Berkhamsted is a historic town in England which is situated in the west of Hertfordshire, between the towns of Tring and Hemel Hempstead. It is also a civil parish with a designated Town Council within the administrative district (and borough since 1984) of Dacorum.
The town's most prominent role in national affairs took place in early December 1066. Duke William of Normandy, having defeated the English army at Hastings, then crossed the River Thames at Wallingford. In Berkhamsted he was met by a delegation of the English establishment. He accepted the surrender of the English led by Aetheling Edgar (the heir to King Harold II's English claim to the throne), Archbishop Aldred, Earl Edwin, Earl Morcar and the chief men of London who swore loyalty to William in return for good government. He was offered the crown there but instead said he would accept the keys to London in Berkhamsted but would accept the crown of England in London. Thus, in Berkhamsted, William of Normandy, William the Bastard, became William the Conqueror. On Christmas Day 1066, William was crowned William I of England in Westminster Abbey. A traditional local legend refers to Berkhamsted as the real capital of England (if only for a few minutes).
Berkhamsted today is most well known for its castle, now in ruins but once a popular country retreat of the Norman and Plantagenet kings. Berkhamsted is also the home of the British Film Institute's BFI National Archive at King's Hill, one of the largest film and television archives in the world, which was generously endowed by John Paul Getty.
The name of the town has been spelt in a variety of ways over the years, and the present spelling was adopted in 1937. Earlier spellings included Berkhampstead, Muche Barkhamstede, Berkhamsted Magna, Great Berkhamsted and Berkhamstead. The earliest recorded form of the name is the Old English Beorhoanstadde. Historian Percy Birtchnell identified over 50 different spellings and epithets since the Domesday Book. It is believed the original refers to homestead amongst the hills (Saxon – bergs).