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 Papal Banner - Part 1

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PostSubject: Papal Banner - Part 1   Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:43 pm

William I and the Question of the Papal Banner

Did William the Conqueror have the backing of the Papacy as he legitimately claimed? Even that can be questioned. Many claim that Pope Alexander II would not have sanctioned the invasion of a country that not only upheld Christianity but had been one of the Papacy’s more fervent supporters.

In order to obtain the Papal Banner:
It is most likely that William did have papal sanction for his invasion of England. William was an astute politician - in order to protect his borders from the French during his absence, papal support would have been necessary in a time when religion was an important part of social life.

The position of Pope Alexander II (r.1061 - 1073) in Rome was precarious - he was threatened on many political fronts: by the Emperor Henry IV, by an anti-Pope Honorious II, and by the Lombards and the Greeks on mainland Italy. Alexander was supported by his advisor and heir-apparent, Chancellor Hildebrand. However, Norman support was crucial for his own political and personal survival on the Italian mainland. By giving a Papal “blessing” and thus a papal banner to Roger de Hauteville for his conquest of Sicily, Alexander was securing future support for his own cause. However, in this instance, the papal banner was granted to Roger to aid his removal not of another Christian power but of non-Christians - that is: Muslims.

It was purely a matter of politics not religion that prompted William to seek and Alexander to give the papal banner (1063-1065). Harold, unfortunately, did not send anyone to represent his cause to the Pope - it could be argued that (1) he felt his own position secure, having been duly elected by the Witan; or (2) that he had no idea that William was sending ambassadors to Rome on his behalf.

There are two arguments that could be made:
(1) that William was appealing to the Papacy on a matter of inheritance, involving the question of “laesio fidei”. Now, the Papacy was within it rights to adjudge matters of inheritance - however, whilst not in a position to dispose of the English Crown, the Curia could be asked to consider the respective titles or claims of the disputants.
(2) that William promised Alexander that he would “clean up” the corruption within the English Church - which was the removal of Archbishop Stigand from Canterbury, whose election was considered irregular Robert of Jumiéges had been elected (1050) however, when Edward the Confessor removed all Normans from power (c.1052), Robert fled back to Normandy and Stigand was eventually elected). However, with the advantage of hindsight, Stigand was not removed until four years after the Conquest (1070).

It was following the deposition of Stigand as Archbishop, that the Papal Legate, Ermenfrid Bishop of Sion, was said to have submitted all who participated in the Conquest to a penance -the Penitential Ordinance of Bishop Ermenfrid of Sion.

“This is the institution of penance according to the decrees of the bishops of the Normans, confirmed by the authority of the supreme pontiff by his legate Ermenfrid bishop of Sion, to be imposed upon those whom William duke of the Normans commanded and who before this decree were his men and owed him military service as their duty. Whoever knows that he has killed in the great battle is to do one year's penance for each man slain. Whoever struck another but does not know if that man was thereby slain, is to do 40 days penance for each case, if he can remember the number, either continuously or at intervals. Whoever does not know the number of those he struck or killed shall, at the discretion of his bishop, do penance for one day a week for the rest of his life, or, if he is able, make amends either by building a church or by giving perpetual alms to one." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

I believe that a “penance” was imposed upon all who participated in the conquest as a means to expiate their sins - if papal blessing was obtained there would be no need for a papal penance.


References to Evidence of an actual banner:

".......and Pope Alexander sent a banner to the Duke as a symbol of St Peter's judgement". (Source: "The Oxford English History, Vol 2." by Sir Frank Stenton)

"the gift of a banner as a pledge of the support of St. Peter whereby he might the more confidently and safely attack his enemy." (Source: "The Deeds of William, Duke of the Normans and King of the English" by William of Poiters).

"That no rashness might stain his righteous cause he sent to the Pope, formerly Anselm, bishop of Lucca, asserting the justice of the war he had undertaken with all the eloquence at his command. Harold neglected to do this; either because he was too proud by nature, or because he mistrusted his own cause, or because he feared that his messengers would be hindered by William and his associates, who were watching all the ports. The Pope weighed the arguments on both sides, and then sent a banner to William as an earnest of his kingdom." (Source: “Gesta Regum” by William of Malmesbury)

"In the spring of 1066 Duke William of Normandy sent Gilbert, Archdeacon of Lisieux, to Rome as his messenger to enlist the support of Pope Alexander II 1061-73 for his plans to dispute King Harold's succession to the English throne by force of arms. The Duke's adviser, Abbot Lanfranc of Saint-Etienne at Caen, had drawn up the Norman case, of which the main argument was that Harold had committed perjury and that therefore the Duke was justified in using violence against him. The Pope, a friend of Lanfranc from their schooldays in northern Italy, happily gave his blessing to William's enterprise, and according to the Norman sources he sent a papal banner as sign of his approval." (Source: "The Norman Conquest through European Eyes" by Elisabeth van Houts)

"William realised that he would have to turn this trip into a crusade. To do this he would need the blessing of the Pope. He managed this by persuading the Pope of Harold's promise and treachery. At first the Pope refused on political grounds because of the implications to the Church. Pope Alexander II was a pupil of Lanfranc who was now a trusted adviser to William. It was this fact that his blessing was eventually given. William now had the papal banner on his side. This made it much easier to rally his men to arms." (Source: not listed)

"1063 - Pope Alexander II (1061-73) sent the papal banner to Normans fighting Saracens in Spain and Sicily. The banner was a sign of papal approval and blessing. Harold had refused to carry out the papal decision that the incumbent archbishop of Canturbery, whom he felt had not be canonically elected, should be deposed. The pope sent William the banner of St. Peter."
(Source: not listed)

"At the urging of Cardinal Hildebrand, the pontiff sent a banner of Saint Peter, and according to Wace, a tooth of the apostle's, which the duke carried with him into England. The papal support of William was not due to largely secular concerns of hereditary claims or the fundamental Anglo-Saxon considerations of throne-worthiness: "such traditional reasons were only peripheral papal consideration,"
Rather, it was Harold’s refusal to remove Archbishop Stigand from his position that formed the basis of the Pope’s decision to grant a papal banner to William: "Hildebrand's reformers expected that a Norman conquest would bring England more securely within the Roman orbit...." (Source: "The Civilization of the Middle Ages" by Norman Cantor)

"It is unlikely that Alexander II and his chief advisor Hildebrand could have refused William even if his case had not been so strong, after all they owed so much to the Normans. And thus the Pope sent to William his recognition of William as the rightful King of England and his blessing for his enterprise in the form of a consecrated banned and a holy relic - one of St Peters hairs." (Source: "A History of the Normans 820 - 1215AD" From: "Conquest - Anglo-Norman Society")

"The Normans repelled the Mohammedan aggression and won Southern Italy and Sicily for the Church of Rome. This good service had some weight on the determination of Hildebrand to support the claim of William of Normandy to the crown of England, which was a master-stroke of his policy; for it brought that island into closer contact with Rome, and strengthened the papal pretension to dispose of temporal thrones. William fought under a banner blessed by the pope, and founded the Norman dynasty in England, 1066. The conquest was concluded at Winchester by a solemn coronation through three papal delegates, Easter, 1070." (Source: "History of the Christian Church - Chapter One" from "The Hildebrandian Popes. A.D. 1049–1073")




Continue onto: Papal Banner - Part 2

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