Toustain Fitz Rou Le Blanc. ( Toustain The White )
This brave and renowned knight, to whom the honour of bearing the Duke's gonfanon at Senlac was finally given, was the son of Rollo, or Rou, a younger son of Crispin, Baron of Bec-en-Caux, near Fécamp, and maternally descended from the Princes of Monaco. Two of his cousins, William and Gilbert Crispin, were also in the invading army.
The duke called a serving man, and ordered him to bring forth the gonfanon which; having unfolded it, the duke took it, reared it, and called to Raol de Conches;
"Bear my gonfanon," said he, " for I would not but do you right; by right and by ancestry your line are standard bearers of Normandy, and very good knights have they all been." " Many thanks to you," said Raol, "for acknowledging our right; but by my faith, the gonfanon shall not this day be borne by me. To-day I claim quittance of the service, for I would serve you in other guise. I will go with you into the battle, and will fight the English as long as life shall last, and know that my hand will be worth any twenty of such men.
" Then the duke turned another way, and called to him Galtier Giffart. "Do thou take this gonfanon," said he, "and bear it in the battle." But Galtier Giffart answered, "Sire, for God's mercy look at my white and bald head; my strength has fallen away, and my breath become shorter. The standard should be borne by one who can endure long labour; I shall be in the battle, and you have not any man who will serve you more truly; I will strike with my sword till it shall be died in your, enemies' blood."
Then the duke said fiercely, " By the splendour of God, my lords, I think you mean to betray and fail me in this great need." "Sire," said Giffart, is not so! we have done no treason, nor do I refuse from any felony towards you; but I have to lead a great chivalry, both soldiers and the men of my fief. Never had I such good means of serving you as I now have; and if God please, I will serve you: if need be, I will die for you, and will give my own heart for yours." " By my faith," quoth the duke, " I always loved thee, and now I love thee more; if I survive this day, thou shalt be the better for it all thy days." Then he called out a knight, whom he had heard much praised, Tosteins Fitz Rou le blanc, by name, whose abode was at Bec-en-Caux. To him he delivered the gonfanon; and Tosteins took it right cheerfully, and bowed low to him in thanks, and bore it gallantly, and with good heart.
"He bore the gonfanon," we are told, "boldly, high aloft in the breeze, and rode beside the Duke, going wherever he went. Whenever the Duke turned, he turned also, and wheresoever he stayed his course, there he stayed also." The descendants of Toustain le Blanc, in memory of this office performed at Hastings, took for supporters of their arms two angels, each bearing a banner. His kindred still have quittance of all service for their inheritance on that account, and their heirs are entitled so to hold their inheritance for ever.Return to Main Index