As it will be recalled from the previous seminar King William The II had died from a quite explainable hunting accident very neatly in the year 1100 and by very good happenstance (God Be Praised) his young brother Henry just happened to be around at the time to take charge. His claim being based on the fact that his father William (the I, Conqueror etc) had been a king when he was born, while only a baron when elder brother Robert arrived. Robert thought this too picky by half, but before he could raise an army, and bribe barons Henry had been crowned and bribed the barons and thus was The I which allowed him to imprison those who wanted bigger bribes or preferred a Robert to be king.. In addition, Henry had the advantage of being able to read and also write legibly, which meant he could produce his own proclamations quickly and not have to wait around from a monk to turn up.
With this attended to, he then married Matilda daughter of Malcolm The III who had been a king of Scotland and to re-cap had died of a severe case of vengeful Norman barons in 1093. Henry wished to show this had nothing to do with him. And initially had no cause to upset the Scots whose king was Edgar (The Only) who cleverly remained obscure, his only mistake in this policy being to succumb to a fit of generosity brought on by a case of Crusades, during which he gave a king of Ireland a camel; this doesn’t seemed to have any impact of Irish politics at the time.
Initially as was the customs of those times Henry had a lot of trouble with his brother Robert, who understandably felt he should be king. At first Henry paid him money to shut up, but Robert ravaged parts of Normandy that were not his, obliging Henry to go and unravage his bits and ravage those that belonged to Robert. Eventually Robert got the point, and behaved. Henry then showed his generosity of spirit by only arresting and persecuting those who had supported Robert and not Robert himself.
Civil Administration under Henry
Henry surprised and upset a lot of the nobility by telling them they had to obey the law and this included not pillaging villages when they felt like. However, as Henry was cunning, ruthless and able there was not a lot they could do about it. He also punished folk who had been doing things he thought illegal; as he could read and write and find obscure bits of law to prove he was right there was little most of them could do to argue against this. Not trusting the nobility, he brought in a large number of ‘new men’. While the established barons were trying work out what was new about the new men they took control on Henry’s behalf.
The Church and Henry
Although Henry donated much to the abbeys, monasteries etc and had a spiritual side to his nature, as was common in those times he did not care for bishops and archbishops who insisted the pope was more important than he was. After a great deal of arguments, exiles, prisons etc the clergy and Henry agreed: He could not appoint Bishops, Archbishops etc and leave nuns alone (see Personal Life). The Bishops, Archbishops etc should turn up every so often and agree that he was the King of England (and the nuns were to stay away).
During Henry’s reign Wars with French Kings were invented, initially because of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Aquitaine etc, but also because of the Holy Roman Emperor who was German and thought Popes were far too intrusive; this was the forerunner of international politics, Henry imposed his authority by having his daughter Matilda married to one of the emperors, and so show her show at social gatherings as ‘My Daughter The Empress’ (Until such times as she would naturally go to war with him)
Wales and Scotland.
At this time because of his literacy, ruthlessness, cunning and scots brothers-in-law (Alexander and David) Henry wrote up an argument which proved conclusively that he was the top king in not only England (full of Anglo-Saxons and thus in need firm leadership) but also Scotland (by marriage) and Wales. The latter because the various kings of Wales were being nuisances, insisting they were independent so and could raid across the border whenever they felt like. Henry gathered one or two armies and with the aid of the Scottish King Alexander invaded Wales so much that all the welsh kings and princes were obliged to see Henry’s point of view. Henry then built some more castles to make sure they didn’t forget.
In Scotland, in keeping with Henry’s trend Alexander was the first Scottish king to be an Alexander and although he had a brother David and they disputed over land oddly enough he did not go to war with David. This might have been because both men were very pious or because of Vikings who would not go back home, and because Alexander was often obliged to make war on folk from the Islands (as opposed to The Highlands), which he did with much ferocity. This done, he then died to make way for brother David. David who had had a very exciting childhood fleeing from relatives, Vikings, rivals etc continued with his brother’s business of sorting out the folk from The Isles, any difficult relatives and Vikings who were still hanging about the place. He was astute enough to be on good terms with Henry, who was willing to overlook the odd cattle raid, minor incursion etc. David in keeping with his brother’s habits also continued to be pious and only slaughtered folk in the correct manner and with good cause, which as he was king meant he was perfectly positioned to decide what was a good cause.
Back to Henry-Personal Life
Although apparently quite fond of Matilda (wife-Scottish), Henry also had voracious appetites, as these particular appetites involved women the Church could only disapprove and not condemn. Had Henry concentrated his appetites upon Matilda (the wife-Scottish) he might not have ended up with only two legitimate children, Matilda (the daughter and now empress) and William (intended to be the III). All would have gone well had not in 1120 William and some others not been travelling back to England from Normandy on The White Ship. Accounts here differ, some say everyone on board was drunk, others say it was only the helmsman and that Williams and friends tried save the ship and then William being very noble tried to save an illegitimate half-sister. Whatever, everyone drowned. Henry was distraught. At not having a legitimate heir. As Matilda, had died in 1118 he married Adeliza of Louvain who being younger by 35 years might have been able to bear him sons. She didn’t but did promote the arts.
Henry meanwhile was obliged to go campaigning against various Normans and as befitted a family tradition other relatives, to bolster up his strength he ate more than the medically safe number of eels and in consequence died. This may also have been a result of other but less interesting appetites.
This event threw England and some parts of Normandy into a state of confusion as to who should be king next and also how many eels you could safely eat. The ramifications of which we shall discuss in the next seminar.
The succession that is, not the eels, The latter remains a topic of controversy to this day.