Recently, I learned that if you don’t know what happened on October 14, 1066, you run the risk of being treated like you’re the reason humanity hasn’t made more progress as a species. But because I’m nice, I’ll tell you. It was the Battle of Hastings. What is the Battle of Hastings, you ask? Before we get into the battle itself, there are three things you need to know: the geography, the history, and the people involved.
Here’s a map. Basically, this is 11th Century England. Sussex was a region on the southern coast, in which sat a city named Hastings. Normandy is just across the English Channel, to the southeast. But if you have eyes, you can see the map, and if you can see the map, there’s no reason to read this, so I’m going to move along now. Don’t worry about the arrows just yet.
Hastings and Sussex and Normandy and stuff.
Of course this whole thing his history, but the Battle of Hastings has a little bit of history leading up to it. Here’s what I found:
|Long Time Ago – A people group called the Angles, who occupied part of where Germany is today, moved to the island that would eventually become Britain.|
|5th Century A.D. – Another people group called the Saxons, who came from a different part of where Germany is today, crossed some water and met up with the Angles (true story: they were all like “look at all these Angles! This must be Angle Land!” And that was the origin of the modern-day name England). The Angles and the Saxons came together to become the Anglo-Saxons (even though they probably could have all gotten away with calling themselves Germans 2.0)|
|(By the way, Normandy was basically pre-France)|
So that sets the stage for this next block of history, which plays out something like a cross between a soap opera and a slice of Greco-Roman mythology. Which was basically a really old soap opera.
There are really only three people you need to be familiar with, to be able to follow what happens next:
- Edward the Confessor, king of England. Has no children, and therefore no heirs.
- William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy. The name says it all.
- Harold Godwine, member of the foremost noble family of England at the time. He had a purple Crayon.
So here’s what happened:
|1051||Legend has it that King Edward promised William that upon his death, William would assume the crown and serve as his heir.|
|JAN 1066||Edward dies, but names Harold his heir, making him King Harold II. William the Conqueror gets pissed, gets an army, and gets on a boat. Harold gets word of this and amasses an army of his own.|
|SEP 28, 1066||William and his army land on the coast of Sussex, and they travel on foot to an area 7 miles from Hastings (this area is actually called Battle, apparently), where they pause to regroup.|
|OCT 13, 1066||Harold and his forces arrive near Hastings.|
|OCT 14, 1066||The Battle of
|DEC 25, 1066||William is crowned the first Norman king of England.|
So, why does this matter? Why will people look at you like you just rolled in garbage and set yourself on fire if you don’t know this? Because this is where English came from. Modern English. The French influence brought by the Normans into England caused a kind of language merger to happen, and the result was Old English, which, as you know, eventually evolved into what we have today. So now you know why some of our words come from French, and some from German. It’s a big deal. …or so people tell me.
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