William the Conqueror


October 28, 2021

William the Conqueror (in former Norman Williame li Conquereor, in English William the Conqueror), also called William the Bastard or William of Normandy, was born in Falaise in 1027 or 1028 and died in Rouen on September 9, 1087. He was Duke of Normandy , under the name of William II, from 1035 to 1066, and King of England, under the name of William I, from 1066 to his death. Son of Robert the Magnificent and his frilla, Arlette de Falaise (Herleva), Guillaume became Duke of Normandy upon the death of his father, around the age of eight. After a period of strong instability, he managed to regain the domination of the duchy from the battle of Val-ès-Dunes, in 1047. He married Mathilde de Flandre around 1050, and made Normandy a powerful duchy, feared kings of France Henri Ier (1031-1060) then Philippe Ier (1060-1108). Following the death of King Edward the Confessor, he took advantage of a succession crisis to seize, after his victory at the Battle of Hastings (1066), the crown of England. This conquest made him one of the most powerful monarchs in Western Europe and led to very profound changes in English society, where the Anglo-Saxon elite disappeared in favor of the Normans. From then on, he spent the rest of his reign defending himself against his many enemies, whether in England (the Anglo-Saxon rebels gathered behind Edgar Atheling, the Danes and the Scots) or on the continent (the Earl of Anjou Foulques le Réchin, the Count of Flanders Robert I, and especially the King of France Philippe I). He died in Rouen in 1087, after the sacking of Mantes, during a campaign of reprisals in the French Vexin against King Philippe Ier. He is buried in the Abbey of Men of Caen.


Historical context

Robert the Magnificent became Duke of Normandy on August 6, 1027, on the death of his older brother, Richard III, who was only 20 years old. The latter had just succeeded their father, Richard II, who had died a year earlier. This episode had been the occasion of a rebellion of Robert, quickly repressed by the ducal army. The brutal and mysterious death of Richard III benefits Robert, later accused by writers like Wace of having had his brother poisoned. Richard leaves a young bastard son, Nicolas, removed from the court. Duke Robert quickly had to face rebellions against ducal power: William I of Bellême was then besieged in Alençon, then Bishop Hugues de Bayeux was driven from his castle in Ivry-la-Bataille. Count of Évreux and Archbishop of Rouen, Robert the Danish opposes Duke Robert (moreover his nephew) who, at the beginning of his principate, takes land from abbeys and large churches, to distribute them to young nobles, like Roger I of Montgommery, to reward them at a lower cost. Duke Robert left in 1028 to lead the siege of Évreux. After defending the city, Archbishop Robert the Danish negotiates with the King of France, Robert the Pious, his exile in France, from where he launches anathema on Normandy. The ecclesiastical sanction made its effect felt: the duke recalled the archbishop and restored him to his count and archiepiscopal offices. Finally, the Duke Alain III of Brittany (son of Geoffrey I of Brittany and Havoise of Normandy - aunt of the Duke of Normandy), now an adult, refuses allegiance to Robert the Magnificent (his cousin). Around 1030, Robert sent his fleet to ravage the surroundings of Dol. Alfred the Giant and Néel II de Saint-Sauveur soon crush the Bretons. Through Archbishop Robert the Danish, the Duke of Brittany reconciles with Robert the Magnificent and recognizes himself as his vassal. Robert the Danish subsequently became a strong man of the duchy, around which a certain number of nobles joined, such as Osbern de Crépon, seneschal of the duke, and Gilbert de Brionne.

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