The Normans (2010)

TV Mini-Series  |  Documentary
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British history professor Robert Bartlett explains, mainly on historical sights and illustrated with authentic artifacts, the eventful history of the Normans, some of the Norse men (Vikings... See full summary »

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Robert Bartlett ...
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British history professor Robert Bartlett explains, mainly on historical sights and illustrated with authentic artifacts, the eventful history of the Normans, some of the Norse men (Vikings) from Norway who stopped raiding the European coasts to settle down as conquerors. First Rollo established them in Normandy, forcing the French king to recognize him as its duke and royal vassal, which soon lead to adopting a largely french culture, while retaining their military excellence. One of his successors, duke William the bastard, conquered England at the battle of Hastings in 1066. Other knights set out from Normandy to southern Italy, and from there on crusade, founding a Sicialian kingdom and short-lived principalities in Antioch and Tiberias (Galilee). Written by KGF Vissers

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Tremendous Documentary
19 August 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Most are aware that the 'Battle of Hastings' took place in 1066, and that victory fell to William the Illegitimate, with Harold taking an arrow through the eye. But what else? For those who didn't study history beyond high-school, this programme provided many answers. It dilated upon the events leading up to the conflict. We learnt about William's precarious upbringing, his claim to English sovereignty and its temporary thwarting.

Then; what came afterwards? An amazing insight into the forcible transfer of land titles that saw 95% pass from Anglo-Saxon possession into the hands of the Normans. It must have been a terrible, terrible period for our ancestors. Nobles became dependants, yeomen became slaves. The reversals were unimaginable, on a par with the kind of 'ethnic cleansing' recently witnessed in former Yugoslavia. England was at this time a mainly rural economy and culture, so despite the fact that Normans were outnumbered perhaps 100:1, once the royal hierarchy was suppressed, Anglo-Saxons became a pushover.

I was amazed to learn that the Normans themselves were descendants from the very Vikings who were still terrorising England at the time, having settled in France a century or two before. A rebellion in the north of England saw an estimated 100,000 succumb to sword and starvation. They didn't do retribution by halves in those days.

Yet finally, after William died - mortally injured when his own obese belly was gashed open by his saddle - he was abandoned by his backers and left to be stripped by scavengers who even took his clothes. How were the mighty fallen. Later, when an attempt was made to give him a decent burial, it was found that he wouldn't fit into his sarcophagus. Attempts to force him resulted in his already-putrescent abdomen bursting open and stinking the ceremony out.

There was a great deal more to this fascinating programme that left me with very mixed feelings about my ancestors and their treatment of each other. I didn't know whether to hate the Normans or crow over the Saxons, not knowing whose blood flows in my veins. Some of each, I suppose. And maybe a bit of Roman too.

Well researched and highly recommended. There's not enough of these tremendous programmes on TV today.


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