There is nothing so corrupt as history when it enters the service of the state. — Edgar Quinet

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Conquest

The great battle of Senlac, or Hastings, was won. Harold, "Last of the Saxons," was dead; and William, now called the Conqueror, was ruler of England. Although he had no real claim to the crown, William took it by force, and England became his by conquest.

This battle of Hastings, fought in io66, is one of the great battles of the world, because it decided the fate of England, which was now to be ruled, not by a Saxon king chosen by the wise men of the kingdom, but by a monarch who spoke Norman French, brought new laws and customs, and meant to be absolute king.

William's wife, Queen Matilda, was so proud of his victory at Hastings that she and her women worked a wonderful piece of tapestry, sixty-eight yards long, on which the landing of William and the principal features of the battle are all represented. This wonderful piece of needlework still exists, and is known as the Bayeux tapestry.

William the Conqueror
CORONATION OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.


The battle at Hastings was the only great battle which William had to fight, for the Saxons, who had been masters of England for about six hundred years, dared no longer resist him. As William advanced, the towns opened their gates to him, and he marched right on to London, where he was crowned in Westminster Abbey, on Christmas day. There were great rejoicings at his coronation, but the occasion was marred by a terrible fire, which broke out during the service and did much damage to the city.

William, having become King of England, gradually took possession of the land, which he distributed among the Normans who had come with him into England. Thus Saxon land passed into the hands of the Normans, and many of the noblest families in England now proudly claim that they "came over with the Conqueror." At court, in church, and in all the noblemen's houses, Norman French was the language spoken; but Anglo-Saxon remained the speech of the humbler people, who, for the greater part, became the servants of the Normans.

The new masters of England not only brought over a new language and new customs, but they also began to build houses in a new style. They did not think that the low, rambling, wooden houses which the Saxons and Danes had occupied were fit for noblemen; so they sent over to Normandy for workmen to teach their new servants how to build Norman castles.

As you may never have seen such a castle, I will try to make you understand how it looked. In the centre there was a huge round or square tower, built of stone, with enormously thick walls, and with only slits for windows. This tower was called the dungeon, or keep, and was generally occupied by the lord and his family. They spent most of their time in the principal apartment, called the hall.

Around the keep there was an open space, paved with stone. This was inclosed by one or more very thick walls, in which were built rooms for the servants, stables, granaries, armouries, etc. The outer wall of the castle was particularly strong, and was surmounted by a parapet and towers, where men at arms were always on guard.

Warwick Castle.
CAESAR'S TOWER, WARWICK CASTLE.


Directly under this wall there was often a deep and wide ditch, filled with water; this was called the moat. When a person wished to get into the castle, a drawbridge was lowered over the moat, and the portcullis, or iron gateway which closed the entrance to the castle, was Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle drawn up to let him pass into the inner court.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee