What have you heard about the legendary Battle of Hastings?
Do you know your Anglo Saxon from your Norman? Have you learnt all about the legendary Bayeux Tapestry? You might already know what some of these things are from history lessons in school, but if you're not too sure and your kids are learning about this topic, don't worry!
We'll be covering all the key points about the Battle of Hastings, what happened during the battle and who was victorious in the end. Read on to discover all you need to know...
So, What Is The Battle of Hastings?
The Battle of Hastings is one of the most well-known battles that happened in the Middle Ages (or the Medieval Period) in England on 14th October 1066. William, the Duke of Normandy and leader of the Norman army from France, fought against the newly crowned king, Harold II, along with his fellow English Anglo Saxon army to decide who would become the King of England.
Who Were The Key Players In The Battle?
Harold Godwinson - King Harold II
Harold Godwinson was the Earl of Wessex, a rich nobleman who had not only advised Edward the Confessor, the before he died, but was also his brother-in-law. He had lots of support from other English noblemen and even succeeded Edward as king of England - but would he remain King for long?
William, Duke of Normandy
William, Duke of Normandy, was a distant cousin of Edward the Confessor and claimed that he had a right to the English throne as promised by Edward. He also argued that Harold II betrayed him as he said that he would support William in his fight for the crown.
William gained a lot of support for his claim and even had backing from the Pope. This meant that the powerful Catholic Church recognised him as the rightful ruler, which symbolised his 'divine' right to rule England. So what would this mean in the upcoming battle?
What Happened Before The Battle?
Edward the Confessor was one of the last English kings of Anglo Saxon heritage. He sat on the throne from 1042 until his death in 1066. He had no children to inherit the throne which meant England had no new ruler so it was left vulnerable to attack.
Following Edward's death, Harold II was crowned king of England by the King's Council on 6th January 1066 to stop any attacks. However, there were several other people who also claimed that they had the right to be king of England.
Edgar Atheling was the great-nephew of Edward the Confessor and though he could try and win the throne, he was weak and had no support so he was unable to.
Harald Hardrada was a famous Viking, and the king of Norway who tried winning against Harold II. Harald Hardrada came over by ship to England in September 1066 with his Viking army and battled against the Anglo Saxons twice in Yorkshire with the help of Harold II's own half-brother Tostig. Though they won the first fight, both Tostig and Hardrada died in the second at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
But there was another who felt he had the right to rule - can you guess who? William, Duke of Normandy of course!
The Battle of Hastings: Winners And Losers
William was a well known military leader, and after hearing of Harold II becoming king, decided to fight for his claim to the throne. As we know, he gained a lot of support from his fellow Normans and even the Pope.
In September 1066, William's large army sailed on 700 ships from France to Sussex, England where they attacked and built up their defence.
Harold II had just finished defeating Harald Hardrada in York when he heard that England had been invaded. He then travelled all the way down from the north of England with some of his Anglo Saxon army of foot soldiers. Not only were his soldiers tired from the previous fight, but they also marched for around two weeks to reach William's army!
The Battle of Hastings began at Senlac Hill in Sussex on 14th October 1066.
In the morning, Harold's army positioned themselves at the top of the hill, forming a shield wall. William's army fought from below, with archers and men on horses who tried to charge uphill but found it hard.
The battle continued on all day with both armies fighting. It has been suggested that there was a rumour that William had died but declared that he was still alive, which gave his army a boost in confidence.
Later on in the day, William got his army to pretend to run away so that they could try and get the English army to break their wall by tricking them which worked! With his skilled army, William was able to eventually defeat Harold II who was killed, though we are not sure how he died.
After the battle, William marched to London to claim his victory and took over as King.
Did You Know? There is a legend that says Harold was killed by an arrow shot through his eye?
Why Is The Battle of Hastings So Important?
After the battle and what became known as the Norman Conquest, William became the first Norman King of England on Christmas Day in 1066 and transformed Anglo Saxon England.
Known as William the Conqueror, he officially ended around 600 years of Anglo Saxon rule through winning the Battle of Hastings.
As King, William made changes to Anglo Saxon English by mixing it with French, resulting in what would become today's spoken English. He built links to Europe, created the census known as the 'Domesday Book' and influenced the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry (as seen below), which tells the story about the battle and his triumph and is approx 70m long!
To get your kids thinking more about the topic, they could:
-Draw the 'key players' and write a story about them!
-Research what types of weapons and armour the Anglo Saxons and Normans used and design their own.
-Design their very own Bayeux Tapestry.
That's it! The Battle of Hastings explained for your little historians. We hope we've helped you learn more about English history and hope that you continue to have fun on your historical adventures.
Avneet is a Liberal Arts and Science grad who majored in History and she loves to listen to music, read and spend time adventuring with family and friends. She has loved exploring and learning new things from a young age, especially travelling abroad to far off places. One of her favourite places to visit has been India, where she visited her ancestral village and the Golden Temple in Amritsar.