On September 28, 1066, William of Normandy lands at Pevensey Bay, Sussex England in pursuit of his claim to the throne of England. Upon landing William is alleged to have slipped, and realising this could be taken as a bad omen took a handful of sand and stated “Look I have already grasped my Kingdom.”
William was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. He was the son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and his mistress Herleva. His illegitimate status and his youth caused some difficulties for him after he succeeded his father, as did the anarchy that plagued the first years of his rule. William’s marriage in the 1050s to Matilda of Flanders provided him with a powerful ally.
In the 1050s and early 1060s William became a contender for the throne of England, then held by his childless cousin Edward the Confessor. There were other potential claimants, including the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, who was named the next king by Edward on the latter's deathbed in January 1066. William argued that Edward had previously promised the throne to him, and that Harold had sworn to support William's claim. William built a large fleet and invaded England on September 28, 1066, decisively defeating and killing Harold at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. After further military efforts William was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066, in London. He made arrangements for the governance of England in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but by 1075 William's hold on England was mostly secure, allowing him to spend the majority of the rest of his reign in Normandy.
William's final years were marked by difficulties in his continental domains, troubles with his eldest son, and threatened invasions of England by the Danes. In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the landholders in England along with their holdings. William died on September 9, 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen. William's lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to his eldest son, Robert, and his second surviving son, William Rufus, received England.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Royal Tombs. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
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