Teachers, parents and pupils alike know this key event as the start of the Norman Conquest of England, which brought about big changes for English culture and customs:
- The Anglo-Saxons had lived in wooden huts, but the new Norman landowners built stone castles to defend themselves against the Saxons including the Tower of London.
- Although Christianity was already the main religion, William reorganised the Church and the Normans built some of England's greatest cathedrals, including Ely Cathedral and Durham Cathedral.
- Whereas under the Anglo-Saxons Old English had been the dominant language, after the conquest French became the language of power.
- He was of Viking descent: Although he grew up in Normandy and spoke French, William was descended from Scandinavian invaders.
- His original nickname was William the Bastard: His father Robert I, Duke of Normandy, had an affair with a woman called Herleva, leading to William’s unfortunate nickname which his critics continued to use even after his victory at the Battle of Hastings.
- He introduced the name ‘William’ to England: Previously an uncommon name in England, the name quickly became widespread after the Norman Conquest. By the 13th century, it was the most common man’s name, and it is still one of the top 10 names for men.
- Millions can trace their ancestry back to him: Every British monarch is one of William’s descendants, and some genealogists claim that more than 25% of the English population is distantly related to William.
There are loads of ways you can teach children about the Battle of Hastings. You can visit the site of the battle which is now an English Heritage site and lies next to the town of Battle, about 5 miles from Hastings in East Sussex. This weekend, over 600 soldiers will take part in the infamous Battle of Hastings re-enactment at the site, and there will be other activities and displays such as falconry, archery and cavalry horsemanship.
Our app The Anglo-Saxons is another great way to learn about the Battle of Hastings, why it happened and what life was like before the Norman invasion. Following the KS2 curriculum, the app also explores the history and day-to-day lives of the Anglo-Saxons. Beginning with the invasions, battles and leaders that shaped Anglo-Saxon England, this guide also provides a detailed account of everyday life, from religious beliefs and beautiful treasures to literature and the famous story Beowulf. It is also packed with quizzes and creative activities to keep children engaged.