William I (The Conqueror) 1027 – 1087

William I of England

 

This timeline details the life of William, Duke of Normandy and King of England, known as the Conqueror, from birth 1027 to his death in 1087

 

1027 or 1028 (date unknown)
Born the son of Robert Duke of Normandy and his mistress, Herleve.
1035 (22nd July)
Inherited the Dukedom of Normandy when his father died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
1047 (10th August)
Secured a decisive victory over his opponent Guy of Burgundy at the Battle of Val-es-Dunes.
1048 (date unknown)
Captured the castles of Alençon and Domfront which he used as a base.
1051 (Summer)
William paid a visit to England where he visited Edward the Confessor. He claimed that during this visit Edward promised him the English crown.
1052/3 (date unknown)
A son, Robert was born. He was known as Robert Curthose.
1053 (during)
Henry I of France was concerned that William was becoming too powerful and allied himself with William’s enemy William, Count of Arques.
1053 (date unknown)
William lay siege to the castle of Arques-la-Bataille in Maine. The castle fell and William added Maine to his possessions.
1054 (date unknown)
A second son, Richard was born.
1054 (February)
Battle of Mortemer William met and defeated the combined forces of Henry I of France and Count Geoffrey of Anjou.
1055 (date unknown)
A daughter, Cecilia was born
1055 (date unknown)
A second daughter, Adeliza was born
1056 (date unknown)
A third son, William was born
1057 (date unknown)
A third daughter, Constance was born
1057 (August)
Battle of Varaville This was a final challenge to William by Henry I and Geoffrey of Anjou which resulted in victory for William.
1062 (date unknown)
A fourth daughter, Adela, was born
1064 (date unknown)
A fifth daughter, Agatha was born
1064 (Spring/Summer)
Harold Godwinson was shipwrecked off the coast of Ponthieu and taken prisoner by Guy of Ponthieu. William ordered that Harold be placed in his care and Guy agreed. Harold was placed under virtual house arrest, accompanying William into battle at Rouen. After the battle he swore an oath to support William’s claim to the throne of England after the death of Edward.
1066 (5th January)
Edward the Confessor died
1066 (6th January)
The Witan decided that Harold Godwinson should be King. He was crowned the same day.
1066 (Spring)
William learned that Harold had been crowned. He was furious that Harold had broken his oath. William petitioned the Pope who gave his blessing to William’s planned invasion.
1066 (late Spring)
William began preparing his invasion. He announced that he would give land in England to any knight that fought for him.
1066 (18th June)
William’s daughter, Cecilia entered the abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen as a novice
1066 (Summer)
Throughout the Summer William assembled a fleet of ships to carry his army across the Channel to England
1066 (August)
William’s fleet was ready to sail but he delayed sailing, possibly due to unfavourable wind direction and possibly because he was waiting for harvest season in the hopes that some of the men stationed along the South coast would go home.
1066 (28th September)
William, Duke of Normandy landed at Pevensey on the South coast of England
1066 (30th September)
William decided to move the Norman army to Hastings as it offered better defence and a more direct route to London.
1066 (early October)
William remained in Hastings confident that Harold would march South and challenge his presence. Staying put also had the advantage that William’s men would be rested before any battle whereas Harold’s men had marched north, fought a battle then marched south again.
1066 (13th October)
William’s scouts reported that the Saxon army had arrived. William told his men to be ready in case of a night attack.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
Early in the morning William marched north to meet the Saxons. Harold knew he did not have enough men to defend Caldbec Hill so moved to Senlac Hill where his army formed a shield wall.

William arrived and set up his forces at the bottom of the hill. He had three groups – Normans, Flemings and Bretons, both cavalry and infantry. William opened the battle with a barrage of arrows which, because of the hill flew over the heads of the Saxons. Next William sent in his infantrymen but they were unable to break through the shield wall. A group of Breton infantrymen turned and ran down the hill. The Saxons that had been withstanding that group broke the shield wall and ran down after them. William ordered that they become the focus of the next attack and although some managed to return to their line most were cut down. It is thought that Harold’s two brothers lost their lives at this point.

Having seen how the Bretons fleeing down the hill broke the shield wall, William changed tactic and ordered his men to do the same thing. Although the shield wall did not break so spectacularly again it did begin to weaken. With the light beginning to fade William ordered his archers to fire again but to angle them higher so that they hit the men just behind the shield wall. It is thought that one of these arrows went through the eye slit of Harold’s helmet and struck him in the eye or near to the eye. With Harold dead and most of the leading nobles also dead many of the remaining men fled the battlefield. Those that remained were soon cut down. William was victorious.

1066 (15th October)
William surveyed the battlefield and instructed that the dead be buried.
1066 (16th October)
William returned to his camp at Hastings. He expected a deputation of English nobles to come and submit themselves and England to him.
1066 (20th October)
William realised that the English were not going to submit to him and that he would have to force their submission. He left Hastings bound for Dover.
1066 (early November)
William reached Dover and took the Roman fort that was stationed there.
1066 (November)
William reached Canterbury and took control of the town.
1066 (early December)
William marched on London
1066 (10th December)
Realising that they could not defeat William, Edgar Aetheling and the remaining English nobles submitted to William.
1066 (25th December)
William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
1067 (January)
The Earls Edwin and Morcar decided to submit to William.
1067 (January)
William began to distribute English land to those Norman nobles that had came with him from Normandy and fought at the Battle of Hastings
1067 (March)
William returned to Normandy. He took with him Edgar Aetheling, Edwin, Morcar and other prominent English nobles. Odo of Bayeux and William FitzOsbern were left as regents of England.
1067 (August)
A rebellion by Eadric the Wild was unsuccessful
1067 (Autumn)
Eustace of Boulogne was asked by the English to invade England at Dover while Odo was out of Kent. Eustace duly complied but returned to Boulogne when he realised that Dover castle was too heavily fortified for him to take.
1067 (7th December)
William returned to England.
1067 (after 7th December) or 1068 (during)
William lay siege to the city of Exeter because King Harold’s mother, Gytha, had fled to there following the death of her son and had persuaded the people of Exeter to resist the conqueror. William dug tunnels under the city walls to weaken them and the city fell after 18 days. Gytha fled the city and avoided capture.
1068 (Spring)
William’s wife Matilda arrived in England
1068 (11th May)
Matilda was crowned Queen of England
1068 (Summer)
Earls Edwin and Morcar rebelled against William but later surrendered to the Conqueror
1068 (Summer)
Harold Godwinson’s sons, Godwin, Edmund and Magnus Haroldson had been in Ireland raising support. They now tried to take Bristol as their base in England but the people of Bristol were worried about the consequences of supporting the Haroldsons and they returned to Ireland to rethink strategy.
1068 (Summer)
William began a programme of castle building designed to stamp the Norman’s authority on England. Work was begun on castles at Warwick, York, Nottingham, Huntingdon, Lincoln and Cambridge.
1068 (September)
A fourth son, Henry, was born. He was the first of William’s children to be born in England.
1069 (Spring)
Edgar the Aetheling attempted to take York but was unsuccessful
1069 (Autumn)
Edgar the Aetheling had joined forces with Sweyn of Denmark and together they attacked and took York
1069 (Late Autumn)
William marched North to deal with Edgar Aetheling. He paid off the Danes and defeated the Saxon rebels. Having re-established York as a Norman stronghold he set about defeating all other Northern pockets of resistance to his rule – an event that is known as The Harrying of the North.
1070 (During)
William founded an abbey on the site of the Battle of Hastings.
1070 (Spring)
Hereward the Wake and King Sweyn of Denmark took the Isle of Ely
1070 (11th April)
William removed Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury from office, confiscated his land and goods and imprisoned him at Winchester.
1070 (11th April)
William appointed the Norman Lanfranc of Bec as Archbishop of Canterbury.
1071 (During)
Earl Edwin launched another revolt against the Normans but was betrayed by his own men and killed.
1071 (During)
William constructed a causeway between mainland England and the Isle of Ely in order to defeat Hereward and Earl Morcar. Morcar was captured and imprisoned but Hereward managed to escape.
1072 (During)
William rode North to deal with King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland. He pushed the Scottish King back and Malcolm was forced to agree to the terms of the Treaty of Abernethy. William took Malcolm’s son, Duncan, hostage.
1073 (During)
William returned to Normandy to deal with unrest in the Maine.
1073 (30th March)
William defeated Count Fulk of Anjou
1074 (During)
William spent the whole year in Normandy
1075 (During)
Roger of Montgomery allowed Ralph de Gael to marry his sister even though the alliance had been forbidden by William. The two men then plotted to overthrow William and invited the Earl of Northumbria, Waltheof and Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark to join them. However, Waltheof got cold feet and told William of the plot. William reacted quickly and imprisoned Roger of Montgomery. Ralph escaped to Brittany leaving his new wife to hold out against William alone. She too fled to Brittany after William agreed a safe passage for her. When Sweyn Estrithson arrived with a sizeable force and found no army waiting for him he raided York and then returned to Denmark.
1076 (31st May)
William executed Waltheof of Northumbria for his part in the Earls revolt.
1077 (During)
Robert Curthose, eldest son of William I, led a revolt to take Rouen from his father. The revolt failed and Robert was forced to flee to Gerberoi.
1078 (During)
The White Tower (inner tower of the Tower of London) was built on Tower Hill.
1079 (During)
William, who loved hunting, made large areas of woodland subject to Forest Law. This meant that everything in any designated area, including trees, leaves, birds and animals, belonged to the King. This made life especially difficult for the common people who relied on the woodland for wood and food.

Around 20 small hamlets were affected by William’s decision to create a New Forest in Hampshire.

1080 (14th May)
The Norman Bishop of Durham was murdered by a group of English rebels. William sent his half brother Odo of Bayeux to deal with the rebels.
1080 (Autumn)
William sent his eldest son, Robert on a campaign against the Scots. He succeeded in raiding as far north as Lothian and built a castle at Newcastle on his return to England.
1080 (Christmas)
William spent Christmas at Gloucester
1081 (Late)
William returned to Normandy to deal with a new conflict with Count Fulk of Anjou.
1082 (During)
William arrested and imprisoned his half-brother Odo of Bayeux. Sources are not clear on the reason for this action but it is thought that he may have mis-appropriated church funds or made a play to become Pope.
1083 (2nd November)
William’s wife, Matilda of Flanders, died
1085 (Christmas)
William ordered commissioners to visit every part of England and make a detailed inventory of the holdings of every person in the land. Included in the survey were details of land ownership both before and after the Conquest, ownership of animals, machines and other goods.

The exact reason for the survey, which was called The Domesday Survey is not known but it is thought that William intended to use to base tax calculations on

1086 (1st August)
The Domesday Survey was completed.
1086 (1st August)
William summoned around 170 nobles to court where they were required to swear a new oath of fealty to him.
1086 (Late)
William returned to Normandy to deal with another dispute.
1087 (July)
The garrison of the French fortress at Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated and led a raid on Mantes. During the raid he was injured.
1087 (9th September)
William I died in Normandy from the injury he received in July 1087.

Robert Curthose inherited Normandy, and William II inherited the English throne.

 

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2015). William I Timeline. Available: http://www.totallytimelines.com/william-i-the-conqueror-1002-1087 Last accessed September 22nd, 2017

 

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