The conquest of England by the Normans began in 1066 with the Battle of Hastings where the English fought against the Normans. The conquest was completed in 1071. Who were the Normans who conquered England? Some 150 years before the conquest of England they came to a part of France, opposite England, a part that we call Normandy. There they adopted the Christian faith, the French language and the Roman law.
So they became French. The Normans brought to England the French language. After the Norman Conquest there were 3 languages in England. There was Latin, the language of church and the language, in which all learned men wrote and spoke. There was French, the language, which kings and nobles spoke.
And finally, there was the English language, which remained the language of the masses of the people. The role of the Norman Conquest was great for the development of feudalism and monarchy in Britain.
In 383 the Roman legions began to leave Britain to fight in Gaul (France)
Anglo-Saxons were strong and well trained, they defeated Picts and Scots, but when afterwards Britons asked to do it and stayed. After about one hundred and fifty years of fighting Britons had either been forced to Wales or had become slaves. Anglo-Saxons founded a lot of kingdoms: Kent, Essex, Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria. In 789 more than three hundred years after the Anglo-Saxons had settled in Britain, the Vikings began to attack the British Isles. They came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The winters there were long and cold and soil was poor, so Britain was a rich prize for them. They made a big army. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms couldn’t resist the Vikings, and soon only the kingdom of Wessex remained free of them – the King of Wessex was Alfred the Great. King Alfred the Great was one of the first kings of England.
Alfred could read and write well. He wanted his people to have schools where they could learn to read and write. While he was king, many people went to school for the first time their lives. Alfred was a brave man as well as a good one. While he was king, the Danes came in their boats to England and fought their way up the rivers.
They wanted to live in England and make it their own country. Alfred and his people fought hard because they did not want to give up their country to the Danes. King Alfred and the Vikings made a treaty. They agreed that the Vikings would live in an area called the Danelaw, where they could follow their traditions and obey their law.
So the vikings settled in England and mixed with Anglo-Saxons. The process wasn’t very painful as these two nations were very much alike and had similar languages. But more and more Vikings were coming from the continent and by 1020 King Sweyn of Denmark become the first Danish King of England.
The Danes returned again and again to attack England. The English people had to pay tribute. But the Danes wanted to rule over the country and after many battles took the crown from the English.
They held it for twenty-four years. Three Danish kings, one after the other, ruled over England. One of these kings – Canute was at the same time king of England, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The rule of Danish kings over England came to an end soon after Canute’s death in 1035.
Now the Normans began to attack the coasts of England from Normandy (France). In 1066 the Normans won the victory and William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned king of England and called William the Conqueror. The invaders burnt houses and killed people. The land was taken from the English and given to the Normans. The invaders spoke French, and it was the language of the upper classes and the government.
English was the language of the lower classes.