What happened during the Norman Conquest and why did it occur?

What happened during the Norman Conquest and why did it occur?

The conquest of England by William, duke of Normandy, took place at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066, because of a disputed succession. William, duke of Normandy, Harold Godwinson and Harald Hardrada, King of Norway had all laid claim to the English throne.

On 5th January 1066, Edward the Confessor, the King of England, died. The king who ruled England for 24 years had no children of his own to succeed him.

It is believed that sometime during his reign, the king promised the English succession to his cousin, William, duke of Normandy. King Edward had spent half his life in exile in Normandy, and owed the region’s rulers a strong debt of gratitude.

The claim to the throne by William did not go down well with Edward’s English subjects, especially the family of his queen, Edith – the Godwinesons, who were the dominant force in English politics then.

Upon the king Edward’s death, his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, claimed the throne, insisting that the old king had nominated him in his dying moments. Harold was crowned the very next day, but he soon faced threats to his throne.

Fuming with anger, William prepared to invade. Because he believed that he had the greatest claim to the throne of England.

Tostig, Harold’s brother, had joined forces with Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, and had landed in Yorkshire with an army. To repel the invaders, Harold marched his army north from London. When he arrived in Tadcaster on September 24th, he took advantage of the chance to catch the enemy off guard.

Harold’s army was exhausted after the forced march from London, but he won a decisive victory on September 25th after a bitter, bloody struggle to take the bridge at Stamford. Tostig and Harold Hardrada were both killed.

He could only rest for a few days before he heard the arrival of William Normandy and tried to confront him. Harold had to take a decision; he could either wait a few days and gather more forces, or take the exhausted troops and march 190 miles back south to fight William Normandy.

Harold chose the latter. This left Harold seriously lacking in troops. This was clearly a major mistake of Harold’s. Another mistake Harold made was his decision to demobilize the bulk of army.

Harold’s sick, exhausted Saxon army met with William’s fresh, rested Norman troops on October 14, 1066 at Battle near Hastings, and the great battle began. Harold was killed in the clash, putting an end to the Anglo-Saxon rule in England and ushering in the Norman Dynasty.

And on Christmas Day 1066, Archbishop Ealdred of York crowned William, King of England.
After winning the Battle of Hastings, William was determined to create an abbey to celebrate his triumph and atone for the bloodshed. Thankfully, the ruins of Battle Abbey still exist today.

Following the conquest of William, The British Isles experienced significant political, administrative, and social changes. The Normans changed the face of England forever. They connected England to Normandy and Europe. William got rid of all the Saxon nobles and imposed the feudal system on England. The Normans ruled England from 1066 to 1154.