Despite having fathered more than twenty children, when King Henry I of England died in 1135, he left no surviving legitimate sons. He bequeathed his kingdom to his daughter Matilda, but common citizenry and powerful nobles alike rejected her in favor of Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois, who was crowned King in 1135. However, Matilda had her supporters, and a civil war called the Anarchy broke out between the two factions.
Henry Beauclerc, the youngest and last surviving son of William the Conqueror, served as King Henry I of England after the death of his older brother, William II, in 1100. Nineteen years into his reign, he and his only legitimate son, William the Atheling, celebrated a successful military campaign against Louis VI of France, and the marriage of the teenaged William to Matilda of Anjou, the daughter of a powerful French Count. They remained in Normandy for some time and, on November 25, 1120, King Henry, Prince William, and their respective entourages prepared to cross the English Channel and return to London.
On September 25, 1066, at the site of a bridge over the River Derwent in what is now the East Riding of Yorkshire, thousands of Anglo-Saxon warriors led by King Harold Godwinson closed in from the west on a force of Norsemen led by their king, Harald Hardrada. The arrival of the Anglo-Saxon forces took the Vikings by complete surprise. The unarmored and disjointed Vikings frantically organized on the east side of the river, but the Norse king needed more time to arrange their defenses. On the narrow wooden bridge, one lone warrior, his name unrecorded in history, raised his axe and stood defiant against 15,000 English warriors, intent on granting his king and people the time they desperately needed.
Before he attacked and seized the crown of England in 1066, William the Conqueror held the title of Duke of Normandy, a region of northern France. Throughout the rest of his reign, and of the six English kings that followed, Normandy, while technically still owing its allegiance to France, operated under English control. More than a century later, King Richard I, known as the 'Lion-Heart', built a series of castles, including the imposing Château Gaillard, in order to retain his control of Normandy.