Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Appearance of William the Conqueror

From Once I Was a Clever Boy:
He was a tough, at times ruthless, ruler, but disciplined and energetic - how else would he have achieved success in 1066 - and proved a highly capable ruler, willing to learn and adapt. However one interprets the Norman Conquest it is pivotal to English history and that of the British isles, and William is pivotal the events of invasion, conquest and government in the two decades following. His legacy is remarkable by any standards. I wrote some reflections upon it last year in my post 1066 and All That to which I would refer readers together with its links.
 
From what we can deduce of his appearance King William was an impressive figure. On the basis of the size of his one surviving thigh bone he was six foot or so in height, and in giving his eldest son Robert the nickname Curthose appears to have mocked him for his lack of height - Robert may have taken after his mother Queen Matilda, whose skeleton reveals her to have been very slight in build. In his later years he put on weight - a contributary cause to his death in 1087, but for much of his life he must have maintained very considerable fitness as a warrior and as a keen follower of the chase. Given his ancestry he may well have appeared more Scandinavian than French, and certainly one of his sons, King William II, was famously red haired, although King Henry I had black or dark hair. If the Bayeux tapestry is to be believed - and it is very detailed and near contemporary - William was brown haired and clean-shaven. (Read entire post.)
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