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On this day in history in 1087, died William The Conqueror.
William I, known as William the Conqueror or William the bastard, was the first of the Norman kings of England and the last general to mount a conquest of England.
Despite his unfortunate parentage, William inherited the Dukedom of Normandy from his father, aged seven years, and was a successful ruler establishing his authority and subduing resistance from rival claimants to the Duchy.
During his reign in Normandy, William cultivated his friendship with the childless Edward the Confessor, king of England, hoping to inherit the crown. In 1064, when his rival claimant to the throne, Harold Godwinson, was shipwrecked in Normandy, William exacted a sacred oath that Harold would support William in his claim to the English crown. Despite this promise, when Edward died in 1066, Harold seized the throne and declared himself king.
In order to peruse his own claim, William needed support. He enlisted the pope, Alexander II, who was completely dissatisfied with the state of the English church, and William promised that if he took control of England, he would build a stone church in every parish, to ensure continual worship. The pope took up Williamís offer and financed an invasion.
William took a fleet and landed in Sussex, where after provoking Harold to battle, defeated him and several Anglo-Saxon noblemen, at Hastings. William then had to reach a compromise with the remaining Anglo-Saxon dignitaries before being crowned in Westminster Abbey.
Williamís instituted many changes to the kingdom. He commissioned the Doomsday Book, a survey of Englandís economic capacity, and built several castles including the Tower of London. He was true to his word to the pope and instituted a programme of church building. Many Norman churches are around today, while few survive from the Anglo-Saxon period.
Williamís reign was characterised by uprisings in the north and in Wales and invasions from the Danes and Scots. William had to deal with these ruthlessly. It is estimated that in 1075, one fifth of the population died by massacre or starvation. William is said to have deported many of the Anglo-Saxon nobility into slavery in the Moorish lands.
At the age of sixty, William died from injuries sustained when he fell from his horse. He was buried in St Peterís church, Caen, Normandy. The kingís injuries had caused his abdomen to swell and the corpse would not fit into the stone sarcophagus. The mourners attempted to push the body into the coffin causing it to burst. The stench overpowered the congregation and the mourners rushed for the exit, leaving the funeral to be drawn to an abrupt and unseemly close.
Bates, David R. William The Conqueror.
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