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 AN ENGLISH KNIGHT RODE TO HAROLD WHO WAS FIGHTING TOSTI; AND WHAT MESSAGE WAS SENT BY THE DUKE.
A knight of that country heard the noise and cry made by the peasants and villains when they saw the great fleet arrive. He well knew that the Normans were come, and that their object was to seize the land. He posted himself behind a hill, so that they should not see him, and tarried there, watching the arrival of the great fleet. He saw the archers come forth from the ships, and the knights follow. He saw the carpenters with their axes, and the host of people and troops. He saw the men throw the materials for the fort out of the ships. He saw them build up and enclose the fort, and dig the fosse around it. He saw them land the shields and armour. And as he beheld all this, his spirit was troubled; and he girt his sword and took his lance, saying he would go straightway to king Harold, and tell the news. Forthwith he set out on his way, resting late and rising early; and thus he journey ed on by night and by day to seek Harold his lord.
He found him beyond the Humber, in a town where he had just dined. Harold carried himself very loftily, for he had been beyond Humber, and had had great success in overcoming Tosti. Tosti was Harold's brother; but unfortunately they had become enemies, and Tosti had sent his friends to Harold, calling upon him to give him his father's fief, now that it had fallen out, that, right or wrong, he had become king; and requiring him to let him have the lands their father held by inheritance; and he promised on this being done to ask no more; but to become his man, and acknowledge him for lord, and serve him as well as he did King Edward. But Harold would not agree to this; he would neither give nor exchange ought with him; so Tosti became very wroth, and crossed over to Denmark, and brought with him Danes and Norwegians, and landed over against Euroick. When Harold learnt the news, he made himself ready, and set out against Tosti, and fought with and conquered him and his troops. Tosti was killed near Pontfrait, and his army besides suffered great loss. Then Harold set out on his return from Pontfrait, and glorified himself exceedingly. But foolish is he who glorifies himself, for good fortune soon passeth away; bad news swiftly comes; soon may he die himself who has slain others; and the heart of man often rejoiceth when his ruin is nigh.
Harold returned rejoicing and triumphing, bearing himself right proudly, when news met him that put other thoughts in his mind; for lo! the knight is come who set out from Hastings. "The Normans," he cried, "are come! they have landed at Hastings! thy land will they wrest from thee, if thou canst not defend thyself well; they have enclosed a fort, and strengthened it round about with palisades and a fosse." "Sorry am I," said Harold, "that I was not there at their arrival. It is a sad mischance; I had better have given what Tosti asked, so that I had been at the port when William reached the coast, and had disputed his landing; we might then have driven so many into the sea that they would never have made good their landing, nor have touched ought of ours: neither would they have missed death on land, if they had escaped the dangers of the sea. But thus it hath pleased the heavenly king; and I could not be every where at once."
There was a baron of the land — I do not know his name — who had loved the duke well, and was in secret council with him, and desired, so far as he was able, that no harm should befall him. This baron sent word to him privily, that he was too weak; that he had come with too little force, as it seemed to him, to do what he had undertaken; for that there were so many men in England, that it would be very hard to conquer. So he counselled him in good faith, and in true love, to leave the country and go home to his own land before Harold should arrive; for he feared lest he should miscarry, and he should grieve much, he said, if any misfortune should befall him. The duke answered briefly, that he saw no reason for doubt; that he might rely upon it, if he had but ten thousand of as noble knights as those of whom he had sixty thousand or more, he would still fight it out. Yea, he said, he would never go back till he had taken vengeance on Harold.
Harold came full speed to London, ordering that from every part of England all should come forthwith, fully equipped, by a time appointed them, without allowing any excuse except sickness. He would have challenged the duke, and at once fixed a day for the battle, but he waited till his great baronage should come together: and they came in haste on receiving the summons.
The duke soon heard that Harold was assembling a great host, and that he was come to London from the north, where he had killed his brother Tosti. Then he sent for Huon Margot, a tonsured monk of Fescam; and as he was a learned man, well known, and much valued, the duke despatched him to Harold. And Margot set out on his way, and finding Harold at London, spoke to him thus "Harold! hearken to me! I am a messenger, hear ye from whom! The duke tells thee, by my mouth, that thou hast too soon forgotten the oath, which thou didst but lately take to him in Normandy, and that thou hast forsworn thyself. Repair the wrong, and restore him the crown and lordship, which are not thine by ancestry; for thou art neither king by heritage, nor through any man of thy lineage. King Edward of his free will and power, gave his land and realm to his best kinsman William. He gave this gift as he had a right to do, to the best man he had. He gave it in full health before his death, and if he did wrong, thou didst not forbid it; nay, thou didst assent, and warrant and swear to maintain it. Deliver him his land; do justice, lest greater damage befall thee. No such hosts can assemble as thou and he must combat with, without great cost and heavy loss; and thus there will be mischief to both sides. Restore the kingdom that thou hast seized! woe betide thee if thou shalt endeavour to hold it!"
Harold was exceedingly proud, and it is said that he had sometimes fits of madness. He was enraged at the words with which Margot had menaced him; and it is thought he would have ill used him, had not Gurth his brother sprung forth and stood between them, and sent Huon Margot away; and he went forth without taking leave, not choosing to stay longer, and neither said nor did any thing more concerning the matter he came about, but returned to duke William, and told him how Harold had insulted him.
Then Harold chose a messenger who knew the language of France, and sent him to duke William, charging him with these words; "Say to the duke that I desire he will not remind me of my covenant nor of my oath; if I ever foolishly made it and promised him anything, I did it for my liberty. I swore in order to get my freedom; whatever he asked I agreed to; and I ought not to be reproached, for I did nothing of my own free will. The strength was all on his side, and I feared that unless I did his pleasure, I should never return, but should have remained there for ever. If I have done him any wrong, I will make him recompense. If he want any of my wealth, I will give it according to my ability. I will refit all his ships, and give them safe conduct; but if he refuse this offer, tell him for a truth, that if he wait for me so long, I will on Saturday seek him out, and on that day will do battle with him."
The messenger hastened to the duke, and on the part of king Harold, told him that if he would return to his own land, and free England of his presence, he should have safe conduct for the purpose; and if money was his object, he should have as much gold and silver as should supply the wants of all his host.
Duke William replied, "Thanks for his fair words! I am not come into this country with so many escus, to change them for his esterlins; but I am come that I may have all his land, according to his oath, and the gift of king Edward, who delivered me two youths of gentle lineage as hostages; the one the son, the other the nephew of Godwin. I have them still in my keeping, and keep them I will, if I can, till I have right done unto me." Then the messenger replied, "Sire, you ask too much of us, far too much of my lord; you would rob him of his honour and fair name, requiring him to deliver up his kingdom, as if he dared not defend it. All is still safe, and in good order with us; there is no weakness or decay in his force. He is not so pressed by the war, as that he should give up his land to you; neither is it very agreeable that, because you wish for his kingdom, he should at once abandon it to you. Harold will not give you what you cannot take from him; but in good will, and as a matter of favour, and without fear of your threats, he will give you as much as you desire of gold and silver, money and fine garments: and thus you may return to your country before any affray happen between you. If you will not accept this offer, know this, that if you abide his coming, he will be ready in the field on Saturday next, and on that day he will fight with you."
The duke accepted this appointment, and the messenger took his leave; but when he proposed to go, the duke gave him a horse and garments: and when he came back to Harold thus arrayed, he shewed all that the duke had given him, and told how he had been honoured, and all that had passed; and Harold repented much that he had done otherwise by Huon Margot.