Henry of Huntingdon's text for the Battle of Hastings 1066
which was written about 1135AD
for the full text
After the Battle of Stamford Bridge
Harold, king of England, returned to York the same day, with great triumph. But while he was at dinner, a
messenger arrived with the news that William, duke of Normandy, had landed on the south coast and had built a fort at Hastings.
The king hastened southwards to oppose him, and drew up his army on level ground in that neighbourhood.
William talks a lot
Duke William commenced the attack with five squadrons of his splendid cavaly, a terrible onset;
but first he addressed them to this effect : 'What I have to say to you, ye Normans, the bravest of nations, does
not spring from any doubt of your valour or uncertanty of victory, which never by any chance or obstacle escaped
your efforts. If, indeed, once only you had failed of conquering, it might be necessary to inflame your courage by
But how little does the inherent spirit of your race require to be roused! Most valiant of men,
what availed the power of the Frank king, with all his people, from Lorraine to Spain, against Hastings, my
predecessor ? What he wanted of the territory of France he appropriated to himself; what he chose, only, was left
to the king; what he had, he held during his pleasure; when he was satisfied, he relinquished it, and looked for
something better. Did not Rollo, my ancestor, the founder of our nation, with your progenitors, conquer at Paris the
king of the Franks in the heart of his dominions ; nor could he obtain any respite until he humbly offered possession
of the country which from you is called Normandy, with the hand of his daughter ?
Did not your fathers take prisoner the king of the French, and detain him at Rouen till he restored Normandy to your Duke
Richard, then a boy ; with this stipulation, that in every conference between the King of France and the Duke of Normandy,
the duke should have his sword by his side, while the king should not be allowed so much as a dagger ? This concession your
fathers compelled the great king to submit to, as binding for ever. Did not the same duke lead your fathers to Mirmande,
at the foot of the Alps, and enforce submission from the lord of the town, his son-in-law, to his own wife, the duke's
daughter ? Nor Was it enough to conquer mortals; for he overcame the devil himself, with whom he wrestled, and cast down
and bound him, leaving him a shameful spectacle to angels. But why do I go back to former times ? When you, in our own time,
engaged the French at Mortemer, did not the French prefer flight to battle, and use their spurs instead of their swords ;
while — Ralph, the French commander, being slain — you reaped the fruits of victory, the honour and the spoil, as natural
results of your wonted success ? Ah ! let any one of the English whom our predecessors, both Danes and Norwegians, have
defeated in a hundred battles, come forth and show that the race of Rollo ever suffered a defeat from his time until now,
and I will submit and retreat.
Is it not shameful, then, that a people accustomed to be conquered, a people ignorant of the art of war, a people
not even in possession of arrows, should moke a show of being arrayed in order of battle against you, most valiant ?
Is it not a shame that this King Harold, perjured as he was in your presence, should dare to show his face to you?
It is a wonder to me that you have been allowed to see those who by a horrible crime beheaded your relations and
Alfred my kinsman, and that their own accursed heads are still on their shoulders. Raise, then, your standards,
my brave men, and set no bounds to your merited rage. Let the lightning of your glory flash, and the thunders of
your onset be heard from east to west, and be the avengers of the noble blood which has been spilled.
The Norman Army is inflamed
Duke William had not concluded his harangue, when all the squadrons, inflamed with rage, rushed on the enemy
with indescribable impetuosity, and left the duke speaking to himself! Before the armies closed for the fight, one
Taillefer, sportively brandishing swords before the English troops, while they were lost in amazement at his gambols,
slew one of their standard-bearers. A second time one of the enemy fell. The third time he was slain himself.
Then the ranks met; a cloud of arrows carried death among them; the clang of sword-strokes followed; helmets gleamed,
and weapons clashed. But Harold had formed his whole army in close column, making a rampart which the Normans could
Duke William, therefore, commanded his troops to make a feigned retreat. In their flight they happened unawares on a
deep trench, which was treacherously covered, into which numbers fell and perished.
While the English were engaged in pursuit the main body of the Normans broke the centre of the
enemy's line, which being perceived by those in pursuit over the concealed trench, when they were consequently
recalled most of them fell there.
Duke William also commanded his bowmen not to aim their arrows directly at the enemy, but to shoot them in the air,
that their cloud might spread darkness over the enemy's ranks; this occasioned great loss to the English.
Twenty of the bravest knights also pledged their troth to each other that they would cut through the English troops,
and capture the royal ensign called The Standard. In this attack the greater part were slain ; but the remainder,
hewing a way with their swords, captured the standard.
Meanwhile, a shower of arrows fell round King Harold, and he himself was pierced in the eye. A crowd of horsemen now
burst in, and the king, already wounded, was slain. With him fell Earl Gurth and Earl Leofric, his brothers.
After the defeat of the English army, and so great a victory, the Londoners submitted peaceably to William, and he was
crowned at Westminster, by Aldred, archbishop of York. Thus the hand of the Lord brought to pass the change which a
remarkable comet had foreshadowed in the beginning of the same year ; as it was said, 'In the year 1066, all England
was alarmed by a flaming comet.'
The battle was fought in the month of October, on the feast of St. Calixtus [Oct. 14]. King William afterwards founded
a noble abbey on the spot, which obtained the fitting name of Battle Abbey.