How significant was William’s military prowess to his claim to the throne of England?
William the Conqueror had a very weak claim to the throne – if you really think about it – and his ultimate claim of the throne was down to quite a few reasons. For example, the weaknesses in the claims of others also trying to gain the throne as well as Harold’s oath in 1064; however the most significant reason was his military prowess.
William’s military prowess and the new type of warfare he demonstrated to Anglo-Saxon England was one of the most significant reasons he succeeded in claiming the English throne. He was a very experienced and ruthless military commander, ruler and administrator who had unified Normandy and inspired fear and respect outside of his duty. From a young age he had learnt that in order to survive he had to ‘meet force with force’ – a lesson he had learnt from the assassinations attempts he endured after being named Duke of Normandy at aged 7. His frequent practice of this belief – in every battle he fought, including that against the unruly barons who had tried to assassinate him – shows that William believed military tactics an skills were important to succeed in life and so had the upper hand when it came to the Battle of Hastings, and his persistent bravery in the face of danger led to his reputation of being a skilled and successful battle leader.
Furthermore, William knew that his cavalry was extremely important and had learnt this from previous battles he had fought, e.g. at Civitate in 1053 where the skilled and co-ordinated use of lances while on horse led to a Norman victory over the Germans. The success of the cavalry and their ability to follow any instruction from William meant that he knew he could employ them usefully in the Battle of Hastings; this shows how William’s military experience and prowess helped him succeed in battle – just like he succeeded in the Battle of Hastings – and was consequently able to claim the throne.