The year was 1065 and in London the English king, Edward the Confessor, was dying. He had no children and three men claimed the throne of England: Harold Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, William, the Duke of Normandy and Harald Hardraada, the king of Norway. Harold Godwin was the most important of the Anglo-Saxon lords. Edward had been a weak king and Harold had been the real ruler of England of England for many years. When Edward died at the end of 1065, Harold was crowned king.
When the news reached Duke William, he was very angry. William was the Duke of Normandy in northern France and he was Edward`s cousin. Edward had grown up in Normandy and he had promised William the throne. Duke William was tall and strong and he was a famous soldier. But if William was tall, Harald Hardraada was even taller. He was a giant, almost seven feet tall.
Hardraada`s ancestors had been kings of England before Edward and now he wanted the throne for himself. The first challenge to King Harold Godwin came from the north. In 1066 at the end of summer, Harald H. landed in north-eastern England. Godwin marched north with his army. The Anglo-Saxon and Norwegian armies met at Stamford Bridge near the city of York. Before the battle, Hardraada asked King Harold: “How much of England will you give me ?” “Seven feet”, Godwin replied, “enough for your grave.” And that was all that H. received. By the end of the day he was dead and the Norwegian army had been destroyed.
While Harold and his soldiers were resting after the battle, news arrived from London: Duke William had landed on the south coast near town of Hastings. Willam stayed near Hastings and waited for Harold Godwin. The English king returned to London, collected a new army and marched to Hastings. They stopped on a hill and the battle began. The Anglo-Saxons fought on foot, but the Normans were on horses. The Normans attacked but the Anglo-Saxon soldiers were safe on the top of the hill. They pushed the Normans back. Then the Normans pretended to run away. Some of the Anglo-Saxons chased them down the hill. But the Norman knights turned round and killed them. Harold and most of his army had stayed on the hill. But then the Norman archers attacked. They fired their arrows into the air. King Harold looked up and an arrow hit him in the eye. The last Anglo-Saxon king was dead and Duke William had won.
After the battle of Hastings, William marched to London and was crowned king of England. He is now called William the Conqueror and 1066 is the most famous date in English history. It was a turning point for English history and the English language.