King Henry I

King Henry I ruled England from 1100 to 1135. His reign was quite unexpected, he was the fourth son of the Conqueror. Henry’s reign saw conflict with his eldest brother, Robert, and the eventual merging of Normandy and England under one ruler. In England, he brought about changes in the law and administration. His reign in England was peaceful by the standards of the day. His son and heir, William Æthling, died at sea in 1120. King Henry I named his daughter, Matilda, as his heir. Though the nobility swore to honour his wishes, it was a choice that led to a prolonged civil war after his death.

Henry I

Henry was the fourth eldest son of William the Conqueror and Matilda. As fourth son it was considered very unlikely that Henry would ever reach the height of Monarch or Duke of Normandy. Indeed his inheritance upon his fathers death included no land whatsoever, he did however inherit a massive amount of silver.

Henry has been considered by many Historians to have been a highly ambitious young prince. His hopes of acquiring power were raised on a number of occasions, firstly by the death of William’s second son and in later years by the news of his eldest brothers decision to go on Crusade.

Both of these factors played a huge part in creating the man who did eventually become king. An intelligent and well educated man, Henry was quick to establish that should Robert perish on the Crusades that he would be in line for power as Rufus had no children of his own. These ascertains were frowned upon by his elder brothers who made a pact early in Rufus’ reign that effectively disinherited Henry from all rights to the families land and wealth.

Henry used the inheritance from his father wisely in order to gain support and favour amongst those who would ultimately make the decision as to who the future monarch would be. He made sure that he was in England, close to the seat of power and upon Rufus’ death went immediately to the Treasury to secure it as his own. He moved quickly to buy favour in Normandy as Robert was due to return.

This, along with several other clever moves such as inviting Anselm back to England and his marriage to Edith of Scotland, ensured that once Robert did finally return, his route to London to claim the throne for himself was blocked. Anslem negotiated a settlement and Robert returned to Normandy.

This settlement was not long lasting and led to conflict brought about by the split in the family land. Robert was captured by Henry’s knights at the battle of Tichenbrai in 1106 and spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of his younger brother.

Once Henry had asserted his right to rule in England, he faced problems with the church. Despite having brought Anselm back and his successful appeasement of the Archbishop he was faced very quickly with attempts to reform the church within England. This was a result of the increasing power of the Gregorian movement within the European church, which Anselm was certainly sympathetic towards.

In essence the church wanted self reform and self government, Henry wished to retain the traditional rights of the Monarchy over the clergy. Anslem, following his departure from England had been in Rome and returned with full knowledge of papal decrees stating that lay investiture (The King choosing the Bishops) was against church rules.

Henry felt it more appropriate to delay confrontation with the church and this led to Anslem becoming so frustrated that he exiled himself once again in 1103. King Henry I  however was forced to compromise later when the pope threatened to excommunicate him and so in 1106 he made an agreement with the pope. Anselm’s death in 1109 proved quite timely or the king, who then left the see of Canterbury vacant for the following five years before being filled by William de Corbeil.

In accepting that lay investiture was not permissible, which is what Henry had agreed to in 1106, he ensured that once Normandy was under his control he had little opposition to his reign. Henry was safe to concentrate on the more traditional role of ensuring that the monarch’s line was intact.

Read more about the Church in Norman England.

This apparently straight forward process was throne into turmoil by the untimely death of his only legitimate son, William, in 1120. Henry soon remarried (his first wife Edith having died in 1118) and attempted to have another son. In the mean time however Henry made moves to ensure that his eldest legitimate daughter, Matilda, would succeed him as monarch.

Whilst Henry’s Norman barons were willing to accept Matilda as his heir they frowned upon Henry’s choice of husband: Geoffrey of Anjou. Geoffrey attempted to persuade Henry that he should take control of areas of Normandy whilst the now ageing king concentrated his energies elsewhere. King Henry I refused to budge and his barons felt entitled to rebuke Geoffrey’s overtures. In 1135 this led to conflict within Normandy. Henry never lived to sort out the problem, he died in December of 1135 leaving the question of his successor quite open.

Henry’s reign can be viewed in a number of ways. He achieved 30 years of peace, which by medieval standards is an excellent testimony to his political guile and diplomatic reasoning. His failure to leave an obvious heir may be viewed as a failing, although circumstance definitely played against Henry I with regards this issue.

The Normans



Find out about the Norman monarchs and key features of Society during the Norman era from the menu below.
Harold's death as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry
Click on the image for Teaching Resources on the Norman Conquest
The Normans
Monarchs
William the ConquerorWilliam RufusKing Henry I
King Stephen
1066
Claimants to the throneBattle of FulfordBattle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Hastings
The Norman Church
Robert of JumiegesStigandOdo of Bayeux
LanfrancAnselmRalph d’Escures
William de CorbeilTheobaldArticle: Anglo-Norman Church
Source Material

King Henry I’s Charter of Liberties, issued in 1100. Cited by many as one of the most significant early legal documents.

Henry, king of the English, to Bishop Samson and Urso de Abetot and all hisbarons and faithful, both French and English, of Worcestershire, [copies weresent to all the shires] greeting.

1. Know that by the mercy of God and the common counsel of the barons of thewhole kingdom of England I have been crowned king of said kingdom; and becausethe kingdom had been oppressed by unjust exactions, I, through fear of god andthe love which I have toward you all, in the first place make the holy churchof God free, so that I will neither sell nor put ot farm, nor on the death ofarchbishop or bishop or abbot will I take anything from the church’s demesne orfrom its men until the successor shall enter it. And I take away all the badcustoms by which the kingdom of England was unjustly oppressed; which badcustoms I here set down in part:

2. If any of my barons, earls, or others who hold of me shall have died, hisheir shall not buy back his land as he used to do in the time of my brother,but he shall relieve it by a just and lawful relief. Likewise also the men ofmy barons shall relieve their lands from their lords by a just and lawfulrelief.

3. And if any of my barons or other men should wish to give his daughter,sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, let him speak with me about it; but Iwill neither take anything from him for this permission nor prevent his givingher unless he should be minded to join her to my enemy. And if, upon the deathof a baron or other of my men, a daughter is left as heir, I will give her withher land by the advice of my barons. And if, on the death of her husband, thewife is left and without children, she shall have her dowry and right ofmarriage, and I will not give her to a husband unless according to her will.

4. But if a wife be left with children, she shall indeed have her dowry andright of marriage so long as she shall keep her body lawfully, and I will notgive her unless according to her will. And the guardian of the land andchildren shall be either the wife or another of the relatives who more justlyought to be. And I command that my barons restrain themselves similarly indealing with the sons and daughters or wives of their men.

5. The common seigniorage, which has been taken through the cities andcounties, but which was not taken in the time of King Edward I absolutelyforbid henceforth. If any one, whether a moneyer or other, be taken with falsemoney, let due justice be done for it.

6. I remit all pleas and all debts which were owing to my brother, except mylawful fixed revenues and except those amounts which had been agreed upon forthe inheritances of others or for things which more justly concerned others. And if any one had pledged anything for his own inheritance, I remit it; also all reliefs which had been agreed upon for just inheritances.

7. And if any of my barons or men shall grow feeble, as he shall give orarrange to give his money, I grant that it be so given. But if, prevented byarms or sickness, he shall not have given or arranged to give his money, hiswife, children, relatives, or lawful men shall distribute it for the good ofhis sould as shall seem best to them.

8. If any of my barons or men commit a crime, he shall not bind himself to apayment at the king’s mercy as he has been doing in the time of my father or mybrother; but he shall make amends according to the extent of the crime as hewould have done before the time of my father in the time of my otherpredecessors. But if he be convicted of treachery or heinous crime, he shallmake amends as is just.

9. I forgive all murders committed before the day I was crowned king; and those which shall be committed in the future shall be justly compensated according to the law of King Edward.

10. By the common consent of my barons I have kept in my hands forests as my father had them.

11. To those knights who render military service for their lands I grant of my own gift that the lands of their demesne ploughs be free from all payments and all labor, so that, having been released from so great a burden, they may equip themselves well with horses and arms and be fully prepared for my service andthe defense of my kingdom.

12. I impose a strict peace upon my whole kingdom and command that it be maintained henceforth.

13. I restore to you the law of King Edward with those amendments introduced into it by my father with the advice of his barons.

14. If any one, since the death of King William my brother, has taken anything belonging to me or to any one else, the whole is to be quickly restored without fine; but if any one keep anything of it, he upon whom it shall be found shall pay me a heavy fine.

Witnesses Maurice bishop of London, and William bishop elect of Winchester, and Gerard bishop of Hereford, and earl Henry, and earl Simon, and Walter Giffard,and Robert de Montfort, and Roger Bigot, and Eudo the steward, and Robert sonof Hamo, and Robert Malet. At London when I was crowned. Farewell.

Ecclesiastical law in Henry’s England

In the year of our Lord 1102, the tenth indiction, King Henry summoned the powerful Earl Robert of Bell&ecircme to his court, accused him of committing forty-five offenses in deed or word against him and his brother the duke of Normandy, and ordered him to respond publicly concerning each. For a year he had had Robert watched. All his evil deeds had been carefully investigated by private spies and fully described in writing. Once Robert had asked for permission to go and consult with his people, as is customary, and on receiving it had left the court, he realized that he could not possibly clear himself of the charges, so he quickly leapt on his horse and fled, panic-stricken and breathless, to his castles. The king waited with his barons for Robert’s reply until a royal servant brought him the news the earl had fled. The king was angry at having been deceived, but he knew that the day of vengeance would undoubtedly come. Therefore he publicly condemned Robert as a man who, having been publically accused, had not cleared himself as the law required, and pronounced him a public enemy unless he returned to face judgment. Once again he summoned the rebel to court, but the latter flatly refused to come. Instead he strengthened the ramparts and walls of all his castles and called on his Normans kinsmen, the alien Welsh, and all his allies to assist him. The king, however, summoned the army of England,(2) besieged Arundel castle, which stands near the sea-coast, constructed castles, and left officers there with his household troops for three months.  Source: The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis

Murder Fines in King Henry’s England:

91. Concerning the payment of murder [fine.] If any Frenchman, or any Norman or, lastly, any man from beyond the sea is slain, and the affair turns out so calamitously that it is considered murder and the slayer is unknown and eventually flees, so that within seven days he is not handed over to the king’s justice for the carrying out of whatever may be right, 46 m. of silver shall be paid–40 m. to the king and 6 m. to the relatives of the slain man. If the relative have no accusers or provers, these [6m.] shall go to him who does prove [who committed] the murder. Where, however, [the slain man] is found, there must investigation be made according to the law, and the aldermen of the hundred and [the lord] on whose land [the slain man] lies should give security that he will be paid for…. If the murder is discovered in a house or in a hall or in a close, when it comes to paying the aforesaid 46m., whatever is in that manor…shall first be sold… And if thereby the 46 m. are forthcoming, nothing is to be sought elsewhere, but if there is a deficiency, it is made up by the hundred in common. If, moreover, the manor in which the murder is discovered is of the king’s demense farm, and if the king so orders, composition for it shall be made by the entire hundred. If the murder is discovered in fields that are open and generally accessible, [the money] shall be supplied by the whole hundred in common, and not merely by him to whom the land belongs. If it happens on the boundary. [the obligation] shall fall on both [hundreds]. If it is on the king’s highway, compensation is to be paid by him who owns the adjacent land…

92. [The death of] an Englishman is not regarded or paid for as murder, but only [that of] a Frenchman; indeed, should there be no one to prove that the slain man is English, he is held to be French…. If a hundred wishes to prove concerning someone that he is not a Frenchman and that [accordingly] there is no murder, this obligation is to be entrusted to twelve of the better men from the same hundred, swearing [to that effect]…

Source of materials: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html translated documents are copy permitted for educational use.

British History
Kings and Queens of England
The Normans
Norman Conquest

Preceded by William Rufus

Succeeded by Stephen

The Normans



Find out about the Norman monarchs and key features of Society during the Norman era from the menu below.
Harold's death as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry
Click on the image for Teaching Resources on the Norman Conquest
The Normans
Monarchs
William the ConquerorWilliam RufusKing Henry I
King Stephen
1066
Claimants to the throneBattle of FulfordBattle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Hastings
The Norman Church
Robert of JumiegesStigandOdo of Bayeux
LanfrancAnselmRalph d’Escures
William de CorbeilTheobaldArticle: Anglo-Norman Church