Read the Chronicles :
we have come in the wake of William the Conqueror
( “The Taming of the Shrew”, Shakespeare).
William the Conqueror was the son of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, 4th descendant of Rollon, and of one of his mistresses named Harlotte (whence some imagine the word harlot derives), daughter of a tanner. Many years later, when he besieged the town of Alençon, the inhabitants hung hides over the ramparts shouting “ Hides for the tanner !”; William destroyed the town, mutilated and flayed alive its notables. Later, Falaise erected an equestrian statue for William, which was inaugurated in 1851.
One day when Robert was riding in the countryside, he noticed a few young peasant girls who were dancing and he was so touched by the charms of the above-named Harlotte, that he persuaded her to live with him, which she did; ten months later she gave birth to William.
The monastic scribes tell how the child shortly after his birth, having found straw under his hands, picked up a few stalks and held them so tightly that several people were needed to wrench them from him. William the Bastard (he later changed the name to that of Conqueror) was born in the year 1027.
When Robert was ready to leave for the Holy Land, he had William recognized as his heir and recommended him to Henry II, King of France, who took care of his education and defended him against his rebellious subjects and against a few Lords who had their eyes on his Duchy.
Harold, Saxon king of England, driven by the winds onto the French coast, probably in 1064, was held a prisoner, in view of an exchange for ransom, by William who concluded a pact with him, sealed on relics, to the effect that he himself would become king of England and Harold simple count of Wessex : this is the story told by the chronicle of Bayeux, tapestry attributed to Queen Mathilda, wife to William and daughter of the count of Flanders.
In order to invade England, the assault forces (Normans, French, Picards, about 7000 combatants) assembled in the course of the summer of 1066 in the area of St Valéry on the Somme. Mercenaries came from Flanders, Normans from southern Italy and Spain : William had received total support from Pope Alexander II. However, the winds remained contrary. The landing day was postponed, but there was no shortage of wine. The relics of St-Edmond from the church of St Valéry were produced : the winds turned. The vessels could at last reach the rendez-vous at the mouth of the estuary; at night the admiral’s ship carried a powerful lantern at the top of its main mast.
On 28th September William and his fleet dropped anchor in Pevensy Bay (Sussex). On landing, the Duke lay down full length : ”I have taken England with both hands”, he commented soberly. Now, on this morning of 14th October, some good soldiering could be done ! he declared to his troops, adding : “I have not come here just to take my due, but to avenge our whole nation for the felony, perjury and treason of these English ...”
The Norman custom of fighting with long bows, unknown to the English, proved disastrous to the latter. Their own chroniclers report that the bulk of their army, fighting, as usual, with bills, kept so closely together that it could only be overcome when the Normans, by pretending to flee, caused it to open up and thus won the battle which, although miserably lost, was fought by the natives with utmost bravery in order to save the Fatherland from a foreign yoke. Harold’s body was found among the dead; Edith alone, the beautiful lady with the swan-neck, whom he had loved, was able to identify him. William marched towards London fast, obliging this city’s inhabitants to send him emissaries to hand over the keys submissively.
Aldred, Archbishop of York, crowned William, who was very pious, on Christmas Day 1066. (Duchess Matilda was crowned on Whitsun Sunday 1068).
All of England did not, however, submit to William. The villagers of Romney killed a band of Norman knights. York and Oxford still resisted, but he punished the inhabitants so severely that even the most obstinate were frightened. The region was laid waste from coast to coast. In the year 1075 a serious revolt broke out in the Midlands and in East Anglia, and one of the Saxon leaders who had escaped the massacres, Waltheof, joined ranks with the NORMAN rebels; but the Saxon population sided with the Conqueror against chaos: they were vying as to who would first pay homage to William and they came in droves “like flies settling on a wound”: it is better to kneel and live than stand up and die !
At first William treated the English with great mildness, confirming their laws and privileges. But when he saw that every year again they were plotting how to dethrone him, he changed his conduct; he punished the mutineers mercilessly, took away their lands which he distributed to the Normans or those English who had been faithful to him. He deprived the Nation of its privileges, abolished its laws and put Norman ones in their place. He seized the treasures of the monasteries with the excuse that the rebels had hidden their most precious possessions in them, removed the English from all posts carrying honour and profit and imposed a tax on land, similar to the Danegelt which Edward had abolished, a tax reminding the English of the evils they had formerly endured under foreign domination (rule?).
Subsequently he forbade them to hunt (whoever kills stag, hind or wild boar will have his eyes gouged out ) or to fell trees in his woods without express permission. He commanded the Norman language only to be used in all law proceedings and it to be taught in schools. In a word, he treated England as a conquered country, and never was a monarch more despotic than he.
William also fought against the Welsh whom he defeated in several battles and against Malcolm, king of the Scots, whom he obliged to pay homage to him for the entire kingdom of Scotland; he declared war on the duke of Brittany. And better still, he crossed the frontier with France at the head of a powerful army, besieged, took and sacked Mantes, than set the town on fire; but this action cost him his life. He went so near to the flames that the violence of the fire, in addition to the heat of the season, gave him a fever; this, plus an injury he had received at the belly, caused him to be transported in a litter to the priory St-Gervais in Rouen, where he died on 9th september 1087. The bishop of Evreux buried him in St-Stephen’s Abbey in Caen.
England had suffered the most catastrophic and the most humiliating defeat in her history, a débâcle whose mark did not fade, in spite of changed war-luck in subsequent battles. The only culture was the French one (Gurth and Wamba in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe bear witness to this). The Saxon notables sent their sons for education to the monasteries in France. Then the conquerors married the natives of the opposite sex. This indicates total submission by England. Intellectual or social exchanges between the two sides of the Channel took a new turn, for it is better to kneel and live than to stand up and die !
From Julie B. (Sunday Times) : Go on, France ! or the five Nations Tournament
For the francophiles : long live the croissants, the holidays in Provence (oh Charles !), the joy of living, the arrogance, the racism, the musical worthlessness of people unable to make a popmusic-record (oh Johnny !), the Claudelo-Tartrian philosophy, the forgotten purchase of soap and deodorants, the National Anthem proudly sung by the citizens (not subjects !), the first names chosen of necessity from an approved list, the marriage contract, the virility of the CRS, the proper behaviour, the geese transformed into foie gras, the collaboration with Germany (it is better to kneel and live than to stand up and die !). The French, who were subjected to the test of occupation, did not have their towns bombarded, did not lose their Empire, suffer bankruptcy and 400 000 victims, while, according to Sir Winston Churchill, England has a history without blemish in her resistance against the Nazis ...
On 3rd July 1940, Jersey, Alderney and Sark (oh Olivia !) are occupied.
Ambroise Sherwell is proud of his compatriots who conduct themselves well with the German soldiers, tanned, clumsy, who dance with the young and pretty English girls later treated as “Kraut-bags” and patriotically shorn by black-labour hairdressers. There are forced labour camps for Europeans on the islands, already the Common Market with its cortege of famine, torture and hanging : it is better to kneel and live than to stand up and die !