King Henry I, was born to King William I
and Matilda of Flanders
at Selby, Yorkshire. He was the tenth child and fourth son of the couple, the first of their children to be born in England. His elder brothers were, Robert
, Richard and William
. His elder sisters were Adeliza, Cecilia, Matilda, Constance, Agatha and Adela.
Henry’s brother, Richard, died in a hunting accident.
1075 (24th around)
Little is known of Henry’s early life. It is believed that he was educated by the church. He was also given military training by Robert Achard.
1086 (24th May)
Henry was knighted by his father.
1087 (9th September)
William I died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. Henry, received a large sum of cash but no land.
King William I was buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen, Normandy.
1087 (26th September)
William, known as Rufus, was crowned King William II
in England. Henry remained in Normandy.
Robert Curthose planned an invasion of England to take the crown away from his brother, William. He asked Henry to loan him some money to finance the venture but Henry refused.
Robert Curthose and Henry came to an arrangement whereby Henry purchased lands in the Cotentin for a sum of money. Henry was given the title Count of Cotentin.
Henry travelled to England to try to persuade William II to grant him his mother’s lands in Buckinghamshire but William refused.
Henry returned to Normandy. As he landed he was seized by Odo of Bayeux
and imprisoned. Odo had convinced Robert Duke of Normandy that Henry was conspiring against him. Robert had taken back Henry’s lands and title in the Cotentin.
Henry was released from imprisonment.
Relations between Henry’s brothers, Robert and William, continued to be strained.
William II persuaded Conan Pilatus, a powerful Norman in Rouen, to rebel against Robert. Henry supported Robert but was angered when Robert left Henry to fight alone. Henry won the battle and executed Conan Pilatus. Robert then forced Henry to leave Normandy.
William II invaded Normandy at the head of a large army. Robert and William agreed a treaty of mutual assistance which excluded Henry from the succession.
William and Robert then jointly lay siege to Henry at Mont St Michel. Henry was unable to withstand the siege and left for France.
Henry’s brothers, William and Robert, had fallen out again.
Henry took control of Domfront in Normandy
An illegitimate daughter, Sybilla, was born to Henry, by his mistress Sybilla Corbet, at Domfront, Normandy.
Henry remained in control of Domfront and extended his power in Normandy. William II made peace with Henry.
1095 (27th November)
Pope Urban II called a First Crusade “to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquests of the Levant.” Henry’s brother, Robert Curthose, decided to join the Crusade and leased his lands to William II.
Henry and his brother William II were reconciled and joined forces to campaign in the Norman Vexin.
1100 (2nd August)
Henry’s brother, King William II was killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. As soon as he learned of William’s death, Henry rode to Winchester and took control of the treasury effectively claiming the throne for himself. He was aware that his older brother, Robert Curthose would be annoyed when he found out but he gained English support by emphasising his native birth.
King William II was buried in Winchester Cathedral.
1100 (5th August)
Henry was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey by the Bishop of London.
1100 (5th August)
Coronation Charter of Liberties
Henry issued this charter denouncing his brother’s oppressive rule and promising a return to good and fair government. Henry promised to grant favours to the Barons if they agreed to support him.
1100 (15th August)
William II’s favourite, Ranulf Flambard
, was imprisoned on a charge of embezzlement. Henry wanted to show the English people that his rule would be different to that of his brother.
Robert Curthose arrived back in Normandy. He was not happy that his brother had seized the English throne.
King Henry I invited Anselem of Bec
, Archbishop of Canterbury, to return to England. Bec had gone to Rome following a dispute with Henry’s brother, William II. Upon his return, Anselem refused to pay homage to Henry stating that the Pope had ordered against this. Anselem refused to acknowledge those bishops and abbots that Henry had appointed, claiming that appointments could only be made by high churchmen. This put Henry in an awkward position since the bishops and abbots he had appointed were great landowners and he needed their support against any challenge by his elder brother, Robert Curthose.
King Henry I sent an embassy to the new Pope Paschal II appealing against the ban on lay investiture claiming that the right to appoint church positions was traditionally in the hands of the monarch.
1100 (11th November)
Henry married Edith
, daughter of Malcolm Canmore
, King of Scotland at Westminster Abbey. Edith’s mother, Margaret was the sister of Edgar Atheling, the last royal Saxon descendant. The marriage therefore represented the union of Norman and Saxon royal lines as well as cementing agreement with Scotland. Edith adopted the name Matilda because it was thought that the Norman barons might not respect a Queen with a Saxon name.
1100 (14th November)
Matilda was crowned Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey.
Pope Paschal replied to King Henry stating that the ban on lay investiture made by Pope Urban II was to be upheld.
Ranulf Flambard, former favourite of William II, escaped from imprisonment and went to Robert Curthose in Normandy where he offered to support his claim on the English throne.
The English nobles were required to swear fealty to King Henry I.
1101 (20th July)
Robert Curthose landed at Portsmouth to lay claim to the English throne. Many influential barons led by Robert of Belleme flocked to his side, believing him to be the true King of England. However, the former court of Rufus, led by Robert of Meulan and the English church remained loyal to Henry. Conflict was avoided when they agreed to negotiate.
Treaty of Alton
After extensive negotiations, a peace treaty was signed that agreed that Henry should keep England but pay Robert a pension of 2,000 marks per year.
A number of nobles who had sided with Robert Curthose in the Summer, including the Earl of Surrey William de Warenne, were banished.
Henry accused Robert de Belleme of crimes against the King and imprisoned him. However, he escaped from prison and raised arms against Henry. Henry responded by putting Robert’s castles to siege. Robert had no choice but to accept banishment to Normandy.
1102 (7th February)
A daughter, Adelaide
, was born to Henry I and his wife, Matilda of Scotland.
1102 (25th October)
A son, William Clito
, was born to Robert Curthose and his wife Sybilla of Conversano.
1103 (27th April)
Having sent a second deputation to Rome, Henry I now falsley claimed that the Pope had now agreed that clerics should pay homage to their monarch. Anselem of Bec refused and instead made the journey to Rome to find out for himself.
1103 (5th August)
A son William
was born to Henry I and his Queen, Matilda at Winchester. He was known as William Adelin. Adelin was the Normanised form of the Anglo-Saxon term Aetheling (heir to the throne).
A worsening situation in Normandy forced Robert Curthose to ally with Robert Belleme, Henry’s enemy. This gave Henry the chance to invade Normandy claiming that Robert Curthose had broken the terms of their peace treaty.
Henry sent his trusted friend Robert Fitzhamon into Normandy. After provoking a fight with Robert Curthose, Fitzhamon was captured. Henry invaded Normandy in protest at Fitzhamon’s imprisonment in Bayeux and placed Bayeux under siege. When the town refused to surrender Henry burnt it. Having seen the fate of Bayeux the town of Caen surrendered to Henry. A new peace treaty was made between Henry and Robert Curthose but it did not hold and sporadic fighting dragged on throughout the year.
1105 (22nd July)
Henry and Anselem of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury finally reached an agreement over their differences following a meeting at L’Aigle. Henry gave up his right to invest clergy but in return it was agreed that churchmen should pay homage to the King in respect of land owned by their church.
Henry returned to England for Christmas.
Henry invaded Normandy again.
1106 (15th August)
King Henry I travelled to Bec in Normandy to meet with Anselem who was refusing to return to England. Henry agreed to restore all confiscated land to Canterbury and to exempt the clergy from taxation for three years.
1106 (28th September)
Battle of Tinchebrai / Tinchebray
Henry fought this decisive battle against the combined forces of Robert Curthose and Edgar Aetheling in Normandy. Curthose and Edgar Aetheling were taken prisoner by Henry who declared himself Duke of Normandy.
Anselem of Bec returned to England.
Robert’s young son, William Clito was put forward as rightful Duke of Normandy. His claim was backed by Louis VI of France and Count Fulk V of Anjou. Henry was forced to return to Normandy where he successfully defended his claim to be Duke of Normandy.
In order to protect his lands, Henry married eight of his illegitimate daughters to neighbouring princes.
Having postponed finding a solution to the Church’s move to stop lay investiture (appointment of churchmen by non-churchmen) in 1100, Henry now reached agreement with the Church and renounced lay investiture. However, he insisted that prelates were required to continue to pay homage to the King. In practice the King’s wanted to retain the power to make bishops.
King Alexander of Scotland married Sybilla, illegitimate daughter of Henry I by Sybilla Corbet.
Henry invaded Wales and had some successes.
1108 (29th July)
Louis VI became King of France. He immediately set about asserting his authority including insisting that Henry pay homage to him and surrender two castles on the Norman/French border. Henry refused.
1109 (21st April)
Anselem of Bec died. Henry did not immediately replace him but decided to keep the position of Archbishop of Canterbury vacant. After the problems caused by Anselem of Bec, Henry did not want further confrontation with the Church.
The royal caravan still toured the country as it had in Saxon times, collecting taxes and settling problems in the royal court, but it was becoming increasingly necessary to establish a central court and financial clearing house. Roger, bishop of Salisbury, Henry’s closest advisor, was given the title of Justicar, (judge). Henry also set up a financial-counting system using a large chequered cloth. The royal treasurer and officials argued general policy and specific expenditure plans across this cloth. This department became known as the ‘exchequer’.
Henry attempted to capture Robert Curthose’s son, William Clito but the young Duke’s protectors learned of the scheme and moved him to Flanders.
1110 (10th April)
Henry’s daughter Adelaide was betrothed to Henry V, Emperor of Germany.
King Henry I and King Louis VI of France agreed terms at Gisors. Louis agreed to allow Henry to keep the castles on the border between Normandy and France.
1114 (7th January)
Henry’s daughter, Adelaide, married the Emperor of Germany, Henry V at Mainz, Germany. Her name was changed to Matilda on the same day. She was crowned Empress of Germany as part of the Wedding ceremony.
1114 (26th April)
Ralph d’Escures was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
A number of Norman lords in Wales were under attack from Gruffudd ap Cynan and Owain ap Cadwgan. Henry sent three armies to deal with the Welshmen who were forced to sue for peace. This left Henry in a much stronger position in Wales.
Henry was in Normandy trying to persuade the nobles to accept his son, William Adelin as Duke of Normandy. He had little success since most saw William Clito, Robert Curthose’s son as the natural heir.
War broke out in Normandy between France, Anjou, Flanders and Normandy. Henry was forced to remain on the defensive as the attackers raided his border towns and many Norman barons rose against him.
The war between Normandy and France continued throughout the year.
Count Baldwin led a rebellion against King Henry I in favour of William Clito.
1118 (1st May)
Henry’s wife, Matilda died at the palace of Westminster. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Siege of Arques
Count Baldwin was seriously injured after being struck on the head with a lance.
Without the leadership of Count Baldwin, the rebellion against Henry I fell apart.
Count Fulk of Anjou agreed an alliance with Henry to be sealed with the marriage of Prince William (Adelin) to Count Fulk’s daughter.
1119 (20th August)
Battle of Bremule
This battle between Henry, supported by his son, William and Louis VI of France supported by William Clito, saw Henry victorious. However, Louis and William Clito escaped capture.
Although beaten in battle, Louis was not prepared to accept defeat over Normandy and appealed to Pope Callixtus to intervene.
William and his father met Pope Callixtus II who refused to take sides in the dispute insisting that Henry and Louis make peace.
William Adelin married Alice of Anjou. Her name was changed to Matilda on her marriage.
Henry and Louis VI agreed peace terms. William Adelin gave homage to the French King and Louis recognised William as heir to the Duchy of Normandy.
Having spent time in Normandy, the royal court made plans to return to England.
1120 (25th November)
White Ship Disaster
A ship carrying a drunken party of three hundred noblemen, including William Adelin, heir to the throne and his illegitimate brother Richard, sank when it hit a rock in the French harbour of Barflour. There was one survivor, a butcher who was able to tell the tale of the disaster.
The treaty between King Henry I and Fulk of Anjou had been sealed with the marriage of Fulk’s daughter to Henry’s son William Adelin. With William’s death in the White Ship Disaster the treaty began to unravel. Fulk demanded the return of his daughter and her dowry. Fulk’s daughter, Matilda, was returned but Henry refused to return her dowry, a large tract of land in The Maine. Fulk of Anjou decided to take the land and then began a series of raids along the Normandy-Anjou border.
The death of Henry’s son William caused a succession problem for Henry who had no remaining male heir to succeed him. King Henry married Adeliza, daughter of Geoffrey, Count of Louvain, Duke of Lower Brabant and Lower Lorraine, in Windsor, hoping for a male heir.
There was a new outbreak of trouble in Normandy along the border with Anjou.
Henry sent Robert of Gloucester and Ranulf le Meschin to Normandy to suppress the revolts and raids along the Normandy border.
Henry went to Normandy to try to resolve the on-going conflict in Normandy.
1125 (23rd May)
Emperor Henry V, of Germany, husband to Henry’s only surviving legitimate daughter Matilda, died.
Henry recalled his daughter, Matilda to England.
Henry called his nobles to court and required that they swear to support the succession of Matilda as Queen of England should Henry die without a male heir. This was an unprecedented move and many nobles doubted the ability of a woman to rule.
Henry approached Count Fulk of Anjou with a proposal for a marriage alliance between his daughter, Matilda, and the Count’s son, Geoffrey
. Geoffrey had earned the nickname Plantagenet because he wore a sprig of broom (planta genista) as an emblem. The marriage proposal was welcomed by Fulk since it would enable him and his Angevin House to take over the Anglo-Norman realm.
1128 (17th June)
Henry’s daughter, Matilda, married Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. He was fifteen years old and she was reluctant to enter into the marriage.
1128 (28th July)
William Clito, son of Robert Curthose died. He had been the main rival to the succession of Henry’s daughter Matilda and Henry hoped that she would be able to succeed without problem.
Count Fulk of Anjou left to go to Jerusalem. Henry’s son-in-law, Geoffrey Plantagenet took over as Count of Anjou.
Matilda left her husband Geoffrey and returned to her father in Normandy stating that she could not continue with the marriage.
Matilda was persuaded to return to her husband Geoffrey of Anjou.
1133 (5th March)
A son, Henry
was born to Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet, at Le Mans, Anjou.
Henry I was now openly quarrelling with his daughter and son-in-law who wanted Henry to pass power to Matilda while he was still alive. However, despite the feud with his daughter and son-in-law he still hoped that they would succeed to the throne.
1135 (late November)
King Henry I became ill after eating lampreys against his doctor’s advice. It soon became evident that Henry I was dying. His daughter and son-in-law were in Anjou and some days away from England. Henry’s nephew, Stephen, on the other hand, was in Boulogne, a mere days travel from England.
1135 (1st December)
Henry I, aged 67 years, died, in Rouen France. He was buried in Reading Abbey. Although the nobles had sworn to support Matilda’s claim to the throne, Henry was succeeded by his nephew Stephen of Blois
First published 2015; updated and re-published May 16 2022 @ 2:10 pm – Updated – [last-modified]