Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings was a significant event in English history. It took place in 1066 and resulted in the Norman conquest of England. The battle was fought between the Norman army, led by William the Conqueror, and the English army, led by Harold Godwinson. The Normans emerged victorious, leading to major political and social changes in England.

Battle Of Hastings Facts For Kids

  • The Battle of Hastings took place in 1066.
  • It was fought between William of Normandy and King Harold.
  • It happened in England, near the town of Hastings.
  • William won, becoming William the Conqueror.
  • Harold was killed, likely by an arrow.
  • The battle ended the Anglo-Saxon rule in England.
  • The battle started because of a dispute over the English throne.
  • William’s victory led to French influence in England.
  • It was a decisive battle that lasted all day.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry depicts this historic battle.

William the Conqueror

The Battle of Hastings, a seminal event that occurred on 14th October 1066, played a defining role in the rise of William the Conqueror to the English throne. The Duke of Normandy, William, demonstrated his superior military and strategic prowess by leading his army to a resounding victory against King Harold II of England, who met his end in this battle.

This triumph not only secured William’s coronation as the King of England but also signified the onset of the Norman conquest of England. His unyielding ambition, coupled with his military and strategic acumen, were prominently displayed during the battle, setting the tone for his rule and shaping the trajectory of English history.

Norman Conquest of England

The Battle of Hastings, a crucial turning point in the Norman Conquest of England, unfolded on October 14, 1066, under the leadership of William, the Duke of Normandy, also known as William the Conqueror.

This fierce contest culminated in the demise of the English king, Harold II, and marked the inception of Norman dominance in England. However, the impact of this battle extended far beyond military victory. It served as a catalyst for a profound cultural and social transformation, characterized by the introduction of the French language and culture, the reformation of the English Church, and the revolutionizing of the nation’s governance through the introduction of the feudal system.

Thus, the Battle of Hastings holds a significant place in English history, not merely as a military conquest, but as a momentous revolution that has left an enduring imprint on English society, still evident today.

Harold Godwinson

On October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings unfolded as a crucial episode in the life of Harold Godwinson, the final Anglo-Saxon King of England, whose army bravely resisted the relentless onslaught of the Norman invaders under the leadership of William, Duke of Normandy.

Their heroism, however, was hampered by exhaustion from a preceding conflict against the Vikings at Stamford Bridge, ultimately leading to their defeat. A critical turning point in the battle was the death of Harold, famously illustrated in the Bayeux Tapestry as being struck in the eye with an arrow.

This marked the conclusion of the Anglo-Saxon era and heralded the commencement of Norman rule in England.

Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry, a significant medieval artifact believed to be commissioned by Bishop Odo, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, provides a comprehensive visual account of the Battle of Hastings, a crucial event in English history.

Capturing the narrative of the 1066 Norman invasion, it meticulously chronicles the events preceding and during the battle, including King Harold II’s demise. Stretching over 70 meters, this monumental artwork serves as a primary historical source, offering invaluable insights into the battle’s armament, tactics, and sequence.

Simultaneously, it encapsulates the cultural, political, and social milieu of the 11th century, thus reflecting the broader context within which the battle unfolded.

Feudal System in England

The 1066 Battle of Hastings was a critical turning point in English history, initiating the feudal system’s onset and marking a dramatic shift in the nation’s social and political landscape. The battle’s outcome saw the Norman invader, William the Conqueror, overcoming English King Harold Godwinson, which significantly restructured English society into a feudal framework.

This system was marked by a hierarchy of lords and vassals, with William distributing lands confiscated from the English nobility to his Norman followers, thereby establishing a system of reciprocal obligations and services. The feudal system was further characterized by the granting of fiefs, or land parcels, in exchange for military services.

Consequently, the Battle of Hastings represented more than a change in the monarchy—it served as the catalyst for a comprehensive social and political transformation in England.

1066 in History

The Battle of Hastings, a critical event in English history, took place on October 14, 1066, marking a turning point that resonates with England’s identity even today.

This pivotal confrontation stemmed from a succession dispute following the death of Edward the Confessor, the former King of England. The battle brought William, the Duke of Normandy, and Harold Godwinson, the reigning King of England, head-to-head. It resulted in a significant shift in England’s power dynamics, with William’s victory ushering in the Norman conquest of England.

Consequently, this led to profound changes in the country’s culture, language, governance, and social structure, effectively reshaping the nation’s identity.

Anglo-Saxon England

On October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings took place, serving as a turning point that drastically altered the course of Anglo-Saxon England. This landmark battle concluded with the defeat of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king, at the mercy of the invading Norman forces commanded by William the Conqueror.

The victorious Normans introduced their French language, initiated a feudal system of government, and brought architectural innovations such as castles into England. These significant shifts in the cultural, political, and social spheres gradually led to the end of the Anglo-Saxon era.

Hence, the Battle of Hastings was a crucial event that signaled the commencement of Norman rule in England and initiated the gradual amalgamation of Norman and Anglo-Saxon cultures, shaping England we are familiar with today.

Norman Knights and Warfare

The Battle of Hastings in 1066 marked a pivotal point in the Norman conquest of England, as it showcased the power and efficacy of the Norman knights and their distinct style of warfare.

Guided by William the Conqueror, the Norman knights presented an innovative blend of heavy cavalry, archers, and infantry in an orderly and disciplined manner that significantly changed the course of the battle. Particularly decisive was the Normans’ utilization of cavalry charges, with their armored knights, armed with deadly lances, posing a formidable force.

Their capacity to regroup and launch repeated charges overwhelmed the English shield wall, resulting in a decisive victory for the Normans. This battle underscored the significance of knights in medieval warfare and set the stage for the Norman rule in England.

English Monarchy Succession

The English monarchy succession was significantly transformed by the pivotal Battle of Hastings, occurring on October 14, 1066. The confrontation was a result of a power struggle triggered by the death of King Edward the Confessor earlier that year, who left behind no clear heir.

This led to a fierce battle between the Norman-French forces, led by Duke William II of Normandy, and the English troops under the command of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II. The battle concluded with the demise of King Harold II, signifying the termination of Anglo-Saxon governance in England.

The triumph of Duke William at Hastings subsequently led to his coronation as King William I, famously known as William the Conqueror. This marked the commencement of the Norman rule in England, fundamentally altering the course of English monarchy succession.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

The Battle of Stamford Bridge, which took place just weeks before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, had an indirect yet significant impact on the latter’s outcome and thus, the trajectory of English history.

King Harold II of England had just successfully repelled a Viking invasion led by King Harald Hardrada of Norway at Stamford Bridge. However, he was then compelled to hastily mobilize his army southwards to confront the looming threat of William, Duke of Normandy.

His soldiers, still fatigued and reduced in numbers from their recent conflict at Stamford Bridge, were ill-prepared for another skirmish. This unfortunate state of affairs likely played a crucial role in Harold’s subsequent defeat at Hastings, which signaled the cessation of Anglo-Saxon rule in England.

Reasons behind the battle

After the English king, Edward the Confessor died, there were three people fighting to take his place on the throne: William of Normandy, Harold Godwinson, and Harald Hardrada.

Battle of Hastings

Harold Godwinson was actually crowned king by the English Parliament on January 6, 1066, one day after Edward the Confessor died.

William (and Harald) were not prepared to accept Harold being the new king and began their own, separate, invasions—Harald invading from the north and William from the south.

William Invades

William built an invasion fleet and was ready to sail to England from Normandy around August 12, 1066, but he had to wait for favorable winds. He was also concerned about the Anglo-Saxon fleet, so he decided to wait for more favorable conditions.

These conditions came on September 27, 1066. William set sail for England and his forces landed at Pevensey Bay on September 28. The bay was completely undefended so there was nothing stopping William’s forces from landing. Once his troops had landed, William fortified his position and began to attack the surrounding countryside. William focused his scorched earth attacks on lands that were owned by King Harold.

Harold Marches to Meet the Invaders

William’s invasion could not have happened at a worse time for King Harold II. When King Harold of England heard that William’s forces had landed, he was three hundred kilometers to the north having just defeated Harald Hardrada, another invader who was intent on taking Harold’s crown. Harald Hardrada had landed an invasion force two weeks earlier and King Harold was forced to march his army north to battle the invaders. Hardrada’s forces were soundly defeated and Hardrada was killed, but King Harold’s forces suffered numerous casualties as well.

While on the march back south, King Harold was informed of William’s invasion and he was forced to march his exhausted troops three hundred kilometers to the south to meet the threat.

Harold Reaches London

It took Harold’s men eight days to make it to London where King Harold allowed his forces to rest for a few days. While in London, Harold met an envoy from William. The envoy tried to get Harold to accept William’s claim to the throne, but Harold refused and even had to be restrained from killing the envoy.

Harold’s brother Gyrth tried to get Harold to put him in charge of the forces that were going to attack William. Gyrth argued that if he lost and was killed, Harold could gather another army and attack but if Harold was killed, the kingdom would be lost. Harold refused and insisted on leading the forces himself.

Harold was also counselled to wait and spend more time preparing for the battle. If Harold had waited an extra week or so, he would have had a larger army as well as a number of archers (which his present army was lacking), but again Harold refused. Scholars are not quite sure why Harold refused to follow these suggestions but he may have been hoping to surprise William with a quick attack—the same tactic that worked in the battle with Harald Hardrada.

The Battle

On the night of October 13, 1066, Harold’s exhausted forces arrived in the area around Hastings. Harold may have been hoping to catch William by surprise, but William received information that Harold’s forces were approaching.

Harold’s forces gathered around Caldbec Hill where he had been planning on waiting for reinforcements but William, attempting to break out of the peninsula where his men were stationed, forced Harold to send men to capture another hill farther on. This hill (which became known as Battle Hill) would give whoever controlled it a strategic advantage. Both sides sent men to try and capture the hill, and Harold’s forces won the race. Harold moved his forces to the hill and set up a defensive position. Harold then ordered that the area be fortified by putting up sharp stakes and digging a ditch around his forces. Harold then ordered that no matter what, his forces were not to leave their fortified position.

The actual battle took place on October 14, 1066. William may have tried to provoke Harold’s forces into leaving the hill and engaging in a battle at the bottom of the hill but this was unsuccessful. Harold knew that William’s cavalry would have the advantage if he pursued William’s men at the bottom of the hill.

Although it is debated by scholars as to whether it is true or not, it is claimed that William gathered his men together and then asked for a volunteer to challenge a Saxon to combat. A man named Taillefer volunteered and rode forward. Taillefer challenged a Saxon and won the battle. He then charged the shield wall where he was immediately killed.

Regardless of whether the story of Taillefer is true, what is known is that William’s infantry raced up the hill to attack Harold’s forces. William’s forces were at a major disadvantage having to run up hill. Their archers had no effect since the arrows simply hit the Saxon shield wall or flew over the Saxons’ heads. Once the Normans reached the shield wall, they were cut down. The infantry assault lasted for approximately thirty minutes before it ended with heavy losses to William’s forces.

The next assault was by the cavalry. The Norman warhorses raced up the hill and although the Saxons took some casualties, the Normans were not able to do much damage and suffered the loss of a number of men (and horses).

Harold orders an advance and, still keeping in a shield-wall formation, the forces advanced. At this point, William was thrown from his horse. Immediately, people started claiming William had died (which probably would have resulted in a rout of William’s army), but William jumped on a new horse, took off his helmet and yelled that he still lived.

Harold’s advance was on the point of winning the battle but for reasons that have not yet been determined, the advance stopped. It is thought that the advance stopped because Harold’s brother Leofwine was killed. Leofwine may have been leading the advance and this could have been the reason why it stopped. William quickly attacked and forced the Saxons back up the hill where the Saxons reformed their shield wall.
By now it was around 2:00 p.m. on October 14th and both sides took a break. After the pause, the battle continued and the Normans were able to gain control of the area on the Saxon’s right. This was a gentle slope which allowed the Normans to attack from two directions—from the west and straight up the hill.

William ordered his archers to launch their arrows so that they would fall straight down into the defenders. This would not cause a lot of damage but would distract the Saxon forces as William attacked. William charged again (on both fronts) and was able to break through the Saxon shield wall. Now the fighting was mainly hand-to-hand combat. Harold was isolated with a few men at the top of the hill and William ordered Eustace of Boulogne to attack Harold with his best knights. Harold was killed during this attack and William won the battle.

Some scholars argue that Harold’s forces were tricked by the Norman forces when the Norman forces pretended to be routed and fled. Harold’s forces then broke formation and attacked only to see the Norman forces turn around and continue the attack. The Norman forces then attacked Harold’s soldiers and killed Harold. Whether this happened has been (and continues to be) debated among scholars.

After this battle, William was the only claimant for the crown left. He continued the invasion and within the year was crowned the new king of England.