Henri I, King of France

He was the third Capetian king and born in 1008 and ruled from 1031 to his death in 1060. His reign was overshadowed by William of Normandy, future duke there and the Conqueror of England in 1066.

Let’s get started.

Here is a genealogical table from the encyclopedia Medieval France:

And here is W. L. Warren’s genealogical table from his excellent biography Henry II:


Henry I is the same as Henri I. Robert the Pious is Robert II. It lays out the Capetians (left) and Normans (right), who transition to become the Angevins and then the Plantagenets. Henry of Anjou is the same as King Henry II of England, the first Plantagenet.

Yes, the Capetians descend from Charlemagne. For the evidence, click on Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, and scroll down to the Addendum.


Henri in French, Henry in English, he was the third king of the Capetian dynasty and eldest surviving son of Robert II and Constance of Arles (Provence) and was born in 1008, before May 17. When his older brother Hugues (Hugh) was made joint-king or associate king in 1017, Henri was made Duke of Burgundy. After the death of his brother Hugh on 17 Sep 1023, Henri was crowned on 14 May 1027 over the objections of his mother who favored his younger brother Robert.

Family Troubles

Robert and Constance rebelled with the aid of Eudes (Odo) II, Count of Blois and Champagne and Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy, and indirectly from Holy Roman Emperor Conrad, to whose daughter Matilda Henry was affianced (engaged). Matilda died at Worms in 1034 and was buried there in the Cathedral. Henry gave his brother the duchy of Burgundy, and the death of Constance in 1034 and Eudes in 1037 made the king more secure. Henri gave Robert, who had been previously known as Lackland, the duchy of Burgundy. This gift placated him.

Henri thus maintained his control over the French church despite the reforming zeal Pope Leo IV (r. 1049-54).

“Foreign” Matters

It is important to realize that France as we know it today was not even close to being unified in the Medieval Age. It was broken up into a patchwork of duchies and counties, overseen by dukes and counts. They tirelessly competed with each other and the kings of “France.” The Capetians actually ruled over what is called Lesser France, the area around Paris and Orleans, including the Ile-de-France or Isle of France. The Ile or Isle of France was not a standard island as we think of it today, but a land area surrounding Paris. It was the base of the Capetians. (Incidentally, the label “Ile of France” is still used today to identify this area.)

In the duchy of Normandy, county of Blois, county of Anjou, and the South, the names of the dukes and counts who ruled over those areas are numerous—too numerous for our purposes, so let’s instead draw from the conflicts a few choice stories, especially about William, the future Conqueror, who was beginning his rise.

Normandy was a safe haven for Henri after Robert revolted (before the gift of Burgundy). Henri met Edward the Confessor, an early king of England, there, while Edward was exiled. Henry knighted William in about 1044 and helped him in suppressing rebellious subjects in 1047. William’s father Robert Duke of Normandy had not been able to keep things under control, and when he elevated his illegitimate minor son (William’s mother was a commoner and unmarried to Duke Robert), the Normans grew restless. During one of the battles for control, during which the “the entire earth shuddered and trembled,” Henri was struck on the shield and was unhorsed, but helped back on the saddle. And then he lifted his visor or even helmet to show that he was still alive and all right. He won, and Duke Robert’s enemies ran.

Recently knighted William counterattacked a move by Geoffrey Martel of Anjou and his ally Henri settled for a peace. Then William turned his attention to some castles that Geoffrey Martel had taken over on the southern border of Normandy. The garrison inside the outpost jeered at him, mocking his illegitimacy and his tanner grandfather, a commoner. William took the outpost and had the hands and feet of thirty-two mockers cut off. This brutality persuades other rebels to surrender.

After Henri countered threats from Blois (not dealt with here), William the (future) Conqueror tried to expand Normandy at the expense of Henri, Henri reacted, so Henri switched alliances and went over to Geoffrey Martel. The Normans had been allies with Henri since 987, so the switch was momentous.

In 1051 William the (future) Conqueror married Matilda of Flanders in 1051, and Flanders was a powerful region in the northeast of “France” (such as it was), so Henri felt hemmed in. With new allies, he invaded the duchy of Normandy, but was defeated at Mortemer in 1054 and Varaville in 1058. His younger brother Eudes (Odo) led one army and became arrogant and cruel and laid waste the land and taking booty and committed arson and rape. During the night they drank and caroused. A count (another Robert, sorry!) attacked and the battle went on to noon, and Odo was defeated. William the (future) Conqueror heard word and ordered Ralph of Tosny to shout the news to Henri, calling from a nearby tree or hill: “Frenchmen, Frenchmen, get up, get up! Be on your way! You are sleeping too much! Go and bury your friends who have died …! Henri abandoned the invasion. However, he was not defeated to the point of losing his kingship.

All this back and forth and alliance switches prove that Henri was politically astute, despite the defeat.

In the South, Henri supported the Peace of God and Truce of God., which said that no wars can be waged on Thursday in memory of the Last Supper, Friday for Good Friday, Saturday for the day Christ’s body was placed in the Holy Sepulcher, and Sunday for the Resurrection. The “Peace was to protect some Christians all of the time, the Truce was to protect all Christians part of the time” (Bradbury).


Historian Jim Bradbury summarizes Henri’s (Henry’s) rule as follows:

Perhaps Henry’s main achievement was to strengthen his position in the old Robertian principality, now the royal demesne—particularly in the Ile-de-France [region around Paris]. The crisis facing him probably posed the most serious of all threats to the continuation of Capetian rule during the first four reigns, a combination of attacks from powerful princes and from a coalition of lords in the Ile-de-France. Early on Henry suffered losses—forced or granted—including the Vexin, the Vermandois, Perche, Valois, and Meulan. By the end of the reign he had recovered all except Langres … Henry stood firm against Blois and prevented greater expansion. He stood against Anjou’s attempt to bully him through alliance with the emperor and papacy, and here too survived. He faced a formidable list of princes in Odo II [not his brother, but Count of Blois], Geoffrey Martel, and William the Conqueror, but came through, looking considerably stronger in 1060 than he had in 1031.

Family Facts

On the family front, in the 1140s he was married to another Matilda, the niece of Emperor Heinrich III (r. 1039-56). They had one daughter. She died at Paris in 1044 and was buried in the church of the Abbey of Saint-Denis.

On 19 May 1051 Henri concluded another marriage contract with Anne (Agnes), born in 1036, daughter of the Russian Prince Jaroslav III of Kiev (r. 1019-54) and his second wife Ingrid or Ingegard, daughter of Olaf Skoetkonung, King of Sweden.  She brought gifts rather than lands, such as her Hyacinth, a gem later presented to Louis VI to St. Denis. “Anne was intelligent and active. Unusually for the period for a woman, she was able to sign her name. She was the first French queen to employ a tutor for her family, Enguerrand, the pedagogue of the king” (Bradbury).

His heir Philip I was born in 1053, before 23 May. This name is Greek and was introduced by Anne, so now the Capetians have a new name for future monarchs. Henri arranged for his coronation at Reims on 23 May 1059 at Reims. Henri arranged for a regency under Baudouin (Baldwin) V of Flanders (r. 1035-67), the husband of Henri’s sister Adele and the father-in-law of William the (future) Conqueror.

Henri and Anne of Kiev had two more sons: Robert (died young in 1063); and Hugues (Hugh) le Grand, Count of Crépy.

Henri became ill in 1060 and asked for a potion to prolong his life and was given a purgative. He suffered pain in the stomach and demanded water (his doctor wasn’t there) and drank it too soon. The purgative poisoned him. He thus died prematurely at Vitry-aux-Loges near Orléans on 4 Aug 1060 and was buried in the church of the Abbey of Saint-Denis.

His widow ruled as regent 1060-67 and in 1061 married a second time to Raoul II, Count of Crépy and Valois, who died at Péronne 8 Sept 1074.

Anne died 5 Sept 1075-89. Bradbury says she died probably in 1078, but noted that Philip made a gift for the rest of her soul in 1089.


Robert I (r. 922-23) (House of Robertines)

Hugh the Great (r. 938-956)


Hugh Capet (r. 987-996)

Robert II (r. 996-1031)

Henri I (r. 1031-60)

Philip I (r. 1059 or 1060-1108)

Louis VI (r. 1108-1037)

Louis VII  (r. 1137-1180)

Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)

Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226)

Louis IX, the Saintly King (r. 1226-1270)

Philip III (r. 1270-1285)

Philip IV (r. 1285-1314)

Louis X (r. 1314-1316)

Philip V (r. 1316-1322)

Charles IV (r 1322-1328) (last Capetian king)


These two dynasties lived before the Capetians.

Charlemagne: Interesting Facts and Stories

Pippin, Son of Charlemagne

Bernard, King of Italy

Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)


Herbert I, Count of Vermandois

Herbert II, Count of Vermandois


Constance B. Bouchard, Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia (U Penn P 2001)

Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).

Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans (Blackwell, 2000).

David Crouch, The Normans: The History of the Dynasty (Hambledon and London, 2002).

René de la Croix (duc de Castries), Kings and Queens of France, trans. Anne Dobell (Knopf, 1979.

David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England (UC P, 1964).

Ivan Gobry, Robert II: Fils de Hugues Capet, Histoire des Rois de France (Pygmalion, 2005).

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 volumes (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).

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