31. KING HAROLD
Harold, the second son of Earl Godwin, and last king of the Saxons, notwithstanding that divers of the nobles went with Edgar Adeling, the next heir after Edmund Ironside; yet he through force and might contemning the young age of Edgar, and forgetting also his promise made to Duke William, took upon him to be king of England, An. 1066. When Harold Harefagar, son of Canaute, king of Norway and Denmark, heard of the death of King Edward, he came into England with three hundred ships or more; who then joining with Tostius, brother to the said Harold, king of England, entered into the north parts, and claimed the land after the death of Edward, But the lords of the country arose, and gave them battle, notwithstanding the Danes had the victory. And therefore Harold, king of England, prepared toward them in all haste, and gave them another strong battle, and there had the victory, where also Harold the Dane was slain by the hand of Harold, king of England; and Tostius was also slain in the battle. After this victory, Harold waxed proud and covetous, and would not divide the prey to his knights that had deserved it, but kept it to himself; where by be lost the favour of many of his knights and people.
In this mean time, William, duke of Normandy, sent embassage to Harold, king of England, admonishing him of the covenants that were agreed between them; which was, to have kept the land to his use after the death of Edward. But because that the daughter of Duke William (that was promised to Harold) was dead, Harold thought him thereby discharged, and said that such a nice foolish promise ought not to be holden (concerning another's land) without the consent of the lords of the same; and especially for that he was thereunto for need or for dread compelled.
Upon these answers received, Duke William, in the mean while that the messengers went and came, gathered his knights, and prepared his navy, and had the assent of the lords of his land to aid and assist him in his journey. And over that, sending unto Rome to Pope Alexander, concerning his title and voyage into England, the pope confirmeth him to the same, and sent unto him a banner, willing him to hear it in the ship wherein himself should sail. Thus Duke William, being provided of all things concerning his journey, sped him to the sea side, and took shipping at the haven of St. Valery. where he tarried a long time ere he might have a convenient wind, for the which his soldiers murmured, saying it was a wilfulness, and a thing displeasing God, to desire to have another man's kingdom by strength, and namely, when God was against it in sending contrary wind, &c. At the last, the wind shortly after came about, and they took shipping with a great company, and landed at Hastings in Sussex.
For three causes Duke William entered this land to subdue Harold. One was, for that it was to him given by King Edward his nephew. The second was to take wreak for the cruel murder of his nephew Alfred, King Edward's brother, and of the Normans. which deed he ascribed chiefly to Harold. The third was, to revenge the wrong done to Robert, archbishop of Canterbury. which was exiled by the means and labour of Harold, in the time of King Edward.
Thus, while Harold was in the north, Duke William made so great speed, that he came to London before the king; out of which he was holden, till he made good surety that he and his people should pass through the city without tarrying; which promise he well observing, passed the bridge, and went over to Sussex, from whence he sent a monk unto Harold, and proffered him three manner of ways. First, either to render to him the possession of the land, and so to take it again of him under tribute, reigning under him; secondly, or else to abide and stand to the pope's arbitrement betwixt them both; or, thirdly, to defend this quarrel in his own person against the duke, and they two only to try the matter by dint of sword, without any other bloodshedding.
But Harold refused all these offers, saying it should be tried by dint of swords, and not by one sword and so gathered his people and joined battle with the Normans, in the place where afterward was builded the abbey of Battle in Sussex. In the beginning of which fight the Englishmen kept them in good array, like to vanquish the Normans; wherefore Duke William caused his men to give back, as though they fled, whereby the Englishmen followed fast, and broke their array. Then the Normnans, fiercely giving a charge upon them, in conclusion obtained the victory through the just providence of God. Where King Harold, who before had murdered Alfred, the true heir of the crown, with his company of Normans, so cruelly, was now wounded of the Normans in the left eye with an arrow, and thereof incontinent died; although Gerardus saith he fled away to Chester, and lived after that a monk in the monastery of St. James. Which is not like, but rather that he was there slain after that he reigned nine months, and was buried at Waltham (which proveth that he died not at Chester); and so was he the last that reigned in England of the blood of Saxons, the which continued (to reckon from Hengistus's first reign in Kent) by the space of 591 years; and if it be reckoned from the years of the West Saxons, then it endureth the space of 565 years.
This Duke William and King Edward were by the father's side cousin-gernnans removed. For Richard the first of that name, which was the third duke of Normammdy after Rollo, was father to Duke Richard the second of that name, and brother to Emma, mother to King Edward. WYhich IJoke Richard the Second was father to Duke Robert, this Duke William's father.