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by Sarah Orne Jewett
Dukes of the Normans
THE BATTLE OF VAL-ÈS-DUNES.
"Who stood with head erect and shining eyes,
As if the beacon of some promised land
Caught his strong vision, and entranced it there." -- A. F.
The Viking's grandchildren had by no means lost their love for journeying by land or sea. As in old Norway one may still find bits of coral and rudely shaped precious stones set in the quaintly wrought silver ornaments made by the peasants, so in Normandy there are pieces of Spanish leather and treasures from the east and from the south, relics of the plundering of a later generation. Roger de Toesny, one of William's fiercest enemies, does not become well-known to us until we trace out something of his history as a wanderer before he came to join Talvas in a well-planned rebellion.
In Duke Richard the Good's time there was a restless spirit of adventure stirring in Norman hearts, and the foundations were laid of the Southern kingdoms which made such a change in Europe. A Norman invasion of Spain came to nothing in comparison with those more important settlements, but in 1018 Roger de Toesny carried the Norman arms into the Spanish peninsula. A long time before this Richard the Fearless had persuaded a large company of his Scandinavian subjects to wander that way, being pagan to the heart's-core and hopelessly inharmonious. Roger followed them on a grand crusade against the infidel Saracen, and also hoped to gain a kingdom for himself. He was of the noblest blood in Normandy, of Rolf the Ganger's own family, and well upheld the warlike honor of his house in his daring fights with the infidel. Almost unbelievable stories are told of his cannibal-like savagery with his captives, but the very same stories are told of another man, so we will not stop to moralize upon Roger's wickedness. He married the Spanish countess of Barcelona, who did homage to the King of France, and every thing looked prosperous at one time for his dominion, but it never really took root after all, and de Toesny went back again to Normandy, and blazed out instantly with tremendous wrath at the pretentions of William the Bastard. He could not believe that the proud Norman barons and knights would ever submit to such a degradation. De Talvas was only too glad to greet so sympathetic an ally, and the opposition to the young duke took a more formidable shape than ever before.
All through William's earliest years the feudal lords spent most of their strength in quarreling with each other, but de Toesny's appearance gave the signal for a league against the ruler whom they despised. William was no longer a child, and rumors of his premature sagacity, and his uncommon strength and quickness in war, were flying about from town to town and warned his enemies that they had no time to lose if they meant to crush him down. He was a noble-looking lad and had shown a natural preference for a soldier's life; at fifteen he had demanded to be made a knight of the old Norman tradition in which lurked a memory of Scandinavian ceremonies. None save Duke William could bend Duke William's bow, and while these glowing accounts of him were written from a later standpoint, and his story might easily be read backward, as a fulfilment of prophecy, we can be sure, at least, that his power asserted itself in a marked way, and that he soon gained importance and mustered a respectable company of followers as the beginning of a brilliant and almost irresistible court and army. Even King Henry of France was jealous of his vassal's rising fame and popularity, and felt obliged to pay William a deference that his years did not merit. All through the first twelve years men felt that the boy William's life was in danger, and that, whatever respect Henry paid him, was likely to be changed to open animosity and disdain the moment that there was a good excuse. We have a glimpse now and then of the lonely lad at his sport in the forest about Falaise and Valognes, where he set apart preserves for hunting. We follow him from Alan of Brittany's wardship, to the guardian he chose himself, who held the place of tutor with that of captain-general of the Norman army, but, guardian or no guardian, he pushed forward single-handed, and mastered others, beside himself, in a way that the world never will cease to wonder at.
Roger de Toesny refused allegiance to begin with, and with loud expressions of his scorn of the Bastard, began to lay waste his neighbors' lands as if they, too, had been Saracens and merited any sort of punishment. We first hear the name of De Beaumont, famous enough ever since, in an account of a battle which some of Roger's outraged victims waged against him. Grantmesnil, too, is a name that we shall know very well by and by, when William has gone over to England with his Norman lords. Normandy never got over its excitement and apparent astonishment at William's presence and claims; but even in his boyhood he was the leader of a party. "So lively and spirited was he, that it seemed to all a marvel," says one of the old chroniclers, with enthusiasm. When he began to take deep interest in his affairs, the news of revolts and disorderliness in the country moved him to violent fits of irritation, but he soon learned to hide these instinctively, and the chronicle goes on to say that he "had welling up in his child's heart all the vigor of a man to teach the Normans to forbear from all acts of irregularity." In this outbreak against de Toesny he found an irresistible temptation to assert his mastery, and boy as he was, he really made himself felt; De Toesny was killed in the fierce little battle, and his death gave a temporary relief from such uprisings; but William comes more and more to the front, and all Normandy takes sides either for or against him. This was no insignificant pretender, but one to be feared; his guardians and faithful men who had held to him for good or bad reasons, were mostly put out of the way by their enemies, and there was nobody at last who could lead the Bastard's men to battle better than he could himself.
Henry of France had been biding his time, and now Guy of Burgundy, the son of William's cousin, whom he had welcomed kindly at his feudal court, puts in a claim to the dukedom of Normandy. He helped forward a conspiracy, and one night, while William was living in his favorite castle at Valognes, the jester came knocking with his bauble, and crying at the chamber door, begging him to fly for his life: "They are already armed; they are getting ready; to delay is death!" cried poor Golet the fool; and his master leaped out of bed, seized his clothes, and ran to the stables for his horse. Presently he was galloping away toward Falaise for dear life, and to this day the road he took is called the Duke's road. This was in 1044, and William was nineteen years old. He was not slow to understand that the rebels had again risen, and that the conspiracy was more than a conspiracy; it was a determined insurrection. All the night long, as he rode across the country in the bright moonlight, he was thinking about his plans, no doubt, and great energies and determinations were suddenly waked in his heart. This was more than a dislike of himself and the tan-yard inheritance; it was the old rivalry of the Frenchmen and Northmen. The old question of supremacy and race prejudice was to be fought over once more and for the last time with any sort of distinctness. This was not the petty animosity of one baron or another; it was almost the whole nobility of Normandy against their duke.
There was one episode of the duke's journey which is worth telling: He had ridden for dear life, and had forded many a stream, and one, more dangerous, tide inlet where the rivers Oune and Vire flowed out to sea; and when he got safe across, he went into the Church of St. Clement, in the Bayeux district, to kneel down and say his prayers.
As the sun rose, he came close to the church and castle of Rye, and the Lord of Rye was standing at the castle gate in the clear morning air. William spurred his horse, and was for hurrying by, but this faithful vassal, whose name was Hubert, knew him, and stopped him, and begged to be told the reason of such a headlong journey. The Lord of Rye was very hospitable, and the tired duke dismounted, and was made welcome in the house; and presently a fresh horse was brought out for him, and the three brave sons of the loyal house were mounted also to ride by his side to Falaise. This hospitality was not forgotten. Later, in England, their grateful guest set them in high places, and favored them in princely fashion. Guy, of Burgundy had been brought up with William as a friend and kinsman, and had been treated with great generosity. He was master of some great estates, and one of these was a powerful border fortress between Normandy and France. His friends were many, and he found listeners enough to his propositions. Born of the princely houses of Burgundy and Normandy, he claimed the duchy as his inherited right; and while so many in court and camp were ashamed of their lawful leader, and ready to deny his authority, came Guy's opportunity.
William was cautious, and not without experience. When he was only a baby he had caught at the straw on which he lay, and would not let go his hold, and this sign of his future power and persistence had been proved a true one. The quarrelsome, lawless lords felt that their days of liberty for themselves, and oppression of everybody else, would soon be over if they did not strike quickly. They dreaded so strong and stern a master, and rallied to the standard of the Bastard's rival, Guy of Burgundy.
There were some of the first nobles of the Côtentin who forsook their young duke for this rival who was hardly Norman at all, as they usually decided such points. His Norman descent was on the spindle side rather than the sword, to use the old distinction, and his mother's ancestors would not have prevented him in other days from being called almost a Frenchman. There is a tradition that Guy promised to divide the lands of Normandy with his allies, keeping only the old French grant to Rolf for himself, and this must have been the cause of the treason of the descendants of Rolf's and William Longsword's loyal colonists. It would amaze us to see the change in the life and surroundings of the feudal lords even in the years of William's minority. The leader of the barons in the revolt was the Viscount of Coutances, the son of that chief who had defeated Æthelred of England and his host nearly half a century before. He lived in a castle on the river Oune, near which he afterward built his great St. Saviour's Abbey. This was the central point of the insurrection, and from his tower Neal of St. Saviour could take a wide survey of his beautiful Côtentin country with its plough-land and pastures and forests, the great minister of Lessay, and the cliffs and marshes; the sturdy castles of his feudal lords scattered far and wide. There came to Saint Saviour's also Randolf of Bayeux, and Hamon of Thorigny and of Creuilly, and Grimbald of Plessis, and each of them made his fortress ready for a siege, and swore to defend Guy of Burgundy and to use every art of war and even treachery to subdue and disgrace William. I say "even treachery," but that was the first resort of these insurgents rather than the last. They had laid the deep plot to seize and murder him at Valognes, and Grimbald was to have struck the blow.
King Henry of France was another enemy at heart. It is difficult at first to understand his course toward his young neighbor. He never had fairly acknowledged him, and William on his part had never put his hands into the king's and announced with the loyal homage of his ancestors that he was Henry's man. While Normandy was masterless in William's youth, there was a good chance, never likely to come again in one man's lifetime, for the king to assert his authority and to seize at least part of the Norman territory. The discontent with the base-born heir to the dukedom might not have been enough by itself to warrant such usurpation, but then, while the feudal lords were in such turmoil and so taken up with, for the most part, merely neighborhood quarrels; while they had so little national and such fierce sectional feeling, would have been the time for an outsider to enrich himself at their expense. It was not yet time for Normandy to be provoked into a closer unification by any outside danger. The French and Scandinavian factions were still distinct and suspicious of each other, but it was already too late when King Henry at last, without note or warning, poured his soldiers across the Norman boundary and invaded the Evreçin; too late indeed in view of what followed, and in spite of the temporary blazing up of new jealousies and the revival of old grievances and hatreds. Henry won a victory and triumph for the time being; be demanded the famous border castle of Tillières and insisted that it should be destroyed, and though the brave commander held out for some time even against William's orders, he finally surrendered. Henry placed a strong garrison there at once, and after getting an apparently strong hold on Normandy there followed a time of peace. The king seemed to be satisfied, but no doubt the young duke's mind was busy enough with a forced survey of his enemies, already declared or still masked by hypocrisy, and of his own possible and probable resources. A readiness to do the things that must be done was making a true man of Duke William even in his boyhood. For many years he had seen revolt and violence grow more easy and more frequent in his dukedom; the noise of quarrels and fighting grew louder and louder. In his first great battle at Val-ès-dunes the rule of the Côtentin lords and Guy of Burgundy, or the rule of William the Bastard, struggled for the mastery.
It was a great battle in importance rather than in numbers. William called to his loyal provinces for help, and the knights came riding to court from the romance-side of Normandy, while from the Bessin and the Côtentin the rebels came down to meet them. It seems strange that, when William represents to us the ideal descendant of the Northmen, the Scandinavian element in his dukedom was the first to oppose him. For once King Henry stood by his vassal, and when William asked for help in that most critical time, it was not withheld. Henry had not been ashamed to take part with the Norman traitors in past times, and now that there was a chance of breaking the ducal government in pieces and adding a great district to France, we are more than ever puzzled to know why he did not make the most of the occasion. Perhaps he felt that the rule of the dukes was better than the rule of the mutinous barons of the Côtentin, and likely, on the whole, to prove less dangerous. So when William claimed protection, it was readily granted, and the king came to his aid at the head of a body of troops, and helped to win the victory.
We hear nothing of the Norman archers yet in the chronicler's story of the fight. They were famous enough afterward, but this battle was between mounted knights, a true battle of chivalry. The place was near the river Orne, and the long slopes of the low hills stretched far and wide, covered with soft turf, like the English downs across the Channel, lying pleasantly toward the sun. Master Wace writes the story of the day in the "Roman de Rou," and sketches the battle-field with vivid touches of his pen. Mr. Freeman says, in a note beneath his own description, that he went over the ground with Mr. Green, his fellow-historian, for company, and Master Wace's book in hand for guide. In the "Roman de Rou" there is a hint that not only the peasantry, but the poorer gentlemen as well, were secretly on William's side, that the prejudice and distrust toward the feudal lords was very great, and that there was more confidence in a sovereign than in the irksome tyranny of less powerful lords.
The barons of Saxon Bayeux and Danish Coutances were matched against the loyal burghers of Falaise, Romanized Rouen, and the men of the bishop's cities of Liseux and Evreux. King Henry stopped at the little village of Valmeray to hear mass, as he came up from the south with his followers, and presently the duke joined them in the great plain beyond. The rebels are there too; the horses will not stand in place together, they have caught the spirit of the encounter, and the bright bosses of the shields; the lances, tied with gay ribbons, glitter and shine, as the long line of knights bends and lifts and wavers like some fluttering gay decoration, -- some many-colored huge silken splendor all along the green grass. The birds fly over swiftly, and return as quickly, puzzled by the strange appearance of their country-side. Their nests in the grass are trampled under foot -- the world is alive with men in armor, who laugh loudly and swear roundly, and are there for something strange, to kill each other if they can, rather than live, for the sake of Normandy. Far away the green fields stretch into the haze, the cottages look like toys, and the sheep and cattle feed without fear in the pastures. Church towers rise gray and straight-walled into the blue sky. It is a great day for Normandy, and her best knights and gentlemen finger their sword-hilts, or buckle their saddle-girths, and wait impatiently for the battle to begin on that day of Val-ès-dunes.
Among the Côtentin lords was Ralph of Tesson, lord of the forest of Cinquelais and the castle of Harcourt-Thury. Behind him rode a hundred and twenty knights, well armed and gallant, who would follow him to the death. He had sworn on the holy relics of the saints at Bayeux to smite William wherever he met him, yet he had no ground for complaint against him. His heart fell when he saw his rightful lord face to face. A tanner's grandson, indeed, and a man whose father and mother had done him wrong; all that was true, yet this young Duke William was good to look upon, and as brave a gentleman as any son of Rolf's, or the fearless Richard's. Ralf Tesson (the Badger they called him), a man both shrewd and powerful, stood apart, and would not rank himself and his men with either faction, and his knights crowded round him, to remind him that he had done homage once to William, and would fight against his natural lord. The Côtentin lords were dismayed and angry, they promised him great rewards, but nothing touched him, and he stood silent, a little way from the armies. The young duke and the king noticed him, and the six-score-and-six brave knights in his troop, all with their lances raised and trimmed with their ladies' silk tokens. William said that they would come to his aid; neither Tesson nor his men had any grudge against him.
Suddenly Tesson put spurs to his horse, and came dashing across the open field, and all the lords and gentlemen held their breath as they watched him. "Thury! Thury!" he shouted as he came, and "Thury! Thury!" the cry echoed back again from the distance. He rode straight to the duke; there was a murmur from the Côtentin men; he struck the duke gently with his glove. It was but a playful mockery of his vow to the saints at Bayeux; he had struck William, but he and his knights were William's men again; the young duke said, "Thanks to thee!" and the fight began, all the hotter for the anger of the deserted barons and their desire for revenge. The day had begun with a bad omen for their success. "Dexaide!" the old Norman war-cry, rang out, and those who had followed the lilies of France cried "Montjoie Saint Denis!" as they fought.
Nowadays, a soldier is a soldier, and men who choose other professions can keep to them, unless in their country's extremity of danger, but in that day every man must go to the wars, if there were need of him, and be surgeon or lawyer, and soldier too; yes, even the priests and bishops put on their swords and went out to fight. It would be interesting to know more names on the roll-call that day at Val-ès-dunes, but we can almost hear the shouts to the patron saints, and the clash of the armor. King Henry fought like a brave man, and the storm of the battle raged fiercest round him. The knights broke their lances, and fought sword to sword. There was no play of army tactics and manvering, but a hand-to-hand fight, with the sheer strength of horse and man. Once King Henry was overthrown by the thrust of a Côtentin lance, and sprang up quickly to show himself to his men. Again he was in the thickest of the encounter, and was met by one of the three great rebel chiefs and thrown upon the ground, but this Lord of Thorigny was struck, in his turn, by a loyal French knight, and presently his lamenting followers carried him away dead on his shield like any Spartan of old. And the king honored his valor and commanded that he should be buried with splendid ceremonies in a church not far from the battlefield. Long afterward the Norman men and women loved to sing and to tell stories about the young Duke William's bravery and noble deeds of arms in that first great fight that made him duke from one end of Normandy to the other. He slew with his own hand the noblest and most daring warrior of Bayeux. Master Wace, the chronicler, tells us how William drove the sharp steel straight through his hardy foe, and how the body fell beneath his stroke and its soul departed. Wace was a Bayeux man himself, and though he was a loyal songster and true to his great duke, he cannot help a sigh of pride and sorrow over Hardrez' fate.
Neal of St. Saviour fought steadily and cheered his men eagerly as the hour went on, but Randolf of Bayeux felt his courage begin to fail him. Hamon was dead. Their great ally, Hardrez, had been the flower of his own knights, and he was lying dead of a cruel sword-thrust there in plain sight. He lost sight of Neal, perhaps, for he was suddenly afraid of betrayal, and grieved that he had ever put his helmet on. There is a touching bit of description in the "Roman de Rou" just now. The battle pleased him no more, is told in the quaint short lines. He thought how sad it was to be a captive, and sadder still to be slain. He gave way feebly at every charge; he wandered to and fro aimlessly, a thing to be stumbled over, we fancy him, now in the front of the fight, now in the rear; at last he dropped his lance and shield. "He stretched forth his neck and rode for his life," says Master Wace, quite ashamed of his countryman. But we can see the poor knight's head drooping low, and his good, tired horse -- the better man of the two -- mustering all his broken strength to carry his master beyond the reach of danger. All the cowards rode after him pell-mell, but brave Saint Saviour fought to the last and held the field until his right arm failed and he could not strike again. The French pressed him hard, the Norman men looked few and spent, and the mighty lord of the Côtentin knew that all hope was lost. There on the rising ground of Saint Lawrence the last blow was struck.
Away went the rebels in groups of three or four -- away for dear life every one of them, riding this way and that, trying to get out of reach of their enemies and into some sort of shelter. The duke chased them like a hound on the track of hares on, on toward Bayeux, past the great Abbey of Fontenay and the Allemagne quarries, until they reached the river Orne with its deep current. Men and horses floundered in the water there, and many hot wounds tinged it with a crimson stain. They were drowned, poor knights, and poor, brave horses too. They went struggling and drifting down stream; the banks were strewn with the dead; and the mill-wheels of Borbillon, a little farther down, were stopped in their slow turning by the strange wreck and floating worthless fragments of those lords and gentlemen who had lost the battle of the Val-ès-dunes.
And William was the conqueror of Normandy. Guy of Burgundy was a traitor to his friends, and won a heritage of shame for his flight from the field. We hear nothing of him while the fight went on, only that he ran away. It appears that he must have been one of the first to start for a place of safety, because they blame him so much; there is nothing said about all the rebels running away together a little later. That was the fortune of war and inevitable; not personal cowardice, they might tell us. Guy of Burgundy was the man who had led the three Côtentin lords out by fair promises and taunts about their bastard duke, and he should have been brave and full of prowess, since he undertook to be the rival of so brave a man. He did not go toward the banks of the fateful river, but in quite another direction to his own castle of Brionne, and a troop of his vassals escaped with him and defended themselves there for a long time, until William fairly starved them out like rats in a hole. They held their own bravely, too, and no man was put to death when they surrendered, while Guy was even allowed to come back to court. Master Wace stoutly maintains that they should have been hung, and says long afterward that some of those high in favor at court were the traitors of the great rebellion.
Strange to say, nobody was put to death. Mr. Freeman says of this something that gives us such a clear look at William's character that I must copy it entire. "In those days, both in Normandy and elsewhere, the legal execution of a state criminal was an event that seldom happened. Men's lives were recklessly wasted in the endless warfare of the times, and there were men, as we have seen, who did not shrink from private murder, even in its basest forms. But the formal hanging or beheading of a noble prisoner, so common in later times, was, in the eleventh century, a most unusual sight. And, strange as it may sound, there was a sense in which William the Conqueror was not a man of blood. He would sacrifice any number of lives to his boundless ambition; he did not scruple to condemn his enemies to cruel personal mutilations; he would keep men for years as a mere measure of security, in the horrible prison-houses of those days; but the extinction of human life in cold blood was something from which he shrank."
At the time of the first great victory, the historian goes on to say, William was of an age when men are commonly disposed to be generous, and the worst points of his character had not begun to show themselves. Later in life, when he had broken the rule, or perhaps we must call it only his prejudice and superstition, we find that the star of his glory is already going down, pale and spent, into the mists of shame and disappointment.
None of the traitors of the Val-ès-dunes were treated harshly, according to the standard of the times. The barons paid fines and gave mortgages, and a great many of them were obliged to tear down their robber castles, which they had built without permission from the duke. This is the reason that there are so few ruins in Normandy of the towers of that date. The Master of St. Saviour's was obliged to take himself off to Brittany, but there was evidently no confiscation of his great estates, for we find him back again at court the very next year, high in the duke's favor and holding an honorable position. He lived forty-four years after this, an uncommon lifetime for a Norman knight, and followed the Conqueror to England, but he got no reward in lands and honor, as so many of his comrades did. Guy of Burgundy stayed at court a little while, and then went back to his native province and devoted himself to making plots against his brother, Count William. Grimbald de Plessis fared the worst of all the conspirators; he was taken to Rouen and put into prison weighted down with chains, and given the poorest of lodgings. He confessed that he had tried to murder William that night at Valognes, when the court jester gave warning, and said that a knight called Salle had been his confederate. Salle denied the charge stoutly and challenged De Plessis to fight a judicial combat, but before the day came the scheming, unlucky baron from the Saxon lands was found dead in his dungeon. The fetters had ground their way into his very bones, and he was buried in his chains, for a warning, while his estates were seized and part of them given to the church of Bayeux.
Now, at last, the Norman priests and knights knew that they had a master. For some time it was surprisingly quiet in Normandy, and the country was unexpectedly prosperous. The great duchy stood in a higher rank among her sister kingdoms than ever before, and though there was another revolt and serious attacks from envious neighbors, yet the Saxons of the Bessin and the Danes of the Côtentin were overthrown, and Normandy was more unitedly Norman-French than ever. There had been a long struggle that had lasted from Richard the Fearless' boyhood until now, but it was ended at last, to all intents and purposes. Even now there is a difference between the two parts of Normandy, though so many years have passed; but the day was not far off after this battle of Val-ès-dunes when the young conqueror could muster a great army and cross the channel into England. "The Count of Rouen," says Freeman, "had overcome Saxons and Danes within his own dominions, and he was about to weld them into his most trusty weapons, wherewith to overcome Saxons and Danes beyond the sea."
Perhaps nothing will show the barbarous cruelty of these times or William's fierce temper better than the story of Alençon and its punishment. William Talvas, the young duke's old enemy, formed a rebellious league with Geoffry of Anjou, and they undertook to hold Alençon against the Normans. When William came within sight of the city, he discovered that they had sufficient self-confidence to mock at him and insult him. They even spread raw skins over the edge of the city walls, and beat them vigorously, yelling that there was plenty of work for the tanner, and giving even plainer hints at what they thought of his mother's ancestry.
William was naturally put into a great rage, and set himself and his army down before the walls his enemies thought so invincible. He swore "by the splendor of God" that he would treat them as a man lops a tree with an axe, and, sure enough, when the siege was over, and Alençon was at the Conqueror's mercy, he demanded thirty-two captives of war, and nose, hands, and feet were chopped off, and presently thrown back over the walls into the town.
Notes for Chapter 10
Who stood with head erect and shining eyes: The lines are from Annie Fields, "The Last Contest of Aeschylus," in Under the Olive (1881).
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So lively and spirited: Guizot, pp. 267-8. (Jewett's Sources)
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Wace Mr. Freeman ... and Mr. Green: See Jewett's Sources .
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Val-ès-Dunes: Wikipedia says "the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes was fought in 1047 by the combined forces of William, Duke of Normandy and King Henry I of France against the forces of several rebel Norman barons, led by Guy of Brionne, the son of Reginald I, Count of Burgundy. As a result of winning the battle, William (later William the Conqueror) was able to retain his title and maintain control over the western half of his duchy."
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Dexaide: This battle cry of the Normans at the battle of Val-ès-Dunes translates, "God help us!" Edward Bulwer Lytton reports this in his narrative of the battle, in an account Jewett recommends in Chapter 9: See Harold: The Last of the Saxon Kings, Volume 2 (B. Tauchnitz, 1848), p. 286. Jewett's Sources
Montjoie Saint Denis: An account of this battle cry of the French appears in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Giving the Derivation, Source, Or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions, and Words that Have a Tale to Tell, by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (Henry Altemus Company, 1898), p. 856.
Jewett's probable source for accounts of the war cries is Master Wace. See Roman de Rou, p. xiv. Jewett's Sources
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any Spartan of old: Refers to the custom of carrying dead from field on their shields, as practiced by the Spartans of ancient Greece.
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Wace stoutly maintains: Wace's account of the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes appears in Roman de Rou, pp. 133-8. Probably Jewett has taken her summary and the quotation -- "He stretched forth his neck and rode for his life" -- from Freeman. Freeman writes with a comma: "He stretched forth his neck, and rode for his life" (v. 2, p. 172). Jewett's Sources
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"In those days, both in Normandy": See Freeman, v. 2, pp. 174-5. Jewett's quotation differs slightly from this passage. Jewett's Sources
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"The Count of Rouen," says Freeman, "had overcome Saxons and Danes": See Freeman, p. 177. Where Jewett says "trusty," Freeman says "trustworthy." Jewett's Sources
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story of Alençon: Jewett's account of the siege of Alençon, seems to vary from Thierry's in v 1 p. 135. She says he amputated hands and feet of 32 prisoners after the siege was over, whereas Thierry says he did this in the midst of the siege. Johnson clarifies this (p. 91). The town fell, but the castle/garrison held out until William's men threw the severed hands and feet over the castle wall. Jewett's account, however, does not recognize this distinction, and so appears nonsensical or makes William look worse than he was, his violence seeming pointless rather than to complete his military victory.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College, with assistance from Allison Anderson and Gabe Heller.
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