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Lady Brassey
One of my pleasantest days in England was spent at old Battle Abbey, the scene of the
ever-memorable Battle of Hastings, where William of Normandy conquered the Saxon
The abbey was built by William as a thank-offering for the victory, on the spot where
Harold set up his standard. The old gateway is one of the finest in England. Part of the
ancient church remains, flowers and ivy growing out of the beautiful gothic arches.
As one stands upon the walls and looks out upon the sea, that great battle comes up
before him. The Norman hosts disembark; first come the archers in short tunics, with
bows as tall as themselves and quivers full of arrows; then the knights in coats of mail,
with long lances and two-edged swords; Duke William steps out last from the ship, and
falls foremost on both hands. His men gather about him in alarm, but he says, "See, my
lords, I have taken possession of England with both my hands. It is now mine, and what
is mine is yours."
Word is sent to Harold to surrender the throne, but he returns answer as haughty as is
sent. Brave and noble, he plants his standard, a warrior sparkling with gold and precious
stones, and thus addresses his men:--
"The Normans are good knights, and well used to war. If they pierce our ranks, we are
lost. Cleave, and do not spare!" Then they build up a breastwork of shields, which no
man can pass alive. William of Normandy is ready for action. He in turn addresses his
men: "Spare not, and strike hard. There will be booty for all. It will be in vain to ask for
peace; the English will not give it. Flight is impossible; at the sea you will find neither
ship nor bridge; the English would overtake and annihilate you there. The victory is in
our hands."
From nine till three the battle rages. The case becomes desperate. William orders the
archers to fire into the air, as they cannot pierce English armor, and arrows fall down like
rain upon the Saxons. Harold is pierced in the eye. He is soon overcome and trampled to
death by the enemy, dying, it is said, with the words "Holy Cross" upon his lips.
Ten thousand are killed on either side, and the Saxons pass forever under foreign rule.
Harold's mother comes and begs the body of her son, and pays for it, some historians say,
its weight in gold.
Every foot of ground at Battle Abbey is historic, and all the country round most
interesting. We drive over the smoothest of roads to a palace in the distance,--
Normanhurst, the home of Lady Brassey, the distinguished author and traveller. Towers
are at either corner and in the centre, and ivy climbs over the spacious vestibule to the
roof. Great buildings for waterworks, conservatories, and the like, are adjoining, in the