The Eleventh Century


Edward the confessor drawn




5 Jan 1066:            King Edward the Confessor dies and is buried at Westminster Abbey.

7 Jan 1066:            Harold Godwinson becomes King Harold II. He married Ealdgyth – the sister of Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria.

At the suggestion of Bishop Lanfranc a delegation is sent by the Normans to Pope Alexander II to present the case that Harold is a perjurer and that William, Duke of Normandy is the rightful claimant to the throne.  Their delegation is successful.  They return with the papal banner.  The invasion of England will be a crusade.

May 1066:  Harold’s brother Tostig attacks the Isle of Wight, Sussex and Lincolnshire but is beaten off by Earl Edwin.  Tostig goes first to Scotland and from there either to Denmark or to Norway depending upon the source.  He persuades Harold Hardrada, King of Norway to invade England.

August 1066: William’s army and fleet assemble but the wind is against them.  Harold Hardrada’s invasion fleet is able to set sail because the wind is in its favour.  King Harold of England has called out the fyrd in the south of the country.

8 September 1066: The fyrd stand down to gather the harvest.  Tostig and Harold Hardrada arrive in Northumberland and harry the east coast.  They burn Scarborough before sailing up the Ouse in the direction of York.  Earls Edwin and Morcar send a messenger south to Harold.

18 September 1066:  King Harold and his army march north to confront Hardrada.

20 September 1066: The Battle of Fulford.  Hardrada and Tostig beat Earls Edwin and Morcar.  They capture York but prevent their army from entering the city.

25 Sept 1066:       Battle of Stamford Bridge.  King Harold defeats Harold Hardrada of Norway.

27th September 1066:  Duke William sets sail from Normandy with his invasion fleet.

28 September 1066:       Duke William of Normandy lands at Pevensey.

29 September 1066: William captures and burns Hastings.

2nd October 1066: Harold leaves York upon hearing the news that the Normans have landed.  He has alienated the Earls Edwin and Morcar by leaving a deputy in his stead; the loot from the victory has not been shared by the army it has been handed over to the Archbishop of York for safekeeping; men need to collect the harvest.  Men desert before or during the forced march south to meet the new enemy.

6th October 1066: Harold arrives in London.  His brother Gryth suggests that they pursue a burned earth campaign to isolate William until they are ready to take him on in battle.  Harold disagrees.

11th October 1066: Harold and his army leave London.

13th October 1066: Harold and his army make camp on Senlac Ridge under the old apple tree.

14 Oct 1066:          Battle of Hastings.  William becomes King of England by right of conquest.


Click on the image above to open a new tab for the Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum with a scene by scene account of events.

20th October 1066: William goes to Romney which he burns in revenge for the deaths of the crews of two ships that blew off course during the crossing.  He marches around the coast to Dover which is also burned.  William pays to rebuild the port.  A castle is built in Dover.

By the end of the month Canterbury surrenders without a fight and William becomes ill with dysentry.

November 1066: Winchester is surrendered by Queen Edith (Edward the Confessor’s widow and Harold’s sister).  The Normans advance up Watling Street but the gates of London are closed.  They burn Southwark and move through Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire destroying nests of opposition and building motte and bailey castles such as the one at Wallingford.  By late November the army arrives in Berkhampstead where Edgar the Atheling and the Earls Edwin and Morcar submit to William as does Ealdred the Archbishop of York.

25 Dec 1066:        William I (the Conqueror) crowned in Westminster Abbey.


January 1067:  The Normans continue their campaign in East Anglia and Mercia.  Castles are established in Colchester, Norwich and Chepstow.

March 1067: William returns to Normandy.  Bishop Odo, his half-brother, acts as his deputy.  He takes Edwin, Morcar and Edgar the Atheling amongst other hostages to ensure good behaviour.

Revolts occur in Kent and Herefordshire but are suppressed.  Edric the Wild driven to rebellion by a Norman landowner called FitzScrob rebelled  on the Welsh Marches and drew princes of Gwynedd into the campaign against William.

William Fitz Osbern (Earl of Hereford) builds a castle at Chepstow.  

6 December 1067: William sets sail from Dieppe to return to England.

7 December 1067: William arrives in England and spends Christmas in London.  Archbishop Eadred of York declares himself for William.


Exeter led by Gytha, Harold’s mother, revolts.  The city holds out for eighteen days.  It only submits when the Godwinson womenfolk have made their escape.  William builds a castle.  This year also, King Malcolm of Scotland marries Margaret, sister of Edgar the Atheling.

11 May 1068: Matilda, William’s wife, is crowned in Westminster.

Summer 1068:  Edwin, Morcar and Edgar go north where they join with Gospatrick of Northumbria.  They rebel against William.  Construction of Nottingham Castle and Exeter Castle.  The rebellion fails.  A castle is constructed in York.  Edwin and Morcar submit (again) to William in York.

September 1068: Queen Matilda gives birth to a baby boy called Henry at Selby.

Robert de Commines sent by William to Durham at the end of 1068.


 A monk called Benedict arrives in Selby from Auxerre with a dried finger belonging to St Germain.  He’d had a vision telling him where to found the abbey.  It involved three swans.  This is why the abbey’s coat of arms features three swans.

January 1069: Robert de Commines burned to death in the Bishop of Durham’s house.  York attacked but garrison holds.  William marches north to relieve the garrison and has a second castle built (Bailes Hill) which he gives into the care of William Fitz Osbern.

Easter 1069:   William spends Easter in Winchester.

August 1069:       King Sweyn of Denmark anchors and invasion fleet of 240 vessels on the Humber.  York and St Peter’s is destroyed by fire. Edgar the Atheling, joins with the Danes as does Earl Gospatric.  William’s nice new castles are both destroyed in York.  The Danes do not follow up their victory in York but return to their boats, on the Isle of Axholme, with prisoners and loot.

The northern rebellion with its roots in Durham results in the Harrying of the North. But in the meantime:

a rebellion springs up in the southwest centred at Montacute  and the lands around Exeter.  West Mercia rebels under Edric the Wild.  Edric’s army is defeated but when William arrives at Nottingham he finds out that the North is up in arms and that the crossing over the River Aire has been broken down – at Pontefract.

Christmas 1069:  William celebrates Christmas in York.  No one else does.  His ‘harrying of the North’ leaves its mark twenty years later in the Domesday Book.  William buys the Danes off and they overwinter in the Humber.  Hugh, Sheriff of Yorkshire takes the opportunity to tell William about the monk at Selby.

It is estimated by Peter Ackroyd that there were three to four million Anglo-Vikings in the country being controlled by 10,000 Normans.


DSC_0092In York Clifford’s Tower strengthened by the addition of a moat in the aftermath of the Northern Rebellion.  A weir was built across the River Foss flooding 120 acres.  It was known as The King’s Pool or Fishpool.

1070: William introduces tithes but refuses to allow the Pope to choose England’s bishops.

 King Sweyn now joins the rebels at Ely under the command of Hereward the Wake.  In the North, King Malcolm of Scotland takes advantage of the unrest to raid Teesdale and Edgar the Atheling makes an attempt to invade England.  William’s army passes through Hexham.

William gives benedict of Selby a charter to found an abbey.  The lands he gives provide wood, fish and agricultural land.  William’s charters follow a pattern.  He founded the abbey at Battle following his victory at Hastings.  The abbey at Selby marks his victory over the Northumbrians.

William sets about creating a defensible march along the borders between England and Wales.  He creates Hugh d’Arranches Earl of Chester.


June 1070:  Peterborough Abbey burned by rebels.  The uprising of Hereward the Wake

1070: Lanfranc of Bec becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury.



The Earls Edwin and Morcar leave William’s court.  Edwin is murdered by his own men en route to Scotland.  Morcar joins the rebels at Ely. Hereward lays siege to Ely.


 William invades Scotland and Malcolm does homage.  he gives William his eldest son as a hostage.


A Norman army marches into Powys.


Roger of Hereford leads a rebellion against William.  Its centre is East Anglia. William squashes it.


14 July 1077:     The Bayeux Tapestry is finished and shown for the first time in Bayeux.  It is thought to have been stitched in England.

Bayeux Tapestry1078

 Work begins on the Tower of London.


 William’s son Robert of Normandy attempts to take control of the region for himself.  After his defeat, father and son are reconciled.


 The present structure of York Minster is begun.


The Normans invade Pembrokeshire.


Bishop Odo of Bayeux imprisoned by his half brother William the Conqueror.


William’s wife Matilda dies.  He gave up hunting.


Dec 1085:   William the Conqueror commissions the Domesday Survey.         Click on the image of the book to  open the Domesday Book online.



August 1086:    The Domesday Book is completed.  There are only two English barons remaining – Coleswain of Lincoln and Thurkill of Arden.

1 August 1086: The Oath of Salisbury.  William required his leading subject to swear an oath of fealty to him.


9 September 1087:           William dies during the sack of Mantes.  He falls from his horse.  His eldest son Robert inherits the Dukedom of Normandy while his second   son William becomes William II of England.  Bishop Odo is released from captivity.

26 September 1087: William Rufus crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.


February 1088:  Bishop Odo rebels against his nephew William Rufus in favour of his older nephew – Robert Curthose (Duke of Normandy).  He is eventually banished from England.


24 May 1089:  Archbishop Lanfranc dies.  The job of Archbishop of Canterbury will remain vacant for the next four years.



 William Rufus and his brother, Robert of Normandy also known as Robert Curthose  go to war with one another.  Their dispute is resolved the following year with the Treaty of Caens which agrees that whichever brother outlives the other will inherit the dead brother’s kingdom.  Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury dies.


 Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, seizes the opportunity to invade England.  He is opposed by a large army and accepts the overlordship of William.  William captures Carlisle from Malcolm and  in 1092 begins building a castle.


Cardiff Castle established.  Work begins on Durham Cathedral.  

13 November 1093:  The Battle of Alnwick Donald Bane becomes king of the Scots when Malcolm is killed fighting the English.  Durham Cathedral starts being rebuilt as the structure we now recognise.

16 November 1093: Queen Margaret of Scotland dies in Edinburgh castle after hearing the news of her husband’s and son’s deaths.  Her body is carried through a postern gate by her remaining sons to escape Donald Bane’s army.  She is buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

William Rufus falls ill and during his recovery appoints Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury.  Anselm, known for his piety, is forced into office.


Donald Bane is deposed.  Duncan II, son of Malcolm becomes king, gets himself murdered and replaced by Donald Bane.

In England and Wales rebellions by the barons are squashed.


 Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy sells England to William Rufus for 10,000 marks before going on crusade.  The First Crusade.


Duncan’s half-brother Edgar, one of Margaret Atheling’s sons, becomes King of Scotland with William Rufus as his ally.


13 February 1098:  London Bridge washed away during a flood.

1098:  King Magnus Barefoot of Norway conquerers the Isle of Man, the Orkneys and the Hebrides.


Jerusalem is taken by the Crusaders.  The First Crusade ends.


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