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II


At first William ruled England with moderation. The laws and customs were not changed, and in a few months after the battle of Hastings the kingdom was so peaceful that William left it in charge of his brother and went to Normandy for a visit.


While he was gone many of the English nobles rebelled against him, and on his return he made very severe laws and did some very harsh things. He laid waste an extensive territory, destroying all the houses upon it and causing thousands of persons to die from lack of food and shelter, because the people there had not sworn allegiance to him.


He made a law that all lights should be put out and fires covered with ashes at eight o'clock every evening, so that the people would have to go to bed then. A bell was rung in all cities and towns throughout England to warn the people of the hour. The bell was called the "curfew, " from the French words "couvre feu, " meaning "to cover fire."


To find out about the lands of England and their owners, so that everybody might be made to pay taxes, he appointed officers in all the towns to report what estates there were, who owned them, and what they were worth. The reports were copied into two volumes, called the "Domesday Book." This book showed that England at that time had a population of a little more than a million.


William made war on Scotland , and conquered it. During a war with the king of France the city of Mantes ( mont ) was burned by William's soldiers. As William rode over the ruins his horse stumbled and the king was thrown to the ground and injured. He was borne to Rouen , where he lay ill for six weeks. His sons and even his attendants abandoned him in his last hours. It is said that in his death struggle he fell from his bed to the floor, where his body was found by his servants.


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