History of England
I have decided that I want to write about a subject not much studied any more, at least not in America – the history of England. I have been studying English history from a young age; really, ever since I could get my fingers on a G. A. Henty or R. M. Ballantyne book. In my study of English history, I have decided to start where most historians consider to be the beginning of a civilized England.
I have only my first article and my most recent article on this page. For other articles on the English monarchy, hit the red Archive button on the above right.
King William the Conqueror
King William the Conqueror was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066 at the approximate age of 38. He was the illegitimate son of the unmarried Duke Robert the Devil of Normandy. He married Mathilda of Flanders sometime in the 1050s. When he went away to conquer England, he left his wife to rule Normandy.
After the Battle of Hastings, King William founded Battle Abbey at the site of the Battle of Hastings. This was in 1070.
In order to satisfy his tastes for hunting, King William depopulated a vast tract of land in order to create the New Forest, which of course caused great resentment.
King William also put the feudal system in place, which means that the peasants did not own their land, but rented it from the landowners. Their taxes would be paid in hides. In turn, the landowners would pay Danegeld to the king, which was a land tax. Landowners would also keep household knights, furnishing as many knights to the king as the king required. England was divided into shires or counties, which were divided into hundreds or wapentakes. Each shire was administered by a shire-reeve or sheriff. The sheriff was in charge of receiving the royal revenue from the landowners.
In 1085 King William commissioned the Domesday Survey, which was a survey of English holdings. The owners of the land, the value of the land and any resources thereon were organized and written in the Domesday Book, a two-volume record which survives to this day.
King William did not try to consolidate his holdings, but administered each separately. He had to go back to Normandy to suppress rebellions several times, and each time left either his wife or his half-brother Odo of Bayeux in charge.
In 1087, while raiding a town in France, King William the Conqueror was thrown from his horse and sustained a fatal injury. He was carried to the priory of Saint-Gervais near Rouen, where he died September 9th. He was then buried in Caen, France. King William’s tomb was first disturbed by papal authority in 1522, but he was reinterred. However, during the French Wars of Religion in 1562, the tomb was opened by Huguenots and the bones dispersed. One thigh bone was recovered, which was reburied in 1642 with a new marker. The marker was replaced one hundred years later with a new monument. The tomb was again destroyed during the French Revolution, but the thigh bone and the marker were eventually replaced in the early 19th century, which marker still stands.
King William the Conqueror was about 59 years old when he died, and was succeeded by his son Robert Curthose in Normandy and William Rufus in England.