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William The Conqueror

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He was the son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, his mother, Herleva, the daughter of a tanner of Falaise. In 1035 William's father Robert, Duke of Normandy, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which he died. Before starting the pilgrimage, he presented to the nobles his seven year old child demanding their allegiance. "He is little", the father said, "but he will grow, and, if God please, he will mend." William, after a period of anarchy, became the ruler of Normandy in his father's place at the age of nine. William had a youth of clean life and of much natural piety, while the years of storm and stress through which he passed gave him an endurance of character which lasted to his life's end. During the time of anarchy in Normandy he became a skilled military leader and defeated his enemies, uniting his duchy. Once he began fighting, rumor has it that he never lost a battle.

In 1047 a serious rebellion of nobles occurred, and William with the aid of King Henry of France, gained a great victory at Val-иs-Dunes, near Caen. Which led to the capture of the two strong castles of AlenÐ*on and Domfront. Using this as his base of operations, the young duke, in 1054 made himself master of the province of Maine and became the most powerful vassal of the French Crown, able on occasion to bid defiance to the king himself. William even married Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Flanders, in 1053,in spite of the papal prohibition.

In 1066 when his claim to the English throne was threatened by Harold Godwinson. Due to the fact that Harold Godwinson overlooked the dead king's wishes. Edward the Confessor, sworn his loyalty to William of Normandy when he died not to Harold. Harold Godwinson promptly had himself proclaimed king. It was only a matter of months before William, Duke of the large and powerful duchy of Normandy in France, paid Harold a visit to bring to his remembrance his own claim to the throne. William raised an army of Normans by promising them land and wealth when he came into his rightful kingship. October 14th 1066 he and William fought at the famous battle of Hastings. William and his army of Normans came, saw, and conquered. True to his promise to his fellow warriors, William systematically replaced the English nobility with Norman barons and noblemen who took control of the land, the people, and the government. As before, they were given rights to build castles for the protection of their families and for the enforcement of their laws of feudal lordship.

Having at last reduced the country to submission, William set to work with statesmanlike deliberation to establish his government on a firm and lasting basis. After several years of suppressing revolts by Saxons, William, in an effort to determine the expanse of his new domain, ordered a survey of England. The result was a comprehensive two-volume manuscript

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