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11th century : William the Conqueror

The Vikings... Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England

Chateau-fort, illustration de Jörg MaillietIn the 9th century, bold Norsemen came by sea and along rivers from Scandinavia, looting and plundering wherever they went (the word "Norman" comes from "North man"). In return for peace, the king of the Franks gave the Viking invaders land which, quite naturally, they called Normandy.

Their leader, Rollon, was baptised and became the first Duke of Normandy. He settled down and made his Duchy a prosperous and pleasant place to live. He was the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror who was born a century later and became the 7th Duke of Normandy. There were 13 Dukes of Normandy in all.

Hommage to William - Gaston Tremblot

So why did William come to England in 1066?

The French say that because Edward the Confessor, King of England, did not have an heir, he promised his crown to William, his French cousin. But when King Edward died, Harold, his brother-in-law, forgot this promise and proclaimed himself King of England. Panneau avenue d'Hastings, Falaise - Photo : G. BrameWilliam was very angry, and to claim the promised throne, he sailed across the English Channel with his fleet. The Normans and English fought at Hastings: the victorious William was nicknamed "the Conqueror" by his friends. He was crowned King of England in Canterbury Cathedral on December 25th 1066.

For 200 years, the Duke of Normandy was also King of England. Normandy and England were one country divided only by the English Channel. William the Conqueror and Richard the Lionheart (12th Duke of Normandy and King of England) were its most famous characters. The language of this Anglo-Norman kingdom was French.

Drakkar - Dessin de Samy BrameNormandy was later continually fought over and twice conquered by the English before finally becoming French in 1450.

Listed as a “Memory of the World” by UNESCO in 2007, the Bayeux Tapestry is a 69,55 m long x 48-51 cm wide embroidery, and tells us the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy in 1066.


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