The Battle of Hastings
Episode #3 of the course “Battles of All Time”
Date: 14 October, 1066
Battles over power and control are far from a phenomenon that only occurs when conquering the “new world.” In the Battle of Hastings, two Englishmen who claimed the right to the throne took their feud to the battlefield.
In 1051, William the Conqueror, who was the Duke of Normandy at the time, visited his cousin Edward the Confessor. Edward was the King of England and was childless. During this visit, Edward supposedly promised William that he would make him his heir so that he would be the new King of England when Edward passed. However, Edward named Harold Godwine his heir on his deathbed. Harold was the head of a prominent noble family in England, and the family was actually said to have been more powerful than the king. King Harold II took the throne in 1066 when King Edward passed.
William immediately disputed Harold’s claim to the throne, but to no avail. On September 28, 1066, William the Conqueror attacked England at Pevensey with about 7,000 troops. They took Pevensey and moved to Hastings where King Harold was waiting with his army. After an all-day battle, King Harold was shot with an arrow in the eye, killing him instantly. His forces were all but destroyed, and William was crowned the King of England roughly two months later on Christmas day.
King William I became the first Norman King of England, which ended the Anglo-Saxon reign. The king’s court now spoke French, and the two languages melded together to eventually make modern-day English. King William I is also well-known for the “Domesday Book,” a census of the people and land in England. He was succeeded by his son, William Rufus (William II).
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