Norman Conquest

views updated May 23 2018

Norman Conquest. William the Conqueror's victory at the battle of Hastings in October 1066 was followed by six years of campaigning, which irrevocably established the new king's grip on England. In the succeeding decades, the Norman kings and their followers expanded their power into Wales and Lowland Scotland. The sequence of events which led up to William's victory is uncertain, because of the existence of accounts which are contradictory and irreconcilable. It is undeniable that at some point, probably in the year 1051, an arrangement was made which William believed entitled him to claim the English succession as Edward the Confessor's legitimate heir. From William's point of view, it was irrelevant that Edward had made a similar promise on his death-bed to Harold Godwineson, since Harold had visited Normandy in 1064 or 1065 as Edward's ambassador and sworn an oath to accept William's succession. However, since this story is told exclusively in Norman sources and since later English sources cast doubt on both the purpose and the nature of the visit, it may not be the whole truth. The massive support which Harold enjoyed in 1066 shows that the English regarded him as a popular and rightly chosen king. William's belief in the legitimacy of his kingship, which was buttressed by the support which the papacy gave in and after 1066, conditioned many of the developments which followed the battle of Hastings; not only was William's kingship legal, but so also was the settlement of thousands of Normans, Flemings, Bretons, and other Frenchmen which he sanctioned. A massive take-over of English land and resources accomplished within a framework of notional legality was largely complete by 1086, the year when Domesday Book was made.

On a longer-term perspective, it is arguable that the Conquest was the last in a series of conquests of lowland Britain and itself had relatively little impact on a broader evolutionary process of economy, society, landscape, and language. The newcomers were a small military élite who were gradually assimilated into Britain and whose connections with the continent were severed with the loss of Normandy in 1204. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to think of the Norman Conquest as a decisive shift within this broader process; the England and the Britain which emerged from the Norman military take-over were surely significantly different from the one which would have developed if Harold had won. There can be no doubt that William and his successors governed through mechanisms which were essentially those of the late Old English kingdom. The new aristocracy claimed to exercise the same rights and powers over their peasants as their English predecessors had done. Not everyone, however, would accept this appearance of continuity at face value. William I, William II, and Henry I all intervened with increasing frequency in the shires; it is far from certain that Harold and his successors would have made the same use of the existing structures. At a local level, many estates were reorganized, apparently in the short term depressing the fortunes of the peasantry. It was also the case that the Conquest's creation of the cross-channel Anglo-Norman realm sucked England into the feuds between the territorial rulers of northern France and can be linked over centuries to the outbreak of the Hundred Years War. The new connection with France also established cultural connections which ensured that England's place in the 12th-cent. renaissance was more closely linked to developments in France than it would otherwise have been. The Conquest extracted England from the Scandinavian political orbit which had brought about the earlier conquest by Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut and Harold Hardrada's invasion, defeated in 1066 by Harold Godwineson at the battle of Stamford Bridge. It is doubtful whether Wales, Scotland, and—ultimately—Ireland would have been as intensively colonized from England but for the presence there of a new aggressive aristocracy.

David Richard Bates

Norman Conquest

views updated May 17 2018

Norman Conquest (1066) Invasion of England by William I (the Conqueror), Duke of Normandy. William claimed that Edward the Confessor (d.1066) recognized him as heir to the throne of England, and he disputed the right of Harold II to be Edward's successor. William's army defeated and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings (1066), then advanced on London, where William was accepted as king. The Normans gradually replaced the existing ruling class, lay and ecclesiastical, and Norman institutions appeared.

Norman Conquest

views updated May 29 2018

Norman Conquest ★ Park Plaza 1953

Conway finds himself drugged and framed for murder in this bargain-basement thriller. Bartok is the leader of a diamond-smuggling operation who may be involved. 75m/B VHS . GB Tom Conway, Eva Bartok, Joy Shelton, Sidney James, Richard Wattis, Robert Adair, Ian Fleming; D: Bernard Knowles; W: Bernard Knowles.