Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
his Chronicle of
THE NORMAN CONQUEST
ROMAN DE ROU
EDGAR TAYLOR ESQ. F. S. A.
WILLIAM PICKERING, 1837
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2004
HOW THE KING OF FRANCE CAME AGAIN AGAINST DUKE WILLIAM, AND WAS DEFEATED AT VARAVILLE.
Duke William carried himself gallantly, and triumphed over all his enemies; he was loved for his liberality, and feared for his bravery. He conquered many and won over many, lavishing his gifts around, and spending much; till the French became very jealous of his chivalry; of the troops that he had, and of the lands he conquered. Their king could never be reconciled to the Normans; but said that he would sooner perjure himself, than not have his revenge for the battle of Mortemer.
Then under the advice of Giffrei Martel, before August, when the corn was on the ground, he summoned together all his barons, and the knights who held fiefs of him, and owed him service, and entered Normandy, passing by Oismes, which they assaulted without tarrying before it long. From thence they traversed all Oismes, and through the Beessin as far as the sea coast; burning the villages and bourgs; and ruining and plundering both men and women, till at length they came to St. Pierre-sor-Dive. The town was completely garrisoned by them, and the king lay at the abbey. The duke was with his people at Faleise, when the news came, concerning the wrong the king was doing him; and it grieved him sorely. So he sent out and assembled his knights, and strengthened his castles, cleansing the fosses, and repairing the walls; being determined to let the open country be laid waste, if he could maintain his strong places. He could easily, he said, recover the open lands, and repair the injury done to them. So he did not shew himself at all to the French, but let them wander over the country, intending to give them scurvy usage on their return back from their expedition. The king meantime went on with his project. He would go, he said, towards Bayeux, and ravage the whole of the Beessin, and on his return thence would pass by Varavile, and lay waste Auge and Lievin. Accordingly the French overran the Beessin, as far as the river Seule; and returned from thence to Caen, where they passed the Ogne. Caen was then without a castle, and had neither wall nor fence to protect it. When the king left Caen, he proceeded homeward by Varavile, as he had proposed. His train was great and long, so that it could not all be kept together; and the press was great to pass the bridge, every one wanting to be the foremost.
The duke, knowing some how or another all that was going on, and by what route the king would pass, hastened upon his track with the great body of troops that he led, and conducted his people in close order along the valley below Bavent. All over the country he sent out word, and summoned the villains to come to his aid as quickly as they could, with whatever arms they could get. Then from all round the villains were to be seen flocking in, with pikes and clubs in their hands. The king had passed the river Dive, which runs through that country, together with all those of his host who had taken care to move quickly forward. But the baggage train was altogether, and far behind, extending over a great length. The duke, seeing that all who were thus in the rear were certain to fall into his hands, pressed on his men from village to village; and when he reached Varavile, he found those of the French there who remained to form the rear guard. Then began a fierce melee, and many a stroke of lance and sword. The knights struck with their lances, the archers shot from their bows, and the villains attacked with their pikes; charging and driving them along the chaussee, overwhelming and bearing down numbers. The Normans kept continually increasing in numbers, till they became a great force, and the French pressed forwards, one pushing the other on. The chaussee incommoded them very much, being long and in bad repair, and they were encumbered by their plunder. Many were to be seen breaking the line, and getting out of the track, who could not retrace their steps, nor reach the main road again. The great press was at the bridge, every one being eager to reach it. But the bridge was old, the boards bent under the throng, the water rose, and the stream was strong; the weight was heavy, the bridge shook and at length fell, and all who were upon it perished. Many fell in close by the bridge foot where the water was deep; all about harness was to be seen floating, and men plunging and sinking; and none had any chance of life save skilful swimmers. The cry arose that the bridge was broken. Grievous and fearful was that cry, and no one was so brave or bold as not to tremble for his life when he heard what had happened, and to see that his hour of exultation was gone by. They see the Normans meanwhile pressing on from behind, but there was no escape; they go along the banks of the river, seeking for fords and crossings, throwing away their arms and plunder, and cursing their having brought so much. They go straggling and stumbling over the ditches, helping each other forward, the Normans pursuing and sparing no one, till all those who had not crossed the bridge were either taken prisoners, killed, or drowned. Never, they say, were so many prisoners taken, or such great slaughter made in all Normandy. And William glorified God for his success. The river and the sea also swept away numbers, the king looking on in sorrow and dismay. From the height of Basteborc, he looked down and saw Varavile and Caborc; he beheld the marshes and the valleys, which lay long and broad before him, the wide stream, and the broken bridge; he gazed upon his numerous troops thus fallen into trouble; some he saw seized and bound, others struggling in the deep waters; and to those who were drowning he could bring no succour, neither could he rescue the prisoners. In sorrow and indignation he groaned and sighed, and could say nothing; all his limbs trembled, and his face burned with rage. Willingly, he cried, would he turn back, and endeavour to find a passage, if his barons would so counsel, but no one would give such advice. "Sire," said they, "you shall not go; you shall return another time and destroy all the land, taking captive all their richest men."
Then the king went back into France, full of rage and heaviness of heart, and never after bore shield or lance; whether as a penance or not I know not. He never again entered Normandy: nor did he live long, but did as all men must do; from dust became, to dust he returned. At his death he was greatly lamented, and his eldest son Philip was crowned king in his stead.