William the Conqueror’s extraordinary leadership gifts

July 16, 2012

Sculpture of King William I on the exterior of Lichfield Cathedral.

A warrior age salutes a warrior, and in the young William it found a warrior to salute. Tall in stature and of great physical strength, his personal exploits in battle (particularly in the campaigns of 1051 and 1052) had attracted notice, and more sober contemporaries might already have detected in him a commander of considerable capacity. Yet these attributes (which were shared by many of his contemporaries) do not suffice by themselves to account for the special admiration with which in 1060 he was beginning to be surrounded. An explanation has therefore to be sought in his more individual qualities….

King William I, 'The Conqueror'

Doubtless, fortune had sometimes favored him, and certainly Norman chroniclers, writing after 1066, were liable to offer him fulsome adulation. But when all deductions have been made, his courage in adversity had in fact been outstanding, and it commands admiration. There must, moreover, have been a wonderful tenacity of purpose in this young man, who threatened by murder in infancy and menaced by treachery in adolescence, had none the less saved himself by long years of war conducted against great odds. His success in struggle between 1046 and 1060 must in the last resort be adjudged as in some measure a triumph of character.

David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 83-84.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 195

Nobility.org Editorial comment: —

How does natural leadership work? What gifts go into making a great natural leader? Why does he inspire people to follow his command? Why is he like a planet around which others rotate as so many satellites?
William the Conqueror was a natural leader of exceptional ability. His great-great-great-grandfather Rollo was a Viking chieftain who participated in Sigfred’s siege of Paris, then returned to France, conquering and settling Normandy.
Rollo’s conquest was the springboard for William’s, who conquered all of England after defeating its last Saxon king, Harold II, at the battle of Hastings.
As Christendom faces off today against multiple internal and external threats, will a great natural leader surface who can inspire and motivate us to the heroism we need to prevail amid such great dangers?

 

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