What caused the Viking Age to end? Did the Vikings stop sailing? Were they so ingrained in the political life in Europe, there was no point in conquest? This episode answers the question: Why did the Viking Age end? It is 1066 and there is a power struggle for the throne of England.
It is 1066, and Edward the Confessor has died. He had ruled England for twenty-two years. His death would lead to a power struggle for the throne of England. Upon hearing about his death, William, Duke of Normandy is making plans to become king. William was Edward’s cousin. Edward's mother, was Emma of Normandy, sister to Richard of Normandy who was William’s grandfather. William was also a direct descendant of Rollo of Normandy. William felt that these connections entitled him to the English Throne.
On top of these connections, during the 1050s Edward, the Confessor promised William the throne. However, Harold Godwinson was also promised the throne. He had been helping Edward the Confessor rule England towards the end of Edward’s life. Harold was the son of the Earl of Wessex. Both men were distant relatives to Edward so the blood connection led them to believe that they were entitled to the throne of England. Another complication was that Harold Godwinson swore an oath of fealty to William while Harold was a hostage in Normandy. Through visits between William and Harold, they became friends.
Despite this, Harold Godwinson seized the English crown. The Anglo-Saxon Nobility supported Harold Godwinson’s claim to the throne. A third claimant to the English throne emerged. He was promised the throne by one of Edward the Confessor’s predecessors. So who would become King of England? Would Harold be able to keep his throne? Or would William, Duke of Normandy seize it? Everyone held their breath as they watched events unfold in England.
William, Duke of Normandy prepares for the invasion of England. He was going to seize the throne of England by conquest. Even before William landed, there was an event in the sky that made the people nervous. Haley’s Comet passed over the earth and everyone saw that it was the sign of trouble. Even with this knowledge, Harold moves his arm south to try to block William’s invasion force.
However, another man was claiming the English throne. He was the King of Norway and was called Harald Hardrada. He is working with Harold Godwinson’s brother. Together, they start heading towards York. They wanted tribute and a foothold in England. Anglo-Saxon forces try to stop him but fail. Harald conquers York. Harold Godwinson marches his forces to intercept the Norwegian King. They fight at Stamford Bridge, Harald Haldrada was killed, and Harold emerged victoriously.
While Harold was in the North, William Duke of Normandy invades the south. Harold has no choice but to head south to stop William’s invasion. The men under Harold were tired, but they had no choice but to stop William’s invasion? What if Harald Haldrada did not invade at the same time William was planning his invasion?
The forces finally met together at the Battle of Hastings. William brings a calvary into the battle. The Normans rode to the battleground and fought on their horses. While the Anglo-Saxons rode to the battle site and then dismounted to fight on the ground. William planned to use the calvary as an effective tool against Harold’s foot soldiers. Did Norman’s Calvary tactics give them the advantage?
This final episode would be an excellent episode to show in a history class, especially for an English history class. The discussion about the events that led up to the Battle of Hastings was excellent because it provided additional context to the fight for the English Throne. Then I would pair this episode with the Time Team episode about the Battle of Hastings.
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