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8-08-2015, 16:38

Medieval Warfare Transformed

On Saturday, October 14, 1066, the rays of the early morning sun revealed a dramatic scene near England’s southern coast. Approximately eight thousand Englishmen, called Saxons, had gathered in an open i eld about 7 miles (11 km) northwest of the coastal town of Hastings. h e mood among these men was solemn, and many of them wore grim looks. All were carrying weapons, and those who could af ord it were decked out in chain mail and other kinds of armor. h ese warriors had carefully lined up across the i eld, standing in ranks, one behind another, in preparation for a bloody battle. Each was well aware that he might be among those unfortunate individuals who would be lying dead a few hours later, and fear was in the air. Hoping for reassurance, some of the soldiers looked toward their leader. A tall, handsome man in his mid-forties—and known for his formidable i ghting skills— stood, his expression determined, beside the national banners atop a low hill in the center of the i eld. He was King Harold II. Less than nine months before, he had ascended the throne upon the death of the former Saxon ruler, Edward the Confessor. Gazing out across the meadows, Harold could see the crowded ranks of the opposing army arrayed directly in front of his own forces. A large proportion of the enemy i ghters were cavalry (mounted warriors). It was clear that they would soon push forward and attack the lines of his infantry (foot soldiers), who he hoped would be able to hold their ground and keep the invaders from winning the day. Harold and his troops viewed their opponents as invaders for good reason. h ese adversaries had recently crossed the English Channel with the intention of conquering Saxon England. h eir leader, William, Duke of Normandy (in northwest France), believed that he, not Harold, was the rightful heir to Edward’s throne, and he had come to claim it. After gathering a Norman army at least as large as Harold’s, William had loaded his forces onto small ships, crossed the channel, and landed at Pevensey, on the English coast several miles southwest of Hastings. His spies had told him that Harold’s army was approaching the area, so the duke had hastily marched his own forces northeastward. He had no way of knowing that the ensuing encounter would turn out to be one of the largest and most fateful battles of Europe’s medieval era.