William the Conqueror


I’ve done genealogy for a long time now, and I know (or sort of know) that I am descended from one of the English noble families, back in the seventeenth century or so.

And since everybody intermarried so much in those days, one way or another, I know that I am descended from William the Conqueror.

Is there any doubt?

We found William  – or rather Guillaume le Conquerant – everywhere we went in Normandy in October. William’s Ducal Palace was two blocks from our hotel in Caen, and his tomb was ten blocks away in the Abbaye aux Hommes. (His wife Matilda was buried not far away in the other direction, but we didn’t get to her tomb. Next time for sure.)  The big cathedral in Caen, Saint-Pierre, was founded by William’s grandfather. When we went to Bayeux, we saw another grandiose cathedral commissioned by William, as well as the miraculous tapestry which may or may not have been executed by Queen Matilda. (At any rate, the tapestry was commissioned by William’s half-brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux.)

We didn’t visit Falaise, where William was born. There’s a lovely castle there:

 

William’s father was the rascally Duke Robert of Normandy, known as Robert the Devil. His mother was Arlette, daughter of a local embalmer. Robert and Arlette weren’t married, so William was a bastard. (This would explain all the things called “Le Batard” in Caen and Bayeux.)

I was strangely moved by the epitaph on William’s tomb:

 

I know just enough Latin to translate it without help:

HERE IS BURIED

THE MOST UNCONQUERED

WILLIAM

THE CONQUEROR

DUKE OF NORMANDY

AND KING OF ENGLAND

AND THE BUILDER OF THIS HOUSE

WHO DIED IN THE YEAR 1087

I felt uncommonly solemn in that place.

Rest in peace, Grandpa William.

(We’ll get around to visiting Grandma Matilda on our next trip.)


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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

3 Responses to William the Conqueror

  1. starproms says:

    Oooh that IS interesting. How exciting for you.

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