William the Conqueror
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He was the son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, his mother, Herleva, the daughter of a tanner of Falaise. In 1035 William’s father Robert, Duke of Normandy, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which he died. Before starting the pilgrimage, he presented to the nobles his seven year old child demanding their allegiance. "He is little", the father said, "but he will grow, and, if God please, he will mend." William, after a period of anarchy, became the ruler of Normandy in his father's place at the age of nine. William had a youth of clean life and of much natural piety, while the years of storm and stress through which he passed gave him an endurance of character which lasted to his life's end. During the time of anarchy in Normandy he became a skilled military leader and defeated his enemies, uniting his duchy. Once he began fighting, rumor has it that he never lost a battle.
In 1047 a serious rebellion of nobles occurred, and William with the aid of King Henry of France, gained a great victory at Val-ès-Dunes, near Caen. Which led to the capture of the two strong castles of Alençon and Domfront. Using this as his base of operations, the young duke, in 1054 made himself master of the province of Maine and became the most powerful vassal of the French Crown, able on occasion to bid defiance to the king himself. William even married Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Flanders, in 1053,in spite of the papal prohibition.
In 1066 when his claim to the English throne was threatened by Harold Godwinson. Due to the fact that Harold Godwinson overlooked the dead king's wishes. Edward the Confessor, sworn his loyalty to William of Normandy when he died not to Harold. Harold Godwinson promptly had himself proclaimed king. It was only a matter of months before William, Duke of the large and powerful duchy of Normandy in France, paid Harold a visit to bring to his remembrance his own claim to the throne. William raised an army of Normans by promising them land and wealth when he came into his rightful kingship. October 14th 1066 he and William fought at the famous battle of Hastings. William and his army of Normans came, saw, and conquered. True to his promise to his fellow warriors, William systematically replaced the English nobility with Norman barons and noblemen who took control of the land, the people, and the government.
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As before, they were given rights to build castles for the protection of their families and for the enforcement of their laws of feudal lordship.
Having at last reduced the country to submission, William set to work with statesmanlike deliberation to establish his government on a firm and lasting basis. After several years of suppressing revolts by Saxons, William, in an effort to determine the expanse of his new domain, ordered a survey of England. The result was a comprehensive two-volume manuscript which came to be known as the Domesday Book. Named because in the minds of the citizens, this census was not unlike that which is being compiled for the final judgment, the Day of Doom. These volumes still exist today and you can see them, at the museum section of the public record office in London. Such official documents as Shakespeare's will, Francis Drake's report of his defeat of the Spanish Armada, and even a letter from George Washington to King George III can be found in the Domesday Book. Inspite of heavy taxation, the new government was not altogether unpopular, for the Conqueror had confirmed "the laws of Edward", and the people looked to him as their natural protector against feudal oppression. The least acceptable part of the Norman regime was probably the enforcement of the cruel forest laws.
William the Conqueror's reign could be called one of war and consolidation. Yet he carried out such wise reform. His appointments of bishops were excellent and the separation of the secular and spiritual courts was a measure of supreme importance. Perhaps it took such a strong and brutal warrior to bring about the changes necessary to unite the kingdom. Certainly nothing like the Domesday census would have been attempted by the Anglo-Saxon kings. But for all his success in England, William was faced with defending his lands in Normandy and it was during one of those battles that he was badly wounded. His death in 1087 meant the united kingdoms of Normandy and England would be split once again, and in time his own offspring would be the cause for further division.1.)The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV
William the Conqueror
William The Conqueror And The Battle Of Hastings
When King Edward of England died in 1066, the man who replaced him was Harold Godwinson, who was one of Edward's advisors and the second most powerful man in England. Harold was the obvious choice, because he was Edward's brother-in-law and because of his powerful position in England.The problem was, William, the Duke of Normandy, who was Harold's distant cousin, also laid claim to the English throne; and another person, Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway, also wanted to be king. Both of these people were prepared to fight for it.
Hardrada struck first. He landed on the Northern English Coast and made for the city of York. He got help from Vikings along the way, who eliminated the English forces blocking the York road. When Harold heard of this attack, he immediately went north, picking willing troops up on the way. Harold surprised Hardrada by arriving so early, because his troops were going so fast. What came next was fierce hand-to-hand combat, in which Harold started to dominate. The first to go was Hardrada, then Tostig, who was the leader of the Vikings to help him, and also Harold's brother. If Harold had hoped to take a long, deserved rest after this, he was wrong. Just after this, he heard of William's landings near Hastings.
When William's invasion fleet was finally completed and ready to go, the winds disagreed with them. They waited for six whole weeks, before setting sail, going to Pevensey and marching to Hastings.
But Harold was prepared. His army made for the south, and stop five miles from Hastings. In the morning of October 14th, Harold watched, as the Norman army marched to the bottom of the hill where Harold was, and get in a battle formation.
Unlike the Normans, who just kept attacking with their cavalry and infantry, the English battled defensively. As the battle went on throughout the day, no one knew who was going to win, but finally, the English line broke as the sun went down that day. King Harold and the Saxons fell, and William the Conqueror's victory was complete. In Westminster Abbey, on the Christmas Day of 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England.
William the Conqueror became a leader in government. He made a strong administration, with the staff made up of his Norman supporters. Rudeness from the newly conquered English was not tolerated.
The ferocious "Harrying of the North", in which he burned and completely destructed the area from York to Durham, was William's response to the rebellion of the people in Northern England, but he subdued the South and the East easily. This attack made the area uninhabited for centuries.
After this revolt by the people in the North, one of the most famous English rebels of all time,...
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