It was King Harold’s mistakes rather than Duke William’s skills that were responsible for the Norman victory at Hastings in October 1066.
Harold Godwinson made many serious mistakes which contributed to the success of William Normandy in 1066.
Harold’s mistakes included his failure to make quick decisions on the battle field; his demobilizing the troop’s just weeks before William arrived; and his decision to march his troops straight from Stamford Bridge to Hastings without resting them.
Harold had his entire army positioned along the south east coast, prepared for William’s attack, in the summer of 1066.
However when he heard that Harald Hadraada had invaded in the north, he marched 190 miles and fought the Battle of Stamford Bridge and Gate Fulford defeating Harald Hardrada.
He could only rest for a few days before he heard the arrival of William Normandy and tried to confront him.
Harold had to take a decision; he could either wait for a few days and get more reinforcement forces, or take the exhausted troops and march 190 miles back south to fight William Normandy.
Harold chose the latter. This left Harold seriously lacking in troops, taking around 2000 of his housecarls and approximately 3000 of the Fyrd and making up more of his army with untrained and poorly armed peasants. This was clearly a major mistake of Harold’s.
Another mistake Harold made was his decision to demobilize the bulk of army. The majority of his army was peasants, called to help defend the country.
Harold stayed on Southern coast for months waiting for William Normandy to arrive. All of a sudden, a week before William’s invasion, he took the decision to disband his army.
Another reason that contributed to the defeat of Harold was the bulk of Harold’s troops were foot soldiers, mainly peasants armed with whatever they can find where as the Norman army was almost entirely mounted, heavily armored cavalry on huge warhorse.
Discipline also played a role in the defeat of Harold. Harold’s inexperienced fyrd soldiers disobeyed his orders to remain in the shield wall.
At the start of the battle the English fiercely defended the shield wall and the Norman soldiers found it hard to break through. However when a group of the Norman forces retreated, a less disciplined faction of the Harold forces pursued them down the hill.
The Normans then realized that they were being pursued and with the help of the Norman cavalry enclosed the charging Saxon force, killing lots of Harold’s soldiers
Another factor that played a part in the defeat of King Harold was fortune. Harold had his entire army positioned along the south east coast, prepared for William’s attack in the summer of 1066. However when he heard that Harald Hadraada had invaded in the north, he marched 190 miles and fought the Battle of Stamford Bridge and Gate Fulford.
Upon his victory at the Battle of Hastings he received a word that the wind’s had changed and that William’s fleet was making its way across the channel. This was a huge blow to Harold, as it meant that he would have to march his already exhausted army another 190 miles back to south.
The exhaustion and lower numbers of Harold’s army was one of the key reasons as to why he was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, and it could therefore be argued that Harold’s misfortune and William’s fortune were the most important reason for the Duke’s victory.
So it is fair to say that it was it was King Harold’s mistakes rather than Duke William’s skills that were responsible for the Norman victory at Hastings in October 1066