WILLIAM I 1066 - 1087  (W1)  Lived c1028 - 1087

xxxxxWilliam “The Conqueror” came to the throne by conquest, defeating the Anglo-Saxon King, Harold II, at the famous Battle of Hastings. He marched directly to London, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake to subdue the natives, and was crowned king in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. Hex was a cousin of King Edward the Confessor and claimed that Edward had promised him succession to the English throne in 1051. So when Harold Godwin took the throne as Harold II in January 1066, William decided to invade England and take his kingdom.

xxxxxAfter winning the Battle of Hastings - in which Harold was killed - he set about the conquest of England, a task virtually completed after ruthlessly crushing a revolt in the north in 1069, and overcoming the resistance of Hereward the Wake in 1071. During these five years he swept aside Anglo-Saxon rule and introduced the Norman feudal system, centralising government under the crown and giving out the big estates and high government offices to leading Norman knights and churchmen. By the mid-80s the Anglo Saxon leaders in England had been almost entirely replaced by a new ruling élite which was staunchly loyal to William. And William and his followers firmly established their rule and military occupation by the building of a string of imposing castles throughout the land.

xxxxxIt must be said that Norman rule gave England the stability it badly needed. It also had an important influence on English culture - introducing as it did the new language of Norman French and the distinctive Norman architecture, known as Romanesque. Many French craftsmen and traders came to settle in England.

xxxxxBut for most of us, his reign is remembered for two things; the Domesday Book, a survey of England, ordered by him for the levying of taxes, and the Bayeux Tapestry, a pictorial record of that famous and eventful battle of 1066 and all that.

xxxxxWilliam was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert the Devil, and became Duke of Normandy on the death of his father in 1035 at the age of eight. By the time he was twenty he had proved himself an accomplished soldier, having defended his land against a number of rebellions. As his reign in England showed, he was a firm believer in law and order and a sincerely religious man, upholding the "Truce of God", a ban on fighting imposed by the Church on certain holy days. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - a record of the times - describes him as "a very wise and powerful man".

xxxxxWilliam died in Rouen in 1087 following a fall from his horse, and he was buried at Caen. He left Normandy to his eldest son Robert and England to his second son, William Rufus.

xxxxxIncidentally, the coat of arms shown below (two lions passant on a red flag) are those of William the Conqueror at the time of his invasion.




William I: c1620, artist unknown - National Portrait Gallery, London. Map (Europe): licensed under Creative Commons. User: Roke – commons wiki. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan – creativecommons.org, wikimedia.org.


William, Duke of Normandy, invades southern England and defeats and kills the Anglo-Saxon King, Harold, at the famous Battle of Hastings.


Having been crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey, London, on Christmas Day 1066, William begins the Norman Conquest, not fully completed until the early 1080s.


Resistance begins to grow across the country. William starts building a fortress at Windsor, the first of some 80 castles built across his new kingdom over the next twenty-five years.

A serious rebellion breaks out in Northumbria, supported by a Danish invasion force. It is swiftly and ruthlessly crushed by what becomes known as The Harrowing of the North.


An English landowner, Hereward the Wake, rebels against the Normans from his stronghold on the Isle of Ely. He has some success, but is defeated the following year.

The Italian Lanfranc, moral reformer and advisor to the King, is appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and begins a thorough reorganisation of the English Catholic Church.


The Seljuk Turks, now at the height of their power, overrun Anatolia and, after defeating the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert, take control of the Holy City of Jerusalem.


The Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard lays the foundation of the Norman kingdom of Sicily by attacking the Byzantines in southern Italy and the Muslims on the island.


A bitter dispute breaks out between Pope Gregory VII and the German King, Henry IV. Known as the Investiture Controversy, it is a power struggle between Church and State.

Work begins on the Tower of London, a fortress on the Thames designed to defend the entrance to the busy port or Pool of London.


Having settled in Morocco, the Almoravids, a nomadic people from the Western Sahara, overrun the wealthy Kingdom of Ghana and prepare for an invasion of Spain, successfully carried out in 1086.


The Bayeux Tapestry, a pictorial record of the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings, is possibly completed this year, in time for the dedication of Bayeux Cathedral.


Aided by assistants, the Chinese scholar and statesman Sima Guang completes his epic history of China, a mammoth record of events covering over thirteen hundred years.


St Bruno of Cologne founds the Carthusian Order at Chartreuse, near Grenoble, in southern France. The order is based on rules of severe austerity


Domesday BookDomesday Book is completed. A detailed survey of England for the assessment of tax, it is regarded as the greatest public record produced in medieval Europe.  

The Almoravids of North Africa cross into Spain and quickly gain ground. Alfonso VI of Castile, having just taken Toledo from the Moors, is defeated at the Battle of Zalaca.


The King dies at Rouen after falling from his horse. He is buried at Caen. He is succeeded to the English throne by his son William II, known as William Rufus because of his red hair.



















Synopsis of William1 Reign


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