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Documents Places A Short History of the Dukes of Normandy The Primary sources concerning the dukes of Normandy and their descendents are: The Worcester Manuscript, covering the period 899 to 1130 The Winchester Manuscript, covering the period 60 BC to 1093 The Abingdon Manuscript, covering the period 60 BC to 1095 The Petersborough Manuscript, covering the period 60 BC to 1154 The works of Bishop Odo of Rouen Doomsday Book Snorri Sturluson Harald Háfagra Saga, written in ca. 1220 AD The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester The first four of these manuscripts are collectively known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Analysis shows that before the contemporary parts of these manuscripts begin, the earlier parts of all, except the Abingdon manuscript, came from the same earlier original source. The Abingdon manuscript came from a southern version taken from the same original source. Parts obviously came from Saint Bede, Roman literature and the Bible. Robert 1st Duke of Normandy, aka Hrólf the Ganger, aka Rollo was the sixth descendent of King Hálfdan Ólófsson of Norway and William the Conqueror was his 12th descendent. Hrólf made many Viking raids and eventually conquered a large area in France around the mouth of the Seine. King Charles the Simple of France feared he would sail up the Seine and conquer Paris. He gave Hrólf what is now Normandy, named for the “Northmen” conquerors, made him Robert I Duke of Normandy and gave him his daughter in marriage. William the Conqueror, 6th Duke of Normandy and King of England, was the ancestor of a long line of British kings and other nobility. He was also known as Guillaume Duc de Normandie, and William the Bastard. His mother was the daughter of a tanner. All of the early Dukes of Normandy had no legitimate children and their children by concubines succeeded to the dukedom. Although the French nobility did not often recognize their illegitimate children, they eagerly married the illegitimate children of the Dukes of Normandy because of their wealth and power. William was also the ancestor of the nobility of other countries, particularly France. William was born in 1027 at Falais. He acceded as Duke of Normandy in 1035 at age 8, but gained power in 1054 after years of rebellion. He was crowned King of England at age 38, on Christmas Day 1066. He married Lady Mathilde, daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders and his wife, Princess Adela of France. He was the first Duke of Normandy to choose his own wife. William inherited the huge fief of Normandy as a child, and as Duke of Normandy in theory he was a vassal of the King of France. In fact he was so wealthy and powerful, he was independent, and often fought, the king of France. In 1062 William subjugated Maine. When King Edward the Confessor of England was exiled for twenty-five years, he lived under the protection of William's father, Duke Robert. King Edward probably named William his successor in 1051 or 1052. In any case the Pope supported William’s claim to the English throne. In fact William had no valid claim to the throne of England because the king had no authority to name his successor. At that time kings were elected by the nobles. Earl Harold Godwinsson of Essex was ship wrecked off the coast of Normandy and stayed with William for quite some time and even accompanied him on military campaigns. The 70 meter (231 foot) Bayeux tapestry depicting William’s invasion of England also shows William’s campaign to discipline his vassal the Duke of Brittany and his battle at Mont Saint Michael. Mont Saint Michael is a tidal island, surrounded by water only at high tide. The Bayeux tapestry shows Earl Harold pulling some of William’s soldiers out of the quicksand. While he was in effect in William's power Harold swore an oath to support William in his bid for the English crown. On his deathbed on the 5th of January 1066, King Edward allegedly granted his kingdom to Earl Harold Godwinsson of Essex, the most powerful man in England at the time. Few people were present when King Edward died and Harold Godwinsson leaned his ear close to the king, then said he called on all present to bear witness that the king had named him as his successor. Although the king had no authority to name his successor, Harold Godwinsson was in fact unanimously elected king and consecrated in the usual legal manner. He was crowned King of England on 6 January 1066. William believed he had a better right to the throne. He was the great-nephew of Queen Emma, King Edward's mother. William and King Edward were second cousins. The nearest heir to the English throne was Prince Edgar the Ætheling, grandson of King Edmund Ironside, but he was still a child. William believed Harold had broken his word, denounced him as a traitor and vowed to conquer England. At the time England was in serious danger of invasions by several claimants to the throne. William Duke of Normandy, King Harold Hardrada of Norway and King Sven of Denmark all claimed the throne. King Harold expected an invasion by William and kept his army and fleet on the alert along the southern coast of England from May 1066. William assembled his invasion fleet at Dives-sur- Mer, but his channel crossing was delayed by bad weather and adverse winds and on September the 8th Harold dispersed his forces. This may have been part of William’s strategy. He certainly knew of the other claims to the throne and expected an invasion. He may have delayed his departure to allow the other claimants to weaken Harold’s forces. It is too much of a coincidence that William invaded England less than a week after King Harold III Hardrada was defeated. King Harold III Hardrada and King Harald of England’s brother Tostig invaded Yorkshire on September the 20th and defeated a local force. Harold’s army marched north and attacked the invaders at Stamford Bridge. The invaders were defeated and King Harold Hardrada and Tostig were both killed. On September the 27th, three days after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the weather improved. William had moved his fleet to the mouth of the Somme and he crossed the channel and landed a maximum of 4,000 infantry and cavalry, without opposition, at Pevensey Bay, Sussex, about 250 miles south of Stamford Bridge. He marched east along the coast to Hastings. Harold did not hear of the landing until October the 14th and rushed his army of 7,000 men south to engage William's invading force. Harold mobilized only half of his trained men. Half of his 7,000 men were poorly trained peasants who fought on foot, armed mostly with battle axes, spears and slings. He had no cavalry or archers. Harold depended on resistance rather than attack. William's force was little more than half as large, but included, cavalry, archers and crossbow-men, specialized in the arts of war. Many were mercenaries recruited for this expedition. In the church at Dives-sur-Mer in Normandy, inside over the door, is a list of William’s companions in the invasion. It contains only about a fifteenth of the total army, so was probably a list of the nobles.   King Harold made a number of strategic and tactical blunders that cost him the battle and his life. At dawn on October the 14th William moved his forces towards the ridge Harold occupied, 10 miles northwest of Hastings. William deployed his men with archers in the front, followed by infantry and his knights in three rear groups. Harold took a defensive position and surrounded himself and his standards with his trained troops in the center on the highest ground. He positioned his untrained troops on the hills protected by the steep ridges on each side. Harold's troops were deployed in a confined defensive position. William’s archers opened the attack and found them easy targets. William's infantry took heavy losses from slings and spears and his cavalry was initially driven off by troops armed with two- handed battle axes. William alternated cavalry and archery attacks. Twice he feigned retreats, drawing many Englishmen in pursuit, then turned and destroyed them. Two of Harold's brothers were killed and an arrow through his eye killed King Harold. The English troops fought on without a leader until dark and then fled leaving William free to march to London. The story of the Conquest of England, depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, can still be seen today in the Centre Guillaume le Conquérant in Bayeux, Normandy. It is said it was woven by William’s wife Matilda, but it was commissioned by William’s half brother Odo Bishop of Rouen and was probably produced in an Anglo-Saxon workshop. It is not really a tapestry. It is an embroidery on linen. Archbishop Aldred and the London garrison wanted the child Prince Edgar the Ætheling as king and the earls Morcar and Edwin promised support. William waited at Hastings for the English to submit, but when none came he began raiding toward London. At Berkamsted, Archbishop Aldred, Prince Edgar, and the earls Morcar and Edwin, submitted to William and swore loyalty. On midwinter's day 1066 in London Archbishop Aldred consecrated him King William I, Conqueror of England. The English did not easily submit and many areas continued to resist. In 1067 the English revolted several times. William seized the lands of nobles who rebelled, or were accused of conspiring to rebel, and gave it to his Norman followers. Prince Eadric went to Scotland with many of his men. King Malcolm of Scotland and Queen Margaret, the prince's sister, gave them sanctuary. In 1068 King William offered the people of the north safe conduct and would confirm the inheritances of those who came voluntarily. When they came, he imprisoned them and gave their lands to his Norman followers. William built castles with moats all over the land to control the English, and in London he built a tall tower surrounded by a moat. His Barons were required to provide knights to protect the kingdom and every landowner was required to provide manpower. If a baron died with only a daughter, King William selected a husband to ensure a supply of knights. Knights and their vassals were required to provide 40 days service per year and could be required to serve longer if the king paid the expenses. King William accepted the advice of William Earl of Hereford, and permitted all of the Holy Minsters in England to be raided to find treasures Englishmen left in them for safekeeping. William implemented a feudal system in England. During his reign it was said England was the safest Feudal state and one could safely travel across the entire land. The Curfew Law he enacted angered many and and he dispossessed many to make the New Forest. William sent his men to record all land in England, its value, its production and what taxes he could collected. " ... there was not one yard of land ..., not one ox, not one cow and not one pig left out, that was not set down in his record ... ." William ordered that this be written in a book kept in the treasury at Winchester. This is called the Doomsday Book. This great achievement passed on a vast amount of information about how people lived in Medieval England. King Harold's sons Godwin, Edmund, Magnus and Tostig sailed from Ireland to the Avon, plundered the region, and took their booty back to Ireland. In midsummer they sailed to the mouth of the Taws. Earl Brian took them by surprise and killed many. The survivors fled on their ships back to Ireland. In 1068 three sons of King Sven of Denmark sailed up the Humber with 240 ships. They demolished York castle, killed many Normans and captured a great treasure. In 1070 King Sven himself sailed into the Humber with his fleet to claim the throne. To prevent the land from being sacked, the people made peace. They were plundered anyway, especially treasures from monasteries. The Kings William and Sven came to terms and the Danes took the treasure and put to sea. A great storm scattered the ships to Norway, Ireland and Denmark and much of the treasure was lost. In 1085 King Cnut of Denmark set out to England to claim the throne, with the help of his father-in-law Count Robert of Flanders. William returned from Normandy with an army so huge no one believed the island could feed it. William quartered his army according to how many the land could support. He laid coastal lands to waste, to prevent the Danes from finding provisions. The Danes were hindered by the weather and did not come. William sent his foreign troops home. William spent a good part of his time, not only protecting his kingdom from within, but also attacking foreign lands. In 1072 he crossed the Forth into Scotland and King Malcolm made peace and gave hostages, including his son Duncan. In 1073 he crossed the English Channel, conquered Maine and despoiled the land and its vineyards. In 1077 he again crossed the Channel and attacked Brittany, but the French King Philip I came to their aid and William lost many men, horses and much treasure. In 1079 William's son Robert fled to his uncle Robert in Flanders. William refused to permit him to govern his earldom in Normandy, given to him by both William and the king of France. Robert fought with William at Gaberoy Castle and William was wounded in the hand and his horse was killed under him. Another horse was brought up by Toko Wigodsson and William escaped. The Worcester Manuscript and The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester give another version: William was wounded in the arm and Robert, recognizing his voice, gave his own horse to his father for him to escape. 1087 William marched from Normandy into France and raided against King Philip, who was technically sovereign over William as the Duke of Normandy. William burned Mantes, the capitol of Vexin, and all holy Minsters inside the town. Two holy men died in the flames in their Minster, as did many people of Mantes. On his deathbed William ordered restitution by rebuilding the churches. The Petersborough Manuscript describes William as: "... Greedy, avaricious, oppressive, strict, stern and violent. ... He was stern beyond measure to those who dared oppose him. ... He even imprisoned his stepbrother Bishop Odo of Normandy and Bayeux, Earl of Kent and the foremost man after the king. ... Yet he was wise and powerful and kind to good men who loved God ... He built monasteries all over England, endowed them well and filled them with monks... ." William never learned to speak English. He became bald and fat and King Philip I of France made ribald jokes about his enormous stomach. William heard this, and burned the city of Nantes in France. Riding through the ruins William's horse stepped on a hot coal. He fell against the pommel of his saddle and was injured. In Rouen he became seriously ill, and died on 9 September 1087 after a 21 year reign. Another version says he was wounded in battle and taken to a monastery in Rouen, where he died three days later. He is buried in the Minster he built and endowed, Saint Etienne (in English Saint Stephen's) in Caen. William’s attendants robbed his chamber and left his corpse almost naked on the floor. A kind country knight named Herluin made the funeral arrangements. After the reformation Protestants opened William’s grave expecting to find a treasure. There was none and they intended to throw his bones into the Seine. A monk rescued one leg bone and this is the only part of his remains now in his tomb in the church of the Saint Etienne Monastery in Caen. His wife Mathilde is buried in the church of the convent, Abbey des Dames, she founded in Caen, but her tomb now only contains two of her bones. Three sons survived him: Robert, the eldest succeeded him as Duke of Normandy, William succeeded him as king of England, and he left great wealth to his third son Henry. On his death bed William commanded his son William to give the content of his jewel-house in Winchester to all Holy Minsters in England and to release all prisoners under his control. William released the prisoners and distributed a vast treasure in gold, silver, gems and other valuable goods too numerous to catalog. A long line of English and many other kings are descended from William. Several were also dukes of Normandy and therefore, in principle, vassals of the Kings of France. This lead to wars in defense of the dukedom of Normandy and resulted in the Magna Charta. The English barons said their duty was to provide manpower and weapons to defend England and not to defend the king’s foreign domains. They forced King John to sign a document defining their rights. This document is called the beginning of democracy, but in fact it only defined the rights of the nobility and had nothing to do with the common people. This conflict ultimately lead to the Hundred Years War between England and France. The English changed the art of warfare with their longbow archers. A cavalry of armored nobles had been the deciding factor in most battles. But the English peasant archers, a great distance from the battle, could rain armor penetrating arrows on charging knights and decimate their ranks before they could reach their enemy. The English kings forbid most sports and encouraged archery contests to maintain a supply of skilled archers. The result was that England controlled more of France than the French king. In the end the cannon changed the outcome, because it could knock down the English castles without risking troops. England lost more and more French land until they only held the port city of Calais and it was also finally lost. Not only kings were descended from Hrólf der Ganger, aka Robert Duke of Normandy. A good many of the leading figures in the American Revolution were also descended from him and the English kings. Genealogy Home People Places Gravestones Documents