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England after 1066- William The Conqueror
William the Conqueror
It is a well known historical fact that William the Conqueror was a Norman, Duke of Normandy who attacked England, and, after repelling the enemy at the Battle of Hastings, took control of England. But as with everything it really was not that simple.
A toe hold in England
William's tenuous grasp on the English throne was illustrated on the day of his coronation on Christmas Day 1066 when Norman guards, misinterpreting shouts of support for the KIng, set fire surrounding houses, leaving the King and priests in a terrifying burning Westminster Abbey. The coronation was followed by rebellions on a yearly basis until 1070 with nearly all the country rebelling at one time against their new Norman rulers. This encouraged the 10,000 Normans, who were greatly outnumbered by the resident English to take up building castles and remain permanently on a war footing.
Church and State
Initiallly it is thought that William hoped to retain many of the ruling families in their positions of power, yet by the time the Domesday Book is published (1086) it is obvious that there has been a major social change with only two of the previous ruling families still being in possession of considerable lands and estates. It appears that more than 400 rulers (or thegns) had lost their lands and were replaced by only 200 Norman Barons who had much larger estates and more power than the previous rulers.
In the church as befits a more literate organisation, records were kept of clergy appointments. In 1070 William deposed a number of English bishops and from that date ensured that no other English clerics were promoted to the role of Bishop.
England and Normandy -A special Relationship
The new rulers in England also retained their lands and wealth in Normandy. The lands were but two parts of one community with the English Channel running through it. The shared the same ruling class and aristocracy. The politics and history of England and Normandy became interwoven. The situation was further involved because although William was King of England he was but the Duke of Normandy who owed his allegiance to the King of France. This "frenchness" of England continued with the Angevin conquest of 11-53 to 4 when Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine arrived at the English Court.
The influence of France can be found from various period sources. A french archietect William of Sens rebuilt the choir of Canterbury Cathedral after a fire in 1174. and the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey by Henry ii was heavily influenced by French trends and styles.Those who aspired to wealth and rank would be tri lingual, speaking English, some Latin and fluent in French.
Williams first born legitimate son was Robert (b 1054) who had been recognised as his heir in Normandy in1066 when still a child. Williams major problem with Robert was that he did not die and being still alive did not wish to share his power and wealth. which provided a fertile plain for Robert to become involved in lpots and intrigues between his father and the jealous King of France.
Owing to the deteriorating relationship between William and the french King the french fortress of Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated in the way he knew best, by a physical attack to sack the garrison during which he received his fatal wound. William died on 9th September 1087 with his second son William in attendance. His eldest son and heir Robert was at the french court and did not make any effort to visit his father in his last moments. William was buried at St Stephen of Caen.
A rather unfortunate annecdoate is published about the King's final ending. Owing to his willingness to sample all of life's riches, William had grown quite fat and did not fit easily into the tomb that had been prepared for him,. The funeral attendants tried to force the body into the small area and put so much pressure on it that it burst, filling the church with a really noxious odour, the "smell of death".
And so the career of the King known as William the Conqueror ended and he was buried in his native France.
William's relationship with the church
- William the Conqueror and the reform of the English Church - InfoBarrel
William the Conqueror was a man of his times- a warrior but also devoutly reigious- after conquering England he set about reforming the English church- Norman style
William the Conqueror - Makers of History is presented here in a high quality paperback edition.