Henry I of England
|Reign||5 August 1100 – 1 December 1135|
|5 August 1100|
|Tenure||1106 – 1 December 1135|
|Died||1 December 1135 (aged 66–67)|
Henry I (c. 1068 – 1 December 1135), also known as Henry Beauclerc, was
Robert, who invaded in 1101, disputed Henry's control of England; this military campaign ended in a negotiated settlement that confirmed Henry as king. The peace was short-lived, and Henry invaded the Duchy of Normandy in 1105 and 1106, finally defeating Robert at the
Considered by contemporaries to be a harsh but effective ruler, Henry skilfully manipulated the barons in England and Normandy. In England, he drew on the existing
Henry's only legitimate son and heir,
Henry was probably born in England in 1068, in either the summer or the last weeks of the year, possibly in the town of
Henry was the youngest of William and Matilda's four sons. Physically he resembled his older brothers
In 1087, William was fatally injured during a campaign in the
In dividing his lands, William appears to have followed the Norman tradition, distinguishing between Normandy, which he had inherited, and England, which he had acquired through war. William's second son, Richard, had died in a hunting accident, leaving Henry and his two brothers to inherit William's estate. Robert, the eldest, despite being in armed rebellion against his father at the time of his death, received Normandy. England was given to William Rufus, who was in favour with the dying king. Henry was given a large sum of money, usually reported as £5,000, with the expectation that he would also be given his mother's modest set of lands in
Robert returned to Normandy, expecting to have been given both the Duchy and England, to find that William Rufus had crossed the Channel and been crowned king, as William II. The two brothers disagreed fundamentally over the inheritance, and Robert soon began to plan an invasion of England to seize the kingdom, helped by a rebellion by some of the leading nobles against William Rufus. Henry remained in Normandy and took up a role within Robert's court, possibly either because he was unwilling to side openly with William Rufus, or because Robert might have taken the opportunity to confiscate Henry's inherited money if he had tried to leave.[nb 5] William Rufus sequestered Henry's new estates in England, leaving Henry landless.
In 1088, Robert's plans for the invasion of England began to falter, and he turned to Henry, proposing that his brother lend him some of his inheritance, which Henry refused. Henry and Robert then came to an alternative arrangement, in which Robert would make Henry the count of western Normandy, in exchange for £3,000.[nb 6] Henry's lands were a new countship based around a delegation of the ducal authority in the
Henry quickly established himself as count, building up a network of followers from western Normandy and eastern Brittany, whom historian
During this period, neither William nor Robert seems to have trusted Henry. Waiting until the rebellion against William Rufus was safely over, Henry returned to England in July 1088. He met with the King but was unable to persuade him to grant him their mother's estates, and travelled back to Normandy in the autumn. While he had been away, however,
Although no longer formally the Count of Cotentin, Henry continued to control the west of Normandy. The struggle between Henry's brothers continued. William Rufus continued to put down resistance to his rule in England, but began to build a number of alliances against Robert with barons in Normandy and neighbouring Ponthieu. Robert allied himself with
Robert issued an appeal for help to his barons, and Henry was the first to arrive in Rouen in November. Violence broke out, leading to savage, confused street fighting as both sides attempted to take control of the city. Robert and Henry left the castle to join the battle, but Robert then retreated, leaving Henry to continue the fighting. The battle turned in favour of the ducal forces and Henry took Conan prisoner. Henry was angry that Conan had turned against his feudal lord. He had him taken to the top of Rouen Castle and then, despite Conan's offers to pay a huge ransom, threw him off the top of the castle to his death. Contemporaries considered Henry to have acted appropriately in making an example of Conan, and Henry became famous for his exploits in the battle.
In the aftermath, Robert forced Henry to leave Rouen, probably because Henry's role in the fighting had been more prominent than his own, and possibly because Henry had asked to be formally reinstated as the count of the Cotentin. In early 1091, William Rufus invaded Normandy with a sufficiently large army to bring Robert to the negotiating table. The two brothers signed a treaty at Rouen, granting William Rufus a range of lands and castles in Normandy. In return, William Rufus promised to support Robert's attempts to regain control of the neighbouring county of Maine, once under Norman control, and help in regaining control over the Duchy, including Henry's lands. They nominated each other as heirs to England and Normandy, excluding Henry from any succession while either one of them lived.
War now broke out between Henry and his brothers. Henry mobilised a mercenary army in the west of Normandy, but as William Rufus and Robert's forces advanced, his network of baronial support melted away. Henry focused his remaining forces at
Henry's next steps are not well documented; one chronicler,
William Rufus crossed into Normandy to take the war to Robert in 1094, and when progress stalled, called upon Henry for assistance. Henry responded, but travelled to London instead of joining the main campaign further east in Normandy, possibly at the request of the King, who in any event abandoned the campaign and returned to England.[nb 8] Over the next few years, Henry appears to have strengthened his power base in western Normandy, visiting England occasionally to attend at William Rufus's court. In 1095