Tag Archives: King Edward the Confessor

Pic of the Weekend: Hastings & Halley’s Comet

Ancient people from Roman through Medieval times believed that the appearance of a comet was a bad omen foretelling significant events, like the death of a king or Julius Caesar, the Black Death, or the invasion of England. In 1066 when King Edward the Confessor of England died and Harold Godwinson was crowned king, William of Normandy invaded England claiming the throne for himself. Halley’s Comet appeared for a week in April of 1066 – a few months after King Edward’s death and before the invasion.

The Bayeaux Tapestry is a 230 foot long embroidered strip of linen that illustrates the events of 1066 through the Battle of Hastings in which King Harold was killed and William of Normandy gained the crown of England for himself. The tapestry was produced in the 1070s probably in England for Bishop Odo, a soldier-priest/bishop and William’s half-brother.  The panel above represents the appearance of Halley’s Comet (center top). On the left side of the panel, note the reaction of the medieval people. A standard translation of the text above their heads would be “look in wonder/awe/ amazement at the star (stella).” A colloquial translation would be  “check it out” or “awesome.”

Tomorrow, another pic.  Rita Bay

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The Battle of Hastings

The battle of Hastings was fought on October 14, 1066. The battle ensured the Norman conquest of England. The battle actually occurred at Senlac Hill, near what is now Battle, East Sussex. Battle Abbey, which was founded by King William perhaps serves as a memorial to the fallen or as penance for the bloodshed, marks the site where it is believed that the battle was fought.

King Harold Godwinson had succeeded to the English throne with the death of King Edward the Confessor. Harold’s right to succeed to the throne was based on his assertion that King Edward the Confessor had passed the crown to him on his deathbed. The assembly of nobles, the Witenagemot, supported his claim.

Duke William of Normandy claimed that the crown was his. When Harold was crowned King, William took it as a declaration of war. He gathered his allies, knights, and troops with promises of land and titles. His forces crossed the English Channel and landed at Pevensey on September 28th. In the battle of Hastings the superiority of the combined arms attack over an army predominately composed of infantry was demonstrated.

The shield wall of the English infantry could not stand against the coordinated assault of William’s archers, cavalry and infantry. When the Norman army retreated Harold’s men led by his two brothers (Leofwyne and Gyrthe ) pursued them, they were attacked and destroyed. Harold was possibly shot in the eye with an arrow, then cut down with a sword. He was the last king of England to die on a battlefield until Richard III on Bosworth Field, possibly from an arrow in his eye The battle ended with a rout of the English army and the death of all the housecarls (professional soldiers) who were bound to Harold.


Tomorrow, Harold at Stamford Bridge    Rita Bay

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