Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/188

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182 BATTLE OF HASTINGS.


CHAPTER VIII. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS, A.D. 1066.

Eia vos la Bataille assemblee, Dune encore est grant renomee. Roman de Rou, 13183.

Arletta's pretty feet twinkling in the brook made her the mother of William the Conqueror. Had she not thus fascinated Duke Robert the Liberal of Normandy, Harold would not have fallen at Hastings, no Anglo-Norman dynasty could have arisen, no British empire. The reflection is Sir Francis Palgrave's;* and it is emphatically true. If any one should write a history of "Decisive loves that have materially influenced the drama of the world in all its subsequent scenes," the daughter of the tanner of Falaise would deserve a conspicuous place in his pages. But it is her son, the victor of Hastings, who is now the object of our attention; and no one who appreciates the influence of England and her empire upon the destinies of the world will ever rank that victory as one of secondary importance.

It is true that in the last century some writers of eminence on our history and laws mentioned the Norman Conquest in terms from which it might be supposed that the battle of Hastings, led to little more than the substitution of one royal family on the throne of this country, and to the garbling and changing of some of our laws through the "cunning of the Norman lawyers." But, at least since the appearance of the work of Augustin Thierry on the Norman Conquest, these forensic fallacies have been exploded. Thierry made his readers keenly appreciate the magnitude of that political and social catastrophe. He depicted in vivid colors the atrocious cruelties of the conquerors, and the sweeping and enduring innovations that they wrought, involving the overthrow of the ancient constitution, as well as of the last of the Saxon kings. In his pages we see new tribunals and tenures superseding the old ones, new divisions of race and class introduced, whole districts devastated to gratify the vengeance or the caprice

  • "History of Normandy and England," vol. i., p. 526.