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The Norman Conquest of England

battle-of-hastings

Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings, took place on the 14th October 1066; The Saxons led by King Harold against the Norman army led by Duke William of Normandy.

William the Conqueror

King William I

In little over two months, Harold the last Saxon King of England, lost his life on the battlefield.  William, saw the English throne in his grasp, and went on to capture Dover, Canterbury and London.  He was crowned King of England on the 25th December 1066 and the Saxon era was over, and the Norman Conquest was beginning.

Resistance by Saxon’s to these Norman’s was mostly limited to the outer reaches of the kingdom.  With the Church and Government in his grip, it wouldn’t be long before these remaining Saxon’s accepted the rule of the Norman’s.

William had taken this land with only a small invasion force… he had to control some two million Saxon’s until more Norman troops arrived.  Nobles, Lords and Landowners, who might have stood up against the Norman’s, were lying with their armies on the battleground at Hastings.

Some Nobles opened their arms, and welcomed these Norman’s onto English soil, like the Saxon Lord of Wallingford; Wigod, who went on to assist William’s entrance into London.

England has seen invaders of the past, come and go, like Cnut and the Danes.  It is this, that made some believe, William and the Norman’s would be short lived, like Stigand, the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

William’s new Kingdom of Britain was not as free of rebellion as he had hoped; resistance continued for many years.  In January 1069, the Yorkshire inhabitants made up of Scandinavian descendants, rebelled against these Norman’s, and William and his army quelled the flames of rebellion.

In the autumn of 1069, King Swein of Denmark landed in Yorkshire, firing the rebellion against the Norman’s once again… The Danes were forced to withdraw.

William was determined to put an end to rebellions from the north of his kingdom.  He ordered his men to burn houses, crops and slaughter all livestock between the River Humber and Durham.  There followed many years of famine in the north; thousand’s starved to death, and it took years for the land to recover from this horrific event.

Meanwhile, Danish forces sailed south, plundering Peterborough and made the Isle of Ely their base.  Some rebels led by Hereward the Wake joined the Danes.  In June 1070, the Danes left, having made a treaty with William and by 1071 the Saxon rebels in the Fens had surrendered, and Hereward had escaped capture.

King Malcolm III of Scotland (1058-1093) offered exile to Anglo-Saxon Nobles, and assisted their attempts in re-claiming northern parts of England in 1069… There was a price to pay!

Malcolm was looking to the future, by marrying Margaret; daughter of Edward the Aetheling and sister of Edgar Aetheling as his Queen.  She bore him four sons; Edward, Edgar, Edmund and Ethelred.  These four sons with English names, could be used in claiming a seat on the English throne… one would say he was very devious in his outlook.

William marched north with his army in 1072, and confronted Malcolm at Abernethy… would they battle, a question both men more than likely asked themselves.  Yet it was Malcolm who made the first step towards peace; one a King of Scotland, and the other King of England.  Malcolm accepted that William was Lord over his Lothian province; these lands which were once part of England in Northumbria.

A battle had been averted, but William was wary of this Scottish foe, leading him to order the strengthening of the border between their two countries with castles.

Once William had been crowned King of England in 1066, he granted English Landowners and Lords, who had been loyal to his cause, that they could keep their lands.

After 1070, many Saxon landowners, had lost faith in their new King, which led William to instigate a police of Normanization; Norman’s took over their lands.

William needed land to compensate his loyal Norman followers.  What better way, confiscate these Saxon lands… was it a wise move? For it led to numerous revolts up and down the country.

William and his Barons forced marriages to Norman’s by Saxon widows and daughters inheriting estates.

He didn’t stop there with his reforms, replacing Stigand the Archbishop of Canterbury with his own man; Lanfranc, formerly Abbot of Caen.  Then Latin and Norman French became the accepted languages used by the Church and Government.

These Norman’s who had invaded England weren’t farmers, they were warriors at heart, and their origin was Viking.  The King gave them land; they returned the service with highly trained and armed knights, to do battle for their King.

These Norman Lords built castles to emphasise their presence and authority in these former Saxon lands.  Early defences were built from earthen mounds and stockades, later stone versions were the norm, like Windsor Castle.

In 1085 William started a survey of these lands, which led to “The Domesday Book” of 1086, which informed the Crown, the wealth of his lands.

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