Today we're traveling back to a episode from 2014 about the Battle of Hastings, which is often boiled it down to a sentence: The Normans invaded Britain in 1066, and their victory ended the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history. But of course, that brief description really doesn't do the event justice.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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happy Saturday, everybody. We have gotten a few notes from us
nerves. Lately you have told us they would like to hear more episodes about events rather than people, so we have gone
into the archive today for the battle of Hastings, which first came out in January of twenty fourteen.
so our listener suggestion list his way where people than events lilies five,
times as many people as events, so if events are more, your bag feel free to suggest. Some that you would like to hear about. We are, as always at history. Podcast has to work stuck enjoy
welcome to stuff you missed in history class. The production of I hurried use, how stuff works homo and welcomes the pond asked I'm Tracy bewilderment and I'm Molly fry. I discovered when we talked about how should I kind of like talking about now
now, I did. He quickly lots until just now a certain period
talk about about all that long time. Listeners may remember a little bit about thanks door episode on the by you tapestry, which was hosted by Sarah and Billina back in two thousand eleven, that by you tapestry, which is really a piece of embroidery and not a tapestry, is a visual account of the battle of Hastings and the events that led up to it. So if you know anything at all about european history, you can pay
but at least boil the battle of Hastings down to a sentence, which is that the Normans invaded England and ten sixty six and their victory ended the Anglo Saxon phase of english history,
if you actually grew up in England. You probably know a whole whole lot more about it than that intends to be something that's covered extensively in English. Schools, because it is so central to the history of England yeah, it's one of those things where, sadly, when you mention it least, when I mention it to most people that I now and also battle of Hastings, they will do what I have done previously in my life and on ten sixty six and if the one thing they remember. Yes, so yeah, I had that exact conversation with the boyfriend, where I said attack at Bala Hastings these that ETA.
Sixty six husband as well- and I said yes and he's like we weren't right- and I said you don't know who is, though we in any case we had almost identical conversation at our house so just like with our recent episodes on the Haitians,
people came boil down the Haitians to a sentence that now
really indicative of what actually happened that one sentence description does not do the whole battle of Hastings justice. So today really look at that in a lot more detail, including lots of stuff- that's not covered in the Bio Tapestry episode,
but the lot cover in one piece of sowing while but the very long piece of sewing, and now I think, of the Future Amr episode, where they kind of did a spoof of it that any, but about invading spider planet and they were leaving the tapestry from the silken spiders as the battle was happening wow. I need to go ass that I let my future mothers no secret there. So first, though, remember history and talk about,
the back story on this little ditty and we have to go back a little bit of a ways to get a feel for what was really going on when the Normans hopped into the picture and invaded in the fifth century, germanic people's known as the angles, the Saxons and the
began to emigrate to what we now know is England, and at the time this area was mostly inhabited by cults. As the germanic people's moved in, they pushed the council into what we would now call Scotland, Wales and Ireland. So the word England comes from these germanic peoples. It actually means land of angles by the eighth century. At Christianity had really started to spread through a lot of England, and people from Denmark had also started to move into the
Rio as well, and so with all of these influences the language kind of evolved, and so what we now know as old English. So at this point in land was mostly christian nation and it mostly spoke one language, although there were several distinct dialects and it was ruled by a king with Earls who were responsible for specific regions within the kingdom and
breaking started invading Britain in the ninth century and over the span of roughly a hundred and fifty years, Vikings, conquered Alot of England, but then the Anglo Saxons living in Wessex led by offered the great staved them off and started pushing them back out again,
in the process, they were honing their battle abilities and really making the anglo Saxon World a power to be reckoned with on its own laughed
This point they were the period of relative calm, which lasted about fifty years before the Vikings came back and started up a new cycle of pills,
thing and plundering and then retreating back to where they came from before. Coming back for more pillaging and plundering, it sounds very exciting, but it was actually quite dangerous. Well, yes, the often exciting things are, and this was kind of the state of things, one one.
for the great direct descendants. Edward entered the picture, and today we know of Edward is Edward. The confessor, but
It was a name he was given about a hundred years after his death, when the Pope recognised missive, saint, so Edward,
was born and about one thousand and three, and because of all these ongoing Viking attacks, he and his family took wrath
huge. In Normandy for a number of years and there they naturally built a lot of ties to Norman Society, so they made a lot of friends. There were influenced in their politics while they were living there. It took several failed attempts, but Edward finally returned to England and became
king in ten, forty two, and he brought a lot of Norman advisers in kind of Norman politics along with him.
and Edward Married, a woman named Edith, although they had no children. So this left a question of who the air was going to be and there's no written account of exactly what transpired there. But the general historical consensus is that in March of ten
fifty one. He announced at a council meeting that he wanted his kinsmen William of Normandy to take the throne after his death. This did not sit at
all. Well, with a guy named God, wine who was the Earl of Wessex and Edith Father, so Edwards Father in law,
had actually been a favorites, had become the king himself and was hoping to see one of his own children or grandchildren, eventually on the throne and a top of these own aspirations of power that he had he,
really was a legitimately powerful person and he had a much stronger backing than Edward did among the other leaders of England and this tension between God Line and the king really took England to the brink of a civil war and eventually Edward outlawed guideline after he refused to punish the people of Dover, which fell under
his oral dumb for an attack on Edwards brother in law and goblin in his sons and most of his family, fled to Flanders and Ireland, and then Edward banished his wife to a nunnery must seems kind of ruthless on Edwards part didn't want anything to do with those people anymore. Yes, that's like a brutal divorce
At that point. It is an m. He also in the aftermath made kind of a critical mistake. He got rid of attacks that had been used to fund a mercenary. All naval fleet idea was that he was basically giving some everyone who was being taxed a tax break
He probably thought that if he really needed an army or enable force that he could just call it up, receives the king and then in a lot of circumstances, that probably would have worked, but that unfortunately or fortunate
depending on who sign your on meant that when Godwin came back across the channel with his own fleet in ten fifty two Edward did not have a force ready to fight him off
top of Edward, not having enough manpower to resist guidelines. Attack public sentiment was pretty firmly on guidelines side. At this point, people
did not like the idea of a Norman line of succession, and they d me
like how many Norman's the king had among his advisers. So Edward was basically politically forced to pardon guideline in his family and they once again took up their positions of power.
Or in England. So when God, why died his son, who was known as Harold Guidelines and continued to be a very powerful figure in England, and this would turn out to be a problem when it came back around to the line of succession. So now we're gonna happen to that. The normal
back story on it. Yes, so over in Normandy, William, was around. His wife was Matilda of Flanders and
wonders in England were not on terrific terms.
May have been one of the reasons why Edward promised the throne to William to help
keep him in line and discourage him from lining up with Flanders against him. But thanks to this whole idea that he was being promised to become the king of England and his marriage to Matilda. Flanders
We the first of France, STAR William as a really huge threat, so William, ahead to fend off
multiple invasions from France and its allies during the ten fifty's
It was really only after William had a particularly decisive victory against them that France and its allies.
left, William alone, and only after
major rivals died. Did he really seem to get any rest? He was pretty much constantly having to fend off one attack after another near my brings us back to Herald and about ten, fifty four or ten fifty five Harold visited.
Normandy because of a storm. He actually roundup landing in Flanders and was taken prisoner at first and William, had to come and secure his release and at some point, during this little excursion for reasons that different accounts report complete
differently, Harold swore an oath to honour Williams claim to the throne once Edward died. Norman
You say that Edward had sent Harold specifically for this purpose, but english sources either don't reference it at all.
or they say that Harold was enormity to secure the release of some of his kin from imprisonment. So there's a little bit of disagreement about whether or not there was intrigue in the mix at this point me yeah. This is it's a thousand almost two years ago and both sides riding
It definitely have an agenda but either way the sources all pretty much agree that Harold swore to uphold Williams claim to the throne, and then he went back from Normandy across the english channel to England and about ten sixty five, so we're coming up on the happenings. So at this point the stage seems to be set for one would hope. A fairly smooth succession Edward, the confessor has promised the throne to William of Normandy an the surviving person with the next strongest claim to the throne. Harold Godwin son has sworn an oath to honour, Edwards decree. It seems like it should be cool it does that that there is a third person. What kind of a tide of thrown you'll talk about a little bit later
At this point, it's really between William Harold, but even though it should not have been really. But what happened next, as that King Edward died after an uprising in Northumbria, he had tried to raise an arm.
Put down the rebellion, but winter was coming and people were pretty reluctant to get involved in what was really a civil war. So eventually Edward just had been given
the rebels demands, and he was apparently so distraught by his failure to bring Northumbria back in line, but he got sick and never got better again. He died at the beginning of January, one thousand and sixty six.
And the king was buried on January sixth of ten sixty six and that day,
even though he had sworn an oath to honour Williams claim to the throne, Harold stepped in and took it for himself. We don't really have a lot of clear historical documentation conclusively telling us
he did this at the time, though, succession wasn't always a straight up matter of father to son, inheritance or of the king designated designating. Who was going to follow him
to the throne in England a man was it really considered to be king until he had the support of a majority of England's most powerful men like we said England was not super key.
The idea of having a Norman king- and there are also some accounts, including the life of King Edward, which Queen Edith leader, had written. That said
Edward either gave the kingdom to hear old on his death bed or that he had entrusted to him in the by you tapestry here
shown being given the crown and almost one thousand
years later we still don't entirely know what went down. So, whatever the circumstances are of Harold being crowned king, William objected and settle apparently heralds brother toasting, who then mounted to different invasions of England. The first came from Flanders and the second came with
cut from the Vikings, so Harold had to spend the start of his reign fighting off his brother in the Far northern reaches of England, but thanks to
the lay of the land and the position of the English channel Emmy invasion from Normandy would make landfall hundreds of miles to the south and east.
meant that when William invaded Carol,
we have a long way to travel to fight him off citizens. We ve said ten sixty six a bunch of times. We know that that invasion and eminent and before we get to it. Let's take a moment and talk about a word from our sponsored
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now we're gonna get back to the actual battle, and since we now from the top of the episode that this is what Tracy has gotten excited about, talking about very exact go crazy,
it took a little while before William made it to England. He had to raise a bigger army than he already had and he had to build at least some of the ships that were going to be required to take them across the channel,
The weather was also against him for a while, so they had to put off setting sail he fights.
We landed in England on September, twenty seven or twenty eight of ten sixty six and he was on the South EAST Coast at Pevensey, and he took that town and marched Hastings, which was twelve miles away, also pretty much on the coast and at both of these locations. The Normans seized a fort and then modified it to suit their own ends by
adding ramparts and notes, and it would have taken days for the news to reach Herald of the Norman Force, a Hastings and he had a march
men all the way from Yorkshire, which was about two hundred miles away. They basically road south as fast as they could most likely dismissing the soldiers who didn't have horses to ride and mustering more as they went so Yahoo is replacing the people who are on foot and couldn't keep up as
went basically Harold met William and Hastings on October, the thirteenth and the battle took place on the next day and although heralds forces had ridden horses to Hastings, they all fought on foot which was typical winning
warfare at the time William, on the other hand, have archers and cavalry, in addition to his boots on the ground, infantry and the english security, defensible position on high ground and the Normans approach them from below. So that's just sort of to set up the picture here, the
You know much about you, know medieval warfare or, if you ve, ever played any kind of strategy game that involves the soldiers it. This looks like a really one sided battle, because you had had people who were on foot verses, people who had archers and horses yeah. We're gonna talk about why it was not nearly that clear cut. Here's how William of MOM spray describes the English I'll on foot armed with a battle axes and covering themselves in front by the juncture of their shields. They formed an impenetrable
de the English were also armed, we should say with slings and spears, but it seems as though they did not really have many archers, probably because of the speed at which they had to move to Hastings. It wasn't like they can rouse all of the archery skilled gents in the area. To her, I help here's how William of Moms Bray describes the Normans their infantry with bows and arrows formed the vanguard, while their cavalry divided into wings was placed in the rear. The duke that Duke is as William with serene countenance declaring allowed that God would favour him as being the righteous side called for his arms and win through the haste of his attendance he had put on his hauberk the hind part before he corrected the mistake. With a laugh saying, the power of my dukedom shall be turned into a kingdom, basically restoring here that the accident we put his armor on backwards and
And then try to turn that to his advantage, rather than seeing as seeing it is a poor omen and a nickel very tight. But my armor on backward, tiny, William of Arms Borri, also describes the English as having stayed up all night drinking and singing while the Normans instead spent the night confessing their sins and how
communion in the morning, which is, in all likelihood added, color commentary and not a real thing, but
sides were clearly pretty worn out the angle
from having traveled so far from getting to battle and the normal,
from having stood at the ready all night. Just in case an attack happened there, so whether they were drinking or confessing, no one had gotten sleep and they were all really tired. He had this visit count was written a little bit later in the eleventh century, an and thereupon
of it that people pretty much agree you're, probably right, but then when it gets to and in the English or up all night, drinking kind of, like the hessian
saying running early were all drunk clearly because they lost, they must have all been
inebriated, and that's really not could not so obvious-
earlier the battle began with the English behind this shield wall.
And then the Normans were arranged into lines with their crossbowmen at the front and then their soldiers on foot and then their nights on horses, and it was theme
of course, as though the English were at a vast disadvantage, since they had
the cavalry nor very many archers, but they did have
hi ground and they have a shield wall, an battleaxes which are in fact horrifying though it may be to think about very effective weapons when it comes to battling man on horseback. Yes, if you do not hit the rider with your acts, you will hit the horse and it will go down. Yes makes me sad face. I knew when I was typing this, that Hollywood went to be very
bad about the horrible predictable with the animals, so William moved his men and kind of waves they would fire evolve.
Of arose and then alternate charges with the fit show the foot, soldiers and the Knights, and there were a lot of casualties on both sides, but the english shield, while here
For a really long time. This battle went on basically all day the tide of
idle turned when the Normans either retreated or feigned a retreat. Some account say this was a deliberate strategy.
John Williams Power and others suggested. The Normans actually lost their nerve when a rumour spread that William had been killed. So we don't know why they turned near it. It's pretty much that the english writers say that that the Normans all kind of freaked out when their leader apparently fell but had not really fallen, and the Normans, on the other hand, say that it was a skilled,
idle maneuver. On Williams part. I meant to do that here either way when the Norman started to flee the English broke their ranks and when after them and then the Normans turned on them and cut them down, and it's all
unclear whether the sequence of events actually happened once or twice so, maybe one time it was out of fear one time, others on purpose, we don't know, but regardless the shield wall started to fail and the Normans really started to gain ground. Yet I described this whole battle to do the boyfriend and he was like this,
For that, more than once, when I said what will we don't know your sartorially, possibly
We do know, is that later, in the afternoon, Harold was killed. The by you tapestry, depicts them as being shot with an arrow through
I am extremely memorable sequence, but that's actually o o later account like that's, not something that seems to have persisted on a day. Wrote that
be sort of a romanticized horrifying edition of a later historian are rider and not something that actually happened on that date. But when he fell, that's definitely when english soldiers really started to to scatter and ass, the Sun STAR,
said. The battle was pretty much over with the Normans hoping to clean up the stragglers yeah, the Normans went out
the stragglers and they slaughtered a lot of them. But men
the Normans were also killed after the battle itself was over after pie.
On to one another against a rampart. There was hidden in tall grass, and so this thing ended with just scores of body. Big body count for this particular battle,
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So after the battle Harold had died, William had won but coming to the throne was quite as simple as all that it will
wasn't so much that William kill Harold in the battle and than William. Consequently, got to be king, there was still actually one other heir to the throne alive at this point, that was EDGAR Atheling, who was son of Edward the exile, who was son of Edmund Ironside, who himself had been king for several months, so
Girl was only about thirteen years old, but he did have a much clearer line of succession straight to the throne than either Harold or William Dead, and while he was not a full of supporters, Ali were England. He did have the backing of the Archbishop Anna Set of citizens of London and there's really all kinds of disagreement about what
and took place next? How much continued decline? Those making his way a London and how much the death toll know that it was have a lot of question marks around the. We know that it was a really bloody campaign to and in the end EDGAR's Christmas
did back down William moved on to London and was crowned king on Christmas day. Ten sixty six, he built by
will Abbe on the site of the battle and approximately is, as we think today. The town of battle grew up around
found it and the altar in the abbey is said to stand on the spot where Harold had stood at the centre of the shield Wall
the aftermath of the Norman invasion really could be its own whole. Other podcast topic. The next several years were
a grisly as the English rebelled against their New Norman King and William deftly put down their rebellions case in point. The hearing of the North
in which William did a whole lot of conquering and pillaging and Northumbria, and as many as one hundred thousand people starved to death, which is just a huge blow. Huge death toll mammoth, whereas there is a lot of killing and and and pillaging for many years
and even though this would definitely a bloody and oppressive conquest. There are some modern beliefs about the Norman invasion that don't quite hold up for,
sample. The Normans did not and introduce the idea of a class system to England, an Anglo Saxon England about ten percent of the people were actually slaves and most of the free people were passed
There was a very, very small, very well, the aristocracy at an even smaller ruling class that held actual power, so Anglo Saxon England Lake was not some
kind of utopia where everyone with equal yeah, it's also not do that
and were better off before the Norman invasion. That comes up pretty often to the idea that that women were equal,
the man before the Normans and the Normans started subjugate them. So, while it's totally true that
I didn't have many rights and privileges after the battle of Hastings. They really didn't before either this
I have one really huge impact that is recognised and I think most people know about which is that it radically change the english language through the influence of Norman speaking rulers. Symbolic
half century people were speaking what we know today as Middle English, which is the language of the Canterbury tales ass though it definitely had a huge impact on culture being limbs under the direction of history overture, it's sort of considered a a watershed moment in english history, especially, but if you hear people say that the Normans were universally a terrible influence on England that doesn't quite William, who has quite a grizzly and bloody ruler. Yes, barely lots of bat, an unfortunate things going on already yeah yeah
So today you can still visit the battle site in Sussex. Although there's been some debate really recently about whether our modern idea of where the battlefield was is exactly the right one and in twenty thirteen, which is just as research restarting on this episode, the UK telephone
show time team claim that the site of the battle was really about two hundred metres away on. What's now around about and they used light,
technology to map the area near what's believed to be the actual battlefield. So whether this is actually true is either up in the air or
only dismissed depending on who you doctor you. There have been several
other alleged quote real sites of the battle over the years, though it's one of those things where it was, it was a pretty big space. People would have been fighting in people keep sort of China
point an exact spot. It kind of regulating what is the centre of an amoeba
yeah, I know it's, it's not quite that simple, yeah English.
heritage- is also known as the historic buildings and Monuments Commission for England disputed this whole time team, finding musically saying what we decide that the battle took place over a wide swath of the area. So really, what was the point in trying to save this spot is where it happened. There also three completely different sites that have been bandied about as the eggs.
Spot in quotation marks another. There is also a cool thing online that you found that I know you're yearning to talk about data is a battle of Hastings game can play at the BBC. We will link to it in our show. Notes you can play as William or you can play is Harold and you can see what the what the results are. If you make different decisions as a as a leader in the battle at first, I thought it was somehow Ray
because I kept trying to play as as william- and this was before. I have researched exactly how the battle and folded and I failed a whole lot of times. Ah then, I played again after I had read it and with her. Yes, I see I see how this works now,
thank you so much for joining us on this Saturday. If you have heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar over the course of today's episode, since it is from the archive that might be out of date, now you can email us at history, podcast at how stuff works, dot com, and you can find us all over social media at missed in history, and you can subscribe to our shadow on apple pie,
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Stop payments than history glasses of production. Am I not radios how stuff works for more paths? For my how radio visit thy heart, radio, Appleton guests or wherever you listen to your favorite, shows everybody. So this episode of swift, blue
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