On the 28th of September, 1066, A Norman fleet landed in Pevensey, then marching on to Hastings, with the intention to capture England, and claim the throne for William. Although sources disagree, most believe that William had amassed an army around 8000 men strong, with the highest estimates being around 12,000. In OTL, the invasion was success, resulting in the conquest of England, and the complete change of England and the course of history as we know it.
But what if the invasion had failed?
Point of Divergence
- Main article - The Battle of Hastings
After hearing of the Norman invasion while in London, Harold decided to wait for the contingent of his army still in York after the defeat of the Norse invaders. While the northern army marched south to meet up with him, Harold also began a large recruitment effort, hoping to gain an advantage in numbers. Despite the delay, it was well worth it - after about two weeks, Harold's army outnumbered the Normans roughly two and a half to one. Only then, with a much larger army, did Harold march down to fight the Norman army in Hastings.
The Normans did not waste the time Harold spent preparing. They spent most of their time raiding the countryside, and erecting a small wooden castle near Hastings. William's forces ravaged any defense, and even fought a major battler. By the time Harold began marching south, any resistance from English lords - notably from Leofwine, the Earl of Kent - was crushed. This victory, combined with other smaller ones, put William in a strong position, with only Harold standing between him and the conquest of England.
Luckily for Harold, in addition to his larger army and superior knowledge of the terrain, he had one more advantage. This larger army had been severally under reported by Norman scouts. Thus, as Harold moved southward, William prepared for the battle as if the two sides would be equally matched - possibly a fatal assumption. Harold, for his part, did catch onto this, and continued to let the rumor grow. By the time the two sides confronted each other, it was a widely known “fact” that William outnumbered Harold significantly.
Finally, on October seventh, Harold’s scout reported that they would be able to face off against William the next day. In preparation, Harold moved just over half his army a mile behind his “main” contingent. Although it seemed questionable at the time, this move almost certainly decided the battle's outcome. After making camp for the night, Harold moved the smaller portion of his army - about equal in numbers to William’s full army, to a ridge atop a hill. There, he waited for William's inevitable onslaught.
After waiting only a half hour, William began said onslaught, and had his army charge toward the ridge Harold had placed his troops on. Already overconfident, William, along with 500 troops stayed back from the center of the fighting. As soon as the armies collided, it seemed the Normans had the upper hand. However, that assessment ignored the remainder of Harold’s army. After getting a later start, the second contingent of the English began to arrive on the scene after nearly twenty minute of conflict. Moments after their arrival, they began to flank the Normans, and William's line began to fall apart.
Within thirty minutes, the Normans had been defeated and driven off. The battle, however, came at a cost: King Harold was missing, and presumed to be dead. Later, this presumption would be proven false, but even then, It would be weeks before Harold regained control of his army - and in those weeks much had happened.
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