A Battle at Battle

I was going to write about swatches but I’m always doing that and I was reminded that today is the 954th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This is a date that all school children know in England – well those who went to school when I did (a long time ago). For those unaware of this turning point in English history, it is the day that William, Duke of Normandy and the then King of England, Harold Godwinson had a final showdown with their respective armies.  William and his invading army had been in the country for a few weeks while Harold was busy up here in Yorkshire having another battle at Stamford Bridge (not the Chelsea Football Ground). Having beaten one invading army from Norway led by the Norwegian king and Harold’s own brother, he and his men set off back south.  They are supposed to have marched all the way but that never made sense to me. Wouldn’t it have been easier to sail?  The invaders sailed along the River Ouse so why not do the reverse and sail down the coast for the second leg of the match?  According to Wikipedia the Norwegians suffered such great losses that only 24 of the original 300 ships were required to carry away the survivors. Why not commandeer the remaining ships? 

Nearly three week’s later, Harold and William and their respective forces engaged in battle on the 14 October in a place that is now known as Battle, the coincidence. Harold and his men set up a defensive position on Senlac Hill.  Fighting started at 9 am and continued till dusk, which would be around 5 pm; a long day in the office when you’ve just marched south from Yorkshire.  Harold was killed late in the afternoon. The Bayeaux Tapestry, something that is on by ‘to see’ list, depicts him with an arrow in his eye and the caption, “Here King Harold has been killed”.  There is much debate as to the veracity of this. 

Depiction of William of Normandy in the Bayeaux Tapestry.
William of Normandy from the Bayeaux Tapestry

William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day that year. We visited the site of the battle a few years ago. This significant turning point in the history of England was decided in a field about the size of a sport stadium by a few thousand men. William built an Abbey on the site with the altar at the point where Harold died. Battle Abbey is now managed by English Heritage and you can even do a ‘Are you Saxon or Norman Quiz’ on the website.  I am Norman apparently. I’m not so sure about this, William wasn’t really very nice to the locals once he took over.  


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