TODAY in HISTORY (28 September): William the Conqueror landed his army in Pevensey Bay in 1066
William the Conqueror landed his army on 28 September 1066 in Pevensey Bay near Hastings where he battled Harold Godwin for the English throne.
The Viking leaders, Rollo, created a permanent Viking settlement county of Rouen to form the Duchy of Normandy. The Vikings used this settlement as a base to raid the British islands. By the end of the 10th century, the relationship between England and Normandy was at its worst. To improve matters, King Æthelred, king of England, took Emma, the sister of Richard II (Duke of Normandy) and daughter of Rollo, as his second wife in 1002. Emma had two sons with Æthelred – Edward and Alfred.
After many further battles between the British and the Danish Vikings, Edward became king of England.
In Normandy Richard's son Robert I took over the duchy after his death.
Robert I never married, but he indicated that his illegitimate son, William, to be his heir. When Robert I died on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, William was only eight years old.
Because of his illegitimate birth, he was also referred to as “William the Bastard.” The feudal Barons also dispute his right to the duchy and fights broke out. William only succeeded to survive his early years due to the help and support from the French king. After the French king had knighted William in 1042 - he was still in his teens - he took a new stand on political events and finally gain control in his duchy. In 1064 he had even conquered two neighbouring provinces - Brittany and Maine.
When Edward, the king of England, died childlessly, William expected to receive the English throne based on an early promise made by Edward to be his successor.
Unfortunately, Edward’s brother-in-law, Harold Godwin, claimed the throne. The council of English lords, The Witan, also supported Harold’s succession, and he was crown on 6 January 1066.
William was greatly angered by the betrayal and decided to invade England and enforce his claim on the throne.
Throughout the summer of 1066, William assembled his fleet and army on the Normandy coast. Although he was ready for the attack by early August, unfavourable winds hold the ships back until late September. Harold in the meantime had also assembled his army and was ready for William attack with his forces deployed along the coast. In early September 1066 the Norwegian King, Harald Hardrada, attack England from the north. To counter the attack, Harold was forced move his troops north to face Harald. The Norwegians were defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
William made use of the distraction and landed his army on 28 September 1066 in Pevensey Bay near Hastings where he faced Harold in battle on 14 October. The battle lasted all day with the decisive event of Harold's death to conclude the battle in favour of William.
During his reign as King of England William never learned to speak English, but he had more influence in the development of the English language than anyone before or after him - by adding a series of French and Latin words to the English dictionary. He also improved the English administration system which is
believed to be the reason why England developed into the most powerful government in Europe.
King William the Conqueror died on 9 September 1087 in a riding accident when he fell from his horse.