The Norman Conquest
Around 1000 AD, some of the Vikings who had been raiding France got permission from the French king to settle down and live in France instead. They were supposed to help protect France against other Vikings (as the Visigoths had done before). As part of the deal, these Vikings also converted from their German gods to Catholicism. These settlers were called the Normans (which is short for North-Men, because they came from the North). The part of France where they lived is called Normandy, the land of the North-Men, even today.
Animated version of the Bayeux tapestry showing the invasion of England
After a while, though, the children and grandchildren of
these Vikings were tired of just living in Normandy and farming, and wanted
some adventure and a chance to get rich. In 1066 AD,
one of these men, William, decided to attack England and try to conquer
it from the Anglo-Saxons. Williams's mother had not been married to his father when he was born, but William still inherited his father's property and his title of Duke of Normandy. People called him William the Bastard (that means that his parents were not married). He wanted to do something big and adventurous, and when the King of England died without leaving a son, William thought he saw a chance to take over England.
(Click here to find out about William's own marriage to Matilda.)
"Harold Rex interfectus est" - King Harold is killed (Bayeux Tapestry)
William thought if he conquered England he might become rich. A lot of his friends agreed with him. So they sailed across the English Channel in a lot of small boats, and when they got there they did beat the Anglo-Saxons in the battle of Hastings. The Anglo-Saxon king, Harold, was shot in the eye with an arrow and died.
William (now people called him William the Conqueror) became the new king of England. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey. He built the Tower of London to live in, to keep himself and his family safe. William and all his friends spoke French, but the English people spoke Saxon. So for a long time there were two languages spoken in England.
William and his wife Matilda
William's castle at Caen
William's abbey in Caen
Tower of London
Henry and Eleanor in England
The Capetians in France
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