Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

954 YEARS AGO TODAY ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS RULERSHIP DISPUTE IS SETTLED

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October 14, 1066. It was a bright late fall day in Southern England. English King Harold and possibly 10,000 or more foot soldiers were arrayed on top of a hill behind a shield wall (that’s a line of men holding large shields touching or even overlapping each other,) both flanks protected by dense forest. Duke William of Normandy and about as many men were at the bottom of the hill, they were a combined force or archers, foot soldiers, and mounted knights. These 20,000 or more men were about to settle a critical political dispute. Who was to be the next king of England, Harold or William?

And they weren’t going to settle the issue with namby pamby things like votes. This was near a thousand years ago, political issues were settled with swords, and fought to the death. One can only wonder at what was going through the mens’ minds that morning (there were possibly a few women, but that’s speculation.)  They knew that by day’s end they might well be dead, or grievously wounded. That just meant they died a week or two later most likely. Many of Harold’s men were tired, especially the core of his army; they had fought a bloody but victorious battle at Stamford Bridge less than three weeks before. And had marched 270 miles (430 km)  in 2 weeks, that’s 20 miles (32 km) a day carrying heavy gear.

The battle started with the Norman archers attacking. They were shooting uphill at men behind a shield wall. Basically most of the arrows bounced off the shields or flew harmlessly over the top of the hill. And since the English had few archers, there were few English arrows to gather up and shoot back. After that, accounts vary. William’s foot soldiers charged up the hill at least three times and were beaten back. They almost panicked in the first retreat because a rumor spread William had been killed, he had to ride through his army with his face exposed to reassure his men that he still lived.

When the Normans retreated after an unsuccessful attack, by accident or design, groups of Harold’s soldiers pursued, and were quickly surrounded and killed once away from the shield wall. Harold’s two brothers were likely killed early in the battle this way. The end of the battle, this is the big mystery. Again, by accident or design, a group of Norman knights got through a gap in the shield wall, and hacked Harold to death. Or Harold may have gone down with an arrow in the eye. Or both. No one really knows, all we know is that sometime in the late afternoon Harold was killed, and his army quickly collapsed and ran. No point continuing to fight when the king is dead.

And that was the end of the last Anglo Saxon English king, and the last time England was successfully invaded. It’s not known how many men died that day. The Norman dead were buried in a mass grave whose location is unknown to this day. The English dead were left on the field, though some of their bodies were retrieved by their families.  2,000 dead Normans and at least twice that many of Harald’s soldiers is the best guess today. William’s legacy? Depends on who one asks. Probably the most significant event in English history between the Roman invasion and the 20th century. Some think that’s giving William too much credit, though it is certain that changes his rule started in England are still felt today. Whether his conquest was a good thing or a bad thing for England is debated by historians.

It was certainly a bad thing for the thousands that died that bright October day, and the thousands more that would die as William consolidated his rule of England and put down rebellions. At least back then most of the participants in wars were volunteers in one sense or another, civilians generally and wisely avoided battles. Long time ago, but still has connections to us today. Turns out a friend is a direct descendant of William. Small world … and William did have a lot of kids.

I don’t see Trump or Biden leading an army into battle, so their differences will be solved by other means. Tomorrow, more on Trump’s plan to let a million Americans pointlessly die. Whole other kind of perspective I suppose. Stay safe everyone. Comments, shares likes appreciated. Patrons especially appreciated, go to the link in the “Welcome to Doug’s Darkworld” blurb on the right. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings and the death of Harold. Credit: Unknown, likely commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother. Public Domain under all known copyright laws.)

Written by unitedcats

October 14, 2020 at 7:11 pm

Posted in History, Politics, War

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  1. […] wrote a post yesterday about the Battle of Hastings, that only mentions Trump and the times in relation to the post, and am criticised for being […]


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