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Henry I

(1068—1135) king of England and lord of Normandy


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(1068–1135),

king of England (1100–35) and duke of Normandy (1106–35), was the youngest son of William the Conqueror. He played an intermittent role in the struggle between his elder brothers Robert Curthose and William Rufus for control of the Anglo‐Norman realm and seized the opportunity provided by the latter's death in 1100 to take over the English kingdom. Henry moved quickly to consolidate his coup, issuing a coronation charter which promised to renounce the supposed abuses of William II's rule, recalling Archbishop Anselm from exile, and marrying Matilda, the niece of Edgar the Atheling and the daughter of Malcolm Canmore, to create a dynastic link with the Old English ruling house and an alliance with the kingdom of Scots. By 1101 he was sufficiently powerful to resist Robert's invasion of England and to agree terms with him which confirmed Henry's kingship in England. In 1105–6 he invaded Normandy and completed his conquest of the duchy by defeating Robert in 1106 at the battle of Tinchebrai, thereby recreating William the Conqueror's Anglo‐Norman realm. Henry ruled both England and Normandy for the rest of his life, but his control over Normandy was always threatened until the death of Robert's son William Clito in 1128. Marriage alliances were used to secure useful allies, such as the one between his nephew, the future King Stephen, and Matilda, heiress to the county of Boulogne. The death of his only legitimate son in the White Ship increased Henry's problems and his failure to obtain an heir through his second marriage to Adela of Louvain forced him into marrying his daughter, the Empress Matilda, to Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou in 1128.

The frequent warfare in northern France had an impact on England because Henry was obliged to raise money. His administration, supervised by Bishop Roger of Salisbury, had a reputation for efficiency and has been regarded by historians as being notably innovative. Other developments, such as the more frequent interventions of royal justices in the localities, can also be regarded as opportunist centralization because they relied fundamentally on the existing structure of shire courts and were not regular visitations after the pattern later established in Henry II's reign. Despite enduring problems, Henry was a very successful ruler. England was at peace after the early years of his reign and Normandy was kept secure. He dominated Wales as no predecessor had done and maintained good relations with his nephew, David I of Scotland. He experienced problems with the church in his early years, most notably when Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury took a stand over the practice of lay investiture of bishops and went into exile in 1103. Henry and the papacy reached a settlement in 1107 and thereafter Henry's relations with the church were generally good. He was a great patron of monasteries, most notably of Reading abbey, in which he was buried. Despite his many successes in war, diplomacy, and government, Henry I's legacy was a disputed succession and almost inevitable civil war.

Subjects: British History.


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