Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings was fought 949 years ago today and last year we went along to watch the re-enactment at Battle Abbey, near Hastings.

"The Battle of Hastings, fought on 14 October 1066, is one of the best-known events in England’s history, when William of Normandy defeated the army of King Harold of England. The battlefield owes its survival to the founding by William the Conqueror of Battle Abbey on the site as penance for the bloodshed."

The re-enactment is a two-day English Heritage event, perfect for families because it's accurate and interesting for the history buffs in your house but fun and engaging for little ones too. Archie had an absolute hoot as a Saxon for the day, joining in with a kids' battle complete with foam swords and battle cries. 

There's a Saxon camp on one side of the site and the Normans live on the other, all in tents and in full historical dress. You will find yourself watching a demonstration on Saxon bread making ten minutes before being laden with battle armour and a spear. It really was fun. 

A demo of the Saxon shield wall, which staved off the Normans so well the battle lasted all day, which was quite long by medieval standards.

Horses charging at the crowds, demonstrating their intimidating strength and power.

As we watched the Battle unfold, music boomed through loudspeakers around the field and an audio dramatisation narrated every tactical step, explaining the importance of each decision in relation to the defeat of the Saxons.

Men lay down to show they had been trampled or slain with a sword or hit by an arrow, and they remained dead on the ground til the very end. It was sad to see, especially when you consider this represented just a fraction of the real number of troops, and deaths.  Women rushed out to administer water to the men, then resumed their positions on the sidelines, watching intently with hope and fear.

Towards the end when the Saxons were facing certain defeat, Archie turned to me and said, 'don't we win, Mummy?' and it was at that moment it hit me that he didn't know this story. I realised that this is our history. It's not just a fairy tale or a myth, this battle changed our heritage and we are Normans now, too. This is a re-enactment of how we came to be, a reminder of what it is to be English - not Saxon or Norman.

We defend, we defeat, we are all of our fathers before us.

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