The Battle of Hastings in 1066 changed the course of English history and led to Norman rule which brought the Norman Feudal system and its way of life with it.
The actual battle of Hastings in 1066 between the Norman-French and the Saxon English took place on Senlac Hill in Hastings, East Sussex in the town of Battle.
Battle of Hastings 1066
In England Edward the confessor had recently died, he had no children which meant there was no heir to the English throne and there were several people making their claim to the throne at that time, but it was decided that King Harold would succeed Edward and he was crowned King of England shortly after King Edward’s death.
Bayeux Tapestry Edward The Confessor
However, this may not have been such a great thing for the newly crowned King Harold as he was soon to find himself in the middle of several conflicts which culminated in the Battle of Hastings.
Bayeux Tapestry Scene 57 Harolds Death *Battle of Hastings
He was about to meet a formidable foe in William of Normandy, who is commonly known as ‘William The Conqueror‘, the battle-hardened Duke of Normandy, indeed King Harold was really up against it in the battle of Hastings.
William the Conqueror *Early Life
William the Conqueror was born in France the son of Robert l the Duke of Normandy who died while traveling back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, this meant that William at the tender age of 8 was to become the new Duke of Normandy.
The Feudal system that was in place in France during this time led to a lot of conflict between greedy Barons eager to take advantage of this situation and it is a wonder that William even survived, several people close to him died and were murdered such as his teacher.
It was only because King Henry l of France came to help him that he probably survived this early period of his life.
William the Conqueror *Duke of Normandy
It was while King Harold’s army was still recovering from the battle of Stamford Bridge that William the conqueror decided to make his move, William the conqueror and his well-trained army of 7,000–8,000 men of which around 1,000–2,000 were cavalry landed in Pevensey in the south of England on the 28th September 1066.
On hearing the news of the Norman invasion King Harold set off immediately to confront the armies and marched southwards towards the coast and the town of Battle.
It is estimated by modern historians that King Harold had an army of around 8-10,000 men who were mainly infantry against William the Conqueror’s much larger invading forces that were half cavalry and half archers, which would have been a better combination of forces.
Harold did try and take the initiative by surprising William, however, the canny battle-hardened William had already sent forward scouting troops to try and locate the enemy and when William learned of Kings Harold’s troop’s location he decided to march his troops towards them.
William the Conqueror *Battle of Hastings 1066
The Battle of Hastings 1066 led to the defeat of King Harold by William the Conqueror and was a turning point in English History. The Defeat of King Harold’s army in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 led to Norman rule and a Feudal system in 1066.
The image shows the weaponry, shields, and horses used by medieval Norman knights
Battle Tactics During the Battle of Hastings
King Harold set up his army in a strong defensive position on Senlac Hill and was able to hold back Williams’s army for quite a long time – The battle of Hastings started early in the morning and lasted until dawn.
William the conqueror, however, was very clever and he told his army to pretend to flee at some point in the battle this led to indiscipline on the part of Harold’s army and a breaking of the strong defensive positions of the English army held.
King Harold Killed
During the battle, Harold was also mortally wounded and died and without his leadership, the army became very undisciplined and broke ranks, which led to the slaughter of Harold’s army by Williams’s more organized troops.
Historians believe that around 2000 of William the Conqueror’s army died in the battle of Hastings and around 4000 of Harold’s English soldiers perished
It wasn’t to be a good Christmas for England as William the conqueror was crowned King on Christmas Day in 1066. this led to the French Normans ruling over England
William The Conqueror Family Tree
The Norman Conquest
The Norman Conquest changed England in many ways, it led to the cutting of ties with Denmark and Norway and the opening of new links with Normandy and the rest of Europe.
It also changed the way of life in England with the introduction of the Feudal system which led to the demise of the Anglo-Saxon culture in favor of Norman culture, as part of this drive William the Conqueror made sure that all Saxons Nobles were removed from power.
William made lots of changes to the landscape and the Normans built castles to protect themselves from the Anglo-Saxons, William also re-organized the Church in which he placed Norman abbots and bishops who were loyal to him.
Medieval Norman Castle *Norman Conquest
Impressive monasteries and Great cathedrals were also built by the Normans across England.
The Greedy Normans Grabbed all the Land
William was keen to stay in power and he did this by confiscating English land which after declaring it as his own property he would distribute to the people he trusted from his Norman followers.
It was this reorganization of society and the imposition of the Feudal system that led to the Norman nobility replacing the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy in England.
The Doomsday Book
William the Conqueror was keen to learn what everyone in the country owned England for his new taxation system and set about recording everything in a new census of the population and property in England called the Domesday Book!
This new document was very detailed and was called The Domesday Book *It can be seen today in London and gives an invaluable insight into the life and times of medieval England
King Harold of England lost the Battle of Hastings which allowed William the Conqueror to take over England, the Norman invasion caused huge changes to the history of the country and led to a new Feudal system in which English medieval people had to live.
The people were now ruled by French Normans and this led to changes at every level of society as William the Conqueror changed most of the systems and people at the top levels of society.
Some of the changes would have been improvements such as the great Cathedrals and churches that were built during this period, however, there was a complete attack on the Anglo-Saxons and their culture which was systematically destroyed by the all-conquering Normans.