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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ. Queens of England. Vol.1.

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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
page 14



England on the north, simultaneous with the Duke of Normandy's descent on the south. After strenuous efforts, William found himself at the head of a magnificent fleet of three thousand sail, and an army of sixty thousand stalwart warriors, commanded by the boldest and most illustrious knights of that renowned age of rude chivalry. The port of St. Valleri was the place appointed for the embarking of the assembled warriors, and thither William proceeded, after having first invested Matilda, and his son Robert, a youth who had seen but thirteen summers, with the regency of his dukedom, and named the able Roger do Beaumont, and otherwise prelates and nobles, as their councillors during his absence. CHAPTEE II. The Norman fleet wind-bound at St. Valleri—Superstition of the soldiery—Happy arrival of Matilda in the Mora—Favourable wind—William and his armament cross the Channel—Land in England—-Tostig and the king of Norway defeated—• Battle of Hastings—-Jiayeaux tapestry. HEN William reached St. Talleri, the fleet was windbound, and his fighting men were detained in suspense and idleness. Day follow ed day, but the wished-for breeze came not, and the superstitious soldiers began to murmur and desert. " Surely there is evil in this," said they, "for God, who rules the wind, locks us in our own harbour, whence we cannot depart. How know we hut what the duke, like unto his father, communes with evil spirits, who have shut the ears of his understanding, so that he hearkens not to the predictions of the terrible omen ? By the holy mass ! if he persists in opposing the will of the Most High, all the armament will be swallowed up in the ocean, and no one left to tell its loss to our weeping kindred !" Time passed wearily ; adverse winds still detained the fleet, and in the camp, despite the exertions of military authorities, so rife had become disaffection and desertion, that only a favourable wind, or the disabusing the superstitious soldiery of their groundless fears, could save the army from a mutual disbandment. To effect the latter object, William caused the shrine containing the venerated relics of St. Yalleri, the patron saint of the harbour, to be conveyed, with due solemnity, to the heart of the encampment, when, calling the army together, he told them that their own impiety had raised the ire of the saint, who would only grant a favourable wind on receiving their earnest prayers and charitable contributions. Then, setting the example, he himself knelt before the revered shrine, and, with affected gravity, strewed the antependiuni with golden pieces. The stratagem completely succeeded. All murmurings and discontent ceased, and every man—knight, archer, and swordsman — eagerly crowded to the hallowed shrine, and, with hearts bursting with penitence and devotion, literally buried it with gifts of gold and silver, "much," says an old chronicler, " to the glory of the church, who reaped therefrom a golden harvest, so plenteous, that the monks of St. Vallcri did nothing hut cry for joy for a week after." Whilst these devotions were proceeding, Matilda agreeably surprised her husband by unexpectedly arriving at the port, in a noble vessel, named the Mora, which, by her orders, had been secretly built, to present to him as a royal pledge of love and constancy during his absence. The Mora was a truly fine ship, and for size, strength, and sailing qualities, the queen of William' s fleet ; herfittings were highly superb, and beautifully carved, painted, and gilded. At the prow was a golden figure of Matilda's youngest


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