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One of these forward knights bears a Norse "raven" banner (I have observed this detail up close, and arguably this could be something else, but I still believe that a bird is depicted on this flag). The knight immediately behind him has a Christian cross on his pennon. Pathematically, the Normans were still close at times to their Scandinavian forebears. In matters of warmaking, surely this was true. It had not been that long (1013) since duke Richard II (William's grandfather) had entertained a visiting viking horde in his capital city of Rouen.

William has full mail on his legs and carries his "baculum", while the knight behind him - an officer, also with mailed leggings - has a real mace with a flanged iron head. Mail leggings - tied above the knee - are more common than the supplemental armor for the forearms - tied to the harness under the hauberk. But it was rare to see full mail in this period, and apparently only the richest knights and great lords could afford it.


Here is Vital, the third identified vassal of bishop Odo's. He forms the third party who might have been responsible for overseeing the work on the Tapestry. (Alternatively, the three men might have collaborated to create the Tapestry as a gift for their lord.) Vital has obviously come from the forward scouting postions to report that Harold's army has been spotted. This would only occur when the Normans came down the northfacing slopes of Blackhorse and Telham and saw the edge of the Andresweald forest where the English were encamped. The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio supports this, by stating that the duke knew that Harold was "not far off." Both sides were evidently closer to each other than they would have liked, for as unmarshalled as their troops were. The Carmen implies that while the English were hoping to surprise the invaders on the march, William was getting ready to scout in force. Both made a move to seize Battle hill - the nearest high ground between them - and Harold won the race. Therefore, both armies got into battle order at about the same time and within fairly close sight of each other.

The hilly country leading up from the coast is represented by the wavy lines that the horses are posed upon. Blackhorse hill is the highest, dropping down slightly to Telham hill, which then drops down to the marshy flats before rising to Battle hill, or the ridge where the battle of Hastings was fought: from there it climbs for a mile more before coming to the Andresweald forest and Caldbec hill, where Harold's army spent the night before the battle encamped. This series of hills can be made out beneath the following figures: the forwardmost Norman scouts are on Blackhorse...


...and the forwardmost English scout is on the crest of Telham hill. A second scout has turned back to report to a mounted king Harold, on the north side of Battle hill, that the invaders have been spotted. He would then turn and ride swiftly to Caldbec hill (not shown) and get his men moving.

By the time the advance guard of Norman marksmen had come within sight of Caldbec hill, William could see the "forest glitter, full of spears." (Carmen) He sent his van forward with some knights to make contest for the high ground just ahead. But "suddenly the forest poured forth troops of men, and from the hiding-places of the woods a host dashed forward." Harold's mounted housecarles and thegns arrived in great strength and seized the top of the ridge before the Normans could.

William then "led a more measured advance" in order to arrange his troops for battle. His marksmen meanwhile kept up a barrage of the English position. The English locked shields, after sending their horses to the rear, and arriving troops on foot joined their rear ranks and the phalanx thickened.

Florence of Worcester would appear to contradict the idea that Harold was fully formed for battle when the Norman army attacked up the hill. The Carmen explains how this could be misconstrued. Also, consider: " half of Harold's army had not yet arrived" must surely mean that half of the levy of the kingdom was not present on the field; while "before one third of his army was in order for fighting, he joined battle" must describe his seizure of the heights with his elite advance forces, while the rest of his troops took station behind, such as opted to join him: many remained on Caldbec because they felt the ridge of Battle was "too narrow" for fighting. So it is easy to see how "one third" of his total army was all that ever engaged in the forthcoming battle. Nevertheless, he had mustered in the neighborhood of 30,000 total men, over a third mounted, and most of the mounted portion were still with him as he arrived on Caldbec on 13 October. His army slightly outnumbered the invaders. William's available forces, deducting for garrisons for his camp and castles at Pevensey and Hastings, and allowing for an unknown number who had not been able to answer the call to arms because they were still out foraging, was less than 10,000 men.

The "fathead" just in front of William has a tiny helmet and is without a shield and seems intended for comic relief. Humor is present in the Tapestry all the way throughout, though mostly it is rather grim.