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The Conquest of England 1066-1265

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IN THE DIM LIGHT of early morning, the Frenchmen were preparing for battle. Squires helped the knights put on their armour, grooms brought up the horses‚ archers tested their bows, foot soldiers began to assemble, while mounted messengers hurried busily here and there. The date was October 14, 1066 and before the sun set that day a kingdom would change hands and a new era in English history would begin. The battle, one of the most decisive ever fought, would be known as the Battle of Hastings. The cause of the battle was ambition — the driving ambition of Duke William of Normandy to win himself a kingdom and a crown. The son of a Viking pirate chief, William inherited the French duchy of Normandy in 1035, when he was only eight years old. At the age of twenty he began to govern Normandy himself and he proved to be a stern and able ruler. Under his firm guidance, Normandy prospered and its population increased, until William had become the French king’s most powerful vassal. Unable to seek new lands and glory in France, because of his feudal oath of loyalty to the king, William decided to invade England. Anglo-Saxon England was a loosely knit, rural land which had never really recovered from the Viking raids. The petty kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxon chiefs had finally been absorbed into the Viking empire of King Canute. Then, during Edward the Confessor’s reign, the country again became weak as the feudal lords struggled with each other for power. One of these lords, Harold Godwinson, seized the English crown for himself. Three weeks after Harold had taken the throne‚ Duke William crossed the English channel with an army of 5000 men and landed 41 Pevensey Beach. Now King Harold and his hastily gathered army …

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