William I
King of the English|; Duke of Normandy (more…)|

Statue of William the Conqueror|, holding Domesday Book on the West Front of Lichfield Cathedral.
Reign 25 December 10669 September 1087
Coronation 25 December 1066
Predecessor England: Edgar Ætheling (uncrowned), Harold II|
Normandy: Robert II the Magnificent|
Successor England: William II Rufus
Normandy: Robert III Curthose|
Spouse Matilda of Flanders (10311083), Maud de Ingelrica (1032-1083)
Father Robert the Magnificent
Mother Herlette of Falaise|
Born 10|14|28|
Falaise|, France
Died 9-9-1087
Convent of St. Gervais, Rouen
Burial Saint-Étienne de Caen|, France
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William I of England (William the Conqueror; c. 1028 – 9 September 1087) was a mediæval monarch. He ruled as the Duke of Normandy from 1035 to 1087 and as King of England| from 1066 to 1087. As Duke of Normandy, William was known as William II, and, as King of England, as William I. He is commonly referred to as William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant) or William the Bastard (Guillaume le Bâtard).

In support of his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans to victory over the Anglo-Saxon| forces of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, and suppressed subsequent English revolts| in what has become known as the Norman Conquest.[1]

His reign brought Norman culture to England, which had an enormous impact on the subsequent course of England in the Middle Ages. In addition to political changes, his reign also saw changes to English law, a programme of building and fortification, changes in the English language and the introduction of continental European feudalism into England.

Physical appearance[edit | edit source]

No authentic portrait of William has been found, but he was described as a muscular man, balding in front.[2] In later life, William grew fat, causing King Philip| of France to comment that he looked pregnant.[3]

Early life[edit | edit source]

William was born in Falaise|, Normandy (now Northern France), the illegitimate and only son of Robert II. His mother, Herleva (among other names), who later had two sons to another father, was the daughter of Fulbert, most likely a local tanner. William's birth is believed to have been in either 1027 or 1028, and more likely in the autumn of the latter year.[4] He was born the grandnephew| of Queen Emma of Normandy, wife of King Ethelred the Unready and later of King Canute the Great.[5]

William succeeded his father as Duke of Normandy at the young age of seven in 1035 and was known as Duke William II of Normandy (French: Guillaume II, duc de Normandie). Plots to usurp his place cost William three guardians, though not Count Alan of Brittany|, who was a later guardian. William was knighted by King Henry I of France at the age of 15. By the time he turned 19 he was successfully dealing with threats of rebellion and invasion. With the assistance of King Henry, William finally secured control of Normandy by defeating rebel Norman barons at Caen in the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes in 1047.

Against the wishes of Pope Leo IX, William married his cousin Matilda of Flanders in 1053 in the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Eu|, Normandy (in Seine-Maritime). At the time, William was aged about 26 and Matilda aged 22. Their marriage produced four sons and six daughters. In repentance for what was a consanguine marriage (as in "same blood"), William founded St-Stephen's church (l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and Matilda founded Sainte-Trinité church (Abbaye aux Dames).

His half-brothers Odo of Bayeux and Robert played significant roles in his life. He also had a sister, Adelaide of Normandy.

Conquest of England[edit | edit source]

main article: Norman Conquest

The Duke of Normandy in the Bayeux Tapestry

William believed that once Edward the Confessor was dead, he would be the rightful king of England. It is probable that Edward had promised him the throne, and it is known that in 1064, Harold Godwinson had pledged his allegiance to William under duress while his guest after being shipwrecked on the coast of Ponthieu.[6]

Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England. Harold raised a large fleet of ships and mobilized a force of militia. He then arranged these around the coasts, anticipating attack from several directions. The first would-be attacker was Tostig Godwinson, Harold's brother, but he was successfully defeated by Edwin at a battle on the south bank of the Humber. During this time, William submitted his claim to the English throne to Pope Alexander II, who sent him a consecrated banner in support, and openly began assembling an army in Normandy, consisting of his own army, French mercenaries, and numerous foreign knights anticipating plunder or English land. Despite gaining the support from many knights and gathering a considerable army, due to the heavy militia presence on the south coast of England and the fleet of ships guarding the English Channel, it looked as if he might fare little better than Tostig.[6] Once the harvest season arrived, Harold ordered the militia home due to falling morale and dwindling supplies, and consolidated the ships in London, leaving the channel unguarded. Then came the news that Harald III of Norway had landed ten miles from York with Tostig, which forced Harold and his army to head north. After a victory against the forces of earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria at the Battle of Fulford, Harald and Tostig were defeated by Harold's army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Three days after the battle, William arrived with his army in Pevensey Bay, and then moved to Hastings, a few miles to the East, where he built a castle. On the 13 of October, he received news that an army led by Harold was approaching from London, and at dawn the next day, William left the castle with his army and advanced towards the English army, which had taken a defensive position atop a ridge around seven miles from Hastings.[6]

Animation of William's invasion of England and victory at Hastings

The Battle of Hastings lasted all of that day, resulting in the deaths of Harold and two of his brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine Godwinson. At dusk, the English army made their last stand. By that night, the battle was over, and the English army was defeated. William's next target was London, which he approached via Dover and Canterbury. However, London was in control of supporters of Edgar Ætheling. Despite William's advance guard beating back a sortie on London Bridge, William marched westward, crossing the Thames at Wallingford and forced the surrender of Archbishop Stigand, one of Edgar's lead supporters. When William reached Berkhamstead a few days later, the city authorities in London surrendered, and William was crowned king of England on Christmas day (December 25) 1066.[6]

Although the south of England submitted quickly to Norman rule, resistance continued in the North for six more years until 1072. Harold's illegitimate sons attempted an invasion of the south-west peninsula. Uprisings occurred in the Welsh Marches and at Stafford. Separate attempts at invasion by the Danes and the Scots also occurred. William's defeat of these led to what became known as the harrying of the North, in which Northumbria was laid waste as revenge and to deny his enemies its resources. The last serious resistance came with the Revolt of the Earls in 1075.

William's reign[edit | edit source]

main article: Domesday Book William initiated many major changes. In 1085, in order to ascertain the extent of his new dominions and maximize taxation, William commissioned the compilation of Domesday Book, a survey of England's productive capacity similar to a modern census. He also ordered many castles, keeps, and mottes, among them the Tower of London, to be built across England to ensure that the rebellions by the English people or his own followers would not succeed. His conquest also led to Norman (and French) replacing English as the language of the ruling classes for nearly 300 years.[7]

The signatures of William I and Matilda are the first two large crosses on the Accord of Winchester from 1072.

William is said to have eliminated the native aristocracy in as little as four years. While many fled to Flanders and Scotland, others may have been sold into slavery, as their properties and titles were given to Normans. 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 percent of its original land-holdings.[8]

Death, burial, and succession[edit | edit source]

William died at the age of 59, at the Convent of St Gervais, near Rouen, France, on 9 September 1087 from abdominal injuries received from his saddle pommel when he fell off a horse at the Siege of Mantes. William was buried| in the church of St. Stephen in Caen, Normandy.

According to some sources, a fire broke out during the funeral; 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; and, in a most unregal postmortem, William's now corpulent| body would not fit in the stone sarcophagus. Whether or not it burst after some unsuccessful prodding by the assembled bishops, filling the chapel with a foul smell and dispersing the mourners is a matter of some speculation. [9]

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 remains in the tomb.

William was succeeded in 1087 as King of England by his younger son William Rufus and as Duke of Normandy by his elder son Robert Curthose. This led to the Rebellion of 1088. His youngest son Henry also became King of England later, after William II died without issue.

Residence at Falaise[edit | edit source]

In Falaise France, is a series of statues that pays tribute to the six Norman Dukes from Rollo to William Conqueror. The castle here was the principal residence of the Norman Knights.

Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant Place Guillaume le Conquérant / 14700 Falaise / Tel: 02 31 41 61 44

Descendants[edit | edit source]

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 rumors to the contrary, there is no evidence that he had any illegitimate children.[10]

  1. Robert Curthose (10541134), 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. 10561126), Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen.
  5. William "Rufus" (c. 10561100), King of England.
  6. Agatha (c. 10641079), betrothed to (1) Harold of Wessex, (2) Alfonso VI of Castile.
  7. Constance (c. 10661090), married Alan IV Fergent|, Duke of Brittany; poisoned, possibly by her own servants.
  8. Adela| (c. 10671137), married Stephen
  9. Henry "Beauclerc"| (10681135), King of England, married (1) Edith of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of the Scots|, (2) Adeliza of Louvain|.

Every English monarch down to Queen Elizabeth II is a descendant of William the Conqueror.[11]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ Dr. Mike Ibeji ([[wikipedia:2001|]]-05-01|). "1066" (HTML). BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/1066_01.shtml. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  2. ^ Based on [[wikipedia: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.
  3. ^ Spartacus Schoolnet, retrieved 17 July 2007.
  4. ^ 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 [[wikipedia:14 October|]] [[wikipedia:1024|]] is likely spurious. It was promulgated by [[wikipedia:Thomas Roscoe|]] ([[wikipedia:1791|]]–[[wikipedia:1871|]]) 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 [[wikipedia: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 in 1087. The birth day and month are suspiciously the same as those of the [[wikipedia:Battle of Hastings|]]. This date claim, repeated by other Victorian historians (e.g. [[wikipedia: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.
  5. ^ Powell, John, Magill's Guide to Military History, Salem Press, Inc., 2001, p. 226. ISBN 0893560197.
  6. ^ a b c d Clark, George (1978) [1971]. "The Norman Conquest". English History: A Survey. [[wikipedia:Oxford University Press|]]/Book Club Associates. ISBN 0198223390. 
  7. ^ 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. See Alexander Herman Schutz and Urban Tigner Holmes, A History of the French Language, Biblo and Tannen Publishers, 1938. pp. 44-45. ISBN 0819601918.
  8. ^ Douglas, David Charles. English Historical Documents, Routledge, 1996, p. 22. ISBN 0415143675.
  9. ^ http://historyhouse.com/in_history/william/
  10. ^ William "the Conqueror" (Guillaume "le Conquérant").
  11. ^ Humphrys, Mark. Royal Descents of famous people. Retrieved 18 July 2007.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about:
William I of England (1027-1087)/biography
Died: 1087 9 September
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edgar Ætheling
King of England
Succeeded by
William II
French nobility
Preceded by
Robert the Magnificent
Duke of Normandy
Succeeded by
Robert Curthose
Family information
Notes & References
1. Tompsett, Brian, Directory of Royal Genealogical Data (Hull, UK: University of Hull, 2005).
2. Ross, Kelley L., The Proceedings of the Friesian School (Los Angeles, US: Los Angeles Valley College, 2007).

NAME England, William I of
PLACE OF BIRTH Falaise|, France
DATE OF DEATH 9 September 1087
PLACE OF DEATH Convent of St. Gervais, Rouen

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