Why should I care about 1066?

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1. Divide and conquer

On the 28 September 1066, around 7,000 soldiers from Northern France landed on the Sussex coast. Led by William, the Duke of Normandy, they were soon to launch a battle that would become one of the most famous in all of English History – the Battle of Hastings.

The bloody day of fighting on the 14 October proved to be a cataclysmic event in English history: a decisive turning point which transformed England forever.

The legacy of this brutal conquest - the last time England was successfully invaded – pervades many aspects of our language and culture today.

2. 1066: A picture of the battle

A bitter struggle for the English throne and a fatal arrow to the eye. The events of the Battle of Hastings are recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry. Thought to have been commissioned in the 1070s by William's half brother, Bishop Odo, the Bayeux Tapestry is a 70m-long embroidered cloth and vital historical source. Click through the following selected scenes to remind yourself of key events of the battle.

After the death of English King, Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson was crowned king on 6 January 1066. He was a powerful earl and member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon dynasty.

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News of Harold's coronation travelled across the channel to William, Duke of Normandy. William was a friend and distant cousin of the old king, Edward, who he claimed had named him his successor. He decided to attack England and take the throne.

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William's fleet crossed the channel. Owing to a lack of detailed sources, some aspects of the battle - like the size of William's army - remain uncertain. However, many accept that it was around 7,000 men.

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After an uneventful nighttime crossing, the fleet landed just after dawn on the 28 September at Pevensey. Once ashore, the Norman army made its way towards Hastings.

To strengthen their base, Norman troops set to work erecting castles at Pevensey and Hastings. They gathered food and supplies - and attempted to draw King Harold into a battle - by pillaging and destroying the surrounding area.

On the 14 October, Norman forces rode out to meet Harold's army, which had recently been fighting off Norwegian invaders at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Harold's army was made up of infantry, while William's had cavalry, infantry and archers.

Mounted Norman soldiers are depicted killing Anglo-Saxon troops, including King Harold's brothers Gyrth and Leofwine.

A rumour is said to have circulated that William had been killed in battle. The tapestry shows that to dispel this fear, William removed his helmet and rallied his troops.

The battle ends with Harold's death. The tapestry depicts a man with an arrow in his eye under the Latin for "Harold the King is killed". Historians debate whether this figure, or the one to the right being trampled by horses, is meant to be Harold.

3. Keeping up with the Normans

As the occupation endured the English adopted aspects of Norman culture. Click below to see how to fit in with the new ruling class

Take a new name

Tostig, Siward, Edith, Godric and Leofric were the kinds of names you might come have come across in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Adopt a French one!

Adopting elegant sounding Norman names, or giving them to newborns was de rigueur among the English. William, Richard, Matilda and Alice became popular choices.

Change your look

As sources like the Bayeux Tapestry reveal, long locks, and plenty of facial hair, was a common look for Anglo Saxon men in pre-conquest England.

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Get a hair cut!

A visual identifier of their new Norman oppressors was that they were clean shaven, with their hair cut high at the back.

Put down your mead

The English had an international reputation for drinking - especially beer and mead - which often took place in mead-halls.

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Have a glass of wine!

The Normans brought about a increased enthusiasm for wine in England, which began to eclipse traditional mead drinking.

4. INTERACTIVE: Breaking with the past

Though many Anglo-Saxons initially resisted their new occupiers, the Norman conquest brought about one of the fastest, most brutal and pervasive transformations in English history. Click below to discover key areas of Norman influence.

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5. QUIZ: Parlez-vous français?

Before 1066, the common language was Old English. When the French-speaking Normans arrived, the languages mixed, creating the English we know today. This coexistence of French and English explains why the latter has so many words for the same thing.

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