William the Conqueror

Guillaume le Conquérant

Worksheet

Guillaume - William -  was born in Falaise, Normandy around the year 1028.  His parents were Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and Herleva, a tanner's daughter. 

Although William was an illegitimate child (his parents were not married), he inherited his father's title 'Duke of Normandy.'  William was just eight years old when he became Duke of Normandy, following the death of his father. 

In 1050, he married Matilda, daughter of the Count of Flanders.  It is said that Matilda and her ladies created the famous Bayeux Tapestry.  In French, it is sometimes referred to as la Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde.  It is around 70 metres long and can be seen in Bayeux, Normandy.  

The tapestry portrays events relating to the Norman invasion of England. 

Queen Matilda - la Reine Mathilde - must have been very proud of her husband to create such an enormous piece of intricate work!  Below is a section of the tapestry.

Important news!  The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has promised to lend the tapestry to the United Kingdom in the near future!

It will probably be exhibited in the British Museum, London.

The Story
 

In January 1066, the English king known as  Edward the Confessor died and a new king of England was crowned.  The new king was Harold Godwinson, also known as Harold II.
 

In Normandy, Duke William was furious!   William believed that he should be the new English king instead of Harold.

The old king - Edward the Confessor -  had no children to succeed him.  William claimed that Edward had promised the English throne to him.  There was no way that he was going to tolerate Harold stealing the title of King of England!   So, William decided to take what he believed was rightfully his by invading England.

In September 1066, William landed in England with his army.  On 14 October 1066, the English army was defeated by the Normans in the Battle of Hastings.  It was during this battle that King Harold was killed.   This was the start of the Norman Conquest of England.

William of Normandy seized the English throne and was crowned William I, King of England on Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey.

William earned the nickname William the Conqueror or Guillaume le Conquérant in French. 

He introduced the French language to England and as a result, many of the words we use in English today have either come from French or are influenced by French.

William is famous for building lots of castles and churches. A famous Norman castle is the White Tower, part of the Tower of London.

 

William is well-known for arranging the compilation of the Domesday Book.  This was the recording of how much land and wealth belonged to the landowners of England.  It was an enormous task. 

The information was collected by surveyors who travelled around England.  The information was completed in 1086.  It is kept in the Public Records Office in London. 

The old English word 'dom' means 'judgement' or 'reckoning.' 'Domesday' actually means 'the day of judgement' so that wealthy landowners could be taxed justly according to their wealth.

 

William of Normandy died in 1087 following an injury when he fell from his horse.  He was laid to rest in the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, Normandy.

An interesting fact:  In the year of the Battle of Hastings, 1066, Halley's Comet appeared in the sky.  It is even depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry.  This event was interpreted by William as a sign from God that it was a good time to initiate his invasion of England!  On the other hand, it was considered an ill omen for King Harold.

Below, you can see the section of the tapestry where the comet is visible.  It is called 'stella' meaning 'star' and you can see people pointing at it.

 Site updated: 7 April 2020    
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