William I of England
Overview
 
William I also known as William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant), was the first Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy
Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependancies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The title traces its roots to the Duchy of Normandy . Whether the reigning sovereign is a male or female, they are always titled as the "Duke of...

 from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II. Before his conquest of England, he was known as William the Bastard because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

To press his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

, Bretons, Flemings, and Frenchmen (from Paris and Île-de-France
Île-de-France (province)
The province of Île-de-France or Isle de France is an historical province of France, and the one at the centre of power during most of French history...

) to victory over the English forces of King Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

 at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

.

William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

, the foremost historian of the day, reported of William: "He was of just stature, extraordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead bare of hair; of such strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise that no one was able to draw his bow, which he himself could bend when his horse was on 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."

His heavy taxes, together with the exactions of the greedy Norman landlords he put in power, reduced the great mass of Anglo-Saxon freemen to serfdom.
Quotations

See, I have taken England with both my hands.

When he stepped off his ship on the coast of England and fell on his face in the sand (28 September, 1066)

Encyclopedia
William I also known as William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant), was the first Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy
Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependancies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The title traces its roots to the Duchy of Normandy . Whether the reigning sovereign is a male or female, they are always titled as the "Duke of...

 from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II. Before his conquest of England, he was known as William the Bastard because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

To press his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

, Bretons, Flemings, and Frenchmen (from Paris and Île-de-France
Île-de-France (province)
The province of Île-de-France or Isle de France is an historical province of France, and the one at the centre of power during most of French history...

) to victory over the English forces of King Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

 at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

.

William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

, the foremost historian of the day, reported of William: "He was of just stature, extraordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead bare of hair; of such strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise that no one was able to draw his bow, which he himself could bend when his horse was on 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."

His heavy taxes, together with the exactions of the greedy Norman landlords he put in power, reduced the great mass of Anglo-Saxon freemen to serfdom. By 1086, the Domesday Book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

 showed that England comprised 12% freeholders; 35% serfs or villeins: 30% cotters and borders; and 9% slaves. William was one of the foremost soldiers of the medieval era, conquering a large kingdom from a smaller base. Most important, William created a feudal state that brought order, peace, law to England, promoted commerce, and created a strong central government that long endured.

His reign, which imposed Norman culture and leadership on England, reshaped England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

. The details of that impact and the extent of the changes have been debated by scholars for centuries. 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 either 1027 or 1028 in Château de Falaise
Château de Falaise
The Château de Falaise is a castle located in the south of the commune of Falaise in the Calvados département of Normandy, France.The town of Falaise was the birthplace of William the Conqueror, first of the Norman kings of England...

 in Falaise
Falaise, Calvados
Falaise is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-History:The town was the birthplace of William I the Conqueror, first of the Norman Kings of England. The Château de Falaise , which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of...

, Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, France, and more likely in the autumn of the later year. William was the only son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, as well as the grandnephew of the English Queen, Emma of Normandy
Emma of Normandy
Emma , was a daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, by his second wife Gunnora. She was Queen consort of England twice, by successive marriages: first as second wife to Æthelred the Unready of England ; and then second wife to Cnut the Great of Denmark...

, wife of King Ethelred the Unready
Ethelred the Unready
Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II , was king of England . He was son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. Æthelred was only about 10 when his half-brother Edward was murdered...

 and then of King Canute the Great
Canute the Great
Cnut the Great , also known as Canute, was a king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. Though after the death of his heirs within a decade of his own and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, his legacy was largely lost to history, historian Norman F...

. Though William was illegitimate, his father named him as heir to Normandy. His mother, Herleva
Herleva
Herleva also known as Herleve, Arlette, Arletta and Arlotte, was the mother of William I of England. She had two other sons, Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, who became prominent in William's realm....

, who later married and bore two sons to Herluin de Conteville
Herluin de Conteville
Herluin de Conteville , also sometimes listed as Herlevin or Herlwin of Conteville, was the stepfather of William the Conqueror, and the father of Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, both of whom became prominent during William's reign.-Conteville and Sainte-Marie Eglise:No contemporary...

, was the daughter of Fulbert of Falaise
Fulbert of Falaise
Fulbert of Falaise was the father of Herleva, mother of the illegitimate William the Conqueror, the 11th-century Duke of Normandy and King of England. The Walter of Falaise named by Orderic Vitalis is likely a son....

. In addition to his two half-brothers, Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain
Robert, Count of Mortain
Robert, Count of Mortain, 1st Earl of Cornwall was a Norman nobleman and the half-brother of William I of England. Robert was the son of Herluin de Conteville and Herleva of Falaise and was full brother to Odo of Bayeux. The exact year of Robert's birth is unknown Robert, Count of Mortain, 1st...

, William also had a sister, Adelaide of Normandy
Adelaide of Normandy
Adelaide of Normandy was the sister of William the Conqueror.She was the daughter of Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy. Different chroniclers writing in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum call her sister of William the Conqueror either by the same mother or by different mothers...

, another child of Robert.

William's illegitimacy affected his early life. As a child, he was in constant danger from his kinsmen who thought they had a more legitimate right to rule. One attempt on William's life occurred while he slept at a castle keep
Keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

 at Vaudreuil, when the murderer mistakenly stabbed the child sleeping next to William. Before leaving on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, William's father Robert had the Norman magnates swear fealty to William as his heir. Robert never returned from his pilgrimage, and later in 1035, William succeeded him as Duke; he was eight years old. Predictably, William's authority to rule was challenged by those who thought they had a stronger right to rule. Two of the young duke's guardians were killed; his steward, Osbern
Osbern the Steward
Osbern the Steward, known in French as Osbern de Crépon , was the Steward of two Dukes of Normandy and the father of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, one of William the Conqueror's closest counsellors.- Biography :...

, was murdered in the duke's bedchamber while William slept. In 1047, William was only saved from deposition
Deposition (politics)
Deposition by political means concerns the removal of a politician or monarch. It may be done by coup, impeachment, invasion or forced abdication...

 by the intervention of Henry I
Henry I of France
Henry I was King of France from 1031 to his death. The royal demesne of France reached its smallest size during his reign, and for this reason he is often seen as emblematic of the weakness of the early Capetians...

, who allied himself with William to defeat the rebels in Battle of Val-ès-Dunes
Battle of Val-ès-Dunes
The Battle of Val-ès-Dunes was fought in 1047 by the combined forces of William, Duke of Normandy and King Henry I of France against the forces of several rebel Norman barons, led by Gui of Burgundy , the son of Reginald I, Count of Burgundy....

.

Duke of Normandy

By his father's will, William succeeded him as Duke of Normandy at the age of seven in 1035. Plots by rival Norman noblemen to usurp his place cost William three guardians, though not Count Alan III of Brittany
Dukes of Brittany family tree
This is a family tree of the Dukes of Brittany from the 9th century, to the annexation of Brittany by France in 1532.See also: Brittany - List of family trees...

, who was a later guardian. William was supported by King Henry I of France
Henry I of France
Henry I was King of France from 1031 to his death. The royal demesne of France reached its smallest size during his reign, and for this reason he is often seen as emblematic of the weakness of the early Capetians...

, 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
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

 in the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes
Battle of Val-ès-Dunes
The Battle of Val-ès-Dunes was fought in 1047 by the combined forces of William, Duke of Normandy and King Henry I of France against the forces of several rebel Norman barons, led by Gui of Burgundy , the son of Reginald I, Count of Burgundy....

 in 1047, obtaining the Truce of God, which was backed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Against the wishes of Pope Leo IX
Pope Leo IX
Pope Saint Leo IX , born Bruno of Eguisheim-Dagsburg, was Pope from February 12, 1049 to his death. He was a German aristocrat and as well as being Pope was a powerful secular ruler of central Italy. He is regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, with the feast day of April 19...

, William married Matilda of Flanders
Matilda of Flanders
Matilda of Flanders was the wife of William the Conqueror and, as such, Queen consort of the Kingdom of England. She bore William nine/ten children, including two kings, William II and Henry I.-Marriage:...

 in 1053 in the Notre-Dame chapel of Eu
Eu, Seine-Maritime
Eu is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France.Eu is located near the coast in the eastern part of the department, near the border with Picardie.Its inhabitants are known as the Eudois.-Geography:...

 castle, Normandy (Seine-Maritime
Seine-Maritime
Seine-Maritime is a French department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France. It is situated on the northern coast of France, at the mouth of the Seine, and includes the cities of Rouen and Le Havre...

). 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
Consanguine marriage
A consanguine marriage is a marriage between two blood relatives.Consanguineous: of the same blood, descended from the same ancestor.- External links :*...

 (they were distant cousins), William donated St Stephen's Church (l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes
Abbaye-aux-Hommes
The Abbaye aux Hommes is a former abbey church in the French city of Caen, Normandy. Dedicated to Saint Stephen , it is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames , to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine...

) and Matilda donated Holy Trinity church (l'Abbaye aux Dames
Abbaye aux Dames
The Abbaye aux Dames is a former abbey in Caen, Normandy, northern France, now home to the Conseil Régional de Basse Normandie...

).

Feeling threatened by the increase in Norman power resulting from William's noble marriage, Henry I of France
Henry I of France
Henry I was King of France from 1031 to his death. The royal demesne of France reached its smallest size during his reign, and for this reason he is often seen as emblematic of the weakness of the early Capetians...

 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
Robert, Count of Mortain
Robert, Count of Mortain, 1st Earl of Cornwall was a Norman nobleman and the half-brother of William I of England. Robert was the son of Herluin de Conteville and Herleva of Falaise and was full brother to Odo of Bayeux. The exact year of Robert's birth is unknown Robert, Count of Mortain, 1st...

, who played significant roles in his life. Later, he benefited from the weakening of two competing power centres as a result of the deaths of Henry I and of Geoffrey II of Anjou
Geoffrey II of Anjou
Geoffrey II, called Martel , was Count of Anjou from 1040 to 1060. He was the son of Fulk the Black. He was bellicose and fought against the Duke of Aquitaine, the Count of Blois, and the Duke of Normandy...

, in 1060. In 1062, William invaded and took control of the county of Maine, which had been a fief of Anjou.

Claim to the English throne

Upon the death of the childless Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

, the English throne was fiercely disputed by three claimants—William; Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

, the powerful Earl of Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

; and the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 King Harald III of Norway, known as Harald Hardraada. William had a tenuous blood claim through his great aunt Emma
Emma of Normandy
Emma , was a daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, by his second wife Gunnora. She was Queen consort of England twice, by successive marriages: first as second wife to Æthelred the Unready of England ; and then second wife to Cnut the Great of Denmark...

 (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 1051. Further, William claimed that Harold had pledged allegiance to him in 1064: William had rescued the shipwrecked Harold from the count of Ponthieu
Ponthieu
Ponthieu was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged together to become part of the Province of Picardy, in northern France. Its chief town is Abbeville.- History :...

, and together they had defeated Conan II, Duke of Brittany
Conan II, Duke of Brittany
Conan II of Rennes was Duke of Brittany, from 1040 to his death. Conan was the eldest child and heir of Alan III, Duke of Brittany by his wife Berthe de Blois, and member of the House of Rennes...

. 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.

In January 1066, however, in accordance with Edward's last will and by vote of the Witenagemot
Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

, Harold Godwinson was crowned King by Archbishop Aldred
Aldred
Ealdred was Abbot of Tavistock, Bishop of Worcester, and Archbishop of York in Anglo-Saxon England. He was related to a number of other ecclesiastics of the period. After becoming a monk at the monastery at Winchester, he was appointed Abbot of Tavistock Abbey in around 1027. In 1046 he was named...

.

Invasion of England

Meanwhile, William submitted his claim to the English throne to Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II , born Anselmo da Baggio, was Pope from 1061 to 1073.He was born in Milan. As bishop of Lucca he had been an energetic coadjutor with Hildebrand of Sovana in endeavouring to suppress simony, and to enforce the celibacy of the clergy...

, who sent him a consecrated banner in support. Then, William organised a council of war at Lillebonne
Lillebonne
Lillebonne is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France. It lies miles north of the Seine and east of Le Havre by railway.-History:...

 and in January openly began assembling an army in Normandy. Offering promises of English lands and titles, he amassed at Dives-sur-Mer
Dives-sur-Mer
-Transport:Dives-sur-Mer is on the line from Deauville to Dives-sur-Mer. The station is open, train services operate year round at weekends as well as on week days during the summer season. Dives is also on line #20 of the Calvados bus company Bus Verts du Calvados....

 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
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, north-eastern France and Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, 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
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

.
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
Harvest
Harvest is the process of gathering mature crops from the fields. Reaping is the cutting of grain or pulse for harvest, typically using a scythe, sickle, or reaper...

 season, he disbanded his army on 8 September. Harold also consolidated his ships in London, leaving the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 unguarded. Then came the news that the other contender for the throne, Harald III of Norway, allied with Tostig Godwinson
Tostig Godwinson
Tostig Godwinson was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson, the last crowned english King of England.-Early life:...

, had landed ten miles (16 km) from York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

. 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
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme is a commune in the Somme department. The village is a popular tourist destination because of its medieval character and ramparts, Gothic church and long waterside boardwalk.-Geography:...

 and again wait for the wind to change. On 27 September the Norman fleet finally set sail, landing in England at Pevensey Bay (Sussex
Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...

) on 28 September. William then moved to Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

, 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.

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 reconnoitring the south of England for some time and well appreciated the need to occupy this isthmus at once.

Battle of Hastings

Harold, after defeating his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in the north, marched his army 241 mi (387.9 km) in 5 days 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
Battle, East Sussex
Battle is a small town and civil parish in the local government district of Rother in East Sussex, England. It lies south southeast of London, east of Brighton and east of the county town of Lewes...

), about seven miles (11 km) from Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

.

The Battle of Hastings lasted all day. Although the numbers on each side were about equal, William had both cavalry and infantry, including many archer
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

s, while Harold had only foot soldiers and few if any archers. The English soldiers formed up as a shield wall
Shield wall
The wall, is a military tactic that was common in many cultures in the Pre-Early Modern warfare age...

 along the ridge's border, and were at first so effective that William's army was thrown back with heavy casualties. Then William rallied his troops reportedly raising his helmet, as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

, to quell rumours 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. 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, beheaded and bodily dismembered. 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's and Harold's armies. 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 attacks.

March to London

For two weeks, William waited for a formal surrender of the English throne, but the Witenagemot
Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

 proclaimed the young Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling , or Edgar II, was the last male member of the royal house of Cerdic of Wessex...

 King instead, though without coronation. Thus, William's next target was London, approaching through the important territories of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, via Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

 and Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, inspiring fear in the English. However, at London, William's advance was beaten back at London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

, 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
Stigand
Stigand was an English churchman in pre-Norman Conquest England. Although his birthdate is unknown, by 1020, he was serving as a royal chaplain and advisor. He was named Bishop of Elmham in 1043, and then later Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury...

 (one of Edgar's lead supporters), in early December. William reached Berkhamsted
Berkhamsted
-Climate:Berkhamsted experiences an oceanic climate similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.-Castle:...

 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
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

, the first documented coronation held there, by Archbishop Aldred
Aldred
Ealdred was Abbot of Tavistock, Bishop of Worcester, and Archbishop of York in Anglo-Saxon England. He was related to a number of other ecclesiastics of the period. After becoming a monk at the monastery at Winchester, he was appointed Abbot of Tavistock Abbey in around 1027. In 1046 he was named...

. The ceremony was not a peaceful one. When Aldred asked the congregation "Will you have this Prince to be your King", they answered with a great shout of agreement. The Norman guards stationed outside, believing the English were revolting, due to all the shouting, 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
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

, western Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

, Exeter
Exeter
Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England. It lies within the ceremonial county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the...

). 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
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, which had still not submitted to his realm. In 1068, with Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling , or Edgar II, was the last male member of the royal house of Cerdic of Wessex...

, both Mercia and Northumbria revolted. William could suppress these, but Edgar fled to Scotland where Malcolm III of Scotland
Malcolm III of Scotland
Máel Coluim mac Donnchada , was King of Scots...

 protected him. Furthermore, Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, with much éclat, stressing the English balance of power against William. Under such circumstances, Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

 rebelled, besieging York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

. Then, Edgar resorted also to the Danes
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, who disembarked with a large fleet at Northumbria, claiming the English crown for their King Sweyn II
Sweyn II of Denmark
Sweyn II Estridsson Ulfsson was the King of Denmark from 1047 to 1074. He was the son of Ulf Jarl and Estrid Svendsdatter. He was married three times, and fathered 20 children or more, including the five future kings Harald III Hen, Canute IV the Saint, Oluf I Hunger, Eric I Evergood and Niels...

. Scotland joined the rebellion as well. The rebels easily captured York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 and its castle
York Castle
York Castle in the city of York, England, is a fortified complex comprising, over the last nine centuries, a sequence of castles, prisons, law courts and other buildings on the south side of the River Foss. The now-ruinous keep of the medieval Norman castle is sometimes referred to as Clifford's...

. However, William could contain them at Lincoln
Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Lincoln is a cathedral city and county town of Lincolnshire, England.The non-metropolitan district of Lincoln has a population of 85,595; the 2001 census gave the entire area of Lincoln a population of 120,779....

. After dealing with a new wave of revolts at western Mercia, Exeter
Exeter
Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England. It lies within the ceremonial county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the...

, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

, and Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, William defeated his northern foes decisively at the River Aire
River Aire
The River Aire is a major river in Yorkshire, England of length . Part of the river is canalised, and is known as the Aire and Calder Navigation....

, retrieving York, while the Danish army swore to depart.

William then devastated Northumbria between the Humber
Humber
The Humber is a large tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England. It is formed at Trent Falls, Faxfleet, by the confluence of the tidal River Ouse and the tidal River Trent. From here to the North Sea, it forms part of the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire on the north bank...

 and Tees rivers, with what was described as the Harrying of the North
Harrying of the North
The Harrying of the North was a series of campaigns waged by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069–1070 to subjugate Northern England, and is part of the Norman conquest of England...

. This devastation included setting fire to the vegetation, houses and even tools to work the fields. 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
Isle of Ely
The Isle of Ely is a historic region around the city of Ely now in Cambridgeshire, England but previously a county in its own right.-Etymology:...

, 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. In 1074, Edgar Ætheling submitted definitively to William.

In 1075, during William's absence, the Revolt of the Earls
Revolt of the Earls
The Revolt of the Earls in 1075 was a rebellion of three earls against William I of England . It was the last serious act of resistance against William in the Norman Conquest.-Course:...

 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

William spent much of his time (11 years, since 1072) in Normandy, ruling the islands through his writ
Writ
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court...

s. 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
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, and the French King Philip I
Philip I of France
Philip I , called the Amorous, was King of France from 1060 to his death. His reign, like that of most of the early Direct Capetians, was extraordinarily long for the time...

 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
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

. 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.

Reforms

William initiated many major changes. He increased the function of the traditional English shire
Shire
A shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in the United Kingdom and in Australia. In parts of Australia, a shire is an administrative unit, but it is not synonymous with "county" there, which is a land registration unit. Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland and in the far...

s (autonomous administrative regions), which he brought under central control; he decreased the power of the earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

s 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 counsellors for the compilation of the Domesday Book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

, which was published in 1086. The book was a survey of England's productive capacity similar to a modern census.

William also ordered many castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s, keep
Keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

s, and mottes
Motte-and-bailey
A motte-and-bailey is a form of castle, with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade...

, among them the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

's foundation (the White Tower
White Tower (Tower of London)
The White Tower is a central tower, the old keep, at the Tower of London.-History:The castle which later became known as the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 1066. It began as a timber fortification enclosed by a palisade. In the next decade work began on the White Tower, the...

), 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
Norman language
Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

) replacing English as the language of the ruling classes for nearly 300 years. Whereas in 1066 fewer than 30% of property owners had non-English given name
Given name
A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

s, 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
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 culture of England became mingled with the Norman one; thus the Anglo-Norman
Anglo-Norman
The Anglo-Normans were mainly the descendants of the Normans who ruled England following the Norman conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066. A small number of Normans were already settled in England prior to the conquest...

 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 died without issue. Thus, most English estates and titles of nobility were handed to the Norman noblemen. Many English aristocrats fled to Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 and Scotland; others may have been sold into slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 overseas. Some escaped to join the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

's Varangian Guard
Varangian Guard
The Varangian Guard was an elite unit of the Byzantine Army in 10th to the 14th centuries, whose members served as personal bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors....

, 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. 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
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

 says that the king also seized and depopulated many miles of land (36 parishes), turning it into the royal New Forest
New Forest
The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England. It covers south-west Hampshire and extends into south-east Wiltshire....

 region to support his enthusiastic enjoyment of hunting. 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.

Death, burial, and succession

In 1087 in France, William burned Mantes (30 mi [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
Rebellion of 1088
The Rebellion of 1088 occurred after the death of William the Conqueror and concerned the division of lands in the Kingdom of England and the Duchy of Normandy between his two sons William Rufus and Robert Curthose...

. Despite William's reluctance, his combative elder son Robert received the Duchy of Normandy, as Robert II. William Rufus (his third son) was the next English king, as William II
William II of England
William II , the third son of William I of England, was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales...

. William's youngest son Henry
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 received 5,000 silver pound
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

s, which would be earmarked to buy land. He later 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
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

, the chief city of Normandy, on 9 September 1087. William was buried
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes
Abbaye-aux-Hommes
The Abbaye aux Hommes is a former abbey church in the French city of Caen, Normandy. Dedicated to Saint Stephen , it is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames , to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine...

, which he had erected, in Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. It is said that Herluin
Herluin de Conteville
Herluin de Conteville , also sometimes listed as Herlevin or Herlwin of Conteville, was the stepfather of William the Conqueror, and the father of Odo of Bayeux and Robert, Count of Mortain, both of whom became prominent during William's reign.-Conteville and Sainte-Marie Eglise:No contemporary...

, his stepfather, loyally bore his body to his grave.

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
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

 body would not fit in the stone sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 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 drenched the king's coffin, releasing putrefaction gases into the church.

William's grave is currently marked by a marble slab with a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 inscription; the slab dates from the early 19th century. The grave was defiled twice, once during the French Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

, when his bones were scattered across the town of Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, and again during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. Following those events, only William's left femur, some skin particles and bone dust remain in the tomb.

Legacy

William's conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

 decisively changed English history in terms of customs culture, politics, economics and, most dramatically, the language itself. As Duke of Normandy and King of England, William the Conqueror, divided his realm among his sons, but the lands were reunited under his son Henry
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

, and his descendants acquired other territories through marriage or conquest and, at their height, these possessions would be known as the Angevin Empire
Angevin Empire
The term Angevin Empire is a modern term describing the collection of states once ruled by the Angevin Plantagenet dynasty.The Plantagenets ruled over an area stretching from the Pyrenees to Ireland during the 12th and early 13th centuries, located north of Moorish Iberia. This "empire" extended...

.

They included many lands in France, such as Normandy and Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

, 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
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

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
Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

 to those killed in the Battle of Normandy during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. 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".

The numbering scheme
Monarchical ordinal
Ordinal numbers or regnal numbers are used to distinguish among persons with the same name who held the same office. Most importantly, they are used to distinguish monarchs...

 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
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 was "the First" even though he ruled long after the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

.

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
Bow (weapon)
The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

 at full gallop". William showed a magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance. He enjoyed excellent health until old age; nevertheless his noticeable corpulence
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

 in later life eventually increased so much that French King Philip I
Philip I of France
Philip I , called the Amorous, was King of France from 1060 to his death. His reign, like that of most of the early Direct Capetians, was extraordinarily long for the time...

 commented that William looked like a pregnant woman. Examination of his femur
Femur
The femur , or thigh bone, is the most proximal bone of the leg in tetrapod vertebrates capable of walking or jumping, such as most land mammals, birds, many reptiles such as lizards, and amphibians such as frogs. In vertebrates with four legs such as dogs and horses, the femur is found only in...

, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately 5 in 10 in (1.78 m) tall, which was around 2 inches (5.1 cm) taller than the average for the 11th century. He is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry as being clean-shaven, as opposed to Harold and the English lords, who wore moustaches.

Ancestors



Descendants

Willam fathered numerous children; several daughters were betrothed to notable figures of that time. There is no evidence that he had any illegitimate children.
  1. Robert Curthose (1054–1134), Duke of Normandy, married Sybil of Conversano, daughter of Geoffrey of Conversano.
  2. Richard
    Richard, Duke of Bernay
    Richard of Normandy was the second son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders, and a potential heir to the English throne. However, Richard predeceased his father and the throne was eventually inherited by his younger brother William II "Rufus"....

     , Duke of Bernay, killed by a stag in New Forest
    New Forest
    The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England. It covers south-west Hampshire and extends into south-east Wiltshire....

    .
  3. Adeliza
    Adeliza
    Adeliza was the daughter of William I of England. There is considerable uncertainty about her life, including dates of birth and death.-Biography:...

     (or Alice) , reportedly betrothed to Harold II of England.
  4. Cecilia
    Cecilia of Normandy
    Cecilia of Normandy was thought to be the eldest daughter of William I of England and Matilda of Flanders. She was entered into the Abbey of Caen at a young age by her parents. She became Abbess of Holy Trinity in 1112. Cecilia died on 30 July 1126 and was buried within the abbey walls...

     (or Cecily) (–1126), Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen.
  5. William "Rufus"
    William II of England
    William II , the third son of William I of England, was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales...

     (–1100), King of England, killed by an arrow in New Forest
    New Forest
    The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England. It covers south-west Hampshire and extends into south-east Wiltshire....

    .
  6. Agatha
    Agatha of Normandy
    Agatha, mentioned by Ordericus Vitalis as one of the daughters of William I of England and Matilda of Flanders, Agatha, who had been betrothed to Harold II , was afterwards demanded in marriage by Alphonso VI of Castile and delivered to his proxies to be conducted to him...

     (–1079), betrothed to Alfonso VI of Castile
    Alfonso VI of Castile
    Alfonso VI , nicknamed the Brave or the Valiant, was King of León from 1065, King of Castile and de facto King of Galicia from 1072, and self-proclaimed "Emperor of all Spain". After the conquest of Toledo he was also self-proclaimed victoriosissimo rege in Toleto, et in Hispania et Gallecia...

    .
  7. Constance
    Constance of Normandy
    Constance of Normandy was a daughter of William I of England and Matilda of Flanders, it was said she was the most highly gifted of all of the Conqueror's daughters. As she was favourite of her mother she was offered later in marriage to Alan IV of Brittany, the year being 1086...

     (–1090), married Alan IV Fergent
    Alan IV, Duke of Brittany
    Alan IV was Duke of Brittany, from 1084 until his abdication in 1112. He was also Count of Nantes and Count of Rennes. He was son of Hawise, Duchess of Brittany and Duke Hoel II. He was known as Alan Fergant, which in Breton means "Alan the Strong"...

    , Duke of Brittany
    Duke of Brittany
    The Duchy of Brittany was a medieval tribal and feudal state covering the northwestern peninsula of Europe,bordered by the Alantic Ocean on the west and the English Channel to the north with less definitive borders of the Loire River to the south and Normandy to the east...

    ; poisoned, possibly by her own servants.
  8. Adela (–1137), married Stephen, Count of Blois.
  9. Henry "Beauclerc"
    Henry I of England
    Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

     (1068–1135), King of England, married Edith of Scotland
    Edith of Scotland
    Matilda of Scotland , born Edith, was the first wife and Queen consort of Henry I of England.-Early life:Matilda was born around 1080 in Dunfermline, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret. She was christened Edith, and Robert Curthose stood as godfather at the ceremony...

    , daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland
    Malcolm III of Scotland
    Máel Coluim mac Donnchada , was King of Scots...

     and Saint Margaret of Scotland
    Saint Margaret of Scotland
    Saint Margaret of Scotland , also known as Margaret of Wessex and Queen Margaret of Scotland, was an English princess of the House of Wessex. Born in exile in Hungary, she was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the short-ruling and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England...

    . His second wife was Adeliza of Leuven.

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
John Mortimer
Sir John Clifford Mortimer, CBE, QC was a British barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

 deals with his deception of Harold after the latter's shipwreck. Julian Glover
Julian Glover
Julian Wyatt Glover is a British actor best known for such roles as General Maximilian Veers in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the Bond villain Aristotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only, and Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.-Personal life:Glover was born in...

 portrayed him in a 1966 TV adaptation of this play in the ITV
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 Play of the Week series.

William has also been portrayed on screen by Thayer Roberts in the 1955 film Lady Godiva of Coventry
Lady Godiva of Coventry
Lady Godiva of Coventry is an American historical film, directed by Arthur Lubin and released in 1955. It starred Maureen O'Hara in the title role.-Synopsis:...

, John Carson
John Carson (actor)
John Carson is a British actor noted for his appearances in film and television.Making his film debut in 1947, he carved out a career appearing in low budget British movies such as Seven Keys ; Smokescreen ; and Master Spy...

 in the 1965 BBC TV series Hereward the Wake, Alan Dobie
Alan Dobie
Alan Russell Dobie , is a British actor.Dobie was born in Wombwell, Yorkshire, England, to George Russell and Sarah Kate Dobie. His father was a mining engineer and his mother's family were farmers. He was married to actress Rachel Roberts from 1955-61 then married Maureen Scott in 1963...

 in the two-part 1966 BBC TV play Conquest (part of the series Theatre 625
Theatre 625
Theatre 625 is a British television drama anthology series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC2 from 1964 to 1968. It was one of the first regular programmes in the line-up of the channel, and the title referred to its production and transmission being in the higher-definition 625-line...

), and Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Sir Michael John Gambon, CBE is an Irish actor who has worked in theatre, television and film. A highly respected theatre actor, Gambon is recognised for his roles as Philip Marlowe in the BBC television serial The Singing Detective, as Jules Maigret in the 1990s ITV serial Maigret, and as...

 in the 1990 TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror.

He has also been portrayed by David Lodge
David Lodge (actor)
David William Frederick Lodge was a British character actor.Before turning to acting he worked as a circus clown...

 in a 1975 episode of the TV comedy series Carry On Laughing
Carry On Laughing
Carry on Laughing is a British television comedy series produced in 1975 for ATV. Based on the Carry On films, it was an attempt to address the films' declining cinema attendance by transferring the franchise to television...

entitled "One in the Eye for Harold" and by James Fleet
James Fleet
James Edward Fleet is an English actor. He is most famous for his roles as the bumbling and well-meaning Tom in the 1994 British romantic comedy film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the dim-witted Hugo Horton in the BBC situation comedy television series The Vicar of Dibley.-Personal life:Fleet...

 in the 1999 humorous BBC show The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything.

In fiction

  • Anand, Valerie, William the Conqueror features in Anand's trilogy based around the Norman Conquest of 1066 1) Gildenford (1977) 2) The Norman Pretender (1980) 3) The Disputed Crown (1982)
  • Heyer, Georgette
    Georgette Heyer
    Georgette Heyer was a British historical romance and detective fiction novelist. Her writing career began in 1921, when she turned a story for her younger brother into the novel The Black Moth. In 1925 Heyer married George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer...

    , The Conqueror
    The Conqueror (novel)
    The Conqueror is a novel written by Georgette Heyer. It is based on the life of William the Conqueror.-Plot summary:It chronicles the life of William of Normandy from his birth in 1028 to his conquest of England in 1066...

    . 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)
  • 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 ageing 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
  • Wingate, John, William the Conqueror, a biographical novel. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983

Further reading

  • Douglas, David C. (1999) William the Conqueror; the Norman impact upon England, Yale English Monarchs series
    Yale English Monarchs series
    The Yale English Monarchs series is a series of biographies on English and British kings and queens, published by Yale University Press. The books are written by some of the leading experts within their respective fields, incorporating the latest historical research...

    , London : Yale University Press, 476 p., ISBN 0-300-07884-6
  • Howarth, David
    David Armine Howarth
    David Howarth was a British historian and author. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he was a radio war correspondent for the BBC at the start of World War II. Howarth joined the Navy after the fall of France...

     (1977) 1066 The Year of the Conquest, London : Collins, 207 p., ISBN 0-00-211845-9
  • Prescott, Hilda F.M.
    H. F. M. Prescott
    Hilda Frances Margaret Prescott, more usually known as H. F. M. Prescott , was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, author, academic, and historian.-Biography:...

     (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., ISBN 0-7088-2620-2

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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