WILLIAM I called The Conqueror
(WILLIAM I called The Conqueror (or Bastard) (House of Normandy) (1027-1087), the first Norman king of England (25th December 1066 to 9th September 1087), was born in Falaise, Normandy. William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and Arlette, a tanner's daughter, and is therefore sometimes called William the Bastard. He succeeded his father in 1035 at the age of eight, but his position did not become secure until 1047 when, with the aid of Henry I, King of France, he won a decisive victory over a rebel force near Caen.
During a visit in 1051 to his childless cousin, Edward the Confessor, king of England, William is said to have obtained Edward's agreement that he should succeed to the English throne. In 1053, defying a papal ban, William married Matilda of Flanders, daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and a descendant of King Alfred the Great, thereby strengthening his claim to the crown of England.
Around 1064, Harold, Earl of Wessex, was shipwrecked on the Norman coast and taken prisoner by William. He was released after swearing to support William's claim to the English throne. When King Edward died, however, Harold claimed the English throne.
William made plans for the invasion of England securing the sanction of Pope Alexander II to do so. While waiting for William's move, news reached Harold of an invasion in the north by Harold Hardrada of Norway, supported by his own brother, Tostig. Harold raced north with his army and defeated the invaders at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, near York on 25th September 1066. Three days later, William and his army landed at Pevensey Bay, on the south-east coast of England. Harold marched desperately south. The two armies met at Senlac Hill, a place now called Battle, 10 miles from Hastings. On October 14th 1066, the English forces were beaten and Harold slain. On Christmas Day William was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.
William met much opposition, particularly in the north and west; he was responsible for the devastation of great areas of the country, particularly in Yorkshire, where Danish forces were aiding the Saxon rebels. By 1070 the Norman Conquest of England was complete.
William invaded Scotland in 1072 and forced the Scottish king Malcolm III MacDuncan to pay him homage. William also had to put down insurrections by his followers, including those of Ralph de Guader, 1st Earl of Norfolk, and Roger Fitzwilliam, Earl of Hereford, in 1075 and a series of uprisings in Normandy led by his eldest son Robert, who later became Robert II, Duke of Normandy.
William reorganized of the English feudal and administrative systems. He dissolved the great earldoms, which had enjoyed virtual independence under his Anglo-Saxon predecessors, and distributed the lands confiscated from the English to his Norman followers. He introduced the Continental system of feudalism; by the Oath of Salisbury of 1086 all landlords swore allegiance to William, thus establishing the precedent that a vassal's loyalty to the king overrode his fealty to his immediate lord. The feudal lords were compelled to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the local courts, which William retained along with many other Anglo-Saxon institutions. The ecclesiastical and secular courts were separated, and the power of the papacy in English affairs was greatly curtailed. An economic survey of the entire country was undertaken and incorporated in the Domesday Book in 1086.
In 1087, during a campaign against King Philip I of France, William burned the town of Mantes (now Mantes-la-Jolie) and afterwards William's horse fell and William fell onto the pommel of the saddle. He died in Rouen on September 7th and was buried at Caen in St Stephen's, one of the abbeys he and Matilda had founded at the time of their marriage as penance for their defiance of the pope. William was succeeded by his third-born son, William II.