Friday, 11 October 2013

King William of France

The Antique Theatre in Orange:

Somewhere - I don't remember where, perhaps Norman Davis' Europe: A History - I recall a map, with arrows pointing out of it from France towards the rest of Europe. The arrows denoted the migration of significant knights, nobles, or marriage partners to rule other parts of Europe. It was an impressive diagram, putting France at the centre of the web of international monarchy. Just a few examples:

  • the English monarchy and aristocracy was deposed in a hostile takeover in 1066 by William Duke of Normandy, and so effective was this that the oldest English noble families usually do not date their ancestry any further back than the Norman invasion. 
  • During the crusades, France provided the kings of Jerusalem. 
  • Norman adventurers did not just conquer England, but Sicily and Naples. 
  • The Stewart dynasty in Scotland can trace their French ancestry back to Dol in Brittany via Walter FitzAlan, High Steward of Scotland, whose father Alan was invited over by Henri I of England to help pacify the Welsh marches.
  • William of Orange's title stems from the lands of Orange, now in France... gained in a will in 1544 by the Dutch Nassau dynasty.

The evidence was gathering that France really was the cradle of European monarchy. But whilst researching for this post, I read that Denmark's 19th century king Christian 9 was nicknamed the 'father of Europe' due to his relations with the rest of the monarchies of Europe. I realised you could probably draw a map like the French one for many other countries, including Scotland (whose dynasties have provided kings and queens for Norway, England, Ireland, France, Burgundy and Bohemia, just off the top of my head).

The truth is they are all interrelated anyway. As royalty might say: we're a' Charlemagne's bairns.


blueskyscotland said...

Hi Craig. Being thick I knew sod all about the Normans origins until I watched an excellent programme all about them a few years ago. As you probably know Norman is old French for Norseman which would explain the Denmark connection you mention. They were Vikings who invaded France and claimed Normandy as their own then went on from there to make a grab for England, Byzantium and parts of the Mediterranean. I always thought they were French but they were very good at assimilating the culture of any country they invaded. Within a short time they could all speak fluent French and made a habit of marrying rich nobles daughters to cement their power.
Looks like you enjoyed your trip over there.

Robert Craig said...

Yeah the Normans got everywhere. I read somewhere DNA research was done recently on the families that came over after 1066, the researchers were surprised that there was much more French to them than Viking.