Battle of Hastings (1066)Battle of Hastings (1066) - The Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 was a history changing moment; one of the most significant in a long list of important dates.  It resulted from the same event which also led to the Battle of Stamford Bridge only weeks earlier.  So let's look at what brought about this prominent battle.  Up until the beginning of that year, England had been ruled by Edward the Confessor of the House of Wessex (the line which was established by Egbert and Alfred - see earlier on this timeline).  On January 5th, after 23 years on the throne, he died childless and with no officially named heir.  Edward's mother, Emma, was Norman, the daughter of Richard the Fearless.  His wife was Edith of Wessex, the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex.  Edward created the controversy over his succession by tempting William, Duke of Normandy, with the crown, reportedly because he (Edward) was involved in a family dispute with Godwin.  William was the great-grandson of Richard the Fearless, Emma's father, which made William and Edward distant cousins.  Harold, the man who would immediately succeed to the throne, was Edith's brother, and therefore, Edward's in-law.  Before he died, Edward supposedly settled his dispute with Godwin, and named Harold as his heir.  But there was no official proclamation, and when Harold was coronated, William felt cheated out of what had been promised him.  Thus the rivalry for the throne of England began.  And so, on September 28th, three days after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, William landed his army at Pevensey in Southern England.  His marriage alliance with Flanders (see William above) proved invaluable as Normandy alone was not powerful enough to invade England.  He successfully recruited about 10,000 warriors from all over Northern France.  Because Harold was in Northern England fighting Harald Hardrada, William was able to land unopposed.  He established a beachhead and foraged supplies from the surrounding area.

 

Battle of Hastings (1066)When news reached Harold that William had arrived, he had to turn back south, after the long march north and hard fought battle against the Vikings, and prepare to meet the Normans in another fight.  However, because of the fatigue factor, he only managed to march about half as fast as he did going north, and it took him about a week to reach the enemy, as opposed to the four days it took him to reach Stamford Bridge.  Harold had the smaller army at about 7,000 soldiers.  There are several different accounts of the battle and none of them completely agree with the others, so an accurate reconstruction is not possible.  What is known is that the fighting began in the morning about 9 am and lasted until darkness.  It was also one of the most closely contested battles ever recorded.  The outcome could have gone either way, but at the end of the day, the English shield wall finally broke and Harold was killed.  The Bayeux Tapestry depicts him with a shaft sticking out of his eye, indicating that he may have been shot in the head by an arrow.  After that, English resistance collapsed and a Norman victory was achieved.  Harold had committed all his resources and top warriors to the battle, and when it was over, there was basically no one left to oppose the invaders.  English nobles and clergy weighed their options and decided to submit to William's authority.  The significance of Hastings is that it brought an end to Anglo-Saxon rule in England, and merged Saxon and Norman cultures.  Fittingly, the most complete account of this era comes from Oderic Vitalis, who was a half-Norman, half-Saxon monk.  The battle was known by several names for years, but the earliest reference to it as "Hastings" comes from the Doomsday Book in 1087 ("bellum Hasestingas"), the name which has stuck to the present.  It would forever cement William's legacy as "Conqueror" which is a far sight better than the title he carried before it was fought, which was William the Bastard.