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Battle of Hastings

On 28th September, 1066, William of Normandy landed his invasion force at Pevensey Bay on the coast of Sussex.

Bayeux tapestry - Norman invasion of England
Bayeux tapestry - Norman invasion of England

Coming to claim the throne, he arrived on English soil with no resistance from the army.

That group of fighters was with the English king, Harold, at York.

Norman Archer Sculpture at Battle Abbey
Norman Archer Sculpture at Battle Abbey

Harold had just won a major victory at Stamford Bridge.

Thus, on 27th September, his followers and cohorts were celebrating their achievement when word was brought that William had landed.

Aerial view of Pevensey Bay, Eastbourne and Beachy Head
Aerial view of Pevensey Bay, Eastbourne and Beachy Head

Regrouping, the English army made their march south to London.

Harold needed reinforcements, supplies, and fighting men who were not exhausted.

Battle Abbey of Hastings in England 1066.
Battle Abbey of Hastings in England 1066.

Arriving in London on 5th October, Harold called for volunteers and the support of the Southern earls.

Finding himself with a military force almost equal to William's (about 7000-8000 men), the replenished English army began their journey to the Hastings Peninsula.

11th Century Soldier Sculpture at Battle Abbey
11th Century Soldier Sculpture at Battle Abbey

William was determined to see that Harold's army was not given the opportunity to relax.

Stamford Bridge had taken place less than three weeks before, and the majority of the resistance coming his way was battle weary.

The Duke of Normandy kept up the pressure on the Sussex coast.

Aerial view of Hastings
Aerial view of Hastings

A campaign of terror and destruction was begun.

William knew that Harold would not waste time trying to relieve his previous earldom.

Arriving early on Saturday, 14th October 1066, Harold was able to take William by surprise.

The Normans were in the countryside scouring for food.

Norman horsemen line up for battle in hastings
Norman horsemen line up for battle in hastings

It didn't take long, however, for William to deploy his troops.

This was a surprise for Harold, who had expected at least a day to prepare.

 

The Battle

Shortly after 9:00 AM on that Saturday morning, the Battle of Hastings began.

1066 battle of hastings battlefield
1066 battle of hastings battlefield

Both sides took a furious pounding and the odds were even for quite some time.

However, eventually, William found his losses were beginning to be heavy. He needed a plan.

Knights on battle field
Knights on battle field

Being unable to penetrate Harold's shield wall, by late afternoon William directed his archers to shoot over that wall.

The decimation of Harold's fighters began.

By 5:00 PM, it was over.

Knights charge
Knights charge

Harold was dead, and the English throne belonged to William the Conqueror.

 

England belongs to William

Leaving Hastings, William made his way towards London.

Dover was plundered, while Canterbury gave up without a struggle.

Hearing of Harold's demise and knowing that resistance was futile, London accepted William.

On Christmas Day, 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

Tradition has it that Norman King William had Battle Abbey built where Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, fell.

Battle Abbey - built on the site of the Battle of Hastings.
Battle Abbey - built on the site of the Battle of Hastings.

The town of Battle itself has the Battle Museum which has an axe head from the Battle of Hastings.

 

The Importance of 1066

With the defeat of the Anglo Saxon army, the Norman-French brought their ways to England.

Tower of London
Tower of London

Castles began to appear around the countryside; The Tower of London and Windsor Castle to name just a few.

A feudal society was set up, and slowly the two cultures began to merge.

Landowners began to have property on both sides of The Channel.

With the English crown now having Continental possessions, the influence of the island country began to be felt.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

Involvement in European politics was now the norm and England emerged as a major player.

The English navy began its first steps towards the eventual fleet which would destroy the Spanish Armada.

Article by "Tudor Rose"

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