William the Conqueror Changing the Course of English History After successfully invading England, William the Conqueror changed the
course of English history. The illegitimate son of Robert I of
Normandy, William became Duke of Normandy on his father's death in
1035. With many in his family eager to profit from his death, his
childhood was dangerous: three of his guardians died violently and his
tutor was murdered.

In 1042 he began to take more personal control, but his attempts to
bring his subjects into line caused problems. From 1046 until 1055 he
dealt with a series of baronial rebellions. In 1052, facing rebellions
in eastern Normandy, he began conducting negotiations with his cousin
Edward the Confessor, King of England. William developed an ambition
to become his kinsman's heir, encouraged by Edward, who possibly even
promised him the throne in 1051.

In around 1064 Edward sent Harold, Earl of Wessex, on an embassy to
Normandy. During this trip Norman writers maintain that he swore to
support William's claim to the English throne. Yet when Edward died
childless in January 1066, Harold was himself crowned king. Furious,
William decided on war. He landed in England on 28th September,
establishing a bridgehead near Hastings.

Harold met him from Stamford Bridge, where he had just defeated Harald
Hardraade. He arrived at Hastings late on 13th October, his troops
tired. Early the next day William attacked. After a poor start, he
rallied his troops. Harold's brothers were killed early in the battle;
Harold fell towards dusk. On Christmas Day 1066 William was crowned.

The first years of his reign were spent quashing rebellions and
securing his borders. He invaded Scotland in 1072 and Wales in 1081
and created special defensive 'marcher' counties along the borders.
The kingdom safe, he spent most of his last 15 years in Normandy. He
left the government of England to bishops, returning only when...