Friday, October 14, 2016

Why should 1066 be the most famous date in our history?

Daniel Hannan says the Norman Conquest was "a cataclysm for the English people" and for once he is right.

Certainly, there is something odd about the way that 1066, the date of an invasion, has become the most famous date in our history - the date that every schoolboy used to know.

Why should this be?

The answer may lie in a post I wrote remembering an afternoon when David Starkey appeared on Richard and Judy:
Starkey said the idea that 1066 is the most important date in British history is a recent one. In fact it dates from 1914 - the year when all things French became good and all things German bad. German Shepherd Dogs turned into Alsatians and the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha turned into the House of Windsor. 
Until then we had been very aware of our Saxon heritage and believed that the roots of our democracy lay in that era. After 1914 the Norman Conquest became almost a Year Zero and the Saxon kings were relegated to become a faintly embarrassing pre-history.
Starkey, in between the academic bitchery, does sometimes come up with something profound.

I remember him saying that David Cameron and Nick Clegg has modelled themselves on Tony Blair. But the Blair playbook said nothing about economic recessions, with the result that they were at a loss to know what to do when they came to power in the middle of one.

Later. If you want to improve your own knowledge of the period, Michael Wood's series King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons is currently on the BBC iPlayer.

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