CHAPTER I. THE CONQUEST

The battle of the 14th of October, 1066, was decisive of the struggle for the throne of England, but William of Normandy was in no haste to gather in the results of the victory which he had won. The judgment of heaven had been pronounced in the case between him and Harold, and there was no mistaking the verdict. The Saxon army was routed and flying. It could hardly rally short of London, but there was no real pursuit. The Normans spent the night on the battlefield, and William's own tent was pitched on the hill which the enemy had held, and in the midst of the Saxon wounded, a position of some danger, against which his friend and adviser, Walter Giffard, remonstrated in vain. On the next day he fell back with his army to Hastings. Here he remained five days waiting, the Saxon Chronicle tells us, for the nation to make known its submission; waiting, it is more likely, for reinforcements which were coming from Normandy. So keen a mind as William's probably did not misjudge the situation. With the only real army against him broken to pieces, with the only leaders around whom a new army could rally dead, he could afford to wait. He may not have understood the rallying power of the Saxon soldiery, but he probably knew very well the character of the public men of England, who were left alive to head and direct a new resistance. The only candidate for the throne upon whom all parties could unite was a boy of no pronounced character and no experience. The leaders of the nobility who should have stood forth in such a crisis as the natural leaders of the nation were men who had shown in the clearest way their readiness to sacrifice England to their personal ambitions or grievances. At the head of the Church were men of but little higher character and no greater capacity for leadership, undisguised pluralists who could not avoid the charge of disregarding in their own selfish interests the laws they were bound to administer. London, where the greater part of the fugitives had gathered, could hardly have settled upon the next step to be taken when William began his advance, five days after the battle. His first objective point was the great fortress of Dover, which dominated that important landing-place upon the coast. On the way he stopped to give an example of what those might expect who made themselves his enemies, by punishing the town of Romney, which had ventured to beat off with some vigour a body of Normans, probably one that had tried to land there by mistake.