The Battle of Hastings took place in England in 1066. It was a decisive battle between the Anglo-Saxon rulers of England and the invading Norman force under William The Conqueror. The resulting defeat of the Normans and their conquest over the Anglo-Saxon forces had very significant long-term effects on the politics and overall social landscape of England.
Prelude to Hastings 1066
The stage for a succession conflict was set during the reign of King Edward the Confessor. Edward spent a long time in Normandy before succeeding to the English throne. And upon his ascension, the influence and stake of the Normans in England increased significantly.
When Edward died childless, many claimants to the throne came forward. Although Harold Godwinson ascended to the throne, he faced opposition from William, the Duke of Normandy as well as other contestants. Consequently, Harold defeated a Norwegian army in the north of England during 1066 and then rushed to the south to meet William who had arrived from Normandy with a large force.
The English troops took position on top of a hill with woods and marshes on their sides to protect the flanks. They stood in a shield-wall formation which initially proved formidable in the face of Norman engagements.
The Norman troops stood at the bottom of the hill, divided into three groups. In each, the archers initially stood at the frontlines and behind them stood the infantry. The cavalry didn’t initially participate in the fighting and stood in reserve.
The Battle of Hastings
The Anglo-Saxon side of the army under Harold composed entirely of infantry. This included professional fighters and the noblemen, both on foot and armed with shields, spears and swords. The French-Norman army under William, on the other hand, came with a large contingent of mounted cavalry as well as archers.
The Normans launched an uphill attack against the English but their archers and cavalry failed to make any dent in English formations. In one such engagement, the Norman cavalry retreated and the English troops pursued them. This opened the English formations for attack which was successfully exploited by the Norman troops.
The battle lasted from morning to evening and in the thick of fighting, Harold as well as his brothers were killed. The death of Harold proved decisive in denting the morale of the English army and many fled while others were routed by the Normans.
Aftermath of the Battle
In the wake of the battle, William claimed the throne of England and effectively replaced the formerly reigning Anglo-Saxon aristocracy with a new French-Norman nobility. He faced repeated rebellions and opposition from different regions in England but he was able to quell all resistance over the years.
In the years following the battle, the Anglo-Saxon nobles from England largely emigrated to different parts of Eastern and Western Europe. The arrival of the Normans also significantly altered the English language, diminishing the influence of Old English and bringing a vast vocabulary of words from Old French to it.