• Duke of Normandy
  • Rex Designatus of England (Co-King with his father Henry I)
  • White Ship Disaster death precipitated a crisis of royal succession

William Adelin Normandy of England, Duke of Normandy, Rex-designatus of England, was born 5 August 1103 in Winchester, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom to Henry I of England (1068-1135) and Matilda of Scotland (c1080-1118) and died 25 November 1120 White Ship Disaster of drowning. He married Matilda of Anjou (1111-1154) June 1119 JL in Lisieux, France. William I of England (1027-1087), Charlemagne (747-814), Alfred the Great (849-899), Hugh Capet (c940-996), Rollo of Normandy (860-932), Alfred the Great (849-899)/s, Charlemagne (747-814)/s.


William Ætheling (William Adelin), was the son of Henry I of England by his wife Matilda of Scotland (c1080-1118), and was thus heir apparent to the throne in the royal House of Normandy. His early death without issue caused a succession crisis, known in history as The Anarchy.

Early Life

William was born in Winchester. His father, Henry I of England, was the youngest son of William the Conqueror, King of England and Duke of Normandy, and Matilda of Flanders. Robert Curthose, the eldest son of the Conqueror, had inherited Normandy, while William Rufus, the third son and second oldest surviving son of the Conqueror, had inherited England. In 1100, William Rufus was killed in a hunting incident, and Henry took the throne. By 1105, he had also dispossessed Robert of Normandy.

William's mother was Matilda (also called Edith), the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland by Saint Margaret of Scotland. Henry had arranged the marriage to conciliate his Anglo-Saxon subjects: Saint Margaret was a granddaughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Edmund Ironside, and a direct descendant of Alfred the Great as such, the marriage represented a union between the new Norman rulers of England and the old Anglo-Saxon dynasty.

Henry's hopes for his succession rested upon William, who was, according to Henry of Huntingdon, "a prince so pampered" that he seemed "destined to be food for the fire."

Duke of Normandy

During Henry I's lifetime, William was invested as Duke of Normandy, a title he held more in name than practice. Henry made the investiture when he was pressed by the king of France, Louis VI, to do homage as Duke of Normandy. As a king in his own right, Henry was loath to comply, and in 1115 he offered to have William do this in his stead. This offer was eventually accepted in 1120, after an intervening period of war, and William did homage to Louis VI in the middle of 1120. For this reason William is sometimes counted as Duke of Normandy (as either William III or William IV). William received, as the heir to the throne, the homage and fealty of the barons of Normandy in 1115 and of the barons of England in March 1116.

Also many official documents of this time gave the title of Rex Designatus - "King Designate", which basically made a co-king on near equal footing with his father, who was preparing him to rule the country.

William's mother Queen Matilda served as Henry's regent in England while he was away in Normandy. After her death in 1118 William was old enough to serve in her stead. He was closely advised in this role by the King's administrators, such as Roger of Salisbury. During the last year or so of his life he was sometimes referred to as rex designatus (king designate).

Marriage to Princess of Anjou

During his 35-year reign, Henry I of England would face several eruptions of hostilities due to the alliances of rival regions with some of his neighbours. To secure the loyalty of Anjou, a long-time rival of Normandy, Henry betrothed William to Matilda of Anjou, eldest daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou in February 1113 near Alençon. The marriage finally took place in June 1119 in Lisieux. Afterward, Count Fulk would leave on a crusade to the middle east where he became Fulk I, King of Jerusalem.

White Ship Disaster

Doomed ship founders on Quilleboeuf Rock

The White Ship was a vessel that sank in the English Channel near the Normandy coast off Barfleur, on 25 Novemeber 1120. Only one of those aboard survived. Those who drowned included William Adelin, the only legitimate son and heir of King Henry I of England, his half-sister Matilda, and his half-brother Richard. This tragedy caused a major succession crisis for the House of Normandy.


Footnotes (including sources)