Of Franco-Scandinavian descent through his father, Duke Robert `the Magnificent', William the Conqueror is revealed as the brutal and violent product of his time, much given to outbursts of rage, capable of great cruelty, autocratic, avaricious and prone to a sort of grisly humour. Yet, with all that, he could also be a loyal friend and affectionate husband and father.
His military reputation rests mainly on his victory at Hastings. He was a competent rather than inspired general, benefiting from the mistakes and disunity of his foes. William inspired great loyalty in some and even greater hatred in others. His ruthless will made him the driving force behind Norman ambition in north-western Europe, and his propagandists shamelessly manipulated the facts to justify his conquest of England - a dubious enterprise if ever there was one.