In that hilarious book, 1066 and All That, 1066 was selected as one of the only two ‘memorable’ dates in English history. And rightly so. The Battle of Hastings marked one of its cleanest breaks with an entire Anglo-Saxon ruling class removed to be replaced by Normans imported by William the Conqueror.
And yet the battle itself was a close-run thing. The army of the English king Harold was exhausted and depleted, having had to race up north to defeat another claimant to the throne, Harald Hardrada of Norway, and then race back south again.
Even so, the Norman cavalry could at first make little impact on the Saxon shield-wall, and when William was knocked off his horse, a rumour swept through his army that he was dead, and some leading commanders called for a retreat.
William had to win the battle, while a draw would have been good enough for the English, so there followed a race against time to gain a decisive victory before dusk brought an end to the fighting. For the full story, see Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters, the History Press.
*Review of my last book – A Disastrous History of the World. http://oldsaltbooks.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-four-horsemen-seem-to-be-continually-in-the-saddle/