Men from the North

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Episode 1 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

In the first episode of an exciting three-part series, Professor Robert Bartlett explores how the Normans developed from a band of marauding Vikings into the formidable warriors who conquered England in 1066. He tells how the Normans established their new province of Normandy -'land of the northmen' - in northern France. They went on to build some of the finest churches in Europe and turned into an unstoppable force of Christian knights and warriors, whose legacy is all around us to this day. Under the leadership of Duke William, the Normans expanded into the neighbouring provinces of northern France. But William's greatest achievement was the conquest of England in 1066. The Battle of Hastings marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and monarchy. The culture and politics of England would now be transformed by the Normans.

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  • Photo: Robert Bartlett

    Photo: Robert Bartlett

    In episode one of The Normans, Professor Robert Bartlett looks into how the Battle of Hastings was such a major turning point in British history.

  • Quote of the episode

    ‘In Normandy there lives a very proud people – I do not know their like – knights who are brave and valiant, conquerors in every land’ (Wace, Roman de Rou).

  • Episode One Historical Moment: The Battle of Hastings

    On Saturday 14th October 1066, a single battle between a few thousand men permanently changed the course of history, in England and beyond. It took place “at the grey apple-tree”. Today, it is known simply as “Battle”. The English, under their King Harold, occupied the ridge of a hill, armed with huge axes and protected by large oval shields. Facing them was something startlingly new in English military history. The Normans were on horseback. At nine o’clock, they advanced uphill and attacked the English lines. For much of the day, the Normans were repulsed – they could not break through the massed ranks of the English. But finally the English lines broke and the Normans stormed through. But it wasn’t until the end of the day when an arrow hit King Harold in the eye that the battle was won. The English fled the battlefield. The future belonged to the Normans.

  • Things You Might Not Know About the Normans

    The Normans were originally Vikings: their name comes from “Norsemen” – “men from the north”.

    Back in France, William the Conqueror was known as “William the Bastard”.

    The Battle of Hastings was won in one day. It was one of the longest battles of the medieval world.

    The Normans introduced cavalry warfare to Britain.

    William the Conqueror’s wife, Matilda, was said to be only 4ft 3 inches tall.

  • BBC Hands on History

    BBC Hands on History

    Find out how you can go on your own Norman adventure with Hands on History - helping to bring history to life.

    Start your Norman adventure
  • Norman Season

    Norman Season

    This programme is part of Norman Season on BBC Two and BBC Four, a collection of programmes highlighting the effect that the Normans have had on our civilisation.

    Go to the Norman Season website


Robert Bartlett
Series Producer
Robin Dashwood
Robin Dashwood
Executive Producer
Chris Granlund


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