We all know the story of The Battle of Hastings, and William the Conqueror’s significant victory there. But, despite what you might have read or studied in High School history class, you might not have realized the significance of the battle, and how it would come to shape the futures of us all. But let’s drift back and find out a little more about the battle, and how it would come to mold and sculpt the transformation of the country.
England. 1066. Edward the Confessor sits on the throne, childless and dying. Many from across the land come forth to claim the throne, but only one may sit upon it. It sounds like it could have been a plot lifted from Game of Thrones, and the War of the Kings. But, in reality, this is what England was like back in those times. A savage land full of dishonor, infighting, and battles for the throne.
As Edward edged closer to death people waited for him to name his successor. It was widely considered that William, Duke of Normandy, would be named, after Edward’s mother had promised him the throne years before. But, with his dying breath, the King chose his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson. This was thought to be Edward’s dying breath, and King Harold was crowned the next day, January 5th, 1066. Understandably this sparked controversy and set into motion a chain of events that would come to change the face of England.
Before Harold even had a chance to get used to the feel of his crown, trouble was already brewing. Harold’s brother Tostig had teamed up with Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, and set about planning an invasion of England. Harold’s forces intercepted the would-be usurpers, and they were slain in a savage battle. But, this was not the end of the problems, and the relief of victory was one that Harold could only enjoy for a few days before yet another attack.
The Normandy-French forces, led by William, launched an attack on England’s south coast with much more success than Tostig and Harald had managed. William led an army of 7,000 across the English Channel, while Harold marched his forces to meet them in combat. The two armies were thought to be very evenly matched, and the battle raged on. On October 14th, 1066, the battle lasted for the entire day, and King Harold was eventually slain – legend has it that he was shot through the eye with an arrow. William the Conqueror marched his forces to London and was crowned England’s first Norman King on Christmas Day 1066.
This is an event that altered the history of England forever, giving the country closer ties with the rest of Europe, and this secure continental base allowed the country to flourish. It also changed England’s approach to conquering and battles, and the country would perfect becoming the aggressor over the years that followed. Law, religion, architecture, and language were all influenced by this battle as well. French became the official language and is still inscribed on the British Royal Crest “Dieu et mon droit”, meaning God and my right. The Normans blended French and Old English to create the language we now know as English.
As you can see, this was a momentous battle that had a lot of ramifications for England, and the world in general. There are loads of different ways in which the battle affected the nation, and it’s clear that Britain was never the same again afterward. As a result of its widespread impact, we think the Battle of Hastings must go down as one of the key battles in history.