Review of the Battle of Hastings
It is indeed evident that the loss of the battle by the English was owing to the wound which Harold received in the afternoon, and which must have incapacitated him from effective command.
When we remember that he had himself just won the battle of Stamford Bridge over Harald Hardrada by the manoeuvre of a feigned flight, it is impossible to suppose that he could be deceived by the same stratagem on the part of the Normans at Hastings.
But his men, when deprived of his control, would very naturally be led by their inconsiderate ardor into the pursuit that proved so fatal to them.
All the narratives of the battle, however much they vary as to the precise time and manner of Harold's fall, eulogize the generalship and the personal prowess which he displayed until the fatal arrow struck him.
The skill with which he had posted his army was proved both by the slaughter which it cost the Normans to force the position, and also by the desperate rally which some of the Saxons made after the battle in the forest in the rear, in which they cut off a large number of the pursuing Normans. This circumstance is particularly mentioned by William of Poitiers, the Conqueror's own chaplain.
Indeed, if Harold or either of his brothers had survived, the remains of the English army might have formed again in the wood, and could at least have effected an orderly retreat and prolonged the war. But both Gurth and Leofwine, and all the bravest thanes of Southern England, lay dead on Senlac, around their fallen King and the fallen standard of their country.
The exact number that perished on the Saxons' side is unknown; but we read that, on the side of the victors, out of sixty thousand men who had been engaged, no less than a fourth perished; so well had the English billmen "plyed the ghastly blow," and so sternly had the Saxon battle-axe cloven Norman's casque (a visorless headpiece) and mail.
The old historian Daniel justly as well as forcibly remarks: "Thus was tried, by the great assize of God's judgment in battle, the right of power between the English and Norman nations; a battle the most memorable of all others, and, however miserably lost, yet most nobly fought on the part of England."
On Christmas Day in the same year William the Conqueror was crowned, at London, King of England.