Royal News: Friday 26 August 2016

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King William I of England (the Conqueror)

by Susan Flantzer

William the Conqueror, Bayeux Tapestry; Credit – Wikipedia

King William I of England, also known as William the Conqueror, the only son of Robert I the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy, was born circa 1027-1028 at the Château de Falaise in Falaise, Normandy (now in France). William was illegitimate as his mother Herleva of Falaise was his father’s mistress, and for that reason, he is sometimes called William the Bastard.

Normandy was a French fiefdom originally created as the County of Rouen in 911 by King Charles III “the Simple” of France for Rollo, a Viking leader whose original name may have been Hrólfr. After participating in many Viking raids along the Seine, culminating in the Siege of Paris in 886, Rollo was finally defeated by King Charles III. Rollo swore fealty to the French King and converted to Christianity. Charles then granted Rollo territories around Rouen, which came to be called Normandy after the Northmen/Norsemen, another name for Vikings. Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the British Royal Family, all current European monarchs, and a great many claimants to abolished European thrones.

Counts/Dukes of Normandy before William:

Counts (Earls or Jarls) of Normandy

Dukes of Normandy

William had several half-siblings:

From his mother Herleva ‘s marriage to Herluin de Conteville

Both of William’s half-brothers, Odo and Robert, were prominent during William’s reign as King of England. Odo was likely the one who commissioned the famous Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and ending in the Battle of Hastings. As there are no contemporary portraits of William, the Bayeux Tapestry contains the only pictorial representations of him. The scenes of the Bayeux Tapestry and the English translation of the Latin captions can be seen at Wikipedia: Bayeux Tapestry tituli.

The three sons of Herleva of Falaise: William, Duke of Normandy, in the centre, Odo, the bishop of Bayeux, on the left and Robert, Count of Mortain, on the right (from the Bayeux Tapestry Scene 44; Credit – Wikipedia

From his father Robert I the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and his mother Herleva or possibly another concubine:

William’s great aunt, Emma of Normandy, daughter of Richard I the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, was a queen consort of England, Denmark and Norway through her marriages to Æthelred II the Unready, King of England and Cnut the Great, King of England, Denmark, and Norway. Emma was the mother of two kings, Harthacnut, King of Denmark and King of England and Edward the Confessor, King of England.

In 1034, William’s father, Robert I, went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem despite protests from some of his nobles. Before he left, Robert had his nobles swear fealty to William as his heir. Robert died in Nicaea (now in Turkey) in July 1035 as he was returning to Normandy. William was only seven or eight years old when he became William II, Duke of Normandy. Young William grew up under the protection of Alan III, Duke of Brittany, Gilbert, 2nd Count of Brionne and Osbern the Seneschal.  All three guardians were assassinated. The sons of Gilbert, 2nd Count of Brionne accompanied William to England and their descendants would become some of the most powerful families in England: English house of de Clare, the Barons FitzWalter, the Earls of Gloucester, and the Earls of Hertford. In 1047, William’s cousin Guy of Burgundy led a revolt for the control of Normandy which William successfully defeated.

In 1051 or 1052, William married Matilda of Flanders, daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders  and Adèle of France, daughter of King Robert II of the France.  The couple married without the approval of the Pope. Finally, in 1159 papal approval was received, but William and Matilda each had to found an abbey in Caen as penance: the Abbaye-aux-Hommes (St. Stephen’s) and the Abbaye-aux-Dames (Holy Trinity). William and Matilda were devoted to each other and there is no evidence that William had any illegitimate children.

William and Matilda had four sons and at least five daughters. The birth order of the boys is clear, but that of the daughters is not.

Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 1 : King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson at Winchester; Credit – Wikipedia

In England, Edward the Confessor, William’s first cousin once removed was King of England. Edward had married Edith of Wessex, the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, the most powerful earl in England. Edward and Edith’s marriage was childless and there was concern over the succession. At that time, succession to the throne was not entirely based upon primogeniture. The Anglo-Saxons had a king’s council called the Witan and one of the Witan’s jobs was to elect the king. There were several potential candidates to succeed Edward the Confessor.

1) Edward the Exile (1016 – 1057) also called Edward Ætheling was the son of King Edmund Ironside (King Edmund II). Edmund Ironside was the half brother of Edward the Confessor from Æthelred II the Unready’s first marriage, so Edward the Exile was Edward the Confessor’s nephew. Edmund Ironside had succeeded his father Æthelred II (the Unready) as King of England in 1016. Edmund’s reign was short-lived. During his seven month reign, Edmund battled against the Danish Cnut the Great for control of England. After a victory for the Danes at the Battle of Assandun on October 18, 1016, Edmund was forced to sign a treaty with Cnut which stated that all of England except Wessex would be controlled by Cnut. When one of the kings died, the other would take all of England, that king’s son being the heir to the throne. Edmund Ironside died on November 30, 1016 and Cnut became king of all England. King Cnut sent Edward the Exile to King Olaf Skötkonung of Sweden to be murdered, but instead the king sent him to Kiev where his daughter was the queen. There he grew up in exile. Edward the Exile had the best hereditary claim to the English throne.

2) Edgar the Ætheling (c. 1051 – c. 1126) was the son of Edward the Exile. After his father’s death, Edgar had the best hereditary claim to the English throne.

3) Harald III Hardrada, King of Norway (c. 1015 – 1066) was named heir to the childless nephew King Magnus I of Norway.  Magnus and King Harthacnut of England and Denmark, Edward the Confessor’s half brother and his predecessor, made a political agreement that the first of them to die would be succeeded by the other. As Magnus’ heir, Harald Hardrada, thought he had a claim on the English throne.

4) Harold Godwinson (c. 1022 – 1066) was the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, the most powerful earl in England and the brother of Edward the Confessor’s wife. Harold succeeded his father as Earl of Wessex in 1053 and he then became the most powerful person in England after Edward the Confessor, King of England.

5) William II, Duke of Normandy was the first cousin once removed of Edward the Confessor. Edward the Confessor’s mother Emma of Normandy was the sister of William’s grandfather Richard II the Good, Duke of Normandy.

Family relationships of the claimants to the English throne in 1066, and others involved in the struggle. Kings of England are shown in bold; Credit – Wikipedia

William’s marriage to Matilda of Flanders may have been motivated by his growing desire to become King of England. Matilda was a direct descendant of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. In 1051, William visited his first cousin once removed, Edward the Confessor, King of England and apparently Edward named William as his successor.

In 1057, Edward the Confessor discovered that his nephew Edward the Exile was still alive and summoned him to England as a potential successor. However, Edward died within two days of his arrival in England and the cause of his death has never been determined. Murder is a possibility, as he had many powerful enemies. His three children Edgar the Ætheling, Margaret, and Cristina were then raised in the court of Edward the Confessor. Margaret, known as Saint Margaret of Scotland, married King Malcolm III of Scotland and their daughter Edith married King Henry I of England, son of William.

In 1064, Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex, was shipwrecked on the shores of Ponthieu and was captured by Guy I, Count of Ponthieu as the Bayeux Tapestry relates. William demanded the release of Harold, and after being paid a ransom for him, Guy delivered Harold Godwinson to William. Harold was not released from Normandy until he had sworn on holy relics to be William’s vassal, and to support his claim to the throne of England.

Guy capturing Harold, scene 7 of the Bayeux Tapestry; Credit – Wikipedia

Harold swearing the oath, scene 23 of the Bayeux Tapestry; Credit – Wikipedia

In 1065, it is possible that Edward the Confessor had a series of strokes. He was too ill to attend the dedication of his greatest achievement, the church at Westminster, now called Westminster Abbey, on December 28, 1065. Edward the Confessor died several days later, on January 5, 1066. According to the Vita Ædwardi Regis, before Edward died he briefly regained consciousness and named Harold Godwinson as his heir. The Witan met the next day and selected Harold Godwinson to succeed Edward as King Harold II. It is probable that Harold was immediately crowned in Westminster Abbey.

Harold meeting Edward shortly before his death, depicted in scene 25 of the Bayeux Tapestry; Credit – Wikipedia

When William heard that Harold Godwinson had been crowned King of England, he began careful preparations for an invasion of England. During the summer of 1066, he assembled an army and an invasion fleet. Meanwhile in England, Harold Godwinson was forced to march to Northumbria in September of 1066 to deal with an invasion by his brother Tostig Godwinson and Harald III Hardrada, King of Norway. Harold Godwinson defeated the invaders and killed Tostig Godwinson and Harold Hardrada on September 25, 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The Norman invasion fleet sailed two days later and landed in England on September 28, 1066 at Pevensey Bay.

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing Normans preparing for the invasion of England; Credit – Wikipedia

While William waited for Harald III Hardrada to march south with his armies, he ordered the first of his many fortifications to be built, Pevensey Castle at the place he landed and Hastings Castle about 15 miles east along the coast. William’s army met Harold Godwinson’s army about six miles northwest of Hastings on October 14, 1066. The exact strength of the two armies is unknown, but modern estimates are around 10,000 for William and about 7,000 for Harold. The English army was composed almost entirely of infantry and some archers. The Norman army was infantry, with the rest split equally between cavalry and archers.  Harold appears to have tried to surprise William, but Norman scouts found his army and reported its arrival to William, who marched from Hastings to the battlefield to confront Harold. The battle lasted from about 9 AM to dusk. Early efforts of the Normans to break the English battle lines had little effect. In response, the Normans adopted the tactic of pretending to flee in panic and then turning on their pursuers. Harold’s death, probably near the end of the battle, led to the retreat and defeat of most of his army.

The Battle of Hastings, Bayeux Tapestry Scene 52a; Credit – Wikipedia

Harold is slain, Bayeux Tapestry Scene 57; Credit – Wikipedia

Following Harold’s death in battle, the Witan elected the teenaged Edgar the Ætheling, the last of the House of Wessex, King of England. As William’s position grew stronger, it became evident to those in power that King Edgar should be abandoned and that they should submit to William. On Christmas Day 1066, William was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. The south and east of England quickly submitted to William’s rule, but there were risings in parts of England for the next five years. The Normans lived like an army of occupation, building castles, keeps and mottes throughout England from which they could dominate the population.

White Tower

The White Tower at the Tower of London was begun by William in 1066; Photo Credit – Susan Flantzer

Anglo-Saxon lords were superseded by Norman and French lords and continental feudalism was introduced. Likewise, Anglo-Saxon bishops were replaced with Norman and French bishops, and Lanfranc of Pavia, who had served William in Normandy, became Archbishop of Canterbury and reorganized the Anglo-Saxon Church in the style of the Norman and French Churches.

Statue of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, from the exterior of Canterbury Cathedral; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1071, William felt England was secure enough and he could then consider the situation in Normandy which was more vulnerable to attacks from the King of France and the Count of Anjou. At Christmas 1085, William ordered the compilation of a survey of the landholdings held by himself and by his vassals throughout the kingdom, organized by counties, now known as the Domesday Book.  The Domesday Book is an invaluable primary source for historians, both professional and amateur. No survey of landholdings approaching the scope and extent of Domesday Book was attempted again until 1873. The original Domesday Book is stored at The National Archives at Kew, London. In 2011, the Open Domesday site made the manuscript available online. See OPEN DOMESDAY – The first free online copy of Domesday Book

Towards the end of 1086, William returned to Normandy where the marriage of his daughter Constance was celebrated. In 1087, the French garrison at Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated by sacking the town. While he was urging on his soldiers. William’s horse stumbled and he was violently flung against his saddle pommel. He received serious internal injuries, most likely a ruptured bladder. William was taken to Priory of St. Gervais in Rouen where peritonitis developed. As he knew he was dying, William composed a letter to Lefranc, Archbishop of Canterbury stating that Normandy should go to his eldest son Robert, England should go to his second son William Rufus, and his youngest son Henry should receive money. The youngest son later became King Henry I of England. King William I the Conqueror died on September 9, 1087, aged about 59.

William was buried at the abbey he built at the time of his wedding, the Abbaye-aux-Hommes (St. Stephen’s) in Caen, Normandy (now in France). His grave was disturbed several times. In 1522, it was opened on orders of the Pope. French Huguenots desecrated the grave in 1562, leaving only William’s left thigh bone. This was thought to have been destroyed during the French Revolution, but was later found and reburied under a new grave marker in 1987.

Tomb of King William I the Conqueror of England; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Stone marking the grave; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: William the Conqueror

August 26: Today in Royal History

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (left) with his elder brother Ernest and mother Louise; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

August 26, 1551 – Death of Margareta Leijonhufvud, second wife of King Gustav I of Sweden; buried at Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden
Wikipedia: Margareta Leijonhufvud

August 26, 1819 – Birth of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, at Schloss Rosenau in Coburg (Germany)
Full name: Franz Albrecht August Karl Emanuel
Unofficial Royalty: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

August 26, 1850 – Death of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French, in exile at Claremont, Surrey, England; buried at the Chapelle Royale in Dreux, France
Wikipedia: Louis-Philippe I, King of the French

August 26, 1944 – Birth of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester at Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire, England
Full name: Richard Alexander Walter George
Unofficial Royalty: Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester

August 26, 1988 – Birth of Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este, daughter of Princess Astrid of Belgium, at the University Clinic St. Luc in Woluwe-St-Lambert, Belgium
Full Name: Maria Laura Zita Beatrix Gerhard
Wikipedia: Princess Maria Laura of Belgium

Royal News: Thursday 25 August 2016

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August 25: Today in Royal History

King Ludwig I of Bavaria; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

August 25, 1270 – Death of King Louis IX of France during his second Crusade in Tunis (Tunisia); buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis near Paris
Louis was canonized a saint in 1297. St. Louis, Missouri is named after him.
Wikipedia: King Louis IX of France

August 25, 1482 – Death of Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI of England, at Château de Dampiere in Anjou, France, buried at St. Maurice’s Cathedral in Angers, France
Unofficial Royalty: Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England

August 25, 1530 – Birth of Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) of Russia, at Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, Russia
Wikipedia: Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible)

August 25, 1699 – Death of King Christian V of Denmark and Norway in Copenhagen, Denmark after a hunting accident; buried at Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark
Wikipedia: King Christian V of Denmark

August 25, 1707 – Birth of King Louis I of Spain at Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid, Spain
Wikipedia: King Louis I of Spain

August 25, 1786 – Birth of King Ludwig I of Bavaria in Strasbourg (France)
Unofficial Royalty: King Ludwig I of Bavaria

August 25, 1845 – Birth of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, Bavaria (Germany)
Unofficial Royalty: King Ludwig II of Bavaria

August 25, 1862 – Death of Mathilde of Bavaria, wife of Louis III, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, in Darmstadt (Germany)
Wikipedia: Mathilde of Bavaria

August 25, 1942 – Death of Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V of the United Kingdom and brother of King George VI of the United Kingdom, when a military plane taking him to Iceland, crashed in Scotland, buried at Frogmore, Windsor
George, Duke of Kent is the father of the current Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra of Kent.  Michael was 6 weeks old when his father was killed.
Unofficial Royalty: Prince George, Duke of Kent

August 25, 2001 – Wedding of Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby at Oslo Cathedral
Unofficial Royalty: Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
Unofficial Royalty: Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby

Royal News: Wednesday 24 August 2016

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Isabella of Angoulême, Queen of England

by Susan Flantzer

Isabella of Angoulême’s effigy; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Isabella, Duchess of Angoulême (in her own right) and Queen of England (wife of King John) was born around 1188, probably in the County of Angoulême, today in southwest France. She was the only child of Aymer III, Count of Angoulême and Alice of Courtenay, a French noblewoman of the House of Courtenay and a granddaughter of King Louis VI of France.

When Isabella was 12 years old, she was betrothed to Hugh de Lusignan, the heir of Hugh IX de Lusignan, Count of La Marche. This marriage would have joined La Marche and Angoulême, and the de Lusignan family would then control a vast, rich and strategic territory between the two Plantagenet strongholds, Bordeaux and Poitier. To prevent this threat, King John of England decided to marry Isabella himself.  John had become king upon the death of his brother King Richard I in 1199. The same year, John had his ten year, childless marriage to Isabella, Countess of Gloucester (in her own right) annulled. Isabella of Angoulême’s parents had no objection to the marriage with the 34 year old John.  After all, he was a king and their daughter would be a queen. Isabella and John were married on August 24, 1200, and then Isabella was crowned Queen of England on October 8, 1200 at Westminster Abbey.

Isabella and John had five children:

A 13th-century depiction of John and his legitimate children, (l to r) Henry, Richard, Isabella, Eleanor, and Joan; Credit – Wikipedia

King John of England; Credit – Wikipedia

Isabella’s father died in 1202, and she succeeded him as Countess of Angoulême in her own right. However, her title was largely empty because John denied her control of her inheritance. John appointed a governor, Bartholomew de Le Puy , who conducted most of the administrative affairs of Angoulême until John’s death in 1216.

King John died on October 18, 1216, leaving his eldest son Henry, a nine year old, to inherit his throne in the midst of the First Barons’ War (1215–17), in which a group of rebellious barons supported by a French army, made war on King John because of his refusal to accept and abide by the Magna Carta. Because a large part of eastern England was under the control of the rebellious barons and the French, it was thought that Henry should be crowned as soon as possible to reinforce his claim to the throne. Therefore, Henry was crowned on October 28, 1216 at Gloucester Cathedral with a golden circlet belonging to Isabella as the royal crown had recently been lost in The Wash, along with the rest of King John’s treasure.

In July of 1217, Isabella left her son, King Henry III of England, in the care of his regent, William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and returned to France to assume control of her inheritance, the County of Angoulême. There, she once again met her jilted fiancé Hugh de Lusignan, now the 10th Count of La Marche. He had never married, and previously a betrothal between him and Isabella’s 10 year old daughter Joan had been arranged. Upon seeing Isabella once again, he decided that he preferred Joan’s still beautiful mother. Isabella and Hugh married on May 10, 1220 and they had nine children.

In 1242, Isabella and Hugh were implicated in a plot against the life of King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis), and they were both called before the court of inquiry. Isabella remained on her horse at the door of the court, and when she heard that matters were likely to go against her, she left in a terrible rage. Before she could be taken into custody, she sought refuge at the Fontevrault Abbey in Anjou, which was associated with King John’s family, and remained there for the rest of her life. Her husband and a son were able to take care of the legal issues with King Louis IX.

Isabella died on May 31, 1246 at Fontevrault Abbey and was initially buried in the common graveyard there at her request. In 1254, her son King Henry III visited Fontevrault and he personally supervised the reburial of his mother’s remains in the abbey church next to the tombs of his grandparents King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her remains at Fontevrault Abbey are believed to have been scattered by Huguenots in 1562 when they sacked and pillaged the Abbey. However, her effigy, a wooden sculpture of a reclining figure, can still be seen in the abbey church.

Effigy of Isabella of Angoulême at Fontevrault Abbey; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Isabella of Angoulême

August 24: Today in Royal History

King Ferdinand I of Romania; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

August 24, 1103 – Death of Magnus III of Norway in battle near River Quoile in Ulster, Ireland; buried near St. Patrick’s Church in Downpatrick, Ulster, Ireland
Wikipedia: King Magnus III of Norway

August 24, 1113 – Birth of Geoffrey V (the Handsome), Count of Anjou
Geoffrey was the father of King Henry II of England.
Wikipedia: Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou

August 24, 1198 – Birth of King Alexander II of Scotland in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland
Wikipedia: King Alexander II of Scotland

August 24, 1200 – Wedding of King John of England and Isabella of Angouleme in Bordeaux, France
Unofficial Royalty: Isabella of Angouleme, Queen of England
Unofficial Royalty: King John of England

August 24, 1507 – Death of Cecily of York, daughter of King Edward IV of England, at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, England; buried at Quarr Abbey
Wikipedia: Cecily of York

August 24, 1772 – Birth of King Willem I of the Netherlands at Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, The Netherlands
Unofficial Royalty: King Willem I of the Netherlands

August 24, 1865 – Birth of King Ferdinand I of Romania at Sigmaringen Castle (Germany)
Unofficial Royalty: King Ferdinand I of Romania

August 24, 1945 – Death of Stéphanie of Belgium, wife of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria; buried at Pannonhalma Benedictine Archabbey in Hungary
Wikipedia: Stéphanie of Belgium

August 24, 1995 – Birth of Lady Amelia Windsor, daughter of George Windsor, Earl of St. Andrews, at Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, United Kingdom
Full name: Amelia Sophia Theodora Mary Margaret
Wikipedia: Lady Amelia Windsor

Royal News: Tuesday 23 August 2016

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August 23: Today in Royal History

King Louis XVI of France; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

August 23, 1740 – Birth Tsar Ivan VI of Russia in St. Petersburg, Russia
Wikipedia: Tsar Ivan VI of Russia

August 23, 1754 – Birth of King Louis XVI of France at the Palace of Versailles
Wikipedia: King Louis XVI of France

August 23, 1836 – Birth of Marie Henriette of Austria, wife of King Leopold II of the Belgians, at Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary
Unofficial Royalty: Marie Henriette of Austria, Queen of the Belgians

August 23, 1951- Birth of Lisa Najeeb Halaby, Queen Noor of Jordan, fourth wife of King Hussein I of Jordan, in Washington, DC
Unofficial Royalty: Queen Noor of Jordan