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William the Bastard (1035-1087) - first Period 1035 - 1047

1035 – Still a minor, born to Herleva (Arlette de Falaise) concubine, he succeeds his father Robert the Magnificent.
The Normandy that the young duke inherits is a rich, well-run province. His forebears managed to keep intact a number of domains which could be used to reward faithful vassals or found large monastic foundations.
Even though Robert, before setting off, had ordered the oath of allegiance to his son William, this third case of a duke taking the throne while still a minor gives rise to conflicts among the barons descended from the Ducal family, each of whom wanted to become regent.
The expansion of Normandy continues, in particular towards southern Italy.  Normans form part of the retainers of Edward the Confessor; they helped him to regain his throne.
1042 – Normandy, suffering from the anarchy created by the thrusts for independence by the second-rank barons who were fighting each other and looKing to carve off domains in the lands recently seized from the church and the prince, is attacked by the King of France and by the duke of Brittany.  William is forced to come and lay siege to his castle at Falaise which has been captured by the viscount d’Hiémois. The rebelling barons fight from their bases of small fortresses built of wood, earthworks and circular mounds, thereby violating the sole right of the Duke to maintain fortresses.
An attempt on William’s life is set up to take place at a hunting meet;  William is tipped off and escapes alone on horseback from Valognes to his castle at Falaise. He is 18 or 19 years old.
After looKing for the backing of the King of France, Henry I, William can count on the regions where ducal power prevails: Rouen, Evreux, Lisieux, Falaise and  Exmes. The chief of the rebels is  Gui de Brionne, son of the count of Burgundy and of Alice, daughter of Richard II.  Follows a period of raids and sieges; business as usual for the period.
1047 – In a set-piece battle at Val-ès-Dunes near Caen, at the head of his army and supported by troops from the King of France’s army, William routs his adversaries. In exchange for their submission, those rebels closest to the ducal court are pardoned.
On the day following this battle, William takes over the ecclesiastical movement which is seeKing the “Truce of God”  and imposes this truce in a peace council held in Caen.

Statue of William the Conqueror on horseback in Falaise.