William was the bastard son of the Duke of Normandy. His father died when he was young and he grew up in a chaotic duchy until, in adulthood, he was able to bring the barons to heel. Through his aunt, he was a cousin of King Edward the Confessor of England who, at one time, contemplated leaving William the English Crown. Although he later seems to have changed his mind, as far as William was concerned, England was his. When Edward died, he crossed the Channel and defeated the English in a miraculous battle near Hastings. He is best known for giving all the land in England away to his cronies and then the first census ever undertaken in the country. It was called the Domesday Book.
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