steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

William the Conqueror

All I knew of English history before the age of 10 I learned from the Ladybird Adventures from History series, mostly written by Lawrence du Garde Peache (1890-1974). We've had quite a lot of fun with his Julius Caesar and the Romans while working on our history book, but the other day I got my hands on what is (to me) his most notorious work: William the Conqueror (1956). How did it come to pass that a mild-mannered contributor to Punch could write, so soon after the defeat of Hitler, a fascist apologia for the worst war criminal in England's history? One that is also a systematic calumny against Anglo-Saxon society? And then see it reprinted time after time over the next two decades?

The Opening Paragraph; or, Making the Carts Run on Time

For a hundred and fifty years after the time of Alfred the Great, people were continually fighting one another all over England. What the country needed was a strong King who could keep order.

Ubi Solitudinem Faciunt, Pacem Appellant

There were, of course, still people in England who did not like being ruled by a foreign King.

In the North of England there were many such people. Several times William had to march all the way from London with his army, to put down rebellions.

Then came the destruction of York. The men of Northumbria killed the Norman Governor and all his soldiers. Once more William brought his army to restore order.

This time he determined that he would put an end to it. He ordered his men to burn every house and destroy everything they could find, between the Humber and the Tees. This part of England remained wilderness for more than fifty years.

Criticism Where It's Due (but don't worry, we're back to arse-licking by the next page)

William was very fond of hunting. In those days wild deer, and even boars, were to be found in England.

William decided that he would set aside a part of his new kingdom as a hunting ground. He marked out an area nearly a hundred miles round, lying between the River Avon and Southampton Water, containing more than fifty parishes. Then he sent his men to pull down all the houses and churches and villages, and drive away all the people who lived there. This was one of the occasions on which William broke his promise to be a kind lord.

Athelstan? Who's Athelstan?

William the Conqueror, now called William I, was the first real king of all England.

There's Nothing Like a Brutal Foreign Occupation to Stop You Fretting About, er, Being Invaded

By means of the Domesday Book he knew exactly where everyone lived, and how much property they owned. This meant that for the first time in the history of England, it was possible to ensure that all the people paid their correct taxes to the King.

And by the means of the castles which were built all over the country by his Norman knights, William was able to keep the King's peace.

All this took a long time to do, but it meant in the end that after more than six hundred years of fear and uncertainty, the people of England were once more able to live their lives and work at their trades in safety.
Tags: books
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