1066 revision pack

Study guide 4:Why did William of Normandy win the Battle of Hastings?
Study guide 4
Study guide 4
1066: The year of three battles.
By the time Harold had been crowned King, it was inevitable that he would face
an invasion from the Scandinavians and the Normans. Harold’s nine month reign
was over shadowed by the threat of invasion and the preparation for this. After
Harold’s coronation., William was outraged and waged a propaganda war to
assert his right to the throne. He has his fleet ready by the summer of 1066 but the
wind was not in his favour. Harold had his fleet ready and waiting on the south
coast with his navy and troops. He also had his northern army waiting for the
Scandinavians however neither arrived. It was not until September 1066 that the
battles commenced. In six weeks there were three major battles that would
change the course of English history.
Why did Harold’s reign only last for six months?
Harold was in a good position after the death of Edward. He was his brother in
law, was a proven warrior and administrator. He further consolidated his position
in England by marrying Edwin and Morcar’s ( Earls of Mercia) sister, Eadgyth. The
witengamot ( king’s advisors , they included bishops , abbots, earls and thegns.
They also had access to the king and therefore power . The word means ‘meeting
of the wise men’) had supported Harold’s coronation at Westminster Abbey .
Harold was crowned by the much respected Archbishop of York ( Norman sources
record that it was the corrupt Archbishop Stigand), Ealdred. Harold issued coins
inscribed with pax ( peace) and an image of himself wearing the crown and
clutching his rod of justice. Norman sources admit to Harold’s coronation and to
Edward’s deathbed offer to Harold . Whilst the Bayeux tapestry refers to him as rex
( king) , by the time the Doomsday Book was drawn up in 1086 , Harold was merely
comes ( earl) . The Norman portrait of a usurper and perjurer with no legal rights
was complete twenty years after his death.
How did Harold prepare for the defence of his realm?
Most crucially, Harold had to disband his fleet and southern army on 8th September
1066. He could no longer provide for his troops and the harvest was long overdue.
Harold had to send the soldiers home after two months service were finished. A
large part of the army was made up of farmers who had to work in fields to gather
the harvest. This was a key difference between the ancient Anglo Saxon fyrd and
the slick war machine of mercenaries that William employed. William promised
land and riches to those who fought for him in England. Duke William did not get
to England first, when Harold returned to London he heard news that Hardrada
had landed in Northumbria and burnt Scarborough, Cleveland and Holderness to
the ground.
Study guide 4
How did Harold Godwinson win the battles with Hardrada?
Hardrada( the Hard one) was a legend in his own time, a feared warrior who had
campaigned in Scandinavia, Russia and Byzantium ( modern Turkey). His claim was
based on a promise made by Harthacnut to Magnus, King of Norway, to leave him his
possessions if he died first, a promise the Anglo Saxons ignored. Magnus had threatened
to invade England throughout the 1040s , a threat which only ended on his death.
Hardrada then resurrected the claim , but also knew that he could call upon the support
of many Scandinavian people living in the Orkneys, Scotland and the north of England.
His aim was to re establish Canute’s empire . He had also had on his side the renegade
former earl of Northumbria and Harold's brother, Tostig. Whilst Hardrada’s claim may have
been flimsy, his invasion was not. Hardrada sailed up the Humber with 300 ships (
according to the Anglo Saxon chronicle) landed at Ricall on the Ouse and marched on
The Battle of Gate Fulford.
The first battle of 1066 was significant and had an effect on the next two battles.
Hardrada found his way to York barred by the young earls of Mercia and Northumbria,
Edwin and Morcar , brothers in law of Harold Godwinson. The battle raged all day and
ended in the total defeat of the northern Anglo Saxon army. The brothers had shown
their loyalty to the king as had their army but had lost to Hardrada.. Harold still had to
defeat Hardrada and William and had lost thousands of troops at Fulford Gate.
Edwin and Morcar were important to Harold ‘s power. After Tostig was expelled in 1065 ,
Morcar became the earl of Northumbria. Harold supported him over his brother and
married their sister Eadgyth. In return for this, the brothers supported Harold and fought for
him at Gate Fulford. The brothers survived the battle and may have been at Stamford
bridge. However they were not at Hastings but were involved in rebellions against William
in 1068-71 and lost their earldoms.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Harold was probably on his way north , accompanied by those troops of the southern
army he had been able to recall, when he heard of the defeat of Gate Fulford. He
stormed north in a brilliant forced march , covering 190 miles in four days and completely
surprised Hardrada who was camped at Stamford Bridge on the river Derwent , on 20th
September. In another long and bloody battle , Harold Godwinson won a total victory
over Hardrada’s Viking force. The most feared warrior in Christendom was killed , along
with Tostig and most of his army . The sources indicate that the remainder of the Viking
army needed only twenty four of their original 300 ships in which to leave.
Study guide 4
Notes from video clips
Battle of Gate Fuford
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Study guide 4
Draw in a dotted line the progress of Harold Godwinson’s army. Include
direction arrows.
Draw in a complete line the progress of Harald Hardrada’s army, use a different
colour and direction arrows.
Draw a little boat for the use of ships and use a direction arrow.
Draw a wobbly line to show the progress of William of Normandy, use another
colour and direction arrows.
Make a note of the precise dates of the battle.
Create a timeline below showing the three battles of 1066 and the movements
of Harold, Hardrada and William.
Study guide 4
Study guide 4
How did William prepare for his invasion?
William began with a war of words. The vilification of Harold began right from the start.
When William heard of Edward’s death and Harold’s coronation he was furious. A letter
to Harold cut no ice, his barons in Normandy refused to contemplate invading England.
William sent his trusted friend Lanfranc to Rome to portray Anglo Saxon England as a sink
of corruption and decline gained support of the Pope. This transformed the conflict into a
Holy War. William had the papal banner and thousands flocked to join him now that he
had a cause.
People also flocked to William’s banner because he was already famous as a winner of
battles . His conquest of Maine , the neighbouring county to Normandy , in 1063, earned
him the title ‘ the Conqueror’ . The deaths of his rivals, Henry King of France and Fulk of
Anjou made him the most powerful man in north west Europe.
William’s military preparations
Now that men were flocking in from Brittany , southern France and even Italy , William set
about building a fleet. His brilliance as a commander cannot be underestimated.
William’s attempt was dangerous and risky . He might lose his life and the duchy he had
spent twenty years acquiring . Therefore planning was meticulous. Men were fed , horses
provisioned, ships built, arms and armour manufactured. The ordinary people of
Normandy did not suffer and the harvest was gathered as the summer came and went .
In September , William moved his fleet to the mouth of the Somme to exploit the shorter
crossing . All he needed now was a favourable wind.
William’s army lands
Whilst Harold was resting his exhausted and depleted army in the north , the wind
changed direction and William crossed the Channel and landed unopposed at the
Roman shore fort at Pevensey on 28th September. William had been lucky with the
change in the weather. Norman sources show him praying and pleading for the change.
His army of loyal followers, mercenaries and opportunities that he had bribed, would not
stay in one place indefinitely. It was now or never. When the wind changed, William
launched the invasion without haste. He knew the coast lay undefended and his spies
had told him of Hardrada’s invasion.
From Pevensey , William moved to Hastings , where he knew the port afforded shelter for a
possible rear-guard action. Then he laid waste to the surrounding countryside, partly to
preserve his own supplies , partly to draw Harold into battle . A set piece battle was the
only way William could conclude the campaign. It was in Harold’s interest to delay , to
starve William out and allow doubt and fear to sink into the minds of the few thousand
Norman troops in a foreign land.
Study guide 4
Study guide 4
Harold moved quickly , perhaps hoping to repeat the success f Stamford Bridge. He may
also have planned on confining William to the coast , preventing him from breaking out
with his mounted troops and rampaging far and wide across Sussex. He reached London
on 6th October and remained only until 11 October . Many of his foot soldiers and archers
were still moving south from York ; his stay in London was not long enough to gather the
many thousands he had at his disposal. He did not wait to remobilise the 30,000 or 40,000
fyrd troops from the shires of all England. Forcing the pace again , he arrived on the
South Downs n the night 13th October, his men were exhausted.
The Battle of Hastings
William’s scouts had warned him of Harold’s approach , and he was ready. He left
Hastings before dawn on Saturday 14th October and began the attack on Harold’s army,
which was encamped on a hill barring the route to London. If Harold had hoped to
surprise William and scatter his men before they could retreat to his ships , he was wrong.
In the words of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle , the only English account , William came upon
Harold ‘by surprise’ and ‘before his army was drawn up in a battle array’. Even if Harold
had not planned on fighting a defensive battle – or even a battle at all, if William’s troops
were surprised he was able to adapt to the situation. The English army was already on a
hill, if William wanted the crown he would have to get Harold off the hill. William had to
do it quickly as with each hour lost , more men would flock to Harold’s cause.
Tactics and troops
Harold’s army probably numbered around 7,000 including the elite housecarls( the king
and his earls often kept soldiers in their households who provided them with a body guard
and formed the heart of their armies in time of war when they were expected to fight to
the last man. They were rewarded with the spoils of war and land. Most of the housecarls
died in the battles of 1066.) the king’s well armed bodyguards, the thegns, Saxon
landlords, mercenaries and the mass of the less well armed peasant farmers drawn from
Kent, Sussex and London fyrd. The Bayeux tapestry shows that they fought on foot , as
was the Anglo Saxon custom of warfare. The housecarls wore a chain mail coat and
conical helmet , and had as their prize weapon a two handed axe that could cut a man
in half with one blow , the peasants were armed with anything they could find : scythes,
hooks, daggers, spears and stones. The well armed housecarls ad thegns were spread al
aling the ridge , their three foot high shields locked tightly together to form a famous sheild
war or ‘ war hedge’.
William had brought horses with him. The Bayeux tapestry shows the specially builf flat
bottomed boats with horses crossing the Channel. This was the essential difference
between the two armies, and represented not only a new type of warfare , but a new
type of society. This was a society based around the education and provisioning of the
knight , whose function in life was to follow his lord and pay or his lands by undertaking
war service. William had several thousand men on horseback, each fighting in special
units , the conroi and following the gonfanon, or banner of their leader. In this way, the
mass of cavalry was broken into household and familial units of highly trained men able to
follow specific orders without confusion.Study
This guide
4 of discipline was to enable the 10
Norman cavalry to pretend retreat and to draw the less disciplined Saxon army off the hill
to their deaths in the marshy valley below.
Put the diagrams in the right order. Annotate them to describe what is going on in
each picture.
Study guide 4
The course of the battle
At 9am William began his attack , sending in he infantry to soften up the English defence.
This did not have much impact . Archers fired up into the shield wall , but the lines held
firm. Then William sent n the feared cavalry. These were knights on warhorses with
couched lances. The horses were trained to kick and bite humans, the knights had sat in
the saddle from the age of five and knew how to cut a man down. But still the shield wall
held firm. The advantage of the steep incline began to pay off; the Norman knights
wheeled about , seeking gaps in the lint, hit by stones and missiles hurled at them by the
jeering Saxons.
This continued for several hours before reaching a crisis point. After one of the cavalry
charges , the Normans pulled back and a cry went up that the duke had been killed.
Panic set in , and retreat verged on rout , but William was very much alive . Taking off his
helmet , he bellowed at the men nearest him that he was alive. Certainly three horses
were killed under him that day was probably one of those occasions.
It was at this point that some of the English front line, now composed not so much of
housecarls as of peasants who had borne the brunt of the Norman assaults, also believed
that the battle was won, and left the hilltop. Harold, unable or unwilling to commit his
army to a general advance-which might at that moment have swept hundreds streamed
down the hill towards the retreating cavalry and were cut down as the Normans, seeing
that William was alive, recovered and reformed.
The feigned retreat was used at last twice that afternoon and the shield wall was
gradually worn down. At last, towards dusk, the Norman knights got in amongst the
remaining English in the top of the hill, where their superiority in the saddle counted fro
everything. English peasants began to desert. William ordered his archers to fire high and
it was at the last moment , as the sun set, that Harold, with is brother Gyrth and a small
group of loyal housecarls, were ridden down by the cavalry and killed. Harold, hit in the
eye by an arrow before being hacked to pieces by the broadswords of the knights. The
longest and most decisive battles in English history was over.
Key term: feigned retreat, this was a pretend retreat by the Norman cavalry to lure the
enemy after them so that they could wheel their horses around and surprise the scattered
foot soldiers using pennants, to signal to one another. William's horsemen at Hastings
enacted this highly controversial cavalry manoeuvre. This tactic required great skill ,
discipline and courage. Given the Norman skill in horseback fighting and precedents for
this tactic in southern Italy in 1060 , it is likely that it was achieved at Hastings and turned
the course of the battle.
Knight: derived from the Anglo Saxon word cniht, loosely meaning ‘riding servant’ ( miles
in Latin). Norman society by 1066 included a class of such soldiers , distinguished by
fighting on horseback , unlike the Anglo Saxons , and by their loyalty to their lord, which
was often a family connection. The knight differed from thegns in that the knight’s service
was exclusively military and based upon oath taking and personal service.
Study guide 4
Key evidence, the Anglo Saxon chronicle( D version) for 1066: “ King Harold assembled a
large army and came against him at the hoary apple tree and William came against him
by surprise before his army was drawn up in battle array . But the king nevertheless fought
hard against him , with the men who were willing to support him, and there were heavy
casualties on both sides. There King Harold was killed and Earl Leofwine his brother and
Earl Gyrth his brother, and many good men , and the French remained masters of the
field, even as God granted it to them because of the sins of the people.”
Key evidence: William of Poitiers : Gesta Willelmi ( 1070s) “Realising that they could not
without severe loss overcame an army massed as strongly in close formation, the Normans
and their allies feigned flight and simulated a retreat… The barbarians ( the English)
thinking victory was in their grasp shouted with triumph …gave rapid pursuit to those who
they thought to those believed to be in flight; but the Normans suddenly wheeling their
horses surrounded them and cut down their pursuers so that not one was left alive . Twice
was this ruse employed with the utmost success…”
How do the two accounts differ?
How did William win the battle of Hastings?
There are no precise reasons why William won. It is due to a combination of events ,
including skill, luck, and the hand of God,
Logistics and circumstances: Facing a double invasion put an enormous strain on Harold’s
reserves . This alone, it has been suggested , marks Old English society out as out of date,
but such a situation was unprecedented. Harold had to keep his armies and fleet
mobilised from May through to September , itself a notable feat. He managed to
remobilise and defeat Hardrada in a lightening strike , a brilliant campaign . His army was
equal in size to William’s at Hastings.
Harold’s mistakes: Harold played into William’s hands. His men severely weakened in
number and spirit by the two battles in the north, did not have a chance to rest before
meeting William . Edwin and Morcar , Harold’s loyal brother in laws were still marching
south when Harold was at Hastings. Harold could have drawn upon thousands more
troops . It was in his interest to delay , to starve William out , but he did not , hoping to
surprise William’s men out foraging and to exact revenge for the damage done to his
lands in Wessex. It was a personal matter between the two leaders.
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Generalship: Harold was in the last analysis , out-generalled. His rapid return south and
forced march from London to Hastings ( 58 miles in three days) exhausted his men further .
He perhaps planned on trapping William on the cost, but William , was taken by surprise.
The casualties amongst the housecarls at Gate Fulford and Stamford were told when
peasants broke the shield wall and ran down onto Norman cavalry. The archers let behind
could not counter William’s bowmen . Harold was not courageous enough or imaginative
enough to adapt to the feigned retreats; he could neither seize the moment for a general
charge not command his troops to remain on the hill until nightfall when they could slip
away ad raise another army for another battle.
William’s good luck: The wind had changed at the right moment for him. He faced an
English army complacent with success but depleted by two battles. But William worked
hard for his luck . He had prepared an army which was supremely fit and well equipped.
He shipped over horses and archers by the thousands in specially designed boats. He
drove his men on and organised it all down to the last arrow head . On landing at
Pevensey he built a wooden castle using ready made timber within the walls of the
Roman fort, and another at Hastings so that his retreat was covered. His spies informed
him of Harold’s approach. His tactics of wasting Harold’s private lands had paid off; he
had his chance for the one big battle to decide the kingdom against his old adversary.
The Holy War: Finally, William believed he had God on his side. The psychological
advantage of the papal banner must, in an age of deep seated spiritualism, have been
great. In medieval battle, God granted the victory. Whereas William was merely
unhorsed three times, Harold was struck in the eye. An eye for an eye, a kingdom for a
kingdom. The perjurer and usurper was no more.
Was Harold struck in the eye?
The Bayeux tapestry shows the death of Harold in two scenes. First a figure in mail armour
is standing , clutching his eye which has an arrow in it; next to a mounted Norman soldier
hacks a figure down. On close inspection , the Tapestry reveals that originally , an arrow
was also embroidered into that person’s eye but later removed. Above two figures is the
line Harold Rex interfectus est ( King Harold is killed).
Harold and his two brothers , Gyrth and Leofwine all died at Hastings. Tostig, the other
brother died at Stamford bridge. The Godwinson regime had ended brutally and bloodily
. William camped his army , itself severely depleted by the fierce fighting , among the
English and Norman dead on the hilltop. To give thanks to God for his victory, he founded
an abbey on the site if Harold’s defensive line. But when William woke u on the mooring
of Sunday 15th October, he awoke to find himself in a foreign land , his 5000 or so men
surrounded by a population of two million Anglo Saxons. He had won the battle , but his
conquest of England had barley begun.
1) To what extent was the Anglo Saxon army incapable of dealing with a double
Study rather
guide 4 than won by William.’ How far do14
2) ‘ The battle of Hastings was lost by Harold
agree with this statement?

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