The Impact of the Norman Conquest of England

The Impact of the Norman Conquest of England

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The Norman conquest of England, led by William the Conqueror (r. Hard-fought battles, castle building, land redistribution, and scorched earth tactics ensured that the Normans were here to stay. The conquest saw the Norman elite replace that of the Anglo-Saxons and take over the country's lands, the Church was restructured, a new architecture was introduced in the form of motte and bailey castles and Romanesque cathedrals, feudalism became much more widespread, and the English language absorbed thousands of new French words, amongst a host of many other lasting changes which all combine to make the Norman invasion a momentous watershed in English history.

Conquest: Hastings to Ely

The conquest of England by the Normans started with the 1066 CE Battle of Hastings when King Harold Godwinson (aka Harold II, r. Jan-Oct 1066 CE) was killed and ended with William the Conqueror's defeat of Anglo-Saxon rebels at Ely Abbey in East Anglia in 1071 CE. In between, William had to more or less constantly defend his borders with Wales and Scotland, repel two invasions from Ireland by Harold's sons, and put down three rebellions at York.

The consequences of the Norman conquest were many and varied. Further, some effects were much longer-lasting than others. It is also true that society in England was already developing along its own path of history before William the Conqueror arrived and so it is not always so clear-cut which of the sometimes momentous political, social, and economic changes of the Middle Ages had their roots in the Norman invasion and which may well have developed under a continued Anglo-Saxon regime. Still, the following list summarises what most historians agree on as some of the most important changes the Norman conquest brought in England:

  • the Anglo-Saxon landowning elite was almost totally replaced by Normans.
  • the ruling apparatus was made much more centralised with power and wealth being held in much fewer hands.
  • the majority of Anglo-Saxon bishops were replaced with Norman ones and many dioceses' headquarters were relocated to urban centres.
  • Norman motte and bailey castles were introduced which reshaped warfare in England, reducing the necessity for and risk of large-scale field engagements.
  • the system of feudalism developed as William gave out lands in return for military service (either in person or a force of knights paid for by the landowner).
  • manorialism developed and spread further where labourers worked on their lord's estate for his benefit.
  • the north of England was devastated for a long time following William's harrying of 1069-70 CE.
  • Domesday Book, a detailed and systematic catalogue of the land and wealth in England was compiled in 1086-7 CE.
  • the contact and especially trade between England and Continental Europe greatly increased.
  • the two countries of France and England became historically intertwined, initially due to the crossover of land ownership, i.e. Norman nobles holding lands in both countries.
  • the syntax and vocabulary of the Anglo-Saxon Germanic language were significantly influenced by the French language.

The Ruling Elite

The Norman conquest of England was not a case of one population invading the lands of another but rather the wresting of power from one ruling elite by another. There was no significant population movement of Norman peasants crossing the channel to resettle in England, then a country with a population of 1.5-2 million people. Although, in the other direction, many Anglo-Saxon warriors fled to Scandinavia after Hastings, and some even ended up in the elite Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors.

The lack of an influx of tens of thousands of Normans was no consolation for the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, of course, as 20 years after Hastings there were only two powerful Anglo-Saxon landowners in England. Some 200 Norman nobles and 100 bishops and monasteries were given estates which had been distributed amongst 4,000 Anglo-Saxon landowners prior to 1066 CE. To ensure the Norman nobles did not abuse their power (and so threaten William himself), many of the old Anglo-Saxon tools of governance were kept in place, notably the sheriffs who governed in the king's name the districts or shires into which England had traditionally been divided. The sheriffs were also replaced with Normans but they did provide a balance to Norman landowners in their jurisdiction.

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The royal court & government became more centralised - more so than in any other kingdom in Europe, thanks to the holding of land & resources by only a relatively few Norman families.

The Church was similarly restructured with the appointment of Norman bishops - including in 1070 CE, the key archbishops of Canterbury (to Lanfranc) and York (to Thomas) - so that by 1087 CE there were only two Anglo-Saxon bishops left. Another significant change was the move of many dioceses' headquarters - the main church or cathedral - to urban locations (Dorchester to Lincoln, Lichfield to Chester, and Sherborne to Salisbury being just some examples). This move gave William much greater administrative and military control of the Church across England but also benefitted the Church itself by bringing bishops closer to the relatively new urban populations.

The royal court and government became more centralised, indeed, more so than in any other kingdom in Europe thanks to the holding of land and resources by only a relatively few Norman families. Although William distributed land to loyal supporters, they did not typically receive any political power with their land. In a physical sense, the government was not centralised because William still did not have a permanent residence, preferring to move around his kingdom and regularly visit Normandy. The Treasury did, though, remain at Winchester and it was filled as a result of William imposing heavy taxes throughout his reign.

Motte & Bailey Castles

The Normans were hugely successful warriors and the importance they gave to cavalry and archers would affect English armies thereafter. Perhaps even more significant was the construction of garrisoned forts and castles across England. Castles were not entirely unknown in England prior to the conquest but they were then used only as defensive redoubts rather than a tool to control a geographical area. William embarked on a castle-building spree immediately after Hastings as he well knew that a protected garrison of cavalry could be the most effective method of military and administrative control over his new kingdom. From Cornwall to Northumbria, the Normans would build over 65 major castles and another 500 lesser ones in the decades after Hastings.

The Normans not only introduced a new concept of castle use but also military architecture to the British Isles: the motte and bailey castle. The motte was a raised mound upon which a fortified tower was built and the bailey was a courtyard surrounded by a wooden palisade which occupied an area around part of the base of the mound. The whole structure was further protected by an encircling ditch or moat. These castles were built in both rural and urban settings and, in many cases, would be converted into stone versions in the early 12th century CE. A good surviving example is the Castle Rising in Norfolk, but other, more famous castles still standing today which were originally Norman constructions include the Tower of London, Dover Castle in Kent, and Clifford's Tower in York. Norman Romanesque cathedrals were also built (for example, at York, Durham, Canterbury, Winchester, and Lincoln), with the white stone of Caen being an especially popular choice of material, one used, too, for the Tower of London.

Domesday, Feudalism & the Peasantry

There was no particular feeling of outraged nationalism following the conquest - the concept is a much more modern construct - and so peasants would not have felt their country had somehow been lost. Neither was there any specific hatred of the Normans as the English grouped all William's allies together as a single group - Bretons and Angevins were simply 'French speakers'. In the Middle Ages, visitors to an area that came from a distant town were regarded just as 'foreign' as someone from another country. Peasants really only felt loyalty to their own local communities and lords, although this may well have resulted in some ill-feeling when a lord was replaced by a Norman noble in cases where the Anglo-Saxon lord was held with any affection. The Normans would certainly have seemed like outsiders, a feeling only strengthened by language barriers, and the king, at least initially, did ensure loyalties by imposing harsh penalties on any dissent. For example, if a Norman were found murdered, then the nearest village was burnt - a policy hardly likely to win over any affection.

At the same time, there were new laws to ensure the Normans did not abuse their power, such as the crime of murder being applied to the unjustified killing of non-rebels or for personal gain and the introduction of trial by battle to defend one's innocence. In essence, citizens were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the king, in return for which they received legal protection if they were wronged. Some of the new laws would be long-lasting, such as the favouring of the firstborn in inheritance claims, while others were deeply unpopular, such as William's withdrawal of hunting rights in certain areas, notably the New Forest. Poachers were severely dealt with and could expect to be blinded or mutilated if caught. Another important change due to new laws regarded slavery, which was essentially eliminated from England by 1130 CE, just as it had been in Normandy.

Perhaps one area where hatred of all-things Norman was prevalent was the north of England. Following the rebellions against William's rule there in 1067 and 1068 CE, the king spent the winter of 1069-70 CE 'harrying' the entire northern part of his kingdom from the west to east coast. This involved hunting down rebels, murders and mutilations amongst the peasantry, and the burning of crops, livestock, and farming equipment, which resulted in a devastating famine. As Domesday Book (see below) revealed, much of the northern lands were devastated and catalogued as worthless. It would take over a century for the region to recover.

Domesday Book was compiled on William's orders in 1086-7 CE, probably to find out for tax purposes exactly who owned what in England following the deaths of many Anglo-Saxon nobles over the course of the conquest and the giving out of new estates and titles by the king to his loyal followers. Indeed, Domesday Book reveals William's total reshaping of land ownership and power in England. It was the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken in any medieval kingdom and is full of juicy statistics for modern historians to study such as the revelation that 90% of the population lived in the countryside and 75% of the people were serfs (unfree labourers).

A consequence of William's land policies was the development (but not the origin of) feudalism. That is, William, who considered all the land in England his own personal property, gave out parcels of land (fiefs) to nobles (vassals) who in return had to give military service when required, such as during a war or to garrison castles and forts. Not necessarily giving service in person, a noble had to provide a number of knights depending on the size of the fief. The noble could have free peasants or serfs (aka villeins) work his lands, and he kept the proceeds of that labour. If a noble had a large estate, he could rent it out to a lesser noble who, in turn, had peasants work that land for him, thus creating an elaborate hierarchy of land ownership. Under the Normans, ecclesiastical landowners such as monasteries were similarly required to provide knights for military service.

The manorial system developed from its early Anglo-Saxon form under the Normans. Manorialism derives its name from the 'manor', the smallest piece of land which could support a single family. For administrative purposes, estates were divided into these units. Naturally, a powerful lord could own many hundreds of manors, either in the same place or in different locations. Each manor had free and/or unfree labour which worked on the land. The profits of that labour went to the landowner while the labourers sustained themselves by also working a small plot of land loaned to them by their lord. Following William's policy of carving up estates and redistributing them, manorialism became much more widespread in England.

Trade & International Relations

The histories and even the cultures to some extent of France and England became much more intertwined in the decades after the conquest. Even as the King of England, William remained the Duke of Normandy (and so he had to pay homage to the King of France). The royal houses became even more interconnected following the reigns of William's two sons (William II Rufus, r. 1087-1100 CE and Henry I, r. 1100-1135 CE) and the civil wars which broke out between rivals for the English throne from 1135 CE onwards. A side effect of this close contact was the significant modification over time of the Anglo-Saxon Germanic language, both the syntax and vocabulary being influenced by the French language. That this change occurred even amongst the illiterate peasantry is testimony to the fact that French was commonly heard spoken everywhere.

One specific area of international relations which greatly increased was trade. Before the conquest, England had had limited trade with Scandinavia, but as this region went into decline from the 11th century CE and because the Normans had extensive contacts across Europe (England was not the only place they conquered), then trade with the Continent greatly increased. Traders also relocated from the Continent, notably to places where they were given favourable customs arrangements. Thus places like London, Southampton, and Nottingham attracted many French merchant settlers, and this movement included other groups such as Jewish merchants from Rouen. Goods thus came and went across the English Channel, for example, huge quantities of English wool were exported to Flanders and wine was imported from France (although there is evidence it was not the best wine that country had to offer).


The Norman conquest of England, then, resulted in long-lasting and significant changes for both the conquered and the conquerors. The fate of the two countries of England and France would become inexorably linked over the following centuries as England became a much stronger and united kingdom within the British Isles and an influential participant in European politics and warfare thereafter. Even today, names of people and places throughout England remind of the lasting influence the Normans brought with them from 1066 CE onwards.

Chivalry Was Established to Keep Thuggish, Medieval Knights in Check

In the 21st century, the word chivalry evokes a kind of old-fashioned male respect for women. But during the Middle Ages, the code was established for much grittier reasons.

At a time of routine military violence with massive civilian casualties, chivalry was an effort to set ground rules for knightly behavior. While these rules sometimes dictated generous treatment of the less-fortunate and less-powerful, they were focused mainly on protecting the interests of elites.

The development of chivalry went hand-in-hand with the rise of knights—heavily armored, mounted warriors from elite backgrounds—starting around the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The world chivalry itself comes from the Medieval Latin caballarius, meaning horseman.

In the middle of the 11th century, the knight was not a particularly honorable figure.

“He’s a hired thug,” says Jennifer Goodman Wollock, a professor of medieval studies at Texas A&M University who has written two books about chivalry. “He’s got horses. He’s got armor. He’s like a heavy tank.”

First Chapter

Normans were descendent of Vikings from Scandinavia who settled down in the northern region of France in the ninth and tenth centuries. This region was known as Northmannia, the land of the Northmen, later shortened to Normandy. The Normans became Frenchmen ‘culturally and linguistically’ (Pyles, 1964:153) soon assimilating the French customs, marrying local women, converting to Christianity, and giving up their own language and acquiring French. England had had close ties with Normandy long before the conquest in 1066. In 1002 Æthelred the Unready, king of England between 78-1016, had married a Norman woman and his son known as Edward the Confessor, who was raised in France, was more French than English. During the 24 years of his reign, Edward brought many of his Norman friends over to England giving them important positions in the government. When Edward the Confessor died childless, William the Conqueror, who was a second cousin of the late king, believed he was entitled to be Edward’s successor even though he had no right to inherit the English throne. (Loyn, 1991: 65-67). So when the accession to the throne was denied to him, he attacked England, and with his exceptional abilities he won the battle of Hastings and ‘on Christmas Day 1066, William was crowned king of England’ (Baugh & Cable, 2002: 112). The rule of William the Conqueror brought with it vast changes ‘to the social, political, religious and linguistic’ (Fennell, 2001: 95) structure of England.

The dietary impact of the Norman Conquest: A multiproxy archaeological investigation of Oxford, UK

Archaeology has yet to capitalise on the opportunities offered by bioarchaeological approaches to examine the impact of the 11th-century AD Norman Conquest of England. This study utilises an integrated multiproxy analytical approach to identify and explain changes and continuities in diet and foodways between the 10th and 13th centuries in the city of Oxford, UK. The integration of organic residue analysis of ceramics, carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis of human and animal bones, incremental analysis of δ13C and δ15N from human tooth dentine and palaeopathological analysis of human skeletal remains has revealed a broad pattern of increasing intensification and marketisation across various areas of economic practice, with a much lesser and more short-term impact of the Conquest on everyday lifestyles than is suggested by documentary sources. Nonetheless, isotope data indicate short-term periods of instability, particularly food insecurity, did impact individuals. Evidence of preferences for certain foodstuffs and cooking techniques documented among the elite classes were also observed among lower-status townspeople, suggesting that Anglo-Norman fashions could be adopted across the social spectrum. This study demonstrates the potential for future archaeological research to generate more nuanced understanding of the cultural impact of the Norman Conquest of England, while showcasing a method which can be used to elucidate the undocumented, everyday implications of other large-scale political events on non-elites.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1. Plan of medieval Oxford showing…

Fig 1. Plan of medieval Oxford showing the sites included in the present study.

Fig 2. Scatter plots showing the δ…

Fig 2. Scatter plots showing the δ 13 C values of C 16:0 and C…

Fig 3. A partial high temperature gas…

Fig 3. A partial high temperature gas chromatograms of degraded animal residues.

Fig 4. δ 13 C and δ 15 N isotope data from animal bone collagen…

Fig 5. δ 13 C and δ 15 N values from animal and human bone…

Fig 6. δ 13 C and δ 15 N values from human bone collagen organised…

Fig 7. Incremental dentine δ 15 N…

Fig 7. Incremental dentine δ 15 N and δ 13 C value profiles for individuals…

Fig 8. Sex profile of human remains…

Fig 8. Sex profile of human remains included in the osteological assessment.

Intermediate individuals are…

Fig 9. Age profile of human remains…

Fig 9. Age profile of human remains included in the osteological assessment.

Fig 10. Crude prevalence of four dental…

Fig 10. Crude prevalence of four dental pathologies and four markers of physiological stress in…

Norman conquest of England / History of Norman Conquest / Impact of Norman Conquest in English Literature.

The Norman conquest of England in 1066 is an event of great significance in the life of Anglo- Saxon people and their literature. The Norman were races of Pagon Danes. They had affinity with the Anglo-Saxon . When the Danes become the masters of French province call Normandy and Saxons, they settled in the island. In 1066, William the Duke of Normandy claimed the English Crown on the death of King Edward the Confessor. He invaded England with a large army.

Harold, the English King, marched to the south of the country. He took up position on a hill about six miles from Hestings, where the Normans found him. A battle took place which is known as Battle of Hestings . The Saxons army were destroyed. Norman archers killed their enemies including Harold Godwinson, the king himself. William became free to march to London and claimed himself as the king of England. This is how English suffered a defeat on the field of Hestings.

William conqueror subjugated the whole England. William the second, his Second Son called William Rufus was like his father, a stubborn ruler unjust and greedy. He was hated by the people. He was followed by Henry 1 the third son of conqueror. He was also a cruel king who kept his elder brother Robert, Duke of Normandy in prison all his life. He endeared himself to the English to marry Matilda of Scotland who was a princess from the ancient King Wessex. This marriage brought the two races together.

The Norman Conquest brought England more than a change of ruler. They brought with them literary ideas along with their laws and administration. Latin was the language of Official document. The polite society wrote in Latin but spoke in French. The Aristocrats were all Norman. As a result, English language and literature suffered a set back after the battle of Maldon. English Poetry particularly produced nothing about a century. However, with the growing of patriotism among the Anglo-Saxon, English language began to be used in official and national language. As a result, a new language with a mixture of French vocabulary and grammatical rules began in England.

As a result, a new literature by the aristocrat Anglo - Norman came into focus. Two important ideals of French literature influenced the new English Literature. These are Romance and Allegory. The Middle English poetry began with the translation of French, Romance and Allegory. There are four cycles of Romances. They are __ a) The matter of French. b) The matter of Rome. c) The matter of Britain and d) The Romances of Saxon origin. Usually, love and war were the themes of these romances. The Allegory dealt with love and religion. For example, ‘Roman Delarosa ' written by Guillaume de Lorries is an allegorical piece of writing. There were also some tables which dealt with follies and vices of the society.

Impact if the Norman Conquest of England fail or never begin in the first place

Normans actually remained there, brought a connection through a far more influential linguistic group in terms of demographic and prestige, it's not even remotely comparable.
The Normans that settled in Normandy had a fair amount of Anglo-Danes too.

No it is weird account for everything that happened and terribly unlikely no way you put it.

The Professor


Strawmanning what? You made some points and I responded to them, I was criticizing the idea that Norse determined the grammatical changes(simplification) in Old English, apparently this is not the point you made? Not sure where the strawman is.






France invaded England a few times in the medieval period IOTL. The circumstances would be different here, but there could be some pretext for them to invade TTL.

The Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese - any maritime power could potentially be a threat to invade.

The Professor




True, the English might view the French King taking control of Normandy and Brittany as in their interests to remove the danger of another Norman trying his hand, and making trouble along the South Coast. Though Flanders might be another matter considering their importance to English trade with the continent.

I also wonder if freed from Norman ambitions, the English might further intervene both in Ireland and in Scandinavia.



Interest alone is not enough. Naturally proximity and in this era a somewhat credible claim, but above all the means to pursue such a claim. In Northern France, the count of Flanders might take his chance, if Normandy doesn't. That too will bring French influence, but Dutch influence as well, since the richest Flemish towns spoke Flemish dialects not a Romance dialect.

@Zen9: England did intervene in Ireland IOTL. Scandinavia is a bit too distant, IMHO given the dependency some western European trading partners had with English meddling in those affairs seems more likely, albeit less active than OTL.


These Romanesque styles originated in Normandy and became widespread in northwestern Europe, particularly in England, which contributed considerable development and where the largest number of examples survived. At about the same time, a Norman dynasty that ruled in Sicily produced a distinctive variation–incorporating Byzantine and Saracen influences–also known as Norman architecture (or alternatively Sicilian Romanesque).

The term Norman may have originated with eighteenth-century antiquarians, but its usage in a sequence of styles has been attributed to Thomas Rickman in his 1817 work An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation. In this work he used the labels "Norman, Early English, Decorated, and Perpendicular". The more inclusive term romanesque was used of the Romance languages in English by 1715, [1] and was applied to architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries from 1819. [2]

Although Edward the Confessor built the original Westminster Abbey in Romanesque style (now all replaced by later rebuildings), its construction predates the Norman Conquest: it is still believed to be the earliest major Romanesque building in England. No other significant remaining Romanesque architecture in Britain can clearly be shown to predate the Norman Conquest. However, historians believe that many surviving "Norman" elements in buildings–nearly all churches–may well in fact be Anglo-Saxon elements.

The Norman arch is a defining point of Norman architecture. Grand archways are designed to evoke feelings of awe and are very commonly seen as the entrance to large religious buildings such as cathedrals. Norman arches are semicircular in form. Early examples have plain, square edges later ones are often enriched with the zig-zag and roll mouldings. The arches are supported on massive columns, generally plain and cylindrical, sometimes with spiral decoration occasionally, square-section piers are found. Main doorways have a succession of receding semicircular arches, often decorated with mouldings, typically of chevron or zig-zag design sometimes there is a tympanum at the back of the head of the arch, which may feature sculpture representing a Biblical scene. Norman windows are mostly small and narrow, generally of a single round-headed light but sometimes, especially in a bell tower, divided by a shaft into two lights. [3]

Viking invaders arrived at the mouth of the river Seine in 911, at a time when Franks were fighting on horseback and Frankish lords were building castles. Over the next century the population of the territory ceded to the Vikings, now called Normans, adopted these customs as well as Christianity and the langue d'oïl. Norman barons built timber castles on earthen mounds, beginning the development of motte-and-bailey castles, and great stone churches in the Romanesque style of the Franks. By 950, they were building stone keeps. The Normans were among the most travelled peoples of Europe, exposing them to a wide variety of cultural influences which became incorporated in their art and architecture. They elaborated on the early Christian basilica plan. Originally longitudinal with side aisles and an apse they began to add in towers, as at the Church of Saint-Étienne at Caen, in 1067. This would eventually form a model for the larger English cathedrals some 20 years later.

In England, Norman nobles and bishops had influence before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and Norman influences affected late Anglo-Saxon architecture. Edward the Confessor was brought up in Normandy and in 1042 brought masons to work on the first Romanesque building in England, Westminster Abbey. In 1051 he brought in Norman knights who built "motte" castles as a defence against the Welsh. Following the invasion, Normans rapidly constructed motte-and-bailey castles along with churches, abbeys, and more elaborate fortifications such as Norman stone keeps.

The buildings show massive proportions in simple geometries using small bands of sculpture. Paying attention to the concentrated spaces of capitals and round doorways as well as the tympanum under an arch. The "Norman arch" is the rounded, often with mouldings carved or incised onto it for decoration. chevron patterns, frequently termed "zig-zag mouldings", were a frequent signature of the Normans. [4] The cruciform churches often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the great English cathedrals were founded from 1083.

After a fire damaged Canterbury Cathedral in 1174 Norman masons introduced the new Gothic architecture. Around 1191 Wells Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral brought in the English Gothic style, and Norman became increasingly a modest style of provincial building.

Ecclesiastical architecture Edit

    1074: church tower doubles as a place of refuge (c. 1078), Tower of London (from 1093) was the first to employ a ribbed vault system with pointed arches (from 1079) (1083–1109) (from 1118) , Herefordshire
  • St Nicholas Church, Pyrford, Surrey (c. 1140) , Iffley, Oxfordshire (1170) in Nately Scures, Hampshire (1175), an example of a Norman single-cell apsidal church. (1096–1145) (eleventh century) , Colchester , Rutland – Norman chancel
    . (1909) Norman Architecture in Cornwall: a handbook to old ecclesiastical architecture. With over 160 plates. London: Ward & Co.

Military architecture Edit

Domestic architecture Edit

Scotland also came under early Norman influence with Norman nobles at the court of King Macbeth around 1050. His successor Máel Coluim III overthrew him with English and Norman assistance, and his queen, Margaret, encouraged the church. The Benedictine order founded a monastery at Dunfermline. Her sixth and youngest son, who became King David, built St. Margaret's Chapel at the start of the 12th century.

Ecclesiastical architecture Edit

    , Dunfermline (founded about 1070 by St Margaret) grid referenceNT089872 (from about 1070) grid referenceNO516166 , Edinburgh Castle (early 12th century) grid referenceNT252735 parish church (from about 1130) grid referenceNT144775 , Kirkwall (from about 1137) grid referenceHY449112 , Jedburgh (founded about 1138 by David I) grid referenceNT650204 , Leuchars (12th century) grid referenceNO455215 Parish Church, Edinburgh (late 12th century)

The Normans first landed in Ireland in 1169. Within five years earthwork castles were springing up, and in a further five, work was beginning on some of the earliest of the great stone castles. For example, Hugh de Lacy built a Motte-and-bailey castle on the site of the present day Trim Castle, County Meath, which was attacked and burned in 1173 by the Irish king Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. De Lacy, however, then constructed a stone castle in its place, which enclosed over three acres within its walls, and this could not be burned down by the Irish. The years between 1177 and 1310 saw the construction of some of the greatest of the Norman castles in Ireland. The Normans settled mostly in an area in the east of Ireland, later known as the Pale, and among other buildings they constructed were Swords Castle in Fingal (North County Dublin), Dublin Castle and Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim. [8]

Mezzogiorno Edit

The Normans began constructing castles, their trademark architectural piece, in Italy from an early date. William Iron Arm built one at an unidentified location (Stridula) in Calabria in 1045. After the death of Robert Guiscard in 1085, the Mezzogiorno (peninsular southern Italy) experienced a series of civil wars and fell under the control of increasingly weaker princes. Revolts characterised the region until well into the twelfth century and minor lords sought to resist ducal or royal power from within their own castles. In the Molise, the Normans embarked on their most extensive castle-building programme and introduced the opus gallicum technique to Italy. Their clever use of the local stone artisans, together with the vast riches amassed from their enslaved population, made such tremendous feats possible, some as majestic as those of the ancient Roman structures they tried to emulate.

Besides the encastellation of the countryside, the Normans erected several religious buildings which still survive. They edified the shrine at Monte Sant'Angelo and built a mausoleum to the Hauteville family at Venosa. They also built many new Latin monasteries, including the famous foundation of Sant'Eufemia Lamezia. [9] Other examples of great importance are the portal of the Shrine of Mary Queen of Anglona and the ambulatory and radiating chapels of the Aversa Cathedral.


The Norman Conquest was an epic making event in the British History. The rulers of Normandy had originally been Scandinavian Vikings. They occupied parts of Northern France (Normandy)and in the early 10th century AD, they were recognized by the French Crown. By the middle of 11thcentury AD, they lost their Scandinavian speech, instead spoke French and were essentially French in culture.

During the reign of English king Edward the Confessor, Harold the Earl of Wessex happened to visit Normandy. William, the Duke of Normandy had a hope to become the king of England after the death of childless Edward and Harold offered to help him in this matter. But the Witan (Body of elders) in obedience to the dying words of the Edward elected Harold as the King. The infuriated William landed in England with a mighty army in 1066 AD. Harold could not get the whole hearted support of the all nobles. So in the historic Battle of Hastings fought in 1066 AD, Harold, last of the Saxon kings, was defeated and William the conqueror became the new king of England. Since William also continued to be the duke of Normandy, there was a steady flow of people between England and Normandy.

Results of Norman Conquest

The Norman Conquest was a turning point in the history of England. The immediate result of the Norman Conquest was that the government passed from the hands of the English to those of the Normans and Norman barons and knights. The Anglo Saxon nobility was completely destroyed and most of the English men became villains. England lost her royal dynasty and she also lost her freedom. King William had to curb the power of those elements which threatened the security of his rule. Each rebellion was followed by confiscation of English lands and these lands were rewarded to his Norman followers. All rebellions were suppressed and the feudal system was encouraged. The Norman feudal system completely altered the face of England.

The first great change made by the Norman Conquest was that England came in to close contact with what was happening in Europe. The English began to display great interest in intellectual, political and religious movement in Europe. Kings and people began to play an important part in France, in the policies of Europe and even in the crusades. The trade of England goes very much affected. Merchants from England began to travel all over Europe and were able to set up their trade relations in the countries with which they came in to contact. Jews came and settled in England. An immediate result of the conquest had been a great immigration of Normans into England. They all gradually mixed with English people. Norman conquest supplied England an illustrious line of able rulers. They used new feudalism to attain national unity. Most of the institution which are the pride of English men today like representative assembly (magnum Concelium), universities, juries and the common law was acquired during these periods of foreign rule and influence. "Dooms day book" and "Oath of Salisbury" are the other results.

The Church of England came into close contact with the church of Rome. They reformed the English church and made it the real leader of the people in morals, learning and in charity. Ecclesiastical courts were separated from the secular courts. Church encouraged education, art and architecture. School started in all monasteries where Latin was taught. Large numbers of cathedrals were built in Norman’s time. Thus church began to play a vital role in the lives of the people. The Norman Conquest also profoundly affected learning in England. The Latin language began to be studied with great interest. Latin and French became the official language of the government. Under French influence, English language was completely changed. The two languages gradually merged into what is known as "Middle English". Trevelyan points out that one outcome of the Norman conquest was the making of the English language. On the whole, it can be said that the Norman conquest was very important event in the history of England. It revolutionized everything in the country. Although English men suffered for sometimes as a result of the Norman conquest, their initial loss were more than made up later.

William The Conqueror

William 1st real claim to the English thrown rested on his victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD against Harold. However the defeat of Harold alone did not result in the submission of all the English men. As a matter of fact, there were many revolts in south-west, Mercia and Northumbria and one by one they were all ruthlessly suppressed. Each revolt was followed by fresh confiscation of land possessed by the English nobility. The land thus captured was used for rewarding Williams own Norman followers. At the same time he had to make himself master of both English and Normandy. To the English, William was a foreign ruler. So in order to secure his position, William decided to confiscate the land of rebels by suppressing the uprisings with an iron hand, by developing the feudal system and by using the English against his own rebellious barons.

Norman Brand of Feudalism

In feudalism land played an important role. It was the basis of the relationship between the land lord and the vassal. Theoretically, in feudalism, the king was the owner of the whole land. But it was actually controlled by the feudal lords. The lords everywhere lived a happy luxurious life. Their lands were cultivated by the serfs. They could not sell or mortgage the land but go on tilling that throughout the life. Not only this, the land lords could levy taxes on them and punish them of their offences. Under feudalism a feudal lord had two courts one for the nobles and the other for the vassals & other tenants. From these courts a new type of legal system evolved. All the feudal lords were supposed to be loyal to the king but as the time passed they posed a great threat to his authority. The knights enjoyed a significant position in the feudalism.

Medieval England Timeline:

William crushes uprisings of Anglo-Saxon earls and peasants with a brutal hand in Mercia and Northumberland, uses (literal) scorched earth policy, decimating population and laying waste the countryside. Anglo-Saxon earls and freemen deprived of property many enslaved. William distributes property and titles to Normans (and some English) who supported him. Many of the English hereditary titles of nobility date from this period.

English becomes the language of the lower classes (peasants and slaves). Norman French becomes the language of the court and propertied classes. The legal system is redrawn along Norman lines and conducted in French. Churches, monasteries gradually filled with French-speaking functionaries, who use French for record-keeping. After a while, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is no longer kept up. Authors write literature in French, not English. For all practical purposes English is no longer a written language.

Bilingualism gradually becomes more common, especially among those who deal with both upper and lower classes. Growth of London as a commercial center draws many from the countryside who can fill this socially intermediate role.

The English kings lose the duchy of Normandy to French kings. England is now the only home of the Norman English.

First book in English appears since the conquest.

The demands of the barons were recorded in the document known as the Articles of the Barons. Following further discussions with the barons and clerics led by Archbishop Langton, King John granted the Charter of Liberties, subsequently known as Magna Carta,

First royal proclamation issued in English since the conquest.

The Provisions of Oxford were constitutional reforms developed in 1258 and resolved a dispute between the English barons and King Henry III of England.

Increasing feeling on the part of even noblemen that they are English, not French. Nobility begin to educate their children in English. French is taught to children as a foreign language rather than used as a medium of instruction.

Start of the Hundred Years' War between England and France.

English becomes official language of the law courts. More and more authors are writing in English.

Chaucer writes the Canterbury tales in Middle English. the language shows French influence in thousands of French borrowings. The London dialect, for the first time, begins to be recognized as the "Standard", or variety of English taken as the norm, for all England. Other dialects are relegated to a less prestigious position, even those that earlier served as standards (e.g. the Wessex dialect of southwest England).

William Caxton brings a printing press to England from Germany. Publishes the first printed book in England. Beginning of the long process of standardization of spelling.

Norman Conquest

The death of Edward the Confessor, King of England, initiated a brief period of conflict between the various claimants to his throne that irrevocably changed the country of England. Immediately following the death of Edward, Earl Harold Godwinson was elected and crowned king by the English nobility. He became known as King Harold II.

Edward 'the Confessor' King of England [ 1 ]
William's Claim to the Throne

However, Duke William of Normandy, later called William the Conqueror, had a powerful claim to the throne, due to the fact that King Edward had developed strong Norman sympathies during his long exile in Normandy and had selected William as his heir. Additionally, King Harald Hardrada of Norway also had a strong claim to the throne, based on a treaty that had been made between Magnus, the son of Harald's brother, St. Olaf, and Harthacnut, the son of King Cnut, who was the ruler of England, Denmark, and Norway that had originally sent Edward into exile. Consequently, Harold II immediately faced attackers on two fronts after his accession to the throne. The Norwegians threatened from the north, while the Normans loomed in the south.

The Norwegians were first to attack England, aided by Harold's own brother Tostig, Earl of Northumberland. Harald Hardrada's forces landed on the Humber River, scored a quick victory over the Mercians, and then began a march towards the city of York. Harold's forces intercepted the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge and defeated them on September 25, 1066. Both Tostig and Harald Hardrada were slain in the battle.

The Normans launched their attack and when they landed, they found the English were completely unprepared. Harold quickly hauled his forces back to the south to confront the threat, but when his soldiers arrived they were exhausted by the difficulty of making a forced march so soon after their great battle. William's spearmen and cavalrymen easily scattered and slaughtered Harold's weary axeman at the Battle of Hastings. Harald himself was slain and according to tradition, fell when an arrow pierced his eye (see Bayeaux Tapestry). William subsequently gathered enough support among the English nobility to be crowned King of England in a ceremony that took place at Westminster Abbey in London on Christmas Day, 1066.

However, there was still some resistance to William's rule. Sporadic ambushes were made by the native Anglo-Saxons, who slew groups of Normans in deserted and isolated places. William also had to contend with more organized uprisings in Kent and Exeter. In 1170, Northumbrian rebels captured the city of York with the help of Danish allies. William was forced to embark on a ruthless 'scorched earth' policy and put a large number of villages and farmlands to the torch until the rebellion was extinguished. The threat of a Danish invasion in 1195, forced him to repeat his actions. This, together with the heavy taxation that accompanied his rule, earned William the reputation of an oppressor and the title of William the Conqueror.

William I of England, also known as William the Conqueror [ 3 ]
Impact of the Conquest

The Norman Conquest of England had profound results for the country of England. They took over some existing efficient Anglo-Saxon institutions without changing them, such as the taxation and coinage systems and the organization of the local government into counties and hundreds. However, the Normans also initiated many important changes. The Normans imported the Feudal System and a strong bureaucratic form of government. They built the first castles in England, reformed monasteries, and constructed towns on the Norman model. More notably, they brought great linguistic changes. Latin was imported as the official language of government and legal matters and French became the language of the nobility. These new tongues largely supplanted the indigenous Old English language and greatly changed the way in which English people, places, and things came to be named.

"At court, and in the castles of great nobles, where the pomp and state was emulated, Norman-French was the only language employed in courts of law, the pleadings and judgments were delivered in the same tongue. In short, French was the language of honour, of chivalry and even of justice, while the far more manly and expressive Anglo-Saxon was abandoned to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other." [ 4 ]

This invasion did not mark the first time that England had come under the rule of a foreign power. England was invaded numerous times by Scandinavians in the past and had already been ruled by the aforementioned King Cnut, among others. The Normans were themselves of this same Scandinavian stock. Nevertheless, this invasion sparked an unprecedented era in English history and resulted in significant political, social, and linguistic change.

See Also
  1. ^ "File:Edward the Confessor.png." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 27 Jan 2019, 19:54 UTC.
  2. ^ "File:Harald Hardrada window in Kirkwall Cathedral geograph 2068881.jpg." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 17 Feb 2020, 10:06 UTC.
  3. ^ "File:William the conqueror.jpg." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 28 Mar 2017, 19:56 UTC.
  4. ^ Scott, Sir Walter, Ivanhoe Norwalk, Conn.: Easton Press, 1977, pp 6, 7
  5. ^ Swyrich, Archive materials

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Consolidation of power

Still, we should not paint Harold in completely innocent colours. Harold was already thinking like a king by 1064. He was undoubtedly considering his own position vis à vis the throne of England, and like any politician of his age, he would undoubtedly have sworn to anything in order to get himself out of the dangerous position in which he found himself.

. Kings made and broke. vows all the time.

Kings made and broke solemn vows all the time, and it was only when someone else had something to gain from it that they were called to account. Harold needed to get back to England and muster the support he would require to make his bid. In order to do that, he would have sworn away his own brother. In a passage laden with hindsight, the chronicler Eadmer has Edward admonishing Harold on his return: 'Did I not tell you that I knew William, and your going might bring untold calamity upon this kingdom?'

The proof of this all came in 1065, when the people of Northumbria rebelled against the harsh rule of their new earl, Harold's brother Tostig. Tostig appealed to Harold and the King for help, but that help was not forthcoming. Edward held no love for Tostig, and Harold had seen a way that he could use his brother's misfortune to win the backing of the other great power in the land, the family of Leofric. Leofric's grandson, Edwin, was now the Earl of Mercia and almost as strong as Harold himself but his brother, Morcar, was yet to have an earldom.

Harold made a deal: he would support Morcar into Northumbria against his own brother Tostig and also against the rightful heir, Waltheof, if the family of Leofric eschewed its old enmity with the Godwines and supported Harold in his bid for the throne. This act of filial treachery was to have significant consequences. Tostig fled into exile, vowing revenge against his brother, and the scene was set for the tragic events of 1066.

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