Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/198

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192 BATTLE OF HASTINGS.


solemn procession, while the whole assemblage of soldiers, mariners, and appurtenant priests implored the saint's intercession for a change of wind. That very night the wind veered, and enabled the medieval Agamemnon to quit his Aulis.

With full sails, and a following southern breeze, the Norman Armada left the French shores and steered for England. The invaders crossed an undefended sea, and found an undefended coast. It was in Pevensey Bay, in Sussex, at Bulverhithe, between the castle of Pevensey and Hastings, that the last conquerors' of this island landed on the 29th of September, 1066.

Harold was at York, rejoicing over his recent victory, which had delivered England from her ancient Scandinavian foes, and resettling the government of the counties which Harald Hardrada had overrun, when the tidings reached him that Duke William of Normandy and his host had landed on the Sussex shore. Harold instantly hurried southward to meet this long-expected enemy. The severe loss which his army had sustained in the battle with the Norwegians must have made it impossible for many of his veteran troops to accompany him in his forced march to London, and thenee to Sussex. He halted at the capital only six days, and during that time gave orders for collecting forces from the southern and midland counties, and also directed his fleet to reassemble off the Sussex coast. Harold was well received in London, and his summons to arms was promptly obeyed by citizen, by thane, by sokman, and by ceorl, for he had shown himself, during his brief reign, a just and wise king, affable to all men, active for the good of his country, and (in the words of the old historian) sparing himself from no fatigue by land or by sea.* He might have gathered a much more numerous army than that of William; but his recent victory had made him over-confident, and he was irritated by the reports of the country being ravaged by the invaders. As soon, therefore, as he had collected a small army in London, he marched off toward the coast, pressing forward as rapidly as his men could traverse Surrey and Sussex, in the hope of taking the Normans unawares, as he had recently, by a similar forced march, succeeded in surprising the Norwegians. But he had now to deal with a foe equally brave with Harald Hardrada, and far more skillful and wary.

  • See Roger de Hoveden and William of Malmesbury, cited in Thierry,

book iii.