The Norman Conquest: How William the Conqueror Changed Britain and Europe (911-1154)

The Norman Conquest of England is one of the most significant events in European history. In 1066, a Norman army led by William, Duke of Normandy, defeated the Anglo-Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings, marking the beginning of Norman rule in England.

William The Conqueror Medieval Kings Norman King Portrait Painting
William, Duke of Normandy

However, the Norman Conquest was not just limited to England; it had far-reaching consequences for the rest of Britain and Europe as well. In this article, we will explore the Norman Conquest and its impact on Britain and Europe from 911 to 1154.

Norman Conquest of England

The Normans

The Normans were descendants of Vikings who had settled in the French region of Normandy in the 10th century. They quickly assimilated into the local culture and language and became known for their military prowess and skilled horsemanship.

In the early 11th century, Normandy was ruled by Duke William, who had ambitions to expand his territory beyond the borders of Normandy.


The Conquest of England

In 1066, King Edward the Confessor of England died without an heir, leading to a succession crisis. William saw an opportunity to claim the English throne and assembled an army of Normans, including knights, archers, and infantry, to invade England.

Bayeux Tapestry - Scene 57 - Death of KIng Harold
The Bayeux Tapestry which dates back to 11th century and is an example of embroidery commissioned by the Normans.

He landed at Pevensey Bay in Sussex and met the Anglo-Saxon army led by Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, 1066. The Normans were victorious, and Harold was killed in battle, paving the way for William to become King of England.

Hastings Castle

William’s reign as King of England was marked by his efforts to consolidate power and establish Norman rule over the Anglo-Saxons.

He introduced a new system of feudalism, which granted land to Norman lords in return for their loyalty and military service.

Feudal system

He also commissioned the creation of the Domesday Book, a detailed survey of the land and people of England, to better manage his newly acquired territory.

Domesday Book

Impact on Britain

The Norman Conquest had a profound impact on Britain, transforming its social, political, and cultural landscape. The Norman aristocracy replaced the Anglo-Saxon nobility, and the English language absorbed many French words, creating the foundation for modern English.

The Normans also brought with them their own artistic and architectural style, which is evident in the many castles and cathedrals they built across England.

warwick castle gd4394ca31 640

In addition to their impact on England, the Normans also had a significant influence on Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In Scotland, the Normans established a powerful dynasty, the Stewart dynasty, which ruled for centuries.

In Wales, the Normans built many castles to assert their dominance, and their influence can still be seen in the Welsh language and culture today. In Ireland, the Normans established their own colony, the Lordship of Ireland, which lasted until the 16th century.


Impact on Europe

The Norman Conquest had far-reaching consequences for Europe as well. William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings made him one of the most powerful rulers in Europe and established the Norman dynasty in England.

William The Conqueror Famous Medieval Kings Battle of Hastings

This dynasty would play a crucial role in the politics of Europe for centuries to come. The Normans also brought with them their military and cultural influence, which helped to shape the future of Europe.

In Italy, the Normans established their own kingdom in the south, which lasted from the 11th to the 12th century. In France, the Normans continued to play a significant role in the politics of the region, and their impact can still be seen in the architecture of many of the country’s most iconic buildings, such as the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel.

mont saint michel medieval Castle


In conclusion, the Norman Conquest, led by William the Conqueror, marked a pivotal moment in the history of Britain and Europe. The far-reaching impact of this event reverberated through centuries, transforming the political, social, and cultural landscape.

William’s conquest brought forth a new ruling elite, reshaped the English language, and laid the foundations for a centralized monarchy.

Moreover, it connected England more closely with continental Europe, fostering cultural exchange and influencing architectural styles.

The legacy of the Norman Conquest endures to this day, reminding us of the profound and lasting changes that can arise from a single transformative event in history.

The Norman Conquest: 5 Great Books

“Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England” by Marc Morris
This book provides a comprehensive account of the Norman Conquest, focusing on the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and the subsequent transformation of England under Norman rule.

“The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World – Globalization Began” by Valerie Hansen – While not solely focused on the Norman Conquest, this book explores the broader historical context of the 11th century and the interconnectedness of societies during this period, including the impact of the Norman Conquest on Europe.

“1066: The Year of the Conquest” by David Howarth
Offering a gripping narrative, this book delves into the events of the pivotal year 1066, including the battles, personalities, and consequences of the Norman Conquest, as England faced major political and cultural changes.

“The Normans: From Raiders to Kings” by Lars Brownworth
Taking a broader perspective, this book traces the rise of the Normans, their Viking origins, and their transformation into one of the most influential dynasties in medieval Europe. It covers the Norman Conquest and its wider implications.

“The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England” by Dan Jones
While covering a broader historical period, this book includes a detailed account of the Norman Conquest and its aftermath. It explores the impact of William the Conqueror and subsequent Plantagenet rulers on England and Europe, shedding light on their political and cultural legacies.

These books offer varying perspectives on the Norman Conquest, providing insights into the historical context, key figures, and long-term consequences of this significant event in British and European history.

tower of london g16f953861 640

Places to Visit to Learn about the The Norman Conquest and How William the Conqueror Changed Britain and Europe (911-1154)

The Tower of London, London, England
Visit the historic Tower of London to explore the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror. Learn about the Norman Conquest and its impact on England through exhibits, guided tours, and the display of the Crown Jewels.

Battle Abbey and Battlefield, East Sussex, England
This site marks the location of the Battle of Hastings, a key event in the Norman Conquest. Walk in the footsteps of William the Conqueror and visit the abbey ruins, which were built to commemorate the battle.

Bayeux Tapestry Museum, Bayeux, France: Journey to Normandy
France, and witness the Bayeux Tapestry, an intricate embroidery depicting the events leading up to and including the Norman Conquest. Explore the museum’s exhibits to gain a deeper understanding of this historic event.

Durham Castle and Cathedral, Durham, England
Durham Castle, founded soon after the Norman Conquest, is now part of Durham University. Take a guided tour to learn about its medieval history and view the grand Norman architecture. Adjacent to the castle, Durham Cathedral is another marvel that showcases Norman architectural influences.

Falaise Castle, Normandy, France
Visit the birthplace of William the Conqueror in Falaise, France. Explore the well-preserved castle and its exhibits that highlight William’s life and achievements, including the Norman Conquest.

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich, England

Housed in a Norman castle, this museum offers insights into the Norman Conquest and medieval history. Explore the castle’s keep, visit the galleries featuring medieval artifacts, and engage in interactive displays.

Pevensey Castle, East Sussex, England
Located on the south coast of England, Pevensey Castle was a key site during the Norman Conquest. Wander through the castle’s remains and learn about its strategic importance in William the Conqueror’s campaign.

These sites provide opportunities to immerse yourself in the history and experiences related to the Norman Conquest. Through informative displays, guided tours, and the exploration of historical landmarks, you can gain a deeper appreciation for this transformative period in British and European history.