Old King Edward died soon after, and Harold said at once that his promise had been forced and cheated from him, so that he need not keep it, and he was crowned King of England. This filled William with anger. He called all his fighting Normans together, fitted out ships, and sailed across the English Channel to Dover. The figure-head of his own ship was a likeness of his second little boy, named William. He landed at Pevensey, in Sussex, and set up his camp while Harold was away in the North, fighting with a runaway brother of his own, who had brought the Norwegians to attack Yorkshire. Harold had just won a great battle over these enemies when he heard that William and his Normans had landed, and he had to hurry the whole length of England to meet them.
Many of the English would not join him, because they did not want him for their king. But though his army was not large, it was very brave. When he reached Sussex, he placed all his men on the top of a low hill, near Hastings, and caused them to make a fence all round, with a ditch before it, and in the middle was his own standard, with a fighting man embroidered upon it. Then the Normans rode up on their war-horses to attack him, one brave knight going first, singing. The war-horses stumbled in the ditch, and the long spears of the English killed both men and horses. Then William ordered his archers to shoot their arrows high in the air. They came down like hail into the faces and on the heads of the English. Harold himself was pierced by one in the eye. The Normans charged the fence again, and broke through; and, by the time night came on, Harold himself and all his brave Englishmen were dead. They did not flee away; they all staid, and were killed, fighting to the last; and only then was Harold’s standard of the fighting man rooted up, and William’s standard—a cross, which had been blessed by the Pope—planted instead of it. So ended the battle of Hastings, in the year 1066.
The land has had a great many “conquests” hitherto—the Roman conquest, the English conquest, and now the Norman conquest. But there have been no more since; and the kings and queens have gone on in one long line ever since, from William of Normandy down to Queen Victoria.
William the conqueror. A.D. 1066—1087.
The king who had conquered England was a brave, strong man, who had been used to fighting and struggling ever since he was a young child.
He really feared God, and was in many ways a good man; but it had not been right of him to come and take another people’s country by force; and the having done one wrong thing often makes people grow worse and worse. Many of the English were unwilling to have William as their king, and his Norman friends were angry that he would not let them have more of the English lands, nor break the English laws. So they were often rising up against him; and each time he had to put them down he grew more harsh and stern. He did not want to be cruel; but he did many cruel things, because it was the only way to keep England.