Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings took place on 14 October 1066, In England on Senlac Hill, seven miles from Hastings, during which the Norman forces of William the Conqueror and Duke William II of Normandy defeated the English army and killed Anglo-Saxon King Harold II of England. The Battle took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) north-west of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

The background to the battle was the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward’s death, but faced invasions by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (Harold III of Norway). Hardrada and Tostig defeated a hastily gathered army of Englishmen at the Battle of Fulford on 20 September 1066, and were in turn defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later. The deaths of Tostig and Hardrada at Stamford left William as Harold’s only serious opponent. While Harold and his forces were recovering from Stamford, William landed his invasion forces in the south of England at Pevensey on 28 September 1066 and established a beachhead for his conquest of the kingdom. Harold was forced to march south swiftly, gathering forces as he went.

Williams invasion force numbered approximately 10,000 against about Harold’s 7000 Soldiers. Harold appears to have tried to surprise William, but scouts found his army and reported its arrival to William, who marched from Hastings to the battlefield to confront Harold. The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk. Early efforts of the invaders to break the English battle lines had little effect, therefore the Normans adopted the tactic of pretending to flee in panic and then turning on their pursuers. Harold’s death, probably near the end of the battle, led to the retreat and defeat of most of his army. After further marching and some skirmishes, William was crowned as king on Christmas Day 1066. Although there continued to be rebellions and resistance to William’s rule, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William’s conquest of England. Some historians estimate that 2000 invaders died along with about twice that number of Englishmen. William founded a monastery at the site of the battle, the high altar of the abbey church supposedly placed at the spot where Harold died.

It all started around 911 after the French Carolingian ruler Charles the Simple allowed a group of Vikings under their leader Rollo to settle in Normandy. Their settlement proved successful, and they quickly adapted to the indigenous culture, renouncing paganism, converting toChristianity, and intermarrying with the local population. Over time, the frontiers of the duchy expanded to the west. In 1002 KingÆthelred II of England married Emma, the sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy.Their son Edward the Confessor, who spent many years in exile in Normandy, succeeded to the English throne in 1042. This led to the establishment of a powerful Norman interest in English politics, as Edward drew heavily on his former hosts for support, bringing in Norman courtiers, soldiers, and clerics and appointing them to positions of power, particularly in the Church. Childless and embroiled in conflict with the formidable Godwin, Earl of Wessex and his sons, Edward may also have encouraged Duke William of Normandy’s ambitions for the English throne.

Following King Edward’s death on 5 January 1066, the lack of a clear heir led to a disputed succession in which several contenders laid claim to the throne of England. Edward’s immediate successor was the Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson, the richest and most powerful of the English aristocrats and son of Godwin, Edward’s earlier opponent. Harold was elected king by the Witenagemot of England and crowned by the Archbishop of York, Ealdred, although Norman propaganda claimed the ceremony was performed byStigand, the uncanonically elected Archbishop of Canterbury. Harold was at once challenged by two powerful neighbouring rulers. Duke William claimed that he had been promised the throne by King Edward and that Harold had agreed. Harald III of Norway, commonly known as Harald Hardrada, also contested the succession. His claim to the throne was based on an agreement between his predecessor Magnus I of Norway, and the earlier King of England Harthacanute, whereby if either died without heir the other would inherit both England and Norway. William and Harald immediately set about assembling troops and ships for separate invasions.

Early In 1066, Harold’s exiled brother Tostig Godwinson raided south-eastern England with a fleet he had recruited in Flanders, later joined by other ships from Orkney. Threatened by Harold’s fleet, Tostig moved north and raided in East Anglia and Lincolnshire. He was driven back to his ships by the brothers Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria. Deserted by most of his followers, he withdrew to Scotland, where he spent the middle of the year recruiting fresh forces. Meanwhile King Harald III of Norway invaded northern England in early September, leading a fleet of more than 300 ships carrying perhaps 15,000 men. Harald’s army was further augmented by the forces of Tostig, who supported the Norwegian king’s bid for the throne. Advancing on York, the Norwegians occupied the city after defeating a northern English army under Edwin and Morcar on 20 September at the Battle of Fulford.

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