It’s a late night, the moon is shining through your window and as silence falls over your room you are brutally awakened by the arms of your guardian lifting you from your bed, getting you ready to escape. Once again, you spend another restless night hiding from the same people who were supposed to protect you. Those who were once loyal to you and your father are now plotting to murder you to take over your throne. Maybe one day, when you grow up, you’ll finally get a full night’s sleep without fearing for your life. Right now, the only thing left to do is run.
William the Conqueror was born circa 1028 in Falasi, Normandy to his father Robert Duke of Normandy, and Hervela, his father’s mistress. He was born as one of his father’s bastard children but would later become ruler of England and be victorious in the battle of Hastings. Much like other medieval figures, William’s life before his rise to power is made up of very few pieces of information; but what we do know has given us a glimpse of his incredible story. It is unknown if William’s time was primarily spent under the care of his mother or his father, but even as an illegitimate child, his father, Robert Duke of Normandy, took care of his son and his future. William was not supposed to be next in line for the throne, but his father made it so that King Henry and his council would recognize William the moment Robert passed away. Unknowingly, Robert made a decision which would impact the way in which William’s life and his approach to the throne would evolve.
Robert, Duke of Normandy, was caught in constant civil war and battles between him and his uncles after taking over the throne. The relationship between Robert and the Church was tainted because of these family feuds regarding the rightful heir. As controversial as it was to name an illegitimate child as the heir to a throne, Robert I trusted that in the event of a tragedy, King Henry would honor his wishes. While Robert did not expect for William to take over the throne at such a young age Robert unexpectedly fell ill and died on his way back from Jerusalem, leaving 7-year-old William as the new Duke of Normandy. Even with King Henry I’s support, political upheaval and threats against the young Duke occurred making violence inevitable and any attempts at protecting young William nearly impossible.
There were few men who remained loyal to Robert and William, but those who kept their promises to Robert became his primary protectors. The men who protected William understood that their loyalty would most likely cost them their lives yet they continued to guide the young boy on his journey into adulthood. Alan of Brittany, one of his tutors, was quickly killed while trying to protect William and replaced by Count Gilbert, who didn’t last long either. Soon, the political chaos, violence, and seemingly endless attempts to kill William would leave his caregivers no other choice but to sleep in the same chamber as the boy in the event that it was necessary to escape in the middle if the night. Some sources reveal William was often taken by his guardians in the middle of the night to flee for safety in the homes of the poor. Living in a state of constant fear due to the betrayal and untrustworthiness of the people who were once so loyal to his father deeply impacted William. As he got older, he started taking power into his own hands. The opinions of the men who were in charge of maintaining the throne after Robert’s death were no longer respected and William started calling the shots.
An even bigger target was placed on his back, but this time, he was ready to fight back and become the ruler his father would want him to be. William wanted respect, stability and loyalty.
William’s experiences as a young child influenced his approach as the primary holder of the throne. His entire life was spent surrounded by political violence, betrayal, an instability so naturally, William took his 1048 crowning to establish a rule based on true loyalty and the protection that he needed to survive. Thankfully, he had King Henry I by his side.
Take a look at the Norman campaign in Age IV to get a real time look at William’s journey after his official crowning as Duke of Normandy.
How To Pre-Order
Want to experience William’s journey? The game is available for pre-order now on Windows Store and Steam and will be playable starting October 28, on Xbox Game Pass for PC!