On this day in 1066 William the Bastard (as he was known at the time) invaded England beginning the Norman conquest of England.
In the 1050s and early 1060s William became a contender for the throne of England, then held by his childless first cousin once removed Edward the Confessor.
There were other potential claimants, including the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, who was named the next king by Edward on the latter’s deathbed in January 1066. William argued that Edward had previously promised the throne to him, and that Harold had sworn to support William’s claim.
William built a large fleet and invaded England in September 1066, decisively defeating and killing Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. After further military efforts William was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066, in London.
He made arrangements for the governance of England in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but by 1075 William’s hold on England was mostly secure, allowing him to spend the majority of the rest of his reign on the continent.
William’s final years were marked by difficulties in his continental domains, troubles with his eldest son, and threatened invasions of England by the Danes. In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the landholders in England along with their holdings.
William died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen. His reign in England was marked by the construction of castles, the settling of new Norman nobility on the land, and change in the composition of the English clergy.
He did not try to integrate his various domains into one empire, but instead continued to administer each part separately. William’s lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to his eldest son, Robert, and his second surviving son, William, received England.