Norman invaders

The Norman invasion

Last updated: 26 August 2008

In 1064 Harold became shipwrecked in Ponthieu, Normandy. Norman sources say he journeyed there to offer the English throne to William, Duke of Normandy.

It is more likely that Harold traveled to Normandy to negotiate the release of family members who had been held hostage there since 1051. During the ill-fated excursion, the captive Harold was tricked into swearing over a saint's bones that the throne would go to William.

Nonetheless, William considered himself the true heir to the crown. He also asserted that Edward had made a promise during a visit by William in 1052.

By the time of the Edward's death on 5 January 1066, Harold was essentially running the country. From his deathbed Edward approved Harold as his successor, and the coronation took place the following day.

In Norway, Harald III (Hardrada, or Hard Ruler) was laying his claim to the crown, based on a supposed agreement between King Magnus and Harthacanute that said if either died without an heir, the other would inherit both England and Norway.

With Harold's brother Tostig, Hardrada invaded in September 1066. After a victorious battle at Fulford he was killed by Harold's army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge outside York. Fewer than 25 of Hardrada's longboats returned with survivors to Norway. The defeat marked the end of the Viking era.

As Harold's men celebrated the victory, word came that William had landed unopposed at Pevensey, Sussex. Harold's army marched to the south of England, and engaged in battle just outside Hastings on 14 October.

Although it was a close-fought battle, in the final hours the Saxon lines crumbled and Harold was killed. With no living person to oppose William, the throne went to the Norman conqueror.

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