English Heritage announces plans to mark 1066 anniversary

On the 950th anniversary of 1066, the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest, an English Heritage survey reveals that while the date remains the most famous in English history, those aged under 35 know more about the fictional characters vying to claim the ‘Iron Throne’ in Game of Thrones than they do about those fighting to secure the real English throne in 1066.

One third (34%) of people picked 1066 as the most memorable date in English history (well ahead of the year 1945 in second-place with 8% of votes) but those surveyed fared less well when asked to identify the key participants in the historic events of that year (1). William of Normandy, victor of the Battle of Hastings, was correctly selected by 38%, but his opponent Harold Godwinson only scored 25%, while only 15% picked out Edward the Confessor, who was king when the year began (2).

The survey found that in fact, more people could identify the claimants to the ‘Iron Throne’ in TV series Game of Thrones, including Stannis Baratheon (13%) and Daenerys Targaryen (12%), than either Harald Hardrada (9%), who invaded with a Viking army in September 1066, or Edgar the Aetheling (3%), who was proclaimed king after the Battle of Hastings (3). Those aged 25 to 34 recognised more of those Game of Thrones characters claiming the throne than either Edward the Confessor or Harold Godwinson, the two last Saxon kings of England (4).

The results have been published to mark the 950th anniversary today (5 January 2016) of the death of the English king, Edward the Confessor, which set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 and William’s defeat of Harold.

Jeremy Ashbee, Senior Properties Curator for English Heritage, said, “1066 is arguably the most important year in England’s history.

“The death of King Edward the Confessor 950 years ago today unleashed a battle for the crown of England. 1066 was a year that saw four different claimants for one throne, brother fighting brother, and three battles, including a decisive one outside Hastings.

“For drama, it was the equal of anything in Game of Thrones.

“English Heritage will be bringing the story of 1066 to life throughout the year at our castles, abbeys and the battlefield where history was made.”

English Heritage will be marking the anniversary of the Norman Conquest with a year of events and activities at historic Norman sites across the country, including the Battle of Hastings battlefield itself. Here. A new exhibition will tell the story of the battle while for the first time, visitors will be able to stand on the roof of the Great Gatehouse of Battle Abbey – the abbey founded by William the Conqueror on the spot where King Harold died – and get a whole new perspective on the most famous battle in English history.

A central hub of information, including features and content to help those who want to learn more about 1066, has been launched by English Heritage, at

Notes to editors

The research was carried out by ICM Research from 11-13 December 2015. The total sample size was 2,053 adults and was conducted online. Results are weighted to a nationally representative criteria.

1. According to the research, 697 (34%) said that they considered 1066 to be the most memorable date (year) in English history.

2. According to the research, respondents could identify the following when asked who was king, or made a claim to the throne of England in 1066:

Duke William of Normandy – 789 (38%)
Harold Godwinson – 511 (25%)
Edward the Confessor – 311 (15%)
Harald Hardrada – 194 (9%)
Edgar the Aetheling – 57 (3%)

3. According to the research, respondents could identify the following when asked who sat on, or had a claim to the Iron Throne in TV series Game of Thrones:

Joffrey Baratheon – 285 (14%)
Stannis Baratheon – 259 (13%)
Robert Baratheon – 250 (12%)
Daenerys Targaryen – 240 (12%)
Robb Stark – 190 (9%)

4. According to the research, of 25-34 year olds, only 48 (15%) and 56 (17%) could identify Harold Godwinson and Edward the Confessor from 1066, compared to 76 (23%), 75 (23%) and 72 (22%) for Joffrey Baratheon, Stannis Barathon and Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.




  • Edward the Confessor

King of England at the start of 1066, pious King Edward had ruled since 1042, dying peacefully on the 5 January

  • William, Duke of Normandy

A formidable military leader in Normandy, William (who would become known as the Conqueror) believed himself the rightful English ruler, allegedly promised to him by Edward

  • Harold Godwinson

The most powerful Earl in Saxon England, Harold was Edward’s right hand man and an established leader of men in the kingdom

  • Harold Hardraada

King of Norway, Harald is often known as the last great Viking king, a war leader and a man who saw an opportunity to regain the former Viking kingdom of England

  • Edgar the Aetheling

Young and politically inexperienced, grand-nephew Edgar was nonetheless Edward’s closest living relative


  • Robert Baratheon

King of the Seven Kingdoms at the start of the TV series, Robert seized the Iron Throne in a rebellion against the unpopular Targaryen dynasty. Mortally wounded while out hunting.

  • Joffrey Baratheon

Son of King Robert, Joffrey is heir apparent, but nasty rumours have circulated around his legitimacy and temperament

  • Stannis Baratheon

Brother to Robert, Stannis is a formidable figure, with extensive military experience, who believes in justice and his claiming his rights

  • Daenerys Targaryen

The only surviving daughter of the last Targaryen king, Daenerys living abroad in exile, gathering her forces, but dreams of returning to claim her crown

  • Robb Stark

Proclaimed ‘King of the North’ by his bannermen, Robb is unbeaten in battle and seeks vengeance for his father’s death, along with a return to Northern prominence

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