Some factors in William's victory, which was not a foregone
Harold having to bring a good number of his troops on a long
march from the battle of Stamford Bridge against the vikings (and
some of the forces involved there staying in the north)
Harold's possible impetuous commitment to battle, when another
day's wait would have increased his numbers.
The battle site was not badly chosen by Harold, and his lack of
archers not a major problem.
Mid-way through the battle, one flank of the Norman attack (The
Bretons) had crumbled and retreated, but a counter-attack by the
Saxons had left them out of formation and exposed, suffering very
It was this tactic repeated deliberately which seems to have
turned the battle. A faked retreat (dangerous, in case it turns
into a real one) tempted the Saxons from their shield wall and
Whether this was the ill-discipline of troops acting without
orders or a terrible decision by Harold is not known.
Apart from the immediate losses, against a disorganized
formation the re-deployment of archers was more effective.
The battle which need not have been lost, was.
Harold Godwinson's army was tired. The English army had already
fought the Battle of Stamford Bridge that day. They had to race
down to the small village of Hastings. Williams army was
Part of Harold's army got left behind on the trip down.
Harold's army did not cooperate well.
Harold's army did have the right weapons.
Harold got shot. When he heard the hiss of an arrow he had
looked up and the arrow struck him right in the eye.
The death of Saxon leaders.
Harold's men saw Haley's Comet and they thought that it was a
William had organized his army better. William was clever and
he used his talents in the right way.
Williams army was stronger. He had good troops and better
trained soldiers. They were better armed. William used cavalry and
archers whereas Harold did not.
Williams men believed in him and promised to reward them.
William had been promised the throne by Edward. The Normans also
had the Pope's blessing and banner.
William was a good tactition.
Williams Norman army played tricks on the English army. William
pretended to flee so many of Harold's men turned to retreat but as
they did William and his army turned back and fired.
Here is more input from others:
Duke William was victorious at Hastings not because of any
superior armour, weapons or tactical ability, but simply because
his forces were the more flexable of the two. Once the English had
decided to stand behind their shield wall and allow the Normans to
gradually wear them down, the outcome was inevitable. This tactic
was too defensive and couldn't be be used effectively against a
mainly cavalry army like the Normans had. Another myth about
Hastings is that once Duke William had won he was completely
victorious. In fact he spent the next 6 years fighting the
remaining English forces before finally achieving success.
Duke William of Normandy won the battle of Hastings is because
At nine o'clock in the morning of the 14th, the Normans began to
advance. Spears and arrows flew in all sorts of directions. Both
sides fought on foot, although the Normans also used horses later
in the day with a tremendous amount of effect. Suddenly, there was
a rumour that Duke William of Normandy was dead. He wasn't really
dead-and he took of his helmet and stood on stirrups to shout to
his men. Then William and his half-brother, Bishop Odo, started a
furious cavalry charge. Norman soldiers on horseback charged at the
Saxons just when the Saxons thought they were winning. Time and
time again the Normans used this technique to break through the
Saxon shield wall. Gradually the Saxon line broke up and the Saxons
were pushed back. At dusk the Saxon army fell back into the shelter
of trees. Harold's bodyguards' were left to fight on alone. They
formed a semi-circle around him. The situation was very desperate.
According to one tradition recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold
was struck in one eye by and arrow and was hacked about so badly
that only his mistress,Edith Swan-Neck could identify him.
The main reasons were luck and numbers. If for instance it had
rained (which was very likely in English October) the slope up
which the Normans attacked would have been very difficult for man
and horse. The English were outnumbered because Harold decided to
take the initiative. Remember he had recently beaten Harald
Hardraga the foremost soldier of his age. Harold was therefore
confident. If he had only waited a day or 2 more, victory would
have been almost certain.
Here is a summary of what happened in 1066:
King Edward dies
Harold Godwinson gets crowned king
Harald Hadraada attacks North and fights Harold Godwinson
(Battle of Stamford Bridge)
Harold Godwinson wins and next day William of Normandy attacks
Harold Godwinson marches his army South
Battle of Hastings begins
The state of Harold Godwinson's army before the Battle of
Harold Godwinson's army wasn't in a great state for the battle.
The weaknesses in Harold Godwinson's army were that they had all
just marched 226 miles (363 km) so they were tired, they didn't
have as many soldiers as William, they had just fought so some
soldiers were down and some were wounded, their weapons weren't as
good as Williams army's weapons and some members were giving
The state of William of Normandy's army before the Battle of
William of Normandy's army was in a good state for the battle.
The advantages in William of Normandy's army were that they were
well relaxed (they'd been waiting in the South for 9 days), they
had around fresh soldiers who were all ready for battle.
There are a number of various reasons why William Duke of
Normandy won the Battle of Hastings. William and his army had
landed on the South Coast expecting the enemy there, waiting for
them. But they were over joyed to find out that nobody was there to
meet them. William and his troops were expecting Harold Godwineson
and his army to be there, waiting to meet them and start the
battle. But instead, Harold and his army were at the North,
fighting Harald Hadraada and his army. No wonder they were over
joyed. So they decided to have a feast and get a good night's
They now knew that Harald Hadraada and his army had attacked
Harold and his troops and were fighting a battle, so they knew that
Harold couldn't reach them quickly. So they had the feast and had a
good night's sleep, and woke up the next morning, fresh and ready
to fight the battle. Meanwhile Harold and his army were up at
north, fighting Harald Hadraada and his troops, and then, very
luckily, Harold gave his enemy, Harald, a blow that killed him. He
sent his army home. Then, on this very triumphant day, Harold
received very bad news: the William and the Normans had reached the
South Coast and were getting ready to fight Harold. So Harold had
to gather his army again, just as they were all tired out from
fighting the battle and winning it for him. And he still had to pay
them taxes. Harold's army weren't at all happy when he sent for
He and his army got ready to fight William, and they set off,
marching, to get to the South Coast. So Harold and his army were
tired out from all that fighting and now they had to go and fight
another battle, which was just too bad luck! When Harold and his
army reached Hastings, and stopped there to rest for a bit, they
found out that William and his troops were there. So they met
William and fought the Battle of Hastings, and, very luckily for
him that was, William struck Harold in the eye, which made him
stumble around in pain for a while before he was killed.
William had been promised the throne by Edward, or so he
claimed. After Harold beat the viking army of Harald Hardrada at
Stamford Bridge, he had to march to Hastings to meet William. The
Saxon shield wall of Harold held strong, but Williams men feinted a
flee. Harolds men followed to route the Normans, breaking their
shield wall. The Normans turned and caught the Saxons off guard
defeating them. Another important issue was the Norman mounted
knights. The development of steers for the Normans gave them a
superior advantage over the unmounted Saxons.
Harold had to march his men to Stamford bridge near York and
battle the vikings then take them south again. Harold lost some of
his best men at Stamford and he was just unlucky. William had more
and better men. Harold's men were not disciplined. Harold was
killed in the middle of the battle.
The area Hastings was fought in was very different then to now,
being almost entriely Fenlands. William landed in a cul de sac and
it was important for him to break out. Harold rushed down from
Stanford Bridge to hem William in. At the only exit to the Fenland
was a high hill, Harold won the race and occupied it. Harold had
6000 troops arriving the following day if William waited a day he
had lost the campaign so he chose to attack Harold at a huge
disadvantage. It was one of the closest battles in history, for six
hours the Normans attacked and the Saxon shield wall held. Until at
dusk the Normans launched one last desperate assault on the Saxon
left flank. It enjoyed a little success and Harold was forced to
commit his reserve, Huscarls led by himself. It was during this
assault he was struck by an arrow and killed. Effectively a lucky
shot not only won the battle and the war but saved the Normans from
annihalation on the following day.
William won the battle of Hastings because his troops were well
prepared. Wiliiam used clever and well planned tactics to fool
Harold's army. Part of the victory was down to luck. While Harold
Gowinson was up near York At Stamford bridge, The Normans were able
to cross the channel. This meant that Harold had to march his
troops down to the small village, Hastings to fight the battle
against William. This put Harold at a disadvantage, because some of
his best fighters had died at the battle of Stamford bridge, and
all Harold's troops were tired.
My uncle who used to work as a tour guide at battle abbey said
that William had an idea for some of his army to look like they
were running away from the battle, so a large chunk of Harold's
army followed the people who were fleeing, but little did they no a
trap was set. When the people who were following the fleeing people
got to a point, some of Williams army surprised them and killed
them. Leaving Harold's defenses small and out numbered.
Harold had been waiting on the south English coast for William
to make a move from Normandy, then amassing his multi-national
army. William waited until Harold's army had almost depleted their
food reserves, etc.
But a huge Norwegian Viking army of '300 ships' (maybe 12-18,000
men)under the fearsome King Harald Hardrada('hard ruler') invaded
northern England, with Tostig(Harold's own brother, still irate
that his brother didn't help him keep his earldom a year earlier),
advanced to near York and routed a Saxon army in battle, at
''Fulford Gate''(20th Sept 1066) Harold agonized, but decided to
speed-ride north 190miles to beat the Norse, then dash back
hopefully in time to defend the realm against William, who might
invade anytime. This Harold did- he surprised the Norsemen and in a
bloody and costly victory at ''Stamford Bridge''(25th Sept), the
English slaughtered the Norsemen, Hardrada & Tostig.
Harold dashed back south again, having just got word of the
Norman's landing on the south coast(29th Sept), and made for London
to arrange for battle. His messengers had already ridden ahead to
the western and southern shires to raise another
fyrd(farmer/soldiers owing 2mnths annual war service). Crucially,
he had had to leave his archers and many infantrymen- who were
marching the hard slog on foot, and would be weary/late for
On the 13th October, Harold uncharacteristically ignored the
wise advice of his brother Gyrth(who said he instead would lead the
half-prepared army, then Harold could lead a second)ordered every
available man to follow him, and again marched, this time the 58m
south to Senlac hill- originally intending to meet the fyrdsmen
there(still coming in from the north/shires) before a possible
night attack on the Normans then in their wooden stockade at
Hastings harbor, 7m south.
But William's scouts found the gathering English there, and
William marched north quickly. Now the two armies would fight
here(Senlac, wrongly called the battle of Hastings), the
Normans/French/Bretons on the low, marshy ground and the
English/some Danes tightly packed atop the narrow, steep ridge
above, half-mile wide. Harold's men were in a great position,
guarded on their flanks by marshes/woods, and a steep incline
ahead- but they were exhausted after their recent marches and
King Harold of England had traveled to the far North of England
to do battle with the invading Vikings, whom he defeated at the
Battle of Stamford Bridge. He was making his return to Winchester
(then the capital of England), and disbanding his army as he went,
when he got news that William, Duke of Normandy had invaded at
Hastings on the South Coast. Harold immediately recalled his men
and made a forced march South. The speed with which Harold's army
moved took William by surprise and as a consequence Harold was able
to choose his ground to his best advantage. Harold had the high
ground, but he suffered from two disadvantages; First, he had just
fought a battle in the North and had lost many men that he had not
had time to replace, and Second, having marched the length of
Britain his men were exhausted. In spite of this he managed great
discipline and fought off charge after charge from the mostly
mounted knights of William. His shield wall proving impossible to
William then made a mass charge with 75% of his cavalry,
instructing them to break off quickly and appear to desert the
field. This they did. Many of Harold's men, convinced they had
finally won the day ran down the hill after them, on foot. By the
time they reached the bottom of the hill Williams remaining cavalry
cut them off while the 'retreating' horsemen turned back and
slaughtered them. This seriously weaken Harold's position and he
was no longer able to withstand the repeated cavalry charges. It is
almost certain that the story of Harold being shot in the eye with
an arrow is a myth. However, he was certainly killed on the
battlefield that day in 1066 and William had his victory.