Setting the Stage: Harold’s Army

Just three weeks before Hastings, King Harold Godwinson’s army had defeated the Viking invasion at Stamford in the north.  This defeat left literal boatloads of booty for the victorious Saxons.  The cache of weapons, supplies and armor left behind by the decimated Viking force would, by Saxon tradition, be equally divided up amongst the victors.

Hastings1It was very likely that by the time Harold’s forces were poised on the field at Hastings, many of them would have been carrying or wearing items of Viking manufacture to supplement their Saxon equipment. The bulk of Harold’s infantry, the Fyrd (militia), was typically lightly armored since hauberks and mail were expensive and typically worn by the entitled nobles.  It would not have been unusual, therefore, to see the pilfered Viking shields and armor among them especially.

At Hastings, Harold used no archers, and there is no evidence that the Saxons ever really fielded a calvary force.  Horses were used to get from one place to another, but then were typically removed from the field of battle which was then fought on foot.  William’s use of both calvary and archers wold show the short-sidedness of the Saxon’s tactics.

Despite relying primarily on infantry tactics and having just completed an impressive but exhausting march southward to meet William at Hastings, Harold’s forces were well-equipped and armored thanks to the Viking war spoils.  They were recent combat veterans, and they held a naturally defensible position at Hastings.  The outcome of the battle was on no account a foregone conclusion.  Harold’s army was ready.

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Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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