Normandy is a region of lush farmland and rural countryside in northwestern France where 360 miles of dramatic coastline sweep along the shores of the English Channel.
It is a gentle land of pastures and forests, rolling terrain and grazing cows, villages of stone houses and half-timbered cottages, colorful flower boxes and tranquil streams. Normandy has inspired poets and artists with its ever-changing light.
Despite it’s placid charms, Norman history has been filled with turmoil and conflict. It’s coastline, overlooking the Channel between England and France, has frequently been used as gateway to military conflicts.
In fact, the birth of Normandy is mired in war. Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon King, was killed at the Battle of Hastings when William, the Conqueror sailed across the Channel at the head of 696 ships holding 7,000 men. King Harold was unprepared for the assault and died on October 14, 1066, making way for William, the Duke of Normandy. capture the throne of England.
William’s triumph at Hastings brought an end to England’s Anglo-Saxon rule over Normandy. As a Frenchman, William’s ascension virtually wiped out English aristocracy, establishing a completely different culture and, in the process, eliminating English control over the Catholic Church in England.
With the creation of the Domesday Book (basically a census that meticulously documented the property holdings of English landowners), William systematically dispossessed his previously wealthy English subjects and conferred their property to his French counterparts.
William the Conqueror was ultimately crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on Christmas day in 1066.
Arranged marriages, treaties and alliances between England and France dominated both countries for centuries to come.
Situated on the northern coast of France facing the English Channel, Normandy’s strategic geographical position continues to have significant impact upon the evolution of both French and English culture.
Nearly 1,000 years after the Battle of Hastings, the world’s largest military invasion on D-Day changed the world again when, on June 6, 1944 General Omar Bradley, known as “The G.I.’s General” commanded American troops to storm the beaches of Normandy, ultimately liberating Europe from the grip of tyranny.
Between the monumental events of Hastings and D-Day, Normandy spawned historic figures like Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Charlotte Corday, and explorers Samuel de Champlain and Cavalier de La Salle.
And, though Alexis de Tocqueville, was born in Paris, his family hailed from Norman aristocracy.
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