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DateLecture
18 February 2020THE NORMANS IN ENGLAND
14 January 2020CARAVAGGIO AND HIS MODELS
01 January 20202019 Lecture Reviews Compilation
17 December 2019A DICKENS OF A CHRISTMAS
19 November 2019OF MEISSEN MEN
15 October 2019THE SILK ROAD: Silk, Slaves and Stupas
30 September 2019Compilation of Lectures 2014-20
17 September 2019TANTRUMS AND TIARAS: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Opera House
18 June 2019NOTHING TO DECLARE: Art Stopped at Customs
21 May 2019ZAHA HADID - Architectural Superstar
16 April 2019SAINT OR SINNER? The changing Image of Mary Magdalene
19 March 2019THE WALLACE AND FRICK COLLECTIONS AND THEIR CONNECTION WITH KNOLE
19 February 2019THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS REVISITED THROUGH ITS ILLUSTRATORS.
15 January 2019THE RIVALRY BETWEEN LEONARDO AND MICHELANGELO
18 December 2018IS CHRISTMAS IN GOOD TASTE?
20 November 2018MAD, BAD AND FASCINATING TO KNOW: The colourful ancestors of the Dukes of Bedford
16 October 2018CELEBRATING THE ROYAL ACADEMY : 250th Anniversary 1768-2018
18 September 2018THE AMADEUS MYTH: Mozart and his world - society and culture in 18th century Vienna
19 June 2018THE ART OF CUISINE AND THE CUISINE OF ART.
15 May 2018THE SILVER THREAD. Silver filigree and Traditional Arts in Kosovo
17 April 2018LET THERE BE LIGHT. The Art and Science of light in Painting.
20 March 2018CHILDREN AS ARTISTS
20 February 2018LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Tortured Hero of Troubled Times
16 January 2018ROMANCING THE RAILS. British Railway Posters.
19 December 2017PICTURING THE NATIVITY. 15TH Century Artists Reinterpret the Nativity
21 November 2017HOCKNEY AT 80
17 October 2017THE BAUHAUS
19 September 2017WILLIAM COBBETT and JAMES GILLRAY . Personal and Political cartoons of the early 19th century.
20 June 2017THE INTERIORS OF JANE AUSTEN’S HEROINES
16 May 2017A LITTLE PARADISE. LAOS: Historic Buddhist Temples to Modern Silk Weaving.
18 April 2017FROM MAUVE TO MOMBAI: The History of Colour in Textiles from 1856 to the Present.
21 March 2017POP GOES THE ARTIST: From Warhol to Dylan
21 February 2017ARMOUR AND THE AFTERLIFE: The Funerary Monuments of Knights and Men-at-Arms.
17 January 2017WHEN BRITAIN CLICKED: Fab Photographs from the Swinging Sixties.
20 December 2016SINGE WE YULE
15 November 2016THE THAMES – Theatre of Pageantry and Pleasure.
18 October 2016DOUBLE DUTCH: Symbols and Emblems and "Double-Entendre" in Dutch Genre painting
20 September 2016THE ELGIN MARBLES.
21 June 2016“Punch and Judy”: A Subversive symbol from Commedia Del‘Arte to the Present Day
17 May 2016JMW Turner and the Day Parliament Burned Down
26 April 2016Wandering amongst the Nomadic Tribes of Iran and Afghanistan: Searching for the woven art and symbolism of the Nomad
15 March 2016The World of Carl Fabergé
16 February 2016Denys Lasdun and the National Theatre: Architectural Masterpiece or was Prince Charles right after all?
19 January 2016Velasquez: The Great Magician of Art

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THE NORMANS IN ENGLAND Rupert Willoughby Tuesday 18 February 2020

Rupert’s theme addressed the long lasting impact of the Normans on England. He pointed out that while this is visible in the castles and cathedrals, less obviously it is shown by the number of families who can trace their ancestry straight back to the Conquest. The knights who joined William on his massive gamble to invade England were brutal, pitiless and greedy. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a knight bearing down with his sword ready to cut the throat of an Englishman who has already thrown down his. They came to plunder a peaceful land.

On arriving on Pevensey Beach, William leapt out falling heavily. However he picked himself up slowly with fistfuls of shingle in his hand, turning round what could have seemed a bad omen. He then announced, “What’s mine is yours.” He proved true to his word rewarding the band of 11 faithful friends with half the acreage of England; a land bonanza indeed. To Bishop Odo of Bayeux, his younger brother who commissioned the Tapestry, he gave the Earldom of Kent together with 500 manors. Robert Bigot was also amply rewarded and today his descendant is the Duke of Norfolk. Many knights passed on this generosity to their feudal followers. For example William Patrick was granted a single manor by Odo, and his name lives on in the village of Patrick Bourne which is also graced by a highly attractive Norman church.

The Norman knights hurried to erect 84 simple wooden motte and bailey castles on locations chosen in order to dominate the landscape. In time many of these would be rebuilt in stone. William himself immediately began work on building the White Tower of London. This could be seen for miles providing a potent symbol of his power and authority. Such buildings were a complete innovation in peaceful Anglo-Saxon England.      

When William died in Normandy in 1087, the body was brought to his Abbey at Caen. However the funeral was a litany of disasters. It ended in farce as his huge and now bloated body would not fit into the dug grave. Finally it burst and the disgusting odour brought the service to a swift close. While William had exuded strength, piety and authority; his sons did not.  William Rufus (1087-1100) scandalised the clergy by his immorality as William of Malmesbury records.  From drawings we note the fashions of the court; squirrel lined cloaks, shoes with curled up toes, tunics with side slits and long hair parted in the middle – quite unlike the style of the knights shown in the Tapestry. The shoes and long sleeves, which completely covered the hands, indicate a life of soft indulgence and today it is widely assumed William was homosexual. Following the First Crusade of 1099, piety itself became a fashion and the knights hurried to outdo each other in the establishment of monasteries and churches. The majority of our parish churches show strong evidence of the Romanesque Norman style. Winchester cathedral was rebuilt as was Canterbury with the stone being brought from Caen.

Hugh the Fat – nephew of the Conqueror and Earl of Chester - was one of the most depraved knights, but he was lavish with his gifts. This included the vast Westminster Hall which he contemptuously dismissed as bring “too small!” As Rupert was brought up on the Isle of Wight we were treated to slides of Carisbrooke Castle and a reminder that the descendants of Baldwin de Redvers remain residents there to this day. There can be no doubt the Norman legacy lives on.

 

Written by Jennifer Thorpe

 

Rupert Willoughby specialises in the domestic and social life of the past. He is the author of the best-selling Life in Medieval England and of a series of popular histories of places, including Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village. His most recent book – perhaps his greatest challenge to date – is Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture.