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The Battle of Caldbeck

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Let slip the dogs of war

"William must have looked around in desperation for Eustace of Boulogne as he frantically tried to rally his fleeing Flemish allies. Maelcun of Exeter tells us that, up on the hill, the Saxons were exultant and that “though weary we bayed like hounds to lick the Frenchmen’s blood”.

William had staved off catastrophe earlier in the day when, thanks in great part to the timely arrival of their leader Alan Fergant, he had rallied the Breton contingent on his left flank. The English force would break down the hill at any moment, he knew that if he could rally the Flemings he would cut the English to pieces once they’d left their defensive position on top of Caldbeck hill. Perhaps he wondered if the famously devious Count Eustace had double-crossed him.

But as William turned back towards the English line he can have had no doubt as to his vassal’s fate. Above the shield wall flew the battered and bloodied Papal standard he had entrusted to Eustace. The Flemish count had strayed too close to the English line and been hacked to bits by a “snatch squad” commanded by Harold’s brother Gyrth, who had been sent to the left to provide disciplined troops on the flank after the disastrous pursuit of the Bretons.

Far to Williams left the Bretons were again fleeing, leaving Fergant and his elite bodyguards to be chopped to pieces by English axemen. In the centre, William’s brother Bishop Odo was wavering, awaiting orders from his temporal master.

Then Harold released the hounds."

From "The Atlantic Isles" by Leofwine Rabinowitz. EBC books 1994.

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