William the Conqueror
This week in 1066 the course of British history changed forever when William, the Duke of Normandy, landed on the southern coast of England and seized the country from its Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson.
The French had a long history of claims in England, and in 1002 the English king Aethelred the Unready married the sister of Richard II, the Norman duke.
The Normans weren’t the only ones keen on the English throne – the Norwegians, led by King Harald Hardrada, invaded northern England but Harold defeated them at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, but at the cost of severely weakening his army immediately prior to William the Conqueror’s invasion.
William invaded with around 7,000-12,000 men and constructed a castle in the area of Hastings. This is where the famous Battle of Hastings would happen, on October 14, 1066.
King Harold was killed (by an arrow to the eye according to legend – though this is debated among historians) and William marched on London, eventually receiving the capitulation of the English barons and Harold’s uncrowned successor Edgar Aetheling.
William was crowned on 25 December 1066 and reigned until 1087. The conquest introduced the Norman language to England, eliminated the English elite, changes to governance and the formal elimination of slavery.