So, who were the Normans? You might think they were French, but they were in fact descended from Norse raiders from Scandinavia. They settled in northern France in the ninth and early 10th century, calling their new homeland Normandy 150 years later, their leader, Duke William II, claimed he also had the right to the throne of England after the English King Edward the Confessor died in 1066. However, the king’s brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, also fancied the throne, and with William all the way in France, Harold took the crown for himself. Understandably, this didn’t go well with William, who raised an army and set sail for England, landing on the south coast on 28 September. Harold found out after giving another invading army of Norwegians a damn good thrashing at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. He marched his army south and confronted William and the Normans at the Battle of Hastings. We all know what happened next, or rather most of it, on 14 October on a hilltop near Hastings Harold and the English were routed by William’s force, with Harold himself either being killed by a mounted knight or an arrow in the eye. William and his army made his way to London, and on Christmas Day he was crowned William I of England in Westminster Abbey. From here William and the Normans spread their influence all over Anglo-Saxon England, putting down revolts, replacing earls with his own barons and crucially building lots of castles to dominate and subdue the locals. By the time William died in 1087 he’d subjugated England, started to invade Wales and got the allegiance of the country’s main Lords and landowners. Also, forcing the ruling classes to speak French. All because he didn’t know how to speak English. Most impressive of all though is his body exploded at his funeral causing a rather nasty stench.