After poor Harold Godwinson lost his life while battling the Normans it gave room for this fellow to take over and take over he well and truly did. More from "King and Queens of England and Scotland".
WILLIAM I 1066-1087 (Known as William the Bastard, and later, William the Conquerer).
Succeeded as Duke of Normandy 1035 aged eight, crowned King of England 25 December, 1066 at the age of 39.
No relation to his predecessor Harold. Second cousin to King Edward the Confessor, William's father being the nephew of Emma, mother of Edward, (i.e, Edward's mother was William's great-aunt).
Married: Matilda of Flanders, a descendant of King Alfred through his daughter AElfthryth, who married Baldwin II, Count of Flanders.
Children: Robert, Richard, Cecily, WILLIAM, Adeliza, Constance, Adela, Agatha Matilda, HENRY.
Died: In action against the French, from a riding mishap which ruptured intestines already weakened by dysentery, at Rouen on 6 September, 1087, aged 60, having reigned for 21 years.
Buried: At Caen.
Profile: In 1085, when the Domesday Book was planned, he was tallish, thick, regal, stern, and very imposing in spite of a notably protuberant belly and a balding head.
When Harold fell at Hastings, William did not immediately succeed as king. The English had not surrendered, and their leaders considered proclaiming young Edgar Atheling. But William conducted a vengeful war of attrition, laying waste the shires around London. Under pressure the generals capitulated, and the Witanagemot, in the last official function of this historic institution accepted William and attended his coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.
William was the only son of the Duke of Normandy, Robert the Devil, the offspring of an intense and undying love-affair with Herleva (Herleve), the daughter of a burgher of Falaise known as William the Tanner. The conventions of the time forbade a marriage between Robert and Herleva, since the marriages of nobility were reserved for political purposes - such as a claim on territory of the bride's father or some other substantial dowry - rather than for romantic reasons. Nevertheless, Robert seems to have remained, through his short life, monumentally faithful to Herleva although she in her turn had to be married off for the usual materialist reasons to a Norman baron. From this marriage she had two sons, Robert and Odo. William's half-brothers who supported him in the spectacular single combat at Hastings. Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux, was an old-style bishop, a fighting and administrative feudal lord rather than a devout cleric; his priceless legacy to history was the commissioning of the Bayeux Tapestry.
William's father died on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1035. Yet the boy, then aged eight, managed, as Robert's only child, however irregular his birth, to find enough support to retain the Dukedom of Normandy against continuous campaigns of intrigue, assassination and foreign invasion, particularly by the King of France. Through 20 turbulent years he developed his general-ship, his political skill, and a genuine interest in the reform of the Church.
The invasion of England was a complete success. It was a carefully planned campaign, not only on the part of William himself but also by many who supported him. Barons and knights from Flanders and Brittany, who owed William no feudal service, made a shrewd calculation of his chances of victory and invested in the prospect of his success by joining his army and - what was absolutely essential - contributing the capital necessary to build a fleet of invasion barges. Their judgement proved sound, and the collected their dividends. In this instance the profit was colossal. It amounted eventually to no less than three-quarters of the whole territory of England, shared out piecemeal among about 5000 adventurers - either warriors or ecclesiastics - with the other quarter of the land being retained by William. The property owning democracy (which did exist among English freemen to a certain extent) and the old, almost independent aristocracy of the Saxon-Danish land owners were entirely expropriated.
William first used the tremendous wastage of the English nobility at Hastings to transfer the land once held by the defeated owners to his Norman followers and speculators from Flanders and Brittany. he then extended expropriation to cover the land of all who had once acknowledged Harold as king. He completed the transfer by using every one of the many subsequent rebellions against the Conquest as an occasion for the take-over of property. He was able to crush every rebellion, even when the Welsh and fresh contingents of Danes burst in to challenge him, because of the fragmentation which England had suffered in the preceding century with the loss of any corporate and united resolution to survive. The revolts were desperate, but uncoordinated and sporadic, rather than organised. William settled them one by one, like a terrier killing rats.
This stern conqueror seized the opportunity of the later rebellions to apply unprecedented sanctions of massacre and devastation, stabilising his domination through terror. In old Mercia and Northumbria his bloody suppression depopulated whole areas, so that hundreds of gutted villages were still only empty names by the time that his catalogue of property was compiled in the Domesday Book. In many areas these smoking graveyards were replaced by the stone Norman castles - which were not the havens of the fortified towns which Alfred had instituted, but war-centres deliberately constructed as bases of aggression to ensure the perpetual domination of the invaders. (The Tower of London was built high, outside the city walls). This was the most rigorous, swift and revolutionary military occupation in history.
England passed through the fire to be forged into a nation, helplessly subject but more united through subjection than it had ever been before. Yet the land was still individual. The feudal system, based on the tenancy of multiple small parcels of land rather than on European-style provinces or Saxon-Danish earldoms, had an entirely different character from elsewhere, and was much more autocratically dominated by the king. There was still, however, an English heritage. William had sworn to observe the old Saxon laws, and he kept this promise because it was convenient to him. He set up specifically ecclesiastical courts for spiritual and matrimonial matters, banishing the local bishop from the criminal and civil business of the shire court, which administered the King's Justice within the king's own administrative unit (the shire, or county) - effectively reducing any independent despotism on the part of the largest land owner in the county. It was a countermeasure of regal power to check the frequently rebellious aspirations of the immigrant barons, who had cheerfully accepted a vested interest in the new status quo with William's extensive grants of land - and realised too late that conditions were not going to be as favourable for them as they would have been under the feudalism of the continental mainland. At the same time, William introduced a clerical bureaucracy (i.e., a civil service in priestly orders) answerable to him and not to the Church, to shape the new establishment.
William the Conqueror was a king of iron, ruthlessly crushing opposition to his policies and his pleasures - which centred on hunting, not women - by violence and mutilation. Strangely, he relied on blinding and maiming rather than hanging, so it has therefore been claimed that capital punishment for crime was non-existent during his reign - a statement which must surely be received with cynicism when one considers the scores of hundreds of noncombatants who were slain by his orders during his 'pacification'. William died as a man of war, defending his Normandy inheritance from the attacks of the King of France. He had become, through the chances of war, England's first total conqueror, and his successors used their interest in his original inheritance to shape England's first imperialism. This eventually led to the acquisition of the Angevin Empire.