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The Norman conquest of England was an invasion by the Normandy-icon Duchy of Normandyball against the Anglo-Saxon ruled Kingdom of England-icon Kingdom of Englandball after the king of England, Harold Godwinson, refused to give up the throne to the heir of the last king, William the Conqueror.

Background

Normandy's birth

It's the year 900. Europe is a vikings wet dream, raids galore. One day, Norwegian-Empire-icon Norwayball decided to raid Kingdom of France-icon West Franciaball's capital, Paris-icon Parisball. That particular raid didn't go to well, but France saw how tough and scary Norway was, and decided to let him stay and have part of her clay in the north, and in return he would protect her from other vikings. It was agreed, and soon Normandy-icon Normandyball was born.

English viking problems.

England-icon Englandball also had his fair share of viking problems. In the 800s, Denmark-icon Denmarkball had conquered most of the country, but England eventually managed to kick him out, although he left behind a bunch of viking settlers.

Now this guy's king, he sucks, so they replace him with his brother. He then had two children from two different mothers, so when he died, nobody was sure who to make king. The first son Edward the Martyr took the throne due to being older, but he was soon assassinated, giving the throne to Æthelred the Unready.

Æthelred grew up and married the Duke of Normandy's daughter, having a bunch of kids (remember this one, he's important). His advisors informed him about the viking settlers and how they might plan to attack and kill him. To prevent this, Æthelred organized a genocide. With his people under attack, Denmark launched an invasion and the vikings reconquered England once again. Then the Anglo-Saxons unconquered it, then the vikings reconquered it.

With England under new rule, the King's family had to go into exile, including Edward, remember him? He went to Normandy where he lived for 30 years. He and his brother Alfred tried to return to England to retake the throne from the vikings, but were betrayed by the Earl of Wessex, who blinded and killed Alfred. Edward escaped back to Normandy. After a few more viking kings came and went, one finally died without and heir and Edward was called back to England to become king.

Becoming King

Here's the thing about becoming a king in the middle ages. Often your entire country won't support you at first, you can be vulnerable to rebellions, and it's up to you to take control. Fortunately for Edward, there was already a super powerful guy who had a lot of control over England, and if Edward could get his support, then England would be his. Who is this guy? The guy who killed Alfred, Godwin, Earl of Wessex.

After an awkward moment where Edward exiled Godwin from the country, he eventually had to give in and let him keep his earldom, possibly after Godwin gave him a bunch of gold, and told him he was very very sorry, King Edward also married Godwin's daughter.

When Godwin died, his massive fortune was passed down to his sons, who all became Earls, This one in particular became the new Earl of Wessex. Harold Godwinson was now King Edward's brother in law, he was a close advisor to the King, a brave warrior who had proven himself in a battle against Walesball, and in many ways he was sort of like a Co-King.

Who's the next King?

Uh oh, Edward got old and he's on his death bed. Possibly for religious reasons, or maybe because he wasn't happy about having to marry her, he didn't boink his wife, and as a result has no kids. Meaning there was no obvious heir to the throne, meaning Harold is gonna be king (He does have a grand nephew, it could've been him).

Just one problem, we mentioned that Edward's mother was in Normandy, Edward grew up in Normandy, and he had a bunch of Norman friends. The current duke of Normandy was William the Bastard, why was he called the bastard? One day his father was sneaking out of his castle to go to the tanners shop to get a "tan". That was a lie, firstly because tanners give you leather, not tans, and secondly because he was really going to see the Tanner's daughter. One thing leads to another, and out comes baby William, born out of wedlock, thus an absolute bastard.

His father died when William was seven or eight, and he became the new Duke. He spent most of his childhood narrowly avoiding assassination, which probably turned him into the big-balls tough guy he's remembered as today. In 1051, the town of Aleçon tried to rebel against him, and the townspeople even beat on dead animal skins as an insult to his commoner mother. William was furious, and he responded by, well let's just say it wasn't pretty (Dude, where are your arms?). That's the guy we're dealing with here.

William and Edward were good friends, and Edward allegedly promised that William could have the English throne after him. A decade later, Harold even visited William, and pledged an oath to him over holy relics, promising that William could be the next King of England. Although it's possible Harold only did it because William was holding his family hostage. So when William heard that Edward was on his death bed, he prepared to become King. Now you have two extremely powerful men who both think they're about to become the next king, but wait, there's more.

This guy is the King of Norway. He spent most of his life as a warrior for hire, fighting for whoever would give him the most gold, you name a place, he's probably fought there. Poland? Yep. Estonia? Yep. Against pirates in the Mediterranean? Yep. The holy lands, Sicily and Bulgaria? Yep. He got crazy right off the back of it, and was swimming in gold, then returning home and becoming King.

One of the previous Norwegian vikings made an agreement with one of England's Viking Kings, saying that when that Viking King died, the King of Norway would get the English Throne. Hardrada felt that because of this agreement, he was now entitled to the English throne. He was also eager to go on one last big conquest that would turn him into a legend. When he got word that Edward was on his death bed, he began to plan an invasion of England and take the throne. So now we have three extremely powerful men who all think they're going to become the next King of England, and that means somebody's probably about to get hurt.

Road to War

Back in England, while Harold is watching over dying Edward, he finally comes out with a shocking announcement to the people. Edward has died, and he "told" Harold to be the next king, and anyone else who he said could be king will no longer have the chance (Liar). With that biased announcement, Harold easily took the throne and kicked the other two out of the competition.

Usually it took months of preparation to crown a new king, but Harold rushed it and had himself crowned the same day Edward was buried. In Normandy, William's advisors came to him, and informed him of Harold taking the throne, and William was furious. After sending an envoy to Harold to demand him to give him the throne, which failed, William immediately began gathering his armies together and prepare for an invasion of England.

Now killing a king was often frowned upon in old-time Europe, because they were considered to have been chosen by God himself, so William had to literally get God on his side. After going to the Pope and getting his blessing, everything was ready for the invasion. Just one problem: The wind.

The wind had been blowing sails South instead of North, meaning William had to wait with his army in Normandy. Meanwhile Godwinson had prepared his army and waited in the South of England. They waited and waited, until William tried sailing to England and got shipwrecked due to the wind. The armies waited for 2 months, but the wind never changed. Godwinson got bored and ran out of food for his soldiers, so he sent them home and returned to London. The South Coast was undefended and all William could do was keep waiting.

The War

Hardrada's landing

While the Northerly wind kept William in Normandy, it was carrying Hardrada and his Viking army to England. Hardrada landed near the old Viking city of York and defeated a regional army led by the Northern Earl's, York surrendered. When Godwinson heard about this, he must have been pretty upset. He had just disbanded his army and now he had to gather them all together again and march all the way up North. He made the exhausting journey in just four days, which is crazy quick. He caught the vikings off guard and prepared for battle.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

The two armies stood on either side of the river Derwent. Legend says that a berserker viking single handedly held the only way crossing the river, dodging arrows and fending off attackers. Then some English soldiers got under the bridge in a barrel and gave him the old spear in the jewels. This gave the vikings enough time to form a shield wall, but because they'd been caught off guard, many weren't wearing their chainmail and armor. The English eventually defeated them, killing Hardrada and with him, bringing the viking era in England to an end.

William's landing

Back in Normandy, the wind had just changed directions North and now William had set sail for England. William's fleet of over 700 ships and 14,000 men set sail and landed on the English coast at Pevensey and set up camp near Hastings. Harold was still all the way up in York, so his exhausted army had to march all the way South just days after their battle with the vikings. Harold made it to London, and considered just staying there waiting for William to come to him. However, William forced Harold's hand by burning down a bunch of villages.

Battle of Hastings

Harold's army set out and met William's on the 14th of October, 1066. Both sides prepared themselves for the Battle of Hastings. The English were on a hill, so they decided to stay there because it was a good defensive position. The Normans approached and the two sides probably spent a while yelling at each other.

William and the Normans had a few tactical advantages over the English. The first were the archers, the Normans sent volley after volley of arrows at the English, who formed a shield wall in defense. Then William sent his infantry up the hill. The English threw anything they had at them and the Normans couldn't break through the shield wall. Then the Norman's next tactical advantage came into play. William sent his cavalry up the hill, but even they struggled to break through the shield wall defenses. Wave after wave of infantry and cavalry came and Harold knew all he had to do was let the Normans exhaust themselves and he would win.

Then something strange had happened. It is possible the Normans incorrectly believed William had been killed. Maybe they lost their will to fight against the shield wall, or maybe it was an intentional deception tactic. Suddenly the Norman forces turned and ran away from the English. Believing they had won, the English broke their shield wall and chased down the retreating Normans. The Normans then turned around and encircled the English troops, cutting them down. In the chaotic fighting that followed, Harold Godwinson was killed. The most popular theory being that he took an arrow in the eye. The English were defeated and William had won. He was no more just a bastard, now he was a conquered.

Aftermath

New Rule

At first the English Nobles were reluctant to make him King, but William burned down a few more villages and the Nobles eventually gave in and offered him the crown. As he had his coronation, the local villages and Westminster let out a cheer of support, but William thought it was a riot, so he burned down the village. William then had to go on a long and costly campaign of quelling rebellions and burning down villages all over England to force the people in submission.

English Language

England went through a massive transformation under it's new Norman rule. English nobles were replaced with Normans. They built castles and grand cathedrals, but one of the most interesting changes occurred within the English language. The Normans brought their dialect of French to England and it merged with Old English in ways we still live with today.

First of all, the Normans were obviously the ones in power, so words related to power like Government, Judge, Castle and Crown come from the Norman's. Words that are considered Posher and are more refined, are usually the Norman ones. At first the Anglo-Saxons probably weren't that friendly to the Normans, while the Normans likely weren't that amiable to the Anglo-Saxons. An Anglo-Saxon might come into a room, but a Norman would enter into a Chamber. An Anglo Saxon might buy themselves a shirt, while a Norman would purchase a blouse. While that filthy peasant's new shirt may be fair, the Norman blouse is absolutely beautiful. The Normans actually considered some Anglo-Saxon words so crude that we can't even say them here. Ask an Anglo-Saxon what job he does and he might respond with some low-level trade such as a baker, a miller, or a shoemaker. A Norman has a skilled trade, like a painter, tailor, or a merchant. The Anglo-Saxons working in the fields owned many cows, pigs and sheep. Once they were served up in a Norman banquet, they became beef, pork and mutton.

Written English changed too. Since many Anglo-Saxons couldn't write, the written language was romanticized. Your annoying friend that says cool hwip might just be speaking an Old English dialect as the Anglo-Saxons originally wrote it as hwen hwere and hwat until the Normans swapped the W and H around. The long English A vowel sounded more like an O to the Normans, so you can thank them that you live in a home, not a ham.

Sources


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