William the Conqueror - A Short Biography

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Finally, he would make appeals for volunteers to join his army of invasion, he was very persuasive and managed to garner hundreds recruits from outside Normandy. King Godwin was forced to quickly move the bulk of his army hundreds of miles north to head off his brother and King Hardraade before they marched south. By August, Duke William had gathered his army and fleet at the mouth of the Dives River but adverse wind conditions held the fleet in place. The delay proved an important benefit for William; on September 8 , King Godwin was forced by conscription laws to release the militia of common folk and farmers he had assembled in January to defend the southern coastline.

The following morning they landed in England and seized the towns of Pevensey and Hastings without bloodshed. Godwin chose to set up a defensive perimeter and give his men a couple days a well earned food and rest before pushing into the Norman positions at Hastings. William rallied his horsemen and they circled back on the English foot soldiers and slaughtered them. The English force was being methodically cut down by Norman horsemen and archers over the course of the day.

As night approached, King Godwin was felled by an arrow to the eye. The English had fought hard and fought well in spite of their condition following Stamford Bridge and their forced speed march south. There were very few men on Earth in that possessed the military skills and experience at warfare that Duke William had; he spent the vast majority of his life engaging in politics and war as matter of survival. The Normans under King William would be the last foreign power to successfully invade England.


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King William was a veteran ruler by the time he took the throne of England. In Normandy, he had replaced disloyal nobles and servants of the Duchy with his friends; he curbed private warfare and recovered usurped rights from those who opposed him. As king of England, he established firm rules defining the duties of his vassals, ministers, and advisors. He was supported in church affairs and clerical reforms by his pious friend Lanfranc, whom he made Archbishop of Canterbury. Furthermore, William and the Normans introduced the English to the medieval feudal system which mapped out how social classes, the church, government, law, and economics would be organized and run.

The military concepts of Knights, elite military orders, and cavalry warfare were all European innovations which Normans brought to England.

The Latin based Romance language of French would begin to creep into English speech as a result of the Norman Conquest as well. French would enjoy a position as the language of status and education in the English royal court from well into the 19 th century. William left England early in but had to return to quell the northern rebellion which began in December that year.

King William employed such brutality in putting down the uprising that medieval contemporaries were shocked at the scale of the death.

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William deployed a force of 4, with orders to kill everyone and burn everything. The rebellion put an end to the English aristocracy and insured its replacement by Norman lords. During the final 15 years of his life, King William was more often in Normandy than England He was concerned with various crises involving the Duchy of Normandy. There was a five year period during which he did not visit his English kingdom at all.

He entrusted the government of England to church Bishops - whom he conveniently had appointed to their offices. William was in the habit of returning to England only when it was necessary; such as his return in to deal with the aftermath of a rebellion by the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk. William was called back to England in to affect the arrest and imprisonment of his half brother Odo who had been plotting to take an Anglo-Norman army to Italy and make himself Pope.

Later in the summer of , William took oaths of fealty from all the important landowners in England at Salisbury. The Danish invasion came to nothing when Canute died in In November of , William ordered the creation of an economic and territorial survey of England; he wanted to know exactly who owned what, how much, where it was, and how he could tax it. Homes, estates, animals, tools, weapons, currency, jewellery, precious metals and stones, building materials, furs, along with all manner of valuable goods were meticulously recorded in two volumes of the Domesday Book.

Despite his duties as king of England, William remained preoccupied with the frontiers of Normandy. King William would become embroiled in a conflict with King Philip of France in In July of , William seized the French town of Mantes, however while the town burned he suffered an injury which would prove fatal. William was taken to a village outside of Rouen where he lay dying for five weeks.

He was attended by of some of his half-brother Robert and his sons William Rufus and Henry. William was tempted to make his loyal son William Rufus his sole heir, but in typical calculating fashion, King William compromised. Henry was bestowed a sizeable amount of gold and silver with which he was to purchase land. King William died at dawn on September 9, at age Although he was always sparing of food and drink, he became fat in later life. He had a rough bass voice and was a good and ready speaker. Writers of the next generation agree that he was exceptionally strong and vigorous.

King William I “The Conqueror”: A Short Biography

He was a hunter and soldier, fierce and despotic, and generally feared; uneducated, he had few graces but was intelligent and shrewd and soon obtained the respect of his rivals. William I. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Written By: Frank Barlow. Top Questions. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today.

William the Conqueror

He also retained control of much of the lands of Harold and his family, which made the king the largest secular landowner in England by a wide margin. At Christmas , William ordered the compilation of a survey of the landholdings held by himself and by his vassals throughout his kingdom, organised by counties. It resulted in a work now known as the Domesday Book.

The listing for each county gives the holdings of each landholder, grouped by owners. The listings describe the holding, who owned the land before the Conquest, its value, what the tax assessment was, and usually the number of peasants, ploughs, and any other resources the holding had. Towns were listed separately.

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All the English counties south of the River Tees and River Ribble are included, and the whole work seems to have been mostly completed by 1 August , when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that William received the results and that all the chief magnates swore the Salisbury Oath , a renewal of their oaths of allegiance.

William left England towards the end of Following his arrival back on the continent he married his daughter Constance to Alan Fergant , the Duke of Brittany, in furtherance of his policy of seeking allies against the French kings.


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  2. The children and grandchildren of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders;
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  4. William's son Robert, still allied with the French king, appears to have been active in stirring up trouble, enough so that William led an expedition against the French Vexin in July While seizing Mantes , William either fell ill or was injured by the pommel of his saddle. Orderic Vitalis preserves a lengthy account, complete with speeches made by many of the principals, but this is likely more of an account of how a king should die than of what actually happened.

    The other, the De obitu Willelmi , or On the Death of William , has been shown to be a copy of two 9th-century accounts with names changed. William left Normandy to Robert, and the custody of England was given to William's second surviving son, also called William, on the assumption that he would become king. The youngest son, Henry, received money. After entrusting England to his second son, the elder William sent the younger William back to England on 7 or 8 September, bearing a letter to Lanfranc ordering the archbishop to aid the new king.

    Other bequests included gifts to the Church and money to be distributed to the poor. William also ordered that all of his prisoners be released, including his half-brother Odo. Disorder followed William's death; everyone who had been at his deathbed left the body at Rouen and hurried off to attend to their own affairs. Eventually, the clergy of Rouen arranged to have the body sent to Caen, where William had desired to be buried in his foundation of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. The funeral, attended by the bishops and abbots of Normandy as well as his son Henry, was disturbed by the assertion of a citizen of Caen who alleged that his family had been illegally despoiled of the land on which the church was built.

    After hurried consultations, the allegation was shown to be true, and the man was compensated. A further indignity occurred when the corpse was lowered into the tomb. The corpse was too large for the space, and when attendants forced the body into the tomb it burst, spreading a disgusting odour throughout the church. William's grave is currently marked by a marble slab with a Latin inscription dating from the early 19th century. The tomb has been disturbed several times since , the first time in when the grave was opened on orders from the papacy.

    The intact body was restored to the tomb at that time, but in , during the French Wars of Religion , the grave was reopened and the bones scattered and lost, with the exception of one thigh bone. This lone relic was reburied in with a new marker, which was replaced years later with a more elaborate monument.

    William The Conqueror

    This tomb was again destroyed during the French Revolution but was eventually replaced with the current marker. The immediate consequence of William's death was a war between his sons Robert and William over control of England and Normandy. The difficulties over the succession led to a loss of authority in Normandy, with the aristocracy regaining much of the power they had lost to the elder William. His sons also lost much of their control over Maine, which revolted in and managed to remain mostly free of Norman influence thereafter.

    The impact on England of William's conquest was profound; changes in the Church, aristocracy, culture, and language of the country have persisted into modern times. The Conquest brought the kingdom into closer contact with France and forged ties between France and England that lasted throughout the Middle Ages. Another consequence of William's invasion was the sundering of the formerly close ties between England and Scandinavia.

    William's government blended elements of the English and Norman systems into a new one that laid the foundations of the later medieval English kingdom. Others, such as H. Richardson and G. Sayles, see the changes brought about by the Conquest as much less radical than Southern suggests. William's reign has caused historical controversy since before his death. William of Poitiers wrote glowingly of William's reign and its benefits, but the obituary notice for William in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle condemns William in harsh terms.

    During the 17th and 18th centuries, some historians and lawyers saw William's reign as imposing a " Norman yoke " on the native Anglo-Saxons, an argument that continued during the 19th century with further elaborations along nationalistic lines. These various controversies have led to William being seen by some historians either as one of the creators of England's greatness or as inflicting one of the greatest defeats in English history.

    9 surprising facts about William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest

    Others have viewed William as an enemy of the English constitution, or alternatively as its creator. William and his wife Matilda of Flanders had at least nine children. There is no evidence of any illegitimate children born to William. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see William the Conqueror disambiguation. Not to be confused with William Longsword.

    Conqueror of England, first Norman king of England. William as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry during the Battle of Hastings , lifting his helm to show that he is still alive. Main article: Norman conquest of England. Main article: Battle of Hastings. Main article: Harrying of the North. Main article: Revolt of the Earls. Main article: Domesday Book. Orderic Vitalis has William on his deathbed claim that he was 64 years old, which would place his birth around But elsewhere, Orderic states that William was 8 years old when his father left for Jerusalem in , placing the year of birth in William of Malmesbury gives an age of 7 for William when his father left, giving Another source, De obitu Willelmi , states that William was 59 years old when he died in , allowing for either or One became a nun, and the other, Matilda, married Ralph Tesson.

    The Church, under the influence of the Gregorian reform , held the view that the sin of extramarital sex tainted any offspring that resulted, but nobles had not totally embraced the Church's viewpoint during William's lifetime. There is no record of the reason from the Council, and the main evidence is from Orderic Vitalis.

    He hinted obliquely that William and Matilda were too closely related , but gave no details, hence the matter remains obscure. After returning to Normandy in , William spent around months in Normandy as against about 40 months in England. Freeman was of the opinion that the bone had been lost in In his Historia Ecclesiastica , Orderic specifically names her as Agatha, "former fiancee of Harold".

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    Early Years

    Barnsley, UK: Leo Cooper. Miller, Sean Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Pettifer, Adrian English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell. Reilly, Bernard F. Rex, Peter Salazar y Acha, Jaime de — Searle, Eleanor Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, — Thomas, Hugh Critical Issues in History. Thompson, Kathleen Retrieved 3 April Turner, Ralph V. French Historical Studies. Duke University Press.

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