1066 And All That

Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings which the Normans won thus allowing them to take over the country of England.

bayeux_tapestry_scene57_harold_deathKing Harold of England didn’t have any time to enjoy his reign. Between being chosen king in early January of 1066 after the death of King Ethelred, and Harold’s own death this day in the same year, the guy had done nothing but march the length of the country twice, and fight two major battles.

Having rid the north of England from a major Viking threat by his devastating victory at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, Harold and his surviving troops had immediately to march back to the south coast. They were tired and footsore but put up a heck of a fight in a losing cause against a Norman army under William the Bastard.

It is hard to imagine what history would have been like had Harold won and pushed William back into the sea. In many ways, the old English foundations — language, legal rights, succession, governance styles — eventually survived to take control once again after a hundred years or more of Norman culture and bureaucratic management. But the Norman influence on our speech, our countryside, our architecture is unmistakable. Even more important in the longest scheme has been the involvement of Britain in Europe through the Norman connection, and the centuries-long entanglements that ensued.

Not many things get remembered almost a thousand years after they have happened. The Battle of Hastings is a vital part of global history, and it is good that we remember it today.

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