William Atheling

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The sinking of the White Ship
William Atheling (1103–1120) was the son of King Henry I and his wife Maud (daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland). He was drowned following the wreck of the White Ship which was bringing him and other members of the King's retinue home from France; as a result the King had no legitimate heir, and Henry's death in 1135 was followed by a period of dynastic struggle known as "The Anarchy".

It has been speculated that William was gay, and the loss of the White Ship was considered by the contemporary chronicler Orderic to be God's punishment for the sodomy of those on board.[1]


  1. William E Burgwinkle, Sodomy, Masculinity and Law in Medieval Literature: France and England, 1050–1230. Cambridge University Press, 2004, page 51.