In 827, Egbert, (Ecgherht) became the first established King of Anglo-Saxon England.
In 1042, Edward the Confessor became the 19th Saxon King of England, following the death of King Harthacanute. Edward restored the House of Wessex to the British throne. Edward was known as the Confessor because of his deep religious faith and pious life. He rebuilt Westminster Abbey. Edward relied on his close friend Earl Godwin to help run the country. When Edward died without an heir in 1066, he left the throne to Earl Godwin’s son, Harold.
In 1066, Harold Godwinson, son of Earl Godwin, became the 20th Saxon King of England known as Harold II. However, William, Duke of Normandy in France believed that he was the rightful heir to the English throne based on a commitment that King Edward had made to him years earlier. King Edward’s promise of the throne to Duke William caused him to swear allegiance to King Edward. Believing he was the rightful successor to the British throne, Duke William, also known as William the Bastard since he was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert, assembled his well-trained army in preparation of invading England and taking the throne by force if necessary.
Duke William had around 1,000 Viking-type ships built to transport his army across the English Channel. However, the summer winds were not in William’s favor and his invasion was delayed several months.
However, William had sent word to King Harold, demanding that he yield the crown to William and naturally, Harold refused and began to prepare for William’s invasion. King Harold assembled his army of about 5,000, mostly noblemen and peasants, at Sussex.
In September 1066, King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded England in Yorkshire. Accompanying King Harald was Tostig, the wayward brother of England’s King Harold II. Upon receiving word of the Viking invasion, King Harold II marched his army to Yorkshire to stop them. England’s King Harold II was successful in defeating the Viking invasion at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Both King Harald of Norway and Tostig, were killed in the battle. King Harald Hardrada was considered by many to be the last great Viking king.
On September 28, 1066, the winds changed and Duke William sailed his army of about 5,000 across the English Channel and arrived at Pevensey Bay. They were surprised to find no opposition to their arrival. Duke William proceeded to begin fortifications east of Hastings. When King Harold II got word that Duke William had arrived with an army, King Harold II turned his army south to stop them. He was advised to wait and rebuild his army after losing so many in the Battle at Stamford Bridge, but Harold II was determined to show his might as king and insisted on stopping the Normans as soon as possible.
On October 13, 1066, King Harold II arrived at Hastings with the remnants of his army and began to build a line of sharpened sticks. The main weapons of the English army were not only sword but the battle axe and most of the English fought on foot. The Normans used bows and arrows, spears as well as swords and a sizeable number of them fought on horseback.
On this day, October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings commenced between King Harold II of England and Duke William of Normandy. The British army lined up in v-shaped wedges with the best armed knights with the battle axes at the points of the wedges. The Norman-French attacked, many on horseback. The Norman archers took their toll, but the English lines held as instructed to do so by King Harold II.
In the afternoon, one part of the English line broke in pursuit of a Norman attack. The break in the English line allowed the Normans to break through. King Harold II, remained on horseback without a helmet and continued to lead his troops even though he had already suffered an injury to an eye due an arrow. The English troops with their battle axes did their best to ward off the Norman attacks, killing many horses in the process, but eventually, King Harold II was killed along with many of his leaders.
Duke William assumed the crown but was not officially crowned as King England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. In the two months between defeating King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings and his coronation, William, best known as William the Conqueror, continued to take his army north into England, conquering everywhere he went until he eventually conquered London and established himself as the first Norman King of England. For centuries, there was always conflict and hatred between England’s Saxons and the French Normans.
With William the Conqueror as King, many English were forced to learn French as it became the official language of the land. However, Norman control of England only lasted for 99 years when Henry of Anjou obtained the throne in 1154, becoming the first Plantagenet king.
Sources for the above includes: Kings and Queens of England & Britain; The Battle of Hastings; Battle of Hastings 1066; The Battle of Hastings; Battle of Hastings; 1066; Harald Hardrada – The Last Great Viking Ruler