One of the most famous battles in British history is the Battle of Hastings. It could be said that it was this battle that formed what we now know as Britain. It is the point which many trace the British monarchy back to so it certainly did have a lasting impact.
When did the Battle of Hastings take place?
The battle of Hastings took place on the 14th of October 1066. This date has been calculated from the old records. The following excerpt talks about the dating: Finding Fulford – the Search for the First Battle Of 1066. Dates in the past were worked out differently to the way we work them out now. if you look back to the way Romans dated things then this is shown quite clearly. If we calculate the date of the 14th of October as the gregorian calendar then we can end up with a date of the 1st of October. The excerpt looks at a date around the same time and has a much smaller difference. However, the date is worked out we can say that the battle took place on a Saturday in October 1066.
Where did the Battle of Hastings take place?
This might seem obvious at first. Clearly, it happened at Hastings. This isn’t quite accurate though. The battle has actually been placed closer to a village called Battle. This is an English village that grew up around and Abbey that was built to commemorate the Battle of Hastings after William the Conqueror had taken charge of the country. The actual battle took place on a hill known as Senlac hill. There is some dispute over the name which can be followed on Wikipedia: Senlac hill on Wikipedia. Whatever the origins of the name that is the most common name for the hill currently.
In the larger landscape, this was in an area to the south of London and near the South Eastern coast of England in East Sussex. It is a relatively short distance from the channel coast which is no surprise considering where the invasion came from.
What happened at the Battle of Hastings?
Apart from the obvious, that there was a battle, knowing how the battle progressed is also important.
The Norman forces were confronted by the Anglo-Saxon army (by now they could be termed English so I shall use that from now on) as they advanced inland. The English army had marched south from a battle at Stamford bridge where they had faced and defeated a Scandinavian army under the leadership of Harald Hardrada. This Scandinavian army was mainly Norwegian as that is where Harald was king.
The English took positions atop Senlac hill and formed the famous shield wall. Shield walls were a common tactic in this era and had been for a long time. This tactic involved the warriors overlapping their shields to form a wall, hence the name. The Norman force consisted of several parts but was famous for its cavalry. The cavalry at this time would throw their spears, or stab downwards as they attacked their enemies. The Bayeux tapestry, which depicts the battle, shows a few of these Norman warriors charging with a couched lance. A couched lance was one which was tucked under the arm and the force of the attack would be delivered through the impact.
Traditionally the Normans attacked throughout the day. They would charge the shield wall with their cavalry but retreat before they hit the wall. Archers would then fire at the dense formation in an effort to break it up. The cavalry would then charge again and retreat if they stood no chance of breaking through. This carried on for the whole day. Near the end of the day, the Normans managed to draw out some of the English with this feigned retreat tactic and killed them. King Harold of the English was also struck in the eye and died. These factors broke the English formation and the Normans were able to run down and kill the English warriors who were on foot. The battle ended with a decisive victory to the Normans.
Why did the Battle of Hastings happen?
What caused the battle of Hastings? Why did the Normans invade? One of the important factors to consider here is the expansionist nature of the Normans. Since arriving in northern France, and being granted a duchy, they had pushed further and expanded their territory. Groups of Normans had also broken off and invaded Italy as well as fighting as mercenaries. Invading England was the next logical step in this expansion from the Northern coast of France. This doesn’t get o the heart of the matter though. The Invasions in 1066, both the Norweigeien one and the Norman one, were due to arguments of the succession of the English crown. Harald Hardrada claimed the crown on the basis of an old agreement that went back to the time of the Danelaw. William the Conqueror claimed that he had been promised the crown by Edward, the previous king of England. Harold’s claim was that he was the most powerful and richest Englishmen and was elected to the position by his peers.
After the death of Edward, there was always going to be a crisis and it was a matter of time before the three main contenders to the throne claimed it and fought over it. The events of 1066 were going to shape the history of England and the British Isles no matter who won the crown.
What happened after the Battle of Hastings?
William the conqueror spent some time chasing down the fleeing English to make sure that he would not have to fight a second battle to secure the victory he had just had. After he had done this he moved north to try and take London. To do this he needed to cross the Thames. At this timeLonfdon was only on the North bank of the Thames. He was unable to cross the Thames close to London so marching west along its course to find a place where he could cross easily. Eventually, he reached Wallingford, a town in what is now south Oxfordshire. It is here that he crossed the Thames and marched west to take London and have himself crowned as the new king of England. In thanks for the help the people of Wallingford had given him, he built a castle and began work on a new bridge. Wallingford had been a Burh under Alfred. Burhs were fortified towns which had protected the northern borders of Wessex during the time of Alfred but that is a topic for another post. Today Wallingford is still based largely on the Saxon and Norman town plan.
William’s taking fo the English crown lead to a succession of rulers and the replacing of the old Saxon lords with new Norman lords. This wasn’t a complete replacement but enough were replaced to change the aristocracy forever.
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