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Landing in Pevensey on September 28, he moved directly to Hastings. Harold, hurrying southward with about 7, men, approached Hastings on October Surprised by William at dawn on October 14, Harold drew up his army on a ridge 10 miles 16 km to the northwest. But William, removing his helmet to show he was alive, rallied his troops, who turned and killed many English soldiers.

As the battle continued, the English were gradually worn down; late in the afternoon, Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, according to the Bayeux Tapestry , and by nightfall the remaining English had scattered and fled. William then made a sweeping advance to isolate London, and at Berkhamstead the major English leaders submitted to him. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, Sporadic indigenous revolts continued until ; the most serious, in Northumbria —70 , was suppressed by William himself, who then devastated vast tracts of the north. The subjection of the country was completed by the rapid building of a great number of castles.

The extent and desirability of the changes brought about by the conquest have long been disputed by historians. Inside England the most radical change was the introduction of land tenure and military service. While tenure of land in return for services had existed in England before the conquest, William revolutionized the upper ranks of English society by dividing the country among about Norman tenants-in-chief and innumerable mesne intermediate tenants, all holding their fiefs by knight service.

The result, the almost total replacement of the English aristocracy with a Norman one, was paralleled by similar changes of personnel among the upper clergy and administrative officers. Anglo-Saxon England had developed a highly organized central and local government and an effective judicial system see Anglo-Saxon law. All these were retained and utilized by William, whose coronation oath showed his intention of continuing in the English royal tradition.

Norman Conquest

The old administrative divisions were not superseded by the new fiefs, nor did feudal justice normally usurp the customary jurisdiction of shire and hundred courts. Increasing use was made of the inquest procedure—the sworn testimony of neighbours, both for administrative purposes and in judicial cases. William also transformed the structure and character of the church in England.

William also presided over a number of church councils, which were held far more frequently than under his predecessors, and introduced legislation against simony the selling of clerical offices and clerical marriage. A supporter of monastic reform while duke of Normandy, William introduced the latest reforming trends to England by replacing Anglo-Saxon abbots with Norman ones and by importing numerous monks.

Probably the most regrettable effect of the conquest was the total eclipse of the English vernacular as the language of literature, law, and administration. Superseded in official documents and other records by Latin and then increasingly in all areas by Anglo-Norman, written English hardly reappeared until the 13th century. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

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Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The reign of Edward the Confessor and the Norman Conquest. The Norman Conquest of made little change in the mint system or in the coinage though the facing portrait acquired great popularity ; the pre-Conquest moneyers stayed in office and struck coins for William I.

After his reign the number of mints tended to decline. One result of the Norman Conquest of was to place all four Old English dialects more or less on a level. West Saxon lost its supremacy, and the centre of culture and learning gradually shifted from Winchester to London. Contemporary sources do not give reliable data on the size and composition of Harold's army, although two Norman sources give figures of 1. The main difference between the two types was in their armour; the housecarls used better protecting armour than that of the fyrd.

The War that Changed the English Language - Mini-Wars #3

The English army does not appear to have had many archers, although some were present. Some of William's Breton troops panicked and fled, and some of the English troops appear to have pursued the fleeing Bretons. Norman cavalry then attacked and killed the pursuing troops. While the Bretons were fleeing, rumours swept the Norman forces that the duke had been killed, but William rallied his troops.

Twice more the Normans made feigned withdrawals , tempting the English into pursuit, and allowing the Norman cavalry to attack them repeatedly. William of Jumieges claimed that Harold was killed by the duke. The Bayeux Tapestry has been claimed to show Harold's death by an arrow to the eye, but this may be a later reworking of the tapestry to conform to 12th-century stories that Harold had died from an arrow wound to the head.

The day after the battle, Harold's body was identified, either by his armour or marks on his body. William ordered that Harold's body be thrown into the sea, but whether that took place is unclear. He defeated an English force that attacked him at Southwark , but being unable to storm London Bridge he sought to reach the capital by a more circuitous route. William moved up the Thames valley to cross the river at Wallingford , Berkshire; while there he received the submission of Stigand.

He then travelled north-east along the Chilterns , before advancing towards London from the north-west, fighting further engagements against forces from the city. Having failed to muster an effective military response, Edgar's leading supporters lost their nerve, and the English leaders surrendered to William at Berkhamsted , Hertfordshire. Despite the submission of the English nobles, resistance continued for several years. These rebellions rapidly collapsed as William moved against them, building castles and installing garrisons as he had already done in the south.

Early in the newly installed Norman Earl of Northumbria, Robert de Comines , and several hundred soldiers accompanying him were massacred at Durham; the Northumbrian rebellion was joined by Edgar, Gospatric, Siward Barn and other rebels who had taken refuge in Scotland. The castellan of York, Robert fitzRichard, was defeated and killed, and the rebels besieged the Norman castle at York. William hurried north with an army, defeated the rebels outside York and pursued them into the city, massacring the inhabitants and bringing the revolt to an end.

A subsequent local uprising was crushed by the garrison of York. After abortive raids in the south, the Danes joined forces with a new Northumbrian uprising, which was also joined by Edgar, Gospatric and the other exiles from Scotland as well as Waltheof. The combined Danish and English forces defeated the Norman garrison at York, seized the castles and took control of Northumbria, although a raid into Lincolnshire led by Edgar was defeated by the Norman garrison of Lincoln.

At the same time resistance flared up again in western Mercia, where the forces of Eadric the Wild, together with his Welsh allies and further rebel forces from Cheshire and Shropshire, attacked the castle at Shrewsbury. In the south-west, rebels from Devon and Cornwall attacked the Norman garrison at Exeter but were repulsed by the defenders and scattered by a Norman relief force under Count Brian. Other rebels from Dorset , Somerset and neighbouring areas besieged Montacute Castle but were defeated by a Norman army gathered from London, Winchester and Salisbury under Geoffrey of Coutances.

Leaving Robert of Mortain in charge of Lincolnshire, he turned west and defeated the Mercian rebels in battle at Stafford.

Consequences of the conquest

When the Danes attempted to return to Lincolnshire, the Norman forces there again drove them back across the Humber. William advanced into Northumbria, defeating an attempt to block his crossing of the swollen River Aire at Pontefract. The Danes fled at his approach, and he occupied York. He bought off the Danes, who agreed to leave England in the spring, and during the winter of —70 his forces systematically devastated Northumbria in the Harrying of the North , subduing all resistance. In early , having secured the submission of Waltheof and Gospatric, and driven Edgar and his remaining supporters back to Scotland, William returned to Mercia, where he based himself at Chester and crushed all remaining resistance in the area before returning to the south.

William also oversaw a purge of prelates from the Church, most notably Stigand, who was deposed from Canterbury. The papal legates also imposed penances on William and those of his supporters who had taken part in Hastings and the subsequent campaigns.


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Both sees were filled by men loyal to William: Lanfranc , abbot of William's foundation at Caen , received Canterbury while Thomas of Bayeux , one of William's chaplains, was installed at York. Some other bishoprics and abbeys also received new bishops and abbots and William confiscated some of the wealth of the English monasteries, which had served as repositories for the assets of the native nobles.

In Sweyn II of Denmark arrived to take personal command of his fleet and renounced the earlier agreement to withdraw, sending troops into the Fens to join forces with English rebels led by Hereward the Wake , [m] at that time based on the Isle of Ely. Sweyn soon accepted a further payment of Danegeld from William, and returned home. Edwin and Morcar again turned against William, and although Edwin was quickly betrayed and killed, Morcar reached Ely , where he and Hereward were joined by exiled rebels who had sailed from Scotland.

William arrived with an army and a fleet to finish off this last pocket of resistance. After some costly failures the Normans managed to construct a pontoon to reach the Isle of Ely, defeated the rebels at the bridgehead and stormed the island, marking the effective end of English resistance. William faced difficulties in his continental possessions in , [83] but in he returned to England and marched north to confront King Malcolm III of Scotland.

Whether this meant only for Cumbria and Lothian or for the whole Scottish kingdom was left ambiguous. Another earl, Waltheof, despite being one of William's favourites, was also involved, and some Breton lords were ready to offer support. Ralph also requested Danish aid. William remained in Normandy while his men in England subdued the revolt. Norwich was besieged and surrendered, and Ralph went into exile.

Meanwhile, the Danish king's brother, Cnut , had finally arrived in England with a fleet of ships, but he was too late as Norwich had already surrendered. The Danes then raided along the coast before returning home. By that time William had returned to the continent, where Ralph was continuing the rebellion from Brittany.

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Once England had been conquered, the Normans faced many challenges in maintaining control. To find the lands to compensate his Norman followers, William initially confiscated the estates of all the English lords who had fought and died with Harold and redistributed part of their lands. A measure of William's success in taking control is that, from until the Capetian conquest of Normandy in , William and his successors were largely absentee rulers. For example, after , William spent more than 75 per cent of his time in France rather than England.

While he needed to be personally present in Normandy to defend the realm from foreign invasion and put down internal revolts, he set up royal administrative structures that enabled him to rule England from a distance. A direct consequence of the invasion was the almost total elimination of the old English aristocracy and the loss of English control over the Catholic Church in England. William systematically dispossessed English landowners and conferred their property on his continental followers.

The Domesday Book meticulously documents the impact of this colossal programme of expropriation, revealing that by only about 5 per cent of land in England south of the Tees was left in English hands. Even this tiny residue was further diminished in the decades that followed, the elimination of native landholding being most complete in southern parts of the country. Natives were also removed from high governmental and ecclesiastical office.

After all earldoms were held by Normans, and Englishmen were only occasionally appointed as sheriffs. Likewise in the Church, senior English office-holders were either expelled from their positions or kept in place for their lifetimes and replaced by foreigners when they died.

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By no bishopric was held by any Englishman, and English abbots became uncommon, especially in the larger monasteries. Following the conquest, many Anglo-Saxons, including groups of nobles, fled the country [] for Scotland, Ireland, or Scandinavia. Before the Normans arrived, Anglo-Saxon governmental systems were more sophisticated than their counterparts in Normandy. English coinage was also superior to most of the other currency in use in northwestern Europe, and the ability to mint coins was a royal monopoly.

This sophisticated medieval form of government was handed over to the Normans and was the foundation of further developments. By the end of William's reign most of the officials of government and the royal household were Normans. The language of official documents also changed, from Old English to Latin.

The forest laws were introduced, leading to the setting aside of large sections of England as royal forest. It was divided into sections based on the shires, and listed all the landholdings of each tenant-in-chief of the king as well as who had held the land before the conquest. One of the most obvious effects of the conquest was the introduction of Anglo-Norman , a northern Old Norse -influenced dialect of Old French , as the language of the ruling classes in England, displacing Old English.

Norman French words entered the English language, and a further sign of the shift was the usage of names common in France instead of Anglo-Saxon names. Male names such as William , Robert and Richard soon became common; female names changed more slowly. The Norman invasion had little impact on placenames , which had changed significantly after earlier Scandinavian invasions. It is not known precisely how much English the Norman invaders learned, nor how much the knowledge of Norman French spread among the lower classes, but the demands of trade and basic communication probably meant that at least some of the Normans and native English were bilingual.

An estimated Normans and other continentals settled in England as a result of the conquest, although exact figures cannot be established. Some of these new residents intermarried with the native English, but the extent of this practice in the years immediately after Hastings is unclear. Several marriages are attested between Norman men and English women during the years before , but such marriages were uncommon. Most Normans continued to contract marriages with other Normans or other continental families rather than with the English.

By the early s, Ailred of Rievaulx was writing that intermarriage was common in all levels of society. The impact of the conquest on the lower levels of English society is difficult to assess. The major change was the elimination of slavery in England , which had disappeared by the middle of the 12th century. In some places, such as Essex, the decline in slaves was 20 per cent for the 20 years. Many of the free peasants of Anglo-Saxon society appear to have lost status and become indistinguishable from the non-free serfs.

Whether this change was due entirely to the conquest is unclear, but the invasion and its after-effects probably accelerated a process already under way.


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The spread of towns and increase in nucleated settlements in the countryside, rather than scattered farms, was probably accelerated by the coming of the Normans to England. Little is known about women other than those in the landholding class, so no conclusions can be drawn about peasant women's status after Noblewomen appear to have continued to influence political life mainly through their kinship relationships.

Both before and after aristocratic women could own land, and some women continued to have the ability to dispose of their property as they wished. Debate over the conquest started almost immediately. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , when discussing the death of William the Conqueror, denounced him and the conquest in verse, but the king's obituary notice from William of Poitiers, a Frenchman, was full of praise.

Historians since then have argued over the facts of the matter and how to interpret them, with little agreement. In the 20th and 21st centuries historians have focused less on the rightness or wrongness of the conquest itself, instead concentrating on the effects of the invasion.