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The Battle of Hastings is one of the most famous and significant in British history, despite taking place nearly 1,000 years ago. Like so many battles throughout time, it was sparked by one man’s desire to dethrone a king and claim the crown for himself.
In this case, that man was a French duke whose victory in the battle was to usher in Norman rule over England. Here are 10 facts about the battle.
1. Fighting was sparked by the arrival in England of William the Conqueror
William, who then held the duchy of Normandy in France, wanted to usurp England’s King Harold II. He believed the English throne had been promised to him by Harold’s predecessor, Edward the Confessor.
2. It did not actually take place in Hastings
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Although it became synonymous with this coastal town in Sussex, the battle actually took place in an area seven miles away. Today, this area is aptly named “Battle”.
3. William had an advantage
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The French duke had two weeks in between landing on the Sussex coast and the Battle of Hastings to prepare his forces for a confrontation with the English army. Harold and his troops, on the other hand, had been busy fighting another claimant to the throne in the north of England just three days ahead of William’s arrival.
That, coupled with the fact that Harold’s men had to hurry back down south, meant they were battle-weary and exhausted when they began to fight. But despite this, the battle was closely fought.
4. It was unusually long by medieval standards
Beginning at 9am on 14 October 1066 the battle lasted less than a day and is believed to have been over by nightfall. But although this may seem short by today’s standards, at the time such battles were often over within an hour.
5. It is not clear how many fighters took part
There is much debate over how many men were put forward by each of the opposing sides, though it is currently thought that both armies had between 5,000 and 7,000 men.
6. The battle was bloody
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Thousands of men were killed and both leaders were feared dead at various points. However, it was Harold who eventually succumbed.
7. Harold met a gruesome end
The English king was killed during the final assault by the Normans but accounts differ as to how he actually died. One particularly grisly telling says he was killed when an arrow became lodged in his eye, while another describes how he was hacked to death.
8. The battle has been immortalised in the Bayeux Tapestry
The tapestry tells the story of how William usurped Harold to become king.
This embroidered cloth, measuring nearly 70 metres in length, depicts scenes from the tale of the Norman conquest of England. The tapestry was made in the 11th century but is remarkably well preserved.
9. Early accounts of the battle rely on two main sources
One is chronicler William of Poitiers and the other is the Bayeux Tapestry. William of Poitiers was a Norman soldier and although he did not fight at the Battle of Hastings himself, it was clear he knew those who had.
10. The battle brought an end to more than 600 years of rule in England by the Anglo-Saxons
In its place came Norman rule and that brought with it many wide-reaching changes, including to language, architecture and English foreign policy.
Where did the battle of Hastings actually take place? 8 facts about the 1066 battle
The battle of Hastings, in which the Anglo-Saxon king Harold II attempted to defend his realm from the invasion forces of William, duke of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror), took place on 14 October 1066. It was won by William, and marked the beginning of the Norman conquest of 1066. But how much do you know about the battle of Hastings? Here, historian Marc Morris brings you the facts…
This competition is now closed
Published: October 14, 2019 at 12:10 pm
Why did the battle of Hastings take place?
The battle of Hastings took place in 1066 because of a disputed succession. For the previous 24 years England had been ruled by Edward the Confessor, who, despite being married, had failed to produce any children to succeed him. It is thought that in the middle of his reign, in the year 1051, the king promised the English succession to his cousin, William, duke of Normandy. Edward had spent half his life in exile in Normandy, and clearly felt a strong debt of gratitude towards its rulers.
This plan went down badly with Edward’s English subjects, especially the family of his queen, Edith. She was the daughter of the country’s most powerful earl, Godwine, and in the later 1050s her brothers – the Godwinesons – became the dominant force in English politics. During the same period a long-lost relative of Edward, a boy known as Edgar Ætheling, was located in Hungary and brought to England. However his impeccable ancestry counted for nothing: when Edward died on 5 January 1066 it was his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, who claimed the throne, insisting that the old king had nominated him in his dying moments.
Harold was crowned the very next day, but soon had to fend off challenges to his rule. The first – an unexpected invasion led by Harold Hardrada, king of Norway – he successfully overcame on 25 September 1066 by winning the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. The second challenge came from William, duke of Normandy, who landed at Pevensey in Sussex three days later.
Where did the battle of Hastings take place?
The battle of Hastings is something of a misnomer. Although William, having landed at Pevensey, quickly moved along the coast to Hastings and established his camp there, the actual engagement with King Harold took place some six miles to the northwest, at a site that has been known ever since as Battle. This location has been contested in recent years, but the arguments for alternative sites are extremely flimsy, whereas the evidence for the traditional site remains overwhelmingly strong.
Having won the battle of Hastings, William was determined to commemorate his victory and atone for the bloodshed by building an abbey – Battle Abbey – and happily its ruins still survive today. According to a host of 12th-century chroniclers (not just, as is often claimed, the Chronicle of Battle Abbey itself) the high altar of the abbey church was erected over the place where Harold was killed. Even William’s obituary in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written by an Englishman soon after the king’s death in 1087, noted that Battle Abbey was built “on the very spot” where God had granted the Conqueror his victory.
This strong chronicle evidence is supported by the site of the abbey itself, which from monks’ point of view was badly situated on sloping ground and ill-supplied with water. It is a location that makes sense only if William insisted they build in that precise location, as tradition maintained was the case.
How many soldiers were involved in the battle of Hastings?
The short answer to this is: we don’t know. Medieval chroniclers are notoriously unreliable when it comes to providing numbers for the size of armies. William the Conqueror’s own chaplain, William of Poitiers, claims that his master brought 60,000 men with him to England and two other chroniclers assert that the duke’s army was made up of 150,000 men.
In reality, no medieval armies were ever this large. In the later Middle Ages, by which time we have more reliable evidence in the form of muster rolls and financial accounts, we can see that the largest armies raised in the British Isles numbered about 35,000 men. But when they had to fight in France, English monarchs never managed to ferry more than 10,000 troops across the Channel. If these were the maximums obtained by mighty kings like Edward I and Edward III, a mere duke of Normandy is unlikely to have been able to assemble a force that was reckoned in five figures.
The conventional figure offered for the size of William’s army is 7,000 men, but rests on little more than guesswork by Victorian scholars. As to the size of the English forces, we are even less well informed. Harold Godwineson’s fighting strength must have been reduced by his clash with Harold Hardrada in September, and several chroniclers maintain that the English king rushed to confront the Normans before all his forces were assembled. Since the fighting at Hastings lasted all day, however, the reasonable conclusion is that the two sides were fairly evenly matched.
What weapons and tactics were used at Hastings?
A look at the most famous source for the battle of Hastings – the Bayeux Tapestry – suggests that the weapons used by the English and the Normans were very similar. On both sides we see men wearing mail shirts and conical helmets with flat, fixed nasals, protecting themselves with kite-shaped shields and attacking their opponents with swords and spears (though spears are far more common). The only notable difference in terms of kit is that some of the English prefer to wield axes – sometimes small ones for throwing, but often great battleaxes that required two hands to swing.
When it came to tactics, however, the two sides at Hastings had very different ideas, as contemporary chroniclers noted. The English, after centuries of fighting against Vikings, fought in Scandinavian fashion, standing on foot and forming their celebrated ‘shield-wall’. Significantly this was the case not only for the ordinary soldiery but also the elite, right up to and including King Harold himself.
The Norman elite, by contrast, despite their own Viking origins, had adapted during the course of the 10th century to fighting on horseback. The action at Hastings was therefore unconventional, with the English standing stock still on the top of a ridge, obliging the Norman cavalry to ride up a slope in order to engage them.
Why did William win (and why did Harold lose?)
At first it seemed that the English army’s tactics would serve them well: despite repeated assaults from the Norman infantry and cavalry, the shield-wall held firm. Some way into the battle, however, a crucial turning point occurred. A rumour ran through the Norman ranks that William had been killed, and some of his forces turned and started to flee. It was almost disastrous, and only retrieved by William removing his helmet and riding along the line to demonstrate that the rumour was untrue. But seeing their enemies retreating in disarray persuaded some of the English that the battle was won, and so they pursued them down the hillside. Once the Normans had recovered their composure, and wheeled round to attack their pursuers, they found that the shield-wall now had breaks in it.
Another factor that helped decide the battle was the relative numbers of archers on both sides. Our two contemporary narrative accounts (The Song of the Battle of Hastings and William of Poitiers) make frequent reference to Norman bowmen sending thick clouds of arrows against the English, but do not once mention the English replying with similar volleys. Similarly, the Bayeux Tapestry shows many Norman archers, but only a solitary Englishmen is depicted with a bow. It seems possible, therefore, that Harold’s army contained fewer bowmen, perhaps on account of the haste with which it was assembled, and that this could have proved decisive, given the way in which the English king is traditionally said to have died – more on that below…
How and when in the battle did King Harold die?
What ultimately decided the battle was the death of King Harold. Darkness was already descending, says the Song of the Battle of Hastings, when the report ‘Harold is dead!’ flew around the field. The long-established story is that the king was killed by an arrow which struck him in the eye – a tradition that seemingly goes back to the Bayeux Tapestry, which was stitched only a few years later.
There are, however, reasons to doubt whether Harold really did die in this way. In the first place, multiple questions have been raised about the tapestry itself (which is technically an embroidery): is the figure with the arrow in his eye really Harold, or is the king represented by the figure to the left, being ridden down by a Norman knight? Is the arrow actually an arrow, or was it a spear that has been customised by overzealous restorers in the 19th century? And even if the tapestry artist did intend to show Harold with an arrow in his eye, was this really what happened? It can be demonstrated beyond any doubt that the designer based certain scenes on images he found in illustrated manuscripts kept in the monastic libraries in Canterbury, and it seems possible that Harold’s death is an occasion where such borrowing has taken place. No other contemporary source mentions the arrow in the eye, and moreover the Song – our earliest account of the battle – describes Harold being hacked down by a dedicated Norman ‘death squad’.
How many casualties were there at the battle of Hastings?
Again, we don’t know for sure, but all the sources agree that the battle of Hastings was a very bloody affair. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, laconic as it is, speaks of “great slaughter on both sides”. William of Poitiers, describing the aftermath, wrote that “far and wide, the earth was covered with the flower of the English nobility and youth, drenched in blood”.
For the Godwinson family in particular the battle was catastrophic, for not only King Harold, but two of his younger brothers, Leofwine and Gyrth, were among the fallen. (Another brother, Tostig, had been killed three weeks earlier at Stamford Bridge). According to The Song of the Battle of Hastings, William buried his own dead, but left the bodies of the English “to be eaten by worms and wolves, by birds and dogs”.
Nor was the heavy death toll at Hastings confined to the site of the battle itself. Throughout the night that followed, the Normans pursued those English who had fled after Harold’s death but came undone when, in the darkness, they rode their horses headlong into an unseen ancient ditch, later dubbed ‘the Malfosse’. As the chronicler Orderic Vitalis explained in the early 12th century, the Norman cavalry “fell one on top of the other, thus crushing each other to death”.
Where is King Harold buried?
The discovery in 1954 of a grave in the parish church of Bosham (West Sussex), containing the remains of a well-dressed Anglo-Saxon man, prompted speculation in some quarters that Harold’s final resting place had been found. But ignoring this on the grounds that other well-dressed men are known to have died in Anglo-Saxon England(!), we have two more credible alternatives. One is that Harold was buried at Waltham Abbey in Essex, a church he had re-founded and richly endowed during his lifetime. The story that the king was buried there, however, does not appear in the abbey’s chronicle until the late 12th century, and by the early 13th century the monks of Waltham were claiming that Harold had actually survived the battle of Hastings and lived out the rest of his days as a hermit, supposedly in Chester.
Contemporary accounts, by contrast, tell us that the king was buried on top of a cliff in Sussex, under a mocking inscription to the effect that he could continue to guard the seashore. This is the story told by both the Song of the Battle of Hastings and William of Poitiers, and is arguably more credible. Poitiers in particular is always at pains to defend the behaviour of his master, William the Conqueror. Had William permitted Harold to be buried at Waltham, it would be very strange for Poitiers not to have said so.
Dr Marc Morris is a historian of the Middle Ages whose acclaimed books include King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta (Hutchinson, 2015) and The Norman Conquest (Windmill Books, 2013). He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and appears regularly on radio and television.
10 Facts About the Battle of Hastings - History
The history of England is always marred with colonialism and imperialism. It goes to the extent that most of us (non-Britishers) don’t know much about the earlier history of England. Today, we will learn about the Battle of Hastings, a significant battle in the entire history of England. Take a look below for our list 30 interesting facts about Battle of Hastings that you should know.
1. William was the offspring of the duke of Normandy, Robert I, and Herleva, his mistress. As the duke didn’t produce any more sons with his wives, he declared William as his heir.
2. It is believed that William came to England in 1051, and Edward the Confessor promised William to make him the king as he didn’t have any children.
3. William became the Duke of Normandy after Robert I’s death in 1035.
4. Harold Godwinson was declared as King Harold II in January 1066. William disputed the claim once he came to know about the news.
5. On 28 September 1066, William reached Pevensey (present on the southeast coast of Britain) with his army.
6. He seized Pevensey with ease and marched towards Hastings. He waited at Hastings to organize his army.
7. On 13 October 1066, Harold II reached Hastings. The battle took place on 14 October 1066, and William won over Harold II.
8. It is said that Harold went down when he was hit with an arrow in his eye, and soon enough, his forces were destroyed. However, it is now considered a myth. According to historians, he was beaten to death.
9. After the fall of Harold II and his army, William marched to London, and the city submitted to William.
10. William the Conqueror was crowned as the first Norman king of England on the Christmas day of the year 1066.
11. The ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey. With this battle, the Anglo-Saxon phase of England’s history (which continued for over 600 years) came to an end.
12. The court’s language changed to French and eventually mixed with Anglo-Saxon accent to produce the modern English language.
13. Despite William’s efforts, he couldn’t learn English. William I proved to be a magnificent king for England.
14. Like most of the battles, the Battle of Hastings did not take place in Hastings. It took place in battle, a town which is 7 miles away from Hastings.
15. It may be a bit bizarre to note that the armies took a lunch break in the middle of the battle.
16. The battle lasted from morning 9 to late evening. It was a lengthy battle when compared to other medieval battles.
17. Genealogists found that 25% of the population of England descended from William I.
18. Normans used a tactic of French soldiers called “feigned flight.” Normans pretended to run away from the battleground, which made English soldiers break their formation. Once the structure broke, they were vulnerable to the attack of Normans.
19. One primary reason why William won was the number of soldiers. Fifteen thousand soldiers were present in William’s army, whereas only 5,000 soldiers were present in Harold’s army.
20. It is brave of Anglo-Saxon soldiers that they kept on fighting even after their king succumbed. However, few of them fled.
21. Another reason why William I won over Harold II was that William I was experienced in terms of military leadership than Harold II.
22. William, I am famously known as William the Conqueror. However, he got this title 200 years after his death.
23. No one knows where the remains of Harold II are even to this day. There is a gravesite at Waltham Abbey, but the exact location of his body is not known.
24. Normans had to sail 700 ships through the English Channel to reach Hastings!
25. William made a promise that if he won in the battle, he would build an abbey. He won, and he built a monastery where Harold was killed.
26. The bodies of fallen soldiers of the Norman army were buried in a big common grave. The location of it is unknown.
27. William, I spoke French and grew up in France, but he was of Viking origin.
28. 25% of the Norman army was on horses, and all of the Anglo-Saxon armies were on foot. This was another area where Normans had the edge over Harold’s army.
29. William invaded England two weeks before the Battle of Hastings started.
30. A tapestry called “The Bayeux Tapestry” was made to celebrate William’s victory. This tapestry had a lot of details about the battle.
7 facts about the Battle of Hastings
The events of October 1066 are among the most famous in British history. William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, one of the bloodiest in history, and the course of the country’s history was changed forever.
The victory ushered in a new Norman dynasty French would merge with Anglo-Saxon, eventually giving birth of modern English and, some genealogists believe as much as 25 per cent of the English population is descended from William the Conqueror.
This October marks the 950th anniversary of this cataclysmic event. Ahead of the celebrations we have unearthed seven facts you may not know about this famous event.
1 The Battle of Hastings didn’t take place in Hastings
It took place in a field seven miles from Hastings, which is now the appropriately named village of Battle.
2 The battle took place over one day
The battle was fought and won in a day, starting around 9am and ending at dusk, which would have been round 5pm, and took place on a Saturday.
3 The Normans won by pretending to be scared
The Normans used a well-known ancient tactic called “feigned flight” which involved them pretending to run away. It tricked the English troops into breaking formation, opening themselves up to attack.
The Great Gatehouse at Battle Abbey, East Sussex, which will be the focal point of the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 2016. Credit: Jim Holden/English Heritage
4 A minstrel struck the first blow of the battle
William’s minstrel, Taillefer, allegedly sang the Chanson de Roland at the English troops while juggling with his sword. An English soldier ran out to challenge him and was killed by Taillefer, who then charged the English lines and was engulfed
5 Harold probably didn’t get an arrow in the eye
Although historical infamy and apparently the Bayeux Tapestry has it that Harold died after after an arrow shot to the eye, many historians believe he was in fact drubbed to death.
6 It’s not even a tapestry
The 230ft long Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of the battle is actually an embroidered cloth. Tapestries are woven not embroidered. It was commissioned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent who was the half-brother of William the Conqueror.
7 William’s penance
William the Conquerer founded Battle Abbey on the site of the battle as penance for the bloodshed at the battle. Noe maintained by English Heritage, to mark the 950th anniversary there is a new special exhibition, rooftop views, and a sculpture trail. The abbey will be the focus of 950th anniversary celebrations.
10 things you didn’t know about the Norman conquest of Ireland
In spring of 1169, a small band of Normans set sail from South Wales bound for Ireland, landing in May of that same year. This was a watershed moment in Ireland’s history, marking the beginning of direct English, then British, involvement in Irish affairs – so much so that the Norman invasion of Ireland might even be considered a deep root of Britain’s ‘Irish Problem’. Here, MHM lists 10 key facts about this forgotten Norman conquest.
1. The invasion was led by Robert FitzStephen
The initial invasion force comprised just 90 mounted knights and sergeants, supported by around 300 Welsh archers. It was led by warrior-knight Robert FitzStephen – a battle-scarred veteran of Henry II’s Welsh wars. He was instrumental in securing Norman control of Wexford in 1169, the invaders’ first major gain.
The image to the left is a romanticised depiction of Robert FitzStephen’s arrival in Ireland at Bannow on 1 May 1169. He is shown burning his boats – a gesture of commitment to the ensuing conquest.
2. But the man behind the invasion was Irishman Dermot MacMurrough
FitzStephen’s men came not as the vanguard of a conquering army, but as mercenaries in the service of Dermot MacMurrough, the deposed King of Leinster – an ambitious man, intent on recovering his lost territories. The invasion was sanctioned by King Henry II of England and Pope Adrian IV, and MacMurrough secured the services of several top Norman warriors.
3. The Irish put up a good fight
The fighting in Ireland between May 1169 and September 1171 is often dismissively described as simply an unequal contest between heavily armoured Norman knights and lightly armed Irishmen. This underestimates the difficulties faced by Norman commanders campaigning across forested and trackless terrain, and fails to take account of the substantially greater numbers ranged against them.
4. A key turning point was the Battle of Baginbun
As news of the Normans’ successes reached England, more Norman warriors made their way to Ireland. At Baginbun, the Normans were commanded by Raymond de Gros (left), who had been sent to Ireland by Richard de Clare ahead of his own, larger (and ultimately highly-significant) invasion force. Though vastly outnumbered, the Normans won the day through perseverance and trickery, and their opponents were brutally cut down. The Battle of Baginbun was the decisive moment in the Norman conquest of Ireland had Raymond’s small Norman force been wiped out, it is conceivable that Richard de Clare might have lost heart in the Irish enterprise in which he went on to play a key part. So there is some truth in the famous phrase ‘by the creek of Baginbun, Ireland was lost and won.’
5. The Norman army included a significant number of Welsh mercenaries
Used in large numbers, the Welsh were formidable bowmen, reputed to be capable of discharging arrows able to penetrate an oaken gate four fingers thick. Gerald of Wales, the main chronicler of the invasion, describes them as able to pin a knight’s leg to his horse through two layers of mail. In support of these bowmen were a small number of other infantrymen, probably also Welsh, who were armed with pikes, spears, and swords. Defensive armour probably consisted of a helmet made of leather, strengthened with iron, and also a stout leather jacket, or studded hauberk.
6. The Normans captured Dublin
Dublin fell in September 1170. Taken completely by surprise, the Norse King of Dublin, Asculf MacTorkil, sued for peace, but during the resulting truce, elements of the Norman army broke into the town and slaughtered the garrison and many of its inhabitants. King Asculf and his family barely had time to reach the safety of their ships and sail away.
Map: 1. May 1169: landing of Robert FitzStephen 2. May 1169: capture of Wexford 3. Summer 1169: Battle of Ossory 4. May 1170: landing of Raymond le Gros. 5. August 1170: landing of Strongbow 6. September 1170: capture of Dublin 7. Summer 1171: Siege of Dublin 8. October 1171: landing of Henry II 9. November 1171: Henry II’s entry into Dublin.
7. As at Hastings, the Normans employed ‘feigned flights’ to deceive the Irish
Norman tactical know-how played a decisive part during the campaign. Feigned retreats and surprise attacks won the day at Baginbun and Dublin. The feigned retreat at Hastings has been heavily scrutinised by historians, with some rejecting the veracity of the incident because of the intricate organisation required to carry out the operation. But given that the Normans had already used the trick at Arques in 1053, and at Messina in 1060, there is little reason to doubt the ability of the Normans to employ this tactic at Hastings. By the time they invaded Ireland, the ‘feigned flight’ had become a classic Norman manoeuvre.
8. The Normans had clear political motives for the conquest
Not only did Dermot want to reclaim his lost territories, but a number of Welsh and English dissenters had settled in Ireland, which at the time was almost entirely forested. The only towns were those founded by Norse settlers, with fortified encampments at Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Cork, and Wexford. Previously bases for Irish and Norse pirates, these towns now provided refuge for English and Welsh dissidents. It is little wonder, therefore, that successive Norman kings had contemplated their capture and occupation.
9. Key player: Richard de Clare or ‘Strongbow’
Robert FitzStephen and his followers were not the only Normans whose services Dermot MacMurrough secured while visiting South Wales in 1167. Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, was another. Better known by the family nickname ‘Strongbow’, Richard de Clare’s estates had been confiscated by the Crown, and he was out of favour with Henry II. He was by far the most powerful and prestigious of Dermot’s supporters, and he brought an 1000-strong force to Ireland in August 1170, playing a key role in ensuring the surrender of Dublin and in establishing conquest.
10. Henry II reaped the rewards
At a great council in 1155, Henry II had reopened the subject of invasion, apparently at the insistence of the English Church, which claimed ecclesiastical primacy over the Irish. Henry’s invasion plans were not progressed, however. The time was not right. England had just emerged from a long period of civil war, and his mother, the formidable Empress Matilda, insisted her son’s priorities should be to reconcile supporters of the former King Stephen (many still armed and dangerous) to his new Angevin dynasty, and to consolidate his hold over his vast continental empire. So, when approached by Dermot MacMurrough 11 years later, his plans were still on hold. Nevertheless, he allowed MacMurrough to lead the invasion privately. Given MacMurrough’s success, Henry decided to lead his own invasion of Ireland, to establish his supremacy over both the Normans and the Irish. The majority of members in both groups submitted to the Crown.
This post is based on an article by Jeffrey James, published in issue 17 of Military History Monthly.
Less than one hundred years after the Black Death, England was again uprooted by dramatic upheaval - this time man-made. The Wars of the Roses, fought between the two powerful houses of York and Lancaster, pitted families against each other. After the removal of King Henry VI, the country faced three decades of rebellion and plotting. This was only ended when Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which marked the beginning of the age of the Tudors.
Over 1,000 words in the English language are used today because of William Shakespeare, and phrases from his plays are still commonly used in daily conversation. It's not just his language that was important - he was the great entertainer of his day, writing for everyday people in a time when theatre was the popular entertainment for all. Elizabeth I may have been queen for much of his life, but it was Shakespeare who wrote much of the history.
5. Description of the Engagement
The English King Harold had defeated the Norwegian King Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge and then marched south to meet William’s forces who had just crossed the English Channel. The Battle of Hastings began at 9 AM on October 14th, 1066 and fought near present-day Hastings, East Sussex. King Harold’s forces were positioned on Senlac Hill and hence had a height advantage. King Harold employed a shield wall formation against the superior long-range weaponry of the Norman troops.
Facts about Bayeux Tapestry 9: French legend
Queen Matilda was the wife of William the Conqueror. The legend stated that the tapestry actually was created and commissioned by the queen.
Facts about Bayeux Tapestry 10: the nickname
Based on the legend, the tapestry is often called Tapestry of Queen Matilda or “La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde”.
Are you interested reading facts about Bayeux tapestry?
10 Facts About the Battle of Hastings - History
The Normans were Vikings who had settled along the coast of France. The local people called them the Norsemen from Norway. They eventually became known as the Normans and the land they lived in became known as Normandy. Through a truce with the King of France, Normandy became a Duchy of France and their leader was called the Duke of Normandy.
- King Harald Hardrada of Norway - Before King Edward, England had been ruled by the Scandinavian King Cnut the Great. When Cnut died, he left England to Edward. Since Edward didn't have any children, King Hardrada thought that England should once again belong to Norway and that he should be the rightful King of England.
- Earl Harold Godwinson of England - Earl Harold was King Edward's brother-in-law. He was also one of the most powerful men in England. He felt that he should be crowned king.
- Duke William of Normandy - William of Normandy had a family relationship to King Edward. He also claimed that Edward had promised him the throne.
The first of the three men to act was Earl Harold Godwinson. He was the obvious choice for the English nobles and they crowned him King Harold II immediately after the death of King Edward. However, neither King Hardrada nor William of Normandy were going to let Harold have the crown without a fight.
Norway Invades (Battle of Stamford Bridge)
King Hardrada of Norway gathered his forces and invaded England from the north in September of 1066. The English marshaled their own army and King Harold II met the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. The fighting was fierce with both sides losing over 5,000 soldiers. However, King Harold II came out victorious. He defeated the Norwegians and King Hardrada was killed in the battle.
The Normans Invade (Battle of Hastings)
Harold and the English had little time to celebrate their victory as William of Normandy led his army across the English Channel only a few days after the Battle of Stamford. He set up his army at the city of Hastings, where he built a wooden castle.
King Harold marched his army south to meet the Normans. The two forces met at the top of Senlac Hill on October 14, 1066. The two sides fought all day. Both sides had about the same number of soldiers, but William had the advantage of having more archers and cavalry. Eventually William's army won the battle when King Harold was killed by an arrow.
William continued to march towards London. The English were still resisting his rule. They even elected another man, Edgar, as king. William would not be denied, however. He fought and won a few more battles along the way and reached London in late December. The English leaders finally admitted defeat and crowned William King of England on December 25, 1066.
Norman rule had a lasting effect in England. Many English nobles left the country fleeing to Ireland, Scotland, and the Scandinavian countries. The Normans instituted many new laws and brought the French culture with them.
William instituted the Domesday book which kept track of who owned what areas of land. Whatever was written in the book was final. There were no appeals. William used the book in order to tax the people.
William also built many castles and cathedrals throughout England. These included Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, Colchester Castle, and the Rochester Cathedral.
Battle of Hastings
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Battle of Hastings, battle on October 14, 1066, that ended in the defeat of Harold II of England by William, duke of Normandy, and established the Normans as the rulers of England.
Why was the Battle of Hastings fought?
The Battle of Hastings was fought for the English crown. In 1051 Edward the Confessor probably designated William, duke of Normandy, a cousin, as his heir. According to Norman accounts, Edward sent Harold, earl of Wessex, to Normandy in 1064 to confirm his promise to William, and Harold swore to defend William’s claim. Nevertheless, on his deathbed Edward granted the kingdom to Harold, who was crowned the next day. In response, William gathered an army.
Who was the Battle of Hastings between?
The Battle of Hastings was between William, duke of Normandy, and Harold II of England. William assembled a force of 4,000–7,000, composed of archers and crossbowmen, heavy infantry, and knights on horseback, on the Continent before sailing for England. Harold’s army numbered about 7,000 men, many of whom were half-armed untrained peasants. He lacked archers and cavalry and had mobilized barely half of England’s trained soldiers.
How was the Battle of Hastings fought?
The Battle of Hastings began at dawn on October 14, 1066, when William’s army moved toward Harold’s army, which was occupying a ridge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Hastings. As the day progressed, the defense was worn down and slowly outnumbered. According to the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold was killed late in the afternoon. As darkness fell, the English scattered, leaving William the winner of one of the most daring gambles in history.
How did the Battle of Hastings change the course of English history?
William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings brought England into close contact with the Continent, especially France. It led to the almost total replacement of the English aristocracy with a Norman one, which was paralleled by similar changes of personnel among the upper clergy and administrative officers. English was superseded in official documents and other records by Latin and then increasingly in all areas by Anglo-Norman written English hardly reappeared until the 13th century.
Throughout his reign, the childless Edward the Confessor had used the absence of a clear successor to the throne as a bargaining tool. In 1051, after a breach with Godwine, the earl of Wessex and the most powerful man in England, Edward probably designated William, a cousin, as his heir. Upon Godwine’s death in 1053, his son Harold became earl of Wessex, and Harold spent the next decade consolidating his power and winning favour among the nobles and clergy. According to Norman accounts, among them the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold subsequently swore an oath of fealty to William and promised to uphold William’s claim to the English throne. Nevertheless, on his deathbed (January 5, 1066) Edward granted the kingdom to Harold, who, with the backing of the English nobility, was crowned king the next day.
By this time, however, William controlled, directly or by alliance, every harbour from the Schelde to Brest. His father-in-law, Baldwin V of Flanders, was regent of France, and Geoffrey III, the count of Anjou and his only dangerous neighbour, was distracted by rebellion. With a solemn blessing from Pope Alexander II and the emperor’s approval, William prepared to enforce his claim to the English crown. He persuaded the Norman barons to promise support and recruited thousands of volunteers from Brittany, Maine, France, Flanders, Spain, and Italy. The organization of supplies and transport for this miscellaneous host and the imposition of disciplined Norman cohesion upon them were probably William’s supreme military achievements.
Harold mobilized his fleet and army in May, repelled his outlawed brother Tostig’s raids on the south and east coasts, and concentrated his large fleet off Spithead and his militia along the Hampshire, Sussex, and Kentish coasts. Ready to move early in August, William’s transports were kept in port by north winds for eight weeks, first in the Dives estuary until September 12, then at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. Meanwhile, the English militia, short of supplies after four months’ fruitless waiting, lost morale and were dismissed on September 8. Harold’s ships were brought back to the Thames, with many being lost en route. The English Channel was thus left open, and the best chance of destroying William’s army was lost. About that time Harald III Sigurdson, king of Norway and another claimant of the English crown, allied himself with Tostig and entered the Humber with 300 ships. There he defeated the forces of Edwin, earl of Mercia, and his brother Morcar, earl of Northumbria, in a heavy battle at Gate Fulford, outside York (September 20). This battle not only crippled Harald’s forces, but also left the two earls incapable of raising another army that year. King Harold, hearing of this invasion, left London immediately with his housecarls and such thanes and shire militia as he could muster, and by forced marches surprised the invaders at Stamford Bridge on September 25, utterly destroying them and killing Harald and Tostig.
On September 27 the wind changed, and William crossed to England unopposed, with an army of 4,000 to 7,000 cavalry and infantry, disembarking at Pevensey in Sussex. He quickly moved his forces eastward along the coast to Hastings, fortified his position, and began to explore and ravage the area, determined not to lose touch with his ships until he had defeated Harold’s main army. Harold, at York, learned of William’s landing on or about October 2 and hurried southward, gathering reinforcements as he went. By October 13 Harold was approaching Hastings with about 7,000 men, many of whom were half-armed, untrained peasants. He had mobilized barely half of England’s trained soldiers, yet he advanced against William instead of making William come to meet him in a chosen defensive position. The bold yet ultimately unsuccessful strategy is probably explained by Harold’s eagerness to defend his own men and lands, which William was harrying, and to thrust the Normans back into the sea.
William, warned of Harold’s approach, determined to force battle immediately. At dawn on October 14 William moved toward Harold’s army, which was occupying a ridge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Hastings. William disposed his army for attack—archers and crossbowmen in the front line, his heavy infantry in the second, his knights in three divisions in the rear, Normans in the centre, Bretons and French on left and right, respectively. Harold’s English army, lacking archers and cavalry, prepared for defense on the protected summit of the ridge. Their position was not wholly favourable William’s advance was unexpected, and Harold had to fight where he stood or retreat. He placed himself, his housecarls, and his other trained troops around his standard at the summit of the ridge (where the high altar of Battle Abbey was later placed), grouping his other troops along the crest for about 400 yards (365 metres) westward and about 200 yards (about 180 metres) eastward, at which points the slope became steep enough to protect both flanks. The front was too small: some men, finding no fighting room, withdrew the rest, in too close order, made a perfect target for arrows.
The easy slope allowed William’s knights an open approach, against which Harold relied on the close “shield wall” formation of his trained troops to hurl back and dishearten the enemy. The heavily armoured knight, riding a powerful charger and holding couched a heavy thrusting lance, was still 100 years away. Norman armour was flimsy, the horses light and unprotected, and the knights, using javelins, maces, and swords, had to engage the English infantry hand-to-hand. Harold’s hopes depended on keeping his line unbroken and his casualties light, thus exhausting and demoralizing the Normans.
William’s archers opened at close range, inflicting many casualties but suffering heavily from the English slings and spears. William therefore threw in his cavalry, which was so badly mauled by English infantry wielding two-handed battle-axes that it panicked and fled. William himself checked and turned them, counterattacking a large body of Englishmen who had broken ranks in pursuit. William pressed his cavalry charges throughout the day, interspersing them with flights of arrows, and annihilating considerable numbers of Englishmen whom he drew from their positions by feigning retreat twice. The defense, hard-pressed, depleted, and tiring, was worn down and slowly outnumbered. Harold’s brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, fell, and, according to the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold himself was killed late in the afternoon when he was struck in the eye by an arrow. The leaderless English fought on until dusk, then broke a last rally in the gloom caused the Normans further casualties and endangered William himself. As darkness fell, the English scattered, leaving William the winner of one of the most daring gambles in history. After the battle his army moved to isolate London, where William I was crowned king on December 25.