Thursday, December 26, 2013

Answer: A Christmas coronation... and big data?

Yesterday's questions were reasonably straight-forward (but fun!).  And the SearchResearchers took time out of their Christmases to answer the questions.  Well done! 

Remember that I asked...  Can you find out:

(1) Which king was crowned on Christmas?  (Big hint: He didn't speak the language of his kingdom!)   

(2)   What is that big-data analysis summary called?   

(3)  What did the church look like on coronation day?
   (Can you find a contemporary picture of the way it looked on (or about) coronation day?)  

And for extra credit...  

(4) when will the bells be rung at his coronation site today? 

Jeffrey found an interesting solution that I hadn't thought about.  He went with: 

Clever.  He quickly found that:
"On Christmas Day, 1066, [William the Conqueror] was crowned the first Norman king of England, in Westminster Abbey...French became the language of the king's court...the 'Domesday Book,' a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements."

Cute.  But I'll have to remember to NOT ask questions about this particular day.  (I'd forgotten about "This day in history" lists.)  

Ramon did what I had done originally, and just asked about kings crowned on Christmas Day. 

     [king crowned Christmas day]

But I'd discovered William the Conqueror (who spoke Norman French, not English!), and from there I read all about the Domesday Book. (Which is nicely archived at the National Archives of the UK, albeit with a pretty heavy per-page charge for viewing.)  

I learned that the Domesday Book was a large-scale census and accounts-tracking effort by William.  As the new king, he wanted to know what was his, and how much he could expect as income from his newly acquired lands. (And no doubt he also wanted to be sure that nothing got lost in the transition from Harald, the previous king, who he defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.)  Whether or not he actually commissioned the book, or if it was done by one of his deputies is still an issue--but it's pretty clear he wanted to get this data down.  

But as a side-effect, the data-collection of the Domesday project ended up being really the first big-data project I know about that realized they had data schema problems.  (This was discovered when they ended up having to create a standard data-reporting style because different regions were reporting farm income on different bases.)  

To answer the "what did the church look like on coronation day?" question, I wanted to check that Westminster Abbey was built in it's current form by then.  (I was suspicious because no Norman or pre-Norman churches look like the current form of Westminster, which looks very 13th century to me.)  

I did the obvious search:  

    [ Westminster Abbey history ] 

and learned that, as Rosemary discovered:  "The Abbey ( a portion of it) had been built by King Edward between 1042-1052 (Wiki) for his own burial site and it is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry (the most famous tapestry in the world. Paintings from that time period (William the Conqueror and the Coronation don’t appear to exist). Beautifully presented online so you can scroll across showing the history. You will see the Abbey with a man installing the weather vane which was to indicate it being recently built."  

You can spot the church in the tapestry, where it looks very different than the current Westminster.  (As Rosemary pointed out, you can see the worker placing the weathervane on top of a spire at the left of the building, indicating that the work was done.)  

Like everyone else, to find out what time the bells would be rung, I did the search: 

     [ Westminster Abbey bell ringing schedule ] 

and learned that they would be rung after the 10:30 Eucharist.  (The actual time depends on how long that service runs, so say sometime around 11:30AM or so, just as Robin pointed out.)  

Search lessons:  Well, this was pretty straightforward.  The only real leap of insight was understanding that a census could be considered as a "big data" project.  That's the kind of terminological shift that you need to consider to solve many of the SearchResearch challenges.  

Nicely done, folks.  

Next week, we'll be back onto more challenging challenges.  

Have a great closing of the year, and a delightful start to the New Year! 

P.S.  A late update.  I just noticed the wonderful videos that Fred pointed us to in his answer.  They're definitely worth checking out (especially if you teach history to kids).  

William the Conqueror by the History Teachers

Although Fred's favorite is Black Death.

Rock on.   


  1. Good Morning, Dr. Russell and peers on SearchResearch.

    I started the challenge good and end badly. I saw the most famous name (for me) in the possible answers "Charlemagne" and also the name of the World Famous Basilica and thought was the good answer. I was wrong. I tried as Jeffrey using queries with Census without Charlemagne. I think I didn´t find the answer because I was focused on my answer. I need to learn to be open to different possible answers.

    The answers are excellent and how they get to them too.

    Thank you, Dr. Russell for your desires to us in this end of 2013. I also wish the best for you, SearchResearchers, our families and beloved ones. This was a fantastic year with knowledge, beautiful images, excellent search lessons and so much more. I know 2014 will be even better. All the best and because next Challenge will be on the new year Happy New Year

  2. Dan, a little more trivia to go with this topic: The Bayeux Tapestry is not a tapestry but is embroidery. Tapestry is woven technique whereas the Bayeux is a linen cloth with lots of designs embroidered onto it.

    I recently completed a course of study on this time period so was inadvertently well prepared.

    I have no idea how it came to be called a tapestry but it seems have been so described for a very long time.

    Thanks for your change-ringing comments ! I think it should be called challenge-ringing. I found it very tough to do.


  3. Hello Dr. Russell and Jon The Challenge-ringing. I was reading your answer, Jon and did other queries.

    [Bayeux Tapestry]

    The Original Bayeux Tapestry link was already mentioned by RoseMary, just that this is a different part of it. Site mentions:

    - The Bayeux Tapestry was probably commissioned in the 1070s by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror
    -Accurate replica of the Bayeux Tapestry "so that England should have a copy of its own".
    - More information about topic and Museum.

    Bayeux Tapestry Site mentions data, History, facts. For example: 623 people (only 3 women), 55 dogs. Colors used and more.

    [Bayeux Tapestry unknowns facts] found The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry book Just read very small parts.

    Many words were new for me in this challenge such as: Tapestry and Rex.

    Have a nice day!

  4. Hi Dan, just as an aside, interestingly I'd heard that there was some contention re: the purpose of the Domesday book. In fact, it was given to me as a good example of why artefact history is a rather important thing - because looking at it raises some questions about its suitability as a tax (or even more broadly, 'dues') device. So I was interested to see how widespread that very specific claim is (including on the Wikipedia article) without discussion of its controversy e.g. or:
    "Every entry contains information relating to taxation so it could be a tax book; but if so, it was poorly designed, for the layout of the text would have made it hard to use for fiscal purposes. The book does, however, enable readers to identify the lands held by King William and his barons very quickly and precisely; so it is more likely to have been intended as an instrument of political control. The barons were prepared to yield this instrument to the king since it gave them what they wanted most following the greatest tenurial revolution in England's history − greater security of title to their lands."

    Historiography in search :-)!