Sunday, November 23, 2008

William the Conqueror

Been researching the family tree again. Its a process I enjoy and sometimes I find things, sometimes I don't. Found someone I wasn't expecting... William The Conqueror.

He's an ancestor down through the Dykeman Lines, so this is an ancestor on my mothers side (twice!) and my father's side as well. William would be my 29th great-grandfather. His line I have continued back to Rollo of Normandy who was born about 912, which currently is one of my earliest ancestors.

I don't recall learning much about William the Conqueror, so I did a little surfing and have included below some information I have found about him.After all If you're going to tell folks you're descended from William the Conqueror, you should know at least a little about him. Our family comes from his last son, Henry the first of England. The immigrant couple in this line are Grace Chetwood and her husband Peter Bulkeley, who traveled in the 1630s to the colonies. Yes, the family has been in America for a while now.

"William was born at Falaise, the bastard son of Robert, duke of Normandy, by Arlette, a tanner's daughter. On his father's death in 1035, the nobles accepted him as duke, but his youth was passed in difficulty and danger. When in 1047 the lords of the western part of the duchy rebelled, Henri I of France came to his help and the rebels were defeated at Val-des-Dunes. In 1051 he visited his cousin, the English king Edward 'the Confessor', and received the promise of the English succession.

 He married Matilda, daughter of Baudouin V, Count of Flanders, in 1053. In the next ten years William repulsed two French invasions, and in 1063 he conquered Maine. Although he was never keen on capital punishment, William 'the Bastard' could get touchy about jokes too near the bone; when he captured the town of Alençon that had displayed flayed skins on its walls in allusion to the tanner's trade (his maternal grandfather Fulbert had been a tanner), he chopped the right hand and left foot off each citizen to teach them a lesson about laughing last. It is likely that in 1064 Harold was at his court and swore to help him gain the English crown on Edward's death. However when Edward died in 1066, Harold became king. William laid his claim, and on 14 October he defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings (fought at Senlac near Hastings). Harold was slain and William was crowned on 25 December.

The west and north of England were subdued in 1068; but next year the north revolted, and William devastated the country between York and Durham. The constitution under William assumed a feudal aspect, the old national assembly becoming a council of the king's tenants-in-chief, and all title to land was derived from his grant. The Domesday Book of 1086 contains the land settlement. He also brought the English Church into closer relations with Rome. William's rule was stern and orderly. In 1070 there was a rebellion in the Fen Country and, under the leadership of Hereward the Wake, the rebels held out for some time on the Isle of Ely.

 The Scottish king Malcolm, who plundered the northern shires, sheltered English exiles. However in 1072 William compelled Malcolm to do him homage at Abernethy. In 1073 he reconquered Maine. He also made a successful expedition into South Wales. His eldest son Robert rebelled against him in Normandy in 1079. Having entered on a war with Philippe I of France in 1087, William burned Mantes. As he rode through the burning town, his horse stumbled and William was injured when thrown against the iron pommel of his saddle. He was carried to the priory of St. Gervase near Rouen where he confessed his sins.

 On 9 September 1087 he died there, commending his soul to the Virgin Mary, 'that by her holy prayers she may reconcile me to her Son, my Lord Jesus Christ'. The Saxon chronicler summed up William's character well when he wrote: 'He was mild to good men who loved God, and stark beyond all bounds to those who withsaid his will'. All his sons except Henry deserted his deathbed to fight for the succession; his officers and servants fled with what spoils they could take. A vassal bore his remains to the Abbaye aux Hommes at Caen."
- gives us this condensed history of William.