Norman Rule of England


The Norman Conquest and subsequent rule of England was a major turning point in the history of England. Now you might be wondering why this is. Well, in this article, we will be looking at who the Normans were, where they came from, who the Anglo-Saxons were, and why William (previously the Duke of Normandy), became William the Conqueror. Lastly, we will also be delving into the various consequences of the Norman rule in England. 

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Table of contents

    To begin with, we should look at the table which outlines the key figures of the Norman Rule of England and their various roles.

    Key Figures of the Norman Rule of EnglandRoles of the Key Figures of the Norman Rule of England
    William The Conqueror, later on known as King William I of England
    • King William I of England was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. He was born in 1028
    • He grew up in Normandy and had participated in several battles involving the principalities near Normandy
    • He was made the King of England on 25th December 1066
    • He gave land in England to the Norman Nobles that he trusted
    Harold Godwinson
    • The final Anglo-Saxon King of England
    • He was the son of the Earl of Wessex, called Godwine
    • Harold was given the role of heir to the throne by King Edward the Confessor, who did not have children of his own
    • Harold died at the Battle of Hastings
    Harald Hardrada
    • The son of a clan leader
      • Half brother of King Olaf II of Norway
    • He has worked under several rulers in various foreign leaders include the Emperor of Byzantines Michael IV.
    • In 1047 after his nephew Magnus I Olafsson had passed away, he had ruled Norway alone for around 4 years
    • Later on, he formed an alliance with Tostig and invaded Northern England, but was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066
    Tostig Godwinson
    • The Earl of Northumbria during the Anglo-Saxon rule
    • He was also the younger brother of King Harold Godwinson
    • He died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge
    Odo of Bayeux
    • The half-brother of William the Conqueror
    • Odo was born in 1036
    • Became the Bishop of Bayeux in 1049
    • Odo is the reason the Bayeux Tapestry had been created

    William FitzOsbern.

    • He was born in 1020
    • He fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066
    • He was related to William the Conqueror
    • He provided a lot of advice and guidance to William the Conqueror
    • William FitzOsbern was given the title of Earl of Hereford
    • He lived on Carisbrooke Castle which is based on the Isle of Wight
    King Stephen
    • He held the title of King of England from 1135 till 1154, when he had passed away.
    • He was also the Duke of Normandy from 1135 till 1144.
    • He had a war with his cousin Empress Matilda.
    • The son of Empress Matilda, who was Henry II had ascended to the throne
      • Henry had became the first many kings who were off Angevin origin
    Edward the Confessor
    • He was born in 1003 and passed away on 5th January 1066
    • He ruled from 1042 to 1066
    • He was known to be one of the last kings who were Anglo-Saxon in origin
    • He was also the last king who belonged to the House of Wessex
    Earl Morcar
    • He was the Earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066!
    • When William the Conqueror came to power, Copsi took over the role of Earl of Northumbria

    Norman Rule Meaning

    Norman Rule, which is also known as the Norman Conquest, can be defined in the following manner:

    The Norman Conquest refers to the military conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, this arose as a consequence of his major victory at the Battle of Hastings and it had resulted in administrative, political and social changes in England.1

    Who were the Normans?

    Normans refer to Vikings and Norsemen who settled in the Frankish Kingdom- an area we know today as Northern France. In 911 CE, the Normans established the duchy of Normandy.

    Common Era (CE)

    The term CE is an abbreviation for Common Era and is the secular form of Anno Domini (AD). Anno Domini is the Latin term for “in the year of the Lord”.

    Norman Rule of England The Normans StudySmarterFig. 1 The Normans

    Normans were adventurous folk and sent out expeditions to explore, conquer and colonise other lands. Initially, Norman expeditions were motivated by opportunities to raid and plunder valuable assets across European coastal towns. However, as Norman raiders became increasingly successful, more adventurous Normans embarked on many expeditions to explore and conquer areas of Europe, including England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

    Causes of Norman Invasion in England

    When thinking about the causes of the Norman invasion of England, 5th January 1066 must be acknowledged as a significant date. This is the date Edward the Confessor, who was the King of England at the time, passed away. Edward had no direct heirs to inherit the throne, and therefore question marks over who would become the next King of England fueled political and military tensions.

    The last Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, had invaded England in order to obtain the role of King and gain the throne from Harold Godwinson, The primary motivation behind this action was the promise that Edward the Confessor, who was William the Conqueror's cousin, had made to him. Edward promised to give the title of king and grant his entire kingdom to William. However, on his death bed he had changed his mind and gave the entire kingdom to Harold Godwinson. Thus, the Norman invasion of England took place.

    Norman invasion of England

    As you can imagine, England resisted the Norman invaders and subsequently, many difficult battles broke out throughout 1066. At the end of each battle, land was redistributed and defensive positions and castles were constructed by the victors.

    The Battles of 1066There were three significant battles which took place in 1066:

    1. The battle of Gate Fulford
    2. The battle of Stamford Bridge
    3. The battle of Hastings

    The Battle of Gate Fulford

    The Battle of Gate Fulford started on 20th September 1066. It involved a combination of the Viking army belonging to Hardrada and the rebels being led by Tostig, went north to York. However, they got stopped at Riccall, which was approximately 10 miles south of York.

    They had been stopped by Edwin and Morcar who were the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria. Their English army had come south from York had fought a battle south of Gate Fulford, which was a village in the North of England. This was a significant victory, but the army had faced losses, in terms of archers and cross-bow men. Thus, there were ill-prepared by the time they had to face William the Conqueror and participate in the Battle of Hastings.

    The Battle of Stamford Bridge

    The battle of Stamford Bridge took place in 1066, between the Anglo Saxons and Vikings. It was the Viking's attempted invasion of northern England, it happened at Stamford Bridge Yorkshire. Both Harald Hardrada, who was the King of Norway and Tostig had been killed in the battle. Harold Godwinson's army had won the battle and Harold remained King Harold II.

    The Battle of Hastings

    On 28th September 1066, William had reached Pevensey in England. He had reached there with a large number of cavalry and troops. He had manage to take over Pevensey and decided that the next move to undertake would be to invade Hastings.

    On 13th October 1066, King Harold II came to Hastings along with his army and on 14th October William began the battle, in the end he won!

    Someone had shot Harold in the eye, using an arrow and he died. This allowed for William to destroy Harold's forces and later on become William the Conqueror.

    Norman Rule of England.Battle Abbey,Harold Memorial.StudySmarterFig. 3 Battle Abbey, Harold Memorial

    Period of Norman Rule in England

    The period of Norman conquest of England lasted five years from 1066 CE to 1071 CE. Ultimately, the Normans conquered England and ruled between 1071 CE and 1154 CE.

    During this period, four Norman kings ruled over England. These were:

    1. King William I (1066-1087 CE)

    2. King William II (1087-1100 CE)

    3. King Henry I (1100-1135 CE)

    4. King Stephen (1135-1154 CE)

    Changes in England under the Norman Rule

    Under Norman rule, there were a number of key changes for inhabitants in England, these included:

    • Political changes
    • Religious changes
    • Cultural changes

    Political changes

    The establishment of Norman rule changed the political ruling class of England and replaced the previously Anglo Saxon political structures. For instance, William the Conqueror introduced feudalism and land was distributed into the care of William's most trusted advisors and supporters.

    Feudalism

    A medieval political system which provided noblemen with land in exchange for political and military support of the King. Peasants who lived on this land had to provide a share of their produce in return for military protection.

    William the Conqueror distributed land across England to no more than 180 of his most trusted allies and supporters.

    Those who had the role of a labourer on the estate of their lord were no longer working for their own or their family's benefit. However they were working for the benefit of their lord. Thus, their lord was gaining the profits from the hard work of the labourer.

    Lastly, a record of land and property owned by prominent members had been created, this was known as: "The Domesday Book."

    The Domesday Book

    In 1085, Denmark was threatening to invade England. William had to contact and make a payment to the mercenary army, to defend England, which was his kingdom. In order to do this he needed a list of potential resources that he could use, which were both financial and military based.

    During the Christmas period in 1085, he had conducted a survey with the objective to uncover the resources and objects which could be taxable. This survey was sent to all of the manors and boroughs in England. His aim was to discover who owned which land, resources and objects. How much the stuff one was worth, how much could be taxed and how much he could potentially gain through rental payments of houses. Lastly, to also discover who is eligible for undertaking military service.

    The Domesday Book also gave an indication of who the owners of the manors were and those who were meant to be knights for the King. The book was created to indicate the revenue that the kingdom has made and the rights of the members of the royal family.It also indicated how to earn the maximum amount of revenue.

    The book was called Domesday in reference to the bible, which states that "Doomsday" is the day of judgment.

    Doomsday book Quotation Plaque, Churchyard Salthouse, StudySmarter, Fig. 4 Domesday book plaque

    Religious changes

    The Normans had been the successors of the Anglo Saxons. With this occurring, there had been a change of religion from paganism to Catholicism. As the Anglo Saxons were predominantly Pagan, whereas the Normans were Catholic. This led to more cathedrals that were Romanesque being built and bishops being of Norman origin as opposed to Anglo Saxon.

    Cultural changes

    In terms of linguistics, there were several changes made to English. As many French words and phrases had been introduced to the English language. In modern-day society, many of these words and phrases are still being used.

    Did you know that the Normans introduced many important legal terms such as 'judge', 'jury', 'evidence', and 'justice'.

    Anglo-Saxon homeland and settlements, StudySmarterFig. 5 Anglo-Saxon Homelands and Settlements

    Benefits of Norman Rule

    There were many benefits of Norman rule, these include:

    1) Trade between England and mainland Europe becoming more frequent. This also meant the amount of communication had also increased.

    2) The relationship between England and France improved during this period.

    3) The Domesday book remains an invaluable source of historical information which gives us an insight into life hundreds of years ago.

    End of the Norman Rule in England

    All good things come to end, they say. Well, let's take a look and see what ended the Norman rule in England in 1154.

    Causes of Norman rule in England

    Before looking at the end of the Norman rule in England, one has to acknowledge that the end could be attributed to King William himself. As he had ensured that most of the Normans did not receive vast amounts of land via feudalism, only those who were close to him did. This occurred because William the Conqueror did not trust many individuals.There were only two individuals who were close to him:1) Odo of Bayeux who was William the Conqueror's half-brother

    He was given the title of Earl of Kent and gained plenty of wealth from taking as much land as possible in England.

    2) William FitzOsbern who became the Earl of Hereford, Gloucester, Oxfordshire and Worcester and he was also a close advisor to William the Conqueror. He was also the strategist of the Battle of Hastings, after William Conquered England, he gave advice on how to maintain power in central and western England.

    Both Odo of Bayeux and William FitzOsbern, took on the role of being the King, when William the Conqueror was fighting battles abroad.

    End of Norman rule in England

    The official end to the Norman rule in England occurred after 1154. The end of Norman rule in England was initiated through the outbreak of a civil war between 1135-1154, often referred to as the "period of anarchy". The civil war resulted in a new English monarch, King Henry II, which marked an end to Norman rule in England.

    The civil war can be accounted for by many causes, including:

    • Weak leadership of King Stephen

    • Tensions related to succession

    • Desire to recover land lost and unfairly distributed by William the Conqueror

    Overall, the Norman Rule of England began in 1066, when William Duke of Normandy conquered England and his army had killed King Harold II who was the last Anglo-Saxon king. A lot of profound changes were made, in the political, cultural and religious realms. Catholicism became a prominent religion and many more Romanesque cathedrals were built. In terms of linguistics, the English language gained a lot of French influence.

    Norman Rule of England - Key takeaways

    • William the Conqueror, who was formerly known as William the Duke of Normandy invaded England in 1066, after defeating King Harold, who was an Anglo-Saxon.
    • William the Conqueror became the first of many Norman kings who ruled England.
    • They were of Scandinavian origin and came from Normandy in France
    • The Battle of Hastings was a notable event that significantly changed William the Conqueror's future.
    • During his reign, he made various changes however, he decided to keep the majority of the laws which had been created by the Anglo Saxons.
    • The Norman rule in England came to an end after King Stephen passed away

    References

    1. Norman Conquest, British History, Britannica, 2022
    2. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2022. Norman Conquest | Definition, Summary, & Facts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2022]
    3. Fig. 3 Battle Abbey Harold memorial (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_Abbey,_Harold_memorial.jpg) by Fanfwah (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fanfwah) licenced by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode) on Wikimedia Commons
    4. Fig. 4 Domesday book plaque (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:-2020-12-09_Doomsday_book_quotation_plaque,_Churchyard,_Salthouse.JPG) by kolforn (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kolforn) licenced by CC-BY-SA-4.- (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode) on Wikimedia Commons
    5. Fig. 5 Anglo-Saxon Homelands and Settlements (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo-Saxon_Homelands_and_Settlements.svg) by Mbartelsm (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Mbartelsm&action=edit&redlink=1) licenced by CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://spdx.org/licenses/CC-BY-SA-3.0.html) on Wikimedia Commons
    Frequently Asked Questions about Norman Rule of England

    What is the Norman Rule all about?

    The Norman Rule was all about providing a stronger link between England and continental Europe.
    As well as reduce the Scandinavian culture which was brought by the Anglo-Saxons!

    How did the Normans rule England?

    The Normans ruled England using a system called Feudalism.

    This meant that the King was the owner of all of the lands in his territory, however some of the ownership was shared with Barons who trained and fought battles for the King!

    When did the Normans rule England?

    The Normans ruled England from 1066 till 1154

    What is the difference between Saxons and Normans?

    Although both cultural groups were Scandinavian, the difference between them was that the Saxons followed the Germanic system. Whereas the system followed by the Normans had French influence.

    How did the Normans change England?

    The Normans made a lot of changes in England, primarily through the means of politics, religion and culture. For instance, the Normans introduced Catholocism to England. Additionally, the Normans influenced the English language, incorporating many French words. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    From where did Normans originate?

    When did William Duke of Normandy conquer England?

    Which battle did William win in order to conquer England?

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