William The Conqueror

William The Conqueror

Summary

William I, who is more commonly known as William the Conqueror and sometimes as William the Bastard (he was an illegitimate child), was the first Norman King of England. He was directly related to the Viking Rollo. He reigned from 1066 until his death in 1087. William claimed that his second-cousin King Edward the Confessor had bequeathed him the English throne.

When Harold II took the throne and became King of England, William decided to launch what would become known as the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. He defeated Harold II and became King of England.

Family

William was the illegitimate son of Robert II, Duke of Normandy, and Arlette (Herleva), daughter of William the Tanner. He was therefore related to Edward the Confessor. William’s half brother was Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.His great-great-great-grandfather was the Viking Rollo, First Duke of Normandy.

William's Childhood

William was born circa 1027 at Falaise, Normandy. He was the only son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. The fact that William was an illegitimate son caused many challenges for him in his life. Particularly when he wanted to assume the title of Duke of Normandy after his father’s death in 1035.

William was very young and could not fight his own battles. Fortunately, he had support from his great-uncle, Archbishop Robert and from King Phillip of France. He finally secured a stronghold on Normandy in 1060.

The Norman conquest of England

The Norman conquest of England was the invasion and occupation of England by an army of French soldiers led by the Duke of Normandy, William. William had a very close relationship with Edward the Confessor,who was childless. It is said that Edward “promised” the throne to William, but was later forced to change his successor to Harold Godwinson (Edward’s brother-in-law). There is a possibility that he was pressured by nobles. The infamous viking warrior and Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada, was also laying claim to the English throne. Harald Hardrada invaded northern England in September 1066. He was victorious at the Battle of Fulford, but Harold II defeated and killed him at the Battle of Stamford Bridge a few days later.

Within days of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, William landed in southern England. Harold marched south to confront him, leaving a large portion of his army behind in the north. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on 14 October at the Battle of Hastings. William’s army defeated Harold, who was killed in the battle.

Domesday Book

The Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” . The survey consisted of much of England and parts of Wales. It was completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror in 1085.William sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock and what it was worth.

Death

In 1087 William sacked the French-controlled town of Nantes in the Vexin. In the fighting he suffered a fatal internal injury after being thrown against the pommel of his saddle. He was taken to the priory of Saint-Gervais near Rouen. He died there on  where on 9 September 1087.

References and Further Reading

Written by: Justin Daines