An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom. An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought. This riveting book explains why the Norman Conquest was the single most important event in English history.
Assessing the original evidence at every turn, Marc Morris goes beyond the familiar outline to explain why England was at once so powerful and yet so vulnerable to William the Conqueror's attack. Why the Normans, in some respects less sophisticated, possessed the military cutting edge. How William's hopes of a united Anglo-Norman realm unravelled, dashed by English rebellions, Viking invasions and the insatiable demands of his fellow conquerors. This is a tale of powerful drama, repression and seismic social change: the Battle of Hastings itself and the violent 'Harrying of the North'; the sudden introduction of castles and the wholesale rebuilding of every major church; the total destruction of an ancient ruling class. Language, law, architecture, even attitudes towards life itself were altered forever by the coming of the Normans.
Marc Morris, author of the bestselling biography of Edward I, A Great and Terrible King, approaches the Conquest with the same passion, verve and scrupulous concern for historical accuracy. This is the definitive account for our times of an extraordinary story, a pivotal moment in the shaping of the English nation.
Morris (A Great and Terrible King) brilliantly revisits the Norman Conquest, "the single most important event in English history," by following the body-strewn fortunes of its key players: England's King Edward the Confessor; his hated father-in-law and England's premier earl, Godwine; Harold II, the prior's son and England's last Anglo-Saxon king; and Edward's cousin William, the fearsome duke of Normandy, known by contemporaries as "the Bastard" and by posterity as "the Conqueror." Miraculously surviving a Viking invasion, exile, the death of six older half-brothers (from battle, illness, and execution), and his mother's perfidies, Edward a descendant of Alfred the Great took the English crown but was dominated by his father-in-law. Yet to Godwine's chagrin, Edward chose William as his successor in return for his loyalty. Nevertheless, after Edward's death, Harold snatched the crown, setting in motion William's invasion and his own death at the supremely gory Battle of Hastings. In England, William and the Normans ended slavery, dispossessed the English ruling elite of their lands, ushered in an architectural revolution, zealously reformed the Church, and savagely starved the north into submission. Readable, authoritative, and remarkably nuanced, Morris's history is sublime. 8 pages of color illus., two maps, and two family trees.