Battle of Hastings
When Edward the Confessor died childless and the Witan (a national council of leading nobles and spiritual leaders) gave Harold Godwinson the throne William was so angry he invaded England. He believed Harold had promised him the throne.
At the Battle of Hastings; 14th October 1066 King Harold lost. Harold was outnumbered, his troops were exhausted as they had just marched from the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York where they had defeated the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada and when the Normans pretended to run away Harold's army moved down from the safety of their hill.
The Bayeux Tapestry, ordered for William by his brother, then shows King Harold being hit in the eye with an arrow and then being trampled on. Once Harold was dead, William won the battle
William had to ensure that Saxons followed his orders. The first thing he did was put up castles to provide somewhere safe for the soldiers to live and to scare the Saxons as many had never seen a castle before. From Normandy William brought three prefabricated wooden Motte and Bailey castles that were quick to assemble. The Normans built 500 castles in the first year. Norman castles were increasingly made of stone so that they were very difficult to attack.
William would not have won the Battle of Hastings without his well trained army. As a reward for their help William gave them land in England. In return they had to promise to fight for the King and pay taxes. It meant that William could quickly build up and pay for a large army if he was attacked. Most Normans who were given land built castles to show the local people who was in charge.
The Domesday Survey
In 1086 William needed money to equip his army so to find out if landowners were paying the correct amount of tax he introduced the Domesday Survey. This recorded types of land and animals owned and how much money the owner made and if that amount had changed between King Edward's reign and 1086. When all the information was written down it became known as the Domesday Book.
Celebrations and Food
The Normans would celebrate important events such as Christmas or May Day with lavish feasts. At Feasts, guests were not only seated and given food according to their position but they were also given different cutlery, bowls and glasses.
For the Nobility roasted peacocks and wild boar with spicy sauces, Jellies and custards dyed bright colours, Sotiltees, (sugar sculptures), made to look like castles were all placed together on the dinner table. Peasants ate food that had been salted or pickled to preserve it including pickled herring and bacon and potage, a thick vegetable soup, with bread. Peasants drank ale rather than the wine favoured by nobles. Large thick slices of stale bread called trenchers were used by some people as plates.
In large houses travelling acrobats, jesters or players (actors) were often hired. Minstrels would sing and play from a raised gallery above the great hall where the feast would take place.