French Conquest of England:Battle of Hastings

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Peter, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    French conquest of England

    The Norman(from Normandy in France) conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 over King Harold II of England. Harold's army was badly depleted in the English victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Northern England on 25 September 1066 over the army of King Harald III of Norway. By early 1071, William had secured control of most of England, although rebellions and resistance continued to approximately 1088.

    The Norman conquest was a pivotal event in English history. It largely removed the native ruling class, replacing it with a foreign, French-speaking monarchy, aristocracy, and clerical hierarchy. This, in turn, brought about a transformation of the English language and the culture of England in a new era often referred to as Norman England.

    By bringing England under the control of rulers originating in France, the Norman conquest linked the country more closely with continental Europe, lessened Scandinavian influence, and also set the stage for a rivalry with France that would continue intermittently for many centuries. It also had important consequences for the rest of the British Isles, paving the way for further Norman conquests in Wales and Ireland, and the extensive penetration of the aristocracy of Scotland by Norman and other French-speaking families, with the accompanying spread of continental institutions and cultural influences.
     
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  3. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    Battle of Hastings

    The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, during the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) north-west of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.
    The background to the battle was the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward's death, but faced invasions by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (Harold III of Norway). Hardrada and Tostig defeated a hastily gathered army of Englishmen at the Battle of Fulford on 20 September 1066, and were in turn defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later. The deaths of Tostig and Hardrada at Stamford left William as Harold's only serious opponent. While Harold and his forces were recovering from Stamford, William landed his invasion forces in the south of England at Pevensey on 28 September 1066 and established a beachhead for his conquest of the kingdom. Harold was forced to march south swiftly, gathering forces as he went.
    The exact numbers present at the battle are unknown; estimates are around 10,000 for William and about 7000 for Harold. The composition of the forces is clearer; the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry and had few archers, whereas only about half of the invading force was infantry, the rest split equally between cavalry and archers. Harold appears to have tried to surprise William, but scouts found his army and reported its arrival to William, who marched from Hastings to the battlefield to confront Harold. The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk. Early efforts of the invaders to break the English battle lines had little effect; therefore, the Normans adopted the tactic of pretending to flee in panic and then turning on their pursuers. Harold's death, probably near the end of the battle, led to the retreat and defeat of most of his army. After further marching and some skirmishes, William was crowned as king on Christmas Day 1066.
    Although there continued to be rebellions and resistance to William's rule, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. Casualty figures are hard to come by, but some historians estimate that 2000 invaders died along with about twice that number of Englishmen. William founded a monastery at the site of the battle, the high altar of the abbey church supposedly placed at the spot where Harold died.
     
  4. Pratap

    Pratap Tihar Jail Banned

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    The thing which proved disastrous for English was lack of cavalry altogether as against 3000 employed by William. After defeating English, William butchered them a lot, especially in northern areas.
     
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  5. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    Battle

    Origins:William, Duke of Normandy, launched his bloody and decisive invasion of Saxon England in 1066. In that year Edward the Confessor, King of England, died without heir, appointing by his will Harold Godwinsson, son of England’s most powerful nobleman, the Earl of Wessex, as his successor. Across the Channel, William of Normandy considered himself rightfully the next King of England, basing his claim on a promise by Edward the Confessor in the early 1050s and an oath of fealty sworn by Harold during an enforced visit to William’s capital at Rouen following his capture by the Count of Ponthieu.

    Succeeding to the dukedom of Normandy as a bastard child of Duke Robert, William devoted his early adult life to enforcing his authority in a succession of ruthless campaigns, meanwhile building his dukedom into a fearsome mini-state, efficient both administratively and militarily.

    In the summer of 1066 William assembled an army of noblemen and adventurers from across Northern France to invade England, promising lands and titles in his new kingdom to his followers and obtaining the support of the Pope for the venture.

    A fleet of around 1,000 vessels, designed in the style of the old Norse “Dragon Ships” (80 feet long; propelled by oars and a single sail), was built and assembled to convey the army across the Channel.

    Among the fighting knights of Northern France who joined William were Eustace, Count of Boulogne, Charles Martel, Roger de Beaumont and Roger de Montgomerie. The clergy was well represented; among them Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, William’s half brother, and a monk René who brought twenty fighting men and a ship, in the expectation of a bishopric in England. Robert le Blount commanded the fleet.

    It was no secret that William intended to invade England. He had sent an insulting demand that Harold pay him homage and the gathering of the troops and ships had northern France in turmoil, causing Harold to assemble a powerful army along the Sussex coast in defence.

    William’s fleet lay ready to cross the Channel, after being held in port for the duration of the summer by contrary winds, when Harold received the news that a Norwegian army led by King Harald Hadrada with Harold’s renegade brother Tostig had landed in Yorkshire after sailing up the Ouse.

    Harold marched his army north and routed the invaders at the battle of Stamford Bridge, in which both Harald Hadrada and Tostig were killed.

    The timing could not have been worse for the Saxons. The winds changed and William’s fleet crossed the Channel, landing on the Saxon coast unopposed on 28th September 1066.

    Harold received the news of the Norman landing in York soon after his triumph over the Norse invaders and determined to march south immediately to do battle with William.

    Harald Hadrada’s army had been nearly annihilated in the savage fighting at Stamford Bridge but the Saxons had suffered significant losses. The King’s brother, Earl Gurth, urged a delay while further forces were assembled but Harold was determined to show his country that their new king could be relied upon to defend the realm decisively against every invader.

    Safely landed at Pevensey Bay, William built a fortification and then moved further east to Hastings; his troops ravaging the countryside which was known to be part of Harold’s personal earldom.

    The Saxon army arrived in the area on 13th October 1066 and established a position on a hill north west of Hastings, known subsequently as Senlac (sang lac or lake of blood); putting up a rough fence of sharpened stakes along his line, fronted by a ditch. Harold issued orders as compelling as he could make them that, when throughout the battle, his army was not to move from this position, whatever the provocation.

    Early on 14th October 1066 William moved forward with his army to attack the Saxon position, the Normans in the centre flanked on the left by the Bretons and on the right by the rest of the French.

    The battle was fought over the rest of the day, a savage fight with heavy casualties on each side. The issue in the balance until late in the afternoon; marked by repeated cavalry attacks on the Saxon position by William’s cavalry, violently repelled until the final assaults. The Normans found the Saxon warriors with their battle axes, and in particular Harold’s “housecarles”, a formidable enemy. There were many accounts of knights with their horses being hacked in pieces by these terrible weapons wielded in great swinging blows.

    At around midday an assault developed on the Saxon camp causing a section of Harold’s line to retreat in confusion. Reaching the top of an incline the Saxons turned on the pursuing Normans, held up by a ditch across their front, and drove them back with considerable loss.

    In the early afternoon William’s left flank of Bretons gave way, to be pursued down the hill by the fyrd they had been attacking. This break in the line, that Harold had so adamantly warned against, gave the Normans the opportunity to break into the Saxon position at the top of the slope. The incessant Norman attacks began to break up Harold’s army; the barrage of arrows taking a heavy toll, in particular wounding Harold in the eye.

    During the course of the battle William had three horses killed under him and was forced to ride round the field, his head bared, to reassure his army that he was unhurt; assisted by his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, in rallying the Norman soldiers.

    A particularly savage fight developed around the position held by the now severely wounded Harold and his royal housecarles. Finally the Saxon King was killed, followed by his brothers, Earl Gurth and Earl Leofwin, and the remaining housecarles.

    It was late afternoon and much of the remnants of the Saxon army gave way, fleeing the field; although a significant force continued to fight. The battle finally ended with all the remaining Saxons killed.

    The heaped bodies were cleared from the centre of the battlefield, William’s tent pitched and a celebratory dinner held.

    Casualties:
    The figures are unknown but were heavy for the Normans and disastrous for the Saxons.

    Follow-up: It was some time before Saxon England acknowledged William as king. William was forced to march to the West and cross the Thames at Wallingford in Oxfordshire before circling round from the North and capturing London, devastating the countryside as he marched. The Tower of London was the first of the castles William built to dominate and subjugate England. William was finally crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066 by the Saxon Archbishop, Aldred of York.

    In March 1067 William returned to Normandy, leaving Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, to continue the process of building castles and subjugating the population. William only returned to England on four further occasions.

    William the Conqueror died following the capture of Mantes in 1087, leaving England to be ruled by William II and Normandy by his eldest son Robert.

    Probably only 20,000 Normans and other Frenchmen came to England as a result of the Conquest. Nevertheless the Saxon country was transformed, French becoming the language of administration and government and the Conqueror’s followers displacing the native nobility. The Saxons lamented their lost freedom for two centuries while England now looked across the Channel for cultural and political inspiration.

    Conquest in France remained the obsession of the Frankish kings of England until the 16th Century. French names predominated among the nobility and the military classes; doubtless the Montgomery leading the British armies in the Second World War was a descendant of the Roger de Montgomerie who fought for the Conqueror.

    The Bayeux Tapestry: A remarkable feature of the Norman Conquest was its near-contemporaneous record in the Bayeux Tapestry; strictly a work of embroidery rather than tapestry (being embroidered on cloth rather than woven into it). The origins of the tapestry, lodged in Bayeux Cathedral, are uncertain; perhaps executed at the direction of William’s wife Matilda or by seamstresses in England at the direction of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and, after the Conquest, Earl of Kent, and given to the Cathedral at Bayeux by its bishop.

    The Tapestry illustrates the various stages of the conquest, providing detail that is not available in the written accounts.

    The original Tapestry is displayed in Bayeux and a copy in the City Museum at Reading in Berkshire.
     
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  6. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    Battle Aftermath


    Once England had been conquered, the Normans faced many challenges in maintaining control.They were few in number compared to the native English population; including those from other parts of France, historians estimate the number of Norman settlers at around 8000.William's followers expected and received lands and titles in return for their service in the invasion, but William claimed ultimate possession of the land in England over which his armies had given him de facto control, and asserted the right to dispose of it as he saw fit.Henceforth, all land was "held" directly from the king in feudal tenure in return for military service. A Norman lord typically had properties located in a piecemeal fashion throughout England and Normandy, and not in a single geographic block.
    To find the lands to compensate his Norman followers, William initially confiscated the estates of all the English lords who had fought and died with Harold and redistributed part of their lands.These confiscations led to revolts, which resulted in more confiscations, a cycle that continued for five years after the Battle of Hastings.To put down and prevent further rebellions the Normans constructed castles and fortifications in unprecedented numbers,initially mostly on the motte-and-bailey pattern.Historian Robert Liddiard remarks that "to glance at the urban landscape of Norwich, Durham or Lincoln is to be forcibly reminded of the impact of the Norman invasion".William and his barons also exercised tighter control over inheritance of property by widows and daughters, often forcing marriages to Normans.

    A measure of William's success in taking control is that, from 1072 until the Capetian conquest of Normandy in 1204, William and his successors were largely absentee rulers. For example, after 1072, William spent more than 75 per cent of his time in France rather than England. While he needed to be personally present in Normandy to defend the realm from foreign invasion and put down internal revolts, he set up royal administrative structures that enabled him to rule England from a distance.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  7. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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  8. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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