William Aetheling 1103 – 1120

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William Aetheling


Father – King Henry I of England
Mother – Edith (Matilda) of Scotland
Spouse – Alice of Anjou
Children – No children



1103 (5th August)
A son William was born to Henry I and his Queen, Matilda at Winchester. He was known as William Atheling.
Henry’s nephew, William Clito, son of Robert Curthose, was put forward as rightful Duke of Normandy. His claim was backed by Louis VI of France and Count Fulk V of Anjou. William’s father went to Normandy where he successfully defended his claim to be Duke of Normandy.
William and his sister, Adeleide, spent time in the care of Anselem of Bec while their father was in Normandy.
1108 (during)
William began his education. He and his illegitimate brothers were tutored by Otuel Fitzearl, son of the Earl of Chester.
1110 (during)
William’s sister, Adeleide, went to Germany where she would live in the household of Henry V, Emperor of Germany, her future husband.
1113 (during)
As part of his preparation for his future role as king, William began to attest royal documents.
1113 (February)
William was betrothed to Alice, daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou, at Alencon.
1114 (during)
William’s sister, Adeleide, now called Matilda, married Henry V, Emperor of Germany.
1115 (during)
William’s father, Henry I, was concerned that Robert Curthose’s son, William Clito, would be accepted as Duke of Normandy. He therefore asked the Norman barons to swear loyalty to William Atheling.
1116 (during)
William’s father, Henry I, called on the English barons to swear fealty to William as his rightful heir.
1118 (1st May)
William’s mother, Matilda, died at Westminster. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.
1118 (May)
William took on the role of regent when his father was out of the country.
1118 (December)
William married Alice of Anjou. Her name was changed to Matilda on her marriage.
1119 (20th August)
William fought to victory with his father at the Battle of Bremule against the French led by Louis VI of France and his cousin, William Clito.
1119 (late Summer)
William was witness to a charter signed in Rouen.
1119 (November)
William and his father met Pope Calixtus II.
1120 (November)
William was created Duke of Normandy and as such, paid homage to King Louis VI of France. He also received homage himself from the Norman barons. Celebrations were held afterwards.
1120 (25th November, afternoon)
William chose to return to England in a new ship, the White Ship, owned by Thomas Fitzstephen. Many of those on board were still drunk from the ongoing festivities to celebrate William becoming Duke of Normandy.
1120 (25th November, evening)
It was after dark when the White Ship finally set sail from Barfleur. The rowers began to row away from shore but the helmsman was not concentrating and forgot to steer a path to avoid a huge rock that lay just below the surface. The port (left) side of the ship hit the rock splitting the wooden side.
William was put into a small boat and being rowed to the shore when he heard his half-sister, Matilda calling to him. He insisted that the boat return to the scene where it was swamped by survivors trying to clamber on and it capsized killing all onboard.
There was just one survivor out of the 300 onboard, a butcher who survived by clinging on to a mast until help came.


Published Dec 19, 2017 @ 2:20 pm – Updated – Mar 14, 2018 @ 2:59 pm


Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2017). William Aetheling 1103 – 1120. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/william-aetheling-1103-1120 Last accessed March 21st, 2019


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