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Essay deciding why William of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings .... Submitted by Holly ( 219), age 17
The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14th October 1066 - shortly after King Edward the Confessor of England died between Harold Godwinson of England and William of Normandy. The battle was fought on Senlac Hill approximately 10km northwest of Hastings. The conflict started because when Edward died, he left no heir to inherit the crown, which left three men claiming to be the next King of England. These three contenders to the throne were Harold Godwinson (the Earl of Wessex) who was the only Englishman and related to the old king by marriage; Harald Hadrada (the King of Norway) whose ascendants were promised the throne by King Cnut, and William the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy) who was the only contender that was related to King Edward by blood. This essay will decide why William won the battle by looking at the three following factors: Williams skill, Harolds poor leadership and Harolds bad luck.
The first argument as to why William won the Battle of Hastings, is that he had the best army. The Normans (Williams army) had 7500 men, all fully trained compared to the 4500 voluntary village workers and only 500 professionally trained soldiers that made up Harold Godwinsons English army. Likewise, William had many archers and slingshots (unlike the English) that could kill and do a great lot of damage from over 100 meters away. The Normans were also equipped with auxiliaries - blacksmiths, carpenters, medics and cooks as well as a few mercenaries, who were professional soldiers that fought for whoever paid them the most amount of money, on his side. Williams men also had better armour and weapons, for example: the cavalry were all equipped with mail hauberk, there is some evidence that archers used crossbows in addition to bows and arrows, some battle maces were also used along with spears and swords, round shields and kite shaped shields. This meant that the Normans were more protected from the English, than the English were from them as well; as having weapons that could do more damage. Another benefit that William had as one of his skills was that he was a very good commander of his troops and organised his men very well.
An additional point is that the battle began much sooner than Harold Godwinson and his army had expected, which meant that his troops were not properly ready. Less than a week before the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson and the English were fighting in the north at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where he lost some of his best fighters to the Norwegians and their leader Harald Hadrada. As well as this, the soldiers of Harolds that were remaining were very tired and weak after the tiresome battle at Stamford Bridge. On one hand there was the struggling English army who were not properly ready for the battle, and on the other there was the shiny polishing Norman army who had been preparing for this day for months and were rearing to go! Obviously, this gave William the Conqueror a clear advantage over King Harold due mainly to Harolds misfortune and his poor leadership.
Another (crucial) line of reasoning, that a lot of people believe cost Harold Godwinson the Battle of Hastings, is the trick that the Normans very cleverly played on the English. This crafty trick was that about halfway through the battle, the Normans got a message saying that William of Normandy had been killed; in hearing this news, they started to retreat, however William of Normandy was perfectly well and thinking on his toes, he told his army to launch a surprise attack on the Fyrd whilst they were celebrating. Then just as William had predicted the inexperienced Fyrd came charging down the hill shouting celebratory chants thinking that they had won. Sneakily, the Normans made a quick turn and came charging at the Fyrd slaughtering them! This charged the English dearly, and they lost a jaw - dropping proportion of their army.
Furthermore, quite a few of Harolds men abandoned him before the Battle of Hastings. They did this for two reasons; the first, after he broke the promise he made to them of sharing the booty with them if they won against the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge. This resulted in the English that were remaining being annoyed and uptight at their so called trustworthy King, as well as fighting somewhat half heartedly. The second reason was that because the Battle of Hastings was fought in the autumn time, and a lot of Harolds English army were made up of farmers (the Fyrd) some of them had to return home to harvest their crops, or else when the English came back, they would all be famished.
Also, King Harold being killed in the Battle of Hastings by having an arrow shot through his right eye, meant that when the enduring English army heard about the news, although some soldiers fought on bravely, many of them lost heart and were either killed or they ran away.
In conclusion, I believe that William of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings because of his skilfulness in leading his troops, his quick and devious thinking and the fact that he had a better army than Harold Godwinson.
Kieran says: What school do you go to go to? The essay's really good!
Sent on Thu 19th Jan 12
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William was the son of Robert I, duke of Normandy, and his mistress Herleva (also called Arlette), a tanner’s daughter from Falaise. The duke, who had no other sons, designated William his heir, and with his death in 1035 William became duke of Normandy.
Did You Know?
William, an Old French name composed of Germanic elements (“wil,” meaning desire, and “helm,” meaning protection), was introduced to England by William the Conqueror and quickly became extremely popular. By the 13th century, it was the most common given name among English men.
William was of Viking origin. Though he spoke a dialect of French and grew up in Normandy, a fiefdom loyal to the French kingdom, he and other Normans descended from Scandinavian invaders. One of William’s relatives, Rollo, pillaged northern France with fellow Viking raiders in the late ninth and early 10th centuries, eventually accepting his own territory (Normandy, named for the Norsemen who controlled it) in exchange for peace.
Just over two weeks before the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, William had invaded England, claiming his right to the English throne. In 1051, William is believed to have visited England and met with his cousin Edward the Confessor, the childless English king. According to Norman historians, Edward promised to make William his heir. On his deathbed, however, Edward granted the kingdom to Harold Godwineson (or Godwinson), head of the leading noble family in England and more powerful than the king himself. In January 1066, King Edward died, and Harold Godwineson was proclaimed King Harold II. William immediately disputed his claim.