FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
an hour, for they arc resolved to seize on the land, and hurl thee from the throne !"
This terrible intelligence induced Harold to instantly dispatch a message to William, offering to purchase his amicable departure with gold, silver, and costly apparel.
" Indeed !" replied the duke, when be heard the purport of the messenger ; "tell your good master, I did not visit England to change my crowns for his shillings, but to claim this realm, which is mine by the gift of Edward the Confessor, and the solemn oath of Harold himself."
" Pardon me, your grace," replied the envoy, " but my lord has not yet found the crown of England so troublesome that he desires to part with it. However, as his late victory over Tostig and the King of Norway was so signal and profitable, he will, as a peace-offering, willingly share the spoil with you as the price of your departure."
"And what if I refuse this cowardly bribe ?" demanded William.
"Harold will then deem you an invading foe, and, with God's permission, scourge you from the land, on Saturday next, should you he in the field on that day." answered the envoy.
" lie it so," exclaimed William scorn
fully. " Tell the Saxon usurper that I
accept his challenge, and defy his power,
for God and the saints are with me, and
will permit no such devil's son as he to
do me wrong."
The envoy departed, much dispirited
at having failed to bring about afriendly
arrangement between his royal master
and the invader; and he had scarcely
left the camp, when William, who was
nothing daunted by the disagreeable in
telligence of the death of his allies, turned
to his nobles and said,—
" See, my brave lieges, what a path
way of honour lies before us. Our north
ern friends, from whom we expected such
great help, have already hern routed and
put to the sword ; therefore, we must
fight the brave Saxons, who defy us to
battle, withoutthcir aid. And oh, should
we succeed, how great will be our glory
—how lasting the fame of that battle
day ! Doubtless the struggle will he fierce and terrible, but heaven is with us ; and I vow to God, should the victory be mine, that in whatever spot it shall happen, there will I erect a church to the Blessed Trinity, and to St. .V artin, where masses shall be daily said for the sins of Edward the Confessor, those of myself and Matilda, and all who fight or fall iu the glorious engagement."
This vow greatly re-encouraged his followers, who, in that dark age, believed that by such an arrangement they provided a passport and a comfortable passage for their souls to heaven.
The warriors now busily prepared for the important battle, which at one blow was to decide the fate of the rival claimants to King Edward's crown, and lay the foundation of England's future greatness. On the night preceding the engagement, the opposing camps presented a singular and striking contrast. The Normans were brave, enduring, strong in will, and patient in adversity. With hearts deeply imbued with religious chivalry, they made war their trade, and victory theirj oy. Ignorant and superstitious they were, but their martyr-like spirit gave them courage cheerfully to die for their religion and rights. Backed by a holy bull, and over their heads floating a consecrated banner, a gift from the pope himself, with swords girded on for the morrow's struggle, they passed the night in prayers and confessions, and with one accord vowed, if God granted them the victory, to evermore fast on that day of the week ; a vow so religiously kept, that from that time till within the last few years, the Catholics of England always observed Saturday — the day on which the battle was fought—as a fast day.
The Anglo-Saxons, according to the evidence of their own Chroniclers, had, at this period, miserably degenerated in character. They tattooed their bodies, dressed in short garments, and bedecked themselves with gaudy rings and bracelets. They ate and drank to excess, neglected commerce and the arts, and, to the exclusion of every ennobling sentiment, indulged in all kinds of vices and luxuries. Fully did the conduct of Harold's men accord with this doleful picture of the English at that period.