King Henry I: Interesting Facts and Stories

Born about 1068-69, he was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. He was not expected to become the King of the English, but he did at his coronation on 5 Aug 1100. How did that happen? He died on 1 Dec 1135. Basic family facts are included..

Let’s get started with his ancestry. Here are the Anglo-Normans all the way to Henry II, the first Plantagenet, from C. Warren Hollister’s Henry I:

The four brothers in birth order who descend from William the Conqueror: (1) Robert, nicknamed “Curthose” meaning “shortstocking,” (b. 1051-1054 and died 10 Feb. 1134), (2) Richard (not shown in chart because he died young in hunting accident in 1075?; b. before 1056); (3) William, nicknamed Rufus, meaning reddish or ruddy (b. 1056-1060, d. 2 August 1100), (4) Henry, known as Beauclerq  (Beauclerc).

Henry I had William “Adelin” (born sometime in 1103) who died in the wreck of the White Ship. Henry I’s daughter is Maud or Matilda (born in early February 1102). She will become Henry I’s official heir, but would she rule as Queen?

After Maud’s husband Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, died (bottom left), she married Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who wore a sprig of bright yellow broom blossom (Planta genista in Latin) in his hair or hat. This is where the Plantagenets first get their name. Maud and her son Henry (later to be Henry II) compete with Stephen count of Mortain and then king (on the right).

Before Henry II Plantagenet, William the Conqueror and Henry I are called Normans (related to Normandy). But they are also considered English (hence Anglo) because of the upper left of the table: Aethelred II.

Bottom line: William the Conqueror and Henry I are not Plantagenets, but Anglo-Normans.

This post is about three brothers, descendants of William the Conqueror, who sometimes fought each other and at other times got on. Then Henry rose to the top, after he succeeded his brother King William Rufus, who died without an heir. Why did Henry become king and not Robert Curthose?

The next table is by W. L. Warren, Henry II:

The next table is by Jim Bradbury, Stephen and Matilda:

Let’s look at Henry I’s family before we answer that question.


He was nicknamed Beauclerc. He was William the Conqueror’s fourth son and third surviving one. He was born in 1068 or 1069. On 11 Nov 1100, he married (1) Edith-Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scots by his second wife (Saint) Margaret (see above). Edith-Matilda was born in about 1079. Edith is an English name, and she changed it to the Norman French name Matilda when she married Henry. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, performed the marriage ceremony and crowned the new queen. When Henry’s wife Matilda died before their son William did, he had to think of a male succession. He married (2) Alice or Adeliza, at Windsor, Berkshire, on 29 Jan 1129; she was the daughter of Gottfried I, Duke of Lower Lorraine, Count of Louvain, by his first wife Ida, daughter of Otto II, Count of Chiny. They had no issue.

He died at Lyons-la-Forêt, near Rouen, Normandy, on 1 Dec 1135, supposedly eating Lamprey eels, an eel-like, flesh-eating fish, a rich delicacy (but it could be another intestinal cause). He was buried at Reading Abbey, Berkshire.

Matilda was the daughter of Malcolm III (Canmor), King of Scots by his second wife (Saint Margaret), daughter of Edward Atheling. They married about 1068-69. Malcolm was born about 1031. Malcolm III defeated and killed Macbeth (of Shakespeare fame), King of Scots, at Lunfanan 15 Mar 1057. Malcolm became King of Scots on the defeat and death of Lulach 17 Mar 1057/58. He was crowned at Scone 25 Apr 1058. He married (2) Margaret at Dunfermline, Fife, 1068-69.

Malcolm was killed by Morel of Bamborough at Alnwick, Northumberland 13 Nov 1093. He was buried at first at Tynemought, but his son, King Alexander I, later moved his body to Dunfermline, fife. Margaret died at Edinburgh Castle 16 Nov 1093 and was buried before the high altar in the church of the Holy Trinity at Dunfermline, Fife. She was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250.

Edith-Matilda was born in 1079. Edith is an English name, so she adopted the (supposedly) French name Matilda when she married into the French Normans. Margaret was the great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, a kinswoman of King Edward of the true royal family of England (i.e. no Norman interference). She died at Westminster 1 May 1118. He married again.


Henry and Matilda had two children:

1.. Matilda (some call her Maud): She was born at London about 7 or 8 Feb 1102. She married (1) Heinrich at Mainz on 7 Jan 1114, Heinrich (Henry) V, Holy Roman Emperor. He died at Utrecht on 23 May 1125. They had no issue. She kept the title Empress. Her father recalled her and proclaimed her presumptive heir in 1126. But could a woman be queen ahead of her husband? She married at Le Mans, Maine, on 17 June 1128 Geoffrey of Anjou, nicknamed Plantagenet and le Bel or the Fair (Handsome). He was born 24 Aug 1113. They had three sons: Henry (later king of England); Geoffrey (Count of Anjou and Nantes); and William Longespée (Longsword). Geoffrey also had an illegitimate son by an unknown mistress, named Hameline (5th Earl of Surrey); and two illegitimate daughters Emma and Mary (Abbess of Shaftesbury). Geoffrey died at Chateau-du-Loire on 7 Sep 1151 and was buried in St. Julien’s, Le Mans, Maine. Empress Matilda died at Rouen, capital of Normandy, 10 Sep 1167 and was buried at Bec Abbey.

2.. William: He was born in 1103, and was heir apparent. He received the homage of the Norman Barons in 1115. He married at Lisieux in May 1119 Matilda (or Maud) of Anjou, daughter of Fulk (Foulques) V, Count of Anjou. Henry arranged this marriage because Anjou was a rival to Normandy. He fought in the Battle of Brémule in 1119. Early in 1120, King Louis of France invested him with the Duchy of Normandy.

However, he drowned in the wreck of the White Ship on 25 Nov 1120, a dynastic disaster.

It’s always best for a king to have an “heir and a spare.” But Henry had only an heir without a spare. Or maybe Matilda could be queen in her own right someday?


Fitzroy means “son (or daughter) of king” (Roy means “king”), implying illegitimacy.

1.. Robert Fitzroy: His mother is unrecorded, but possibly from the Bohun family. He was made the Earl of Gloucester between June and Sep 1122. He married Mabel Fitz Robert before 1122, daughter and heiress of Robert Fitz Hamon. They had six sons: William (Earl of Gloucester); Philip, Hamon, Roger (Bishop of Worcester); Richard (seigneur of Creuilly); and Robert; two daughters: Maud and Mabel. By an unknown mistress he had one son, Richard (Bishop of Bayeux. He was very active during his father’s reign and after. He died at Bristol 31 Oct 1147 and was buried in the Priory church of St. James. Mabel died 29 Sep 1157.

2.. Richard Fitzroy: His mother is the mistress Ansfride, widow of Anskill, knight. He was born before 1101. He died in the wreck of the White Ship on 25 Nov 1120.

3.. Fulk Fitzroy: His mother was also Ansfride.

4…Reynold Fitzroy: He was the son of a mistress named Sibyl Corbet. He was made Earl of Cornwall. He married Mabel Fitzwilliam. They had one son, Nicholas and four daughters: Denise, Maud, Sarah, and Emma. Some of their descendants have been traced. Example: Maud married Robert III, Count of Meulan, in about 1165. Robert was deposed from his count status and died 16 Aug 1212 (about). Maud died 1220-21.

5.. Robert Fitzroy: His mother was a mistress named Edith, daughter of Forne, son of Siglug, lord of Greystoke, Cumberland. He married Maud d’Avranches before 1162. He died 31 May 1172, and she died 21 Sep 1173. They had one daughter Maud who married Reynold de Courtenay after 1173. He died before Michaelmas 1191. She died before 3 Aug 1224. They had Reynold de Courtenay; Egeline (married Gilbert Basset). Their descendants have been traced.

6.. Alice Fitzroy: Her mother was also Edith. She witnessed a charter of her stepfather Robert O’Reilly and her mother Edith (Alice, daughter of the King or Adeliza filia Reg. in Latin.)

7.. Henry Fitzroy: His mother was Nest, wife of Gerald of Windsor, Constable of Pembroke, and daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales. He was killed during Henry II’s invasion at Anglesea in 1157 or 1158. He had two sons: Meiler FitzHenry (Justiciar of Ireland) and Robert; and one daughter: Amabilis (wife of Walter de Ridelisford).

8.. Maud or Matilda: She was the daughter of (another) mistress named Edith. She married in 1103 Rotrou II, Count of Perche, seigneur of Belleme, son of a count. They had son Philip of Perche whomarried Helie of Anjou. Maud was drowned in the shipwreck of the White Ship on 25 Nov 1120. He remarried.

Children of Various Mistresses:

9.. Gilbert Fitzroy: He was young and unmarried in 1142

10.. William de Tracy: He died soon after his father.

11.. Maud or Matilda: She married Conan II, Duke of Brittany. He died in 1148. They had Bertha (married Alan III the “Black” Count of Brittany and then married Eudon II, Duke and Count of Brittany. Their descendants have been traced) and Constance (married Geoffrey de Mayenne in or about 1135 and had one son Hamon and two daughters Maud and Clémence. Their descendants have been traced.

12.. Juliane: She married Eustache de Pacy, seigneur of Bréteuil. They had two sons: Guillaume (William) and Roger, and two daughters.

13.. Maud: She married Guillaume (William) Gouet (or Goet), seigneur of Montmirail and Allyes. Their descendants have been traced. They had one son: Guillaume, who married Isabelle (or Elizabeth) of Blois, Duchess of Apulia. Their son’s descendants have been traced.

14..  Constance: She married Roscelin of Beaumont, Vicomte of Beaumont-en-Maine. They had son Richard de Beaumont, who was born 1120-30. Their descendants have been traced. .

15.. Aline: She married in 1126 Matthew of Montmorcency, seigneur of Montmorency. They had five sons: Henri, Bouchard (seigneur de Monmorency), Theoblald; Herve; and Matthew (seigneur de Marly). Bouchard’s descendants have been traced.

16.. Sibyl: She married Alexander I, King of Scots, younger son of Malcolm. They had no issue.

17.. Isabel: Her mother was Isabel of Meulan daughter of Robert of Meulan. The mother, Countess Isabel, was the daughter of Robert of Meulan, Count of Meulan, and her ancestry has been traced. The mother married Gilbert Fitzroy, first Earl of Pembroke (died 6 Jan 1147/48) and (2) Ralph Bluet. Her other descendants have been traced. Isabel the younger’s history is unknown.

18.. Emma: She may not be Henry’s daughter, and her mother is unknown. She married Guy de Laval, seigneur of Laval.


Let’s first go over some abbreviations and terms used in this post.

H = Henry (before his kingship)

H1 = Henry the First (when H became king)

WtC = William the Conqueror, his father

WR = William Rufus, second son of WtC and later King of the English

RC = Robert Curthose, the first-born son of WtC who never became King of the English

A duke is in charge of a duchy.

A count is in charge of a county (in England this is an earl)

A magnate is a generic term for wealthy landowner

It is surprising that the kings of the French were not kings of all of France—not even close—as, say, Louis XIV (14) was when he ruled from 1643 and died in 1715.


Henry’s Youth

  1. H was born in 1068 or 1069, between mid-May 1068 to 10 May 1069, probably in 1068.
  2. His father was William the Conqueror and mother Matilda.
  3. His mother was crowned Queen on 11 May 1068, and Medieval historians says H was born within a year of her coronation.
  4. Matilda was the daughter of Baldwin duke of the Flemings and niece of Henry I, most illustrious king of the French. Matilda’s mother Adela was the daughter of King Robert of France, sister of King Henry, Robert’s son.
  5. H got his name from Henry I, the king of the French, but “Henry” is of German origin (Heinrich); it gets adopted into Scandinavian (Henrik), French (Henri), Italian (Enrico) Spanish (Enrique), and even Polish (Henryk).
  6. H was the fourth son, behind RC and William Rufus.
  7. WtC was relatively illiterate, while H, as the fourth child, was not expected to become king, so he was educated to become a churchman.
  8. That means H was very well educated. He knew Latin, the language of the Church, and the liberal arts (e.g. poetry, literature, grammar, and perhaps even the Classics [literature of ancient Greece and Rome]).
  9. WtC supposedly overheard H’s remark that an illiterate king is a crowned ass [donkey]. H probably didn’t say it or it wasn’t overheard, but who knows?
  10. In late 1077 or early 1078, WR and H poured fetid water (probably urine) from a high gallery on Robert’s head, and the three came to blows and had to be separated.
  11. On 24 May 1086, H left his schooling and childhood behind and was knighted by his father.
  12. Then H participated in his father’s military campaigns to hold WtC’s regions that rebelled.
  13. In summer 1087 WtC was mortally wounded or was a victim of an accident, like falling from his horse. He took some time to die and he dictated his last Will and Testament.
  14. RC got Normandy, a wealthy duchy in northern France, so he became the duke of Normandy; WR got England, so he became the king of England; and H got “incalculable treasure.” It amounted to £5000 of silver, a huge lump sum. But could the sum last?
  15. WtC could have been guided by primogeniture, which means the oldest son got the inheritance. But RC was the first born, so why didn’t he get the whole thing? Two reasons: primogeniture was not a fixed law; and RC was rebelling against his father for the second time, and WtC was furious.
  16. H was supposed to get his mother’s inheritance in England, concentrated in Gloucestershire and Buckinghamshire, adding up to about £260-£320 per year. Not a great sum for a son of the king. No matter. King WR simply took it.
  17. At that time hordes of aristocrats going out on military campaigns ravaged villages and women. It is not known whether H partook of these atrocities.
  18. H “sowed his wild oats” as a young man, which in his case meant that he had 20-22 “bastard” sons and daughters with at least six concubines. After H became king, he kept track of all or most of them and used them to seal valuable alliances in marriages and land grants.
  19. One woman of a lower order claimed to bear RC two children, and he insisted that she take the Ordeal of the Hot Iron. She passed and he acknowledged his fatherhood.
  20. Keeping track of one’s bastard children was unusual at that time, especially the ones born of lower-class women. But H’s bastards got some money and prestige.
  21. One Medieval historian (favorable to later H1) says young H was not fulfilling his lust but just wanted children. Unconvincing.
  22. In a squabble between RC and King WR, RC offered H a county in western Normandy for some of H’s inherited cash: £3000.
  23. H became a count or viscount (vice-count), probably a count.
  24. However, RC spent the sum on battle plans to invade England, but an English coastal fleet decimated Robert’s ships.
  25. RC wanted to back away from his agreement with H and began invading H’s territory, but H had formed alliances and his hold over his county (and other areas) remained steady.
  26. H’s mother died in 1077. He went to England to claim his inheritance from his mother, but was turned away. On his return, RC arrested him and imprisoned him in a prison in the town of Bayeux. (H was unprepared for the arrest). RC extorted H’s county from him.
  27. WR did not forgive Robert’s attempted invasion, so WR bought alliances from barons who held land both in England and Normandy.
  28. Conan was a wealthy burgher of Rouen, a ducal capital. He tried to stop WR’s invasion of the city and made a secret pact to hand over the city to WR. RC had to stop this, and H joined him.
  29. However, in hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Rouen, RC ran for safety outside of the city. H stayed in Rouen and fought valiantly for RC. Now H had more esteem from the people than RC did.
  30. H took Conan up the spiral staircase of the great tower of Rouen and showed him the lands Conan had coveted. Then H threw him out the window. This is cruel by today’s standard, but not unusual for back then. At that time many believed H delivered swift, righteous justice and applauded. The Rouen Tower for many decades afterwards was known as “Conan’s Leap.”
  31. On 2 February 1091, once again WR invaded Normandy and this time he and RC came to terms, to the total exclusion and disinheritance of H. This shattered H’s network of friends and alliances he had carefully built over the years.
  32. H took refuge in Mont-Saint-Michel, while WR and RC surrounded it, but the tides are ferocious. H sent out bands of knights to harass WR’s and Robert’s troops, but the two bothers just waited until Mont-Saint-Michel ran out of fresh water, since it was surrounded by the sea at high tide.
  33. In one of H’s knights’ forays, a knight caught WR and was about to kill him, but relented when WR cried out: “Hold, wretch! I am the King of England!” The knight let him live. Then WR offered the knight to be taken into his muster lists and rewarded him for his gallant deed.
  34. H was running out of water and asked RC not to let his brother die of thirst. RC told his knights to let H’s men transport fresh water. WR was furious. RC told him he could not allow his brother to die of thirst.
  35. Eventually RC let H depart the ocean fortress under safe conduct. H gave up his remaining castles to his brothers.
  36. H was landless once more and lived in poverty, seeking lodging where he could find any. H simply vanishes from the Medieval historians’ accounts.
  37. However, more fighting between WR and RC meant that H rose again to prominence. He gained possession of a fortified hilltop town in southwest Normandy, called Domfront.
  38. WR gave his consent to H’s establishing in Domfront—maybe he disliked RC more. WR even supplied H with funds to fight Robert. So WR and H remained staunch allies for the rest of their lives. This violated WR’s and Robert’s treaty in 1091.
  39. Once again in 19 Mar 1094, WR crossed the Channel to conquer Normandy, but his campaign gradually bogged down.
  40. Then something disrupted the whole infighting: Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in November 1095 to throw out the invading Muslims who had blocked the pilgrimage routes. For four hundred and sixty-three years, since Muhammad’s death in 632, Islamic armies had conquered vast territories. Muslim aggression first, then Christendom responded
  41. RC resolved to join the crusade. WR personally conveyed the 10,000 marks (currency) to Robert, and the duke sailed off to Constantinople in September 1096.
  42. For the next four years Henry stayed out of sight (out of sight of political infighting).
  43. He visited England and went hunting with King WR.
  44. On their hunting trip, on 2 August 1100 WR was killed in an accident in the New Forest. He was 40 or 41 and still unmarried. No heirs.
  45. The hunting party probably had a hangover. One man shot at a buck and missed, while WR was on the exact opposite side. The arrow went right into WR’s chest. He fell forward and pushed the arrow further in. He died instantly.
  46. Was his death deliberate or an accident? C. William Hollister, the main historian used in this post, says it was an accident. One question that needs further research: Did the man who shot the arrow get some kind of promotion, later?

Henry the Fourth Child Becomes Henry the First.

  1. When a man becomes a king and is the first of his name, he becomes the First (Henry I). If he’s the second of the same name, then he becomes Henry the Second (Henry II), and so on.
  2. While RC was coming home from the first crusade, H rushed to Winchester to get control of the castle and the royal treasury, immediately after WR’s death.
  3. Then H rushed to get himself anointed and crowned king, which happened on Sunday 5 August 1100, in Edward the Confessor’s Westminster cathedral, where two previous Anglo-Norman coronations took place.
  4. To win the support of the barons, who had sworn a fealty oath to support RC, H1 signed a brief charter laying out the liberty of the barons and the church. For example, he swore not to keep the vacancies in church leadership. (WR had done this so he could take church money.)
  5. Another example: H1 would stop seizing aristocratic lands, as WR had done. “I restore to you the law of King Edward” the Confessor. Edward had no written law, so the phrase was shorthand for the entire Anglo-Saxon past.
  6. Anselm was in exile in Lyon, France, because of WR’s abuses, and Anselm returned to guide H1.
  7. H1 married Matilda, who had changed her name from Edith. She was the daughter of the late king and queen of the Scots, Malcolm Canmore and St. Margaret, a kinswoman of Edward the Confessor. Matilda may have taken the vows of a nun when she was young, nine years old, but she denied it.
  8. In any case Anselm condoned the marriage and performed the ceremony on 11 November 1100.
  9. However, RC couldn’t let H1’s kingship go unchallenged. As noted, he had recently returned from the crusade, and with a Norman-Italian bride named Sibylla of Conversano.
  10. In 1100, RC crossed the Channel with an army, but a fleet guarded the English coast to stop the invasion, but sailors were bribed to join Robert.
  11. In July 20 Robert’s campaign on land had bogged down. Twelve barons on each side sued for peace and got it. RC renounced his claim to the throne and signed the Treaty of Alton on August 2, one year after WR’s death.
  12. Why did RC let go so easily? The barons were eager for peace, because they couldn’t predict which side would win. The losers would suffer loss of land and wealth.
  13. RC even joined H1’s court and spent two or three months in England.
  14. RC was a weak leader.
  15. In Church affairs, Anselm and H1 didn’t agree on a major issue: Investiture, that is, who appoints leaders to the church (-vest– means cloth, by extension the clothing of the church). The Reform of Gregory says church appointments belonged to the Church, but it is difficult for a king to relinquish this power. So Anselm returned to Canterbury to take up his position as archbishop without H1’s friendship.
  16. In 1102 RC was ruling over Normandy, but corruption and lawlessness ruled the whole area, with highway robbers prowling around and other thieves and runaway aristocrats. However, by 1106, H1 conquered the duchy of Normandy. During those four years some interesting things happened.
  17. Clerical celibacy was more strictly enforced, compelling priests to choose between their lovers (or wives) or the priesthood.
  18. Peterborough Abbey was built (during the course of H1’s reign).
  19. Anselm was established as the primate of Canterbury, but then he left because rumors or false reports came from the pope that the king could choose church leaders.
  20. Through a letter, Pope Paschal straightened the king out about the false reports. H1 has no power to appoint church leaders!
  21. H1 came close to be excommunicated, in the middle of his conquest of Normandy. Because of this he almost lost all support from the magnates and his conquest plans.
  22. H1 backed down from the Investiture Controversy and showed deference to Anselm and Pope Paschal.
  23. Serlo, Bishop of Sées (northern France), preached against men wearing long hair and men’s fashion, even among aristocrats. The bishop pulled out his shears and personally cut H1’s hair and that of most of the land magnates and the entire court. H1 allowed it. He needed peace with the Church.
  24. In April 1105 H1 launched a full-scale war against RC’s duchy. Before the main battle began, the celebrated hermit and holy man Vital of Savigny implored the two sides to make peace, but to no avail.
  25. H1 won the Battle of Tinchebray (or Tinchebrai) on 28 September 1106, in one hour. Normandy belonged to H1. He mopped up other areas soon after
  26. H1’s chancellor Waldric captured RC, who was subsequently put under luxurious house arrest. No suffering for him.
  27. RC’s son William Clito (not quite four years old) was allowed to live, even though years later he would become a thorn in H1’s side.
  28. The Church filled numerous vacancies.
  29. H1 cleaned up the corruption in his court, by threatening the punishment of blinding or castration.
  30. Yet H1’s court was given over to jest and jokers and amusements and sports and gallantry and love.
  31. H1’s daughter Maud (Matilda) is six years old in 1108, but she is not too young to take a role in international diplomacy.
  32. Emperor Henry V writes to Queen Matilda, H1’s wife, to mention him favorably before King H1.
  33. Henry V went to Rome to be anointed Emperor, by Pope Paschal.
  34. On 10 April 1110, Maud and the entourage traveled to Utrecht to be formally betrothed to Henry V. He got a dowry of ten thousand marks.
  35. On St. James Day, 25 July 1110, young Maud was crowned Queen of the Germans in the early Romanesque cathedral of Mainz by Frederick, archbishop of Cologne.
  36. On 7 January 1114 eleven-year-old Maud and Henry were married at Worms in a ceremony of great splendor. Henry V will die in 1125, and Maud will return to the Anglo-Norman court with the title Empress.
  37. Louis VI, King of the French, proved to be a thorn in H1’s side. He rumbled around the Vexin, between Louis’s territory and Normandy; the River Epte divided the two areas.
  38. Louis VI and H1 even parleyed on either side of the river and came to terms.
  39. Robert of Bellême, H1’s rival from their youth, was arrested. H1 arrested or exiled a number of other unreliable barons.
  40. H1’s son, William Adelin, then nine years old, was betrothed to Matilda, daughter of Fulk V of Anjou (south of Normandy and Maine).
  41. Now Anjou comes into H1’s orbit, and not Louis VI’s. Recall that Maud, H1’s daughter, will later marry Geoffrey, count of Anjou. However, William Clito, RC’s son, will marry Sibyl of Anjou. Trouble brewing.

Henry’s Full Kingship

  1. From 1114 to 1120, H1 expands his hold over regions like Wales and Normandy, or his hold shrinks. But by 1120, he established temporary peace, particularly in Normandy. How did this happen?
  2. In Wales, H1 merely wanted his overlordship acknowledged from the Welsh princes, who fought each other ferociously. Some acknowledged him, other did not.
  3. In September 1114, H1 crosses over to Normandy. Would the French King Louis VI offer his support to H1’s son William Adelin or RC’s son William Clito? Louis chose Clito.
  4. H1 burns and ravages Louis’s territories, while Louis burns and ravages H1’s, all in France.
  5. The ones who suffer most are the peasants, since their plows and other equipment get destroyed, families and kidnapped or murdered and women raped.
  6. In one siege of a castle, H1 was almost killed when a stone struck him, but his helmet protected him. He survived three other assassination attempts.
  7. Eustace of Breteuil, who had married one of H1’s “bastard” daughters, Juliana, blinded the eyes a man’s son, and the man demanded revenge. H1 reluctantly granted Eustace and Juliana’s two daughters (his granddaughters) to be blinded, and they were.
  8. H1 had a loyal military household who guarded castles in difficult times in Normandy.
  9. The main battle happened in the Norman Vexin—between Louis’s territory and Normandy. The battle was brief but decisive. Louis and William Clito barely eluded capture. H1 returned Louis’s warhorse to him, and William Adelin returned William Clito’s palfrey and various gifts. Magnanimity.
  10. On 1 May 1118 Queen Matilda died.
  11. At the Church Council of Reims in 1119, Louis VI himself complained of H1’s abuses, but when H1’s allies rose to defend him, the French clergy shouted them down.
  12. In mid-1120 H1 and Louis finally made peace, each saving face. Louis granted Normandy to H1’s son William Adelin and young William did homage to Louis. This was a dazzling peace for H1.
  13. On 25 November 1120, a captain of the White Ship, informed H1 that the captain’s father had transported WtC across the Channel in 1066. And now the captain said it would be an honor to transport the current king too. H1 thanked him, but turned him down.
  14. About 300 rowdy and drunk crew and passengers did take the offer, including H1’s two sons William Adelin and Richard. Stephen of Blois had diarrhea and delayed the crossing, which determined the history of England for 19 years between 1135 and 1154, for he became King of England later. Stephen’s father had married a daughter of WtC, Stephen’s mother.
  15. The drunken crew forgot about a large rock that hid under the ocean during high tide. It was a moonless night. The ship crashed, and all but one died (a butcher survived).
  16. Messengers didn’t dare tell H1 who had already crossed on another ship and was already in England. Finally the magnates, who themselves were weeping, compelled a boy to throw himself at the King’s feet and blurt out the news.
  17. H1 immediately fell to the ground, overcome with anguish.
  18. The disaster killed the best and the noblest of France and England, throwing succession (who will become king after H1’s death) and alliances into confusion.
  19. H1 now had no clear heir. William Clito, RC’s son, was the only leftover candidate to take the reins of England and Normandy, yet H1 had worked hard to stop him. Now H1 had to marry a younger woman to father an heir.
  20. H1 chose Adeliza, daughter of Godfrey VII, “the Bearded,” count of Louvain and duke of Lower Lorraine. They were married on Friday, 29 January, 1121. Godfrey’s dominions were strategically placed between Flanders and western Germany; he was a descendant of Charlemagne in the male line. So she had sufficient dignity.
  21. H1 has to clear the Welsh matter, for some lords rebelled against H1’s ally Richard earl of Chester. He led a huge army into Wales and the lords submitted. “Never gain did he [H1] have occasion to return.”
  22. In response to the White Ship disaster, H1 established the great Abbey of Reading and ushered in reforms of the Churches in other ways too, deploying various reform movements, like the Cluniacs and the Benedictines.
  23. The long vacancy at Canterbury was filled, for Anselm had died long ago in 1109.
  24. Fulk requested the return of his daughter Matilda who had married William Adeline. He also demanded her dowry, which was not so much monetary as strategic—three major castles in northern Maine. H1 refused.
  25. In 1123-1124, rebellions, for many reasons, broke out with complicated alliances. William Clito was a rebel (his father RC was still under luxurious house arrest).
  26. Let’s keep track of the poor during the rebellion. Winter was harsh, so there was a widespread shortage of wheat, which skyrocketed the price (supply and demand). A pound’s worth of coins purchased shilling’s worth of goods. Some peasants were caught by a rebel because they were chopping wood, so the rebel chopped off their feet.
  27. It was a capital offense to mock the king, as one rebel did with comic and obscene songs. The rebel was unforgiven when H1 finally put down the rebellion.
  28. By the mid1120’s H1 failed to conceive a child by Adeliza of Louvain. Panic. He had to look elsewhere for an heir to succeed him.
  29. His daughter Maud? Why not? She enjoyed the attribute of porphyrogeniture. This means that a child is born while the father is king, not in line to become one. (Porphyr- means purple, and this is the color royalty). Her hindrance was her gender.
  30. What about H1’s nephew Stephen of Mortain? He was the son of H1’s sister and Stephen-Henry, count of Blois.
  31. What about William Clito? H1 could make peace and even tried, even though Clito was part of the rebellion, but Clito departed in peace, probably lured away by Louis VI, King of the French.
  32. What about Robert earl of Gloucester, H1’s illegitimate able and loyal son? He was a bastard. Yet WtC was a bastard too, but that was another time, and he had won England on the English dead. So Earl Robert is out.
  33. On 1 January 1127, the great Anglo-Norman and Norman lords and magnates swore the oath of loyalty to Maud and her heirs, if H1 had none.
  34. Disappointed, Clito got help from Louis VI and was eventually installed as count of Flanders. This strengthened the Franco-Flemish-Angevin (Anjou) coalition against H1.
  35. Meanwhile, on 10 June 1128 H1 married his daughter Maud off to Geoffrey of Anjou, fourteen years old, count of a mere county, while she was a twenty-four-year-old childless Empress widow.
  36. “Good” news for H1! On July 28 (probably), 1128, William Clito died of a wound in battle against rebellious Flemish claimants to the county of Flanders.
  37. No more competition for H1’s throne.
  38. Now H1’s realm was entirely peaceful and prosperous and free from threats of succession.
  39. RC died in February 1134.
  40. H1’s daughter Empress Maud, who was married to Geoffrey of Anjou, and father H1 didn’t get along well. She separated from her husband in 1129, and Geoffrey asked for her back in 1131, and her father told her to return.
  41. Even when H1 died in 1135, Maud and Geoffrey were skirmishing with H1 over the borders.
  42. In 1131 H1 had three dreams involving the three orders of society that meanced him in his dreams: Those who work (peasant farmers and craftsmen); those who fight (knights) and those who pray (prelates or church leaders).
  43. In 1134 H1 could enjoy his two grandsons through Maud: Henry (born in March 1133 in Le Mans, France and later Henry II) and Geoffrey (born in May 1134, apparently in Rouen).
  44. H1 died on 1 December 1135 in Rouen, probably from eating too many lamprey eels, against his physician’s orders. He was buried in the cathedral of Reading, when it took over a month to transport the body across the Channel.
  45. Maud delayed rushing to his side, and her cousin Stephen, who descends from H1’s sister Adela, grabbed the kingship. He was the king’s regent at Salisbury. He was consecrated on 22 December 1135. Ten days later King Stephen carried the coffin of his uncle on his shoulders at the royal funeral at Reading.

Henry’s Notable Achievements

  1. He imposed strict rules on his court: No more looting and sexual harassments and no courtiers wearing extravagant clothing, curly-toed shoes, and flowing locks.
  2. But his court was marked by “feasts, rich gifts, sports, gallantry, hilarity and ‘decent mirth.’”
  3. The Exchequer came on the scene to audit the accounts of sheriffs and viscounts over the famous checkered cloth. Under H1 the Exchequer “was merely a semiannual auditing procedure.” It was not yet a department or an institution. “It was simply an occasion.”
  4. He drew unruly barons to his side by bestowing wealth and estates on them, especially the confiscated estates, since if he was overthrown, they would go down with him.
  5. H1 seldom held a grudge against his interest. He often forgave his rebels.
  6. His remarkable centralization and systematization of his realm allowed for unbroken peace in England for thirty-three years (1102-1135) and in Normandy, interrupted only twice (c. 1118-119 and 1123-1124) by disturbances on the frontiers of Normandy.
  7. The great proliferation of justices came under his reign.
  8. He did keep the Medieval punishments of chopping off hands and feet and gouging out eyes and other standard torments. One rebel banged his head against the wall until he died, rather than live the rest of his life without his eyes.
  9. A Charter is a document, long or short, that promises or grants or permits privileges to something small like a church, or medium like a region, or big, like a country. About 1500 survive. Historians say, however, that to get the full scale of the number of charters, one must multiply by a hundred. In all, then H1 issued about 15,000 charters during his reign, a huge number.
  10. The twelfth century experienced a renaissance. “The novel perception of the world—as rational order open to human intellectual exploration—gave rise to a great upsurge in systematic thinking in theology and law, architecture, sculpture, literature, music and other arts, and in writing of history and political organization as well.”
  11. “Henry surrounded himself with systematizers, but no one was more systematic than Henry himself.” He inquired into everything and had a prodigious memory, retaining all he heard.


Rolf or Rollo the Viking



(They lived before Henry II, Plantagenet, below)

Richard I, Norman Marquis and Count

Richard II, Duke of Normandy

Robert I, Duke of Normandy

William the Conqueror: Interesting Facts and Stories

Matilda: Wife and Queen of William the Conqueror

King William II, Rufus: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Henry I: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Stephen: Interesting Facts and Stories

Empress Matilda and Three Henrys


Henry II Plantagenet: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Henry II)

King Richard I, Lion-Heart: Interesting Facts and Stories

King John: Interesting Facts and Stories

Henry III: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Provence: Interesting Facts and Stories (married Henry III)

Edward I: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Castile: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Edward I)

Edward II: A King of Bad Judgment

Edward III: Better Than Most

Richard II: The Weak King

Henry IV King of England

Henry V King of England

Henry VI King of England

Edward IV King of England

Edward V: Prince in the Tower

Richard III, King of England


Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans (Blackwell, 2000).

Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (Metro Books, 2006).

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

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

John Gillingham, William II, the Red King, Penguin Monarchs (New York: Allen Lane, 2015)

C. Warren Hollister, Henry I. Yale English Monarchs. New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. Completed and edited by Amanda Clark Frost.

Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (New York: 2014).

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

The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).

Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).

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

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