Monarch 101: William the Conquerer

Hello! As you may notice, this post is about William the Conquerer, 1066 and all that!

In this post you will find out about evil Guys, the Battle of Hastings, an exploding king and what happened if you didn’t sign the Domesday Book!

King William I


Anyway, I’m doing these “monarch 101s” because I want to tell history in a fun AND informative way (Not the Horrible Histories “everything was rotten” attitude. Once again, I mean the books are disappointing. However, there’re some HH clips about Will Conq at the end of this post.)

So, William the Conquerer…

He (don’t ask who) was born in 1027 OR 1028. Just seven (or eight) years later, he became Duke of Normandy (a region of France). A guy called Guy (yes, Guy) tried to nab the throne from Will in 1047 but got defeated. Bad Guy! (chortle).

NOTE!!! IMPORTANT BIT COMING UP!!!! In 1051, Edward the Confessor back in England was having a big problem with Harold Godwineson, his brother-in-law. (Harold wanted the throne for himself!) William, Eddie’s best friend, did what friends should do in a crisis and he sent soldiers to help Eddie fight naughty Harold and banish him. Eddie then promised the throne to Will. What a nice guy!

eddie and will

Butttttttttttt, it wasn’t that simple. Harold and Harald the Viking both wanted the throne after Eddie plopped off in 1066 (ring a bell?) So, problems arose, especially when Harold is declared king on 4th of January 1066 and kicks Harald the Viking’s socks off (basically killing him).

William then marched to England with a strong army in Hastings and kicked Harold’s socks off (killing Harold as well). William was then crowned at Westminster (where I’ve been) on Christmas Day.

Just two years after he was crowned, a revolt was started in Northumbria. The revolt was started after a relative of Eddie, Edgar the Eathling, attacked William because Edgar said that he had a stronger claim to the throne. The revolt was crushed but Northumbria was still a problem. So, William attacked villages in north-east England in what was known as “the harrying of the north”. Revolts continued in the 1070’s but after the Revolt of the Earls in 1075, the revolts stopped after they all failed… MISERABLY!

William then went back to Normandy where his eldest son Robert was rebelling. William fought many battles against Robert but got his ankles and butt kicked in 1079. Despite this, after William died, Robert became next Duke of Normandy.

William later returned to England and did a lot of important things, like naming the New Forest, commissioning the Bayeux Tapestry (embroidery!) and introducing the Domesday Book. This is a book where everybody had to reveal what land and livestock they owned, or a big knight would come and kill them. William also brought castles to England.

How he plopped off

William, aged 59 or 60, was attacking the French king because the naughty king stole some of William’s land! William was campaigning against the king but then fell off his horse and his abdomen was crushed. He was dying for several weeks in Normandy before he had a SILLY funeral! Watch the HH video below to find out just HOW silly!


22 thoughts on “Monarch 101: William the Conquerer

  1. Am I right in thinking William the Conqueror was buried in Caen? You might already know that Pirbright is twinned with Cagny, which I think is near there…perhaps you could go on one of the twinning visits and tick William’s tomb off your list. Of course I could be completely wrong, and he isn’t buried anywhere near Cagny…if so, just ignore me!

    1. William the Conqueror IS buried in Caen. Pirbright’s twin town is near Caen. Next time Granny and Grandad go there I’ll probably go with them to see the tomb!

  2. Why 101?

    Was Christmas Day in 1066 on 25 December? I’ve got a feeling it was a different date back then.

    Was it William who put his own crown on his head at his coronation, because he didn’t think anyone else was worthy enough – or was that another king?

    The English surrendered to William in the town where I went to school. That’s where he became William The Conquerer, rather than just Duke of Normandy. No, I wasn’t at school at the time (my school wasn’t founded for another 500 years!)

    1. I think Christmas Day might have been different in those days because when Rome became Christian they used a Roman holiday as the birth of Jesus. Not sure if it was the 25th.

      As for the crown question: NO IDEA! But I’ll look it up.

  3. My earliest ancestors, the Wardlaw family, took one look at William and ran scared up to King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland and said, “Can we live here, please?”
    Malcolm said, “OK” – and the rest is (my family) history! Think you should be a history teacher, Ben.

    1. William I’s son, William II, fought against Malcolm III and managed to get some Scottish lands but later lost them.

      Malcolm III was also the Macbeth Malcolm.

      1. Facts are interesting, but a lot of facts are subjective, for example, the Japanese and Chinese would see the second World War very differently. Everybody sees the same thing from a different angle. It’s therefore quite important too to work out bias too. Do you remember a story about blind people with elephant? Some blind people have never seen an elephant before, one day, they are asked to describe an elephant. In the end, they all describe a part of the elephant, the part that they touch, because they couldn’t see a whole elephant.

  4. In the 15th Century history of Britain (the “Brut”), William is referred to as ‘William Bastard’ (because of his lineage rather than his temperament). I think this is the case in other chronicles as well. I’m not sure when he started to be called ‘William the Conqueror’.

  5. Excellent piece of writing.
    One serious point – I thought the trouble between Harold and William all started when Harold was shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy and was saved and then given hospitality by William. Because William had saved his life, Harold pledged an oath to support William as the next king of England. When Edward died, Harold went back on his oath and declared himself king. This royally (sorry) p***ed off William and the rest is history.
    One pedantic and not so serious point. “William then marched to England” – really? I had not realised that the Channel Tunnel was open in 1066.

    1. Not just an oath, but he had sworn on a holy relic. So going back on his word was a lot more serious than just breaking a promise.

      1. I knew it was classified as a Holy Oath, but had not realised that it had been sworn on a holy relic. Thanks for the update.

      2. I learnt that when I went to see the Bayeux Tapestry. As well as the tapestry (which isn’t technically a tapestry – and nor was it created in Bayeux) there is a very good exhibition that explains the history and context of the invasion). Well worth a visit if you’ve not seen it (or even if you have).

  6. Interest consequence of the Norman invasion: Before 1066, nobody in England was called William or Henry. By the time Henry I died in 1135, 20% (1 in 5) of the male population of England had the forename of William or Henry.

  7. Your history regarding the succession of 1066 is horribly inaccurate. Harold was in no way in cohorts with Harald, a Norseman, who like his countless predecessors, wanted to conquer England for himself. William was NOT the hero that history books portray him as. There is evidence that Edward had considered naming William his successor at one point, but there are a few issues with the legitimacy of this succession. At the time, yes Harold and Edward were at odds, but this stemmed from a quarrel with Earl Godwin, Harold’s father, who resented marrying Harold’s sister. Edward knew he needed Harold, and no, Harold was not scheming to take the crown for himself. He was already the most powerful man in England at the time and he didn’t need the crown to prove it. Also, according to English and Saxon customs, a king was well within his rights to nominate his successor based on proximity in royal relationships, power and might, and finally approval of the wittanegemot. The king was also well within his rights to change his mind, if he had ever even promised the throne to William in the first place. Furthermore, Harold’s voyage to Normandy was NOT to confirm him as the next king, but to negotiate the release of his brother Wulfnoth and nephew Hakon, who were in William’s custody. The last thing ANY Englishman wanted was a Norman on the throne, much less any foreigner. Regarding the oath Harold took, it is easy to prove this was made under duress, which also according to English and religious custom, was considered to be not serious. Harold was under duress because he was taken captive by William, who WAS conniving and scheming. He would not release Harold unless he promised to support Williams claim to the throne, which was at best, dependent on a childhood suggestion made by a bitter Edward long ago, who had long since reconciled with Harold. Even if Edward had eventhe slightest desire to proclaim William as his successor, he would not have sent Harold and the wittanegemot certainly would not have confirmed the nomination.

    Next time, do your research before allowing anyone to be subjected to such a terribly constructed web of inaccuracies and fallacies. The only histories of the matter that would support Williams “claim” are those based on children’s versions like yours on par with lies like the pilgrims sailed to America to establish a new colony for England, or histories based on accounts created in the wake of William’s victory, which are obviously going to be incredibly subjective and thus highly unreliable.

    If you want to learn the truth from a source that actually did their research and looked at more than a Wikipedia page, read “1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry” by Andrew Bridgeford.

    1. James, next time learn some tact before allowing anyone to be subjected to such a vitriolic attack. There are bound to be conflicting opinions about what happened in 1066. Just because you don’t agree with someone is no excuse to write in such an insulting manner

      In my opinion, your attitude (“I am right and everyone who disagrees is an idiot”) is what deters children (and adults) from taking an interest in history.

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