11th Century: William The Conqueror (c. 1027-1087)

The Norman took what he believed was his--England--and pioneered state bureaucracy amid Europe's chaos

He was, contemporaries advise us, "great in body...but not ungainly." He had a harsh voice, but his speech was always appropriate. His chroniclers lauded his ability to "appraise the true significance of events" and make good "the fickle promises of fortune." They also remarked that he was "too relentless to care though all might hate him." William the Conqueror was a man--or, more important, a monarch--for a new age.

Europe entered the century as a study in disintegrated empire. Rome had long since fallen. Charlemagne had briefly laid claim to its authority, but his heirs could not sustain a continent-wide order....

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