How Did William the Conqueror Win the Battle of Hastings?

William the Conqueror of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by having superior numbers of trained cavalry and archers and by staging fake retreats to draw out enemy forces before turning on them. The decisive moment was when King Harold II was killed and the English army was left without a leader.

William the Conqueror arrived in England in late September with an army of 4,000 to 10,000 men, and the recently crowned Harold II moved southward with about 7,000 men to meet him. William had a well-balanced army of archers, infantry and cavalry, whereas Harold’s army was composed of mainly poorly trained, ill-equipped infantry. The English army assembled on a hilltop that was vulnerable to archers but well-protected from infantry and cavalry. To lure the English from their defensible position, William pretended to flee several times, then confronted the enemy on more open ground.

The battle lasted for an entire day. The English, already tired from their long march, were gradually worn down. The more experienced Norman soldiers under William began to gain the upper hand. A tapestry of the event shows that Harold II was hit in the eye and killed by an arrow. Without direction, his battlefield forces fell into disarray and were easily vanquished.