In this post I discussed the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings 1066.
William landed unopposed, established two Motte and Bailey castles and then set about ravaging the surrounding countryside. Harold marched south and the Battle of Hastings occurred on the road to London.
In my pervious post I argued that William the Bastard tried to force King Harold into a situation where the invasion of England could be resolved politically, rather than militarily. I suggested that since any battle was such a gamble, William wished to avoid combat if at all possible and instead upset the delicate political environment of England, tipping events into his favour. After all he felt his claim to the throne had legal and papal backing. I argued that William set about ravaging the county to force Harold's hand and upset the political apple cart, so to speak.
I am in the process of reading Stephen Morillo's Warfare under the Anglo-Norman Kings 1066-1135 and he has much to say regarding the role of ravaging the country. He acknowledges it was a common aspect of warfare during the period and puts forward six goals the strategy could achieve:
- Intimidate enemy strongholds into surrender,
- Reduce the enemy's capacity to make war,
- To provoke a response,
- For supply and profit,
- To punish the enemy,
In the case of 1066 I think goals 1, 5 and 6 can be discounted. This means that, according to Morillo, William's ravaging reduced the enemy's capacity to make war, whilst attempting to provoke a response and gather supplies.
I suspect Morillo is correct but when applying his argument to the events of 1066 the devil is in the detail. Harold reacted quickly to the invasion and, as far as we can tell, moved south faster than ever expected. Even when taking Morillo's argument into account I still fall on the side of John Gillingham. I remain convinced that it was in fact Harold that forced William's hand, and it was the English king that left William with little choice but to fight the Battle of Hastings. A risky strategy that very nearly worked.
Go here to read more about the Battle of Hastings.