The Battle of Hastings

The battle of Hastings was fought on October 14, 1066. The battle ensured the Norman conquest of England. The battle actually occurred at Senlac Hill, near what is now Battle, East Sussex. Battle Abbey, which was founded by King William perhaps serves as a memorial to the fallen or as penance for the bloodshed, marks the site where it is believed that the battle was fought.

King Harold Godwinson had succeeded to the English throne with the death of King Edward the Confessor. Harold’s right to succeed to the throne was based on his assertion that King Edward the Confessor had passed the crown to him on his deathbed. The assembly of nobles, the Witenagemot, supported his claim.

Duke William of Normandy claimed that the crown was his. When Harold was crowned King, William took it as a declaration of war. He gathered his allies, knights, and troops with promises of land and titles. His forces crossed the English Channel and landed at Pevensey on September 28th. In the battle of Hastings the superiority of the combined arms attack over an army predominately composed of infantry was demonstrated.

The shield wall of the English infantry could not stand against the coordinated assault of William’s archers, cavalry and infantry. When the Norman army retreated Harold’s men led by his two brothers (Leofwyne and Gyrthe ) pursued them, they were attacked and destroyed. Harold was possibly shot in the eye with an arrow, then cut down with a sword. He was the last king of England to die on a battlefield until Richard III on Bosworth Field, possibly from an arrow in his eye The battle ended with a rout of the English army and the death of all the housecarls (professional soldiers) who were bound to Harold.

 

Tomorrow, Harold at Stamford Bridge    Rita Bay

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