The Norman Dynasty ruled England for 98 years from 1066 until 1154, by way of four kings.
After defeating the army of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Bastard of Normandy, was the last person to conquer England and take the crown, hence his title of William the Conqueror.
Although King of England, William I ruled from his native France throughout the majority of his reign.
Even though the King was rarely in attendence, he went on to make several changes around the country, all of which were well accepted.
William built several castles and fortified keeps around the land, the most famous being that of the White Tower at the Tower of London.
He made sweeping changes to the English language, making Norman French the predominant language of the ruling classes.
He incorporated the Anglo - Norman culture, despoiled English aristocracy by way of distributing parcels of land of equal size - in order to quell any hierarchy within - defined the English shire system ( English counties), instigated the Doomsday Book and depopulated the New Forest turning it into the largest afforested hunting area in the land.
William was born in Falaise, Normandy, in 1028, the son of Robert of Normandy and his lover Herleva Fulbert, hence his title of William the Bastard.
He married Matilda of Flanders sometime in 1053, who was the daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders and Adela of France.Matilda was a seventh generation descendent of Alfred the Great, making all sovereigns of Britain direct descendents of hers.
It is said that they had 11 children, although a full record of this is not known. It has also been recorded that he had at least two illigitimate children, but again there is no record of this, leaving historians to believe that he did not in fact have any illegitimate children.
The recorded children of William and Matilda are as follows:
Robert Curthose - 1053 - 1134 who married Sybil of Conversano, daughter of Geoffrey of Conversano.They had two children, William, Count of Flanders 1102 - 1128 and Henry of Normandy 1102 - 1151.
It is recorded that his wife Sybil was murded by Robert's mistress Agnes Giffard.
Richard, 1054 - 1081, who became Duke of Bernay was killed by a stag whilst out hunting.
Adeliza, circa 1055 - 1065.
Cecilia, 1055 - 1126, who became Abbess of Holy Trinity Abbey, in Caen, Normandy.
William, 1056 - 1100, who became King William II in 1087.
Agatha, 1064 - 1079.
Constance, 1066 - 1090 who married Alan IV Duke of Brittainy, they had no heirs.
Adela, 1067 - 1137 who married Stephen Count of Bloise, who became King Stephen in 1135.
Henry, 1068 - 1135 who became King Henry I in 1100. He married twice, first to Edith of Scotland and then Adeliza of Leuven.
The Queen Matilda, died in 1083 and is buried in the abbey of Abbaye - aux - Dames in Caen.
King William I died in 1087 after a fall from his horse caused a fatal stomach injury. He was buried in the neighbouring abbey of Abbaye - aux - Hommes, also in Caen, Normandy.
William II known as William Rufus was the third son of William the Conqueror and his wife Queen Consort Matilda.
He was born in 1056 and became King of the English upon the death of his father in 1087. His coronation was held on the 26th of September of the same year and he reigned for 13 years until his untimely death during a hunting expedition in the New forest on the 2nd of August 1100 when he was accidently shot with an arrow through the lung by his friend Walter Tirel.
So frightened was Tirel that he would be accused of the murder of his friend he fled to France never to see England again, although the act was never considered an act of wrong doing, with the King's followers, family and other members of the hunting party all agreeing that it was an accident. The place where he fell is marked by the Rufus Stone in the New Forest, Hampshire.
The king was known as Rufus due to his red hair and eyes of different colours, an unusual looking man with an even more unusual personality.It has been recorded that he was an ill tempered, tyrannical and harsh monarch towards both his subjects and advisors.He was also considered to be sceptical about religion, unheard of in that day and age.
All these facts may well have contributed to the reason why the king never married, as it is said he sought the hand of many but was never accepted.
After his death the king was buried in Winchester Cathedral, where one year later one of the towers there came crashing to the ground, some at the time believed it was the judgement of God towards the unamiable king.
Henry was the last born child of William the Conqueror and his Queen Consort Matilda.
He was born in 1068 and as the royal couple's last child he had never been groomed to be king, instead, as was tradition, he had been groomed for a life in the church.He recieved an exemplorary education becoming well educated in all subjects and he was the only Norman king that spoke fluent English, hence his name of Beauclerc.
He married Edith of Scotland - who changed her name to Matilda upon her marriage - on the 11th of November 1100 in Westminster Abbey, who was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret of Scotland.
They had three children;
Matilda, Empress of Rome, 1102 - 1167 who married Henry V Holy Roman Emperor in 1114. They were married until his death in 1125 and it would appear they had no issue.
She then married Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou in 1128. They had three children Henry 1133 - 1189, future King Henry II of England, Geoffrey, Count of Nantes 1134 - 1158 and William X, Count of Poitou 1136 - 1163.
William Adelin, 1103 - 1120, who married Matilda of Anjou.
William died in the White Ship disaster ( read the-white-ship-disaster-of-1120-le-blanche-nef) of 25th of November 1120 at the age of only 17. The disaster claimed the lives of 300 people 160 of which were French and English nobility.Upon the news of the tragedy the king apparantly fainted and so affected by it was he, that it was said he was never the same man again.
William's untimely death led to the period in British history known as The Anarchy.
As his only son and heir had died the crown should have gone to his daughter Matilda, which the English were happy to accept, having had successful queens in the past, but the Normans were sceptical about having a woman on the throne, particularly one that had never been groomed to rule, so her succession to the throne was thwarted in favour of Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois.
However the Empress Matilda was not happy to give up her birth right without a fight, resulting in a long civil war known as the Anarchy, which was not resolved until Stephen named Matilda's son Henry Plantaganet as his heir.
His wife Matilda, who was also travelling with him, but onboard another ship, survived the disaster. She never remarried and went on to be the Abbess of Fontevroult Abbey where she remained until her death in 1154. They had no issue.
King Henry and Queen Consort Matilda had two other children, Euphemia and Richard who both died in infancy.
Queen Consort Matilda died in 1118 and was interred in Westminster Abbey.
After the death of his heir the king was desperate to produce another son, so he married a second time two years later.
He married Adeliza of Leuvain, daughter of Godfrey I, Count of Louvain and Ida of Namur. on the 2nd of February 1120, when she was just 18 and he was 53.
They were married for 14 years before she was widowed in 1135, but their union did not produce the king's longed for son and heir.
She went on to marry William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel and they had seven children before her death in 1151.
King Henry died on the 1st of December 1135 from food poisoning in Saint - Denis - en - Lyons in France. It is said that his body was encased in the stomach of a cow to preserve it during his journey back to England for burial.He was interred in Reading Abbey, Berkshire, which he had founded 14 years previously.
The abbey no longer exists, but there is a plaque on a wall of a school that was built in the location of the former abbey, that marks his grave.
Due to the sudden death of his son William, he died without an heir, which is somewhat ironic as he apparantly had more illigitimate children than any other royal in the history of the British monarchy.
Records show that he had 17 children from seven different long standing mistresses as well as 7 other illigitimate children from another seven affairs.
Stephen of Bloise was born in 1096 in Blois, France the son of Stephen II, Count of Blois and Adela of Normandy.
He became de facto king of England upon the death of the Norman King Henry I from December 22nd 1135 until 1154.
This act, which denied the rightful heir to the throne to Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, caused many years of civil war, until he gave up the crown in favour of her son Henry Plantaganet.
Stephen of Blois married Matilda of Boulogne ( 1105 - 1152) daughter of Eustace III of Boulogne and Mary of Scotland, in 1125.
They had five children;
Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne 1127 - 1153.He married Constance of France in 1140, they had no issue.
William I, Count of Blois, 1137 - 1159, who married Isobel de Warenne, Countess of Surrey, they had no heirs.
Marie I, Countess of Boulogne 1136 - 1182, she was married to Mathew of Alsace and they had two daughters, Ida, Countess of Boulogne 1160 - 1216, and Mathilde of Flanders, 1170 - 1210.
King Stephen and Matilda had two other children, Baldwin and Matilda, who both died in infancy. Stephen also had at least three illigitimate children during his lifetime.
King Stephen died in Dover, Kent in 1154 and was interred at Faversham Abbey, two years after the death of his wife. They were both interred at Faversham Abbey, Kent, which the couple had both founded in 1148.
In 1153 in order to halt the bitter civil war between him self and his cousin Empress Matilda, Stephen had signed the Treaty of Wallingford, a document that meant Stephen would pass over his own son William as heir to the throne, in favour of Matilda's son Henry Plantaganet of Anjou.
Upon King Stephen's death, King Henry II took the crown, the first Plantaganet king and first King of England, as opposed to King of the English as had been the title of all the previous Norman kings.
FOR OTHER BRITISH MONARCHY TIMELINES, VISIT timelines-of-the-british-monarchy-1066-2010
THE NORMAN DYNASTY.
WILLIAM I, WILLIAM THE CONQEROR; 1066 - 1100 - 21 year reign.
WILLIAM II : 1087 - 1100 - 13 year reign.
HENRY I : 1100 - 1135 - 35 year reign
STEPHEN ; 1135 - 1154 - 19 year reign.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE WHITE SHIP DISASTER:
MORE BRITISH MONARCHY FAMILY HISTORY
© D.B.Bellamy.October, 2010.