Not 30 miles from Brighton lies the small town of Battle. Before there was a town with a beautiful abbey, there was a field. On the field, 14th October 1066, British history changed forever.
On that date in 1066, the recently crowned King of England, Harold Godwinson, met William, duke of Normandy who had sailed from France to assert his right to the throne after the death of Edward the confessor.
We all know the outcome. William the conqueror defeated Harold Godwinson on this green sloped field and ended the rule of the Anglo Saxons, however on this bright sunny day it was hard to imagine such bloodshed taking place.
Despite the well relayed outcome, history doesn’t paint Williams victory as certain, or even probable. Harold has a strong army, a strong claim to the throne and had the advantage. He had recently fought of the Vikings in the north, and very quickly marched his troops south to meet the approaching army, but they were well armed and versed, with support arriving all the time. Their impenetrable wall of shields held strong against the soldiers who ran uphill to meet them, however mid afternoon a rumour flew up that William had been killed. Losing numbers and morale large parts of the approaching French soldiers began to retreat and the English pursued to finish them off. Isolated from the group, William was able to control the situation, appear to those who believed him dead, and encircle and defeat a large chunk of the English. Seeing how well this accidental tactic had worked, William prepared to try it again, and sure enough forced the English to separate. With the lines broken, the soldiers from Brittany infiltrated the lines and were able to kill Harold, cutting off his head.
At the top of the hill stands Battle Abbey, built in only 7years since Williams victory as a way to appease his sins for all those that died on the hill. It’s beautiful vaulted rooms housed many monks, willing to be rejected several times before acceptance into the abbey.