Hastings was a revelation! For ages I’ve been listening to the ‘The British History Podcast‘ and was waiting, as so many other, with bated breath to finally arrive at the battle of Hastings. There’s of course a lot more happening in Britain before this battle, but Hastings is kind of an event that everyone knows about. William the Conqueror was anything but a charming sovereign, though maybe this is the reason he is still a household name. In any case the battle was a game changer and the details of it were extremely interesting to listen to.
The Battle Abbey entrance looks even more imposing from the front.
We ended up in Hastings, because clearly the universe had other plans for us than going to see the cliffs of Dover from the sea. Hastings, this famous battle site of 1066, is nowadays an English Heritage site. There is a good exhibition right next to the entrance for everyone, giving a great overview of the players and their position in this fight. But for the ones in the know, the battle walk is the one thing that counts here.
On these grounds the battle for England supposedly happened in October 1066. The Anglo-Saxons with their King Harold stood on top of a small hill while William and his Normans held the lower ground. So while the defenders had the advantage, they still lost the battle. How come? According to the podcast the Anglo-Saxons pressed their uphill advantage and a small group, which included the brother of King Harold, followed the Normans when they started to run away.
But then the Normans rallied around their Duke (at that moment William was only the duke of Normandy) and encircled the group and killed them all. Since this maneuver worked so well, they used it a second time, now on purpose. During this melee King Harold was supposedly killed by an arrow, which hit him in the eye. Thus ended the short reign of the House of Godwin in England. Too much history for you? Sorry, but here we go with the pictures so that you can see the battleground with your own eyes.
The sheep are where the Normans must have been and on top of the hill the Anglo-Saxons stood. It makes sense that if you start to chase the running Normans that you want to keep going from this perspective.
We followed the path with the audio guide, finding statues of soldiers along the way.
William later erected an abbey in remembrance of all the dead at the battleground. Maybe to soothe his guilty conscience of getting an anointed king killed by his actions.
The abbey included of course lots of monks, who prayed endlessly for all the souls killed on that fateful day on 14th October. The altar of the church stood supposedly on the place where King Harold died.
There is nothing really left from the church, but a lot of the cloister.
The battle really comes alive if you listen to the audio guide while following the path through the woods. History suddenly makes a lot more sense and feels very close. There might not be a lot left standing, but there is enough to make your imagination go into overtime.