The Norman Conquest is the name historians give to the invasion and occupation of England that started with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Although the conquest would end in 1485 with the War of the Roses, 1066 was the year William the Conqueror led the Normans to invade, defeat, and rule England.
Not just the Normans
However, it wasn’t just the Normans who occupied and invaded England, there were also the Bretons, the Flemish, and the French.
How it all started
The Battle of Hastings was fought between William and Harold Godwinson who was crowned after the death of the English king Edward the Confessor. It is said Edward have given hope to William to succeed him after his death and so William came to claim the throne in 1066.
William defeated the forces of Harold. Although he was poised to be crowned king, there was still the English nobles who needed to be dealt with.
William fights on
After the English nobles crowned Edgar the Etheling as their king instead, William rode against Edgar’s supporters the earls Edwin and Morcar, Stigand who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ealdred who the Archbishop of York.
William planned to reach London by marching around the coast of Kent. While at Southwark he was attacked by an English force but he defeated them. Despite this success William could not overcome the defenses on London Bridge and decided to go around it to get to London.
Stigand surrendered to William when he reached Berkshire, but the fighting was not yet over as English forces continued to attack him as he approached London. It was the surrender of Edgar’s other supporters at Hertfordshire that removed the last obstacle to his coronation.
William would later be crowned king of England on Christmas Day in 1066 by Ealdred himself. He would later take the name William the Conqueror.
Interesting facts about the Norman Conquest
- The Normans come from a French region called Normandy.
- It was William the Conqueror who published the Domesday Book, although the survey the book was based on was commissioned by Edward the Confessor.
- The Norman conquest did not end with the coronation of William the Conqueror. He would still fight more uprisings from rebellious English nobles.
- William is ruthless against the rebels. An estimated 100,000 people die after he burns villages and destroys farmland to terrorize the rebels into surrendering.
- Many of the castles the Normans built during their occupation of England still stand today.
- Scholars say the main change brought by Normans to England is the abolition of slavery.
- During their occupation, Normans re-introduced pheasants which had been hunted to near extinction in England.
- The Norman Conquest officially ended in 1483, at the same time as the War of the Roses did, after an English king again sat on the English throne.
If Normans are from France, aren’t they also Frenchmen?
Not at this time in history. Normandy was settled by people from Scandinavia. For a while they were not considered Frenchmen, but would later adopt French customs and language.
What other changes did Normans introduce to England?
Aside from the abolition of slavery, Normans and changed in the composition of the upper classes by introducing a new language.
Did William die in battle?
No, he died of severe intestinal injuries in 1087. He was leading a counter-offensive by English rebels in the Battle of Mantes in France when he fell from his horse. His stomach caught on the horn of his saddle and it injured him as he fell. He died five weeks later.
Does an English speaking king eventually succeed the English throne?
Yes. But that will be 300 years after the death of William.
Where are the Normans today?
The descendants of the Normans of yesterday can now be found among the modern-day English and French.
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