Analyse the character of William the Conqueror. Was he a moral man? Was he a successful ruler?
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To understand William the conqueror's character one must take into account his behaviour since he was a child and the behaviour of those around him. William had a wide range of qualities, though morality was not one of them. He was an excellent hunter and warrior, very capable in battle, uneducated and yet very intelligent.1 However, among his worst qualities were ruthlessness, ambition and opportunism,2 traits associated with normans and the typical medieval monarch.3 (It can be argued that) his immoral behaviour did not cease until his last days.
William's character plays an important part in the way he governed. He was indeed a successful ruler as he developed a system of government that allowed him to control and rule over the country while he was in Normandy or engaged in war. As a result he succeeded in improving the Anglo-Saxon government, retaining control of the church and his subjects, and setting the political and economic bases for the future success of England.4
As a child, after his father's death, William grew up in anarchy surrounded by violence, rebellions and murder. For he was an illegitimate son who inherited the duchy of Normandy at an early age, he had to face many revolts from barons who benefited more from his death than his succession to the duchy. Concequently, all his four guardians encountered violent deaths either trying to protect him or because they were using him for their own ends.5
Therefore, the normans' violent nature and all the difficulties that he had confronted thoughout his childhood might have shaped William's cruel and immoral character, as he used the same ruthless methods adopted by the normans to reinforce his power in Normandy and specially in England.
When he conqu...
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...igious belief, his life would be spared as soon as he confessed his sins, thus becoming a moral man in the eyes of God with his final act of redemption.
William the conqueror, David R Bates, introduction http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/418283/Norman http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon22.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror#Background The English and the Normans : Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation, and Identity 1066- c.1220. Hugh M Thomas http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/normans.htm Makers of history, William the conqueror. Jacob Abbott.
A history of England: David Harris Wilson http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/domesday.htm The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain. Edited by Kenneth O. Morgan