Agatha of Normandy - Duke of Normandy - Appearance and Character

Appearance and Character

No authentic portrait of William has been found; the contemporary depictions of him on the Bayeux Tapestry and on his seals and coins are conventional representations designed to assert his authority. There are some written descriptions of a burly and robust appearance, with a guttural voice. He enjoyed excellent health until old age, although he became quite fat in later life. He was strong enough to draw bows that others were unable to pull and had great stamina. Geoffrey Martel described him as without equal as a fighter and as a horseman. Examination of William's femur, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) in height, quite tall for the time.

There are records of two tutors for the young duke during the late 1030s and early 1040s, but the extent of William's literary education is unclear. He was not known as a patron of authors, and there is little evidence that he sponsored scholarship or other intellectual activities. Orderic Vitalis records that late in William's life the king tried to learn to read Old English, but was unable to devote sufficient time to the effort and quickly gave up. William's main hobby appears to have been hunting. His marriage to Matilda appears to have been quite affectionate, and there are no signs that he was unfaithful to her – unusual in a medieval monarch. Medieval writers criticised William for his greed and cruelty, but his personal piety was universally praised by contemporaries.

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