Christmas History Lessons: William the Conqueror


I’m following Richard Kennett’s quest to ensure there is no let up to the beautiful acquisition of history knowledge, in spite of the festive season being upon us.

As last year, Y12 have done their Fascist Christmas Dopolavoro program (this year one group included the very dark suggestion of a Matteotti-themed hide and seek competition) and Y9 are doing their WW1 Christmas Truce lesson, made all the more relevant by the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert this year. Y8, mired in the Civil War, have done the Puritanical Christmas lesson from Richard’s site, with the addition of a consideration of how successful the ban was, assisted by the GCSE Crime and Punishment textbook.

That left Y7, who are helpfully coming to the end of their Battle of Hastings unit. William the Conqueror provided history teachers everywhere with a great gift by being crowned on Christmas day, in my opinion. This lesson requires students to plan a coronation celebration, incorporating Christmas traditions from the 11th century (alright, some of them might be merely Medieval as opposed to century-specific, if we’re splitting hairs).

I’ve been quite careful to focus on the idea of it being a coronation party that makes use of the traditions that the English would have been used to. This is mainly because I have Y7 students who do not celebrate Christmas. It is also going to be really helpful in demonstrating that William wanted to ensure he was seen as the natural successor to the throne by preserving man aspects of Anglo-Saxon Britain, as they learn during the GCSE Crime and Punishment spec.

Also, I teach two top sets in Y7 so this may need some differentiation for mixed ability; you could probably get round it by carefully planning the groups in advance, though.


Starter – identify these key Christmas objects – holly, ivy, yule log, mistletoe, an apple, a kissing bough (a precursor to mistletoe). In the background, Medieval carols are playing. Anachronistic, but festive.

Annotate and consider the coronation scene from the Bayeux Tapestry. Read the chronicle description of the coronation – I have read this into the mic so I’m able to play that to the class as we read it together. We’re going to do a bit of source critique here and discuss whether the riot was really caused just by happy cheering.

Split into groups for the party-planning task. Provide information about winter traditions for the English in the 11th century, a big sheet of paper and some markers. You could set this up as a tendering task – whoever comes up with the best plan wins. Explain the importance of sticking with tradition as far as possible. You could allocate students within the groups to the task of writing the epic poem (we’ve looked at sections of the Carmen in class so that’s why we’re doing the poem).

Resources (now updated with the correct scene from the Bayeux Tapestry – awkward):
Here are my slides as a PPT – I hate PowerPoint so they are exported from Smartnotes, no apologies for the layout being poor!
Y7 – 1066 Christmas lesson

And here they are as a PDF.
1066 Christmas lesson

And here is the information about winter traditions.
Christmas in 1066

Happy 948th anniversary of William I being crowned, everyone.

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