Of all the famous battles in history, British history has more than its fair share.
Among the most famous British battles are the Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V defeated a superior French army; the Battle of Hastings, which established Norman rule in England; and the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where Harold II defeated a Norse army after marching nearly two hundred miles in four days.
You may have heard of one or all of them, but if not, read on to learn more about these famous British battles.
Battle of Stamford Bridge (25 September 1066)
Edward the Confessor’s death in January 1066 was the catalyst for a power struggle in England. The Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada, had his own claim to the English throne, supported by Tostig Godwinson, the brother of King Harold II. With Edward gone, Harald launched an invasion with 10,000 men. While he found early success in his campaign throughout the north of the country, this would not last once news reached King Harold.
Harold II, rightly fearing a Norman invasion to establish their claim to the throne, maintained his army in the south, and so was unprepared for an attack from the north. This was supported by feints made along the south coast in early September. Harold was right to believe believe an attack was imminent, but he was wrong about the location.
Upon hearing the news of Harald’s invasion, Harold gathered his army and rode to Yorkshire at such a speed his army was able to cover 185 miles in only four days. The Norwegian forces were taken by surprise, completely unaware Harold’s forces were in the area.
The battle couldn’t start until Harold’s army crossed the choke point of Stamford Bridge. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a single Norseman blocked the way, until he was finally killed by an English soldier attacking from under the bridge.
Once across the bridge, the English attacked the Norse shield wall. Over the course of the battle the English began to breach the wall and outflank their enemy. Norwegian reinforcements arrived later in the battle, but were ineffective against the army defending its homeland. Harald and Tostig were both killed in battle, and a truce was agreed upon between Harold II and the invader’s sons.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge signalled the end of the Viking age, but at the other end of the country the Norman age was about to begin. Although Harold retained the field this day, his fear of Norman invasion from the south was about to be realised, and so Harold rode back south, gathering forces along the way, for what was to be his final battle...