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The eleventh century saw two conquests which fundamentally shaped the fate of England. In 1016, after nearly thirty years of damaging viking raids, England submitted to the rule of the Danish King Svein Forkbeard; in 1018 his son Cnut secured the throne and established a powerful Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom. In 1066, William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, became king: a bloody four years of intermittent rebellions and brutal repressions left much of the old Anglo-Saxon nobility dead and new Norman landowners in control.

Military evolution in the eleventh century

The eleventh century saw something of a military revolution across Europe. Maille armour became longer, shields became kite-shaped and well-equipped semi-professional warriors became increasingly common.

These changes first took root on the Continent. The earliest evidence for what we call “Norman” kit can be found in Continental manuscripts from the first quarter of the eleventh century, i.e. probably anywhere from c.1000.

England and Scandinavia appear to have adopted the new military trends slightly later, though certainly before 1066. For Anglo-Saxon and Viking kit, the ‘later period’ covered by this guide should start from c.1050. Both English and Scandinavian costume essentially follow the same guidelines in the later period. Scandinavia had been heavily influenced by the administrative practices, religion and fashions of England and the Danelaw in the tenth century. Cnut’s conquest of England in 1016 only intensified this influence. In the eleventh century Scandinavia very much followed trends in England.

By 1066, all three of the main protagonists (Harold Godwineson, Harald Hardrada and William the Bastard) and their semi-professional warriors would have looked very similar on the battlefield – though their lower-status supporting forces might have looked less identical.


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