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William the Conqueror Timeline
 

Date

Summary

Detailed Information

1028 Birth William, bastard son of Robert Duke of Normandy, was born
1035 Duke of Normandy William's father, Robert, died and William became Duke of Normandy
1064  Duke William of Normandy meets Godwineson Harold Godwineson was shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy. Some historians believe that Duke William of Normandy held him captive until he had sworn on Holy Relics to enforce William's claim to the throne of England. Others believe that Harold offered his support willingly.
Jan 1066 Death of Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor died. William expected to be offered the crown as promised in 1064. He was dismayed to hear that Godwineson had taken the crown for himself and planned to invade England
28th Sept 1066 William invaded England William Duke of Normandy landed at Pevensey in the South of England and began a march towards Hastings
14th Oct 1066 Battle of Hastings

The battle took place at Senlac Hill. Harold ordered his Saxon army to make a shield wall at the top of the hill. William's army made the first attack but were held off by the shield wall. Successive attacks by the Normans continued to be held off by the shield wall. Some time later, however, some Saxons thought they heard a cry that William had been killed. The Saxon's believing that they had won the battle, broke the shield wall and chased the retreating Normans down the hill. This gave the Norman horseman the opportunity they had been waiting for. Charging into the Saxon foot soldiers they cut them down before riding up the hill to break the remnants of the shield wall. 

The battle lasted all day and towards the end of the day Harold fell, popularly thought to be from an arrow in the eye, but actually from a sword blow wielded by a mounted Norman Knight. The English infantry was broken, William had won the battle. He gave thanks for victory by founding an altar and later an abbey at the place known afterwards as Battle. 

Oct 1066

William took treasury

Following the defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William made it his first priority to gain control of the English treasury. He then marched to London to crush English resistance which was gathering around Edgar Atheling, grandson of Edmund II and Saxon heir to the English throne.

Late Oct/early Nov 1066

William took London

William mounted a campaign of devastation in and around London which forced Edgar Atheling to surrender.

25 Dec 1066

Coronation of William

William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

1067

Distribution of land

William distributed land to his trusted Norman barons. He was careful to ensure that no one man was given too great an area in any given region. The estates were also scattered all over the country to easily put down any sign of rebellion against Norman rule.

1066 onwards

The feudal system

All land belonged to the crown. One quarter was treated by William as personal property and the rest was leased out under strict conditions. The country was split into manors which were given to Barons by the King. In return the Baron and his Knights had to serve on the royal Grand Council, pay various dues and provide the King with military service when required. The Baron kept as much land as he wished for his own use, then distributed the rest among his Knights who were thereby bound to meet the Baron's military needs, when either he or the King called for them. The knights in turn allocated sections of their lands to villeins (serfs) who had to provide free labour and food and service whenever, with or without warning, it was demanded.

1067

William returns to Normandy

William returned to Normandy, leaving England in the hands of two trusted regents. The first, Odo of Bayeaux, William's half-brother who was made Earl of Kent and the greatest landowner in England. It is thought to have been Odo who commissioned the Bayeaux Tapestry. The second was William Fitz Osborn, a good friend of William's who was also granted extensive lands and the title Earl of Hereford. He was a notable castle builder.

Sept 1068

Birth of Henry I

A fourth son, Henry, was born to William and Matilda of Flanders at Selby, Yorkshire.

11 May 1068

Coronation of Queen

William's wife, Matilda, was crowned Queen consort at Westminster Abbey or in Winchester cathedral.

1070

Taxation

Tithes were introduced. Under this system, the population had to pay one-tenth of their annual increases in profit for the upkeep of the church.

1070

William refused to allow the church power

Although William was very religious, he refused to allow church authority to be greater than his own. Some existing English Bishops were deposed and William insisted that all future church appointments should be Normans. William would allow no bishop to visit Rome or correspond with the Pope without his express permission.

1070

Ecclesiastical/ Lay courts

William separated ecclesiastical courts from lay courts and brought many of the church's everyday functions under the authority of common law.

1070

Devastation of the North

William's new barons grew quarrelsome. They taxed and bullied the defeated Saxons until revolt broke out all over the country. The Saxons had the backing of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland and Swein Estrithson, one of William's rivals for the throne. William returned from Normandy and, despite recognising the guilt of many of his Norman barons, he burned and slaughtered his way to total submission of the Saxons. Large areas of Yorkshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire were left derelict following the brutal harrying of William's forces.

1071

Hereward the Wake defeated.

A revolt against William by Hereward the Wake was put down. This eliminated the last major resistance to William's place on the throne.

1072

Forest Law

William, who loved hunting, made large areas of woodland subject to Forest Law. This meant that not only the animals that lived in that specific woodland, but also the leaves on the trees belonged to the King. This law made life very difficult for those living nearby since it was now against the law for them to kill animals in the forest for food and to gather sticks for a fire.

1073- 1076

William to Normandy

Because England was now relatively secure, William spent much of this time in Normandy defending it from increasingly hostile neighbours. The main threats to Normandy were King Philip of France and Count Fulk le Rectin of Anjou.

1078

Curthose Defects

William's son, Robert Curthose, who had never been allowed to enjoy either money or power, started working against his father.

1085- 1086

Threat of invasion

William returned to England to ward off a threatened invasion from Scandinavia.

1086

Domesday Book

The Domesday Book was a survey of England compiled under the orders of William. It is thought to have been carried out because of a need for more money. The survey was carried out by commissioners, grouped in about eight teams that travelled from county to county. The teams were led by bishops who asked questions, under oath, of the people. Records that still exist today show that over 13,000 towns and villages were surveyed. The findings showed that over a quarter of the land belonged to William and his family, two-fifths were shared between the Barons and the church owned the remainder.

July 1087

William injured

The garrison of the French fortress of Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated and sacked Mantes, receiving the injury from which he was to die.

9 Sept 1087

William Died

William died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. William I was buried in St Stephen's Abbey, Caen, Normandy.


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