Famous French People
William The Conqueror    Worksheet

Guillaume Le Conquérant

William I
On the right:-
Portrait of William The Conqueror,
National Portrait Gallery, London.  Artist unknown.



William was born in Falaise, Normandy around the year 1
028.  His parents were Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and Herleva, a tanner's daughter. 

Although William was an illegitimate child (his parents were not married), he inherited his father's title 'Duke of Normandy.'  William was just eight years old when he became Duke of Normandy, following the death of his father. 

In 1050, he married Matilda, daughter of the Count of Flanders. 

It is said that Matilda and her ladies created the famous Bayeux Tapestry.  It is sometimes referred to as
La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde.  It is over 70 metres long and can be seen in Bayeux, Normandy.   Below is a section of the tapestry.

Bayeux tapestry
Important news!  The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has promised to lend the tapestry to the United Kingdom in the near future!

William and Matilda had nine children: four sons and five daughters.  Two of the sons became future kings of England - William II and Henry I. 

In England, in January 1066, King Edward The Confessor died and a new English king was crowned.  The new king was called Harold Godwinson.

In Normandy, Duke William was furious!   
William believed that he should be the new English king instead of Harold. 
  
          Edward The Confessor        Harold Godwinson on horseback

Edward The Confessor had no children to succeed him. William claimed that Edward had promised him the English throne.  There was no way that he was going to tolerate Harold stealing the position of King of England! 
So, William decided to teach Harold a lesson by invading England.

An interesting note:   Halley's Comet appeared in the sky in April 1066.  In Normandy, the comet was interpreted as 'bad luck' for the new English king and as 'good luck' for the Normans to invade England.

In September 1066, William landed in England with his army. On 14 October 1066, the English army was defeated by the Normans in the Battle of Hastings.  It was during this battle that King Harold was killed.   
It was the start of The Norman Conquest of England.  

William of Normandy seized the English throne and was crowned William I, King of England on Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey.

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to it - including the sighting of Halley's Comet.  Below is the section of the tapestry depicting the Normans looking up at the comet.

Bayeux tapestry

William earned the nickname William the Conqueror or Guillaume le Conquérant in French.  During his English reign he introduced the French language to England and as a result, many of the words we use in English today have either come from French or are influenced by French.

William is famous for building lots of castles and churches. A famous Norman castle is the White Tower, part of the Tower of London.

William is well-known for arranging the compilation of The Domesday Book.  This was the recording of how much land and wealth belonged to the landowners of England.  It was an enormous task.  The information was collected by surveyors who travelled around England.  The information was completed in 1086.  It is kept in the Public Records Office in London. 
The old English word 'dom' means 'judgement' or 'reckoning.' 'Domesday' actually means 'the day of judgement' so that wealthy landowners could be taxed justly according to their wealth.

Domesday Book

William of Normandy died in 1087 following an injury when he fell from his horse.  He was laid to rest in the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, Normandy.
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