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To the pope, William was ever careful to show himself a considerate and respectful son, even on such occasions as when he firmly resisted the claim made by Gregory VII to feudal homage. Gregory himself commended the king for the zeal he had shown in securing the freedom of the Church, and he was content, while such a spirit prevailed, to leave the sovereign practically free in his appointments to English bishoprics. In the last years of William's reign a great deal of his attention was absorbed by the political complications which threatened his Continental dominions and by the undutiful attitude of his sons.It was in avenging a gibe levelled against him by the King of France that the Conqueror met with an accident on horseback, which terminated fatally 9 Sept., 1087.
He rewarded his followers with large grants of land, but he was careful to distribute these grants in such a way that the concentration of great territorial power in the same hands was avoided.Through the mediation of Lanfranc, the future archbishop, the union was legitimized by papal dispensation in 1059, but William and his wife consented to found two abbeys at Caen, by way of penance for their contumacy.