Submitted by Dawnbreaker234 t3_zdvjdm in history

Now here me out, recently I've been reading on the life of medieval kings and historical figures. But as I was reading about the life of William the Conqueror (the one that will rule England) I've realised just how similar his life is to a tv drama.

His mother for instance was a commoner, literally a leather tanner that his father an actual noble had a relationship with. In fact due to the fact that he was pretty much a bastard, he was ridiculed a lot in his youth about being the son of a leather tanner.

Then when he was older but not come of age yet, his father then left for the crusade and never came back due to being dying in the journey. Now William was the heir to his father's title and wealth however like a good story his status as a noble was of course being challenged by many people due to his half commoner bloodline.

Seriously people were fighting for his father's title so bad that many times he was being targeted for assassin's. Many of his caretakers that was supposed to groom him to pick up his father's mantle was assassinated trying to get to him. One instance, his caretaker and William was sleeping in a room but ever the cautios fellow he had slept on the bed and told the young Lord to sleep on the floor so assassin's would since the bed was more likely to be a target. Low and behold he was correct and got attacked that night by an assassin trying to get to William.

Do you see now how similar to a tv drama this guy life was? You get an underdog character that's a bastard to a powerful title but was challenged it all through out his life due to his so called commoner lineage.

Then once he becomes of age and took his father's title as Duke, he of course became a violent man. He had seen death, backstabbing and many more killings in his life so much that he had grown to be this violent and ruthless figure that gave no mercy to his enemies. In one scene, he was besieging one castle and the defenders of the castle mocked the William by putting cow hides on the castle wall mocking him of his Bastard and commoner lineage. Then like any good tv drama, of course William gets his revenge, once he managed to take over the castle he skin the people who mocked him alive.

After that was of course his love life. Being a Duke of course it would be beneficial for him to marry the a noble lady so that they can combine their resources together. So he chose Matilda of Flanders and have even send her a letter for hand in marriage. But this is a drama you see, of course she would reject the proposal. In fact she even mentioned that she wouldn't marry a bastard like William.

This of course enrages William so much that depending on the sources he either went inside the Flanders castle and beat up Matilda or he saw her attending church and pull her of her horse by her pigtails and threw her into the mud. Now Matilda was a short woman you see, she was only 4'11 while William was 5'10, so yeah she had no chance against this violent man. But like any drama of course the protagonist action was seen as a positive thing, since in both accounts Matilda would agree to Williams marriage proposal. Nothing more romantic than a man that shows his passion by beating you up I guess.

Ironically enough, their marriage actually worked. You'd expect it all to go wrong since he beats her up but hey his life is a Tv drama remember. Not only he loves his wife dearly, he had 9 kids with her and most of their kids was born before she reached 35 years of age. To give you a perspective the day they Wed, William was 24 meanwhile Matilda was 20. Not to mention unlike his father, William never had any mistresses at all not even a bastard. Which is surprising for a man that successfully taken England from the Saxon. In Matilda death bed William even vowed to stop hunting a favourite pass time of his to grieve his beloved wife.

So what can we learn? William the Conqueror life is literally a TV show drama but in reality. You get a guy that's a bastard and half commoner and had to fight all the way to adulthood. This violent man heart was only melted by his short wife who he loved very dearly.



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OutsideSpring t1_iz40ctz wrote

Right? It's an epic story from a brutal time. A time of action. The Normans were larger than life. Look into Roger de Hauteville. His story was pretty insane too. The sixth son of an minor Norman noble who became King of Sicily. He was a great warrior but also a good king who created a cosmopolitan realm where all his subjects were free to worship how they pleased. And he too had a pretty epic love story.

Great post dude. Yeah, it's a crazy story that seems almost too fantastic to be true.

edit: Roger de Hauteville King of Sicily, not Robert Guiscard (aka Robert the Fox, also a huge badass), count of Sicily. The Norman names are so damn confusing. So many Roberts and Rogers . . .


acrazypsychnurse t1_iz4a0bu wrote

Some writers of TV dramas have read a bit of history .... its easier to plagiarize history than to make it up 😀


mikechella t1_izbhbf7 wrote

This is my thought as well. The Normans/Plantagenets were nuts and their lives make good stories.


Accomplished_Ice131 t1_iz4222s wrote

After the Battle of Hastings William allegedly sat down and ate dinner on the battlefield amongst all the dead bodies of the Saxons. (I think he had a chair and table but by his feet were the dead and butchered bodies of the defeated Saxons).


Accomplished_Ice131 t1_iz424uz wrote

William was also of Viking heritage, King Rollo was his great grandfather.


Dawnbreaker234 OP t1_iz472jg wrote

Damn so you had a guy who was a bastard, a commoner, a noble and a viking in his blood? Man no wonder he grew up badass.


DarkTreader t1_izh7oj5 wrote

Where do you think the term "Norman" comes from? Basically a bunch of vikings led by Rollo came down and raided France until France gave them lands and titles. They were literally "northmen".


AHorseNamedPhil t1_j1llzk5 wrote

The "Viking" link to the Normans however is quite often overstated.

It is certainly true enough that William was a direct descendant of Rollo, and that many Norse had come to settle in Normandy, but not all of these had been Vikings. Viking was a job rather than an ethnicity, and not every Scandinavian that came to Normandy did so as a Viking (sea raider / pirate). There were also merchants, fishermen, tradesmen, farmers, ect.

Second, the Norse settlement tended to be localized in certain places in Normandy like Rouen, and on the whole the native Franks of Normandy were not displaced and remained the majority. It was not too dissimilar to the later Norman conquest of England in that regard. Almost immediately there was also a great deal of interrmarriage between the Franks and the Norse, including with Rollo himself. By the time you get to 1066 that Norse minority had long since been absorbed by the Frankish majority, and the Normans spoke a dialect of French. The Normans in 1066, in short, were much more French than Norse. They also called themselves Franks.

Finally, most of the army William took with him to England wasn't even recruited in Normandy. Normans held the center of the field at Hastings but the left was composed of Bretons and the right men from other regions of France like Picardy or Boulogne, as well men as from Flanders.


BeakersDream t1_iz5fyyo wrote

What kind of annoys me about the popular presentation of history is that people like William the Conqueror or King Richard the Lion-heart were see as chads. Neither of them were good rulers, outside of warfare.


HappyMonk3y99 t1_iz5rma8 wrote

Because correctly or not, people see greatness as something you do, not something you preside over. We’re sympathetic to people overcoming odds and subverting expectations and this is most achievable on the battlefield. And if we’re being real, conquest is one of, if not the most significant way in which history changes course. Where would Rome have gone without Caesar? Islam without Khalid Ibn Al Walid?

The songs and storytellers remember these people because they changed the world. But at the end of the day it’s propaganda, the person with the best story is most remembered. Richard the lionheart is a great example of this carrying over to someone whose reign was a categorical failure simply because we’ve established an expectation of warfare being the road to greatness. People don’t talk about how he bankrupted his kingdom or lost the Angevin lands in france as part of his story, so it might as well have never happened


BeakersDream t1_iz5s8z2 wrote

Yes, but from a historically minded viewpoint, it's annoying because it's inaccurate. My comment was made to highlight the differences between historical reality and what we are led to believe through pop culture.


HappyMonk3y99 t1_iz5w7y4 wrote

Well what exactly qualifies as a historically minded viewpoint? We don’t see these people glorified in textbooks, but we do in the history subreddit while talking about how a historical figures life was movie-like. Is this making its way into academic publications or is it more casual history conversations? Because the latter is rightfully affected by pop culture, we want interesting conversation topics, not to quote a phd thesis


BeakersDream t1_iz5yino wrote

A historically minded viewpoint is one that bases their conclusions and statements off of the available evidence. I'd argue that past historians did present certain figures, like Richard, in a positive light and as a result of that history textbooks present them in the same way. It's only been in the last 20 years that we've a shift in the academic community, a shift which has caused a reexamination of certain points in time (ex. Dark Ages weren't dark) or certain historical figures (Richard II's reputation was largely tarnished by Tutor bias in the historical record).

To briefly touch on your last sentence, would you rather have an interesting conversation or one that is based off of evidence?

My responses may slow, I have class.


HappyMonk3y99 t1_iz6qasl wrote

But isn’t it based on facts and evidence that Richard was skilled in warfare? I feel like this is a difference between partial truths and holistic overview rather than accuracy vs inaccuracy. Again the relevance of each varies depending on the context and depth of conversation. If someone were to argue that Richard was a great king based solely on his martial prowess then I absolutely would agree with you, in that context


BeakersDream t1_iz72klc wrote

Popular culture has the unfortunate habit of presenting Richard as an overall good king BECAUSE he was an effective military leader. However, this presentation is inaccurate because if you take his entire reign into consideration it becomes patently obvious that he greatly struggled in non-military governance, thus making him a poor king.

My original comment was directed at the issues surrounding popular culture because they often present their work as factually accurate or 'based off true events' and as a result the audience will go 'okay so now I have an accurate idea of *insert topic*'

Just in response to your second sentence: Partial truths are still inaccurate. No one is going to be happy with "Well its mostly correct." If you're learning about something you're going to want a full understanding of the subject, not bits and pieces that give you a partial understanding. As a professor once told me, "The devil is in the details, if you don't address the details he'll make an ass out of you and I."


Embarrassed-Plum8936 t1_iz5r381 wrote

If you enjoyed reading about Guillaume le Conquérant, I strongly suggest you read about Harald Hardrada: A Scandinavian prince who had to fled to Russia and served later in the Byzantium Varangian guard in several battles (legend say he use birds to burn down an entire Italian city).

He then became king of Norway (or Sweden..?) only to die in an epic way at Stamford Bridge few weeks before Hasting...


RobertoSantaClara t1_iz7dz93 wrote

> He then became king of Norway (or Sweden..?) o

You were right the first time, Harald was of Norway. The king of Sweden at this time was Stenkil IIRC


MBRDASF t1_iz4q6ds wrote

Norman nobles were famed adventurers, because there were too many nobles for the duchy of Normandy, so internal competition forced a lot of them to go out and seek their fortune elsewhere.

Hence why you see Norman invasions pretty much everywhere in Europe especially in the Mediterranean.

Many of them were evidently inspired by Guillaume’s/William’s epic tale and wanted the same for them.


AHorseNamedPhil t1_j1lnrey wrote

William the Conqueror didn't inspire Norman adventurers in the Mediterranean. They were present in the region long before William was born.

Normans had been fighting as mercenaries in the Mediterranean region both for Lombard counts and the Byzantine empire since the 900s. That was the origin as well for the branch of the Hauteville family that eventually ruled as Kings of Sicily. They had come to Italy as mercenaries / adventurers around 1035, only a few years after William the Conqueror's birth. Robert Guiscard became Duke of Apulia in 1059, six years prior to the Norman conquest of England.

The Normans had been busy carving out fiefdoms in southern Italy at the expense of the Lombards or Byzantines since William had been a child. The conquest of Sicily occured after William, but a Norman military presence had been a fact of life in southern Italy for many years prior, and they had already been carving out fiefdoms that were putting them on a trajectory for conflict over Sicily.

Side note, Robert Guiscard is the most interesting Norman warlord IMO, despite William having greater fame, and his wife Sikelgaita (although she was a Lombard, not Norman) was also a badass. She sometimes accompanied Robert on campaign, commanded at the siege of Trani, and brought reinforcements to Robert while was campaigning against the Byzantine empire. At the battle of Dyrrachium, while in full armor, she railled some of Roger's troops as they wavered following a Byzantine repulse. The Italian Normans were also playing in a far more interesting historical sandbox with a more diverse and interesting cast of characters. Byzantines! Lombard counts! The papacy! The emirate of Sicily! Plus Norman Sicily, at least early on, is fascinating in that it was one of the more tolerant medieval states & produced some interesting cultural exchange between the Normans, Greeks, and Muslims of southern Italy & Sicily.


MBRDASF t1_j1lpni0 wrote

That’s true, thanks for the correction. I agree that Robert de Hauteville’s story is underrated


Hattix t1_iz68x92 wrote

Don't leave out the second season genocide he does!


Dawnbreaker234 OP t1_iz7nqla wrote

Don't worry he builds a church in all the genocide. So you know all is forgiven :)


more_beans_mrtaggart t1_iz6wbhj wrote

Did you know that the Norman’s were basically vikings that moved south.

The French were a bit surprised to find them on their north coast and weren’t strong enough to throw them off.

Anyway the Vikings decided to learn French and English, learn the French way of life, and settled in.

They then came up with creative ways to raise tax revenue, and started upgrading their patch of what is now Normandy. They had good education, top shelf healthcare, lots of trade, all the trimmings of the good life.


Dawnbreaker234 OP t1_iz7o34l wrote

Man Viking sure play a lot more significant role in history than people know about. They're not just raiders that worship pagan stuff the Norman were French Viking, there was the English Viking that went on a crusade and if course can't forget the awesome Vangarian Guards of Constantinople the Royal Guard of the Emperor.


AHorseNamedPhil t1_j1loulh wrote

It's not so much that the Norse learned French, it's that the Norse settlement in Normandy tended to be localized to certain places like Rouen, and on the whole did not displace the native Franks, who remained the majority. The Norse also intermarried with the native Franks almost immediately, so by the time you get to William the Conqueror's day the Norse had long since been absorbed by the Frankish majority. The Normans of William's day spoke a dialect of French, because their ancestors had also been Franks.


Lanai1215 t1_iz6cis5 wrote

My paternal family line begins in Normandy (Bertram/Felton)and they were soldiers and servants with William when he came to England. I’m a huge history lover and had heard of William and many other people in history,but didn’t know at the time that my own family was part of the historical events I had read about. After reconnecting with a long lost Aunt, I discovered so many amazing people and connections to historic places. She spent decades gathering information,visiting the places they lived and died,churches and cathedrals,castles and battlefields. From the information she gathered,Williams life was just like a tv drama!


Gordon_Explosion t1_iz611iy wrote

Wait until you hear about the obviously made-up life of Sir Frances Drake.


anon38983 t1_iz94sok wrote

You should read up on William I's sons particularly his youngest son Henry.

The amount of feuding and fighting is absurd. Norman royalty seems to fall victim to hunting accidents at a suspicious rate. At the end of it you have Henry on top as both King of England and Duke of Normandy. Then his only son dies in a disaster at sea triggering a succession crisis which eventually becomes a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.


True_Trueno t1_iz4vznk wrote

But as soon as he married his childless wife, he was even more vengeful for the past due to the fact that the marriage was not his best bet so he killed her to save his children. In fact due to his bloodline so it was almost impossible for him to win her hand and she was killed just like anyone who dies in a tv drama. And finally he had the last blow to take England from the Saxon and start a new era for mankind.



Gremlin303 t1_iz6yr4y wrote

Is there another William the Conquerer?


[deleted] t1_izaepe8 wrote

> This of course enrages William so much that depending on the sources he either went inside the Flanders castle and beat up Matilda or he saw her attending church and pull her of her horse by her pigtails and threw her into the mud.

Ngl, I always thought that was an euphemistic way to hint at marriage by rape.

^^^Gritty ^^^reboot?


Dawnbreaker234 OP t1_izfj6c4 wrote

You'd think that but Matilda is the daughter of Flanders is the beloved grandkid of the ruler at the time. She had many lady in waiting and guards, I doubt William had the time to rape her there and then.


Dawnbreaker234 OP t1_izflsgh wrote

Plus he wants Flanders since it's a castle that was located behind his rivals land. Having an alliance by marriage with Flanders would make his enemies surrounded on both fronts. Raping Matilda would not only make it worse but will destroy his reputation among his own faction.

Honestly, it was lucky enough they didn't start a war against Flanders after he beat up Matilda. Honestly, history is weird like that.


tsaimaitreya t1_izwojpl wrote

But of course any writer would write that Matilda actually wanted to marry him but she couldn't say yes because of social conventions, and William had to stage a scene to broke the conventionalism and dulfill their mutual love