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.

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