Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/196

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190 BATTIE OF HASTINGS.


mans themselves were the pith and the flower of the army, and William himself was the strongest, the sagest, and the fiercest spirit of them all.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1066, all the sea-ports of Normandy, Picardy, and Brittany rang with the busy sound of preparation. On the opposite side of the Channel King Harold collected the army and the fleet with which he hoped to crush the southern invaders. But the unexpected attack of King Harald Hardrada of Norway upon another part of England disconcerted the skillful measures which the Saxon had taken against the menacing armada of Duke William.

Harold's renegade brother, Earl Tostig, had excited the Norse king to this enterprise, the importance of which has naturally been eclipsed by the superior interest attached to the victorious expedition of Duke William, but which was en a scale of grandeur which the Scandinavian ports had rarely, if ever before witnessed. Hardrada's fleet consisted of two hundred war-ships and three hundred other vessels, and all the best warriors of Norway were in his host. He sailed first to the Orkneys, where many of the islanders joined him, and then to Yorkshire. After a severe conflict near York, he completely routed Earls Edwin and Morcar, the governors of Northumbria. The city of York opened its gates, and all the country, from the Tyne to the Humber, submitted to him. The tidings of the defeat of Edwin and Morcar compelled Harold to leave his position on the southern coast, and move instantly against the Norwegians. By a remarkably rapid march he reached Yorkshire in four days, and took the Norse king and his confederates by surprise. Nevertheless, the battle which ensued, and which was fought near Stamford Bridge, was desperate, and was long doubtful. Unable to break the ranks of the Norwegian phalanx by force, Harold at length tempted them to quit their close order by a pretended flight. Then the English columns burst in among them, and a carnage ensued, the extent of which may be judged of by the exhaustion and inactivity of Norway for a quarter of a century afterward. King Harald Hardrada, and all the flower of his nobility, perished on the 25th of September, 1066, at Stamford Bridge, a battle which was a Flodden to Norway.

Harold's victory was splendid; but he had bought it dearly by the fall of many of his best officers and men, and still more