Companions of William the Conqueror

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Companions of the Conqueror fighting at Hastings, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. The Duke is on the right, and shows his face to encourage his followers. Legend above: Hic Est Dux Wilel(mus) ("Here is Duke William.") At the left is Bishop Odo. Legend above: Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens, "Here (is) Odo the Bishop holding a club" (see detail below). To the far right, holding a standard, is Eustace, Count of Boulogne (see detail below), with legend above, in upper margin: E[...]TIUS, standing for Eustatius, a Latinised version of "Eustace." The figure is said by others to be Turstin FitzRolf, said by Orderic Vitalis to have carried the Norman standard: Turstinus filius Rollonis vexillum Normannorum portavit, "Turstin son of Rollo carried the standard of the Normans," The Tapestry however depicts it as the Papal Banner, a cross, granted to the Duke by Pope Alexander II to signify papal approval of the Conquest of England. DukeWilliamAtHastings.jpg
Companions of the Conqueror fighting at Hastings, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. The Duke is on the right, and shows his face to encourage his followers. Legend above: Hic Est Dux Wilel(mus) ("Here is Duke William.") At the left is Bishop Odo. Legend above: Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens, "Here (is) Odo the Bishop holding a club" (see detail below). To the far right, holding a standard, is Eustace, Count of Boulogne (see detail below), with legend above, in upper margin: E[...]TIUS, standing for Eustatius, a Latinised version of "Eustace." The figure is said by others to be Turstin FitzRolf, said by Orderic Vitalis to have carried the Norman standard: Turstinus filius Rollonis vexillum Normannorum portavit, "Turstin son of Rollo carried the standard of the Normans," The Tapestry however depicts it as the Papal Banner, a cross, granted to the Duke by Pope Alexander II to signify papal approval of the Conquest of England.

William the Conqueror had men of diverse standing and origins under his command at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. With these and other men he went on in the five succeeding years to conduct the Harrying of the North and complete the Norman conquest of England.

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The term "Companions of the Conqueror" in the widest sense signifies those who planned, organised and joined with William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, in the great adventure which was the Norman Conquest (1066-1071). The term is however more narrowly defined as those nobles who actually fought with Duke William in the Battle of Hastings. [2] This article is concerned with the latter narrow definition.

Proof versus legend

This knight depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry (detail of above) appears below the marginal legend E[...]tius, a Latinised version of Eustace. He has therefore been identified as Eustace, Count of Boulogne. His finger pointing to Duke William seems to depict his urging the Duke to retreat, as the account in William of Poitiers relates. However, others state the figure to be Turstin FitzRolf, due to its carrying of a standard depicting a cross, apparently the Papal Banner. Turstin was described as having carried the "Standard of the Normans," by Orderic Vitalis. Eustache de Boulogne-Bayeux.png
This knight depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry (detail of above) appears below the marginal legend E[...]tius, a Latinised version of Eustace. He has therefore been identified as Eustace, Count of Boulogne. His finger pointing to Duke William seems to depict his urging the Duke to retreat, as the account in William of Poitiers relates. However, others state the figure to be Turstin FitzRolf, due to its carrying of a standard depicting a cross, apparently the Papal Banner. Turstin was described as having carried the "Standard of the Normans," by Orderic Vitalis.

Over the centuries since the Battle of Hastings, many people in England have claimed that an ancestor fought on the Norman side. While there is sound evidence of extensive settlement in England by people of Norman, Breton and Flemish origin after 1066, the fact remains that the names of only 15 men who were with Duke William at the battle can be found in reliable sources. [4]

This group is sometimes called the "proven companions," [5] Many lists and so-called "rolls" of other alleged companions have been drawn up over the ages but, unless new evidence turns up, all are conjecture of no historical value. The three unchallenged sources remain as follows:

The best contemporary sources

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, fighting at Hastings, holding a club. Legend above: Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens Confortat Pueros, "Here Odo the Bishop holding a club gives strength to the boys." The club may reflect his clerical status which might have precluded the shedding of blood by sword, yet in the same scene Duke William himself also holds a club (Bayeux Tapestry) OdoBayeux.jpg
Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, fighting at Hastings, holding a club. Legend above: Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens Confortat Pueros, "Here Odo the Bishop holding a club gives strength to the boys." The club may reflect his clerical status which might have precluded the shedding of blood by sword, yet in the same scene Duke William himself also holds a club (Bayeux Tapestry)

The following three sources constitute the only generally accepted reliable contemporary evidence which names participants at the Battle of Hastings. Between all three sources only 15 names result. [7]

These three sources are unfortunately manifestly inadequate,[ citation needed ] as all are primarily from a Norman perspective. William of Poitiers, chamberlain to Duke William and a trained knight, who provides the most detail, was absent in France during the battle, and betrays severe prejudices in respect of Breton culture and their role at Hastings. Both William and Orderic state that the Bretons were a major component of the battle array, but neither names any of the Bretons present.

"Proven Companions"

The order in which names are listed below is that given in the respective sources:

"A certain Norman, Robert, son of Roger of Beaumont, being nephew and heir to Henry, Count of Meulan, through Henry's sister Adeline, found himself that day in battle for the first time. He was as yet but a young man and he performed feats of valour worthy of perpetual remembrance. At the head of a troop which he commanded on the right wing he attacked with the utmost bravery and success." [9]

"With a harsh voice he (Duke William) called to Eustace of Boulogne, who with 50 knights was turning in flight and was about to give the signal for retreat. This man came up to the Duke and said in his ear that he ought to retire since he would court death if he went forward. But at the very moment when he uttered the words Eustace was struck between the shoulders with such force that blood gushed out from his mouth and nose and half dead he only made his escape with the aid of his followers." [10]

"There were present in this battle: Eustace, Count of Boulogne; William, son of Richard, Count of Evreux; Geoffrey, son of Rotrou, Count of Mortagne; William FitzOsbern; Haimo, Vicomte of Thouars; Walter Giffard; Hugh of Montfort-sur-Risle; Rodulf of Tosny; Hugh of Grantmesnil; William of Warenne, and many other most renowned warriors whose names are worthy to be commemorated in histories among the bravest soldiers of all time." [11]

"His (King Harold's) corpse was brought into the Duke's camp and William gave it for burial to William, surnamed Malet, and not to Harold's mother, who offered for the body of her beloved son its weight in gold." [12]

"Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens Confortat Pueros." ("Here Odo the Bishop holding a club strengthens the boys.") [13]

The five additional names

These five were agreed upon by both David C. Douglas and Geoffrey H. White and are from the Complete Peerage XII-1, Appendix L.

Since the time of these lists, J. F. A. Mason in the English Historical Review adds one additional name:

Sources of secondary merit

Related Research Articles

William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman monarch of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. By 1060, following a long struggle to establish his throne, his hold on Normandy was secure. In 1066, following the death of Edward the Confessor, William invaded England, leading an army of Normans to victory over the Anglo-Saxon forces of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands, and by difficulties with his eldest son, Robert Curthose.

Harold Godwinson Anglo-Saxon King of England (r. Jan-Oct 1066)

Harold Godwinson, also called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon English king. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Battle of Hastings Battle between English and Normans on 14 October 1066

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 mi (11 km) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

Bayeux Tapestry Embroidery depicting the Norman invasion of England in 1066

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long and 50 centimetres (20 in) tall that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle. It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but is now agreed to have been made in England.

Norman Conquest 11th-century invasion and conquest of England by Normans

The Norman Conquest was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Normans, Bretons, Flemish, and men from other French provinces, all led by the Duke of Normandy, later styled William the Conqueror.

Eustace II, Count of Boulogne 11th-century French nobleman

Eustace II,, also known as Eustace aux Grenons, was Count of Boulogne from 1049–1087. He fought on the Norman side at the Battle of Hastings, and afterwards received large grants of land forming an honour in England. He is one of the few proven companions of William the Conqueror. It has been suggested that Eustace was the patron of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Odo of Bayeux 11th-century Bishop of Bayeux and half-brother of William the Conqueror

Odo of Bayeux, Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux, was the maternal half-brother of William the Conqueror, and was, for a time, second in power after the King of England.

Herleva 11th-century Norman mother of William the Conqueror

Herleva was an 11th-century Norman woman known for having been mother of William the Conqueror, born to an extramarital relationship with Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and also of William's prominent half-brothers Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, born to Herleva's marriage to Herluin de Conteville.

William of Poitiers was a Frankish priest of Norman origin and chaplain of Duke William of Normandy, for whom he chronicled the Norman Conquest of England in his Gesta Willelmi ducis Normannorum et regis Anglorum or Gesta Guillelmi II ducis Normannorum. He had trained as a soldier before taking holy orders.

Robert, Count of Mortain 11th-century Norman nobleman and the uterine half-brother of William the Conqueror

Robert, Count of Mortain, 2nd Earl of Cornwall was a Norman nobleman and the half-brother of King William the Conqueror. He was one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 was one of the greatest landholders in his half-brother's new Kingdom of England.

William Malet held senior positions within the Norman forces that occupied England from 1066. He was appointed the second High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1068. Of the so-called companions of William of Normandy, Malet is one of about a dozen for whom there is evidence of their presence at the Battle of Hastings of 14 October 1066. For example, the contemporary chronicler William of Poitiers recorded that Malet was present at the battle.

Taillefer

Taillefer was the surname of a Norman jongleur (minstrel), whose exact name and place of birth are unknown. He travelled to England during the Norman conquest of England of 1066, in the train of William the Conqueror. At the Battle of Hastings, Taillefer sang the Chanson de Roland at the English troops while juggling with his sword. An English soldier ran out to challenge him and was killed by Taillefer, who then charged the English lines alone while singing and was engulfed, killing at least four more English in the process. Strangely, Taillefer is not depicted, by name at least, on the Bayeux Tapestry.

Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester, Count of Meulan, also known as Robert of Meulan, was a powerful Norman nobleman, one of the very few proven Companions of William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and was revered as one of the wisest men of his age. Chroniclers spoke highly of his eloquence, his learning, and three kings of England valued his counsel. He was granted immense land-holdings in England by William the Conqueror and by Henry I and was created Earl of Leicester.

The Battle Abbey Roll is a commemorative list, lost since at least the 16th century, of the companions of William the Conqueror, which had been erected or affixed as a memorial within Battle Abbey, Hastings, founded ex-voto by Duke William on the spot of the slaying of King Harold in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio is a 20th century name for the Carmen Widonis, the earliest history of the Norman invasion of England from September to December 1066, in Latin. It is attributed to Bishop Guy of Amiens, a noble of Ponthieu and monastically-trained bishop and administrator close to the French court, who eventually served as a chaplain for Matilda of Flanders, William the Conqueror's queen. Guy was an uncle to Count Guy of Ponthieu, who figures rather prominently in the Bayeux Tapestry as the vassal of Duke William of Normandy who captured Harold Godwinson in 1064.

Guy I, Count of Ponthieu 11th and 12th century noble

Guy I of Ponthieu was born sometime in the mid- to late 1020s and died 13 October 1100. He succeeded his brother Enguerrand as Count of Ponthieu.

Roger de Beaumont Advisor to William the Conqueror

Roger de Beaumont, feudal lord of Beaumont-le-Roger and of Pont-Audemer in Normandy, was a powerful Norman nobleman and close advisor to William the Conqueror.

Turstin FitzRolf

Turstin fitz Rolf, also known as Turstin le Blanc and Turstin fitz Rou played a prominent role in the Norman conquest of England and is regarded as one of the few proven companions of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Hamon Dentatus

Hamon Dentatus was a Norman baron who was killed while rebelling with other Norman barons against William II, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes. The epithet "Dentatus" or "Dens" was probably given to Hamon because he was born with teeth. Little is known about Hamon's life.

The Council of Lillebonne was a meeting of the nobles and clergy of Normandy where, among other things, the expedition of William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy, was approved. It was held at Lillebonne, in the northeast of Normandy. Wace, the 12th-century historian, wrote of the council, convened shortly before the actual invasion, likely in January 1066. William of Poitiers, a chronicler of the Norman invasion, claims that the duke also obtained the consent of Pope Alexander II for the invasion, along with a papal banner.

References

  1. Attribution to Eustace of this person depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry given by Douglas (1959), p.238, re plate LXXIII
  2. As for example defined by Cokayne's Complete Peerage, revised edition, vol. 12, postscript to Appendix L, pp.47-48: "Companions of the Conqueror"
  3. Douglas (1959), p.238
  4. While Douglas (1959) wrote: "Express evidence vouching the presence of particular persons at Hastings can be found in the case of less than 35 persons." (p.227, footnote 2), he gave no names.
  5. Cokayne's Peerage, op.cit.
  6. This explanation of the club was proposed by Douglas (1959), p.238
  7. Other names are provided which feature before or after the Battle
  8. Histoire de la Normandie, éd. Guizot, Caen, 1825-1827. Accès en ligne BnF (4 vol.); Tome I, Tome II, Tome III, Tome IV
  9. Wm. of Poitiers, per Douglas (1959), p.227
  10. Wm. of Poitiers, per Douglas (1959), pp.228-9
  11. Wm. of Poitiers, per Douglas (1959), pp. 227-8
  12. Wm. of Poitiers, per Douglas (1959), p.229. Malet is not described by William of Poitiers as active during the battle, but rather as present in the Duke's camp after the battle. This should suffice to deem him a participant in the battle.
  13. Bayeux Tapestry, embroidered annotation above and forward between horses' legs
  14. Fitzrolf/FitzRou means son of Rou/Rolf. Said to have come from Bec, Pays de Caux
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Complete Peerage, XII-1, App. L, 47-8
  16. Mason, Additional name, EHR 71, 278, 61-69
  17. Les cronicques de Normendie, Guillaume Le Talleur, Rouen, 1487. En ligne sur bnf.fr, voir paragraphe cxxxviii, p.115-116.
  18. Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, first published in London, 1577. Further edition of 1587 : Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and IrelandJ. Johnson & Co., London, 1805: le projet Gutenberg.

Sources for this article

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