By J.P. Reedman
William’s Christmas Coronation.
1066 was a strange year for England. It was a year of three Kings, Edward the Confessor, Harold—and Harold’s successor, William the Bastard, who had defeated him at Hastings.
William was the illegitimate son of Robert, Duke of Normandy and a woman named Herleva or Arlette, thought to be a tanner or embalmer’s daughter. In 1051, the childless King Edward the Confessor was said to have named him as heir to England as he was Edward’s cousin once removed. And so, a bloody battle for the crown ensued when Edward died with William believing his claim was superior to that of King Harold.
By December of 1066, many were eager to see the new King crowned. Numerous prominent nobles had bent the knee to their new overlord and Edgar the Atheling, a rival claimant, was firmly in William’s possession.
A date for the Coronation was set. An auspicious date within the religious calendar. The new King of England would be crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.
The ceremony was unusual; a blend of English and Norman rituals in an attempt to appease both sides. It took place at the Confessor’s grave and the words were read out both in English by Aeldred, Archbishop of York, and in French by Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances. The ancient English rite of Saint Dunstan was enacted, but also a rite known to the Kings of France—the anointing of the king with the holy Chrism.
Since rebellion from the English was still a possibility, William had made sure the Abbey was ringed by a band of metal-clad Norman knights, watching for any trouble.
And trouble came—although, as it happened, it was the over-suspicious knights who cause it. Not English rebels.
As the crown about to be settled on William’s Chrism-slick brow, the attendees inside the church began giving out great shouts of acclaim for the new monarch. Their cries shook the vast stone dome, echoing between the pillars. To the Norman knights stationed outside, this shouting sounded like an out-and-out riot, an attack upon their lord from within the church.
Without waiting to find out what was really happening, the Norman knights swarmed into the streets around the Abbey, putting the nearby houses to the torch. Flames leapt into the cold December air.
Inside the Abbey, the congregation smelt the acrid smoke and heard screams from those caught in the conflagration beyond. Panicking, they began to surge out of the doors and ran through the smoke-furled streets. Some, seeing the true situation, quickly began to loot the burning shops and houses.
Back within Westminster, William was left with the unnerved bishops, monks and clergy. Apparently even the mighty Conqueror was ‘pale faced and trembling’ in fear, believing that his knights had taken on an unexpected enemy out to dethrone him before he had even been fully crowned.
The Bishops hastily completed the consecration rites while the fires in the houses were extinguished before they could spread further across London. William, now an anointed king, trembled in fear no more but proceeded on his way to the traditional coronation banquet.
However, the events of this day fostered further mistrust between William and the English. Feeling their dissatisfaction, within a few weeks of Christmas, William ordered the beginnings of a huge, impregnable fortress—the edifice that would become the Tower of London.
William’s Coronation was not his only memorable Christmas, either. In 1069, on Christmas Day, three years after his Coronation in Westminster, he stood wearing his crown in the roofless, war-ravaged ruins of York Minster—a symbolic act. He then proceeded with the ‘Harrowing of the North’ which left northern England in ruins, with famine gripping the land and thousands homeless or dead. William’s initial tentative peace with the English was over; upon that unhappy Christmas Day in 1069, a new harsher phase of Norman rule had begun.
J.P. Reedman was born in Canada but has lived in the U.K. for 27 years.
Interests include folklore & anthropology, prehistoric archaeology (Neolithic/Bronze age Europe; ritual, burial & material culture), as well as The Wars of the Roses and other medieval periods. Novels include I, Richard Plantagenet, The Man Who Would be King, Secret Marriages (Wars of the Roses), The Hood Game (Robin Hood), The Stonehenge Saga (Bronze Age), and Medieval Babes, an ongoing series about little-known Medieval women.
J.P.’s most recent release is MY FATHER, MY ENEMY, about William the Conqueror’s granddaughter, Juliane Fitzroy, illegitimate daughter Henry I of England. Married to a Norman noble, life seems set for Juliane until her husband Eustace causes trouble with the castellan of Ivry. Hostages are exchanged by the King's order, Ralph's son for Juliane's daughters. A terrible tragedy happens and Juliane wants vengeance...she wants to kill the King.
My Father, My Enemy:
Juliane, Daughter of Henry I
(Medieval Babes, Tales of Little-Known Ladies Book 6)
By J.P Reedman
Juliane Fitzroy is the illegitimate daughter of Henry I--one of his twenty-two bastards.
When her father weds her to a young Norman lord, Eustace de Breteuil, she thinks she has done well in life for the daughter of a Saxon concubine.
But Eustace wants a castle he cannot have. He starts hostilities with its castellan, Ralph Harenc, egged on by the dubious Amaury de Montfort.
To keep the peace, King Henry orders a hostage exchange between Eustace and Ralph. Juliane's pretty young daughters for Ralph's son.
In a drunken rage, fuelled on by Amaury, Eustace breaks the truce and blinds Harenc's boy. Furious, the King allows Ralph to take his own brutal vengeance upon Henry's own granddaughters.
Crazed with grief, Juliane plots revenge for the maiming of her children.
The Wheel of Fate spins. The King must die, his own daughter judge, jury, executioner...
Pick up your copy of
My Father, My Enemy