Great-great-grandfather of Richard the Lionheart
Born: (illegitimate by Herleva) in Falaise Castle, Normandy, France. 1028.
Parents: Duke Robert ‘the Devil’ of Normandy and Arlette of Conteville.
Dynasty: House of Normandy.
Married: Matilda of Flanders in Eu Cathedral, Normandy, France.
Succeeded: to the throne of England, October 14,1066.
Crowned: at Westminster Abbey, December 25, 1066.
Authority: King of England and Duke of Normandy.
Rule: 21 years.
Died: Priory of St Gervais, Rouen, France on September 9, 1087.
Buried: Abbaye-aux-Hommes, Caen, France.
9:00 a.m. September 28 1066, Duke William of Normandy lands on English shores at Pevensey under an overcast sky. An ominous sign on any day even though he had been given Pope Alexander’s blessing.
It is recorded that the invader lost his footing as he was disembarking. Tumbling into the shoal, the embarrassed duke, pushed against the sandy soil to stabilize himself. A quick witted subordinate called out prophetically, “Comrade, you hold England, O future King.”
The Saxons on the other hand, under the banner of King Harold, had solidly reinforced the high ground with a shield wall. If it rained, that would be the death knell for the invaders. They would be unable to execute a mounted charge up a slippery slope. If it rained, the low ground would become a quagmire trapping the Norman troops at the base of the mound.
William was at a disadvantage. The battle had to be fought decisively within the day and before Anglo-Saxon re-enfocements arrived to cut them to ribbons from the flanks. It was already afternoon and defeat meant certain death; for all Normans.
It could go either way …
On his deathbed William the Conqueror declared “I appoint no one my heir to the crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the eternal Creator, whose I am, and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrested It from the perjured King Harold in a desperate battle, with much effusion of human blood…”
William is ancestor of the Royal line leading to the present Prince William in almost one thousand years of English Royalty.
King William I
Biography of King William I, The Conqueror. 1066 – 1087
King William the Conqueror, also known as William I, was a significant figure in the history of England, whose reign marked the beginning of the Norman Conquest. William was born in Falaise, Normandy, France, in 1028 or 1029, the son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and his mistress Herleva. He was also known as William the Bastard, owing to his illegitimate birth.
William’s childhood was filled with turmoil, as his father died when he was just seven years old. This left him vulnerable to the rival factions within his family, and he spent his youth fighting to assert his authority over the duchy. By the age of 20, William had emerged victorious, consolidating his hold on Normandy and establishing himself as a formidable warrior and leader.
In 1066, the death of King Edward the Confessor of England led to a power struggle for the English throne. William, who claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne, set his sights on England, and in September of that year, he led an invasion force across the English Channel. He landed in Pevensey, Sussex, and his army quickly defeated the English forces led by King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day that year, in Westminster Abbey.
William’s reign was marked by his determination to consolidate his power in England and assert his authority over his subjects. He introduced a new system of government that was based on feudalism, which allowed him to divide the land among his followers and ensure their loyalty. He also ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey of all the land and property in England, which helped him to establish his authority over the country and its resources.
William’s reign was not without controversy, however. His harsh treatment of the English led to a series of uprisings, including the revolt of Hereward the Wake in 1071 and the Harrying of the North in 1069-70, in which he ordered the destruction of crops and livestock in northern England in order to subdue the rebellious population.
William also faced challenges from abroad, including an invasion by the Danish king, Sweyn Estrithson, in 1069, which he successfully repelled. He also faced a rebellion in Normandy in 1078, led by his eldest son, Robert, who sought to overthrow his father and claim the duchy for himself. William managed to defeat the rebels and maintain his hold on Normandy, but the episode strained his relationship with Robert.
Despite these challenges, William’s reign was marked by significant accomplishments. He was a skilled administrator and legislator, and his reforms helped to establish a strong and centralized monarchy in England. He also commissioned the construction of a number of important buildings, including the Tower of London and Westminster Hall, which remain standing today as symbols of his legacy.
William died on September 9, 1087, at the age of 59, while fighting against his son Robert in a battle for control of Normandy. He was buried in Caen, in Normandy, in the abbey he had founded, the Abbaye aux Hommes.
William’s legacy is still felt today, both in England and in Normandy. His conquest of England had far-reaching consequences, establishing the Norman dynasty and fundamentally altering the course of English history. His reforms helped to create a strong and centralized monarchy, laying the foundations for the modern British state. His military prowess and administrative skills continue to be studied and admired by historians and scholars alike, making him one of the most important figures in medieval European history.