Review of '1066 The Conquest'

1066 The Conquest by Peter Fieldman

the_conquest.jpg My knowledge of history is lamentable. Whether it be from my native Canada or from the UK, where I now live. So a few years ago when we visited Normandy and, more specifically, “Bayeux” home of the famous “Bayeux Tapestry” telling the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, I picked up this book “1066: The Conquest” that looked to be a bit more of a reading book rather than simply a historical account. Having now read it I can confirm this is the case: It is quite easy to read and I think I have learned a lot more about this pivotal historical event.

In the 9th century England is ruled by the Saxon king “Edward” (now known as “The Confessor”) and across the channel Normandy is ruled by William (now known as “The Conqueror”) who has been promised the English throne by Edward. As Duke of Normandy, William fights against the backlash he receives from both the church and local barons over his being an illegitimate son as he attempts to maintain and expand control of the region. He is a vassal of King Henry of France, relying on him on occasion to come to his aid. Harold Godwinson has his own eyes on the throne of England. Harold is son of Godwin, (bear with me) father of Edith, Edward's wife, and therefore feels he deserves the crowd. Despite pledging his previous support of William's claim to England when Edward dies (having just completed his life's work, Westminster Abbey) Harold agrees to be appointed King. This infuriates William who invades the south coast of England where he meets the Saxon forces of Harold in the decisive 1066 Battle of Hastings.

Fieldman takes the controversial decision to tell the story primarily from the perspective of William but this turns out to be an good one as it is William who is the more interesting of the two characters. It is not to say that it portrays William in the best light, on the contrary, it shows how he often used his overwhelming personality and stubbornness in going against the wishes of those around him.

The book certainly has a good amount of detail but this does not often get in the way of telling the story (there are a sections at the back containing details of key battles as well as a list of key characters and locations). This is a very readable book that keeps the reader interested throughout, moving the action on quickly as well as often very short chapters. “1066 The Conquest” certainly educated me on the details of this event in such a way that I should actually remember it (!). I would have to recommend it for anyone with any sort of interest in British history.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2018-08-12

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Grosvenor House Publishing

Publication Date: 2009

ISBN: 9781906645588