TOWER OF LONDON
NORMAN INVASION AND BATTLE OF HASTINGS
The Tower of London, which stands at the southeast corner of the old city of London and adjacent to the river Thames, began its long life as a temporary timber and earthwork construction.
At the death of the childless Edward the Confessor in 1066, his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson was immediately proclaimed ruler of England and on being crowned became King Harold.
The coronation however, was hotly disputed by William Duke of Normandy, who insisted that Edward the Confessor, who was a distant blood relative, had also promised the succession to him.
William invaded and rather fortunately for him, defeated the Anglo Saxons under King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.
Fortune did indeed favourý William, Duke of Normandy,for the Anglo Saxons under King Harold had just annihilated King Harald Hardrada’s Norwegian Viking army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, near York after making a forced march north.
When he heard that William had landed, King Harold made another forced march, this time southward to resist the invaders.
This would be the Anglo Saxons third major Battle in as many weeks, following their defeat at Gate Fulford and their victory at Stamford Bridge.
A remarkable feat of arms by any stretch of the imagination, it had nevertheless affected the Anglo Saxons battle readiness by weakening them.
William Duke of Normandy as Depicted in the Bayeaux Tapestry
- ABOVE: WILLIAM DUKE OF NORMANDY AS DEPICTED IN THE BAYEAUX TAPESTRY.
Even though weakened by these previous battles, the Anglo Saxons could have, and probably should have been the victors at the ensuing battle at Hastings.
William’s early tactics failed and with his army fearing he had been killed, the Norman’s began to flee, but instead of maintaining their positions and discipline, the Anglo Saxons chased after them.
William rallied his men by showing them he was alive. Turning, they used their archers and cavalry on King Harold’s forces, who were now without their defensive ring of steel and eventually defeated them.
William Duke of Normandy Invades England at the Battle of Hastings
- ABOVE: WILLIAM DUKE OF NORMANDY INVADES ENGLAND AT THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS.
Immediately after the Battle of Hastings, William of Normandy, now William the Conqueror, rested his army near Hastings for a few weeks, allowing them to consolidate, fully expecting the Anglo Saxon Nobility to submit and pay homage to their conqueror.
However, his hopes and expectations were in vain, submission was not forthcoming.
He knew he had to capture and subdue London, without which there could be no overall victory and so, with a now seriously depleted army, due both to the fighting and dysentery, which was playing havoc with himself and his men, he began to advance on the city.
Death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings 1
Death of King Harold at the Battle of Hasings No. 2
- ABOVE LEFT: TRADITIONALLY ACCEPTED DEPICTION OF THE DEATH OF KING HAROLD GODWINSON AT THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS, AS SHOWN ON THE BAYEAUX TAPESTRY.
- ABOVE RIGHT: IT IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED THAT BOTH FIGURES ON THE LEFT AND RIGHT ARE HAROLD WITH THE FIRST SHOWING THE ARROW THAT FELLED BUT DID NOT KILL HIM, AND HIS SUBSEQUENT DEATH AND HIS MUTILATION AT THE HANDS OF A NORMAN KNIGHT.
On reaching London Bridge, he met fierce resistance. His attempts thwarted, he headed westwards, crossing the river Thames at Wallingford and approached London by this circuitous route, laying waste to the land surrounding the city, as he made his advance.
Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, met with the Norman invaders and surrendered, this was seen as papal approval and was thus a major coup for William.
Seeing that all was now lost, the ruling men in the City, along with the northern earls and Edgar the Atheling, who had been elected king and probably crowned by Stigand, all came out to acknowledge and submit to their new king, William the Conqueror.
He was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066 at Westminster Abbey.
The first task of Wlliam the Conqueror, as he saw it, was to completely subjugate the huge, fierce population of London. He was utterly ruthless as he set about this task.
Withdrawing to Barking after his coronation, he had several strongholds built throughout the city as a safeguard against attacks from the citizenry.
One of these, archaeological evidence would suggest, was erected on the site of the Tower of London.
The earliest phase of the castle to be built was the White Tower in 1078, after which the Tower of London is named and would have visually dominated the surrounding area and would have stood out to traffic on the River Thames.