Why is 1066 such an important date in English History?
By G K Holloway
Sometime during this coming summer, I’ll be publishing my second novel, In the Shadows of Castles. It follows on from where my first novel left off; the day after the famous Battle of Hastings. Although the battle is featured at the end of my first book, in some ways, Hastings is really the beginning of my story - hence the sequel.
1066 is the most important date in English history and it is for a reason. Following the Norman Invasion, England changed radically in many ways. The most obvious signs were in architecture; every church and abbey of any importance was ripped down and rebuilt in a different style. Most of the English abbeys and nine of the fifteen cathedrals in England were rebuilt by the time of William the Conqueror’s death. And castles, buildings which had never seen in England, appeared everywhere, dominating the landscape for miles around.
The invaders were disparaging towards the English church; relics, which might have included the revered bones of English saints, were thrown out into the streets. Norman Abbots were imposed on English Monks.
Things were just as bad for the aristocracy. Within a generation, of the ten-thousand nobles who used to run the country, only thirteen with English names remained, replaced by people who didn’t speak English, had different ideas in their heads and had little respect for anything that went before. At a lower level, of the eight-thousand sub-tenants in the country in 1066, only 10% were English by the time of the Domesday Book.
There was a change of attitudes. The chivalric code was introduced, so no longer were enemies captured in battle forced into slavery or killed but ransomed instead. Because our neighbours, the Celts, continued in the old ways, the people who became the Anglo-Normans with their different values, regarded them as barbarians and savages, thus setting the stage for the imperial attitude of the English towards the rest of the British Isles that unfortunately we still see sometimes today.
As well as our attitudes, our language changed too. Any modern-day English speaker would have a hard time making their way through any Old English writing. Naturally enough, the Normans brought their language, French, with them. Something like ten thousand words of French entered English and now some seven thousand remain.
The Normans also introduced serfdom and the peasants worked longer hours, paid more tax, enjoyed fewer holidays and grew shorter in height
How did the English feel about their new masters, these foreigners who had made them second class citizens in their own country? They didn’t like them at all. In fact, many hated them and rebelled. There were uprisings in the southwest, what is now the Midlands, East Anglia and Northumbria, and by that, I mean everywhere north of the River Humber, suffered most from Norman repression. In what is known as the Harrying of the North, more than one-hundred-thousand people died; murdered by the Normans or died in the famine that followed. In retaliation for numerous uprisings, William marched north to York in late 1069. When he got there, he divided his troops and sent them all over the countryside, burning and killing as they went. If that wasn’t enough, his men ploughed salt into the ground before killing all the livestock and burning all the faming implements. Even if you were lucky enough to survive the initial onslaught, you were left with no means to support yourself. People were eating dogs and cats, and some were reduced to cannibalism. Like the other survivors, you would have to throw yourself on the mercy of others. You could head either north or south. Refugees turned up as far away as Evesham, in Worcestershire and North of the border. After the Harrying, it is said there wasn’t a house in Scotland that didn’t have an English slave.
Looking at the events in England between 1066 and 1070, I thought, there must be a story in there somewhere. And so, I began to write one. Some of the characters who survived the Battles of 1066, at Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Hastings appear in the sequel. Some of the minor players become central, just as some of the central players begin to fade, sometimes into oblivion. It is a time of turmoil. The Norman Invasion was a catastrophe for England the likes of which has not been seen on this island since. In the Shadows of Castles is the story of how the English coped with calamity and what they did to resist the Normans.
Did the Harrying of the North bring an end to the English rebellion? No. There was more to come, but I deal with that in my third book.
1066: What Fates Impose
England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland. Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies who will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold. Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny - or does he have to bow to what fates impose?
Bondi is a royal housecarl, legendary warrior and one of the few survivors of Hastings. He is eager to avenge his king who was killed at the hands of England’s new masters. Normans are roaming the kingdom now and they are greedy for power; hungry for land. No one is safe.
After the slaughter of 1066, rival factions fight to overthrow the invader and put an Englishman back on the throne – but who? Which claim should Bondi support?
As England descends into chaos and the ruthless King William falls on the people like a ravenous lion, the housecarl struggles to find a way to survive.
Can the English rid their country of this Norman tyrant? And what should Bondi do about the beautiful Morwenna?
A gripping tale of love, rivalry and violence, firmly based in a true story.
G K Holloway
After leaving school, G K Holloway did several jobs before taking A Levels at his local college and later a degree in History and Politics at Coventry University.
Once he had graduated, he spent the next twenty years working in Education in and around Bristol. After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he studied the late Anglo-Saxon era in detail and discovered a time of papal plots, court intrigues, family feuds, loyalties, betrayals, assassinations and a few battles. When he had enough material to weave together fact and fiction, he produced his award-winning novel, 1066 What Fates Impose; the first in a series about the Norman Conquest.
G K Holloway lives in Bristol with his wife and two children.