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In this essay, I will be reviewing my sources to conclude whether William of Normandy’s victory was informed by tactics, luck or Harold’s shortcomings.
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Prior to the Battle of Hastings, there were two battles: The Battle of Fulford Gate (20 September) where Harald and Tostig take on the Northern army of the Anglo-Saxons led by EarlMorcar and Earl Edwin (English resistance). Who surrendered only after thirty-minutes and proclaiming Harald as the victor of the first battle of 1066. The second significant battle is ‘the battle of Stamford Bridge’ of 25th September 1066. Where after a triumphant victory at FulfordGate (close to the center of York) Harald orders the people of York to hand over their valuables, food, and livestock on the 25 September 1066. One-third of Harald’s fighting men, including Harald, arrived at Stamford Bridge. There they were confronted by Harold Godwin (who arrived several days earlier than expected) giving the Vikings a chance, but denying the offer-the Housecarls and Fyrd defeated Harald (some 5000 men). Unfortunately for Harald, he had suffered a fatal arrow to the throat and Tostig was slaughtered. Defeat for Harold Godwinson-26th September., preparation for them began late Spring 1066, following the death of King Edward the Confessor (5 January 1066) the three contenders to the English throne were Harald Hadrada- his claim was based on the fact that his predecessor King Magnus of Normandy had been promised the throne of England by King Harthacanute. King Edward the Confessor had named Harold Godwinson, Subregulus, this was also reinforced by the Witan. William of Normandy- related to a number of old English Kings.
All three were known to have experienced warfare and were known for their battle worthy tactics. 1066 is a period also known for a number of notable battles.
On the 26 September, Harold and his two hundred Housecarls began their journey to London. William (the very next day) sailed to Pevensey –not Dover, where Harold thought that they would land. After a number of the decision, the attack from Harold Godwin, his Fyrd andHousecarls begun. Harold positioned the: Fyrd, Archers, and Housecarls uponSenlac hill – not taking any risks, with Williams men down below.
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The Battle of Hastings had started. During the battle, William and Harold demonstrated their skills and weaknesses.
William won the Battle ofHastings because of one of his main strengths. As many times demonstratedWilliam was a witty leader, constantly adapting his strategies. An example of this, seeing how the fyrd lacked discipline he quickly launched two track retreats- taking advantage of the poor organization. In doing so, he created openings in the wall of shields. Retreating tactically helped Williamsinfantry, cavalry, and archers take quick control of the battle. Therefore, an example of Williams ability to think on his feet and skill (also a short-term cause of William’s victory).
Another example of Williams strengths ensuring he would win the battle: as exhibited William was confident yet wasn’t blinded by it. An example of this, what if William had not have won? He prepared himself, not at the advantage of being on the hill William had these behind him- if all else failed he and his Infantry also Cavalry could have safely retreated into the sea. This verifies his ability to not be over-confident yet still win the battle.
Yet another of Williams strength allowing him to win the battle. Many times, proven, William was an experienced soldier, his philosophy was to play it safe but not cowardice. Along-term cause showing an example of this, knowing that Harold would have expected to see him at Dover, realizing this he landed at Pevensey. What if he didn’t do this? Harold may have won the Battle of Hastings. By landing in Pevensey, he had the upper-hand, Harold didn’t know where he was, using this to his advantage he created his own castle- forcing the people of nearby Hastings to provide his men with food and livestock. Meanwhile William’s Infantry, Cavalry andArchers attacked farms stealing livestock and burning down homes. In doing this no-one would think about trying to stop him. Therefore, displaying Williams strength to use his surroundings to his advantage.
William won the Battle ofHastings because of many of his strengths. As presented William never made the mistakes of many other great leaders made constantly ensuring his plan had no uncertainties. An example of this: William expertly placed a watchman who told him of Harold’s midnight arrival- not making the same mistake as Hadrada.Consequently, a short-term cause of Williams ability to devise a perfect plan.
One of the main explanations of why William won the Battle of Hastings was because of Harold’s many weaknesses. William was an adroit leader who used his opponent’s weaknesses against them. For example, he saw how Harold’s Fyrd lacked discipline, Harold hadn’t-strategically positioned his Housecarls to stop the incompetent Fyrd from falling into Williams canny plan. The inexperience of the Fyrd had ensured that William won the battle. Thus, an example of one of Harold’s many weaknesses in battle.
Another short-term cause for Harold losing the battle was because of Harold’s tendency to rush. For example, Harold didn’t wait for his Archers and Fyrd to regroup with him. If he did do this Harold may have been able to halt his Fyrd from foolishly running into Williams scheme- eventually, he may have even won the great battle of 1066. Consequently, displaying Harold’s partial inexperience.
A long-term cause for why Harold lost the battle of Hastings was bad luck. For example, fortunately for William, Harold had to battle William and Hadrada using his exhaustible Archers, Housecarls and many Ford. Thus, ensuring it was harder for Harold to win both battles. If it was the other way around (however) Harold may have won.
The main explanation of why William won the Battle of Hastings was because of luck. For example, If the weather wasn’t correct for Williams departure he may have made it to Pevensey if Harold had told his Navy to sink Williams ships the probability of Harold becoming king would be very high. Consequently, some may argue that William only won due to pure chance.
I have come to the decision thatWilliam’s adapted tactics won him the battle, my reasoning: as demonstrated when some of his men retreated he saw an opportunity and used it to his advantage firing two more trick retreats. I have considered all of the reasons and have come to conclude that the interpretation ‘William won the Battle ofHastings because of his own strengths’ is true, he demonstrated core skills fora good leader throughout the battle and although was disadvantaged at Senlac hill maintained his confidence and won the 3rd battle of 1066.
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