King Harold's Noble Strategy
Duke William's strategy included the use of castles and cavalry - Harold strategy did not.
Harold's army was far inferior in number to that of the Normans, and some of his captains advised him to retreat upon London and lay waste the country, so as to starve down the strength of the invaders. The policy thus recommended was unquestionably the wisest, for the Saxon fleet had now reassembled, and intercepted all William's communications with Normandy. As soon as his stores of provisions were exhausted, William would have been forced to move to London , where Harold, at the head of the full military strength of the kingdom, could have defied his assault. Had Harold taken this advice he would probably have witnessed his rival's destruction by famine and disease, without having to strike a single blow.
But Harold's bold blood was up, and his kindly heart could not endure to inflict on his South Saxon subjects even the temporary misery of wasting the country.
"He would not burn houses and villages, neither would he take away the substance, of his people."
Harold's brothers, Gurth and Leofwine, were with him in the Senlac camp, and Gurth endeavoured to persuade him to absent himself from the battle. The incident shows how well devised had been William's scheme of binding Harold by the oath on the holy relics. (Harold had sworn on sacred religious relics an oath of allegiance to William and to his right to the throne)
"My brother," said the young Saxon prince, "thou canst not deny that either by force or free will thou hast made Duke William an oath on the bodies of saints. Why then risk thyself in the battle with a perjury upon thee? To us, who have sworn nothing, this is a holy and a just war, for we are fighting for our country. Leave us then alone to fight this battle, and he who has the right will win."
Harold replied that he would not look on while others risked their lives for him.
Men would hold him a coward, and blame him for sending his best friends where he dared not go himself.
He resolved, therefore, to fight, and to fight in person; but he was still too good a general to be the assailant in the action; and he deployed his army with great skill along a ridge of rising ground which opened southward, and was covered on the back by an extensive wood.
He strengthened his position by a palisade of stakes and osier hurdles, and there he said he would defend himself against whoever should seek him.