1103 (5th August)
William Adelin was born to Henry I
and his Queen, Matilda
at Winchester. He was styled Adelin because he was the son of a king and eligible to succeed to the throne. Adelin was the Normanised version of the Anglo-Saxon term Aetheling.
Henry’s nephew, William Clito
, son of Robert Curthose
, was put forward as rightful Duke of Normandy. His claim was backed by Louis VI of France and Count Fulk V of Anjou. William’s father went to Normandy where he successfully defended his claim to be Duke of Normandy.
William and his sister, Adeleide
, spent time in the care of Anselem of Bec
while their father was in Normandy.
William began his education. He and his illegitimate brothers were tutored by Otuel Fitzearl, son of the Earl of Chester.
William’s sister, Adeleide, went to Germany where she would live in the household of Henry V, Emperor of Germany, her future husband.
As part of his preparation for his future role as king, William began to attest royal documents.
William was betrothed to Alice, daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou, at Alencon.
William’s sister, Adeleide, now called Matilda, married Henry V, Emperor of Germany.
William’s father, Henry I, was concerned that Robert Curthose’s son, William Clito, would be accepted as Duke of Normandy. He therefore asked the Norman barons to swear loyalty to William Adelin.
William’s father, Henry I, called on the English barons to swear fealty to William as his rightful heir.
1118 (1st May)
William’s mother, Matilda, died at Westminster. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.
William took on the role of regent when his father was out of the country.
1119 (20th August)
Battle of Bremule
William fought to victory with his father in this battle against the French led by Louis VI of France and his cousin, William Clito.
1119 (late Summer)
William was witness to a charter signed in Rouen.
Although beaten in battle, Louis was not prepared to accept defeat over Normandy and appealed to Pope Callixtus to intervene.
William and his father met Pope Callixtus II who refused to take sides in the dispute insisting that Henry and Louis make peace.
William married Alice of Anjou. Her name was changed to Matilda on her marriage.
Henry and Louis VI agreed peace terms. William Adelin gave homage to the French King and Louis recognised William as heir to the Duchy of Normandy.
Having spent time in Normandy, the royal court made plans to return to England.
1120 (25th November, afternoon)
William chose to return to England in a recently refitted vessel – the White Ship – owned by Thomas Fitzstephen. It was said to be the fastest ship in Barfleur.
1120 (25th November, evening)
It was after dark when the White Ship finally set sail from Barfleur. The rowers began to row away from shore but the helmsman was not concentrating and forgot to steer a path to avoid a huge rock that lay just below the surface. The port (left) side of the ship hit the rock splitting the wooden side.
William was put into a small boat and was being rowed to the shore when he heard his half-sister, Matilda calling to him. He insisted that the boat return to the scene where it was swamped by survivors trying to clamber on and it capsized killing all onboard, including William.
There was just one survivor out of the 300 passengers on board, a butcher who survived by clinging on to a mast until help came.
First published 2017; updated and republished May 14 2022 @ 1:17 pm – Updated – [last-modified]