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Harold II Godwinson
|King of England
25 December 1066 – 9 September 1087
William II "Rufus"
|Statue at |
|Matilda of Flanders|
|Tomb of |
William the Conqueror
William was the elder of two children of Robert I of Normandy and his concubine Herleva, or Arlette, the daughter of a burgher from the town of Falaise. In 1035 Robert died when returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and William, his only son, whom he had nominated as his heir before his departure, was accepted as duke by the Norman magnates and his feudal overlord, King Henry I of France. William and his friends had to overcome enormous obstacles. His illegitimacy (he was generally known as the Bastard) was a handicap, and he had to survive the collapse of law and order that accompanied his accession as a child.
Three of William's guardians died violent deaths before he grew up, and his tutor was murdered. His father's kin were of little help; most of them thought that they stood to gain by the boy's death. But his mother managed to protect William through the most dangerous period. These early difficulties probably contributed to his strength of purpose and his dislike of lawlessness and misrule.
By 1042, when William reached his 15th year, was knighted, and began to play a personal part in the affairs of his duchy, the worst was over. But his attempts to recover rights lost during the anarchy and to bring disobedient vassals and servants to heel inevitably led to trouble. From 1046 until 1055 he dealt with a series of baronial rebellions, mostly led by kinsmen. Occasionally he was in great danger and had to rely on Henry of France for help. In 1047 Henry and William defeated a coalition of Norman rebels at Val-ès-Dunes, southeast of Caen. It was in these years that William learned to fight and rule.
William soon learned to control his youthful recklessness. He was always ready to take calculated risks on campaign and, most important, to fight a battle. But he was not a chivalrous or flamboyant commander. His plans were simple, his methods direct, and he exploited ruthlessly any advantage gained. If he found himself at a disadvantage, he withdrew immediately. He showed the same qualities in his government. He never lost sight of his aim to recover lost ducal rights and revenues, and, although he developed no theory of government or great interest in administrative techniques, he was always prepared to improvise and experiment. He seems to have lived a moral life by the standards of the time, and he acquired an interest in the welfare of the Norman church. He made his half brother, Odo, bishop of Bayeux in 1049 at the age of about 16, and Odo managed to combine the roles of nobleman and prelate in a way that did not greatly shock contemporaries. But William also welcomed foreign monks and scholars to Normandy. Lanfranc of Pavia, a famous master of the liberal arts, who entered the monastery of Bec about 1042, was made abbot of Caen in 1063.
According to a brief description of William's person by an anonymous author, who borrowed extensively from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he was just above average height and had a robust, thick-set body. Though he was always sparing of food and drink, he became fat in later life. He had a rough bass voice and was a good and ready speaker. Writers of the next generation agree that he was exceptionally strong and vigorous. William was an out-of-doors man, a hunter and soldier, fierce and despotic, generally feared; uneducated, he had few graces but was intelligent and shrewd and soon obtained the respect of his rivals.
After 1047 William began to take part in events outside his duchy. In support of his lord, King Henry, and in pursuit of an ambition to strengthen his southern frontier and expand into Maine, he fought a series of campaigns against Geoffrey Martel, count of Anjou. But in 1052 Henry and Geoffrey made peace, there was a serious rebellion in eastern Normandy, and, until 1054 William was again in serious danger. During this period he conducted important negotiations with his cousin Edward the Confessor, king of England, and took a wife.
Norman interest in Anglo-Saxon England derived from an alliance made in 1002 when King Ethelred II of England married Emma, the sister of Count Richard II, William's grandfather. Two of her sons, William's cousins once removed, had reigned in turn in England, Hardecanute (1040-42) and Edward the Confessor (1042-66). William had met Edward during that prince's exile on the Continent and may well have given him some support when he returned to England in 1041. In that year Edward was about 36 and William 14. It is clear that William expected some sort of reward from Edward and, when Edward's marriage proved unfruitful, began to develop an ambition to become his kinsman's heir. Edward probably at times encouraged William's hopes. His childlessness was a diplomatic asset.
In 1049 William negotiated with Baldwin V of Flanders for the hand of his daughter, Matilda. Baldwin, an imperial vassal with a distinguished lineage, was in rebellion against the Western emperor, Henry III, and in desperate need of allies. The proposed marriage was condemned as incestuous (William and Matilda were evidently related in some way) by the Emperor's friend, Pope Leo IX, at the Council of Reims in October 1049; but so anxious were the parties for the alliance that before the end of 1053, possibly in 1052, the wedding took place. In 1059 William was reconciled to the papacy, and as penance the disobedient pair built two monasteries at Caen. Four sons were born to William and Matilda: Robert (the future Duke of Normandy), Richard (who died young), William Rufus (the Conqueror's successor in England), and Henry (Rufus' successor). Among the daughters was Adela, who was the mother of Stephen, king of England.
Edward the Confessor was supporting the Emperor, and it is possible that William used his new alliance with Flanders to put pressure on Edward and extort an acknowledgment that he was the English king's heir. At all events, Edward seems to have made some sort of promise to William in 1051, while Tostig, son of the greatest nobleman in England, Earl Godwine, married Baldwin's half sister. The immediate purpose of this tripartite alliance was to improve the security of each of the parties. If William secured a declaration that he was Edward's heir, he was also looking very far ahead.
Between 1054 and 1060 William held his own against an alliance between King Henry I and Geoffrey Martel of Anjou. Both men died in 1060 and were succeeded by weaker rulers. As a result, in 1063 William was able to conquer Maine. In 1064 or 1065 Edward sent his brother-in-law, Harold, Earl of Wessex, Godwine's son and successor, on an embassy to Normandy. William took him on a campaign into Brittany, and in connection with this Harold swore an oath in which, according to Norman writers, he renewed Edward's bequest of the throne to William and promised to support it.
|Harold’s ship is driven across the channel. From the mast, a lookout spies land. It is Ponthieu, north of Normandy, the territory of the fierce Count Guy. Harold is shown twice. At the left he stands on the ship, ready to land. As soon as he climbs down, he is seized by the soldiers of Count Guy who directs operations from horseback.|
|The Normans catch up with Conan at Dinan. During the battle soldiers on horseback throw lances, and others try to set fire to the defences. Conan surrenders. He passes the keys of Dinan to William on the point of a lance. As a reward for his services, William honours Harold with the gift of arms. This ceremony would have been seen as making William Harold's overlord - an important event from the Norman point of view.|
When Edward died childless on Jan. 5, 1066, Harold was accepted as king by the English magnates, and William decided on war. Others, however, moved more quickly. In May Tostig, Harold's exiled brother, raided England, and in September he joined the invasion forces of Harald III Hardraade, king of Norway, off the Northumbrian coast.
|Edward died on the 5th January 1066. The Tapestry reverses the scenes of his death and his burial. Here we see his funeral procession to Westminster Abbey, is a great new Church. Edward had been too ill to attend its consecration on 28th December 1065. In the upper chamber King Edward is in his bed talking to his faithful followers, including Harold and Queen Edith - below he is shown dead with a priest in attendance. Two noblemen offer Harold the crown and ax, symbols of royal authority, that will make him King. He accepts the offer.|
|News of Edward's death and Harold’s coronation is carried across the channel to William, Duke of Normandy. William is furious - he claimed that the throne of England should be his and saw Harold as a usurper. William decides to attack England and organises a fleet of warships. To his left sits Bishop Odo of Bayeux, his half-brother, making his first appearance in the tapestry.|
William assembled a fleet, recruited an army, and gathered his forces in August at the mouth of the Dives River. It is likely that he originally intended to sail due north and invade England by way of the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water. Such a plan would give him an offshore base and interior lines. But adverse winds detained his fleet in harbour for a month, and in September a westerly gale drove his ships up-Channel.
|The sea is crowded with ships, full of soldiers and horses. William sails in the ship, Mora, bought for him by his wife Matilda.|
William regrouped his forces at Saint-Valéry on the Somme. He had suffered a costly delay, some naval losses, and a drop in the morale of his troops. On September 27, after cold and rainy weather, the wind backed south. William embarked his army and set sail for the southeast coast of England. The following morning he landed, took the unresisting towns of Pevensey and Hastings, and began to organize a bridgehead with between 4,000 and 7,000 cavalries and infantry.
|Duke William appears in discussion with his half brothers Odo and Robert, Count of Mortain. A motte, a type of castle, is built to strengthen the Norman invaders' base at Hastings. A messenger brings William news of Harold and his army. On the right, a woman and her child flee from a burning house.|
William's forces were in a narrow coastal strip, hemmed in by the great forest of Andred, and, although this corridor was easily defensible, it was not much of a base for the conquest of England. The campaigning season was almost past, and when William received news of his opponent it was not reassuring. On September 25 Harold had defeated and slain Tostig and Harald Hardraade at Stamford Bridge, near York, and was retracing his steps to meet the new invader. On October 13, when Harold emerged from the forest, William was taken by surprise. But the hour was too late for Harold to push on to Hastings, and he took up a defensive position.
|On the morning of the battle, 14th October 1066, William, in full armour, is about to mount his horse. William’s Norman cavalry gallops off to face Harold’s English soldiers.|
Early the next day William went out to give battle. He attacked the English phalanx with archers and cavalry but saw his army almost driven from the field. He rallied the fugitives, however, and brought them back into the fight and in the end wore down his opponents. Harold's brothers were killed early in the battle. Toward nightfall, the King himself fell and the English gave up. William's coolness and tenacity secured his victory in this fateful battle, and he then moved against possible centers of resistance so quickly that he prevented a new leader from emerging. On Christmas Day 1066 he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. In a formal sense, the Norman Conquest of England had taken place.
|The Normans seem to be getting the upper hand as the battle continues. Many more soldiers die, one appears to be having his head cut off. On the right is the best-known scene in the Tapestry: the Normans killing King Harold. But how is Harold killed? He seems to be shown twice: first plucking an arrow from his eye, and then being hacked down by a Norman knight. The tapestry is difficult to interpret here, but the second figure is probably Harold being killed.|
|Lichfield Cathedral Sculpture|
William was already an experienced ruler. In Normandy he had replaced disloyal nobles and ducal servants with his own friends, limited private warfare, and recovered usurped ducal rights, defining the feudal duties of his vassals. The Norman church flourished under his rule. He wanted a church free of corruption but subordinate to him. He would not tolerate opposition from bishops and abbots or interference from the papacy. He presided over church synods and reinforced ecclesiastical discipline with his own. In supporting Lanfranc, prior of Bec, against Berengar of Tours in their dispute over the doctrine of the Eucharist, he found himself on the side of orthodoxy. He was never guilty of the selling of church office (simony). He disapproved of clerical marriage. At the same time, he was a stern and sometimes rough master, swayed by political necessities, and he was not generous to the church with his own property. The reformer Lanfranc was one of his advisers, but perhaps even more to his taste were the worldly and soldierly bishops Odo of Bayeux and Geoffrey of Coutances.
William left England early in 1067 but had to return in December because of English unrest. The English rebellions that began in 1067 reached their peak in 1069 and were finally quelled in 1071. They completed the ruin of the highest English aristocracy and gave William a distaste for his newly conquered kingdom. Since his position on the Continent was deteriorating, he wanted to solve English problems as cheaply as possible. To secure England's frontiers, he invaded Scotland in 1072 and Wales in 1081 and created special defensive "marcher" counties along the Scottish and Welsh borders.
In the last 15 years of his life, he was more often in Normandy than in England, and there were five years, possibly seven, in which he did not visit the kingdom at all. He retained most of the greatest Anglo-Norman barons with him in Normandy and confided the government of England to bishops, trusting especially his old friend Lanfranc, whom he made archbishop of Canterbury. Much concerned that the natives should not be unnecessarily disturbed, he allowed them to retain their own laws and courts.
William returned to England only when it was absolutely necessary: in 1075 to deal with the aftermath of a rebellion by Roger, earl of Hereford, and Ralf, earl of Norfolk, which was made more dangerous by the intervention of a Danish fleet; and in 1082 to arrest and imprison his half brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, who was planning to take an army to Italy, perhaps to make himself pope. In the spring of 1082, William had his son Henry knighted, and in August at Salisbury he took oaths of fealty from all the important landowners in England, whosoever's vassals they might be. In 1085 he returned with a large army to meet the threat of an invasion by Canute IV (Canute the Holy) of Denmark. When this came to nothing owing to Canute's death in 1086, William ordered an economic and tenurial survey to be made of the kingdom, the results of which are summarized in the two volumes of Domesday Book.
William was preoccupied with the frontiers of Normandy. The danger spots were in Maine and the Vexin on the Seine, where Normandy bordered on the French royal demesne. After 1066 William's continental neighbors became more powerful and even more hostile. In 1068 Fulk the Surly succeeded to Anjou and in 1071 Robert the Frisian to Flanders. Philip I of France allied with Robert and Robert with the Danish king, Canute IV. There was also the problem of William's heir apparent, Robert Curthose, who, given no appanage and seemingly kept short of money, left Normandy in 1077 and intrigued with his father's enemies. In 1081 William made a compromise with Fulk in the treaty of Blancheland: Robert Curthose was to be count of Maine but as a vassal of the count of Anjou. The eastern part of the Vexin, the county of Mantes, had fallen completely into King Philip's hands in 1077 when William had been busy with Maine. In 1087 William demanded from Philip the return of the towns of Chaumont, Mantes, and Pontoise. In July he entered Mantes by surprise, but while the town burned he suffered some injury from which he never recovered. He was thwarted at the very moment when he seemed about to enforce his last outstanding territorial claim.
[These for the most part do not look like normal Wikitree research notes, but duplication of things covered above?]
William was the illegitimate son of Robert, Duke of Normandy. He won the English throne by defeating Harold II at Hastings (Senlac) in 1066 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day of the same year. Throughout his reign, he retained the Dukedom of Normandy. Despite many uprisings, he ferociously defeated Anglo-Saxon resistance but Hereward the Wake defied him in the Fens around Ely until 1071. Castles were built at strategic points, including Warwick and Windsor, first of earth banks and wooden keeps and later of massive stonework. For some 25 years, the Normans lived as conquerors in an occupied land but they began to intermarry with the resident population and slowly adapted and adopted some of the Anglo-Saxon cultures. William ordered the Domesday Book to be drawn up to record details of landholders and the value of every estate and surprisingly this took only a year to compile. The feudal system, with Normans as Barons was instituted and regular meetings of a Great Council of advisors was set up, with venues at Gloucester, Westminster and Winchester. Llanfranc was made Archbishop of Canterbury and building started on seven new cathedrals. William also set in hand the building of the Tower of London.
William, who was 5ft 10ins, married Matilda of Flanders. Matilda was not 4ft 2ins tall. Her incomplete skeleton was examined in France, and her bones were measured to determine her height. The 1819 estimate was under five feet, while the 1959 estimate was 5' (152 cm) tall. A reputed height of 4' 2" (127 cm) appeared at some point after 1959 in the non-scientific literature, misrepresenting the 1959 measurement. He died of injuries, received while fighting in France, on Thursday 9th September1087. William I (of England), called The Conqueror (1027-87), first Norman king of England (1066-87) , who has been called one of the first modern kings and is generally regarded as one of the outstanding figures in western European history.
When Robert I, William's father, died on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1035, William was only about seven. Before leaving he had persuaded his magnates to accept his bastard son William as his heir. When Robert's death became known, his father's chief supporters became his protectors. These men were Robert, archbishop of Rouen and his father's uncle, Count Alan of Brittany, and Osbern, the steward at court. One other, Turold of Turchetil, "pedegogus" of the young Duke. Within a short period, all these men were dead, all excepting the archbishop were murdered in someway. That William lived to come to his majority is amazing. Many of the Norman nobility thought themselves more rightful holders of William's Duchy; many were relatives. William did survive, however, but danger was never to be far all of his life. The years proceeding the conquest were years of constant war as William first defended, then enlarged his lands.
Edward the Confessor, having no successor to the English throne, seems to have promised it to William. Earl Harold who, with his brothers, actually controlled England under Edward thought that he should be king. When Edward died, Harold was forced to defend his claims, first from the Norwegian king Harald Hardraada whom he defeated, and then from William. William invaded England in 1066 and, at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October of that year, Harold was killed and his army was defeated. William swiftly gained control in London and had himself crowned king on Christmas day 1066.
Despite continued fighting, especially in the north, the Norman Conquest of England was completed by 1072 aided by the establishment of feudalism under which his followers were granted land in return for pledges of service and loyalty. As king, William was noted for his efficient if harsh rule. His administration relied upon Norman and other foreign personnel, especially Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1085 he started the Domesday Book which was a census of taxable citizens. It remains today as a valuable historical and genealogical document of those living at the time.
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