He blessed the enterprise; and cursed Harold; and requested that the Normans would pay 'Peter's Pence' - or a tax to himself of a penny a year on every house - a little more regularly in future, if they could make it convenient.
King Harold had a rebel brother in Flanders, who was a vassal of HAROLD HARDRADA, King of Norway. This brother, and this Norwegian King, joining their forces against England, with Duke William's help, won a fight in which the English were commanded by two nobles; and then besieged York. Harold, who was waiting for the Normans on the coast at Hastings, with his army, marched to Stamford Bridge upon the river Derwent to give them instant battle.
He found them drawn up in a hollow circle, marked out by their shining spears. Riding round this circle at a distance, to survey it, he saw a brave figure on horseback, in a blue mantle and a bright helmet, whose horse suddenly stumbled and threw him.
'Who is that man who has fallen?' Harold asked of one of his captains.
'The King of Norway,' he replied.
'He is a tall and stately king,' said Harold, 'but his end is near.'
He added, in a little while, 'Go yonder to my brother, and tell him, if he withdraw his troops, he shall be Earl of Northumberland, and rich and powerful in England.'
The captain rode away and gave the message.
'What will he give to my friend the King of Norway?' asked the brother.
'Seven feet of earth for a grave,' replied the captain.
'No more?' returned the brother, with a smile.
'The King of Norway being a tall man, perhaps a little more,' replied the captain.
'Ride back!' said the brother, 'and tell King Harold to make ready for the fight!'
He did so, very soon. And such a fight King Harold led against that force, that his brother, and the Norwegian King, and every chief of note in all their host, except the Norwegian King's son, Olave, to whom he gave honourable dismissal, were left dead upon the field. The victorious army marched to York. As King Harold sat there at the feast, in the midst of all his company, a stir was heard at the doors; and messengers all covered with mire from riding far and fast through broken ground came hurrying in, to report that the Normans had landed in England.
The intelligence was true. They had been tossed about by contrary winds, and some of their ships had been wrecked. A part of their own shore, to which they had been driven back, was strewn with Norman bodies. But they had once more made sail, led by the Duke's own galley, a present from his wife, upon the prow whereof the figure of a golden boy stood pointing towards England. By day, the banner of the three Lions of Normandy, the diverse coloured sails, the gilded vans, the many decorations of this gorgeous ship, had glittered in the sun and sunny water; by night, a light had sparkled like a star at her mast-head. And now, encamped near Hastings, with their leader lying in the old Roman castle of Pevensey, the English retiring in all directions, the land for miles around scorched and smoking, fired and pillaged, was the whole Norman power, hopeful and strong on English ground.
Harold broke up the feast and hurried to London. Within a week, his army was ready. He sent out spies to ascertain the Norman strength. William took them, caused them to be led through his whole camp, and then dismissed. 'The Normans,' said these spies to Harold, 'are not bearded on the upper lip as we English are, but are shorn. They are priests.' 'My men,' replied Harold, with a laugh, 'will find those priests good soldiers!'
'The Saxons,' reported Duke William's outposts of Norman soldiers, who were instructed to retire as King Harold's army advanced, 'rush on us through their pillaged country with the fury of madmen.'
'Let them come, and come soon!' said Duke William.
Some proposals for a reconciliation were made, but were soon abandoned. In the middle of the month of October, in the year one thousand and sixty-six, the Normans and the English came front to front.