Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ancient Prosthetics

After noticing a plethora of news articles documenting the discovery of artificial limbs at archaeological digs world wide, I began to bookmark these discoveries and the end result is this little collation:

Artificial Toes / Feet:

The fake toe from the Cairo museum in Egypt was found in 2000 in a tomb near the ancient city of Thebes. Archaeologists speculated the 50- to 60-year-old woman the prosthesis came from might have lost her toe due to complications from diabetes.

The wood and leather prosthesis dates from 1069 to 664 B.C., based on artifacts it was found within the mummy's burial chamber. This means it predates what was previously thought of as the earliest known functioning prosthesis, the Roman Capua Leg, a bronze artifact dating from about 300 B.C. The leg was once at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by bombing during World War II.

Replicas of a second false Egyptian right big toe on display at the British Museum in London, albeit without its mummy, will also be tested. This artifact, named the Greville Chester Great Toe after the collector who acquired it for the museum in 1881, is made from cartonnage, a sort of papier maché made using linen, glue and plaster. Based on the way the linen threads were spun, it dates from 1295 to 664 B.C.

From Stat News:
A medieval skeleton found in Austria has a unique appendage — an iron-and-wood prosthetic foot. Researchers say the 6th century remains are the oldest found in Europe with a prosthetic limb. The skeleton, found in a Frankish Empire-era cemetery, was outfitted with a wooden peg with an iron ring, perhaps covered in leather, which served as an artificial foot.

This toe removal clearly took place when the patient was alive, the team reports, because an intact layer of soft tissue covered the amputation site. What is more, the patient's missing toe had been replaced by a carefully crafted wooden toe, which attached to the foot and was kept in place by way of a series of wooden plates and leather strings.

From Daily Mail:
This is a bronze and wooden leg that was found in a Roman burial in Capua, Southern Italy. That has been dated to 300 BC although only a replica now remains as the original was destroyed in a bombing raid over London during the war.

In 2013, archeologists working in southern Austria found the grave of a man who lived during the 6th century A.D. But they didn't publish one of the most fascinating parts of the find until now: The man wore a prosthetic left foot. The prosthesis was crafted of wood and an iron ring, writes Elahe Izadi for The Washington Post, and the discovery marks one of the oldest examples of a prosthetic limb found in Europe. “When I saw that they had this prosthesis, I thought, ‘OK, this is something special,’” Michaela Binder, a bioarchaeologist with the Austrian Archaeological Institute, tells Megan Gannon for Atlas Obscura. The researchers note that the lower parts of his tibia and fibula as well as his foot are missing, but signs of healing on the bone ends show that the man survived the amputation. Other signs in his joints suggest that he actually used the prostheses, and it was not just a cosmetic device, according to the study recently published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

About 1,500 years ago, there lived a man in Europe without a left foot. Instead, he wore a wooden prosthetic limb.  Archaeologists digging in southern Austria's Hemmaberg found the man's grave in 2013 but only recently revealed details about the prosthetic. The findings will be published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

Archaeologists in Austria believe they have found Europe’s oldest prosthetic implant – a sixth-century wooden foot. The discovery was made in the grave of a man missing his left foot and ankle at Hemmaberg, southern Austria. At the end of his leg was an iron ring and remnants of a clump of wood and leather. Sabine Ladstätter, of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, said: “He appears to have got over the loss of his foot and lived for two more years at least with this implant, and walking pretty well.”

Artificial Hands:

From Healio:
The loss of a hand in combat did not stay Gen. Marcus Sergius from smiting ancient Rome’s Carthaginian foes. The general made himself an iron hand and got back into battle against Hannibal’s troops.  “...In two Services, he was wounded three and twenty times; by which means he had little use of either his Hands or his Feet” . Though Sergius was disabled, he was able to keep fighting with the aid of a slave.

An An early pioneer in ‘useful’ artificial hands was a German mercenary named Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen (1480-1562), who developed a hand with rudimentary series of gears and catches that allowed certain parts of the hand to move.

The skeleton is in excellent condition, intact except for the missing left foot and bottom of the left tibia and fibula. Where the missing bones would have been archaeologists found a circular iron band just under three inches in diameter. Two small iron rivets closed the band and decayed remains of wooden slats inside the ring were fixed to the ring with four iron nails. The shortened ends of the left tibia and fibia have dark stains that may be all that’s left of whatever organic material, probably wood or leather, that connected the prosthesis to the leg. The wood remnants and the position of the band in the grave indicate the device may have been a wooden leg with the iron band on the bottom.

Artificial Legs:

Archaeologists excavating an early Medieval cemetery in Austria uncovered the remains of a 6th century middle-aged man who’d had his left foot and ankle amputated. Evidence of a prosthetic device was found where his missing appendage would have been, this included stains left by a long since deteriorated wooden object, an iron ring used to stabilise the device, and dark staining on the lower leg bones that suggests leather straps were used to attach the prosthesis.

Meanwhile in Turpan, China, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 2,200 year old male buried with an elaborately designed prosthetic leg. Made from poplar, the leg had holes along each side to allow for leather straps to attach the prosthesis to the man’s own leg. The base was carved into a cylindrical shape, wrapped with a scrapped ox horn and then tipped with a horse-hoof, presumably to increase the grip and prevent extensive wear from use.

An ancient nine-inch metal screw found in the 2600-year-old mummy of an Egyptian priest Usermontu’s leg became a worldwide sensation. The discovery was made in 1996. Dr. Wilfred Griggs, Egyptologist and a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University was doing research on mummy DNA in the six resident mummies on display in the Museum, when an X-ray revealed a metal screw near the kneecap of Usermontu. (“DNA Research Conducted on Egyptian Museum Mummies,” Rosicrucian Digest, 1995)

Archaeologists working on the resting place in an ancient cemetery near Turpan – northwest China – found that the unusual prosthetic was fitted after the man’s knee became unusable. The team from Academia Turfanica wrote in the journal Chinese archaeology: "The excavators soon came to find that the left leg of the male occupant is deformed, with the patella, femur and tibia [fused] together and fixed at 80 [degrees].” They added that his deformity would have made it hard for him to manoeuvre or ride a horse as he was unable to straighten his left leg. The team said: "[It was] made of poplar wood; it has seven holes along the two sides with leather tapes for attaching it to the deformed leg.

Indirect textual evidences, e.g. the Hegesistratus story recorded by Herodotus (484–425 BC) about an artificial wooden foot, suggest that foot prostheses were already known in the Graeco-Roman world in the fifth century BC3. The oldest prosthesis of a big toe was found in Thebes, Egypt and dated around 950–710 BC. So far the oldest preserved leg-prosthesis assigned to a man’s skeleton with his right leg missing from the mid-calf was discovered in Capua, Italy, in 1885 and dated to circa 300 BC.1 The ‘Capua leg’ had a wooden core and luxurious bronze sheeting, indicating the owner’s wealthy status. Its functionality has remained uncertain, as the device was lost during the Second World War.

Artificial Eyes:

According to a report by Maryam Tabeshian of the Cultural Heritage News Agency of Iran (December 10, 2006), researchers have excavated a 4,800-year-old artificial eye along with a skeleton and other findings from the Burnt City (located near the city of Zahedan in Iran’s Seistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast of iran).

From Dallas Eye:
The first in-socket artificial eyes made in the 15th century were made of gold with colored enamel. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Venetian glass artisans discovered a formula that could be tolerated inside the eye socket. These early glass eyes were crude, uncomfortable to wear, and very fragile. Even so, the Venetian method was considered the finest in the world. They kept their methods and materials secret until the end of the eighteenth century.

The world's earliest prosthetic eye was worn by an ancient Persian priestess. The female soothsayer stood 6' (1.82m) tall, and the mesmerizing effects of the golden eyeball would have convinced those who saw it that she could see into the future. "It must have glittered spectacularly, conferring on the woman a mysterious and supernatural gaze," said leader of the Italian team Lorenzo Costantini, adding, "She must have been a very striking and exotic figure." 

The priestess lived 5,000 years ago in what is now Iran, where her skeleton was unearthed in 2006 by Iranian and Italian archaeologists excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta ["Burnt City"] in the Sistan desert. The eyeball was made of a lightweight material thought to be derived from bitumen paste and later determined to consist of a mixture of natural tar and animal fat. Lines had been engraved radiating from the iris and gold that had been applied in a thin layer over the surface. A tiny hole had been drilled on each side of the half-sphere, which had a diameter of just over 1" (2.5cm), so that it could be held in place with thread. 

The artificial eye, discovered in an ancient grave, was in the left eye socket of the woman. The archeology team estimated the age of the eye between 2900 and 2800 BC. This artificial eye should be considered as the first ocular prosthesis in the medical history. 

From Fox News:
A 5,000-year-old golden artificial eye that once stared out mesmerisingly from the face of a female soothsayer or priestess in ancient Persia has been unearthed by Iranian and Italian archaeologists. The eyeball — the earliest artificial eye found — would have transfixed those who saw it, convincing them that the woman — thought to have been strikingly tall — had occult powers and could see into the future, archaeologists said. It was found by Mansour Sajjadi, leader of the Iranian team, which has been excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iranian-Afghan border for nine years. Italian archaeologists said yesterday that the prophetess had also been buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror, which she presumably used to check her “startling appearance”.

Further study showed it's made of bitumen and discovered traces of gold and colour. In it's original condition, the eye was white with an iris and pupil. The superb skills of manufacturer used fine gold wire to represent the capillaries! Triangles were traced emerging from the iris. The effect must have been fascinating at a time of superstition and beliefs in seers, prophets and oracles. 

The 5,000 year-old eye was unearthed two years ago and is believed to be the oldest prosthetic in the world. Made of natural tar and animal fat, the eye was placed inside the left eye socket of a 28- to 32-year-old woman. 

However, French surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-90) could have laid claim to be the father of facial prosthetics. He was the first to describe the use of artificial eyes and constructed them from enamelled gold, silver, porcelain and glass. Paré made indwelling eyes (the “hypoblephara”) but also external devices retained with wire attachments (the “ekblephara”), as surgical removal of the eyeball was rare until the 19th century. Doubtless Paré’s prostheses were impressive to look at and highly desirable, but must also have been heavy, quite fragile and extremely expensive. An important figure in the history of artificial eyes from Germany was Ludwig Müller-Uri (1811-88), a maker of doll’s eyes, who developed glass for prosthetic use with local people. In 1868 in collaboration with his nephew Friedrich Müller-Uri a new form of glass called Cryolite was developed. 

As far back as the 5th c. BC Roman and Egyptian priests were making eyes from painted clay, which were attached to a cloth and worn over and outside the socket, in front of the eyelids. This type is known in Greek as the ekblepharon. 

from the 26th Dynasty age to the Dark/Middle age (500–1500 ad) the making of artificial eyes was largely abandoned. It was not until the renaissance period (1400–1700 ad) that artificial eyes saw a resurgence. The 16th century saw artificial eyes being fitted in the socket and experimentation with materials. Ambroise Paré, a French surgeon, described two types of artificial eyes: the 'Hypoblephara', which fitted underneath the eyelid, and the 'Ekblephara' which fitted externally: both of which were expensive, heavy, painful to wear and lacked the moist quality of a normal eye.

From Fox News:
Lorenzo Costantini, leader of the Italian group, said the eyeball still had traces of the gold that had been applied in a thin layer over the surface. On either side of it two tiny holes had been drilled, through which a fine thread, perhaps also gold, had held the eyeball in place. Analaysis suggested that the woman may have suffered from an abscess on her eyelid because of long-term contact with the golden eyeball.

For as long as medical intervention has been needed to remove limbs there has been a demand for prosthetic body parts. Over the centuries artificial limbs have evolved into works of bionic and artistic innovation. So when archaeologists unearth the man-made body parts used in ancient times the discovery serves as a reminder of how far medicine and technology have come.

Ancient Dentures:

Of the so-called 'prosthetic appliances' that have been documented from ancient Egypt, the best known example consists of a mandibular second molar connected by gold wire to a worn third molar. It was discovered at Giza, near Cairo in a burial shaft dating to approximately 2,500 BC and importantly not found attached to a skull. The dental report at the time stated that judging by the colour and anatomic form of the teeth they belonged to the same individual. Additionally, as the roots of the third molar were very absorbed, due to a probable inflammatory process, the tooth had become mobile, and so in an attempt to stabilise it, it had been attached to its neighbouring tooth. 

The third and final appliance was excavated from Tura el-Asmant, and was found attached to a skull, the only one from ancient Egypt to be found in situ. It was dated to the Greek (Ptolemaic) period of ancient Egypt (332–330 BC), and was described as a bridge whose single pontic was a right maxillary central incisor. It was fixed into place by a silver wire passing through two holes that had been drilled mesio-distally through the crown of the tooth, whilst the exact means of connection to the adjacent teeth is unknown.

Screw-in teeth are not a feat of modern dentistry. Archaeological evidence suggests the ancient Chinese used bamboo pegs to replace lost teeth. The purpose of these early implants was much the same as today – to restore an aesthetic smile (in life or after death perhaps) – but rather than being made from titanium they were fabricated from other materials. Dental implants have also been dated back to the Maya in 600 AD. Ancient Egyptian and Celtic remains have revealed precious metals, ivory and even other human teeth used in their implants.

Proving prehistoric man’s ingenuity, researchers have found that dental drilling dates back 9,000 years. Primitive dentists drilled nearly perfect holes into teeth of live patients between 5500 and 7000 B.C. Researchers recently carbondated at least nine skulls with 11 drill holes found in a graveyard in Pakistan. This means dentistry is at least 4,000 yrs older than first thought.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Antonio di Nicolo Foscarini

As dawn broke over the Piazzetta San Marco in Venice, the body of a man hung from the gallows between the columns. There were no witnesses to this execution - it was a quiet affair carried out under the veil of night. The citizens of the Serenissima were understandably worried. This man was not common criminal - he was a man from a distinguished noble family.  What events had led to a man of such stature becoming victim of such a fate.

The Trial of Antonio Foscarini
Antonio the Ambassador:
Antonio Foscarini (b. 27.08.1570) was the third son of Nicolo di Alvise de ramo di S.Polo and Maria Barbarigo di Antonio.

Antonio began his diplomatic career as one of the representatives of the Republic of Venice to the Court of King Henri IV of France (1601) and was there, at Paris, in this capacity to celebrate Henri’s wedding to Marie de Medici. Despite being elected as Ambassador to France - “Ambasciatore ordinario in Francia” - (26th May 1607), he did not actually take up his position until February of the following year.

When he was elected Ambassador to England - “Ambasciatore ordinario in Inghilterra” - (July 1610), he again did not take up his position until the following year (4th May 1611). Unfortunately Foscarini’s position came under question in Venice. One of Foscarini’s secretaries denounced his to the Council of Ten, accusing him of selling state secrets to Venice’s mortal enemy at the time - Spain.

Foscarini was summoned to return to Venice immediately. Upon his arrival he was imprisoned - which was where he remained for three years whilst in inquiry into the allegations took place. Foscarini was duly released upon being found “not guilty” (30th July 1618) - there was no blemish on his service record. And two years later he was elected Senator (1620).

The Council of Ten:

The Council of Ten was formed in 1310 “to preserve the liberty and peace of the subjects of the republic and to protect them form the abuses of personal power”. In effect, the Council of Ten was actually made up of 17:
• the Doge - who presided over all and was elected ruler for a specific term.
• the Prime Minster - elected chairman of the government
• the Signoria - comprised of three Capi (three chiefs of the Great Council); six Savii Grandi (modern-day Cabinet); three Savii da Terra Firma and three Savii agli Ordini or da Mar (Ministers of War, Finance and Marine).

These men, for there were no women, were elected for a specific term, depending upon their position. In effect, this ensured that any attempt on the part of one person or a family or a group to gain sole power was neutralized. Even the Church was excluded from taking any part in the government of the Republic.

The Countess of Arundel:

Countess Alatheia Talbot
At the age of 35yo, this formidable woman arrived in Venice in 1621. Alatheia Talbot was the granddaughter of the infamous Bess of Hardwick (goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth I of England) and the wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel, and a leading figure at the court of King James I of England. Both Alatheia and Thomas were passionate art lovers, and used their boundless wealth to amass the first great private art collection in England. And this was the reason for Alatheia’s journey to Venice - that and the education of their sons. Alatheia left her children at the villa in Dolo whilst she continued onto Venice and settled in Palazzo Mocegnigo on Grand Canal.

The Senator & the Countess:

It was whilst situated in the Palazzo Mocegnigo, that the Senator possibly renewed his acquaintance with the Countess. In his position as Ambassador to England, Foscarini would have come into contact with both the Countess and her husband, who was, we must remember, a prominent official of the royal Court. As to the true nature of this acquaintance, it has been suggested that the two were not particularly close.

Whatever the suggestion, on the evening of 8th April 1622 as Foscarini was departing the Senate, he was arrested on the orders of the Consiglio dei Dieciand charged with:
“ ….. having secretly and frequently been in the company of ministers of foreign powers, by day and by night, in their houses and elsewhere, in this city and outside it, in disguise and in normal dress, and having divulged to them, both orally and in writing, the most intimate secrets of the Republic, and having received money from them in return …”

Less than a fortnight later, Foscarini was strangled in prison and the following morning found hung between the two columns in Piazzetta San Marco.

The news of Foscarini’s execution (20.04.1622) spread like wildfire throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Many rulers, upon hearing the news, were shocked.

Countess Alatheia was noticeably perturbed for her name had been linked with that of Foscarini. It was in her house, that Foscarini had been accused of passing state secrets to Venice’s enemies - notably Spain (via the Secretary of Emperor Ferdinand) and the Church (via the Papal Nuncio).

Sir Henry Wotton, England’s Ambassador to Venice, notified Alatheia by letter that the Council of Ten would be passing a sentence of banishment upon her, and that it would be in hest interests to leave immediately. But Sir Henry had greatly underestimated this woman - for she was aggressive adversary (they had crossed swords many times). Instead, Alatheia went immediately in person to Sir Henry, vigorously denying the charges and informing him of her intentions to seem an audience with the Doge, Antonio Priuli. Alatheia laid the blame for Foscarini’s death firmly at his doorstep, and let him know in no uncertain circumstances that she intended to bring about his dismissal.

Alatheia was granted her audience with the Doge - she was warmly received and assured that there was never any question of neither her banishment not implication in the recent tragic events. She generously accepted his assurances, but requested a public exoneration in writing in both Venice and London - this duly occurred. She was given lavish gifts by the Doge and with her wagons heavily laden with, left Venice six months later.

Murray Brown begins his The Myth of Antonio Foscarini’s Exoneration as thus:
In January of 1623, a unique event occurred in Venice: Antonio Foscarini was posthumously exonerated by the Council of Ten. Ten months previously, it had unanimously found him guilty of treason and had him executed. King James I’s ambassador to the Serenissima, Sir Henry Wotton, characterized the event: “...surely in 312 years that the Council of Ten hath stood, there was never cast a greater blemish upon it.”

And so, after much investigation, Antonio Foscarini was officially exonerated of all charges (16th January 1623).

Throughout the summer, proof of Foscarini’s innocence gathered momentum, and was such that none could ignore it. Those who had accused Foscarini of the act of treason were brought before both the Inquisitors of the State and the Council of Ten themselves to answer certain questions. It was determined, during the course of events, that both accused had perjured themselves by making false accusations against Foscarini. Why they did so is not known, but Murray Brown presents a number of credible scenarios in his “The Myth of Antonio Foscarini’s Exoneration”.

The Council of Ten publicly confessed its error - copies were given to Foscarini’s family and were also distributed throughout Europe. Foscarini’s body was exhumed and he was given a state funeral. A statue of Foscarini is in Foscarini Chapel of the Church of S.Stae.

I wrote this article for "Executed Today - Antonio Foscarini" on 20th April 2008

Richard I - King of England

A Vindication .... of sorts

Richard I "the Lionheart"
The name conjures up images of a man who epitomized the brutality and heroics of his age. The Crusader King, whose mission was to see Jerusalem in the hands of the Christians, and yet failed to achieve this. He was a man considered by his allies as treacherous and cruel, and by his enemies as courageous and wise.

And yet, it is not the reign of this King of England that attracts the attentions of scholars and chroniclers, regardless of time, but the question of the King’s sexuality.

Unfortunately for King Richard I of England, his “alleged” homosexuality will forever be the yardstick by which he is measured - both as a man and as a ruler.

What is interesting, however, are the number of comparisons that can be made between Richard I - his father Henry II, his contemporary Philip Augustus of France, and even the blessed Saint Louis himself.

So, lets begin with a in-depth analysis of some of the more controversial aspects of Richard I and his life -

The Question of Alice of France:
Many complain of Richard's treatment of his betrothed, Alice of France, sister of Philip. And yet Philip himself did not lift a finger to rescue his other sister Agnes from her poor treatment in Byzantium following the death of her husband Emperor Alexius II. It was said that Philip himself was indifferent to his own family. Philip actually gave his blessing to Richard upon releasing him from his betrothal - why - his fear of an alliance between Richard and Tancred of Sicily was more than his concern for his sister's reputation.

Richard’s betrothal to Alice concluded a key political alliance between France and England - the trouble was Henry had bedded Alice and sired at least two children upon her. In Richard's eyes, she was "soiled / used goods" - hardly the pure virgin she was when she entered into Henry's II household as a child when initially betrothed to Richard. So, to Richard Alice was merely one of his father's "cast-offs" - hardly a suitable beginning for a Duchess of Aquitaine let alone possible future Queen. So, unless a woman was a widow, a husband (in this period of time) expected their brides to be "pure" - virgins. And in the eyes of the Church, Henry's bedding of Alice technically debarred Richard from any marriage (consider Henry VIII's marriage of his brother's widow - Henry VIII was said to have "sinned" in the eyes of the Church). It was her dowry that delayed Alice's return to her brother - Henry II coveted the Vexin - and that fact that she was of royal birth delayed her return by Richard - Philip was his ally. Consider, despite the fact that he bedded her, Henry II also seemed in no hurry to either return Alice to her family or force the marriage upon Richard.

Why did Richard delay in breaking off his betrothal to Alice, well this can be looked at a number of ways:

He wanted to antagonize Philip - but to what end - he wanted Philip’ support for the Crusade, and it would make perfect sense to keep the "pretense" of the betrothal still alive knowing full well it would not come to fruition. With Philip on Crusade, the possibility of him attacking Richard’s lands whilst he was absent are minimalised. However, as hindsight has shown, upon his return to France (following illness) Philip did indeed attack Richard’s lands.

He wanted to tell Philip face to face - in other words, be up front. Was Philip, whom many claim to be an astute and cunning ruler, have been so naive to believe that after all this time, the betrothal was still going ahead??

Maybe Richard, as Philip’s vassal (re: Aquitaine) was just plain fed up with having to fawn and tread softly around Philip just for the sake of political niceties. Both men were Kings - why should one defer to the judgement of another, in marriage and politics. England was not a vassal of the King of France - Richard did not need his permission to marry not did he need Philip’s approval of his chosen bride.

In fact, Philip's own personal and moral conduct was not much better than Richard's. However, unlike Philip, Richard did not have England placed under Interdict for the sake of a woman. Philip wanted to annul his marriage to Ingebjorg and marry a bride of his own choosing - sound familiar. Excommunication and Interdict followed when he didn't toe the moral line.

The Question of Richard’s Homosexuality:
It is the following passage written by Roger of Hovedon that gains the most interest in the debate as to whether or not Richard I was actually a homosexual:

"English chronicler Roger of Howden reported that in 1187 Richard and King Philip of shared a bed but it was common for people of the same sex to do so. It was an expression of trust not of sexual desire. It was common too for men to kiss or hold hands, but these were political gestures of friendship or of peace, not of erotic passion. It is a mistake to assume that an act that had one symbolic meaning 800 years ago carries the same message today.”

And yet, this same allegation was not equally applied to the “other man” sharing the bed - Philip Augustus.

It is often argued that “where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire” and that Roger of Hovedon would not have documented these things if they were true. However, if these allegations were true, Richard's enemies would surely have seized upon this in an instant. Especially King Philip II of France, whose sister Richard handed back after she was so graciously "used" by his father.

And as for Hovedon's other quote that Richard and Philip: "ate from the same dish and at night slept in one bed" and had a "strong love between them" - that can be interpreted any way you wish - and for whatever political mileage - political mudslinging they call it nowadays. Does he come out and accuse Richard - no. But Hovedon was also biased in favour of his patron - Henry II. Hovedon spent nearly 20 years serving Henry II - whereas he barely recorded three years of Richard's reign. And sons do have a habit of replacing their father's ministers with men of their own choosing - a bitter pill to swallow for Hovedon perhaps - losing his position at court??? Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me.

Richard I Enthroned
Another candidate for the position of Richard’s lover comes in the form of Sancho of Navarre - the brother of Richard’s wife, Berengaria. Some alleged that Richard cast off Philip for Sancho - this was seen as being played out in Richard’s casting aside of Alice for Berengaria in the matrimonial stakes.

Yet even if this was true, it would be incorrect. Early in his years, Richard was in Pamplona participating in numerous tournaments. It was here that Berengaria became aware of Richard - and it was here that Richard came into contact with her brother, Sancho. So therefore, Sancho would have been the “spurned lover” not Philip - and yet, despite spurning this alleged lover, Richard married his sister, Berengaria.

It has also been said that Richard’s failure to provide offspring from his union with Berengaria is also further proof of his homosexuality. However, Richard himself managed to sire two offspring - Philip, Lord of Cognac, and Fulk. So he certainly wasn't impotent - and no one will really know whether poor Berengaria was barren or not considering the little amount of time that she spent with Richard.

Yet, there is no contemporary (ie: in Richard's day and after his death) evidence of this alleged homosexuality - this rumour only circulates much, much later. Even Richard's greatest critic, Gerald of Wales, makes no mention - and he would surely have been the first to eagerly do so. Gerald’s silence on this subject as especially telling. In fact, from what has been studied by others, there are no (direct or indirect) references to Richard’s alleged homosexuality in any of the contemporary Muslim sources. It sounds like a bit of political mudslinging from Richard’s French and German enemies.

The Question of the Violence of Richard:
And as for Roger of Hovedon's quote: "He carried off by force the wives, daughters and female relatives of his free men, and made them his concubines; and after he had extinguished the ardour of his lust on them, he handed them over to his soldiers for whoring."

Richard is also criticized for his killing of Muslim captives during the Crusade. Many argue that he had no choice - guarding so many prisoners attached to the rear of an army was not a feasible choice.

Richard was no different in this respect than any other ruler of his day - Louis VII (Eleanor's first husband) didn't hesitate to burn hundreds of innocents in a locked church - thousands of innocents were slaughtered in the name of God by pious and God-fearing monarchs. And in fact, Saladin himself was noted for his mass killing of Christian prisoners - yet he is not so harshly judged.

The Question of Richard’s Absence on Crusade:
Again, Richard is harshly judged as a man who spent less than six months of his reign as King of England actually in the country. And when he was there, his main occupation was raising revenues (in the form of taxation) and men for his Crusade.

Like Richard - Saint Louis IX, King of France, heavily taxed his subjects, including the clergy (which proved extremely unpopular). The first Crusade of Louis lasted TEN years - three years in preparation (1245 - 1248); the actual Crusade (1248 - 1250); his prolonged and voluntary stay - four years (1250 1254). So, Louis himself spent some time out of his own Kingdom - something Richard was vilified for.

Richard I on Crusade
Unlike Richard, however, Louis' Crusade was a complete failure - "to Palestine, which he loved even more dearly [than France], he had brought little but disappointment and sorrow". And yet Richard was vilified for his Crusading intentions and lack of love for England - but no derogatory comment against Saint Louis for harbouring the same feelings. I believe Matthew Paris in his "Chronica" was alleged to have said (of Saint Louis) "it might have been better for Outremer had he never left France".

The only reasons for Louis’ return to France were: the death of his beloved mother - whom he relied upon as both regent and advisor (something he shared in common with Richard - a love for his mother); internal strife, civil war and rebellion (his kingdom was hardly stable); and the fact that his mother Blanche, whilst alive, refused to fund and supply his Crusade any further. So Louis absence from France on Crusade was not wholly welcomed within his own kingdom - his return was demanded and yet Louis ignored this. But yet again, Louis embarked upon another Crusade (1269 - 1270) - barely ten years after the debacle of his first attempt. This time, his second Crusade not only ended in failure but in his own death.

The Question of Richard’s Relationship with his Mother:
It has been unreasonably bandied about that Richard’s love for his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his hatred for his father, Henry II, was an indication of his homosexuality.

Let us compare Richard’s love for his mother with a couple of contemporaries:

Saint Louis, whom we have already mentioned, greatly loved and respected his mother, both as a mother and a political leader. He willingly left his Kingdom in her capable hands whilst he went off crusading, not once but twice.

Richard is criticized for not handing over his beloved Aquitaine to his younger brother John, the favourite of their father Henry II. Yet, Henry II had no real control over Aquitaine - this was Eleanor’s - hers to give as she pleased - and thus she gave it to the one son she knew loved it as much as she did. And this was the reason for the quarrel between Richard and his father Henry II - pure spite! What better way to get back at both Eleanor and Richard than through their beloved Aquitaine. And from what studies have shown, Richard was no worse than his own father - Henry II, upon the death of his father refused to give out the patrimony left to his two younger brothers. Instead, he kept the lot for himself, disinheriting his own brothers in order to satisfy his own personal greed. This is again repeated as Henry II consistently refused to delegate any political responsibility to any of his sons. Is it any wonder that they rebelled against the suffocating yoke of their father.

And just like his father before him, Richard also conducted a civil war on behalf of his mother - Henry II gladly fought for the crown of England on behalf of his mother, Empress Maud, a woman whom he greatly admired, respected and whose advice he followed.

Richard was no better or worse than any other King or indeed man of his time. And it seems that some of the actions that Richard is readily vilified for other Kings are praised for. It all comes down to personal bias - and the fact that many continue to judge Richard by today's standards and not the standards of his own times.

The Visigoths

Visigoth Kingdom
One of the two principal branches of the Goths. Until 375 their history is combined with that of the Ostrogoths. Ulfilas (Wulfila) laboured among the Visigoths, translated the Bible into their language, and preached Arianism with great success until prince Athanaric obliged him to withdraw (348).

At the invasion of the Huns some of the Visigoths fled with Athanaric into the mountains of Transylvania, but the majority of the people turned to the Emperor Valens with the entreaty to be taken into the Roman Empire. In 376 a force of 200,000 Visigoths crossed the Danube, but oppression by the governors led to a revolt. They traversed the country plundering as they went, and, and defeated Valens in 378 near Adrianople. Valens was slain and his successor, Theodosius, made peace with the Visigoths in 382. His policy was to unite them with the empire by means of national commanders appointed by the emperor. Desirous of maintaining peace, he endeavoured to unite the Arians with those who held the Nicene faith.

After the death of Theodosius (395) the Visigoths elected Alaric of the Baltha family as their king. Alaric sought to establish a Germanic kingdom on Roman soil by bringing his people into connection with Roman civilization. In 396 he invaded the Balkan peninsula as far as the Peloponnesus and was given the Province of Illyria. He now turned against the Western Empire, and in 401 entered Italy. He was victorious at Aquileia but after the battle of Pollentia (403) was forced to retreat. In 408 he demanded the cession of Noricum, Illyria Pannonia, and Venetia, in 410 he plundered Rome, and soon after died in southern Italy. His successor Athaulf (410-15) led the Visigoths into Gaul, where the following king Wallia (415-19) gained the land between the Garonne and the Loire. Under the succeeding rulers the kingdom was enlarged, and, during the reign of Euric (466) the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse, named after its capital Toulouse, included the southern part of Gaul and a large portion of Spain.
Visigoth Sack of Rome

The Arian kings found the Catholic Church firmly established in the country; and the Catholics enjoyed toleration until the reign of Euric. The conflicts which then arose have been described by Gregory of Tours as bloody persecutions, but this is exaggerated. Euric was in general just towards his Catholic subjects but took steps against individual bishops and clerics who encouraged religious quarrels and were political opponents of the kingdom. Catholics who fled from Africa found an asylum among the Visigoths and Euric's minister, Leo, was a Catholic.

When King Clovis and his Frankish followers accepted Catholicism, Clovis undertook to drive the "heretics" out of Gaul. The Catholic clergy made common cause with the Franks and Alaric II (485-507) took severe measures against them, but was not otherwise a persecutor of the Church. In 507 Alaric was defeated and slain by Clovis. Almost all of Visigothic Gaul now fell to the Franks, the last remnant during the reign of Amalaric (526-31). The seat of government was transferred to Spain where Toledo became the capital.

The ensuing era was fairly peaceful. The Catholics received unlimited tolerance, so that the Church constantly increased in strength while the Visigothic nation and kingdom grew steadily weaker. The nobility enthroned and deposed kings at pleasure; of thirty-five kings, seventeen were murdered or deposed. Arianism, isolated after the destruction of the Ostrogothic and Vandalic kingdoms, constantly declined but was revived during the reign of Leovigild (568-86) His son Hermenigild revolted against him but was defeated and beheaded. Later narratives represent Hermenigild as a martyr for Catholicism, his wife, a Frankish princess, having converted him, but contemporary authorities say nothing of it.

Leovigild made a vain effort to win the Catholics by a conciliatory confession of faith drawn up by an Arian Synod at Toledo. His son Reccared (586-601) became a Catholic and the Visigoths soon followed his example. With this began the amalgamation of Roman and German elements in Spain. In law and politics the Romans became Gothic; the Goths in social life and religion became Roman. The Catholic Church was the national and established Church, while connection with Rome ceased almost entirely. The court of highest instance was the national council at Toledo. The king appointed the bishops and convoked the council. But the constant struggles of the royal house with the secular and spiritual aristocracy caused the downfall of the nation.

From the middle of the seventh century the Arabs were masters of North Africa. In 711 they forced their way into Spain under Tarik. King Roderick was defeated at Jerez de la Frontera, and the Arabs acquired almost the whole of Spain. The Romans and Goths coalesced, forming the Spanish nation which succeeded later in driving the Arabs out of the peninsula.

Ancient History Encyclopedia - The Visigoths
The History of the Languedoc - Visigoths, Alamans, Vandals
Algarve History Association - The Visigoth State in Iberia

House of Medici

A Florentine family, the members of which, having acquired great wealth as bankers, rose in a few generations to be first the unofficial rulers of the republic of Florence and afterwards the recognized sovereigns of Tuscany.

The following are a few of the more notable members of the House of Medici.

Cosimo the Elder
Born 1389, died 1 August, 1464, the founder of their power and so-called "Padre della Patria", was the son of Giovanni di Averardo de' Medici, the richest banker in Italy. He obtained the virtual lordship of Florence in 1434 by the overthrow and expulsion of the leaders of the oligarchical faction of the Albizzi. While maintaining republican forms and institutions, he held the government by banishing his opponents and concentrating the chief magistracies in the hands of his own adherents. His foreign policy, which became traditional with the Medici throughout the fifteenth century until the French invasion of 1494, aimed at establishing a balance of power between the five chief states of the Italian peninsula, by allying Florence with Milan and maintaining friendly relations with Naples, to counterpoise the similar understanding existing between Rome and Venice. He was a munificent and discerning patron of art and letters, a thorough humanist, and through Marsilio Ficino, the founder of the famous Neo-Platonic academy. Sincerely devoted to religion in his latter days, he was closely associated with St. Antoninus and with the Dominican friars of San Marco, his favourite foundation. His son and successor, Piero il Gottoso, the husband of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a man of magnanimous character but whose activities were crippled by illness, contented himself with following in his footsteps.

Lorenzo and Giuliano
On Piero's death in 1469, his sons Lorenzo, b. 1449, d. 8 April, 1492, and Giuliano, b. 1453, d. 26 April, 1478, succeeded to his power. The latter, a genial youth with no particular aptitude for politics, was murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478, leaving an illegitimate son Giulio, who afterwards became Pope Clement VII. Among those executed for their share in the conspiracy was the Archbishop of Pisa. A war with Pope Sixtus IV and King Ferrante of Naples followed, in which Florence was hard pressed, until, Lorenzo, as Machiavelli says, "exposed his own life to restore peace to his country", by going in person to the Neapolitan sovereign to obtain favourable terms, in 1480. Henceforth until his death Lorenzo was undisputed master of Florence and her dominions, and, while continuing and developing the foreign and domestic policy of his grandfather, he greatly extended the Medicean influence throughout Italy. His skillful diplomacy was directed to maintaining the peace of the peninsula, and keeping the five chief states united in the face of the growing danger of an invasion from beyond the Alps. Guicciardini writes of him that it would not have been possible for Florence to have had a better or a more pleasant tyrant, and certainly the world has seen no more splendid a patron of artists and scholars. The poets, Pulci and Poliziano, the philosopher and mystic, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and a whole galaxy of great artists, such as Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, shed glory over his reign.

Posterity has agreed to call Lorenzo "the Magnificent", but this is, in part, a misunderstanding of the Italian title "magnifico", which was given to all the members of his family, and, indeed, during the fifteenth century, applied to most persons of importance in Italy to whom the higher title of "Excellence" did not pertain. Lorenzo sums up the finest culture of the early Renaissance in his own person. Unlike many of the humanists of his epoch, he throughly appreciated the great Italian classics of the two preceding centuries; in his youth he wrote a famous epistle on the subject to Federigo of Aragon, which accompanied a collection of early Italian lyrics. His own poems in the vernacular rank very high in the literature of the fifteenth century. They are remarkably varied in style and subject, ranging from Petrarcan canzoni and sonnets with a prose commentary in imitation of the "Vita Nuova" to the semiparody of Dante entitled "I Beoni". His canzoni a ballo, the popular dancing songs of the Florentines, have the true lyrical note. Especially admirable are his compositions in ottava rima: the "Caccia col Falcone", with its keen feeling for nature; the "Ambra", a mythological fable of the Florentine country-side; and the "Nencia da Barberino:, an idyllic picture of rustic love. His "Altercazione", six cantos in terza rima, discusses the nature of true felicity, and closes in an impressive prayer to God, somewhat Platonic in tone. To purely religious poetry belong his "Laude", and a miracle-play, the "Rapresentazione di san Giovanni e san Paolo", with a curiously modern appreciation of the Emperor Julian. In striking contrast to these are his carnival-songs, canti carnascialeschi, so immoral as to lend colour to the accusation that he strove to undermine the morality of the Florentines in order the more easily to enslave them.

At the close of his life, Lorenzo was brought into conflict with Savonarola, but the legend of the latter refusing him absolution on his deathbed unless he restored liberty to Florence is now generally rejected by historians. By his wife, Clarice Orsini, Lorenzo had three sons: Piero, Giuliano, and Giovanni, of whom the third rose to the papacy as Leo X. Although a man of immoral life, his relations with his family show him under a favourable aspect, and, in a letter from one of the ladies of the Mantuan court, a charming account is given of how, on his way to the congress of Cremona in 1483, Lorenzo visited the Gonzaga children and sat among them in their nursery.

Piero di Lorenzo
Lorenzo's eldest son, b. 1471, d. 1503, a licentious youth with none of his father's ability, proved a most incompetent ruler, and, on the French invasion of 1494, he was expelled from Florence by the people, led by the patriotic Piero Capponi. After several fruitless attempts to recover his position, he was drowned at the battle of the Garigliano while serving in the French army. On the restoration of the Medici in 1512, his son Lorenzo was made ruler of Florence. With him, in 1519, the legitimate male descent of Cosimo the Elder came to an end. By his wife, Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, he was the father of Caterina de' Medici, afterwards Queen of France.

The Medici were again expelled from Florence, and the republic once more established, in 1527. But in 1530, after the famous siege, the city was compelled to surrender to the imperial forces, and Charles V made Alessandro de' Medici, an illegitimate son of the younger Lorenzo, hereditary head of the Florentine government. All republican forms and offices were swept away, and Alessandro ruled as duke until, in 1537, he was assassinated by his kinsman, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, who fled to Venice without attempting either to assert his own claims to the succession or to restore the republican regime.

Cosimo de' Medici
Usually known as Cosimo I, b. 1519, d. 1574, was the descendant of a brother of Cosimo the Elder and representative of the younger Medicean line. He was the son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, the great soldier, and Maria Salviati. On the murder of Alessandro, he came into Florence, and was formally recognized as head of the government both by the citizens and by the emperor. At the outset, with the aid of imperial troops, he crushed the last efforts of the republicans, who were led by Baccio Valori and Filippo Strozzi. Various constitutional checks were at first put upon him, but these he soon discarded, and openly used the title of Duke of Florence. Although ruthless and implacable, he proved himself the ablest Italian ruler of the sixteenth century, and gave a permanent form to the government of Florence, finally developing the shapeless remains of the fallen republic into a modern monarchical state. He thoroughly reorganized the laws and administration, created a small but efficient fleet to defend the shores of Tuscany, and raised a national army out of the old Florentine militia. He married a Spanish wife, the noble and virtuous Eleonora da Toledo, and in foreign affairs leaned to a large extent upon Spain, by which power, however, he was prevented from accepting the crown of Corsica. His great desire of absorbing the neighbouring republics of Lucca and Siena into his dominions was fulfilled only the case of the latter state; he conquered Siena in 1555, and in 1557 received it as a fief from the King of Spain.

Tradition has invested Cosimo's name with a series of horrible domestic crimes and tragedies, all of which have been completely disproved by recent research. After the death of Eleonora da Toledo in 1562, he appears to have abandoned himself to vice. A few years later he married his mistress, Cammilla Martelli. In 1570 he was crowned in Rome by Pius V as Grand Duke of Tuscany, thereby taking place among the sovereigns of Europe. The title was confirmed to his son and successor, Francis I, in 1575, by the Emperor Maximilian II. Cosimo's descendants reigned as Grand Dukes of Tuscany in an unbroken line until 1737, when, on the death of Gian Gastone de' Medici, their dominions passed to the House of Austria.


Medieval Maps

With the development of exploration and printing, there are some fabulous images of medieval maps online.

Below you will find some links to explore:

Historical Atlas of Europe - an Atlas depicting the European Continent from AD1 to AD2000

Maps of the Early Medieval Period - cartographic images from AD400 - AD1300

Maps of Medieval France - from Roman Gaul to the late 15th Century

Antique Maps - extensive collection of maps covering the entire globe (dates vary)

My Old Maps - ancient, medieval and remaissance maps

Medieval Europe Online - downloadable PDFs of all the maps used in Medieval Europe: A Short History

Internet History Sourcebook - Fordham University's extensive online collection of maps

Sunday, May 14, 2017

William I & the Question of the Papal Banner

Did William the Conqueror have the backing of the Papacy as he legitimately claimed?, when he made his play for the Crown of England in 1066? 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: "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") 

The Norman Papacy:
I think it was more the influence of Hildebrand (later Gregory VII) than the Pope not having a choice. I think William made a few “promises” of his own in order to get what he wanted - ie: papal blessing. I think that the papacy was under the impression that if William was willing to submit to the “temporal” authority of Rome with regards to the question of succession, then there was the possibility of placing suzerainty of his new “conquest” (ie: England) under the papacy. But in supporting the Normans (wherever they might be) the Papacy was hoping to extend its influence by claiming England as a papal fief.  In fact, prior to the “conquest”, the Church held only 20% of lands - whilst after, they gained a mere 5% more.

The Norman Popes:
Nicholas II 1058 - 1061: made great concessions to the Normans - he invested Robert Guiscard with Apulia and Calabria at Melfi (1059) "in return for oaths of fealty and the promise of assistance in guarding the rights of the Church."   I believe that William may have “hinted” or even “promised” to Pope Nicholas II that should his conquest of England receive sanction from the papacy, then he, William, would hold England as a fief of the papacy. This was, to all intents and purposes, exactly what others were doing elsewhere to gain “recognition” for their “conquests”. This was something William was to deny even up till his death in 1087. (Refer below to the letter from William to Pope Gregory VII).

Alexander II 1061 - 1073: was a cohort of Hildebrand (aka: Gregory VII), and he was a former pupil of Lanfranc of Bec, and supported his enthronement at Canterbury.   The question of Peter’s Pence was still a thorn in the side of the papacy “after” William’s coronation - so this argument of unpaid Peter’s Pence was rather hypocritical of William. Apparently the withholding of Peter’s Pence was common in many Christian nations, so this was hardly a point William could successfully argue was solely the “fault” of England, which needed to be resolved.

Gregory VII 1073 - 1085 (aka: Hildebrand): the papacy was powerless to halt the advancing Normans in Italy nor was it powerful enough to demand their military support. In fact, the Normans under Guiscard failed to come to his aid when Henry Iv threatened him - it was only when they themselves were likely to come under a direct German attack did they go to the aid of the papacy. As a result, he was forced to flee Rome and go into exile (1084) at Monte Cassino.  Apparently William "showed little anxiety when the pope lectured him on the different principles which he had as to the relationship of spiritual and temporal powers, or when he prohibited him from commerce or commanded him to acknowledge himself a vassal of the apostolic chair. Gregory had no power to compel the English king to an alteration in his ecclesiastical policy, so he chose to ignore what he could not approve, and even considered it advisable to assure him of his particular affection." 

It would seem that after his election as Pope, Hildebrand informed William that "his actions had been goverened by his knowledge of the latter’s character, and by the hope that when raised to a higher dignity he would continue to show himself a dutiful subject of the church." (Source: “Monumenta Gregoriana”). Further, Hildebrand exerted his influence upon the Curia to get the result he wanted, full in the knowledge that if prosecuted, William’s actions would inevitably lead to bloodshed. Afterall, reform was "worth the suppression of a few scruples" . 

 "He perceived King William I as being practically a model of the good Christian ruler, so much so that he could overlook the occasional failure of William to comply with papal wishes." (Source: Chapter 6 - "Gregory and the Periphery of Latin Europe" in "Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085" by H. E. J. Cowdrey) 

William's Letter to Gregory:
The following is the letter sent by William the Conqueror to the Pope regarding the issue of England becoming a fief of the Papacy. There was no initial letter from the Pope regarding this, nor was there any follow-up letter. Only William’s letter exists which mentions this matter.

King William I to Pope Gregory VII summer 1080:To Gregory, the most exalted pastor of holy Church, William by the grace of God king of the English and duke of the Normans, sends greetings and the assurance of friendship.Your legate Hubert, who came to me, holy father, has on your behalf directed me to do fealty to you and your successors and to reconsider the money payment which my predecessors used to send to the Roman Church. The one proposition I have accepted; the other I have not. I have never desired to do fealty, nor do I desire it now; for I neither promised on my own behalf nor can I discover that my predecessors ever performed it to yours. As to the money, for almost three years it has been collected without due care, while I was engaged in France. But now that by God's mercy I have returned to my kingdom, the sum already collected is being sent to you by the above-named legate and the balance will be conveyed, when the opportunity arises, by the legates of our faithful servant archbishop Lanfranc.Pray for us and for the welfare of our kingdom, for we held your predecessors in great regard and it is our desire to show to you above all men unfeigned respect and obedient attention. (Source: "The Age of Gregory VII, 1073-85 - Letters of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury" ed & trans. H Clover and M. Gibson (Oxford Medieval Texts 1979)) 

And lastly, let us not forget Lanfranc who was employed by William, Duke of Normandy, as one of his counsellors. Initially Lanfranc incurred the disfavour of William for opposing his marriage to Matilda of Flanders (c.1052). And yet he is back in favour, obtaining papal dispensation for the ducal marriage to take place (c.1059), and the removal of the Interdict placed upon Normandy.  It was suggested that Lanfranc had a major role in the direction of Duke William’s invasion plans. He obtained the papal sanction for the expedition with the gift of a “blessed banner” and a Papal Bull. With these two items, the Norman Conquest takes on the form of a Crusade against a usurper and oath violator (Harold). In addition, the Conquest also aligned itself with the ideals of ecclesiastical reform, which was well advanced in Normandy, but still very backward in England (from the Norman point of view).

Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Norman Conquest, was out of favour with the Normans having replaced Robert of Jumieges (c.1052). As such, at the Council of Winchester (1070) he was deprived of his office on charges that his election was uncanonical and he was guilty of simony. (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

Finally .... The question still remains: wasWilliam given an actual papal banner by Alexander II (Stenton) as a symbol of his support, or did William have a banner blessed by Alexander II, which he then carried before him in battle (Chibnall). 

"Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis" ed. M. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1969)
"Debate on the Norman Conquest" by Marjorie Chibnall (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999)
"William the Conqueror: The Norman impact upon England" by David Douglas (University of California Press, 1964)
"The Fall of Saxon England" by Richard Humble (Barnes & Noble, 1992)
"1066 The Year of the Conquest" by David Howarth (Viking Penguin, 1981)
"The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans" by Peter Rex (Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2004)
"The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles" ed: Anne Savage (CLB, 1997)
"The Norman Conquest" by D. J. A. Matthew (1966)
"The Norman Achievement, 1050–1100" by D. C. Douglas (1969)
"The First Century of English Feudalism, 1066–1166" (2d ed. 1961) and "Anglo-Saxon England" (3d ed. 1971) by F. M. Stenton
"Feudal Empires: Norman and Plantagenet" by J. LePatourel (1984)