Why was the Battle of Hastings so important?

Why was the Battle of Hastings so important?

Military History


The Prelude to the Battle of Hastings was a series of events that occurred in England in 1066, leading up to the famous Battle of Hastings.

The first event was the death of Edward the Confessor, the king of England, in January 1066.

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Edward the Confessor, enthroned, opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry 

Edward the Confessor was born in England in 1003 and was the son of King Ethelred the Unready. He became king of England in 1042, following the death of his half-brother, Harthacanute.

Edward was a deeply religious man who promoted the building of churches and monasteries throughout England.

Edward’s seal

Furthermore, known for his generosity to the poor and his commitment to justice.

Edward married Edith of Wessex. She also became known for her piety and charitable works. However, the couple had no children, which led to a succession crisis after Edward’s death.

Edward’s reign was marked by conflict with the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex, who was the father of Edward’s wife, Edith. The conflict came to a head in 1051 when Godwin was exiled for refusing to punish the town of Dover, which had refused to pay taxes. However, Godwin returned the following year with a large army and forced Edward to restore him to power.

Edward’s reign also saw the growth of Norman influence in England, as many Norman nobles were invited to serve in his court. This would later lead to the Norman Conquest of England under William the Conqueror.

Edward died on January 5, 1066.

Edward’s funeral in Westminster Abbey (left), where he is buried. As depicted in scene 26 of the Bayeux Tapestry

Edward was later canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church, and his feast day is celebrated on October 13. Remembered as a pious and just king who promoted the welfare of his people and the growth of Christianity in England.

Unfortunately, Edward had no children for a smooth succession!

Harold Godwinson meeting Edward shortly before Edward’s death. As depicted in scene 25 of the Bayeux Tapestry

And as a result, several nobles claimed the right to the throne, including Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex.

However, another noble, William, Duke of Normandy, believed that he was the rightful heir to the English throne. He claimed that Edward had promised him the throne, and that Harold had sworn an oath to support William’s claim.

William the Conqueror, also known as William the Bastard, was born in Falaise, Normandy, in 1028.

Château de Falaise in FalaiseLower Normandy, France; William was born in an earlier building here.

He was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and Herleva, a woman of modest birth.

William was only seven years old when his father died, and he inherited the title of Duke of Normandy. However, he faced many challenges in his youth, including rebellions by his own barons and invasions by neighboring powers.

In 1064, William visited England and met with his cousin, King Edward the Confessor. According to legend, Edward promised William the English throne, which would later become a key factor in the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings.

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing Normans preparing for the invasion of England

In 1066, after the death of Edward the Confessor, William claimed the English throne, arguing that he had been promised it by Edward and that Harold Godwinson, the new English king, had sworn an oath to support his claim.

King Harold Godwinson receiving the news of the Norman invasion.

William launched an invasion of England, landing at Pevensey Bay in September 1066.

Army movements before Battle of Hastings

On October 14, 1066, the two armies met at the Battle of Hastings, which lasted all day and ended in a decisive victory for William’s Norman forces. Harold was killed in the battle, and William was crowned king of England on Christmas Day 1066. One of the most famous battles in English history and marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and the beginning of the Norman Conquest of England.

The Prelude to the Battle of Hastings was a significant period in English history, as it marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and the beginning of the Norman Conquest of England.

The English army, consisting mainly of infantry, became positioned on a ridge near Hastings in southern England. With the Normans, including cavalry and archers, positioned below them.

the battlefield

The battle began with a barrage of arrows from the Norman archers, followed by an attack from the Norman cavalry.

The English formed a shield wall to defend against the attack, and the two sides clashed in a fierce battle.

The Normans initially struggled to make progress against the English shield wall.

However, they eventually found a weak point and broke through. King Harold died in the fighting, as a result, this demoralized the English troops. The Normans then used their superior cavalry to surround and destroy the English army.

The death of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings.

The battle lasted all day, and it is estimated that around 7,000 soldiers were killed. Including both King Harold and William’s half-brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.

The Norman victory was decisive, and William became crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066.

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Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The Battle of Hastings was significant because it marked the beginning of Norman rule in England, as a result had a profound impact on the country’s culture, language, and society.

Ealdgyth (Edith), discovering the body of Harold Godwinson.

It also demonstrated the importance of cavalry in medieval warfare and showed the effectiveness of the Norman military tactics, including the use of archers and cavalry charges.

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Bayeux Tapestry – Scenes 55 & 56 – Duke William lifts his helmet to be recognized on the battlefield

William faced several challenges during his reign, including rebellions by English nobles and the need to consolidate his power and establish a new Norman ruling class in England.

Queen Elizabeth II is a descendant of William the Conqueror, but the exact degree of relation is somewhat distant due to the passage of time and the many generations that have passed since William’s reign.

Queen Elizabeth II descends from William the Conqueror through many different lines of descent. Including both the royal and non-royal branches of her family tree. However, one of the most direct lines of descent is through her maternal grandmother, Queen Mary, who was a direct descendant of William the Conqueror through her mother, Mary Adelaide of Cambridge.

In conclusion, through this line of descent, Queen Elizabeth II is the 24th great-granddaughter of William the Conqueror!

Which means that 24 generations separate them.

However, it is worth noting that this is just one of many different lines of descent between the two. Furthermore, there are likely many other ways in which they are related through other branches of their family trees.

Battle of Hastings, as portrayed by Philip James de Loutherbourg

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