How did the Normans do it?


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Greetings. There’s a question (granted, it’s not the most original one) that has always puzzled me and to which I’ve never found a very convincing answer: how did the Normans subjugate England so quickly, so (relatively) easily, so thoroughly and with so few men?

Of course Hastings was very bloody, King Harold and thousands of English soldiers died… but so did thousands of Normans. In the battle’s immediate aftermath, there must have been well below 10k Normans left in the entire English territory, all stuck in its southeastern corner. Just how did these men, many of whom must have been maimed or even just injured/exhausted for considerable time, manage to subdue most of England in the following months (and then all of England in just a few years)?

It’s mind-boggling to think that the Anglo-Saxons resisted a full Viking conquest for about 250 years, only to eventually lose England forever in a matter of a few hours.

How come there was never an English Pelagius, i.e., someone with the mind to rally a few thousand fighters out of a population of over 2 million, and give the Normans at least a second battle?

I can understand Aztecs throwing down their weapons, being in awe of a handful of Spanish conquistadors due to their significant superiority in military technology, but nothing remotely close to that kind of technological gap existed between English and Normans (rudimentary castle-building alone doesn’t change that fact).

Was the shock from the brutal loss of their king just too much for the English to overcome?

I find it hard to buy that old commonplace idea that the Normans were these preternaturally gifted soldiers and administrators, yet there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for the English giving up their country the way they did (minor, short-lived and inconsequential rebellions aside).
Maybe we have first to study the structure of the Saxon society before the Normans arrival?
Point of Information...the last pre-Norman King of England, Harold the Second, was Anglo-Danish not Anglo-Saxon.
His mother was a Danish noblewoman called Gytha Thorkelsdottir who had married the Saxon lord Godwin of Wessex.
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The Normans had Papal support and a ruthless attitude to imposing their rule through the building of motte and bailey castles and a scorched earth policy towards English resistance.
The Anglo-Saxon aristocracy fled or was largely dispossessed not only by Normans but Flemings and Bretons too. English was relegated to a peasant language. Only French mattered as the secular language of England for 300 years.

In Spain, the 8th century Moors did not conquer the Cantabrian mountains nor the Basque country and Pelagius was able to start the Christian Reconquista from the northern mountains of Spain. The Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria and Mercia were defeated by the Danes but a Saxon reconquest began with a South English dynasty, that of Alfred the Great of Wessex (ruled 871-901).

However by the 11th century even Wessex could not prevent the Danish King Canute from conquering England in 1016.

Edward the Confessor was partly Norman and the last English king before Harold and he died early in 1066.
He was childless and he named William of Normandy, a distant relative, to succeed him and the Pope, Alexander the Second, agreed.

William fought under the Pope's banner.
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Although there must have been several causes for this conquest, military, political, social and others, we can ask ourselves what the role of faith and religion may have been?
This was a deeply religious society.
In the Anglo-Saxon wars against the Vikings, centuries before, there was also a religious component, Christians against pagans.
In this fight, God could only be on the Christian side, their cause is just.
This unbreakable certainty would give them strength even when they suffered military defeats.
What if both armies were Christian?
A society that believed that history unfolded according to a divine plan and that saw war as a continuation of justice by other means, believed that the outcome of a battle depended on the will of God.
The battle between two armies would be seen as a divine judgment, as an “ordeal”.
As in the battles of the Old Testament, God sided with the righteous.
The experience of war could not be interpreted lightly in this context.
A defeat implied that God was not on our side.
Its psychological effect on the losing side cannot be underestimated.​

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