Henry I

views updated Jun 11 2018

Henry I (1068–1135), king of England (1100–35) and duke of Normandy (1106–35), was the youngest son of William the Conqueror. In 1087, on his death-bed, William had given Henry a large sum of money, which he used to purchase land in Normandy. 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 (probably) accidental death in 1100 to take over the English kingdom while Robert was still on his return journey from the First Crusade. 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. Thus established, Henry then proceeded to disinherit a number of powerful magnates known to be supporters of Robert's cause and to undermine his brother's already precarious authority in Normandy. 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 by alliances between William, the French king Louis VI, territorial princes such as the counts of Flanders and Anjou, and a group of Norman nobles with few landed interests in England. Henry suffered set-backs such as a military defeat at Alençon in 1119, but was successful in defeating invasions of Normandy in 1118–19 and 1123–4. Marriage alliances were used to secure useful allies, such as the one between his nephew, the future King Stephen, and Matilda, the heiress to the county of Boulogne. The death of his only legitimate son in the White Ship disaster increased Henry's problems and his failure to obtain an heir through his second marriage to Adela of Louvain eventually forced him to the apparently desperate measure of marrying his daughter, the Empress Matilda, to Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou in 1128, thereby neutralizing one of his most powerful opponents at the cost of the prospect of an Angevin succession to England and Normandy after Henry's death.

The frequent warfare in northern France had an impact on England because Henry was obliged to raise money to finance the wars. His administration, supervised by Bishop Roger of Salisbury, had a reputation for efficiency and has on occasion been regarded by historians as being notably innovative. The developments should, however, be seen as taking place within the existing institutional framework. The most obvious, the Exchequer, involved a centralized audit of royal revenue and expenditure under Bishop Roger's supervision, for which there were precedents in the 11th cent. 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. Henry's regime is also notable for the advance of individuals of lower aristocratic status to positions of administrative prominence, but, with the important exception of Bishop Roger, their power came nowhere near rivalling that of the great magnates. The general character of Henry's rule was one of expedient centralization within a socially conservative framework. The basis of his rule in both England and Normandy, like his father's, was a group of powerful cross-channel families into which Henry advanced a small number of his own relatives, most notably his nephew, the future King Stephen, and his illegitimate son, Earl Robert of Gloucester. Despite enduring problems, Henry was without doubt 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 good relations were maintained 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. His last years were difficult because of the continuing insecurity of the succession, and because he was reluctant to provide his designated heir Matilda and her husband with lands and castles to assist their succession. At the time of his death at Lyons-la-Forêt on 1 December 1135, he was involved in another quarrel with Matilda, which facilitated the coup carried out by Stephen. Despite his many successes in war, diplomacy, and government, Henry I's legacy was a disputed succession and almost inevitable civil war.

David Richard Bates


Bates, D. , ‘Normandy and England after 1066’, English Historical Review, 104 (1989), 851–80;
Green, J. A. , The Government of England under Henry I (Cambridge, 1986);
Hollister, C. W. , Monarchy, Magnates and Institutions in the Anglo-Norman World (1986);
Southern, R. W. , ‘The Place of Henry I in English History’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 47 (1962), 127–70.

Henry I

views updated May 29 2018

Henry I

Henry I (1068-1135) was king of England from 1100 to 1135. His reign was dominated by his struggle to conquer and defend Normandy and to make his government in England more efficient and more profitable.

The third surviving son of William I and Matilda of Flanders, Henry I received a good education and could read and write Latin, an accomplishment rare among laymen at that time. On his father's death in 1089, Henry's brothers, Robert and William II, inherited Normandy and England respectively; Henry was left £5,000, with which he bought land in western Normandy. Robert could not govern efficiently, and Henry therefore allied with William, who in 1096 took over Normandy as security for a loan to enable Robert to go on a crusade.

On Aug. 2, 1100, when Robert was on his way home, William was shot, possibly with Henry's connivance, when hunting in the New Forest. Henry seized the royal treasure in nearby Winchester and was hastily crowned on August 5 at Westminster. Here he issued a charter promising reforms, most of which were designed to win support from the great landowners and the Church. He imprisoned William's unpopular minister Ranulf Flambard and recalled the exiled Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. In November 1100 he married Edith, later called Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scots and descendant of the Saxon kings; this marriage secured peace with Scotland and the goodwill of the English. These measures helped him to survive an attack by Duke Robert in 1101. In 1104 and 1105 Henry attacked Normandy and in 1106 finally defeated his brother at Tinchebrai and took over the duchy, keeping Robert a prisoner till his death in 1134.

In 1107 Henry reached a statesmanlike compromise with the Pope and the archbishop of Canterbury in the longstanding dispute about elections of bishops and abbots, which had caused Anselm to retire to a second period of exile. Henry gave up the ancient custom of lay investiture (giving prelates the ring and staff which were the symbols of their spiritual office), while the Pope agreed that prelates should be elected in the King's presence and do homage for their estates before consecration. In this way Henry and his successors retained control of Church appointments, giving up only a formal ceremony.

As well as watching constantly to suppress rebellion in Normandy, Henry made diplomatic moves to protect it from attack. In 1109 his daughter Matilda was promised to the emperor Henry V; in 1113 he agreed that his son and heir William should marry the daughter of Fulk, Count of Anjou. He paid a large pension to the Count of Flanders and gave substantial estates in England and Normandy to his nephew Stephen, brother of another potential ally, the Count of Blois. Thus fortified, he was able to repel several attacks led by Louis VI, King of France, in support of the claim to Normandy of Duke Robert's son, William Clito. Though defeated at Brémule in 1119, Louis continued to support William and made him Count of Flanders in 1127. Fortunately for Henry, William Clito died in 1128.

Though he gave much of his time to Normandy, Henry's reign produced notable developments in the government of England. He increased the number of professional administrators, employing men of comparatively humble origins. Many of these were laymen, but their chief was Roger, Bishop of Salisbury. Roger was the King's right-hand man and was probably responsible for the organization of the Exchequer, the royal accounting office, which had its own staff and its own records, the Domesday Book and the Pipe Rolls, of which the first surviving specimen belongs to the year ending Michaelmas (sept. 29), 1130. In judicial matters more cases were claimed for the King's court, and the King's controlling position was emphasized by sending justices to visit the county courts and by the brutal, but methodical, punishment of criminals.

The great problem of Henry's later years was the succession. He had at least 20 illegitimate children but only one legitimate son, William, and one daughter, Matilda. William's death by drowning in 1120 was a political disaster. Henry, in hope of an heir, married Adeliza, daughter of Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine (another potential ally of France's flank), but the union was childless. Matilda, however, became a widow in 1125; Henry summoned her home and in December 1126 made the nobles swear to accept her as domina (lady) of England and Normandy. He then arranged her marriage to Geoffrey, son of the Count of Anjou. But when Henry died on Dec. 1, 1135, his nephew Stephen ascended the English throne.

Further Reading

A basic study of Henry is in Richard William Southern, Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (1970). A contemporary account of Henry I is Eadmer's History of Recent Events in England (trans. 1964). Good accounts of Normandy and England in this period are in Charles Homer Haskins, Norman Institutions (1918), and Frank Barlow, The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042-1216 (1955; 2d ed. 1961). Edward J. Kealey, Roger of Salisbury (1972), is an important study of the man who was Henry's viceroy for over 30 years.

Additional Sources

Brett, M., The English Church under Henry I, London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Dymoke, Juliet, Henry of the high roc, London, Dobson, 1971.

Dymoke, Juliet, The lion's legacy, London: Dobson, 1974.

Plaidy, Jean, The lion of justice, London: Hale, 1975.

Plaidy, Jean, The lion of justice, New York: Putnam, 1979, 1975. □

Henry I

views updated Jun 11 2018

Henry I

Henry I (876-936), or Henry the Fowler, was king of Germany from 919 to 936. The first monarch of the Saxon dynasty, he allowed autonomy to the various German duchies and concentrated his resources on defense against the Danes and the Magyars.

The son of Otto of Erlauchten, Duke of Saxony, Henry I was a great grandson of Louis the Pious. What education he had was from tutors, and he was trained to succeed his father as Duke of Saxony. In 909 Henry married Mathilda, daughter of Count Dietrich, whose possessions in Westphalia helped to increase the power of the Saxon duke in that area.

In 912, upon the death of his father, Henry became Duke of Saxony. His relations with King Conrad I were not always peaceful, but the struggle for control of Thuringia, a territory that lay adjacent to Saxony and Franconia (Conrad's duchy), was settled by the Treaty of Grona in 915.

Shortly before his death in 918, Conrad designated Henry as his successor, and Henry was acclaimed king at Fritzlar in May 919. As king, he ruled a federation of duchies which were recognized as autonomous units. Henry concentrated on building up his own power in Saxony and expanding his control into lower Lorraine. After an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Duke Gilbert (Giselbert) of Lorraine, who was aided by the king of the West Franks, Charles the Simple, Henry was recognized as king of the East Franks at the Treaty of Bonn in 921. In 923 Henry again tried to enter Lorraine, only to be driven back by Rudolf, Duke of Burgundy. In 925 he attempted a third campaign and, besieging Gilbert at Zülpich, forced his submission.

Henry then turned eastward to protect Saxony and Thuringia against the incursions of the Danes, the Wends, and the Magyars. Henry was able to halt the Danes and Wends and, through the capture of a Magyar chieftain, forced peace on the Magyars for 9 years, during which time they paid tribute to the Saxon king.

Henry used this period of peace to consolidate his power in Saxony. He fortified his major cities, Merseburg, Hersfeld, Goslar, Gandersheim, Quedlinburg, and Pöhlde, which were to become centers of trade, justice, and social and military activity. The lands that had been taken from the Wends were distributed in the form of fiefs among his followers and servants.

During the years 928-932 Henry pushed eastward into Slavic lands and set up administrative centers at Brandenburg and Meissen. In 929 he entered Bohemia, where he forced King Wenceslas to recognize German sovereignty and to pay a yearly tribute. In 933 and 934 Henry concentrated on attacking and defeating in turn the Magyars and the Danes.

Sick with paralysis, Henry designated his eldest son, Otto, as king and called the nobles to Erfurt in early 936 to elect him. On July 2, 936, at Memleben, Henry died and was buried in the church of St. Peter, which he had founded at Quedlinburg.

Further Reading

An account of the reign of Henry I is in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 3 (8 vols., 1911-1936). A more recent interpretation is G. Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany (1946; 2d ed. 1947). □

Henry I

views updated Jun 08 2018

Henry I (1068–1135) King of England (1100–35), youngest son of William I (the Conqueror). Henry rescinded unpopular taxes and married a Scottish princess of Anglo-Saxon descent. He thus won the support that helped him to defeat his brother Robert II, Duke of Normandy, and regain Normandy for the English crown (1106). Henry settled the dispute over the investiture involving Archbishop Anselm.

Henry I

views updated May 21 2018

Henry I ( the Fowler) (c.876–936) German king (918–36). Duke of Saxony, he was elected to succeed Conrad I as king. He asserted his authority over the German Princes and reconquered Lotharingia (Lorraine, 925). In 933, he defeated the Magyar raiders. He was succeeded by his son, Otto IV, the first Holy Roman Emperor.

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