Fighting the wrong battle
It is inconceivable that Harold had intended to march all that way at breakneck speed only to fight a defensive battle, but that's what happened. In the end, of course, worn down by the Norman troops and their allies, the exhausted English army was broken and their king was killed - along with most of his nobles.
It could so easily have been different. Would William have won if he had been met by Harold on the coast with a fresh army, instead of a battered remnant?
'... Hastings really was the beginning of the end of Anglo-Saxon England'
It's rare that one battle proves so decisive. Though resistance to the Norman conquerors went on for three years, especially in the north, Hastings really was the beginning of the end of Anglo-Saxon England. The surviving English nobles, and those who had not fought in the battle, offered William the crown.
Among the many sources, English and Norman, that tell the story of the batle, the most beautiful and extraordinary is a 60m (200ft) -long embroidery, the Bayeux Tapestry, stitched for the victors by English needlewomen. We know it was created by English workers from the style, and the use of Anglo-Saxon letter forms. English needlework, opus Anglicanum, was highly sought after in the early Middle Ages.
The Tapestry tells the story of the year 1066 - from Edward's last days to the Battle of Hastings. And although the final scene is missing today, there is little doubt it would have depicted Duke William of Normandy being crowned at Westminster Abbey, on Christmas Day, as Rex Anglorum, King of the English, the successor of Athelstan and Edgar.
A new phase of English (and British) history had begun.
About the author
Michael Wood is the writer and presenter of many critically acclaimed television series, including In the Footsteps of...series. Born and educated in Manchester, Michael did postgraduate research on Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford. Since then he has made over 60 documentary films and written several best selling books. His films have centred on history, but have also included travel, politics and cultural history.