England’s Most Brutal King Was Also Its Greatest Peacemaker

How William the Conqueror made peace happen among the bloodshed.

June 7, 2017 5:00 am
How England's Most Brutal King Brought About Peace
Circa 1070, King William I, known as the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Typically when historians utter the name William the Conqueror, it involves anecdotes about his ruthlessness and Game of Thrones–like penchant for bloodletting. The warfare began at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, during which he gained control of the English crown.

But through the sea of blood and bodies, William was also able to bring England something his predecessors were not—peace.

That change had to do with a number of factors. One was that England previously had a political crisis on its hands in terms of rules of succession

So what happened in the post-Hastings lansdcape had everything to do with Williams’ followers’ confidence in him, author and expert David Bates writes for Smithsonian. William was able to achieve this by rightly rewarding his supporters after Hastings, as well as guaranteeing them security amidst “continuing resentment, potential rebellion, and the certainty of invasions.”

That was the carrot. The stick was laying waste to any sort of resistance to his rule, as is evidenced in the “Harrying of the North,” when William destroyed most of Yorkshire over a two-year period.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, as Bates notes, “the result of the conquest was the establishment of peace in England and a framework of rule that emphasized legality and continuation with the English past,” which led to the establishment of an “cross-Channel empire” between England and Normandy that survived until 1204—more than 100 years.

For more on William the Conqueror, watch the video below.

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