Biography of William the Conqueror
Duke William of Normandy also known as William the Bastard. He was born in Falaise in 1028 - his parents were unmarried. His father was Robert I, the sixth Duke of Normandy. His mother was called Herleva who was the humble daughter of a Tanner called Fulbert. William's parents also had a daughter called Adelaide. Duke Robert died in 1035 and William became Duke of Normandy at the age of just seven years old. William's mother later married the Viscount of Conteville and produced a half-sister to William called Muriel and two half-brothers - Robert and Odo (Odo later became the Bishop of Bayeux who commissioned the famous Bayeux tapestry). In 1052 William married Matilda of Flanders.
Edward the Confessor, the King of England, took refuge in Normandy after the Danes conquered England, he stayed at the palace of William. He was very kindly treated there, and William said that in 1051 Edward had promised in gratitude that William should succeed him as king of England.
Edward the Confessor returned to England and took with him Norman friends and advisors. The English nobles led by Harold Godwinson were furious at having so many French at court and Edward was forced to expel them. Harold Godwinson later married Edith the sister of Edward the Confessor.
In 1065 Duke William meets with Harold Godwinson and is believed to have pledged a sacred oath of allegiance to the Duke.
Edward the Confessor dies and Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, claims the English throne and is crowned the King of England. Duke William immediately stakes his claim on the English throne and receives support from many of the French nobles. Duke William appeals to the Pope to support his cause. The Pope agrees and sanctions a Holy War, or Crusade, against the English.
Duke William gathers an army and a fleet of ships. Many mercenaries flock to his cause. The fleet lands on the South coast of England at Pevensey on 28th September 1066. There are no English to meet him - not one soldier! William erects one of three pre-built castle he has brought with him at Pevensey and marches on to Hastings.
Meanwhile King Harold has fought off a Viking invasion led by King Hardrada in the North of England. William and his army were waiting for the Normans at the South coast when they received news of the Vikings. Harold and his men had to make a force march to York, win a bloody battle with the Vikings on 25th September and then make another forced march back to Southern England to meet Duke William on October 14th.
The two armies met at Senlac (later re-named Battle). William, clad in complete armor, was in the very front of the fight, urging on his troops. At one time a cry arose in his army that he was slain and a panic began. William drew off his helmet and rode along the lines, shouting, "I live! I live! Fight on! We shall conquer yet!".
It was a hard fought fight and King Harold and his brothers were killed. Duke William was victorious and was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on 25th December 1066.
Normans are rewarded with English land. There are various rebellions against William and the Norman Conquest in both Normandy and England and he has to travel between both countries to keep order. His half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, is made Earl of Kent and becomes William's Deputy in England and under his instructions the magnificent Bayeux tapestry is completed illustrating the Norman Invasion.
The English rebellions against the Norman Conquest are first led in 1067 by King Harold's mother Gytha but her forces are defeated. In 1068 King William exacts a terrible punishment on rebels in the North of England referred to as 'The Harrying of the North'- William orders that all land is laid to waste and thousands of men, women and children are starved to death. The final major rebellion against William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest is led by Hereward the Wake with Harold's brother the Earl Morcar against the Normans at Peterborough - once again the rebels are defeated and the Norman Conquest is finally complete.
William the Conqueror instituted his strategy for medieval warfare of building castles and went on to build many castles in England including his most famous, the Tower of London.
William the Conqueror also left another legacy - The Doomsday Book which was begun in 1086 and contained detailed records of 13,418 settlements in England. The Doomsday Book, which still survives, provides an insight into the medieval life and times of this era.
William the Conqueror died in 1087 at Saint-Gervais near Rouen in France.
William the Conqueror Timeline
1028 - William was born in Falaise, Normandy, an illegitimate son of Robert I
1035 - Duke Robert I (William's father) dies in Bithynia
1035 - William becomes Duke William II of Normandy at the aged of 7 years
1051 - Edward the Confessor gives a pledge to William that he will be made his
successor to the throne of England
1052 - William marries Matilda of Flanders
1052 - Edward the Confessor is forced to expel Normans from his court due to
pressure brought to bear by Harold Godwinson
1065 - William meets Harold Godwinson - Harold pledges allegiance to William
1066 - William obtains support from the Pope for his invasion of England and
the right to the English throne
1066 - 28th September - William lands at Pevensey
1066 - 29th September - William captures Hastings
1066 - 14th October - William is victorious at the Battle of Hastings
1066 - 25th December - Duke William is crowned King of England
1067 - January - Duke William is crowned King of England in Westminster
Abbey in London
1067 - March - William the Conqueror starts constructing castles in England
Norwich Castle, Wallingford Castle and Chepstow Castle
1067 - March - William returns to Normandy until December 1067
1067 - Autumn - Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux is made Earl of Kent and becomes
William's Deputy in England
1067 - December - William returns to England
1067 - February - Rebellion against the Normans! The English, led by Harold's
mother Gytha, resist the Normans at Exeter but are defeated by the
1067 - Spring - King William starts construction of Exeter Castle and the
Tower of London
1068 - May 11th - King William's wife, Matilda, is crowned Queen of England
1068 - Rebellion! The "Harrying of the North"
1070 - Rebellion against the Normans! Hereward the Wake leads the English
with Harold's brother the Earl Morcar against the Normans at
Peterborough but is defeated
1070 - The Norman Conquest is complete
1086 - The Doomsday Book
1087 - 9th September - William the Conqueror dies at Saint-Gervais near
William the Conqueror Timeline
Read the fascinating Biographies surrounding the Battle of Hastings:
Biography of Edward the Confessor
Biography of King Harold II Godwinson
The Duke William the Bastard of Normandy claim