’Twas on this day – back in 1066 – that William of Normandy (also known as William the Bastard) set sail for England with the intention of changing his name to William the Conqueror, which he thought had a better ring to it than either of the others. Upon landing, he tripped and fell flat on his face, which, in those superstitious times, his troops could have taken as a bad omen had he not latched onto a couple of fistfuls of sand and said, “See, my lords, by the splendour of God, I have taken possession of England with both my hands!” Having thus inspired cheers instead of jeers or, worse still, fearful groans, he and his followers went merrily on their way and embarked upon what was to be the last successful invasion of Britain.

And a good thing, too, since within two or three generations, people were giving their kids names like Nicholas, Geoffrey, Thomas, Anne, Catherine, and Mary instead of the Dudda, Eoforwine, Hunfrith, Wulfstan, Bregusuid, Earcongota, Frideswide, and Thelfleda monikers the poor little souls had been stuck with before. (Okay, a few didn’t fare too badly with Alfred, Edward, Harold, Audrey, Hilda, Rowena, and the like–and those ones have managed to stay the course–but the rest have, thankfully, faded into obscurity in my homeland.)


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