William, The Conqueror
Through-out the history of the world man has always resorted to armed aggression to solve disputes between nations. It has always been most unfortunate and cannot be denied that warfare has had a major role in shaping the destinies of nations. It has defined the history of mankind, created and destroyed entire countries, and repeatedly altered society in both major and subtle ways for over thousands of years. While history is replete with battles both large and small, there are but a few that have had a bigger hand in shaping the course of history than others. Only a hand full have had a major impact on the course of history. The Battle of Hastings was the Norman conquest of England. It really was one of the most important battles in history. The Norman conquest influenced the English language(Old English evolved syncretically with french influence,) centralized the local government system, and replaced the the old English aristocracy.
The Battle of Hastings that was fought on the 14th October 1066 was an event so significant, it completely changed the course of English history. It actually changed the course that all of history would take from that point on. To speak of this battle without recourse to the events that came before, would be an injustice to the people of the island of Great Britain. What makes this event so important to the English is the immutable fact that it was the last time any foreign power was able to conquer her. Without doubt, a lesson that became indelibly etched into the minds of Englishmen for generations to come.
Through-out history mankind has always had dates with their destiny. For William the Conqueror destinies date was the year 1066 on the battlefield in Hastings England. Many historians concur that if William had not kept this date his destiny and for that matter the destiny for the future of all of England would never have happened. But who was William the Conqueror really? And, how could one individual accomplish what many scholars and historians all agree was one of the most singular pivotal points that changed the course of history?
To answer these questions we have to travel back to England to the year 1042. It was then when Edward the Confessor was crowned king of England. It was during his reign that would lead to two opposing men one Saxon and one Norman who would clash over rightful succession to the crown of England upon Edwards death.
To trace history a little further back to when Edward the Confessor who was born in about 1003 is to become familiar with the events that led up to one of histories most significant dates. Edward’s father was Ethelred the Unready and his mother was Emma of Normandy. Edward spent the first part of his life in Normandy. He grew up with deep religious views and gained the nickname “Confessor”. In 1040, Edward was re-called to England by his half-brother Hardicanute who had succeeded Ethelred in the same year. Hardicanute died shortly there after which meant Edward became the king of England. When Edward married in 1045 his wife, Edith, who was the daughter of Godwin of Wessex, the most important nobleman in England bore no children because Edward had taken a vow of celibacy.
In 1051, a number of Normans were killed in a brawl in Dover, Kent. Edward still had influential friends in Normandy and he wanted the people of Dover punished for this. Edward ordered Earl Godwin to do this. Godwin refused and raised an army against the king instead but was forced to retreat. A year latter Godwin again amassed an army but this time led by Godwins's two sons Harold and Tostiq. Edward meanwhile was force to send back his Norman advisors and really couldn't raise an army big enough to defeat The Earl of Godwin.
When in 1053 when Godwin died leaving his son Harold as the most powerful nobleman in England. Harold who latter became known as Harold of Wessex. Sometime between 1053 and 1058 Harold was with William in Normandy and swore an oath of allegiance to William. This oath by Harold was to become the most influential point for Williams decision to invade England some 8 years later. Between 1052 and 1066, Edward contented himself with putting all of his energy into the building of Westminster Abbey in London. Harold of Wessex commanded the king’s army when it was required and gained a reputation as a skilled leader. In January 1066, Edward died leaving no direct heir to the crown. It was Harold who then reneged on his oath of Allegiance sworn to William 8 years earlier decided to take the crown of England for himself. When William heard of this the fight for who should succeed Edward led to the Williams invasion in October of 1066.
To fully understand how William the Conqueror was able to change the course of history is to follow him from his early childhood and how events in his youth molded the persona of what William was to become. The first seven years of his youth were uneventful. It wasn't until the death of his father that thrust him into a totally different realm of reality. At the age 8, William the Conqueror became the Duke of Normandy. Violence plagued his early reign, but with the help of King Henry I of France, William managed to survive the early years. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he was crowned King of England. Though he never spoke English and was illiterate, but he had more influence on the evolution of the English language then anyone before or since is a tribute to his lasting legacy to this day.
William was born in around 1028, in Falaise, Normandy the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. He was first known as 'William the Bastard.' On his father's death in 1035, William was recognized as heir, with his great uncle serving as regent. In 1042, he began to assume more of the affairs of his estate. From 1046 until 1055, he dealt with a series of baronial rebellions. William's political and military successes helped him in negotiations to marry Matilda, daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders in 1053 who would bore him 9 children.
Early in 1066, Edward, king of England died leaving Harold to proclaim himself King. Forgetting the vow of allegiance to Williams pushed William to assemble an invasion force with the blessing of the Pope. The Pop's blessing turned Williams invasion into a crusade to gain the throne of England. As it turns out years earlier Edward who was a distant cousin of William promised William the throne of England. Harold's greed and lust for power in assuming the crown of England's was his for the taking forgetting the original oath to William many years earlier set the tone for destinies date.
The stage was set. A power struggle that would forever change the course of history. William landed in England on 28 September 1066, establishing a camp near Hastings. Harold meanwhile was forced to traveled north to stop the Vikings from gaining a foothold in England. After routing the Vikings Harold learned of Williams landing in Hastings and proceeded south to again wage war only this time Harold would be killed leaving his army to collapse. William was victorious and on Christmas Day 1066, he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. A Norman aristocracy became the new governing class and many members of the native English elite, including bishops, were replaced with Normans.
The first years of William's reign were spent crushing resistance and securing his borders, which he did with ruthless efficiency. He invaded Scotland in 1072 and concluded a truce with the Scottish king. He marched into Wales in 1081 and created special defensive 'marcher' counties along the borders. The last serious rebellion against his rule, the Revolt of the Earls, took place in 1075. In 1086, William ordered a survey to be made of all of England. This became known as the Domesday Book and remains one of the oldest valid legal documents in Britain. Another tribute to his lasting legacy. When William died at the age of 60 he divided his lands between two of his sons, with Robert receiving Normandy and William Rufus, England. William the Conqueror literally transformed a nation that has stood the test of time.