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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

9 King William and King Harold battle it out in England

Invasion of England

Main article:  as from Wikipedia   Norman conquest of England

Harold's preparations

Locations of some of the events in 1066

Harold was crowned on 6 January 1066 in Edward's new Norman style Westminster Abbey, although some controversy surrounds who performed the ceremony. English sources claim that Ealdred, the Archbishop of York, performed the ceremony, but Norman sources state that the coronation was performed by Stigand, who was considered a non-canonical archbishop by the papacy.

But Harold's claim was not entirely secure; there were other claimants to the English throne, perhaps including his exiled brother Tostig. King Harald Hardrada of Norway also had a claim to the throne as the uncle and heir of King Magnus I, who had made a pact with Harthacnut in about 1040 that if either Magnus or Harthacnut died without heirs, the other would succeed. 

The last claimant was William of Normandy, against whose anticipated invasion King Harold Godwinson made most of his preparations.

Harold's brother Tostig made probing attacks along the southern coast of England in May 1066, landing at the Isle of Wight using a fleet supplied by Baldwin of Flanders. Tostig appears to have received little local support, and further raids into Lincolnshire and near the River Humber met with no more success, so Tostig retreated to Scotland, where he remained for a time.

 According to the Norman writer William of Jumieges, William had meanwhile sent an embassy to King Harold Godwinson, reminding Harold of his oath to support William's claim, although whether this embassy actually occurred is unclear. Harold assembled an army and a fleet to repel William's anticipated invasion force; troops and ships were deployed along the English Channel for most of the summer.

William's preparations

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing Normans preparing for the invasion of England.

William of Poitiers describes a council called by Duke William, in which the writer gives an account of a great debate that took place between William's nobles and supporters over whether to risk an invasion of England. Although some sort of formal assembly probably was held, it is unlikely that any debate took place, as the duke had by then established control over his nobles, and most of those assembled would have been anxious to secure their share of the rewards from the conquest of England.

William of Poitiers also relates that the duke obtained Pope Alexander II's consent for the invasion, along with a papal banner.

The chronicler also claimed that the duke secured the support of Emperor Henry IV and King Sweyn II of Denmark, but as Henry was still a minor and Sweyn was more likely to support Harold, who could then help Sweyn against the Norwegian king, these claims should be treated with caution. Although Alexander did give papal approval to the conquest after it succeeded, no other source claims papal support prior to the invasion.

Events after the invasion, which included the penance William performed and statements by later popes, do lend circumstantial support to the claim of papal approval. To deal with Norman affairs, William put the government of Normandy into the hands of his wife for the duration of the invasion.

Throughout the summer, William assembled an army and an invasion fleet in Normandy. Although William of Jumieges's claim that the ducal fleet numbered 3,000 ships is clearly an exaggeration, it was probably large and mostly built from scratch. Although William of Poitiers and William of Jumieges disagree about where the fleet was built – Poitiers states it was constructed at the mouth of the River Dives while Jumieges states it was built at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme – both agree that it eventually sailed from Valery-sur-Somme.

The fleet carried an invasion force that included, in addition to troops from William's own territories of Normandy and Maine, large numbers of mercenaries, allies and volunteers from Brittany, northeastern France and Flanders, together with smaller numbers from other parts of Europe. Although the army and fleet were ready by early August, adverse winds kept the ships in Normandy until late September. 

There were probably other reasons for William's delay, including intelligence reports from England revealing that Harold's forces were deployed along the coast. William would have preferred to delay the invasion until he could make an unopposed landing. Harold kept his forces on alert throughout the summer, but with the arrival of the harvest season he disbanded his army on 8 September.

Tostig and Hardrada's invasion and the Battle of Stamford Bridge

Harold's brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada invaded Northumbria in September 1066, and defeated the local forces under Morcar and Edwin at the Battle of Fulford near York.  King Harold received word of their invasion and marched north, defeating the invaders and killing Tostig and Hardrada on 25 September at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

  (lots to be read about this battle on the internet)

We visited Stamford Bridge, it is a small town, overlooking the bridge and the river.  A perfect spot to observe the surroundings! 

The Norman fleet finally set sail two days later, landing in England at Pevensey Bay on 28 September. William then moved to Hastings, a few miles to the east, where he built a castle as a base of operations. From there, he ravaged the interior and waited for Harold's return from the north, refusing to venture far from the sea, his line of communication with Normandy.

So let's imagine for a moment, here we have poor old Harold slogging it out with the Vikings and then he gets word that William has invaded the continent.  He has to turn around, and march back down to the south, not a mean feat, given it takes several hours today with modern transport.

Harold and the troops would have been quite tired, and probably the last thing they wanted to face was another battle!

William on the other hand brings his troops across the English Channel and lands on site and has to build shelter, this he did near the site of Pevensey Castle and Hastings

Hastings Harbour today
Hastings Castle, with the Pier and Town Centre in the background
Hastings Castle rebuilt by William

      Norman forces at Hastings

Norman knights and archers at the Battle of Hastings, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

The exact numbers and composition of William's force are unknown..  A contemporary document claims that William had 776 ships, but this may be an inflated figure.

Figures given by contemporary writers are highly exaggerated, varying from 14,000 to 150,000. Modern historians have offered a range of estimates for the size of William's forces: 7,000–8,000 men, 1,000–2,000 of them cavalry; 10,000–12,000 men; 10,000 men, 3,000 of them cavalry; or 7500 men.

The army consisted of cavalry, infantry, and archers or crossbowmen, with about equal numbers of cavalry and archers and the foot soldiers equal in number to the other two types combined Later lists of companions of William the Conqueror are extant, but most are padded with extra names; only about 35 named individuals can be reliably identified as having been with William at Hastings.

The main armour used was chainmail hauberks, usually knee-length, with slits to allow riding, some with sleeves to the elbows. Some hauberks may have been made of scales attached to a tunic, with the scales made of metal, horn or hardened leather. Headgear was usually a conical metal helmet with a band of metal extending down to protect the nose.

Horsemen and infantry carried shields. The infantryman's shield was usually round and made of wood, with reinforcement of metal. Horsemen had changed to a kite-shaped shield and were usually armed with a lance. The couched lance, carried tucked against the body under the right arm, was a relatively new refinement and was probably not used at Hastings; the terrain was unfavourable for long cavalry charges.

 Both the infantry and cavalry usually fought with a straight sword, long and double-edged. The infantry could also use javelins and long spears. Some of the cavalry may have used a mace instead of the sword. Archers would have used a self bow or a crossbow, and most would not have had armour.

Battle  Background and location

Because many of the primary accounts contradict each other at times, it is impossible to provide a description of the battle that is beyond dispute.
 The only undisputed facts are that the fighting began at 9 am on Saturday 14 October 1066 and that the battle lasted until dusk. Sunset on the day of the battle was at 4:54 pm, with the battlefield mostly dark by 5:54 pm and in full darkness by 6:24 pm. Moonrise that night was not until 11:12 pm, so once the sun set, there was little light on the battlefield.

Serious damage was caused by these weapons

William of Jumieges reports that Duke William kept his army armed and ready against a surprise night attack for the entire night before. The battle took place 7 miles (11 km) north of Hastings at the present-day town of Battle, between two hills – Caldbec Hill to the north and Telham Hill to the south. 

The area was heavily wooded, with a marsh nearby. The name traditionally given to the battle is unusual – there were several settlements much closer to the battlefield than Hastings. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called it the battle "at the hoary apple tree". Within 40 years, the battle was also known as "Senlac",  -French adaptation of the Old English word "Sandlacu", which means "sandy water". This may have been the name of the stream that crosses the battlefield.

 The battle was already being referred to as "bellum Hasestingas" or "Battle of Hastings" by 1087, in the Domesday Book.

Sunrise was at 6:48 am that morning, and reports of the day record that it was unusually bright. The weather conditions are not recorded.

The route that the English army took to the battlefield is not known precisely. Several roads are possible: one, an old Roman road that ran from Rochester to Hastings has long been favoured because of a large coin hoard found nearby in 1876. Another possibility is a Roman road between London and Lewes and then over local tracks to the battlefield.

Some accounts of the battle indicate that the Normans advanced from Hastings to the battlefield, but the contemporary account of William of Jumieges places the Normans at the site of the battle the night before.
 Most historians incline towards the former view, but M. K. Lawson argues that William of Jumieges's account is correct..

Whichever account is correct, one thing is that it was a difficult place to fight a battle.  William's side were advancing up a hill while Harold's side were in place at the top.

And some more facts!

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, during the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) north-west of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

The background to the battle was the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward's death, but faced invasions by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (Harold III of Norway). Hardrada and Tostig defeated a hastily gathered army of Englishmen at the Battle of Fulford on 20 September 1066, and were in turn defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later.

 The deaths of Tostig and Hardrada at Stamford left William as Harold's only serious opponent. While Harold and his forces were recovering from Stamford, William landed his invasion forces in the south of England at Pevensey on 28 September 1066 and established a beachhead for his conquest of the kingdom. Harold was forced to march south swiftly, gathering forces as he went.

The exact numbers present at the battle are unknown; estimates are around 10,000 for William and about 7,000 for Harold. The composition of the forces is clearer; the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry and had few archers, whereas only about half of the invading force was infantry, the rest split equally between cavalry and archers
After defeating Harald Hardrada and Tostig, Harold left much of his army in the north, including Morcar and Edwin, and marched the rest south to deal with the threatened Norman invasion.

He probably learned of William's landing while he was travelling south. Harold stopped in London, and was there for about a week before marching to Hastings, so it is likely that he spent about a week on his march south, averaging about 27 miles (43 kilometres) per day, for the distance of approximately 200 miles (320 kilometres).

Harold appears to have tried to surprise William, but scouts found his army and reported its arrival to William, who marched from Hastings to the battlefield to confront Harold. The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk. Early efforts of the invaders to break the English battle lines had little effect; therefore, the Normans adopted the tactic of pretending to flee in panic and then turning on their pursuers.

 Harold's death, probably near the end of the battle, led to the retreat and defeat of most of his army. After further marching and some skirmishes, William was crowned as king on Christmas Day 1066.

Although there continued to be rebellions and resistance to William's rule, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. Casualty figures are hard to come by, but some historians estimate that 2,000 invaders died along with about twice that number of Englishmen. William founded a monastery at the site of the battle, the high altar of the abbey church supposedly placed at the spot where Harold died.

The available sources are more confused about events in the afternoon, but it appears that the decisive event was Harold's death, about which differing stories are told. William of Jumieges claimed that Harold was killed by the duke.

The Bayeux Tapestry has been claimed to show Harold's death by an arrow to the eye, but that may be a later reworking of the tapestry to conform to 12th-century stories in which Harold was slain by an arrow wound to the head.

Harold's body was identified the day after the battle, either through his armour or marks on his body. The English dead, who included some of Harold's brothers and his housecarls, were left on the battlefield. Gytha, Harold's mother, offered the victorious duke the weight of her son's body in gold for its custody, but her offer was refused.

William ordered that Harold's body was to be thrown into the sea, but whether that took place is unclear. 

Waltham Abbey, which had been founded by Harold, later claimed that his body had been secretly buried there.

Our visit to Battle and to the Castle was an incredible experience.  Here we were, walking in our ancestors footsteps, literally.  William fought Harold's men, and it is said, that there were no prisoners, anyone still alive on Harold's side was killed.

The visitor centre is alive with history of the battle, and the beautiful township of Battle was later established around the Abbey

Battle Abbey was founded to commemorate the battle, and dedicated in 1095. The high altar of the Abbey church was reputedly on the spot where Harold died. The Abbey gateway is still the dominant feature of the south end of the main street, although little remains of the rest of the Abbey buildings.
 The remaining cloisters, part of the west range, were leased to Battle Abbey School shortly after World War I,
 and the school remains in occupancy to this day.

The abbey at Battle has been known for centuries as Battle Abbey. It and the abbey church were initially dedicated to Saint Martin, sometimes known as "the Apostle of the Gauls", and named in his honour.



On the Bayeaux tapestry
 March on London

William may have hoped that the English would surrender following his victory, but they did not. Instead some of the English clergy and magnates nominated Edgar the Ætheling as king, but their support for Edgar was only lukewarm. After waiting a short while, William secured Dover, parts of Kent, and Canterbury, while also sending a force to capture Winchester, where the royal treasury was.  

These captures secured William's rear areas and also his line of retreat to Normandy, if that was needed. William then marched to Southwark, across the Thames from London, which he reached in late November. Next he led his forces around the south and west of London, burning along the way. He finally crossed the Thames at Wallingford in early December. 

Archbishop Stigand submitted to William there, and when the duke moved on to Berkhamsted soon afterwards, Edgar the Ætheling, Morcar, Edwin and Archbishop Ealdred also submitted. William then sent forces into London to construct a castle; he was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.


First actions

William remained in England after his coronation, and tried to reconcile the native magnates. The remaining earls – Edwin (of Mercia), Morcar (of Northumbria), and Waltheof (of Northampton) – were confirmed in their lands and titles. Waltheof was married to William's niece Judith, daughter of Adelaide, and a marriage between Edwin and one of William's daughters was proposed. Edgar the Ætheling also appears to have been given lands. 

Ecclesiastical offices continued to be held by the same bishops as before the invasion, including the uncanonical Stigand. But the families of Harold and his brothers did lose their lands, as did some others who had fought against William at Hastings. By March, William was secure enough to return to Normandy, but he took with him Stigand, Morcar, Edwin, Edgar, and Waltheof.

He left his half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, in charge of England along with another influential supporter, William fitzOsbern, the son of his former guardian. Both men were also named to earldoms – fitzOsbern to Hereford (or Wessex) and Odo to Kent.

Although he put two Normans in overall charge, he retained many of the native English sheriffs. Once in Normandy the new English king went to Rouen and the Abbey of Fecamp,and then attended the consecration of new churches at two Norman monasteries.

While William was in Normandy, a former ally, Eustace, the Count of Boulogne, invaded at Dover but was repulsed. English resistance had also begun, with Eadric the Wild attacking Hereford and revolts at Exeter, where Harold's mother Gytha was a focus of resistance.

 FitzOsbern and Odo found it difficult to control the native population and undertook a programme of castle building to maintain their hold on the kingdom. William returned to England in December 1067 and marched on Exeter, which he besieged. The town held out for 18 days, and after it fell to William he built a castle to secure his control. Harold's sons were meanwhile raiding the southwest of England from a base in Ireland. Their forces landed near Bristol, but were defeated by Eadnoth. By Easter, William was at Winchester, where he was soon joined by his wife Matilda, who was crowned in May 1068.

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