The Battle of Hastings was a time where many Medieval weapons clashed. It was a battle between king Harold II of the Anglo-Saxons, and Duke William of Normandy. And it took place on the 14th of October in the year 1066. The Anglo-Saxon warriors wielded various weapons while on the battlefield. These included weapons like spears, knives, javelins, swords, bows & arrows, and even slings.
The Anglo-Saxon warriors often fought on foot. This is in contrast to the warriors coming from other parts of Europe in the same period. This enhanced their use and choice of weapons for the battles that they engaged in.
Knights were vital in the Norman society, and their preparation was very strict. Before becoming knights, they undergo training from a squire. They will teach all the essentials of becoming an effective knight. Hence, the reason for the entire practice to last for many years.
These warriors needed to be very skilled in things such as military tactics. Of course, they also needed to be skillful in wielding different medieval weapons. These were important to guarantee their survival in battles against the king’s enemies. The Bayeux Tapestry gives everyone a better idea of the weapons used in the Battle of Hastings. Here are the most famous weapons that the Saxons and Normans used during the battle.
The Battle Axe
In the Battle of Hastings, the housecarls were the feared warriors of the Anglo-Saxons. They were King Harold’s private army of trained bodyguards and professionals. Not only that, but they were also known as the finest soldiers throughout Europe.
Their choice of weapon was the long-handled battle axe which was also called the Danish Axe. Its name was the latter since the weapon originated from the Vikings. Swung with both hands, the battle axe was strong enough to slice a man or horse’s head. Despite its power, the axe was well-balanced and light enough for wielding with one hand.
Used by both forces during the Battle of Hastings, the spear was the weapon wielded by the poorer warriors. It had an iron head used for thrusting, or thrown at an enemy like a Javelin. In the Bayeux Tapestry, a few Saxons carried bundles of spears that were ready for throwing.
These spears were usually more than 2 meters long and were also adequate for warfare and hunting. Based on the Anglo-Saxon laws, a medieval weapon that every freeman should have was the spear. For different warriors, it was common for them to carry varying sizes of these weapons.
These medieval weapons were often used for two different kinds of actions when in combat. They were either used for thrusting and stabbing, or thrown from a distance as missiles. This was the purpose of the Saxon warriors carrying many spears. Additionally, they often used spears for hand-to-hand combat as well.
Spears were also a part of the front-line defenses when the Saxons utilized the shield-wall formation. It was a formation that was able to counter a lot of enemy attacks.
A lot of the Norman warriors’ choice of medieval weapons was the bow. An estimate of their number in William’s army was over a thousand. They played a vital role in the war, especially after receiving orders from William to shoot high. This was necessary to fire the arrows on the heads of the Saxons who hid behind their shield wall.
The spear was generally easy to throw, but the Normans had a different projectile weapon for use. This was the bow and arrow which was excellent for long-range battles. It also helped in keeping the enemy from hand to hand combat. When looking at the Bayeux Tapestry, Duke William’s archer troops are clearly seen.
One of the most common medieval weapons that the Norman knights carried were the Lances. These could be easily tucked beneath the armpit that’s the same as the later jousting lance. Yet the difference between the two is that the regular Lances are usually held in the right hand. They are also wielded overarm.
Knights utilized the Lances to thrust through gaps on the Saxon’s shield wall. They also used these against spear-fleeing enemies, or as throwing weapons.
The Lance is the horseman’s spear and measures about 2 meters long. it was often made using ash wood with little steel or iron heads. Knights wielded the Lances under their arms and used these for stabbing the enemy. There are times when horsemen had Gonfanons or flags placed on their Lances.
Both the Normans and Anglo-Saxons utilized medieval weapons during the Battle of Hastings. However, the most prominent one was the sword. These were of simple designs: with a cross-guard for protecting the hand of the wielder. Not only that, but the sword featured a double-edged blade plus a shallow point.
These swords varied in quality: some used plain iron to make swords for the poorer warriors. While fine steel was necessary for the wealthy. Often, these swords were items passed down in families, and a lot of these were also named.
The Norman swords, aside from having broad, double-edged blades, were 76 centimeters long. Good swords made from steel were unlikely to break in battle. Their handles were often made from wood while iron was a material used for the cross guard.
Swords were one of the most treasured weapons among the Anglo Saxons. These warriors often battled with the spears. But the leading nobles carried ornamented swords instead. These medieval weapons were usually kept unsheathed. Plus, these were only utilized when the opponent was already wounded.
Often, the Anglo Saxon swords were almost 37 inches long. They were quite heavy but good for cutting and slashing with a heavy downward stroke. This is instead of using a piercing motion on the enemy’s armor.
Wooden clubs were very cheap iron weapons that every warrior could afford. These often had studded iron nails for better impact and damage when used for hitting. On the Bayeux Tapestry, William the Conqueror and Odo, his half-brother carried clubs. These appeared like maces which may have been a badge of their rank.
Warriors often utilized maces for hitting the enemy over their heads, and were also used for throwing. Though the difference between the two is that a mace had a heavier material on its top. This allowed the user to have more striking power. For the club, it was only a huge stick used to hit the opponents.
The heads of the maces were often made using stone or a type of metal. These included iron, copper, bronze, or even steel. The maces could also have some protrusions to allow the mace to pierce through heavy armor.
The frequent use of these types of medieval weapons led to the creation of protective gear. This occurred around the Middle Ages.