Norman Conquest Timeline
MON DIEU ET MON DROIT
Hastings, 7 October 1066
"Look up there at the flag flying above the Duke's headquarters on the hill," said Robert, a Norman horseman. "That's the papal standard. William is fighting with the Pope's blessing against the Saxon usurper. And William's half-brother, Bishop Odo, carries with him the papal bull excommunicating Harold.
"William himself wears around his neck the holy relic of St Peter, the very relic on which the perjurer Harold swore allegiance to my lord William in Normandy not two years ago. Now he denies that oath with force of arms. He denies Duke William what is rightfully his - the kingdom promised him by King Edward, the kingdom that is his by blood."
Robert is not swayed by the argument that, as the illegitimate son of Robert the Magnificent and Herleve, a tanner's daughter he abducted and raped, the Norman claim that the throne is William's by inheritance has no validity under English law.
"William is of royal blood," says Robert. "Harold is a mere commoner with no blood right to sit on the throne. God has already shown his favour to William. He became Duke of Normandy when he was just seven years old, when his father died. Since then he has avoided various assassination attempts and fought numerous battles, always emerging unscathed. The rebels have all been put down and Normandy, under William, is now united and prosperous. "Robert is unashamed of William's reputation for ruthlessness. "Everybody always talks about what happened at Alençon. So 32 captives taken at the siege of Alençon during our campaign in Maine had their hands and feet hacked off. But they deserved it. They insulted my lord. On the battlements of the castle they beat cow hides and taunted him with being a 'tanner's child'. "The Normans are well armed and well prepared for battle. "And it isn't just us," says Robert. "Look at the array of men we have here. There are Flemmings from Flanders to the north, Franks from France to the east, Bretons from Brittany to the west, and mercenaries from Maine and Anjou to the south. God has sent his star - the comet - and William will lead us to victory. "God may well be on the Normans' side. Only battle will decide that. But William's impressive array of troops is not here in England to spread the Word. They have been promised booty, land and wealth. If William succeeds in his quest to sit on the throne of England, many of them will rise to high positions in the new realm. This means they are highly motivated and they have absolute faith in their commander William of Normandy, who has shown himself to be a cunning tactician.
"The only thing that can defeat us is if the English cowards deny us a fight and leave us bottled up in this tiny corner of England all winter," says Robert. "We cannot wait to get into battle."
Article by Nigel Cawthorne