While researching her current WIP "Wolf Wild Heart, a Story of Anne of Kiev, Jennifer Ott learned more of William the Conqueror.
What We Can Learn Today from William the Conqueror
Most people today would not think of William the Conqueror to be a person for modern-day inspiration. Often history tells only one side of the story, and the story most told of William the Conqueror is his brutal campaign in England. Great men often lead a trail of blood and tears and victories are always shades of gray. What isn’t often discussed is how did William the Bastard of Normandy become William the Conqueror, the rise of a hunted youth to that of a ruler.
Conqueror our own Darkness.
William the Conqueror did not just have a humble upbringing, but a violent one. William (Great, Great Grandson of Rollo, the Viking) was the only heir (despite being a bastard) to the duchy of Normandy, and yet he spent his childhood dodging assassination attempts. He was hunted and hated by the rebels who wished to usurp him.
Few of us could fully understand what this might do a child and what type of man he would become. He may fall into victim hood, runaway and hide forever, become corrupt and cruel, or embrace adversity and rise above it. William proved the latter.
For the modern-day viewer, it might be hard to see a successful conqueror overcome such a violent upbringing, but we see that in William’s history he embraced his future with humility and loyalty which would cement his legacy.
Many of us have dark sides and have faced adversities of different kinds. It is when we conquer ourselves, that we can begin to see the light in others and in life.
The first influential person to come to William’s aid was King Henry 1st of France. With the help of the French army and William’s supporters, he defeated the rebels securing his Dukedom in Normandy. It was King Henry to whom William first swore his allegiance.
Nearly a decade later, another king warmed to William and that was King Edward (the Confessor) of Wessex. Not having an heir, and William being a nephew, King Edward offered the throne of Wessex to William upon his death. Again, we would have to ask, what was it about William that had not just one, but two kings offer him their support. I suspect William demonstrated respect and loyalty toward others, and therefore, he was treated in kind.
Throughout our modern-day missions, it is important to have support of mentors and peers. We can try to rise on our own, but when we are humble to other’s successes and eager to learn, we gain the desire for others to help us. If not, it can be a long and lonely process. It’s not just friends, families and lovers, it’s everyone we come into contact with. We can’t be biased with hearts we desire to win, because we never know whom we can win over.
Stand up for Ourselves
William just didn’t seize the throne of Wessex because he saw opportunity, he was promised the crown. When King Edward died several others rallied to take the throne while William was stuck organizing his army in Normandy. Something he was promised was taken from him.
We can all relate to this and how angry and frustrating it can be. We are promised a job, or an opportunity, only for someone else to sweep in and steal it from us. The question is, what do we do in such occasion, accept the loss and move on, or we can speak up about the injustice?
Now granted, few of us are offered a crown. We aren’t offered the job as king, and whatever it is, we’re not going to take it by violent force. These are different times, yet it is enough to speak up for ourselves, engage in a protest, or leave for something better. It’s just the idea that we are worth what we are offered and owe it to ourselves to promote our own value.
Fight for what We Believe.
According to history, even William had doubts about invading England. He sought the advice of Pope Alexander II who told William that God was on his side, and therefore, William with the help of his wife Matilda and the loyalty of his troops organized an immense army which would eventually descend on England.
Again, fighting has a different context today. It is unlawful to take up arms simply because we are denied an opportunity. However, this could mean we work harder, we look for support for our cause and look onward. Fighting doesn’t always represent a physical action; it could be finding the strength in ourselves to continue.
Push Through Set Backs
William’s crusade faced many hurdles. Inclement weather restricted his army from crossing the channel. For months, facing loss of food and supplies, his army waited on the beach of Normandy ready to strike. Finally, when the weather broke and they set sail, a strong cross wind blew them off course to what is modern day Belgium. That could have been the end, but despite all odds, William rallied his troops and once again set sail and they landed at Hastings, where they earned victory.
The wind will constantly push our sails off course, providing set back after set back. This is when so many give up on their pending greatness. There is more than one path to our destination. When path one ends, it doesn’t mean a failure, it means we change direction. Greatness comes from perseverance.
The legacy of William the Conqueror is, of course, conquering. He didn’t stop at Wessex, he conquered all of England – East Anglia, North Umbria…all of the Saxon kingdoms, uniting the entire country and becoming the first English king.
However, there are parts of William’s reign that are not as well known. He was the first king in England to coronate a queen. Giving power to queens was unheard of in Saxon rule, and William didn’t just stop with the coronation, his Queen Matilda ruled over England and Normandy while he was at battle. William abolished slavery in the Saxon kingdoms, was the first to erect massive castles and with the help of his Queen Matilda they built schools.
Our own individual paths to greatness may have their ugliness as we have engaged our dark sides as well as the darkness of others. We have embraced the respect and loyalty of peers and supporters, yet at the same time provoked enemies who don’t want to see us succeed (for their reasons), and yet it is vitally important to use our success for the benefit of others. We need to pay it back for others to follow our lead and expand their greatness.
There is not a limit to greatness in this world that we can obtain. In fact, it is possible for all of us to reach greatness in our own way. The trick is finding our courage within ourselves and the belief that all of us are destined for a greatness of our own kind.