History remembers him as William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England and the creator of the Doomsday Book. But before he defeated King Harold of England, he was known as William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy.
In 1051 or 1052, William married Matilda of Flanders. Matilda was the niece and granddaughter of Kings of France. Viewing their status through that lens, Matilda certainly married down.
Matilda was considered beautiful and wealthy. And not as short as we learn. She stood 5 feet tall, the average height for her time and William was 5’10 not the giant proclaimed.
Now the story of their courting. William sent his representative to ask for her hand in marriage and she turned him down. William not satisfied with that. William rode from Normandy to Bruges and found her riding to church. He tackled her in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. He threw her in the street, beat her and then rode off. After that, she agreed to marry him.
Some people say the story is true others say that it is not. I guess it depends on who you read. In 1053, William and Matilda married even though Pope Leo IX banned it on the grounds of consanguinity (being closely related). Luckily for their children, in 1059, the royal couple received a Papal dispensation by Pope Nicholas II.
And William and Matilda would have children–10 to be exact who all would live into adulthood. A great feat at a time when children died.
In 1066, William would transform from the bastard to the conqueror when Edward the Confessor (King of England) died without issue. So, William prepared to invade the isle nation since he was a cousin to Edward and stated that Edward promised his throne. Matilda outfitted a ship named Mora with her own funds. While William went off to England, Matilda was regent of Normandy for her young son, Robert II.
In 1066, William won the Battle of Hastings but not all in England was peaceful. The Danes were fighting in the North for control and there were rebellions from the local nobility and people. Historians put the number of dead at 100,000. That is a large number when one thinks about how much smaller the population was.
Now the King of England, Matilda had to be crowned. On May 11, 1068, she became the Queen of England. But she was still in Normandy. It would take more than a year for her to visit her new nation. Only one child was born in their new realm–Henry I who would become one of the two English kings this union produced.
In the summer of 1083, Matilda became ill and died on the 2 of November 1083. Four years later, William followed on September 9, 1087. Both are buried in France.
England now a great amount of Williams. But history never recorded William having bastards. This couple changed Europe and the world and this is just some of their historical romance.