A minor at the time of the death of his father duke Robert on a pilgrimage in 1035, William's early years as duke were spent surviving the dangerous period of his minority and solidifying his position within Normandy. He obtained the crown of England by his victory over Harold II in the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066. At his death in 1087, his eldest son Robert received Normandy, his second surviving son William received England, and his youngest son Henry (who eventually obtained both England and Normandy) received money. [Douglas (1964) is the recommended biography.]
Date of Birth: Probably 1027×1028.
[see Douglas (1964), 379-82]
Place of Birth: Probably Falaise.
[see Douglas (1964), 379-82]
Date of Death: 9 September 1087.
[OV vii, 12 (PL 188: 551-2); Most necrologies give 9 September, e.g., Ex Obituario Gemmeticensi (RHF 23: 421); Notæ Monasterii Montis S. Michaelis (RHF 23: 380); GND (interp.) vol. 2, pp. 188-9 gives 10 September; Ex Uticensis Monasterio Necrologio (RHF 23: 488) gives 8 September]
Place of Death: St. Gervais, near Rouen.
[GND (interp.) vol. 2, pp. 184-5]
Father: Robert I, d. 1×3 July 1035, duke of Normandy.
Mother: Herleve, living 1049, daughter of Fulbert.
m. 1049×1053, Matilda, d.
1083, daughter of Baldwin V, count of Flanders.
[See, e.g., GND; WP i, 22 (p. 33)]. The marriage is known to have occurred after 1049 (when Pope Leo IX, for uncertain reasons, prohibited the suggested marriage) and 1053 (when William and Matilda appear as husband and wife in a charter), as discussed by Douglas, who preferred a date of 1050 or 1051 [Douglas (1964), 391-2].
The names of the four sons, given by a number of sources [e.g., GND vii, 9(21) (vol. 2, pp. 130-1); OV iii (vol. 2, pp. 104-5), iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5), v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7); Will. Malmes. iii, 274 (p. 503)], and generally in the same order (e.g., Robert, Richard, William, Henry, GND vii, 9(21) (vol. 2, pp. 130-1) being the exception, switching Richard and William) pose no problem. The sources have quite a few contradictory statements about the betrothals (including offered or requested betrothals) of daughters of William the Conqueror, and these contradictions have been discussed by Freeman [Freeman (1870-9), 3: 666-670], Douglas [Douglas (1964), 393-5], and Barlow [Barlow (1983), 441-5]. However, if one sets aside these betrothals for the moment, and considers only the daughters and their known marriages, then the only major conflict is whether or not Agatha (mentioned only by Orderic Vitalis) existed as a separate daughter, or was just a mistake made by Orderic in confusion with Adelaide/Adeliza. Agatha and the various contradictions involving the betrothals are discussed in the commentary section. The children are listed here in the order suggested by Barlow [Barlow (1983), 445], but for the most part there is little evidence for birthdates or the order of the daughters.
Robert "Curthose", d. 10 Feb 1134 [Robert de Torigny, Chronica, s.a. 1134, MGH SS 6: 491 (year only); GND (Rob. Tor.) viii, 16 (vol. 2, pp. 222-3)], duke of Normandy; m. Sibyl de Conversano.
Richard, d. 1069×1074.
Adelaide (or Adeliza), a nun, died a
[OV iii (vol. 2, pp. 104-5), iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5), v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7); GND (Rob. Tor.) vii, 13 (31) vol. 2, pp. 260-1: Adelida]
Cecily, b. 1058×9, d. 1127, abbess of
Holy Trinity, Caen.
[OV iii (vol. 2, pp. 104-5), iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5); Will. Malmes.; GND (Rob. Tor.) vii, 13(31) (vol. 2, pp. 260-1)]
William II "Rufus", d. 2 August 1100 [ASC (E), s.a. 1099], king of England.
Matilda, living 1086.
Domesday Book [DB 4 (Hampshire) 67], mentions land held in Basingstoke hundred by Matilda, daughter of the king, and her existence is further confirmed by an obituary notice asking for prayers for Queen Matilda and her daughters Adilidis, Matilda, and Constance [Delisle (1866), 181-2: "... Mathildem, Anglorum reginam, nostri cnobii fondatricem; Adilidem, Mathildem, Constantiam, filias ejus ..."]
Constance, d. 1090, m. 1086 [1087 Chron. Kemp. RHF 12, 562], Alan IV, count of Brittany.
[OV iii (vol. 2, pp. 104-5), iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5), v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7); Will. Malmes.; GND (Rob. Tor.) vii, 13(31) (vol. 2, pp. 261-2)]
Adela, d. 1137, m. 1080, Étienne
(Stephen), count of Blois.
[OV iii (vol. 2, pp. 104-5), iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5); Will. Malmes.; GND (Rob. Tor.) vii, 13(31) (vol. 2, pp. 262-3)]
Henry I, b. 1068, d. 1135, king of England, duke of Normandy.
See Commentary for supposed additional child.
Supposed additional child (existence unlikely):
Agatha is mentioned only by Orderic Vitalis [OV iv (vol. 2, pp. 224-5), v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7)], who states that she was betrothed successively to Harold of England and "Amfurcius" (i.e., Alphonso) of Galicia, but that she died a virgin.
Falsely attributed daughter:
Gundred, m. William de Warenne,
earl of Warenne (Surrey).
Gundred was in fact a sister of Gherbod, earl of Chester. The false claim that she was a daughter of William the Conqueror (or, equally false, as a daughter of Matilda by an earlier marriage) is one of the more commonly repeated errors of early English royal genealogy [see, e.g., ES 2: 81, for a commonly used source which repeats this error]. A detailed discussion can be found in [EYC 8: 40-6]. A more detailed discussion can be found on Matilda's page. See also the notes on Gundred at Chris Phillips's "Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy" website.
Reported betrothals of
daughters of William the Conqueror:
The following men are said either to have been betrothed to a daughter of William, or to have been offered or sought the hand of one of William's daughters.
Alphonso VI, d. , king of
[Will. Poitiers i, 59 (pp. 94-7, unnamed); OV v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7: Agatha); Will. Malmes. (unnamed)]
Harold II, d. 1066, king of
[Will. Poitiers ii, 32 (pp. 156-7, unnamed); GND (Robert) vii, 13(31) (vol. 2, pp. 160-1: Adelaide); OV v, 11 (vol. 3, pp. 114-7: Agatha); Will. Malmes. (unnamed)]
Herbert, count of Maine.
[Will. Poitiers i, 37 (pp. 58-61, unnamed)]
Eadwine, earl of Mercia.
[OV iv (vol. 2, p. 215, unnamed)]
NN (brother of Alphonso).
[Will. Poitiers i, 59 (pp. 94-7) states that two brothers, kings of Spain, asked for daughters of William. One of them was presumably Alphonso, listed above.]
There is no good evidence that William had any illegitimate children. Nevertheless, two alleged illegitimate sons have been falsely attributed to him in the past [see Freeman (1870-9), 3: 662-3]
Thomas of Bayeux, Archbishop of York.
ASC = Dorothy Whitelock, trans., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Rutgers University Press, 1961).
Barlow (1983) = Frank Barlow, William Rufus (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1983).
DB = Domesday Book.
Delisle (1866) = Léopold Delisle, Rouleaux des Morts (Paris, 1866).
EYC = W. Farrar and C. T. Clay, Early Yorkshire Charters, 12 vols. (Yorkshire Arch. Soc., 1914-65).
Freeman (1870-9) = Edward A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England (5 vols. + index vol., Oxford, 1870-9).
GND = Guillaume de Jumièges, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, as edited in Elisabeth van Houts, ed. & trans., The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, 2 vols., (Oxford, 1992). Citation is by book and chapter of Guillaume's work, with the volume and page number of the edition by van Houts in parentheses. Unless otherwise stated, references are to Guillaume's work, and not to later additions by such authors as Orderic Vitalis and Robert de Torigni.
GND (Orderic) = Additions to GND by Orderic Vitalis.
GND (Rob. Tor.) = Additions to GND by Robert de Torigni.
Douglas (1964) = David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1964).
OV = Marjorie Chibnall, ed. & trans., The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1969-80). [I do not have easy access to all six volumes of Chibnall's edition, so some citations are given from PL.]
PL = P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, series Latina, 221 vols. (Paris, 1844-1859).
RHF = Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France.
Will. Malmes. = R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson, & M. Winterbottom, eds., William of Malmesbury - Gesta Regvm Anglorvm - The History of the English Kings, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1998).
Will. Poiters = R.H.C. Davis and Marjorie Chibnall, ed. & trans., The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers (Oxford, New York, 1998).
Compiled by Stewart Baldwin
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