September 28 – Anniversary of the Norman Invasion

Posted on September 28, 2014

There are times when I feel so irritated by the election process in the United States—the obvious importance of money in choosing our leaders, the promises and half-truths and lies, the constant ads—that I wonder why on earth we have such a ridiculous form of government.

But it is so nice that, for centuries, there has been a peaceful and lawful exchange of power, even between people who despise one another's ideas or principles.

Any time you feel discouraged by modern governments, just read some history and learn (or remind yourself) how unfair, violent, and messy the exchange of power used to be!

To set the stage for today's historical anniversary, you should know that a fellow known as William the Bastard became the Duke of Normandy (a place now in northern France) when his dad died, when he was just seven years old. Several rebellions occurred, during which men tries to oust the child (and, let's face it, probably kill the child) and take the title. Each of those rebellions ended with death on both sides and failure.

Eventually, William, Duke of Normandy grew up, and he was quite a good ruler. He visited England, which lay just 20 miles away, across the English channel. While there, he visited the English king, Edward the Confessor. Edward had no children and (William claimed) promised that he would be the heir to the English throne – but when Edward died, in January of 1066, a powerful noble named Harold Godwinson was declared King Harold II.

William immediately protested – but remember, news and messages didn't travel as immediately back then as they can now – so when I say that William “immediately” protested, I imagine that days or even weeks had passed. Still, William asserted that HE had the right to claim the throne.

King Harold II readied his army, expecting William to cross the Channel and attack. However, the new English king had other enemies as well. His own brother, Tostig, wanted the throne, and King Harald III of Norway also wanted to rule England. After fending off a bunch of raids planned by Tostig, King Harold led his men north to face the combined armies of Tostig and Harald. The September 25 battle was bloody – Wikipedia calls it “horrific” – and Tostig, Harald, and most of the Norwegians were killed.

Of course, being distracted by this battle in the north, King Harold II left the English Channel unprotected. And on this date in 1066, William landed in England with his forces and launched his attack on King Harold's reign.

The battles that ensued were also bloody! The result was that King Harold II died in the Battle of Hastings, and William the Bastard – also known as William, Duke of Normandy – became William the Conquerer, also known as William I of England!

Like I said, compared to all this violence and death and mayhem and atrocity, our mud-slinging and swift-boating ads, our stump speeches full of empty promises and debates full of meaningless platitudes all look pretty darned good!

Did you know...?

When the French-speaking Normans conquered and ruled England, they forever changed Britain's culture and language. Check it out!

Also on this date:

Confucius's birthday 

Day of Czech Statehood 

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