| How did Americans
become Americans? Sure, we can trace our history back to the day we revolted
against England, choosing liberty over tyranny. But 700 years before that, in the
depths of the Middle Ages, the American character and culture was transformed by a minor
duke who invaded what was to become a major island that would later rule the world.
Our story begins in 1064...
The King of England, Edward the Confessor, is getting old and doesn't have
any heirs. He decides to send his son-in-law, Harold, to go over to Normandy and tell Duke
William that he is to be his heir.
So, Harold sets off across the channel for Normandy. However, he accidentally lands on
Count Guy's property instead. Naturally, Guy objects to this and captures Harold for
ransom. But William catches wind of this and orders Harold to be turned over to him.
After the negotiations, Harold tells William that he is to be King Edward's
heir. Well, you can imagine that this goes over pretty well and William takes a shine to
Harold. William promises his daughter, Aelfgyve, in marriage to Harold. He then invites
him to join in a battle against his neighbor Conan, Duke of Brittany, after which he
knights Harold for his heroic deeds. Harold even swears an oath of fealty to William.
Well, Harold decides that he's had enough fun and it's time to head home and sails back
across the channel. Shortly after telling the King about his mission, Edward's condition
gets worse. Edward mutters his final wishes just before dying.
But right after, we learn Harold accepts the scepter and crown at his own
coronation! Either Edward changed his mind on his deathbed or Harold is up to something.
About this time we see Halley's comet appear in the margin and bad things are foretold
about Harold's future. Meanwhile, a spy sets off for Normandy to tell William what's going
When William hears the news he isn't too amused and prepares for war. He builds an
invasion fleet and sets sail for England. After he lands he heads for Hastings. Harold
hears about the invasion and hastens for Hastings as well.
A great battle ensues (the Battle of Hastings) and there's lots of
bloodshed. At one point William removes his helm to reassure everyone that he's still
The Saxons are overrun and Harold gets shot in the eye. While he's fumbling with the
arrow in his eye he gets cut down by a mounted Norman knight with a sword.
Thus, on October 14, 1066, William becomes the King and final conqueror of England.
So why was it so important? Because William was the final conqueror of England, the
infusion of Normans has dictated what today's English culture is like. If Harold had
succeeded in defeating William then English culture would've been dictated by the Saxons.
Or the Saxons might not have been strong enough to keep the Vikings at bay (no pun
intended) and we might all be speaking Norwegian or Swedish instead of English.