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William the Conqueror

In 1065, King Edward the Confessor died, leaving no obvious heir to succeed him.

Duke William of Normandy (in northern France) claimed that Edward had promised the throne to him. Harold Godwinson (an Anglo-Saxon), however, crowned himself as king, stating that Edward had changed his mind on his deathbed. He became King Harold II of England.

On 26th September 1066, King Harold II defeated a Viking invasion force led by the Norwegian King Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, near York.


Seeing his opportunity, Duke William of Normandy crossed the English Channel with 700 ships and landed at Pevensey on the south coast of England on 28th September, ready to rightfully claim the throne for himself.

King Harold II’s army of soldiers marched over 200 miles down to the south-east coast and arrived on 13th October feeling very tired.

Battle of Hastings map

The following day, the two armies fought each other in a battle at a place called Senlac Hill, near Hastings. At the start, Harold held the high ground with his warriors creating a strong wall of interlocking shields backed by a line of archers. This successfully held back attacks from William’s cavalry of horsemen.

Battle of Hastings 8

As the evening came though, the Normans pretended to retreat. This led the English to break their shield wall to follow them, only to then be attacked when William’s army turned back around. Harold was wounded by an arrow to the eye before being surrounded by a group of Norman knights and killed. Many of the English then ran away, as they were not trained soldiers but farmers.

Harold dead bayeux tapestry

William called himself a conqueror because he could now rule the country. He marched to London and was crowned king on Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey.

The battle and the events leading up to it were illustrated in a 70 metre long tapestry called the Bayeux Tapestry. Many believe that is was embroidered in Kent by a group of experts led by William’s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux (in France).

Tapisserie de Bayeux 31109