WIL­LIAM THE CON­QUEROR

1066’s crown­ing mo­ment

History Revealed - - FRONT PAGE -

At the bit­ter Bat­tle of Hast­ings, Wil­liam the Con­queror, Duke of Nor­mandy, over­came the last An­glo-Saxon King of Eng­land, Harold God­win­son. He emerged as vic­tor to claim the throne he had been promised by Ed­ward the Con­fes­sor. Af­ter quash­ing those who sup­ported his last vi­able ri­val – Edgar Ætheling, Ed­ward’s great nephew – Wil­liam made for London, to so­lid­ify his con­trol of Eng­land.

He was crowned in West­min­ster Abbey on Christ­mas Day, al­though this wasn’t the joy­ous af­fair that coro­na­tions of­ten are. The at­mos­phere was tense, with Wil­liam’s Nor­man soldiers sur­rounded by English­men who were yet to warm to their new monarch. To sym­bol­ise Wil­liam’s Nor­man her­itage and pro­mote unity, both Saxon and Nor­man rites were used dur­ing the cer­e­mony, with the bish­ops speak­ing English as well as French.

The crowd was in­evitably asked if they ac­cepted Wil­liam as their new king. Cheers of af­fir­ma­tion rang out through the abbey, but Wil­liam’s guards out­side mis­took the noise for an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt. They be­gan set­ting fire to build­ings around them and ri­ots broke out. The ter­ri­fied spec­ta­tors rushed out of the church, leav­ing Wil­liam and the clergy to com­plete the coro­na­tion alone.

To en­sure he could de­fend him­self against his en­e­mies, Wil­liam or­dered a cas­tle be built in London al­most im­me­di­ately. This struc­ture, quickly erected and built of tim­ber, was the be­gin­nings of the Tower of London. In 1078, work be­gan on a stone re­place­ment, the mod­ern-day White Tower. Cas­tle build­ing would be one of the le­ga­cies of Wil­liam’s reign, with around 500 raised across Eng­land and Wales by his death in 1087.

“I have taken Eng­land with both my hands” Wil­liam the Con­queror (al­legedly), af­ter fall­ing into the sand when he landed at East Sus­sex in Septem­ber 1066

ABOVE: The Bayeux Ta­pes­try not only tells us about the Bat­tle of Hast­ings, but also the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing it

RIGHT: Wil­liam’s for­mi­da­ble keep only be­came known as the White Tower dur­ing the reign of Henry III

Wil­liam was the sec­ond King of Eng­land crowned in 1066: Harold had sat in the same chair in Jan­uary

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