In the early hours of the morning on Saturday, October 14 in 1066, English warriors and their king Harold Godwinson might not have imagined how the outcome of one battle would affect history. They were fighting for their survival and that of their families. Surely, they intended to deal with their Norman foes under Duke William as decisively as the rout of the Norwegians under Harald Hardrada and King Harold's own traitorous brother Tostig, just 19 days earlier at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. One day at a site now occupied by Battle Abbey changed almost everything. In the aftermath, the English language altered, riddled with French influences instead of just Germanic. The political landscape became more centralized and Norman nobles replaced the aristocracy as landholders. At Hastings, the two opposing sides had similar goals in the eradication of the other, but also held common ties. Harold Godwinson was an Anglo-Danish king, and William’s ancestors were Scandinavia raiders who had invaded northern France and carved out a fiefdom in Normandy.
Villeins, the lowest class of freemen, became tenants tied to the land who had no redress against their lords. Perhaps the greatest alteration for the average Englishman lay in whether the name and language of his lord as well as the designation of his location had changed. An earlier ancestor in Anglo-Saxon times might have regarded the effects of the conquest as a minimal impact on the drudgery of daily existence. Anglo-Saxon society was no more egalitarian than the Normans who claimed England in 1066, especially for the poor.
Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the medieval period. She is the author of historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers. Lisa has also written three novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy and Sultana: Two Sisters, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family.