William the Conqueror (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Through his conquest of the English at Hastings in 1066, William made it possible for his Anglo-Norman successors to develop a strong feudal monarchy which flourished for several centuries.
William the Conqueror was born at Falaise, probably around 1028; he was the bastard son of Duke Robert I and Herleve, the daughter of a tanner. On his father’s side, William was the descendant of Vikings who had settled Normandy in the early tenth century. He was destined to become one of the greatest figures in European history. Very little is known about his childhood, though it is reasonable to assume that he spent his infancy in the care of his mother. Because of his illegitimate birth, there is no reason to believe that Robert had any special plans for the youth. Robert, however, died in 1035 while returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and William, age seven, was proclaimed duke.
William’s birth and youth made it inevitable that his position would be challenged by ambitious nobles of the realm. There can be no doubt that he grew up in difficult times, and many of those closest to the young duke, including four successive guardians, died violently. Undoubtedly these tumultuous years left an indelible mark upon his young mind, which, in years to come, would manifest itself in a stern, repressive manner of ruling and various acts of cruelty. In 1047, William faced his first major...
(The entire section is 2082 words.)
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William the Conqueror (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: William’s victory over King Harold II of England in 1066 at Hastings ended the Anglo-Saxon era and established Norman rule in England.
In the feudal world of medieval Europe, military prowess determined political leadership. William the Conqueror was generously endowed with the attributes that made him a successful feudal military leader. He was tall with an imposing physique and could be ruthless to adversaries when necessary. He gained military experience from an early age and used it to good advantage throughout his life.
William was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert of Normandy and a peasant woman, Herleva of Falaise. His father designated him as his successor but died in 1035 when William was only seven years old. Power struggles among the nobles of Normandy ensued. William spent his youth suppressing rebellion. Aided by King Henry I of France, in 1047, he defeated a large group of rebellious nobles led by Count Guy of Brienne at the Battle of Val-es-Dunes near Caen.
With the stabilization of his authority in Normandy, William turned to conquest of adjacent territory, particularly the county of Maine. Between 1050 and 1065, he fought numerous battles against Geoffrey II Martel, count of Anjou and overlord of Maine, and the king of France, who was a feudal supporter and ally of Count Geoffrey. In addition, he continued to deal with smaller rebellions in Normandy....
(The entire section is 603 words.)