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Deep Dive into History: William the Conqueror

Wednesday, Sep 28 2022 by

The history books tell us that in 1066, William sailed to England from Normandy, fought a little battle, and took his rightful place on the throne of England. But there’s so much more to the story! On this anniversary of William’s invasion of England, let’s take a deep dive into the life and legacy of the man we know as William the Conqueror.

Birthplace Falaise, Normandy

William was born around 1028 in Falaise, Normandy. His father was the duke of Normandy, and his mother lived in the household. Despite his insecure birthright, he became duke of Normandy when his dad died in 1035. At the time, William was only about 7 years old. William ruled over his duchy from Falaise for years, even after he conquered England.

The current Chateau de Falaise was built about 50 years after William died. It remained a seat of power for Norman and English rulers for another 100 years, before King John (the villain of Robin Hood lore) lost the castle, along with most of his French territories, to the King of France.

Château de Falaise (StreetView)
Château de Falaise

Pevensey Castle, Pevensey, England

After King Edward the Confessor died without an heir, William claimed he had been promised the English throne by the monarch, and determined to take what he saw as his birthright.

He began making plans to invade England from his duchy by crossing the English Channel, which was no easy feat due to strong currents and terrible weather. All summer long, the English waited and watched the southern coast for any sign of invasion from William, but none came.

Long after it was considered safe for fleets to cross the Channel, William took a risk and set sail in late September, landing at Pevensey on September 28, 1066.

Immediately, William order his men to secure the old Roman fortress at Pevensey. The large fort had walls, gates, and towers, which withstood attacks by English defenders. Later, it was further enhanced for protection against insurrection, and to serve as a trade and travel route between Normandy and England.

In World War II, the area was considered a potential invasion point from Germany, and the fort was again used to protect the homeland. These days, the castle and grounds are open to the public.

Pevensey Castle (Birds Eye)
Pevensey Castle

Battlefield, Hastings, England

The pivotal battle that changed the course of history took place on October 14, 1066. King Harold marched from the north of England all the way to the southern tip to defend his country and his crown against what he considered a usurper.

Harold and William fought all day and into the afternoon. It was only after Harold was killed that the English army began to fall apart, and William was able to claim a victory.

On this little battlefield outside the town of Hastings, the course of England’s history changed completely, from one of domestic rule and Ango-Saxon heritage, to external rule, constant battles with France, and a Norman cultural influence. Even the language changed, becoming what we know as “English” today.

Hastings battlefield (StreetView)
Hastings battlefield

Hastings Castle, Hastings, England

Right before the decisive battle, William ordered the construction of a fortification at Hastings, which was later turned into a castle and church. It was used for a few hundred years before falling into disrepair as a result of coastal erosion and weather changes.

It was further damaged during World War II, but has been restored and repaired somewhat. Tourists can visit the castle in the summer months.

Hastings castle (Google Maps)
Hastings castle

Bayeux Tapestry, Bayeux, France

Surprisingly, there are no detailed, accurate accounts of the invasion, battle and aftermath of the war.

Nonetheless, we do have an interesting, if not always accurate or clear, recording of all these events. Sometime shortly after the conquest, a tapestry was commissioned to tell the story of William’s victory. This stitched cloth tells the story in picture form, which was important as most people in that time were illiterate.

The tapestry was a massive undertaking, running 230 feet long, with 58 scenes and intricate detail throughout. Since at least the 1400s, the tapestry has been stored in Bayeux, a small town in Normandy. These days, tourists can view the tapestry in a local museum dedicated to the embroidery.

Bayeux tapestry museum (Google Maps)
Bayeux tapestry museum

Westminster Abbey, London, England

Defeating Harold wasn’t the only thing William needed to do in order to secure the throne. He had an entire country to appease, and getting crowned was an important step in that endeavor. After further skirmishes and intense negotiations with the nobility and church, William was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. This started the tradition of all English coronations taking place in the Abbey.

The selection of the location was important. Construction on the church had begun under Edward the Confessor as his burial church, and was another way of making it look like William was the natural heir.

The current structure was not constructed until the 1200s, but it has been the seat of royal and religious authority in England for more than a thousand years!

Westminster Abbey (StreetView)
Westminster Abbey

Burial Place, Abbaye-aux-Hommes, France

While William spent some time in England after becoming king, he still viewed Normandy as his seat of power, and gave the French region most of his attention. He and his wife Matilda had bequeathed a large sum to the church in Caen, France, to construct a monastery and nunnery.

Upon his death in 1087, when he was around 59, he was buried in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. Legend has it that when he was buried, his rotund and rotting corpse did not properly fit inside the casket. When it was closed, his body burst and all the attendees ran from the cathedral in an attempt to avoid the terrible odor. Not quite the ending he envisioned, to be sure.

Abbaye-aux-Hommes (Birds Eye)
Abbaye-aux-Hommes

No matter the state of his funeral, William is without doubt one of the most impactful actors in European history, changing England’s culture, language, and borders, and changing the course of history in France and Europe as well. There’s a lot more to the man, and the story, of William the Conqueror in 1066.

 

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Talking about Pirates

Monday, Sep 19 2022 by

Ahoy! There “rrrrr” a lot of silly holidays, but today’s gets the gold for being rrrreally fun, matey! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day! So, let’s see some of the places the best, worst, and most famous buccaneers spent time, hid their treasure, and menaced unsuspecting lads and lassies of yore. Be sure to honor the holiday and read on with a true pirate voice!

Port Royal, Jamaica

Pirates ravaged the eastern coast of the US and Caribbean for hundreds of years, from the earliest days of Spanish explorers until countries began to combat piracy more effectively.

Port Royal in Kingston Harbor of Jamaica was the economic hub of the Caribbean for hundreds of years, and was also the epicenter of piracy in the region. An English settlement, leaders of Jamaica permitted and even encouraged targeted attacks on Spanish fleets and settlements. The infamous Blackbeard even took up residence with his family at Port Royal!

Eventually, the citizens grew tired of the pirates, and the port city became a place of reckoning. Calico Jack, Charles Vane and others were hanged, and Mary Read died in prison. A 1692 earthquake and tsunami devastated the city, which was overtaken by Kingston as the most populous and important city in Jamaica by the 1750s.

Port Royal (Google Maps)
Port Royal

Blackbeard’s Castle, US Virgin Islands

Edward Teach, a British sailor turned vicious pirate known as “Blackbeard” because of the fuses he would light in his mane, sailed the Caribbean in the early 1700s.

Legend held that he used Skytsborg tower on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands as a look out during his raids and runs from the law. Eventually, the tower became known as “Blackbeard’s Castle” further cementing his larger than life reputation as a wicked pirate.

Blackbeard's Castle (StreetView)
Blackbeard's Castle

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, then known as Charles Towne, was one of the earliest English settlements in what is now the United States. With its proximity to the West Indies and protected harbor, it was an attractive economic, and pirate, hub.

Brothels and taverns were common business establishments, especially near the harbor. Pirates could hop off their boat and in minutes, be relaxing with a drink and a lovely lady for an evening.

Blackbeard terrorized the port in May 1718, holding the city hostage with his fleet of ships, demanding a chest of medicine! This feat earned him a reputation for terrorizing sailor, soldier and civilian alike to get what he wanted.

Stede Bonnet, the “gentleman pirate”, was caught near Charleston and taken to the city, where he was hanged on December 10, 1718.

Charleston Harbor (Google Maps)
Charleston Harbor

New Providence, Bahamas

The island of New Providence in what is now the Bahamas was settled in the 1650s as people moved to developing Caribbean and Atlantic settlements.

However, the island and the settlement of Nassau (now the capital city), poorly controlled by any government or leadership, quickly became a haven for pirates, who even outnumbered the civilian population by 1715.

A few years later, a stronger leader finally purged the area of pirates by giving them a pardon if they gave up their criminal ways, and promising a swift capture and execution if they did not.

New Providence (Google Maps)
New Providence

Pirate Island, Île Sainte-Marie, Madagascar

Pirates weren’t limited to the area around the Caribbean. In fact, the Pacific Ocean may have had as much pirate activity as anywhere else!

Ile Sainte-Marie off the coast of Madagascar became known as “Pirate Island” because of the many pirates that would stop there for provisions, water, and to wait out the winds needed to sail back to Europe from their thieving off the coast of what is now India.

After one pirate raid preyed upon a ship owned by the Mughal emperor, English and Mughal efforts combined to eliminate piracy in the region, and political and economic changes in the area reduced the reward for pirates by the 1720s.

Pirate Island, Île Sainte-Marie (Google Maps)
Pirate Island, Île Sainte-Marie

Captain William Kidd’s Sunken Ship, Off the Coast of Dominican Republic

The story of Captain William Kidd is the classic, tragic pirate story. He spent time raiding along the coast of Madagascar, acting with tacit authority from the English government to attack ships from certain countries.

When he realized that he was considered a pirate back home in England, he rushed back to the Atlantic in an effort to clear his name. He first stopped at the small Caribbean outpost of Anguilla, hid his ship, treasure and crew and sailed on to New York. There, legend has it, he buried more treasure.

Unfortunately for Kidd, he was captured, convicted of piracy, and executed.

For hundreds of years, people searched both for the rumored buried treasure and his hidden ship. The ship was discovered in 2007 off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It is still being studied and excavated. Sadly, there’s still no word on the buried treasure…

Captain Kidd's Shipwreck discovered near Catalina Island (Google Maps)
Captain Kidd's Shipwreck discovered near Catalina Island

These are just a few of the many exciting, scary, and captivating stories of adventure, intrigue, and murder. Perrrrfect for a day like today, right Matey?

 

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Dennis Rader, the Bind, Torture, Kill Serial Killer

Saturday, Sep 17 2022 by

Serial killers are rare, but from time to time, their actions capture the imagination and fear of the community, and sometimes country. Dennis Rader was one such serial killer, with at least ten victims known to the police. He taunted the public by writing letters to the police and the media, even creating his own “Bind, Torture, Kill” nickname, after the method in which he murdered his victims.

Born in 1945, Rader grew up in and around Wichita, Kansas, often ignored by his parents. Rumors were that he tortured animals from an early age. After college and a stint in the Air Force, Rader returned to the Wichita area, married had a career with a security company. Ironically, fears about the BTK Killer led to an increase in his workload.

BTK Serial Killer Dennis Rader's Former home (Site only) (StreetView)
BTK Serial Killer Dennis Rader's Former home (Site only)

Otero Family

Rader murdered four of five members of the Otero family, on January 15, 1974. He suffocated, strangled and hanged the victims. An older brother came home after the crime to discover the scene. While he left DNA samples at the site, police were not able to identify him, as DNA testing was not possible at the time.

BTK Killings The Otero Family Rader's first victims (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Otero Family Rader's first victims

Kathryn Bright

In April 1974, Rader stalked and murdered Katheryn Bright. He waited for her to return to her apartment, then stabbed and strangled her. He also shot her brother, but he survived the attack. All that remains of the apartment is the land where the building once stood, but the events are still fresh in the mind of the community.

BTK Killings The Bright Murder Victim Number Two (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Bright Murder Victim Number Two

That fall, a letter written by Rader talking about the Oteros murders and coined his own nickname, stating “The code words for me will be bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K.” It was published in the local papers and fueled panic about a killer loose in the area.

Shirley Vian

In March 1977, Rader committed his next known crime, strangling Shirley Vian in her home while her children were locked up within the house. While he intended to kill the children, he was interrupted and never finished his intended crimes. The home is still a private residence.

BTK Killings The Vian Murder Victim number three (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Vian Murder Victim number three

Nancy Fox

Rader’s seventh victim was Nancy Fox. In December 1977, he broke into her home, hiding in her closet until she returned home. He bound her, strangled her and before he left the scene, he called and notified the police of the murder. His call was recorded and used on local broadcasts to attempt to find him, but the efforts were unsuccessful. The Fox crime scene is still a private residence.

BTK Killings The Murder of Nancy Fox Victim number Four (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Murder of Nancy Fox Victim number Four

Shortly after, in January 1978, Rader wrote the local newspaper about his crime, and then later sent another note to a television news channel, taking credit for Vian’s murder, as well as another never identified.

Rader earned his degree in Administration of Justice, had two children and became a volunteer in his community, including in his church and as a boy scout leader around this time.

Marine Hedge

Rader attempted to stalk and murder other victims, but was foiled for various reasons. His next attack was in April 1985. He broke into the home of his neighbor Marine Hedge, waited while she had company, and then when she was alone, he strangled her with his hands. He left her body on the side of the road to be discovered four days later. The home is a private residence.

BTK Killings The Murder of Marine Hedge (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Murder of Marine Hedge

Vicki Wegerle

In September 1986, Rader posed as a telephone repair man to gain access to Vicki Wegerle’s home. Once inside, he threatened her with a handgun and tied her up with bindings, but she worked herself free and the two struggled before he finally murdered her with nylon stockings. The home of his ninth victim is still a private residence.

BTK Killings The Murder of Vicki Wegerle (StreetView)
BTK Killings The Murder of Vicki Wegerle

Dolores Davis

Rader’s tenth and last known victim was murdered in January 1991. His oldest victim, Dolores Davis, was 62 and lived alone. She had recently retired. Rader broke into her house and strangled her with a nylon stocking. He removed her body and disposed of her body under a bridge, where she was found 13 days later.

Dolores Davis murder site (Dennis Rader "BTK killer") (Google Maps)
Dolores Davis murder site (Dennis Rader "BTK killer")

Rader corresponded with the media and police throughout his active years, but went silent after 1988. It wasn’t until 2004, the 30th anniversary of the first BTK killing, that he resumed sending letters and packages to the media, likely in response to increased coverage of the cold cases.

His communications eventually led to his arrest on February 25, 2005. Later that year he pleaded guilty to ten first degree murders, and was sentenced to ten life terms in prison.

While we will never know if the ten victims were all that Rader killed, it was widely assumed by law enforcement and the justice system that had he committed any more crimes, his ego would have forced him  to confess to them if only to take credit for them in his mind.

 

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