In the previous seminars, we examined just how William came to be William The I of England. In this one we shall look at how he also became known as The Conqueror.
So although King of England William had many responsibilities. William, as we know originated in Normandy, which was not the same as France. In much the same way that neither were Maine, Anjou and Brittany to name but three. Whoever was count of Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc in addition to fighting other counts, they also had to deal with troublesome relatives and revolting subject lords, of which there were many. Thus they were so busy they simply didn’t have time to recognise The King of France, unless he made it his business for them to do so by his leading a large army over their lands. And of course there were still some Vikings who had not realised their day was over, and it was time to stay Nordic and brood.
Realising he would have a regular commute across the channel William decided he would adopt most Anglo-Saxon laws as they seem quite well organised. Including a cleverly designed centralised taxation system .True he would have to adjust a few to prove that Norman nobles were always right in the eyes of the law (and possibly exempt from taxes), but he calculated that if he was tolerably affable to the Anglo-Saxon nobility and only execute those who lands he wanted he could arrange things to everyone’s satisfaction leaving him to deal with the more important business with Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc.
However because 1066 had been momentous other people thought they should do stirring things as well and William was obliged to deal with the following.
A count of Boulogne who was useless but dissatisfied with his gain from 1066 and decided he wanted Dover; he tried to convince some folk who were rather Kentish to assist. It didn’t work.
There was an Anglo-Saxon Eadric who being wild thought he should rebel until William defeated him, thus with his wildness out of his system he settled down.
Another problematic person was a sleepless person known as Hereward, he avoided capture by convincing everyone Ely was an Isle but more importantly by being legendary. William being very cunning dealt with him by arranging the legend so that Hereward found he had been recorded as escaped to the continent at this point he lost his way.
The most troublesome of events for William with the exception of Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc. was some surly Anglo-Saxon adolescent. This aetheling known as Edgar truculently invited some of those unsettled Vikings over and started rebelling in The North. William not sure if this was really Harold, or even Harald marched north with a large army intent on slaughtering anyone called Harold or any variation. This was called the harrying of the north, although technically should have been known as the edgaring. As his orders were vague on this matter most of his army didn’t bother to stop and check the names resulting in the North not recovering for many years. Annoyingly, although captured Edgar was let off and allowed to flee to the continent. As he was not legendary he kept rebelling until he discovered Italy and the Crusades.
In an attempt to stop all this rebelling William and those Normans who were loyal to him and not conniving with Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc. went about England building castles at a prodigious rate, so much so that even Stonehenge was quite overlooked for a few centuries.
Thinking all was settled William went back to dealing with Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc. However he found out some of his Anglo-Saxon earls were revolting, which his newly acquired common folk could have told him anyway. To punish them and remove some of their power he savagely abolished slavery, which undercut their property at a stroke. He then imposed a feudal system under which everyone belonged to the King, so nobles couldn’t sell anyone anymore as everyone was the king’s property. Many have railed against this system; they never having been at the very bottom end of the social ladder. To make sure no one would be inclined to question any of this William had everything written up in the Domesday Book. Although this sounds apocalyptical, it was actually one of the greatest Civil Service achievements of all time as it proved everyone was somewhere, and this could not be disputed as William had signed the book.
Because Williams was often away attending to Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc. The scots under Malcom who was III invaded. This was in a way, fortunate for William as it gave his eldest son Robert something to do other than to plot against his father with Norman rebels, Maine, Anjou, Brittany etc. Robert successfully stopped the scots, invaded them right back and being a good Norman built a castle or two.
Having been told that the land to the west, was called Wales and some of its princes had earlier employed a few of his countrymen to invade and thus bother Anglo-Saxons William thought he should pay them a social visit. This he did with an army. What was rather puzzling to the welsh princes was the fact that he did not use his army to employ sword, flame or the new invention of harrying. The whole thing was rather peaceful and having made himself known he went away again, although the welsh did find few largish castles which hadn’t been there before inhabited by Norman garrisons.
It will be concluded therefore that William was a very active and mobile king, so it should come as no surprise that one day he died in the saddle in 1087 and thus not able to end the century in a proper and neat fashion.
In the next seminar, we shall consider the ramifications of this.