*Includes historic art depicting William the Conqueror and other important people and places in his life.
*Discusses the facts and legends of William's life and the Battle of Hastings.
*Includes a Bibliography for further reading.
“Stranger and conqueror, his deeds won him a right to a place on the roll of English statesmen, and no man that came after him has won a right to a higher place.” – E.A. Freeman
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ Legends of the Middle Ages series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of the most important medieval men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
“We, conquered by William, have liberated the Conqueror’s land”. So reads the memorial to the British war dead at Bayeaux, Normandy. Commemorating those who gave their lives to free France in 1944, it also serves to remind us of an earlier conflict. For the English, the Norman conquest remains deeply embedded in the national psyche. As the last contested military invasion to have succeeded in conquering this proud island nation, the date of 1066 is the one every citizen can remember. For them, William will forever be the “Conqueror”, the last invader to beat them in an open fight. For others, notably the French, he is the “Bastard”, a reference not only to his lineage.
William’s conquest of the island arguably made him the most important figure in shaping the course of English history, but modern caricatures of this vitally important medieval figure are largely based on ignorance. William is a fascinating and complex figure, in many ways the quintessential warrior king of this period. Inheriting the Duchy of Normandy while still an infant and forced to fight for his domain almost ceaselessly during his early years, William went on to conquer and rule England, five times larger and three times wealthier. In doing so, he demonstrated sophisticated political and diplomatic skill, military prowess and administrative acumen. Although he lived by the sword, he was a devout man who had only one wife, to whom he remained faithful.
However, peering back nearly 1,000 years to understand William does not just require a suspension of 21st century values and prejudices, because the evidence itself is far from complete. The historical record includes chronicles and documents, most notably the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the famous Domesday Book and the Bayeux tapestry, leaving scholars to attempt the meticulous and painstaking process of piecing together the narrative of his life and determining what William and the Normans might actually have been like. At the same time, those scholars are the first to admit the limitations of these abilities, since the few people who could write in medieval England and Normandy often had important agendas and prejudices of their own, or they were recording events decades after they occurred.
Legends of the Middle Ages: The Life and Legacy of William the Conqueror chronicles the historic life and conquests of the medieval king and analyzes his monumental legacy. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about William the Conqueror like you never have before, in no time at all.
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