William I, the Conqueror (1066-1087 AD)
One of the most important personalities although not English origin in the early Middle Ages, is William I, known as the „Conqueror“.
William, the illegitimate son of Robert I., the sixth Duke of Normandy, spent his first six years with his mother Herleva of Falasiain, a woman about whose origins various theories have been developed, but who was certainly an established partner of the duke. In 1035 Robert set out upon a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which he died. "He is little", he said about William, "but he will grow, and, if God please, he will mend." William was still a child when he became the ruler of Normandy. His early years were filled with conflict and strife. He faced rival claimants from within his own family and his illegimate birth was sometimes mocked by contemporaries, his other nickname „the Bastard“ was used in his own lifetime. From 1046 until 1054 he faced six long years of uninterrupted war and struggled to survive. In 1047 a serious rebellion of nobles occurred, and William with the aid of Henry, King of France, gained a great victory at Val-ès-Dunes, near Caen, which led, the following year, to the capture of the two strong castles of Alençon and Domfront. Using this as his base of operations, the young duke, in 1054 and the following years, made himself master of the province of Maine and thus became the most powerful vassal of the French Crown, able on occasion to bid defiance to the king himself. Finally, in 1054 the Battle of Mortemer, he had succeeded in crushing all his enemies. Never again was his position in Normandy challenged. But William had also begun to take a great interest in English affairs. How far his visit to England in 1051 was directly prompted by designs upon the throne, it is impossible to say. It is in any case likely that his marriage, in spite of the papal prohibition, with Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Flanders, in 1053, was intended as a check upon the influence exercised in that powerful quarter by Earl Godwin and his sons, especially Harold, who was chosen by Witan to become a king.
After the invasion and the decisive battle of Hastings in 1066, William at once marched on London, and there the best and wisest men of the kingdom came in and tendered submission. Before the end of the year the king was crowned by Aldred in the newly consecrated abbey-church of Westminster.
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William the Conqueror biography
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Zdroje: John Cannon: The Oxford Companion to British History, J. P. Kennyon: Dictionary of British History