You’re probably wondering about that title aren’t you? Don’t worry I’ll explain that here in a moment. But first a quick update…my History of Africa teacher was not moved by my words/pleas that I hoped would get me a slightly better grade, but instead provided me with different reason as to why I received the grade that I did. In short, I am hoping that these last classes will prop my GPA back up. Which of course also means that these last two big projects have to be on point y’all. Good thing is that, I’m not worried…okay I’m a little worried. But!, I must keep moving forward because, I’m almost there y’all, almost there.
My Senior Seminar teacher wanted us to submit four topic ideas for our final or capstone paper, as they call it, and he picked the one that he felt would work the best. I will be writing my, gulp, twenty one page paper on the Norman invasion of England in the year 1066. This event is one my favorite historical events mainly because the story is about people, it’s very people focused. So I thought that before diving into my super serious formal history paper, I would like to share the story with you, with my own brand of flare. Now before your brain glazes over, or you switch to a different blog just bear with me, I promise you this will not be boring.
The 1066 Invasion of England, led by Duke William the Conqueror
This is a story about an old English king, a young English earl, a Norman duke, and some dude from Norway. The old English king was called King Edward the Confessor, and in January of 1066 he was near death with no apparent heir to the throne. The young English earl, was Edward’s brother in law, Harold Godwinson. The Norman duke was Edward’s cousin, once removed, William of Normandy. The dude from Norway was actually the king of Norway, and Denmark too I believe, Harold Hardrada, who pointed at some old treaty as to why he should be Edward’s successor.
The story begins in late 1065, the king is old and sick, essentially his days were numbered. In those days the king could chose whomever they wanted to succeed them provided they were apart of the family and had the approval of other English leaders. Now according to William, and many of the written sources most of which are told from the Norman perspective, Edward had told him back in 1053 that he would be Edward’s heir. So as far as William was concerned it was a done deal, all he had to was wait, and England would be his; gift wrapped. However, there was no official record of this exchange, it was basically William’s word against everyone else’s.
Unfortunately for William, on Edward’s death bed he declared Harold Godwinson as being the best qualified for the job. The other English leaders approved because he had shouldered so many royalish duties while the king had been ill, plus he was the leader of the English army. So on January 6, 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned the King of England, and all was good, until it wasn’t.
Here is the coronation of King Harold as shown on the Bayeux Tapestry, a really long embroidery commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half brother, which shows the events of 1066.
Meanwhile in Normandy, William is you know doing his duke stuff and patiently waiting for the English crown to be offered to him. Then one day, someone tells him, “Hey bro, didn’t you hear? Edward died and that Harold dude is the king now.” And William said, “Excuse me, who is the what now?” “Harold is the king.” To which William replied, “Oh hell no!” So he rounded his best men, and they built a bunch of boats, which thankfully was something they were quite good at given the fact that the Normans were descendants of Vikings. He loaded up said boats, with men, horses, and supplies, and set off across the English Channel, to confront….well England basically.
He landed on the southern coast of England just a few days after Harold and the English won the Battle of Stamford Bridge (fought near York), which took care of that dude from Norway that I mentioned earlier. This distraction also allowed William to land and begin his march further into England unnoticed. Well for the most part, he did encounter some rather confused villagers who had yet to hear that Edward had died. Furthermore they did not care much for this Norman dude with all his horses that had showed up on their doorstep. Perhaps it was the raiding of food stores that caused William to not win their favor, yeah that probably had a lot to do with it.
While still in York, Harold got wind of William’s arrival and he rounded up his guys and headed for London, were he got some new guys. He then marched south and met the armies of William in a open field near the village of Battle. The fighting, known to history as the Battle of Hastings, began around 9am on October 14, 1066, and lasted all day. As daylight faded the Normans began their final assault during which Harold himself was killed, with an arrow to the eye. I know…ouch.
The death of Harold as shown by the Bayeux Tapestry, there are other theories, but this is the traditional story.
With that victory the English throne was firmly in William’s grasp, and he was crowned William I, on December 25, 1066 at Westminster Abbey. His nineteen year reign was not without its revolts, to which he responded with “Viking flare”, if you get my drift. But nevertheless, the Normans did bring some good things to England, which forever changed the country, and how it dealt with the rest of world.
Ah history, dontcha just love to bask in its glow. : )
Until next time,