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The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy


The Battle of Hastings (1066)


Famous for...

 The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

1. King William 

Duke of Normandy (in Northern France) who won the battle (pictured right).

He became William I, king of England (now known as William the Conqueror).


2. King Harold 

The loser but a hero:

  • just. 
  • charismatic. 
  • brilliant in battle.

As the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, he was fighting for the native English (or Anglo-Saxon) people who had created Europe’s richest country, economically and culturally.


The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

3. The Bayeux Tapestry 

A 70 metre long embroidery, telling the story of William’s invasion and the battle.

It famously shows Harold being killed by an arrow in his eye, pictured right, (although, in reality, he probably wasn’t killed in this way).


Key events in 1066

 The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

5 January

The king of England (Edward the Confessor, pictured right) dies.


6 January

Harold crowned king



William gathers his invasion fleet and waits for a favourable wind at St. Valéry (on the river Somme).


20 & 25 September

Harold defeats the Vikings (from Norway), near York in northern England, at the:

  • Battle of Fulford (20 September)
  • Battle of Stamford Bridge, (25 September).


28 September

William lands at Pevensey on the Sussex coast.


6 October 

Harold arrives in London and gathers his troops.


14 October

The Battle of Hastings in which Harold is killed and defeated.


25 December

William crowned king of England.


Why did William win?


1. William’s luck

He was also known as William the Bastard (because of his illegitimate birth), so you could say he was a lucky bastard! Why?

 The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

a) the Pope's blessing 

Pope Alexander II (pictured right) blessed William ,because Harold had broken his oath, given in Normandy in 1064 or 1065, to support William as the English king.

Harold said he had been tricked.

This papal blessing

  • boosted the morale of William’s army.
  • turned the invasion into a holy crusade
  • persuaded other French regions to help William.


b) Halley’s Comet

A shooting star in April 1066 (later known as Halley’s Comet)

William told his superstitious troops that this was a sign of bad luck for Harold, not them!


c) delay of invasion

William's invasion fleet was delayed during September by unfavourable winds.

This enabled him to land unopposed, because Harold had gone to fight the Vikings (see point 2).



2. The Battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge (20 & 25 September)

In these battles (near York in northern England), Harold crushingly defeated the invading Vikings, led by:The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

  • his exiled brother, Tostig
  • the king of Norway, Harald Hardrada, pictured right.

This was difficult enough (Hadrada’s army was the most feared in Europe), but Harold and his exhausted troops had to march 500 miles (via London) to fight William.

He also lost many of his best troops, so he had no archers at the Battle of Hastings.


3. Harold’s tactics

Instead of fighting the battle, Harold should have:

  • stayed in London.
  • destroyed the crops (so starving William’s army).

But his military pride got the better of him, and he decided to attack.


4. William’s leadership

Although greedy and cruel, he inspired his men through his:


a) willpower


  • was ruthlessly determined and dynamic
  • kept his army united and disciplined (during the delay in its crossing of the Channel in September).


b) planning

He was a brilliant strategist


c) charisma and example 

He led from the front (as he did at the Battle of Hastings, where he took off his helmet to show his troops he was still alive).


When and where did the battle happen?


Saturday, 14th October 1066, near the present town of Battle, near Hastings in the south of England.

William had landed at Pevensey on September 28th with

  • 400 ships. 
  • 6,000 horses. 
  • about 7,000 troops.

Harold had at least as many men but only 3,000 professional soldiers.



How long did the battle last?

6 to 9 hours, one of the longest battles in medieval history.


What happened


The English shield wall defended the 800 yard (732 metre) Senlach Ridge between

  • Caldbec Hill (on Harold’s side) and
  • Telham Hill (on William’s).

Crucially some English troops chased after some Normans, who were pretending a retreat.

This allowed William to counter-attack with his archers, foot soldiers and cavalry.

William eventually won after Harold was hit (and possibly killed) by an arrow.

But the English would probably have won, if they had:

  • not broken ranks.
  • remained steadfast in their defensive position.


William’s reign was famous for...


 The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy

1. Building the Tower of London (pictured right)  and lots of castles

These were built to keep the English people under control.

William had to defeat several rebellions including one led by Edgar, a direct descendant of Alfred the Great (pictured right below).The Battle of Hastings - Leadership and Strategy


2. The Doomsday Book (1086)

This was a record of everything English people owned, so they couldn’t escape paying tax!


3. The feudal system

William took all the land in England, giving it to his Norman friends (Earls) who:

  • paid him rent.
  • received rent from the poor English peasants (who were also forced to become soldiers in times of war).

So the English hated their Norman landlords and William who:

  • never learned English.
  • normally lived in France (until his death in 1087).
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