Tag Archives: William the Conqueror

Norman King: William the Conqueror

0

1066 William the illegitimate son of Duke Robert the Devil of Normandy invades England and defeats King Harold II, the last Saxon King at the “Battle of Hastings” claiming the English throne which had been bequeathed to him by Edward the Confessor.

On the 25thDecember William the Conqueror, King William I was crowned King of England.

1067 William suppresses a Saxon revolt in the south.  He drives out Anglo-Saxon lords, and gives their lands to his Norman Earls.  It was the beginning of a systematic transfer of lands, from Saxon to Norman.

1068 William faced with a revolt in the north of the country, led by Edwin and Morcar, creates an area of mass starvation.  Norman soldiers burn every house, barn, crops and kills all livestock.

1069 Swen Estrithson and his armies land in the Humber and joins up with Northern English Earls, taking the Norman Garrison at York.  William replies by taking York back.

1070 Howard the Wake leads a Saxon revolt against Norman invaders.

William plundered monasteries, which held Saxon’s wealth.  To him England was no more than a resource to be exploited.

1071 William put an end to Saxon England in the East, by defeating Hereward the Wake.

1072 William’s Norman army heads North crossing the border into Scotland and insists Malcolm III should pay homage to him.

1073 William puts down a rebellion in Maine, France.

1078 The Tower of London construction begins, and the building has many stories to tell in its lifetime.

1079 William’s eldest son, Robert heads a rebellion in Normandy against his father, but is defeated at the “Battle of Gerbero.”  William spares his life … for Robert would inherit Normandy in 1087.

Winchester Cathedral is built.

1086 The Domesday Book, listing England’s manors or shires and the value of the country.

William informs the Pope, that England owes no allegiance to the Church of Rome.

1087 William dies in battle at the French city of Mantes; his horse stumbles amongst the ruins, and he is unhorsed.  He was buried at the Abbey Church of St.Etienne, Caen.

William leaves Normandy to his son Robert, and England to William II – Rufus.

Advertisements

The Norman Conquest

Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings, took place on the 14th October 1066; The Saxons led by King Harold against the Norman army led by Duke William of Normandy.

In little over two months, Harold the last Saxon King of England, lost his life on the battlefield.  William, saw the English throne in his grasp, and went on to capture Dover, Canterbury and London.  He was crowned King of England on the 25th December 1066 and the Saxon era was over, and the Norman Conquest was beginning.

Resistance by Saxon’s to these Norman’s was mostly limited to the outer reaches of the kingdom.  With the Church and Government in his grip, it wouldn’t be long before these remaining Saxon’s accepted the rule of the Norman’s.

William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror

William had taken this land with only a small invasion force… he had to control some two million Saxon’s until more Norman troops arrived.  Nobles, Lords and Landowners, who might have stood up against the Norman’s, were lying with their armies on the battleground at Hastings.

Some Nobles opened their arms, and welcomed these Norman’s onto English soil, like the Saxon Lord of Wallingford; Wigod, who went on to assist William’s entrance into London.

England has seen invaders of the past, come and go, like Cnut and the Danes.  It is this, that made some believe, William and the Norman’s would be short lived, like Stigand, the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

William’s new Kingdom of Britain was not as free of rebellion as he had hoped; resistance continued for many years.  In January 1069, the Yorkshire inhabitants made up of Scandinavian descendants, rebelled against these Norman’s, and William and his army quelled the flames of rebellion.

In the autumn of 1069, King Swein of Denmark landed in Yorkshire, firing the rebellion against the Norman’s once again… The Danes were forced to withdraw.

William was determined to put an end to rebellions from the north of his kingdom.  He ordered his men to burn houses, crops and slaughter all livestock between the River Humber and Durham.  There followed many years of famine in the north; thousand’s starved to death, and it took years for the land to recover from this horrific event.

Meanwhile, Danish forces sailed south, plundering Peterborough and made the Isle of Ely their base.  Some rebels led by Hereward the Wake joined the Danes.  In June 1070, the Danes left, having made a treaty with William and by 1071 the Saxon rebels in the Fens had surrendered, and Hereward had escaped capture.

King Malcolm III of Scotland (1058-1093) offered exile to Anglo-Saxon Nobles, and assisted their attempts in re-claiming northern parts of England in 1069… There was a price to pay!

Malcolm was looking to the future, by marrying Margaret; daughter of Edward the Aetheling and sister of Edgar Aetheling as his Queen.  She bore him four sons; Edward, Edgar, Edmund and Ethelred.  These four sons with English names, could be used in claiming a seat on the English throne… one would say he was very devious in his outlook.

William marched north with his army in 1072, and confronted Malcolm at Abernethy… would they battle, a question both men more than likely asked themselves.  Yet it was Malcolm who made the first step towards peace; one a King of Scotland, and the other King of England.  Malcolm accepted that William was Lord over his Lothian province; these lands which were once part of England in Northumbria.

A battle had been averted, but William was wary of this Scottish foe, leading him to order the strengthening of the border between their two countries with castles.

Once William had been crowned King of England in 1066, he granted English Landowners and Lords, who had been loyal to his cause, that they could keep their lands.

After 1070, many Saxon landowners, had lost faith in their new King, which led William to instigate a police of Normanization; Norman’s took over their lands.

William needed land to compensate his loyal Norman followers.  What better way, confiscate these Saxon lands… was it a wise move? For it led to numerous revolts up and down the country.

William and his Barons forced marriages to Norman’s by Saxon widows and daughters inheriting estates.

He didn’t stop there with his reforms, replacing Stigand the Archbishop of Canterbury with his own man; Lanfranc, formerly Abbot of Caen.  Then Latin and Norman French became the accepted languages used by the Church and Government.

These Norman’s who had invaded England weren’t farmers, they were warriors at heart, and their origin was Viking.  The King gave them land; they returned the service with highly trained and armed knights, to do battle for their King.

These Norman Lords built castles to emphasise their presence and authority in these former Saxon lands.  Early defences were built from earthen mounds and stockades, later stone versions were the norm, like Windsor Castle.

In 1085 William started a survey of these lands, which led to “The Domesday Book” of 1086, which informed the Crown, the wealth of his lands.

Birth of the Normans

Viking Ship Wallpaper
Viking Longship

Viking sea-raiders from Scandinavia created fear, attacking coastal lands of Western Europe… They plundered; they killed and took captives to sell into a life of slavery.  They earned the reputation of showing no mercy!

Hrolf, leader of the Vikings pillaged the lands of North-Eastern France, around the area of the Seine River in 911.  The threat, the fear imposed upon King Charles of the Franks, led to a treaty with the Vikings at St.Clair-sur-Epte in 911.  Effectively this treaty gave large areas of France to the Vikings, thus creating the lands of Normandy around the mouth of the River Seine.

Some two generation’s on and the Viking lifestyle had changed.  They had taken under their wing, the language, religion, laws, customs and politics of the Franks.  They were referred to as the Northmen of Normandy, only later to be known as Normans.

Their desire for conquest, led Normans to pursue military goals abroad.  Normans went to Spain to fight the Moors; to Byzantium to fight the Turks; to Sicily in 1061 to fight the Saracens; and England in 1066.

The Norman Duke, William I, friend of Edward the Confessor, the Saxon English King who reigned from 1042-1066, and who supposedly promised the throne to William upon his death.

William the Conqueror
King William I of England…… William the Conqueror

William I had no choice, when Harold II claimed the English throne, which had been promised to him.  So these two armies met to decide who should be the rightful King of England.  The Norman style of fighting against the Anglo-Saxons… there was no real contest as William the Conqueror became King William I of England in 1066.  It was a brutal time, as thousand’s were slaughtered in battle, and more died through famine and disease.

Norman England added to Norman France created a powerful and rich territory across Europe.

William I ran England using the “Feudal System” where the King owned everything.  So that meant he rented everything to his Barons, and they provided him with as army when required.

The Domesday Book
The Domesday Book

These Baron’s leased out land to farmer’s etc, and so the Domesday Book of 1086 was produced, creating an inventory of the country…

Bayeux Tapestry Part 1
One section of the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry was instigated by William’s half brother; Odo and produced by Queen Matilda, William’s wife.  It provides one with a visual record of events in 1066.

The New Forest, which to-day is a National Park, was formerly lands located to the North-East of Southampton and commandeered by William I, as his exclusive hunting grounds.

The legacy left by the Norman’s has to be its Churches, Cathedrals and Castles, many of which were built out of stone, which stretched across this land of ours:

Durham Cathedral – Winchester Cathedral

The Nave Arcade of Norwich Cathedral (1094-1145)

The West Front of Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire (1108)

The Nave of Rochester Cathedral built by Gundulf (1080)

Tower of London – Windsor Castle

tower of london
The Tower of London