From « WELCOME TO NORMANDY » :
3 – WILLIAM, called “The Bastard”, Duke of Normandy and King of England
B - THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS
... AND WILLIAM BECOMES KING
|William, Duke of Normandy,|
King of England
On the 5th January 1066, Edward The Confessor died in London, without descendants ...
Forgetting his promises and his oasth, Harold had himself crowned as King of England by the Bishop STIGAN on the 6 th in Westminster. Informed to this perjury ( And after we shall say with a recent affair that we do not like perjury !) and sensing treason William prosteted and tried to negociate but in vain ..!
Assuring himself of the agreement of his supporters, not without some reticence on their part, the Duke gathered together in the Roads of DIVES an immense flotilla of more than 900 drakes and an army of 40.000 men and also 14.000 horses to help him recover “HIS” kingdom.
The Pope, who reproached the Court of England for not paying him regularly the “denier”of Saint Peter’, sent to protect him the Standard of Saint Peter, a white flag with a red cross on it.
On the 25 th August 1066, William, aboard his admiral’s ship : the “MORA” ( Built in BARFLEUR), on the mast of which flew the banner of the sovereign pontiff, gave the order to weigh anchor and assemble at SAINT-VALERY-SUR-SOMME. There to await favourable winds.
In fact, William, whose intelligence services functioned perfectly, knew that another pretender to the throne of England had just landed of the shores of Eastern England. It was the King of Norway, HARALD HARDRADA.
The latter successfully entered the mouth of the HUMBER. Harold Godwinson immobilised his troops and, profiting from the imprudence of King Harald, beat his men at the Battle of Stamford. The Norvegian king was killed during the fighting.
However, as he prepared to take his place on the throne, Harold learned in amazement the news of the embarkation of William on the morning of 26 September and that he was half way across the Channel.
Fifty miles from the english coasts William stopped his ships in order to regroup. On the morning of 29 September they landed at PEVENSEY on the SUSSEX coast. No one was there to rebuff them ! He has able to disembark knights, then matérials, in complete calm, install themslves and create fortifications.
The last to disembark, William slipped and fell his head in the sand. The soldiers considered this fall as a bad omen but the Duke recovered the situation by shouting : “ By the splendour of God ! I hold earth in my hands and as my companions, it is yours !”
William, as a good Norman, did not “burn his boats” which returned to Normandy to transport new troops.
Exhausted after an 11 day forced march, Harold, who had sent back a part of his troops and ships, headed south.
Towards 10 0ctober, he arrived in HASTINGS and “dug in” on SENLAC hill.
William left for the confrontation and in the morning of 14 October 1O66 after a long nigh where the two armies were a few hundred meters apart, a fearsome battle was ready.
Three corps made up William’s army, on each side of the Norman knights were the soldiers of the Count of Boulogne and Ponthieu and the conscrips from MAINE, BRITTANY and POITOU.
The Duke, mounted on a powerful charger, was at the head of his troops. To the cry of “DIEX AIE !” standing in his stirrups, he launched the battle, the troops avanced singing the “CHANSON DE ROLAND “...
It took thee assaults by William to beat the troops of Harold supported at the foot of the hill.
William was everywhere,sword in hand . Suddenly an arrow hit Harold, mortally wounding him,William has won the battle.
His first gesture was to pay homage to the 15.000 warriors from his army that had been killed. At the top of the hill he had an abbeybuilt in their memory, “Battle Abbey”. Then resolute, the Duke went to London via the coast, fortifying DOVER on the way. The Norman troops crossed the THAMS at WALLINGFORD.
On 25 December 1066, the coronation took place in Westimnster. While William was in the foot of the alter the Archbishop of York asked the English and the Bischop of Coutances the Normans, if they agreed to recognise William as their legitimate sovereign. The ovation of the English was so loud that the Normans remained outside fearing a last minute treason.
By his reign on the “Grande Ile”, William founded a new overseas dynasty wtih the wish to unite the two people under the same law.
The Norman barons were recompensed with numerous fiefdoms confiscated from the nobles who had supported Harold. They became the stock of the new English aristocraty : Montgomery, Chawford, Rokely,...Hugues called “THE WOLF”, Viscount of Avranches, became Count of Chester.
But no combat the abuses, William imposed twenty years after his accession to the throne the “DOMESDAY”, in which were listed all the possessions and benefits in England since 1066.
Up to his death, he had castles built to spread his net across England but he also introduced a number of important social, administrative and religious reforms : numerous abbeys and monasteries being restored or built with white stones wich were brought from Normandy (stone of Caen).
Two beautiful examples can be cited : the use of the “white stone” brought by the ship from the Norman quarries to London to rebuid WESTMINSTER ABBEY on the plan of the ABBEY OF JUMIEGES on the bank of the SEINE in eastern Normandy and the TOWER OF LONDON, the “WHITE TOWER”, typical tower of feudal Normandy which shows strange similarities to the castle of IVRY-LA-BATAILLE in Normandy.
In 1070, he named LANFRANC, Abbot of SAINT-ETIENNE de CAEN as Archbishop of CANTERBURY and Primate of England, and little by little Norman priests remplaced Saxon priests.
Born in PAVIE around 1010, Lanfranc taught in Avranches before becoming a monk and then Abbot of BEC where he would manage to give to his community an intellectual level never attained before. He became in time the friend and close adviser of William. After Lanfranc was nominated, in Saint-Etienne Abbey another italian succeeded him as Abbot of BEC-HELLOUIN, he was SAINT-ANSELM who would also become Primate of England in 1093.
This great theologian left celebrated works and also helped to reinforce the cultural influence of Normandy.
Henceforth given the titles of Duke of Normandy and King of England, William would live partly in Normandy and partly in England.
He introduced Norman customs to the island.
Historians have reproached the Normans for having lacked modesty in their success such that the English forged on their side a tenacious resentment. They also say that the battle of Hastings raised between the two people a “bronze wall”.
Il is true that the relations between the Saxons and the Normans became so difficult that the later imposed their own “institutions” beginning with the law against hunting ( Only the King has the right to hunt and no one could kill an animal even if on his own land without the permission of the souvereign. Death was the penalty for those who disobeyed).
The Normans also imposed their language to the detriment of the Saxon language. We see, however, the development of this language, full of Norman vocabulary would become the English tongue.
From many years, the “Norman French” ( which will spoken in Jersey and Guernsey) would be the official language of the Court of the “Great” of England.