Duke William of Normandy orchestrated numerous alliances many of which became milestones in history. With his childless cousin, Edward the Confessor, the King of England, William concluded a deal on inheriting the English crown after him. Meanwhile, he took aim at the neighboring Duchies of Maine and Anjou to expand his lands. After finally suppressing major revolts in his homeland in 1047, he became preoccupied with protecting the south border of Normandy.
Suppressed Upheavals and Counter-Alliances
New dangers came from the east of Normandy with a severe rebellion in 1054. In the meantime, King Henry of France and Count Geoffrey Martel of Anjou plotted to invade Normandy. Had these allies merged with the internal rebels in Normandy, William would have been crushed. But William turned out to be lucky and skillful enough to suppress the rebels first. Afterwards, in the Mortemer Battle of 1054, he inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the squadrons of King Henry and Count Geoffrey.
His decisive victories took place in the Battle of Varaville in 1057 and in Maine in 1063. After the allied King and Count died, William became the mightiest leader in France.
Confirmed and Broken Deal
Harold, the envoy and brother-in-law of the English King, arrived in Normandy in 1064, according to Norman sources. Upon arrival, Harold in an oath confirmed Edward the Confessor’s promise to grant the English throne to William.
Edward the Confessor died in 1066, and he had no children. Harold broke Edward’s promise to William and accepted the royal title endorsed by English vassals.
For William, the broken promise formed a justifying basis for war. Before the invasion, he had secured his home duchy by delegating major powers to his wife and son Robert. Internationally, he obtained the blessing of the Pope Alexander II in Rome for the upcoming invasion.
William also got supported by new foreign allies. King Harald II of Norway invaded the Northumbrian coast of Britannia. Tostig, Harold’s brother in exile, also raided England.
Both these offensives were defeated, but they impaired the English defense potential and thus contributed to William’s future triumph.