William the Conqueror is destined to succeed his father as the Duke of Normandy but questions about his legitimacy mean he consistently faces challenges from potential usurpers in the Duchy to retain the title. He marries Matilda, the equally intelligent and ambitious daughter of the King of Flanders, and together they have many children. In 1066, he crosses the channel from Normandy to England and seizes the crown from King Harold, Edward the Confessor's popular successor.
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The death of The Conqueror left three sons to inherit his power and his wealth. Normandy for Robert, England for Rufus, and for Henry, the youngest, 5,000 pounds of silver. The three were natural rivals. The feckless Robert lost his Norman dukedom in an orgy of impulsive extravagance. Red-haired Rufus scandalized the court with his perverse sexuality and contempt for the Church. And Henry - cleverest of all - awaited his chance to fulfill his father’s prophecy and assume the mantle of The Lion of Justice.
The death of the King’s son aboard the doomed White Ship, left the ageing Henry I again without an heir. Henry’s daughter, the Empress Matilda, could not succeed her father while her own German husband still lived – but she could hope. Henry’s nephew, the affable, charming Stephen was also looking towards the English throne.