When I say 1066, what do you think of?
If you were born and raised in England your mind would go instantly to Hastings, on the southern coast of England, and all the blood and guts that were spilled there on October 14, 1066: 942 years ago today!
The very first history lecture I ever gave was about the Battle of Hastings and its consequences for Europe. I picked it for my topic out of all of the history of Western Civilization because the story is so exciting. In the years of teaching since my first lecture it is still one of my favorite topics to teach about, because as I'm telling the story there are so many students who sit frozen in their chairs with their mouths hanging open. Ahh, the joy of teaching history. It's just storytelling really.
So we simply had to visit the battlefield-- the place where such a momentous event went down, even if it was like a thousand years ago. Needless to say, for me it was so thrilling!
(the battlefield now)
So, what happened on the fateful day in that fateful place long long ago? Short story: there were three dudes who thought they were rightfully the King of England, and they killed each other and about a bizillion innocent people, to decide who got it. Long story: Harold Hardrada, a Viking, sailed over from Norway to claim the throne, but Harold of Wessex in England wanted to be King instead so he gathered up his army, and they all marched/ran 200 miles north to meet the Vikings when they landed! So, you're in the army, and your boss just made you run 200 miles north to fight the most notorious warriors in the world. What do you do? You rally and thrash 'em, that's what you do! It was a blood-soaked battle but in the end the English wasted the Vikings (300 ships carried the Vikings to England but they only needed about 30 to carry them all home)!
(the battlefield then)
So Harold of Wessex and his men were like, "Victory is ours! Let's Party!" But then a messenger arrived to tell Harold that William of Normandy, from France was crossing the Channel down south -- about to invade and claim the throne for himself. So, you're a blood-soaked, injured and exhausted soldier 200 miles away from where William's about to invade. What do you do? You sprint those 200 miles again to meet another villain in another battle!
When Harold's army got to Hastings (on the south coast), William's army had already landed and cleverly completely decimated all the land within a 25 mile radius of Hastings. That meant that Harold and his exhausted men had no supplies and had to fight the next day. So Harold and his men set up on the high ground, on top of a hill, and made William come to them. William had more horses, more weapons, more supplies. Harold had more men, but they were totally exhausted. So, you're a soldier in Harold's army. Do you stay or do you run for it? Will you live or die?! What's gonna happen?!
Why don't you find out for yourself? Here is a nice short little choose-your-own-adventure game that reenacts the Battle of Hastings. Play as Harold and see how your luck turns out!
William the Conqueror built an Abbey at Hastings to atone for all the bloodshed, and placed the high altar right on the spot where Harold was struck in the eye by an arrow! (that's the spot, above. You can't really see the writing but oh well) Poor Harold. I really feel bad for him and all his men that fought so heroically. But if they had to die, at least it made for a really good story, even 942 years later.