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The Norman War was the war that first established what is generally considered the start of the First Golden age of Britain . Though the English were heavily outnumbered in general, superior maneuvering ensured that at most battles, they were in fact stronger.
Harold Godwinsson, at that time merely a noble, had been shipwrecked on the Norman shore. William of Normandy rescued him, but made him swear to give the throne of England to William (as William had claim to it as much as Harold). Harold did so, fully intending to break his promise, but William then revealed that he had sworn on a holy altar.
Despite this, When the King, Edward the Confessor, died, Harold seized the throne and pronounced himself king, with backing from the English nobles. However, before long, he was attacked on two fronts. First, in the South, William set sail at the head of an army, to seize England. However, at the North, Vikings under Harold Hardrada had landed, and decimated the armies in the North.
In one of the fastest marches ever, Harold went North, and met the Vikings at Stamford Bridge, maneuvering such that a good portion of the Viking army was 68 miles away. The surprise attack was completely effective, and the Vikings were absolutely wiped out- of the 300 ships that arrived in England, 28 survived to return to Denmark. It was the last raid on English soil for 150 years.
Then, William landed in the South, starting the Sussex Invasion. Harold was forced to leave the Fyrd at a nearby town, and stood with just his vassals at Senlac Hill.
Sussex Invasion (1066- 1067)
Harold Stood at Senlac hill with just 7000 men, to William's 8,000, cavalry, and archers. despite being outnumbered by around 2:1, and being exhausted, Harold's troops held out against numerous Norman assaults, and rumors of William's death, though soon dispersed, chipped away at Norman morale. The tide began to shift, as Normans took massive losses in pikeman attacks. At that point, a Norman arrow nearly killed Harold, but he survived and aided his troops in fighting off a cavalry attack. Soon after, Odo of Bayeux was killed by a group of Huscarls, and the tide turned dramatically against the Normans, despite them outnumbering the English by nearly 2000 men. At that point, Harold launched a massive infantry assault on the Norman archery positions, destroying and slaughtering most of them. At this point, William, seeing the battle lost, and anticipating the fyrd to come behind him, trapping his army (it never did; Harold had not given any such orders), escaped with 5000 men, while the remainder were surrounded by English troops and wiped out. The Norman troops, however, managed to escape to the boats, and partially succeeded in escaping back to Normandy, except for William and 500 of his troops. Before the Fyrd could descend upon them, however, Norman reinforcements, around 15,000 troops, arrived, and defeated the Fyrd at Hastings. Despite this, Harold's outnumbered troops managed to turn the defeat into an ambush. Though the Norman's survived mostly intact, William was killed by a spear, and they collapsed back to the ships, where English troops laid another trap for them, killing and burning the boats. 2,000 escaped back to Normandy; the rest surrendered or died.
The Lull (Norman Civil War) (1067- 1071)
Following the Sussex disaster, Normandy collapsed into Civil war as six different contenders vied for the throne, but Matilda, William's wife, maintained control over most of Normandy, until Anjou and Brittany both declared for separate contenders, while Flanders and Maine declared for her. As the other states sent troops in, Normandy destabilized.
At the meantime, Harold secured his Kingdom in England. While the 'Lull' is a misnomer, it is generally used in England, which did not experience any war between 1067 and 1071, when Harold counter invaded Normandy
Norman Invasion (1071-1074)
By 1071, constant war had ravaged Normandy, though Matilda and her son, Rufus, remained the strongest. At this point, however, Matilda died, trampled by a horse. Rufus then lost control over all land except Caen. Harold, seeing this as the best point to invade Normandy, did so, defeated and killed Rufus at Caen, then defeated three of the four remaining contenders to the Norman dukedom. The fourth fled South to Anjou, but was double crossed and killed there, leading Brittany (which had supported him) to attack Anjou. While they fought, Harold swiftly stabilized Normandy, put down three rebellions, and attacked Flanders, conquering part of it before turning South and absorbing Maine. At this point, Anjou won over Brittany, but then the Anglish attacked from the east, when all Anjevin troops were in the west, and ravaged through both Anjou and Brittany. During this invasion, however, a stray French arrow hit the Earl of Northumbria, Morcar, in the eye. Though he survived, it was infected and he later died.
French Counterattack (1074)
As France was ravaged by English troops, Paris itself sent forth 50,000 troops, led by the king, in a last ditch attempt to hold the English. When the French first met the English, at Caen, they met a mere 25,000 English troops. However, they were out maneuvered, such that English forces surrounded them on three sides. The French attacked the English center, but lost their right flank to English huscarls. When the left flank continued, it was trapped by English forces and surrounded. At that point, the French king, at the back, launched his 10,000 man reserve in an attempt to free the trapped soldiers, but was isolated from his guard and killed. The French army, having lost 20,000 men, swiftly retreated, and were harried back to Paris. At that point, the English troops attempted to besiege Paris, but French troops managed to throw back the English. Paris itself, though, was left in ruins, and collapsed not long after. However, at this time Harold pulled back his troops in order to deal with an insurgency in Normandy, near Bayeux. As a result, Paris remained untouched by English troops, as the city had been completely destroyed by civil war by the time they conquered the area in 1121.
Norman Insurgency (1074)
By 1074, Harold had effectively dominated France, and completely controlled the North half, except for Poitou. However, at this point, in January, a Rebellion in Normandy forced English troops to pull back from Paris and attack Bayeux, which had rebelled and declared independence from the English. Approximately 15,000 French soldiers, along with 45,000 men at arms and peasants had seized it and headed for Caen. At that point, the Earl of Mercia, Edwin, lead 70,000 men (this is the only stage of the war in which the English as a whole outnumbered the French) and attacked them. Though he succeeded in pushing them from Caen, he was unable to push them back to Bayeux until Harold, with 15,000 troops, arrived and threatened to outflank the French, at which point they retreated. However, then Edmund, his son, at the head of 5,000 English Cavalry, lead a charge against the Massed French ranks, and divided them in two. Though most survived, Bayeux was reconquered and 10,000 of the French Professional soldiers were killed.
Of all the nations, only Poiters, which did not take part in any stage of the war beyond the Sussex Invasion, remained untouched. Flanders lost half it's land to England, while Maine, Anjou, Normandy, and Brittany were all completely annexed to England. France did not lose land, but rather, lost almost 45,000 men in the two battles of the French Counterattack. Paris itself was left in ruins, the King was killed, the area then collapsed on itself and was sacked four more times over the next 50 years, then annexed by England.
The Norman war opened up France to England, and effectively ensured the collapse of any state that could resist, in the North. Poitou was forced to fight nearly 200 years of constant war, expanding Southward, defending from English attacks. Though the state itself fell in 1264, it succeeded in founding a French Kingdom that could resist English domination (after Poiters, at Avignon). The Norman war effectively made England the first nation since Rome to dominate Europe. Until the disastrous 1586 Brandenburgish War, England experienced its first Golden age.