It was on this day in 1066 that William the Conqueror (1027-1087), a Norman prince and a cousin to the royal family of Saxon England, assembled his troops on the shores of the English Channel. He was preparing for an invasion of that "sceptered isle" the next morning in an effort to wrest the crown from his won kith and kin, King Harold.
Born in Falaise, France, William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, duke of Normandy. Upon the death of his father, the Norman nobles, honoring their promise to Robert, accepted William as his successor. Rebellion against the young duke broke out almost immediately, however, and his position did not become secure until 1047 when, with the aid of Henry I, king of France, he won a decisive victory over a rebel force near Caen. During a visit in 1051 to his childless cousin, Edward the Confessor, king of England, William is said to have obtained Edward’s agreement that he should succeed to the English throne. In 1053, defying a papal ban, William married Matilda of Flanders, daughter of Baldwin V, count of Flanders and a descendant of King Alfred the Great, thereby strengthening his claim to the crown of England. When Edward died however, the powerful English noble, Harold, Earl of Wessex, was elected king. Determined to make good his claim, William invaded.
Just two weeks later, on October 14, the Normans defeated the English forces at the celebrated Battle of Hastings, in which Harold was slain. On Christmas Day William was crowned "King and Conqueror of England" in Westminster Abbey. It was to be the last successful invasion of England but not the last dynastic change amongst the ever-feuding royals. But then, that's another story.