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Famous Men of the Middle Ages

William the Conqueror
King from 1066-1087
I
On the death of Edward the Confessor the throne of England was claimed by William,
Duke of Normandy.
When Edward took refuge in Normandy after the Danes conquered England, he stayed at
the palace of William. He was very kindly treated there, and William said that Edward
had promised in gratitude that William should succeed him as king of England.
One day in the year 1066 when William was hunting with a party of his courtiers in the
woods near Rouen, a noble came riding rapidly toward him shouting, "Your Highness, a
messenger has just arrived from England, bearing the news that King Edward is dead and
that Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, has been placed on the English throne."
William at once called his nobles together and said to them, "I must have your consent
that I enforce my claim to England's throne by arms."
The barons gave their consent. So an army of sixty thousand men was collected and a
large fleet of ships was built to carry this force across the channel.
During the months of preparation William sent an embassy to the English court to
demand of Harold that he give up the throne. Harold refused.
Soon all England was startled by the news that William had landed on the English coast
at the port of Hastings with a large force.
Harold immediately marched as quickly as possible from the north to the southern coast.
In a week or so he arrived at a place called Senlac nine miles from Hastings, in the
neighborhood of which town the Norman army was encamped. He took his position on a
low range of hills and awaited the attack of William. His men were tired with their
march, but he encouraged them and bade them prepare for battle.
On the morning of October 14, 1066, the two armies met. The Norman foot-soldiers
opened the battle by charging on the English stockades. They ran over the plain to the
low hills, singing a war-song at the top of their voices; but they could not carry the
stockades although they tried again and again. They therefore attacked another part of the
English forces.
William, clad in complete armor, was in the very front of the fight, urging on his troops.
At one time a cry arose in his army that he was slain and a panic began. William drew off
his helmet and rode along the lines, shouting, "I live! I live! Fight on! We shall conquer
yet!"
 
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