On this day in history : 27th September 1066 – William the Conqueror and his army set sail from northern France to begin the Norman Conquest of England….

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing the Normans preparing for the invasion of England – Public domain

William was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy…. The Duke had no other heir and so after his death in 1035 William, at the age of 7, became the Duke of Normandy….

When he turned 20 he began to rule for himself, with the backing of Henry I of France – but who later turned against him…. Nevertheless, William managed to hold on to his rule and in 1063 he extended his land into the Maine region….

In 1051 William had visited his English cousin, Edward the Confessor….and according to Norman historians, Edward having no heir of his own promised to make William his successor as King of England…. Only, in January 1066, as he lay on his deathbed, Edward had second thoughts and made Harold Godwinson his successor…. Harold, as head of the leading noble family in England, was a man even more powerful than the King himself….

Harold Godwinson from the Bayeux Tapestry – Public domain

However, the new King Harold II had those who wanted his position for themselves…. Obviously William disputed Harold’s appointment but then so did two others – King Harald III Hardradde of Norway – and Harold’s own brother, Tostig; both had their eye on becoming King of England….

Harold II expected an invasion by William and so assembled his troops – but his brother proved to be a thorn in his side, by launching a series of raids…. Harold was forced to leave the English Channel unguarded…. Meanwhile Tostig had joined forces with the Norwegian king and together they invaded England from Scotland…. The two opposing sides met on the 25th of September 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge…. Harold killed both his brother and Harald III….

Whilst all this was happening William and his army had prepared to set sail from the mouth of the Somme River, at Picardy – and landed in England at Pevensey on the 28th of September…. With his 7,000 troops William seized Pevensey and marched on to Hastings….

On the 13th of October Harold II arrived with his army and the next day the two sides met in battle…. Harold was killed by, according to the legend, an arrow in his eye….

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings – Public domain

William then marched to London and on Christmas Day 1066 he was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey…. He was to be the first Norman King of England and was later to be succeeded by his son, William Rufus….

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