had departed England on a ship from Bosham. It is thought that he may have been sailing to Normandy to negotiate the release of his brother Wulfnoth
and nephew Hakon
who were being held prisoner in Normandy. He may also have simply been on a fishing/hunting trip. The winds changed and he was shipwrecked off the coast of Ponthieu. William, Duke of Normandy
ordered that Harold be brought to him. Harold did accompany William into battle against Conan II of Brittany
and after the battle William knighted him. William later claimed that he swore an oath on holy relics to support William’s claim to the throne of England when Edward the Confessor
1065 (3rd October)
The people of Northumbria rebelled against the harsh rule of Harold’s brother Tostig
. Harold was sent to deal with the situation and sided with the people and sent his brother into exile. Tostig was furious with Harold and vowed revenge.
1065 (28th October)
Harold Godwinson reported to King Edward the Confessor
regarding the situation in Northumbria. It was agreed that Tostig would be sent into exile and Morcar
, brother of Earl Edwin of Mercia
would replace him as Earl of Northumbria. Tostig was furious with Harold and vowed revenge.
Tostig and his family went to Flanders where they received the support of Count Baldwin V
1066 (4th or 5th January)
1066 (6th January)
The Witan met and considered the four claimants to the English throne. Edgar Aetheling
was considered too young and both William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada
were dismissed because they were not English. This left Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex who was crowned King Harold II later that day.
1066 (mid January)
William of Normandy learned that Harold had been crowned King of England and began preparing the Norman Conquest.
Anticipating a challenge to his Kingship by William of Normandy, Harold stationed militia along the South coast and on the Isle of Wight.
1066 (5th May)
Tostig Godwinson was provided with ships by Count Baldwin V of Flanders and made a series of raids along the South Coast.
1066 (20th May)
William made a case against Harold and presented it to the Pope. He hoped to gain papal backing for his Norman Conquest of England.
1066 (early Summer)
Tostig attempted to invade England and take Mercia but was beaten by Earls Edwin
. He retreated to Scotland.
Tostig Godwinson made contact with Harald Hardrada in Norway and offered his support for Harald’s claim to the English throne.
1066 (4th August)
William’s vast fleet of around 1,000 ships was ready to sail but he delayed sailing, possibly due to unfavourable wind direction and possibly because he was waiting for harvest season in the hopes that some of the men stationed along the South coast would go home. While waiting to sail William had to provide food and provisions for up to 14,000 men and 3,000 horses.
1066 (8th September)
With food provisions and morale running low, Harold took the decision to send his troops home. He believed that it was too late in the year for William to cross the Channel.
1066 (8th September)
Harald Hardrada the Norwegian King, supported by Harold’s brother Tostig, invaded England. They had crossed the North Sea from Norway and landed at the mouth of the River Tyne.
1066 (9th September)
Harald Hardrada began making raids on towns and villages in the north with a view to taking York.
1066 (11th September)
Harold Godwinson learned of Harald Hardrada’s invasion. Having just disbanded his army he was forced to recall his troops.
1066 (early September)
William, was eager to begin his Norman Conquest of England and decided not to wait for favourable weather and put his fleet to sea. The ships were unable to withstand the powerful stormy weather and those that survived were forced to put in to port at St Valery-sur-Somme.
1066 (20th September)
Battle of Fulford
Earl Morcar of Northumbria and Earl Edwin of Mercia called up their reserves and met the forces of Hardrada and Tostig at Fulford. The English earls were easily defeated by the Norwegians and fled.
1066 (24th September)
The city of York fell to Hardrada.
1066 (24th September)
Harold Godwinson reached Tadcaster, 15 miles south of York, at the head of an English army.
1066 (25th September)
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Harold Godwinson’s English army reached the north and surprised Harald Hardrada and Tostig who were completely unprepared for battle. The English had to cross a small bridge which legend states was defended by a very large Viking. The English had to get under the bridge and kill him by thrusting a sword upwards. Once the bridge was cleared the English army defeated the Norwegians, many of whom had not put on their protective chain mail or armour. Harald Hardrada was killed around midday. Tostig Godwinson was offered a pardon but he refused and the fighting continued until Tostig was killed in the early evening. The Earls Edwin and Morcar played no part in this battle.
1066 (28th September)
William duke of Normandy landed at Pevensey
on the South coast of England, marking the beginning of the Norman Conquest of England.
1066 (30th September)
The Normans left Pevensey for Hastings.
1066 (1st October)
Harold learned of the Norman invasion. He immediately made plans to return South. He told the northern earls to march south as quickly as they could. However, Edwin and Morcar were in no rush to fight another major battle and took their time.
1066 (6th October)
Harold and his Saxon army reached London. Harold issued a call for men to join his cause.
1066 (10th October)
Although it had been suggested that Harold should remain in London and let his brother Gyrth
lead the army into battle, Harold refused and told the men to get themselves ready to leave London.
1066 (11th October)
Even though Edwin and Morcar had not yet reached London with their armies, Harold and the Saxon army left London and began the march south.
1066 (13th October)
By the evening of 13th October Harold and his army had reached Caldbec Hill in the South of England.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
Early in the morning William marched north to meet the Saxons. Harold knew he did not have enough men to defend Caldbec Hill so moved to Senlac Hill where his army formed a shield wall.
William arrived and set up his forces at the bottom of the hill. He had three groups – Normans, Flemings and Bretons, both cavalry and infantry. William opened the battle with a barrage of arrows which, because of the hill flew over the heads of the Saxons. Next William sent in his infantrymen but they were unable to break through the shield wall. A group of Breton infantrymen turned and ran down the hill. The Saxons that had been withstanding that group broke the shield wall and ran down after them. William ordered that they become the focus of the next attack and although some managed to return to their line most were cut down. It is thought that Harold’s two brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, lost their lives at this point.
Having seen how the Bretons fleeing down the hill broke the shield wall, William changed tactic and ordered his men to do the same thing. Although the shield wall did not break so spectacularly again it did begin to weaken. With the light beginning to fade William ordered his archers to fire again but to angle them higher so that they hit the men just behind the shield wall. It is thought that one of these arrows went through the eye slit of Harold’s helmet and struck him in the eye or near to the eye. While reeling from the arrow strike, Harold was then cut down by the Normans.
With Harold dead and most of the leading nobles also dead many of the remaining men fled the battlefield. Those that remained were soon cut down. William was victorious.
1066 (15th October)
William summoned Edith Swanneck
to identify Harold’s body. Harold’s mother, Gytha
, offered William Harold’s weight in gold for the body but William refused. Harold’s body was given to William Malet for burial. The exact location of Harold’s body is unknown but he may have been buried at Bosham or Waltham.
1066 (15th October)
William returned to his camp at Hastings. He expected the English nobles to submit to him.
1066 (15th October)
1066 (20th October)
Having learned that the Witan had crowned Edgar Aetheling, William realised that the English nobles were not going to submit to him and that the Norman Conquest had only just begun. He determined to conquer England and left Hastings bound for Dover.
1066 (late October)
Harold Godwinson’s mother, Gytha, fled to Exeter where she began to raise a force to defeat William of Normandy. She was likely accompanied by Harold’s sons, Godwin
1066 (early November)
William reached Dover and took control of the fort stationed on the hill. He ordered that a new castle be built.
William took control of Canterbury.
1066 (early December)
William marched on London.
1066 (10th December)
Edgar Aetheling and the English nobility realised they could not defeat the Normans and submitted to Duke William.
1066 (25th December)
William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
The Earls Edwin and Morcar decided to submit to William.
William began to distribute English land to those Norman nobles that had come with him from Normandy and fought at the Battle of Hastings
William returned to Normandy. He took with him Edgar Aetheling, Edwin, Morcar and other prominent English nobles. Odo of Bayeux
and William FitzOsbern
were left as regents of England.
Eustace of Boulogne
was asked by the English to attack and take the castle at Dover while Odo was out of Kent. Eustace duly complied but was soon realised that Dover castle was too heavily fortified for him to take. A male relative was taken hostage and Eustace was lucky to escape to Boulogne.
1067 (7th December)
William returned to England.
1067 (after 7th December) or 1068 (during)
William lay siege to the city of Exeter hoping to put down Gytha’s rebellion. He dug tunnels under the city walls to weaken them and the city fell after 18 days. Gytha and her grandchildren fled to the island of Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel.
1068 (late Spring)
Edgar Aetheling, his mother and sister went to Scotland.
Earl Edwin of Mercia rebelled against William because William had failed to keep the promise that he would marry William’s daughter, Adeliza. Earl Morcar joined Edwin but they were unable to gain any advantage and submitted to the King. They were both pardoned..
Harold Godwinson’s sons, Godwin, Edmund and Magnus Haroldson had been in Ireland raising support. They now tried to take Bristol as their base in England but the people of Bristol were worried about the consequences of supporting the Haroldsons and they returned to Ireland to rethink strategy.
William began a programme of castle building designed to stamp the Norman’s authority on England. Work was begun on castles at Warwick, York, Nottingham, Huntingdon, Lincoln and Cambridge.
Edgar Aetheling attempted to take York but was unsuccessful.
Edgar Aetheling had joined forces with Sweyn of Denmark
and together they attacked and took York
1069 (Late Autumn)
William marched North to deal with Edgar Aetheling. He paid off the Danes and defeated the Saxon rebels. Having re-established York as a Norman stronghold he set about defeating all other Northern pockets of resistance to his rule – an event that is known as The Harrying of the North.
Hereward the Wake had been joined by Earl Morcar and together they had managed to hold the Isle of Ely against the Normans. However, the Normans eventually managed to bribe a local person to show them a safe route across the Fens enabling them to break the rebellion. Morcar was captured but Hereward escaped.
Earl Edwin launched another revolt against the Normans but was betrayed by his own men and killed.
William constructed a causeway between mainland England and the Isle of Ely in order to defeat Hereward and Earl Morcar. Morcar was captured and imprisoned but Hereward managed to escape.
William rode North to deal with King Malcolm Canmore
of Scotland. He pushed the Scottish King back and Malcolm was forced to agree to the terms of the Treaty of Abernethy. William took Malcolm’s son, Duncan, hostage.
With England relatively secure William returned to Normandy to deal with unrest in the Maine.
Work began in Canterbury on a huge embroidery to commemorate the Norman Conquest. It is known as the Bayeux Tapestry.
First published 2016, updated and re-published May 28 2021 @ 11:08 am – Updated –