Henry I (1100-1135)Of the three sons of the Conqueror, Henry was the most able. A competent administrator at
home, he succeeded in the conquest of Normandy. Though much of the blame for the death of his brother William was attributed
to Walter Tyrrell, who fled the country, it is significant that Henry was present in the hunting party. He wasted no time
in claiming the throne, riding to seize the treasure at Winchester just ahead of William of Bretueil, a supporter of the claim
of Duke Robert of Normandy. His supporters quickly elected Henry King of England and he was crowned by the Bishop of London
in the absence of the exiled Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury. Henry ensured the support of his English subjects by issuing
a solemn charter promising to redress grievances, especially those involving the selling of vacant benefices to the highest
That Henry I of England, much in the manner of William Rufus, failed to keep "the law of Edward" as promised,
did not seem to matter as much as did his success in keeping the peace. He had the hated Flambard thrown into prison. He brought
back Anselm to Canterbury, and thus helped heal the breach between the Church and the Crown, though the big problem of lay
investiture remained, as well as Anselm's refusal to honor the appointments made by Henry during his exile. The archbishop
did mollify the situation by officiating at the popular marriage of Henry to Edith, a descendant of Edward the Confessor and
a most suitable choice as Queen of England. Anselm wisely chose to ignore the fact that Edith had taken holy orders as a nun,
preferring to believe that she had only done this to protect herself from importunate suitors rather than to fulfil a desire
to enter a convent.
Many of the leading Barons of Normandy who held lands in England came to Henry's court to pay
homage, though many of them preferred Robert as their lord and schemed to replace Henry with their choice. They were aided
by the ex-treasurer of England, Ranulf Flambard, who had escaped his captors and returned to Normandy to help organize an
expedition to capture the English throne. King Henry could count on the support of his English subjects; his leading barons
would wait to see which side could benefit them most. Robert duly landed at Portsmouth in 1101 to begin his march on London.
Losing his nerve, the Duke decided to treaty instead of fight, accepting a pension of 3,000 marks and a promise of
help to recover his rebellious dependency of Maine. The terms of the Treaty of Alton, needless to say, were never honored
by Henry, who immediately began to punish those barons who had sided with Robert. It took all of England's resources to deal
with the ensuing rebellion of the powerful house of Montgomery, aided by the Welsh princes. Henry promised South Wales to
Lorwerth ap Bleddyn, forcing the Montgomerys to negotiate for peace. Henry was uncompromising, however, and stripped Robert,
Arnulf and Roger of all their holdings in England. The king was now supreme in his rule, free from any serious rival. He could
now turn his attention to withholding royal authority from the encroachments of the Church in Rome, growing ever more ambitious
under a series of able popes.
For the king, the customs of the realm of England took precedence over the claims of
the Church. In this, he was aided by Gerard the Archbishop of York, who argued that the Mother of Churches was Jerusalem,
not Rome, and that the Papacy was an institution of merely human ordinance. Predating Wycliffe, Gerard argued that the Scriptures
alone could give religious instruction; there was no need to have the will of God expounded by a Pope. Kings were ordained
by God to rule the Church no less than the State.
The struggle between Anselm and Henry was abetted by the new Pope
Paschal; all three were obdurate, with the English archbishop even moving to France unable to satisfy his king. In the meantime,
Henry appropriated Church revenues and enacted measures that led the bishops to beg for Anselm's return. Continued trouble
with Normandy, however, put the Church-Crown struggle temporarily on hold.
Normandy had become a Mecca for just about
all of those opposed Henry of England, who now resolved to dispossess his brother. He started by bribing the Count of Flanders
and the King of France to transfer their allegiance. The conquest of Normandy began in the spring of 1105, climaxing in the
one-hour battle at Tinchebrai when Robert surrendered. Normandy now belonged to Henry, King of England. Thus the English soldiers,
who had formed a large part of Henry's army, could now say that the Battle of Hastings was avenged. Robert was held captive
in Cardiff Castle in Wales to spend the remainder of his life a closely-guarded prisoner.
Henry could now introduce
into the anarchy that had been Normandy some of the order and economy that he had established in England. His one great mistake
was to entrust the infant son of Robert, William the Clito, to the charge of one who would later raise a rebellion against
him, and for twenty years, the policies of Henry and his Norman possessions was determined by those who continued to plot
Back in England, the Church-Crown struggle continued; fear of excommunication led the King to finally
agree to a compromise with Anselm. Henry renounced the right of investing prelates, but would continue to receive their homage
for their temporal possessions and duties. The treaty, nonetheless, did nothing to settle the question of the English Church's
longed-for independence from the Crown. But it left Henry at the pinnacle of his power. The death of Anselm meant that the
King could appoint a successor more favorable to his own views.
Flambard, restored to Durham, remained too unpopular
to cause any trouble for the king. In addition, Henry kept in check the powers and ambitions of the great Barons by judiciously
exercising his feudal rights. He prohibited the custom of private war, forbade the building of castles or fortified dwellings
without his license and insisted that every under-tenant regard the King as his chief lord. Above all, he insisted on the
rule of law.
When Henry first acceded to the throne, there had been different laws for different folks according to
where they resided, for example, West Saxons were treated differently from Mercians. But the King's Court, the "Curia Regis"
of Henry, refused to recognize these differences. The rule was that the law of the King's Court must stand above all other
law and was the same for all. The king's justices travelled into the shires to see that his mandate was carried out. Before
Henry died, the most distinctive of the old provincial differences had disappeared.
From all the varying tribes that
dwelled in England, with their mutually incomprehensible dialects and varying legal customs and traditions, a new nation was
being forged out of the common respect for the King's writ, out of their submission to and increasing attachment to the same
principles of law and their trust in the monarchy to protect them against oppression. Henry, the "Lion of Justice" thus propelled
his English possessions towards a sense of national unity totally lacking in other lands. However, trouble returned upon the
king's death in 1135.
Return to Anarchy: Stephen
The order of Henry l's reign soon disintegrated
under his successor Stephen of Blois. Events had started in 1128 when Geoffrey the Fair, nicknamed Plantagenet on account
of a sprig of broom (genet) he wore in his cap, and soon to be the Count of Anjou, married the Empress Matilda, daughter and
designated heiress of Henry, King of England and Duke of Normandy. When Henry died and his nephew and favorite Stephen seized
the throne and the dukedom, the houses of Anjou and Blois began their long struggle for control of both. Briefly, in this
struggle, Matilda concentrated on England and Count Geoffrey on Normandy, where he became Duke in 1144. Events reluctantly
forced Stephen to acknowledge Geoffrey in his Dukedom as well as Matilda's son Henry as heir to his English throne.
gained early notoriety by running away from Antioch during the First Crusade. He later more than made up for this at the Battle
of Lincoln in 1141 when he fought on foot long after much of his army had fled, wearing out a battle axe and a sword before
being captured. His adherence to the code of chivalry led him to give safe conduct to Matilda, entirely at his mercy, to her
brother's castle at Bristol, a grievous error. Matilda, as wife of Geoffrey, had a secure base in Anjou and later in Normandy
and Stephen was made to pay dearly for his act of benevolence (or stupidity).
In 1126, Stephen, one of the wealthiest
of the Anglo-Norman landholders, had taken an oath to accept the succession of Matilda, an oath he quickly forgot when he
seized the treasury at Winchester and had himself crowned King. Acceptance of his Dukedom quickly followed from the Norman
barons and early in 1136, Stephen's position seemed secure. Even Matilda's half brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester paid him
homage at his Easter Court. Then it all unraveled for this good knight who was also, in the words of chronicler Walter Map,
a fool. His courtesy and chivalry were not matched by efficacy in governing, and his political blunders were legion. Prominent
features of his reign, accordingly, were civil wars and local disturbances.
The war of succession began when Matilda's
uncle, David, King of Scotland invaded England on her behalf in 1135. It was under the rule of David, the ninth son of Malcom
III, that Norman influence began to percolate through much of southern Scotland. David was also Prince of Cumbria, and through
marriage Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon. Brother-in-law to the King of England, he was raised and educated in England
by Normans who "polished his manners from the rust of Scottish barbarity." In Scotland, he distributed large estates to his
Anglo-Norman cronies who also took over important positions in the Church. Into the Lowlands he introduced a feudal system
of land ownership, founded on a new, French-speaking Anglo-Norman aristocracy that remained aloof from the majority of the
Gaelic-speaking Celtic population.
It is to David that Scotland's future as an independent kingdom can be traced.
When conflict arose between the new (and weak) English King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, David took the opportunity to
reassert old territorial claims to the border lands, including Cumbria. At the Treaty of Durham in 1136, he retained Carlisle
(which he had earlier seized). His invasion of England took him into Yorkshire. However, fierce resistance, to what has been
called his needless, gleeful violence led to his defeat at Northallerton in the "Battle of the Standard." Yet, due mainly
to Stephen's troubles, the Scottish king was able to gain practically all of Northumbria at a second treaty of Durham in 1139.
At David's death in 1153, the kingdom of Scotland had been extended to include the Modern English counties of Northumberland,
Cumberland and Westmoreland, territories that were in future to be held by the kings of Scotland.
In the meantime,
Matilda landed at Arundel in 1139 with a large army. Stephen was captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, when his Barons
deserted him, only to be exchanged for Robert of Gloucester after Matilda had incurred the enmity of the citizens of London,
and the Queen had raised an army to defend the city. Despite Matilda's being proclaimed "Domina Anglorum" at Winchester, the
civil wars continued intermittently, with Matilda and her supporters firmly entrenched in the West country, normally on the
defensive, often desperately close to being defeated, but Stephen ultimately was unable to dislodge them.
of succession in England, caused by Stephen's failure to recognize Matilda as rightful monarch, were not happy times. Both
armies relied heavily on foreign mercenaries, anxious to set up their own private fiefdoms in England and on occasion, managing
to do so. In contrast to the peace of Henry's reign, the English countryside now suffered the sad consequences of an unremitting
struggle with lawless armies on the rampage and barons paying off old scores. Matilda, finally despairing at her failure to
dislodge Stephen, left for Normandy, never to return.
A more successful campaign was then carried out by Matilda's
son Henry, beginning in 1153. When his eldest son Eustace died the same year, Stephen agreed to a compromise. He was to continue
as king so long as he lived and to receive Henry's homage. In turn, Henry was to be recognized as rightful heir. In the meantime,
complete anarchy prevailed in which the functions of central government quickly broke down. Fragmentation and decentralization
were the order of the day. The situation called out desperately for a strong able ruler. Henry II came along just in time.