William, crowned King of England, also remained the sovereign of Normandy. After the conquest of England in 1066, he had enormous problems with taking the new land under his control. Meanwhile, the Norman frontiers were increasingly under threat as his continental adversaries got strengthened. Philip I, the monarch of France, made alliances with William’s foes, namely with Filk the Surly of Anjoy and Robert the Frisian of Flanders. Canute IV, the Danish monarch, also united with Robert the Frisian against William.
An especially painful event happened in 1077, when William’s son Robert Curthose departed from Normandy and got entangled with his father’s foes. Historians claim that Robert’s behavior stemmed from lack of lands granted to him and money shortage. In the end, the future Norman king Robert II obtained the title of count of Maine under his father’s political treaty. The security of Maine always preoccupied William, and at the same time, he lost Mantes, Chaumont and Pontoise to King Philip I.
In Mantes which he wanted to reconquer, William got an injury and never restored his health afterwards. At the same time, he failed to accomplish his plan to regain the town.
William’s native town of Rouen became the place where he died. Over his last weeks, he was together with count Robert of Mortain who was his half-brother. His younger and loyal sons, Rufus and Henry, also showed fidelity to the father. Meanwhile, their elder brother Robert Curthose got close to King Philip I of France. As a result of a compromise, William granted the Norman throne and the throne of Maine to Robert. Rufus inherited the English crown. William passed away aged 60.
The Conqueror’s Heritage
William’s life and reign enormously marked the further course of the English and Norman history. Over his life, he reversed anarchy into order and disciplin. He introduced strategic state politics instead of discord among duchies. He strengthened the church and the power of religion. Despite subduing the English population, he retained numerous Anglo-Saxon models by integrating them into the Norman state mechanism.
For ordinary people, William and his Norman proxies shaped new forms of land ownership and military service.
Nowadays we can admire magnificent traces of the unprecedented construction under William’s rule. The vibrant Norman architecture is embodied in such incomparable masterpieces as Mont-Saint-Michel, the Tower of London and other numerous castles and strongholds throughout Normandy and England.
The English art, literature and language also got into transfiguration under the rule of William.