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8-08-2015, 16:39

“h e Dropping of the Dead”

Despite the deaths of some of his cavalrymen, in the hours that followed William ordered charge after bloody charge against the English ranks. But though they suf ered heavy losses, the brave Saxon infantry held i rm. French priest and historian William of Poitiers, who personally knew and served Duke William, later described this stage of the battle. “Where one side works by constant motion and ceaseless charges,” he wrote, “the other can but endure passively as it stands i xed to the sod. h e Norman arrow and sword worked on. In the English ranks the only movement was the dropping of the dead. h e living stood motionless.”3 Seeing that the cavalry charges alone were not forceful enough to break the enemy lines, William i nally tried a dif erent strategy. He had his horsemen pretend to retreat down the hillside. Sure enough, just as he had hoped, many of the Saxons broke ranks and chased after the Norman riders. h at left big gaps in the Saxon lines into which other Norman i ghters rushed. Eventually, King Harold’s infantry ranks fell apart, and the onrushing Norman forces approached him and his personal bodyguards at the hill’s summit. According to some sources, as these guards met their deaths around him, he fought on courageously, killing numerous Normans before an arrow entered one of his eyes and penetrated his brain. (In recent years, a number of modern scholars have disputed this, saying that the Saxon monarch may have died in some other manner.) At this point, according to William of Poitiers, the remaining Saxon soldiers “realized beyond doubt that they could no longer stand against the Normans. h ey knew that they were reduced by heavy losses and that the king himself, with his brothers and many nobles of the realm, had fallen.” h erefore, they “turned to l ight and made of as soon as they got the chance.”4