The Events Leading to the Norman Conquest 1066 Timeline

Last Updated: 08/08/2014 - 09:15

Edward the Confessor

8 June 1042 Accession of Edward the Confessor Edward returned from exile in Normandy to claim the English throne. However, he was not popular with the  Anglo-Danish aristocracy established by Cnut.
3 April 1043 Coronation of Edward the Confessor Edward was crowned King of England at Winchester Cathedral.
23 Jan 1045 Marriage of Edward to Edith Edward married Edith, the daughter of Godwine, Earl of Wessex, the wealthiest and most powerful English subject. However, because of his religious views, Edward was unwilling to consummate the marriage. There would therefore be no heir to the throne from the marriage. 
1045 Harold Godwineson titled Harold Godwineson was created Earl of East Anglia.
1051 Rebellion by Godwine Edward ordered Godwine, as Earl of Wessex, to sack Dover in retaliation for a brawl in which several men were killed. Godwine, however, refused and raised troops against the King. The Earls of Mercia and Northumbria were ordered to raise troops against Godwin. The situation could have resulted in civil war, but many nobles feared foreign invasion and withdrew their support from Godwine. Godwine and his family were exiled.
1052 Rebellion by Godwine Godwine returned to England with a large force and insisted that the King banish several of his Norman nobles. The king had no choice but to do as Godwine asked. 
15 April 1053 Godwine died. Godwine died. His son, Harold Godwineson succeeded to the Earldom of Wessex and became the dominant power.
1055 Tostig inherited Northumbria. Harold Godwinson's brother Tostig inherited the Earldom of Northumbria.
1057 Return of Edward and Edgar Ironside. Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, who had been exiled by Cnut, returned from Hungary with his infant son Edgar. He was heir to the throne of England but died soon after returning. His son, the young prince Edgar, was technically the heir to the throne, but the prospect of an infant King was not favourable.
1058 Harold Godwineson Harold Godwineson was created Earl of Hereford.
1060-66 Westminster Abbey Edward devoted much of the rest of his life to the building of Westminster Abbey. He left the running of the country to the Nobles, especially Harold Godwineson.
1062 Welsh raid England King Gruffydd ap Llewelyn of Gwynedd, ruler of Wales, made a series of raids on England. The combined forces of Harold Godwinson and his brother Tostig were needed to drive ap Llewelyn back to Wales. He died in 1063
1064 Godwineson meets Duke William of Normandy Harold Godwineson was shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy. Some historians believe that Duke William of Normandy held him captive until he had sworn on Holy Relics to enforce William's claim to the throne of England. Others believe that Harold offered his support willingly.
1065 Tostig exiled. The Saxons of Northumbria rebelled against Earl Tostig, Harold Godwineson's brother. Although Harold mediated Tostig was eventually exiled. As an exile he was technically Harold's enemy.
4/5 Jan 1066 Death of Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor died at the Palace of Westminster. He was buried in the new Westminster Abbey.

Harold Godwineson (Harold II)

4/5 Jan 1066 Accession of Harold Godwineson Although he had promised to support William, Duke of Normandy's claim to the English throne, Harold allowed himself to be elected King as soon as Edward had died. The move was taken because it was feared that the Norwegian King, Magnus, and his son, Harald Hardrada, would invade England to claim the English throne through their descent from Harthacnut.
6 Jan 1066 Coronation of Harold II King Harold II was crowned King of England at St Paul's Cathedral
Jan 1066 Invasions planned As news of the accession and coronation of Harold Godwineson spread, both William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada of Norway, Harold's rivals for the English throne, raised forces and planned to invade England.
1066 Marriage of Harold to Edith Harold married Edith, the daughter of Alfgar, Earl of Mercia.
20 Sept 1066 Battle of Fulford Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, allied with the Orkney Vikings and Harold Godwinson's brother Tostig and invaded the north of England. The combined forces of Mercia and Northumberland led by earls Edwin and Morcar were heavily defeated outside York. Harold was forced to march his army north to fight off the Norwegian invasion.
25 Sept 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge Harold Godwineson surprised Harald Hardrada's forces as they rested outside York. Both Hardrada and Tostig were killed and the invading forces defeated. Harold had recovered Northumbria but his army was considerably weakened.
27 Sept 1066 Normans set sail When he heard that Harold had been forced North, William mounted his invasion. A fleet of ships carrying about 5,000 warriors, horses, arms and supplies left France, paid for by William's brother, Odo, bishop of Bayeux.
28 Sept 1066 Normans invade William Duke of Normandy landed at Pevensey in the South of England and began a march towards Hastings where a wooden fort was built. Harold Godwinson's weakened army were forced to march rapidly South.
14 Oct 1066 Battle of Hastings Harold's army had returned South and Harold, hoping to surprise the Normans, as he had the Norwegians, decided not to wait for reinforcement by the fyrd or thegns. 

The battle took place at Senlac Hill. Harold ordered his Saxon army to make a shield wall at the top of the hill. William's army made the first attack but were held off by the shield wall. Successive attacks by the Normans continued to be held off by the shield wall. Some time later, however, some Saxons thought they heard a cry that William had been killed. The Saxon's believing that they had won the battle, broke the shield wall and chased the retreating Normans down the hill. This gave the Norman horseman the opportunity they had been waiting for. Charging into the Saxon foot soldiers they cut them down before riding up the hill to break the remnants of the shield wall. 

The battle lasted all day and towards the end of the day Harold fell, popularly thought to be from an arrow in the eye, but actually from a sword blow wielded by a mounted Norman Knight. The English infantry was broken, William had won the battle. He gave thanks for victory by founding an altar and later an abbey at the place known afterwards as Battle.