1027 or 1028 (during)
King William I, was born to Robert Duke of Normandy
and his mistress, Herleva at Falaise, Normandy. William’s parents were not married and he was nicknamed ‘Bastard’ for much of his life.
William’s mother, Herleva, married Herluin de Conteville.
William’s half-brother, Robert, was born to Herleve and Herluin of Conteville.
William’s half-brother, Odo, was born to Herleve and Herluin de Conteville. He is known to history as Odo of Bayeux
William’s father, Robert Duke of Normandy, decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He made the Norman nobles swear allegiance to William before he left.
1035 (22nd July)
William succeeded as Duke of Normandy after his father died in Nicea, returning from pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
William’s uncle and chief supporter, Archbishop Robert of Rouen, died. William was then in the custody of Alan of Brittany.
William’s custodian, Alan of Brittany, died. Gilbert of Brionne then took charge of young William.
Gilbert of Brionne died and Osbern took charge of William. Later that year, Osbern was killed while watching over the young duke sleeping. William managed to escape.
A rebellion in Normandy led by Guy of Burgundy led to William fleeing to the court of King Henry I of France.
1047 (10th August)
William, supported by King Henry I of France, secured a decisive victory over his opponent Guy of Burgundy at the Battle of Val-es-Dunes.
William proposed marriage to Matilda of Flanders
. At first she refused stating he was too low born but legend states that after he rode to Flanders and dragged her off her horse by her hair she changed her mind.
The Pope forbade William from marrying Matilda of Flanders.
William finally defeated Guy of Burgundy and exiled him.
Despite the fact that the Pope had forbidden the marriage, William married Matilda of Flanders at the Cathedral of Notre Dame d’Eu in Normandy.
Hugh of Maine died. William and Henry of France resisted a move by Geoffrey Martel to occupy Maine. They captured the castles of Alençon and Domfront which they used as a base.
William paid a visit to England where he visited Edward the Confessor
. It is likely that William was seeking approval for his marriage to Matilda of Flanders. He claimed that during this visit Edward promised him the English crown.
A son, Robert
was born. He was known as Robert Curthose.
King Henry I of France was concerned that William was becoming too powerful and changed allegiance, allying himself with William’s enemy, William, Count of Arques.
William lay siege to the castle of Arques-la-Bataille in Maine. The castle fell and William added Maine to his possessions.
A second son, Richard was born.
Battle of Mortemer
William met and defeated the combined forces of Henry I of France and Count Geoffrey of Anjou.
A daughter, Cecilia was born
A second daughter, Adeliza was born
A third daughter, Constance was born
Battle of Varaville
This was a final challenge to William by Henry I and Geoffrey of Anjou which resulted in victory for William.
Pope Nicholas II gave retrospective approval to William and Matilda’s marriage on condition that they each found a monastery.
A fourth daughter, Matilda was born
1062 (date unknown)
A fifth daughter, Adela, was born
1064 (date unknown)
A sixth daughter, Agatha was born
Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex
, was shipwrecked off the coast of Ponthieu. On hearing of the shipwreck, William, Duke of Normandy ordered that Harold be brought to him. Some sources claim that Harold was kept under house arrest but it may have been that his ship was badly damaged and needed extensive repairs or he may have remained in Normandy to secure the release of his brother and nephew who had been taken as hostages. It is known that Harold willingly rode into battle with William and helped to defeat Conan II of Brittany
. William knighted Harold for his part in the battle. Afterwards, Harold returned to England with his nephew Haakon. The Normans later claimed that before leaving Harold swore an oath to support William’s claim to the throne of England after the death of Edward. The oath is not recorded in any Anglo-Saxon sources.
1066 (5th January)
King Edward the Confessor died
1066 (6th January)
The Witan decided that Harold Godwinson should be King. He was crowned the same day.
1066 (mid January)
William learned that Harold had been crowned King of England. He was furious as he felt the crown should be his.
1066 (late January)
Council of Lillebonne
This was a meeting of Duke William’s most trusted advisers. William FitzOsbern
was one of those that spoke in support of invading England. The council decided to support William’s proposed invasion of England and began making plans.
1066 (20th May)
William of Normandy made a case against Harold and presented it to the Pope. He was successful and gained papal backing for his invasion. The Pope sent him a banner to carry into battle.
1066 (late Spring)
William began preparing his invasion and amassed a force at Dives sur Mer. He announced that he would give land in England to any knight that fought for him.
1066 (18th June)
William’s daughter, Cecilia entered the abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen as a novice
Throughout the Summer William assembled a fleet of ships to carry his army across the Channel to England. William’s wife, Matilda of Flanders, paid for a ship to transport William, the Mora.
1066 (4th August)
William’s fleet of around 1,000 ships was ready to sail but he delayed sailing, possibly due to unfavourable wind direction and possibly because he was waiting for harvest season in the hopes that some of the men stationed along the South coast would go home. While waiting to sail William had to provide food and provisions for up to 14,000 men and 3,000 horses.
1066 (early September)
William, decided not to wait for favourable weather and put his fleet to sea. The ships were unable to withstand the powerful stormy weather and those that survived were forced to put in to port at St Valery-sur-Somme.
1066 (28th September)
William, Duke of Normandy sailed overnight and landed at Pevensey
on the South coast of England in the morning. He was surprised to find no army waiting for him. It is said that he stumbled as he got out of his boat onto the shore and there was some concern that it could be a bad omen.
1066 (30th September)
The Duke decided to move the Norman army to Hastings as there was insufficient food in Pevensey to feed the army for more than a few days. Hastings also offered better defence and a more direct route to London.
1066 (early October)
William remained in Hastings confident that Harold would march South and challenge his presence. Staying put also had the advantage that William’s men would be rested before any battle whereas Harold’s men had marched north, fought a battle then marched south again.
1066 (13th October)
William’s scouts reported that the Saxon army had arrived and were camped on Caldbec Hill. William told his men to be ready in case of a night attack.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
Early in the morning William marched north to meet the Saxons. Harold knew he did not have enough men to defend Caldbec Hill so moved to Senlac Hill where his army formed a shield wall.
William arrived and set up his forces at the bottom of the hill. He had three groups – Normans, Flemings and Bretons, both cavalry and infantry. William opened the battle with a barrage of arrows which, because of the hill flew over the heads of the Saxons. Next William sent in his infantrymen but they were unable to break through the shield wall. A group of Breton infantrymen turned and ran down the hill. The Saxons that had been withstanding that group broke the shield wall and ran down after them. William ordered that they become the focus of the next attack and although some managed to return to their line most were cut down. It is thought that Harold’s two brothers lost their lives at this point.
Having seen how the Bretons fleeing down the hill broke the shield wall, William changed tactic and ordered his men to do the same thing. Although the shield wall did not break so spectacularly again it did begin to weaken. With the light beginning to fade William ordered his archers to fire again but to angle them higher so that they hit the men just behind the shield wall. It is thought that one of these arrows went through the eye slit of Harold’s helmet and struck him in the eye or near to the eye. While he was reeling from the attack it is believed that he was cut down and killed.With Harold dead and most of the leading nobles also dead many of the remaining men fled the battlefield. Those that remained were soon cut down. William was victorious.
1066 (15th October)
William surveyed the battlefield and instructed that the dead be buried.
1066 (16th October)
William returned to his camp at Hastings. He expected a deputation of English nobles to come and submit themselves and England to him.
1066 (20th October)
William realised that the English were not going to submit to him and that he would have to force their submission. He left Hastings bound for Dover.
1066 (early November)
The Duke of Normandy reached Dover and took control of the Roman fort that was stationed there.
William moved on to Canterbury and took control of the town.
1066 (early December)
Having taken control of the south-east, William marched on London
1066 (10th December)
Realising that they could not defeat William, Edgar Aetheling
and the remaining English nobles submitted to William.
1066 (25th December)
William was crowned King William I of England in Westminster Abbey.
The northern Earls, Edwin
, decided to submit to William.
William began to distribute English land to those Norman nobles that had supported his invasion and fought at the Battle of Hastings
William returned to Normandy. He took with him Edgar Aetheling, Edwin, Morcar and other prominent English nobles. Odo of Bayeux and William FitzOsbern were left as regents of England.
Eustace of Boulogne
was asked by the English to take the castle at Dover while Odo was out of Kent. Eustace duly complied but soon discovered that Dover castle was too heavily fortified for him to take. A male relative was taken hostage and Eustace was lucky to escape to Boulogne. When William discovered his action, he confiscated Eustace’s lands in England.
1067 (7th December)
King William went back to England.
1067 (after 7th December) or 1068 (during)
William lay siege to the city of Exeter. After the Battle of Hastings, King Harold’s mother, Gytha
, had fled to Exeter and was probably accompanied by Harold’s children. She had persuaded the people to support her and resist the Norman Conquest. King William I dug tunnels under the city walls to weaken them and the city fell after 18 days. Gytha fled the city and avoided capture.
William’s wife Matilda arrived in England.
1068 (11th May)
Matilda was crowned Queen of England in Westminster. She was the first Queen of England to be formally crowned.
Earls Edwin and Morcar rebelled against William but later surrendered to the Conqueror
Harold Godwinson’s sons, Godwin
and Magnus Haroldson
had been in Ireland raising support. They now tried to take Bristol as their base in England but the people of Bristol were worried about the consequences of supporting the Haroldsons and they returned to Ireland to rethink strategy.
William began a programme of castle building designed to stamp his authority on England. Work began on castles at Warwick, York, Nottingham, Huntingdon, Lincoln and Cambridge.
A fourth son, Henry
, was born in Selby, Yorkshire. He was the first of William’s children to be born in England.
Edgar the Aetheling attempted to take York but was unsuccessful
Edgar the Aetheling had joined forces with King Sweyn of Denmark
and together they attacked and took York
1069 (Late Autumn)
King William I marched North to deal with Edgar Aetheling. He paid off the Danes and defeated the Saxon rebels. Having re-established York as a Norman stronghold he set about defeating all other Northern pockets of resistance to his rule – an event that is known as The Harrying of the North.
William founded Battle Abbey
on the site of the Battle of Hastings.
Hereward the Wake and King Sweyn of Denmark took the Isle of Ely
1070 (11th April)
William removed Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury from office, confiscated his land and goods and imprisoned him at Winchester.
1070 (11th April)
Earl Edwin launched another revolt against the Normans but was betrayed by his own men and killed.
William constructed a causeway between mainland England and the Isle of Ely in order to defeat Hereward and Earl Morcar. Morcar was captured and imprisoned but Hereward managed to escape.
William rode North to deal with King Malcolm Canmore
of Scotland. He pushed the Scottish King back and Malcolm was forced to agree to the terms of the Treaty of Abernethy. William took Malcolm’s son, Duncan, hostage.
William returned to Normandy to deal with unrest in the Maine.
1073 (30th March)
William defeated Count Fulk of Anjou
William spent the whole year in Normandy
Roger of Montgomery allowed Ralph de Gael to marry his sister even though the alliance had been forbidden by William. The two men then plotted to overthrow William and invited the Earl of Northumbria, Waltheof and Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark to join them. However, Waltheof got cold feet and told William of the plot. William reacted quickly and imprisoned Roger of Montgomery. Ralph escaped to Brittany leaving his new wife to hold out against William alone. She too fled to Brittany after William agreed a safe passage for her. When Sweyn Estridsson arrived with a sizeable force and found no army waiting for him he raided York and then returned to Denmark.
1076 (31st May)
William executed Waltheof of Northumbria for his part in the Earls revolt.
Robert Curthose, eldest son of William I, led a revolt to take Rouen from his father. The revolt failed and Robert was forced to flee to Gerberoi.
The White Tower (inner tower of the Tower of London) was built on Tower Hill.
William’s son, Robert invaded the Vexin.
William was knocked off his horse by his son, Robert, during a battle. Robert recognised his father’s voice and avoided killing him.
William, who loved hunting, made large areas of woodland subject to Forest Law. This meant that everything in any designated area, including trees, leaves, birds and animals, belonged to the King. This made life especially difficult for the common people who relied on the woodland for wood and food.
Around 20 small hamlets were affected by William’s decision to create a New Forest in Hampshire.
William and his son Robert Curthose settled their differences after the intervention of William’s wife, Matilda.
1080 (14th May)
The Norman Bishop of Durham was murdered by a group of English rebels. William sent his half brother Odo of Bayeux to deal with the rebels.
William sent his eldest son, Robert on a campaign against the Scots. He succeeded in raiding as far north as Lothian and built a castle at Newcastle on his return to England.
William spent Christmas at Gloucester
1081 (late May)
William I spent Whitsun at Winchester. During this period he refused to pay fealty to Pope Gregory VII.
William returned to Normandy to deal with a new conflict with Count Fulk of Anjou.
William arrested and imprisoned his half-brother Odo of Bayeux. Sources are not clear on the reason for this action but it is thought that he may have mis-appropriated church funds or made a play to become Pope.
1083 (2nd November)
William’s wife, Matilda of Flanders, died
William ordered commissioners to visit every part of England and make a detailed inventory of the holdings of every person in the land. Included in the survey were details of land ownership both before and after the Conquest, ownership of animals, machines and other goods.
The exact reason for the survey, which was called The Domesday Survey is not known but it is thought that William intended to use to base tax calculations on
1086 (1st August)
The Domesday Survey was completed.
1086 (1st August)
William summoned around 170 nobles to court where they were required to swear a new oath of fealty to him.
King William I returned to Normandy to deal with another dispute.
The garrison of the French fortress at Mantes made a raid into Normandy. William retaliated and led a raid on Mantes. During the raid he was injured.
1087 (9th September)
William I died in Normandy from the injury he received in July 1087.
Robert Curthose inherited Normandy, William II
inherited the English throne and Henry was left a sum of money.
First published 2016; updated and re-published May 9 2022 @ 1:05 pm – Updated – Nov 16, 2022 @ 12:26 PM