Historical Reference

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On September 28th in 1066:
William the Conqueror invades England
Claiming his right to the English throne, William, duke of Normandy, invades England at Pevensey on Britain’s southeast coast. His subsequent defeat of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of a new era in British history.
William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, duke of Normandy, by his concubine Arlette, a tanner’s daughter from the town of Falaise. The duke, who had no other sons, designated William his heir, and with his death in 1035 William became duke of Normandy at age seven. Rebellions were epidemic during the early years of his reign, and on several occasions the young duke narrowly escaped death. Many of his advisers did not. By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler and was backed by King Henry I of France. Henry later turned against him, but William survived the opposition and in 1063 expanded the borders of his duchy into the region of Maine.
In 1051, William is believed to have visited England and met with his cousin Edward the Confessor, the childless English king. According to Norman historians, Edward promised to make William his heir. On his deathbed, however, Edward granted the kingdom to Harold Godwine, head of the leading noble family in England and more powerful than the king himself.
In January 1066, King Edward died, and Harold Godwine was proclaimed King Harold II. William immediately disputed his claim. In addition, King Harald III Hardraade of Norway had designs on England, as did Tostig, brother of Harold. King Harold rallied his forces for an expected invasion by William, but Tostig launched a series of raids instead, forcing the king to leave the English Channel unprotected. In September, Tostig joined forces with King Harald III and invaded England from Scotland. On September 25, Harold met them at Stamford Bridge and defeated and killed them both. Three days later, William landed in England at Pevensey.
With approximately 7,000 troops and cavalry, William seized Pevensey and marched to Hastings, where he paused to organize his forces. On October 13, Harold arrived near Hastings with his army, and the next day William led his forces out to give battle. At the end of a bloody, all-day battle, King Harold II was killed–shot in the eye with an arrow, according to legend–and his forces were defeated.
William then marched on London and received the city’s submission. On Christmas Day, 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned the first Norman king of England, in Westminster Abbey, and the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history came to an end. French became the language of the king’s court and gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue to give birth to modern English. William I proved an effective king of England, and the “Domesday Book,” a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements. Upon the death of William I in 1087, his son, William Rufus, became William II, the second Norman king of England.

8 thoughts on “Historical Reference

  1. Got an ancestor tied to William. What turned into the Spensers.

    William did such a good job that even the Anglo-Saxons found it safe to walk from one end of the realm to another, without being mugged or taxed.

    Only thing really sad about William is the way he died. Internal rupture due to him landing wrong on the front cantle of his saddle when it stepped in a pothole while he and loyal troops were putting down a local rebellion. Took him days to die. Bad way to die. Would have been better getting a spear in the chest.

  2. I'm William the Conqueror
    My enemies stood no chance
    They call me the first English king
    Although I come from France

    1066, the Doomsday book
    I gave to history
    So fat on death my body burst
    But enough about me

  3. Harold must have been remarkable. Marches his army to Stamford Bridge, beats the Vikings and then marches all the way back to the southern coast to face the Normans. Epic march.

    But he lost and no wonder, must've been exhausted.

  4. Harold shouldn't have looked up.

    The English may have won at Hastings if the Fyrd hadn't been sucked into chasing after the Norman cavalry. The Normans had perfected a heavy charge then a 'desperate' withdraw and sudden reform as a tactic to suck their enemies into following them.

    The Normans really perfected the heavy cavalry/medium cavalry system.

    Once the Fyrd was cut down by a third, the English Shield Wall started cracking. Sure, they were on the top of the hill, but not even the Saxon Huscarls could hold from a multi-directional attack while under constant arrow fire.

    Oops. William used combined arms. Harold didn't. Combined Arms tactics win. A lesson for all future war-leaders, but lost on so many in the future…

  5. Re: Harold shouldn't have looked up… The story goes that Harold got an arrow in the eye. Thus the combined arms attack of cavalry, infantry and missile troops wins the day.

    On the Bayeaux tapestry, in the borders, there are illustrations of Norman troops stripping Saxon dead during the fight. Which goes to show that the Normans really pressed the Saxons hard, especially the Fyrd..

    But, yeah, if'n you're the boss, don't get shot…

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