Known as William Ier of England, William the Conqueror is a key figure in European history from the XNUMXthe century. A look back at its history and in particular its role in the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

It all started in 1028 in Normandy

William was born in 1028. He is the illegitimate son of Robert Ier, Duke of Normandy and Arlette, the daughter of a tanner from Falaise. A bastard by birth, he nevertheless grew up in a royal environment and received an education and military training.

In 1035, his father, Robert Ier or Robert the Magnificent, dies during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He thus leaves Normandy to his son Guillaume. Still too young to lead the duchy, the regency was entrusted to several members of the nobility. In 1047, William, then aged 19, regained control of Normandy. He fights the rebel barons who try to overthrow his authority.

Following his first major victory, he continued to strengthen his power with numerous military campaigns. He annexed neighboring territories and built castles to strengthen his defense.

From Duke to King of England: The Battle of Hastings

Guillaume's story continues beyond the Channel, in English lands. Indeed, in 1066, Edward the Confessor, King of England, died childless. His death sets the stage for a power struggle. A duke, a baron and a king fight for the crown.

William, Duke of Normandy

He claims the crown of England based on a promise of succession, established in 1064, during his visit to England.

Harald Hardrada, King of Norway

Also called Harald the Severe, he claims the crown by highlighting an agreement concluded between the previous kings. This agreement affirmed that the country would revert to the other, if one of the kings died without an heir.

Harold Godwinson, one of England's most powerful barons

Son of Godwine, Earl of Wessex, he disputes the legitimacy of William, despite an oath, taken under duress in 1065, where he agreed to leave the crown to the Norman duke.

Designated heir by Edward during his lifetime, he finally became the new king of England in January 1066.

Dives-sur-Mer, cradle of the conquest of England

To recover the crown, Guillaume then decides to raise an army. 15 men, 000 fighters, 8 horses and hundreds of ships gathered in the Dives estuary to cross the English Channel.

Did you know?

La Bayeux tapestry illustrates the events of the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy in 1066.

William's army landed in England in September 1066. The Battle of Hastings took place on October 14, in the south of the country. The armed forces of Harold, already weakened by the attempted invasion led by King Harald the Severus, were then defeated by those of William. King Harold dies in battle and William is crowned King of England at Westminster on Christmas Day 1066.

As the new King of England, William faces many challenges. Rebellions of Anglo-Saxon barons, Scandinavian invasions, conflicts with the pope… But that's another story! 

Although the marks of William's passage through our territory remain rare, there are places in Dives-sur-Mer, Houlgate and Varaville that pay homage to William the Bastard, Norman Duke who became King of England.


Stele of William the Conqueror in Varaville

Stele of William the Conqueror in Varaville

It is a stele that was erected in Varaville, near the place where a battle would have been held that marked a decisive turning point in the political future of Guillaume and Normandy.

stele Guillaume le Conquerant Varaville

Church of Our Lady of Dives-sur-Mer

It is in this church that the list of the 475 companions of William the Conqueror can be found. Engraved by Arcisse de Caumont in 1862, you will find it above the entrance porch.

Église Notre Dame de Dives-sur-Mer

William the Conqueror Art Village

Above the porch that leads to the last courtyard is a sculpture of William the Conqueror. During your visit to the village, take the time to stroll from shop to shop to observe the work of women and men craftsmen.

Column William the Conqueror at Houlgate

It commemorates the departure of William, Duke of Normandy, for the Battle of Hastings. Inaugurated in 1861 by Arcisse de Caumont on the property of Count Foucher de Careil, the column was transferred to Houlgate beach in August 1966, the year of the 900e anniversary of departure.

Colonne de Guillaume le Conquérant à Houlgate

Place d'Hastings in Houlgate

If you have your back to the sea and go up rue du Général Leclerc, you will come across a little unknown square, Place d'Hastings. On the ground is a paving dedicated to William the Conqueror with: a helmet, a boat, a pennant and 1066, the year of the conquest of England.

La Mora, the show site

The La Mora association brings the history of William the Conqueror to life with its immersive journey, these workshops and activities open throughout the year.

The little extra: the reconstruction of the famous ship and the discovery of the gestures and techniques of the builders of the XIe century.

To go further in your quest for History

Routes on the William the Conqueror art village are available for download from our kiosk and in paper format from our tourist offices.

Parcours Village d’art Guillaume le Conquérant

William the Conqueror Art Village Route

Parcours Guillaume le Conquérant

William the Conqueror route