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
OF HAROLD'S JOURNEY TO NORMANDY, AND WHAT HE DID THERE.
Now in that country of England there was a seneschal, Heraut by name, a noble vassal, who on account of his worth and merits, had great influence, and was in truth the most powerful man in all the land. He was strong in his own men, and strong in his friends, and managed all England as a man does land of which he has the seneschalsy. On his father's side he was English, and on his mother's Danish; Gite his mother being a Danish woman, born and brought up in great wealth, a very gentle lady, the sister of King Kenut. She was wife to Godwin, mother to Harold, and her daughter Edif was queen. Harold himself was the favourite of his lord, who had his sister to wife. When his father had died (being choked at the feast), Harold, pitying the hostages, was desirous to cross over into Normandy, to bring them home. So he went to take leave of the king. But Edward strictly forbade him, and charged and conjured him not to go to Normandy, nor to speak with duke William; for he might soon be drawn into some snare, as the duke was very shrewd; and he told him, that if he wished to have the hostages home, he would choose some messenger for the purpose. So at least I have found the story written. But another book tells me that the king ordered him to go, for the purpose of assuring duke William, his cousin, that he should have the realm after his death. How the matter really was I never knew, and I find it written both the one way and the other.
Whatever was the business he went upon, or whatever it was that he meant to do, Harold set out on his way, taking the risk of what might fall out. What is fated to happen no man can prevent, let him be who he will. What must be will come to pass, and no one can make it nought.
He made ready two ships, and took the sea at Bodeham. I know not how the mischief was occasioned; whether the steersman erred, or whether it was that a storm arose; but this I know, that he missed the right course, and touched the coast of Pontif, where he could neither get away, nor conceal himself. A fisherman of that country, who had been in England and had often seen Harold, watched him; and knew him, both by his face; and his speech; and went privily to Guy, the count of Pontif, and would speak to no other; and he told the count how he could put a great prize in his way, if he would go with him; and that if he would give him only twenty livres, he should gain a hundred by it, for he would deliver him such a prisoner, as would pay a hundred livres or more for ranson. The count agreed to his terms, and then the fisherman showed him Harold. They seized and took him to Abbeville; but Harold contrived to send off a message privily to duke William in Normandy, and told him of his journey; how he had set out from England to visit him, but had missed the right port; and how the count of Pontif had seized him, and without any cause of offence had put him in prison: and he promised that if the duke would deliver him from his captivity, he would do whatever he wished in return.
Guy guarded Harold mean time with great care; fearing some mischance, he sent him to Belrem, that he might be further from the duke. But William thought that if he could get Harold into his keeping, he might turn it to good account; so he made so many fair promises and offers to the earl, and so coaxed and flattered him, that he at last gave up his prisoner; and the duke thus got possession of him, and gave in return to the count Guy a fair manor lying along the river Alne.
William entertained Harold many days in great honour, as was his due. He took him to many rich tournaments, arrayed him nobly, gave him horses and arms, and led him with him into Britanny — I am not certain whether three or four times — when he had to fight with the Bretons. And in the meantime he bespoke Harold so fairly, that he agreed to deliver up England to him, as soon as king Edward should die; and he was to have Ele, one of William's daughters, for his wife if he would; and to swear to all this if required, William also binding himself to those terms.
To receive the oath, he caused a parliament to be called. It is commonly said that it was at Bayeux that he had his great council assembled. He sent for all the holy bodies thither, and put so many of them together as to fill a whole chest, and then covered them with a pall; but Harold neither saw them, nor knew of their being there; for nought was shewn or told to him about it; and over all was a philactery, the best that he could select; 'oh de boef', I have heard it called. When Harold placed his hand upon it, the hand trembled, and the flesh quivered; but he swore, and promised upon his oath, to take Ele to wife, and to deliver up England to the duke: and thereunto to do all in his power, according to his might and wit, after the death of Edward, if he should live, so help him God and the holy relics there! Many cried "God grant it!" and when Harold had kissed the saints, and had risen upon his feet, the duke led him up to the chest, and made him stand near it; and took off the chest the pall that had covered it, and shewed Harold upon what holy relics he had sworn; and he was sorely alarmed at the sight.
Then when all was ready for his journey homeward; he took his leave; and William exhorted him to be true to his word, and kissed him in the name of good faith and friendship. And Harold passed freely homeward, and arrived safely in England.