William the Conqueror

King William I of England or more commonly known as William the Conqueror of England. He is most famous for his conquest of England. William would usher in a new era in England with his victory at the battle of Hastings in 1066 C.E. William would usher in an era of Norman domination over the previously Anglo-Saxon peoples that populated England at this time. William started with more humble beginnings which shaped him into the man he was when he became king of England.

William was born an illegitimate son of the Robert, Duke of Normandy. His father legitimized him as his heir before his death, but some in the duchy did not accept his claim to the duchy. William was 6 when he inherited the duchy of Normandy. There were regents and guardians placed so as to care for William and take care of running the duchy. Williams early years were filled with intrigue as one after another his guardians and regents were assassinated. Eventually his cousin led a rebellion with the help of many nobles in Normandy to take the duchy away from William. William was forced into exile at the palace of the French king. In 1047, William would return to Normandy and crush the rebellion and was merciless to those who rose up against him. Thus, William solidified his control on Normandy which allowed for the events that would take him to be the king of England.

William in 1051 was visited by his cousin Edward the Confessor who while in these meetings promised William the crown of England because Edward had children in which inheritance could be passed on. This was even supposedly solidified over an oath on a sacred object. The problem that developed was that upon the death of any English king a council of English nobles chooses the next king and this was a long held belief. Thus, upon the death of Edward, the witan, as this council was called, chose Harold son of Godwin as the next King of England. William was said to have been enraged by this and planned an invasion of England. Lucky timing favored William for at the same time roughly his ships set sail for England. The English army led by Harold was locked in battle with a Norwegian invasion force which the English defeated soundly. Harold after the victory marched south to meet William. The armies met at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th of October 1066. The battle was won by William and saw the death of Harold’s two brothers and Harold himself. This victory for William gave him the power to be crowned king of England on Christmas Day 1066. The south of England saw William as king while the northern parts of England would continue to resist William’s rule for years to come.

William I changed the landscape of life in England. Many of the nobles in England lost their land to William who gave it to loyal Norman nobles. A massive building spree of castles and fortified positions were built to impose Norman rule on the people. William ordered the creation of what is known as the Doomsday book which is a detailed record of everything taxable in the whole of England that William I controlled. William would spend most of the rest of his life fighting to hold onto his lands both in England and Normandy. William I would die on 9th of September, 1087. He would split his holdings in two with his eldest son getting Normandy and his middle son getting England.

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