What happened after the Battle of Hastings?

The battle was won, Harold Godwinson was dead, Duke William of Normandy victorious. But how did he then become 'the conqueror'? Victory at Hastings did not make him King of England – at least, not immediately

Normans and Saxons clash at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 © Getty

William wasn’t to enter London for another two months. After resting at Hastings, his army captured Dover and then, following a pause to recover from an outbreak of dysentery, took Canterbury.

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When a detachment of William’s cavalry found London Bridge heavily defended, William opted against a full-blown assault on the capital. He instead embarked on a destructive march through nearby Surrey and Hampshire. Burning and pillaging towns as they went, his troops captured the royal treasure at Winchester.

By mid-November, William’s troops had crossed the Thames and were based at Wallingford.

Within England’s ranks, a new king was suggested – the young Edgar Atheling, a grandson of the earlier ruler, King Edmund II.

Edgar was proclaimed the monarch, but without the leadership of Harold Godwinson’s powerful family, the English resistance rapidly began to crumble. Prominent nobles and powerful clergymen deserted Edgar, fleeing the capital. Come mid-December the remaining English leaders in London submitted to William at Berkhamsted.

On Christmas Day 1066, William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey. Mistaking shouts of acclamation for a burgeoning riot, his soldiers set fire to the surrounding buildings. The service was concluded amidst clouds of smoke, the new King shaking like a leaf.

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It was to take another five years of brutal campaigning, especially in the north, before William was able to establish control over all of England. However, their defeat at Hastings had cost the English their best chance of stopping the invasion in its tracks.