Norman Conquest of England

Article

October 19, 2021

The Norman conquest of England was the invasion of the kingdom of England by the Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror in 1066 and his occupation of the country in the years that followed. The King of England Edward the Confessor died at the beginning of the year 1066 without leaving any children. His brother-in-law Harold Godwinson is chosen to succeed him, but other suitors make themselves known. Norwegian King Harald Hardrada invades England in September. He is defeated and killed by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25. Guillaume, Duke of Normandy, in turn landed in Sussex a few days later. Harold meets him and confronts him at the Battle of Hastings on October 14. This decisive clash sees the death of Harold and the victory of William, who is consecrated at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. The disappearance of William's main rivals did not bring tranquility to England, which was shaken by numerous revolts until 1072. To better control his kingdom, William founded many castles in strategic locations and redistributed the confiscated lands to the rebellious nobility to its faithful. The Norman invasion has profound consequences for the history of England. A new dominant class, which holds its fiefdoms directly from the king and speaks Norman, supplants the old Anglo-Saxon nobility, partly forced into exile. At the lower echelons of society, slavery disappeared in the decades following the conquest, but it may be the acceleration of a process already underway.

Context

England and Normandy in the 11th century

In 911, the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte concluded between Charles III the Simple, king of Western Francia, and the Viking leader Rollo authorizes the latter to settle in the lower valley of the Seine, for which he is responsible in in return for defending against raids from other Vikings. The region takes the name of Normandy in reference to these "Men of the North", who convert to Christianity and adopt the language of oil spoken in the region. Enriched with Norse vocabulary, it gives birth to Norman. The Normans quickly extended their authority westward over Bessin, Cotentin and Avranchin. The English king Æthelred the Misguided married in 1002 with Emma, ​​the sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy. Their son Edward the Confessor ascended the throne of England in 1042 after spending most of his youth in exile in the Duchy of Normandy. Not having been able to build up a clientele in his country, he relies mainly on the Normans to reign against the powerful Count Godwin of Wessex and his sons: he invites courtiers, soldiers and religious to join him and appoints them to positions of power, especially in the Church. Without a child to succeed him, it is possible that he encouraged the plans of Duke William, grandson of Richard II, for the English throne.

A disputed succession

In the absence of an indisputable heir, Edward's death on January 5, 1066, gave rise to a succession crisis. The Earl of Wessex Harold Godwinson, who is the richest and most powerful member of the English nobility besides being the brother-in-law of the late king, was elected by the Witenagemot and consecrated the day after Edward's death . Two strong adversaries wereted no time in contesting the succession of the late king. Duke William of Normandy asserts that Edward had chosen him as his successor, and that Harold had sworn to respect this arrangement, while the King of Norway Harald Hardrada puts forward an agreement between his predecessor, Magnus the Good, and Hardeknut, Edward's predecessor, under which England and Norway would revert to each other if either of them died without leaving an inheritance

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