William the Conqueror


October 17, 2021

William I (Falaise, c. 1028 — Rouen, September 9, 1087), also known as William the Conqueror (William the Conqueror), was the first Norman king of England from December 25, 1066 to his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 1035 until his death, under the name William II. Before his conquest of England, he was known as William the Bastard because he was an illegitimate child. To enforce his claims to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066. He led an army of Normans, Bretons, Flemings and French (from Paris and Île-de-France) to victory over the troops of English King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. The subsequent English revolts were suppressed by him in what has come to be known as the Norman Conquest of England.


Willem was the illegitimate son of Robert the Devil and Herleva, daughter of a tanner named Fulbert. He was born in Falaise, Normandy, about 30 km south of Caen. His father was suspected of having come to power after poisoning his older brother. Presumably for this reason, Robert went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1034. Before his departure, he had the Norman nobles swear their allegiance to William. Although William was illegitimate, this was not surprising because Normandy still had the old customary law of the Vikings (the "mos Danicus") that allowed a man to have multiple wives, and their children to be legal heirs. Willem's political opponents would continue to use this fact against him for the rest of his life. Robert died during his pilgrimage in 1035, and William succeeded him as Duke of Normandy. William was not yet ten years old at the time, and real power lay with his courtiers, especially his guardians. The Norman nobility fought fiercely for these positions and several guardians were killed or killed. Several attacks were also committed on Willem himself. In 1044/1045 Normandy supported King Henry I of France against Godfrey II of Anjou. Willem will have come of age around this time (16 years old). In 1046 he was still confronted with a dangerous revolt from a part of the Norman nobility who wanted to proclaim his nephew Guy (son of his aunt Adelaide of Normandy (1005-1038)) duke. Willem fled to Hendrik's court. In 1047 he returned with Henry and defeated his opponents in the two-day Battle of Val-es-Dunes, on the River Orne near Caen. Many of his fleeing opponents were killed; the wheel of a watermill in the Orne is said to have been clogged by corpses. It took Willem three more years to subdue Guy and his supporters. He used the Peace of God movement as an important tool. He conquered the rebellious Alençon and had the hands of the citizens chopped off as punishment for hanging animal skins on the walls during the siege, as a reference to the humble origins of his mother who was the daughter of a tanner. After he also made several campaigns against Maine, his position as duke was secured. William chose Caen as his capital and began his reign as duke.

Duke, claim to the English throne and marriage

As a young duke, William worked steadily to strengthen his power and independence. In 1051 or 1052 he visited in London his great-nephew Edward the Confessor, King of England, who as a young man had lived for a time at the Norman court for his own safety. Edward was then in conflict with his most powerful earl, Godwin of Wessex. William later claimed that Edward, who was childless, had promised him the English throne on this occasion. In 1053 William confirmed good ties with Flanders by marrying discreetly in the castle of Eu te Eu (Seine-Maritime) with his grandniece Mathilde van Vlaanderen, relative in the fifth g

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