Henry I of England

Henry I
Miniature from Matthew Paris's
Historia Anglorum
King of England (more ...)
Reign5 August 1100 – 1 December 1135
Coronation5 August 1100
PredecessorWilliam II
Duke of Normandy
Tenure1106 – 1 December 1135
PredecessorRobert Curthose
Bornc. 1068
Possibly Selby, Yorkshire
Died1 December 1135 (aged 66–67)
Saint-Denis-en-Lyons, Normandy
BurialReading Abbey
more ...
FatherWilliam I of England
MotherMatilda of Flanders

Henry I (c. 1068 – 1 December 1135), also known as Henry Beauclerc, was King of England from 1100 to his death. Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and was educated in Latin and the liberal arts. On William's death in 1087, Henry's elder brothers Robert Curthose and William Rufus inherited Normandy and England, respectively, but Henry was left landless. Henry purchased the County of Cotentin in western Normandy from Robert, but William and Robert deposed him in 1091. Henry gradually rebuilt his power base in the Cotentin and allied himself with William against Robert. Henry was present when William died in a hunting accident in 1100, and he seized the English throne, promising at his coronation to correct many of William's less popular policies. Henry married Matilda of Scotland but continued to have a large number of mistresses by whom he had many illegitimate children.

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 Battle of Tinchebray. Henry kept Robert imprisoned for the rest of his life. Henry's control of Normandy was challenged by Louis VI of France, Baldwin VII of Flanders and Fulk V of Anjou, who promoted the rival claims of Robert's son, William Clito, and supported a major rebellion in the Duchy between 1116 and 1119. Following Henry's victory at the Battle of Brémule, a favourable peace settlement was agreed with Louis in 1120.

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 Anglo-Saxon system of justice, local government and taxation, but also strengthened it with additional institutions, including the royal exchequer and itinerant justices. Normandy was also governed through a growing system of justices and an exchequer. Many of the officials who ran Henry's system were "new men" of obscure backgrounds rather than from families of high status, who rose through the ranks as administrators. Henry encouraged ecclesiastical reform, but became embroiled in a serious dispute in 1101 with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, which was resolved through a compromise solution in 1105. He supported the Cluniac order and played a major role in the selection of the senior clergy in England and Normandy.

Henry's only legitimate son and heir, William Adelin, drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120, throwing the royal succession into doubt. Henry took a second wife, Adeliza, in the hope of having another son, but their marriage was childless. In response to this, Henry declared his daughter, Matilda, his heir and married her to Geoffrey of Anjou. The relationship between Henry and the couple became strained, and fighting broke out along the border with Anjou. Henry died on 1 December 1135 after a week of illness. Despite his plans for Matilda, the King was succeeded by his nephew, Stephen of Blois, resulting in a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.

Early life, 1068–1099

Childhood and appearance, 1068–86

Henry was probably born in England in 1068, in either the summer or the last weeks of the year, possibly in the town of Selby in Yorkshire.[1][nb 1] His father was William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, who had invaded England in 1066 to become the King of England, establishing lands stretching into Wales. The invasion had created an Anglo-Norman elite, many with estates spread across both sides of the English Channel.[2] These Anglo-Norman barons typically had close links to the kingdom of France, which was then a loose collection of counties and smaller polities, under only the minimal control of the king.[3] Henry's mother, Matilda of Flanders, was the granddaughter of Robert II of France, and she probably named Henry after her uncle, King Henry I of France.[4]

Henry was the youngest of William and Matilda's four sons. Physically he resembled his older brothers Robert Curthose, Richard and William Rufus, being, as historian David Carpenter describes, "short, stocky and barrel-chested," with black hair.[5] As a result of their age differences and Richard's early death, Henry would have probably seen relatively little of his older brothers.[6] He probably knew his sister, Adela, well, as the two were close in age.[7] There is little documentary evidence for his early years; historians Warren Hollister and Kathleen Thompson suggest he was brought up predominantly in England, while Judith Green argues he was initially brought up in the Duchy.[8][nb 2] He was probably educated by the Church, possibly by Bishop Osmund, the King's chancellor, at Salisbury Cathedral; it is uncertain if this indicated an intent by his parents for Henry to become a member of the clergy.[10][nb 3] It is also uncertain how far Henry's education extended, but he was probably able to read Latin and had some background in the liberal arts.[11] He was given military training by an instructor called Robert Achard, and Henry was knighted by his father on 24 May 1086.[12]

Inheritance, 1087–88

13th century picture
13th-century depiction of Henry

In 1087, William was fatally injured during a campaign in the Vexin.[13] Henry joined his dying father near Rouen in September, where the King partitioned his possessions among his sons.[14] The rules of succession in western Europe at the time were uncertain; in some parts of France, primogeniture, in which the eldest son would inherit a title, was growing in popularity.[15] In other parts of Europe, including Normandy and England, the tradition was for lands to be divided up, with the eldest son taking patrimonial lands – usually considered to be the most valuable – and younger sons given smaller, or more recently acquired, partitions or estates.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] England was given to William Rufus, who was in favour with the dying king.[17] 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 Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire.[18][nb 4] William's funeral at Caen was marred by angry complaints from a local man, and Henry may have been responsible for resolving the dispute by buying off the protester with silver.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[21][nb 5] William Rufus sequestered Henry's new estates in England, leaving Henry landless.[24]

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.[25] 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.[25][nb 6] Henry's lands were a new countship based around a delegation of the ducal authority in the Cotentin, but it extended across the Avranchin, with control over the bishoprics of both.[27] This also gave Henry influence over two major Norman leaders, Hugh d'Avranches and Richard de Redvers, and the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, whose lands spread out further across the Duchy.[28] Robert's invasion force failed to leave Normandy, leaving William Rufus secure in England.[29]

Count of the Cotentin, 1088–90

Depiction of Bishop Odo (wielding club at centre) who imprisoned Henry from 1088–89. From the Bayeux Tapestry.

Henry quickly established himself as count, building up a network of followers from western Normandy and eastern Brittany, whom historian John Le Patourel has characterised as "Henry's gang".[30] His early supporters included Roger of Mandeville, Richard of Redvers, Richard d'Avranches and Robert Fitzhamon, along with the churchman Roger of Salisbury.[31] Robert attempted to go back on his deal with Henry and re-appropriate the county, but Henry's grip was already sufficiently firm to prevent this.[32] Robert's rule of the Duchy was chaotic, and parts of Henry's lands became almost independent of central control from Rouen.[33]

During this period, neither William nor Robert seems to have trusted Henry.[34] Waiting until the rebellion against William Rufus was safely over, Henry returned to England in July 1088.[35] 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.[36] While he had been away, however, Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, who regarded Henry as a potential competitor, had convinced Robert that Henry was conspiring against the duke with William Rufus.[37] On landing, Odo seized Henry and imprisoned him in Neuilly-la-Forêt, and Robert took back the county of the Cotentin.[38] Henry was held there over the winter, but in the spring of 1089 the senior elements of the Normandy nobility prevailed upon Robert to release him.[39]

Although no longer formally the Count of Cotentin, Henry continued to control the west of Normandy.[40] 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.[41] Robert allied himself with Philip I of France.[42] In late 1090 William Rufus encouraged Conan Pilatus, a powerful burgher in Rouen, to rebel against Robert; Conan was supported by most of Rouen and made appeals to the neighbouring ducal garrisons to switch allegiance as well.[43]

Robert issued an appeal for help to his barons, and Henry was the first to arrive in Rouen in November.[44] Violence broke out, leading to savage, confused street fighting as both sides attempted to take control of the city.[44] Robert and Henry left the castle to join the battle, but Robert then retreated, leaving Henry to continue the fighting.[45] The battle turned in favour of the ducal forces and Henry took Conan prisoner.[45] 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.[46] Contemporaries considered Henry to have acted appropriately in making an example of Conan, and Henry became famous for his exploits in the battle.[47]

Fall and rise, 1091–99

Photograph of Mont St Michel
Mont Saint-Michel, site of the 1091 siege

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.[48] In early 1091, William Rufus invaded Normandy with a sufficiently large army to bring Robert to the negotiating table.[49] 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.[49] They nominated each other as heirs to England and Normandy, excluding Henry from any succession while either one of them lived.[50]

War now broke out between Henry and his brothers.[51] 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.[52] Henry focused his remaining forces at Mont Saint-Michel, where he was besieged, probably in March 1091.[53] The site was easy to defend, but lacked fresh water.[54] The chronicler William of Malmesbury suggested that when Henry's water ran short, Robert allowed his brother fresh supplies, leading to remonstrations between Robert and William Rufus.[55] The events of the final days of the siege are unclear: the besiegers had begun to argue about the future strategy for the campaign, but Henry then abandoned Mont Saint-Michel, probably as part of a negotiated surrender.[56][nb 7] He left for Brittany and crossed over into France.[57]

Henry's next steps are not well documented; one chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, suggests that he travelled in the French Vexin, along the Normandy border, for over a year with a small band of followers.[58] By the end of the year, Robert and William Rufus had fallen out once again, and the Treaty of Rouen had been abandoned.[59] In 1092, Henry and his followers seized the Normandy town of Domfront.[60] Domfront had previously been controlled by Robert of Bellême, but the inhabitants disliked his rule and invited Henry to take over the town, which he did in a bloodless coup.[61] Over the next two years, Henry re-established his network of supporters across western Normandy, forming what Judith Green terms a "court in waiting".[62] By 1094, he was allocating lands and castles to his followers as if he were the Duke of Normandy.[63] William Rufus began to support Henry with money, encouraging his campaign against Robert, and Henry used some of this to construct a substantial castle at Domfront.[64]

William Rufus crossed into Normandy to take the war to Robert in 1094, and when progress stalled, called upon Henry for assistance.[65] 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.[66][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.[68] In 1095 Pope Urban II called the First Crusade, encouraging knights from across Europe to join.[67] Robert joined the Crusade, borrowing money from William Rufus to do so, and granting the King temporary custody of his part of the Duchy in exchange.[69] The King appeared confident of regaining the remainder of Normandy from Robert, and Henry appeared ever closer to William Rufus, the pair campaigning together in the Norman Vexin between 1097 and 1098.[70]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Henry 1-sè (Eng-lân)
беларуская: Генрых I Баклерк
български: Хенри I (Англия)
eesti: Henry I
한국어: 헨리 1세
Bahasa Indonesia: Henry I dari Inggris
ქართული: ჰენრი I
lietuvių: Henrikas I
македонски: Хенри I
Bahasa Melayu: Henry I dari England
Simple English: Henry I of England
slovenščina: Henrik I. Angleški
српски / srpski: Хенри I
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Henry I od Engleske
українська: Генріх I Боклерк
Tiếng Việt: Henry I của Anh