Episode 3 1066: A Year to Conquer England


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Episode 3

Drama documentary. Duke William leads his vast invasion fleet across the Channel to face King Harold. The two armies meet at battle in Sussex on 14 October 1066.


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Late afternoon,

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Wednesday the 27th of September.

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The year is 1066,

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and a vast Norman battle force is bent on the destruction

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of Anglo-Saxon England.

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But 1066 is about far more than just the Battle of Hastings.

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This is the story of three kings, three battles and three invasions,

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of 12 months that transformed Britain.

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As well as Harold of England...

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..and Duke William of Normandy...

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Do you recognise me?

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..there was also a Viking,

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King Harald Hardrada,

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all facing off in a series of bloodbaths...

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..that brought an end to the long terror of the Vikings...

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..before, finally, the epic Battle of Hastings itself.

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What 1066 led to is stamped on our landscape.

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The Normans forged a new Britain,

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with language, laws and customs we still live with today.

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But just how the Normans seized such power is much less clear.

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Now I am travelling Europe in search of answers,

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experimenting with weapons and tactics...

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I mean, that is completely terrifying -

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you could chop someone in half.

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..and discovering revelations hidden within a unique document

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written just months after those great battles...

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What it essentially says,

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is that William sent in a dedicated death squad.

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..to reveal a bitter tale of family betrayals...

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My brother, he is a lying dog.

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..and tragic twists of fate...

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Soon we will be filling England's graveyards.

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..which would change the shape of Britain...

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March to battle.

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..and Europe...

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..forever.

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Shall we do battle?!

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This is the real story of 1066.

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Early morning, and Harold of England is in York,

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200 miles north of London.

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Just three days have passed since the Anglo-Saxon king fought for

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his kingdom and his life.

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The battle for York at Stamford Bridge

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was a watershed in British history.

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Harold had killed his rival brother,

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the exiled Earl Tostig, ending a bitter family feud.

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And the Viking, King Harald Hardrada,

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had died a warrior's death in his bid for immortal glory.

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The English victory marked the beginning of the end

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of the great Viking age of conquest.

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Harold has destroyed two of his great foes in a single battle.

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But he has no idea that, 300 miles away,

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William and 700 Norman ships are now bearing down

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on England's southern shores.

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After months of planning and preparation,

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William was finally making his bid for the English crown.

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He believed it was his right, he believed that God was on his side,

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and he was certain that it was just a matter of time before

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Anglo-Saxon King Harold was toppled from his throne, dead or alive.

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William, by 1066, is at the height of his power.

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He is getting on for 40 years old,

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he has been very successful in defending and expanding

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his Duchy of Normandy,

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and now he has his eyes set on the prize that he was promised

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15 years earlier - the throne of England.

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My Lord.

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William has been trapped in port for two long months.

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Now finally at sea, it seems his troubles are far from over.

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Where are they?

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William's ship is adrift,

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alone in the Channel.

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William sent a man up the mast to try and spot the rest of the fleet,

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but it was nowhere to be seen.

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Trying to appear unconcerned, he sat down,

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ate a hearty breakfast accompanied by spiced wine.

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But he must've been feeling sick inside.

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He'd spent most of 1066 and vast amounts of money

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gathering this invasion fleet

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and now it seemed to have just disappeared.

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Having faced delays and vicious storms,

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William had taken a massive risk,

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sailing into changeable autumn winds and bad visibility.

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But as his fleet appeared in the distance,

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he knew that, at last, the great invasion was on.

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HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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With King Harold in the north and his navy stood down,

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William sails on unopposed.

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Already he is closer to London than the English King himself,

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without a single arrow being fired.

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I've invited two historians to get inside the heads

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of our remaining rival warriors.

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I've been wronged before God and now I will have my vengeance.

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Harold of England...

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..and William of Normandy.

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They'll explore the thinking behind their battle plans...

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Then I'm going to send in my fleets into the channel to block you,

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in case you try and get back to Normandy.

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..as the two warlords gear up for the final battle.

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So here I come crossing the Channel, heading for Pevensey in Sussex,

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and what adds to my sense of achievement is that Pevensey

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is in the earldom of Wessex, which is your heartland,

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so that is a delicious seasoning for my revenge.

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I feel excited and now I can see with my own eyes

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what my spies have been telling me -

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that the south coast is indeed undefended.

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And what that means is that I can land and build a base unopposed.

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Things could hardly be going better for me.

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Well, I was waiting on the Isle of Wight for you to attack for weeks.

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And you did nothing. So I assumed you had given up, at least for now.

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No.

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And also, summer is over - we all know it's incredibly difficult

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to cross the Channel in the autumn,

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so I reasonably assumed you would wait until the spring

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-before you tried anything else.

-You underestimated me.

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OK, well, things haven't panned out as I expected either.

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I am up in the north, I have been fighting off the Vikings and Tostig.

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All I want to do is get to London and get some rest.

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9am.

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By the grace of God, I've taken hold of my kingdom.

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England is in my hands.

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This was a classic moment of William the politician, where you

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take something that could be a terrible omen -

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you know, he falls headfirst, the failure of his mission.

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And instead it's turned into a sign of God's total support

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for his rule, his success, his kingdom.

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William began to dig in here at Pevensey, and quickly captured

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the neighbouring town of Hastings.

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Over the course of the next 24 hours, an estimated 14,000 men,

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3,000 horses and tonnes of supplies came ashore

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to establish a powerful base which would eventually become

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this Norman castle.

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Conquest couldn't have been easier.

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Where were the English soldiers to fight them off?

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Where were the tough Anglo-Saxon warriors

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to drive them back into the sea?

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Where was King Harold to repel Duke William?

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They were all hundreds of miles away.

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Harold doesn't even know that William has left France,

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let alone landed.

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But William also has to make guesses, because he doesn't know

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the fate of Harald Hardrada and his great Viking army.

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So what I do know is that you've headed north to confront Hardrada

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and you have taken your army with you.

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But who has won the great battle that I have to assume has been fought?

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And most saliently, from my point of view,

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who am I going to be facing in battle?

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Is it going to be Harald of Norway...

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..or is it going to be Harold of England?

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No-one knows exactly when the terrible news of William's arrival

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reached Harold, 300 miles away to the north.

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But we can work out what might have happened.

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Bad news travels fast.

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We know that messengers were able to ride around the clock,

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constantly using fresh horses.

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Now, a horse can gallop up to 30mph for short periods,

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so by constantly using fresh horses, it is possible that the word

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could have travelled from Pevensey down here to York

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in as little as a day.

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The news must have been a body blow to Harold.

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He had just fought one great battle to secure his kingdom,

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and now he realised that he faced another,

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possibly even bloodier fight.

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Six days after William's landing, and a still battle-weary Harold

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rides south for London.

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With William securing his base and taking land,

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the English King is in deep trouble.

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All his life, Harold had been in the right place at the right time.

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Born into the most powerful family in England, he had been at

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the previous King's deathbed.

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He had managed to win the support of the ruling nobles.

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And he'd moved fast to defeat his brother

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and the great Viking invasion.

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But now Harold was still more than 200 miles away from mounting

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a defence of his kingdom.

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And after York, his own force was badly depleted.

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Harold would have to do as best he could without many of his best men.

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As he marched south to London, he ordered that a new army be raised.

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He was determined to repeat his success at Stamford Bridge,

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to repel the invader and secure his crown.

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The obvious thing to do is to keep going south and to take you on

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in battle, but that is not my only option,

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because I can sit and wait it out in London.

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Your provisions are going to run out.

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Winter is on its way,

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it is only a matter of time before your supplies give up.

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Well, by now I have heard about your victory at Stamford Bridge

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and I think it is reasonable to assume

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that you have heard about my landing.

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I want to goad you into attacking me while you are still exhausted,

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and so to that end I am literally branding my authority

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on the countryside of Sussex.

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I am sending my troops out to put villages to the torch,

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to kill the locals, and I'm doing that because I am banking on the

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fact that that will infuriate you, and thinking that,

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I'm going to be honest here,

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makes me smile.

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-What do we do now?

-Fight.

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He's in our country, destroying our lands and our people -

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we have no choice.

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When Harold returns to London, there is a big debate about whether they

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should go immediately and confront the Normans or wait until the army

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has been properly assembled.

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His brother and his mother are both keen to wait and pause,

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but Harold is incredibly impatient.

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You might be the King, but I am your mother.

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This isn't about me.

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This is about England.

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-Look, let me go and fight William, you stay here.

-Never.

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But if you fight, you may die.

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I'll do my duty.

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Listen to me.

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If we fight William without you,

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you can raise reinforcements to back us up, and if we fail,

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you can defeat William while he is weak.

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OK, with clear eyes I can see that Gyrth's plan is sensible.

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He comes in and fights you first,

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then I come in with a second wave and finish you off.

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But...in the heat of the moment,

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I'm not going to listen to plans like that.

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And that's exactly what I want to happen.

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My tactics are working - by ravaging your heartlands,

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I've goaded you and I'm luring you into battle,

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with the result that you are behaving intemperately,

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you can't see straight for your anger.

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Look, it's my job to defend my kingdom.

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Just three days later,

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Harold leads his army south from London,

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towards Hastings and William.

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Look, I am going to come down there and I am going to defeat you.

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I'm going to keep marching south with my men to Hastings,

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then I'm going to send my fleets into the Channel to block you,

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in case you try and get back to Normandy.

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But my primary game plan is to do what worked so well for me

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at Stamford Bridge, which is to get to you fast

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and take you by surprise.

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Well, that may be your plan but you are forgetting one thing -

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I am sending my cavalry out on reconnaissance.

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They're tracking your every move.

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If you think you're going to take me by surprise,

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you've got another think coming.

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As Harold marched south,

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he was joined by fresh troops along the way.

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But he was also met by an envoy sent by William,

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in an effort to persuade him to back down.

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Well?

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My Lord would like to remind you that he is the rightful King of England.

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Both King Edward and yourself promised it to him.

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You know how I feel about that.

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The Duke has a solution -

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to put his case against you before judgment,

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by the law of the English, or of the Normans, as you prefer.

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Edward on his deathbed named me his successor.

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If they decree by right that you ought to possess this kingdom,

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let you possess it in peace.

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Fine. Then let the Duke take his army back to Normandy.

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But if they agree it should be surrendered to the Duke William,

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you must abandon it to him.

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I will not be judged for my kingdom.

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My Lord,

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if you reject this,

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the Duke does not consider it right that either his men or yours

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should fall in battle, for they have no guilt in your dispute.

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So what, then?

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The Duke offers to fight you, head-to-head in single combat,

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to prove the kingdom should be his rather than yours, by right.

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Then he takes me for a fool.

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May God this day judge the right between me and William.

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We march today.

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We march to battle!

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On the night of Friday the 13th of October,

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the two sides camped around eight miles apart.

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Apparently William feared a night attack, so he made his men stand-to

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through the night, ready for battle.

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A chronicler tells us that while the Normans spent the night in prayer,

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the English partied and drank.

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I suspect this is Norman propaganda.

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Some of those Englishmen would have fought at Stamford Bridge,

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and have marched down south with Harold.

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The others are there defending their own lands, defending their kingdom.

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I doubt they were drunkenly carousing,

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cos nobody really wants to fight with a hangover.

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Harold must face one more day of battle.

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He knows that victory would make him untouchable -

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a great warrior king to rival any who was gone before.

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Defeat would mean the fall of Anglo-Saxon England

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and almost certain death.

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LORD'S PRAYER IN OLD FRENCH

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William, meanwhile, is rested and prepared.

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Victory would make him one of Europe's richest

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and most powerful leaders.

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Transformed before God from a duke into a king.

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Both know that the future of England is about to be written -

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in blood.

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May this day,

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the most sacred powers invested in me by our father...

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..lead us to victory over wickedness,

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and bring everlasting peace to this land.

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I've been dreaming of this for months.

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I have been wronged before God and now I will have my vengeance.

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Today is my day.

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God wills it.

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Not if I can help it.

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I am already marching south towards you,

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and my soldiers are on their mettle.

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We can meet you anywhere and I am planning on being ready at the first

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chance to attack.

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Well, don't think that I'm sitting around praying all morning.

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I've got no intention of letting you come and attack me down in Hastings,

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so I will be marching northwards along the road that leads

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from Hastings to London and my plan is to stop you marching

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any further south into my territory.

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8am.

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Marching north,

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William spots Harold's army emerging from a forest on a distant hill.

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At last.

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After months of waiting, William can finally ready himself for battle.

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But his mail coat is back-to-front.

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LAUGHTER

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There have been a series of very unfortunate mishaps for William.

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He loses his fleet halfway across the Channel,

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he stumbles as soon as he sets foot on English soil,

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and he puts his mail coat on the wrong way around.

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Now, this would have terrified any normal man,

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but William just laughs it off - as far as he is concerned,

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he has every right to the English throne.

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Great men of Normandy,

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great men of Brittany,

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great men of Burgundy,

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Christians one and all,

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today we fight under God's banner.

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Victory will be ours once more.

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CHEERING

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Meanwhile, Harold sees the Norman army in the distance.

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What Harold did next is detailed in a unique document that takes us

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to the very heart of events that autumn day nearly 1,000 years ago.

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Hidden in the National Library in Brussels is an ancient book

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containing an epic poem.

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The Carmen, or Song Of The Battle Of Hastings,

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is our earliest surviving account of 1066.

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It gives us a blow-by-blow description

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of this pivotal moment in history.

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This is the Battle of Hastings laid bare,

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from the first move to the last death.

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It tells us a little about the way Harold deployed his forces.

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So you have a line here that says there was a hill nearby

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that they seized and the English...

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HE SPEAKS LATIN

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..as was their wont...

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HE SPEAKS LATIN

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So they advance to occupy the hill in their famous dense formation,

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the shield wall. So Harold, it's telling us,

0:25:060:25:09

begins the battle by seizing the high ground.

0:25:090:25:11

950 years on, and one of the most seismic moments in British history

0:25:180:25:23

has become the stuff of tourism.

0:25:230:25:25

This is the town of Battle, eight miles from Hastings.

0:25:290:25:33

And it stands right next to the historic site itself.

0:25:350:25:38

On the early morning of the 14th of October 1066,

0:25:410:25:45

the English and the Normans faced each other on this battlefield.

0:25:450:25:48

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said that the battle took place

0:25:480:25:52

near the hoary apple tree.

0:25:520:25:54

OK, so, we are halfway, a third of the way up this big, gentle,

0:26:000:26:05

but quite long slope. Is this no-man's land, then?

0:26:050:26:07

Effectively, at the beginning of the battle, I suppose we are.

0:26:070:26:10

So what you have to imagine is that behind me...

0:26:100:26:12

Forget about all the ruined buildings you can see behind me, that's the later Abbey...

0:26:120:26:15

Right at the top of the slope beyond what you can see

0:26:150:26:18

of the ruined buildings, is where Harold has placed his standard.

0:26:180:26:21

I'm feeling pretty good about where we are.

0:26:210:26:24

We've got the better position,

0:26:240:26:26

we're in a good tight formation,

0:26:260:26:29

all we need to do is hold this position for the rest of the day.

0:26:290:26:32

Behind you at the bottom of the valley is where you are

0:26:330:26:36

going to find Duke William's army, and they are at an immediate

0:26:360:26:39

disadvantage because if you imagine that the bottom of

0:26:390:26:42

the valley is rather marshy, very damp,

0:26:420:26:45

they would come through that damp land and then start climbing

0:26:450:26:48

the hill to take Harold's position.

0:26:480:26:50

It's true that we absolutely do have the worst position.

0:26:500:26:53

We're going to have to take the battle to you, we're going to have

0:26:530:26:56

to go uphill and that is always a challenging thing to do.

0:26:560:26:58

Knackering and quite intimidating. That's the English army up there,

0:26:580:27:01

and they are not going to be moved easily.

0:27:010:27:03

That's the English army up there shouting at you, shouting,

0:27:030:27:06

"Ut, ut, ut!"

0:27:060:27:07

You've got the Norman army apparently singing

0:27:070:27:09

The Song Of Roland as they approach, you've got the sound of trumpets

0:27:090:27:12

at the start of the battle, you've got the noise, the fanfare,

0:27:120:27:15

the adrenaline and the fear - as the Norman advance

0:27:150:27:19

comes on to the Saxon.

0:27:190:27:21

We do have certain advantages.

0:27:210:27:23

We, for instance, have three lines of battle here in the front.

0:27:230:27:27

We have our archers,

0:27:270:27:29

and then behind them we have a line of infantry and then behind them,

0:27:290:27:34

our strike force, our cavalry.

0:27:340:27:37

And looking around I can see that you have absolutely no cavalry

0:27:370:27:41

on the field at all,

0:27:410:27:43

and that leads me to conclude that you are going to be fighting

0:27:430:27:46

in the old-fashioned, plodding English way that you always do,

0:27:460:27:50

and that makes me feel good about our prospects.

0:27:500:27:54

Before the sun sets, you will have honour, fame and riches.

0:27:540:27:59

Do not fear.

0:28:010:28:02

We will not be slaughtered,

0:28:030:28:05

or captured and mocked by our enemy.

0:28:050:28:08

Now is the time to dare and then to rejoice in a triumph that will echo

0:28:080:28:14

down the centuries, with our names and our deeds.

0:28:140:28:18

CHEERING

0:28:180:28:20

The stage was set for a day that would shape the future of Britain

0:28:240:28:29

and Europe.

0:28:290:28:30

The unfolding dramas of 1066,

0:28:320:28:35

ever since the death of the old, childless King Edward the Confessor,

0:28:350:28:40

had come to this.

0:28:400:28:41

Two great armies...

0:28:420:28:44

..and a field.

0:28:450:28:46

9am -

0:28:500:28:52

battle begins.

0:28:520:28:54

My first order is to my archers.

0:28:570:29:00

Volley after volley is aimed up the hill at the English line.

0:29:050:29:10

A rain of arrows was a terrifying sight...

0:29:140:29:16

..and every sharpened point potentially devastating.

0:29:180:29:22

That's just gone clean through - it shows how much power there is in that bow.

0:29:320:29:35

There's a lot of velocity.

0:29:350:29:37

It was only really the rich who had all that mail and all that helmet,

0:29:370:29:40

so there's a lot of vulnerable people on the battlefield,

0:29:400:29:42

and if you're vulnerable, that's going to happen to you.

0:29:420:29:45

The advantage of this is you don't have to be up close and personal.

0:29:450:29:48

You can actually be, what? 100 metres, almost 200 metres

0:29:480:29:50

away from someone and still do them great damage?

0:29:500:29:52

Indeed. If you're selecting an individual, then you're probably

0:29:520:29:55

20, 50 metres away. If you're raining it down,

0:29:550:29:57

then you can be 200 metres back.

0:29:570:29:59

So, yeah, it is one thing worrying about the threat on the ground,

0:29:590:30:02

-the guys coming, but you've also got an aerial threat.

-Exactly.

0:30:020:30:05

Draw.

0:30:050:30:07

But my archers are just the first wave, a kind of softener.

0:30:160:30:19

Next, up the hill I send my infantry

0:30:190:30:21

and they too are a fearsome proposition,

0:30:210:30:24

armed as they are with daggers, with axes and with swords.

0:30:240:30:28

The great thing is that our shield wall means that you can't actually

0:30:450:30:50

do any major damage,

0:30:500:30:52

so we grab hold of everything we can lay our hands on -

0:30:520:30:55

spears, sticks, rocks, and we hurl them at your incoming infantry.

0:30:550:31:00

OK, but you are yet to face my most lethal weapon of all,

0:31:010:31:05

something that you English, wielding your axes,

0:31:050:31:08

rooted to the spot as you are,

0:31:080:31:10

will find a truly terrifying novelty -

0:31:100:31:13

my cavalry.

0:31:130:31:14

The Normans and the English do warfare in quite different ways,

0:31:250:31:28

and the main difference is that the Normans have cavalry,

0:31:280:31:33

whereas the English,

0:31:330:31:34

because they've been fighting the Vikings for a century or so,

0:31:340:31:37

do things in a more Scandinavian way.

0:31:370:31:39

They ride to battle but then they dismount, and fight on foot,

0:31:390:31:43

so the Norman elite does have this advantage.

0:31:430:31:47

But it wasn't a done deal for the Norman cavalry.

0:31:500:31:53

Facing them was a wall of linked shields.

0:31:560:31:58

This was a sturdy defence perfected against the Vikings.

0:32:000:32:04

And it was said to be virtually impenetrable.

0:32:070:32:10

So with the help of some local sixth formers from Battle,

0:32:150:32:18

I'm going to put it to the test.

0:32:180:32:20

The idea behind a shield wall is that individually we are weak,

0:32:210:32:26

together we are...

0:32:260:32:28

ALL: Strong!

0:32:280:32:29

You've got it. There you go.

0:32:290:32:30

Interlocking wall of shields, right.

0:32:300:32:33

All right, guys, I'm coming right in the middle here like King Harold.

0:32:330:32:35

Here we go. Brace yourselves.

0:32:350:32:38

One, two, three, go.

0:32:380:32:40

OK, hold them, hold them!

0:32:420:32:44

Well done, guys.

0:32:450:32:47

OK, so now we are in the formation that the Anglo-Saxons were in,

0:32:470:32:51

and as you can see, it does give you great strength.

0:32:510:32:53

You're working together, you can get your body weight and can withstand anything coming at you.

0:32:530:32:57

It feels impenetrable,

0:32:570:32:59

especially when the Normans have had to attack all the way up the hill

0:32:590:33:02

as well, they'd have been knackered.

0:33:020:33:04

The English were so tightly packed together that there was hardly

0:33:040:33:07

any room for the slain men to fall to the ground.

0:33:070:33:11

There we go. Push them back. One, two, three, go. OK.

0:33:110:33:15

William's invasion force,

0:33:220:33:24

used to the European style of agile fighting on horseback,

0:33:240:33:28

had never encountered a solid,

0:33:280:33:29

old-fashioned English shield wall before.

0:33:290:33:32

So all I need to do is to hold fast behind the shield wall.

0:33:370:33:43

Let you do all of the running.

0:33:430:33:45

You are advancing again and again uphill.

0:33:450:33:49

Now, I know that if I can hold this until nightfall, I've probably

0:33:490:33:53

got a pretty good chance of winning the battle.

0:33:530:33:56

You'll be exhausted, then I can call for reinforcements

0:33:560:33:59

-from across England.

-OK, so the battle has been going on now for a couple of hours

0:33:590:34:03

and I will confess, I am starting to feel just a little bit worried.

0:34:030:34:07

I am painfully aware that I have to break your shield wall,

0:34:070:34:11

and force victory by nightfall,

0:34:110:34:13

and so it is that I send in wave after wave of attack -

0:34:130:34:16

my archers, my infantry, my cavalry,

0:34:160:34:19

in a desperate attempt to defeat you.

0:34:190:34:22

Noon, and the battle is locked in stalemate.

0:34:290:34:32

After three hours of repeated attacks,

0:34:340:34:37

William is failing to break through.

0:34:370:34:39

Then, without warning, an entire flank of William's army

0:34:430:34:47

turns and runs away from the English line.

0:34:470:34:50

This unexpected turn of events has long been the subject of debate.

0:34:530:34:58

Just what was going on?

0:34:580:34:59

Could William's well-trained soldiers really

0:35:010:35:03

have simply turned and fled?

0:35:030:35:05

The ancient sources disagree.

0:35:080:35:10

Some say that William's men were fleeing,

0:35:110:35:14

defeated by the English shield wall.

0:35:140:35:16

But the very earliest account of the battle contains a revelation.

0:35:180:35:21

The Carmen talks about this episode

0:35:220:35:26

and it says...

0:35:260:35:27

HE SPEAKS LATIN

0:35:270:35:29

"And, as if beaten, they cunningly simulated flight."

0:35:330:35:38

So in other words, it's a ruse, it's a feigned retreat.

0:35:380:35:42

Yes, of course it's a tactical move.

0:35:420:35:44

We Normans do it all the time - it is a tried and tested manoeuvre.

0:35:440:35:48

You see, the thing is, if you can convince an enemy that they have

0:35:480:35:52

victory within their grasp,

0:35:520:35:54

then you can persuade them to leave the security of their

0:35:540:35:57

shield wall and your men certainly have been suckered.

0:35:570:36:00

Look at that - my trap is working beautifully.

0:36:000:36:03

Smelling victory, the English charge in pursuit.

0:36:050:36:08

Meanwhile, in the Norman camp, a terrible rumour begins to spread.

0:36:120:36:17

That William himself is dead.

0:36:180:36:21

In medieval battles, the death of a commander usually meant the end,

0:36:230:36:26

certain defeat.

0:36:260:36:27

William's line began to waver.

0:36:270:36:30

But William was not dead -

0:36:300:36:31

he removed his helmet, showing his face to his men.

0:36:310:36:34

Look at me!

0:36:340:36:35

Do you recognise me?

0:36:370:36:39

I am alive! With God's help, I will conquer!

0:36:420:36:46

I've seen a lot of fighting and I know that at moments like this

0:36:490:36:52

you have to show your face and rally your men.

0:36:520:36:56

And it works.

0:36:560:36:57

They turn round and hack the pursuing English to death.

0:36:570:37:02

Again and again they attack the shield wall.

0:37:020:37:05

And twice we try the feinted retreat, and twice your men

0:37:050:37:11

come pouring down the hill.

0:37:110:37:14

Now, I sense a real shift in the fortunes of battle here

0:37:140:37:18

and an opportunity.

0:37:180:37:20

Because your previously solid shield wall is now perforated

0:37:200:37:26

with gaping holes.

0:37:260:37:28

Harold's impregnable defence has splintered.

0:37:350:37:39

The Norman retreats have opened up the battle into fluid and brutal

0:37:410:37:46

close-up fighting.

0:37:460:37:47

OK, we are rapidly losing our advantage and being forced to fight

0:37:510:37:57

on open ground. We're going to have to step up and fight hard,

0:37:570:38:02

hand-to-hand, face-to-face.

0:38:020:38:04

Everything seems to have turned around in a matter of minutes.

0:38:040:38:09

I was completely in control of the situation and now I'm not.

0:38:090:38:13

Now William's cavalry has the freedom to wreak terror.

0:38:260:38:30

While on the ground,

0:38:330:38:34

vicious weapons are inflicting terrible carnage on both sides.

0:38:340:38:40

It's basically a dagger, stabbing weapon.

0:38:400:38:42

Of course, a dagger stabbing weapon

0:38:420:38:43

is repeated again and again and again -

0:38:430:38:46

come in nice and close, choose your target...

0:38:460:38:48

Oh! That just went through like a knife through butter.

0:38:500:38:54

-God!

-There was no effort there at all, was there?

-No. What's next?

0:38:540:38:57

I think we'll go with the classic, the Norman sword.

0:38:570:39:00

OK, here we go.

0:39:000:39:02

Whoa!

0:39:060:39:07

I mean, that is completely terrifying.

0:39:070:39:09

You could chop someone in half.

0:39:090:39:11

You don't need words when you see that.

0:39:110:39:13

Unprotected flesh, and that's what it is going to do.

0:39:130:39:16

It's terrifying.

0:39:160:39:18

And that's not the most devastating weapon in the arsenal.

0:39:180:39:21

Here we go - the axe, Dane-axe, battle-axe.

0:39:210:39:24

That is a terrifying weapon.

0:39:330:39:35

It's thuggery, isn't it?

0:39:350:39:36

I mean, it's just brutality at its very worst.

0:39:360:39:38

Early afternoon.

0:39:480:39:49

Battle has now been raging for a gruelling five hours.

0:39:510:39:55

Conscripts, mercenaries...

0:40:000:40:03

..and nobles...

0:40:040:40:05

..on both sides fall...

0:40:070:40:08

..including the very highest of Harold's Anglo-Saxon royal family.

0:40:110:40:16

Harold's brother Gyrth was cut down.

0:40:270:40:29

The Carmen says it was by William himself.

0:40:290:40:32

Harold's great ally and adviser, Gyrth,

0:40:350:40:39

the brother who has stood by his side since before his coronation,

0:40:390:40:44

right through the battles of Stamford Bridge and now Hastings...

0:40:440:40:49

..is dead.

0:40:510:40:52

The afternoon wears on...

0:41:100:41:12

..and William's cavalry continues to charge.

0:41:140:41:17

But his archers are also still at work.

0:41:220:41:26

The very soldiers who began the battle...

0:41:260:41:28

..are about to end it,

0:41:290:41:32

bringing England to its knees.

0:41:320:41:35

Harold has been King of England since the 6th of January.

0:41:530:41:57

He has fought off a fearsome Viking invasion...

0:42:010:42:04

..but he has given his all to defend his kingdom.

0:42:060:42:09

Now, after just 281 days,

0:42:140:42:19

England is once more without a king.

0:42:190:42:23

The death of King Harold in 1066 is one of the most famous moments

0:42:330:42:39

in all of British history.

0:42:390:42:40

It lies at the heart of our nation's story,

0:42:420:42:46

and is immortalised in the Bayeux Tapestry.

0:42:460:42:49

But there's more to this great legend than it seems.

0:42:510:42:54

The Chronicles aren't very clear about exactly how Harold died.

0:43:000:43:04

It is a good 35 years after the conquest when we're told then

0:43:040:43:08

that Harold was pierced by a lethal arrow,

0:43:080:43:11

and then it is another 30 years when we get a bit more detail,

0:43:110:43:14

so William of Malmesbury, in his chronicle, tells us that it was a...

0:43:140:43:18

SHE SPEAKS LATIN

0:43:180:43:20

It was an arrow which pierced his brain.

0:43:200:43:23

And then ten years after that, another historian finally tells us

0:43:240:43:28

that in fact Harold was killed by an arrow in his eye.

0:43:280:43:31

And so it has taken a good 60 years for this apparently vital piece of

0:43:330:43:37

information about Harold's death to finally be stated outright.

0:43:370:43:41

Our very earliest source, the Carmen,

0:43:450:43:48

written just months after the Battle of Hastings,

0:43:480:43:51

tells a very different story.

0:43:510:43:53

Another revelation that doesn't even involve an arrow at all.

0:43:560:44:00

Instead, it describes a much, much nastier death for Harold.

0:44:020:44:07

What it essentially says is that William sent in

0:44:090:44:13

a dedicated death squad, deliberately to take Harold out.

0:44:130:44:17

Now, it is unclear from the Latin whether William is personally

0:44:170:44:21

part of that death squad but it does describe in detail the way Harold

0:44:210:44:25

is supposed to have died. We're told that in the first place

0:44:250:44:28

he is pierced in the chest.

0:44:280:44:30

Secondly, his head is sliced from his shoulders.

0:44:330:44:36

Thirdly, he is disembowelled.

0:44:370:44:39

And fourthly and finally, it says...

0:44:410:44:45

HE SPEAKS LATIN

0:44:450:44:47

His "thigh" is removed.

0:44:480:44:51

And almost certainly, that is a euphemism

0:44:510:44:54

for his genitals being cut off.

0:44:540:44:56

Now, this, even by medieval standards,

0:44:560:45:00

is shockingly brutal behaviour to inflict on an anointed king.

0:45:000:45:04

So, 950 years on, our popular image of the death of Harold

0:45:070:45:13

could be wrong.

0:45:130:45:15

Instead of a single arrow,

0:45:210:45:23

a death squad sent to assassinate and then mutilate the English King.

0:45:230:45:28

We'll never be absolutely certain how Harold died, but we can be

0:45:360:45:40

fairly sure that his death marked a turning point.

0:45:400:45:43

With Harold's death, the English army collapsed.

0:45:440:45:48

An ordered defence had become a bloodbath...

0:45:480:45:51

..and then a rout.

0:45:540:45:55

The English tried to flee

0:45:580:46:00

but the Normans hacked them down...

0:46:000:46:02

..victorious.

0:46:050:46:06

Amid the carnage of a spent battle, William sets up camp.

0:46:280:46:33

He has meat cooked for him...

0:46:360:46:38

..and eats amongst the dead and the dying.

0:46:390:46:42

There are several stories about what happened to Harold's corpse.

0:46:490:46:53

One is that it was picked out on the battlefield by his mistress,

0:46:530:46:56

Edith Swanneck.

0:46:560:46:58

She was able to tell it apart, because of certain marks

0:46:580:47:01

known only to herself.

0:47:010:47:03

Another is that Harold's mother Githa offered Duke William

0:47:030:47:07

the body's weight in gold for its return.

0:47:070:47:09

But William refused.

0:47:120:47:13

Some sources say that Harold was buried close

0:47:150:47:18

to the battlefield itself, on a clifftop looking out to sea.

0:47:180:47:22

We also have later records from Waltham Abbey, which claim that

0:47:220:47:25

that is where he was buried -

0:47:250:47:26

the monastery which he had built and endowed and enriched.

0:47:260:47:30

And that's possible but dubious,

0:47:300:47:32

partly because the last thing the Normans would have wanted

0:47:320:47:35

would be to create the focal point for a cult of Harold.

0:47:350:47:38

But it wasn't just Harold that died on this battlefield -

0:47:420:47:46

the elite of England was annihilated.

0:47:460:47:49

The Battle of Hastings marked the death of Anglo-Saxon England.

0:47:490:47:53

Throughout the course of 1066,

0:47:580:48:01

three great warlords had fought for the prized crown of England.

0:48:010:48:05

Harold Godwinson,

0:48:070:48:10

the Viking Harald Hardrada,

0:48:100:48:13

and William.

0:48:130:48:15

Now only the Norman duke is left alive.

0:48:170:48:20

Victory is at last his.

0:48:210:48:24

But still, he is not yet a king.

0:48:250:48:28

News of William's victory reaches Westminster in hours.

0:48:390:48:44

The surviving English nobles must decide

0:48:450:48:49

to submit to the Normans...

0:48:490:48:52

or fight on.

0:48:520:48:54

What do we do now?

0:48:540:48:55

Well, we have a ready-made king.

0:48:560:49:00

But you can't expect Edgar to defeat William in battle?

0:49:000:49:03

But he is the heir. We must put right before might.

0:49:030:49:06

But you'd be throwing him to the wolves.

0:49:060:49:08

What choice do we have?

0:49:080:49:10

Drink this, sir.

0:49:120:49:14

Just 10 months earlier, Harold had sidelined the teenage prince,

0:49:150:49:19

Edward the Confessor's closest blood relative.

0:49:190:49:22

Ever since, Edgar the Atheling had lived at court,

0:49:260:49:29

untroubled and uninvolved in the dangerous politics surrounding him.

0:49:290:49:34

Now Edgar is the last, desperate hope.

0:49:360:49:39

The remaining Anglo-Saxon nobles elect him to be their new King.

0:49:410:49:45

Meanwhile, William waits in Hastings,

0:49:490:49:52

expecting to be offered the crown.

0:49:520:49:54

But two weeks pass...

0:49:560:49:57

..and still no word comes from London.

0:49:590:50:02

In our war room, only one historian is still standing.

0:50:060:50:10

Clearly then, I am left with very little choice but to force them

0:50:110:50:15

to submit to me.

0:50:150:50:17

I'm going to have to do what I do best, so I take my army

0:50:170:50:22

and I head east towards Dover.

0:50:220:50:25

I attack it and then I move on Canterbury.

0:50:250:50:29

Both of them quickly and, I must say, sensibly, submit.

0:50:290:50:33

Then it's on westwards towards London.

0:50:330:50:37

At Southwark, the Londoners refused to allow me across the Thames.

0:50:370:50:41

They block my access.

0:50:410:50:42

It's frustrating and it is pointless because they have

0:50:420:50:45

no prospect now of holding me off in the long run.

0:50:450:50:49

I continue westwards until I reach a bridging point at Wallingford.

0:50:490:50:54

Once I'm over the Thames, I head back east towards London.

0:50:540:50:59

William and his army marched on.

0:51:040:51:05

The nobles supporting Edgar quickly realised that any resistance

0:51:080:51:12

was impossible.

0:51:120:51:13

The end came here in Berkhamsted...

0:51:200:51:22

..a market town in Hertfordshire,

0:51:240:51:26

25 miles to the north-west of London.

0:51:260:51:29

William marched his army along this road.

0:51:330:51:35

Nowadays, it is Berkhamsted High Street, but back then

0:51:350:51:38

it was the Roman road leading directly to the heart of London.

0:51:380:51:41

William was getting closer and closer.

0:51:410:51:44

It seemed like nothing could stop him now.

0:51:440:51:47

William set up camp on this spot.

0:51:530:51:55

And it was here in early December that the English leaders

0:51:580:52:01

finally rode out from London...

0:52:010:52:03

..to submit to him.

0:52:040:52:06

Among the delegation that came here to Berkhamsted,

0:52:070:52:10

there were senior clergy, nobles, even Edgar the Atheling,

0:52:100:52:14

whose brief hopes of being king were now snuffed out.

0:52:140:52:19

These surrendering Englishmen meekly requested of the Conqueror,

0:52:190:52:24

would he be their new king?

0:52:240:52:25

William road unopposed into London,

0:52:300:52:33

and began to fully enforce Norman rule on England.

0:52:330:52:36

Christmas Day, 1066.

0:52:570:53:00

The illegitimate Duke William is anointed King William I.

0:53:050:53:11

William the Conqueror.

0:53:140:53:16

When the assembled crowd of English and Normans were asked

0:53:240:53:27

whether it was their will that William be king,

0:53:270:53:29

they cheered so loudly that the Norman guards positioned

0:53:290:53:33

outside the abbey panicked and thought there was a riot.

0:53:330:53:36

So they set fire to the surrounding houses.

0:53:360:53:39

William's coronation is hurriedly concluded.

0:53:470:53:50

But just as with all the mishaps that have beset him on his journey

0:53:520:53:56

to the English throne...

0:53:560:53:58

..William remains triumphant.

0:53:590:54:02

William sat alone on his newly acquired throne,

0:54:040:54:08

as Westminster burned around him.

0:54:080:54:10

It was a fitting start to the bloody rule of the Normans.

0:54:110:54:15

William's coronation was far from the end of his fight for control

0:54:210:54:25

of England.

0:54:250:54:28

There would be years of bloody rebellion, insurrection

0:54:280:54:31

and instability, especially in the wild north.

0:54:310:54:36

William built a secure operations base, the Tower of London.

0:54:400:54:44

He ruthlessly destroyed any opposition,

0:54:480:54:51

killing tens of thousands of ordinary people,

0:54:510:54:54

and laying waste to huge swathes of the country.

0:54:540:54:57

The chronicler Orderic Vitalis wrote that William was guilty

0:55:010:55:05

of wholesale massacre and barbarous homicide.

0:55:050:55:09

Eventually, he would replace any English nobleman left alive

0:55:090:55:13

after the Battle of Hastings with his own Norman barons,

0:55:130:55:17

taking the wealth and the land and giving it to his supporters.

0:55:170:55:20

This was a Norman takeover.

0:55:200:55:23

It was the biggest transfer in land ownership in English history.

0:55:230:55:27

The old ruling class of England, the aristocracy, is swept clean away.

0:55:280:55:33

So you have 10,000 Englishmen

0:55:330:55:35

replaced by 10,000 Continental newcomers,

0:55:350:55:39

who speak a different language and who have very different ideas

0:55:390:55:42

in their head about the way society should be.

0:55:420:55:45

The Norman invasion changes everything.

0:55:450:55:48

Of course there's a new ruling dynasty,

0:55:480:55:50

but there are more obvious signs of change,

0:55:500:55:53

notably the architecture of the Normans.

0:55:530:55:56

Suddenly we have these vast cathedrals and castles

0:55:560:56:00

dominating the landscape.

0:56:000:56:01

The language changes, the traditions, the laws.

0:56:010:56:05

It's a sea change in England.

0:56:050:56:08

And they bring ideas of how you treat human beings,

0:56:100:56:13

they bring chivalry, they abolish slavery.

0:56:130:56:16

In every respect,

0:56:180:56:20

England is massively transformed by the Norman conquest.

0:56:200:56:24

You know, forget about the English Civil War,

0:56:240:56:26

forget about the Reformation - this is the single greatest change

0:56:260:56:29

that England and the English ever experience.

0:56:290:56:32

And it wasn't only England that was transformed.

0:56:360:56:39

1066 saw the demise of the Anglo-Saxons...

0:56:420:56:45

..but also the end of the great Viking age of conquest.

0:56:490:56:53

From now on, England looked not north and east

0:56:560:57:00

to Denmark and Scandinavia,

0:57:000:57:03

but south to France and Rome.

0:57:030:57:06

Europe had shifted on its axis.

0:57:080:57:11

It had taken almost exactly one year for William to plan and execute

0:57:140:57:19

his invasion of England.

0:57:190:57:20

It would take him many more years to subdue the English people.

0:57:280:57:32

Eventually he would return to Normandy

0:57:370:57:39

to fight over his borders at home...

0:57:390:57:41

..but England was now firmly Norman.

0:57:430:57:46

Moving into a new future...

0:57:470:57:48

..which left the Dark Ages far behind.

0:57:500:57:53

William ended up spending most of his reign back in Normandy

0:57:570:58:00

and it was there eventually, in 1087, that he died,

0:58:000:58:03

a fat and bloated shadow of his former warrior self.

0:58:030:58:07

It was the end of one of the most dramatic reigns in British history,

0:58:070:58:11

a reigns that saw seismic changes to this country,

0:58:110:58:15

the results of which, like William's great tower,

0:58:150:58:19

we're still living with to this day.

0:58:190:58:21

In this three-part drama-documentary series, Dan Snow explores the political intrigues and family betrayals between Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Normans that led to war and the Battle of Hastings.

When the winds finally change, Duke William leads his vast invasion fleet across the Channel after months of being trapped in a port in northern France. But King Harold is 300 miles away in the north, having defeated the Vikings. He has to rush back south, gather a new army and head to Hastings to take on this new invasion. The two armies meet at battle in Sussex on 14 October 1066, and the outcome changes the shape of England and Europe forever.