New Norman source on Battle of Hastings

The Norman Conquest of England was a widely reported event, but one source that has received little attention from historians is Estoire des Engleis – History of the English – by Geoffrey Gaimar. This may well be because it was in the form of a poem or because it was Norman.

However, this writer offers some interesting details about the battle.

When the battle lines were drawn up and ready to engage, the numbers on both side were high, and their eagerness for combat made them seem like leopards. Then one of the French came riding out at speed in front of the others. His name was Taillefer, a minstrel-juggler of considerable courage, who was armed and mounted on a fine horse – an intrepid and noble warrior. Placing himself in front of the others, he performed amazing feats before the English: he seized his spear by the butt just as it if had been a little stick, threw it high up into the air and caught it again by its point as it fell. Three times he tossed the spear in this way, and by the time he raised it for a fourth time, he had come so close that he hurled it straight into the English [lines], and wounded one of the English troops as it drove into his body. He then stepped back, drew his sword, threw it high into the air and caught it again as it fell. People who saw him do this said to each other that the feats he was performing before their eyes were nothing short of magic.

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