William I "the Conqueror" King of England and Duke of Normandy (c.1028 - 1087)

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Nicknames: "William I of England", "William the Conqueror", "Guillaume le Conquérant", "William II Duke of Normandy", "William the Bastard", "Guillaume le Bâtard", "William FitzRobert", "William Beauclerc", "William of Normandy", "Guillaume de Normandie", "The /Conqueror/"
Birthplace: Château de Falaise, Falaise, Basse-Normandie, France
Death: Died in Convent of St Gervais, Rouen, Haute-Normandie, France
Cause of death: He died from wounds received at the siege of Mantes, having been injured internally after being thrown from his horse and against the pommel of his saddle
Occupation: King of England, Duke of Normandy, King of England from 1066 to 1087, Kung av England 1066, hertig av Normandie (Wilhelm ll) från 1035, King of England / William the Conqueror, King of England 1066-1087; built Tower of London, King of France
Managed by: Timothy Stones
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About William I "the Conqueror" King of England and Duke of Normandy

Guillaume 'le Conquérant' FitzRobert, Duc de Normandie, Roi d'Angleterre

English: William the Conqueror, King of England

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

and in French: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillaume_le_Conqu%C3%A9rant

William the Conqueror (c. 1027 or 1028[1] – 9 September 1087), also known as William I of England, was the King of England from Christmas, 1066 until his death. He was also William II, Duke of Normandy, from 3 July 1035 until his death. Before his conquest of England, he was known as "William the Bastard" (French: Guillaume le Bâtard) because of the illegitimacy of his birth. William was already known as "the Conqueror" before 1066 due to his military success in Brittany.

To press his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans, Bretons, Flemish people, and Frenchmen (from Paris and Île-de-France) to victory over the English forces of King Harold Godwinson (who died in the conflict) at the Battle of Hastings, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest.[2]

His reign, which brought Norman-French culture to England, had an impact on the subsequent course of England in the Middle Ages. The details of that impact and the extent of the changes have been debated by scholars for over a century. In addition to the obvious change of ruler, his reign also saw a programme of building and fortification, changes to the English language, a shift in the upper levels of society and the church, and adoption of some aspects of continental church reform.

Early life

William was born in Falaise, Normandy, the illegitimate and only son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, who named him as heir to Normandy. His mother, Herleva (a name with several variant versions), who later married and bore two sons to Herluin de Conteville, was the daughter of Fulbert of Falaise. In addition to his two half-brothers, Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, William had a sister, Adelaide of Normandy, another child of Robert. Later in his life, the enemies of William are reported to have called him alternately "William the Bastard", and deride him as the son of a tanner, and the residents of besieged Alençon hung animal skins from the city walls to taunt him.

William is believed to have been born in either 1027 or 1028, and more likely in the autumn of the later year.[1][notes 1] He was born the grandnephew of the English Queen, Emma of Normandy, wife of King Ethelred the Unready and later, wife of King Canute the Great.[3]

William's illegitimacy affected his early life and he was known to contemporaries as 'William the Bastard'. Nevertheless, when his father died, he was recognised as the heir.[4]

[edit] Duke of Normandy

By his father's will, William succeeded him as Duke of Normandy at age seven in 1035. Plots by rival Norman noblemen to usurp his place cost William three guardians, though not Count Alan III of Brittany, who was a later guardian. William was supported by King Henry I of France, however. He was knighted by Henry at age 15. By the time William turned 19 he was successfully dealing with threats of rebellion and invasion. With the assistance of Henry, William finally secured control of Normandy by defeating rebel Norman barons at Caen in the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes in 1047, obtaining the Truce of God, which was backed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Against the wishes of Pope Leo IX, William married Matilda of Flanders in 1053 in the Notre-Dame chapel of Eu castle, Normandy (Seine-Maritime). At the time, William was about 24 years old and Matilda was 22. William is said to have been a faithful and loving husband, and their marriage produced four sons and six daughters. In repentance for what was a consanguine marriage (they were distant cousins), William donated St Stephen's Church (l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and Matilda donated Holy Trinity church (Abbaye aux Dames).

Feeling threatened by the increase in Norman power resulting from William's noble marriage, Henry I attempted to invade Normandy twice (1054 and 1057), without success. Already a charismatic leader, William attracted strong support within Normandy, including the loyalty of his half-brothers Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, who played significant roles in his life. Later, he benefited from the weakening of two competing power centers as a result of the deaths of Henry I and of Geoffrey II of Anjou, in 1060. In 1062 William invaded and took control of the county of Maine, which had been a fief of Anjou.[5]

[edit] English succession

Upon the death of the childless Edward the Confessor, the English throne was fiercely disputed by three claimants—William; Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex; and the Viking King Harald III of Norway, known as Harald Hardrada. William had a tenuous blood claim through his great aunt Emma (wife of Ethelred and mother of Edward). William also contended that Edward, who had spent much of his life in exile in Normandy during the Danish occupation of England, had promised him the throne when he visited Edward in London in 1052. Further, William claimed that Harold had pledged allegiance to him in 1064: William had rescued the shipwrecked Harold from the count of Ponthieu, and together they had defeated Conan II, Count of Brittany. On that occasion, William had knighted Harold; he had also, however, deceived Harold by having him swear loyalty to William himself over the concealed bones of a saint.[6]

In January 1066, however, in accordance with Edward's last will and by vote of the Witenagemot, Harold Godwinson was crowned King by Archbishop Aldred.

[edit] Norman invasion

Main article: Norman Conquest

Meanwhile, William submitted his claim to the English throne to Pope Alexander II, who sent him a consecrated banner in support. Then, William organised a council of war at Lillebonne and in January openly began assembling an army in Normandy. Offering promises of English lands and titles, he amassed at Dives-sur-Mer a huge invasion fleet, supposedly of 696 ships. This carried an invasion force which included, in addition to troops from William's own territories of Normandy and Maine, large numbers of mercenaries, allies and volunteers from Brittany, north-eastern France and Flanders, together with smaller numbers from other parts of France and from the Norman colonies in southern Italy. In England, Harold assembled a large army on the south coast and a fleet of ships to guard the English Channel.[6]

Fortuitously for William, his crossing was delayed by eight months of unfavourable winds. William managed to keep his army together during the wait, but Harold's was diminished by dwindling supplies and falling morale with the arrival of the harvest season, he disbanded his army on 8 September.[7] Harold also consolidated his ships in London, leaving the English Channel unguarded. Then came the news that the other contender for the throne, Harald III of Norway, allied with Tostig Godwinson, had landed ten miles from York. Harold again raised his army and after a four-day forced march defeated Harald and Tostig on 25 September.

On 12 September the wind direction turned and William's fleet sailed. A storm blew up and the fleet was forced to take shelter at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and again wait for the wind to change. On 27 September the Norman fleet finally set sail, landing in England at Pevensey Bay (Sussex) on 28 September. Thence William moved to Hastings, a few miles to the east, where he built a prefabricated wooden castle for a base of operations. From there, he ravaged the hinterland and waited for Harold's return from the north.[7]

William chose Hastings as it was at the end of a long peninsula flanked by impassable marshes. The battle was on the isthmus. William at once built a fort at Hastings to guard his rear against potential arrival of Harold's fleet from London. Having landed his army, William was less concerned about desertion and could have waited out the winter storms, raided the surrounding area for horses and started a campaign in the spring. Harold had been reconnoitering the south of England for some time and well appreciated the need to occupy this isthmus at once.[8]

[edit] Battle of Hastings

Main article: Battle of Hastings

Harold, after defeating his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in the north, marched his army 241 mi (388 km) to meet the invading William in the south. On 13 October, William received news of Harold's march from London. At dawn the next day, William left the castle with his army and advanced towards the enemy. Harold had taken a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill/Senlac ridge (present-day Battle, East Sussex), about seven miles from Hastings.

The Battle of Hastings lasted all day. Although the numbers on each side were about equal, William had both cavalry and infantry, including many archers, while Harold had only foot soldiers and few if any archers.[9] Along the ridge's border, formed as a wall of shields, the English soldiers at first stood so effectively that William's army was thrown back with heavy casualties. William rallied his troops reportedly raising his helmet, as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry, to quell rumors of his death. Meanwhile, many of the English had pursued the fleeing Normans on foot, allowing the Norman cavalry to attack them repeatedly from the rear as his infantry pretended to retreat further.[10] Norman arrows also took their toll, progressively weakening the English wall of shields. At dusk, the English army made their last stand. A final Norman cavalry attack decided the battle irrevocably when it resulted in the death of Harold who, legend says, was killed by an arrow in the eye. Two of his brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine Godwinson, were killed as well. By nightfall, the Norman victory was complete and the remaining English soldiers fled in fear.

Battles of the time rarely lasted more than two hours before the weaker side capitulated; that Hastings lasted nine hours indicates the determination of both William and Harold. Battles also ended at sundown regardless of who was winning. Harold was killed shortly before sunset and, as he would have received fresh reinforcements before the battle recommenced in the morning, he was assured of victory had he survived William's final cavalry attack.

[edit] March to London

For two weeks, William waited for a formal surrender of the English throne, but the Witenagemot proclaimed the quite young Edgar Ætheling King instead, though without coronation. Thus, William's next target was London, approaching through the important territories of Kent, via Dover and Canterbury, inspiring fear in the English. However, at London, William's advance was beaten back at London Bridge, and he decided to march westward and to storm London from the northwest. After receiving continental reinforcements, William crossed the Thames at Wallingford, and there he forced the surrender of Archbishop Stigand (one of Edgar's lead supporters), in early December. William reached Berkhamsted a few days later where Ætheling relinquished the English crown personally and the exhausted Saxon noblemen of England surrendered definitively. Although William was acclaimed then as English King, he requested a coronation in London. As William I, he was formally crowned on Christmas day 1066, in Westminster Abbey, by Archbishop Aldred[6]. According to some sources, the ceremony was not a peaceful one. Alarmed by some noises coming from the Abbey, the Norman guards stationed outside set fire to the neighbouring houses. A Norman monk later wrote "As the fire spread rapidly, the people in the church were thrown into confusion and crowds of them rushed outside, some to fight the flames, others to take the chance to go looting."

[edit] English resistance

Although the south of England submitted quickly to Norman rule, resistance in the north continued for six more years until 1072. During the first two years, King William I suffered many revolts throughout England (Dover, western Mercia, Exeter). Also, in 1068, Harold's illegitimate sons attempted an invasion of the south-western peninsula, but William defeated them.

For William I, the worst crisis came from Northumbria, which had still not submitted to his realm. In 1068, with Edgar Ætheling, both Mercia and Northumbria revolted. William could suppress these, but Edgar fled to Scotland where Malcolm III of Scotland protected him. Furthermore, Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, with much éclat, stressing the English balance of power against William. Under such circumstances, Northumbria rebelled, besieging York. Then, Edgar resorted also to the Danes, who disembarked with a large fleet at Northumbria, claiming the English crown for their King Sweyn II. Scotland joined the rebellion as well. The rebels easily captured York and its castle. However, William could contain them at Lincoln. After dealing with a new wave of revolts at western Mercia, Exeter, Dorset, and Somerset, William defeated his northern foes decisively at the River Aire, retrieving York, while the Danish army swore to depart.

William then devastated Northumbria between the Humber and Tees rivers, with what was described as the Harrying of the North. This devastation included setting fire to the vegetation, houses and even tools to work the fields. He also burnt crops, killed livestock and sowed the fields and land with salt, to stunt growth.[citation needed] After this cruel treatment the land did not recover for more than 100 years. The region ended up absolutely deprived, losing its traditional autonomy towards England. It may, however, have stopped future rebellions, frightening the English into obedience. Then the Danish king disembarked in person, readying his army to restart the war, but William suppressed this threat with a payment of gold. In 1071, William defeated the last rebellion of the north through an improvised pontoon, subduing the Isle of Ely, where the Danes had gathered. In 1072, he invaded Scotland, defeating Malcolm, who had recently invaded the north of England. William and Malcolm agreed to a peace by signing the Treaty of Abernethy and Malcolm gave up his son Duncan as a hostage for the peace.[11] In 1074, Edgar Ætheling submitted definitively to William.

In 1075, during William's absence, the Revolt of the Earls was confronted successfully by Odo. In 1080, William dispatched his half brothers Odo and Robert to storm Northumbria and Scotland, respectively. Eventually, the Pope protested that the Normans were mistreating the English people. Before quelling the rebellions, William had conciliated with the English church; however, he persecuted it ferociously afterwards.

[edit] Reign in England

Events

As would be habit for his descendants, William spent much of his time (11 years, since 1072) in Normandy, ruling the islands through his writs. Nominally still a vassal state, owing its entire loyalty to the French king, Normandy arose suddenly as a powerful region, alarming the other French dukes who reacted by persistently attacking the duchy. William became focused on conquering Brittany, and the French King Philip I admonished him. A treaty was concluded after his aborted invasion of Brittany in 1076, and William betrothed Constance to the Breton Duke Hoel's son, the future Alan IV of Brittany. The wedding occurred only in 1086, after Alan's accession to the throne, and Constance died childless a few years later.

William's elder son Robert, enraged by a prank of his brothers William and Henry, who had doused him with filthy water, undertook what became a large scale rebellion against his father's rule. Only with King Philip's additional military support was William able to confront Robert, who was then based in Flanders. During the battle of 1079, William was unhorsed and wounded by Robert, who lowered his sword only after recognising him. The embarrassed William returned to Rouen, abandoning the expedition. In 1080, Matilda reconciled both, and William restored Robert's inheritance.

Odo caused trouble for William, too, and was imprisoned in 1082, losing his English estate and all his royal functions, but retaining his religious duties. In 1083, Matilda died, and William became more tyrannical over his realm.

[edit] Reforms

William initiated many major changes. He increased the function of the traditional English shires (autonomous administrative regions), which he brought under central control; he decreased the power of the earls by restricting them to one shire apiece. All administrative functions of his government remained fixed at specific English towns, except the court itself; they would progressively strengthen, and the English institutions became amongst the most sophisticated in Europe. In 1085, in order to ascertain the extent of his new dominions and to improve taxation, William commissioned all his counselors for the compilation of the Domesday Book, which was published in 1086. The book was a survey of England's productive capacity similar to a modern census.

William also ordered many castles, keeps, and mottes, among them the Tower of London's foundation (the White Tower), to be built throughout England. These ensured effectively that the many rebellions by the English people or his own followers did not succeed.

His conquest also led to French (especially, but not only, the Norman French) replacing English as the language of the ruling classes for nearly 300 years.[12][13] Whereas in 1066 less than 30% of property owners had non English given names, by 1207 this had risen to more than 80%, with French names such as William, Robert and Richard most common. Furthermore, the original Anglo-Saxon culture of England became mingled with the Norman one; thus the Anglo-Norman culture came into being.

William is said to have eliminated the native aristocracy in as little as four years. Systematically, he despoiled those English aristocrats who either opposed the Normans or who died without issue. Thus, most English estates and titles of nobility were handed to the Norman noblemen. Many English aristocrats fled to Flanders and Scotland; others may have been sold into slavery overseas. Some escaped to join the Byzantine Empire's Varangian Guard, and went on to fight the Normans in Sicily. Although William initially allowed English lords to keep their lands if they offered submission, by 1070, the indigenous nobility had ceased to be an integral part of the English landscape, and by 1086, it maintained control of just 8% of its original land-holdings. More than 4,000 English lords had lost their lands and been replaced, with only two English lords of any significance surviving.[14] However, to the new Norman noblemen, William handed the English parcels of land piecemeal, dispersing these widely, ensuring nobody would try conspiring against him without jeopardising their own estates within the still unstable post-invasion England. Effectively, this strengthened William's political stand as a monarch.

The medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury says that the king also seized and depopulated many miles of land (36 parishes), turning it into the royal New Forest region to support his enthusiastic enjoyment of hunting.[15] Modern historians, however, have come to the conclusion that the New Forest depopulation was greatly exaggerated. Most of the lands of the New Forest are poor agricultural lands, and archaeological and geographic studies have shown that the New Forest was likely sparsely settled when it was turned into a royal forest.[16]

[edit] Death, burial, and succession

In 1087 in France, William burned Mantes (50 km west of Paris), besieging the town. However, he fell off his horse, suffering fatal abdominal injuries from the saddle pommel. On his deathbed, William divided his succession for his sons, sparking strife between them. Despite William's reluctance, his combative elder son Robert received the Duchy of Normandy, as Robert II. William Rufus (his third son) was next English king, as William II. William's youngest son Henry received 5,000 silver pounds, which would be earmarked to buy land. He also became King Henry I of England after William II died without issue. While on his deathbed, William pardoned many of his political adversaries, including Odo.

William died at age 59 at the Convent of St Gervais in Rouen, capital city of Normandie, France, on 9 September 1087. William was buried in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, which he had erected, in Caen, Normandy. It is said that Herluin, his stepfather, loyally bore his body to his grave.[17]

The original owner of the land on which the church was built claimed he had not been paid yet, demanding 60 shillings, which William's son Henry had to pay on the spot. In a most unregal postmortem, it was found that William's corpulent body would not fit in the stone sarcophagus as his body had bloated due to the warm weather and length of time that had passed since his death. A group of bishops applied pressure on the king's abdomen to force the body downward but the abdominal wall burst and putrefaction drenched the king's coffin "filling the church with a foul smell". William's grave is currently marked by a marble slab with a Latin inscription; the slab dates from the early 19th century. The grave was defiled twice, once during the French Wars of Religion, when his bones were scattered across the town of Caen, and again during the French Revolution. Following those events, only William's left femur, some skin particles and bone dust remain in the tomb.

[edit] Legacy

William's invasion was the last time that England was successfully conquered by a foreign power. Although there would be a number of other attempts over the centuries, the best that could be achieved would be excursions by foreign troops, such as the Raid on the Medway during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, but no actual conquests such as William's. There have however been occasions since that time when foreign rulers have succeeded to the English/British throne, notably the Dutch Stadtholder William III of Orange who in 1688, with his Dutch army, was invited by prominent English politicians to invade England with the intention of deposing the Catholic King James II (see Glorious Revolution) and George of Hanover b. 1660, who acceded by virtue of the exclusion of Roman Catholics from the succession.

As Duke of Normandy and King of England he divided his realm among his sons, but the lands were reunited under his son Henry, and his descendants acquired other territories through marriage or conquest and, at their height, these possessions would be known as the Angevin Empire.

They included many lands in France, such as Normandy and Aquitaine, but the question of jurisdiction over these territories would be the cause of much conflict and bitter rivalry between England and France, which took up much of the Middle Ages, including the Hundred Years War.

An example of William's legacy even in modern times can be seen on the Bayeux Memorial, a monument erected by Britain in the Normandy town of Bayeux to those killed in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. A Latin inscription on the memorial reads NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS – freely translated, this reads "We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land".[18]

The numbering scheme of the English (or British) Crown regards William as the Founder of the State of England. This explains, among other things, why King Edward I was "the First" even though he ruled long after the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor.

[edit] Physical appearance

No authentic portrait of William has been found. Nonetheless, he was depicted as a man of fair stature with remarkably strong arms, "with which he could shoot a bow at full gallop". William showed a magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance. He enjoyed excellent health until old age; nevertheless his noticeable corpulence in later life increased eventually so much that French King Philip I commented that William looked like a pregnant woman.[19] Examination of his femur, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately 5' 10" tall which was around two inches taller than the average for the 11th century.[20]

Descendants

William is known to have had nine children, though Matilda, a tenth daughter who died a virgin, appears in some sources. Several other unnamed daughters are also mentioned as being betrothed to notable figures of that time. Despite rumours to the contrary (such as claims that William Peverel was a bastard of William)[21] there is no evidence that he had any illegitimate children.[22]

  1. Robert Curthose (1054–1134), Duke of Normandy, married Sybil of Conversano, daughter of Geoffrey of Conversano.
  2. Richard (c. 1055 – c. 1081), Duke of Bernay, killed by a stag in New Forest.
  3. Adeliza (or Alice) (c. 1055 – c. 1065), reportedly betrothed to Harold II of England.
  4. Cecilia (or Cecily) (c. 1056–1126), Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen.
  5. William "Rufus" (c. 1056–1100), King of England, killed by an arrow in New Forest.
  6. Agatha (c. 1064–1079), betrothed to Alfonso VI of Castile.
  7. Constance (c. 1066–1090), married Alan IV Fergent, Duke of Brittany; poisoned, possibly by her own servants.
  8. Adela (c. 1067–1137), married Stephen, Count of Blois.
  9. Henry "Beauclerc" (1068–1135), King of England, married Edith of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of the Scots. His second wife was Adeliza of Leuven.

[edit] Depictions in drama, film and television

William I has appeared as a character in only a few stage and screen productions. The one-act play A Choice of Kings by John Mortimer deals with his deception of Harold after the latter's shipwreck. Julian Glover portrayed him in a 1966 TV adaptation of this play in the ITV Play of the Week series.

William has also been portrayed on screen by Thayer Roberts in the 1955 film Lady Godiva of Coventry, John Carson in the 1965 BBC TV series Hereward the Wake, Alan Dobie in the two-part 1966 BBC TV play Conquest (part of the series Theatre 625), and Michael Gambon in the 1990 TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror.

On a less serious note, he has been portrayed by David Lodge in a 1975 episode of the TV comedy series Carry On Laughing entitled "One in the Eye for Harold" and by James Fleet in the 1999 humorous BBC show The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything'

[edit] In fiction

   * Wingate, John, "William the Conqueror", a biographical novel. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983
   * Heyer, Georgette, "The Conqueror". London: Wm Heinemann Ltd, 1931
   * Lomer, Mary, "Fortune's Knave: The Making of William the Conqueror". London: Headline, 1992. (This novel was also published in a different edition under one of Lomer's pseudonyms, Mary Lide)
   * William the Conqueror features in Valerie Anand's trilogy based around the Norman Conquest of 1066 1) Gildenford (1977) 2) The Norman Pretender (1980) 3) The Disputed Crown (1982)
   * Shipway, George, "The Paladin". This first part of the story of Walter Tirel, assassin of William Rufus of England, (continued in "Wolf Time") takes place in Normandy and features the aging William the Conqueror's battles with rebellious Norman vassals led by his estranged son, Count Robert (Curthose) of Maine; also the king's death and the struggle between his three sons for domination of England and Normandy. London: Peter Davies Ltd, 1972

King of the English

Reign 25 December 1066 – 9 September 1087

Coronation 25 December 1066

Predecessor Edgar Ætheling (uncrowned)

(otherwise) Harold II

Successor William II Rufus

Duke of the Normans

Reign 3 July 1035 – 9 September 1087

Predecessor Robert I the Magnificent

Successor Robert II Curthose

Consort Matilda of Flanders

among others

Issue

Robert II Curthose, Duke of the Normans

Richard, Duke of Bernay

William II Rufus, King of the English

Adela, Countess of Blois

Henry I Beauclerc, King of the English

House Norman dynasty

Father Robert I, Duke of Normandy

Mother Herlette of Falaise

Born c. 1027[1]

Falaise, Normandy

Died 9 September 1087 (aged c.58/59)

Convent of St. Gervais, Rouen

Burial Saint-Étienne de Caen, France

http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/NORMANDY.htm#GuillaumeIIdied1087B

http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#WilliamIdied1087

William I (about 1027 or 1028[1] – 9 September 1087), better known as William the Conqueror (French: Guillaume le Conquérant), was Duke of Normandy from 1035 and King of England from late 1066 to his death. William is sometimes also referred to as "William II" in relation to his position as the second Duke of Normandy of that name. In particular, before his conquest of England, he was known as "William the Bastard" (French: Guillaume le Bâtard) because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

Descendants

Family tree

William is known to have had nine children, though Agatha, a tenth daughter who died a virgin, appears in some sources. Several other unnamed daughters are also mentioned as being betrothed to notable figures of that time. Despite rumours to the contrary (such as claims that William Peverel was a bastard of William)[20] there is no evidence that he had any illegitimate children,[21]

  1. Robert Curthose (1054–1134), Duke of Normandy, married Sybil of Conversano, daughter of Geoffrey of Conversano.
  2. Richard (c. 1055 – c. 1081), Duke of Bernay, killed by a stag in New Forest.
  3. Adeliza (or Alice) (c. 1055 – c. 1065), reportedly betrothed to Harold II of England.
  4. Cecilia (or Cecily) (c. 1056 – 1126), Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen.
  5. William "Rufus" (c. 1056 – 1100), King of England.
  6. Agatha (c. 1064 – 1079), betrothed to Alfonso VI of Castile.
  7. Constance (c. 1066 – 1090), married Alan IV Fergent, Duke of Brittany; poisoned, possibly by her own servants.
  8. Adela (c. 1067 – 1137), married Stephen, Count of Blois.
  9. Henry "Beauclerc" (1068–1135), King of England, married Edith of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of the Scots. His second wife was Adeliza of Leuven.

--------------------

GUILLAUME de Normandie, illegitimate son of ROBERT II “le Diable” Duke of Normandy & his mistress Herlève --- (Château de Falaise, Normandy [1027/28]-Rouen, Prioré de Saint-Gervais 9 Sep 1087, bur Caen, Abbé de Saint-Etienne).

His birth date is estimated from William of Malmesbury, according to whom Guillaume was born of a concubine and was seven years old when his father left for Jerusalem[237], and Orderic Vitalis, who states that he was eight years old at the time[238].

According to Orderic Vitalis, Alain III Duke of Brittany was appointed his guardian during his father's absence in 1035[239]. Deville suggests that Guillaume´s birthdate can be fixed more precisely to [mid-1027], taking into account that his father Robert occupied Falaise immediately after the death of his father Duke Richard II (23 Aug 1026), not wishing to accept the authority of his older brother Duke Richard III, but that Robert´s stay was short as the two brothers were reconciled soon after, it being reasonable to suppose that Robert´s relationship with Guillaume´s mother occurred soon after his arrival at Falaise[240].

He succeeded his father in 1035 as GUILLAUME II Duke of Normandy. After Duke Alan was poisoned, Gilbert Comte d'Eu was appointed guardian but was himself murdered[241]. Duke Guillaume helped Henri I King of France defeat Geoffroy II "Martel" Comte d'Anjou at Mouliherne in [1045/55][242]. Edward "the Confessor" King of England may have acknowledged Guillaume's right to succeed to the English throne on several occasions, maybe for the first time during a visit to England in 1051 which is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle[243]. Comte de Maine 1063, after he conquered the county. In [1064/65], Duke Guillaume interceded with Guy de Ponthieu Comte d'Abbeville to secure the release of Harold Godwinsson, in return for Harold's acknowledgement of Guillaume as successor to the English throne according to the portrayal of the event in the Bayeux tapestry. Harold Godwinsson's visit to Normandy, and swearing allegiance to Duke William, is recorded by William of Jumièges[244]. According to Eadmer of Canterbury, the reason for Harold's visit was to negotiate the release of his brother Wulfnoth and nephew Haakon, both of whom had been hostages in Normandy since 1051. On his deathbed King Edward "the Confessor" bequeathed the kingdom of England to Harold Godwinsson. Duke Guillaume branded Harold a perjurer and appealed to Pope Alexander II for support. After receiving a papal banner in response to this request, William gathered a sizable army during summer 1066 ready for invasion. After some delay due to unfavourable weather conditions, the army set sail for England from Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme 28 Sep 1066[245]. He defeated and killed King Harold at Hastings 14 Oct 1066, and made his way to London where he was crowned 25 Dec 1066 as WILLIAM I "the Conqueror" King of England.

http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/NORMANDY.htm#GuillaumeIIdied1087B

GUILLAUME de Normandie, illegitimate son of ROBERT II Duke of Normandy & his mistress Arlette --- (Château de Falaise, Normandy [1027/28]-Rouen, Prioré de Saint-Gervais 9 Sep 1087, bur Caen, Abbé de Saint-Etienne).

His birth date is estimated from William of Malmesbury, according to whom Guillaume was born of a concubine and was seven years old when his father left for Jerusalem[1], and Orderic Vitalis, who states that he was eight years old at the time[2]. Deville suggests that Guillaume´s birthdate can be fixed more precisely to [mid-1027], taking into account that his father Robert occupied Falaise immediately after the death of his father Duke Richard II (23 Aug 1026), not wishing to accept the authority of his older brother Duke Richard III, but that Robert´s stay was short as the two brothers were reconciled soon after, it being reasonable to suppose that Robert´s relationship with Guillaume´s mother occurred soon after his arrival at Falaise[3]. According to Orderic Vitalis, Alain III Duke of Brittany was appointed his guardian during his father's absence in 1035[4].

He succeeded his father in 1035 as GUILLAUME II Duke of Normandy. He helped Henri I King of France defeat Geoffroy II "Martel" Comte d'Anjou at Mouliherne in [1045/55][5]. It appears that Edward "the Confessor" King of England acknowledged Guillaume as successor to the English throne on several occasions, maybe for the first time during his visit to England in 1051 which is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle[6]. Comte de Maine in 1063, after he conquered the county. In [1064/65], Duke Guillaume interceded with Guy de Ponthieu Comte d'Abbeville to secure the release of Harold Godwinsson from captivity in Normandy, in return for Harold's acknowledgement of Guillaume as successor to the English crown (according to the portrayal of the event in the Bayeux tapestry). Harold Godwinsson's visit to Normandy, and swearing allegiance to Duke William, is recorded by William of Jumièges[7].

According to Eadmer of Canterbury, the reason for his visit was to negotiate the release of his brother Wulfnoth and nephew Haakon, both of whom had been hostages in Normandy since 1051. On his deathbed, King Edward "the Confessor" bequeathed the kingdom of England to Harold Godwinsson. Duke Guillaume branded Harold a perjurer and appealed to Pope Alexander II for support. After receiving a papal banner in response to his request, William gathered a sizable army during summer 1066 in preparation for invasion. After some delay due to unfavourable weather conditions, the army set sail for England from Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme 28 Sep 1066[8]. William defeated and killed King Harold at Hastings 14 Oct 1066[9], marched north to Canterbury, then west to Winchester where he captured the royal treasury. He proceeded to London where he was crowned 25 Dec 1066 as WILLIAM I "the Conqueror" King of England at Westminster Abbey, possibly by Ealdred Archbishop of York who may have officiated because of doubts concerning the validity of the appointment of Stigand as Archbishop of Canterbury. The latter had received his pallium in 1058 from Pope Benedict X, later regarded as anti-Pope, an appointment which had not been regularised by Pope Alexander II. He was crowned again at Winchester 1070 with a Papal crown. After taking several years to subdue the whole country, he imposed the Norman feudal structure and rule everywhere with methodical and harsh persistence. The minute description of the country contained in the Domesday Book, completed in 1086, enabled King William to create an effective tax base He died from wounds received at the siege of Mantes, having been injured internally after being thrown against the pommel of his saddle[10], leaving Normandy to his eldest son Robert and England to his second surviving son William.

Guillaume de Jumièges records the death of King William at Rouen on 9 Sep and his burial at Saint-Etienne, Caen[11]. Florence of Worcester records the death "Id Sep V" of King William and his burial "Cadomi in ecclesia S Stephani Protomartyris"[12]. The Brevis Relatio de Origine Willelmi Conquestoris records that "Willelmus…Roberti filius" was buried "Cadomi in ecclesia beati Stephani" which he had built[13].

m (Eu, Cathedral of Notre Dame [1050/52]) MATHILDE de Flandre, daughter of BAUDOUIN V "le Pieux/Insulanus" Count of Flanders & his wife Adela de France ([1032]-Caen 2 Nov 1083, bur Caen, Abbey of Holy Trinity).

The Genealogica Comitum Flandriæ Bertiniana names (in order) "Balduinum Haanoniensem, et Robdbertum cognomento postea Iherosolimitanum, et Matilde uxorem Guillelmi regis Anglorum" as the children of "Balduinum Insulanum [et] Adelam"[14]. Her parentage is also stated by Orderic Vitalis[15]. She founded the abbey of la Trinité at Caen, as confirmed by an undated manuscript which records the death "pridie nonas julias" of "abbatissam Mathildem" in the 54th year in which she held the position and names "Mathildem Anglorum reginam, nostri cœnobii fondatricem, Adilidem, Mathildem, Constantiam, filias eius" heading the list of the names of nuns at the abbey[16]. Florence of Worcester records that "comitissa Mahtilda de Normannia" came to England 23 Mar [1068] and was crowned "die Pentecostes [11 May]" by Aldred Archbishop of York[17].

Orderic Vitalis also records that she was crowned Queen of England 11 May 1068[18], presumably at Westminster Abbey or Winchester Cathedral although this appears to be unrecorded. Queen Matilda acted as regent in Normandy during her husband's absences in England. The necrology of the abbey of Saint-Denis records the death "IV Non Nov" of "Matildis Anglorum regina"[19]. Guillaume de Jumièges records the burial of Queen Mathilde on 3 Nov 1081 at Holy Trinity, Caen[20]. Florence of Worcester records the death "IV Non Nov" in [1083] of "regina Mahtilda" in Normandy and her burial at Caen[21].

King William I & his wife had ten children:

1. ROBERT de Normandie (Normandy [1052/54]-Cardiff Castle [3] Feb 1134, bur Gloucester Cathedral[22]).

William of Malmesbury names Robert as eldest son of King William I[23]. "Roberti filii sui Normannorum comitis, Richardi filii sui…" subscribed the charter dated Apr 1067 under which "Willelmus…dux Normannorum…Anglorum rex" confirmed rights to the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire[24]. Orderic Vitalis records that, after unsuccessfully aspiring to govern Normandy and Maine during the lifetime of his father, Robert rebelled in 1079 and went into exile in Flanders[25].

William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis both state that he was assisted in his rebellion by Philippe I King of France and that he wounded his father in battle at Gerberoy[26]. He succeeded his father in 1087 as ROBERT “Curthose” Duke of Normandy, his nickname due, according to William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis, to his short stature which he presumably inherited from his mother who was also reputed to have been very short[27]. He joined the contingent of Robert II Count of Flanders on the First Crusade in Sep 1096, together with Etienne Comte de Blois, after pledging the duchy of Normandy to his brother King William for 10,000 marks of silver in order to fund the expedition[28]. Following the capture of Jerusalem, Robert left Palestine to return to Europe in Sep 1099[29]. On returning to Normandy in Autumn 1100, he recovered his duchy without opposition[30]. He landed at Portsmouth in 1102 aiming to displace his brother King Henry I as king of England, but was persuaded to return to Normandy on payment of 3,000 marks[31]. His brother King Henry invaded Normandy and defeated Robert at the battle of Tinchebrai[32], declaring himself duke of Normandy 28 Sep 1106. King Henry took Robert in captivity back to England, where Robert remained in prison for the rest of his life. Robert of Torigny records the death in 1134 of "Robertus dux Normannorum filius Willermi regis…primogenitus" and his burial at Gloucester[33]. The Continuator of Florence of Worcester records the death at Cardiff in [1134] of "Rotbertus frater regis Heinrici quondam comes Normanniæ" and his burial in Gloucester[34].

- DUKES of NORMANDY.

2. RICHARD de Normandie (Normandy [1054 or 1056]-1075 or 1081, bur Winchester Cathedral).

William of Malmesbury records that he was the second son of King William I[35]. "The next-born after Robert" according to Orderic Vitalis[36] who, from the context of this passage appears to be taking into account daughters as well as sons in his list of the king's children although, critically for deciding the birth order of the older children, he omits Cecilia in this section. "Roberti filii sui Normannorum comitis, Richardi filii sui…" subscribed the charter dated Apr 1067 under which "Willelmus…dux Normannorum…Anglorum rex" confirmed rights to the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire[37]. Duc de Bernay, in Normandy. According to William of Malmesbury, he "contracted a disorder from a stream of foul air while hunting deer in the New Forest"[38]. Florence of Worcester records that "Willelmi iunioris germanus Ricardus" was killed in the New Forest long before, when recording the death of his brother King William II[39].

Orderic Vitalis recounts that "when a youth who had not yet received the belt of knighthood, had gone hunting in the New Forest and whilst he was galloping in pursuit of a wild beast he had been badly crushed between a strong hazel branch and the pommel of his saddle, and mortally injured" dying soon after[40]. Guillaume de Jumièges records a similar, but less specific, story, saying that Richard was hunting, knocked himself against a tree, fell ill and died from his injury[41].

3. ADELAIDE [Adelisa] de Normandie ([1055]-7 Dec, 1066 or after).

Orderic Vitalis records the betrothal of Adelaide and Harold Godwinson, listing her after Agatha and before Constance in his description of the careers of the daughters of King William[42]. The sources are contradictory concerning the name of the daughter betrothed to Harold Godwinson, as well as the timing of her death. The only near certainty is that it would presumably have been the oldest available daughter who was betrothed to Harold. Matthew of Paris does not name her but lists her fourth among the daughters of King William, while distinguishing her from the fifth daughter betrothed to "Aldefonso Galiciæ regi"[43].

Guillaume de Jumièges records that Duke Guillaume betrothed his daughter Adelise to Harold, in a later passage (in which he does not repeat her name) stating that she was the third daughter and that she died a virgin although she was of an age to marry[44]. Chibnall specifies[45] that this reference is contained in the interpolations written by Orderic Vitalis, the latter chronicler therefore contradicting his statement in his own work that Agatha was the name of the daughter who was betrothed to King Harold. Orderic Vitalis says that Adelaide "a most fair maiden vowed herself to God when she reached marriageable age and made a pious end under the protection of Roger of Beaumont"[46]. The daughter betrothed to Harold was alive in early 1066, according to Eadmer of Canterbury[47] who says that Duke Guillaume requested King Harold, soon after his accession, to keep his promise to marry his daughter. This is contradicted by William of Malmesbury[48], who says that her death before that of Edward "the Confessor" was taken by King Harold II as marking absolution from his oath to Duke Guillaume. She died as a nun at Préaux[49]. A manuscript of la Trinité de Caen names "Mathildem Anglorum reginam, nostri cœnobii fondatricem, Adilidem, Mathildem, Constantiam, filias eius" heading the list of the names of nuns at the abbey[50], which, if the order of names is significant, indicates that Adelaide was older than her two named sisters. The necrology of Chartres cathedral records the death "VII Id Dec" of "Adeliza filia regis Anglorum", stating that her father made a donation for her soul[51]. The necrology of Saint-Nicaise de Meulan records the death of "Adelina filia regis Anglorum", undated but listed among deaths at the end of the calendar year[52].

Betrothed ([1064/65]) to HAROLD Godwinson Earl of Wessex, son of GODWIN Earl of Wessex & his wife Gytha of Denmark ([1022/25]-killed in battle Hastings 14 Oct 1066, bur [Waltham Abbey]), who succeeded in 1066 as HAROLD II King of England.

4. MATHILDE de Normandie (-26 Apr or 6 Jul [1113]).

The necrology of Saint-Nicaise de Meulan records the death "VI Kal Mai" of "Mathildis filia Willelmi regis Anglorum"[53]. She is not named as a daughter of King William by either William of Malmesbury or Orderic Vitalis. There is no basis for assessing her order of birth among the other known daughters of the king. An undated manuscript records the death "pridie nonas julias" of "abbatissam Mathildem" in the 54th year in which she held the position[54]. The same source names "Mathildem Anglorum reginam, nostri cœnobii fondatricem, Adilidem, Mathildem, Constantiam, filias eius" heading the list of the names of nuns at the abbey[55]. If this is correct, and even assuming that she was appointed abbess as a child, Mathilde must have been one of the oldest of her father´s children, but younger than her sister Adelaide. Delisle dates her death to [1113][56], on the basis of Orderic Vitalis recording that her successor as abbess of la Trinité de Caen, her sister Cecilia, died 13 Jul 1127 after 14 years as abbess[57].

5. CECILIA de Normandie (-Caen 3/13 Jul [1126/27], bur Caen, Abbey of Holy Trinity).

She is named first in his list of King William's daughters by William of Malmesbury and by Matthew of Paris[58]. Orderic Vitalis, in his list of the king's children which appears to place both the sons and daughters together in birth order[59], unfortunately omits Cecilia, rendering it particularly difficult to decide if she was older or younger than her brother Richard. Guillaume de Jumièges names Cecile as eldest daughter, stating that she was a nun at the convent of Holy Trinity at Caen[60]. A manuscript at Caen names "Mathildem Anglorum reginam, nostri cœnobii fondatricem, Adilidem, Mathildem, Constantiam, filias eius" heading the list of the names of nuns at the abbey[61], which, if the order of names is significant, indicates that Cecilia was younger than her sisters Adelaide and Mathilde. Her parents offered her as an oblate to the nunnery of the Holy Trinity, Caen (founded by her mother) 18 Jun 1066[62], probably in part to obtain divine blessing for her father´s project to invade England. She became a nun there in 1075[63], her tutor being Arnoul de Choques who later became Chancellor to her brother Robert "Curthose" Duke of Normandy, and subsequently Patriarch of Jerusalem[64]. She succeeded her sister Mathilde as abbess of la Trinité de Caen in [1113][65]. The Chronicon S. Stephani Cadomensis records the death in 1126 of "Cecilia Abbatissa, Willelmi Regis filia"[66].

6. GUILLAUME de Normandie ([1056/60]-killed in the New Forest 2 Aug 1100, bur Winchester Cathedral[67]). William of Malmesbury records that he was the third son of King William I[68]. He left his father's deathbed in Normandy in Sep 1087 to rush to England to claim the throne, succeeding as WILLIAM II “Rufus” King of England, crowned at Westminster Abbey 26 Sep 1087. Florence of Worcester records that King William was crowned "VI Kal Oct" of King William at Westminster Abbey[69]. His reign was characterised by bitter rivalry with his brother Robert in Normandy, even harsher imposition of Norman rule in England than by his father, and growing resentment of his ways among the nobility. Florence of Worcester records the death "IV Non Aug" of King William in the New Forest, killed by an arrow shot by "quodam Franco Waltero cognomento Tirello" [châtelain de Poix et de Pontoise], and his burial "Wintoniam in Veteri Monasterio in ecclesia S Petri"[70]. Orderic Vitalis records that he was killed while hunting, maybe murdered, by an arrow shot by Walter Tirel[71]. According to Orderic Vitalis, he "never had a lawful wife but gave himself up insatiably to obscene fornications and repeated adulteries"[72]. The necrology of Saint-Nicaise de Meulan records the death "II Non Aug" of "Guillelmus rex Anglorum filius Guillelmi regis"[73].

7. CONSTANCE de Normandie (Normandy [1057/1061]-13 Aug 1090, bur Church of St Melans near Rhedon).

Listed by Orderic Vitalis after Adelaide and before Adela in his description of the careers of the daughters of King William[74]. Named first in his list of the daughters of King William I by Matthew of Paris[75]. Guillaume de Jumièges names Constance as second daughter, naming her husband "Alain Fergant comte de la petite Bretagne et fils d'Hoel, qui avait succédé à Conan" and specifying that she died childless[76]. The Chronicon Ruyensis Cœnobii records the marriage in 1086 of "Alanus" and "Constantiam filiam Regis Anglorum Guillelmi"[77]. The Chronicon Kemperlegiensis records the marriage in 1087 of "Alanus Hoëli Consulis filius" and "Constantiam Guillelmi Regis Anglorum filiam"[78].

The Chronicon Britannico Alter records the marriage in 1088 of "Alanus" and "Constantiam filam Regis Guillelmi Anglorum"[79]. Orderic Vitalis records that she was married in Bayeux[80]. William of Malmesbury lists her as second daughter after Cecilia, adding that "she excited the inhabitants [of Brittany] by the severity of her justice to administer a poisonous potion to her"[81]. Orderic Vitalis, on the other hand, says that she "did everything in her power to further the welfare of her subjects" and "was deeply grieved when she died"[82]. "Alanus dux Britannorum et Constantia uxor eius" donated property to the priory of Livré by charter dated 31 Jul 1089[83]. The Chronicon Britannico Alter records the death in 1090 of "Constantia Alani coniux…sine liberis"[84]. The Chronicon Universum in the cartulary of Sainte-Croix de Quimperlé records the death in 1090 of "Constantia comitissa filia regis Anglorum"[85].

m (Bayeux [1086/88]) as his first wife, ALAIN IV “Fergant” Duke of Brittany, son of HOËL V Comte de Cornouaille, de Léon et de Nantes & his wife Havise heiress of Brittany (-13 Oct 1119).

8. AGATHE de Normandie (-before 1074, bur Bayeux Cathedral).

Listed by Orderic Vitalis after Richard and before Adelaide in his description of the careers of the children of King William[86]. According to William of Malmesbury, an unnamed daughter of King William was "affianced by messengers" to King Alfonso[87].

Orderic Vitalis names her Agatha, identifying her as the daughter who had been betrothed to Harold Godwinson (see above), and says that she was betrothed to "Amfursio regi Galliciæ"[88]. Matthew of Paris places her as the fifth daughter (unnamed) betrothed to "Aldefonso Galiciæ regi", but different from the daughter betrothed to Harold[89]. Orderic says that she died en route to Spain, her body being brought back to Bayeux for burial[90]. The betrothal to Alfonso must have been a short-lived arrangement as he married his first wife in 1069[91].

Betrothed (by proxy Caen, Abbey of Holy Trinity [before 1069]) to ALFONSO VI King of Galicia and Leon, son of FERNANDO I King of Castile & his wife Infanta doña Sancha de Léon (Compostela [1037]-Toledo 30 Jun 1109, bur Sahagún, León, San Mancio chapel in the royal monastery of Santos Facundo y Primitivo). He succeeded in 1072 as ALFONSO VI King of Castile.

[Betrothed ([after 1069]) to SIMON du Vexin, son of RAOUL III “le Grand” Comte de Valois & his first wife Aélis de Bar-sur-Aube (-[30 Sep/1 Oct] 1080 Rome, bur 1082 Rome St Peter). The Vita Simonis records a ficitional speech of William I King of England in which he offers his (unnamed) daughter's hand to Simon, specifying that she had previously been betrothed to "regis Hispaniarum Anfursi et Roberti principis Apuliæ"[92]. The supposed betrothal to Robert of Apulia (which would have to refer to Robert "Guiscard" Duke of Apulia) is unrecorded in the numerous other sources dealing with his life and is probably pure fantasy. This does not instil confidence with respect to the historical accuracy of the whole passage, but if it is correct the daughter in question would presumably have been Agatha who was probably the daughter of King William betrothed to "Amfursio regi Galliciæ" (see above). Count Simon resigned his county in 1077, became a monk and went on pilgrimage to Rome where he died[93].]

9. ADELA de Normandie (Normandy [1066/67]-Marigney-sur-Loire 8 Mar 1138, bur Abbey of Holy Trinity, Caen). She is listed by Orderic Vitalis last among the daughters of King William in his description of their careers[94]. Named third in his list of the daughters of King William I by Matthew of Paris[95], but this appears unlikely in view of Adela's child-bearing until her husband's death in 1102. Her birth date is estimated bearing in mind that marriage frequently took place in early adolescence at the time, and also because Adela clearly continued to bear children right up to her husband's death. Orderic Vitalis records that she encouraged her husband to join the First Crusade and did not hide her shame when he deserted from Antioch in 1098[96]. Regent of Blois 1102-1107, after the death of her husband. She became a nun at the Cluniac priory of Marigney-sur-Loire in [1122]. The necrology of Chartres cathedral records the death "VIII Id Mar" of "Adela comitissa"[97], and in another manuscript the death "VIII Id Mar" of "Adela nobilis Blesensium comitissa regis Anglorum Willelmi filia"[98].

m (Betrothed Breteuil[99] 1080, Chartres[100] 1081) ETIENNE [Henri] de Blois, son of THIBAUT III Comte de Blois & his [first/second wife Gersende de Maine/Gundrada ---] (-killed in battle Ramleh 19 May 1102). He succeeded his father in 1089 as ETIENNE Comte de Blois, de Chartres, de Châteaudun, de Sancerre et de Meaux.

a) ETIENNE de Blois (Blois [1096/97]-Dover 25 Oct 1154, bur Faversham Abbey, Kent). After the death of his uncle Henry I King of England, he crossed at once to England before his rival, King Henry's daughter Maud, and had himself crowned as STEPHEN King of England at Westminster Abbey 22 Dec 1135.

- other children: COMTES de BLOIS.

10. HENRY of England (Selby, Yorkshire Sep 1068-Saint-Denis le Ferment, Forêt d’Angers near Rouen 1/2 Dec 1135, bur Reading Abbey, Berkshire). Orderic Vitalis records that Henry was born "within a year" of his mother's coronation on 11 May 1068[101]. He succeeded his brother 3 Aug 1100 as HENRY I “Beauclerc” King of England.

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Wikipedia article (cont.):

To press his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans, Bretons, Flemings, and Frenchmen to victory over the English forces of King Harold Godwinson (who died in the conflict) at the Battle of Hastings, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest.[2]

His reign, which brought Norman-French culture to England, had an impact on the subsequent course of England in the Middle Ages. The details of that impact and the enormity of the changes have been debated by scholars for over a century. In addition to the obvious change of ruler, his reign also saw a programme of building and fortification, changes to the English language, a shift in the upper levels of society and the church, and adoption of some aspects of continental church reform. More controversial are possible changes in law, royal administration, trade, agriculture, the peasantry, women's roles and rights, and education.

Early life

William was born in Falaise, Normandy, the illegitimate and only son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, who named him as heir to Normandy. His mother, Herleva (a name with several variant versions), who later married and bore two sons to Herluin de Conteville, was the daughter of Fulbert of Falaise (possibly Fulbert de Tonnerre). In addition to his two half-brothers, Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, William had a sister, Adelaide of Normandy, another child of Robert. Later in his life, the enemies of William are reported to have called him alternately William the Bastard, and deride him as the son of a tanner, and the residents of besieged Alençon hung animal skins from the city walls to taunt him.

William is believed to have been born in either 1027 or 1028, and more likely in the autumn of the later year.[1][notes 1] He was born the grandnephew of Queen Emma of Normandy, wife of King Ethelred the Unready and later, wife of King Canute the Great.[3]

William's illegitimacy affected his early life and he was known to contemporaries as 'William the Bastard'. Nevertheless, when his father died, he was recognised as the heir.[4]

Duke of Normandy

By his father's will, William succeeded him as Duke of Normandy at age seven in 1035. Plots by rival Norman noblemen to usurp his place cost William three guardians, though not Count Alan III of Brittany, who was a later guardian. William was supported by King Henry I of France, however. He was knighted by Henry at age 15. By the time William turned 19 he was successfully dealing with threats of rebellion and invasion. With the assistance of Henry, William finally secured control of Normandy by defeating rebel Norman barons at Caen in the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes in 1047, obtaining the Truce of God, which was backed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Against the wishes of Pope Leo IX, William married Matilda of Flanders in 1053 in the chapel at Eu, Normandy (Seine-Maritime). At the time, William was about 24 years old and Matilda was 22. William is said to have been a faithful and loving husband, and their marriage produced four sons and six daughters. In repentance for what was a consanguine marriage (they were distant cousins), William donated St-Stephen's church (l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and Matilda donated Sainte-Trinité church (Abbaye aux Dames).

Feeling threatened by the increase in Norman power resulting from William's noble marriage, Henry I attempted to invade Normandy twice (1054 and 1057), without success. Already a charismatic leader, William attracted strong support within Normandy, including the loyalty of his half-brothers Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, who played significant roles in his life. Later, he benefited from the weakening of two competing power centers as a result of the deaths of Henry I and of Geoffrey II of Anjou, in 1060. In 1062 William invaded and took control of the county of Maine, which had been a fief of Anjou.[5]

English succession

Upon the death of the childless Edward the Confessor, the English throne was fiercely disputed by three claimants—William; Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex; and the Viking King Harald III of Norway, known as Harald Hardrada. William had a tenuous blood claim through his great aunt Emma (wife of Ethelred and mother of Edward). William also contended that Edward, who had spent much of his life in exile in Normandy during the Danish occupation of England, had promised him the throne when he visited Edward in London in 1052. Further, William claimed that Harold had pledged allegiance to him in 1064: William had rescued the shipwrecked Harold from the count of Ponthieu, and together they had defeated Conan II, Count of Brittany. On that occasion, William had knighted Harold; he had also, however, deceived Harold by having him swear loyalty to William himself over the concealed bones of a saint.[6]

In January 1066, however, in accordance with Edward's last will and by vote of the Witenagemot, Harold Godwinson was crowned King by Archbishop Aldred.

Norman Invasion

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Conquest_of_England

Meanwhile, William submitted his claim to the English throne to Pope Alexander II, who sent him a consecrated banner in support. Then, William organized a council of war at Lillebonne and in January openly began assembling an army in Normandy. Offering promises of English lands and titles, he amassed at Dives-sur-Mer a huge invasion fleet, supposedly of 696 ships. This carried an invasion force which included, in addition to troops from William's own territories of Normandy and Maine, large numbers of mercenaries, allies and volunteers from Britanny, north-eastern France and Flanders, together with smaller numbers from other parts of France and from the Norman colonies in southern Italy. In England, Harold assembled a large army on the south coast and a fleet of ships to guard the English Channel.[6]

Fortuitously for William, his crossing was delayed by eight months of unfavourable winds. William managed to keep his army together during the wait, but Harold's was diminished by dwindling supplies and falling morale with the arrival of the harvest season, he disbanded his army on 8 September.[7] Harold also consolidated his ships in London, leaving the English Channel unguarded. Then came the news that the other contender for the throne, Harald III of Norway, allied with Tostig Godwinson, had landed ten miles from York. Harold again raised his army and after a four day forced march defeated Harald and Tostig on 25 September.

On 12 September the wind direction turned and William's fleet sailed. A storm blew up and the fleet was forced to take shelter at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and again wait for the wind to change. On 27 September the Norman fleet finally set sail, landing in England at Pevensey Bay (Sussex) on 28 September. Thence William moved to Hastings, a few miles to the east, where he built a prefabricated wooden castle for a base of operations. From there, he ravaged the hinterland and waited for Harold's return from the north.[7]

William chose Hastings as it was at the end of a long peninsula flanked by impassable marshes. The battle was on the isthmus. William at once built a fort at Hastings to guard his rear against potential arrival of Harold's fleet from London. Having landed his army, William was less concerned about desertion and could have waited out the winter storms, raided the surrounding area for horses and started a campaign in the spring. Harold had been reconnoitering the south of England for some time and well appreciated the need to occupy this isthmus at once.[8]

Battle of Hastings

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hastings

Harold, after defeating his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in the north, marched his army 241 mi (388 km) to meet the invading William in the south. On 13 October, William received news of Harold's march from London. At dawn the next day, William left the castle with his army and advanced towards the enemy. Harold had taken a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill/Senlac ridge (present-day Battle, East Sussex), about seven miles from Hastings.

The Battle of Hastings lasted all day. Although the numbers on each side were about equal, William had both cavalry and infantry, including many archers, while Harold had only foot soldiers and few if any archers.[9] Along the ridge's border, formed as a wall of shields, the English soldiers at first stood so effectively that William's army was thrown back with heavy casualties. William rallied his troops reportedly raising his helmet, as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry, to quell rumors of his death. Meanwhile, many of the English had pursued the fleeing Normans on foot, allowing the Norman cavalry to attack them repeatedly from the rear as his infantry pretended to retreat further.[10] Norman arrows also took their toll, progressively weakening the English wall of shields. At dusk, the English army made their last stand. A final Norman cavalry attack decided the battle irrevocably when it resulted in the death of Harold who, legend says, was killed by an arrow in the eye. Two of his brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine Godwinson, were killed as well. By nightfall, the Norman victory was complete and the remaining English soldiers fled in fear.

Battles of the time rarely lasted more than two hours before the weaker side capitulated; that Hastings lasted nine hours indicates the determination of William and Harold. Battles also ended at sundown regardless of who was winning. Harold was killed shortly before sunset and, as he would have received fresh reinforcements before the battle recommenced in the morning, he was assured of victory had he survived William's final cavalry attack.

March to London

For two weeks, William waited for a formal surrender of the English throne, but the Witenagemot proclaimed the quite young Edgar Ætheling King instead, though without coronation. Thus, William's next target was London, approaching through the important territories of Kent, via Dover and Canterbury, inspiring fear in the English. However, at London, William's advance was beaten back at London Bridge, and he decided to march westward and to storm London from the northwest. After receiving continental reinforcements, William crossed the Thames at Wallingford, and there he forced the surrender of Archbishop Stigand (one of Edgar's lead supporters), in early December. William reached Berkhamsted a few days later where Ætheling relinquished the English crown personally and the exhausted Saxon noblemen of England surrendered definitively. Although William was acclaimed then as English King, he requested a coronation in London. As William I, he was formally crowned on Christmas day 1066, in Westminster Abbey, by Archbishop Aldred[6]. According to some sources, the ceremony was not a peaceful one. Alarmed by some noises coming from the Abbey, the Norman guards stationed outside that they set fire to the neighbouring houses. A Norman monk later wrote "As the fire spread rapidly, the people in the church were thrown into confusion and crowds of them rushed outside, some to fight the flames, others to take the chance to go looting."

English resistance

Although the south of England submitted quickly to Norman rule, resistance in the north continued for six more years until 1072. During the first two years, King William I suffered many revolts throughout England (Dover, western Mercia, Exeter) and Wales. Also, in 1068, Harold's illegitimate sons attempted an invasion of the south-western peninsula, but William defeated them.

For William I, the worst crisis came from Northumbria, which had still not submitted to his realm. In 1068, with Edgar Ætheling, both Mercia and Northumbria revolted. William could suppress these, but Edgar fled to Scotland where Malcolm III of Scotland protected him. Furthermore, Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, with much éclat, stressing the English balance of power against William. Under such circumstances, Northumbria rebelled, besieging York. Then, Edgar resorted also to the Danes, who disembarked with a large fleet at Northumbria, claiming the English crown for their King Sweyn II. Scotland joined the rebellion as well. The rebels easily captured York and its castle. However, William could contain them at Lincoln. After dealing with a new wave of revolts at western Mercia, Exeter, Dorset, and Somerset, William defeated his northern foes decisively at the River Aire, retrieving York, while the Danish army swore to depart.

William then devastated Northumbria between the Humber and Tees rivers, with what was described as the Harrying of the North. This devastation included setting fire to the vegetation, houses and even tools to work the fields. He also burnt crops, killed livestock and sowed the fields and land with salt, to stunt growth. After this cruel treatment the land did not recover for more than 100 years. The region ended up absolutely deprived, losing its traditional autonomy towards England. However it may have stopped future rebellions, frightening the English into obedience. Then the Danish king disembarked in person, readying his army to restart the war, but William suppressed this threat with a payment of gold. In 1071, William defeated the last rebellion of the north through an improvised pontoon, subduing the Isle of Ely, where the Danes had gathered. In 1072, he invaded Scotland, defeating Malcolm, who had recently invaded the north of England. William and Malcolm agreed to a peace by signing the Treaty of Abernethy and Malcolm gave up his son Duncan as a hostage for the peace.[11] In 1074, Edgar Ætheling submitted definitively to William.

In 1075, during William's absence, the Revolt of the Earls was confronted successfully by Odo. In 1080, William dispatched his half brothers Odo and Robert to storm Northumbria and Scotland, respectively. Eventually, the Pope protested that the Normans were mistreating the English people. Before quelling the rebellions, William had conciliated with the English church; however, he persecuted it ferociously afterwards.


Events

As would be habit for his descendants, William spent much of his time (11 years, since 1072) in Normandy, ruling the islands through his writs. Nominally still a vassal state, owing its entire loyalty to the French king, Normandy arose suddenly as a powerful region, alarming the other French dukes who reacted by persistently attacking the duchy. William became focused on conquering Brittany, and the French King Philip I admonished him. A treaty was concluded after his aborted invasion of Brittany in 1076, and William betrothed Constance to the Breton Duke Hoel's son, the future Alan IV of Brittany. The wedding occurred only in 1086, after Alan's accession to the throne, and Constance died childless a few years later.

William's elder son Robert, enraged by a prank of his brothers William and Henry, who had doused him with filthy water, undertook what became a large scale rebellion against his father's rule. Only with King Philip's additional military support was William able to confront Robert, who was then based in Flanders. During the battle of 1079, William was unhorsed and wounded by Robert, who lowered his sword only after recognizing him. The embarrassed William returned to Rouen, abandoning the expedition. In 1080, Matilda reconciled both, and William restored Robert's inheritance.

Odo caused trouble for William, too, and was imprisoned in 1082, losing his English estate and all his royal functions, but retaining his religious duties. In 1083, Matilda died, and William became more tyrannical over his realm.


Reforms

William initiated many major changes. He increased the function of the traditional English shires (autonomous administrative regions), which he brought under central control; he decreased the power of the earls by restricting them to one shire apiece. All administrative functions of his government remained fixed at specific English towns, except the court itself; they would progressively strengthen, and the English institutions became amongst the most sophisticated in Europe. In 1085, in order to ascertain the extent of his new dominions and to improve taxation, William commissioned all his counselors for the compilation of the Domesday Book, which was published in 1086. The book was a survey of England's productive capacity similar to a modern census.

William also ordered many castles, keeps, and mottes, among them the Tower of London's foundation (the White Tower), to be built throughout England. These ensured effectively that the many rebellions by the English people or his own followers did not succeed.

William I built the central White Tower in the Tower of London.

His conquest also led to French (especially, but not only, the Norman French) replacing English as the language of the ruling classes for nearly 300 years.[12][13] Furthermore, the original Anglo-Saxon culture of England became mingled with the Norman one; thus the Anglo-Norman culture came into being.

The chapel in the White Tower was built in the Norman style by William, using Caen stone imported from France.

William is said to have eliminated the native aristocracy in as little as four years. Systematically, he despoiled those English aristocrats who either opposed the Normans or who died without issue. Thus, most English estates and titles of nobility were handed to the Norman noblemen. Many English aristocrats fled to Flanders and Scotland; others may have been sold into slavery overseas. Some escaped to join the Byzantine Empire's Varangian Guard, and went on to fight the Normans in Sicily. By 1070, the indigenous nobility had ceased to be an integral part of the English landscape, and by 1086, it maintained control of just 8% of its original land-holdings.[14] However, to the new Norman noblemen, William handed the English parcels of land piecemeal, dispersing these widely, ensuring nobody would try conspiring against him without jeopardizing their own estates within the still unstable post-invasion England. Effectively, this strengthened William's political stand as a monarch.

The medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury says that the king also seized and depopulated many miles of land (36 parishes), turning it into the royal New Forest region to support his enthusiastic enjoyment of hunting.[15] Modern historians, however, have come to the conclusion that the New Forest depopulation was greatly exaggerated. Most of the lands of the New Forest are poor agricultural lands, and archaeological and geographic studies have shown that the New Forest was likely sparsely settled when it was turned into a royal forest.[16]

Death, burial, and succession

In 1087 in France, William burned Mantes (50 km west of Paris), besieging the town. However, he fell off his horse, suffering fatal abdominal injuries from the saddle pommel. On his deathbed, William divided his succession for his sons, sparking strife between them. Despite William's reluctance, his combative elder son Robert received the Duchy of Normandy, as Robert II. William Rufus (his third son) was next English king, as William II. William's youngest son Henry received 5,000 silver pounds, which would be earmarked to buy land. He also became King Henry I of England after William II died without issue. While on his deathbed, William pardoned many of his political adversaries, including Odo.

William died at age 59 at the Convent of St Gervais in Rouen, capital city of Normandie, France, on 9 September 1087. William was buried in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, which he had erected, in Caen, Normandy. It is said that Herluin, his step-father, loyally bore his body to his grave.[17]

The original owner of the land on which the church was built claimed he had not been paid yet, demanding 60 shillings, which William's son Henry had to pay on the spot. In a most unregal postmortem, it was found that William's corpulent body would not fit in the stone sarcophagus as his body had bloated due to the warm weather and length of time that had passed since his death. A group of bishops applied pressure on the king's abdomen to force the body downward but the abdominal wall burst and putrefaction drenched the king's coffin "filling the church with a foul smell". William's grave is currently marked by a marble slab with a Latin inscription; the slab dates from the early 19th century. The grave was defiled twice, once during the French Wars of Religion, when his bones were scattered across the town of Caen, and again during the French Revolution. Following those events, only William's left femur, some skin particles and bone dust remain in the tomb.

Legacy

William's invasion was the last time that England was successfully conquered by a foreign power. Although there would be a number of other attempts over the centuries, the best that could be achieved would be excursions by foreign troops, such as the Raid on the Medway during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, but no actual conquests such as William's. There have however been occasions since that time when foreign rulers have succeeded to the English/British throne, notably the Dutch Stadtholder William III of Orange who in 1688, with his Dutch army, was invited by prominent English politicians to invade England with the intention of deposing the Catholic king James II (see Glorious Revolution) and George of Hanover b. 1660, who acceded by virtue of the exclusion of Roman Catholics from the succession.

As Duke of Normandy and King of England he divided his realm among his sons, but the lands were reunited under his son Henry, and his descendants acquired other territories through marriage or conquest and, at their height, these possessions would be known as the Angevin Empire.

They included many lands in France, such as Normandy and Aquitaine, but the question of jurisdiction over these territories would be the cause of much conflict and bitter rivalry between England and France, which took up much of the Middle Ages, including the Hundred Years War and, some might argue, continued as far as the Battle of Waterloo of 1815.

An example of William's legacy even in modern times can be seen on the Bayeux Memorial, a monument erected by Britain in the Normandy town of Bayeux to those killed in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. A Latin inscription on the memorial reads NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS – freely translated, this reads "We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land".[18]

Physical appearance

No authentic portrait of William has been found. Nonetheless, he was depicted as a man of fair stature with remarkably strong arms, "with which he could shoot a bow at full gallop". William showed a magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance. He enjoyed excellent health until old age; nevertheless his noticeable corpulence in later life increased eventually so much that French King Philip I commented that William looked like a pregnant woman.[19] Examination of his femur, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately 5' 10" tall which was around two inches taller than the average for the 11th century.[20]

Fictional depictions

William I has appeared as a character in only a few stage and screen productions. The one-act play A Choice of Kings by John Mortimer deals with his deception of Harold after the latter's shipwreck. Julian Glover portrayed him in a 1966 TV adaptation of this play in the ITV Play of the Week series.

William has also been portrayed on screen by Thayer Roberts in the film Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955), John Carson in the BBC TV series Hereward the Wake (1965), Alan Dobie in the two-part BBC TV play Conquest (1966; part of the series Theatre 625), and Michael Gambon in the TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror (1990).

On a less serious note, he has been portrayed by David Lodge in an episode of the TV comedy series Carry On Laughing entitled "One in the Eye for Harold" (1975), James Fleet in the humorous BBC show The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything (1999), and Gavin Abbott in an episode "1066" (2004).

Notes

  1. ^ The official web site of the British Monarchy puts his birth at "around 1028", which may reasonably be taken as definitive.
     The frequently encountered date of 14 October 1024 is likely to be spurious. It was promulgated by Thomas Roscoe in his 1846 biography The life of William the Conqueror. The year 1024 is apparently calculated from the fictive deathbed confession of William recounted by Ordericus Vitalis (who was about twelve when the Conqueror died); in it William allegedly claimed to be about sixty-three or four years of age at his death bed in 1087. The birth day and month are suspiciously the same as those of the Battle of Hastings. This date claim, repeated by other Victorian historians (e.g. Jacob Abbott), has been entered unsourced into the LDS genealogical database, and has found its way thence into countless personal genealogies. Cf. The Conqueror and His Companions by J.R. Planché, Somerset Herald. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1874.

References

  1. ^ a b c Bates, David (2001). William the Conqueror. Stroud, UK: Tempus. pp. 33. ISBN 0-7524-1980-3. 
  2. ^ Dr. Mike Ibeji (2001-05-01). "1066". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/1066_01.shtml. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  3. ^ Powell, John, Magill's Guide to Military History, Salem Press, Inc., 2001, p. 226. ISBN 0893560197.
  4. ^ Official Website of the British Monarchy. William I 'The Conqueror' (r. 1066–1087. Kings and Queens of England (to 1603). Retrieved on: 12 October 2008.
  5. ^ David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284 (2003).
  6. ^ a b c Clark, George (1978) [1971]. "The Norman Conquest". English History: A Survey. Oxford University Press/Book Club Associates. ISBN 0198223390. 
  7. ^ a b Carpenter, p. 72.
  8. ^ N. A. M. Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, Vol 1: 660-1649, pp. 32–35.
  9. ^ Carpenter, p. 73.
 10. ^ Ibid.
 11. ^ J.D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (1964), page 45.
 12. ^ While English emerged as a popular vernacular and literary language within one hundred years of the Conquest, it was only in 1362 that King Edward III abolished the use of French in Parliament
 13. ^ Alexander Herman Schutz and Urban Tigner Holmes, A History of the French Language, Biblo and Tannen Publishers, 1938. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0819601918.
 14. ^ Douglas, David Charles. English Historical Documents, Routledge, 1996, p. 22. ISBN 0415143675.
 15. ^ Based on William of Malmesbury's Historia Anglorum.
     He was of just stature, ordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead was bare of hair; of such great strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was in full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last; so given to the pleasures of the chase, that as I have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of many miles grow desolate that, when at liberty from other avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures.
     See English Monarch: The House of Normandy.
 16. ^ Young, Charles R. (1979). The Royal Forests of Medieval England. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-8122-7760-0. 
 17. ^ Freeman, Edward A., William the Conqueror (1902), p. 276-277
 18. ^ [1], retrieved 10 October 2008.
 19. ^ Spartacus Schoolnet, retrieved 17 July 2007.
 20. ^ The Year of the Conqueror by Alan Lloyd
 21. ^ The Conqueror and His Companions (J.R Planche 1874)
 22. ^ William "the Conqueror" (Guillaume "le Conquérant").

Further reading

   * Douglas, David C. (1999) William the Conqueror; the Norman impact upon England, Yale English monarchs series, London : Yale University Press, 476 p., ISBN 0-300-07884-6
   * Howarth, David (1977) 1066 The Year of the Conquest, London : Collins, 207 p., ISBN 0-00-211845-9
   * Prescott, Hilda F.M. (1932) Son of Dust, reprinted 1978: London : White Lion, 288 p. ISBN 0-85617-239-1
   * Savage, Anne (transl. and coll.) (2002) The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, London : Greenwich Editions, 288 p., ISBN 0-86288-440-3
   * Wensby-Scott, Carol. (1984) Proud Conquest, London : Futura Publications, 240 p., IBSN 0-7088-2620-2

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From http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/normans.htm :

Parentage and Early Life

England's first Norman king, William I, was born in 1028, at Falaise Castle, the illegitimate son of Robert the Devil or the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and Herleve, (sometimes called Arlette) the daughter of Fullbert, a tanner of Falaise. Before history renamed him the Conqueror he was more commonly known to his contemporaries as William the Bastard. Herleve was reported to have attracted Duke Robert with her dancing, in some accounts, he is said to have first caught sight of her while she was washing her linen in the castle moat.

The Norman dynasty had been founded by Robert's ancestor Rollo or Hrolf the Ganger, a Viking raider chief, who was granted the duchy by Charles the Simple, King of France, in 911, at the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, in exchange for feudal alliegiance and conversion to Christianity at which he took the baptismal name of Robert.

William's mother, Herleve, also had a daughter, Adelaide, to Duke Robert. Although they had a long relationship, the gap in their social standing rendered marriage out of the question and Herleve was married off to one of Robert's vassals, Herluin, a knight. From this marriage, Herleve produced two further sons, Robert, who later became Count of Mortain and Odo, destined to become Bishop of Bayeux and also to play a part in England's history.

William, Duke of Normandy

Duke Robert decided to expiate his sins, which were many, by going on pilgrimage in 1034. Since he had no legitimate heir to succeed him, he persuaded his unruly barons to accept the illegitimate William as future Duke of Normandy. On his return journey from the Holy Land Robert died suddenly and the young William succeeded to the Dukedom by his father's will.

The barons exhibited no loyalty to the"'base born" child and thereafter William grew up in the school of adversity. He had to learn, very early, how to survive. The barons constantly rebelled and anarchy reigned in Normandy during the years of William's minority. William's guardians were murdered in succession. Osbern was killed whilst guarding his door. His maternal uncle, Walter, at one point resorted to hiding the child with some poor people. William was formed and moulded by this savage and insecure childhood into the stark and often ruthless ruler he was later to become.

In 1047, he asserted his authority and crushed the rebels at Val-es-Dunes after which he began to restore order in his Dukedom. At Alencon, the burghers insulted his birth by hanging "hides for the tanner" over the walls. On taking the town he exacted a terrible revenge and had both their hands and feet amputated. One of lifes great survivors, William finally emerged as undisputed Duke of Normandy.

William's appearance

William matured into a tall, thick set man with dark hair, which receeded from his forehead early. His voice was rasping and guttural. William undoubtedly possessed considerable powers of leadership and courage. He was devout and inspired loyalty in his followers, but could also be ruthless and cruel.

William of Malmesbury provides us with a detailed description of the king in his Historia Anglorum:-

'He was of just stature, ordinary corplulence, fierce countenance; his forehead was bare of hair; of such great strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was in full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last; so given to the pleasures of the chase, that as I have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of many miles grow desolate that, when at liberty from other avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures.

His anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed. This he sought all opportunities of scraping together, he cared not how; he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything, unbecoming to such great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have here no excuse whatever to offer, unless it be, as one has said, that of necessity he must fear many, whom many fear.'

William negotiated a marriage in 1049 to Matilda, a descendant of the old Saxon House of Wessex and daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders and Adela, daughter of Robert II, King of France. They were an ill-assorted pair, he strongly built and five feet ten inches tall and she ( as it emerged when her skeleton was exhumed) just over four feet tall, almost a dwarf. It proved however, to be a highly successful union and produced a large family.

The Conquest of England

The Duke of Normandy visited his English cousin, Edward the Confessor, in 1051. Edward and his brother Alfred had spent much of their childhood in exile at the Norman Court, their mother, Emma, had been a daughter of the House of Normandy. During this visit, Edward is purported to have promised his Norman cousin the crown of England, should he die without issue. The real heir was Edgar the Atheling, Edward's great-nephew, the grandson of his elder brother Edmund Ironside, but he was still a child and knew little of England, having spent much of his life in exile in Hungary. Others also coveted the English throne, the chief candidate amongst these was Harold, son of the powerful Godwine, Earl of Wessex.

Harold was unfortunately shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy, where he found himself the unwilling guest of Duke William. The Confessor was now unlikely to survive long and Harold was anxious to return to England to forward his ambitions there. However, before he would allow his guest to leave, William required him to swear an oath to support his claim to the crown upon Edward's death. Under duress, Harold finally consented and swore the oath on holy relics.

Edward the Confessor finally breathed his last in January, 1066, and was buried in his foundation of St.Peter, Westminster, which had been consecrated but ten days previously. It was reported that on his deathbed he had nominated Harold as his successor who was duly accepted as King by the Saxon Witangemot or council of elders, which traditionally elected the next English King.

Back in Normandy, on reciept of this ominous news, the formidable Duke William flew into a rage. He began to build an invasion fleet to take by force what he considered to be his by right. The Pope himself, due to Harold's foresworn oath on holy relics, supported William's enterprise. After Harold was crowned by Archbishop Stigand, a portentous star was seen in the skies, this has now been identified as Halley's comet, many in that superstitious age saw it as an omen of the wrath of God on the perjured King Harold and his followers.

Harold assembled the fyrdd, the Saxon militia of freemen, in preparation for William's imminent landing, whilst the Duke prepared his fleet and waited for good weather to set sail for England. In mid September, Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, invaded England, accompanied by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, Harold's unruly and discontented brother, who had earlier been banished and his earldom confiscated.

Harold marched his army north in haste to meet the invaders at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, where he won a decisive victory over the Viking army. At this time, the winds William had been pensively awaiting turned favourable and he set sail with his massive invasion fleet. News of his landing at Bulverhythe was conveyed to Harold, who responded by hurrying south to meet him, giving his exhausted army no respite. Had Harold rested and reorganized his army, the outcome of the impending battle and English history could have been very different.

On 14th October, the Saxon and Norman forces clashed in the fateful Battle of Hastings. Harold took up a defensive position on Senlac Ridge. The Norman army was thus forced to attack uphill, placing them at a disadvantage.

The Saxon army formed a shield wall along the edge of the hill which rebuffed repeated Norman attacks. A rumour arose in the Norman ranks that Duke William was dead, causing panic and flight. Many of the Saxon fyrdd pursued the fleeing Normans down the hill. William put heart into his army by loudly announcing he still lived. The Normans rallied, Harold's brothers Gyrth and Leofwine were both slain on the battlefield.

The battle continued for most of the day, Harold and his Saxons fought with steely determination for possession of their country. As dusk began to fall over Hastings, William ordered his archers to fire high into the air and one of these arrows is said to have hit Harold in the eye, blinding him, although this point is disputed by some sources. Whether this was the case or not, Harold fell mortally wounded under the dragon standard of Wessex.

The Saxon army, seeing that the day was lost, began to flee the field. The houscarls, Harold's trained professional militia, loyally and valiantly defended the body of their King to the last, but they too finally fell and Harold's body was mutilated by the Normans, a vindictive act, which William punished. The battle was lost and Anglo-Saxon England died with Harold on the battlefield that day.

Click for a fuller account of the Battle of Hasings

Harold's deeply distressed mistress, Edith Swan-neck came to William pleading for her lover's body and offering him its weight in gold in exchange, but William coldly refused her distraught request. He had Harold buried in a secret location.

William proceeded to London, where he was crowned King of England at Edward the Confessor's foundation of Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066.

He accepted the surrender of the Saxon Earls Edwine and Morkere along with that of the child claimant, Edgar Atheling and defeated the heroic Hereward the Wake at Ely. On the whole the south of England submitted to Norman rule, whereas in the north resistance was more prolonged. William responded by subjecting the English to a reign of terror. Determined to punish and crush rebellion to his rule and strike abject fear into English hearts, he laid waste vast tracts of Yorkshire, which suffered under a great famine for nine years after as a result. He rewarded his Norman and French followers by distributing the confiscated lands of the English to them.

William was a savage and formidable ruler, by modern standards an exceedingly cruel one, but his methods produced the desired results and extinguished the fires of opposition. Many castles and keeps were built across the country to enforce his rule, originally wooden towers or earthen mottes, in all over 80 castles were established during the reign, including the White Tower, the first building in the Tower of London complex. The dominating shadow of the White Tower loomed menacingly over medieval London, a visible expression of Norman power.

The new King's half brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, commissioned a tapestry to commemorate his brother's victory in 1078. It depicts a series of scenes leading up to and during the conquest. William's conversion of the New Forest into a royal hunting ground saw the introduction of harsh and severe forest laws, which caused great resentment amongst the Anglo-Saxons. William changed England's laws and inflicted harsh punishments for offenders. Murder became an officially punishable crime in England and slavery was abolished.

Anglo-Saxon England was radically altered by the Norman conquest, it changed the entire way of life then established in the country. Its laws, aristocracy and church were altered and it introduced the French feudal system. The Anglo-Saxon language was replaced by Norman French as the language of the upper classes, modern English is the natural outgrowth of both. The role of the conquerors and the conquered can still be detected in many English words, the Saxon cow, tended by the lowly Saxon villein became the Norman beef when it appeared on the lord's table. The Saxon swine became Norman gammon. There are countless other examples in modern English which amply illlustrate the role of Saxon servant and Norman master.

The Norman Feudal System, which William introduced into England, was a complicated heirarchial structure at whose apex sat the king. That lords held their lands under the king in exchange for homage and military assistance rendered to him in times of need.

The Domesday Book

In December, 1085, William decided to commision an enquiry into the extent of his dominions to maximise taxation. This unique survey was known to history as the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book still survives today in the Public Record Office, London and is an extraordinary document for its time.

The Death of William I

The last year of William's life was spent fighting in Normandy, in battle for the Vexin, a much disputed territory, which lay between Normandy and France. Amongst those opposing him was his rebellious eldest son, Robert, nicknamed Curthose by his father, due to his short legs.

On 9th September, 1087, whilst riding through the smouldering ruins of the sacked town of Mantes, in what must have appeared to him as like an act of divine retribution, William was thrown from his horse when it trod on burning ashes and sustained severe abdominal injuries.

The King, now aged fifty nine and mortally injured, was carried to the convent of St. Gervais in Rouen, the Norman capital. There he summoned his younger sons, William and Henry, to his deathbed. Robert Curthose remained at the court of France.

England was bequeathed to his second surviving and favourite son, William Rufus and despite his bitter differences with Robert Curthose, he left Normandy to him. To Henry, the youngest son, later destined to inherit all his dominions, he left 5,000 silver pounds. He is reported to have ruminated on and repented of his many sins, transgressions and cruelties at the end. He tried to salve his conscience, before preparing to meet his maker and fearing for his immortal soul, he ordered all the treasure he possessed in Rouen to be given to the church and the poor and forgave his enemies. William the Conqueror died on 9th September, 1087, having ruled England for 21 years.

William was buried in the monastery of St.Stephen at Caen in Normandy, an abbey he had previously founded as an act of repentence for his consanguineous marriage to Matilda of Flanders. The body was broken as it was lowered into the sepulchre, made too short by the stonemasons and the ceremony was interrupted by a dispossessed knight. A stone slab with a Latin inscription, in the abbey church of Caen today marks the burial place of the first Norman King of England. His grave has since been desecrated twice, in the course of the French Wars of Religion his bones were scattered across Caen, and during the tumultuous events of the French Revolution, the Conqueror's tomb was again despoiled.

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William I 'The Conqueror' King Of England, Duke of Normandy was the first Norman king of England. He inherited Normandy at the age of eight. During his youth, there were many disorders. At the age of 20, he put down a great rebellion at the battle of Val-es-dunes, which he won with the aid of his lord, King Henry of France. From that time on, William ruled Normandy with an iron hand.

In 1051, William visited England. King Edward the Confessor granted him the succession to the English throne as his nearset adult heir. In 1064, Harold, Edward's brother-in-law, was shipwrecked on the Norman coast and was taken prisoner. He promised to support William's claim to the throne in return for his freedom. But when Edward died in 1066, Harold obtained the succession on the basis of a deathbed grant by Edward and election by the nobles and prelates of England.

William immediately invaded England. His expedition had the pope's blessings, because William was expected to depose the Anglo-Saxon archbishop of Canterbury and introduce ecclesiastical reforms. Before William could sail, the king of Norway invaded northern England. King Harold hurried north and defeated the Norwegian invaders at Stamford Bridge. William landed before Harold could return to defend the coast. The Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon army and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

On Christmas Day, 1066, William was crowned king William then suppressed local rebellions. He took lands from those

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William I "the Conqueror" King of England and Duke of Normandy's Timeline

1028
October 14, 1028
Château de Falaise, Falaise, Basse-Normandie, France
1087
September 9, 1087
Age 58
Convent of St Gervais, Rouen, Haute-Normandie, France
November 2, 1087
Age 58
L'abbaye aux Hommes, Caen, Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France