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British history

Norman England

King Harold's troops at Hastings in 1066King Harold's troops at Hastings in 1066The Normans (from Nordmann, or "Northman") were originally Vikings from Scandinavia who settled in northern France in the early 900s. They built up a powerful duchy known as Normandy. In 1035, the duchy passed to a young boy called William. He grew up to become a skilled military commander who never lost a battle in his life. In 1051 the childless Saxon king of England, Edward the Confessor, son of Aethelred and his Norman second wife, Emma, seemed to promise the crown of England to William. But on his deathbed in 1066, Edward apparently changed his mind and gave the crown to his brother-in-law, Harold. William launched an invasion of England to gain the crown by force.

The Bayeux Tapestry shows the Battle of Hastings.The Bayeux Tapestry shows the Battle of Hastings.

The Battle of Hastings

When William and his Norman army landed at Pevensey Bay on the south coast of England, Harold and his English army were in Yorkshire in the north of England. They had just defeated an invading Viking army led by Harold Hardrada, who also claimed the English crown, at Stamford Bridge. Harold rushed south and prepared to face William. The two armies met 10 kilometres (6 miles) north of Hastings in southern England on 14th October 1066.

The English army of around 7000 men lined up on top of a ridge while the Norman army, of roughly the same size, had to fight up the hill towards them. After two unsuccessful attacks, the Normans pretended to flee the battlefield. The English army rushed after them and were then attacked and overwhelmed. Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye. William had won a decisive victory and claimed the crown. England now fell under Norman rule.

In Norman castles, clothes were stored in the “privy”, or toilet, as people believed that the terrible smell would keep moths from eating the fabric.

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