The Normans: Overview

  • William of Normandy, Harold Godwinson and Harald Hardrada all claimed they should be King following the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066.
  • There were 3 major battles in 1066. By the end of the Battle of Hastings, William was crowned King.
  • William then needed to protect his position as King against English rebels and threats.
  • William made changes to the church and justice system.
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Edward's Rule (1042-66)

  • Edward the Confessor ruled England from 1042-66. He was the first English King  after 25 years of Viking rule.
  • His mother was Norman and he spent his early life in Normandy.
  • Earl Godwin was a powerful Anglo-Saxon noble, controlling Wessex. He was invloved in the murder of Edward's brother.
  • Edward married Godwin's daughter, Edith.
  • Edward had no heir. Norman sources suggest he took a vow of celibacy but modern historians believe that he wouldn't have children with Edith because he hated her father.
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Edward's death and claimants to the throne

  • Edward died without an heir on the 5th January 1066. There were four contenders to the throne.
  • Harold Godwinson - most powerful man in England and helped run the country in Edward's last years. He was Edward's brother-in-law, reportedly promised the throne by Edward after 1053.
  • William of Normandy - illegitimate cousin of Edward, who said Edward promised him the throne in 1051. William claimed Harold told him he could be King in 1064.
  • Harald Hardrada - Viking leader, but no blood ties to English royal family, but claimed the throne through England's previous Viking rulers. Invited by Harold Godwinson's brother, Tostig, to rebel against Harold Godwinson.
  • Edgar Atheling - great nephew of Edward. Edward invited Edgar and his father back to England from exile in 1057. He was only a teenager when Edward died and would have struggled to lead.
  • The Witan took the decision to crown Harold Godwinson as King of England.
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Harold Godwinson's succession as King of England:

  • The Witan picked Harold, believing he could protect England against Normans and Vikings.
  • He was English, experienced as a leader and Edgar Atheling was too young.
  • Harold had a good relationship with Edward. Harold was loyal and Edward trusted him more than his father, Earl Godwin.
  • The Witan encouraged people to support Harold. Harold married the sister of Northern earls, Edwin and Morcar. This protected the north and avoided civil war.
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The Battle of Fulford - 20th September 1066

  • The Witan crowned Harold Godwinson on 6th January 1066.
  • Harold won the support of the Earls in the north, Edwin and Morcar, by marrying their sister Edith.
  • Harold Godwinson's exiled brother, Tostig, invaded England with Harald Hardrada and 10,000 Norwegians.
  • Edwin and Morcar fought against the invasion at Fulford.
  • Hardrada was victorious. He captured York and King Harold had to march north to fight the invasion.
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The Battle of Stamford Bridge - 25th September 106

  • Harold Godwinson marched his 15,000 - strong army, including 3,000 highly trained housecarls 185 miles north in 4 days.
  • Harold Godwinson was victorious. Tostig and Hardrada were killed. The Norwegian army was caught off guard, suprised  by the speed Harold's army had travelled north.
  • Harold lost one third of his troops in the battle.
  • Harold then had to march south after William of Normandy arrived in England 4 days later.
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The Battle of Hastings - 14th October 1066

  • William landed in England with 9,000 men. Harold's army, depleted after Stamford Bridge, had only 7,000 men but was boosted by the fyrd.
  • Harold started the battle well. His sheild wall repelled Norman attacks.
  • William took of his helmet to show he was alive after a rumour that he was dead.
  • Harold's army charged down the hill, believing that William's army was retreating, and were cut to pieces.
  • Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye. William had won the battle.
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Key Events of the Battle of Hastings

1. English army form sheild wall on Senlac Hill. Norman soldiers ride out, but are forced back.

2. Some Norman soldiers begin to flee because they thought William had been killed. William            takes of his helmet to prove he is still alive, and leads second attack.

3. Norman cavalry feigns a retreat, some English leave shield wall to attack.

4. Norman cavalry turn around and launch an attack on English.

5. Harold is shot in the eye, and the English army are defeated by William and the Normans.

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Why did William win?

  • William was fortunate that the wind changed direction, allowing him to invade while Harold was in the North. He was also fortunate that Harold was killed in the battle.
  • William built castles and raided the local area for food and supplies while Harold was marching south.
  • William led his army well and boosted their morale at important moments.
  • The tactic of pretending to retreat was hugely successful, helping to break the shield wall.
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The establishment of Norman rule over England

  • William needed to consolidate his power over England. He let Edwin and Morcar keep their land. They had to accept William as King.
  • William gave land to Norman barons who had supported him.
  • The feudal system was introduced - the king owned all land. Barons fought for the king and trained knights, who also received land. Villeins worked on land for knights and barons.
  • William's half brother, Odo, was made Earl of Kent.
  • FitzOsbern, William's close friend, planned the Norman invasion and was made Earl of Hereford.
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Anglo-Saxon resistance to Norman Rule

  • 1067 - Anglo-Saxons were angry that Normans took land on the Welsh borders. They ransacked Hereford, led by Eadric 'The Wild'.
  • 1068 - rebellion in Northumbria led by Cospatrcik, Edwin of Mercia, Morcar and Edgar. Earl Robert de Commines and his army were massacred, as the people did not want a Norman earl.
  • 1070-1071- Danish king Sweiyn sent an army to invade England. William paid them to leave.
  • Hereward the Wake rebelled. He fought a guerrilla war against the Normans.

Eadric 'The Wild' - Anglo Saxon thegn. Under his leadership Anglo-Saxon forces allied with the Welsh princes Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, ransacked Hereford before disappearing back into Wales.

Edgar Atheling - Previously Earl of Oxford. Young Edgar was briefly crowned King after Harold's death but surrendered to William, before becoming a figurehead of the resistance.

King Sweiyn - Danish King.The army he sent was not large enough to conquer England, but enough for King William to pay them a large amount of money to leave. Some Danes in East Anglia stayed to support the rebellion.

Hereward the WakePart of the resistance. A previously exiled English thegn who became a key player in the resistance, fighting a guerilla war against the Normans.

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The Harrying of the North

  • People in the north opposed Norman taxes and land takeovers.
  • In the winter of 1069-1070, William brutally destroyed opposition in the north of England that was being encouraged by Scots and Danes.
  • Villages were destroyed, herds of animals and crops were burnt and people were killed.
  • Many people fled from William's army, becoming refugees. Some of these refugees joined the resistance fighters in the Welsh Marches.
  • The Domesday Book in 1086 recorded large areas of Yorkshire as being 'waste'.
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The Revolt of the Anglo-Norman earls.

  • When William FitzOsbern died, King William split his land between his sons. William de Breteuil was given his land in Normandy, and Roger de Breteuil his English land.
  • Roger rebelled with Ralph deGael, Earl of Norfolk. They failed as they lacked support of Anglo-Saxons, their co-conspirator Earl Waltheof of Northumbria betrayed them and Norman barons defeated Ralph.
  • Bishop Odo was imprisoned for attempting a military expedition to Italy, possibly planning to install himself as Pope.
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The Domesday Book

  • William had rewarded his loyal supporters with land.
  • By 1085, landowners were arguing about who owned what land and William did not want disunity among his followers.
  • The Domesday Book was the result of a great survey ordered by William to establish who owned land in England, what it was used for, what it was worth and how much tax landowners should pay.
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Law and order changes

  • French became the main language used at court and in government. Fines were to be paid to the court, not the victim's family.
  • Trail by combat was introduced.
  • Primogeniture was introduced - the oldest son in a family would inherit all land.
  • The feudal system distributed land and helped raise an army through military service.
  • Murdum - Anglo-Saxon villagers had to prove corpes found near a village were not Norman. If they were, all villagers had to find the culprit and pay a fine.
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Village life

  • Villiens worked on small pieces of land to provide food for their family to get them through a year. They also had to work on their lord's land.
  • Women had to look after the animals and prepare food.
  • The lord of a demesne collected taxes and organised tenants' work on their land.
  • Wealthy people spent time learning to rule.
  • Hunting was the most popular pastime. People caught hunting in private forests would be brutally punished by blinding.
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The different lives of Lords and Villeins

  • Lords - Time spent learning to rule or fight, hunting in spare time and collect taxes from wealthier tenants.
  • Villeins - Tended own land as well as Lord's, Woman cared for animals and preserved food, relied on summer harvest and their typical was mostly bread and ale.
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Pre-Norman fortifications

  • Anglo-Saxon towns were fortified against Viking invasions. These towns were known as burhs.
  • They often had a ditch, wooden or stone wall and towers.
  • Gates at either end would control who came in and out.
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Motte and Bailey Castles

  • The first castles built by the Normans were wooden motte and bailey castles.
  • They could be built in just a few days and were an effective way of securing towns that had submitted to his power as well as protecting the 8,000 men who were with William in England.
  • The major weaknesses of motte and bailey castles were that the wood would rot or it could be burnt down.
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Features of a Norman motte and bailey castle

  • Keep
  • Bailey
  • Motte 
  • Palisade
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Development of Castles

  • Stone Castles could be built on the grounds of a motte and bailey castle.
  • Advantages: 
  • They were stone so couldn't be burnt down.
  • Demonstrated Norman power - tall towers gave good vantage points.
  • They were more luxurious and could survive a siege for months.
  • Problems:
  • They were expensive to build.
  • Square or rectangular castles could be partly demolished by tunnelling under a corner.
  • Trebuchets could be used to fire rocks at the castles.
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Importance of castles

  • Castles were built on the border (the March) with Wales to stop the Welsh supporting the English rebels.
  • Marcher lords were powerful and had privileges that other lords didn't. For example, they could build castles without permission from King William I.
  • Castles were also used for tax collecting and courts, and were home to markets and large garrisons.
  • Castles created a sense of security for the community an helped to maintain order in medieval England.
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Church power and the state in England.

  • The key leaders involved in relations between Church and state were the king, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the pope.
  • In 1070 Pope Alexander sent an ambassador to crown King William. They deposed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, replacing him with Lanfranc.
  • Lanfranc kept control of the clergy and along with William met church leaders in synods.
  • A synod decided that Lanfranc should remain senior to the Archbishop of York, Thomas of Bayeux, who had claimed superiority.

Synods - An assembly of the clergy and sometimes also the laity (religious people who are not and ordained minister or priest) in a diocese or other division of a particular church.

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The Church under Archbishop Lanfranc

  • William believed it was important to bring English churches under Normal Control.
  • The Normans built stone churches to show they had religious authority.
  • Basilicas were built in major towns like London, Durham and York. They had rounded arches and were painted with religious art.
  • Lanfranc was a strict leader who challenged simony, replaced English bishops with Normans and ensured priests followed the rules of the Church.

Simony - Buying or selling leadership positions or privileges such as pardons in relation to the Church.

Archbishop Lanfranc's church reforms:

  • Challenged simony
  • Obedience
  • Supremacy
  • Loyalty
  • Succession
  • Substitution
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  • Monks and nuns lived in isolated communities. The leader of a monastery was an abbot.
  • Canterbury Priory monks followed strict rules of Saint Benedict and were called Benedictines.
  • Benedictines led simple lives - praying, and not eating meat or talking to each other.
  • Monastic life was revived in the North. William encouraged monasteries to be built across England.
  • Monasteries were one of the few places that provided education and taught Anglo-Norman, not English.

Benedictine Monk - Monks who followed the strict rules of the Order of Saint Benedict.

An average day for a Benedictine Monk:

  • Two meals a day
  • No meat
  • No talking to each other
  • Eight services a day
  • First at 2am and last at 6pm
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