the monastery of Wherwell. Disputes also arose over the issue of royal

patronage and Edward's inclination to reward his Norman friends.

A Norman, Robert Champart, who had been Bishop of London, was made

Archbishop of Canterbury by Edward in 1051, a promotion that displeased

Godwin immensely. The Godwins were banished from the kingdom after staging

an unsuccessful rebellion against the king but returned, landing an

invasionary force in the south of England in 1052. They received great

popular support, and in the face of this, the king was forced to restore

the Godwins to favor in 1053.

Edward's greatest achievement was the construction of a new cathedral,

where virtually all English monarchs from William the Conqueror onward

would be crowned. It was determined that the minster should not be built in

London, and so a place was found to the west of the city (hence

"Westminster"). The new church was consecrated at Christmas, 1065, but

Edward could not attend due to illness.

On his deathbed, Edward named Harold as his successor, instead of the

legitimate heir, his grandson, Edgar the Жtheling. The question of

succession had been an issue for some years and remained unsettled at

Edward's death in January, 1066. It was neatly resolved, however, by

William the Conqueror, just nine months later.

There is some question as to what kind of person Edward was. After his

death, he was the object of a religious cult and was canonized in 1161, but

that could be viewed as a strictly political move. Some say, probably

correctly, that he was a weak, but violent man and that his reputation for

saintliness was overstated, possibly a sham perpetrated by the monks of

Westminster in the twelfth century. Others seem to think that he was deeply

religious man and a patient and peaceable ruler.

HAROLD II (1066)

On Edward's death, the King's Council (the Witenagemot) confirmed

Edward's brother-in-law Harold, Earl of Wessex, as King. With no royal

blood, and fearing rival claims from William Duke of Normandy and the King

of Norway, Harold had himself crowned in Westminster Abbey on 6 January

1066, the day after Edward's death. During his brief reign, Harold showed

he was an outstanding commander.

In September, Harald Hardrada of Norway (aided by Harold's alienated

brother Tostig, Earl of Northumbria) invaded England and was defeated by

Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York. Hardrada's army had

invaded using over 300 ships; so many were killed that only 25 ships were

needed to transport the survivors home.

Meanwhile, William, Duke of Normandy (who claimed that Harold had

acknowledged him in 1064 as Edward's successor) had landed in Sussex.

Harold rushed south and, on 14 October 1066, his army of some 7,000

infantry was defeated on the field of Senlac near Hastings. Harold was hit

in the eye by an arrow and cut down by Norman swords.

An abbey was later built, in 1070, to fulfil a vow made by William I, and

its high altar was placed on the spot where Harold fell. The ruins of

Battle Abbey still remain with a stone slab marking where Harold died.


The Normans came to govern as a result of one of the most famous battles

in English history, the Battle of Hastings in 1066. From 1066 to 1154 four

kings ruled. The Domesday Book, that great source of English landholding,

was published, the forests were extended, the Exchequer was founded and a

start was made on the Tower of London. In religious affairs, the Gregorian

reform movement gathered pace and forced concessions, while the machinery

of government developed to support the country while Henry was fighting

abroad. Meanwhile, the social landscape was altered, as the Norman

aristocracy came to prominence. Many of the nobles struggled to keep a hold

on both Normandy and England, as divided rule meant the threat of conflict.

This was the case when William the Conqueror died. His eldest son,

Robert, became Duke of Normandy, while the next youngest, William, became

king of England. Their younger brother Henry would become king on William

II's death. The uneasy divide continued until Henry captured and imprisoned

his elder brother.

The question of the succession continued to weigh heavily over the

remainder of the period. Henry's son died, and his nominated heir Matilda

was denied the throne by her cousin, Henry's nephew, Stephen. There then

followed a period of civil war. Matilda married Geoffrey Plantagenet of

Anjou, who took control of Normandy. The duchy was therefore separated from

England once again.

A compromise was eventually reached whereby the son of Matilda and

Geoffrey would be heir to the English crown, while Stephen's son would

inherit his baronial lands. All this meant that in 1154 Henry II would

ascend to the throne as the first undisputed King in over 100 years - proof

of the dynastic uncertainty of the Norman period.


1066 - 1216


King of Denmark


Styrbjorn = Thyra


Richard I, Duke of


of Normandy

Thorgils Sprakalegg

Elgiva of (1) = CANUTE = (2) Emma, widow of Judith

= Richard II,

Northampton (1016–1035) ATHELRED II

daughter of Duke of Gytha =


Conan I Normandy

Earl of



HAREFOOT (1040–1042)

Robert I = Herlиve


Duke of








= Matilda, dau. of


Baldwin V, Count


of Flanders


Adela = Stephen, Adela of =



Count of Louvain




Matilda = Geoffrey, Count


of Anjou and Maine


Eleanor of


Aquitaine, divorced

wife of LOUIS VII,

King of



= Isabella, dau. of

(1189–1199) (1199–1216)

Count of





Born around 1028, William was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert I of

Normandy, and Herleve (also known as Arlette), daughter of a tanner in

Falaise. Known as 'William the Bastard' to his contemporaries, his

illegitimacy shaped his career when he was young. On his father's death in

1035, William was recognised by his family as the heir - an exception to

the general rule that illegitimacy barred succession. His great uncle

looked after the Duchy during William's minority, and his overlord, King

Henry I of France, knighted him at the age of 15. From 1047 onwards,

William successfully dealt with rebellion inside Normandy involving his

kinsmen and threats from neighbouring nobles, including attempted invasions

by his former ally King Henry I of France in 1054 (the French forces were

defeated at the Battle of Mortemer) and 1057. William's military successes

and reputation helped him to negotiate his marriage to Mathilda, daughter

of Count Baldwin V of Flanders. At the time of his invasion of England,

William was a very experienced and ruthless military commander, ruler and

administrator who had unified Normandy and inspired fear and respect

outside his duchy. William's claim to the English throne was based on his

assertion that, in 1051, Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne

(he was a distant cousin) and that Harold II - having sworn in 1064 to

uphold William's right to succeed to that throne - was therefore a usurper.

Furthermore, William had the support of Emperor Henry IV and papal

approval. William took seven months to prepare his invasion force, using

some 600 transport ships to carry around 7,000 men (including 2,000-3,000

cavalry) across the Channel. On 28 September 1066, with a favourable wind,

William landed unopposed at Pevensey and, within a few days, raised

fortifications at Hastings. Having defeated an earlier invasion by the King

of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York in late September,

Harold undertook a forced march south, covering 250 miles in some nine days

to meet the new threat, gathering inexperienced reinforcements to replenish

his exhausted veterans as he marched. At the Battle of Senlac (near

Hastings) on 14 October, Harold's weary and under-strength army faced

William's cavalry (part of the forces brought across the Channel) supported

by archers. Despite their exhaustion, Harold's troops were equal in number

(they included the best infantry in Europe equipped with their terrible two-

handled battle axes) and they had the battlefield advantage of being based

on a ridge above the Norman positions. The first uphill assaults by the

Normans failed and a rumour spread that William had been killed; William

rode among the ranks raising his helmet to show he was still alive. The

battle was close-fought: a chronicler described the Norman counter-attacks

and the Saxon defence as 'one side attacking with all mobility, the other

withstanding as though rooted to the soil'. Three of William's horses were

killed under him. William skilfully co-ordinated his archers and cavalry,

both of which the English forces lacked. During a Norman assault, Harold

was killed - hit by an arrow and then mowed down by the sword of a mounted

knight. Two of his brothers were also killed. The demoralised English

forces fled. (In 1070, as penance, William had an abbey built on the site

of the battle, with the high altar occupying the spot where Harold fell.

The ruins of Battle Abbey, and the town of Battle, which grew up around it,

remain.) William was crowned on Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey.

Three months later, he was confident enough to return to Normandy leaving

two joint regents (one of whom was his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux,

who was later to commission the Bayeux Tapestry) behind to administer the

kingdom. However, it took William six years to consolidate his conquest,

and even then he had to face constant plotting and fighting on both sides

of the Channel. In 1068, Harold's sons raided the south-west coast of

England (dealt with by William's local commanders), and there were

uprisings in the Welsh Marches, Devon and Cornwall. William appointed earls

who, in Wales and in all parts of the kingdom, undertook to guard the

threatened frontiers and maintain internal security in return for land. In

1069, the Danes, in alliance with Prince Edgar the Aetheling (Ethelred's

great-grandson) and other English nobles, invaded the north and took York.

Taking personal charge, and pausing only to deal with the rising at

Stafford, William drove the Danes back to their ships on the Humber. In a

harsh campaign lasting into 1070, William systematically devastated Mercia

and Northumbria to deprive the Danes of their supplies and prevent recovery

of English resistance. Churches and monasteries were burnt, and

agricultural land was laid to waste, creating a famine for the unarmed and

mostly peasant population which lasted at least nine years. Although the

Danes were bribed to leave the north, King Sweyn of Denmark and his ships

threatened the east coast (in alliance with various English, including

Hereward the Wake) until a treaty of peace was concluded in June 1070.

Further north, where the boundary with Scotland was unclear, King Malcolm

III was encroaching into England. Yet again, William moved swiftly and

moved land and sea forces north to invade Scotland. The Treaty of Abernethy

in 1072 marked a truce, which was reinforced by Malcolm's eldest son being

accepted as a hostage. William consolidated his conquest by starting a

castle-building campaign in strategic areas. Originally these castles were

wooden towers on earthen 'mottes' (mounds) with a bailey (defensive area)

surrounded by earth ramparts, but many were later rebuilt in stone. By the

end of William's reign over 80 castles had been built throughout his

kingdom, as a permanent reminder of the new Norman feudal order. William's

wholesale confiscation of land from English nobles and their heirs (many

nobles had died at the battles of Stamford Bridge and Senlac) enabled him

to recruit and retain an army, by demanding military duties in exchange for

land tenancy granted to Norman, French and Flemish allies. He created up to

180 'honours' (lands scattered through shires, with a castle as the

governing centre), and in return had some 5,000 knights at his disposal to

repress rebellions and pursue campaigns; the knights were augmented by

mercenaries and English infantry from the Anglo-Saxon militia, raised from

local levies. William also used the fyrd, the royal army - a military

arrangement which had survived the Conquest. The King's tenants-in-chief in

turn created knights under obligation to them and for royal duties (this

was called subinfeudation), with the result that private armies centred

around private castles were created - these were to cause future problems

of anarchy for unfortunate or weak kings. By the end of William's reign, a

small group of the King's tenants had acquired about half of England's

landed wealth. Only two Englishmen still held large estates directly from

the King. A foreign aristocracy had been imposed as the new governing

class. The expenses of numerous campaigns, together with an economic slump

(caused by the shifts in landed wealth, and the devastation of northern

England for military and political reasons), prompted William to order a

full-scale investigation into the actual and potential wealth of the

kingdom to maximise tax revenues. The Domesday survey was prompted by

ignorance of the state of land holding in England, as well as the result of

the costs of defence measures in England and renewed war in France. The

scope, speed, efficiency and completion of this survey was remarkable for

its time and resulted in the two-volume Domesday Book of 1086, which still

exists today. William needed to ensure the direct loyalty of his feudal

tenants. The 1086 Oath of Salisbury was a gathering of William's 170

tenants-in-chief and other important landowners who took an oath of fealty

to William. William's reach extended elsewhere into the Church and the

legal system. French superseded the vernacular (Anglo-Saxon). Personally

devout, William used his bishops to carry out administrative duties.

Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1070, was a first-class

administrator who assisted in government when William was absent in France,

and who reorganised the Church in England. Having established the primacy

of his archbishopric over that of York, and with William's approval,

Lanfranc excommunicated rebels, and set up Church or spiritual courts to

deal with ecclesiastical matters. Lanfranc also replaced English bishops

and abbots (some of whom had already been removed by the Council of

Winchester under papal authority) with Norman or French clergy to reduce

potential political resistance. In addition, Canterbury and Durham

Cathedrals were rebuilt and some of the bishops' sees were moved to urban

centres. At his coronation, William promised to uphold existing laws and

customs. The Anglo-Saxon shire courts and 'hundred' courts (which

administered defence and tax, as well as justice matters) remained intact,

as did regional variations and private Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions. To

strengthen royal justice, William relied on sheriffs (previously smaller

landowners, but replaced by influential nobles) to supervise the

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