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An introduction to the life of william the conqueror

The Norman Conquest has long been argued about.

The question has been whether William I introduced fundamental changes in England or based his rule solidly on Anglo-Saxon foundations. A particularly controversial issue has been the introduction of feudalism. On balance, the debate… Early years William was the elder of the two children of Robert I of Normandy and his concubine Herleva also called Arlette, the daughter of a tanner or undertaker from the town of Falaise. In 1035 Robert died while returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalemand William, his only son, whom he had nominated as his heir before his departure, was accepted as duke by the Norman magnates and by his overlord, King Henry I of France.

His weakness led to a breakdown of authority throughout the duchy: His mother, however, managed to protect him through the most dangerous period.

Ruler of Normandy By 1042, when William reached his 15th year, was knighted, and began to play a personal part in the affairs of his duchy, the worst was over. But his attempts to recover rights lost during the anarchy and to bring disobedient vassals and servants to heel inevitably led to trouble.

From 1046 until 1055 he dealt with a series of baronial rebellions, mostly led by his kinsmen. Occasionally he was in great danger and had to rely on Henry of France for help, but it was during these years that William learned to fight and rule.

William soon learned to control his youthful recklessness. He was always ready to take calculated risks on campaign and to fight a battle, but he was not a flamboyant commander. His plans were simple, his methods direct, and he ruthlessly exploited any opportunity.

If he found himself at a disadvantage, he withdrew immediately. He showed the same qualities in his government. He never lost sight of his aim to recover lost ducal rights and revenues, and, although he developed no theory of government or great interest in administrative techniques, he was always prepared to improvise and experiment.

He was moral and pious by the standards of the time, and he acquired an interest in the welfare of the Norman church. He made his half brother Odo bishop of Bayeux in 1049 at the age of about 16; as bishop, Odo combined the roles of nobleman and prelate in a way that did not greatly shock contemporaries. Although Odo an introduction to the life of william the conqueror the other bishops appointed by William were not recognized for their spirituality, they strengthened the church in Normandy by their pious donations and administrative skill.

Presiding over numerous church councils, William and his bishops passed important legislation against simony the selling of church offices and clerical marriage. William endowed several monasteries in his duchy, significantly increasing their number, and introduced the latest currents in reform to Norman monasticism. Although he was always sparing of food and drink, he became fat in later life. He had a rough bass voice and was a good and ready speaker. Writers of the next generation agree that he was exceptionally strong and vigorous.

He was a hunter and soldier, fierce and despotic, and generally feared; uneducated, he had few graces but was intelligent and shrewd and soon obtained the respect of his rivals.

William the Conqueror: A Thorough Revolutionary

New alliances After 1047 William began to participate in events outside his duchy. In support of King Henry and in an attempt to strengthen his southern frontier and expand into the an introduction to the life of william the conqueror county of Mainehe fought a series of campaigns against Geoffrey Martelcount of Anjou.

But from 1052, when Henry and Geoffrey made peace and a serious rebellion began in eastern Normandy, until 1054 William was again in grave danger.

During this period he conducted important negotiations with his cousin Edward the Confessor, king of England, in which he was named heir to the English throne, and took a wife. Hardecanute 1040—42 and Edward the Confessor 1042—66. In that year Edward was about 36 and William 13 years old. Baldwin, an imperial vassal with a distinguished lineage, was in rebellion against the emperor, Henry IIIand was in desperate need of allies.

In 1059 William was reconciled to the papacy, and as penance he and Matilda built two monasteries at Caen. Four sons were born to the couple: Among the daughters was Adelawho became the mother of Stephenking of England from 1135 to 1154.

The immediate purpose of this tripartite alliance was to improve the security of each of the parties. Between 1054 and 1060 William was threatened by the combined menace of internal revolt and the new alliance against him between King Henry and Geoffrey Martel.

Had the Norman rebels coordinated their attacks with king and count, it would have meant the end for William, but his own skill and some luck allowed him to prevail. After suppressing the rebels, William decisively defeated the invading forces of Henry and Geoffrey at the Battle of Mortemer in 1054. After a second victory, at Varaville in 1057, the duke was in firm control of Normandy.

His position was secured even further when both Henry and Geoffrey died in 1060 and were succeeded by weaker rulers. Finally conquering Maine in 1063, William became the most powerful ruler in northern France.

He was ransomed by William, who then took him on a campaign into Brittany.

Early years

Myrabella When Edward died childless on January 5, 1066, Harold was accepted as king by the English magnates, and William decided on war. He proceeded carefully, however, first taking steps to secure his duchy and to obtain international support for his venture. He took council with his leading nobles, bestowed special authority on his wife, Matilda, and his son Robert, and appointed key supporters to important positions in the ducal administration.

He also appealed to volunteers to join his army of invasion and won numerous recruits from outside Normandy. Events outpaced William, however, as others moved more quickly. At this point he probably intended to sail due north and invade England by way of the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water. But adverse winds held up his fleet, and in September a westerly gale drove his ships up-Channel.

  • To secure his hold on the country, he introduced the Norman practice of building castles, including the Tower of London;
  • The trip was not without incident;
  • His mother, however, managed to protect him through the most dangerous period.

He had suffered a costly delay, some naval losses, and a drop in the morale of his troops. The delay, however, yielded a very important benefit for William: William embarked his army and set sail for the southeastern coast of England. The trip was not without incident: The following morning he landed, took the unresisting towns of Pevensey and Hastings, and began to organize a bridgehead with 4,000 to 7,000 cavalry and infantry.

The campaigning season was almost past, and, when William received news of his opponent, it was not reassuring. On September 25 Harold had defeated and slain Tostig and Harald at Stamford Bridge, near Yorkin a bloody battle with great losses on both sides, and he was retracing his steps to meet the new invader at Hastings.

  • Presiding over numerous church councils, William and his bishops passed important legislation against simony the selling of church offices and clerical marriage;
  • In the spring of 1082 William had his son Henry knighted, and in August at Salisbury he took oaths of fealty from all the important landowners in England;
  • He was ably supported in this by his close adviser Lanfranc, whom he made archbishop of Canterbury , replacing Stigand ; William replaced all other Anglo-Saxon bishops of England—except Wulfstan of Dorchester—with Normans;
  • William endowed several monasteries in his duchy, significantly increasing their number, and introduced the latest currents in reform to Norman monasticism.

On October 13, Harold emerged from the forest, but the hour was too late to push on to Hastings, and he took up a defensive position instead. Early the next day, before Harold had prepared his exhausted troops for battle, William attacked.

The failure to break the English lines caused disarray in the Norman army.

  • On Christmas Day, 1066, he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey;
  • Ruler of Normandy By 1042, when William reached his 15th year, was knighted, and began to play a personal part in the affairs of his duchy, the worst was over;
  • He made his half brother Odo bishop of Bayeux in 1049 at the age of about 16; as bishop, Odo combined the roles of nobleman and prelate in a way that did not greatly shock contemporaries;
  • He did not leave any heirs to the throne, but William was related to the king through Edward's uncle, Richard II.

William rallied the fleeing horsemen, however, and they turned and slaughtered the foot soldiers chasing them. Toward nightfall the king himself fell, struck in the eye by an arrow according to Norman accounts, and the English gave up.

He then moved quickly against possible centres of resistance to prevent a new leader from emerging. On Christmas Day, 1066, he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. In a formal sense, the Norman Conquest of England had taken place.

King of England William was already an experienced ruler. In Normandy he had replaced disloyal nobles and ducal servants with his friends, limited private warfare, and recovered usurped ducal rights, defining the duties of his vassals. The Norman church flourished under his reign, as he adapted its structures to English traditions. Like many contemporary rulers, he wanted the church in England to be free of corruption but also subordinate to him.

Thus, he condemned simony and disapproved of clerical marriage. He would not tolerate opposition from bishops or abbots or interference from the papacy, but he remained on good terms with Popes Alexander II and Gregory VII—though tensions arose on occasion.

During his reign, church synods were held much more frequently, and he also presided over several episcopal councils.

The Royal Archives

He was ably supported in this by his close adviser Lanfranc, whom he made archbishop of Canterburyreplacing Stigand ; William replaced all other Anglo-Saxon bishops of England—except Wulfstan of Dorchester—with Normans. He also promoted monastic reform by importing Norman monks and abbots, thus quickening the pace of monastic life in England and bringing it into line with Continental developments. Courtesy of the Phaidon Press Ltd.

The rebellions that began that year reached their peak in 1069, when William resorted to such violent measures that even contemporaries were shocked. To secure his hold on the country, he introduced the Norman practice of building castles, including the Tower of London. The rebellions, which were crushed by 1071, completed the ruin of the English higher aristocracy and secured its replacement by an aristocracy of Norman lords, who introduced patterns of landholding and military service that had been developed in Normandy.

London, Tower ofTower of London.

  1. He proceeded carefully, however, first taking steps to secure his duchy and to obtain international support for his venture.
  2. You may not like William who did?
  3. For a time his great-uncle, the Archbishop Robert, looked after William.
  4. Then there are the words which flow from various people over the next 50 years. The Norman Conquest has long been argued about.

He retained most of the greatest Anglo-Norman barons with him in Normandy and confided the government of England to bishops, trusting especially his old friend Lanfranc. He returned to England only when it was absolutely necessary: In the spring of 1082 William had his son Henry knighted, and in August at Salisbury he took oaths of fealty from all the important landowners in England.

Despite his duties as king, William remained preoccupied with the frontiers of Normandy even after the conquest. The danger spots were in Maine and the Vexin on the Seine, where Normandy bordered on the French royal demesne. In 1081 William reached agreement with Fulk in the treaty of Blancheland: Robert Curthose was to be count of Maine but only as a vassal of Fulk.

He was thwarted at the very moment when he seemed about to enforce his last outstanding territorial claim. Death William was taken to a suburb of Rouenwhere he lay dying for five weeks.

He had the assistance of some of his bishops and doctors, and in attendance were his half brother Robert, count of Mortain, and his younger sons, William Rufus and Henry. Robert Curthose was with the king of France. Although William was tempted to make the loyal Rufus his sole heir, in the end he compromised: Normandy and Maine went to Robert and England to Rufus. Henry was given great treasure with which to purchase an appanage. William died at daybreak on September 9, in his 60th year.

His burial in St. The tomb itself was desecrated by Calvinists in the 16th century and by revolutionaries in the 18th. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Frank Barlow Legacy William left a profound mark on both Normandy and England and is one of the most important figures of medieval English history. His personal resolve and good fortune allowed him to survive the anarchy of Normandy in his youth, and he gradually transformed the duchy into the leading political and military power of northern France.