Harold Godwinson had won a great victory at Stamford Bridge, defeating a Norse army and killing its storied leader, Harald Hardrada; the mightiest warrior in the north. But there was no time for celebration: William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, had crossed the Channel, and landed in Kent!
In the absence of the English naval levies (the Sea Fyrd) that had been dismissed with the coming of autumn, William had but to await good sailing weather and his rival’s distraction in the North to pounce upon England like a leopard upon his prey. Taking advantage of the opportunity the late season and the Norwegian invasion had given him, William and his Normans crossed the channel on the 28th of September; just two days after Stamford Bridge.
The Norman invasion army of 1066 was a true combined arms force, comprised of heavy cavalry, close order infantry, and archers. The mounted knights and their retainers, the elite strike force of the army, came from all across northern France: from Normandy, Brittany, and Flanders. The Age of Chivalry, during which the armored knight on horseback was king of battle, was just dawning. The coming struggle would pit the new against the old, as mounted knights (supported by archers and heavy foot) would face an army trained in the Viking Age tactics of the “shield-wall”….
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