The Battle of Hastings: The Norman Conquest of England

1. Introduction

The Battle of Hastings was fought on October 14th 1066 between the Norman army of William, the Duke of Normandy and an English army under the command of Harold Godwinson. The battle took place at Senlac Hill, approximately 7 miles northwest of Hastings, and resulted in a decisive victory for William, who went on to conquer England. This essay will discuss the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself and its aftermath.

2. The Battle of Hastings

In September 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England after the death of Edward the Confessor. However, this was not without dispute as William, Duke of Normandy also claimed the throne. William had strong links to England as Edward the Confessor had visited Normandy several times and had promised William that he would be his heir. Furthermore, many English nobles supported William's claim to the throne.

In order to assert his claim to the throne, William assembled a large army and navy and set sail for England. He landed in Kent in late September 1066 and marched his army towards London. However, Harold had already marched his army south from Yorkshire to meet William's invasion force. The two armies met at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25th 1066. In a fiercely contested battle, the English were victorious and William's army was forced to retreat back to Normandy.

However, William's army soon regrouped and returned to England in early October 1066. They landed unopposed in Sussex and began march north towards London once again. Meanwhile, Harold had been forced to march his army back south from Yorkshire to defend London against William's second invasion attempt. The two armies eventually met at the Battle of Hastings on October 14th 1066.

The Norman army heavily outnumbered the English army and were better equipped with cavalry which proved decisive in the battle. The Normans also had morale on their side as they believed that God was on their side as they were fighting for a just cause. In contrast, the English soldiers were tired from their march south and lacked confidence in their leader Harold Godwinson. Furthermore, many of the English noblemen had been killed at Stamford Bridge which also damaged morale within the English ranks.

The battle began with both sides exchanging volleys of arrows before engaging in hand-to-hand combat. The Normans slowly started to gain ground and eventually broke through the English shield wall which led to mass panic amongst the English ranks. The Normans then pursued and massacred fleeing English soldiers which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. As night began to fall, the Normans continued their attack on the remaining English forces who were now holed up in a defensive position on a hill known as Senlac Ridge.

Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the English put up a valiant defence and managed to repel several Norman attacks throughout the night. However, they were ultimately defeated when Harold Godwinson was killed by an arrow through his eye and Williams troops finally breached the English defences. With their leader dead and their defences broken, all hope was lost for the English and they were forced to flee from the battlefield.

3. The Aftermath of the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings was a crushing defeat for the English. Harold Godwinson was killed, along with many other English noblemen and soldiers. The Norman army also suffered heavy casualties but their victory was complete. William now had control of England and he was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066.

However, the Norman conquest of England was not without its challenges. Although William had control of London and the south of England, the north and west remained under the control of the English Earls Edwin and Morcar. Furthermore, there were several rebellions against William's rule in the years following the Battle of Hastings.

The most significant rebellion occurred in 1068 when an uprising led by Hereward the Wake threatened William's control of the Isle of Ely. However, William's forces eventually prevailed and Hereward was forced to flee to Scandinavia. In 1070, rebellion also broke out in Yorkshire but this was quickly put down by William's army.

The final challenge to William's rule came in 1088 when another uprising, known as the "Great Rebellion", erupted in favor of Edgar Atheling, the rightful heir to the English throne. However, this rebellion too was ultimately unsuccessful and William maintained his grip on power until his death in 1087.

4. Conclusion

The Battle of Hastings was a pivotal moment in English history. It marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England and the beginning of Norman rule. The battle was fiercely contested but ultimately decided in favor of the Normans who went on to conquer England. However, the Norman conquest was not without its challenges as rebellions erupted in various parts of the country in the years following the battle. Nevertheless, William maintained his grip on power until his death in 1087 after which his son Robert Curthose succeeded him as Duke of Normandy.

FAQ

The Battle of Hastings was fought because William, the Duke of Normandy, wanted to conquer England.

The main combatants in the battle were the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons.

The key events during the battle were when Harold Godwinson, the Anglo-Saxon king, was killed and when William defeated the Anglo-Saxons.

William won the battle because he had better tactics and more soldiers than Harold Godwinson did.

The consequences of William's victory at Hastings were that England became a Norman country and that Anglo-Saxon culture was replaced by Norman culture.

After the Battle of Hastings, Anglo-Saxon Britain changed because it became a Norman country with Norman customs and laws.

The Battle of Hastings is considered one of England's most important battles because it led to England becoming a powerful country ruled by the Normans.