Friday, 14 October 2016

1066 and all that

How the Daily Telegraph's pocket cartoonist views today's anniversary.
There is one date that is remembered by just about every Englishman, although very few know more than just the year. Ten sixty-six and the Battle of Hastings are more or less synonymous and it was on this day - 14th October - that year that the famous battle took place. It's known as the Battle of Hastings, but it was actually fought several miles away from the Sussex town. An abbey - Battle Abbey - was built on what was supposedly the site of the battle and a small town has grown up around it.

That was the last time on which a foreign army successfully invaded England, although for several hundred years incursions by Scots and Welsh occurred from time to time. Of course, it was not the first invasion: Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes (if they are not the same), Vikings and Romans had all at one time or another managed to move inland from the landing beaches and stay for varying lengths of time. Indeed, the English can really be called a mongrel race.

But William, Duke of Normandy, didn't see his action as an invasion. The background to the invasion is rather complex, but it started when King Æthelred II of England (Ethelred the Unready) married Emma, the sister of Richard, Duke of Normandy. Their son, Edward the Confessor, was childless and when he died in January 1066, he was succeeded by the Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson. But Edward had spent much of his life in Normandy and William claimed that he had been promised the throne when Edward died.

It gets even more complicated because the King of Norway reckoned that he should succeed Edward and he sent an army to back up his claim. It was that army that Harold had defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire - after which he and his army marched 250 miles in just four days to face the invading Normans.

The final result is that we have a lot of French influences in the English language, a great record of the country in the 11th century in the Domesday Book, and a lot of castles!

2 comments:

joeh said...

Interesting...I know the year, but sadly know almost nothing of the history.

According to Ancestor.com I am descendant from Sir Joseph the Cranky.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

The whole scenario surrounding the Norman Conquest is fascinating.
Somewhere in my reading list is a book that tries to explain the before, during, and after.