WHY DID THE ENGLISH LOSE THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS?
There are many reasons that the English could have lost and here I will cover the
more general ones.
FIRST FACTOR: VIKINGS
– Harold having a brother – Tostig – was crucial to the future of the country by any reasonable argument. Tostig, in his own right was a nobody. He was quite simply a mistreated wretch who had he been born first and not second might well have been the Earl of Wessex and even the King. But this illustrious fate was taken by Harold..
illustrious that is, until a battle where arrows were flying everywhere.
Tostig understandably bore a grudge against Harold, and he translated emotion into action when he gathered a large army of brutes who could help him overthrow Harold and enable him to achieve power. Although it appeared to be a good thing at the time, Tostig would later regret his alliance with the Vikings and their king who himself claimed some stake in the English monarchy.
Tostig soon got Viking leader Hardrada’s support and there was a stern campaign set in motion. Now Harold was a very cross person when he heard of this treachery by his sibling. He had to emerge victorious, in a classic battle of brains (the English) versus brawn (the viking alliance). Should he somehow fail, then a Norwegian would quite probably be crowned king of England.
Harold’s tactic was to use the trick of ‘speed’ – and catch the Vikings off-guard. This had the secondary benefit of giving Harold some credibility and reputation in an era of history where being King meant all sorts of dangers and pitfalls.
Just when the English had defeated the most ferocious army in Europe. a couple of days afterwards, the Normans had managed to land and proceeded to embark on a military raid. This was motivated by hate and enmity as much as the strategic guile of Norman duke William.
SECOND FACTOR – Just because it worked the first time, doesn’t mean it will work a second time.
Probably the most important reason was the impulsive decision of Harold to rush into William’s waiting hands – to use a metaphor. By leading a charge, he missed out on a valuable opportunity to gather his army back into a larger unit and be a suitable counterpart to William’s forces.
*As the army rushed down, William knew with enough time what moves he could make to emerge victorious. He would be able to turn the tables on Harold, by doing to him what the king had ”’? days earlier done to the Vikings.
THIRD FACTOR – The French had overall better infantry, and also boasted cavalry. Furthermore they had greater strength in their numbers..
The Normans – although at the wrong end of a hill, had the advantage of horses instead of feet. So… if an Englishman tried to swing an axe, it was a 2 in 3 chance that he would be chopped down by a mounted Norman. Also many of the English had been rallied from common folk and were anything but battle hardened. >>> cf two towers movie (too many winters or too few).
FOURTH FACTOR The loss of a vital position because of deceit/confusion.
When the rumours of William’s ‘timely’ demise were spread around the battlegrounds, the Normans fled back and this made the numerous English forces run after them, feeling that final victory was guaranteed. Harold probably was more cautious – but then he had already lost his throne by becoming isolated from his forces and his bodyguards and personal fighters were not the solid protection that he thought… As we all know from opening history books and consulting the lineage that started in 1066.. william was alive and well at this point in the battle, and moments away from being the victor and able to claim the crown for himself. His horse, however, did get hit by an arrow. The Normans were then able to stop their retreat and to reverse and chop through the English. Finally at nightfall Harold who had bravely fought in two major battles was slain – but not by the famous arrow in eye .
There is maybe a bigger question that arises from this.. What would England be like if William had not invaded? We can speculate that all sorts of cultural interchange between Normandy and Britain would have been quite a bit reduced… but then there may have been another attempt at conquest by the French later down the line.
A definite answer is impossible for one simple reason – ten centuries is an enormous span of time with endless variations at work.