Friday, October 14, 2011

The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings
     Today marks the 945th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
     1066 has already been a tumultuous year in England.  On January 5, Edward the Confessor died, leaving the English throne to Harold Gowinson.  William of Normandy, also known as William the Bastard, claimed that he had been designated as Edward’s successor and that Harold had once promised him that he, Harold, disclaimed any claim on the throne, leaving it instead to William.  In addition, Harold Hardrada asserted a claim to the English throne.
     Sometime in September, Harold Hardrada had landed his troops in the north of England.  After fast marching his troops north, the invading army of Harold Gowinson met the army of Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (September 25).  The invading army was defeated.  Learning of William’s invasion in the south, Harold had to turn his army around and fast march it south in order to respond to this new threat.  That forced march was some 240 miles each way. 
     The Battle of Hastings was largely a stalemate with the trend in favor of the English defenders when, perhaps apocryphally, Harold was struck in the eye with an arrow.  Regardless, it is clear that Harold fell, that the battle went to William, and that by Christmas William was accepting the homage of various English nobles.
     The famous arrow in the eye may be a later invention.  It is not mentioned in the earliest accounts of the battle.  In addition, in medieval iconography, an arrow in the eye is the punishment afforded a perjurer.  Having gone against his oath to leave the throne to William, some might have felt it poetic justice, even if not based in reality.

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