The Battle of Hastings - 1066


  • Where was Wessex?
  • Who was Alfred the Great?
  • What were the Wessex 'Burhs' or Burghs?
  • Harold Godwinson - Earl of Wessex
  • Key People and Key Events!

Medieval Knights in the Battle of Hastings - 1066

Where was Wessex?
There are many references to the Saxons and to Wessex when discovering the facts about the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Harold Godwinson, who became King Harold 11 of England was the Earl of Wessex. So where was Wessex and why was Wessex so important? Wessex was situated in the South / South West of England. There were two other important Kingdoms - Mercia and Northumbria. Wessex and the Anglo Saxons held out against the attacks from the Vikings - Mercia and Northumbria did not and many Vikings settled in this part of England - but they also wanted Wessex! In 878 there was a massive attack by the Vikings - the King of Wessex at the time was called Alfred - he was to forever be remembered as King Alfred the Great.

Alfred the Great
Alfred led Wessex in fighting back! He formulated a plan to establish a National Defence system by the formation of fortified towns called 'Burhs' (later changed to Burghs then Boroughs), throughout Wessex. None of Alfred's subjects in Wessex would be more than 20 miles, or one day away, from a place of refuge! The 'Burhs' would house the people during enemy raids. Everyone took responsibility for building this system of defence. The 'Burhs', or fortified towns, were based and built on old Bronze Age and Roman fortifications and in important religious centers- these towns were usually near the coast, situated on high ground and surrounded by a wall and a ditch. Each man in the district was responsible for maintaining a section of the wall in exchange for a safe haven during enemy attacks.

The Wessex 'Burhs' became centres of commerce, law and civilisation. Alfred introduced education, schools and trial by jury. The Wessex 'Burhs' were a huge military and cultural success! The Vikings plans to invade Wessex were crushed. Alfred was forever revered as the greatest leader of Wessex and was rightly named Alfred the Great! The descendents of Alfred the Great were also given great credibility with the people of Wessex. Alfred's son Edward the Elder continued the policy of building 'Burhs' and these followed the path of the old Roman Watling Road and reached as far as the kingdom of Mercia. Alfred's grandson Eadred followed the same plan, the Vikings were fought back and the Kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria were united as one country - England.

Harold Godwinson - Earl of Wessex
Wessex and Alfred the Great were of great importance to England. Harold Godwinson's claim to the throne of England was not based on a strong blood tie, just a kinship to Edward the Confessor, who had married Harold's sister - but it was still a tenuous connection with the great Wessex line of King Alfred the Great.  Harold Godwinson held the title of the Earl of Wessex, he was one of the most powerful and wealthiest Nobles in England - and he was an Anglo-Saxon!

Wessex line of Kings from Alfred the Great
871-899 Alfred the Great
899-924 Edward the Elder (son of Alfred)
924-939 Aethelstan (first son of Edward the Elder)
939-946 Edmund I (second son of Edward the Elder)
946-955 Eadred (third son of Edward the Elder)
955-959 Edwig (first son of Edmund I)
959-975 Edgar (second son of Edmund I)
975-978 Edward the Martyr (first son of Edgar)
978-1016 Ethelred the Unready (second son of Edgar)
978-1016 - King Ethelred II
1016 - Edmund Ironside assassinated I month later

Kings of England 1016 - 1087
1016-1035 - King Canute
1035-1036 Alfred (son of Ethelred II)
1036-1040 - Harold Harefoot - The illegitimate son of King Canute
1042-1066 - Edward the Confessor
1066 - Harold Godwinson - Harold II - the last Anglo-Saxon King of England
1066 - 1087 William of Normandy - the Conqueror

To find out more about their claims to the English throne please click one of the following links:

The Duke William the Bastard of Normandy claim
The Hardrada the Viking claim

The Harold Godwinson of Wessex claim
The Edgar the Aetheling claim

The Kings of England 871 - 1066


The Battle of Hastings

Battle of Hastings Index

The Battle of Hastings - 1066

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