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William the Conqueror and The Battle of Hastings

1028 Born in Falaise in Normandy.

1035 Robert I (William's father) dies in Bithynia; accession of Duke William II of Normandy.

1042 Accession of Edward the Confessor, King of England.

1043 Coronation of Edward

1045 Marriage of Edward to Edith, daughter of Earl Godwine.

1046 Revolt of the viscomtes and Guy of Burgundy in Normandy

1049 William recaptures Brionne

1050 William re-enters Rouen

1050 Approximate date of a revolt by Earl Godwine against Edward the Confessor, William is promised succession to the throne.

1051-2 War between William and Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.

1051-2 William marries Matilda, daughter of Baldwin V of Flanders.

1052 Expulsion of many Normans from England, Earl Godwine and sons are returned lands lost due to rebellion.

1053 Earl Godwine dies.

1056 Robert, William's half-brother becomes Count of Mortain.

1057 King Henry of France and Count Geoffrey of Anjou join forces and invade Normandy.

1060 Magnus, son of Harold Hardraada, attacks England

1063 King Henry of France dies. Geoffrey of Anjou dies.

1064 Conquest of Maine by William.

1064 Harold Godwineson visits Normandy.

1066 5th Jan. Edward the Confessor dies.

Norman mission to Rome to seek Papal support for the invasion of England.

6th June Coronation of Harold Godwineson.

8th Sept. Harold Godwineson disbands the army in southern England.

September, William's fleet assembles in the Dives.

September, Harold Hardraada invades northern England.

20th Sept. Battle of Fulford.

25th Sept. Battle of Stamford Bridge

28th Sept. William land at Pevensey.

29th Sept. William occupies Hastings.

6th Oct. Harold Godwineson reaches London.

14th Oct. Battle of Hastings.

21st Oct. Submission of Dover.

29th Oct. Submission of Canterbury.

December, Coronation of William as King of England.

1067 March-December, William returns to Normandy.

1068 Summer, William enters York.

1069 Spring, York rebels but is retaken by William.

1069 Summer, Swein Estrithson, King of Denmark invades Yorkshire. Malcolm III, King of Scotland, supports a general uprising in the north of England.

1069 20th Sept. Rebels occupy York. William retakes York.

1070 Spring, William's occupation of Stafford and Chester.

1070 15th August, Lanfranc becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.

1070 Summer, King Malcolm ravages northern England.

1071 Summer, Capture of Bari and Palermo by Normans.

1071 Autumn, William invades Scotland; pact of Abernethy.

1073 William invades and reconquers Maine.

1075 English earls revolt.

1076 William defeated in campaign in Brittany.

1077 Pact with King Phillip.

1077 First revolt of Robert, William’s eldest son against his father.

1079 William defeated at Gerberoi.

1079 Devastation of northern England by King Malcolm.

1080 Robert is reconciled to his father.

1081 Robert invades Scotland.

1082 New revolt by Robert against his father.

1083 Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, is imprisoned.

1083 November 2nd Death of William’s wife Matilda.

1085 Cnut IV prepares to invade England.

1085 Domesday Book planned at a Christmas Court.

1086 Murder of Cnut IV.

1087 William crosses to Normandy.

1087 9th September, William the Conqueror dies at St. Gervais near Rouen.

William The Conqueror’s Companions

The Principal Knights who were rewarded with land grants:

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (half brother of William)

He promised to provide 100 vessels of various sizes for the invasion fleet.

He was rewarded with the Earldom of Kent, with 184 lordships of land. In addition, he received 76 in Lincolnshire; 39 in Essex; 32 in Oxfordshire; 30 in Buckinghamshire; 23 in Herefordshire; 22 in Norfolk, and others in various counties; a total of 439.

He was made Count Palatine with authority over all the earls and magnates in the land. As Justice of England he was second only to the king in administration of the law and the military.

Robert, Comte de Mortain (half brother to William, and of Odo)

He promised to contribute 120 vessels of various sizes for the invasion fleet.

He was made Earl of Cornwall with 248 manors in the county, plus 196 in Yorkshire; 99 in Northumberland; 75 in Devon; 54 in Sussex; 49 in Dorset; 29 in Buckinghamshire, and 47 in other counties. He also received the borough of Pevensey.

Eudes de Champagne

Son of Etienne II Comte de Champagne and Brie.

After the Conqueror’s death he married William’s sister Adeliza (or Adelaide). He declared allegiance to the new king of England, William Rufus. Five years later he conspired with Robert de Mowbray, and others, to have his son, Stephen d’Aumale crowned king. The conspiracy failed and Eudes de Champagne was imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Eudo Al Chapel

The brother in law of Bishop Odo and Robert Comte de Mortain is thought to have been one of the Duke’s companions, and present in the battle.

Drogo de Brevere

He was rewarded with the Isle of Holderness where he built Skipsey Castle; he also received estates in various counties. By accident, or on purpose, he killed his wife and fled to the low countries; his estates were confiscated.

William de Warren

He was described as the Conqueror’s "loyal young vassel".

He received 300 manors—nearly half in Norfolk, also the Castle of Mortemer.

He stayed loyal to King William in the rebellion of 1074 and was rewarded with the Earldom of Surrey, and holdings in 13 counties. He married the daughter of William’s wife, Queen Matilda.

Humphrey de Bohun

He was called "the old" or "with the beard", because the Norman practice was to be clean shaven.

He is said to have been a near kinsman, by marriage, of King William. He received the lordship of Talesford in Norfolk.

Henry de Ferrers

Rewarded with the Castle of Tutbury. He also received 114 lordships in Derbyshire; 35 in Leicestershire; 20 in Berkshire; 7 in Staffordshire; 7 in Oxfordshire; 6 in Warwickshire and 21 in other counties. He was appointed on of the commissioners for the general survey of 1085.

Geoffrey de Mandeville

Rewarded with 118 lordships in various counties, of which, Walden in Essex became his family seat. He was created the first Constable of the Tower of London. His grandson, also called Geoffrey, was made Earl of Essex.

Hugh de Grentmesnil

He was one of the sons of Robert de Grentmesnil. He was described as "eminent for his skill and courage", and was among the principal combatants at Hastings.

He was appointed Viscount (Sheriff) of Leicestershire, Governor of Hampshire and received 100 manors; 65 of them in Leicestershire.

Richard de Courci

Son of Robert de Courci, who was a son of Baldric the Teuton (German). He "slew many English".

Reward with the Barony of Stoke in Somerset and manors in Oxfordshire. A great friend of Hugh de Grentmesnil; some of their children became related in marriage.

William Mallet

He was rewarded with large grants of land in Yorkshire. In 1069 he was captured by Danish Vikings when they burnt the city of York and killed 3000 Normans.

Also believed to have been among the principal knights but whose rewards are uncertain were:

William de Moulins; Hugh de Gournay; Guy de la Val; William de Albini; Willian de Vieuxpont; Raoul Taisson; William de Mohun; Eustace II, Count de Boulogne; Walter Giffard; Hugh de Montfort; William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford; Roger de Montgomeri, Earl ofArundel and Shrewsbury; Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulent and Earl of Leicester; Raoul de Toeni; Toustain Fitz Rou le Blanc; Hugh, Roger and Raoul de Mortemer; Aimeri, Vicomte de Thouars; Richard Comte D’Evreux and his son Guillaume; Robert, Comte d’Eu; Geoffrey, Seigneur de Mortagne, Comte de Perche; Alain Fergent, Earl of Richmond; Hugh d’Avranches, Earl of Chester; Geffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances; Richard de Bienfaite; Baldwin de Meules; Richard de Redvers; Gilbert de Montfichet; Roger le Bigod; Eudo Dipafer; Fulk d’Aunou; Richard de Nevil; Neelde Saint-Sauveur; William de Roumare; The Chamberlain of Tankerville; Urso d’Abetot; Walter and Ilbert de Lacy; Robert and Ivo de Vesci; Euguenulf de l’Aigle; Robert Marmion; Hugh de Beauchamp; Willian de Percy; Robert Fitz Erneis; William Parry de la Lande; William Crispin; Avenel de Biarz; Fulk d’Aulnay; Bernard de St. Valery; Robert D’Oiley; Jean d’Ivri; Raoul de Fougeres; Errand de Harcourt; William Painel; Walter d’Aincvourt; Samson d’Ansneville; Hamo de Creve-coeur; Picot de Say; Robert Bertram; Hugh de Port; William de Columbieres; Robert d’ Estouteville; William Peveral.

The Vikings in North West Francia

‘In the late eighth century, the Carolingean Empire appeared to be about to reconstitute the pan-European empire of the Romans, particularly after Charleman was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas day 800. This event effectively marked the beginning of that curious but persistent medieval phenomenon, the Holy Roman Empire, which continued to mould together the fragmented Germanic world throughout the middle ages.’ "The Normans" by Trevor Rowley, p14, (1999).

Charleman’s empire, a patchwork of principalities, lacked a military base and proved to be unstable. Following his death in 814 it began slowly to disintegrate into three areas; in the east Germany, in the west France, and in between, a Middle Kingdom (Lorraine, Burgundy and Lombardy). These sub-kingdoms were divided into areas controlled by counts, viscounts and dukes. Initially they held their power from the emperor, but, after his death, they became increasingly independent. Throughout the ninth century this fragmentation made the sea coasts of western Europe an easy target for the Vikings from Scandinavia.

Their tactics developed from hit-and-run raids on monasteries—an easy source of precious metals—to protectionist extortion, in England called the Danegeld, and finally to capturing fertile farm land where they would settle and put down roots.

By the last quarter of the ninth century the Scandinavians had conquered most of northern and middle England. Only the brave defence of Alfred the Great (King of Wessex 871-899) prevented their total conquest of England. He defeated them at Edington in Somerset, and a large force of Vikings transferred their attention from southern England, and across the channel to north western France.

The Seine estuary was a natural entry point into the heart of France, and in 845 the Viking leader, Raynar is reputed to have extracted 7000 pounds of silver from Emperor Charles II to leave Paris peacefully.

One Viking leader, Rollo (Rolf), who, according to tradition, was a Norwegian of noble birth, sailed up the River Seine in 911 and threatened Paris. King Charles III of West Francia, made a deal with Rollo, giving him the land around the mouth of the Seine, in exchange for his protection from attack by other invaders from the sea. Charles insisted also that Rollo and his men were immediately baptised and become Christians. So Rollo became the independent ruler of Rouen, a walled city situated on the north bank of the Seine. In 924 further lands in central and southern Normandy, along with the areas of Bayeux and Maine, were ceded to Rollo. By 933, Norman territory, with the further acquisition of the Breton peninsular, roughly conformed to its 1066 extent.

Many Scandinavian colonies were established around the river systems of mainland Europe, but only Normandy survived to become a principality.

Rollo was succeeded by his son William Longsword (c.924-942) who encouraged the revival of the monasteries until his assassination which triggered a pagan revival, civil disorder and attack from the king of France and Scandinavian raiders. He was succeeded by his ten year old son Richard I (942-996). Who, as he grew older, restored order and stability to Normandy and further encouraged Christianity and the development of the monasteries. After he died in 996 his son Richard II maintained the friendly relations with Scandinavia which had been established by his father. Under his rule the Normans, as they were now called by the French, gradually adopted the language and culture of their French neighbours. Adopting the title Duke, Richard appointed members of his family to rule parts of Normandy on his behalf; thus, a new social structure emerged. He died in 1026 and his son Richard III was duke for just a year before he was succeeded by his brother Robert I (1027-35). His reign was troubled by internal disorder. A liaison with an artisans daughter, Herleve, resulted in the birth, out of wedlock, of William, the future conqueror of England. Despite his domestic problems, Robert went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from which he never returned. He died suddenly in Bithynia on his way home. So William II, Duke of Normandy, came to the throne of Normandy.

Because of his illegitimacy, and his youth--William was only about seven or eight years old—his tenure on the throne of the duchy was greatly threatened by the rulers of neighbouring principalities and by the intrigues of members of his own family,. His grandfather, Richard II, had two sons, Count William of Arques, and Mauger, Archbishop of Rouen, by his second wife, the Norman, Pepia. They stirred up opposition to the young duke among the Norman nobility. Consequently, several unsuccessful attempts were made to kill William, but his guardian, Gilbert, his tutor, and his steward, Osbern were not so fortunate. But in 1047, Henry I of France came to Duke William’s aid and together their forces routed rebels under the command of Guy de Brionne at the battle of Val-es-Dunes, ending the worst of the threats against his throne.

Unlike his predecessors who had, militarily, kept a low profile, William began to attack his neighbours, as a result the king of France joined forces with the dukes enemies. Neglecting his ships, William concentrated on strengthening his war machine. He imported professional soldiers from surrounding provinces to improve the fighting abilities of his army. These knight were quickly assimilated into the Norman aristocracy and many featured at Hastings, and subsequently became prominent among Anglo-Norman baronial families in England. William also imported Arab horses from Spain and North Africa and bred swift, sure-footed war horses for his cavalry. And in 1054 he defeated an attack by the combined forces of France and Anjou. Count Guy de Ponthieu was captured and transferred his allegiance to the Norman duke.

William gradually built a group of allies among the nobility, including Robert Montgomery, William de Warren, Roger de Beaumont, William FitzOsbern, and the dukes half-brothers, Robert Count de Mortain, and Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. William appointed subordinate counts in areas of military importance. They were mostly directly related to him; this promoted political unity throughout Normandy. These allies were to give William stout support in future campaigns including his conquest of England.

By the middle of the 11th century the Normans had adopted the Frank system of territorial feudalism. Ownership of small estates was ceded to barons, bishops and abbots. They held them on a hereditary basis, and in return they provided knights for the dukes army for up to forty days a year. The land was worked by serfs who were tied to the land. The subjugation of hitherto free landholders led to a migration of disaffected knights and their followers to seek their fortunes in southern Europe where constant warfare between petty states provided many opportunities for enterprising private armies.

In 1050 or 51 William married the Matilda, the beautiful and diminutive daughter of Baldwin V, count of Flanders. This made Flanders an ally of Normandy and a number of Flemings fought at Hastings.

William also reinforced his control over the church by continuing his father’s policy that the duke, alone, had the authority to appoint Bishops and Abbots. As a result the role of the church in Normandy was akin to a branch of Government. This policy was followed in England after the conquest, and developed into a marriage of church and state; this empowered the church to strengthen its authority and make much needed reforms. Hitherto, the clergy had been more interested in arms than alms, and mistresses than chastity; but William’s father, Robert, appointed an Italian Benedictine reformer, William of Volpiano, to the abbey at Fecamp. From there he strengthened the church by training and appointing priests throughout Normandy. Between 1000 and 1066 the number of monasteries in Normandy increased from just five to more than thirty.

Another important Italian recruit to the Norman church was a cleric called Lanfranc. He arrived in the duchy about 1039 and founded a school Avranches. Six years later he was appointed prior of Bec monastery which he developed until it was regarded as one of the most influential abbeys in Europe. Lanfranc appointed William’s nominees to vacant sees; Odo, the dukes half-brother, to the bishopric of Bayeux, although he was still a youth and well below the canonical age of thirty. By these means William guaranteed his political control of the church and their estates throughout Normandy.

Throughout the 1050’s France and the principalities surrounding Normandy continued to threaten William but with mixed success. Then in 1060 circumstances turned in the Duke’s favour when William’s two greatest enemies, Henry I of France, and Geoffrey III Martel of Anjou, both died. Duke William took advantage and expanded his borders to the south by taking over Maine in 1063 and a year later he annexed Brittany to the west.

In this campaign he was aided by Harold Godwinson, brother of Edward the Confessor’s wife, Queen Edith. He had gone to Normandy, either to secure the release of his brother and nephew who were held there as hostages or, as the Bayeux claims, to establish the truth about promises made by Edward to Duke William. Three years later William was to claim the throne on the basis of assurances given him by King Edward that he would succeed him. Edward had lived the first half of his life in exile in Normandy, and maintained close ties with the Norman court throughout his life. Moreover, Edward the Confessor was related by marriage to William: his grandfather’s sister, Emma, was the mother of Edward A remarkable woman, she had been married to two consecutive kings of England, Ethelred and Cnut.

Reinforce this claim with the promise said to have been made by Harold Godwinson that he also would support William’s claim against that of the twelve-year-old, heir apparent, Edgar the Aetheling, the great nephew of Edward, and grandson of Edmund Ironside. So it appears that the duke of Normandy had as much a right to the throne of England as anyone.

This view is supported by a scene in the Bayeux tapestry which shows Harold being knighted by William after the Breton campaign, suggesting that Harold accepted the duke as his lord. The Bayeux also show Earl Harold giving William an oath of allegiance. Consequently, William released Harold’s nephew but withheld his brother, Wulfnoth, perhaps as a guarantee of the promise made by the Earl. Furthermore, the author of "VITA AEDWARDI" records that Harold was "rather too generous with oaths (alas)!"

However, the succession to the throne of England was by election of the Witan, not by descent, and they chose Harold Godwinson.

William was furious when news reached him of Harold’s accession to the throne, and he started planning his invasion.

Nicholas Breakspear

Nicolas Breakspear alias Hadrian (Adrian) IV. Born c. 1100 near St Albans, England; died September 1st 1159, He reigned in the middle of the Crusades era which pitched the Western Roman Empire against the Eastern branch and against Saracen-Islam forces.

He left England as a teenager, and studied and became a monk near Avignon, France. His excessive strictness brought him to the attention of the Pope. He progressed to become the Pope's chief liason Cardinal, and after a successful mission to reorganise the church hierarchy in Scandinavia, he was elected the next Pope (Dec.4th 1154 to Sept.1st 1159). The first and only English Pope, also the first to be commonly called, "Vicar of Christ". When his body was exhumed for inspection in 1607 it is recorded that it was found to be undecayed and still fully clothed.

He experienced difficulties balancing treaties between the Papacy's "Papal States" territory and greater Germany (the then Holy Roman Empire led by Frederick 1st Barbarossa) to the north, and the Norman Kingdom of William 1st the bad, king of Sicily who held the southern half of Italy and Sicily, in the south. Pope Adrian refused to recognise William and excommunicated him. In 1156 peace was made with the Sicilians and Adrian agreed to invest William, who in turn became the Pope's liege man. At the same time a hostile commune, led by Arnold of Brescia, had taken over Rome so that Adrian could not live there until Arnold was captured by Emperor Frederick.

As today many groups were in dissent, called "heretics" by the Catholic Church. The Amalric (who held that all humanity could become God); the Waldensians (best known for their poverty and evangelism); the Cathars/Albiensians (who held all materialism was evil) and many others. these "cults" were all persecuted for not towing the Papal (backed by the Imperial) line.

When the see of Dublin opted to become an Irish archbishopric in 1152. An outraged Archbishop of Canterbury sent his secretary, John Salisbury, to Pope Adrian who granted Henry II of England (1154-1189) the Donation of Ireland in a Papal Bull. Since by virtue of a clause in the Donation of Constantine the pope was held to be lord of all the islands of the sea. The Bull was subsequently refuted. Anyway, as Sir Winston Churchill wrote, the young "Lord of England and the greater part of France had little time for Irish problems. He left the affairs of the island to the Norman adventures." (A History of the English