Maritime Topics On Stamps:

"Mora", the Boat of William, the Conqueror!

From the 8th to the 12th century the vikings sailed to many coastal countries of Europe. There was simply not enough habitable space in Scandinavia to accomodate for the growing population. The vikings looked for new land and loot. They took it by plundering, murdering and sacking settlements and cities. But the Vikings were not all conquerers, but also traders and settlers.
And they were masters of boat building. Their ships were capable of sailing on rivers as well as oceans, because of their low depth.
As you can see on the map a lot of different Viking voyages ended in France. The Vikings were called Normans there - men of the north. As a lot of settlers preferred the northern coast of France, the area quickly became known as Normandy.

Raiding activity was intense in 9th century France. The Vikings plundered villages, cities and monasteries along the rivers and coasts. Paris was sacked several times. The Franconian kings were not able to muster a defense against the viking threat.
The viking chief Rollo created a large settlement in an area, which later became known as Normandy. In 911 he and the French king Charles the Simple entered an agreement: the vikings converted to christianity and swore allegiance to the king and would get the whole of Normandy as a fief.
On the stamps you can see a viking in full armor and to the right a horde attacking a new coast.

During the course of the 9th century viking raiding and settling continued along the English east coast (Danes and Norwegians). Fights between these groups and the Anglo-Saxons were commonplace.
On the stamp you can see vikings going ashore on the Isle of Man.

In 1035 William (the Conqueror), who was related to Rollo, became the Duke of Normandy. In 1066 the English king Edward died and his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson succeeded to the throne. William also claimed the English throne, because the childless Edward was related to him as well. Edward promised him the title when William helped in the defense against an attack of the Danes led by king Knut. William secured the support of the Pope and ordered to build a fleet.
The stamp shows Rollo and William, already with a crown.
Rollo + Wilhelm

1. invasion
The famous carpet of Bayeux (Normandy) is a long, woven wall carpet, 68.38 meters long and 48 to 53 centimeters wide. Originally it was over 70 meters, long, but some parts were lost to history. The carpet depicts the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror. It contains about 60 single scenes, which detail the conquest as well as the previous history and the battle of Hastings on the 14th of October, 1066.

On the stamp to the left Rollo becomes Duke of Normandy in 911 and William receives the Cotentin peninsula and Jersey in 933. On the stamp to the right you can see the failed invasion of England around 1030 and Edward becoming king of England in 1042.

boat building
viking boat
The carpet also depicts a lot of ships. Among them the "Mora", the flagship of William, the Conqueror. The type of the ships is an enhancement to the typical slim viking long boats. They have a higher freeboard and resemble the boat found at Gokstad, Norway.
The Gokstad boat had a length of 23 meters, width 5 meters, 16 fittings for oars on each side and an inclinable mast. 64 hooks for hanging shields indicate that they sailed with a double rudder crew.
The boatbuilders of those times were already able to bend heavy beams of wood and join them to build huge frames. The Danish stamp shows the construction of such a ship as depicted on the carpet.

The largest ship on the carpet is the "Mora". The ship had a length of approx. 30 meters, 18 oars to a side and a mast. At that time the sails were made from linens of different colors. Sometimes they were decorated with silk ornaments.

The ships also had dragon heads. However these had to be removed in home waters as their sole purpose was to frighten the opponent.
dragon head

At the stern of the "Mora" one can recognize a herald. Heralds were messengers to deliver messages and proclamations. He blows into a horn and waves a flag.

A cross and a standard especially ordained by the pope were fixed to the top of the mast of the "Mora". In literature they refer to the St. George's Cross (becaause of the red colour) and the St. Peter's Cross (cross form) respectively. William had received the Pope's blessing for his endeavour. He had promised the Pope to take England as a fief for God and St. Peter and to pay taxes to the church.
On this stamp you can see the "Mora" inversly. The rudder belongs to the starboard side.

The fleet consisted of approx. 500 war and 600 supply ships. They crossed the channel at night from the 27th to the 28th of September 1066. Approx. 2,000 riders with 2,500 horses, 6,500 heavily armed warriors and 1,500 bowmen went along. Most of the army were Normans, although Bretons, Frenchmen, Italians and Flemings were also involved.
channel crossing

channel crossing
Harold had just been crowned new king of England. He had to defend himself against attacks of his older brother Tostig and the Norwegian Harald Hardrade. Both of them claimed the English throne as well, but Harold defeated them in battle in the vicinity of York. This meant the southern coast were mostly depleted of troops. William landed at Pevensey without striking a single blow. He led his army to Hastings, near the south of London. Harold hurried his army back south to stop William at Hastings. His already decimated and exhausted army consisted of approx. 8000 men.

William commanded approx. 9,000 men. The battle at Hastings lasted the whole day of October 14th, 1066. The Normans charged the English shieldwall, but when rumours of William's death arose, many Englishmen thought the battle was over and broke rank. They were whittled down and when Harold died in the evening the shieldwall collapsed and his troops routed. William had won and became the Conqueror.

These English stamps show the famous carpet pictures of the battle at Hastings. One can recognize the equipment of the Norman and Anglo-Saxon fighters of those times. Many of them wore a knee-long chain shirt and a cone-shaped helmet with extra nose protection. They fought with bows and arrows, swords, axes and lances.

The fortress of London immediately surrendered after the battle. At Christmas 1066 William was crowned king in London. He ruled for 21 years and died in 1087 when he fell from a horse. On the stamp to the right you can see William on the throne and his death.

William became William I and gained the additive "the Conqueror". Williams fleet with the "Mora" as flagship succeeded in the second and - up to today - last invasion of England (the first one led by Julius Caesar in 55 B.C.) .

About Viking boats there is a maritime topic under viking.htm

Sources: Wikipedia Internet Encyclopedia
W. Asendorpf: Mora, Flaggschiff Wilhelm des Eroberers (Mora, flagship of William the Conqueror)
W. zu Mondfeld, Schicksale berühmter Schiffe (Destiny of famous ships)

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