Henry I

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For other rulers by the name of Henry I, see Henry I (disambiguation).

King Henry I of England was born in 1068 and reigned from 1100 until his death in 1135. He was the third son of William I (the Conqueror) and younger brother of William II (Rufus), whom he succeeded. He was also Duke of Normandy from 1106 to 1135.

Henry took swift advantage of his brother’s death from an arrow wound whilst hunting in the New Forest and his eldest brother Robert’s absence on the First Crusade to secure the Treasury at Winchester, and have himself crowned at London within 3 days of the event. At his coronation he proclaimed a charter promising just rule. Shortly after he gained support amongst the English when he married Matilda of Scotland, who was directly descended from Anglo-Saxon royalty.

The early years of his reign saw him defending his realm against the returned Robert, and in 1106 he defeated Robert in Normandy, imprisoned him, and reunited England and Normandy under the one rule as his father had done. He was to spend a great part of his reign defending Normandy against France, and the machinations of certain of his barons, however England was generally peaceful for the rest of his reign.

His reign is considered successful within certain limits, as he was the founder of the English judicial system, and centralised and simplified the financial workings of the Crown by the formation of the “Exchequer”, a term still in use today as the nation’s treasury. However, the death of his son at sea in 1128 meant he had no male heir, and the last years of his life were spent attempting to have his daughter, Matilda, accepted as his successor. He married her to Geoffrey of Anjou in 1128, accepting the end of the Norman dynasty in a vain attempt to avert the civil war that was to follow.

Further reading

  • Bartlett, Robert. England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225 (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Chibnall, M. Anglo-Norman England, 1066—1166 (1986)

See also