Seven things you (possibly) didn't know about the Battle of Hastings

Seven things you (possibly) didn't know about the Battle of Hastings


Posted 14th Oct 2016


October 14 marks 950 years to the day since the Battle of Hastings, the day that William the Conqueror's Norman army defeated Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson. 

Changing the history of England forever, William was crowned king of England, introducing common law to the nation and introducing the Domesday Book, which is, essentially, a detailed inventory of England. We take a look at a few of our favourite facts to do with the battle.

1. Battles in centuries gone by where more of a civilised affair, with a lunch break taken during the fighting. Despite this, the battle still drew to a close within the day, starting at around 9am and finishing at dusk.

2. The battle was not evenly matched, with the Anglo-Saxon army primarily on foot, while William's army was on horseback. The Normans also had a great deal of archers, whereas the Anglo-Saxon army only had a few.

3. The popular tale goes that King Harold died after being shot in the eye with an arrow, a tale made popular through the Bayeux Tapestry. However, this is disputed by historians, who believe he was probably drubbed – hit repeatedly - to death. The Tapestry is also called the Tapestry of Queen Matilda. Legend has it that Matilda, William's wife, made it, along with her ladies-in-waiting. However, this is widely dismissed by modern day historians.

4. The battle had huge repercussions - not only is it believed that as many as 25 per cent of the English population are descended from William but French also became the language of the court. This became intermingled with the Anglo-Saxon dialect to produce a hybrid language that still appears in many words today.

5. The Normans actually won the battle by feigning a retreat. This prompted the Saxons to think that they were winning, and they charged out of their shield wall, breaking ranks. This then allowed the Normans to pick them off.

6. No one is quite sure what happened to Harold's body. Early sources claim that William refused to pass his body over to his mother, despite offering Harold's weight in gold for it. Later sources claim that Harold's body was mutilated and after being subsequently identified by his mistress, it was buried at Waltham Abbey, Essex, which he had re-founded.

7. The battle didn't actually take place at Hastings, but was instead fought around seven miles away in a field which has since been named Battle, quite appropriately.

Image courtesy of ©English Heritage





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