This Day In History: William the Conqueror Invades England (1066)

Advertisement

On this day in history the Duke of Normandy William, invaded England, claiming the throne of that kingdom.  He landed on the south coast of England near the present day town of Hastings. Here he waited for the Anglo-Saxon army under King Harold II to attack him. The English army had just repelled another invasion. They had decisively defeated a Viking invasion at the battle of Stamford Bridge in the North of England. After the battle, they had marched to the south of England to confront Duke William and his Norman army.  The two armies fought at Hastings and it was a bloody and brutal encounter. It seemed that the English army was about to sweep the Normans into the sea until an arrow hit Harold in the eyes and he died soon after. This led the English army to flee the battlefield and the day was won for William. On Christmas Day William was crowned King of England, he was the first Norman king.

William was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy and a local peasant girl. The Duke had no other sons and he made Willian his heir and he was Duke at the age of seven. However, the local lords in Normandy were frequently in rebellion and there were several attempts to kill the young Duke.Many of his advisers did not survive these attempts. By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler  and a talented soldier.  He fought a war with France and expanded his duchy to the east. His cousin was Edward the Confessor, who was king of England. At this meeting Edward is said to have stated that William was to be his heir. Or so it was claimed by William and many Normans. However, on his deathbed, he made Harold Godwine, from a powerful noble faction as King.  Harold had been a Duke and had ruled northern England almost as an independent ruler.  William decided to invade England to make good his claims and he formed a army of Normans and Bretons to invade England.

Many of his advisers did not survive these attempts. By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler  and a talented soldier.  He fought a war with France and expanded his duchy to the east. His cousin was Edward the Confessor, who was king of England. At this meeting, Edward is said to have stated that William was to be his heir. Or so it was claimed by William and many Normans. However, on his deathbed, he made Harold Godwine, from a powerful noble faction as King.  Harold had been a Duke and had ruled northern England almost as an independent ruler.  William decided to invade England to make good his claims and he formed an army of Normans and Bretons.

Battle_Flat_-_geograph.org.uk_-_285158
The site of the battle of Hastings

Harold seems to have been aware of William’s plans to invade but he was distracted by the Viking invasion in the north, this was where his power lay. The leader of the Vikings also had ambitions to be king of England and based his claims through his descent from King Canute, a Norwegian Viking, who seized the throne of England.  He was also joined by Harold’s brother Tostig who also wanted to be king.  With Harold in the north, William was able to invade England.  Harold defeated them both but then he had to march to Hastings and meet William. Historians have speculated that if Harold had not been distracted by the Vikings and his brother Tostig he could have defeated William.

1200px-Church_of_Saint-Étienne_interior_(2)
Tomb of William the Conqueror in France

William went on to make himself master of England and reduced all of the country, to submission. The Norman built castles all over the country to control the English population. Willian also ordered the Doemsday Book to be drawn up- this was a census. William was to prove an able king and left his son William Rufus or William II as the undisputed king of England.

Advertisement
  • Brent Richards

    Harold seems to have been aware of Harold’s plans? and it is the Domesday , not Doomsday, book