William I the Conqueror


October 25, 2021

William the Conqueror (ca. 1028 - September 9, 1087) was like William II. Norman Duke of Normandy in 1035–1087 and King William of William I in 1066–1087. From the Anglo-Saxon chronicles before the Norman occupation, he is known as William the Bastard.


He was an illegitimate descendant of Duke Robert I of Normandy and his unborn mistress Herleva (Arlette) of Falaise, who was the daughter of a tanner. William himself later in adulthood wrote his deeds as Wilhelmus cognomine bastardus. Despite his illegitimate origin, he became another in a series of Norman dukes who ruled Normandy since the time of Rollo Normansky. After the untimely death of his father, who died on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1035, William gained a government in Normandy as a seven-year-old child. At this time, three powerful men became his guardians and protectors - Archbishop Robert of Rouen, Duke Alan of Brittany and Hofmaster Osbern. Even so, Vilém's life was often in danger, and his childhood and adolescence took place in an atmosphere of constant intrigue and fear. Two of his protectors - Duke Alan and Hofmaster Osbern - were even murdered. In 1046, there was an open revolt against William, when several dissatisfied Norman feudal lords around William's cousin Guy Burgundy and supported Guy in his demands for a ducal title. William turned to his lord, King Henry I of France, for help. Together, they defeated Guy Burgundy's troops.

Duke of Normandy

At the age of seventeen, William officially became duke. In the early years of his adulthood, he became famous as a capable soldier in tournaments and rebels, which he eventually led against his recent ally, King Henry of France, with whom he bordered in Brittany. In 1049, Vilém married Matilda, the daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders. There is a certain incident in this marriage that William first had to beat Matilda because she refused to marry a bastard, but then she agreed because he had convinced her by his actions that he was firm and persistent in his goals. Matilda was then supposed to be unusually faithful to Vilém for his time. The couple had nine children together.

Fight for the English throne

In the spring of 1051, William received an important message from King Edward the Confessor of England. The childless Eduard appointed his Norman relative Vilém as his successor on the English throne. King Edward did so despite the great displeasure of the Godwinson, who also claimed the throne. After Edward's death in January 1066, William claimed the English crown. However, King Harald III of Norway also made a claim with him. Hardrada. In the end, Edward's brother-in-law, Harold II, ascended the throne. Godwinson. In September 1066, William, still the Duke of Normandy, tried with only a few thousand men to cross the English Channel to become the ruler of England. He ascended the English throne on December 25, 1066, after defeating the army of the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Harold II, who had fallen in the battle of Hastings on October 14. The conquest of England by the Normans had a major influence in its history. Thus, the originally Anglo-Saxon culture was replaced by the Norman one. Another aspect was the introduction of the French way of feudalism and Norman French as the language of the aristocracy. And last but not least, the history of medieval England was closely linked to what was happening in France, which lasted until the end of the Hundred Years' War in the middle of the 15th century.

King of England

After the conquest of England, William had to face many rebellions against Norman rule. They were led by Anglo-Saxon nobles, whose possessions were always assigned to William's Norman counterparts and loyal nobles after their defeat. William first took property from all who

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