Battle of Hastings 1066 – 2016

This year sees 950 years since England was conquered by Duke William of Normandy, afterwards known as William the Conqueror.

The Saxon Shield Wall at the Battle of Hastings re-enactment

The Saxon Shield Wall at the Battle of Hastings re-enactment

The losses to England were on a par with the Great War: England’s finest men, lost to death in one long, exhausting and bitter battle.  It went on all day, the English gradually hacked away.

In later years, William built an Abbey on the site of the battle, to redeem the sin of the deaths.  Today, its ruins still stand as a memorial to those who died.

The Norman Cavalry at the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings

The Norman Cavalry at the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings

And today, Battle Abbey, a few miles north of Hastings, is run by English Heritage, who assembled a host of re-enactors to try to show the public a little of what the battle was like.  One thousand re-enactors, including 50 mounted ‘Norman Knights’, filled the field and lined up in a shield wall.  It was an impressive sight.

 

So how much more so must have been the sight in 1066, of perhaps something like eight, ten, maybe even fifteen, thousand men in each army, facing each other across an October dawn.

The armies engage at the bloodless re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings

The armies engage at the bloodless re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings

It took all day for the English soldiers to die.

Although William was crowned King of England in December 1066, he faced years of rebellions and uprisings.  The English remembered their dead at Hastings.

 

They still do.

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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