William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror
Weapons Norman Broadsword, Composite Crossbow, Torsion Catapult
Origin Normandy France
Activities Defeating the British and becoming King
Service 1066 AD
Battle Status Lost vs. Joan of Arc
Experts Jason McNeil (Medieval Combat Specialist)
Stephen Morillo, PhD (Wabash College)

"William the Conqueror started leading troops into battle when he was a teenager. He learned his craft on the battlefield. It was a case of do or die." - Jason McNeil, Medieval Combat Specialist

William the Conqueror, the daring and deadly Norman duke who crushed his English enemies and crowned himself king;

Joan of Arc , the teenaged French fighter whose battlefield heroics defeated England's superior army, and ended the Hundred Years War.


  • Circa: 1066 A.D.
  • Age: 38
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 215 lbs


Born in 1028 in Normandy, King William I of England, also known as William the Conqueror, is known for his conquest of England and eventual rise to power. William had convinced himself that the crown of England was for the taking, and that he could successfully conquer England in a short period of time.

As he strengthened Normandy's defenses and rallied 7,000 troops, in 1066 he finally conquered England in only a few months (primarily due to the victory of the Battle of Hastings and King Harold Godwinson dying from an arrow in the eye on October 14, 1066). As a result, William was the first Norman King of England and soon began to fortify his regime by building dozens of castles and spreading his royal army around the land.

William led The Harrying: a period of massacres and anti-rebel crackdowns with estimates about 100,000 civilians killed. Some historians believed that these actions were to repress and replace Anglo-Saxon society with a Norman one.

William died from a fatal horse riding injury on 9 September 1087 (when he was 59). His succession was between his three sons; Robert Curthose became King of Normandy, and William Rufus/William II became King of England. His youngest son, Henry, initially was given no land but instead inherited some wealth. King Robert and William fought each other in the Rebellion of 1088. In 1095 the rivalry between the brothers halted as they sent their Knights to fight in the First Crusade. Robert leased Normandy to William to finance his Crusaders. On August 2, 1100, King William II was killed by a hunting arrow; some historians believing that he was assassinated by his brother Henry I, who was joining him on a hunt. As Henry I was William II's successor, he quickly rose to power shortly after William II's death. Henry then conquered the Normandy Kingdom in 1106 and imprisoned Robert for life. Henry was able to maintain his Kingdom's territory; resisting multiple foreign invasions while maintaining his economy.

In 1135, Henry died and was succeeded by Stephen of Blois. However Empress Matilda and her son Henry II claimed to be the rightful heir and so the nation erupted into civil war between 1135–54, in a period dubbed 'The Anarchy'. Stephen was temporarily captured by Matilda, however the Empress was so unpopular that she offended the Londoners and was chased out of London before her coronation. Stephen died in 1154 and so Henry II was chosen as his successor.

Henry II expanded further; conquering the western half of France by 1166 AD. Henry then invaded Ireland in May 1169, which is cited by many historians as the beginning of English colonialism and repression of the Irish. While Dublin was the primary territory directly owned by the Normans; the other Irish kingdoms agreed to be puppets of the Norman Empire in exchange for maintaining peace. By its peak in 1172 AD: Henry's Angevin Empire had influence over almost all of the British Isles (excluding some Scottish islands).

Henry II faced a succession crisis when his sons launched the Revolt of 1173–74 against him. Henry's distribution of lands and territories to his sons did not satisfy them; however Henry won the conflict and his sons surrendered. Henry decided to name John has his successor, but Richard I wanted the throne and again rebelled against his father Henry. On 4 July 1189, the forces of Richard and French King Philip defeated Henry's army at Ballans and forcing Henry to name Richard his successor. 2 days later, on 6 July, granting Richard his kingdom.

Richard I led the Third Crusade in 1189–1192, but made no territorial conquests from the Muslims. Before arriving in the Holy Lands, Richard I's navy was caught in a storm and left on Cyprus. Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, despite being a Christian as well, began imprisoning Richard's men. This sparked a war, which allowed Richard to conquer Cyprus by June 1 1191. Richard did not plan to own a territory so far away from England and so sold the island to the Knights Templar: creating the Kingdom of Cyprus lasting 1192–1489.

Richard returned to Europe but was captured in Vienna in 1192. Richard was able to pay off the ransom and return home; however the money used to pay the ransom was 2 years worth of tax money and thus, the Empire was bankrupt. Because of his imprisonment, the French invaded the Angevin Empire. On 25 March 1199 during the siege of Château de Châlus-Chabrol; Richard was hit by a crossbow bolt: dying from the wound on 6 April 1199. John, King of England became his successor.

John was a highly controversial King within English history; infamously being the main antagonist of the Adventures of Robbin Hood. He was hated by nobles and peasants alike for his rude behavior, poor leadership, poor handling of the economy, overtaxing, and failures in the wars against France (giving him the name John Lackland for the territory of Normandy he lost to France). He resisted Pope Innocent III by banning Cardinal Stephen Langton from England. When English clerics opposed this action; John declared them traitors and seized Church property. The Pope in response halted church services in England between 1208 to 1214 and excommunicated John in 1209. English nobles began to revolt since John was seen as unholy or unfit to rule. Seeing the disorder threatening his reign; John decided to surrender his hostilities in 1213, giving back Church land and swearing loyalty to the Pope. However revolts still occurred; with Robert Fitzwalter launching The First Barons' War in 1215-1217. On 15 June 1215, the Magna Carta was signed: one of the most important documents in English history, as it restricted the powers of the King. John technically signed the document but ignored it and had the Pope annul the document. The revolt continued as a result. On the night of 18 October 1216, John died from an illness he received during a hasty military retreat.

John's son Henry III was declared his successor the next day, despite the fact he was only 9 years old in 1216. The Battle of Lincoln in 20 May 1217 pushed King Louis out of England. Since Henry was so young, many nobles loyal to Louis defected to Henry as the rebels assisting the French didn't view Henry as a corrupt threat. However King Louis instead began to invade English territories in Nouvelle-Aquitaine (aka New Aquitaine) and Henry asked for support from his nobles to reinforce Gascony. The nobles assisted only after they demanded Henry to follow the Magna Carta, which Henry and future English kings agreed to from that moment on. Henry attempted to reconquer Brittany and tried to install English influence in France by marrying Eleanor of Provence in 14 January 1236. However many English nobles didn't like Henry's generous support for a family from enemy lands; especially when Henry continued these alliances long after the war ended in failure with the Treaty of Paris (1259). Henry also damaged his nation's economy with overspending for attempted imperial gains; losing a significant fortune to create an alliance with his brother, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and an attempt to get his son, Edmund Crouchback, to be King of Sicily. Henry became so unpopular that between 1264–1267 a Second Barons' War erupted led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. Henry however won the war.

Edward I of England left England to assist The Eight Crusade in 1270, but arrived too late when an dysentery outbreak killed Louis IX. In 16 November 1272, Henry III died and Edward I became his successor.

Edward I's son, Edward the II was considered a failure; unable to defeat the Scottish and French and facing peasant revolts due to famine. Edward II then took land from his wife Queen Isabella. She and her secret lover Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March overthrew Edward in 1326; leading Edward III to be the new king.

Edward III's reign began a long period of war and disasters for the English. Edward attempted to invade Scotland in the Second War of Scottish Independence (1332–1357). Scottish guerrilla tactics allowed the Scots to outlast the English and win the war. Edward then claimed to be the rightful heir to the French throne through his mother Isabella; leading to the War of the Breton Succession (1341 - 12 April 1365) and the early stages of the Hundreds Year War (24 May 1337 – 19 October 1453). The Black Death also arrived in England between 1349-1375; killing an estimated 45% of the population (about 1.5 million Englsih deaths). As seen in most European nations; the massive loss of life allowed peasants higher wages due to the desperate demand for healthy workers: which would lead to the eventual end of feudalism.

[] Richard II began his reign in 21 June 1377. During his reign he faced opposition from the priest John Wycliffe; who criticized the clergy and the English monarchy. John's philosophies are seen as the origins of several religious concepts; including the separation of church and state (including Caesaropapism), Iconoclasm, and being considered the creator of early Protestantism (dubbed Lollardy). John openly denounced the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope for abuse of power and greed. Lollardists demanded Church to relinquish their ownership of land, which John of Gaunt (a son of Edward III) and other nobles supported (as the church would have to surrender the land them). John of Gaunt's support of this movement that criticized Richard's monarchy made Richard II despise John of Gaunt, despite John being Richard's successor to the throne. The 1381 Peasants' Revolt erupted in response to Richard II overtaxing the peasants and being accused of corruption; although the revolt was crushed, it further damaged Richard's reputation. In 1388 the Lords Appellant attempted to impeach Richard and managed to arrest or execute many of his political supporters. Richard cracked down on these lords in 1397; purging most of the leaders in an event known as Richard's Tyranny. Between 1394-1395, Richard invaded and conquered Southern Ireland. Henry IV of England (son of the aforementioned John of Gaunt) was Richard II's successor when in 3 February 1399 John died of natural causes. Richard II however strictly opposed Henry IV's claim and as a result; seized Henry's land, exiled him from the kingdom and declared his political titles forfeit. However the nobles, who despised Richard II's tyrannical rule anyways, feared that Richard would steal their property as well; and so overthrew Richard on 30 September 1399. Richard's supporters attempted to assassinate or rebel against Henry IV, but the plot was crushed and the conspirators executed. Richard would die of thirst while in prison on 14 February 1400 at the age of 33.


Short Range Norman Broadsword
Medium Range Composite Crossbow
Long Range Torsion Catapult
Armor Chainmail Hauberk
Tactics Feigned Retreat


  • William the Conqueror and his soldiers can trace some of their ancestry back to the Viking, Rollo specifically.
  • At 215 lbs, William is the heaviest ancient warrior. This is a big contrast to Joan, the lightest warrior at 125 lbs (a 90 lb difference).
  • William was descended from the Vikings but like all Normans was more closely related to the French.
  •  A potential claimant, the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, who was named the next king by Edward on the latter's deathbed in January 1066.
  • William argued that Edward had previously promised the throne to him, and that Harold had sworn to support William's claim.
  • While the Battle of Hastings was an impressive victory for William, William only invaded after a similar Viking, Harald Hardrada, invading England from the north. Before that, Harold had a strong coastal defense that William refused to attack. 3 days after The Battle of Stamford Bridge, William exploited the fact that Harold was still in Northern England and so William landed in the South.
  • The English cheered at William's coronation. However William and his army did not know how to speak Old English and so thought the crowd was a rebellious mob, so they brutally cracked down on their loyal civilians.
  • William and his Normans built 84 castles in England between 1066-1087 AD.

  • Stock footage from BBC Battlefield Britain was used in the Joan of Arc vs William the Conqueror episode.