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1087: William 'the Conqueror' dies
King William of England has died, five weeks after being seriously injured at the Battle of Mantes in France.

The King was fighting a counter-offensive against the French in July 1087 when he fell against the pommel of his saddle and badly damaged his intestines.

The 59-year-old Duke of Normandy was taken to his Duchy's capital Rouen after the accident, but was unable to recover from his injuries.

Many of his knights have already rushed to protect their property, fearing opportunistic attacks from King Phillip of France or a break-down of order in the region.

Born in 1028, William was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert I of Normandy and a young woman called Herleve, the daughter of a Falaise tanner.

In his youth he was known as "William the bastard", but was recognised as the family's heir on his father's death in 1035 and so inherited the Duchy of Normandy.

His claim to the English throne was based on the assertion it had been promised to him in 1051 by his distant cousin Edward the Confessor - a promise that Harold, Duke of Wessex, had sworn to uphold, he said.

When Wessex was crowned King of England in January 1066, William accused him of being a usurper and assembled an invasion force.

He landed on English soil in September 1066. By 14 October - after a close-fought battle at Senlac, near Hastings - Harold was dead and William became king.

At his coronation, the Duke promised to uphold existing laws and customs in England.

His reign was characterised by peace and order, but this was often imposed using violence and cruelty which made him deeply unpopular with many of his subjects.

His replacement of the traditional ruling class with a foreign aristocracy also caused much resentment among the English nobility.

King William's lasting memorial is likely to be his "Domesday" survey - a huge investigation into the wealth of the kingdom commissioned in 1085 and completed just two years later - and the first of its kind in this country.

He will be succeeded in England by his second son William Rufus. His eldest son Robert was denied the throne after falling out with his father, but will be made Duke of Normandy after a deathbed concession.

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King William's seal
William became King of England in 1066


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In Context
William the Conqueror was buried at his abbey foundation of St Stephen in Caen, Normandy.

According to the contemporary chronicler Oderic Vitalis, the king's house was looted after his death, leaving his body "almost naked on the floor."

A fire broke out in Caen during his funeral. Most rushed out to help extinguish it and the service was only attended by monks.

Oderic also recorded the stone sarcophagus in which William was to be incarcerated was made too short. When the monks attempted to force his body in, his swollen bowels burst and an "intolerable stench assailed the nostrils" of all those present.

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