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vendredi 8 juin 2012



3 – WILLIAM, called “The Bastard”, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

A - “The father” of England...
William "The Bastard" in front of Falaise Castle
gouache from Gerard ROGER

On a part of the ancient territory of NEUSTRIE, Rollon, renamed ROBERT 1er , first DUKE OF NORMANDY, succeeded in a rare « tour de force » in establishing himself with the King of France, the latter undestanding, that with him in place, his possessions in the north would be protected from other invasions.

The Duke also knew how to retain the respect of his followers by entrusting them with important military posts. Equally he excelled in reaching a compromise with the Church which retained his organisation and even accepted him for baptism ! Better, still he suceeded in having his son accepted as his successor !

It is to him that the Normans owe the declaration of “HARO”, which allows to each person the right to appeal directly the rule of the Duke !

When he died in 932, his territory, which he had divided into counties, extended from the BRESLE and the EPTE in the east up to the VIRE in the west and to the south as far as ALENCON.

His son, WILLIAM called “ LONGUE EPEE ”, who had succeeded him in 927 enlarged Normandy roughly to today’s limits with the acquisition of COTENTIN, in fighting the BRETONS and the “Normands of the west” stayed true to the viking traditions. A fervent Christian, he reconstructed the ABBEY OF JUMIEGES, built on the SEINE side three centuries earlier.

But the new Duke was assassinated in 942 at the instigation of the Count of Flanders... backed by the King of France. He was succeeded by his son RICHARD 1er “Without Fear” who consolidated the ducal heritage building or restoring the CATHEDRAL OF ROUEN and the ABBEYS OF MONT-SAINT-MICHEL and FECAMP.
He died in 996. His son RICHARD 2nd “the Good or the Intrepid”continued his work. To help confirm his power against his dangerous neighbourgs he called on the Nordik fleet commanded by “OLAF THE LARGE” who should be baptised in the cathedral of Rouen and become in this country SAINT OLAF.
At this time, KNUT THE DANE married Emma sister of Duke Richard and widow of the anglo-saxon King ETHELRED, King of Denmark, Norway and England he thus laid the foundations of a Norman Empire which would take TANCRED DE HAUTEVILLE to SICILY, CALABRIA, APULIA and BOHEMOND to Antioch, Richard accorded great privileges to the church and backed the bulding of monasteries.

RICHARD 3nd succeeded him in 1027 but died some months later on his return to FALAISE... poisoned by his younger brother, the Count of Hiemes, who thus becam Duke under the name of ROBERT THE MAGINFICENT !

Here the romantic episode of his meeting with young Arlette of Falaise intervenes...

As he returned to his castle in Falaise after a  hunting party, the young Duke noticed at the spring of the ANTE, the river which runs past the castle, in the middle of a group of young women “wringing” the landry, a “magnificent creature”. He fell in love with her there and then and led “in full array” to the castle and married her “ in the style of the Danes”...

A chronical reported : “ The first night of their acquaintance, Arlette who was asleep, trembling, gave a loud cry. The Duke asked the reason, she replied that she had dreamt that there was a large tree coming from his stomach which extended branches so long and so hight that they put all the Normandy in the shade... Being huge, she throught his entrails would extend throughout the whole of Normandy and England.

This young woman which legend calls ARLETTE FULBERT was in fact named Herlève Fulbert. Her father was a citizen of Falaise, a furrier of Flemish origin.

At the end of December 1027, a happy event was celebrated in the castle of Falaise :the woman brought into the world a strong child who was called WILLIAM.

Seeing the baby pull towards him the straw of the mattres on which she had placed him, the wise woman, cried out : “by my faith ! This child starts acquiring and amassing young!”

The child was raised alongside his father up to the day when the latter, wanting to atone for the crime that he had previously committed, decided,against the advice of his barons to leave a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Before his departure he had his young bastard son accepted as his successor. He also made one of his faithful supporters EUDES  DE CONTEVILLE, promise to marry Arlette if anything happened to him on the journey...

In Constantinople as in Jerusalem, ROBERT THE MAGNIFICENT did not go unnoticed with his impressive Norman knights and his expensive entourage. He showered off the power of the Duchy of Normandy.

Alas, on his return journey, in Asia Minor, he contracted the plague.

Before dying, he charged a Norman pilgrim to announce his demise to his people. His last words being : “Tell them I go to heaven carried by four black devils !”

Once the new became knowm in Normandy, there was a period of depression and then shortly afterwards, forgetting their promises, and their oaths, a group of Norman knights ( at the head of which – as alwaysn the “Normans of Cotentin” who wanted to return to the scandinavian traditions) began a rebellion refusing to accept that the young WILLIAM succeed his father under the pretext that he is a “bastard”. 
The child would never forget this terrible insult. Keeping his promise EUDES DE CONTEVILLE married Arlette and who gave him two sons : ODON, future bishop of BAYEUX and ROBERT DE MORTAIN.

William took refuge with his father in law to forget for a moment... Without ever forgetting.
In 1042, EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, uncle of Williamn became KING OF ENGLAND.
In 1047, after having already to years earlier escaped a plot led by Guy of Brionne, who wanted to get rid of him and put in his place Guy Of Burgundy(*), the young William, powerful with the support of a large part of Norman Nobility, regained his title. Thus he confronted the rebel barons.
William, already a strong strategist; souhgt the help of his overlord, the King of France, Henry 1st (1031-1060).

The meeting took place to the south-east of Caen at VAL-ES-DUNES, on the 5th of August 1047.

Before the battle, William, who had established his camp on the banks of the MUANCE, attended Mass in the church of Valmeray.

The rebels charged to the cry of the Viking ancestors : “THOR AIE !” (THOR HELP US!) whereas William troops, to the cry of “DEI AIE!” (GOLD HELP US !) won a brilliant victory. 

Shortly afterwards, the young Duke put down the remaining active rebels.

Henceforth, he was indisputably DUKE OF NORMANDY and he set about reinforcing and organising his domain. He made CAEN the second capital of his Duchy to keep a closer eye on his barons.

He gave important posts to his closest acquaintances and cultivated useful relations with the clergy. In 1049, he gave his half brother ODON the diocèse of Bayeux and a year later he gave the County of Mortain to his other half brother Robert.

In 1050, in spite of a ban on the marriage to his cousin by Pope Léon IX at the Council of Reims, he married PRINCESS MATHILDE23 years old - daughter of Beaudoin V, Count of Flanders, and grand-daughter of the King of France, Robert II “the Pious”. The ceremony took place at EU in strict privacy.

Being aware of his appetite for power and conquest, the neighbours of the young Duke, the BRETONS, the ANGEVINS, kept a close watch on the borders of Normandy.

The King of France, who had helped William to seize power, was concerned to see such a strong and attractive Duchy close to Paris.

In 1053, the siege of ARQUES took place and in 1054 William defaited at MORTEMER a Franco/Angevine coalition.

Three years later, at VARAVILLE, near DIVES, he gained a second victory against the same Franco/Angevines. 
The royal troops and the Angevines, coming from ANGERS, entered Normandy by the HIESMOIS
The King of France, who was commading the armies stopped at the Abbey of SAINT-PIERRE-SUR-DIVES, before reaching the CAEN plain.

Therefor, as they crossed the river “ORNE”, William left FALAISE and set out the head of his cavalry for the bridge at VARAVILLE where the Franco/Angevins had to cross the DIVES.

With clever strategy and the help to the peasants who joined him along the way, William, coming from BAVENT, attacked the army of HENRY 1st from behind pushing the majority of the troops towards the bridge which collapsed. Almost all the soldiers died in the river with a level incraesed by the high tide. But William had a larger view of his destiny, more global that the norm in the years around 1060 !

He was kept regularly informed of everything that happened at the Court in LONDON, where “his relative” the King, EDWARD THE CONFESSOR reigned. 
The latter was the son of EMMA, the widow of the King of England, ETHEREL. William was, therefor, the cousin of EDWARD who in his youth had seen elevated to the Court of Normandy. 

Having returned to reign in England in 1044, he had around him numerous Norman advisers duch that the Anglo-Saxons said that Edward had a “ Norman Section” in the Court of London. 
Edward was married to a saxon princess, Edith GODWINSON, but no successor was born to the marriage. In 1051, he had offered the succession to WILLIAM 2th of NORMANDY.

At the beginningof the year 1060, William had his eyes firmly fixed on the “Grand Ile”. He knew that Edward the Confessor would die...

In 1063, he conquered MAINE...
In 1064, the son of the head of the Anglo-Saxon part of the Court of London, Harold GODWINSON, was charged with a mission to the Duke of Normandt. 

He made a hazardous crossing and landed on the beaches of PONTHIEU. Taken prisonner, he was “bought back”by William who brought him to Normandy. Harold was given a warm welcome and joined with the Duke in several “rides” notably in Brittany. 

Harold carried a message from Edward The Confessor, confirming to William the promise that he had made. A William’s request, Harold before his return to England, swore on the ancient relics of the CHATEAU DE BONNEVILLE SUR TOUQUES that he would accept to be his servant....

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