William The Conqueror Free Essay

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Essay deciding why William of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings .... Submitted by Holly ( 219), age 17

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14th October 1066 - shortly after King Edward the Confessor of England died – between Harold Godwinson of England and William of Normandy. The battle was fought on Senlac Hill approximately 10km northwest of Hastings. The conflict started because when Edward died, he left no heir to inherit the crown, which left three men claiming to be the next King of England. These three contenders to the throne were Harold Godwinson (the Earl of Wessex) who was the only Englishman and related to the old king by marriage; Harald Hadrada (the King of Norway) whose ascendants were promised the throne by King Cnut, and William the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy) who was the only contender that was related to King Edward by blood. This essay will decide why William won the battle by looking at the three following factors: William’s skill, Harold’s poor leadership and Harold’s bad luck.

The first argument as to why William won the Battle of Hastings, is that he had the best army. The Normans (William’s army) had 7500 men, all fully trained compared to the 4500 voluntary village workers and only 500 professionally trained soldiers that made up Harold Godwinson’s English army. Likewise, William had many archers and slingshots (unlike the English) that could kill and do a great lot of damage from over 100 meters away. The Normans were also equipped with auxiliaries - blacksmiths, carpenters, medics and cooks – as well as a few mercenaries, who were professional soldiers that fought for whoever paid them the most amount of money, on his side. William’s men also had better armour and weapons, for example: the cavalry were all equipped with mail hauberk, there is some evidence that archers used crossbows in addition to bows and arrows, some battle maces were also used along with spears and swords, round shields and kite shaped shields. This meant that the Normans were more protected from the English, than the English were from them as well; as having weapons that could do more damage. Another benefit that William had as one of his skills was that he was a very good commander of his troops and organised his men very well.

An additional point is that the battle began much sooner than Harold Godwinson and his army had expected, which meant that his troops were not properly ready. Less than a week before the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson and the English were fighting in the north at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where he lost some of his best fighters to the Norwegians and their leader Harald Hadrada. As well as this, the soldiers of Harold’s that were remaining were very tired and weak after the tiresome battle at Stamford Bridge. On one hand there was the struggling English army who were not properly ready for the battle, and on the other there was the shiny polishing Norman army who had been preparing for this day for months and were rearing to go! Obviously, this gave William the Conqueror a clear advantage over King Harold due mainly to Harold’s misfortune and his poor leadership.

Another (crucial) line of reasoning, that a lot of people believe cost Harold Godwinson the Battle of Hastings, is the trick that the Normans very cleverly played on the English. This crafty trick was that about halfway through the battle, the Normans got a message saying that William of Normandy had been killed; in hearing this news, they started to retreat, however William of Normandy was perfectly well and thinking on his toes, he told his army to launch a surprise attack on the Fyrd whilst they were celebrating. Then – just as William had predicted – the inexperienced Fyrd came charging down the hill shouting celebratory chants thinking that they had won. Sneakily, the Normans made a quick turn and came charging at the Fyrd slaughtering them! This charged the English dearly, and they lost a jaw - dropping proportion of their army.

Furthermore, quite a few of Harold’s men abandoned him before the Battle of Hastings. They did this for two reasons; the first, after he broke the promise he made to them of sharing the booty with them if they won against the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge. This resulted in the English that were remaining being annoyed and uptight at their so called ‘trustworthy’ King, as well as fighting somewhat half – heartedly. The second reason was that because the Battle of Hastings was fought in the autumn time, and a lot of Harold’s English army were made up of farmers (the Fyrd) some of them had to return home to harvest their crops, or else when the English came back, they would all be famished.

Also, King Harold being killed in the Battle of Hastings – by having an arrow shot through his right eye, meant that when the enduring English army heard about the news, although some soldiers fought on bravely, many of them lost heart and were either killed or they ran away.

In conclusion, I believe that William of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings because of his skilfulness in leading his troops, his quick and devious thinking and the fact that he had a better army than Harold Godwinson.

Kieran says: What school do you go to go to? The essay's really good!
Sent on Thu 19th Jan 12

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William I became known as William the Conqueror through his will and determination. William gained power through his father and soon he climbed high enough to conquer England and become its new king.

William was born in 1028 at Falaise Castle. He was the son of Robert the Duke of Normandy and Herleve, the daughter of a tanner in Falaise. Robert was said to have caught sight of Herleve while she was washing her linens in the castle moat.

William’s father went on a pilgrimage in 1034 to release his sins. While returning home from his journey, he died suddenly. Having no other heir, William took his place as Duke of Normandy.

William had a hard time taking control. People constantly rebelled during his rule, and he would have to learn quickly how to deal with them. William's guardians were murdered in succession. William became a ruthless and sometimes cruel ruler because of his constant struggles for power.

In 1047 William began to restore order and crush the rebels who stood in his way. Some rebels insulted his birth by hanging “hides for the tanner” over the walls. William took his revenge by having their feet and hands amputated. Slowly the rebels decreased and people started to realize that William was their ruler.

William was described as tall and heavy. William was a strong leader and very courageous. He was inspirational to his followers, but could also be strict and punishing. “He

was of just stature, ordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead was bare of hair; of such great strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was in full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last; so given to the pleasures of the chase, that as I have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of many miles grow desolate that, when at liberty from other avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures. His anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed. This he sought all opportunities of scraping together, he cared not how; he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything, unbecoming to such great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have here no excuse whatever to offer, unless it be, as one has said, that of necessity he must fear many, whom many fear.”

William married Matilda in 1049, a descendant of the old Saxon House of Wessex. They were an odd site he being 5 foot 10 and she just over four feet tall. However they proved to be a good match.

In 1051 William visited his cousin Edward the Confessor. During his visit, Edward was said to have told William he would become the King of England if he would die without issue. The real heir to England was to young at the time and had spend much of his life in Hungary. William was in a tough spot, for other’s wanted the throne of England also. One person wanting the throne being Harold, the son of the Earl of Wessex.

Harold had been shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy, where he found himself the guest of Duke William. William required Harold to swear an oath to understand that he would become king after Edward’s death. Harold finally consented and swore the oath on holy relics, sealing Williams spot as King of England.

Edward the Confessor died in January, 1066. He was said to have nominated Harold as his successor. Harold was accepted as king by the council of elders, who normally elected the new kings.

After hearing this news William was outraged. He began to build an army to take by force what he considered to be his kingdom by right. Because of Harolds oath on holy relics the Pope even supported William in his invasion of England. After Harold was crowned, an ominous star was seen in the skies, this has now been identified as Halley's comet, many in that superstitious age saw it as an omen of God's wrath on King Harold and his followers.

Harold called up the Saxon militia of freemen, in preparation for William's imminent landing, while the William assembled his fleet and waited for good weather and winds to sail. In the middle of September, England was invaded by Harold Hardrada, King of Norway. He was accompanied by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, Harold's unruly and discontented brother, who had earlier been banished and his earldom confiscated

Harold went north to meet the invaders at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, where he won a victory over the Viking army. The winds William had been waiting for turned favorable and he set sail with his massive army. News of his landing at Pevensey was told to Harold, who responded by hurrying south to meet him, giving his exhausted army no rest. If Harold had rested and reorganized his army, the outcome of the battle and English history could have been very different.

On the 14th of October, the Saxon and Norman forces clashed in the Battle of Hastings. Harold took up a defensive position on Senlac Ridge. The Norman army was forced to attack uphill, placing them at a disadvantage.

A rumor arose in the Norman ranks that William was dead, causing panic. Many of the Saxon fyrdd pursued the fleeing Normans down the hill. William raised his armies morale by loudly announcing that he was still alive. The Normans with new strength fought hard against the Saxons, Harold's brothers Gyrth and Leofwine were both slain on the battlefield.

The battle continued for most of the day, Harold and his Saxons fought with great determination for possession of their country. As dusk began to fall over Hastings, William ordered his archers to fire into the air. There was said to have been an arrow that landed into Harold’s eye, blinding him. Whether this was true or not, Harold was mortally wounded.

The Saxon army began to flee the field. The houscarls, Harold's trained professional militia, bravely defended his body until they fell and Harold’s body was mutilated by the Normans.

Edith Swan-neck, Harold’s lover, came to William pleading for Harold’s body and offering him its weight in gold in exchange, but William coldly refused her request, probably because of the mutilation the body had suffered. He had Harold buried in a secret location.

William was crowned King of England at Edward the Confessor's foundation of Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. He could now be called by the name of William the Conqueror.

On the whole the south of England submitted to Norman rule, whereas in the north resistance was more prolonged. William wrought down a reign


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