Why Did William win the Battle of Hastings

  • Created by: aKayc
  • Created on: 02-11-20 11:50

Key Events in the Battle of Hastings #1

Harolds Attack was not a surprise to William

William had scouts who informed him about where Harold was, which enabled him to leave Hastings and confront Harold's army. In contrast to this, The element of surprise had been so crucial in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

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Key Events in the Battle of Hastings #2

William sent his foot soldiers in first

The battle of Hastings was very long, eight hours long. William first sent his archers forward which did not work as the arrows hit the shield wall. Then he sent his foot soldiers up. This was a bad move as the english axes did a lot of damage. In this way, the battle started in the Saxon's favour.

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Key Events in the Battle of Hastings #3

William showed his face

Throughout the day, The Normans attacked again and again to try and break through the shield wall. A rumour of discourgement spread that William had been killed. To combat this, William tipped his helmet back so that his troops could see he was still alive. This helped his troop's morale.

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Key Events in the Battle of Hastings #4

Harold's shield wall became weaker

A group of Harold's soldiers broke away from  the main body and the shield wall to chase after some of the retreating Normans. This caused a break in the wall which made the defensive position weaker. 

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Key Events in the Battle of Hastings #5

The last stand

Harold and his brother held their position at the top of Caldbec Hill, surrounded by their soldiers. The oncoming calvary charges were too much for them, and they were heavily outnumbered. Harold and his brothers were killed and the housecarls fought to the last man. The remaining fyrd tried to flee.... William had won the battle of Hastings.

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Differences between the two armies

Williams Army:

William had perhaps 800 knights and around 4-6,000 foot soldiers. These were a mixture of Normans and soldiers-for-hire from all over Europe. Most were probably not to trained fight in co-ordination with the Norman knights. Some of the foot soldiers would have been archers and crossbowmen. Most Norman archers had padded jackets as armour (called gambesons). The others would have been  footsoldiers, with chain mail armour and javelins or swords.

Harold's Army:

How many of Harold's housecarls were present is unknown, but he may have had around 6—7,000 men his army in total. It is likely that the two armies were similar in size, though historians cannot be sure.

Harold's ordinary soldiers were men that he had hastily retrieved from the fyrd on his trip south. Not all these levies turned up in time and Harold made the decision to fight William without them. The thegns had good weapons, shields and armour, but the general fyrd only had agricultural tools to fight with. There were not many Anglo-Saxon archers — they could have been amongst the troops that Harold decided not to wait for.

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Which Army was the strongest?

I think that William's side was stronger, this was mainly because his army was better,

They were all equipped with good weapons, whereas most of Harold's men were just farmers.

William had archers and crossbowmen whereas Harold didn't. This meant that Williams army was able to hit the enemy from a distance, making it easier for them, whereas Harold's army weren't so they would have had to risk going closer to fight and get injured.

Also William had superior strategy and tactics. He was helped to victory by Harold being unlucky on a number of occasions. Harold had to rush north to fight Harald Hardrada as his northern armies had not defeated him. Also, Harold was wounded and killed at the Battle of Hastings.

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Explanation of reasons why William won

Tactics: The English only had one type of soldier, therefore they could only fight in a small number of ways. On the other hand, William had a mix of troops which enabled him to use lots of different tactics. The feigned retreat broke the shield wall.

Williams Leadership: William kept his troops going the whole time, and kept changing tactics to defeat the enemy. He also was successful in keeping his army together in a foreign country. He stayed alive throughout the battle which boosted morale.

Harold's Leadership: Harold's shield wall was extremely effective at the start of the battle as William's army couldn’t get close enough.

Luck: The wind meant that William had landed with no opposition. Harold was killed which meant that the battle ended quickly. The battle could have been carried on until the next day if this hadn't happened.

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Evaluation of Harold's options before the battle

Harold Godwinson chose to stay in London for a few days before travelling down to Hastings, here he gathered more troops; readying for the upcoming battle, although he didn’t stay too long to gather enough men, William's men had had a few days of preparing and were ready for Harold to come down. William was causing a lot of trouble in Wessex and when Harold got to hear of these atrocities he left London in a rage. Therefore when he arrived at Hastings not only did he not have a full troop, but he was enraged at the trouble the Normans were causing and hence hadn't waited to be fully prepared.

If Harold had gone straight to Hastings he may have been able to repeat what he did at the Stamford Bridge battle with Hardrada and Tostig and take William of Normandy by surprise. Likewise, when Harold was in London, William could have taken the opportunity to gather more troops from Normandy. William was extremely good at performing sieges and had much practice on it, Anglo-Saxons however, were not that experienced at performing sieges - let alone in a developed town.

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Why Did William win the Battle of Hastings

William the Conqueror won the battle of Hastings because of a number of factors. Firstly, he was very fortunate in the way that the opposing army had just marched all the way from Stamford Bridge and were very tired. The good wind had allowed William to land with no opposition at all. Additionally, its was lucky for William that Harold was killed by a stray arrow. After he died, the army had nothing to fight for therefore the battle ended quite soon. 

Furthermore, Williams tactics were a crucial part of the battle. The feigned retreat was important as it broke the shield wall which had been holding them back. 

Moreover, his wide range of soldiers meant he could try different modern tactics, for example a calvary charge.

To conclude, The battle of Hastings was won because of the Norman's variety of soldiers and a lot of good fortune.

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What was the most significant reason for William's

William's victory was due to his tactics during the battle. William created a shield wall which was quite a sophisticated tactic at this time, and his archers kept going at the English until their wall was weakened then the archers could get even closer and were twice as more effective. William used his cavalry against the shield wall, then when the English's shield wall had been weakened the cavalry could run through and break it up.

William also waited an entire summer to arrive (he could've easily arrived in the summer, would've made more sense) but he arrived in October once he heard that Harold Godwinson had disbanded his fyrd meaning he would've had less men for the battle.

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