The Year the Frogs Took Over

by Kung Fu Zu10/14/16
On this date in A.D. 1066, i.e. 950 years ago, one of the most important battles in history took place. We know it as “The Battle of Hastings” although it took place some miles from Hastings in a town which is appropriately called “Battle.” The towering opponents in this duel were the Norman Duke William (called “the Bastard” as he was the illegitimate son of a Norman Duke) and King Harold Godwinson, who had been an Anglo-Saxon Earl.

Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, Harold was elected King by the consent of the English ruling assembly of nobles. William took exception to this because he believed Harold had sworn his support for William as the next King of England once the Confessor died. William was a cousin of Edward. Upon hearing of Harold’s crowning, William immediately began preparations for the invasion of England to claim the royal crown.

Unfortunately for Harold, William was not his only problem. His brother, Tostig, who had split with Harold, closed an alliance with Harald Hardrada of Norway, who is sometimes called the last Viking. His story is very interesting, but this is not the place to go into it further.

So on the one hand, Harold had to worry about an invasion in the north and on the other he had to worry about another invasion in the south. Which would come first? In the event, it was Tostig and Hardrada who struck before William. They invaded the northeast of England on September 8, 1066 and defeated an English army led by the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria on September 20th. This forced Harold to rush to the north to meet Tostig and Hardrada where he destroyed them at The Battle of Stamford Bridge (map) on September 25, 1066.

For further reading, check out this book (click to buy it on Amazon)

For further reading, check out this book (click to buy it on Amazon)

But Harold had little time to rest. William landed in England on September 27, 1066 and when Harold received word of this, he force marched his army 241 miles in four days to meet the Norman threat. On October 14, 1066, the two armies met. The exact location of the battle is in question, but I will accept the notion that it took place at the location of the present Battle Abbey, which I have visited (map).

Harold positioned his army very well at the top of a broad slope which would make the Normans work attacking at an incline. His men formed a shield wall, waiting for the Norman knights on horse and the Norman foot soldiers to attack. The battle took place over many hours and Harold and his men had the best of it until the Norman knights feigned a disorganized retreat which caused many of Harold’s men to break ranks and follow the Normans. Once this happened, the Normans turned on the Anglo-Saxons and slaughtered them.

From that moment, the battle started to favor the Normans and it appears all Saxon opposition disintegrated once Harold and his brothers were killed. The Normans went on to subjugate the rest of England as the organized opposition was too little, too late. William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. His sons and grand nephew ruled after him, after which the crown moved to Henry Plantagenet, the father of Richard Lion Heart.

For some three hundred years after the Battle, French was the official court language. Anglo-Saxon was spoken by the peasants and thought inferior to French. Read Ivanhoe for further comments on this. Yet as time went on, a new tongue, which was a mixture of French and Anglo-Saxon, developed. Today we call it English. This language reached its golden-age very quickly and brought out the genius in writers such as William Shakespeare.

Perhaps more importantly, the Battle of Hastings was the last time that England was successfully invaded by another continental army. This relative peace gave England the chance to develop without the constant strife and destruction which took place on the continent. As a result, English institutions were given the chance to grow and improve without the violent interruptions which plagued the rest of Europe. Perhaps this is one reason why England has been so successful for so many centuries. Maybe the Frogs weren’t so bad after all.


Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely (including Hastings, although he was not actually at the battle) and lived outside the United States.

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27 Responses to The Year the Frogs Took Over

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I like the picture of 1066 And All That. Another writer once did a sequel about modern English history, 1956 And All That, and I have both books. I also have a straight history of that pivotal year (Halley’s Comet played a significant role as an omen) as well as Poul Anderson’s 3-volume biographical novel The Last Viking about Harald Hardrada. (The sobriquet refers to giving strong counsel, just as the sobriquet of Ethelred the Unready actually originally referred to his lack of counsel.)

    In addition, the book of Connections has a chapter on Hastings. Burke says that the story of Harold of Wessex being killed by an arrow in the eye was a later invention, and that what actually happened is that he and his bodyguard were cut down in a hard, bloody fight at the end of the battle.

    Incidentally, France actually invaded England in 1215, which is what forced John (aka John Softsword) to make that deal with his barons. They were eventually driven out, of course, partly because they failed to take Dover Castle — though John was dead by then.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That’s most excellent, Mr. Kung. This is the kind of thing I envisioned this site for…actually, this is even better.

    I learned something today. I like that. I am hereby knighting you a StubbornFellow. As with Annie, you may at any time write about anything you like and it will be posted no matter what the persnickety Editor says (although he may prompt you for clarification, elaboration, etc., which remains his prerogative).

    A nice add-on to this piece might be this documentary by W. Dyfrig Davies that is now streaming on Netflix. It’s titled The Man Who Killed Richard III. That is certainly another turning point in English history.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Oh Sire of StubbornThings. I humbly accept the honor of StubbornFellow and will strive to live according to the exalted ideals of that chivalric order. For my coat-of-arms, as my primary charge, I will chose a red mule sejant against a field of yellow.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I like your choice of heraldry. The knighthood is free. Registering the coat of arms, however, will cost about $375.00. Checks are accepted.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          As it happens, I have a coat of arms that’s supposedly the heraldic emblem of my family. It has the motto “Garde le roy” but I don’t remember the other details. I think it’s on the top of my chest of drawers, along with a LOT of other stuff.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Do you take payment in ducats?

          • Anniel says:

            Sire,

            I demand equal time for the distaff side of this motley assembly. My Coat of Arms shall be crossed knitting needles, points up, with a crochet hook in the middle, hook part up, stuck in a ball of wound golden yarn, all on a background of royal purple.

            I will save my sheckles, or ducats, and make payment promptly on Bear’s April Fool’s birthday.

            I did learn a lot Mr. ST Fellow KFZ. I shall try to stick to the moral high ground and defend all sides, when possible.

            Darn thing won’t post, yet again. Now I’m feeling rejected. What to do?

            Success at last.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Annie,

              It sounds like your coat-of-arms is going to be an eye-popper. All you are missing is a spindle.

              I do admire you payment date.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              If the Editor can ever find the time to be the Graphic Artist for a while, I’ll see if I can dummy something up. It may be a while. If ever. We’ll see.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Ducats would be fine. And I’ll double the price. I know how hard it was for you to write something complimentary of the French.

            But seriously, I learned something today and was glad to do so. You made history fun. That story is normally presented as a dull date, at best a factoid useful if you ever found yourself on Jeopardy. But you found the soap opera (Game of Thrones?) angle to it as well as other aspects that gave the event meaning.

            You also gave us a standard to shoot for. Your presentation had no pretension to it. It was clearly written, smart, but not obnoxiously erudite. And it presented information that we all should know if we are to be inheritors of the great tradition of Western Civilization, fast being eaten away by the social justice marshmallows and fiends of the Left. One wonders if William could have ever conquered them.

            What I also know is that you applied yourself. You didn’t just schlep something out and then hit the send key. Bravo, Mr. Kung. Bravo. Looking forward to your monograph on ducats now. 😀

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Here is an interesting take on Hastings.

              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/14/the-norman-conquest-was-a-disaster-for-england-we-should-celebra/

              I don’t completely disagree. As I wrote to an English friend, “The Frogs took over 950 years ago and we are still mourning.”

              That being said, some good things came out of the conquest, although they took a while.

              I must admit I am partial to Harold Godwinson, as I have Goodwins in my family tree.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                On one English farm in 1114, records Peter Ackroyd, the workers were listed as being called Soen, Rainald, Ailwin, Lemar, Godwin, Ordric, Alric, Saroi, Ulviet and Ulfac. By the end of the century all those names had disappeared.

                An interesting article indeed. Sort of like the Left is doing in slow motion. And I think we should revive some of those names. “Godwin” I recognize as Cadfael’s young novice assistant in the series of that name. He’s sort of a benevolent doofus, so perhaps I won’t name my child “Godwin.”

                But I love “Alric” and “Soen” (however it is pronounced). I wonder if “Rainald” is an earlier form of “Ronald”? “Ailwin” (also a name used in Cadfael) is another nice one.

                However, “Ulfac” sounds like the brand name of a vacuum tube and “Ulviet” the sound of choking on a chicken bone. But some very nice long-forgotten names in that list. I have no beef — err…— I have no cow with that.

                I had no idea that William was such an oppressive dictator. No wonder the English hate the French. I’m sure more than a few didn’t mind at all Hitler teaching them a lesson or two in subjugation.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I had no idea that William was such an oppressive dictator. No wonder the English hate the French.

                Again, I recommend people read Ivanhoe to get a feel for this.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                William the Bastard referred to his illegitimate birth, but it could just as easily have been a reference to his ruthless rule. But remember that the Normans were a bunch of Frenchified Vikings. Strong-arm rule was their nature.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t know if Rhys ap Thomas dealt the fatal blow (or how it could possibly be proven today). Richard attacked Henry Tudor’s group of warriors, and the Stanleys (no doubt concerned that he might win, and then punish them for their failure to support them — though this was as normal for the Stanleys as womanizing for Donald Trump) attacked his force in turn, dooming him. I have no idea if Rhys was there, though it’s reasonable that as a fellow Welshman he was with Henry. His decision to defect to Henry certainly helped the latter get all the way from Milford Haven to Shrewsbury without a fight. (It should come as no surprise that I have a great deal of material on this era in English history, including biographies of several key figures.)

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    For those who may be interested, there is a good biography on William the Conqueror by David C. Douglas.

    There is much less information on Harold Godwinson, but I have a biography on him somewhere in my library. I will try to find it and let you know the title.

  4. Rosalys says:

    Well, Sir Kung, congratulations on your knighthood! This was a good, and educational read. Thank you. When can we expect more of your little travel stories? I miss them.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I am glad you liked the piece. As to my travel/personal stories, I have simply not been in the mood to write about myself for some time. I am waiting for the spirit to move me.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    But remember that the Normans were a bunch of Frenchified Vikings. Strong-arm rule was their nature.

    Thanks, Timothy. That’s an interesting way to describe them and really paints a picture.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, I got it from of Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy” stories (I think it was his Agatha Christie parody, “The Napoli Express”). But it is an accurate description.

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    I was checking Wikipedia today (looking up matters for a crossword puzzle), and noticed that yesterday their special article was on the Norman Conquest. I haven’t read it yet, though I might later.

  7. Timothy Lane says:

    Daniel Hannan has an article in The Telegraph (linked to on Hot Air) arguing that the Norman Conquest was a disaster. His argument is mainly oriented to the Anglo-Saxons themselves, where he’s undoubtedly right. Others could obviously argue that however bad it was at the time, it made Britain what it is today (or maybe we should say, what it was a century ago). Sort of like the descendants of Black slaves being better off than they would likely be if their ancestors had stayed in West Africa.

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