enry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. He used the conflicts of his elder brothers, Robert Duke of Normandy and William Rufus to his own advantage by changing sides when he pleased. This displeased his brothers, and even though they had their differences, neither wanted Henry to become King of England or Duke of Normandy. To ensure this, they signed a treaty at Caen stating that if either of them died without producing an heir, they would be succeeded by the other.
Claiming the throne
The death of William Rufus came just at the right time for Henry to claim the English throne for himself. Duke Robert was returning from Crusade and was not in a position to oppose Henry's claim to the throne. When the news of William's accidental death in the New Forest reached him, Henry hurried to Winchester to demand the keys to the royal crown and other royal treasures. The treasurer William De Bretevil refused to admit him, reminding Henry of the treaty signed in Caen by his elder brothers Robert and William Rufus. Under threat of death, the treasurer handed over the keys. On 5th of August, 1100 only three days after his brother's death, Henry was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
1. Know that by the mercy of God and by the common counsel of the barons of the whole kingdom of England I have been crowned king of his realm; and the kingdom has been oppressed by unjust actions, I now, being moved by the love I bear you all, make the holy Church of God free so that I will neither sell the property, nor on the death of the archbishop or bishop or abbot will I take anything from the demesne of the church during the period before the successor is appointed. I outlaw all the evil customs by which England has been unjustly oppressed.
2. If any of my barons or earls shall die, his heir shall redeem the land in a just and lawful manor rather than having to pay for it. Similarly the men of barons shall redeem their land from their lords in a just and lawful manor.
3. Any of my barons or earls who wish to give in marriage their daughter, sister, or other family member must ask for my permission but I will not seek payment of refuse any marriage unless it is to one of my enemies. If one of my barons dies leaving a daughter as heir I will dispose of her in marriage according to the counsel given by my barons. If the wife of one of my barons shall survive her husband and be without children she will have her dower portion and not force her to marry.
4. If a wife survives with young children she will not be forced to marry and will keep her dowry as long as she keeps her body pure. My barons shall likewise act in the same manor towards their tenants.
5. I forbid the taking of the common seigniorage from the towns and the cities as it was not done in the time of King Edward. Anyone found with illegal money will be punished.
6. I forgive all pleas and debts which were owing to my brother except those owing lawfully to me and except those which are the inheritance of others. If anyone has pledged anything for his inheritance I will remit it and also remit all reliefs which were promised for direct inheritance.
7. If any of my barons shall become ill and give away or bequeath his money I will see that it is done so according to his wishes. But if by illness or violence he is unable to do so his widow, children, relative or one of his true men shall make the division for the sake of his soul as shall seem best to them.
8. If any of my barons or men commits a crime he shall not be forced to pay a fine at the king's mercy as it was in the time of my father and brother but he shall make a payment according to the extent of the crime as it was done before the time of my father and brother. But for a serious crime he shall be justly punished.
9. I forgive all fines of murders committed before I was crowned king and those committed in the future shall be paid justly according to the laws of King Edward.
10. By the common counsel of my barons I have retained ownership of the forests as my father did.
11. The knights, who in return for their estates perform military service, shall hold their demesne land free from payments so that, released from the great burden, they can furnish themselves with horses and arms and be prepared to defend the kingdom.
12. I impose a strict peace on the country and order that the peace be kept.
13. I restore to you the laws of King Edward and those amendments made by my father with the consent of my barons.
14. If anyone, since the death of my brother King William has taken my property or the property of another they should return it quickly without fine but if they keep it they will have to pay a heavy fine.
As King of England
Henry's first main problem was the threat of invasion by his brother Robert from Normandy. The last thing Henry needed was to have any distractions in the north of England and so on 11/12 November 1100 Henry married Matilda of Scotland the daughter of Malcolm III, king of the Scots. When Henry's elder brother Robert returned from the Crusades he began his plans to invade England. Robert landed at Portsmouth in July 1101 but was unable was make any headway and a treaty was signed allowing Henry to remain as king of England as long as he paid Robert an annual fee for the privilege.
Conflict at home
Robert of Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury, was a powerful Norman baron who controlled castles in the Welsh Marches and the important castle at Arundel. Robert had rebelled against William Rufus and could not be trusted. In 1102 Henry captured the Earl's castles and exiled him to Normandy.
In 1105 Henry invaded Normandy. His aim was to remove his brother whose incompetent rule was bringing Normandy under threat from invasion from its neighbours. It wasn't until September 1106 at the battle of Tinchebrai that Henry finally defeated Robert. Robert was captured along with Belleme and both spent the remainder of their lives as prisoners. For the rest of his reign, Henry not only had to guard his English lands from invasion but also Normandy as well.
Henry's plans for a united realm of England and Normandy by marrying his son William Adelin to the daughter of Count Fulk of Anjou, came to grief in 1120. Whilst attempting what should have been an easy crossing of the channel, William's ship called the White Ship ran aground and the prince was drowned. Henry was a widower and although he remarried after the death of William, he had no more children. Henry only had one other legitimate child, Matilda. Matilda had been married at the age of eight to Henry V, the German Emperor, but he died in 1126, and Matilda returned to her father's side. Concerned that he had no male heir, Henry asked the Barons to agree that Matilda should become queen after his death. He then married Matilda to the heir of Anjou, Geoffrey. The Norman barons were not happy with this. They did not want either a female ruler or a ruler from Anjou. When Henry died in 1135 the control of his kingdom was in dispute and it led to civil war. Here is a simplified family tree
|William (I, the Conqueror, King of England 1066-1087)|
|Matilda (of Flander)|
|Henry (I, King of England 1100-1135)|
|Matilda Edith (of Scotland)|
|Adela (Daughter of William the Conqueror)|
|Stephen (count of Blois)|
|Matilda (Empress Maud)|
|Stephen (of Blois, king of England 1135-1154)|