“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings. . .” —Daniel 2:21
Death of William the Conqueror,
September 9, 1087
cottish writer and historian Thomas Carlyle during the 1840s, and especially in his book Heroes and Hero Worship, argued that history can largely be explained by the actions and leadership of great men of the past. He lauds but a few in his book — Napoleon, Cromwell, Knox, Luther, Rousseau, Shakespeare, etc. but the principle took hold among prominent historians and philosophers. The theory is largely debunked today in favor of economic forces, social factors, or just randomness and chaos. For the Christian, God controls history, and the past should be examined and explained through all the means He uses to further His purposes. I would suggest that that especially includes men of extraordinary ability and leadership. Duke William of Normandy, “The Conqueror”, was one of those men.
William “The Conqueror”, c. 1028 – September 9, 1087
In his time, the 11th century, William’s invasion of England seemed like just another dynastic struggle over who should rule England. With the death in 1066 of the last of the West Saxon kings, Edward the Confessor, three rival claimants to the throne fought to the death for the crown. Harold, the son of the Wessex Earl, Godwin, who had ruled de facto during Edward’s weak reign, was crowned King in Westminster Abbey. Tostig, Harold’s exiled and revengeful half-brother, joined forces with the Norwegian King Harold Hadraga and together they landed a large army in the late summer of 1066 at Stamford Bridge near York. King Harold of England and his own house-carls, of Viking blood themselves, defeated the Norwegians, killing both Hadraga and Tostig.
Battle of Stamford Bridge
In the meantime, William the Conqueror assembled his army and invaded England from Normandy. William’s reputation as a ferocious fighter developed early, since he was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy. The Normans (Norsemen) were Vikings who settled on the coast of France a century earlier and eventually adopted the language and some of the cultural norms of the French, although they carried on constant warfare with them.
Harold raced south two hundred fifty miles to fight William, and they met at Hastings. Toward the end of the battle Harold was shot through the eye with an arrow, and the English were defeated and slaughtered; Duke William of Normandy became King William I of England. The Conqueror marched across England devastating every place that resisted, and building castles to secure his reign, including the Tower of London.
Reenactment of the Battle of Hastings