The Battle of Hastings

Article

October 17, 2021

The Battle of Hastings took place on 14 October 1066, and was the decisive battle that led the Normans to invade England. The victor and the new king of England was the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror.

Background

After the death of Edward the Confessor, the English crown was disputed. It was claimed, on the one hand, that Edward, in thanks for previous services, had promised it to Duke William of Normandy, and, on the other, that it was Harold Godwinson, the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, who was entitled to the throne. Harold was crowned, but the duke wanted to claim the kingdom. On September 28, 1066, he landed, without encountering resistance, at Pevensey. Harald II had shortly before crushed a Viking army at the battle of Stamford Bridge, and began to march south quickly when he learned that the duke had gone ashore. He gathered several soldiers on the way to the south coast.

Battlefield and line-up

Anglo-Saxons

When Harald II arrived in the area, he lined up his forces across the road from Hastings to London. Behind them they had the great forest of Anderida, and in front of a long, gentle hill that went down to the place where the climb on Telham Hill begins. The place is located by the city of Battle, which is named after the battle. The altar in the abbey church in Battle Abbey is said to have stood on the site where Harald was eventually overpowered; there is today a memorial on the site. The English army is estimated to have been 7000-8000 men. It consisted exclusively of infantry; the English could easily ride to a battle, but then got off to fight. The army was composed of members of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, especially thegner, the king's own forces including the lifeguard Housecarls, as well as discharged peasants. In front stood the thegene and the king's guard. Many of them must have been veterans who had also fought at Stamford Bridge. They were armed with swords, spears and in some cases Danish battle axes. For protection, they wore chain mail and shields. By letting the shields overlap, they made a protective wall along the ridge. As they fell in the front row, it was expected that they moved further behind to close the holes in the row. Behind them stood peasants with bows and the weapons they might otherwise have.

The Normans

Duke William gathered his army below the English position. The Norman army was of the same size, and consisted of the Duke's Norman, Breton and Flemish vassals with their subordinates, as well as mercenaries from several countries, including the Norman territories in Italy. The nobles had been promised properties in England and additional titles, while those of lower rank were to be paid in the form of looting and "cash" payment; many of them also had hopes of acquiring property. The army was lined up in the classic medieval style, but three units. The Normans stood in the middle, with Bretons on the left flank and French-Flemish forces on the right. Each unit had infantry, cavalry and archers. From the Bayeux carpet, it may seem that there were also crossbow shooters. If the images are interpreted correctly, this is the earliest documented use of crossbows, but there is some disagreement about this among military historians. Unlike the English, they lined up with the archers in front. This made it possible to exchange darts, without exposing the entire force to the opponent's arrows.

Battle

According to legend, the duke's poet and knight Ivo Taillefer tagged to be allowed to strike the first blow. He was allowed to do this, and rode ahead of the English while throwing his sword and spear into the air and receiving them again while singing an early version of "Roland's song". According to the earliest source of this story, Carmen de Hastinhae Proelio, an Englishman appeared to meet him in a duel, and Taileffer quickly killed his opponent and took his head as a trophy. In a source from the 12th century, on the other hand, it is claimed that Taileffer rode straight into the English battle line o

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