The Norman Landing

There were neither ships to hinder him from drawing near to the shore, nor soldiers to withstand him in the act of landing. The crews of the whole Norman fleet disembarked without a blow being struck against them. But the array in which they disembarked seems plainly to show that they had at least reckoned on meeting with armed resistance. The fleet was not allowed to be scattered; the ships all steered for the same point, and cast anchor as near together as might be in the one haven of Pevensey. The wide stretch of shore at this point would render such a course especially easy. As soon as the anchors were cast, the ships were run ashore, the masts were lowered, the shields and saddles were unladen, the horses were set free from their unfamiliar prisons. The fighting men then landed as nearly as might be in battle array. The first armed man who set foot on English ground was Duke William himself. As he came down from his ship, his foot slipped and he fell with both his hands upon the ground. A loud cry of grief was raised at the evil omen. But the ready wit of William failed him not. "By the splendour of God, " he cried, "I have taken seizin of my kingdom, the earth of England is in my two hands. It is added that a soldier, of kindred spirit with his leader, ran forward, and plucking a handful of thatch from a cottage, placed it in the Duke's hand as seizin, not only of England, but of all that England held within it. "I accept it," answered the Duke; "and may God be with us. -- Freeman

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