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The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings in 1066 is arguably the most defining battle in English history, and, as a result of the Norman victory, there ensued centuries of conflict with the kingdoms that occupy modern-day France with Olde English developing into the highly cosmopolitan language English is today.

It is wrong to think of Hastings as a battle between the English and the French. The Anglo Saxons started to arrive in England in the 5th Century, eventually displacing the indigenous people we know as the Britons. England was a fertile land, and by the 8th Century, the Vikings who originated from modern-day Scandinavia started to raid and then settle.

England could easily have become a Norse speaking people, but the victory of Alfred the Great at Edington put paid to that. Nonetheless, by the 10th Century, England was an amalgam of Anglo Saxon and Viking culture and language.

Harold II Godwinson was himself of mixed stock, and his opponent William 'the Bastard' of Normandy was a direct descendent of Rollo, a Viking who settled in Normandy in the 9th Century.

King Canute came to the throne in 1016 (Cnut), succeeded by his son Hardicanute. Upon the death of Hardicanute, the throne passed to his half-brother Edward (the Confessor). Importantly, Edward's parents were Aethelred (the Unready) and Emma of Normandy. Emma was at one time Queen of England, Denmark and Norway and was the Great Aunt of William of Normandy.

When Edward died in early 1066, he left no progeny. His closest relative was Edgar Atheling, but he was a boy, and the Witan (England's high council), decided that given the situation regarding the rival claimants, there was no choice but to declare the most powerful man in England, Harold Godwinson, as King.

There were two other claimants, Harald Hardrada, King of Norway and William Duke of Normandy. Harald Hardrada was a huge man and acknowledged as the greatest warrior in Northern Europe. Apart from simple ambition, he based his claim to the English throne on being related to Canute. William, on the other hand, claimed that Edward had nominated him as his heir in 1051 and vitally that Harold Godwinson had sworn fealty to him.

The Battle of Hastings

Hardwarda struck first, and Harold met him at Stamford Bridge (7 miles east of York) on 25th September 1066, where the English achieved a spectacular victory, slaying Hardrada in the process. William set sail around the same time, and Harold marched most of his army south to meet him.

On 14th October 1066, arguably the most famous battle in English history took place at Senlac Hill, 7 miles from Hastings. William was considered a lesser threat than Hardrada, and with hindsight, the English could have utilised various different strategies to ensure their success.

It was a hard-fought battle, and there is little doubt that Harold was unlucky. If the battle had lasted an extra hour, the darkness would have set in, and the English would have a major advantage the next day.

William fought a strategically better fight and started to gain the upper hand, helped by meeting an opponent who would have won if fighting a more cagey fight but who was naturally the aggressor.

The Norman bowmen started to cut the English down, and Harold himself famously portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry as succumbing to an arrow in the eye. It is likely that if he was shot that his injury did not stop him from fighting. He was almost certainly slain and hacked to pieces by the vengeful William. William acted decisively and swiftly put down dissent before being crowned King on Christmas Day 1066.

1066 was the year of the three Kings and one that changed the outlook of England and, by deduction Great Britain forever. Words such as royal, beef, damsel and abbey entered the English language helping to make it the rich and diverse language it is today. The legacy of Hastings also includes centuries of conflict with France and several of the really great battles.

The Battle of Hastings

As part of our commemorative coins and medals collection, you can now get this wonderful tribute to The Battle of Hastings, layered in beautiful 24 Carat Gold from just £9.99. For more information, click the button below.

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