Moonday’s Heroic Hunk: The Bastard King

Bayeux Tapestry


     This week’s Heroic Hunk in History is William the Bastard of Normandy. His father was the Duke of Normandy (located in France), a descendent of Norse invaders, called Robert the Devil—and what a devil he was. It was lust at first sight when Robert saw Harlette, the lovely tanner’s daughter, washing her laundry at a well in Falaise. Their affair produced William in1027 who later became William the Conqueror. He was Robert’s only heir and inherited when he was seven years old. After a tumultuous childhood in which three of his guardians were murdered, William secured his dukedom and was looking for a wife.    

     His eye lighted on Matilda, one of the noblest women in Europe. At sixteen Matilda, who stood only a couple of inches over four feet, met William who was about twenty. At first, she refused his offer saying that she was too noble of birth to marry a mere bastard even if he was a duke. At their next meeting, William knocked her off her horse to the ground, shook and kicked her a few times, then dragged her around by her braided hair. Her father challenged William, but Matilda relented and accepted William’s offer of marriage.   

Queen Matilda


     After their marriage in 1053, William is one of the few monarchs reported to have remained faithful. They had eleven children. William showed a “magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance” and stood about 5’10”. The Bayeaux Tapestry portrays William invading England.
     When Harold Godwinson took the English throne after King Alfred’s death, William decided to pursue his own claim. While King Harold awaited William’s arrival in the south, Harald Hardrada (last week’s Heroic Hunk) invaded England from the north. King Harold’s forces marched north and defeated the Norse at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. Harold rushed south to meet his death at the hand of William and his Normans at Hastings on October 14, 1066. William was crowned king on Christmas Day, 1066.   

King William


     William rewarded his allies well and punished his enemies viciously. In the “The Doomsday Book,” a survey of land ownership taken in 1085, only two Anglo-Saxon barons that held lands before 1066 retained those lands twenty years later. About 4,000 nobles were displaced.
     After Matilda died, in 1083 at the age of 51, William became tyrannical, and people blamed it on his loss. Though extremely obese, William enjoyed excellent health until old age when he was impaled on the saddle of his horse in 1087 after a battle. The coffin was too small for his bloated corpse and when the attendants attempted to force it inside, the body burst. What a mess!! Next week’s Heroic Hunk is another English king whose sobriquet refers to his height. Later, RitaVF


4 Responses

  1. History is certainly messy when told in truth! Wonder if that will be the case with us. And the red-head in me hopes Matilda exacted at least a little revenge for William’s initial mistreatment.

    And are you hinting about ‘long shanks’ himself? He was definately an interesting piece of work! (PLEASE let me be remembering my history courses correctly–it’s been over a decade more than a quarter century! LOL Hey, I’m antique!)

    Interesting post, as usual, Rita. Thanks!

  2. The posts are plotted to provide a big pitcure. Obviously, these men are Heroic in the sense of “larger than life,” not folks who do heroic things. We will see some real Heroic folks in a few weeks.
    BTW, you did guess right The Hammer of the Scots will be next week’s Heroic Hunk. RitaVF

  3. Hi Rita – what a coincidence – that’s how my husband proposed to me, knocked me off my horse and all! Just kidding.

    I love your historical posts, and I try to stop by and read them every week, but I couldn’t resist commenting on this one.


  4. Rita I loved your post.. I love hearing all your history goodies.. hugs It was also wonderful seeing you Saturday.

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