The story of King William I of England ( Nickname William the Bastard : )
Duke William of Normandy also known as William the Bastard. He was born in Falaise in 1028 - his parents were unmarried - hence the nickname. His father was Robert I, the sixth Duke of Normandy. His mother was called Herleva who was the humble daughter of a Tanner called Fulbert. William's parents also had a daughter called Adelaide. Duke Robert of Normandy died in 1035 and William the Bastard became Duke of Normandy at the age of only seven years old. William's mother later married the Viscount of Conteville and produced a half-sister to William called Muriel and two half-brothers - Robert and Odo (Odo later became the Bishop of Bayeux who commissioned the famous Bayeux tapestry). In 1052 William married Matilda of Flanders.
Edward the Confessor, the King of England, took refuge in Normandy after the Danes conquered England, he stayed at the palace of William. He was very kindly treated there, and William said that in 1051 Edward had promised in gratitude that William should succeed him as king of England. Edward the Confessor returned to England and took with him Norman friends and advisors. The English nobles led by Harold Godwinson were furious at having so many French at court and Edward was forced to expel them. Harold Godwinson later married Edith the sister of Edward the Confessor.
In 1065 Duke William met with Harold Godwinson who is believed to have pledged a sacred oath of allegiance to the Duke William. Edward the Confessor then dies and Harold Godwinson, the son of Earl Godwin, claims the English throne and is crowned the King of England. Duke William immediately stakes his claim on the English throne and receives support from many of the French nobles. Duke William appeals to the Pope to support his cause. The Pope agrees and sanctions a Holy War, or Crusade, against England.
Duke William gathered an army and a fleet of ships. Many mercenaries flocked to his cause. The fleet lands on the South coast of England at Pevensey on 28th September 1066. There were no English to meet him - not one soldier! The English led by King Harold had just fought off a Viking invasion. William erected one of three pre-built castle he has brought with him at Pevensey and marched on to Hastings.
King Harold had fought off the Viking invasion led by King Hardrada in the North of England. William and his army were waiting for the Normans at the South coast when they received news of the Vikings. Harold and his men had to make a forced march to York, win a bloody battle with the Vikings on 25th September and then make another forced march back to Southern England to meet Duke William on October 14th. The two armies met at Senlac (later re-named Battle). William, clad in complete armor, was in the very front of the fight, urging on his troops. At one time a cry arose in his army that he was slain and a panic began. William drew off his helmet and rode along the lines, shouting, "I live! I live! Fight on! We shall conquer yet!". It was a hard fought fight and King Harold and his brothers were killed. Duke William was victorious and was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on 25th December 1066.
The Normans were rewarded with English land. There were various rebellions against King William I and the Norman Conquest, in both Normandy and England and William had to travel between both countries to keep order. His half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was made Earl of Kent and became William's Deputy in England and under his instructions the magnificent Bayeux tapestry was completed illustrating the Norman Invasion.
The English rebellions against the Norman Conquest were first led in 1067 by King Harold's mother Gytha but her forces are defeated. In 1068 King William exacted a terrible punishment on the rebels in the North of England referred to as 'The Harrying of the North'- William ordered that all land is laid to waste and thousands of men, women and children are starved to death. The final major rebellion against William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest was led by Hereward the Wake with Harold's brother the Earl Morcar against the Normans at Peterborough - once again the rebels were defeated and the Norman Conquest was finally complete.
William the Conqueror instituted his strategy for medieval warfare of building castles and went on to build many castles in England including his most famous, the Tower of London. William the Conqueror also left another legacy - The Doomsday Book which was begun in 1086 and contained detailed records of 13,418 settlements in England. The Doomsday Book, which still survives, provides an insight into the medieval life and times of this era. In 1087 King William the Conqueror died in a riding accident when he fell from his horse.