Norman Conquest of England 1066
Norman Conquest of England (1066)
the invasion of England by feudal lords under the leadership of William, duke of Normandy.
The invasion was occasioned by William’s pretension to the throne of England, based on his family relationship to the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor, who died in early 1066. Besides the Norman barons, feudal lords from other parts of France also took part in the invasion. William’s forces crossed the English Channel in sailing vessels and disembarked in southern England on September 28. A decisive battle took place near Hastings on October 14 between William’s troops and those of the new Anglo-Saxon king Harold. The outcome of the battle was decided by the Norman cavalry, which destroyed the majority of the Anglo-Saxons, who were fighting on foot. Harold died in the battle. On December 25, William was crowned king of the Anglo-Saxons.
As a result of the conquest, the French military-vassal system was introduced into England. The strictest and most centralized feudal hierarchy in Europe was created by artificial means. All land was made the property of the crown. Feudal lords could only receive title to land from the king. Fiefs were distributed among William the Conqueror’s men as the land was confiscated from the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. The holdings of the barons were scattered in various counties, impeding the formation of independent principalities. The imposition of strong royal power also made it possible to keep approximately one-seventh of the land directly in the hands of the crown. As a result of the conquest, peasants who had remained free were finally subjected to seignorial control. The majority of peasant landholders were reduced to the status of serfs (villeins). The Norman conquest of England thereby helped complete the process of feudalization, which was begun in Anglo-Saxon times.