William I Biography

William I of England (Falaise, Normandy, c. 1028 – Rouen, France, 9 September 1087). Also known as William the Conqueror, he was a Noble, Military Leader, Conqueror and Monarch, who became the first king of England of Norman origin.


His life was marked by constant struggles against his enemies to preserve his domains and possessions. Some specialists believe that his influence in England changed this country forever, laying the groundwork for what was later the English kingdom during the Middle Ages, which is why he is listed as one of the most important kings in history.

Early life

William I was born in Falaise Castle, Normandy, between 1027 and 1028. He was the son of the Duke of Normandy, Robert I, and his concubine Arlette. His illegitimate son status gave William I the historical name of William the Bastard.

Eventually, his mother married Herluin de Conteville, with whom he gave him three half-brothers: Odon de Beyeux and Roberto, who became Count of Mortain, and a sister. He also had another sister on the part of a father, who was christened Adelaide of Normandy.

Duchy of Normandy

In 1035, his father died in Nicea, capital of the Byzantine empire, on his way back to the Holy Land. Immediately, William I assumed the duchy, as had been his father’s wish. However, he faced various difficulties, caused by factions that sought to be unaware of his command, arguing his young age and illegitimate son situation.

He had the support of the King of France, Henry I, and Archbishop Roberto, who was William I’s great-uncle. However, the death of Archbishop Robert, in 1037, left him without one of his greatest support and was the beginning of a time of chaos and rebellion in Normandy.

In 1046, one of the most important and serious uprisings, led by William II, who supported By Viscounts Ranulfo and Cotentin, intended to rise up against the duchy from Lower Normandy. However, the plan failed, and William I managed to flee and take refuge in the French kingdom of Henry I.

A few months later, in 1047, with the French sovereign, William II marched on Normandy, defeating his enemies at the Battle of Val-Es-Dunes. This victory was decisive in entrenching itself in power. However, infighting continued until 1060.

Another of the elements that helped him consolidate his mandate was his marriage to Matilde of Flanders, which occurred in 1050, and which allowed him to win for his duchy the support of the county of Flanders, one of the most powerful in France.

With his wife he had nine children, and although the Papacy initially refused to join, without making clear arguments, he had to accept it later.

Likewise, at this time, William II placed in ecclesiastical posts of great importance, as bishoprics and abbeys his supporters, among them his brother Odon, whom he appointed bishop of Bayeux.

His mandate was distinguished by his good relations with the clergy and by his generosity to the Church, eventually financing and building at least twenty monasteries. After the stability of his duchy, in 1060, William II decided to expand its territory, managing to take control of the province of Maine.

Battle for the Throne of England

Since 1051, William II had become a suitor to the crown of England, hoping to succeed Edward the Confessor, who was his cousin and had no children, on the throne.

However, in 1066, after the death of King Edward, Count Harold Godwinson was crowned successor, at the request of the sovereign on his deathbed. William protested, claiming that the crown belonged to him, as King Edward had promised him the throne in 1051 and Haroldo swore his support.

He decided to march on England. He prepared a large fleet, which sailed from Saint-Velery-sur-Somme and landed in the south of England in September 1066, with hundreds of soldiers from Normandy, Maine, England, France and other European regions.

On October 14, 1066, William II’s troops managed to defeat Harold’s army at the Battle of Hastings, which earned him the throne. On 25 December 1066, William II was crowned King of England. However, the struggle to consolidate his power on English soil stretched to 1075.

Monarch of England

His reign in several regions of Europe was characterized by not creating an empire, but on the contrary managing each kingdom separately. In relation to his tenure over England, he distinguished himself by the construction of numerous castles and stone fortresses. Likewise, the nobility was demanded for the payment and contribution of Knights, for military campaigns.

Most British nobles were replaced in their noble titles by Norman lords and other European nationalities. He stripped English landowners of his estate, to give to his followers.

He took for himself the royal lands, becoming the largest landowner in England. In December 1085, William II decreed the creation of the Domesday Book, in order to record in detail each of its lands and properties, as well as that of its subjects.

Late years

From his later years little is known, he is believed to have dedicated himself to governing his domains, moving from one place to another, together with his government, to legislate and manage each of them.

On 9 September 1087, William II died in the priory of San Gervasio de Rouen, where he was transferred after becoming seriously ill while leading a military campaign against Mantes.

After an arduous brethren’s fight, his sons divided their domains: his firstborn, Roberto assumed the Duchy of Normandy, while William was crowned king of England, being known in history as William El Rojo.

Image source: sobreinglaterra.com

William I Biography
Source: Education  
July 31, 2019


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