William FitzEmpress

William FitzEmpress
Born (1136-07-22)22 July 1136
Argentan, Normandy
Died 30 January 1164(1164-01-30) (aged 27)
Burial Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Rouen
House House of Plantagenet
Father Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou
Mother Empress Matilda

William FitzEmpress (22 July 1136 at Argentan, Normandy,[1][2] – 30 January 1164 at Rouen, Normandy[1][2]) was the youngest of the three sons of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou.

Early life

His eldest brother was King Henry II of England, and his second brother was Geoffrey, Count of Nantes. William was Viscount of Dieppe.[1] He was also known as William FitzEmpress and as William of Anjou.


In 1156, aged 20, William was with his brother Henry at the siege of Chinon.[1] This siege was occasioned by the rebellion of their brother Geoffrey.[3] He also conducted the siege at the castle of Mountreuil-Bellay. While doing so he had the writings of the Roman military theorist Vegetius read to him; he then did what Vegetius had done, and the siege ended the next day.[4]

In September 1155, King Henry held a council at Winchester where he enthusiastically considered invading Ireland and giving it to William, making him king. The plans were abandoned when their mother, Empress Matilda, objected: she did not consider Ireland worth conquering.[5][6] Henry did, however, make William one of the richest men in England, granting him seven manors (Maldon in Essex; Dartford, Hoo, and Shorne in Kent; Aylsham and Cawston in Norfolk; and Hintlesham in Suffolk).[1] He also had land surrounding Dieppe, Normandy, of which he was made vicomte (viscount).


In 1162 William was to marry Isabel de Warenne, Countess of Surrey, one of the great heiresses in England. She was widow of William of Blois, count of Boulogne and Mortain, the son of King Stephen, and a cousin of William. Because of this relationship, the marriage required a dispensation from affinity; such dispensations were usually granted without difficulty, However Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to support the request for a dispensation and it was not granted because of that.[7]


William died suddenly shortly thereafter, it was said of a broken heart, and was buried in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Rouen.[8] Henry blamed Becket for William's death, and this might well have been the beginning of the great conflict between them. When Becket was murdered 29 December 1170, one of the assailants was Richard le Breton who had been a knight in William's employ. When Breton delivered his fatal blow he shouted, "Take that, for the love of my lord William, the king's brother!"[1]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Amt, Emile (2004). William FitzEmpress (1136–1164). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. (subscription required (help)).
  2. 1 2 Baldwin, Stewart (27 June 2004). "Geoffrey V "le Bel" or "Plantagenet"". Henry Project. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  3. Warren, W L (28 November 1977). Henry II. Univ. of California Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0520034945. Retrieved 2014-08-21. (subscription required (help)).
  4. Duby, Georges (8 December 1993). Juliet Vale, trans., ed. France in the Middle Ages, 987–1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 178. ISBN 978-0631189459. (subscription required (help)).
  5. Warren 1977, p. 195.
  6. Weir, Alison (2001). Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life. Ballantine Books. p. 145. ISBN 9780345434876. Retrieved 2014-08-21. (subscription required (help)).
  7. Warren 1977, p. 449.
  8. Stevenson, Joseph, ed. (1991). The Chronicles of Robert de Monte. Llanerch Publishers. p. 99. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
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