Heroic Hunk in History: William the Conqueror

William, the son of the Duke of Normandy (in France), a descendent of Norse invaders, decided to pursue his claim to the throne of England as the grand-nephew of King Alfred the Confessor’s mother. After a tumultuous childhood in which three of his guardians were murdered, William secured his dukedom and married into one of the most noble families of Europe. William showed a “magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance” and stood about 5’10″. Pic shows William (center) in the center with his brothers, Bishop Odo (left) and Robert (right).

After King Harold and his brothers died at the Battle of Hastings, the remaining defenders retired to the forest. The Normans who pursued were ambushed and destroyed in a deep ditch close to what is now called Oakwood Gill. William rested his army at Hastings for two weeks. When he was not approached by the English nobility, he advanced toward London with fresh troops. The old nobility scurried for safety. He took Dover, Canterbury and Winchester. He destroyed Southwark across from London. In return for the King Edgar’s abdication and recognition of William as King, London was spared.

William was crowned king of England on Christmas Day, 1066 in Westminster Abbey. 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. The Norman landowners built primitive castles to defend their new territories. William built and improved numerous castles. 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!!

This week’s event at ritabay.com is The Battle of Hastings and the Bayeaux Tapestry

Next Week, A Texan    Rita Bay

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One Response

  1. I’ve enjoyed a lot of medieval romances set in the time after William conquered England. That story of his death is certainly going to stick with me!

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