A History Event Involving a Ship and Lots of Rich Young Kids Who Knew How to Party

WhiteShipSinkingI think this little tale proves that even back then people were rolling their eyes while thinking, “kids these days…” First I will set the scene. William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, sailed on over to England from France and won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to become King of England (hence his name, “the Conqueror”). The Conqueror’s son, King Henry I, however had only one legitimate son–William. If you know anything about history, you know that one son ain’t enough (Henry VIII would heartily agree). While Henry and his son were in Normandy in 1120, they got an offer to take the White Ship back to England. The White Ship was a state-of-the-art ship so when Henry declined, his heir apparent decided to take the ship and basically turn it into a booze cruise for the most influential young kids of the day (the Pippas and Harrys, if you will). They partied; they drank; it was turning into a crazy boat party. At this point, William and his rowdy revelers decided that they wanted to try to pass the King’s boat. While trying to do so, the ship hit a rock and started going under–luckily they were close-ish to shore. Too bad their screams for help went unnoticed because the people on the shore thought it was just more party noises. William managed to get on a smaller boat headed towards shore, but he heard his half-sister Matilda calling his name for help within the ship and he went back into the water to rescue her. He managed to return to the small boat with Matilda only to have it capsize as men and women in the water overtook it in desperation. There were only two survivors of the wreck, both of the lower class. It was because of this disaster that King Henry I named his daughter Maude (sometimes known as Matilda) as his heir. This was centuries before Elizabeth I; if a female ruler was unorthodox in Elizabeth’s day, in Maude’s it was unprecedented. If you want to learn more about her story, I did blog about it earlier. For now, let’s think about the lessons learned from the White Ship Disaster:

1) Kids need to keep their noise down while partying else they will not be saved in the event of an accident.

2) Beget a shit ton of sons if you are royalty. Let me rephrase that, beget a shit ton of legitimate sons.


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