Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Home > History > The Middle Ages > The Norman Conquest


The Norman Conquest


The Battle of Hastings

William's army had been ready since August, but strong winds stopped him sailing until late September. There have been many accounts of the Battle of Hastings. It is difficult to be sure of what happened, but there are some good guesses. In the end William won, but can you think of any reasons why?

  • William gathered an invasion fleet of 700 ships and a large army.

  • William landed at Pevensey on 29 September, built a castle and raided the surrounding area.

  • Harold II marched quickly south from Stamford Bridge. He left many of his footsoldiers behind and exhausted the others.

  • The two sides met at Senlac Hill, near Hastings.

  • Harold II's army were at the top of Senlac Hill. They formed a shield wall [shield wall: A wall of shields held by soldiers standing close to each other. to protect themselves. The Norman knights could not charge uphill.

  • Some of the Norman soldiers began to flee because they thought William had been killed. William took off his helmet to show them he was still alive.

  • The Normans pretended to run away, then turned and cut down the Saxons when the inexperienced fyrd [fyrd: Working men called up to form an army for Anglo-Saxon kings. chased them.

  • William had a well-equipped army. He had knights on horseback and archers with crossbows. Harold II had a traditional Saxon army – his housecarls [housecarls: Full-time, paid Anglo-Saxon soldiers usually used as bodyguards. fought on foot with axes, the fyrd were just farmers with any weapons they could get.

  • William used archers to break up the Saxon [saxon: People who lived in the south of England before the Normans came. shield wall.

  • The housecarls formed a ring round their king.

  • Harold was killed. It is impossible to know how Harold II died. Most people believe that he was killed by an arrow in the eye. This theory is based on a scene in the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry has the words 'Harold is killed' next to a man with an arrow in his eye, but it is impossible to know which soldier is Harold II because all the Saxon [saxon: People who lived in the south of England before the Normans came. soldiers are dressed identically.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.