William the Conqueror 2016 Front Cover
  • PUBLISHER: Yale University Press
  • ISBN: 9780300118759 / 0300118759
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William the Conqueror 2016

This erudite account is about how the illegitimate son of a tanner’s daughter against all odds became the King of England. William had been named by his father, Duke Robert, as his heir before embarking on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1035. In those days bustard didn’t carry the same stigma that it would in later years.. However, William was always touchy about his birth. Robert died on the way home from Jerusalem. Later at the siege of Alencon in 1052, William had those who taunted him about his illegitimacy mutilated.
Anarchy broke out as rival Barons fought to gain control of young William. His life was in constant danger. In 1046 an attempt was made to replace him by his cousin, Guy of Burgundy, supported by barons of Western Normandy. In 1047, the French King, Henry 1, came to his rescue and the rebels were defeated at Val-es-Dunes. This baptism of fire hardened William and thereafter he became, as Bates points out, a ruthless, often cruel, man. The battle was a military rite of passage that set him up for 1066.
William inspired fear, awe and acquiescence. In 1989, Bates wrote another book with the same title that was aimed at the general reader. This updated book is more detailed and scholarly. It has taken many years of research to produce it. Like many very long books it would have benefited from a cull. Some passages on for example marriages could have been dispensed with. William claimed the English crown in 1066 by a process that still baffles writers like Bates. There were after all many other claimants from Norway, Denmark and Saxon noble families. In the end, Harold Goodwinson beat them all, by a swindle. He was the second son of the Earl Goodwin of Wessex. His daughter married King Edward, the Confessor. Goodwin was therefore in a powerful position which he used.
Bates reminds us that before the Normans arrived in England in 1066 the Norwegian King Harald had been defeated at Stamford Bridge near York by Goodwinson. That is why he was exhausted when he arrived at Hastings. William won the battle because his planning, tactics and generalship were superior. William never suffered a major military set back until he was 50. Bates believes the Bayeux Tapestry’s image of the arrow in the eye is very likely to be true. The tapestry was probably commissioned by William’s half brother, Bishop Odo. It was made in England, at Canterbury, in the 1070’s. Its survival is little short of miraculous. Its likely patron was Bishop Odo. Bayeux was his episcopal city. After the Conquest he was made Earl of Kent. No other source takes us so immediately and so vividly back to the eleventh century. In one of its border scenes it shows the first portrayal in European art of a horse-drawn plough. To this day we do not know when its story begins. 1064? Possibly but no one knows for sure. In many ways therefore the Tapestry is really an embroidery.
After the battle, William pursued a policy of rape, murder and waste in the Harrying of the North. It was a policy of genocide. Hundreds were left starving and homeless in Yorkshire and elsewhere. William not only destroyed the North he also conquered Maine-et-Loire, to the south of Normandy. This had very crucial consequences for English politics.
In his final years, William ruled Normandy and England mainly from the former. However, it should be noted the evidence as to where he was on any given day is very sketchy. Government documents do not exist. That is why Chronicles mostly written by monks are so crucial. In 1086 William had arranged a survey by census of England resulting in the Domesday Book. He died the next year. A mighty but utterly brutal King even by the standards of the 11th century.
For many the Normans are regarded as nasty, the bad guys who brought feudalism and the class system to England. This plus the idea that prior to 1066 England was a utopia is pure myth. It was not a golden age. Women, for example, fared no worse after 1066 than before. Propaganda has been responsible for the myths.
This is an absorbing and scholarly account. It will be the definitive one for years to come. There are illustrations, notes and a bibliography.
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This is the eagerly anticipated new biography from the prestigious Yale English Monarchs series. This study is of William the Conqueror the man who conquered Anglo-Saxon England and established a new English dynasty the Royal House of Normandy in 1066 after his glorious victory at the battle of Hastings. This volume replaces the famous work by David C Douglas which was the first ever volume of this series to be published in 1964.This prestigious volume by renowned historian David Bates is the new definitive work on the king for a new generation. It is exhaustively researched and yet is easily accessible in its scope and easy to read. The book focuses on all aspects of William’s’ 21 years as king. The book also explores the formative years of William’s’ childhood back in Normandy. He became Duke at the age of just seven and his was a tough apprenticeship which schooled him well for the later years and his ultimate conquest of England. This book also explores William’s’ ability as a redoubtable solider and a man of renowned courage and exceptional ability. The book also examines his close relationship with his Queen Matilda of Flanders whom he was devoted to through the long years of their marriage. It also shows William to have been a loving father, but had a particularly difficult relationship with his eldest son and heir Robert Curthose who would lead a rebellion against his father in the 1070s. This is a thoroughly comprehensive study of this most magnificent of kings and one I urge to order now from Amazon. You will not be disappointed!
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Fifteen years in the making, a landmark reinterpretation of the life of a pivotal figure in British and European history.
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In this magisterial addition to the Yale English Monarchs series, David Bates combines biography and a multidisciplinary approach to examine the life of a major figure in British and European history. Using a framework derived from studies of early medieval kingship, he assesses each phase of William’s life to establish why so many trusted William to invade England in 1066 and the consequences of this on the history of the so-called Norman Conquest after the Battle of Hastings and for generations to come.
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A leading historian of the period, Bates is notable for having worked extensively in the archives of northern France and discovered many eleventh- and twelfth-century charters largely unnoticed by English-language scholars. Taking an innovative approach, he argues for a move away from old perceptions and controversies associated with William’s life and the Norman Conquest. This deeply researched volume is the scholarly biography for our generation.
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