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Haralld Hardrada, having appointed his son Magnus to govern Norway in his absence, sailed with his other son, Olaf, and with his queen, Ellisif (Elizabeth), and her daughters, Maria and Ingegerdr, across the British ocean (1). He reached Shetland; and, after a short delay, he sailed to the Orkneys. He left there his family, and directing his course along Scotland, he landed with his multitude of warriors at the Tyne (2). His aggression seems to have been unforeseen. The duke of Normandy absorbed the attention of Harold, who did not expect that his hour of difficulty would have been made more stormy by a competitor from the North. Hardrada found no opposition of importance on the English coasts. Tostig joined him (3). They sailed onwards to Scarborough, which they plundered and burnt. They turned the point of Holderness, and with above five hundred ships entered the Humber (4).
They proceeded up the Ouse as far towards York as Richale. The related earls, Edwine and Morcar, though taken unawares, prepared to oppose Haralld Hardrada with the same spirit which had before expelled Tostig. On the 20th of September they gave battle to the invaders near York, on the right side of the Ouse (5). Hardrada formed his warriors into such an arrangement, that one of his wings reached to the river, and the other was flanked by a ditch and marsh full of water. The banner of the king and the flower of his warriors were on the river. His line at the ditch was weak, and tempted the attack of the earls, the brothers-in-law of Harold. They drove the enemy from their position. It was then that Hardrada rushed into the battle, and, with his compact troops, pierced through and divided the pursuing English. Some were driven to the river; some to the marsh and ditch. The slaughter was so great, that the Norwegians traversed the marsh on the bodies of the fallen (6). The Saxon account confirms the Icelandic it claims the first advantage for the English, and acknowledges that in the disastrous close, more were pushed into the waters than were slain by the sword (7). The earls were besieged in York (8).
(1) For Haralld's actions, see Snorre, in the ode translated in the second volume of Mallet's Northern Antiquities; in Ad. Brem. 41. 43.; and Steph. in Sax. 215.
(2) Snorre, 153., says Klifland. So Orkneyinga Saga, p. 95. Hoveden, Florence, and Simeon, place his first descent at the Tyne.
(3) Flor. 429.
(4) Snorre, 154. Hoveden, 448. Flor. 429. Our writers differ on the number of Haralld's ships. Matt. Paris says 1000. So Sigeb. Gemb. p. 600. Ingulf states 200; and Malmsbury and others have 300.
(5) Hunt. 367. says, "Cujus locus pugnæ in Australi parte urbis adhuc ostenditur." (6) Snorre, 155. Orkneyinga Saga, p. 95. The northerns give the command of the Saxons to Walthiof and Morcar. Walthiof is not mentioned by the English chroniclers in Harold's reign; but in William's reign he occurs with the Northumbrians, as in Hoveden, p. 455.
(7) Hoveden, 448. Flor. 429.
(8) Malmsb. 94.
Harold, watching anxiously the motions of the duke of Normandy, had stationed his troops on his southern coasts. The success of Haralld Hardrada compelled him to abandon this position of defence, and to march with his army into the North. To repel the king of Norway immediately was essential to his safety; and with this purpose he proceeded towards him so rapidly, as to reach York four days after the defeat of the earls.
Hardrada had been as much reinforced by the friends of Tostig (1), and by those adventurers who always join the flag of victory, as the time would permit; but the sudden presence of the king of England was an incident which he did not anticipate.
He had committed his ships to the care of his son, Olaf, with a part of his forces, and had marched with the rest towards the city, to settle the government of the province. The day was beautiful and mild. The sun shone with those pleasing beams which exhilarate the spirits, and give new charms to irradiated nature. But, alas! the drama of ambition was acting in the country, and its melancholy catastrophe was about to scatter round the dismal spectacle of death. Man was hastening to deform the smiling scene with all the massacres of a ferocious battle. On a sudden, the king of Norway saw an army marching towards him. He enquired of Tostig, who they were. Tostig stated his hope that they were a supply of his friends; but he knew enough of his brother's activity also to add, that they might be the English forces.
The advancing troops were soon discerned to be hostile; and Tostig, wishing a more elaborate preparation, advised a retreat to the ships, that the strength of Norway might join the battle in its most concentrated vigour. The king of Norway was hero enough not to decline an offered combat; but he sent three swift couriers to command the immediate presence of his other warriors.
He drew out his men in a long but not dense line; and, bending back the wings, he formed them into a circle every where of the same depth, with shield touching shield. In the centre the royal banner was planted, not unaptly surnamed the Ravager of the Earth. The peculiar mode in which the cavalry attacked was the cause of this arrangement. Their custom was to charge promiscuously in an impetuous mass, to fly off, and to return in the same or at some other point. Haralld Hardrada was as yet weak in cavalry. It was now but the 25th September, and he had not had time to mount many of his troops. The king of England, on the contrary, came forth with the strength of the island, and of course a large part of his army must have been horse. To secure himself against this superiority, was the first care of the Norwegian.
The first line were ordered to fix their lances obliquely in the
(1) Snorre, 156.
ground, with the points inclining towards the enemy, that the cavalry might impale themselves when they charged. The second line held also their spears ready to plunge into the breasts of the horses when near. The archers were joined with the array of Haralld and Tostig, to contribute their efforts to the success of the day (1).
Hardrada rode round his circle to inspect its order. His horse stumbling, he was thrown to the ground; but he sprang up, and wisely exclaimed, that it was an omen of good. Harold, who observed the incident, thought otherwise. He enquired who that Norwegian was, clothed in a blue tunic, and with a splendid helmet, who had fallen. He was answered, The king of Norway. “He is a large and majestic person,” replied Harold, “but his fortune will be disastrous (2).”
An offer was sent to Tostig, before the battle joined, to give him Northumbria, and other honours, if he would withdraw from the impending conflict. Tostig remarked, that such a proposition in the preceding winter would have saved many lives: " But," added he, 66 if I should accept these terms, what is to be the compensation of the king, my ally?"-"Seven feet of ground, or, as he is a very tall man, perhaps a little more," was the answer. This intimation closed the negotiation, for Tostig was faithful to his friend (3).
The Norwegians, not having expected a battle on that day, are said to have been without their coasts of mail. The king of Norway sung some stanzas on the circumstance, and awaited the attack. His orders were implicitly obeyed. The charges of the English cavalry were received on the implanted points; and while the Norwegians kept their circle unbroken, they repulsed every attack. Weary of their unprevailing efforts, the English began to relax in some confusion, and their adversaries were tempted to pursue. It was then that the fortune of Norway first drooped. The English returned to the charge. The Norwegians were out of their defensive arrangement, and felt the destructive fury of the English weapons. Hardrada encouraged his men by the most heroic exertions; but he could not bind victory to his standard. A fatal dart pierced his throat; and his fall gave the first triumph to his kingly competitor (4).
Tostig assumed the command, and the battle still raged. Harold again offered life and peace to his brother and the Norwegians, but the enraged Tostig was deaf to reconciliation. Victory or death was his decision; and the arrival of the division from the ships, under the command of Eysteinn Orri, gave new hopes to his fury.
(1) Snorre, 159. (2) Ibid. 160.
(4) Ibid. 163. See Haralld's character in Snorre, 174. He was fifty years of age when he died. lb. 175.
These fresh troops were completely armed. Their attack was so vehement, that the fortune of the day was nearly changed; but they were exhausted by the speed with which they had hurried to the place of conflict. Their exertions relaxed as their strength ebbed ; and after a desperate struggle, Tostig and the flower of Norway perished (1). Harold, who had shown himself the ardent warrior through all the combat, permitted Olave, the son of the unfortunate Hardrada, and Paul, the carl of the Orkneys (2), to retire from the island with their surviving friends and a few ships (3). Olave went to the Orkneys, and in the following spring to Norway, where he reigned jointly with his brother Magnus (4).
Two of Harold's competitors had now fallen; and if an interval had elapsed before the assault of the other, of sufficient space to have permitted him to have supplied the consumption of the late battles, and to have organized a new force, it is probable that the duke of Normandy would have shared the fate of the king of Norway. But three days only intervened between the defeat of the Norwegians, and the landing of William. He arrived at Pevensey on the 28th of September (5), and the king of Norway had fallen on the 25th.
Harold, expecting an invasion from William, had in the spring assembled, on the southern coasts, the best bulwark of the island. He stationed his fleet off Wight, to encounter the Norman on the seas, and encamped an army in its vicinity. This guard was continued during the summer and autumn; and while it watched at its allotted post, the throne of Harold was secure. But on the 8th of September (6), the fleet, which had lain along the coast at Pevensey, Hastings, and the neighbouring ports, was, from the want of provisions, obliged to disperse (7). Harold being immediately after occupied by the Norwegian invasion, neglected to supply and re
(1) Ibid. 165. Huntingdon says, there never was a severer battle, p. 368. He, Malmsbury, and others, state, that at one period of the conflict, a Norwegian defended the bridge against the English army, and killed with his battle-axe forty soldiers before he was destroyed. Ord. Vit. mentions, that a great heap of bones in his time marked on the spot the dreadful slaughter of the day, 500.
(2) Hoveden, 448. Ingulf, 69. On Paul's descent and family, see the Orkneyinga Saga, p. 91-93.
(3) Ingulf, Hoveden, and others, say with 20. The MS. Chron. Tib. B. 4. has 24. This mentions Olaf's departure thus :-"Se kyng tha geaf grythe Olafe thæs Norna cynges suna and heore bpe' and than eorle of Orcan ege and eallon than theon than scypu to lafe wæron and hi foron tha upp to uran kyninge and sporon athas th hi æfre woldon fryth and freondscype mto thisan lande haldan and se cyng hi let ham faran mid 24 scypum. Thas twa folc gefcoht wæron gefremmede binnan fif nihtan."
(4) Orkneyinga Saga, 95. Snorre, 171-176.
(5) The printed Chronicle says on Michaelmas day. But the MS. Tib. B. 4. says, "On sce' Michaels mæsse æfen." So the Lambard MS. Ord. Vit. 500. agrees with the MS.
(6) Hoveden and Florence mark the nativity of St. Mary as the day. This was 8th September.
(7) The MS. Chron. B. 1. has a long paragraph on this.
instate it. By this unhappy mistake, he removed the main obstacle to William's expedition.
William had completed his armament in August and it lay in the mouth of the Dive, a little river between Havre and Caen. Fortunately for his enterprise, the wind was adversc. If it had been favourable, he would have sailed, and the fleet of Harold would have received the first shock of the storm. If the English navy had been defeated, an army was lining its coasts, which would have disputed his landing. Should victory still have followed him, his force must have been diminished by the combats, and he would have had then to wrestle with the strength of the island, directed by the active talents of Harold. But the contrary winds detained him for a month at the Dive (1); and in this interval the English fleet left its position, and the invasion of Norway called Harold from the southern coasts.
At last the currents of the atmosphere came into the direction he desired, and the fleet sailed from the Dive, round Havre, to St. Valery, near Dieppe, which was the nearest port between Normandy and England. Some unfavourable events had occurred. Of the large fleet several vessels were wrecked; and many of the adventurers, whose courage lessened from their leisure of reflection on the perils of the expedition, abandoned his standard. William caused the bodies of the drowned to be buried with speed and privacy; he exhilarated the spirits of his army by abundance of provisions, and he animated their drooping hopes by his eloquent exhortations. To excite their enthusiasm, he caused St. Valery's body to be carried in procession, under the pretence of imploring, and perhaps with the hope of obtaining, a propitious navigation.
A general eagerness to embark now pervaded the expedition. The duke, more impatient than any, was every where urging his soldiers to hasten to their ships. To prevent disasters usual to an unknown coast, he enjoined all the vessels to anchor round his at night and not to recommence their voyage till the lighted beacon on the top of his mast having given the signal, the general clangor of the trumpets should announce the time of resailing (2).
With seven hundred ships (3), or more, replete with
(1) Ord. Vital. 500. Guil. Pict. 198.
(2) These particulars are from the contemporary William of Poitou, whose valuable fragment was printed by Du Chesne, from a MS. in our Cotton Library.
(3) It has been already remarked, that W. Gemmet gives to William 3000 ships. The very ancient author of the Roman de Rou says, he had read of 3000 ships, but that he had heard it declared to his father that there were 700 all but four.
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