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Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings

Listed under Battlefields in South East England, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings
  • Photo of Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings
  • Photo of Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings
Photo of Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings
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Significant historically as the final battle for foreign rule of the British Isles, Saxon, King Harold II and William, Duke of Normandy met on a field six miles outside of Hastings on the 14th of October 1066 and though there was a reverberation of Saxon resistance for some time after, most historians will agree that this is the point when the Normans gained control of England. The significance of this event has not been lost for the following generations as it was recorded as part of the Bayeux Tapestry. (As well as coining several comical phrases that school children use to remember the events.) This is one of the best battlefields to visit for the wealth of information provided about the events and of course Battle Abbey itself, built on the site of the battle in memorial to the events that took place, by William as a papal order of penance for the loss of life. There is also a plaque on the ground at the spot Harold was believed to have fallen, this was once the abbey’s high alter. The nearby exhibition has all the 21st Century mod cons, interactive games, replica mail and shield and a dramatic filmed reconstruction. The history of the Battle of Histings: The events leading up to the battle are uncertain but the gist of the matter is that when King Edward died, both William and Harold understood they were next in line for the throne, so when Harold was crowned in January 1066, forcing William to assert his claim by force. When they finally met on the battlefield, the Saxon army, who had just defeated a Nordic army lead by Harold’s brother, was estimated to be made up of seven thousand men at arms, King’s troops and aristocratic ‘knights’. The Norman forces had similar numbers, some fighting in the interest of their own pockets, some who had joined as a holy crusade. Harold had selected the spot but had placed himself at a disadvantage by having to travel to it, while William waited nearby for the two weeks leading up to the fighting. The day started in the Saxons favour, they were too high and well shielded for the Norman arrows and were able to inflict casualties by throwing projectiles over the Norman shields, then the Norman cavalry were unable to scale the hill the Saxon’s had positioned themselves on. Once the Norman forces began to retreat men began to break from the Saxon ranks in pursuit, targeting William and other leaders. It seemed that William had fallen, and the Norman’s became more paniced, but William was unharmed and rallied some of his best knights around him plunged back into the frey. The tides were turned so quickly that many Saxon fighters hadn’t time enough to scale the hill into the protection of the shields and Williams archers began to fire over the shield walls and into the unprotected men at the rear - which is when Harold was supposedly hit in the eye with an arrow. After this the battle went downhill for the Saxons. Many fled while the royal guard protected their dying king until they had all been killed.

Written by  Anthony Harrison.

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