The Normans that invaded England in 1066 came from Normandy in Northern France. However, they were originally Vikings from Scandinavia. From the eighth century Vikings terrorized continental European coastlines with raids and plundering. The proto-Normans instead settled their conquests and cultivated land. Over time they assimilated into medieval European society, abandoned paganism, and upheld conventional Christian norms.

Norman migration map

At the beginning of the tenth century, the French King, Charles the Simple, had given some land in the North of France to a Viking chief named Rollo. He hoped that by giving the Vikings their own land in France they would stop attacking French realms. From there they would cultivate land, join the feudal economy, and be a source of manpower the king in times of warfare.

The land became known as Northmannia, the land of the Northmen. It was later shortened to Normandy. The Vikings intermarried with the French and by the year 1000, they were no longer Viking pagans, but French-speaking Christians.

They still held to their Viking enthusiasm of conquest abroad, howerver. In the year 1030 a group of Normans conquered land in Italy. By 1099 they had taken over most of Southern Italy.

Although the Normans are best remembered for their military achievements—particularly in the Crusades—they also showed remarkable skill in government, especially in Italy.

The Normans established many schools, monasteries, cathedrals and churches in both Italy and England and after conquering England built many castles to defend their new land.

Good sources for history of the Normans include the buildings, many of which survive to today, writings of the men of the time, and the Bayeaux Tapestry, which shows the Norman invasion and conquest of England.

Art of the Normans: They Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is a piece of embroidery measuring approximately 231 feet by 20 inches. Worked in colored wool on bleached linen, it tells of William of Normandy’s rightful claim to the English throne and his subsequent invasion and conquest of England in 1066. The style of the stitching indicates that the Tapestry was made in England.

History has recorded that the Bayeux Tapestry, was probably commissioned of the Embroiderer’s Guild by William the Conqueror’s brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, to celebrate the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

More recently, embroidery students have argued that the Bayeux Tapestry is an amateur piece of work that was in fact stitched by the ladies of the court of the Normans.

Read the evidence below and decide for yourself.

The Embroiderer’s Guild made the Bayeux Tapestry

  • The size of the piece and the speed at which it was made suggests that it could only have been made by professionals.
  • Bishop Odo became Earl of Kent after the Conquest.
  • Canterbury, Kent was home to Europe’s leading school of embroiderers.
  • Odo of Bayeux is shown in many of the scenes both as a clergyman and as a soldier.

Bayeux tapestry showing Odo of Bayeux

Odo of Bayeux (left) is shown with his brothers. William (centre) and Robert (right)

For more detailed analysis visit 1066.com

The Ladies of the Court made the Bayeux Tapestry

  • In France the Bayeux Tapestry is known as Queen Matilda’s Tapestry. Matilda was William’s wife.
  • It is worked in a very quick and simple stitch called ‘laid work’ that was not used by the Guilds of the day.
  • Patches of unpicking and re-working are clearly visible. The Guilds would have taken care to cover any sign of re-working.
  • The figures shown are very simply drawn.

Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry showing how blocks of wool have been laid onto the linen and stitched in place.

William the Conqueror: Overview

William, the illegitimate son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, was born at Falaise Castle, Normandy, in 1027 or 1028. He was known as William the Bastard.

When his father died in 1035, William was named as his successor.

By the time that he was twenty-seven, he had earned himself a good reputation as a strong leader. He defended Normandy well from repeated attacks by the French and was feared as a military leader.

William’s Claim to England

Harold

William was a distant cousin of the English King Edward the Confessor and claimed that Edward, who had no children, had promised him the throne of England. He also claimed that when Harold Godwineson had been shipwrecked off Normandy, he had sworn to support his claim.

When Harold Godwineson was crowned King of England, William, with the approval of the Pope, began planning an invasion to take what was rightfully his.

Harold’s Claim to England

Harold was born around 1020, to one of the richest men in England, Earl Godwin. After his father’s death he became a loyal supporter of Edward the Confessor and married the daughter of the Earl of Mercia.

Harold claimed that when his ship had been blown into Norman waters, he had been taken prisoner and had been forced to support William’s claim to secure his release. He also claimed that Edward promised him the throne on his deathbed and that he was the rightful King of England.

William the Conqueror Timeline

Date

Summary

Detailed Information

Oct 1066 William took treasury Following the defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William made it his first priority to gain control of the English treasury. He then marched to London to crush English resistance which was gathering around Edgar Atheling, grandson of Edmund II and Saxon heir to the English throne.
Late Oct/early Nov 1066 William took London William mounted a campaign of devastation in and around London which forced Edgar Atheling to surrender.
25 Dec 1066 Coronation of William William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
1067 Distribution of land William distributed land to his trusted Norman barons. He was careful to ensure that no one man was given too great an area in any given region. The estates were also scattered all over the country to easily put down any sign of rebellion against Norman rule.
1066 onwards The feudal system All land belonged to the crown. One quarter was treated by William as personal property and the rest was leased out under strict conditions. The country was split into manors which were given to Barons by the King. In return the Baron and his Knights had to serve on the royal Grand Council, pay various dues and provide the King with military service when required. The Baron kept as much land as he wished for his own use, then distributed the rest among his Knights who were thereby bound to meet the Baron’s military needs, when either he or the King called for them. The knights in turn allocated sections of their lands to villeins (serfs) who had to provide free labour and food and service whenever, with or without warning, it was demanded.
1067 William returns to Normandy William returned to Normandy, leaving England in the hands of two trusted regents. The first, Odo of Bayeaux, William’s half-brother who was made Earl of Kent and the greatest landowner in England. It is thought to have been Odo who commissioned the Bayeaux Tapestry. The second was William Fitz Osborn, a good friend of William’s who was also granted extensive lands and the title Earl of Hereford. He was a notable castle builder.
Sept 1068 Birth of Henry I A fourth son, Henry, was born to William and Matilda of Flanders at Selby, Yorkshire.
11 May 1068 Coronation of Queen William’s wife, Matilda, was crowned Queen consort at Westminster Abbey or in Winchester cathedral.
1070 Taxation Tithes were introduced. Under this system, the population had to pay one-tenth of their annual increases in profit for the upkeep of the church.
1070 William refused to allow the church power Although William was very religious, he refused to allow church authority to be greater than his own. Some existing English Bishops were deposed and William insisted that all future church appointments should be Normans. William would allow no bishop to visit Rome or correspond with the Pope without his express permission.
1070 Ecclesiastical/ Lay courts William separated ecclesiastical courts from lay courts and brought many of the church’s everyday functions under the authority of common law.
1070 Devastation of the North William’s new barons grew quarrelsome. They taxed and bullied the defeated Saxons until revolt broke out all over the country. The Saxons had the backing of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland and Swein Estrithson, one of William’s rivals for the throne. William returned from Normandy and, despite recognising the guilt of many of his Norman barons, he burned and slaughtered his way to total submission of the Saxons. Large areas of Yorkshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire were left derelict following the brutal harrying of William’s forces.
1071 Hereward the Wake defeated. A revolt against William by Hereward the Wake was put down. This eliminated the last major resistance to William’s place on the throne.
1072 Forest Law William, who loved hunting, made large areas of woodland subject to Forest Law. This meant that not only the animals that lived in that specific woodland, but also the leaves on the trees belonged to the King. This law made life very difficult for those living nearby since it was now against the law for them to kill animals in the forest for food and to gather sticks for a fire.
1073- 1076 William to Normandy Because England was now relatively secure, William spent much of this time in Normandy defending it from increasingly hostile neighbours. The main threats to Normandy were King Philip of France and Count Fulk le Rectin of Anjou.
1078 Curthose Defects William’s son, Robert Curthose, who had never been allowed to enjoy either money or power, started working against his father.
1085- 1086 Threat of invasion William returned to England to ward off a threatened invasion from Scandinavia.
1086 Domesday Book The Domesday Book was a survey of England compiled under the orders of William. It is thought to have been carried out because of a need for more money. The survey was carried out by commissioners, grouped in about eight teams that travelled from county to county. The teams were led by bishops who asked questions, under oath, of the people. Records that still exist today show that over 13,000 towns and villages were surveyed. The findings showed that over a quarter of the land belonged to William and his family, two-fifths were shared between the Barons and the church owned the remainder.
July 1087 William injured The garrison of the French fortress of Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated and sacked Mantes, receiving the injury from which he was to die.
9 Sept 1087 William Died William died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. William I was buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen, Normandy.

The Events Leading to the Norman Conquest of 1066

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.

Harald Hardrada & Stamford Bridge

Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, like William of Normandy, believed that the English throne should be his, not Harold Godwineson’s.

Background to Hardrada’s Claim

Edward the Confessor, who had died childless in January 1066, had seized the English throne back from the Norwegian Harthacnut in 1042. Harthacnut was the son of the Viking King Cnut who had ruled England from 1016 – 1035.

Hardrada claimed that Harthacnut had promised the English throne to King Magnus of Norway. Magnus was an old King and had chosen not fight Edward the Confessor for the throne. Harald Hardrada succeeded King Magnus to the throne of Norway and when Edward the Confessor died he decided to take the English throne for himself. Hardrada began planning his invasion.

Stamford Bridge

September 20th 1066 – Battle of Fulford

Harald Hardrada, with a fleet of more than 300 ships, and the support of Harold Godwineson’s brother Tostig, sailed up the river Humber and landed just south of York. Two powerful Earls in the north, Edwin and Morcar, hurriedly mustered an army. They were heavily beaten by the invaders.

Harold Godwineson’s Problem

Harold Godwineson knew that if Hardrada were to be defeated he had to take his army north to fight him off. However, Harold was also aware that William of Normandy’s invasion force was ready and would sail as soon as the wind changed. If he marched north he would have to leave the south coast unprotected and his army would be forced to march hundreds of miles north, fight a battle, then march back to the south coast and the possibility of another battle.

Stamford Bridge Map

25th September 1066 – Battle of Stamford Bridge

Godwineson decided to march north and fight off the Norwegians. He believed that he could reach the north, defeat the Norwegians and return back south before the wind changed. After a rapid march north, Godwineson’s army caught the Norwegians by surprise at Stamford Bridge. The result was a firm victory for the English.

Both Harald and Godwineson’s brother, Tostig were dead as were hundreds of Norwegian soldiers. Godwineson ordered a huge banquet to be held at York to celebrate the victory. However, the celebrations were cut short when news reached Godwineson that William of Normandy had landed on the South Coast.

Norman Ship

William II (Rufus) Timeline

Date

Summary

Detailed Information

1057 Birth A third son, William, was born, in Normandy, to William, Duke of Normandy and his wife Matilda of Flanders.
9 Sept 1087 Death of William the Conqueror William died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. William I was buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen, Normandy.
9 Sept 1087 Accession William, known as Rufus because of his ruddy complexion, succeeded his father to the English throne. However, he did not have the full loyalty of the barons because many of them believed that the throne should have been inherited by William’s eldest son, Robert Curthose.
26 Sept 1087 Coronation William II was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
1088 Rebellion A number of Anglo-Norman barons led by Odo of Bayeaux, rebelled against William Rufus. They believed that while Normandy and England were ruled by separate rulers there would not be stability. Loyalty to one ruler automatically meant disloyalty to the other and this was a problem since many barons also owned land in both England and Normandy. Robert Curthose did not join the rebellion, choosing to stay in Normandy. The rebels were defeated by an English force that had been recruited by William with false promises.
1089 William claims Normandy William used English silver to buy support and lay claim to Normandy. Although he had some success he was unable to claim Normandy.
1089 Death of Lanfranc – Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, died. William delayed the appointment of a successor.
1092 William took Cumbria William seized Cumbria from Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland.
1093 Archbishop of Canterbury Anselem of Bec William II had not appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury because he was wary of giving churchmen too much power and he had not found a man loyal enough to fill the post. In 1093, when he was taken ill and believed himself to be dying he decided that he should fill the post. He appointed Anselem of Bec, a scholarly man, as Archbishop of Canterbury. The appointment proved to be a disaster for William, who was not dying after all. Bec called for churchmen to be more politically aware and began a period where churchmen played a prominent role in government.
1094 Court Life The court was full of people hoping to gain the King’s favour and William’s favourite was Ranulf Flambard, a ruthless despoiler of the church. Unlike his father, William was not religious and his court was full of gaiety. He set new fashions such as long hair.
1094 William unpopular with the Church William was very unpopular, especially with the church. He increased taxation and sold church positions to the highest bidder rather than filling them by appointment. Many church positions were left empty so that William could take the money they earned for himself.
1095 Conspiracy William faced another plot to replace him with his brother Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy.
1095 Council of Rockingham Following a ruling by the Pope that all churchmen must firsly be loyal to their Pope and put their King second,  William called this council to deal with the ever increasing gap between himself and his Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselem of Bec. Anselem appealed to Rome, arguing that as Archbishop of Canterbury he could not be judged by the King’s council.
1096 Curthose leases Normandy to William Robert Curthose decided that he would like to join the Pope’s crusade to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. He decided to lease Normandy to William for 10,000 marks and use the money to equip a force for the Crusade. William’s brother Odo was also among those Normans that joined the Pope’s crusade.
1096 William takes Normandy Although Robert had only leased Normandy to William, William had no intention of giving the land back. He made plans to recover Maine and the Vexin, both of which had been part of William I’s Normandy but had been lost by Robert.
1097 Anselem of Bec leaves England The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselem of Bec, decided that he could not cope with the conflict with William. He sailed from Dover to France leaving the estates of Canterbury in the King’s hands.
1097 William Rufus recorded as a bad King. Although the departure of Anselem of Bec was a victory for William, the dispute has served to leave a legacy of William as a bad King.

In the eleventh century it was churchmen who wrote biographies of Kings. William was hated by the churchmen of the day –  they disliked his preference for long hair, seeing it as a sign of an effeminate and low morals. They also disliked his fondness for gaiety and extravagance and his coolness towards religion. The biographies of William Rufus were therefore written by men who hated him and were often extremely biased.

1099 Land gains in Normandy William II had succeeded in recovering Maine and the Vexin, the land lost by Robert Curthose.
1099 Bishop of Durham The King’s hated favourite, Ranulf Flambard, was made Bishop of Durham. The appointment of a man who had no respect for the church, served to anger the people of England still further.
2 Aug 1100 William II killed William was mysteriously killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. The murder is surrounded with speculation as William’s younger brother, Henry, was in the forest at the same time. Whether the murder was committed by Henry, committed on Henry’s behalf, committed on Robert’s behalf or simply an accident we will never know. But no one at the time claimed that Henry was responsible.

William II was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Henry I Timeline

Date

Summary

Details

Sept 1068 Birth A fourth son, Henry, was born to William I and Matilda of Flanders at Selby, Yorkshire.
9 Sept 1087 Death of William the Conqueror William died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. His third son, Henry, received nothing. William I was buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen, Normandy.
1092 Birth of illegitimate daughter An illegitimate daughter, Sybilla, was born to Henry, brother of William II, by his mistress Sybilla Corbet, at Domfront, Normandy.
2 Aug 1100 William II killed William was mysteriously killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. The murder is surrounded with speculation as William’s younger brother, Henry, was in the forest at the same time. Whether the murder was committed by Henry, committed on Henry’s behalf or simply an accident we will never know. But no one at the time claimed that Henry was responsible. William II was buried in Winchester Cathedral.
2 Aug 1100 Henry took Treasury As soon as he heard the news of William’s death, Henry had to move fast to prevent his older brother, Robert Curthose succeeding to the throne. Henry rode to Winchester and took control of the treasury. He gained English support by emphasising his native birth.
3 Aug 1100 Accession Henry I succeeded his brother as King of England.
5/6 Aug 1100 Coronation Henry was crowned King of England at Winchester. He later earned the nickname Beauclerc because of his good administrative skills.
5/6 Aug 1100 Coronation Charter Henry issued a Charter of Liberties, denouncing his brother’s oppressive rule and promising a return to good and fair government. Henry knew that when Robert Curthose returned to Normandy from Crusade there could be trouble. He therefore promised to grant favours to the Barons if they agreed to support him.
Aug 1100 Ranulf Flambard William II’s favourite, Ranulf Flambard, was imprisoned for the cruelty he had shown the English people.
Sept 1100 Return of Robert Curthose Robert Curthose arrived back in Normandy. He had been away on crusade to the Holy Land.
Oct 1100 Return of Anselem of Bec Anselem of Bec, the archbishop of Canterbury who had been exiled by William II, returned to England. However, he immediately caused trouble by refusing to acknowledge those bishops and abbots that Henry had appointed, claiming that appointments could only be made by high churchmen. This put Henry in an awkward position since the bishops and abbots he had appointed were great landowners and he needed their support. Henry’s solution was to postpone the problem rather than try to solve it.
11 Nov 1100 Marriage of Henry to Edith Henry married Edith, daughter of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland at Westminster Abbey. Edith’s mother, Margaret was the sister of Edgar Atheling, the last royal Saxon descendant. The marriage therefore represented the union of Norman and Saxon royal lines. Edith adopted the name Matilda because it was thought that the Norman barons might not respect a Queen with a Saxon name.
11/14 Nov 1100 Coronation of Queen Matilda was crowned Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey.
July 1101 Rebellion/ Peace Treaty Robert Curthose landed at Portsmouth to lay claim to the English throne. Many influential barons led by Robert of Belleme flocked to his side, believing him to be the true King of England. However, the former court of Rufus, led by Robert of Meulan and the English church remained loyal to Henry. Conflict was avoided when, after extensive negotiations, a peace treaty was signed that agreed that Henry should keep England but pay his brother a pension of 2,000 marks per year.
1102 Birth of Adelaide (Matilda) A daughter, Adelaide, was born to Henry I and his wife, Matilda of Scotland.
1102 Belleme overthrown. It was essential for Henry to overthrow the house of Montgomery (Belleme), which had supported Robert Curthose’s claim to the English throne,  if he were to reign in peace. Robert de Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury, whose chief strongholds were in the Welsh Marches, was an exceptionally sadistic man and not popular with the English people. Although he lost several castles in the process, Henry successfully expelled Robert de Belleme with enthusiastic support.
1102 Birth of William Clito A son, William Clito, was born to Robert Curthose.
1103 Birth of William A son William was born to Henry I and his Queen, Matilda at Winchester. He was known as William Aetheling.
28 Sept 1106 Battle of Trenchbrai Henry succeeded in defeating Robert Curthose’s smaller army at Trenchbrai. Duke Robert was captured and spent the rest of his life as his brother’s prisoner. Normandy once again became part of Britain.
1107 William Clito Robert’s young son, William Clito was put forward as rightful Duke of Normandy. His claim was backed by Louis VI of France and Count Fulk V of Anjou. Henry was forced to return to Normandy where he successfully defended his claim to be Duke of Normandy.
1107 Marriages In order to protect his lands, Henry married eight of his illegitimate daughters to neighbouring princes.
1107 Church and State Having postponed finding a solution to the Church’s move to stop lay investiture (appointment of churchmen by non-churchmen) in 1100, Henry now reached agreement with the Church and renounced lay investiture. However, he insisted that prelates were required to continue to pay homage to the King. In practice the King’s wishes were to remain the main factor in the making of bishops.
1107 Marriage of Alexander and Sybilla King Alexander of Scotland married Sybilla, illegitimate daughter of Henry I by Sybilla Corbet.
1109 Death of Anselem of Bec Anselem of Bec died. Henry did not replace him but decided to keep the position of Archbishop of Canterbury vacant. After the problems caused by Anselem of Bec’s, Henry did not want further confrontation with the Church.
1110 (approx) The Exchequer The royal caravan still toured the country as it had in Saxon times, collecting taxes and settling problems in the royal court, but it was becoming increasingly necessary to establish a central court and financial clearing house. Roger, bishop of Salisbury, Henry’s closest advisor, was given the title of Justicar, (judge). Henry also set up a financial-counting system using a large chequered cloth. The royal treasurer and officials argued general policy and specific expenditure plans across this cloth. This department became known as the ‘exchequer’.
7 Jan 1114 Marriage of Adelaide (Matilda) to Emperor of Germany Henry’s daughter, Adelaide, married the Emperor of Germany, Henry V at Mainz, Germany. Her name was changed to Matilda on the same day. She was crowned Empress of Germany as part of the Wedding ceremony.
1118 Henry in Normandy Henry spent the whole year in Normandy defending it against attack from the King of France, the Count of Anjou and the Count of Flanders. All this cost money and the people in England were continually taxed all year. Furthermore, with Henry’s long absences in Normandy it was necessary to leave the government of England in the hands of a vice-regal committee. This committee met twice-yearly to audit the accounts of the sheriffs. Accounts were balanced with the famous chequered cloth. Routine administrative work, especially that related to revenue was carried out by Roger of Salisbury.
1 May 1118 Death of Queen Matilda Henry’s wife, Matilda died at the palace of Westminster. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.
1120 William Aetheling Henry’s son and heir was created Duke of Normandy.
25 Nov 1120 White ship disaster This ship carrying a drunken party of three hundred noblemen, including William Atheling, heir to the throne and his illegitimate brother Richard, sank with no survivors.
1121 Remarriage of Henry to Adeliza The death of William Atheling had caused a succession problem for Henry had no remaining male heir to succeed him. Henry therefore remarried Adeliza [Adela, Adeleine, Adelaide], daughter of Geoffrey, Count of Louvain, Duke of Lower Brabant and Lower Lorraine and his wife Ida, hoping for a male heir.
1125 Death of Emperor of Germany. Emperor Henry V, of Germany, husband to Henry’s only surviving legitimate daughter Matilda, died.
Matilda was recalled to England by her father. The barons were forced to swear to acknowledge the unpopular Matilda as rightful Queen in the event of his death.
1127 Proposal of Marriage Henry approached Count Fulk of Anjou with a proposal for a marriage alliance between his daughter, Matilda, and the Count’s son, Geoffrey Plantagenet. Geoffrey had earned the nickname Plantagenet because he wore a sprig of broom (planta genista) as an emblem. The marriage proposal was welcomed by Fulk since it would enable him and his Angevin House to take over the Anglo-Norman realm.
June 1128 Marriage of Matilda to Geoffrey of Anjou Somewhat reluctantly, Matilda was married to the fourteen year old Geoffrey. However, relations between Henry and his daughter and son-in-law were not good.
5 March 1133 Birth of Henry II A son, Henry was born to Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet, at Le Mans, Anjou.
1134 Succession problem Henry I was now openly quarrelling with his daughter and son-in-law. Those barons who were loyal to the King now found themselves in opposition to Henry’s chosen heirs. Although Henry was openly quarrelling with his daughter and son-in-law he still hoped that they would succeed to the throne. Unfortunatly, Henry did not complete the necessary paperwork that would ensure their peaceful succession.
late Nov 1135 Succession Problem It became evident that Henry I was dying. His daughter and son-in-law were either in Anjou or Maine and some days away from England. Henry’s nephew, Stephen, on the other hand, was in Boulogne, a mere days travel from England.
1/2 Dec 1135 Death of Henry I Henry I, aged 67 years, died, in Rouen France. He was buried in Reading Abbey.

 

King Stephen Timeline

Date

Summary

Detailed Information

1096/97 Birth A son, Stephen, was born to Stephen, Count Palatine of Blois, Brie, Chartres and Meaux and his wife Adela, daughter of William I and Matilda of Flanders at Blois, France.
1125 Marriage Stephen, count of Blois, married Matilda, daughter of Eustace III of Boulogne and his wife Mary, daughter of Malcolm III, and sister of the Queen.
Nov 1135 Succession Problems Henry I was dying. He had named his daughter, Matilda as his successor and had forced the Barons to promise to be loyal to her. However, Matilda, who was in France, was not popular and few men wanted her to be Queen. Henry’s nephew Stephen was in Boulogne and only a days’ travel from England.
22 Dec 1135 Death of Henry I Stephen, hearing of the death of his uncle, rode to Winchester, where, with the support of his brother, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, he took control of the treasury. Roger of Salisbury supported Stephen’s bid to be King instead of Matilda.
22 Dec 1135 Accession Stephen, with the support of the Barons, who generally felt that women were unfit to rule, took the throne of England.
26th Dec 1135 Coronation The Archbishop of Canterbury was persuaded to crown Stephen. It was argued that the oath of allegiance sworn to support Matilda was invalid as it had been exacted by force. A fictitious story was also put about that King Henry had changed his mind about the succession on his deathbed.
22 March 1136 Coronation of Queen Stephen’s wife, Matilda, was crowned Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey.
1138 Matilda’s Rebellion Matilda had spent the two years since her cousin’s accession tot he English throne raising forces to fight on her behalf. When her half-brother Robert of Gloucester joined her cause, she had a base from which to operate in England. Stephen then made two serious mistakes; he upset his brother Henry when he did not appoint him Archbishop of Canterbury, he also arrested three influential bishops, one of whom was Roger of Salisbury.
1138 Stephen as King The country needed a strong King but Stephen was not strong. He was charming and courageous but he could neither control his friends nor subdue his enemies. Some who had supported Stephen’s claim to the throne now believed that they were wrong and called for Matilda to take her rightful place on the throne.
1139 Stephen makes peace with Scotland To secure peace with Scotland, Stephen ceded Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland to David. David’s son, Henry, was created Earl of Northumberland.
Oct 1139 Civil War begins Matilda and her forces landed at Arundel. Stephen was aware of her arrival and had the opportunity to imprison her. However, he allowed her to go free. She joined her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, in Bristol.
2 Feb 1141 Battle of Lincoln A force of Matilda’s supporters, led by Robert of Gloucester and Ranulf, Earl of Chester, defeated and captured Stephen while he was laying siege to Lincoln castle. Stephen was imprisoned in the city of Bristol.
Summer 1141 Matilda Matilda was living royally in London. She took the title, Lady of the English and could have taken the English throne. However her arrogance and dictatorial behaviour destroyed her chances of being crowned in Stephen’s place.
Late Summer 1141 Matilda driven out of London Stephen’s Queen, Matilda of Boulogne, had raised an army for her husband. They now marched to London and were joined by large numbers of Londoners who disliked Matilda. The ‘Lady of the English’ was driven out.
14 Sept 1141 Battle of Winchester Stephen’s Queen, Matilda, and her supporters lay siege to Henry of Blois’ palace at Winchester. They managed to encircle the town which forced Matilda to withdraw. Robert of Gloucester was captured and Matilda was forced to release Stephen in exchange.
1 Nov 1141 Stephen Restored Stephen was restored to the throne.
25 Dec 1141 Second Coronation Stephen was again crowned King of England in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent.
1144-7 Civil War Civil war between Matilda and Stephen continued with neither side making headway. The war was conducted through a series of sieges which were generally won by the defenders.
Oct 1147 Death of Robert of Gloucester Robert of Gloucester, Matilda’s right-hand man, died.
1148 Matilda leaves England Disheartened by her failure to win the civil war and by the death of Robert of Gloucester, Matilda left England, never to return.
7 Sept 1151 Death of Geoffrey
Plantagenet
Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey of Anjou died. Their son, Henry, became Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou.
1152 Henry to England Matilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet sailed for England. He believed he was the rightful heir to England through his mother Matilda. However, he had no more success than his mother in taking the English throne.
1152 Treaty of Wallingford This treaty made provision for the English crown to pass to Matilda’s son, Henry of Anjou. Stephen’s legitimate children, Eustace and William would be passed over.
Dec 1153 Treaty of Westminster This treaty allowed Stephen to remain King of England for life. It also stated that Stephen had adopted Henry Plantagenet as his heir. Stephen’s second son, William, was to inherit all Stephen’s baronial lands.
25 Oct 1154 Death of Stephen King Stephen died. He was buried next to his wife and son in the monastery at Faversham.

Bibliography

1066 – Norman Conquest School Site

Battle of Hastings – Glen Crack

Battle of Stamford Bridge – Britain Express

Edward the Confessor – British Library Net

Edward the Confessor – School’s History

Harald Hardrada – Spartacus

Henry I – Britannia

Norman Conflict – BBC

Stephen and Matilda – British Library Net

Battle of Hastings – History Learning Site

Bayeux Tapestry– Glen Crack

William I – Britannia

William the Conqueror – Spartacus

William the Conqueror – Domesday Book Site

William II – British Library Net

Wreck of the White Ship – Britannia