William I, the Conqueror, was the Duke of Normandy 1035-1087 and the first Norman king of England 1066-1087.
Wilhelm was the only son of the Duke of Normandy, Robert I, and this mistress Herleva. Thus, he was born as an unmarried child in Falaise, France, and is also referred to in English chronicles as William the Bastard (French: Guillaume le Bâtard). Vilhelm was a descendant of the Viking chief Rollo. In addition, Wilhelm was related to the former Wessex-related rulers of England and all subsequent rulers of England and the United Kingdom are his descendants.
Duke of Normandy
Robert died on a pilgrimage on his return from Jerusalem in 1035 and Wilhelm became Duke of Normandy at the age of seven. He was known as Wilhelm II, Duke of Normandy (French: Guillaume II, Duc de Normandie). Wilhelm experienced many dangers: his adviser was murdered and his life threatened several times, but he survived and proved to be a powerful and ruthless ruler.
Vilhelm married in 1053 Alfred the Great's descendant, his cousin Matilda of Flanders. The idea of the English crown may have been based on this, as well as the fact that Wilhelm had previously taken Harald the Son of Godwin hostage in France after his shipwreck on his sailing voyage, and Harald had sworn an oath to release Wilhelm as the ruler of England. Vilhelm’s rise to power is illustrated in the famous Bayeux wall hanging, but because it is commissioned by the Normans, the description cannot be considered completely reliable and the content of the oath is not known. The release of Harald would suggest that he had ceded his right to the English crown.
The Conquest of England
In January 1066, after the death of Vilhelm's childless cousin, Edvard Confessor, Wilhelm demanded the English crown for himself. This was based on the fact that Edvard might have promised the crown to him when he visited Wilhelm in 1052, as well as the oath sworn by Harald. However, Harald Godwin's son was crowned king.
Wilhelm began assembling an army to attack England. He received the support of Pope Alexander II and Henry IV for his work. The strength of the Norman forces was about 600 ships and 7,000 men. Wilhelm landed in Pevensey, Sussex, on September 28, 1066, and settled in a wooden castle near Hastings. This was a direct provocation against Harald, whose personal property was the land of Sussex.
Harald was just fighting in the north and defeated another enemy, King Harald Ankara of Norway, in the battle of the Stamford Bridge, backed by Harald's brother Tostig Godwin's son. Harald marched 250 miles in nine days with an army of about the same strength as Wilhelm had, and went into battle with him, later known as the Battle of Hastings. This happened on October 14, 1066. According to legend, Harald was killed when an arrow pierced his eyes. It is said that Vilhelm killed Harald himself.
Now that the main enemy was dead, Wilhelm marched slowly to London. On Christmas Day 1066, he was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. Prior to this, Witenagem had proclaimed Edgar Atheling king, but it was more of a symbolic demonstration of resistance against the invading Norman invaders. Edgar surrendered to Wilhelm in late November or early December, and Wilhelm became King of England.
King of England
The south of England quickly surrendered to Wilhelm, but in the north the resistance continued for the next six years. In the winter of 1069-1070, Wilhelm carried out a series of operations known as the "Harrying of the North", j