King Edward I of England began the chain of events which led to the Norman invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings while on his deathbed. He called to his side the Earl Harold Godwinson. Harold was ordered to go to Normandy and receive a pledge from William, Duke of Normandy, to take the throne after Edward died. Crossing the English Channel, Harold's ship was blown off course and landed at St. Valery. Harold fell into the hands of a Count Guy, was taken prisoner and held for ransom. William ordered his release, since Count Guy was a vassal of William. Harold, grateful to William, swore on holy relics to help secure William's place to the throne. Harold then sailed home with the mission of receiving William's pledge complete.
When King Edward died, Harold was offered the kingship and accepted, breaking his oath to William. William was outraged when he received word that Harold had taken the crown and broken his oath. William decided to invade England with approval from the Vatican. The Vatican sided with William partly because Harold's oath was sworn on Holy Relics. For a month William collected supplies, ships and men to invade Britain. He could not launch due to a strong northerly wind. Finally, westerly winds allowed him to cross the English Channel.
Arriving in Britain, William unloaded 7,000 men off his ships. He ordered fortifications built at Hastings. William then started playing out the tactics of an invader, ordering homes burned. Harold set out with his men (also equaling 7,000) to intercept William's forces.
October 14, 1066
William the conqueror learns by messenger that Harold's forces are camped at Senlec hill, near Hastings. Immediately the Normans start marching for Senlec. The first view they have of the enemy is looking on from the top of Telham hill; sunlight glinting on thousands of spear tips behind a phalanx of wooden shields and between the two forces marshy land and rough terrain.William sends his troops into battle with these words, "Now is the time to show the strength and courage that is yours... there is no road for retreat". Sounds of trumpets echo from both forces, signaling the beginning of the battle.
The Norman bowmen advance into range (100 yards away from the Saxon line) and let fly a volley of arrows. Not a single arrow makes a dent in the Saxon line. William orders his knights to charge. Armed with lances the mailed horsemen cut down large numbers of Saxons. Many English retreat, most are cut down. the whole English force retreats up to the very top of Senlec hill fighting back to back. Rumours spread of William's death. He lifts his helmet periodically to show he is still alive. The Norman forces attack on one side of the English force then pretend to retreat. Some of the Saxons always leave the main group to follow after the Normans, only to be cut down.
This continues hour after hour, then the Normans rally their forces for one final attack. Harold receives an arrow through the eye (shown in the picture to the left) then was stomped on by Norman cavalry. The English army flees through the marshes and are cut down one by one. The Normans declare victory and march to London to declare William King. On Christmas Eve, King William is crowned in Westminster Abbey where every English monarch has been crowned since.