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HOME   -   PEOPLE IN HISTORY A-Z   -   WILLIAM I THE CONQUEROR

 
   


William I the Conqueror, 1028 - 1087

 

William I the Conqueror 1028(?)-1087

William's real name was Guillaume because he was French. He was a smart and very determined man.

Among other nicknames, William answered to William the Bastard (Guillaume le Bâtard) and William of Normandy (Guillaume de Normandie.)

Of course, his favorite nickname was William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant.)



Who Ruled France at the Time?

That was the Capetian family with Henry I at the time, who was king of France from 1026 - 1059. Henry's son Philip I ruled France from 1059 - 1108.

 

William's Family

William's father was Robert I of Normandy.

William's mother was Herleva, also called Arlette. Herleva was Robert's concubine, which explains the byname William the Bastard.

When Robert died in 1035, the only heir was wee William. Thus, William became William II, the new duke of Normandy.

Later, his mother married again and had three children from a Viscount Herluin. Hence, William had two stepbrothers and a stepsister.

One of William's half brothers was Odo.

In 1052, William married Matilda. Matilda was the daughter of Baldwin V of Flanders.

William and Matilda had four sons, Robert, Richard, William Rufus, and  Henry. They also had several daughters. One of them was Adela.

 

The Miracle

The miracle in William's story simply consists of the fact that he wasn't killed as a child. William was an illegitimate heir of a substantial inheritance surrounded by many family members who would have only benefited from his death.

 

THE BATTLE OF Val-ès-Dunes

The battle of Val-ès-Dunes, also called the Battle of Val-aux-Dunes, was fought in 1047 in the neighborhood of Caen, northern France.

Who fought?

William and his king, Henry I, who defeated the rebellious barons of Normandy.

 

Becoming the King of England

During his lifetime, English King Edward the Confessor apparently had the urge to make people happy. So what if he promised several individuals the throne upon his death. He wouldn't be around to have to deal with the mess.

One of the people in hope and waiting was Edward's brother-in-law Harold. Another one was above mentioned William, duke of Normandy.

Edward died January 5, 1066. The English gave Harold the crown and the Normans prepared for a trip.

On September 27, 1066, William and his troops sailed direction England, thus starting the Norman Conquest.

On October 14, 1066, Harold was killed in the Battle of Hastings, in Sussex, England. For nine months, Harold had been Harold II King of England. Now it was William's turn to rule.



1066 Battle of Hastings


Battle of Hastings 1066
1066 Battle of Hastings (USMA)


 

Being now English King William I, the Conqueror cleaned house, replaced British government officials with pals from Normandy, and started with the construction of the Tower of London.


The years of the reign of William the Conqueror, 1066-1087, were marked by frequent risings of the English against him, which were quelled mercilessly.


In December 1085, William commissioned a survey of his new English kingdom, the summary of which became known as the Domesday Book. It is the earliest surviving public record and the piece of which everybody at the UK National Archives is very proud.

The Domesday Book lists name of owner or occupier of a certain stretch of land, the kind of livestock that was kept, the value of the land, and of course the amount of tax owed to the Crown, as well as bodies able to render military services.

Originally, the project was called the Great Inquisition or Survey.

The English nicknamed it in reference to the finality of Doomsday, the day of God's final judgment. God's ruling would also be written in a book and that would be the end of all discussion. No chance to apply for re-evaluation. You're doomed.

Not to be confused with D-Day.

 

Short Biography of William I the Conqueror

1028 Birth in Falaise, Normandy, France

1035 Becomes William II, duke of Normandy

1047 Battle of Val-ès-Dunes

1052 Marries Matilda

1054 Battle of Mortemer

1058 Battle of Varaville

1066, September 27 Sets sail for England

1066, October 14 Battle of Hastings

1066, December 25 Crowned king of England

1086 Compilation of the Domesday Book

1087, September 9 Death in Rouen, Normandy, France



And here are more maps

England 1065
1065 England


Dominions of William the Conqueror about 1087
Dominions of William the Conqueror about 1087
Click map to enlarge


 

 

See also the chart Governments in History.