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IX.

animated the armies of Cromwell. Simon himself CHAP. passed the night in prayer and in anxious prepara

1264 tion for the morrow, encouraging all around him, and infusing into them some portion of his own enthusiasm. His troops were shriven by the Bishop of Worcester, while the royalist army indulged in wine behaviour and pleasure, not scrupling to carry on their orgies royalists. even on holy ground. The account of the different preparations of the two armies recalls that given of the night before another battle, fought not very far from the same place two hundred years before, and must be received with equal caution. De Montforts plans were laid with a care and foresight, and executed with a combination of resource and decision, which would be sufficient, even if we knew nothing more of his military prowess, to support his reputation as the first general of his day. He determined to surprise his foes; as soon therefore as it was light enough to move, the march began. But, before we enter upon the details of the march and the battle itself, a brief description of the locality will be necessary.

The undulating ridges of the South Downs, which Descripform the natural bulwark of the coast of Sussex, battle-field. consist, in the neighbourhood of Lewes, of two main ridges running east and west, both of which are cut by the river Ouse in its course towards the sea at Newhaven. The northern of these ends abruptly, a short way to the east of the town, in the height called Mount Caeburn ; the southern runs on eastward till

1 It must however be allowed that the account of the debauchery of the royal army on this occasion is supported by several independent witnesses, one of whom, the informant of the Melrose Chronicler, declares he saw it with his own eyes. The same story is told about the night before Bannockburn, as well as of that before Hastings.

T

CHAP. it ends in the cliffs of Beachy Head. In the gap IX.

between the two portions of the northern ridge lies the 1264

town of Lewes. On the eastern or left bank of the The battle of Lewes : Ouse the hill rises precipitously from the bed of the description of the

stream, leaving but scant space for houses on this battle-field. side. On the other side of the river this ridge, at a point

two miles north-west of the town, just above the hamlet of Offham, makes a sudden curve, and is continued in two or three minor ridges, like the fingers of an outstretched hand, of constantly decreasing elevation, which tend in a south-easterly direction, till they merge in a broad undulating shelf. On this shelf the chief portion of the town is built ; a picturesque old town, consisting mainly of one long street, which runs nearly due east and west, and ends in the open down. In former days the castle, with its double keep, formed its boundary in this direction. Similarly the western portion of the southern ridge sends off one long offshoot towards the north-east, which nearly meets those from the northern ridge. At the end of this offshoot lies the suburb of Southover, at a lower elevation than the part about the castle; and at the point where it sinks southward into the marshy flat, which at no very distant period was covered by the sea, are still to be seen the ruins of the Cluniac Priory of St. Pancras. A line drawn from the castle to the priory would cross the intervening depression in a

direction almost due north and south. The march

The direct road from Fletching to Lewes passes Lewes.

through Offham, and skirts round the bend in the ridge above mentioned, entering the town near the castle. Had Simon followed this route, he would have been seen from the castle at least two

upon

IX.

miles off, and he would have had to fight on the level,

CHAP. without anything to compensate for his inferiority of

1264 numbers. On arriving therefore at Offham, he turned sharp off to the right and ascended the great northern ridge of the downs by one of several tracks which lead slantwise up the steep hill-side, probably at a depression which marks the top of what is called the Combe, just to the east of Lewes Beacon.? Thence he followed along what may be called the middle finger of the hand above spoken of, passing close by the present racecourse, and always keeping a little way down the western side of the ridge so as to avoid being seen from the town. But already fortune had begun to First favour his bold attempt. The royalists had posted a vedette somewhere on the ridge, probably on the

success.

1

I may

| Ann. Waverley, p. 356, make the barons 50,000, the royalists 60,000 ; others make the proportion in favour of the king much larger. Simons army included 15,000 Londoners, very poor troops.

? There are three points on this ridge, one without a name immediately above Offham, at the bend of the ridge, then, westward of this, Lewes Beacon, which is higher, and lastly Mount Harry, supposed to be named from Henry III, which is higher still.

Mr. Blaauw sup-poses the barons to have mounted by the Combe, and this is most probable, as there was no reason for them to go further west. take this opportunity of saying that I visited Lewes purposely without any knowledge of Mr. Blaauws account, and came to a perfectly independent decision about the battle, which I was glad to find agreed in the main with his. The chief authorities from which my account is compiled, are the Chronicles of Melrose, Lanercost, John of Oxenedes, Walter of Hemingburgh and the two Chronicles attributed to Rishanger, the Chronicon edited by Mr. Riley for the Rolls Series, and the Narratio de Bellis apud Lewes et Evesham, edited by Mr. Halliwell for the Camden Society, which are however too contradictory to have been written by the same person ; all these appear to have come from independent witnesses, and are more often explanatory of one another than inconsistent. In the second rank come the Chronicles of T. Wykes, Nicolas Trivet, Waverley, and others. Unfortunately the chronicler of Osney was prevented from telling all he knew, because, as he says, 'forte quod placeret regalibus displiceret baronum fautoribus.'- Ann.

Osn. 149.

CHAP.

IX.

The battle

march of

height above Offham, whence the whole country as

far as Fletching could be commanded. These men 1264

however had got weary of waiting, and in the course of Lewes: of the night had returned to the town, leaving one the barons; solitary watcher behind them. He had naturally

fallen asleep, and was roused from his slumbers by Simons men. From him they doubtless gained useful information about the enemy, and after this piece of good fortune proceeded, we are told, with great joy. When they reached the point where the Spital Mill now stands, and the ground sinks gently towards the south and east, they mounted the ridge, and from its flat top caught sight of the castle to the eastward, and the bell-tower of the priory below, just tinged by the rays of the rising sun.

Then Simon, knowing that the struggle would not Earl Simon : be long delayed, dismounted from his horse, the rest

following his example, and addressed his troops as follows : ‘My brethren well-beloved, both peers and vassals, the battle we fight to-day we fight for the sake of the realm of England, to the honour of God and of the blessed Virgin, and to maintain our oath. Let us pray the King of all men that, if that is pleasing to Him which we have undertaken, He may grant us strength and aid, that we may do Him good service by our knightly prowess, and overcome the malice of all our foes. And since we are His, to Him we commend our souls and bodies.' Then they all knelt down upon the ground, and, stretching out their arms, prayed

aloud to God for victory that day. After that the order of the earl knighted young Gilbert de Clare and others, and bironial army.

so arranged in three bodies they marched down the hill upon the enemy. The left consisted of the Londoners,

address of

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