the East Frank (or the Roman-German) as well as the West Frank, were under kings not yet of age: the guardianship of the latter lay with the Count of Flanders, who thought he did enough in not standing openly by his son-in-law, of the former with great bishops devoted heart and soul to the hierarchic system.[16] Harold, on the other hand, had no friend or ally, in North or East, in South or in West. To encounter the combined efforts of a great European coalition he had only himself and his Anglo-Saxons to rely on. Harold is depicted as coming forth perfect from the hands of nature, without blemish from head to foot, personally brave before the enemy, gentle among his own people, and endowed with natural eloquence. His enemy's passion for, and knowledge of, war were not in him; the taste of the Anglo-Saxons was directed more to peaceful enjoyments than to ceaseless wars. At this moment too they were weakened by great losses in the last bloody war; many of the most trustworthy and bravest had fallen, others wavered in their fidelity; Harold had not been able to put even the coasts in a state of defence; William landed without resistance, to demand his crown from him. When reminded of his promise Harold was believed to have answered in the very spirit of Anglo-Saxon independence, that he had no right to make any such promise without the consent of the Anglo-Saxon chiefs and people. And not to meet the invading foe instantly at the sword's point would have seemed to him disgraceful cowardice. And so William and Harold, the North French knights and the national war-array of the Anglo-Saxons, encountered at Hastings. Harold fell at the very beginning of the fight. The Normans, according to their wont, knew how to separate their enemies by a pretended flight, and then by a sudden return to surround and destroy them in isolated bodies. It was the iron-clad, yet rapidly moving cavalry, which decided the battle.[17]


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