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Liveblogging the Norman Conquest: September 28, 1066: The Landing

Beachhead Scene 1

Beachhead Scene 2

Beachhead Scene 3

Master Wace: The Chronicle of the Norman Conquest, by Master Wace.:

The ships steered to one port; all arrived and reached the shore together; together cast anchor, and ran on dry land; and together they discharged themselves. They arrived near Hastings, and there each ship ranged by the other's side. There you might see the good sailors, the Serjeants and squires sally forth and unload the ships; cast the anchors, haul the ropes, bear out shields and saddles, and land the warhorses and palfreys. The archers came forth, and touched land the foremost; each with his bow bent, and his quiver full of arrows slung at his side. All were shaven and shorn, and all clad in short garments, ready to attack, to shoot, to wheel about and skirmish. All stood well equipped, and of good courage for the fight; and they scoured the whole shore, but found not an armed man there.

After the archers had thus gone forth, the knights landed next, all armed; with their hauberks on, their shields slung at their necks, and their helmets laced. They formed together on the shore, each armed upon his warhorse. All had their swords girded on, and passed into the plain with their lances raised. The barons had gonfallons, and the knights pennons. They occupied the advanced ground, next to where the archers had fixed themselves.

The carpenters, who came after, had great axes in their hands, and planes and adzes hung at their sides. When they had reached the spot where the archers stood, and the knights were assembled, they consulted together, and sought for a good spot to place a strong fort upon. Then they cast out of the ships the materials, and drew them to land, all shaped framed and pierced to receive the pins which they had brought, cut and ready in large barrels; so that before evening had well set in, they had finished a fort. Then you might see them make their kitchens, light their fires, and cook their meat. The duke sat down to eat, and the barons and knights had food in plenty; for he had brought ample store. All ate and drank enough, and were right glad that they were ashore.

Before the duke left the Somme, a clerk had come to him, who knew, he said, astronomy and necromancy, and held himself a good diviner, and predicted many things. So he divined for the duke, and predicted that he should pass the sea safely, and succeed in his expedition, without fighting at all; for that Harold would make such promises, and come to such terms, that he would hold the land of the duke, and become his liegeman, and so William would return in safety. As to the good passage, he predicted right enough; but as to not fighting, he lied.

When the duke had crossed, and arrived safely, he remembered the prediction, and inquired for the diviner. But one of the sailors said he had miscarried and was drowned at sea, being in one of the lost ships. 'Little matters it,' said the duke; 'no great deal could he have known. A poor diviner indeed must he be about me, who could predict nought about himself. If the things to come were known to him, he might well have foreseen his own death; foolish is he who trusts in a diviner, who takes heed for others but forgets himself; who knows the end of other men's work, and can not discern the term of his own life.' Such was the end of the diviner.

As the ships were drawn to shore, and the duke first landed, he fell by chance upon his two hands. Forthwith all raised a loud cry of distress, 'An evil sign,' said they, 'is here.'

But he cried out lustily, 'See, seignors, by the splendour of God! I have[Pg 131] seized England with my two hands; without challenge no prize can be made; all is our own that is here; and now we shall see who will be the bolder man.' Then one of his men ran forward and put his hand on a hut, and took a handful of the thatch, and turned to the duke, saying heartily, 'Sire, come forward and receive seizin; of this land I give you seizin; without doubt the country is yours.' And the duke said, 'I accept it; may God be with us.'

Then he ordered proclamation to be made, and commanded the sailors that the ships should be dismantled, and drawn ashore and pierced, that the cowards might not have the ships to flee to.

All cannot be told or written at once; but, passing backward and forward to each matter in its turn, I have now to tell that the duke immediately after his arrival made all his host arm themselves.

The first day they held their course along the sea-shore...