10 surprising facts about William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 23 : Harold prête serment à Guillaume

William the Conqueror

From History Extra by Marc Morris author of William I: England’s Conqueror (Penguin Books, 2016)

1. No one at the time called William ‘the Conqueror’

The earliest recorded use of that nickname occurs in the 1120s, and it didn’t really take off until the 13th century. At the time of his death in 1087, William was called ‘the Great’ by his admirers, and ‘the Bastard’ by his detractors; the latter a mocking reference to his illegitimate birth (he was the son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and his mistress Herleva).

2. Every major church in England was rebuilt as a result of the Norman conquest

The Anglo-Saxons were not famed for building in stone, and during the first half of the 11th century had not embraced the new architectural style, now known as ‘Romanesque’, that had become fashionable on the continent. Before 1066, the only major Romanesque church in England was Edward the Confessor’s new abbey at Westminster, still not quite finished at the time of the king’s death on 5 January that year.

Normandy, by contrast, had experienced a church-building boom during the rule of William the Conqueror, with dozens of new abbeys founded and ancient cathedrals rebuilt. After the Conquest, this revolution was extended to England, beginning with the rebuilding of Canterbury Cathedral from 1070. England had 15 cathedrals in the 11th-century. By the time of William’s death in 1087 nine of them had been rebuilt, and by the time of the death of his son Henry I, in 1135, so too had the remaining six. The same was true of every major abbey. It was the single greatest revolution in the history of English ecclesiastical architecture.

Read the rest of the article at History Extra

Categories: medieval history

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