(c.1068-1135), King of England (1100-1135)
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The fourth, youngest and ablest son of Wiliam the Conqueror (1066-1087) by Mathilda of Flanders, Henry seized the throne of England in 1100 on the death of his brother William Rufus (1087-1100) after a hunting accident in the New Forest, while Robert II, Duke of Normandy, unpopular with the Norman barons, was returning from the First Crusade.

Often surnamed 'Beauclerk' or 'Beauclerc' ('fine scholar') on account of his scholarly interests or the 'Lion of Justice' for his limitation on the power of the crown, the strengthening of its executive powers and improvement of the mechanism of the country's government, Henry is best known for his reuniting of his father's dominions and the naming of his daughter Maud or Matilda as his heir after the death of his son William in the 'sinking of the White Ship' which threw the country into civil war.

Born between May 1068 and May 1069 (probably at Selby in Yorkshire), as the youngest son of the Conqueror, he was probably expected to become a bishop rather than inherit the throne and recieved extensive schooling for a nobleman of the time, hence his surname 'Beauclerk' - he was probably the first Norman king of England to speak the English language fluently.

The Conqueror left the English throne to William Rufus and the Duchy of Normandy to his greedy but weak brother Robert Curthose. To Henry, he left 5,000 pounds of silver and the prophesy that he would inherit all that his father had (Cross, 1917). Many of the Norman barons with lands on both sides of the Channel rebelled unsuccessfully in support of Robert.

Henry played each brother off against the other during their quarrels and their mutual distrust of their younger brother led them to make peace by the treaty of Caen in 1091, agreeing that if either died without an heir, the survivor should rule both England and Normandy, thus excluding Henry. In 1096, Robert mortgaged Normandy to William for £6,000 to finance him on the First Crusade.

On the death of William Rufus, Henry speedily seized the castle and royal treasury at Winchester, supported by a few friends led by Henry the earl of Warwick. He was elected king by the leading barons and clergy and crowned at Westminster on August 5th. His hold on the crown precarious, Henry denounced the harsh rule of William and granted a charter of liberties guaranteeing the barons good government. He also married the Scotch princess Matilda uniting the Norman and Saxon lines and securing peace with the Scots.

Henry was hunting in the woods on the morning of August 2, 1100 when William II (Rufus) was killed by a stray arrow during the chase. His quick action in seizing the royal treasury at Winchester and securing the crown on only three days later, on August 5th, led many to believe that he was involved if not responsible for the death of his brother the king.

The new king immediately strengthened his position with the barons by granting the 'Charter of Liberties' providing that;

the Church should be free from unjust exactions
the barons to be relieved from unjust reliefs and the abuse of wardship and marriage
the barons to treat their tenants as they themselves were treated by the king
the laws of the Confessor to be restored
and the king to retain the royal forests

Although Henry did not keep to the provisions of the charter, it formed the basis for the Magna Carta extracted from King John in 1215.

On November 11th, Henry married Edith (or Eadgyth), the daughter of Malcolm III (Canmore), King of Scotland. Edith was the niece of Edgar the Atheling and, by the marriage, Henry united the lines of the Saxon and Norman kings. Although the marriage angered the barons, Edith changed her name to Matilda on becoming Queen as a concession to them.

The following year, his brother Robert Curthose unsuccessfully attempted to seize the crown by invading England with considerable support but, by the Treaty of Alton, agreed to recognize Henry as king of England on Henry's relinquishing his claims in Normandy and a large annuity, returned peacefully to Normandy.

To eliminate the continuing threat posed to him by the chaotic rule of his brother Robert, Henry led an expedition into Normandy in 1105 and decisively defeated Robert's forces at Tinchebray 1106the following year. He imprisoned Robert for the remaining twenty-eight years of his life until his death in 1134 and appropriated the Duchy as an English possession (thus fullfilling his father's alleged prophesy that he would inherit all his dominions).

The defeat of Robert did not end Henry's problems in France and the last years of his reign were dominated by wars on the continent. In Normandy, he was challenged Robert's son, William Clito whose supporters mounted two assaults with the Norman barons against the king, resentful of the imposition of royal officials and high taxation. By 1120, Henry had subdued the barons, and his son had married into the house of Angevin house. Louis VI (the Fat) of France had begun to consolidate his kingdom and attacked Normandy no less than three times but agreed terms for peace after having been defeated at the Battle of Br�mule. It was in November, during the return journey to England from the his successful campaign, that tragedy struck with the sinking of the White Ship.

Henry had four children by Matilda (William, Matilda, Robert de Mellent the Earl of Gloucester and Sibylla) before her death in 1118. His second marriage on January 29th, 1121 to Adeliza (or Adelaide) of Louvain, daughter of Godfrey, Count of Louvain, at Windsor Castle in Berkshire produced no children.

Henry I holds the record for the largest number of acknowledged illigitimate children born to and English king - some twenty-five.

The sinking of the White Ship off the coast of Normandy during the return from the successful French campaign on November 25th, 1120 claimed the lives of the cream of the aristocracy's youth and most importantly of Prince William, Henry's only ligitimate male heir (by Matilda) and, possibly, prince Richard.

Prince Richard is extremely obscure casting doubts on his very existence.

Henry is reputed by tradition never to have smiled again after recieving news of the disaster.

Left without a male heir, in 1125 Henry I took the unprecedented step of summoning his daughter Maud or Matilda, widow of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, to England and forcing the barons to pay homage to her, accepting her as Henry's lawful heir in 1127 after he had arranged her marriage to the 16-year-old Geoffrey of Anjou to cement an Angevin alliance. Matilda's marriage produced a son, Henry, and Hnery again forced the reluctant magnates to swear allegiance to his daughter and grandson in 1133.

The decision threw the country into a protracted civil war known as 'the Anarchy' between Matilda and Henry's nephew Stephen of Boulogne and their supporters on Henry's death in 1135.

A number of the revellers on the White Ship the may have sensed trouble and, like Stephen of Blois (already ill with diarrhoea), decided to leave and arrange for a later passage.

It is interesting to ponder how the history of England would have progressed on the death of king Henry I in 1035 had Stephen who later claimed the English throne stayed aboard and drowned on the White Ship in 1120.

Geoffrey of Anjou demanded custody of a number of key Norman castles as a show of good-will on the part of Henry in the summer of 1135. Henry's refusal threw the pair into open warfare atthe end of his reign.

Although the barons had sworn allegiance to Matilda, her sex and remarriage to the House of Anjou (in 1123 she married Geoffrey Plantagenet) which was hostile to the Normans allowed Stephen of Boulogneto enter England and claim the throne with the popular support of the magnates.

The resulting turmoil was eventually ended in 1153 when Stephen agreed that Matilda's son, Henry, would inherit the crown as his heir.

Henry died of food poisoning by eating foul lampreys on December 1st, 1135, at St Denis le Fermont in Normandy. He was buried at Reading Abbey in Berkshire which he had founded in 1121.

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Henry's frequent absences from England caused him to establish a beaurocracy rather than personal government which was incapable of maintining order in his absence abroad. His establishment of the rule of law not because of a particularly virtuous character but because he appreciated that the king could only be prosperous if his realm was prosperous and that this was impossible in a lawless kingdom where the law was administered at the whim of the local magnates. Itinerant royal justices toured the country to administer the king's justice in the king's courts and inquire into revenues, frequently aggressively, and Henry developed the exchequer to deal with royal revenues.

After Henry's conquest of Normandy and quarrels with the Church were finished in 1106, the king concentrated on expanding royal power in the realm. He appointed loyal and gifted but obscure men to administrative positions causing considerable resentment amongst the magnates but creating a loyal and independent beaurocracy.

His involment on the continent caused him to be away from England for as much as half his time and he created the position of 'Justiciar' with Robert de Caen (sometimes referred to as 'Roger of Salisbury') as the first incumbent who ruled the country in the monarch's absence.

Henry's reforms of the royal treasury, carried out by his justiciar, into an efficient instrument for the collection of royal revenues, were the foundation upon which later kings built.

The Exchequer held twice-yearly sessions during which the sheriffs and other revenue-collecting officials appeared before the justiciar, the chancellor, and several clerks and were required to render their accounts.

Henry is remembered for his sending out of roayl officials to to the shires to judge local disputes, particularly those of a financial nature, and thus weakening the feudal courts controlled by local barons. The king's courts were also used to curb errant sheriffs who had been given considerable powers by the Conqueror.

Henry I "transformed his court from a gang of itinerant predators into a company of well-controlled courtiers . . ." - C Warren Hollister, Henry I

It was during Henry's reign that the differences between English and Norman society slowly began to erode.

The changes in administration which Henry introduced disintegrated during 'the Anarchy', the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, which followed his death in 1135.

William of Malmesbury records that it was Henry I who standardised the length of a yard on the length of his own arm.

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The Church

Henry became rapidly embrioled in a controversey with the Church over lay investiture, the selling of clergy appointments by the crown. Considered as a feudal prerogative of the crown, this was vigorously opposed by the Gregorian reformers in the Church.

Henry made his peace with Anselm of Bec (with whom his brother William II (Rufus) had quarelled) to further appease the magnates of the realm. He was recalled and restored to Canterbury and Ranulf Flambard was imprisoned.

Anselm refused to do homage to Henry for the lands he held from his as his feudal lord and the situation remained unresolved until Pope Paschall II threatened the king with excommunication in 1105 when a compromise with the papacy was reached: Henry surrendered the monarch's divine right in conferring sacred offices but the appointees continued to do homage to the crown for their fiefdoms.

Although Henry I's agreement with the papacy marked the point where monarchs became secular (and subserviant in the eyes of the Church), the king, in practice, maintained a deciding influence in appointments to ecclesiastical offices.

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Anselm of Bec
Archbishop of Canterbury.
Henry de Newburgh (or Beaumont)
Henry I granted Warwick Castle and the borough of Warwick to Henry de Newburgh (or Henry Beaumont) who was also made earl of Warwick.
Louis VI (the Fat ) of France
King of France, 1108-1137.
Pope Pascal II
Ranulf Flambard
Robert of Gloucester
Possibly the eldest of Henry's illigitimate children, Robert originally supported Stephen's usurpation of the throne on Henry's death but later allied himself to Matilda for the remainder of his life.
Roger de Caen
Bishop of Salisbury, Chancellor & subsequently Justiciar to Henry I.

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1068Birth of Henry Beauclerk (the learned, later king Henry I), the third surviving son of William I by Matilda of Flanders
1091Treaty of Caen; William II of England and Robert of Normandy agree that the survivor will rule both England and Normandy, thus cutting out their younger brother, the future Henry I
1096Robert II, Duke of Normandy mortgaged Normandy to William II for �6,000 to enable him to go on the First Crusade
1100.Aug.02William II (Rufus) killed hunting in the New Forest, Henry I [old page] becomes king
Henry took advatange of the absence of his brother, Robert II, Duke of Normandy, to seize the English Crown
1100.Aug.05Henry I crowned king of England
1100.Nov.11Henry I married Edith, daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and niece of Edgar the Atheling uniting the lines of the Saxon and Norman kings
1101Roger Bigod granted lands at Framlingham
1101seige of Arundel Castle, Sussex
1101.FebRobert II, Duke of Normandy lands at Portsmouth to mount an unsuccessful invasion of England to wrest the throne from his younger brother, Henry I
1101.Apr.02Roger, a Norman monk, appointed Chancellor
1101.JulTreaty of Alton
1102Henry I captures Bridgenorth Castle
1102Earl Robert of Belleme
1103Crops fail
1103Henry I let off paying Robert, Duke of Normandy
1103Strong winds damage crops
1105Henry I leads and expedition to Normandy to wrest the duchy from his brother
1105Henry I reaches a compromise with the Church after Pope Paschall threatened the King with excommunication
1106Henry I defeats his brother Robert II, Duke of Normandy at Tinchebray taking him prisoner and winning Normandy
Robert spent the rest of his life as the prisoner of Henry at Devizes, Bristol and Cardiff ((Sept 28th?))
1106Sighting of a comet
1107Alexander I becomes King of Scotland
1107Death of FitzHamon
by 1107Henry I had conquered Normandy and ended his quarrels with the Church, allowing him to concentrate on the administration of the kingdom
1108Louis VI (the Fat) becomes King of France
1114Henry I defeated the Welsh and they submitted
1114.JanMarriage of Matilda, daughter of Henry I, to the Holy Roman Emperor
1118.May.01Death of Edith, queen of Henry I
1119William Audelin marries Matilda
1120Henry I defeats Louis VI (the Fat) of France at the Battle of Br�mule and terms for peace are agreed
1120.Nov.25Prince William Audelin, only legitimate son and heir of Henry I, was drowned in the sinking of the White Ship
by 1120Henry I subdues the Norman barons
1121Henry I founds Reading Abbey in Berkshire (wehere he was buried on his death in 1135)
1121.Jan.29Henry I marries his second wife Adleiza or Adelaide, daughter of Godfrey, Count of Louvain at Windsor Castle
1123Matilda, daughter and only survivng heir of Henry I, marries Geoffrey of Anjou (Plantagenet)
1125Henry I summons his daughter Matilda, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, back to court
1127.JanHenry I forces the magnates to accept his daughter Matilda as his heir
1129Date of the oldest surviving pipe roll (from the reign of king Henry I)
1133Henry I again forces the barons to acknowledge his daughter Matilda as his heir after the birth of her son by geoffrey of Anjou
1134Robert II, Duke of Normandy died in England as a prisoner of his younger brother, Henry I who had held him since 1106
1135Geoffrey of Anjou demands control of key Norman castles form Henry I whose refusal throws them into war
1135.Dec.01Death of Henry I (Beauclerc).
Stephen of Blois accepted as king of England by the magnates depsite their previous oaths to Henry\'s daughter Matilda
1136.Jan.04Henry I buried at Reading Abbey (which he founded in 1121), Berkshire

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WILLIAM I (the Conqueror) (1066-1087)
WILLIAM II (Rufus) (1087-1100)
ROBERT II (Curthose), Duke of Normandy (1087-1106)
STEPHEN & MATILDA (1135-1154)



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HENRY I   Britannia
HENRY I   Kings & Queens of England
  DESCENDANTS   University of Hull

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