All About History

William the Conqueror

On 5 January 1066, King Edward the Confessor of England passed away without a true heir. Upon his deathbed, the dying ruler had bequeathed his throne to the most powerful man in the kingdom, Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex. The day after the king’s death, Harold received the acceptance of the English magnates in London and was crowned. When word travelled across the Channel to the mainland and reached one of the most powerful nobles of northern France, he flew into a rage. William, Duke of Normandy, believed he was next in the line to the English throne. Harold had stolen what did not belong to him, so as the rightful heir, the duke would do whatever it took to claim what was his; thus, he would become William the Conqueror.

40 years earlier in 1026, Count Robert of the Hiémois, William’s father, looked out the window of his room at Falaise Castle to see a young woman below walking alongside the River Ante. Struck by her beauty, the count ordered his servants to bring the maiden to his bedroom that night. Her name was Herleva, the daughter of a lower-class tanner. Even if the stories were true that the count fell deeply in love with her, Herleva never became more than a concubine to Robert.

However, their relationship became much more complicated the following year on 5 August when Duke Richard III of Normandy suddenly became ill and died. As Richard’s younger brother, Robert acted quickly to seize the duchy. With the support of several powerful Norman magnates, it did not take long before he became Duke

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