The Battle of Hastings: What Really Happened?

Background to the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings, which took place on October 14, 1066, is one of the most important battles in medieval history. The events leading up to this crucial military encounter are equally intriguing and so, what follows will take you through the context of the Battle of Hastings.

England before the battle

Before the battle, England was ruled by King Edward the Confessor. It was a rather weak monarch who had no direct heir. Upon his death in January 1066, several claimants claimed the throne, including Harold Godwinson, who was quickly crowned king, although two others had clear intentions of overthrowing his rule.

The pretenders to the throne

Besides Harold, there was William, Duke of Normandy, who was a distant cousin of Edward, and Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, who wanted to expand his empire. Each had powerful supporters and an army that was ready to fight for their demands.

Events leading up to the battle

In September 1066, Hardrada and Harold met in a battle known as the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where Hardrada was killed, ending his claim to the throne. However, soon after, William landed on the English shores with a powerful army, forcing Harold to march south to confront him at Hastings.

Preparing for battle

William spent several days preparing his forces for battle, while Harold did the same, although he was weakened from the previous battle. This period was decisive for the progress of the meeting, Guillaume having the advantage of initiative.


It is in this complex and conflict-laden context that the Battle of Hastings took place. A tangle of crown ambitions, political conflicts and quests for power, leaving an indelible mark on English history.

Forces present at the Battle of Hastings

October 14, 1066 marks a significant date in English history; It is the day of the Battle of Hastings. A fierce struggle between the Norman forces of William the Conqueror and the Anglo-Saxon army of King Harold II. In this article, we will explore in depth the forces that were present during this historic battle.

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The normands

THE Duke William of Normandy, later nicknamed “the Conqueror”, led the Norman army. In 1066 he assembled an army of knights and archers, as well as a significant number of allied soldiers from Brittany and Flanders. They benefited from the technological advantage of the crossbow, a formidable weapon in their expert hands.

The Anglo-Saxons

At the head of the Anglo-Saxon army was the King Harold II. His army was mainly composed of fyrd, a militia of locally recruited foot fighters. Their main weapon was the long spear, called the gar. Unfortunately, they lacked horsemen and archers, which was a significant handicap during the battle.

The confrontation

On October 14, the two armies met on the battlefield near Hastings. The Anglo-Saxons positioned themselves on top of a hill, forming an imposing line of shields. Facing them, the Normans with their horsemen, archers and infantrymen. The battle promised to be decisive.

The Battle of Hastings was a major turning point in British history, leading to the Norman Conquest of England. The forces present were distinct, both in terms of composition and strategy. Technology, tactics and leadership played a key role in the fate of this historic battle.

Course of the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings, which took place on October 14, 1066, is one of the most famous clashes in medieval history. It was in this battle that Duke William of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror, defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, securing his right to the English crown. This event marked a crucial turning point in English history.

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The protagonists of the battle

The Battle of Hastings was fought between two main forces. On the one hand, the Anglo-Saxon army, led by King Harold II, and on the other, the Norman army led by William the Conqueror. Both armies were composed primarily of infantry, but the Normans also had effective cavalry.

The context of the battle

The context of this battle is essential to its understanding. Indeed, the battle arose from a dispute over who should be crowned king of England following the death of King Edward the Confessor. Harold II was crowned on the same day that Edward died, but William also claimed the throne, arguing that Edward had promised him the crown.

The course of the battle

The battle took place over an entire day, beginning at dawn and ending at dusk. The Saxons occupied a defensive position on a hill, while the Normans attacked from below. The Saxons were protected by a human shield, while the Normans had a tactic of feinting retreats to break the Saxon defense line. The battle turned around when King Harold was killed, disorganizing the Anglo-Saxon troops.

The significance of the Battle of Hastings

Beyond the change of leader of England, the Battle of Hastings initiated a profound reshuffling of the social, political and cultural structure of England. It marks the beginning of the Norman period in England, characterized by a large number of changes, including the introduction of feudalism and linguistic transformations.

Consequences and impacts of the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings, which occurred in 1066, remains one of the great dates in English history which has left indelible marks on a political, social and cultural level. This major event, which saw the victory of William the Conqueror over Harold II, radically transformed England. Four major consequences will be analyzed to highlight these changes.

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Strengthening of monarchical power

The first major impact of the Battle of Hastings was the strengthening of monarchical power. The victory of William the Conqueror definitively established the authority of the monarchy, giving the king increased power over his vassals and the people. This change in governance formed the foundations of what would later become the English “nation-state”.

Emergence of a new social elite

The Battle of Hastings strongly influenced the social organization of England. The Norman victory marked the emergence of a new social elite composed mainly of Norman nobles. This new ruling class brought new architecture, new traditions, and transformed the social structure of England.

Linguistic and cultural changes

Among the consequences of the Battle of Hastings, we also find significant linguistic and cultural changes. The Norman language, related to French, will impose itself in the administration, the royal courts and even mix with English, which will gradually transform under this influence. Furthermore, culture, art and architecture were deeply marked by this cultural mix, instigating a revival in England.

Impact on the economy and the law

Although less obvious, the Battle of Hastings also had an impact on English economics and law. By introducing new agricultural methods, new construction techniques and the establishment of Norman law transposed to England, William and his successors considerably changed the English economic and legal landscape.

In summary, the Battle of Hastings profoundly changed England in various aspects, laying the foundation for the England we know today.

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