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William I; ang, WillelmI (Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33– 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman
king of England The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional form of government by which a hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies (the Baili ...
, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of
Rollo Rollo ( nrf, Rou, ''Rolloun''; non, Hrólfr; french: Rollon; died between 928 and 933) was a Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy, today a region in northern France. He emerged as the outstanding warrior among the Norsemen who had se ...
, he was
Duke of Normandy In the Middle Ages, the duke of Normandy was the ruler of the Duchy of Normandy in north-western France. The duchy arose out of a grant of land to the Viking leader Rollo by the French king Charles III in 911. In 924 and again in 933, Norman ...
from 1035 onward. By 1060, following a long struggle to establish his throne, his hold on
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie, Nouormandie ; from Old French , plural of ''Normant'', originally from the word for "northman" in several Scandinavian languages) is a geographical and cultural region in Northwestern ...
was secure. In 1066, following the death of
Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; ( 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last Anglo-Saxon English kings. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066. Edward was the son of Æ ...
, William invaded England, leading an army of
Normans The Normans ( Norman: ''Normaunds''; french: Normands; la, Nortmanni/Normanni) were a population arising in the medieval Duchy of Normandy from the intermingling between Norse Viking settlers and indigenous West Franks and Gallo-Romans. ...
to victory over the
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo-Saxons happened ...
forces of
Harold Godwinson Harold Godwinson ( – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon English king. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the ...
at the
Battle of Hastings The Battle of Hastings nrf, Batâle dé Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman Conques ...
, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the
Norman Conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French troops, all led by the Duke of Normandy, later styled William the Co ...
. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands, and by difficulties with his eldest son, Robert Curthose. William was the son of the unmarried Duke Robert I of Normandy and his mistress
Herleva Herleva ( 1003 – c. 1050) was an 11th-century Norman woman known for having been mother of William the Conqueror, born to an extramarital relationship with Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and also of William's prominent half-brothers Odo of Bayeu ...
. His illegitimate status and his youth caused some difficulties for him after he succeeded his father, as did the anarchy which plagued the first years of his rule. During his childhood and adolescence, members of the Norman aristocracy battled each other, both for control of the child duke, and for their own ends. In 1047, William was able to quash a rebellion and begin to establish his authority over the duchy, a process that was not complete until about 1060. His marriage in the 1050s to
Matilda of Flanders Matilda of Flanders (french: link=no, Mathilde; nl, Machteld) ( 1031 – 2 November 1083) was Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy by marriage to William the Conqueror, and regent of Normandy during his absences from the duchy. She was ...
provided him with a powerful ally in the neighbouring
county of Flanders The County of Flanders was a historic territory in the Low Countries. From 862 onwards, the counts of Flanders were among the original twelve peers of the Kingdom of France. For centuries, their estates around the cities of Ghent, Bruges an ...
. By the time of his marriage, William was able to arrange the appointment of his supporters as bishops and abbots in the Norman church. His consolidation of power allowed him to expand his horizons, and he secured control of the neighbouring county of
Maine Maine () is a state in the New England and Northeastern regions of the United States. It borders New Hampshire to the west, the Gulf of Maine to the southeast, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the northeast and ...
by 1062. In the 1050s and early 1060s, William became a contender for the throne of England held by the childless Edward the Confessor, his first cousin once removed. There were other potential claimants, including the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, whom Edward named as king on his deathbed in January 1066. Arguing that Edward had previously promised the throne to him and that Harold had sworn to support his claim, William built a large fleet and invaded England in September 1066. He decisively defeated and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. After further military efforts, William was crowned king on Christmas Day, 1066, in London. He made arrangements for the governance of England in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but William's hold was mostly secure on England by 1075, allowing him to spend the greater part of his reign in
continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent of Europe, excluding its surrounding islands. It can also be referred to ambiguously as the European continent, – which can conversely mean the whole of Europe – and, by ...
. William's final years were marked by difficulties in his continental domains, troubles with his son, Robert, and threatened invasions of England by the
Danes Danes ( da, danskere, ) are a North Germanic ethnic group and nationality native to Denmark and a modern nation identified with the country of Denmark. This connection may be ancestral, legal, historical, or cultural. Danes generally regard ...
. In 1086, he ordered the compilation of the ''
Domesday Book Domesday Book () – the Middle English spelling of "Doomsday Book" – is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William I, known as William the Conqueror. The manusc ...
'', a survey listing all the land-holdings in England along with their pre-Conquest and current holders. He died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in
Caen Caen (, ; nrf, Kaem) is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the department of Calvados. The city proper has 105,512 inhabitants (), while its functional urban area has 470,000,William Rufus.


Background

Norsemen The Norsemen (or Norse people) were a North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, during which they spoke the Old Norse language. The language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages and is the ...
first began raiding in what became
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie, Nouormandie ; from Old French , plural of ''Normant'', originally from the word for "northman" in several Scandinavian languages) is a geographical and cultural region in Northwestern ...
in the late 8th century. Permanent Scandinavian settlement occurred before 911, when
Rollo Rollo ( nrf, Rou, ''Rolloun''; non, Hrólfr; french: Rollon; died between 928 and 933) was a Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy, today a region in northern France. He emerged as the outstanding warrior among the Norsemen who had se ...
, one of the Viking leaders, and King
Charles the Simple Charles III (17 September 879 – 7 October 929), called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the Latin ''Carolus Simplex''), was the king of West Francia from 898 until 922 and the king of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–923. He was a mem ...
of France reached an agreement ceding the county of Rouen to Rollo. The lands around Rouen became the core of the later duchy of Normandy.Collins ''Early Medieval Europe'' pp. 376–377 Normandy may have been used as a base when Scandinavian attacks on England were renewed at the end of the 10th century, which would have worsened relations between England and Normandy.Williams ''Æthelred the Unready'' pp. 42–43 In an effort to improve matters, King
Æthelred the Unready Æthelred II ( ang, Æþelræd, ;Different spellings of this king’s name most commonly found in modern texts are "Ethelred" and "Æthelred" (or "Aethelred"), the latter being closer to the original Old English form . Compare the modern diale ...
took Emma, sister of
Richard II, Duke of Normandy Richard II (died 28 August 1026), called the Good (French: ''Le Bon''), was the duke of Normandy from 996 until 1026. Life Richard was the eldest surviving son and heir of Richard the Fearless and Gunnor. He succeeded his father as the ruler o ...
, as his second wife in 1002.Williams ''Æthelred the Unready'' pp. 54–55 Danish raids on England continued, and Æthelred sought help from Richard, taking refuge in Normandy in 1013 when King Swein I of Denmark drove Æthelred and his family from England. Swein's death in 1014 allowed Æthelred to return home, but Swein's son
Cnut Cnut (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Cnut the Great and Canute, was King of England from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018, and King of Norway ...
contested Æthelred's return. Æthelred died unexpectedly in 1016, and Cnut became king of England. Æthelred and Emma's two sons,
Edward Edward is an English given name. It is derived from the Anglo-Saxon name ''Ēadweard'', composed of the elements '' ēad'' "wealth, fortune; prosperous" and '' weard'' "guardian, protector”. History The name Edward was very popular in Anglo-S ...
and
Alfred Alfred may refer to: Arts and entertainment *'' Alfred J. Kwak'', Dutch-German-Japanese anime television series * ''Alfred'' (Arne opera), a 1740 masque by Thomas Arne * ''Alfred'' (Dvořák), an 1870 opera by Antonín Dvořák *"Alfred (Interl ...
, went into exile in Normandy while their mother, Emma, became Cnut's second wife.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 80–83 After Cnut's death in 1035, the English throne fell to
Harold Harefoot Harold I (died 17 March 1040), also known as Harold Harefoot, was King of the English from 1035 to 1040. Harold's nickname "Harefoot" is first recorded as "Harefoh" or "Harefah" in the twelfth century in the history of Ely Abbey, and accordi ...
, his son by his first wife, while
Harthacnut Harthacnut ( da, Hardeknud; "Tough-knot";  – 8 June 1042), traditionally Hardicanute, sometimes referred to as Canute III, was King of Denmark from 1035 to 1042 and King of the English from 1040 to 1042. Harthacnut was the son of King ...
, his son by Emma, became king in Denmark. England remained unstable. Alfred returned to England in 1036 to visit his mother and perhaps to challenge Harold as king. One story implicates Earl Godwin of Wessex in Alfred's subsequent death, but others blame Harold. Emma went into exile in
Flanders Flanders (, ; Dutch: ''Vlaanderen'' ) is the Flemish-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to cultu ...
until Harthacnut became king following Harold's death in 1040, and his half-brother Edward followed Harthacnut to England; Edward was proclaimed king after Harthacnut's death in June 1042.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 83–85


Early life

William was born in 1027 or 1028 at Falaise, Duchy of Normandy, most likely towards the end of 1028.William the Conqueror
''History of the Monarchy''
He was the only son of
Robert I Robert I may refer to: * Robert I, Duke of Neustria (697–748) * Robert I of France (866–923), King of France, 922–923, rebelled against Charles the Simple * Rollo, Duke of Normandy (c. 846 – c. 930; reigned 911–927) * Robert I Archbishop ...
, son of Richard II. His mother
Herleva Herleva ( 1003 – c. 1050) was an 11th-century Norman woman known for having been mother of William the Conqueror, born to an extramarital relationship with Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and also of William's prominent half-brothers Odo of Bayeu ...
was a daughter of Fulbert of Falaise; he may have been a tanner or embalmer. Herleva was possibly a member of the ducal household, but did not marry Robert. She later married Herluin de Conteville, with whom she had two sons –
Odo of Bayeux Odo of Bayeux (died 1097), Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux, was the maternal half-brother of William the Conqueror, and was, for a time, second in power after the King of England. Early life Odo was the son of William the Conqueror's mothe ...
and Count
Robert of Mortain Robert, Count of Mortain, 2nd Earl of Cornwall (–) was a Norman nobleman and the half-brother (on their mother's side) of King William the Conqueror. He was one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hast ...
 – and a daughter whose name is unknown. One of Herleva's brothers, Walter, became a supporter and protector of William during his minority. Robert I also had a daughter,
Adelaide Adelaide ( ) is the capital city of South Australia, the state's largest city and the fifth-most populous city in Australia. "Adelaide" may refer to either Greater Adelaide (including the Adelaide Hills) or the Adelaide city centre. The ...
, by another mistress.van Houts "Les femmes" ''Tabularia "Études"'' pp. 19–34 Robert I succeeded his elder brother
Richard III Richard III (2 October 145222 August 1485) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 26 June 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat and death at the Bat ...
as duke on 6 August 1027. The brothers had been at odds over the succession, and Richard's death was sudden. Robert was accused by some writers of killing Richard, a plausible but now unprovable charge.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 31–32 Conditions in Normandy were unsettled, as noble families despoiled the Church and Alan III of Brittany waged war against the duchy, possibly in an attempt to take control. By 1031 Robert had gathered considerable support from noblemen, many of whom would become prominent during William's life. They included the duke's uncle
Robert The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (''Hrōþiberhtaz''). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of '' Hruod'' ( non, Hróðr) "fame, glory, honou ...
, the
archbishop of Rouen The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rouen (Latin: ''Archidioecesis Rothomagensis''; French: ''Archidiocèse de Rouen'') is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in France. As one of the fifteen Archbishops of France, the ...
, who had originally opposed the duke; Osbern, a nephew of
Gunnor Gunnor or Gunnora ( – ) was Duchess of Normandy by marriage to Richard I of Normandy, having previously been his long-time mistress. She functioned as regent of Normandy during the absence of her spouse, as well as the adviser to him and later t ...
the wife of
Richard I Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, and Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was ov ...
; and Gilbert of Brionne, a grandson of Richard I.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 32–34, 145 After his accession, Robert continued Norman support for the English princes Edward and Alfred, who were still in exile in northern France. There are indications that Robert may have been briefly betrothed to a daughter of King Cnut, but no marriage took place. It is unclear whether William would have been supplanted in the ducal succession if Robert had had a legitimate son. Earlier dukes had been
illegitimate Legitimacy, in traditional Western common law, is the status of a child born to parents who are legally married to each other, and of a child conceived before the parents obtain a legal divorce. Conversely, ''illegitimacy'', also known as '' ...
, and William's association with his father on ducal charters appears to indicate that William was considered Robert's most likely heir. In 1034 the duke decided to go on
pilgrimage A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, aft ...
to
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس ) (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusałēm. i ...
. Although some of his supporters tried to dissuade him from undertaking the journey, he convened a council in January 1035 and had the assembled Norman magnates swear
fealty An oath of fealty, from the Latin ''fidelitas'' ( faithfulness), is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Definition In medieval Europe, the swearing of fealty took the form of an oath made by a vassal, or subordinate, to his lord. "Fe ...
to William as his heir before leaving for Jerusalem. He died in early July at Nicea, on his way back to Normandy.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 35–37


Duke of Normandy


Challenges

William faced several challenges on becoming duke, including his illegitimate birth and his youth: the evidence indicates that he was either seven or eight years old at the time.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 36Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 37 He enjoyed the support of his great-uncle, Archbishop Robert, as well as King
Henry I of France Henry I (4 May 1008 – 4 August 1060) was King of the Franks from 1031 to 1060. The royal demesne of France reached its smallest size during his reign, and for this reason he is often seen as emblematic of the weakness of the early Capetians. T ...
, enabling him to succeed to his father's duchy. The support given to the exiled English princes in their attempt to return to England in 1036 shows that the new duke's guardians were attempting to continue his father's policies, but Archbishop Robert's death in March 1037 removed one of William's main supporters, and conditions in Normandy quickly descended into chaos.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 38–39 The anarchy in the duchy lasted until 1047,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 51 and control of the young duke was one of the priorities of those contending for power. At first, Alan of Brittany had custody of the duke, but when Alan died in either late 1039 or October 1040, Gilbert of Brionne took charge of William. Gilbert was killed within months, and another guardian, Turchetil, was also killed around the time of Gilbert's death.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 40 Yet another guardian, Osbern, was slain in the early 1040s in William's chamber while the duke slept. It was said that Walter, William's maternal uncle, was occasionally forced to hide the young duke in the houses of peasants,Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 37 although this story may be an embellishment by
Orderic Vitalis Orderic Vitalis ( la, Ordericus Vitalis; 16 February 1075 – ) was an English chronicler and Benedictine monk who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th- and 12th-century Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. Modern histor ...
. The historian Eleanor Searle speculates that William was raised with the three cousins who later became important in his career – William fitzOsbern,
Roger de Beaumont Roger de Beaumont (c. 1015 – 29 November 1094), feudal lord (French: ''seigneur'') of Beaumont-le-Roger and of Pont-Audemer in Normandy, was a powerful Norman nobleman and close advisor to William the Conqueror. − Origins Roger w ...
, and Roger of Montgomery.Searle ''Predatory Kinship'' pp. 196–198 Although many of the Norman nobles engaged in their own private wars and feuds during William's minority, the viscounts still acknowledged the ducal government, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy was supportive of William.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 42–43 King Henry continued to support the young duke,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 45–46 but in late 1046 opponents of William came together in a rebellion centred in lower Normandy, led by Guy of Burgundy with support from Nigel, Viscount of the Cotentin, and Ranulf, Viscount of the Bessin. According to stories that may have legendary elements, an attempt was made to seize William at Valognes, but he escaped under cover of darkness, seeking refuge with King Henry.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 47–49 In early 1047 Henry and William returned to Normandy and were victorious at the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes near
Caen Caen (, ; nrf, Kaem) is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the department of Calvados. The city proper has 105,512 inhabitants (), while its functional urban area has 470,000,Truce of God throughout his duchy, in an effort to limit warfare and violence by restricting the days of the year on which fighting was permitted.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 40 Although the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes marked a turning point in William's control of the duchy, it was not the end of his struggle to gain the upper hand over the nobility. The period from 1047 to 1054 saw almost continuous warfare, with lesser crises continuing until 1060.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 53


Consolidation of power

William's next efforts were against Guy of Burgundy, who retreated to his castle at
Brionne Brionne () is a commune in the Eure department. Brionne is in the region of Normandy of northern France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overse ...
, which William besieged. After a long effort, the duke succeeded in exiling Guy in 1050.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 54–55 To address the growing power of the Count of
Anjou Anjou may refer to: Geography and titles France *County of Anjou, a historical county in France and predecessor of the Duchy of Anjou **Count of Anjou, title of nobility *Duchy of Anjou, a historical duchy and later a province of France **Duke ...
, Geoffrey Martel, William joined with King Henry in a campaign against him, the last known cooperation between the two. They succeeded in capturing an Angevin fortress but accomplished little else.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 43–44 Geoffrey attempted to expand his authority into the county of
Maine Maine () is a state in the New England and Northeastern regions of the United States. It borders New Hampshire to the west, the Gulf of Maine to the southeast, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the northeast and ...
, especially after the death of Hugh IV of Maine in 1051. Central to the control of Maine were the holdings of the Bellême family, who held Bellême on the border of Maine and Normandy, as well as the fortresses at
Alençon Alençon (, , ; nrf, Alençoun) is a commune in Normandy, France, capital of the Orne department. It is situated west of Paris. Alençon belongs to the intercommunality of Alençon (with 52,000 people). History The name of Alençon is fi ...
and Domfront. Bellême's overlord was the king of France, but Domfront was under the overlordship of Geoffrey Martel and Duke William was Alençon's overlord. The Bellême family, whose lands were quite strategically placed between their three different overlords, were able to play each of them against the other and secure virtual independence for themselves.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 56–58 On the death of Hugh of Maine, Geoffrey Martel occupied Maine in a move contested by William and King Henry; eventually, they succeeded in driving Geoffrey from the county, and in the process, William had been able to secure the Bellême family strongholds at Alençon and Domfront for himself. He was thus able to assert his overlordship over the Bellême family and compel them to act consistently with Norman interests.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 59–60 However, in 1052 the king and Geoffrey Martel made common cause against William at the same time as some Norman nobles began to contest William's increasing power. Henry's about-face was probably motivated by a desire to retain dominance over Normandy, which was now threatened by William's growing mastery of his duchy.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 63–64 William was engaged in military actions against his own nobles throughout 1053,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 66–67 as well as with the new Archbishop of Rouen, Mauger.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 64 In February 1054 the king and the Norman rebels launched a double invasion of the duchy. Henry led the main thrust through the county of Évreux, while the other wing, under the king's brother Odo, invaded eastern Normandy.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 67 William met the invasion by dividing his forces into two groups. The first, which he led, faced Henry. The second, which included some who became William's firm supporters, such as Robert, Count of Eu, Walter Giffard, Roger of Mortemer, and William de Warenne, faced the other invading force. This second force defeated the invaders at the
Battle of Mortemer The Battle of Mortemer was a defeat for Henry I of France when he led an army against his vassal, William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy in 1054. William was eventually to become known as William the Conqueror after his successful invasion and ...
. In addition to ending both invasions, the battle allowed the duke's ecclesiastical supporters to depose Archbishop Mauger. Mortemer thus marked another turning point in William's growing control of the duchy,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 68–69 although his conflict with the French king and the Count of Anjou continued until 1060.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 75–76 Henry and Geoffrey led another invasion of Normandy in 1057 but were defeated by William at the Battle of Varaville. This was the last invasion of Normandy during William's lifetime. In 1058, William invaded the County of Dreux and took Tillières-sur-Avre and Thimert. Henry attempted to dislodge William, but the siege of Thimert dragged on for two years until Henry's death. The deaths of Count Geoffrey and the king in 1060 cemented the shift in the balance of power towards William.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 50 One factor in William's favour was his marriage to
Matilda of Flanders Matilda of Flanders (french: link=no, Mathilde; nl, Machteld) ( 1031 – 2 November 1083) was Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy by marriage to William the Conqueror, and regent of Normandy during his absences from the duchy. She was ...
, the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders. The union was arranged in 1049, but
Pope Leo IX Pope Leo IX (21 June 1002 – 19 April 1054), born Bruno von Egisheim-Dagsburg, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 12 February 1049 to his death in 1054. Leo IX is considered to be one of the most historically ...
forbade the marriage at the Council of Rheims in October 1049. The marriage nevertheless went ahead sometime in the early 1050s,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 76 possibly unsanctioned by the pope. According to a late source not generally considered to be reliable, papal sanction was not secured until 1059, but as papal-Norman relations in the 1050s were generally good, and Norman clergy were able to visit Rome in 1050 without incident, it was probably secured earlier.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 44–45 Papal sanction of the marriage appears to have required the founding of two monasteries in Caen – one by William and one by Matilda.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 80 The marriage was important in bolstering William's status, as Flanders was one of the more powerful French territories, with ties to the French royal house and to the German emperors. Contemporary writers considered the marriage, which produced four sons and five or six daughters, to be a success.


Appearance and character

No authentic portrait of William has been found; the contemporary depictions of him on the Bayeux Tapestry and on his seals and coins are conventional representations designed to assert his authority.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 115–116 There are some written descriptions of a burly and robust appearance, with a guttural voice. He enjoyed excellent health until old age, although he became quite fat in later life.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 368–369 He was strong enough to draw bows that others were unable to pull and had great stamina. Geoffrey Martel described him as without equal as a fighter and as a horseman.Searle ''Predatory Kinship'' p. 203 Examination of William's
femur The femur (; ), or thigh bone, is the proximal bone of the hindlimb in tetrapod vertebrates. The head of the femur articulates with the acetabulum in the pelvic bone forming the hip joint, while the distal part of the femur articulates w ...
, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately in height. There are records of two tutors for William during the late 1030s and early 1040s, but the extent of his literary education is unclear. He was not known as a patron of authors, and there is little evidence that he sponsored scholarships or other intellectual activities. Orderic Vitalis records that William tried to learn to read
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5th ...
late in life, but he was unable to devote sufficient time to the effort and quickly gave up.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 323 William's main hobby appears to have been hunting. His marriage to Matilda appears to have been quite affectionate, and there are no signs that he was unfaithful to her – unusual in a medieval monarch. Medieval writers criticised William for his greed and cruelty, but his personal piety was universally praised by contemporaries.


Norman administration

Norman government under William was similar to the government that had existed under earlier dukes. It was a fairly simple administrative system, built around the ducal household,Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 133 which consisted of a group of officers including stewards,
butler A butler is a person who works in a house serving and is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some ...
s, and
marshal Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society. As marshals became trusted members of the courts of Medieval Europe, the title grew in reputation. During the last few centuries, it has been used for elevated ...
s.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 23–24 The duke travelled constantly around the duchy, confirming
charter A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the granter retains superiority (or sovereignty), and that the ...
s and collecting revenues.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 63–65 Most of the income came from the ducal lands, as well as from tolls and a few taxes. This income was collected by the chamber, one of the household departments. William cultivated close relations with the church in his duchy. He took part in church councils and made several appointments to the Norman episcopate, including the appointment of
Maurilius Maurilius (–1067) was a Norman Archbishop of Rouen from 1055 to 1067. Maurilius was originally from Reims, and was born about 1000. He trained as a priest at Liege and became a member of the cathedral chapter of Halberstadt.Douglas ''Willi ...
as Archbishop of Rouen. Another important appointment was that of William's half-brother, Odo, as
Bishop of Bayeux The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux (Latin: ''Dioecesis Baiocensis et Lexoviensis''; French: ''Diocèse de Bayeux et Lisieux'') is a diocese of the Catholic Church in France. It is coextensive with the Department of Calvados and is ...
in either 1049 or 1050. He also relied on the clergy for advice, including
Lanfranc Lanfranc, OSB (1005  1010 – 24 May 1089) was a celebrated Italian jurist who renounced his career to become a Benedictine monk at Bec in Normandy. He served successively as prior of Bec Abbey and abbot of St Stephen in Normandy and t ...
, a non-Norman who rose to become one of William's prominent ecclesiastical advisors in the late 1040s and remained so throughout the 1050s and 1060s. William gave generously to the church;Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 64–66 from 1035 to 1066, the Norman aristocracy founded at least twenty new monastic houses, including William's two monasteries in Caen, a remarkable expansion of religious life in the duchy.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 111–112


English and continental concerns

In 1051 the childless King Edward of England appears to have chosen William as his successor.Barlow "Edward" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' William was the grandson of Edward's maternal uncle, Richard II of Normandy. The ''
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection of annals in Old English, chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the ''Chronicle'' was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Al ...
'', in the "D" version, states that William visited England in the later part of 1051, perhaps to secure confirmation of the succession, or perhaps William was attempting to secure aid for his troubles in Normandy. The trip is unlikely given William's absorption in warfare with Anjou at the time. Whatever Edward's wishes, it was likely that any claim by William would be opposed by
Godwin, Earl of Wessex Godwin of Wessex ( ang, Godwine; – 15 April 1053) was an English nobleman who became one of the most powerful earls in England under the Danish king Cnut the Great (King of England from 1016 to 1035) and his successors. Cnut made Godwin the ...
, a member of the most powerful family in England.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 46–47 Edward had married
Edith Edith is a feminine given name derived from the Old English words ēad, meaning 'riches or blessed', and is in common usage in this form in English, German, many Scandinavian languages and Dutch. Its French form is Édith. Contractions and v ...
, Godwin's daughter, in 1043, and Godwin appears to have been one of the main supporters of Edward's claim to the throne.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 86–87 By 1050, however, relations between the king and the earl had soured, culminating in a crisis in 1051 that led to the exile of Godwin and his family from England. It was during this exile that Edward offered the throne to William.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 89–91 Godwin returned from exile in 1052 with armed forces, and a settlement was reached between the king and the earl, restoring the earl and his family to their lands and replacing Robert of Jumièges, a Norman whom Edward had named
Archbishop of Canterbury The archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and a principal leader of the Church of England, the ceremonial head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is J ...
, with
Stigand Stigand (died 1072) was an Anglo-Saxon churchman in pre-Norman Conquest England who became Archbishop of Canterbury. His birth date is unknown, but by 1020 he was serving as a royal chaplain and advisor. He was named Bishop of Elmham in 104 ...
, the
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester in the Church of England. The bishop's seat ('' cathedra'') is at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire. The Bishop of Winchester has always held ''ex officio'' (except ...
.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 95–96 No English source mentions a supposed embassy by Archbishop Robert to William conveying the promise of the succession, and the two Norman sources that mention it, William of Jumièges and William of Poitiers, are not precise in their chronology of when this visit took place.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 93–95 Count Herbert II of Maine died in 1062, and William, who had betrothed his eldest son
Robert The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (''Hrōþiberhtaz''). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of '' Hruod'' ( non, Hróðr) "fame, glory, honou ...
to Herbert's sister Margaret, claimed the county through his son. Local nobles resisted the claim, but William invaded and by 1064 had secured control of the area.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 174 William appointed a Norman to the bishopric of Le Mans in 1065. He also allowed his son Robert Curthose to do homage to the new Count of Anjou, Geoffrey the Bearded.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 53 William's western border was thus secured, but his border with
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula, historical country and cultural area in the west of modern France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period ...
remained insecure. In 1064 William invaded Brittany in a campaign that remains obscure in its details. Its effect, though, was to destabilise Brittany, forcing the duke, Conan II, to focus on internal problems rather than on expansion. Conan's death in 1066 further secured William's borders in Normandy. William also benefited from his campaign in Brittany by securing the support of some Breton nobles who went on to support the invasion of England in 1066.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 178–179 In England, Earl Godwin died in 1053 and his sons were increasing in power: Harold succeeded to his father's earldom, and another son, Tostig, became
Earl of Northumbria Earl of Northumbria or Ealdorman of Northumbria was a title in the late Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Scandinavian and early Anglo-Norman period in England. The ealdordom was a successor of the Norse Kingdom of York. In the seventh century, the Anglo-Sa ...
. Other sons were granted earldoms later: Gyrth as
Earl of East Anglia The Earls of East Anglia were governors of East Anglia during the 11th century. The post was established by Cnut in 1017 and disappeared following Ralph Guader's participation in the failed Revolt of the Earls in 1075. Ealdormen of East Anglia U ...
in 1057 and Leofwine as
Earl of Kent The peerage title Earl of Kent has been created eight times in the Peerage of England and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. In fiction, the Earl of Kent is also known as a prominent supporting character in William Shakespeare's tragedy K ...
sometime between 1055 and 1057.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 98–100 Some sources claim that Harold took part in William's Breton campaign of 1064 and swore to uphold William's claim to the English throne at the end of the campaign, but no English source reports this trip, and it is unclear if it actually occurred. It may have been Norman propaganda designed to discredit Harold, who had emerged as the main contender to succeed King Edward.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 102–103 Meanwhile, another contender for the throne had emerged – Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside and a grandson of Æthelred II, returned to England in 1057, and although he died shortly after his return, he brought with him his family, which included two daughters,
Margaret Margaret is a female first name, derived via French () and Latin () from grc, μαργαρίτης () meaning "pearl". The Greek is borrowed from Persian. Margaret has been an English name since the 11th century, and remained popular througho ...
and Christina, and a son, Edgar the Ætheling.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 97 In 1065 Northumbria revolted against Tostig, and the rebels chose
Morcar Morcar (or Morkere) ( ang, Mōrcǣr) (died after 1087) was the son of Ælfgār (earl of Mercia) and brother of Ēadwine. He was the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by William the Conqueror with Copsi. Dispute with ...
, the younger brother of
Edwin, Earl of Mercia Edwin (Old English: ''Ēadwine'') (died 1071) was the elder brother of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, son of Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia and grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on Ælfgār's ...
, as earl in place of Tostig. Harold, perhaps to secure the support of Edwin and Morcar in his bid for the throne, supported the rebels and persuaded King Edward to replace Tostig with Morcar. Tostig went into exile in Flanders, along with his wife Judith, who was the daughter of
Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders Baldwin IV (980 – 30 May 1035), called the Bearded, was the count of Flanders from 987 until his death. Baldwin IV was the son of Count Arnulf II of Flanders (c. 961 — 987) and Rozala of Italy (950/60 – 1003), of the House of Ivrea.Detlev ...
. Edward was ailing, and he died on 5 January 1066. It is unclear what exactly happened at Edward's deathbed. One story, deriving from the '' Vita Ædwardi'', a biography of Edward, claims that he was attended by his wife Edith, Harold, Archbishop Stigand, and Robert FitzWimarc, and that the king named Harold as his successor. The Norman sources do not dispute the fact that Harold was named as the next king, but they declare that Harold's oath and Edward's earlier promise of the throne could not be changed on Edward's deathbed. Later English sources stated that Harold had been elected as king by the clergy and magnates of England.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 107–109


Invasion of England


Harold's preparations

Harold was crowned on 6 January 1066 in Edward's new Norman-style
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the Unite ...
, although some controversy surrounds who performed the ceremony. English sources claim that
Ealdred Ealdred may refer to: * Ealdred of Hwicce, 8th-century king of Hwicce * Ealdred I of Bamburgh, 10th-century ruler of Bamburgh * Ealdred (archbishop of York), 11th-century English ecclesiastic * Ealdred II of Bamburgh, 11th-century ruler of Bambu ...
, the
Archbishop of York The archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the province of York, which covers t ...
, performed the ceremony, while Norman sources state that the coronation was performed by Stigand, who was considered a non-canonical archbishop by the papacy.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 115–116 Harold's claim to the throne was not entirely secure, as there were other claimants, perhaps including his exiled brother Tostig.Huscroft ''Ruling England'' pp. 12–13 King
Harald Hardrada Harald Sigurdsson (; – 25 September 1066), also known as Harald III of Norway and given the epithet ''Hardrada'' (; modern no, Hardråde, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the sagas, was King of Norway from 1046 t ...
of Norway also had a claim to the throne as the uncle and heir of King Magnus I, who had made a pact with Harthacnut in about 1040 that if either Magnus or Harthacnut died without heirs, the other would succeed. The last claimant was William of Normandy, against whose anticipated invasion King Harold Godwinson made most of his preparations. Harold's brother Tostig made probing attacks along the southern coast of England in May 1066, landing at the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight ( ) is a county in the English Channel, off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is separated by the Solent. It is the largest and second-most populous island of England. Referred to as 'The Island' by residents, the Isle o ...
using a fleet supplied by Baldwin of Flanders. Tostig appears to have received little local support, and further raids into
Lincolnshire Lincolnshire (abbreviated Lincs.) is a county in the East Midlands of England, with a long coastline on the North Sea to the east. It borders Norfolk to the south-east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south-west, Leicestershi ...
and near the River Humber met with no more success, so he retreated to Scotland, where he remained for a time. According to the Norman writer William of Jumièges, William had meanwhile sent an embassy to King Harold Godwinson to remind Harold of his oath to support William's claim, although whether this embassy actually occurred is unclear. Harold assembled an army and a fleet to repel William's anticipated invasion force, deploying troops and ships along the
English Channel The English Channel, "The Sleeve"; nrf, la Maunche, "The Sleeve" ( Cotentinais) or ( Jèrriais), ( Guernésiais), "The Channel"; br, Mor Breizh, "Sea of Brittany"; cy, Môr Udd, "Lord's Sea"; kw, Mor Bretannek, "British Sea"; nl, Het Ka ...
for most of the summer.


William's preparations

William of Poitiers describes a council called by Duke William, in which the writer gives an account of a great debate that took place between William's nobles and supporters over whether to risk an invasion of England. Although some sort of formal assembly probably was held, it is unlikely that any debate took place, as the duke had by then established control over his nobles, and most of those assembled would have been anxious to secure their share of the rewards from the conquest of England.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 79–81 William of Poitiers also relates that the duke obtained the consent of
Pope Alexander II Pope Alexander II (1010/1015 – 21 April 1073), born Anselm of Baggio, was the head of the Roman Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1061 to his death in 1073. Born in Milan, Anselm was deeply involved in the Pataria refor ...
for the invasion, along with a papal banner. The chronicler also claimed that the duke secured the support of
Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (german: Heinrich IV; 11 November 1050 – 7 August 1106) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1084 to 1105, King of Germany from 1054 to 1105, King of Italy and Burgundy from 1056 to 1105, and Duke of Bavaria from 1052 to 1054. He was the ...
, and King Sweyn II of Denmark. Henry was still a minor, however, and Sweyn was more likely to support Harold, who could then help Sweyn against the Norwegian king, so these claims should be treated with caution. Although Alexander did give papal approval to the conquest after it succeeded, no other source claims papal support prior to the invasion.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 120–123 Events after the invasion, which included the penance William performed and statements by later popes, do lend circumstantial support to the claim of papal approval. To deal with Norman affairs, William put the government of Normandy into the hands of his wife for the duration of the invasion. Throughout the summer, William assembled an army and an invasion fleet in Normandy. Although William of Jumièges's claim that the ducal fleet numbered 3,000 ships is clearly an exaggeration, it was probably large and mostly built from scratch. Although William of Poitiers and William of Jumièges disagree about where the fleet was built – Poitiers states it was constructed at the mouth of the River Dives, while Jumièges states it was built at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme – both agree that it eventually sailed from Valery-sur-Somme. The fleet carried an invasion force that included, in addition to troops from William's own territories of Normandy and Maine, large numbers of mercenaries, allies, and volunteers from
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula, historical country and cultural area in the west of modern France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period ...
, northeastern France, and Flanders, together with smaller numbers from other parts of Europe. Although the army and fleet were ready by early August, adverse winds kept the ships in Normandy until late September. There were probably other reasons for William's delay, including intelligence reports from England revealing that Harold's forces were deployed along the coast. William would have preferred to delay the invasion until he could make an unopposed landing. Harold kept his forces on alert throughout the summer, but with the arrival of the harvest season he disbanded his army on 8 September.Carpenter ''Struggle for Mastery'' p. 72


Tostig and Hardrada's invasion

Tostig Godwinson and Harald Hardrada invaded
Northumbria la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum , conventional_long_name = Kingdom of Northumbria , common_name = Northumbria , status = State , status_text = Unified Anglian kingdom (before 876)North: Anglian kingdom (af ...
in September 1066 and defeated the local forces under Morcar and Edwin at the
Battle of Fulford The Battle of Fulford was fought on the outskirts of the village of Fulford just south of York in England, on 20 September 1066, when King Harald III of Norway, also known as ''Harald Hardrada'' ("harðráði" in Old Norse, meaning "hard rul ...
near
York York is a cathedral city with Roman origins, sited at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. It is the historic county town of Yorkshire. The city has many historic buildings and other structures, such as ...
. King Harold received word of their invasion and marched north, defeating the invaders and killing Tostig and Hardrada on 25 September at the
Battle of Stamford Bridge The Battle of Stamford Bridge ( ang, Gefeoht æt Stanfordbrycge) took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire, in England, on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading N ...
.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 118–119 The Norman fleet finally set sail two days later, landing in England at Pevensey Bay on 28 September. William then moved to
Hastings Hastings () is a large seaside town and borough in East Sussex on the south coast of England, east to the county town of Lewes and south east of London. The town gives its name to the Battle of Hastings, which took place to the north-west a ...
, a few miles to the east, where he built a castle as a base of operations. From there, he ravaged the interior and waited for Harold's return from the north, refusing to venture far from the sea, his line of communication with Normandy.


Battle of Hastings

After defeating Harald Hardrada and Tostig, Harold left much of his army in the north, including Morcar and Edwin, and marched the rest south to deal with the threatened Norman invasion. He probably learned of William's landing while he was travelling south. Harold stopped in London, and was there for about a week before marching to Hastings, so it is likely that he spent about a week on his march south, averaging about per day,Marren ''1066'' p. 93 for the distance of approximately .Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 124 Although Harold attempted to surprise the Normans, William's scouts reported the English arrival to the duke. The exact events preceding the battle are obscure, with contradictory accounts in the sources, but all agree that William led his army from his castle and advanced towards the enemy.Lawson ''Battle of Hastings'' pp. 180–182 Harold had taken a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill (present-day
Battle, East Sussex Battle is a small town and civil parish in the local government district of Rother in East Sussex, England. It lies south-east of London, east of Brighton and east of Lewes. Hastings is to the south-east and Bexhill-on-Sea to the south. ...
), about from William's castle at Hastings.Marren ''1066'' pp. 99–100 The battle began at about 9 am on 14 October and lasted all day, but while a broad outline is known, the exact events are obscured by contradictory accounts in the sources.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 126 Although the numbers on each side were about equal, William had both cavalry and infantry, including many archers, while Harold had only foot soldiers and few, if any, archers.Carpenter ''Struggle for Mastery'' p. 73 The English soldiers formed up as a
shield wall A shield wall ( or in Old English, in Old Norse) is a military formation that was common in ancient and medieval warfare. There were many slight variations of this formation, but the common factor was soldiers standing shoulder to should ...
along the ridge and were at first so effective that William's army was thrown back with heavy casualties. Some of William's Breton troops panicked and fled, and some of the English troops appear to have pursued the fleeing Bretons until they themselves were attacked and destroyed by Norman cavalry. During the Bretons' flight, rumours swept through the Norman forces that the duke had been killed, but William succeeded in rallying his troops. Two further Norman retreats were feigned, to once again draw the English into pursuit and expose them to repeated attacks by the Norman cavalry.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 127–128 The available sources are more confused about events in the afternoon, but it appears that the decisive event was Harold's death, about which differing stories are told. William of Jumièges claimed that Harold was killed by the duke. The Bayeux Tapestry has been claimed to show Harold's death by an arrow to the eye, but that may be a later reworking of the tapestry to conform to 12th-century stories in which Harold was slain by an arrow wound to the head.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 129 Harold's body was identified the day after the battle, either through his armour or marks on his body. The English dead, who included some of Harold's brothers and his
housecarl A housecarl ( on, húskarl; oe, huscarl) was a non- servile manservant or household bodyguard in medieval Northern Europe. The institution originated amongst the Norsemen of Scandinavia, and was brought to Anglo-Saxon England by the Danish con ...
s, were left on the battlefield. Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, Harold's mother, offered the victorious duke the weight of her son's body in gold for its custody, but her offer was refused. William ordered that the body was to be thrown into the sea, but whether that took place is unclear.
Waltham Abbey Waltham Abbey is a town and civil parish in the Epping Forest District of Essex, within the metropolitan and urban area of London, England, north-east of Charing Cross. It lies on the Greenwich Meridian, between the River Lea in the west an ...
, which had been founded by Harold, later claimed that his body had been secretly buried there.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' p. 131


March on London

William may have hoped the English would surrender following his victory, but they did not. Instead, some of the English clergy and magnates nominated Edgar the Ætheling as king, though their support for Edgar was only lukewarm. After waiting a short while, William secured
Dover Dover () is a town and major ferry port in Kent, South East England. It faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel at from Cap Gris Nez in France. It lies south-east of Canterbury and east of Maids ...
, parts of Kent, and
Canterbury Canterbury (, ) is a cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of the City of Canterbury local government district of Kent, England. It lies on the River Stour. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the primate of th ...
, while also sending a force to capture
Winchester Winchester is a cathedral city in Hampshire, England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, at the western end of the South Downs National Park, on the River Itchen. It is south-west of Lo ...
, where the royal treasury was. These captures secured William's rear areas and also his line of retreat to Normandy, if that was needed. William then marched to
Southwark Southwark ( ) is a district of Central London situated on the south bank of the River Thames, forming the north-western part of the wider modern London Borough of Southwark. The district, which is the oldest part of South London, developed d ...
, across the
Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At , it is the longest river entirely in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom, after the ...
from London, which he reached in late November. Next, he led his forces around the south and west of London, burning along the way. He finally crossed the Thames at Wallingford in early December. Stigand submitted to William there, and when the duke moved on to
Berkhamsted Berkhamsted ( ) is a historic market town in Hertfordshire, England, in the Bulbourne valley, north-west of London. The town is a civil parish with a town council within the borough of Dacorum which is based in the neighbouring large new tow ...
soon afterwards, Edgar the Ætheling, Morcar, Edwin, and Ealdred also submitted. William then sent forces into London to construct a castle; he was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 131–133


Consolidation


First actions

William remained in England after his coronation and tried to reconcile the native magnates. The remaining earls – Edwin (of Mercia), Morcar (of Northumbria), and Waltheof (of Northampton) – were confirmed in their lands and titles. Waltheof was married to William's niece Judith, daughter of his half-sister Adelaide,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 423 and a marriage between Edwin and one of William's daughters was proposed. Edgar the Ætheling also appears to have been given lands. Ecclesiastical offices continued to be held by the same bishops as before the invasion, including the uncanonical Stigand. But the families of Harold and his brothers lost their lands, as did some others who had fought against William at Hastings. By March, William was secure enough to return to Normandy, but he took with him Stigand, Morcar, Edwin, Edgar, and Waltheof. He left his half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, in charge of England along with another influential supporter, William fitzOsbern, the son of his former guardian. Both men were also named to earldoms – fitzOsbern to Hereford (or Wessex) and Odo to Kent. Although he put two Normans in overall charge, he retained many of the native English
sheriff A sheriff is a government official, with varying duties, existing in some countries with historical ties to England where the office originated. There is an analogous, although independently developed, office in Iceland that is commonly transl ...
s.Carpenter ''Struggle for Mastery'' pp. 75–76 Once in Normandy the new English king went to Rouen and the Abbey of Fecamp,Huscroft ''Norman Conquest'' pp. 138–139 and then attended the consecration of new churches at two Norman monasteries. While William was in Normandy, a former ally,
Eustace Eustace, also rendered Eustis, ( ) is the rendition in English of two phonetically similar Greek given names: *Εὔσταχυς (''Eústachys'') meaning "fruitful", "fecund"; literally "abundant in grain"; its Latin equivalents are ''Fæcundus/F ...
, the
Count of Boulogne Count of Boulogne was a historical title in the Kingdom of France. The city of Boulogne-sur-Mer became the centre of the county of Boulogne during the ninth century. Little is known of the early counts, but the first holder of the title is reco ...
, invaded at
Dover Dover () is a town and major ferry port in Kent, South East England. It faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel at from Cap Gris Nez in France. It lies south-east of Canterbury and east of Maids ...
but was repulsed. English resistance had also begun, with Eadric the Wild attacking
Hereford Hereford () is a cathedral city, civil parish and the county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately east of the border with Wales, south-west of Worcester and north-west of Gloucester. With a populatio ...
and revolts at
Exeter Exeter () is a city in Devon, South West England. It is situated on the River Exe, approximately northeast of Plymouth and southwest of Bristol. In Roman Britain, Exeter was established as the base of Legio II Augusta under the personal co ...
, where Harold's mother Gytha was a focus of resistance. FitzOsbern and Odo found it difficult to control the native population and undertook a programme of castle building to maintain their hold on the kingdom. William returned to England in December 1067 and marched on Exeter, which he besieged. The town held out for 18 days, and after it fell to William he built a castle to secure his control. Harold's sons were meanwhile raiding the southwest of England from a base in Ireland. Their forces landed near
Bristol Bristol () is a city, ceremonial county and unitary authority in England. Situated on the River Avon, it is bordered by the ceremonial counties of Gloucestershire to the north and Somerset to the south. Bristol is the most populous city in ...
but were defeated by Eadnoth. By Easter, William was at Winchester, where he was soon joined by his wife Matilda, who was crowned in May 1068.Huscroft ''Ruling England'' pp. 57–58


English resistance

In 1068 Edwin and Morcar revolted, supported by Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria. The chronicler Orderic Vitalis states that Edwin's reason for revolting was that the proposed marriage between himself and one of William's daughters had not taken place, but another reason probably included the increasing power of fitzOsbern in Herefordshire, which affected Edwin's power within his own earldom. The king marched through Edwin's lands and built Warwick Castle. Edwin and Morcar submitted, but William continued on to York, building
York York is a cathedral city with Roman origins, sited at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. It is the historic county town of Yorkshire. The city has many historic buildings and other structures, such as ...
and
Nottingham Castle Nottingham Castle is a Stuart Restoration-era ducal mansion in Nottingham, England, built on the site of a Norman castle built starting in 1068, and added to extensively through the medieval period, when it was an important royal fortress and ...
s before returning south. On his southbound journey, he began constructing Lincoln,
Huntingdon Huntingdon is a market town in the Huntingdonshire district in Cambridgeshire, England. The town was given its town charter by King John in 1205. It was the county town of the historic county of Huntingdonshire. Oliver Cromwell was born there ...
, and
Cambridge Castle Cambridge Castle, locally also known as Castle Mound, is located in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England. Originally built after the Norman conquest to control the strategically important route to the north of England, it played a role in the conf ...
s. William placed supporters in charge of these new fortifications – among them
William Peverel William Peverel († 28. January 1114), Latinised to Gulielmus Piperellus), was a Norman knight granted lands in England following the Norman Conquest. Origins Little is known of the origin of the William Peverel the Elder. Of his immediate ...
at Nottingham and Henry de Beaumont at Warwick. Then the king returned to Normandy late in 1068. Early in 1069, Edgar the Ætheling rose in revolt and attacked York. Although William returned to York and built another castle, Edgar remained free, and in the autumn he joined up with King Sweyn. The Danish king had brought a large fleet to England and attacked not only York but Exeter and
Shrewsbury Shrewsbury ( , also ) is a market town, civil parish, and the county town of Shropshire, England, on the River Severn, north-west of London; at the 2021 census, it had a population of 76,782. The town's name can be pronounced as either ...
. York was captured by the combined forces of Edgar and Sweyn. Edgar was proclaimed king by his supporters. William responded swiftly, ignoring a continental revolt in Maine, and symbolically wore his crown in the ruins of York on Christmas Day 1069. He then proceeded to buy off the Danes. He marched to the
River Tees The River Tees (), in Northern England, rises on the eastern slope of Cross Fell in the North Pennines and flows eastwards for to reach the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar near Middlesbrough. The modern day history of the river has ...
, ravaging the countryside as he went. Edgar, having lost much of his support, fled to Scotland, where King Malcolm III was married to Edgar's sister Margaret.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' p. 225 Waltheof, who had joined the revolt, submitted, along with Gospatric, and both were allowed to retain their lands. But William was not finished; he marched over the
Pennines The Pennines (), also known as the Pennine Chain or Pennine Hills, are a range of uplands running between three regions of Northern England: North West England on the west, North East England and Yorkshire and the Humber on the east. Comm ...
during the winter and defeated the remaining rebels at Shrewsbury before building
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, close to the English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: People and Population Profile: Chester Loc ...
and Stafford Castles. This campaign, which included the burning and destruction of part of the countryside that the royal forces marched through, is usually known as the "
Harrying of the North The Harrying of the North was a series of campaigns waged by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069–1070 to subjugate northern England, where the presence of the last Wessex claimant, Edgar Ætheling, had encouraged Anglo- Danish reb ...
"; it was over by April 1070, when William wore his crown ceremonially for Easter at Winchester.Carpenter ''Struggle for Mastery'' pp. 76–77


Church affairs

While at Winchester in 1070, William met with three
papal legate 300px, A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate. A papal legate or apostolic legate (from the ancient Roman title '' legatus'') is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic ...
s – John Minutus, Peter, and Ermenfrid of Sion – who had been sent by the pope. The legates ceremonially crowned William during the Easter court. The historian David Bates sees this coronation as the ceremonial papal "seal of approval" for William's conquest. The legates and the king then proceeded to hold a series of ecclesiastical councils dedicated to reforming and reorganising the English church. Stigand and his brother, Æthelmær, the
Bishop of Elmham The Bishop of Norwich is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers most of the county of Norfolk and part of Suffolk. The bishop of Norwich is Graham Usher. The see is ...
, were deposed from their bishoprics. Some of the native abbots were also deposed, both at the council held near Easter and at a further one near
Whitsun Whitsun (also Whitsunday or Whit Sunday) is the name used in Britain, and other countries among Anglicans and Methodists, for the Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost. It is the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the ...
. The Whitsun council saw the appointment of Lanfranc as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas of Bayeux as the new Archbishop of York, to replace Ealdred, who had died in September 1069. William's half-brother Odo perhaps expected to be appointed to Canterbury, but William probably did not wish to give that much power to a family member. Another reason for the appointment may have been pressure from the papacy to appoint Lanfranc.Barlow ''English Church 1066–1154'' p. 59 Norman clergy were appointed to replace the deposed bishops and abbots, and at the end of the process, only two native English bishops remained in office, along with several continental prelates appointed by Edward the Confessor.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 106–107 In 1070 William also founded
Battle Abbey Battle Abbey is a partially ruined Benedictine abbey in Battle, East Sussex, England. The abbey was built on the site of the Battle of Hastings and dedicated to St Martin of Tours. It is a Scheduled Monument. The Grade I listed site is now op ...
, a new monastery at the site of the Battle of Hastings, partly as a penance for the deaths in the battle and partly as a memorial to the dead. At an ecclesiastical council held in Lillebonne in 1080, he was confirmed in his ultimate authority over the Norman church.


Troubles in England and on the Continent


Danish raids and rebellion

Although Sweyn had promised to leave England, he returned in early 1070, raiding along the Humber and East Anglia toward the
Isle of Ely The Isle of Ely () is a historic region around the city of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. Between 1889 and 1965, it formed an administrative county. Etymology Its name has been said to mean "island of eels", a reference to the creatures tha ...
, where he joined up with
Hereward the Wake Hereward the Wake (Traditional pronunciation /ˈhɛ.rɛ.ward/, modern pronunciation /ˈhɛ.rɪ.wəd/) (1035 – 1072) (also known as Hereward the Outlaw or Hereward the Exile) was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and a leader of local resista ...
, a local
thegn In Anglo-Saxon England, thegns were aristocratic landowners of the second rank, below the ealdormen who governed large areas of England. The term was also used in early medieval Scandinavia for a class of retainers. In medieval Scotland, ther ...
. Hereward's forces attacked Peterborough Abbey, which they captured and looted. William was able to secure the departure of Sweyn and his fleet in 1070,Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 221–222 allowing him to return to the continent to deal with troubles in Maine, where the town of
Le Mans Le Mans (, ) is a city in northwestern France on the Sarthe River where it meets the Huisne. Traditionally the capital of the province of Maine, it is now the capital of the Sarthe department and the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of L ...
had revolted in 1069. Another concern was the death of Count Baldwin VI of Flanders in July 1070, which led to a succession crisis as his widow, Richilde, was ruling for their two young sons,
Arnulf Arnulf is a masculine German given name. It is composed of the Germanic elements ''arn'' "eagle" and ''ulf'' "wolf". The ''-ulf, -olf'' suffix was an extremely frequent element in Germanic onomastics and from an early time was perceived as a mere ...
and Baldwin. Her rule, however, was contested by
Robert The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (''Hrōþiberhtaz''). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of '' Hruod'' ( non, Hróðr) "fame, glory, honou ...
, Baldwin's brother. Richilde proposed marriage to William fitzOsbern, who was in Normandy, and fitzOsbern accepted. But after he was killed in February 1071 at the Battle of Cassel, Robert became count. He was opposed to King William's power on the continent, thus the Battle of Cassel upset the balance of power in northern France in addition to costing William an important supporter.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 223–225 In 1071 William defeated the last rebellion of the north. Earl Edwin was betrayed by his own men and killed, while William built a causeway to subdue the Isle of Ely, where Hereward the Wake and Morcar were hiding. Hereward escaped, but Morcar was captured, deprived of his earldom, and imprisoned. In 1072 William invaded Scotland, defeating Malcolm, who had recently invaded the north of England. William and Malcolm agreed to peace by signing the Treaty of Abernethy, and Malcolm probably gave up his son Duncan as a hostage for the peace. Perhaps another stipulation of the treaty was the expulsion of Edgar the Ætheling from Malcolm's court.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 107–109 William then turned his attention to the continent, returning to Normandy in early 1073 to deal with the invasion of Maine by Fulk le Rechin, the
Count of Anjou The Count of Anjou was the ruler of the County of Anjou, first granted by Charles the Bald in the 9th century to Robert the Strong. Ingelger and his son, Fulk the Red, were viscounts until Fulk assumed the title of Count of Anjou. The Roberti ...
. With a swift campaign, William seized Le Mans from Fulk's forces, completing the campaign by 30 March 1073. This made William's power more secure in northern France, but the new count of Flanders accepted Edgar the Ætheling into his court. Robert also married his half-sister Bertha to King
Philip I of France Philip I (23 May 1052 – 29 July 1108), called the Amorous, was King of the Franks from 1060 to 1108. His reign, like that of most of the early Capetians, was extraordinarily long for the time. The monarchy began a modest recovery from the low ...
, who was opposed to Norman power.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 228–229 William returned to England to release his army from service in 1073 but quickly returned to Normandy, where he spent all of 1074.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 111 He left England in the hands of his supporters, including Richard fitzGilbert and William de Warenne, as well as Lanfranc. William's ability to leave England for an entire year was a sign that he felt that his control of the kingdom was secure.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 112 While William was in Normandy, Edgar the Ætheling returned to Scotland from Flanders. The French king, seeking a focus for those opposed to William's power, then proposed that Edgar be given the castle of
Montreuil-sur-Mer Montreuil (; also nl, Monsterole), also known as Montreuil-sur-Mer (; pcd, Montreu-su-Mér or , literally ''Montreuil on Sea''), is a sub-prefecture in the Pas-de-Calais department, northern France. It is located on the Canche river, not far fr ...
on the Channel, which would have given Edgar a strategic advantage against William. Edgar was forced to submit to William shortly thereafter, however, and he returned to William's court. Philip, although thwarted in this attempt, turned his attentions to Brittany, leading to a revolt in 1075.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 230–231


Revolt of the Earls

In 1075, during William's absence,
Ralph de Gael Ralph de Gaël (otherwise Ralph de Guader, Ralph Wader or Radulf Waders or Ralf Waiet or Rodulfo de Waiet; before 1042c. 1100) was the Earl of East Anglia ( Norfolk and Suffolk) and Lord of Gaël and Montfort (''Seigneur de Gaël et Montfort ...
, the Earl of Norfolk, and Roger de Breteuil, the
Earl of Hereford The title of Earl of Hereford was created six times in the Peerage of England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom ...
, conspired to overthrow William in the "Revolt of the Earls". Ralph was at least part Breton and had spent most of his life prior to 1066 in Brittany, where he still had lands.Williams "Ralph, earl" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' Roger was a Norman, son of William fitzOsbern, but had inherited less authority than his father held.Lewis "Breteuil, Roger de, earl of Hereford" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' Ralph's authority seems also to have been less than his predecessors in the earldom, and this was likely the cause of his involvement in the revolt. The exact reason for the rebellion is unclear, but it was launched at the wedding of Ralph to a relative of Roger, held at
Exning Exning is a village and civil parish in the West Suffolk district of Suffolk in eastern England. It lies just off the A14 trunk road, roughly east-northeast of Cambridge, and south-southeast of Ely. The nearest large town is Newmarket. Th ...
in Suffolk. Waltheof, the earl of Northumbria, although one of William's favourites, was also involved, and there were some Breton lords who were ready to rebel in support of Ralph and Roger. Ralph also requested Danish aid. William remained in Normandy while his men in England subdued the revolt. Roger was unable to leave his stronghold in Herefordshire because of efforts by Wulfstan, the
Bishop of Worcester A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally responsible for the governance of dioceses. The role or office of bishop is ...
, and Æthelwig, the
Abbot of Evesham The Abbot of Evesham was the head of Evesham Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Worcestershire founded in the Anglo-Saxon era of English history. The succession continued until the dissolution of the monastery in 1540. List Notes References * ...
. Ralph was bottled up in Norwich Castle by the combined efforts of Odo of Bayeux, Geoffrey de Montbray, Richard fitzGilbert, and William de Warenne. Ralph eventually left Norwich in the control of his wife and left England, finally ending up in Brittany. Norwich was besieged and surrendered, with the garrison allowed to go to Brittany. Meanwhile, the Danish king's brother,
Cnut Cnut (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Cnut the Great and Canute, was King of England from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018, and King of Norway ...
, had finally arrived in England with a fleet of 200 ships, but he was too late as Norwich had already surrendered. The Danes then raided along the coast before returning home. William returned to England later in 1075 to deal with the Danish threat, leaving his wife Matilda in charge of Normandy. He celebrated Christmas at Winchester and dealt with the aftermath of the rebellion.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 181–182 Roger and Waltheof were kept in prison, where Waltheof was executed in May 1076. Before this, William had returned to the continent, where Ralph had continued the rebellion from Brittany.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 231–233


Troubles at home and abroad

Earl Ralph had secured control of the castle at
Dol DOL may refer to: * David O'Leary (born 1958), Irish football manager and former player * Deauville – Saint-Gatien Airport (IATA code) * Degree of Operating Leverage, a measure of operating leverage - how revenue growth translates into growth i ...
, and in September 1076 William advanced into Brittany and laid siege to the castle. King Philip of France later relieved the siege and defeated William at the Battle of Dol in 1076, forcing him to retreat back to Normandy. Although this was William's first defeat in battle, it did little to change things. An Angevin attack on Maine was defeated in late 1076 or 1077, with Count Fulk le Rechin wounded in the unsuccessful attack. More serious was the retirement of Simon de Crépy, the Count of Amiens, to a monastery. Before he became a monk, Simon handed his county of the
Vexin Vexin () is an historical county of northwestern France. It covers a verdant plateau on the right bank (north) of the Seine running roughly east to west between Pontoise and Romilly-sur-Andelle (about 20 km from Rouen), and north to sout ...
over to King Philip. The Vexin was a buffer state between Normandy and the lands of the French king, and Simon had been a supporter of William. William was able to make peace with Philip in 1077 and secured a truce with Count Fulk in late 1077 or early 1078.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 183–184 In late 1077 or early 1078 trouble began between William and his eldest son, Robert. Although Orderic Vitalis describes it as starting with a quarrel between Robert and his two younger brothers,
William William is a male given name of Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, , p. 276. It became very popular in the English language after the Norman conquest of Engl ...
and
Henry Henry may refer to: People * Henry (given name) * Henry (surname) * Henry Lau, Canadian singer and musician who performs under the mononym Henry Royalty * Portuguese royalty ** King-Cardinal Henry, King of Portugal ** Henry, Count of Portu ...
, including a story that the quarrel was started when William and Henry threw water at Robert, it is much more likely that Robert was feeling powerless. Orderic relates that he had previously demanded control of Maine and Normandy and had been rebuffed. The trouble in 1077 or 1078 resulted in Robert leaving Normandy accompanied by a band of young men, many of them the sons of William's supporters. Included among them were Robert of Belleme, William de Breteuil, and Roger, the son of Richard fitzGilbert. This band of young men went to the castle at Remalard, where they proceeded to raid into Normandy. The raiders were supported by many of William's continental enemies.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 185–186 William immediately attacked the rebels and drove them from Remalard, but King Philip gave them the castle at Gerberoi, where they were joined by new supporters. William then laid siege to Gerberoi in January 1079. After three weeks, the besieged forces sallied from the castle and managed to take the besiegers by surprise. William was unhorsed by Robert and was only saved from death by an Englishman, Toki son of Wigod, who was himself killed.Douglas and Greenaway, p. 158 William's forces were forced to lift the siege, and the king returned to Rouen. By 12 April 1080, William and Robert had reached an accommodation, with William once more affirming that Robert would receive Normandy when he died.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 238–239 Word of William's defeat at Gerberoi stirred up difficulties in northern England. In August and September 1079 King Malcolm of Scots raided south of the
River Tweed The River Tweed, or Tweed Water ( gd, Abhainn Thuaidh, sco, Watter o Tweid, cy, Tuedd), is a river long that flows east across the Border region in Scotland and northern England. Tweed cloth derives its name from its association with the ...
, devastating the land between the River Tees and the Tweed in a raid that lasted almost a month. The lack of Norman response appears to have caused the Northumbrians to grow restive, and in the spring of 1080 they rebelled against the rule of
Walcher Walcher (died 14 May 1080) was the bishop of Durham from 1071,Fryde, et al. ''Handbook of British Chronology'' p. 241 a Lotharingian and the first Prince-bishop (appointed by the King, not the Pope). He was the first non-Englishman to hold th ...
, the
Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham is the Anglican bishop responsible for the Diocese of Durham in the Province of York. The diocese is one of the oldest in England and its bishop is a member of the House of Lords. Paul Butler has been the Bishop of Durh ...
and Earl of Northumbria. Walcher was killed on 14 May 1080, and the king dispatched his half-brother Odo to deal with the rebellion. William departed Normandy in July 1080,Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 188 and in the autumn his son Robert was sent on a campaign against the Scots. Robert raided into Lothian and forced Malcolm to agree to terms, building a fortification (the 'new castle') at
Newcastle upon Tyne Newcastle upon Tyne ( RP: , ), or simply Newcastle, is a city and metropolitan borough in Tyne and Wear, England. The city is located on the River Tyne's northern bank and forms the largest part of the Tyneside built-up area. Newcastle is ...
while returning to England.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 240–241 The king was at Gloucester for Christmas 1080 and at Winchester for Whitsun in 1081, ceremonially wearing his crown on both occasions. A papal embassy arrived in England during this period, asking that William do fealty for England to the papacy, a request that he rejected. William also visited Wales in 1081, although the English and the Welsh sources differ on the exact purpose of the visit. The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' states that it was a military campaign, but Welsh sources record it as a pilgrimage to
St Davids St Davids or St David's ( cy, Tyddewi, ,  "David's house”) is a city and a community (named St Davids and the Cathedral Close) with a cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales, lying on the River Alun. It is the resting place of Saint David, W ...
in honour of
Saint David Saint David ( cy, Dewi Sant; la, Davidus; ) was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century. He is the patron saint of Wales. David was a native of Wales, and tradition has preserved a relatively large amount of detail ab ...
. William's biographer David Bates argues that the former explanation is more likely, explaining that the balance of power had recently shifted in Wales and that William would have wished to take advantage of the changed circumstances to extend Norman power. By the end of 1081, William was back on the continent, dealing with disturbances in Maine. Although he led an expedition into Maine, the result was instead a negotiated settlement arranged by a papal legate.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 189


Last years

Sources for William's actions between 1082 and 1084 are meagre. According to the historian David Bates, this probably means that little happened of note, and that because William was on the continent, there was nothing for the ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' to record.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 193 In 1082 William ordered the arrest of his half-brother Odo. The exact reasons are unclear, as no contemporary author recorded what caused the quarrel between the half-brothers. Orderic Vitalis later recorded that Odo had aspirations to become pope. Orderic also related that Odo had attempted to persuade some of William's vassals to join Odo in an invasion of southern Italy. This would have been considered tampering with the king's authority over his vassals, which William would not have tolerated. Although Odo remained in confinement for the rest of William's reign, his lands were not confiscated. More difficulties struck in 1083, when William's son Robert rebelled once more with support from the French king. A further blow was the death of Queen Matilda on 2 November 1083. William was always described as close to his wife, and her death would have added to his problems.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 243–244 Maine continued to be difficult, with a rebellion by
Hubert de Beaumont-au-Maine Hubert II de Beaumont-au-Maine, also known as Hubert de Sainte-Suzanne, was a French viscount of Beaumont and Maine, and later of Vendôme. In the 11th century he held the French territories of Beaumont, Fresnay and Sainte-Suzanne. Career Hu ...
, probably in 1084. Hubert was besieged in his castle at Sainte-Suzanne by William's forces for at least two years, but he eventually made his peace with the king and was restored to favour. William's movements during 1084 and 1085 are unclear – he was in Normandy at Easter 1084 but may have been in England before then to collect the
danegeld Danegeld (; "Danish tax", literally "Dane yield" or tribute) was a tax raised to pay tribute or protection money to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged. It was called the ''geld'' or ''gafol'' in eleventh-century sources. I ...
assessed that year for the defence of England against an invasion by King Cnut IV of Denmark. Although English and Norman forces remained on alert throughout 1085 and into 1086, the invasion threat was ended by Cnut's death in July 1086.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 196–198


William as king


Changes in England

As part of his efforts to secure England, William ordered many
castle A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word ''castle'', but usually consider it to be the private fortified r ...
s,
keep A keep (from the Middle English ''kype'') is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word ''keep'', but usually consider it to refer to large towers in c ...
s, and
motte A motte-and-bailey castle is a European fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised area of ground called a motte, accompanied by a walled courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. Relatively easy ...
s built – among them the central keep of the
Tower of London The Tower of London, officially His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is sep ...
, the White Tower. These fortifications allowed Normans to retreat into safety when threatened with rebellion and allowed garrisons to be protected while they occupied the countryside. The early castles were simple earth and timber constructions, later replaced with stone structures.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 147–148 At first, most of the newly settled Normans kept household
knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the Pope) or representative for service to the monarch, the church or the country, especially in a military capacity. Knighthood finds origins in the ...
s and did not settle their retainers with
fief A fief (; la, feudum) was a central element in medieval contracts based on feudal law. It consisted of a form of property holding or other rights granted by an overlord to a vassal, who held it in fealty or "in fee" in return for a form of ...
s of their own, but gradually these household knights came to be granted lands of their own, a process known as
subinfeudation In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands. The tenants were termed ...
. William also required his newly created magnates to contribute fixed quotas of knights towards not only military campaigns but also castle garrisons. This method of organising the military forces was a departure from the pre-Conquest English practice of basing military service on territorial units such as the hide.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 154–155 By William's death, after weathering a series of rebellions, most of the native Anglo-Saxon aristocracy had been replaced by Norman and other continental magnates. Not all of the Normans who accompanied William in the initial conquest acquired large amounts of land in England. Some appear to have been reluctant to take up lands in a kingdom that did not always appear pacified. Although some of the newly rich Normans in England came from William's close family or from the upper Norman nobility, others were from relatively humble backgrounds.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 148–149 William granted some lands to his continental followers from the holdings of one or more specific Englishmen; at other times, he granted a compact grouping of lands previously held by many different Englishmen to one Norman follower, often to allow for the consolidation of lands around a strategically placed castle.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 152–153 The medieval chronicler
William of Malmesbury William of Malmesbury ( la, Willelmus Malmesbiriensis; ) was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. He has been ranked among the most talented English historians since Bede. Modern historian C. Warren Hollister described him as "a ...
says that the king also seized and depopulated many miles of land (36 parishes), turning it into the royal
New Forest The New Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England, covering southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire. It was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror, feat ...
region to support his enthusiastic enjoyment of hunting. Modern historians have come to the conclusion that the New Forest depopulation was greatly exaggerated. Most of the lands of the New Forest are poor agricultural lands, and archaeological and geographic studies have shown that it was likely sparsely settled when it was turned into a
royal forest A royal forest, occasionally known as a kingswood (), is an area of land with different definitions in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The term ''forest'' in the ordinary modern understanding refers to an area of wooded land; however, the ...
.Young ''Royal Forests'' pp. 7–8 William was known for his love of hunting, and he introduced the forest law into areas of the country, regulating who could hunt and what could be hunted.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 118–119


Administration

After 1066, William did not attempt to integrate his separate domains into one unified realm with one set of laws. His
seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped, a diverse group of semi-aquatic marine mammals, many of which are commonly called seals, particularly: ** Earless seal, or "true seal" ** Fur seal * Seal (emblem), a device to impr ...
from after 1066, of which six impressions still survive, was made for him after he conquered England and stressed his role as king, while separately mentioning his role as duke. When in Normandy, William acknowledged that he owed fealty to the French king, but in England no such acknowledgement was made – further evidence that the various parts of William's lands were considered separate. The administrative machinery of Normandy, England, and Maine continued to exist separate from the other lands, with each one retaining its own forms. For example, England continued the use of
writ In common law, a writ (Anglo-Saxon ''gewrit'', Latin ''breve'') is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court. Warrants, prerogative writs, subpoenas, a ...
s, which were not known on the continent. Also, the charters and documents produced for the government in Normandy differed in formulas from those produced in England.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 138–141 William took over an English government that was more complex than the Norman system. England was divided into
shire Shire is a traditional term for an administrative division of land in Great Britain and some other English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand. It is generally synonymous with county. It was first used in Wessex from the beginn ...
s or counties, which were further divided into either hundreds or
wapentake A hundred is an administrative division that is geographically part of a larger region. It was formerly used in England, Wales, some parts of the United States, Denmark, Southern Schleswig, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek, ...
s. Each shire was administered by a royal official called a sheriff, who roughly had the same status as a Norman
viscount A viscount ( , for male) or viscountess (, for female) is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status. In many countries a viscount, and its historical equivalents, was a non-hereditary, administrative or judicial ...
. A sheriff was responsible for royal justice and collecting royal revenue. To oversee his expanded domain, William was forced to travel even more than he had as duke. He crossed back and forth between the continent and England at least 19 times between 1067 and his death. William spent most of his time in England between the Battle of Hastings and 1072, and after that, he spent the majority of his time in Normandy.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 133–134 Government was still centred on William's
household A household consists of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling. It may be of a single family or another type of person group. The household is the basic unit of analysis in many social, microeconomic and government models, and is i ...
; when he was in one part of his realms, decisions would be made for other parts of his domains and transmitted through a communication system that made use of letters and other documents. William also appointed deputies who could make decisions while he was absent, especially if the absence was expected to be lengthy. Usually, this was a member of William's close family – frequently his half-brother Odo or his wife Matilda. Sometimes deputies were appointed to deal with specific issues.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 136–137 William continued the collection of Danegeld, a land tax. This was an advantage for William, as it was the only universal tax collected by western European rulers during this period. It was an annual tax based on the value of landholdings, and it could be collected at differing rates. Most years saw the rate of two shillings per hide, but in crises, it could be increased to as much as six shillings per hide.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 151–152 Coinage between the various parts of his domains continued to be minted in different cycles and styles. English coins were generally of high silver content, with high artistic standards, and were required to be re-minted every three years. Norman coins had a much lower silver content, were often of poor artistic quality, and were rarely re-minted. Also, in England, no other coinage was allowed, while on the continent other coinage was considered
legal tender Legal tender is a form of money that courts of law are required to recognize as satisfactory payment for any monetary debt. Each jurisdiction determines what is legal tender, but essentially it is anything which when offered ("tendered") in p ...
. Nor is there evidence that many English
pennies A penny is a coin ( pennies) or a unit of currency (pl. pence) in various countries. Borrowed from the Carolingian denarius (hence its former abbreviation d.), it is usually the smallest denomination within a currency system. Presently, it is th ...
were circulating in Normandy, which shows little attempt to integrate the monetary systems of England and Normandy. Besides taxation, William's large landholdings throughout England strengthened his rule. As King Edward's heir, he controlled all of the former royal lands. 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.


Domesday Book

At Christmas 1085, 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 Domesday Book () – the Middle English spelling of "Doomsday Book" – is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William I, known as William the Conqueror. The manusc ...
''. 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. All the English counties south of the River Tees and
River Ribble The River Ribble runs through North Yorkshire and Lancashire in Northern England. It starts close to the Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire, and is one of the few that start in the Yorkshire Dales and flow westwards towards the Irish Sea ( ...
are included, and the whole work seems to have been mostly completed by 1 August 1086, 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.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 198–202 William's exact motivation in ordering the survey is unclear, but it probably had several purposes, such as making a record of feudal obligations and justifying increased taxation.


Death and aftermath

William left England towards the end of 1086. Following his arrival back on the continent he married his daughter Constance to Duke Alan of Brittany, in furtherance of his policy of seeking allies against the French kings. 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 1087. While seizing Mantes, William either fell ill or was injured by the pommel of his saddle. He was taken to the
priory A priory is a monastery of men or women under religious vows that is headed by a prior or prioress. Priories may be houses of mendicant friars or nuns (such as the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans, and Carmelites), or monasteries of mo ...
of Saint Gervase at Rouen, where he died on 9 September 1087. Knowledge of the events preceding his death is confused because there are two different accounts. 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.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 202–205 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.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 207–208 William's grave is currently marked by a marble slab with a
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
inscription dating from the early 19th century. The tomb has been disturbed several times since 1087, the first time in 1522 when the grave was opened on orders from the papacy. The intact body was restored to the tomb at that time, but in 1562, during the
French Wars of Religion The French Wars of Religion is the term which is used in reference to a period of civil war between French Catholics and Protestants, commonly called Huguenots, which lasted from 1562 to 1598. According to estimates, between two and four mi ...
, the grave was reopened and the bones scattered and lost, with the exception of one thigh bone. This lone relic was reburied in 1642 with a new marker, which was replaced 100 years later with a more elaborate monument. This tomb was again destroyed during the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France that began with the Estates General of 1789 and ended with the formation of the French Consulate in November 1799. Many of its ideas are consid ...
but was eventually replaced with the current ledger stone.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 362–363


Legacy

The immediate consequence of William's death was a war between his sons Robert and William over control of England and Normandy. Even after the younger William's death in 1100 and the succession of his youngest brother Henry as king, Normandy and England remained contested between the brothers until Robert's capture by Henry at the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106. 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 1089 and managed to remain mostly free of Norman influence thereafter.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 208–209 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.Bates ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 210–211 How abrupt and far-reaching the changes were is still a matter of debate among historians, with some such as
Richard Southern Sir Richard William Southern (8 February 1912 – 6 February 2001), who published under the name R. W. Southern, was a noted English medieval historian based at the University of Oxford. Biography Southern was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne ...
claiming that the Conquest was the single most radical change in European history between the Fall of Rome and the 20th century. Others, such as H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, see the changes brought about by the Conquest as much less radical than Southern suggests. The historian Eleanor Searle describes William's invasion as "a plan that no ruler but a Scandinavian would have considered".Searle ''Predatory Kinship'' p. 232 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.Clanchy ''England and its Rulers'' pp. 31–32 In the years since the Conquest, politicians and other leaders have used William and the events of his reign to illustrate political events throughout English history. During the reign of Queen
Elizabeth I of England Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabeth was the last of the five House of Tudor monarchs and is sometimes referred to as the "Virgin Queen". El ...
, Archbishop
Matthew Parker Matthew Parker (6 August 1504 – 17 May 1575) was an English bishop. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder (with a p ...
saw the Conquest as having corrupted a purer English Church, which Parker attempted to restore. 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. Others have viewed him as an enemy of the English constitution, or alternatively as its creator.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 4–5


Family and children

William and his wife Matilda had at least nine children. The birth order of the sons is clear, but no source gives the relative order of birth of the daughters. #
Robert The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (''Hrōþiberhtaz''). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of '' Hruod'' ( non, Hróðr) "fame, glory, honou ...
was born between 1051 and 1054, died 10 February 1134.Douglas ''William the Conqueror'' pp. 393–395 Duke of Normandy, married Sybilla, daughter of Geoffrey, Count of Conversano.Thompson "Robert, duke of Normandy" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' #
Richard Richard is a male given name. It originates, via Old French, from Old Frankish and is a compound of the words descending from Proto-Germanic ''*rīk-'' 'ruler, leader, king' and ''*hardu-'' 'strong, brave, hardy', and it therefore means 'stro ...
was born before 1056, died around 1075. #
William William is a male given name of Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, , p. 276. It became very popular in the English language after the Norman conquest of Engl ...
was born between 1056 and 1060, died 2 August 1100. King of England, killed in the New Forest.Barlow "William II" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' #
Henry Henry may refer to: People * Henry (given name) * Henry (surname) * Henry Lau, Canadian singer and musician who performs under the mononym Henry Royalty * Portuguese royalty ** King-Cardinal Henry, King of Portugal ** Henry, Count of Portu ...
was born in late 1068, died 1 December 1135. King of England, married
Edith Edith is a feminine given name derived from the Old English words ēad, meaning 'riches or blessed', and is in common usage in this form in English, German, many Scandinavian languages and Dutch. Its French form is Édith. Contractions and v ...
, daughter of
Malcolm III of Scotland Malcolm III ( mga, Máel Coluim mac Donnchada, label= Medieval Gaelic; gd, Maol Chaluim mac Dhonnchaidh; died 13 November 1093) was King of Scotland from 1058 to 1093. He was later nicknamed "Canmore" ("ceann mòr", Gaelic, literally "big hea ...
. His second wife was Adeliza of Louvain. #
Adeliza Adeliza or Adelida (died before 1113) was a daughter of William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders. There is considerable uncertainty about her life, including her dates of birth and death. In a mortuary roll prepared at her siste ...
(or Adelida, AdelaideFryde, et al., ''Handbook of British Chronology'', p. 35) died before 1113, reportedly betrothed to Harold Godwinson, probably a nun of Saint Léger at Préaux.Van Houts "Adelida" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' # Cecilia (or Cecily) was born before 1066, died 1127, Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen. # MatildaBates "William I" ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' was born around 1061, died perhaps about 1086. Mentioned in ''Domesday Book'' as a daughter of William. # Constance died 1090, married
Alan IV, Duke of Brittany Alan IV (c. 1063 – 13 October 1119) was Duke of Brittany from 1072 until his abdication in 1112. He was also Count of Nantes (from c. 1103) and Count of Rennes. His parents were Duchess Hawise and Duke Hoel II. He is also known as Alan Ferga ...
. # Adela died 1137, married Stephen, Count of Blois. # (Possibly) Agatha, the betrothed of
Alfonso VI of León and Castile Alphons (Latinized ''Alphonsus'', ''Adelphonsus'', or ''Adefonsus'') is a male given name recorded from the 8th century ( Alfonso I of Asturias, r. 739–757) in the Christian successor states of the Visigothic kingdom in the Iberian peninsula ...
. There is no evidence of any illegitimate children born to William.Given-Wilson and Curteis ''Royal Bastards'' p. 59


Notes


Citations


References

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:William the Conqueror 1020s births 1087 deaths Year of birth uncertain 11th-century French people 11th-century monarchs of England 11th-century Dukes of Normandy Anglo-Normans Norman warriors British monarchs buried abroad Deaths by horse-riding accident in France English people of French descent English Roman Catholics French Roman Catholics House of Normandy Medieval child rulers Norman conquest of England People from Falaise, Calvados Tower of London