The year 1066 is one of the most pivotal dates in English history. In that year, William the Bastard invaded from Normandy, seized the crown and became the first Norman king of England. Unlike the Viking invasions that had preceded it the Norman Conquest brought lasting changes in government, culture and language, shaping the way we think and our attitudes right up to the present day. England now entered Europe at centre stage.
The Conquest was recorded in an amazing piece of pictorial history, the Bayeux Tapestry, which has come down to us as a unique reminder of the events of 1066. Only by standing at one end of this amazing work can one really appreciate it. Gazing down its length is remarkable enough yet when one reaches the end of the room in which it is displayed, the Tapestry curves round and continues up the other side. Historians still argue over its content, its meaning, where it was made and who made it. In this book I hope to highlight some of the many problems in its interpretation.It is a rare document and must be used with caution.
The Norman Conquest was the last successful invasion of England by a foreign claimant. Others have tried – such as the Spanish, the French, the Germans – and failed. We can therefore look back on the Norman Conquest as helping to shape the England of the present. The importance of 1066 is seen in the permanence of those changes.