1. The Battle of Hastings didn't take place in Hastings
It actually took place in a field seven miles from Hastings. That field has now become a town (appropriately named Battle.) History has recorded the event as happening at what is now Battle Abbey in the East Sussex town (although some dispute the precise location).
2. Harold was probably not killed by an arrow to the eye
About 10,000 men are believed to have died in the Battle of Hastings - King Harold included, abruptly ending the 43-year-old's brief nine-month reign.
Thanks to the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman invasion, people have long believed he was slain by an arrow to the eye, and hacked to death by William's men. In reality, he probably died of wounds inflicted on the battlefield.
3. Harold did put up a decent fight
The Battle of Hastings may have been won decisively by William the Conqueror, but the English put up a good fight, despite their exhaustion and their opponents having better cavalry. In fact, the battle lasted most of the day – unusually long for a medieval battle.
The Saxons (about 6,000 soldiers) fought long and hard on high ground using a traditional shield wall – a solid defensive wall of shields – which the Normans (about 7,000 troops) were unable to break through for many hours.
Not bad for an army that had just marched 250 miles from Stamford Bridge near York, to the south coast after their epic victory against Viking warrior Harald Hardrada of Norway and Harold's rebel brother Tostig.
4. The Normans won by pretending to run away
The Norman invaders gained the winning advantage by tricking the Saxons and feigning retreat. Thinking the pressure was off, some Saxons broke rank from their protective shield wall, allowing other Norman soldiers to swoop in and attack.
5. It was a minstrel that killed the first Saxon
Ivo Taillefer (William’s minstrel whose name means 'hewer of iron') killed the first Saxon in the battle.
The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio ('Song of the Battle of Hastings' ) says that a Saxon soldier broke ranks, and Taillefer killed him, while later sources say that Taillefer charged into the enemy shield-wall, where he killed several Saxons before he was overwhelmed.
6. Halley’s Comet was an omen
The Bayeux Tapestry shows the audience witnessing Harold’s coronation watching Halley's Comet, which is depicted in the sky as an omen of Harold's fate.
7. No one knows where Harold's body is
According to early sources, William denied Harold’s mother his body, though she offered its weight in gold. However later sources say Harold's body was mutilated and identified by his mistress and buried at Waltham Abbey, Essex, which he had re-founded.
You can still see his alleged grave at the English Heritage-run site. But the exact location of Harold’s body is disputed to this day.
8. We all know more French than we think
After William's victory, French became the language of his court. The English we speak today is the product of a lot of intermingling with French words, making our language a lovely hybrid. For example, words in English for prepared foods took on their French equivalents. Saxon serfs bred the livestock, so cows, sheep, and pigs were slaughtered and served up to their Norman masters as beef, mutton, and pork respectively.
So, without the Norman Conquest, Shakespeare would not have been Shakespeare as we know it, because his language would have resembled 16th-century German or Dutch.
9. William was known as 'the Bastard'
No one called him William the Conqueror at the time. That didn't come until 200-odd years later. After the battle, he was called William 'the great'. However, his enemies referred to him as William 'the Bastard'. (He was born out of wedlock to his father, Robert I, Duke of Normandy's mistress).