Friday, 28 May 2010

Why the English lost at Hastings...

... according to the twelfth-century historian William of Malmesbury. For some reason I find this passage very funny.

"There was more rashness and headlong fury than military skill in their conflict with William, so that in one battle - and a very easy one - they abandoned themselves and their country to servitude. For hot blood has no staying power; whatever it starts with a rush fails or is suppressed. In brief, the English of those days wore garments half-way to the knee, which left them unimpeded; hair short, chin shaven, arms loaded with gold bracelets, skin tattooed with coloured patterns, eating until they were sick and drinking until they vomited."

William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. and trans. R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), vol. I, p. 459.

I like that William, who was a monk and a librarian, is pretty confident that Hastings should have been an easy battle. And he makes the English sound like modern football supporters.

1 comment:

Rich Price said...

Just encountered your posts here - so many and so fascinating. Basically wanted to say thanks. I spend a lot of my time with much drier material (13th century letters) so this is a wonderful leaven. The description of the English is as accurate now as then.