William the Conqueror

France - Rouen - Archives départementales de Seine-Maritime
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Middle Ages
Politics and Military links

The reign of William the Conqueror (1035-1087) traditionally appears as a prosperous period for the duchy of Normandy.

Despite the difficult start where the young Duke has to face opposition from a part of the Norman aristocracy, peace is essential in the duchy and the ducal power is reinforced.
William grows his ancestors' past alliances and develops new ones, imposing himself as a territorial prince with international reputation.

In 1066 , he is officially crowned king of England,  December 25 in Westminster Abbey,  based upon a long-standing Anglo-Norman marriage alliance.
William is one of those sea princes of 11th century, as the Danish King Knut the Great, who, revisiting the legacy of their Viking ancestors in a more political perspective, succeeds with a powerful fleet to conquer an empire and to keep it, attempting to develop institutions and a strong administrative apparatus.

In 1085, he ordered the creation of a large inventory of territories and possessions of each lord in England : the Domesday Book, manuscript comprising two volumes: Great Domesday (general account of British territories except Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex ) and Little Domesday (general account territories of Norfolk , Suffolk and Essex), whose goal is to identify for future taxes, record tenures (and their changes) after 19 years of Norman rules and to solve conflicts by the recognition of acquired land.

In July 1087, Guillaume attacked the territory of Vexin, was wounded in the battle and brought back dying to Rouen.

He made ​​donations to churches, appointed his eldest son Robert, his successor at the head of the Duchy of Normandy and gave William, his second son, England without naming him king directly. Finally he gave his third son Henry money.

William died September 9, 1087. He is buried at Caen in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes and his wife Matilda in the Abbaye-aux-Dames in 1083 .


View 1 : equestrian statue of William the Conqueror - Place de l'Hotel de ville at Falaise (Photo A. Monnié)

View 2 : détail of the equestrian statue of William the Conqueror in Falaise

View 3 : bust of William the Conqueror, study for the equestrian statue at Falaise by Rochet, 1851 - Musée de Normandie, Caen

View 4 : statue of King William I at Lichfield cathedral in England

View 5 : detail of the Bayeux Tapestry

View 6 : Guillaume le Conquérant arrête Odon, son frère, évêque de Bayeux en 1082 - 74 Fi 3/5

View 7 : Assault and capture of the château d'Eu by William the Conqueror in1049 - after the painting by Percival Skelton -  1 Fi 418

View 8 : Descente des Normands en Angleterre au nombre de 60.000 hommes sur 3000 bâtimens - La flotte de Guillaume le Conquérant arrive sur la Tamise (en 1066) -  6 Fi 8/115

View 9 : marble slab marking the grave of William the Conqueror at  the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen, with the latin inscription :


Translated by : « Here lies the invincible William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England, founder of the house, who died the year 1087».


For further details :

- "William the Conqueror" (2011) by David Bates

- "Gesta Normannorum Ducum" (1070-1071) by Guillaume de Jumièges

- "Guillelmi Ducis Normannorum et Regis Anglorum" (1077) by Guillaume de Poitiers

- "Ecclesiasical History" (1141) by Orderic Vitalis

- "De Gestis Regum Anglorum" (1125) by Guillaume de Malmesbury

- "Carmen de Hastinage proelio" (written 3 years after the battle)

- "Anglo-Saxon Chronicles" (late 9th c.) : out of the 9 manuscripts, 7 are preserved at the British Library in London, one in Oxford, and the last one in Cambridge.

- Tapestry of Bayeux

- charters, for an institutional point of view

- Domesday Book, inventory of lands and depiction of England after 1066.




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