So this is probably going to be my shortest post ever in this series. For this article we’re going to look at one specific event in the Game of Thrones universe, the Field of Fire, and it’s historical counterpart the Battle of Hastings.
So after Aegon landed in Westeros he set about the daunting challenge of conquering the Seven Andal kingdoms. While the Seven Kingdoms were divided each one of them had larger armies than his own. Thankfully, their constant bickering meant that they couldn’t unite against Aegon and he could take them on piecemeal. His greatest challenge would arise when two of the biggest kings of Westeros: King Lorren Lannister of the Rock ( from whom the Lannisters from the show trace their ancestry) and King Mern XI of the Reach (the place where the Tyrells would eventually rule, but that’s later). Both kings realized that this foreign invader would have to be crushed and they united to form the biggest army Westeros had ever seen.
All told the two kings had an army numbering over 50,000 including 5,000 heavy cavalry while Aegon could only field an army one fifth that size. In the end it didn’t really matter though because Aegon had an ace in the hole: his three dragons.
The battle went about as well as anyone would expect with a total rout of the Andals and complete victory for Aegon. King Mern would perish in the fire and King Loren realized that he rather liked living and decided to yield to Aegon and submit to his rule. The victory meant that Aegon controlled most of the South of Westeros and while there was still plenty of fighting to do, the Field of Fire showed that final victory was all but inevitable.
The closet historical equivalent to the Field of Fire in real life history is the Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066 near the town of Battle in Essex England between the forces of the Anglo Saxon/Andal Harold II and the Norman/Targareyen army of William of Normandy. You can visit the site to this day, it’s actually quite nice.
Like Aegon, William had just landed his Norman Army and was facing the daunting task of subjugating an entire country with a comparatively small force. Harold meanwhile had just finished fighting off another threat to his crown at the Battle of Stamford Bridge against a Norwegian king named Harald III (you see this a lot in history, not a whole lot of original names) and was unable to oppose William from landing safely. However, once both sides were ready, a battle was set at Hastings that would decide the fate of Britain forever.
The battle itself does not share a whole lot of similarities with its fantasy counterpart. While William had a unique weapon at his disposal in the form of the first mounted knights to ever be used on British soil they did not have the dramatic impact that Aegon’s dragons had in the Field of Fire.
While it is interesting to think of a line of armored warriors moving quickly on horseback being similar to a dragon the Saxon army was actually quite resilient and even almost won the day. Harold was not a stupid man, he understood the strengths of his army and weaknesses of his enemy. Harold was able to seize the high ground at Hastings and formed a Saxon shield wall made up of his best warriors and a collection of local militia.
Despite what people might think, horses actually have a very strong will to live and are usually not keen on riding into a tightly packed wall of shields and spears. What William was able to do though was to slowly break the Saxon army apart and defeat them piecemeal until only Harold and his elite bodyguard remained. Harold was eventually cut down and while it is unclear exactly how he died, popular accounts say he was slain by an arrow in the eye.
A quick note: the image above is from the Bayeux Tapestry, one of the most well known sources of William’s invasion and the battle itself.
While the Field of Fire and the Battle of Hastings do not share many details the most important thing is that they had the same impact on both their worlds. The Field of Fire cemented the foreign Aegon as a major ruler in Westeros while the Battle of Hastings settled the dispute over who should rule England and placed William the Conqueror firmly in control over most of the island. Both these men were huge figures in their respective histories and both of them would go on to found ruling dynasties that would last for centuries.