Note: Godwinson (King of England, 1066); Henry I(King of France, 1031-1060); Philip I (King of France,1060-1108); Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085); Lanfranc (Archbishopof Canterbury)
William, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy, spent hisfirst six years with his mother in Falaise and received theduchy of Normandy upon his father's death in 1035. A councilconsisting of noblemen and William's appointed guardians ruledNormandy but ducal authority waned under the Normans' violentnature and the province was wracked with assassination andrevolt for twelve years. In 1047, William reasserted himself inthe eastern Norman regions and, with the aid of France's KingHenry I, crushed the rebelling barons. He spent the next severalyears consolidating his strength on the continent throughmarriage, diplomacy, war and savage intimidation. By 1066,Normandy was in a position of virtual independence fromWilliam's feudal lord, Henry I of France and the disputedsuccession in England offered William an opportunity forinvasion.
Edward the Confessor attempted to gain Norman support whilefighting with his father-in-law, Earl Godwin, by purportedlypromising the throne to William in 1051. (This was either afalse claim by William or a hollow promise from Edward; at thattime, the kingship was not necessarily hereditary but wasappointed by the witan, a council of clergy and barons.) Beforehis death in 1066, however, Edward reconciled with Godwin, andthe witan agreed to Godwin's son, Harold, as heir to the crown- after the recent Danish kings, the members of the council wereanxious to keep the monarchy in Anglo-Saxon hands. William wasenraged and immediately prepared to invade, insisting thatHarold had sworn allegiance to him in 1064. Prepared for battlein August 1066, ill winds throughout August and most ofSeptember prohibited him crossing the English Channel. Thisturned out to be advantageous for William, however, as HaroldGodwinson awaited William's pending arrival on England's southshores, Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway, invaded Englandfrom the north. Harold Godwinson's forces marched north todefeat the Norse at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. Twodays after the battle, William landed unopposed at Pevensey andspent the next two weeks pillaging the area and strengtheninghis position on the beachhead. The victorious Harold, in anattempt to solidify his kingship, took the fight south toWilliam and the Normans on October 14, 1066 at Hastings. Afterhours of holding firm against the Normans, the tired Englishforces finally succumbed to the onslaught. Harold and hisbrothers died fighting in the Hastings battle, removing anyfurther organized Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Normans. Theearls and bishops of the witan hesitated in supporting William,but soon submitted and crowned him William I on Christmas Day1066. The kingdom was immediately besieged by minor uprisings,each one individually and ruthlessly crushed by the Normans,until the whole of England was conquered and united in 1072.William punished rebels by confiscating their lands andallocating them to the Normans. Uprisings in the northerncounties near York were quelled by an artificial famine broughtabout by Norman destruction of food caches and farmingimplements.
The arrival and conquest of William and the Normans radicallyaltered the course of English history. Rather than attempt awholesale replacement of Anglo-Saxon law, William fused continental practices with native custom. By disenfranchising Anglo-Saxon landowners, he instituted a brand of feudalism in England that strengthened the monarchy. Villages and manors were given a large degree of autonomy in local affairs in returnfor military service and monetary payments. The Anglo-Saxonoffice of sheriff was greatly enhanced: sheriffs arbitrated legal cases in the shire courts on behalf of the king,extracted tax payments and were generally responsible forkeeping
Note: Note: Contemporaries: Edward the Confessor (King of England,1047-1066); Harold
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