Chronicles of Battle Abbey text for the Battle of Hastings 1066
which was completed around 1176AD
for the full text
After King Edward Dies
In the mean time his kinsman, King Edward, died, and left the kingdom of England to Duke William, whom he con-stituted
his legal heir. But this was seized upon by a certain perjured slave called Harold, and the duke having received
information of it, relying upon the advice and assistance of his friends, devoted all his energies, either by force or stratagem,
to recover his rights.
He therefore prepared himself a great fleet ; and many counts, nobles, and illustrious men, and many barons who were not his
subjects, but belonged to neighbouring provinces, from motives of respect associated themselves in his retinue.
The duke, therefore, with a prodigious army, and attended by the divine favour, arrived safely near the castle called
Pevensey. The soldiers leaped joyfully upon English ground at intervals along the shore
It happened as the duke left his ship, that he fell upon his face, making his nose somewhat bloody upon the beach, and grasping
the earth with his outstretched hands. Many of the bystanders feared the consequences of so unlucky a presage, and stood
whispering together. But the duke's ewer, William Eitz-Osbert, a man of great merit and much ready wit, being at hand, boldly
rallied the failing courage of the waverers with a word. 'Cease men,' said he, 'to interpret this as a misfortune, for by my troth,
it is a token of prosperity ; for lo ! he hath embraced England with both his hands, and sealed it to his posterity with his
own blood ; and thus by the foreshowing of Divine Providence is he destined effectually to win it !'
Things thus turning out according to his wishes, the duke did not long remain in that place, but went away with his men to a
port not far distant called Hastings ; and there, having secured an appropriate place, and acting upon a prudent determination,
he speedily built a castle of wood.
And having burnt the greatest part of the ships (lest any of his followers, relying upon the hope of returning home, should be
careless in the design that they had undertaken), the duke — now shortly about to become a king — anxiously hastened to
reduce the surrounding country.
Harold, the usurper of the kingdom, hearing of his arrival, quickly collected his army, resolved upon driving out the duke,
or rather upon utterly destroying him and his, and marched forward, with great boldness and expedition, to the place which
is now called Battel, where the duke, surrounded by his battalions of cavalry, met him courageously.
Having arrived at a hill called Hechelande, situated in the direction of Hastings, while they were helping one another on with
their armour, there was brought forth a coat of mail for the duke to put on, and by accident it was handed to him the wrong side
foremost. Those who stood by and saw this, cursed it as an unfortunate omen, but the duke's ewer again bade them be of good cheer,
and declared that this also was a token of good fortune, namely, that those things which had before kept their ground were about
fully to submit themselves to him.
The duke, perfectly unmoved, put on the mail with a placid countenance, and uttered these memorable words :'I know, my dearest
friends, that if I had any confidence in omens, I ought on no account to go to battle to-day ; but, committing myself trustfully
to my Creator in every matter, I have given no heed to omens ; neither have I ever loved sorcerers. Wherefore, now, secure of
His aid, and in order to strengthen the hands and courage of you, who for my sake are about to engage in this conflict, I make
a Vow, that upon this place of battle I will found a suitable free Monastery, for the salvation of you all, and especially of
those who fall ; and this I will do in honour of God and his saints, to the end that the servants of God may be succoured ;
that even as I shall be enabled to acquire for myself a propitious asylum, so it may be freely offered to all my followers.
'Among those who heard this vow, was a monk of Marmoutier, one William, suraamed Faber, who formerly, while in the service of
the duke, had obtained the name of Faber (or ' the smith') from this circumstance — As he was one day a-hunting with his
companions, they happened to be short of arrows, and thereupon had recourse for more to a neighbouring smith, who proved to be
unacquainted with such sort of work. William therefore seized his tools, and presently, with great ingenuity, fabricated an
arrow. This man, afterwards changing his profession, betook himself to a religious life at Marmoutier, the fame of which for
sanctity was then very great. And when the descent of the duke upon England was everywhere extolled, he, in order to advance
the interests of his Church, attached himself to the army. Immediately on hearing the duke's vow, which was exactly suited to
his wishes, he proposed that the monastery should be dedicated to the blessed bishop St. artin. The pious duke favoured
his suit, and benignly promised that it should be so.
The duke, then, by his heralds, thrice offered conditions of peace, which were thrice refused by the enemy; and at length,
conformably to the prophecy of Merlin a Norman race in iron coats boldly cast down the pride of the English.
Upon the hill where the Abbey now stands, the English supported their king in a compact body But at length, by a preconcerted
scheme, the duke feigned a retreat with his army, and Eustace, the valiant count of Boulogne, nimbly following the rear of the
English, who were scattered in the pursuit, rushed upon them with his powerful troops ; meanwhile the duke returned upon them,
and they, being thus hemmed in on both sides, numbers were stricken down.
The miserable English, feeble and on foot, are scattered abroad. Pressed upon, they fall; they are slaughtered, and killed ; and
their king being overthrown by a chance blow, they fly in all directions, and seek their hiding places. And then, after an
innumerable multitude had been slain on the field, or rather in their flight, a very great calamity presented itself before the eyes of all.
There lay between the hostile armies a certain dreadful precipice, caused either by a natural chasm of the earth, or by some
convulsion of the elements. It was of considerable extent, and being overgrown with bushes or brambles was not very easily seen,
and great numbers of men — principally Normans in pursuit of the English — were suffocated in it. Eor, ignorant of the danger,
as they were running in a dis-orderly manner, they fell into the chasm and were fearfully dashed to pieces and slain. And the pit
from this deplorable accident is still called Malfosse.
Amid these miseries there was exhibited a fearful spectacle :the fields were covered with dead bodies, and on every hand nothing
was to be seen but the red hue of blood. The dales all around sent forth a gory stream which increased at a distance to the size
of a river. How great, think you, must have been the slaughter of the conquered, when that of the conquerors is reported upon the
lowest computation to have exceeded ten thousand ? Oh ! how vast a flood of human gore was poured out in that place where these
unfortunates fell and were slain ! What dashing to pieces of arms ;what clashing of strokes ; what shrieks of dying men -
what grief ; what sighs, were heard ! How many groans ; how many bitter notes of direst calamity then sounded forth who can
rightly calculate ! What a wretched exhibition of human misery was there to call forth astonishment ! In the very contemplation
of it our pen fails us. Yet it is proper to add that, the battle being at length concluded, upon that triumph England
submitted to the Normans.
The place being marked where the standard of this rash and hostile invasion fell, the duke went forward with all haste to
extend his authority. Having at length reached London, the chief city of the realm, he offered the citizens a treaty of peace,
which they unwillingly accepted, though in the end they joyfully received him as the heir and lord. And some portion of the
kingdom being now prudently pacified ; by the consent of the magnates and nobles of the state, he was dignified with the throne
and crown of the English monarchy, and invested with his well-deserved diadem, at the Nativity of Our Lord, as the one thousand
and sixty-seventh year since his incarnation was coming in.
William Coche, Robert of Bolonia, and Robert Blancard. These personages having viewed the scene of the battle, judged it an
unsuitable site for so noble a building, but thought a lower place on the western side of the hill more eligible ; and there,
not to seem remiss in their undertaking, they built some little dwellings. The place is to this day called Herst, and a certain
thorn-tree growing there is a memorial of this circumstance.
The king on making careful enquiries as to the progress of , the work, was told by the monks that the place where the monks
dislike where he had determined to build the abbey was situated upon a hill with a parched soil, dry, and destitute of water ;
and they entreated him that a more convenient spot in the immediate vicinity might be chosen for so important a work. Upon this
the king grew angry, and commanded them with all haste to lay the foundations of the temple on the very place where he had
achieved the victory over refuses to his enemy. Not daring to resist him, they complained of the scarcity of water ; to which
the king is reported to have replied in these memorable words ' If God spare my life, I will so amply provide for this place,
that wine shall be more abundant here than water is in any other great abbey !
'They next complained of the unfitness of the place, because, the ground being woody for some distance round, proper stone
for the edifice could not be obtained ; but the king, undertaking to defray all expenses out of his own treasury, sent ships
to the town of Caen to when, in compliance with the royal order, they had imported some part of the stone from Normandy, in
the meantime, as is said, it was revealed to a certain religious matron, that upon digging in the place indicated to her in
a vision, they would find plenty of stone for this purpose.
They commenced a search accordingly, and, at no great distance from the boundary which had been marked out for the Abbey,
materials found such an ample supply, that it plainly appeared, that a concealed treasure of it had been espot
'divinely laid in that very place from eternity, for the building there to be erected !