The events of October 1066 are among the most famous in British history. William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, one of the bloodiest in history, and the course of the country’s history was changed forever.
The victory ushered in a new Norman dynasty; French would merge with Anglo-Saxon, eventually giving birth of modern English; and, some genealogists believe as much as 25 per cent of the English population is descended from William the Conqueror.
This October marks the 950th anniversary of this cataclysmic event. Ahead of the celebrations we have unearthed seven facts you may not know about this famous event.
1 The Battle of Hastings didn’t take place in Hastings
It took place in a field seven miles from Hastings, which is now the appropriately named village of Battle.
2 The battle took place over one day
The battle was fought and won in a day, starting around 9am and ending at dusk, which would have been round 5pm, and took place on a Saturday.
3 The Normans won by pretending to be scared
The Normans used a well-known ancient tactic called “feigned flight” which involved them pretending to run away. It tricked the English troops into breaking formation, opening themselves up to attack.
4 A minstrel struck the first blow of the battle
William’s minstrel, Taillefer, allegedly sang the Chanson de Roland at the English troops while juggling with his sword. An English soldier ran out to challenge him and was killed by Taillefer, who then charged the English lines and was engulfed
5 Harold probably didn’t get an arrow in the eye
Although historical infamy and apparently the Bayeux Tapestry has it that Harold died after after an arrow shot to the eye, many historians believe he was in fact drubbed to death.
6 It’s not even a tapestry
The 230ft long Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of the battle is actually an embroidered cloth. Tapestries are woven not embroidered. It was commissioned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent who was the half-brother of William the Conqueror.
7 William’s penance
William the Conquerer founded Battle Abbey on the site of the battle as penance for the bloodshed at the battle. Noe maintained by English Heritage, to mark the 950th anniversary there is a new special exhibition, rooftop views, and a sculpture trail. The abbey will be the focus of 950th anniversary celebrations.