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William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror As the young Duke of Normandy, William led a highly-trained army, which he used to put down rebellions in his Duchy and defend it against the King of France. In 1066, William launched an invasion of England to seize the crown, which he believed had been promised to him by Edward the Confessor. At the Battle of Hastings, he defeated and killed Harold, who had been elected king after Edward’s death. William became William I (ruled 1066–87) of England. It took him six years to control his kingdom. He crushed uprisings in the west and drove both Danes and Scots out of the north of the country, making peace treaties with both. To impose Norman power on his new subjects, William had more than 80 stone castles built across the land during his reign.

William, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. He sits between his two half-brothers. Odo is on the left, Robert on the right with...Read More >>William, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. He sits between his two half-brothers. Odo is on the left, Robert on the right with a sword in his hand.

Early life

Known as “William the Bastard” as a young man, William was the illegitimate son of Robert, Duke of Normandy and Herleve. Born in around 1028, he was only seven or eight years old when his father died in 1035. The Duchy of Normandy passed to him despite the rule that illegitimacy disqualified him from succession. His great uncle looked after the Duchy while William was still a boy. William grew up to become a skilled military commander who never lost a battle.
William showed ruthlessness in dealing with rebellions inside Normandy and attempted invasions of the Duchy by King Henry I of France in 1054 and 1057, using his feared and highly-trained army built around his powerful cavalry (horse-borne soldiers). In 1053, William married Matilda of Flanders. They had nine children, seven of whom survived into adulthood.

William the Conqueror was the great-great-great grandson of Rollo, a Viking noble. The descendants of Rollo and other Viking settlers of northern France, who intermarried with the local Frankish women, were known as "Normans", a version of the word "Norsemen". Rollo became the first ruler of Normandy (911–927).

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