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  • Writer's pictureErin

Norman and The Plantagenet London 1066 - 1485

Updated: May 27, 2018

1066, one of the most famous dates in English history marks the Battle of Hastings in which King Harold of England was defeated by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror. Harold was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, and Williams reign marked the start of the Normal period.

Following the battle and conquering the surrounding countryside, a delegation from London was sent to surrender the city, to save it from destruction and invited William to be King. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in 1066.

A period of great change was seen under William the Conquerors rule. From initiated the Dooms Day Book, to planning the construction of many forts along the riverfront, including the famous Tower of London. But this wasn't just for defensive reasons against attacks and rebellions, it was to demonstrate oppression and the kings power over his new kingdom. With its 118 ft high and 13 ft thick walls, it certainly would have done the trick, and it dominated the skyline and the minds of London and its people. Westminster Hall was also started in this period by Williams son, Rufus and at the time was the largest hall in Europe. Henry I and Stephen (and Matilda) were the last of the Norman rulers, and 1154 marked the start of The Plantagenets era (1154-1485).

1154 - Henry II reigns over the largest, richest and most powerful realm in Europe. He is unfortunately best known for causing the murder of his Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.

1189 - Richard I (The Lion Heart) is quoted ‘I would sell London if I could find a buyer’. He spent most of his time fighting in the crusades in the Holy Land was was desperate for money to continue his adventures.

1199 - Under King John, the Barons rebel and gain control of the Tower of London, forcing the king to sign the Magna Carta and establishing the fundamental rights for the British people (some of which are still in use today).

1216 - Known as the "Builder King" Henry III enlarged of the Tower of London (and painted it white), added accommodation for himself and his wife (Eleanor of Provence), started the construction of the new Westminster Abbey dedicated to Edward the Confessor, and also laid the first stone London Bridge. He started the famous Tower London zoo, which went on to include leopards, a polar bear, an elephant and an ostrich.

1272 - Edward 1st and 1307 Edward 2nd both ruled over a fairly quiet period with their time being spent in rebuilding the political and financial aspects of England.

1327 - Edward III becomes King. The Black Death hits london in 1348, and due to poor record keeping the estimated death toll ranges from 17,000 people to 500,000.

1377 - Westminster Hall is repaired and enlarged by Richard II, along with the construction of the Guildhall, the seat of the City of Londons government.

1381 - The Peasants Revolt or Wat Tyler's Rebellion take places due to the unfair tax system and political tensions after the plague. The rebels were executed on Tower Hill.

1399 - Henry IV becomes king after Richard II is captured and imprisoned in the Tower or London and forced to renounce his throne. In 1400 he murders the ex King Richard at Pontefract Castle and publicly displays his skeleton in London to prove that he is dead.

1413 - Henry V becomes ruler, another king to become famous from the writings of Shakespeare.

1422 - Henry VI became king at just 9 months old. At the age of 49 he was murdered, probably by the future King Edward IV.

1483 - Edward V became king for just a few months; April until June.

1483 - 1485 - Another short rule this time by Richard III, made famous by the writings of Shakespeare, he is known for ordering the murders of his two nephews and his elder brother in the Tower of London.

1486 - Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York, uniting the Lancaster and York families, thus the start of the Tudor dynasty.

This period of Londons history also saw the beginnings of the City livery companies, which governed and represented trade. To exhibit their prominence the merchants built great halls throughout the capital, many of which can still be seen today. Dick Whittington, a member of the livery company of Mercers (not to be confused with the fictional character Dick Whittington and his cat!) was made Lord Mayor in 1397, and continued to be so for four times.

Another interesting fact which started in this era is that every coronation since William the Conqueror in 1066 has taken place at Westminster Abbey, totalling 38 coronations (apart from Edward V and Edward VIII).

Where to see Norman and Plantagenet London - The church of St Magnus-the-Martyr sits above the site of the old stone London Bridge. - The Clink Prison, Southwark - Guildhall - Many of the Livery companies halls - The Tower of London - The Museum of London


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