The Battle of Hastings was a brief but significant battle fought in October 14, 1066 in East Sussex between the forces of William, the Duke of Normandy, who led a combined army of Normans and Frenchmen, and an English force led by the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson. At the end of the day it was William and his forces who won.
William and Harold were fighting over the succession of the English throne. Earlier that year in January, the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor had died without an heir and Harold Godwinson was crowned as king. However, several claimants to the throne later invaded England to claim it, including Harold’s own brother, Tostig, and the Norwegian King Harald Haradra.
The forces of Tostig and Harald defeated a force of Englishmen in the Battle of Fulford in September 20, 1066. However, Harold’s forces struck five days later and dispatched the two during the Battle of Stamford Bridge. It was while Harold’s forces were recovering from this battle when William landed his invasion in Pevensey in southern England on September 28, 1066.
Harold gathered his forces, headed south, and in October 14 clashed with the army of William outside Hastings, after which the battle would be named.
According to records, the battle started around 9 a.m. and ended around dusk.
After being unsuccessful in breaking the English line, the Normans resorted to the tactic of pretending to retreat in a panic, then they turned and attacked the English flanks when they gave chase. Harold was killed in the fighting that followed.
The Battle of Hastings was significant because it completely changed who ruled England, as it was the Normans who took over after more than 600 years of Anglo-Saxon rule in England.
Experts now say his exact cause of death cannot be determined. However, the popular theory is he was either killed by an arrow to the eye, or he was killed by a Norman knight while helpless from an arrow wound to the eye.
William was eventually crowned the king of England on Christmas Day that same year. He would later take the name William the Conqueror.
The Normans found it hard to break the English line because the English were trained in the shield wall; a formation where shields were held close together in overlapping formation to protect against attacks.
Most of the professional foot soldiers involved in the battle would have worn the hauberk, a chainmail suit that had sleeves up to the elbows and a slit in the skirt to allow riding. The commoners would have been less armored.