Battle of Fulford
After the death of Edward the Confessor the situation in England was confused and dangerous. Harold Godwineson had ascended the throne, or usurped it according to Duke William of Normandy and even according to Harold’s own younger brother, Tostig, who claimed Edward had promised him the crown.
Tostig had been thrown out of his lands in Northumbria by Earls Morcar and Edwin, brothers-in-law to the new king, and had sought a traitorous alliance with Harald Hardrada (Harald the Ruthless), king of Norway.
Harald and Tostig’s combined force of 12,000 or so was landed from a fleet of 300 ships at Ricall, about ten miles from York . Morcar and Edwin, doubting that Harold Godwineson would come to their aid, and believing that if he did he was many days off, decided to attack the invaders even though they were significantly outnumbered. The armies met on 20th September 1066.
The battlefield at Fulford Gate, just outside York, was delineated by the Ouse to one side, and dangerous swampland the other. Hardrada and his strongest fighters were on the invader left-flank, Tostig with a weaker force on the right, the invading army all behind a stream or ditch to offer defensive protection. Leaving Tostig with an evidently weaker division may have been a trap, and if it was the Earls fell for it, charging the traitor and leaving a weakened position exploited by Hardrada.
The battle lasted many hours, but numbers told, and the English were eventually put to flight, hundreds drowning in the ditch they had fought across before Hardrada’s counter-thrust stopped their advance.
York was taken by the invaders, but just five days later they were to be surprised by the arrival of King Harold Godwineson’s army, force-marched from London , defeating Hardrada and Tostig in a major victory at Stamford Bridge .
Fulford Gate drastically weakened King Harold’s northern forces, whose defeat meant his own men had first to fight Hardrada’s army with little local reinforcement, and then return exhausted to confront William ’s invasion force in the south. The rest is, as they say, history.
Links: http://www.ibattles.co.uk/fulford.php The Excellent IBattles take on Fulford
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