Companion of William the Conqueror

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William the Conqueror had men of various origins, rank and reputation under his command at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. With these and others, he continued for the next five years to lead the sack of the North and complete the Norman conquest of England . The term companion of Wilhelm the Conqueror describes in the broadest sense those who planned, organized and accompanied Wilhelm's campaign to conquer England from 1066 to 1071. However, the term is also defined more narrowly than those nobles who actually fought with Duke Wilhelm in the Battle of Hastings. Unless otherwise stated, this refers to the narrower definition.

Receipts vs. Legend

Over the centuries since the Battle of Hastings, many in England have indicated that an ancestor fought on the Norman side. While there is evidence of extensive colonization of England by people of Norman , Breton or Flemish origins after 1066, the fact remains that the names of only 15 men who were in battle with Duke Wilhelm are found in reliable sources can. This group is often referred to as " proven companions ". Many lists and so-called rolls of other suspected companions have been drawn up over time, but unless new evidence emerges, all such guesses are of no historical value.

The contemporary sources

Three sources are the only generally accepted reliable contemporary evidence identifying participants in the Battle of Hastings. From these three sources only 15 names emerge.

  • Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum ("The Deeds of William II, Duke of the Normans"), by Wilhelm von Poitiers , written between 1071 and 1077. The author was born around 1020 in Les Préaux near Pont-Audemer , and belonged to an influential Norman family on. After military service, he studied in Poitiers and then returned to Normandy, where he became chaplain of Duke Wilhelm and Archdeacon of Lisieux . He died in 1090. His work is an eulogy for the Duke. The first and the final part are lost, the text that has been preserved describes the period between 1047 and 1068 and contains details of Wilhelm's life, but is not credible with regard to what happened in England. It contains a detailed description of the preparations for the campaign, the Battle of Hastings and the aftermath. The work forms the basis for large parts of the writings of Ordericus Vitalis.
  • Historia Ecclesiastica ("Church history"), from Ordericus Vitalis , especially books 4 and 5. Ordericus was born in England around 1075 as the son of a Norman priest and became a novice in the Abbey of Saint-Évroult at the age of 11 . He began his work around 1110, which was primarily to be a story of his monastery, and continued it until his death in 1142.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry , an annotated pictorial representation of the Norman conquest. It was probably made in Bayeux , Normandy, shortly after the 11th century event.

These three sources are obviously inadequate, not only because they all report primarily from a Norman point of view. William of Poitiers, the Duke's chamberlain and trained knight who provides the most detailed information, was in France during the battle and betrays strong prejudices about Breton culture and its role in Hastings. Both Wilhelm and Ordericus state that the Bretons were a major part of the order of battle, but do not name any of the Bretons present.

"Occupied companion"

The following list corresponds to the order in the respective sources (Wilhelm von Poitiers (1–12), Bayeux Tapestry (13), Ordericus Vitalis (14–15)):

Five more names

The following five names are mentioned by both David C. Douglas and Geoffrey H. White and come from "Complete Peerage XII-1" (Appendix L.) (Wilhelm von Poitiers (16), Bayeux Tapestry (17–19 ), Ordericus Vitalis (20)).

The "co-conquerors"

For Charles Warren Hollister , the term "Conqueror's Companion", unless restricted to those who took part in the famous battle, should not apply to all simple participants such as B. Cooks extend. Rather, the term should refer to those on whom the conqueror relied and who provided him with the soldiers, commanders, financial resources, etc. Among them were, of course, the Duke's confidants, such as his two half-brothers, William FitzOsbern , Roger de Montgomerie and Roger de Beaumont . To this circle of relatives there are those who are allied with him (especially through his kinship with Gunnora ). Among them are William de Warenne , Raoul de Mortemer , Richard de Bienfaite , Baudouin de Meules , the Tosny family , the children or grandchildren of Baudry le Teuton (Courcy, de Neuville, d'Aunou, see House Courcy ). It also seems that William the Conqueror trusted the men of his generation in his enterprise: Hugues d'Avranches , the son of the Viscount d'Avranches, was entrusted with great responsibility, while his father was involved in the administration of Normandy until 1066.

One must also consider members of the ducal house such as Robert d'Oilly , who had experience in preparing for campaigns; the lords and military commanders of neighboring counties and principalities (Flanders, Brittany, Ponthieu, Poitou, etc.) who served as commanders for their own contingents; those who knew the area to be conquered, such as B. Guillaume Malet .

During the conquest, men of lesser importance in Normandy were given great tasks. It is very likely that the reputation they gained at the Battle of Hastings caught the Duke's attention. Among these men are Guillaume de Percy , Geoffroy de Mandeville , Henri de Ferrières, and Gautier de Lacy , etc.

Other names

Mason adds another one he found at Ordericus Vitalis:

  • Onfroy de Tilleul, brother-in-law of Hugues de Grandmesnil (see Grandmesnil ), guardian of Hastings Castle (which was built in a hurry between landing and battle), and therefore hardly any participant in the battle; he is one of two participants in the campaign who had previously been in England for a long time (the other is Eustache de Boulogne): his son Robert of Rhuddlan received the accolade from Edward the Confessor .

Douglas brings more names into play:

Secondary sources

  • Carmen de Hastingae Proelio ("Song of the Battle of Hastings"), a poemattributed toGui de Ponthieu, Bishop of Amiens , and written shortly after 1066.
  • Roman de Rou von Wace , around 1160/70 with 116 names (see below)
  • Cronicques de Normendie , by William Le Talleur, Rouen, 1487.
  • Collectanea by John Leland († 1552), based on the Battle Abbey Roll (see below)
  • Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, by Raphael Holinshed (1529-1580), first published in 1577, allegedly based on Le Talleur and Leland.
  • Battle Abbey Roll , different in number, date and reliability, copy from the 16th century; the long-lost original is said to come from the Battle Abbey founded by William the Conqueror on the site of King Harald's death shortly after the battle .
  • Roll of Dives-sur-Mer , Normandy, 1862: the names were engraved on the wall of the nave of the Norman church (11th century) at Dives-sur-Mer in 1862, under the auspices of the French Archaeological Society. 475 names are listed based mainly on names contained in the Domesday Book . The names are therefore only those of the Normans who had land in England in 1086, many of whom may have fought in Hastings.
  • Roll of Falaise , Normandy, 1931: it consists of a bronze plaque placed in the Château de Falaise on the initiative of the French government ; it contains 315 names based on the Roman de Rou and one of the Battle Abbey Roll .

The historical core of the Roman de Rou

Written a hundred years after the battle, the work of the poet-chronicler Wace was long debated, with his reputation as a chronicler reduced to practically nothing. In 1997, a study by Elisabeth van Houts shows that criticism of Wace is mostly unfounded. Since Wace appears to have particularly emphasized the contributions of the Bayeux region families, some of the associated names must be viewed with caution and likely omitted. According to Charles Warren Hollister, Wace also took the oral traditions of the Anglo-Norman families of his day at face value.

Wace's poem names 116 people who are referred to by a place name. Of these, 38 are given first names and surnames or place names, 21 there are detailed descriptions of their actions. They are easy to identify and the likelihood that they participated in the battle is high. The other 77 are mentioned simply by indicating the territories of which they are masters. The 44 that are known in the novel with at least two pieces of information (a first name and / or a place name and / or a nickname) are:

The other 77 are mentioned by specifying the areas of which they are often masters - often for the sake of rhyme.


  • Cokayne's Complete Peerage. Revised Edition, Volume 12, Appendix L, pp. 47-48.
  • David Charles Douglas, George W. Greenaway (Eds.): English Historical Documents 1042-1189. London, 1959. William of Poitiers: the Deeds of William, Duke of the Normans and King of the English. Pp. 217-232 & The Bayeux Tapestry. Pp. 232-279.
  • David Charles Douglas, Compagnios of the Conqueror. In: History. Volume 28, 1943, pp. 129-147.
  • JFA Mason, The Companions of the Conqueror: An Additional Name. In: The English Historical Review. Volume 71, No. 278 (January 1956), pp. 61-69.
  • Elisabeth MC van Houts, Wace as Historian and Genealogist. In: KSB Keats-Rohan (Ed.): Family Trees and the Roots of Politics, The Prosopography of Britain and France from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century. Woodbridge, 1997.

Web links


  1. See Cokayne's Complete Peerage, reviewed edition, Volume 12, Postscriptum to Appendix L, pp. 47-48: "Companions of the Conqueror"
  2. Douglas (1959) writes, "Explicit evidence to support the presence of certain people in Hastings is found in fewer than 35 people" (p. 227, footnote 2), but does not mention names.
  3. Cokayne's Peerage. op. cit.
  4. Other names are mentioned, but only before and after the battle.
  5. Histoire de la Normandie, edition Guizot, Caen, 1825–1827. 4 volumes online through the Bibliothèque nationale de France ; Volume 1 , Volume 2 , Volume 3 , Volume 4
  6. Les cronicques de Normendie. Guillaume Le Talleur, Rouen, 1487, see paragraph cxxxviii, pp. 115-116 ( ).
  7. ^ Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. First published in London, 1577, further edition in 1587: Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. J. Johnson & Co., London 1805 ( ).