20 February 2011

Return of the History Mug - Early Normans

I'm reading David Starkey's Crown and Country. A history of England told through the monarchy.

So far I've read from the departure of the Romans through the Anglo-Saxon period, the Vikings and the Norman Conquest to Henry II.
Thomas Becket's just been made Archbishop of Canterbury and I have a bad feeling about it. Funnily enough, so did he.

I don't know much about the Anglo-Saxon period, most king lists start at 1066 so it tends to get overlooked. Turns out it involved a lot of people called Æthel-something, ruling mostly by consent of the people. The Staffordshire Hoard was mentioned as one of the most important finds in the last 50 years. I didn't see the Hoard when it was first in my local museum, mostly due to the massive queue. It was nice to see that so many people were interested in it though.

Earlier (20th November 2010) I mentioned my History Mug, which has pictures of the Kings and Queens of England since 1066. The pictures generally show something about each monarch, but sometimes I'd like more info. It occurred to me today that this book could give me some answers.

Early Norman Kings
William the Conqueror was known as William the Bastard. Partly because his parents never married each other and partly because he trashed the north of England sowing death and destruction as he went.

William II is shown being shot through the lung while hunting in the New Forest. His companions ran off, so a peasant had to clear his body away. The exact circumstances aren't known, but his brother Henry rushed off and became king ever so quickly.

Henry I made himself a popular king, rather than just being some French bloke who ruled the country. He linked himself with earlier kings, like Edward the Confessor, and set up an effective administration, including many Anglo-Saxon traditions. As King of England he took Normandy from yet another older brother and rebalanced his father's previous conquest. The book probably indicates his reputation as an intelligent, scholarly king.

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