Battle of Hastings

Dafato Team | May 30, 2022

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The Battle of Hastings was fought on October 14, 1066. The Franco-Norman army of Duke William II of Normandy clashed with the Anglo-Saxon army of King Haroldo II. It was the beginning of the Norman conquest of England. It took place about eleven miles northwest of Hastings, near the present-day town of Battle in East Sussex County, and resulted in a decisive Norman victory.

The origin of the confrontation was that, at the childless death of the king of England Edward the Confessor in January 1066, a struggle began between several pretenders to the throne. Haroldo was crowned the day after Edward's death, but in the following months he had to face invasions of the island by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada. The latter two allied and landed in northern England at the head of a Viking host, with which they defeated a hastily recruited English army at the Battle of Fulford on September 20, 1066, although both were defeated five days later by King Harald at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The battle deaths of Hardrada and Tostig left the English king and Duke William as the sole contenders for the crown. While Haroldo's soldiers were recovering from the battle, the Duke of Normandy landed on September 28, 1066 at Pevensey in southern England and established a beachhead from which to launch his conquest of the kingdom. Haroldo was forced to march swiftly south and had to recruit troops along the way.

The exact number of troops involved in the battle is unknown, although modern estimates indicate that there were about 10,000 of William's men and about 7,000 of Haroldo's. The composition of the armies is clear. The composition of the armies is clear: the English army consisted almost entirely of infantry and a few archers, while half of the invading force was infantry and the rest was equally divided between cavalry and archers. It seems that Haroldo tried to surprise William but the scouts reported his arrival to the duke, who marched from Hastings to meet the king. The battle lasted from 9 a.m. until sunset. The invaders' first attempts to break through the English lines had little effect, so the Normans subsequently adopted the tactic of feigning retreat and then turning on the defenders. The death of Haroldo, which must have occurred towards the end of the day, caused the retreat and defeat of most of his army. It is difficult to know the exact casualties of the battle, but some historians venture that there were about two thousand among the invaders and twice as many among the English.

After a long march and some skirmishes in southern England, William won the submission of the kingdom and was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066. In the following years there were several rebellions and resistance to the rule of the new king, but the outcome of the clash at Hastings marked the culmination of the Norman conquest of England. William founded an abbey on the site of the battle, the high altar of the church of which supposedly marks the spot where Harold fell dead. England and the Duchy of Normandy were politically united for much of the Middle Ages; in fact, disputes over the government of the latter territory, which in 1204 was annexed by the Kingdom of France, would be the cause of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) between the crowns of France and England.

In 911 the Carolingian King Charles III of France allowed groups of Vikings to settle in Normandy under the leadership of Rollon. They soon assimilated the local culture, renounced paganism, converted to Christianity and married local inhabitants. Eventually, the borders of the duchy expanded westward. In 1002 the English King Etelhard II the Undecided married Emma, sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Their son Edward the Confessor spent many years in exile in Normandy and acceded to the English throne in 1042. This initiated a deep Norman interest in English politics, as Edward frequently turned to his former hosts for support and brought in Norman courtiers, soldiers and clergy whom he appointed to positions of power, especially in the Church. Edward also came into conflict with England's most powerful earl, his father-in-law Godwin of Wessex, who was wary of the influence of Norman nobles close to the king and challenged his authority, leading the monarch to put him on trial and force his exile to Flanders in 1051, where he remained until the following year. Also, the king, who had no descendants, may have encouraged the ambitions of Duke William of Normandy to succeed him on the English throne.

Succession crisis in England

The death of King Edward on January 5, 1066 left the kingdom without a clear heir and with several contenders for the throne of England. His immediate successor was the Earl of Wessex, Haroldo Godwinson, the richest and most powerful of the English aristocrats and son of Godwin, Edward's old enemy. Haroldo was made king by the Witenagemot of England-an assembly of the kingdom's notables-and crowned by Aldred, Archbishop of York, although the Normans claimed that the ceremony had been officiated by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury who had not been canonically elected. Haroldo was immediately challenged by two powerful neighboring rulers. Duke William claimed that Edward had promised him the throne and that Godwinson had sworn to respect his decision. King Harald Hardrada of Norway also disputed the succession and claimed the throne on the basis of an agreement between his predecessor Magnus the Good and the previous English king, Canute Hardeknut, that if one died without issue, the other would inherit both England and Norway. William and Hardrada immediately began assembling troops and ships to launch separate invasions.

Tostig and Hardrada invasions

In early 1066, Tostig Godwinson, Haroldo's exiled brother, attacked the south coast of England with a fleet he had formed in Flanders and the Orkney Islands. The threat posed by Haroldo's fleet forced him to move north, where he raided East Anglia and Lincolnshire; there he was forced to return to his ships due to the defense of the area by brothers Edwin and Morcar, Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, respectively. Abandoned by most of his followers, he retreated to Scotland, where he spent the summer recruiting more men. Hardrada invaded northern England in early September at the head of a fleet of 300 ships and some 15,000 men, joined by Tostig's forces. This Viking army occupied the city of York after defeating the English forces led by Edwin and Morcar at the Battle of Fulford, fought on September 20, 1066.

The English army was organized into regional divisions and formed by the fyrd, a force of militia recruited in levies under the command of local leaders such as earls, bishops, or sheriffs. The fyrd were composed of men who owned their own land and were armed with military equipment that was paid for by their community to meet the requirements of the king's military forces. For every five hides, units of land nominally capable of providing sustenance for a household, one soldier was supposed to volunteer. It appears that the hundred, a type of English administrative division, was the main unit of fyrd organization. As a whole, the kingdom of England could provide about 14 000 fighters when needed. There were two types of military in the fyrd. Its natural leaders were thegns, the local landed elite, and clergymen; the rest were levies of the common people. Normally the fyrd remained mobilized for two months, except in emergencies. It was unusual for an entire national fyrd to be required; in fact in previous years they had only been called in 1051, 1052 and 1065 in order to prevent a rebellion and the outbreak of civil war by denying troops to the rebels. However, the national fyrd had not been involved in a genuine war since 1016 and its members were usually engaged in repairing fortresses and other infrastructure, as well as serving as garrisons in cities.

The king also had a professional personal guard, the huscarles, who formed the backbone of the royal forces and also composed the forces of some earls. Thegns could also fight as part of the huscarles or enlisted in the forces of an earl or aristocrat. Both fyrd and huscarles fought on foot. The English army that fought at Hastings seems to have had a very small number of archers.

Haroldo remained during the first half of 1066 on the south coast of England with a large army, the fyrd, and a powerful fleet awaiting William's invasion. On September 8 he was forced to demobilize the militia because they had been on duty for four months and had used up all their supplies, while the royal fleet sailed back to London. When he heard of the Norwegian invasion he rushed north, recruited soldiers along the way and took by surprise the Viking army of Hardrada and his brother Tostig, whom he defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25. The Norwegians suffered such heavy losses that they needed only 24 of their 300 ships to transport the survivors. However, it was a Pyrrhic victory for the English, as Haroldo's army was decimated and weakened.

William assembled a large invasion fleet and an army recruited from Normandy and the rest of France, with large contingents of Bretons and Flemings. He spent nine months in his preparations because he had to build a fleet from scratch. According to some Norman chroniclers, he also secured diplomatic support, although the veracity of this information has been the subject of historiographical debate. The most famous claim is that Pope Alexander II sent a banner as a token of his support, a fact found only in the chronicle of William of Poitiers. In April 1066 Halley's comet appeared in the sky on one of its periodic visits, which was news throughout Europe and some linked it to the succession crisis in England.

William assembled his fleet at Dives-sur-Mer on August 12 and just a month later, on September 12, he moved it to the town of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, ready to cross the English Channel. However, the crossing was delayed, either because of unfavorable weather or because they wanted to avoid interception by the powerful English fleet. Finally, the Normans sailed to England a few days after Haroldo's victory over Hardrada's Vikings, took advantage of the demobilization of the English fleet and landed at Pevensey on September 28. Some ships were washed out to sea and made landfall further east at Romney, where the Normans fought against the local fyrd or militia. No sooner had they set foot on English soil than William's soldiers erected a wooden fort at Hastings, from which they plundered the surrounding area. At Pevensey they built further fortifications.

Norman forces in Hastings

The exact number and composition of Duke William's army is unknown. A contemporary document states that he had 776 ships, but this seems to be an inflated figure. Medieval chroniclers' estimates of the size of his forces are greatly exaggerated and range from 14,000 to 150,000. Modern historians do not agree either, but estimate the size of the invading army at between 7000 and 12 000 men: about two thousand horsemen, four thousand heavy infantrymen and fifteen hundred archers and crossbowmen. Later lists of William's supposed companions in the battle contain many names that were doubtless added later; only thirty-two people known to historians who were actually with the duke in the decisive battle are known to be present.

The main armor of the invaders was chain mail, which generally reached to the knees, had openings for the arms and in some cases also had sleeves up to the elbows. Some of this chain mail could have metal, bone or leather scales. The helmets were made of metal and had a conical shape with a band protecting the nose. Both cavalry and infantry carried shields. Foot soldiers protected themselves with a round wooden shield with metal reinforcements, while cavalry used another type of shield shaped like a kite and usually carried a spear. All fought with long straight double-edged swords. In addition, infantry could employ javelins and long spears, while cavalry also attacked with maces instead of swords. Archers, most of whom did not wear armor, used both the single bow and the crossbow.

After defeating his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in the north, King Haroldo left much of his soldiers there, including Edwin and Morcar, and marched with the rest of his troops south to meet the feared Norman invasion. It is unclear at what point he learned of William's landing, but it is likely that it was while traveling south. He stopped in London, where he stayed for about a week before heading for Hastings, so it is likely that his march south took him a full week, traveling about 43 km a day to complete the full 320 km distance. He camped on Caldbec Hill on the night of October 13, near an old apple tree, about 13 km from William's castle at Hastings. According to some contemporary French chroniclers, Haroldo sent William one or more emissaries, which is likely, but it is clear that his efforts were in vain.

Although Haroldo intended to surprise the Normans, William's scouts promptly informed him of the arrival of the English forces. The events leading up to the battle are not clear, as the accounts of the sources are contradictory, but all agree that the duke led his army from Hastings and advanced on the enemy. Haroldo had taken up a defensive position on top of Senlac Hill - now Battle, East Sussex - some 9.7 km from William's castle.

British forces at Hastings

The exact number of soldiers in Haroldo's army is unknown. According to historian Michael Lawson, contemporary records do not provide reliable figures because of their disproportion, as some Norman chroniclers claimed that Haroldo led from 400 000 to 1 200 000 men. English sources, on the other hand, generally offer very low figures on Haroldo's forces, which according to Lawson would seek to give the impression that his defeat was not so devastating. Modern historians think that there were between 5,000 and 13,000 Anglo-Saxon soldiers at Hastings, while more recent estimates place the number of English troops at around 7,000 to 8,000 fighters, including fyrd militiamen and huscarls. Few Englishmen are known to have fought in this battle, about nineteen who were almost certainly on Haroldo's side on October 14, including his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine and other relatives.

The Anglo-Saxon army was composed entirely of infantry. It is possible that some aristocrats rode on horseback to the battle site, but when the fighting began they dismounted to fight on foot. The core of the army were the huscarle, professional soldiers who wore conical helmets, chain mail and a shield, which could be round or kite-shaped. Many of them employed the Danish two-handed axe, as well as smaller throwing axes, the kind used for chopping wood. The rest of the army was composed of fyrd levies, a non-professional, lightly armored infantry. Most of the infantry formed a shield wall, in which the front lines of battle gathered and blocked their shields. Behind them were those armed with axes, archers and other javelin-wielding soldiers.

Time and location

Saturday, October 14, 1066 dawned at 6:48 and the chronicles reflect that it was an unusually bright day, although weather conditions are unknown. Sunset that day was at 16:54, the battlefield was to be almost dark by 17:54 and in total darkness by 18:24. Moonrise that night did not occur until 11:12, so once the sun disappeared over the horizon there was hardly any natural light on the battlefield.

The battle took place eleven kilometers north of Hastings, in the present town of Battle, between two hills, Caldbec to the north and Telham to the south, in an area of thick forest, with a marsh nearby. It was an area of thick forest, with a marsh nearby. The route that the English army followed to the battlefield is not known with precision, as there are several possible routes: an old Roman road that communicated Rochester with Hastings, which has been thought to be the most probable due to the discovery in 1876 of several coins in the vicinity; another Roman road between London and Lewes or various rural roads that also lead to the site. The Anglo-Norman chronicler William of Jumièges wrote that Duke William kept his army armed and prepared for a possible surprise attack throughout the night before, but other accounts state that the Normans advanced from Hastings to the battlefield that same day. Most historians favor this second possibility, but Michael Kenneth Lawson argues that Jumièges' account is correct.

The name given to the battle is unusual, because there are several localities much closer to the site than Hastings. In this regard, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it is mentioned as the battle "at the old apple tree". Four decades later, the Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vital named the event as "Senlac," a Norman adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon word "Sandlacu," meaning "sandy water." This could be the name of the stream that crosses the battlefield. Already in the Domesday Book in 1086 the battle is mentioned as bellum Hasestingas, the "Battle of Hastings".

Force dispositions and tactics

Haroldo's hosts deployed on top of a steep hill, with their flanks protected by woods and marshy ground in front of them. It is possible that their line extended to a nearby stream. They formed a wall by gathering shields in the front line to protect themselves from attack. Sources differ on exactly where they fought: some claim they fought at the site of Battle Abbey, built years later, but others suggest it was on Caldbec Hill. From this hill, the road from London to Hastings ran through a small valley to a broad rise of land that opened up on either side. The whole place was shaped like a hammer, the head of which was a hill about 730 meters long, along which Haroldo deployed his troops completely blocking the road to London. The king planted his standard at the highest point and at the front of his formation arranged a fairly level line of infantry that spanned from one end of the hill to the other.

There is more information about the Norman deployment: it seems that Duke William organized his forces into three groups, which broadly corresponded to their origins. The left wing was composed mostly of Bretons, plus soldiers from Anjou, Poitou and Maine. All were under the command of Alan Rufus, a relative of the Count of Brittany. In the center were the Normans, who were the most numerous and were under the direct command of the Duke and some of his relatives. Finally, the right wing consisted of Frenchmen and fighters from Picardy, Boulogne and Flanders, who were the least numerous and were under the command of William FitzOsbern and Count Eustace II of Boulogne. The front lines were formed by archers and behind them infantry with spears. There were probably also crossbowmen and slingers alongside the archers. The cavalry was kept in reserve, while a small group of clerics and servants located at the foot of Telham Hill remained on the sidelines of the fighting.

This arrangement of forces by William indicates that he planned to begin the battle with the archers, who were to decimate the enemy with a hail of arrows, and then the infantry would engage in melee. The infantry was also to create gaps in their lines through which the cavalry would pass to break through the English lines and pursue fleeing troops.

Beginning of the battle

Because many of the primary sources contradict each other at times, it is impossible to offer a description of the battle that is beyond dispute.The only undisputed facts are that hostilities broke out at about 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 14, 1066, and that the battle lasted until nightfall.The battle began with the archers and some Norman crossbowmen firing uphill towards the English shield wall, but because of the angle of the trajectory and the steepness of the hill many arrows struck the front line shields.The arrows that were fired higher up simply flew over the English formation and fell harmlessly behind it. The projectiles fired higher simply flew over the English formation and fell harmlessly behind. The lack of archers among the English forces paradoxically was a drawback for the Norman archers, who had no chance to reuse the enemy's arrows and only had a quiver of twenty-four arrows. After the discharges of his archers, William sent his spearmen to the front line to continue the attack, but these, who had to approach the Anglo-Saxon formation, were met with a hail of projectiles: spears, axes and stones. In view of the inability of the infantry to break through Haroldo's forces, the Norman cavalry advanced to support him, but also without success. Thus began a general rout of William's forces, which apparently began on the left wing, formed by Bretons. At this moment the rumor of the death of the Norman duke arose, which accentuated the confusion. The English took advantage of the situation and rode out in pursuit of the invaders, but William rode among his men showing his face and shouting that he was still alive. The duke then led a counterattack against the English who had broken their formation, some of whom had time to regroup on the hill before they were overtaken.

It is not known whether this pursuit undertaken by the English was ordered by Haroldo or occurred spontaneously. The Norman poet Wace relates that the king ordered his men to hold formation, but no one else records this detail. The Bayeux tapestry depicts the deaths of Gyrth and Leofwine, Haroldo's brothers, just before the battle on top of the hill, which could mean that it was they who led that pursuit. The Latin poem Carmen by Hastingae Proelio -Song of the Battle of Hastings- tells a different story about the death of Gyrth, according to which it was Duke William who killed him in combat, perhaps confusing him with Haroldo. The chronicler William of Poitiers states that the bodies of Gyrth and Leofwine were found next to that of Haroldo, which implies that they died towards the end of the battle. On the other hand, it is also possible that both fell at the beginning and then their bodies were brought before Haroldo, which would explain their location after the battle. Military historian Peter Marren speculates that if the two brothers died at the beginning of the fighting, this could have influenced Haroldo to fight to the end.

Feigned escapes

In the early afternoon there was probably a pause, necessary for rest, food and to regroup the ranks. It is possible that William also needed it to implement a new strategy, perhaps inspired by the failed chase undertaken by the English that had been so favorable in the end for the Normans. If the Norman cavalry could approach the shield wall and then flee in panic and draw the English in pursuit, gaps could be opened in their crowded formation. William of Poitiers says that this tactic was used twice. Although it has even been said that the account of this ruse by Norman chroniclers was a way of excusing the flight of the ducal troops during the morning, it is improbable because they never concealed that first retreat. Moreover, it was a common ploy in Norman armies of the time. Some historians have argued that the story of the use of feigned flight was a deliberate strategy invented after the battle, but most are convinced that they were employed by the Normans at Hastings.

Although the feigned escapes did not break the lines, they probably decimated the number of huscarls in the English shield wall. Huscarls fallen during the pursuit of Norman troops were replaced by fyrd militiamen and the shield wall was maintained. Apparently, Norman archers again intervened before and during the assault by cavalry and infantry led by the duke. Although 12th century sources after the battle state that the archers were ordered to shoot at a very high angle so that the arrows would fall behind the shield wall, no contemporary account reflects this fact. It is not known how many assaults the Normans launched against the English lines, but several sources reflect various actions by both the Normans and the English during the afternoon's fighting. The chant Carmen relates that Duke William was killed by two horses he rode during the fight, while the chronicler William of Poitiers says there were three.

Death of Haroldo

It seems that King Haroldo died in battle towards the end of the battle, although the accounts of the sources are contradictory. William of Poitiers only mentions his death, without giving details of how it occurred. The Bayeux tapestry shows a figure holding an arrow stuck near his eye and next to him another character struck by a sword. Above both characters the Latin phrase "Here died King Haroldo", but it is not clear which of the two is Haroldo, or if both represent him.

The first mention of the king's death at Hastings by an arrow in the eye dates from the 1080s in a history of the Normans written by the Italian monk Amatus of Montecassino. Another chronicler, William of Malmesbury, claimed that Haroldo was killed by an arrow to the brain and that, at the same time, a warrior wounded him. The poet Wace repeats the account of the arrow in the eye, while the chant Carmen tells that it was Duke William himself who killed him, but this is highly improbable because, according to the historian Christopher Gravett, such a feat would have been praised by all the chroniclers and troubadours of France. According to Peter Marren, the version offered by William of Jumièges is even less credible, since he claims that the king fell during the early morning fighting. The Chronicle of the Abbey of Battle argues that Haroldo died by a fortuitous blow from some unknown combatant. A modern biographer of the king, Ian Walker, defends that he probably died from an arrow in the eye, although he also says that it is possible that Haroldo was knocked down by a Norman knight when he was already mortally wounded in the head. Historian Peter Rex concludes that based on the available sources it is not possible to state how he died.

His death left the English troops without leadership and they then began to collapse.Many soldiers fled, but the royal guard of Huscarles surrounded the body of their fallen lord and fought to the last.The Normans pursued the fleeing ones and, except for a rearguard action at a place known as Malfosse, the battle was over.It is not clear what happened at that Malfosse, or "Pit of Evil," and where exactly it was. It occurred at a fortified point or set of trenches where some English surrounded and seriously wounded Eustace de Boulogne before falling to defeat by the Normans.

Reasons for the outcome

In the historiography about this battle, several explanations have been proposed for Haroldo's defeat. Historian Michael Lawson believes that it was due to the difficulty of defending against two almost simultaneous invasions. The fact that he was forced to demobilize his troops in southern England on September 8 also contributed to his defeat, as did his haste in marching south rather than mustering more men before facing William at Hastings. However, he does not see clearly that the Anglo-Saxon army was sufficient to defeat the Norman duke. Lawson also believes it is clear that the king did not trust Earls Edwin and Morcar once his enemy Tostig had been defeated, for he did not want them to accompany him on his swift advance southward. Against these positions, which portray an exhausted Saxon infantry, historian Richard Huscroft argues that the long duration of the battle, a full day, shows that the English soldiers were not tired from their long march. Historian Ian Walker suggests that one reason for Haroldo's haste to engage William was a desire to prevent him from expanding his beachhead and plundering the English countryside with his cavalry and mobile tactics to gain sustenance for his troops.

Lawson concludes that most of the blame for the Anglo-Saxon defeat probably lies with the events of the battle itself and that William was a more experienced military leader. In contrast, he believes that the English failed to remain strictly on the defensive and exposed their flanks to the enemy as they pursued the retreating Normans, although he believes it is unclear whether this was due to the inexperience of the Saxon commanders or the indiscipline of the soldiery. Richard Huscroft, for his part, points out that the lack of cavalry hampered Haroldo's tactical possibilities and that, in the end, the king's death was decisive as it marked the collapse of his troops. Ian Walker has criticized the Anglo-Saxon monarch for not exploiting the possibility offered by the rumor of William's death in the early stages of the battle. Finally, historian David Nicolle said that at the Battle of Hastings William's army "demonstrated, not without difficulty, the superiority of Franco-Norman tactics mixing infantry and cavalry over the Germanic and Scandinavian infantry tradition employed by the Anglo-Saxons."

One story tells that Gytha, Haroldo's mother, offered the victorious William the payment of the weight of her son's body in gold if he would give it to her, which the duke refused, and instead ordered Haroldo's body to be thrown into the sea. William instead ordered Haroldo's body to be thrown into the sea, although it is not known where this could have taken place. Another story has it that Haroldo was buried on top of a cliff. Waltham Abbey, which had been founded by Haroldo, claimed years later that his body had been secretly buried there. Other legends even maintain that Haroldo did not die in Hastings, but escaped and became a hermit in Chester.

William expected to receive submission from the surviving English leaders after his victory but instead the Witenagemot proclaimed Edgar Atheling king with the support of Earls Edwin and Morcar, Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Aldred, Archbishop of York. Faced with this, William advanced towards London along the Kent coast. He defeated an English force that attacked him at Southwark, but was unable to take London Bridge, so he was forced to make a detour to approach the capital by a longer route. He went up the valley of the River Thames and crossed it at Wallingford, where he received the submission of Stigand. He then traveled northeast along the Chilterns and made his way to London from the northwest, fighting several skirmishes against forces sent from the city. The leaders of England finally surrendered to the Norman duke at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, after which he was acclaimed king of England with the title William I and crowned by Aldred on December 25, 1066 at Westminster Abbey.

Despite the submission of much of the English nobility, resistance continued for several years. There were uprisings against Norman rule at Exeter in late 1067, while mid-1068 saw an invasion by the sons of Harold and another rebellion in Northumbria. In 1069 William faced further problems caused by rebels in Northumbria, a Danish invasion fleet, plus rebellions in the south and west of England. The new king crushed them all harshly and culminated his demonstration of power with the so-called Northern Massacre in late 1069 and early 1070, during which he ordered the razing of various parts of northern England. The monarch also put down, in the city of Ely, another uprising against his authority in 1070 led by Hereward the Outlaw.

On the site of the battle, William ordered to found the abbey of Battle. According to some 12th century sources, "The Conqueror" made a promise to found this abbey and the high altar of his church was placed on the exact spot where Harold fell dead. It is more likely that the apostolic legates who met with him in 1070 imposed this foundation. The Bayeux tapestry, an embroidered cloth nearly seventy meters long that narrates chronologically all the events leading up to Hastings, was possibly commissioned shortly after the battle by Bishop Odon of Bayeux, William's half-brother, perhaps to hang in his palace at Bayeux.

The topography of the battlefield has been altered by the later construction of the abbey and by the leveling of its summit, which is why the steep hill on which the English took up their positions appears much less steep today. After the dissolution of the monasteries decreed by King Henry VIII in the mid-16th century, the abbey grounds passed to secular owners, who used it as a country residence. In 1976 the plot was put up for sale and purchased by the British government with the help of some American donors who wished to honor the second centenary of their country's independence. The abbey and the battlefield are today open to the public and are administered by English Heritage, a public body that protects England's historical heritage. Every five or six years the Battle of Hastings is re-enacted with the participation of thousands of volunteers and spectators at the exact site of the battlefield.


  1. Battle of Hastings
  2. Batalla de Hastings

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