The Normans


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  • Created on: 29-03-10 15:26

The Norman Invasion of England

The Norman invasion of England in 1066 is described through the images of the Bayeux Tapestry. The following pages introduce you to the main claimants to the throne and the battles that followed.

The Story behind the Invasion

King Edward lll of ( England (called "The Confessor" because he built Westminster Abbey) died on January 5, 1066, after a reign of 23 years. Leaving no heirs, Edward's passing ignited a three-way rivalry for the crown that culminated in the Battle of Hastings and the destruction of the Anglo-Saxon rule of England.

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Who should be the next King?

Saxon England didn't have any firm rules about who should be King. Basically, when a king died, the crown passed to whoever could:

a) show that they had some sort of blood claim, and

b) grab the throne before anyone else got it.

Meet the four claimants to the English throne

When the English king Edward the Confessor died on 5 January 1066, no fixed procedures were in place to decide who should succeed him on the throne.

The Witan (a spreme council of wise men) had to make the decision, and they had four candidates to choose from.

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Meet the four claimants to the English throne

Edgar the Atheling, closest blood claimant to Edward. Edgar, a Saxon prince and nephew of Edward, was a sickly fourteen year old boy.

Harold Godwinson, powerful noble in England, a good soldier and a gifted politician. Harold was born and bred in England and popular with ordinary people. He was son of Earl Godwin, the most powerful noble in England. Harold was a leading Saxon Lord and the brother of Edward's wife. He had won a number of battles for Edward. Harold was chosen by the Witan (the King's council) to succeed Edward the Confessor. He also said that it was Edward's dying wish that he, Harold, should have the crown (There were no witnesses to Edward saying this) The day after Edward died, Harold became King Harold ll of England. Harold did not have a direct blood link to the king. He was not of royal birth.

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Meet the four claimants to the English throne

William, Duke of Normandy, over the sea in France. William was a distant cousin of Edward the Confessor and wanted to be the next king. He claimed that both Edward and Harold had promised him the throne, but English supporters of Harold challenged this. When Edward was a boy in 1016, King Canute invaded England and Edward ran away to Normandy for safety. Edward stayed in Normandy until he became King of England in 1042. Edward invited William of Normandy to his court in 1051 and supposedly promised to make him heir. After a shipwreck in 1064, Harold was handed over to William of Normandy, who forced him to swear an oath that he would help William become the next king of England when Edward died. It was said that the oath was given over a box that unbeknown to Harold contained the bones of a saint. Oaths were important guarantees that were considered binding in the Middle Ages, so this particular oath bound Harold to helping William, and made Harold’s own claim to the throne look illegal. William had been a very successful ruler of Normandy and he thought he could do an equally good job for England.

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Meet the four claimants to the English throne

Harald Hardrada, Viking king of Norway

Hardrada was king of Norway and a direct descendant of the kings of England. He was related to King Canute, the King of England from 1016-1032.

The Vikings invaded England long ago, in the 860s, and settled in the north. In 1016 the Viking King Canute became King of England, Denmark and Norway. England was ruled by Norwegian kings right up until 1042 when Edward the Confessor (the last Saxon King) snatched back the throne from them.

Hardrada anted to be King of England because he wanted more power and better land. Hardrada was very unpopular, but very powerful. His name alone was enough to strike fear into the hearts and minds of his enemies.

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The battle of Stamford Bridge

25th September 1066. The first to try and seize the crown and invade England was Harald Hardrada of Norway. He was helped by Harold's brother Tostig, who was exiled from England.

Harald Hardrada and Tostig landed with a massive army of over 8,000 Norwegians in the North of England. They took York and declared Harald Hardrada King of England. On hearing of the Viking (Norse) invasion, Harold Godwinson quickly gathered what men he could and marched 187 miles north to face him. They marched 37 - 45 miles a day, going as fast as they could and carryng their heavy kit with them.

The two armies met at Stamford Bridge, just outside York, on 25 September 1066. It was a bloody battle and one in which Harold's army (the Saxons) broke through the Viking invaders front line to go on and win the battle.

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The battle of Stamford Bridge

The Battle of Stamford Bridge was one of the most impressive victories any Saxon King ever won. The Vikings didn't know what hit them. Harold's men killed Harald Hardrada and Tostig.

It was such a fierce battle that only twenty four of the three hundred ships, that came to England carry the 8,000 soldiers, returned to Norway.

King Harold's celebrations of victory were cut short as news came of the impending Norman invasion and no-one was left along the south coast of England to stop them!

The Saxon army raced back south to face the Norman invaders. Harold and his men must have been shattered, but you would never have known it from the battle that followed (now known as the Battle of Hastings).

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Who was the leader of the Normans?

William, Duke of Normandy. William was born in 1027. He became duke of Normandy when he was only seven years old.

Why did William the Conqueror invade England? William laid claim to the English throne after Edward died. He was a distant cousin of Edward and said that Edward had promised him the throne when visiting France in 1051. He even said his claim had been accepted by Harold Godwinson in 1064, when Harold had been blown onto the Norman shore by a storm. William invaded England to become King and claim the throne from Harold.

When did William the Conqueror invade England? The Norman Invasion started when William, Duke of Normandy's 7,000 soldiers landed at Pevensey on the morning of the 28th September 1066.

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An Introduction to the Invaders

Who were the Normans?

The Normans were people who lived in Normandy in Northern ( France. They were originally Vikings from Scandinavia. (The name Normandy comes from the French normand, meaning Norsemen and Normans)

The Normans lived in wattle and daub huts with thatched straw roofs.
(After invading Britain they also built
castles - to defend their new kingdom)

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Where did William fight Harold for the English Thr

Harold and William's armies met on Senlac Hill*, seven miles (10 km) from Hastings.(Today the village where the battle took place is simply called Battle.)

Harold set up his defence at the top of Senlac Hill. This gave him an advantage over William as the Normans would have to fight up a hill wearing heavy chain mail armour. The Normans ran up hill whilst the English hurled axes and other objects down at them.

What is the name of the famous battle between William and Harold?

The Battle of Hastings.

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Where did William fight Harold for the English Thr

What date did the Battle of Hastings take place on?

It began at about nine o'clock on the 14th October 1066 and lasted most of the day.

The Saxons led by Harold The English had a larger army consisting of the house-carles (body guard) of Harold and his allies, some other professional soldiers and a mass of peasants armed with pitchforks and slingshots.

The Normans led by William On the Norman side were professional soldiers, many of them armoured knights on horseback.

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What happened at the Battle of Hastings?

At first the Normans were unable to pierce through the massed ranks of the English infantry. For six hours until late afternoon the English seemed like they were going to win. The Normans charged again and again, but they couldn't break through the Saxon shield wall and had to go back down the hill again. Then the Saxons made their fatal mistake. Late afternoon some of Harold's men broke their shield wall to chase the Normans, who they thought were retreating.This was to be their biggest mistake because no sooner had the Normans reached the bottom of the hill, they turned round and cut the English to bits.

The Norman cavalry rode among the English, hacking them down. Finally, William brought in his archers and Harold's luck ran out. The arrows didn't break the Saxon line, but if the Bayeux Tapestry is to be believed, one of the arrows hit Harold in the eye. The battle lasted six hours.

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Why did William won the Battle of Hastings?

  1. William's army had time to rest before the battle. Harold Godwinson's army was tired and they did not have time to prepare properly for the battle. The English army had already fought the Battle of Stamford Bridge that day and had to march quickly down to the battlefield outside Hastings. They marched 50 miles a day!
  2. William's army was stronger. He had better trained soldiers and had the use of a strong cavalry (men on horseback) and archers whereas Harold did not.
  3. William's army pretended to flee. Many of Harold's men broke their sheild wall to chase after them but as they did William and his army turned back and slaughtered them.
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Who died with an arrow in his eye?

According to legend, Harold Godwinson was killed by an arrow in his eye. The legend of Harold being hit in the eye comes from the Bayeux Tapestry, which shows Harold's death.

It is not certain how Harold died. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a soldier with an arrow near his eye but the soldier does not appear to be wounded as he is standing up. If he had been killed it would have shown him falling to the ground. This is the reason why most people now think that Harold is the man on the right with the battle axe.

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Who died with an arrow in his eye?

He has been struck down by a blow from the Norman knight on horseback. It seems more likely that Harold was killed by a blow from a sword.

Above the picture are the latin words HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST, which means HERE KING HAROLD HAS BEEN KILLED.

If the tapestry has got the events right, after the Norman's fired their arrows, they charged with their Cavarly, and Harold and his men were defeated.

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Louise Williams


Edward III didn't exist until three centuries AFTER 1066 :)

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