1066: eight days that rocked England

After the death of King Edward the Confessor on 5 January 1066, England became a battleground contested by Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman rivals. Edward's death opened the doors to two major claimants vying for the English throne – Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, and William, Duke of Normandy. Alex Burghart outlines the key flash points of 1066, a turbulent year of invasions...

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting Harold Godwinson being crowned king of England. Harold was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and was killed by William, Duke of Normandy at the battle of Hastings in 1066. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the November 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine


The Confessor’s death brings chaos

5 January 1066

The most tumultuous year in the history of England began with the death of the old regime. On 5 January 1066 Edward the Confessor – a direct descendant of Alfred the Great (died 899), whose family had forged the kingdom of England in the 10th century – died heirless at the age of 62 after a 24-year reign. He was buried the following day in the church of St Peter’s, Westminster, built by his order on the banks of the Thames, and which had been consecrated only the week before.

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