William the Bastard

William, the son of the Duke of Normandy (in France), a descendent of Norse invaders, decided to pursue his claim to the throne of England as the grand-nephew of King Alfred the Confessor’s mother. After a tumultuous childhood in which three of his guardians were murdered, William secured his dukedom and married into one of the most noble families of Europe. William showed a “magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance” and stood about 5’10″. Pic shows William (center) in the center with his brothers, Bishop Odo (left) and Robert (right).

After he defeated King Harold Godwinson at Hastings, William was crowned king of England on Christmas Day, 1066 in Westminster Abbey. William rewarded his allies well and punished his enemies viciously. In the “The Doomsday Book,” a survey of land ownership taken in 1085, only two Anglo-Saxon barons that held lands before 1066 retained those lands twenty years later. About 4,000 nobles were displaced. The Norman landowners built primitive castles to defend their new territories. William built and improved numerous castles. Though extremely obese, William enjoyed excellent health until old age when he was impaled on the saddle of his horse in 1087 after a battle. The coffin was too small for his bloated corpse and when the attendants attempted to force it inside, the body burst. What a mess!!

Tomorrow, The Aftermath of Hastings      Rita Bay

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