Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Exploring Assassin: The Baronial Revolt of 1088

If you've read the newly retitled Assassin then you will know it's set to a backdrop of a revolt that took place in 1088. The events of 1088 trigger the circumstances in which Annabel and Nicholas meet. I must admit that I originally intended for the events to have a greater role in the story but Annabel and Nicholas sort of took over. I'm glad, however, their relationship became the key to the story. In the book, Annabel's home becomes overrun by rebels. Though set in fictional Alderweald in Kent, castles in Kent were laid to siege, particularly because they controlled the river crossing.

King William II
 When William I died, he gave the crown to his favourite, and youngest son, William II or more often known as William Rufus. His older brother, Robert, was the heir to Normandy and so effectively William I's domains were split.

 In April 1088, trouble began to stir. Instigated by Odo of Bayeux - recently restored to Earldom after being released from captivity by Rufus after his father had imprisoned him - several powerful barons joined forces to persuade Robert that they would support his bid for the crown of England and therefore unite the two domains once more. Odo appears to be the key to this rebellion, having taken a dislike to William Rufus and believing Robert to be softer in his rule. Odo was essentially a trouble maker and likely thought he would have an easier ride with Robert ruling England.

Outbreaks of rebellion turned out to be fairly spread apart and William made some savvy deals with the rebel barons and his supporters with promises of lower taxations and relaxation of laws. The church remained behind William and he marched on Tonbridge and Rochester, hoping to seize Odo at Rochester.

Rochester Castle
English Heritage Image
Odo escaped to Pevensey Castle before Rufus got to Rochester and Rufus followed him. A six week siege took place. Odo was captured and Odo swore to surrender Rochester, which was still under the hands of the rebels. However, when they came to the walls of Rochester, the rebels did not take lightly to this news and set about freeing Odo and who was steadily becoming a real thorn in Rufus' side!

Rufus commences siege warfare against Rochester Castle and lack of supplies and disease force the defenders into discussions. Odo and his followers are allowed to travel to Normandy unhindered. With the exile of Odo, the rebellion falls apart.

Surprisingly, Rufus  was fairly lenient and handed out fines and confiscations although the town of Tonbridge was burnt to the ground and Odo had his lands and titles stripped. Unfortunately for Rufus' supporters, all of his promises were subsequently forgotten. It was said that when asked about it, William responded 'Who can be expected to keep all his promises?'

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