Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/195

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BATTLE OF HASTINGS. 189


Saxon king, "that I took an oath to William; but I took it under constraint: I promised what did not belong to me—what I could not in any way hold: my royalty is not my own; I could not lay it down against the will of the country, nor can I, against the will of the country, take a foreign wife. As for my sister, whom the duke claims that he may marry her to one of his chiefs, she has died within the year; would he have me send her corpse?"

William sent another message, which met with a similar answer; and then the duke published far and wide through Christendom what he termed the perjury and bad faith of his rival, and proclaimed his intention of asserting his rights by the sword before the year should expire, and of pursuing and punishing the perjurer even in those places where he thought he stood most strongly and most securely.

Before, however, he commenced hostilities, William, with deep-laid policy, submitted his claims to the decision of the pope. Harold refused to acknowledge this tribunal, or to answer before an Italian priest for his title as an English king. After a formal examination of William's complaints by the pope and the cardinals, it was solemnly adjudged at Rome that England belonged to the Norman duke; and a banner was sent to William from the Holy See, which the pope himself had consecrated and blessed for the invasion of this island. The clergy throughout the Continent were now assiduous and energetic in preaching up William's enterprise as undertaken in the cause of God. Besides these spiritual arms (the effect of which in the eleventh century must not be measured by the philosophy or the indifferentism of the nineteenth), the Norman duke applied all the energies of his mind and body, all the resources of his duchy, and all the influence he possessed among vassals or allies, to the collection of "the most remarkable and formidable armament which the Western nations had witnessed."* All the adventurous spirits of Christendom flocked to the holy banner, under which Duke William, the most renowned knight and sagest general of the age, promised to lead them to glory and wealth in the fair domains of England. His army was filled with the chivalry of Continental Europe, all eager to save their souls by fighting at the pope's bidding, eager to signalize their valor in so great an enterprise, and eager also for the pay and the plunder which William liberally promised. But the Nor-

  • Sir James Mackintosh's "History of England," vol. i., p. 97.