William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings

by Jim Dittmann
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Here’s a 952-year-old photo of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings — the last time Britain was successfully invaded.  William replaced the British King, Edward the Confessor, who died childless. (Political note:  kings without children often results in messy succession squabbles, similar to the recent Kavanaugh hearings.)  (Another Note:  William had a huge incentive to conquer Britain, since he was commonly known as William the Bastard prior to his adventure on the British Isle.)

Who ruled England before the Norman Invasion?  

That would be the Anglo-Saxons — Germanic invaders who mixed with the British natives after the Romans departed about 400AD.

Who were the Normans? 

Normans (or Northmen) were Vikings who had previously conquered and settled into Northern France, or Normandy.  The Normans, like their Viking ancestors, were talented sailors/soldiers, for in addition to conquering England and Northern France, they also went South for the holidays and conquered Sicily, Malta, Cyprus, Canary Islands as well as parts of Spain and Italy.

How did the Normans change England?

  1. The Normans reduced slavery in England.  Prior to 1066, approximately 30% of those island folks were slaves.  (Indeed, in the “days of yore,” slaves were everywhere; you probably have a few slaves in your bloodline.)  Prior to 1066, the Normans had been converted to Christianity and they were intent on scaling back slavery.
  2. Architecture — the Normans brought Romanesque architecture to the island, with its bulky pillars and huge. round arches.  Durham Cathedral is a prime example.  Later, the Gothic Architecture Movement advanced more delicate pillars and pointed arches, for example: Westminster Abbey.
  3. Language — the “Old English” of the Saxons was replaced with a hybrid:  “Middle English,” that has since evolved into “Modern English.”
  4. Politics — the Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class, bringing their “Norman Law” with them.


1066 and All That:

How the Normans Changed History:

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