Here are some great children’s books on the subject of the Norman invasion in 1066 and the Battle of Hastings.
The Battle of Hastings (Great Events) by Gillian Clements. – A simple retelling of the events from the death of Edward the Confessor to the Norman invasion led by William the Conqueror. Simple text with illustrations.
Here are some facts about the Battle of Hastings, in which the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror defeated the army of King Harold II.
The Battle of Hastings took place on 14th October 1066.
Most historians believe that the battle was fought about 6 miles north-west of Hastings, near a village that is now known as Battle, in East Sussex. Historians have pinpointed Senlac Hill as the likely location of the battlefield, although John Grehan is convinced that the battle took place on Caldbec Hill.
The army of King Harold took up a position of strength at the top of Senlac Hill. His army consisted mainly of infantry (foot soldiers).
The Norman army, led by William the Conqueror, positioned themselves near to the base of the hill. His army was made up of infantry, cavalry (soldiers mounted on horseback) and archers.
The battle was fiercely fought. The Normans attacked with cavalry and archers, but Harold’s shield wall and his defensive position were hard to break down.
The fighting started in the morning and continued all day. In the end the Norman army, with its greater range of different types of troops, started to gain the upper-hand. If the legends can be believed, King Harold was killed when he was shot through the eye with a Norman arrow. William went on to win the Battle of Hastings and he was crowned King having successfully invaded England.
The Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to the conflict are depicted (from a Norman perspective) in the Bayeux Tapestry.
Although exact figures are almost impossible to come by, it is estimated that Harold’s army was made up of about 6000 soldiers, and the Norman army numbered about 7000. The number of soldiers killed is unknown.
Here are some of the key facts about motte-and-bailey castles.
What is a motte and bailey castle?
A motte and bailey castle is, as the name suggests, made up of two parts: the motte and the bailey.
The motte is a raised mound or earthwork with a stone or wooden keep (a fortified tower) on top. The bailey is a courtyard enclosed and protected by a ditch and a palisade (a wall made from lare wooden stakes).
Check out this video about motte and bailey castles. It contains lots of good images and information, although I’m not sure the music suits the subject matter!
Motte and bailey castles were first used in England by the Normans. They used these castles to make their settlement of England more secure following William the Conqueror’s victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
New motte and bailey castles stopped being built by the late 1200s.
Motte and bailey castles were used all over Europe. They could be found in: England, Wales, Normandy, Anjou, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
The term ‘motte and bailey’ would not have been used when the castles were being built. It is a more modern phrase.
Mottes could be either man-made or natural. Sometimes an existing mound would be added to. Mottes were flat on top and they varied quite a bit in terms of height and diameter. In some places, the motte could be 30 metres high, but this wasn’t normal. Most mottes were between 5 and 10 metres in height.
There was usually a keep and wall on top of the motte. Wood was often used to construct the keep, but they were also constructed from stone. Just as with the motte, the size of the keep varied from castle to castle.
Wooden keeps were often covered with animal hides to make them less easy for attackers to set on fire.
Baileys were often shaped like kidneys. Sometimes the shape of the bailey was dictated by the surrounding terrain. They were protected by a palisade fence and ditch.
The bailey contained many different types of building, including: kitchens, chapels, barracks, stables, workshops, forges, stores, halls.
The motte and bailey were linked by a bridge or by steps on the side of the motte.
The ditches of the motte and bailey would often combine. If you were looking at this from above, it would look like the number 8. Often water was diverted into the ditch, creating a moat.
The basic motte and bailey design was adapted and altered quite often. Some castles had more than one motte, some had several defensive ditches, some had square mottes, and some had two baileys.
Castles also evolved over time and they often underwent frequent stages of development and modernisation. Many of today’s castles started out as motte and bailey designs, but don’t look like this today as they have grown and changed over time. Almost no motte and bailey castles are still used today – Windsor Castle is the exception, but many still stand.
It did not take a great deal of skill to construct the simplest, wooden motte and bailey castles. If a big enough labour force was available, they could be completed in a matter of weeks.
About four fifths of the castles constructed by the Normans in England used the motte and bailey design.
Click here to see some diagrams of motte and bailey castles and also some links to other related resource and activities.
Here are some facts about Domesday Book, the great Norman survey of the wealth of England.
Domesday Book was ordered by William the Conqueror (William I) in 1085. Its main purpose was to assess the wealth of England to aid the system of taxation.
Whatever was recorded in Domesday Book was legally binding. If ownership of property was disputed, whatever was recorded in Domesday was the final word on the matter. There was no system of appeal.
It is mostly written in Latin.
It’s actually made up of two separate works: Little Domesday (covering East Anglia) and Great Domesday (covering the rest of the England and parts of Wales). London and Winchester weren’t included, possibly because they were too big.
More than 13000 places feature in Domesday.
The information was collected by royal officers.
Domesday Book was known as the Book of Winchester when it was housed in the royal treasury at Winchester. It was moved to Westminster and then to The National Archives at Kew.
Domesday Book provides a vast amount of information for those who want to build up a picture of life in England under the Normans. However, because it was compiled by humans, it is riddled with mistakes, inaccuracies, omissions and confusion. Not all of the information can be taken at face value.
The Domesday Book is often referred to incorrectly as The Doomsday Book.
Here are some facts about William the Conqueror (William I), the first Norman King of England.
William I was born in about 1028. He was the illegitimate child of the Duke of Normandy, Robert I and Herleva, his mistress.
In 1035, William became Duke of Normandy.
Edward the Confessor, the King of England, was William’s cousin, giving William a claim to the throne of England.
He invaded England from Normandy in September 1066. He defeated and killed Harold Godwinson, Edward the Confessor’s successor, on 14th October 1066 in the Battle of Hastings.
He was crowned as the King of England on Christmas Day 1066.
It is estimated that William was 5′ 10″. This made him quite tall for his time.
Many castles and keeps, for example, The White Tower (the central keep of the Tower of London), were constructed during William’s reign.
William was a keen hunter and he brought in laws to regulate who had permission to hunt in England.
William I ordered a survey of all of the landholdings in England. This work, started in 1085, became known as the Domesday Book. It was completed in 1086.
William the Conqueror died on 9th September 1087, while protecting his lands in France. William I left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert, England to his middle son, William, and he left money to his youngest son, Henry.
The Bayeux Tapestry was probably made in England, having been commissioned by William I’s half-brother, Bishop Odo. It was discovered in the 18th century hanging in Bayeux Cathedral.
Wool yarn, coloured by vegetable dyes, was used for the embroidery and the work is divided into fifty panels.
The tapestry starts with a scene depicting Edward the Confessor sending Harold Godwinson to Normandy, and ends with English troops fleeing the battlefield at Hastings. The appearance of Halley’s Comet is also featured.
During the French Revolution, the tapestry was confiscated with the intention of using it as a covering for military wagons. Luckily, it was hidden by a local lawyer and kept safe until the troubles were over.
Charles Dickens was quite critical of the quality of the emboridery. After viewing it, he said, “It certainly is the work of amateurs; very feeble amateurs at the beginning and very heedless some of them too.”
The arrow sticking out of Harold Godwinson‘s eye in the tapestry would appear to be a later addition.
About 6 metres of the Bayeux Tapestry are missing. These scenes would probably have centered around William I’s coronation.
The Bayeux Tapestry was produced by the Normans, the victors in the Battle of Hastings. This must be taken into account when determining its accuracy as an historical source.
William Morris, in collaboration with Thomas Wardle and his wife Elizabeth, created a reproduction of the tapesrty in 1885. A team of more than 30 seamstresses were used to complete the work.
It is though that the Bayeux Tapestry was completed in the 1070s, several years after William’s victory in the Battle of Hastings.