A study of the Normans usually centres around the year 1066. The Normans are best known for the invasion, Battle of Hastings and eventual conquest of England. There is much more to the history of the Normans. Originating from Vikings, the Normans built an empire covering much of modern France, England and Mediterranean islands such as Sicily. They built on a massive scale, both Cathedrals and Castles dominating their world. The Normans changed much in the societies they lived in, or occupied. Their legacy lives on to this day through language, traditions and laws.
The Normans had a huge impact on society in England. Governmental systems were altered. Language changed gradually. Architecture was highly visible and dominating. The church, highly significant in everyday life in the 11th and 12th Centuries, was altered.
Norman history sees some highly influential characters making their mark. The founder of Normandy, Rollo, is well known in literature. William, the Conqueror of England, is one of the most written about monarchs in English history. The death of William Rufus is a mystery that intrigues many. The bitter conflict between Empress Matilda and King Stephen highlights the diverse characters and opinions among Norman nobles.
The development of Normandy
911 – Northern France – King Charles the Simple grants Rollo, leader of the Vikings, land. Centred around Rouen, this land becomes known as Normandy. Rollo is given the land in return for a promise to protect it and to convert to Christianity. In converting, he is granted the name Robert and the title of Duke of Normandy.
1002 – England – King Æthelred married Emma of Normandy. Emma is the sister of Duke Richard II.
1016 – Normandy – Edward, son of Æthelred and Emma, Crown Prince of England, takes refuge as the Norsemen of Cnut occupy England. Edward learns much about Normandy, it’s society and it’s culture while in exile.
1016 – Italy – Norman knights en route to the Holy Land become involved in the liberation of southern Italy from the Byzantine occupiers.
1035 – Nicosea – Duke Robert I of Normandy dies whilst travelling as a pilgrim. His heir had been named as his illegitimate son, William. William, aged just 7 or 8, becomes the centre of a power struggle that lasts until he is an adult.
Duke William of Normandy, the Invasion of England and the Conquest
1051 – England – Duke William of Normandy is greeted for a council with his second cousin King Edward the Confessor. Norman chronicles say that during their meetings, Edward named William as his heir.
1059 – Italy – Pope Nicholas II makes the Norman noble Robert Guisard the Duke of Sicily, Apulia and Calabria.
1060 – Sicily – Duke Robert invades Sicily from mainland Italy. He conquers it to take up his position as Duke of the island.
1066 – England – Edward the Confessor, son of Emma of Normandy dies. The crown is taken by Saxon Earl Harold of Wessex.
1066 – England – Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, lands in the north. He has a claim to the English throne through the line of Cnut. Hardrada and rebels led by Tostig Godwinson defeat the Saxons at the Battle of Fulford.
1066 – England -The Saxon army defeat and kill Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
1066 – England – A fleet of ships carrying an invasion force led by William of Normandy land at Pevensey Bay. They move inland and engage the English on a hill close to the town of Hastings. Harold of Wessex dies in the Battle of Hastings.
Key Moment: The Battle of Hastings
1066 – England – Following a campaign through the south of England, William of Normandy is crowned King of England at Westminster on Christmas Day. Odo of Bayeux is made England’s First Chief Justice, signalling a new type of governmental administration.
1069 – England – Rebellion of the English Earls. Sparked by a Danish invasion, some of the English Earls rebelled against Norman rule. William’s response was harsh. The ‘Harrying of the North’ lays waste to large areas of land. See our page on the Normans in Yorkshire for source material about the Harrying of the North.
1070 – England – Lanfranc is appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury.
1072 – Scotland – Malcolm III of Soctland pays homage to William as part of a Treaty. Shortly afterwards the Normans send a small army into Scotland. This was designed to prevent any deals between the Scots and Edgar the Aetheling. Under a revised agreement, the Peace of Abernevy, Malcolm becomes a vassal of William.
1073 – England – Edgar the Aetheling attempts to seize the throne.
1077 – Canterbury – No mistake here, the Bayeux Tapestry is completed in Canterbury.
1078 – London – Construction begins on The White Tower, known today as the Tower of London.
1085 – England – At Christmas, William orders a survey of England to be carried out. The Domesday Book as we know it, is compiled by August of 1086.
1087 – Normandy – A French army invades Normandy. During fighting at Mantes, William is injured. After a short time, he dies of his injuries at Rouen.
Fact: A stone sarcophagus was prepared for William’s body. When it came to putting him into it, he was too fat. His body burst open as he was pressed into it by priests.
1087 – Normandy / England – Robert Curthose, eldest son of William, inherits Normandy. The second eldest, William Rufus, inherits England.
1095 – Clermont – Pope Urban II calls for a Holy War to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. This first Crusade sees many Normans begin preparations.
1096 – Oxford – The University is founded in it’s earliest form.
1096 – Normandy – Duke Robert mortgages Normandy to William Rufus so that he can participate in the Crusades. Bishop Odo of Bayeux also sets off for the Holy War. Odo dies on route to the Holy Land. Robert survived and was a combatant at the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099.
King Henry I
1101 – England – Robert of Normandy invades. Terms are made in the Treaty of Alton.
1101 – Sicily – Duke Roger I dies and is succeeded by his son, Simon.
1105 – Sicily – Duke Simon of Sicily dies and is succeeded by his brother, Roger II.
1105 – Normandy – Henry I invades Normandy.
1106 – Normandy – Henry I defeats his brother, Robert, at the Battle of Titchenbray. Robert sends the remainder of his life in captivity.
1110 – England – Henry arranges the marriage of his 8 year old daughter, Matilda, to the German Emperor. She becomes Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.
1120 – Barfleur – While crossing the English Channel, the ‘White Ship’ carrying William Æthling, Crown Prince of England, sinks. William dies. King Henry makes his daughter, Empress Matilda, his heir. This is the beginning of a succession crisis that becomes known as the Anarchy.
1130 – Sicily – Roger II is crowned King of Sicily by Pope Anacletus II.
1135 – England – King Henry I dies in November. Matilda is his designated heir but many barons refuse to recognise her claim. Instead they support Stephen, nephew of King Henry. They crown him King of England on December 22nd.
King Stephen, Empress Matilda and The Anarchy
1136-1153 – England – Ongoing civil war between supporters of Stephen and those of Matilda. The fighting only comes to an end with the Treaty of Wallingford in 1155. This Treaty recognises Matilda’s son, Henry of Anjou, as heir to the throne.
1154 – England – King Stephen dies. Henry of Anjou becomes King of England under the terms of the Treaty of Wallingford.
King Stephen was the last Norman king of England.
The Church in Norman England – article
Find out about the Norman monarchs and key features of Society during the Norman era from the menu below.
|William the Conqueror||William Rufus||King Henry I|
|Claimants to the throne in 1066||Battle of Fulford||Battle of Stamford Bridge|
|The Battle of Hastings|
The Norman Church
|Robert of Jumieges||Stigand||Odo of Bayeux|
|William de Corbeil||Theobald||Article: The Church in Norman England|