God, gangs and Garibaldi

Sicily boasts a tumultuous history – one that has brought it closer to Britain than we might think. Michael Scott reveals five surprising links between the two islands...

Giuseppe Garibaldi in Naples, Italy, 1861. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the January 2017 issue of BBC History Magazine

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The other Norman conquest

More than one island’s history was transformed by a Norman invasion in the 1060s

The year 1066 is heavy with meaning for England: it marked the bloody moment a foreign leader overthrew the nation – and, in so doing, changed the course of its history. But William’s was not the only Norman conquest at the time. The Normans launched an assault on Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, in 1061 – five years before William set off across the English Channel. At the head of the invasion force were Roger de Hauteville and his brother Robert, called Guiscard, members of a group of Norman mercenary soldiers who had settled in southern Italy in the preceding decade. Supported by Pope Nicholas II (who had, rather prematurely, made Robert the “duke of Sicily yet to be conquered”), they sought to capture Sicily from its Arab rulers.

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