Tuesday, September 28, 2010

William the Conqueror

This week there were several interesting things that happened. Tuesday September 28 in 1701, divorce was legalized in Maryland. Then on Thursday September 30 in 1791 Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” premiered in Vienna, Austria.

However, sifting through all the events, I thought some of the most interesting events went together involving William the Conqueror. I’ve mentioned William before, in my post involving Maud in June. Well now I’m going to go into detail about his invasion of England.

In 1066 the last of the Anglo Saxon Kings died without an heir to the throne. The only logical person in England who could take the crown was Harold Godwinson, the brother to the Queen. Within days Harold was crowned King.

However, the problem was in 1038 the previous King Harold Harefoot made a treaty with King Magnus of Norway that if either died without a male heir, the other would inherit the thrown.

Cut to 1066, and Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, claims he has a right to the thrown because of the treaty signed in 1038.

At around the same time, William, Duke of Normandy decides he also has a claim to the English thrown. He said he was promised the thrown. However, before invading he made sure he had the permission of the King of France (his lord under the Surfdom system) and Pope Alexander II.

Harold Godwinson had a choice to make as a new king; who would he deem the larger threat? He decided Harald Hardrada was the larger threat, and took his entire army North to wait for him to come. Because it was a colder winter, it took until September until Hardrada finally came.

Meanwhile, William was waiting in the North of France for a “favorable wind” and it wasn’t until September 29, 1066 he decided the wind was favorable enough for him to sail. In reality, William was waiting to see which Haro(a)ld would win the battle.

Turns out Harold Godwinson won the Battle of Stamford Bridge against the Norwegian Harald Hardrada. As soon as the battle was won, Harold had to move quickly to the South of England to meet William’s army, who sailed three days after the battle.

In one week Harold moved from the North of England, to the South a total of 120 miles in 13 days, which considering the time period is amazingly fast. In the meantime, William had invaded England September 29, 1066 and was working to strengthen his position around Hastings.

On October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings was fought, and William won. William was crowned December 25, 1066 when he reached London. It took so long because there was fighting along the way. He became known as William I, King of England, or more commonly known as William the Conqueror, and ended the Anglo-Saxon Period.

To solidify his legitimacy to rule, William had the Bayeux Tapestry created, by his half brother. It is 20 feet tall, and 240 feet long. View the tapestry animated here.

There are a couple of interesting facts about William’s early reign. He brought pre made castles with him when he invaded England, and began to assemble them when he invaded. This allowed him to fortify his position as King of England and strengthen his rule. He build 500 castles during his reign, including the Tower of London.

In addition, William was a bastard son of the King of France, so before he became William the Conqueror, he was known as William the Bastard. In Medieval Europe, being a bastard actually allowed the person to wield a great deal of power.

There is so much to say about Williams reign. He changed England forever because he was from the continent. And after his death, Williams son Henry I would also change England even more. These changes are seen through today because of the influence they had on the government of England. 1066 changed England forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Free at Last"

I have been on an almost month long hiatus, and for that I’m sorry. There really is no excuse except to say I’ve been busy and a bit lazy and become a bit more selective about the history I wish to select. This is probably something I should work on, but for now I’m breaking my silence with a post.

Initially I searched and found nothing of interest this week. But I think that was my lack of motivation talking, because when I went back I found something very interesting and very relevant to post about.

September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln submitted his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Lets back up to the beginning of the war. Originally, the South seceded from the Union based on States Rights, not on Slavery like many think. Yes, the states rights ultimately linked back to slavery, but that was not the original argument.

Ultimately, it was the decision to secede from the Union to preserve slavery that killed slavery.

At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln emphasized the need to preserve the Union. Although he was against slavery, he knew his view was not widely shared. Many would think he was abusing his power as the president.

However, as the war continued, Lincoln was forced to consider several factors regarding slavery. First, as the Union moved into the South, the armies were bombarded by an increasing number of runaway slaves. This meant there needed to be a solution of what to do with the vast number of people. Also, slaves grew the majority of food supplying the Southern army. If the slaves were freed it would hurt the Southern Army.

For these reason, Lincoln’s policy on slavery shifted. Over time the issue of slavery expanded. In April 1862, slavery was prohibited in Washington D.C. In June of the same year slavery was prohibited in the western territories of the country.

And so, all these steps led to the Preliminary Emancipation announced on September 22, 1862. Lincoln announced that January 1, 1863 all areas controlled by the Confederate States of America were free. This meant if states surrendered to the Union, they would not have to give up their slaves.

Lincoln thought if he threatened slavery he could convince the Southern states to surrender, ending the war. This Emancipation did not free the slaves, since it did not go into effect until January 1, 1863. It also did not free the slaves in areas controlled by the Union, so all the northern and western states, and areas reclaimed by the Union in the south, like Tennessee and New Orleans. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was passed after the conclusion of the war that was slavery abolished universally across the United States.

The United States is the only country in history to fight to free its slaves. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves in the U.S., it did set the stage for the passing of the 15th Amendment. For this reason, it is an important event in United States history.