16. Duke William of Normandy Capped Off His Adventurous Life by Becoming King William I of England
William the Bastard finally got his turbulent barons under control by resorting to exemplary brutality, calculated to make clear to all and sundry that he was not somebody to mess with. Salutary punishments including chopping off the hands and feet of rebels. The message was heard loud and clear. His greatest accomplishment came in 1066, when William, a cousin of England’s King Edward the Confessor, claimed the throne after the latter’s death without issue. His claim was contested by Harold Godwinson, who was crowned king by England’s Anglo-Saxon lords. So William gathered an army, secured the pope’s blessing for his cause, and sailed to England in September 1066.
On October 14th, William met and defeated the Anglo-Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings, during which King Harold was killed. After his victory, he conquered England and crowned himself King William I. The consequences were momentous. Centuries of Anglo-Saxon independence came to an end, to be replaced by Norman rule. For generations, England had been oriented towards the Germanic world from whence the Anglo-Saxons came, and after the Viking Era began, to the North Sea and Scandinavia. William and the Normans reoriented England towards France, the Western European mainstream, and the Mediterranean world.