This blog, written by Thomas E. Rutledge, focuses primarily on business entity law in Kentucky. Postings on contract law, contractual and statutory construction, and the entity law of other jurisdictions appear as well. There may as well be some random discussions of classical, medieval and renaissance history.
Monday, October 14, 2019
The Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
Today marks the 953nd 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 Godwinson (King Harold II). Harold’s family, the Godwins, were the most
powerful in England. Harold was himself an earl and as well the father-in-law
to Edward the Confessor, the latter having been married to Harold’s daughter
Edith. 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 right to the throne, leaving it instead to
William. In addition, Harold Hardrada of Norway asserted a claim to the English
Sometime in September, Harold Hardrada
had landed his troops in the north of England. After fast marching his troops
north, the army of Harold Godwinson met the invading army of Harold Hardrada
(supported by Tostig Godwinson, Harold’s brother) at the Battle of Stamford Bridge
(HERE IS A LINK to a posting on those events). The invading army was defeated,
and Hardrada was killed. 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. Those forced marches were some 240 miles each way.
For reasons that have baffled many
historians, Harold, upon arriving in London, quickly turned his troops, already
exhausted from the march, toward Hastings. He did this notwithstanding that
reinforcements were due to arrive the following day. Still, Harold led his
forces towards William’s beachhead, leaving word for the reinforcements to
catch up as soon as possible. Those reinforcements included the archers.
The Battle of Hastings proper (there was
an earlier skirmish) probably began around 11 in the morning. Through most of
the day the forces of Harold prevailed – his forces fought as a phalanx,
andattacks on the shield wall were not
effective.In addition, the Norman
archers were not effective firing up-hill. Harold holding his own against
William would have been for Harold a win. As observed by Frank McLynn in 1066-The
Year of Three Battles:
he had only to hold out until nightfall when reinforcements were certain to
arrive; he could play for a draw but William had to have a win.
The Norman infantry having failed to
break through, William sent in his calvary. Attacking uphill, they did not have
the force necessary to break through. William’s flank (the Breton forces)
started to fail and William was unhorsed and rumored to be dead. Thinking (it
would appear) thatthings were going in
their favor, Harold’s forces began an advance downhill, their shield wall
still intact and functionally invulnerable. But then the advance lost its
momentum, perhaps due to the death of its leader Leofwine, Harold’s brother.
William’s forces pushed back and in order Harold’s forces reversed themselves
back uphill. It was then a battle of attrition, and the Norman invaders were
lost at a lower rate than were Harold’s forces. A combined archery and armored
calvary assault finally broke the shield wall, and the battle dissolved into a melee between small units. Harold and the remaining troops around him
were attacked and Harold fell to multiple sword blows and a lance through his
Maybe an hour after Harold fell,
reinforcements, including additional housecarls, arrived.
The accepted, albeit almost certainly
apocryphal, story is that Harold fell after being struck in the eye with an
arrow. The Bayeux Tapestry may be interpreted as saying such. However, the
“King Harold was killed” heading is over two figures (neither wearing a crown),
one with an arrow in his eye and the other being struck down by a sword. If the
former is meant to be Harold, the famous arrow in the eye as depicted in the
Bayeux Tapestry 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
Christmas William was crowned King of England and was in Westminster Abbey
accepting pledges of fealty from England’s mobility. Still, the next two
decades of his reign would see numerous rebellions and challenges, including
one from his own son Robert.
As for the Bayeux Tapestry itself, HERE IS A LINK is an animated (and translated) version.
The English like to claim that the Norman
Invasion was the last invasion of England. This is not true. For example,
during the Barons War, a French force invaded and had control of a significant
portion of southern England, and the Isle of Wight was invaded in 1545. But the
Norman Conquest is the last successful invasion of England.