Battle of Hastings


October 28, 2021

The Battle of Hastings took place on October 14, 1066 about ten kilometers north of the town of Hastings, in East Sussex. It pits the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, against the Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror, who wins a decisive victory. Hastings is part of the succession crisis opened by the death of the King of England Edward the Confessor in January 1066. Elected and crowned successor of Edward, Harold must face the invasions launched by contenders for the crown. He defeated King Harald Hardrada of Norway on September 25 at Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire, but meanwhile Duke William of Normandy has landed in Sussex, in the south of the country, more than 350 km away. Harold rushes to meet him on a forced march. The battle lasts from morning until the evening of October 14. Posted at the top of the hill of Caldbec, the English troops resist the first enemy assaults behind their wall of shields. The Normans then resorted to a ruse: the left wing pretended to flee before turning on the English launched in pursuit. The English army eventually yielded and disbanded after the death of Harold, and victory went to William. Thanks to his victory, the Duke of Normandy can walk to London, and he is crowned King of England on Christmas Day in Westminster. Even if the Norman conquest of England was not truly completed until several years later, the Battle of Hastings marked a turning point in the history of England, of which it inaugurated the Anglo-Norman period.


A disputed succession

The King of England Edward the Confessor died without leaving children on January 4 or 5, 1066. The witan, an assembly made up of the principal nobles and ecclesiastics of the kingdom, elected to succeed him the Earl of Wessex Harold Godwinson, the richest and the most powerful baron in England. He was crowned the day after Edward's death. Two strong adversaries wereted no time in contesting the succession of the late king. Duke William of Normandy asserts that Edward had chosen him as his successor, and that Harold had sworn to respect this arrangement. Edward had spent much of his youth in exile at the Normandy court, and after coming to power he surrounded himself with Norman advisers. It is possible that they encouraged Guillaume's ambitions. For his part, the King of Norway Harald Hardrada puts forward an agreement reached between his predecessor, Magnus the Good, and Hardeknut, the predecessor of Edward, under which England and Norway would revert to each other if the one of them died without leaving an heir. Each on their side, Guillaume and Harald gather their forces to invade the kingdom they believe is rightfully theirs. The passage of Halley's comet in the skies of Europe in April is the subject of many comments, and some chronicles associate it with the crisis of English succession.

The Norwegian invasion

At the beginning of September, Harald landed in England at the head of a fleet of more than 300 ships, with perhaps 15,000 men under his command. He receives reinforcements led by Tostig, the exiled brother of King Harold, who had harassed the English coasts a few months earlier with his own ships. After defeating the army of Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria on September 20 at Fulford, Harald occupies York, the kingdom's second city. Having waited several months for William's troops to land on the south coast, Harold sent his troops home for the harvest on September 8, along with his fleet. When he learns of the Norwegian invasion, he rushes north, gathering an en route army. He stumbles upon the Norwegians by surprise and defeats them at Stamford Bridge on September 25. The approx

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